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Thursday, 27 February 2020

Sajid Javid's uninspired whine

Sajid Javid is not a man who can craft words well. His sad little litany of complaint in the Commons yesterday demonstrated not only his unpolished am-dram rhetoric, but more importantly his utter lack of understanding of the central task of this government. It really is just as well he's no longer in office.

The clue is in Allister Heath's piece in the 'graph today -
Brexit isn’t enough: politicians need to take back control, to renew our democratic culture, reintroduce accountability and improve the quality of the state. They need to be forced to take responsibility even when they don’t want it. They must become their own masters, working on behalf of their electorate, not spokespersons for out-of-control departments. They need to relearn to be managers, moulding the system to their commands. They should hire their own people, not inherit hostile teams.

If politicians cannot make their minds up on an issue, they ought to call referenda, not abdicate decision-making to mandarins or judges. Our system of government is no longer fit for purpose: the old Yes, Minister civil service and its jobs for life and gongs for failure has run out of time; but so has the more recent technocratic and juristocratic experiment.
Javid's exhibition was not so much that of an extinct Ovine as that of a newly castrated goat realising he's missing something but not quite realising what. Ministers who gain their stature from a powerful and unelected undemocratic nomenklatura propelling them into cabinet should not be surprised that their bass has turned to treble, their rumble to a pitiable whine, when their civil service bollocks have been lopped off.

In this period of transition, in winning back the organs of the State for democracy from the unaccountable establishment that has captured it, the powers exercised by Number 10 are a necessary discomfort for ministers. And an opportunity to learn to grow a pair of their own. As Miss Patel is so competently demonstrating.

Wednesday, 26 February 2020

The corruption at the heart of Europe's courts

I'll post on the Trade Agreement negotiating positions when we publish the UK's position paper, but for now, a little nugget for you all. It's hugely satisfying when some independent academic evidence comes along to validate a point one has been making for many years - in this case, the inherent corruption and mal-judice embodied in both the ECR and ECHR. The European Centre for Law and Justice, normally a body that campaigns on social justice issues, has just issued a research study.
The study has found that, out of the 100 judges who have served on the bench of the European Court of Human Rights in the period 2009-2019, nearly a quarter (22) have strong links to George Soros’ Open Society Foundation or to NGOs like Amnesty International and others which are funded by it. Human Rights Watch, for instance, has received $100 million from the Open Society Foundation since 2010.

Some of the NGOs receive so much of their budget from Soros that they are in effect wholly owned subsidiaries of his foundation.

The links between the judges and the NGOs are substantial. They include working for years as members of the board of directors or executive council of these NGOs; having teaching posts at institutes funded by them; being a salaried director of programs for the Open Society Foundation or associated NGOs; and undertaking other forms of paid work for them. The full list of these links can be found on pages seven and eight of the report.
And that from a decent piece from RT

Monday, 24 February 2020

Covid-19: Living with the threat

Up here in my high Alpine valley the sound of helicopters is not unusual. Air ambulances here ferry skiers with broken legs and fallen climbers rather than the UK's stabbing victims, and the power company Kelag use them constantly for checking the web of power cables. Helicopters at night, however are something else, but last night at about 9pm came the throb and bass beat. The origin and direction of the Bundesheer's Bell Hueys was in no doubt - from the Gebirgsjäger base over the Villacher Alpe to the Italian border crossings. Hey ho, I thought, they're closing the borders. Last Summer they ran an extensive exercise to airlift troops to the Alpine passes in the event of another migrant surge, so the sound and path of the helos was quite familiar. In reality this time, it's a Chinese virus rather than Iraqi economic migrants that they're tasked with stopping.

In the event the borders haven't yet been closed. There is intense pressure from the EU - backed up with a generous dispensing of millions in cash - to keep the EU economy going at all costs. In Brussels, the security of their federation may outweigh the fate of 1% of the EU's 460m subject peoples in the minds of the apparatchiks.

The Mayor of Villach is concerned about the legal brothel at Hohenthurn. Up to 120 prostitutes, mostly from eastern Europe, work there and at weekends floods of Italians - 400 to 500 every weekend - cross the border to buy their favours, reports ORF. He tells the press he is powerless to close the brothel, and the Italians are unlikely to restrain themselves.

I suspect the authorities, including our own government, now accept that Covid-19 cannot be contained, as I wrote a week ago, on Monday 17th. It's all moving very quickly now. The actions by the Italian authorities are likely to be a mix of panic-reduction measures and blame avoidance. Realistically, they have no chance of halting the pandemic.

Sunday, 23 February 2020

Shutters start to come down on internet freedoms

We are now, as an advanced culture, moving into a phase of the most pernicious and regressive restrictions on free speech since we fought battles in the 1960s and 1970s to establish those freedoms. Oh I know that's been the cry ever since when, mostly from those with extremes of views that no-one missed very much. 'Spiked', which hides under our spoof Guardian offers, has long advocated a pure freedom that would allow anyone from kiddie fiddlers to murderous Islamists to post anything, but most of us want some restrictions. And that's the problem. First, we're a European nation but there's no homogeneity in the law - 
In most of Europe, defamation is a criminal offence, and in the dark-red nations it's an offence for which citizens can be imprisoned. The UK, Ireland and Norway (in the fringe blue nations defamation tends to be dealt with by a midnight visit from men with guns) are alone in upholding the freedom to risk only one's wealth from defaming someone. However, as we've seen, the Online Harms (how loathsome is that title!) White Paper proposes making a number of non-criminal statements into statements to be censored, under the pretence of protecting children but clearly aimed at protecting politicians and wealthy figures in public life.

In France, the release of a video made by M Macron's chum Benjamin Griveaux of an act of masturbation has angered the énarque elites; it should be the right of all French politicians to send Onanistic videos to vulnerable young women. Or maybe to their grandmothers. What has annoyed them in particular is the extent of internet anonymity that allowed the spread of the material; they want to include measures to identify wanking-video re-posters in a proposed raft of anti hate-speech legislation currently going through parliament. However, as Politico EU has reported, the draft French legislation is already in trouble with the EU, who consider it incompatible with EU law.

In Germany, legislators are set to pass laws requiring internet companies to report offending posts to the police. As the FT reports
Under the planned new law, which is the toughest of its kind in the world, social media platforms will not only have to delete certain kinds of hate speech but also flag the content to the Office of the Federal Criminal Police (BKA). Posts that companies will be required to report include those indicating preparations for a terrorist attack and the “formation of criminal and terrorist groups”, as well as those featuring instances of racial incitement and the distribution of child pornography. The networks would also have to give the BKA “the last IP address and port number most recently assigned to the user profile”.
However, given that defamation is also an imprisonable offence in German law, it is easy to imagine a tweak or two to include insults aimed at politicians and public officials - the law stands as

However, one major issue remains. The national location of servers on which the offending material is posted. Facebook, Google and Twitter are already rolling out systems architectures that avoid a physical EU data presence. The effects of GDPR and swingeing fines to date have already made them cautious.

If US servers (and, less likely, UK servers - our civil servants love the German defamation laws) are immune to the new rafts of Euro Censorship legislation, what option does that leave for French and German governments except to restrict access to social media in the same way that China does? Are Euro versions of Weibo, WeChat and YouKu the future?

Saturday, 22 February 2020

Dimbleby no better than a thief

Throughout Africa, the delusion of corrupt rulers and their apparatchiks that underpins and pervades their thefts is that the organs and instruments of the State somehow belong to them because they exercise power. If you're the Nigerian Minister of Petroleum, they reckon, surely that means you're entitled to more than everyone else's share of the black gold? Why, stealing those millions must be practically legal.

And so with Dimbleby and the hereditary BBC establishment. They think they own it. They don't. Dimbleby's claim to speak for the BBC is no more and no less than mine or yours, no greater or lesser than any British citizen who has paid for every VT editing machine, every redhead light, every executive conference suite, every sound mixer and every HD camera. We all own an equal share, and we all have an equal right to an opinion about the future of the BBC.

The petulance and fury exhibited by Dimbleby and his dags is because of their grossly distorted sense of entitlement and displays a contempt for the rest of us. You don't own the BBC, Mr Dimbleby, and to pretend that you do is theft.

Friday, 21 February 2020

The turning of a page

I suppose there must have been other ages in our history in which we saw such rapid change, and many momentous changes that creep almost unnoticed until they are absorbed into our lives almost without fuss. But sometimes it's the little things that so forcefully strike one with a heavy blow. Oh, I'm not some Luddite railing against change - change is a necessary part of our social and national progression. But just sometimes what's gone aches like a lost limb.

Today it's the ban on coal and undried wood. I was, in the jargon, triggered. And suddenly I remembered one perfect evening many years ago, at my little flint rubble cottage in Needham Market one windy Autumn night. I'd made supper, which just needed reheating in the oven, and Jennie drove us over in her battered old Mini to a seventeenth century pub some three miles away. There we sat companionably by the huge double-room inglenook in which an entire Elm root crackled and glowed, sharing a packet of fags under the crooked black oak beams and nicotine cream plaster. We drank no more than about three pints each and drove back home for supper.

Jennie is no more, taken by cancer. Her car would no longer be allowed on the road - one simply doesn't see old cars like that any more. And now that pub fire, which has warmed whole generations of villagers, will be cold for ever more. Of course the pub was closed eight years ago, after the smoking ban, and because no one would risk driving after a pint. The pub was lit by low wattage incandescent lamps, which would have been replaced anyway by harsh plastic-white LED lighting, and the black tar coating on the inglenook would be condemned by the Health for its phenol content. 

It struck me in a moment that in a year or two, not one element of that simple evening would any longer be possible. That's change.

The fire at the Dunwich Ship - another great pub fire I have known

Thursday, 20 February 2020

Flood

There's something wrong with our water management. It's all something of a mess, muddling along with the best of intentions but a woeful lack of holistic understanding. There is no simple answer, no pabulum. It's complex and it needs strategic direction. Here are some of the elements

Building on flood plains - reducing absorption
I've never known  a mediaeval church to flood, however heavy the rain. The land on which they are built may only be a metre higher than the surrounds, and barely noticeable, but it's enough. The land on either side of the rivers on which there were no houses, grazed in the drier Summer months, held the winter rainstorms. Culverting the rivers to allow development, building on flood plains and paving surfaces in impervious materials on which to park cars mean floods.

Dredging
The Somerset levels, newly dredged as a result of Owen Paterson's intervention, have not featured in the disaster news this year. Having said that, dredging is not a universal panacea, and many of the areas flooded from the recent heavy rain would be just as flooded if a regular regime of dredging had been in place. Despite the clear view of the Daily Mail that dredging is the universal panacea, it isn't.  However, their story does highlight the regulatory difficulties, see below.

I used to take joy in exploring the little creeks, old wharves and bywaterways of the South East in my tough little Land Rover of a boat - one of which was Faversham. There's a speciality business there repairing, maintaining and restoring Thames barges that is clinging on by its fingertips, choked by a silted waterway. There's an upper tidal basin that used to have a swing bridge, now covered in reeds. It used to serve the adjacent Shepherd Neame brewery, with small coasters able to load beer direct from the cool stores. For twenty years a local group have been trying to dredge the creek and safeguard the economic and employment uses and the sustainability of a centuries-old human development here. Their most recent applications are salutary. They need to get ticks from Kent County Council, Faversham Town Council, Swale District Council, Medway Ports, The Environment Agency and the Marine Management Organisation. Last time I visited, they still hadn't managed to dredge the upper basin.

Faversham Creek

Rewilding
There are sensible measures that can be taken to undo our past misunderstandings of the best ways to handle water. Restoring upland peat bogs which act as natural sponges to hold water is good. Selective planting and land management in ways that hold water in the soil, in fields and hedges is good. Taking rivers out of narrow concrete culverts and putting them back in meanders in flood-able land is good - and all will have benefits for wildlife and for the environment. But we shouldn't be driven by the interests of the biosphere in crowding out human use from parts of the country that have been cultivated and managed for centuries. Again, rewilding measures are not a panacea.

One good example is the work on the River Quaggy in SE London. In Victorian times and in the 1960s it was forced into a concrete culvert and became little more than a storm drain. Today it once again behaves like a river, and the fish and the proverbial Kingfishers are back, as it meanders through the urban parks and green spaces on its course to the Thames.

The Quaggy today
Mis-Regulation
The Daily Mail is quite clear - it's all the fault of the EU Water Framework Directive and Tony Blair, but in reality it's a little more nuanced than that. Ross Clark in the Speccie makes some interesting points, including
Flooding policy changed sharply in 1996 when the old National Rivers Authority was subsumed into the new Environment Agency. I don’t recall it being led by a single engineer in 24 years; its current chief executive is a social anthropologist.
It's not just the EA. Though their eclectic interpretation of the WFD has given us 'Clearing the Waters: a compliance assessment methodology for marine dredging and disposal' - an exemplar of bureaucratic overkill it's hard to better. But it gets worse. In addition to the EA we have the MMO - the Marine Management Organisation, who tell us their mission is "(to) license, regulate and plan marine activities in the seas around England so that they're carried out in a sustainable way". So if your waterway is tidal, as Faversham Creek is, both the EA (freshwater and rainwater disposal) and the MMO (dredging of sea and briny waters) must be satisfied. Ross Clark has found the EA to be run by a social anthropologist; the two quangocrats at the top of the MMO are
Chair - Hilary Florek - Hilary is a strategic communications and marketing specialist with extensive experience in both the public and private sectors.   
CEO - Tom McCormack - Tom has more than 25 years in public service, including senior positions across the Department of Work and Pensions. Tom is passionate about improving colleague engagement and leadership capability at all levels.
So no engineers at the top of the MMO, either.

The waters of, erm, water management in the UK are brown and murky. The whole thing is not simple, and desperately needs a razor-sharp intelligence to re-order it all, a Michael Gove. The problem is that there are simply too few Michael Goves in government, and too many establishment messes such as this.

Wednesday, 19 February 2020

Is the EU serious about a deal? And does M Barnier even have a mandate?

As the EU is discovering this week, a trade agreement will need not only the agreement of the unelected Commission and token Parliament, but the explicit consent of the 27, and that means of Belgium's regions. The EU's Canada trade deal, CETA, was concluded in 2014 but because it cannot secure support from first Wallonia and now the Netherlands*, it cannot be concluded. Six years on and it's not yet in force, and looks today unlikely ever to be so. CETA is subject to the fads, whims and grandstanding of every tiny little EU statelet.

So when we consider whether we want a Canada trade deal, we must consider whether we want to conclude a trade deal with the unelected officials in 2020 only to see it still not ratified in 2026. One needs a certain trust in one's negotiating partners that they actually have a remit to negotiate on behalf of their principals, and it's not at all certain that M Barnier enjoys that trust.

So far, Greece has threatened not to ratify the trade deal unless the British Museum given them the Elgin marbles. And France has threatened to end the return of asylum seekers under the Dublin convention. And Sinn Fein is seeking a referendum on Northern Ireland's future.

The first is a risible playground taunt. For the second, we return some 6k migrants under the Dublin agreement and take in 2k (mostly for family reunification) so the EU is threatening us with 4k migrants a year when we have 3.5m EU citizens living here already? Please.

As for Northern Ireland, yes, if the people of the province want a referendum on their future we must grant it, and we must abide by their decision. However, it's far from sure whether either the citizens of the province or the Republic of Ireland would be keen. First, finance. Northern Ireland costs the UK about £10bn more each year than it raises in tax - not far short of the £13bn we paid each year to the EU. If Ireland is to keep the same levels of welfare and public services there as now, it will be a painful cost. Ireland currently has a GDP of around £75bn and taxes are just under 24% of GDP. Irish taxes would have to rise to 37% of GDP to pay for the North. I suspect that's why NI polls show that just 25% favour unification with the Republic with 52% opposing.The levels of austerity they would need to endure would be destructive.

Ireland's low tax rate is significant. The EU is asking its members to tax their people more to both make up for Brexit and pay for other aspirations - but the effects of tax increases to pay for the Berlaymont's trillion Euro goggle eyes (we've just punched a €94m hole in that) impact the people of Europe very differently. Ireland has an overall tax rate of 23.5% of GNI, France 48.4%.
  


% of GNI subvented by EU

Tax rate 1.00% 1.10% 1.20% 1.30%
Ireland 23.5 4.3% 4.7% 5.1% 5.5%
Romania 25.8 3.9% 4.3% 4.7% 5.0%
Spain 34.5 2.9% 3.2% 3.5% 3.8%
Netherlands 39.2 2.6% 2.8% 3.1% 3.3%
Germany 40.5 2.5% 2.7% 3.0% 3.2%
Italy 42.4 2.4% 2.6% 2.8% 3.1%
Austria 42.4 2.4% 2.6% 2.8% 3.1%
Sweden 44.9 2.2% 2.4% 2.7% 2.9%
Denmark 46.5 2.2% 2.4% 2.6% 2.8%
Belgium 47.3 2.1% 2.3% 2.5% 2.7%
France 48.4 2.1% 2.3% 2.5% 2.7%

Increasing the EU's annual charge to its members from 1.0% of GNI to 1.3% of GNI doesn't sound much - but for an Irishman it means the proportion of his tax going to Brussels rises by 1.2%, whilst a Frenchman can shrug off a 0.6% increase.

Hey ho.

*CETA passed the Dutch lower chamber yesterday, but is due to go to the Tweede Kamer next month, where it is likely to fall. Incidentally, the best hashish in A'dam could be bought from a tiny place for locals, very non tourist, called Der Tweede Kamer on the Spui. In my youth I spent many happy hours there, and it's still there today. 

Tuesday, 18 February 2020

EU hysterics are not for our ears

For the remainder of this month we are going to have to endure an extraordinary degree of posturing from the EU. It seems that the federation has little self awareness as it continues to shout peremptory demands at the UK - many of which it must know are simply absurd. We can only assume that all this noise is not actually intended for the UK at all, but for their domestic voters. A lot of it comes from little M Macron, who is facing electoral wipe-out as France lies in flames, choked by CS gas, with protesters blinded and crippled by Macron's security forces.

All over Europe roads are blocked by tractors. The pictures tell you a lot. These are not rusty old John Deeres from the 1970s with seats padded with old fertilizer sacks tied on with baling twine; these tractors are state of the art, climate conditioned, computer controlled, GPS driven dream machines with air-sprung cabs, surround sound entertainment and tyres that cost as much each as rental on a Docklands apartment. A basic New Holland T6 will set a farmer back about £54k. Plus VAT. What are all these farmers complaining about? The prospect of falling incomes, of course, as restrictions on nitrates, pesticides and irresponsible herbicide use start to bite. They, like every other pressure group, want more money 'from the EU' which disguises that it is taxpayers who must pay it.


Personally, I think we are now seeing the reverse Europe play. Just as UK governments have for years blamed every unpopular and gold-plated measure from Whitehall on the EU, I think the EU will now blame every unpopular budget move on Brexit. Neonicotinoid ban in Rhine-Westphalia? Brexit. Cancelled road tunnel in the Vosges? Brexit.

David Frost, our chief negotiator, has done no harm in making a reasoned, calm response to the EU's hysteria in a speech at Brussels University. He already has his full brief – which was given to Parliament in a written statement by the PM on 3rd February, quietly released on the day of the Greenwich speech. There are just four major heads -

1. Free Trade Agreement (12 sub heads)
2. Agreement on Fisheries
3. Agreement on Internal Security Cooperation
4. Other areas of Cooperation

We'll give them another document next week, but we can be quietly confident. We've got them on the back foot, and we must not rise to their increasingly hysterical public demands – they're not meant for us.

Monday, 17 February 2020

Covid-19 modellers on the ball, despite Chinese lies

It is now beyond doubt that China has been lying to the world about the numbers of Covid-19 cases in Wuhan. The Lancet estimated that we should multiply all Chinese announcements by a factor of 10, but an even more detailed analysis is provided in online Biopharma mag Stat. Working backwards from cases outside China, Imperial College, advisors to the WHO, estimated some 1,000 to 9,700 cases when China was reporting 440. And so for the 1,700 reported deaths to date - read 17,000.

It now seems beyond doubt that Covid-19 is out and now cannot be contained. In the UK we will stop testing once we have 100 confirmed cases - at this point we will have a pandemic. It is likely it has taken hold in London already and we will see many more cases in the next 7 days. An estimated R0 of 2 to 3 means it spreads very easily - it is highly infectious. How quickly it will spread is determined by the serial interval - the time it takes for people to get sick, and the period during which they can infect others. Toronto University has got a useful online modelling tool with sliders - try reducing the serial interval from 7 to 6 days to see the astonishing effects.

Bottom line is that some 60% of us are likely to be infected, and 1% are likely to die prematurely as a result. That's between 300,000 and 400,000 for the UK. Olders will take the brunt, as will those with impaired lung function or impaired auto-immunity. The only glimmer of good news is that economically we can take the hit; Ross Clark in the Speccie reports that a death toll of this scale will cause GDP to drop only by about 0.75% this year. He compares that to the 3.5% to 6% drop in GDP forecast by George Osborne in 2016 if we voted for Brexit.

The other glimmer of hope is the weather. Pandemic viruses spread best when it's cold and dry - the warmer and moister the air, the less chance the virus has of being transmitted in droplets. It's counter-intuitive, but high humidity is a good thing as far as reducing spread. On an personal basis, reducing contacts to the absolute minimum possible is the most effective protection. Not much comfort to those commuting on crowded public transport in London, but for those of us who have the choice, reducing the trip to the shops from twice to once a week and cutting out leisure travel will have a significant effect. Try as much as you can to stay in the 40% who avoid infection, and hope for an early hot Easter.

As for the government, they will have plans for hospitals to maximise survival for those worst hit, but otherwise will pursue a policy of carry on as normal, to minimise economic damage. We're past the point of heroic action, and into taking the hit. As for the Millennials, for whom this will be their first experience of a mortal threat, let's see how far that open borders stuff lasts when the death toll in Africa hits the tens of millions.

Update
=====
Smuggled video showing the dead put out for collection in China. Satellites have also picked up chemical and spectroscopic signatures of vast funeral pyres on the outskirts of big cities.


Ah, they removed that quickly. Must be Huawei servers ;(
For those that missed it, it was filmed on a phone from a moped driving past a stretch of footway outside apartment buildings with many (I counted over 20) bodies wrapped in sheets left out for collection. 

Sunday, 16 February 2020

How the Continent has improved since 1973

It leaves me with a warm feeling that we have left the Continent a far better place than it was when we joined the EEC back in 1973. Let me count the ways -

When I was a lad, all foreign animals were infested with Rabies and one was warned not to try to touch or stroke them or die a terrible death. We were also warned that because of very low continental standards of animal hygiene, they were likely also to be infested with fleas and parasites. Foreign animals were not allowed into Britain unless they had spent six months in quarantine - racehorses excluded, of course.

I'm glad to say that in the intervening years the continentals have taken our lead and have massively improved their standards of animal welfare. It is now OK to stroke French cats, though they are still likely to be infested with fleas and worms.

It was on my first school exchange, to St Étienne, that I first encountered the French squat toilet, and my first evacuation was something of an adventure (it was not a subject about which I could have in decency asked my host family, even if my French had been up to it). After a day or two of careful experimentation, I adapted like a native and the sound of the Dambusters theme tune being hummed loudly from the bathroom would greet Mme Dupont every morning.

I'm almost sad to see that the French have now almost universally adopted proper civilised toilets, though they still maintain some of their old ways by neglecting to clean them. The Teutons, too, have taken to British toilets; the German obsession with bowel movements had gifted them with bathroom porcelain fitted with an integral inspection shelf, which allowed them to study their stools closely before consigning them to the sewer. Now their waste disappears around the bend like that of civilised nations, condition decently unseen.

"Never" we were warned "drink the tap water". Only English piped water was drinkable; continental water was polluted filth that harboured typhoid, cholera and raw sewage. When washing one's face, the mouth and eyes must be kept tightly closed lest infection be induced. We learned that we should use something called Badoit or Vichy to brush our teeth, somewhat to the puzzlement of the apothecaries in St Étienne whom I first approached for these mysterious substances, before finding them alongside the Orangina in the local shop.

Now I'm glad to say under British influence many continental countries have improved the quality of their tap water to the extent that it may now be drunk, carefully and with a little care. Though those non-potable water signs are still surprisingly common.

Just imagine. If we'd had another 50 years we may even have been able to show them how to cook and make decent beer and cheese, as well as improve their still appallingly low standards of nationally-made clothing and footwear. Ah well.

Still, it's good to see that some things they had in 1973 are still there, and still popular

Saturday, 15 February 2020

Trans women aren't females - and it's OK to say so

Trans women are not biological females. There. Said it.

As a libertarian I'm all in favour of personal freedom - whether this consists of blokes wearing skirts and high heels and living as girls, or girls wearing suits, sporting a Number One cut and living as blokes. It's fine. It really is. Do what you want; you can even take pills and have surgery to assume the look, so long as you have the means to sustain it. No one cares. But please don't ask me to perform feats of Orwellian mendacity in pretending that you are actually a member of the biological sex in which you have chosen to live.

What is really chilling about yesterday's landmark ruling for common sense in the Miller case is that the real issue has yet to be decided - the lawfulness of the 'College of Policing' guidance that has seen 120,000 wholly innocent citizens recorded on their semi-private computer system as guilty of 'non-crime hate incidents'. How dare they? Words and actions in this country are either criminal or they are lawful. If they are lawful, these nasty secret little power cabals such as the 'College of Policing' may be entitled to record them - but we are entitled to full knowledge of what may have been recorded against us, for making statements such as that in my first paragraph. These records must be fully open to personal inspection under the UK's own version of the GDPR, and the 'College of Policing' fully liable in civil law for any loss or damage caused.

It absolutely infuriates me that these secretive private organisations funded from our tax yet exempt from all accountability can take such liberties with our liberties. We must drag their dark little 'College of Policing' into the sunlight, subject it to full public accountability and put its self-serving capos before the appropriate parliamentary committees.   

Friday, 14 February 2020

Budget briefing: Why Javid had to go

I think there are sound reasons why Sajid Javid had to go, not least of which was the damage he could potentially cause to the UK economy by allying himself with the Remainer doomsters and gloomsters at the Treasury. Allow me to explain -
UK public sector spend - Source: OBR
You can see that ever since the Thatcher government in 1979 (which was elected, remember, because Labour had so screwed the economy) Britain has had a sort of tax-take comfort zone which is somewhere between 35% and 40% of GDP. In fact what I've labelled 'taxes' includes both interest payments and interest receipts and dividends - so the official term is 'public sector current receipts'. Total spending is generally higher than current income - somewhere around the 40% mark.

Now to put some of the arguments within cabinet into perspective, 1% of GDP is about £22bn a year. So before rebates and tax-collection adjustments,this is what we will save by leaving the EU*. If we wanted to, say, increase total government expenditure from 39.3% of GDP to 42.5% of GDP (a fairly modest increase) this would give us an additional £70bn a year (plus £10bn EU leaving bonus) for investment. So even £100bn over 20 years - £5bn a year - for HS2 isn't such a big thing.

Of course this additional borrowing means we have to pay interest - but rates at the moment are close to zero. And investment borrowing - to up the nation's game, increase capacity, productivity and so on - also produces additional tax income and lower current expenditure on welfare. This is why it's particularly vital to invest in those parts of the UK that have been so long deprived of it, ever since the Callaghan Labour government started closing the pits and running down British industry in the 1970s.

Number 10 knows this. The Treasury doesn't. And Sajid Javid went native. He had to go.

* Yes it is. This is from the EU's own website from 2015 - I just had it on file - when the 1% figure was £20bn. After rebates and tax-offsets of course it comes down to £12/£13bn.

Thursday, 13 February 2020

Preventing online harms to politicians

Government proposals to prevent online harms to politicians and those in public life 

I may yesterday have given the impression that I in some way objected to our wise Leader's introduction of internet censorship for the UK. Nothing could be further from the truth. I recognise that the wise and reasonable proposals made by the fragrant Lady Morgan and the saintly Ms Patel will propel the UK into a place unknown by other democratic nations.

In particular, I applaud the wisdom of including perfectly legal and lawful content in the material to be censored. The White Paper is intended to protect vulnerable groups such as children and those active in public life, in circumstances in particular in which politicians and civil servants may be offended or disturbed by comments on their actions made by citizens. Politicians must be free to do as they wish without negative and sometimes hurtful comment from citizens. So even though such comments are quite legal, they must be banned from the internet for the public good.

Quite rightly neither the government, the courts, the regulator Ofcom or companies that provide platforms in return for advertising revenue wish to be bothered with vexatious complaints about censorship and injustice from individual citizens. The government will therefore make it practically impossible to appeal the arbitrary banning of content and voices, in the best interests of the State.

We also welcome moves to end internet anonymity in the UK. It is clearly simply wrong that so many individuals making comments on news sites, Twitter, blogs and other internet forums do so under assumed identities. During the recent General Election campaign, for instance, the government estimate that some 64% of anonymous political statements were posted by those from the civil and public services, who only form 39% of the workforce. As those employees are contractually forbidden from making public political statements, ending internet anonymity will either silence them or allow them to be easily dismissed from their posts. National productivity will also be increased as they will get on with making beds, policing bus lanes, changing colostomy bags and so on rather than fiddling with their phones.

I also applaud measures to be taken against disinformation and the saying of untrue things on the internet, and clearly the BBC must have a major role as the arbiter of what is truthful and can be stated and written by citizens in this regard. 

Personally, I think the proposed legislation doesn't go far enough. There is no mention for example of regulating or banning cartoons that portray politicians in negative and sometimes hurtful ways. These must also be included in the scope of legislation or Twitter will become a mass of poorly-drawn caricatures posted by named persons in such a way that will evade censorship.

I confirm I am willing of my own free will to submit this posting to the Google Blogger UK content checking authority, appointed by Ofcom in accordance with the Online Harms Act 2020, for verification and permission to publish

Wednesday, 12 February 2020

Dear God, the frightful buggers are at it again

This ill-thought out, incomplete and premature response to the April 2019 consultation was rushed out today by DCMS mandarins ahead of Nicky Morgan's replacement tomorrow. The timing is desperate.

I'll post tomorrow again about this, but as a catch-up reminder, here was where we were in April of last year -

Tuesday 9th April 2019

Censorship and Repression - May's Ceauscescu moves 

A leader desperately clinging onto power and fearful of the whispers of the people will inevitably enact repressive measures to restrict free speech - and it's therefore no surprise that the doomed May has gone down the Ceauscescu path with proposals contained in the Online Harms White Paper for widespread government censorship of the internet.

She is supported by her sinister Grand Vizier Sajid Javid and by Labour's Noncefinder General, Tom Watson - whose credulity in giving his support to criminal fantasists who flung accusations of paedo assault against the wholly innocent matches only his deep Socialist support of any measures that restrict free speech and repress democratic freedom.

The way they're going to do it is this. First they establish their ability to impose swingeing penalties on the online service providers - Facebook, Twitter, Google (the host of this blog). Then they task these firms with implementing government censorship requirements or risk even greater penalties. For blogs such as this, the duty will not be simply to remove censored content when notified but to act proactively to identify those blogs likely to offend the government and close them down in advance. With MPs whining like babies about people being rude about them, you can be sure they'll include censorship of political criticism in a government-imposed list of censored blog content including (Chapter 7)
Guidance to companies to outline what activity and material constitutes hateful content, including that which is a hate crime, or where not necessarily illegal, content that may directly or indirectly cause harm to other users – for example, in some cases of bullying, or offensive material. (my underlining)
In other words, anyone the government wants can now become a 'protected group' under censorship law - including MPs, the patrician establishment, the betrayer civil service, scum corporate globalists, mutton-headed Whitehall dags and plod chiefs, the EU capos ..

Neither will blogs be able to remind readers for example of Yvette Cooper's home flipping or her mendacious pledge to house migrants in one of her homes -
Being harassed online can be upsetting and frightening, and online harassment can amount to a criminal offence. Far too many people, from public figures to schoolchildren, have experienced this kind of behaviour.
Yep - non-criminal, wholly lawful  'harassment' of public figures will also cause Google to censor blogs under May's Ceaucescu Law . Take a look at this - it may be the last time you see it

And finally, the Ministry of Truth will come to life as the government decides what information and informed comment can be published on this blog
(Information) can harm us in many different ways, encouraging us to make decisions that could damage our health, undermining our respect and tolerance for each other and confusing our understanding of what is happening in the wider world. It can also damage our trust in our democratic institutions, including Parliament
Oh boy - so it's blogs that damage our trust in Parliament - not Parliament's betrayal of democracy or corrupt MPs as I previously described  them as denizens of Dante's eighth malbolge  - pimps, seducers, flatterers dipped in shit, liars, fornicators, barrators, perjurers, corrupt office-holders, half-wit frauds and peculators. And I can name at least three of each. And have candid photos of one (widely circulated on the net) who importuned another pervert to shit on him.

As even the 'Daily Remain' comments
Tory MP and former Culture Secretary John Whittingdale, writing at the weekend, was completely justified in warning that the proposals risk dragging Britain into a 'draconian censorship regime' more akin to China, Russia or North Korea. No other Western democratic state has countenanced similarly far-reaching controls.
Government censorship of blogs, FB and Twitter will be wide ranging, using the government's own tame Ministry of Truth agencies including the BBC - and even forcing GFT to push BBC pro-government propaganda onto users;
  • The steps companies should take in their terms of service to make clear what constitutes disinformation, the expectations they have of users, and the penalties for violating those terms of service.
  • Steps that companies should take in relation to users who deliberately misrepresent their identity to spread and strengthen disinformation.
  • Making content which has been disputed by reputable fact-checking services less visible to users.
  • Using fact-checking services, particularly during election periods.
  • Promoting authoritative news sources.
  • Promoting diverse news content, countering the ‘echo chamber’ in which people are only exposed to information which reinforces their existing views.
May, Javid and the Red Tories have truly become globalist dags and tools of the Socialists. The Noncefinder General and his Marxist capo must be rubbing their hands with glee.

OK, I suggest any readers with any interest in freedom investigate using Tor and Signal.If this repressive authoritarian shite becomes law, we're going underground.

Patricia Scotland digs her nails into Commonwealth door

Attempts to drag Patricia Scotland from her dire and institutionally damaging leadership of the Commonwealth Secretariat are gathering pace. Boris, it seems, is learning the lessons taught by Tony Blair - that for longevity in power, stack the NGOs, quangos and charidees with your own people. The UK has now joined Australia and New Zealand in either freezing or cutting funding. Scotland earned the nickname 'Baroness Brazen' in 2017 when she spent £338,000 of Commonwealth Secretariat funds to refashion her official residence. She has also been criticised by auditors for awarding a £250,000 contract to her friend Lord Patel's firm KYA Global without any competitive tenders. Scotland has been lobbying for her own re-appointment this year - but pressure is growing to install a leader with greater visible probity who sets standards of transparency and good stewardship for the organisation's funds.

However, don't assume that Boris has abandoned his instinct to cut or abolish the plethora of NGOs that sprouted like mushrooms under the Blair regime. By filling their places with his own Brexity and Internationalist post-holders, he will guarantee opposition support for future reform.

At a time when the UK's trade, defence and migration links to the Commonwealth will be paramount, the last person we need in post as head of the Secretariat is a Blairite Remoaner who may seek to sabotage the nation's Internationalist endeavours.

Scotland must go. Pay her off.

Scotland ... oot!

Tuesday, 11 February 2020

Dirty Rotten Bastards

Over a career spent handling hundreds of millions of other people's money, the one key constant that has always allowed me to sleep at night is not once, ever, having stolen a penny of it, never having taken a bribe and never having succumbed to corruption. I have turned down everything from Wimbledon centre court tickets, cruises, hampers, Glasto tickets to thinly veiled offers of brown envelopes. My philosophy is don't even admit the thin end of the wedge; I was always clear with tenderers and subbies - the limit was an inexpensive working lunch. Not that I wasn't up for a drink - but when they put the company card behind the bar I'd add £20 of my own to the pot. Yes, scoff all you like - but I have a reputation for the very highest standards of stewardship of my clients' money, and I'm proud of it.

So reading today that Austrian government officials took bribes of £55m from Airbus simply disgusts me. The levels of public corruption here are very much greater than in the UK - every political and public actor from the Burgermeister upwards is suspect. Partly it's being in a half-beer half-wine country, partly it's the deeply corrupt culture of the EU. I now regard all public officials in Austria as potentially corrupt and deal with them accordingly.

The Austrian corrupt payments were the largest amongst Airbus' campaign of bribery, fraud and filthy money - all of which has now been swept under the carpet with no prosecutions for a €3.6bn payoff to the even more corrupt EU.

It stinks like week-old Mackerel. Dirty corrupt bastards.

Monday, 10 February 2020

Road Pricing - an idea for Boris' second term

Roger Bootle in the Telegraph this morning outlines a number of measures to improve the UK's productivity - the last of which is road pricing. Personally, I like the idea - replacing VED with an ad valorem tax would help, say, older rural motorists who only drive maybe once or twice a week to the shops and will penalise the single occupant sales rep doing thousands of unnecessary miles and choking the road system. I also like using public transport and park and ride - I was made to be driven, not to do the menial work.  

However, I can hear the creaking of rising hackles. This is not an idea for Boris to introduce before 2024. For a start, we need our own GPS satellite system in place - and a better use of a few billions I cannot imagine - and road pricing introduction will be accutely sensitive to both fuel prices and advances in electric and autonomous vehicles. We also need to take drivers out of the cabs of all vehicles running on steel rails within the M25 and automate to double or triple track capacity. Automated trains can have much closer running distances than manned units.

And we need a few years to allow people to get used to the idea that having roads clogged with single-occupant ICE vehicles is simply daft.

Sunday, 9 February 2020

Police organisation - time for a radical rethink?

One of the reasons that academics have had such difficulty in determining the most efficient size and scale of a police force is the degree to which police forces are vertically integrated. We are used to each of our 43 police forces, under the hierarchical control of a Chief Constable (The Met is a special case) and with detective and CID branches that may have specialist sub-squads dealing with drugs or counter terrorism, a traffic division, armed response units, specialist operational functions that may include scenes-of-crime, armourers, procurement and stores and vehicle maintenance and back office functions including HR, finance, payroll, pension administration, media communications and PR.

And one of the problems we have in discussing the structure and composition of policing is that there is always an implicit assumption that this degree of vertical integration is how it must be. Thus those who argue for larger national or regional police forces inevitably do so on the basis of claimed efficiencies in back office and specialist operational support services. But why should the key part of the police service most valued and wanted by the public that owns it, local policing, be dragged into the hubristic empire-building of ambitious senior officers?

One of tensions at the heart of the long struggle between Whitehall and Town Hall for control of policing are two very different views of what the UK's police forces should do. One the one hand we want local policing, community building, informal dispute and disturbance resolution, reinforcement of the Little Platoons and the ears of sworn constables attuned and receptive to the concerns and priorities of citizens. On the other hand Whitehall fears an ever-present danger of chaos, anarchy, terrorism, major incidents, fire, flood, disease and strikes, and even more than such events themselves it fears its own inability to deal with them. Whitehall therefore wants a large, flexible, mobile force with existing command and communications structures as closely under the control of the Home secretary as possible to be deployed to maintain the well-being and security of the State.

If we accept that both ambitions are to some extent legitimate, we must ask how, or even if, they can both be achieved without a duplication of resources. Can we integrate and amalgamate the back-office and specialist operational functions? Can we regionalise and specialise counter-terrorism policing and detective work for indictable offences such as rape that needs particular skills and resources? Can we roll out integrated communication systems and secure mobile information access that can serve a local beat copper both when on his rounds and when he's called upon to police football crowds in the nearest city?

But above all, can we return local policing to being local policing, immune from the woke fads, promotion obsessions and box-checking of ambitious middle-ranking managers? Under the democratic direction (but not operational control) of watch committees, elected bodies and even lay magistrates?

Policing is broke. It needs fixing. It is simply not acceptable that the police no longer respond to reports of non-indictable offences. It is even less acceptable that the organisational and management failures that allowed the systemic child sexual abuse of thousands of young girls in our town and cities are permitted to continue. 

Saturday, 8 February 2020

Police costs and efficiency - is small beautiful?

What is the optimum size of a police force, either to be most efficient in tackling crime or most economically efficient? This is not a question of opinion, but of fact. Such things are determinable, and we have, between the UK and the US, which share most closely a model of policing, a sample set that includes forces such as the Met of 30,000 officers down to independent forces in small US towns of six to eight officers. 

The 1960 Royal Commission on the Police in a very English way didn't actually rely on scientific or statistical method, but on ill-reasoned opinion that supported the prejudices of the Commissioners. Presenting the report to the House, the Home Secretary Henry Brooke said
The Commission suggests that forces numbering less than 200 are handicapped; that the retention of forces less than 350 strong is not normally justifiable, and that the best size of a force is upwards of 500 ... I agree with the Commission that in this small, densely populated island, we have too many separate forces...I am not suggesting that small police forces are inefficient; a small force can attain a very high standard of esprit de corps, but I agree with the Royal Commission that small forces tend to be handicapped. They lack the flexibility of larger forces; they cannot always make the best use of available manpower, and the efficient policing of wider areas is sometimes impaired by the preservation of what are often arbitrary and irksome police boundaries, from the point of view of crime and road traffic. Some areas are better policed by a large force than by a number of small forces, however efficient each of the small forces is.
And there we have impeccable civil service Oxford logic, an argument bereft of fact or evidence and supported by reason alone. "We asked Charles, David, Neville and Tarquin and they all had a guess and we took the average and rounded it out".

Contrary to the Home Secretary's opinions, the job of the police is not to provide the Home Office with administrative convenience but to deal with crime - at least in the eyes of the public, whom the police serve and who pay their wages. Those efficient small local forces that caused the civil servants such irritation at the Home Office were exactly what the public wanted.

From the 1970s the economists and statisticians examined police structures. The academics found many factors that needed to be reconciled; night time populations, ethnic and socio-economic population composition, density, age profile of population - number of under-25s, density of businesses, road lengths and types, whether the area was growing or in decline, property values. As for the outputs, did one measure reported crime, arrests, convictions or just police interventions with no outcomes? One UK study (Drake and Simper 2002) even used the number of breathalyzer tests administered as a significant determinant of police efficiency.

However, what all of the many studies since the 1970s have in common, on both sides of the Atlantic, is that they quantify efficiencies in what police actually do - the entire panoply of police functions as they are constituted. As I will look at in the third of these posts, we need to look at policing differently.

A readable summary of the evidence is summarised in both a US study and a UK synopsis.  The bottom line?
  • The efficiency of a police force is optimised serving a population of 25,000 - 50,000 (US) or 25,000 to 250,000 (UK)
  • There are significant and substantial dis-economies of scale - large police forces cost more and have more crime
  • There is a lower level below which it is not efficient to maintain an independent police force - a population of about 2,000 citizens
There is also in the UK a missing component - local per capita costs. I am still looking for the tables of a force-by-force breakdown of cost per capita and this must also be an important determinant of future policy. Overall for England and Wales, the costs are given in this 2019 Home Office statistical bulletin.  If I have half a day I can make a decent fist of producing a breakdown analysis, but the point is I should not have to.

Overall, cost of policing for England and Wales is £14.063bn per year. Mid-year population estimate 2018 was 59.17m. Annual cost per capita is therefore £237.67.

Just one note from the US literature review -
Whereas the average per capita expenditure for the 14 police departments in the sample was $177.36, Finney (1997) estimated that consolidating them into one department (with their arrest output remaining the same) would result in a per capita cost of $472.78.

Friday, 7 February 2020

We need to talk about Plod

Since the Police Act of 1964, policing in the UK has become increasingly centralised, increasingly expensive and increasingly inefficient and unresponsive. Decades of semi-detachment from normal society have convinced most serving policemen that they are crown servants in the same way as the armed forces, responsible only to the sovereign, and with a duty to exercise law and justice on a deviant populace. Forces have been amalgamated, chief police officers have formed their own quasi-legal bodies with exceptional and unaccountable powers and we are drifting towards an armed gendarmerie under the command of a Minister of Justice on the continental model rather than local bodies of unarmed Peelian law-keepers on the British model.

Look back to the days before the ruinous Police Act. The UK had 158 seperate police forces, under the control of local Watch Committees, 97 with fewer than 350 officers. The struggle between the Home Secretary and local communities for control of the police has been a long one - and the Home Secretary won big in 1964. Forces and Watch Committees were abolished and the Home Secretary took command, including responsibility for appointing the most senior officers.

And now, in the second decade of the 21st century, we have a police service not fit for purpose. Non-indictable crime is virtually ignored, gang culture has taken over our major cities and is leaving hundreds of young people exsanguinating into the gutters, computer crime and fraud is beyond their capacity and absurdities such as Cressida Dick's 'Hurty Words' internet squad just bring opprobrium on the entire police force.

It has all gone seriously wrong. And just like the dysfunctional EU, the answer from the police is always more of the same - greater professionalism, graduate only recruitment, salaries on a par with solicitors, greater centralisation, more power for police chiefs, more funding, more bling, more expensive gadgets, faster cars. None of which will result in one single fewer burglary, car theft, public order offence or gang stabbing.

The Telegraph reports on the most recent HM Inspector's report, and it makes ugly reading. The public have largely given up on Plod. We need to do something.

The first questions we need to ask are about what the 1964 Police Act and everything that followed got wrong. I once spent several weeks with a Met Police statistics and mapping team when we were looking at options to design-out opportunities for crime and it was a salutory experience. If you talk to a copper, they will have you believe that their entire time is spent dealing with dead bodies or facing down shotguns. This is simply risible fiction. Over 95% of police responses - yes, over 95% - are spent responding to non-indictable offences or CADs - call-outs to disturbances. It is, frankly, more the work of well-trained and inexpensive security guards under local control than the job of highly skilled, very expensive graduate police 'professionals'.

However, it's the 5% of police work that does need skilled policing that counts. The rapes, the murders, terrorism, serious and organised crime, mafia and mobs, armed response units and such like. Here there is a case for pooled resources, central control and such things.

And this is the first question I would ask. Do we need not one but two police services - one local, Peelian and responsive and another on the continental Ministry of Justice model?

Thursday, 6 February 2020

A new chance for the BBC after the TV Tax

Back on 10th December we faced the ballot box having witnessed the most disgraceful and unprofessional reporting ever seen of the election campaign by the BBC. Our national broadcaster was no longer interested in fair and balanced reporting or skillfully eliciting the views of politicians; it had become a platform for the woke metropolitan elitist views of its staff. BBC interviews were about the interviewer, not the interviewee. We saw Marr with a machine-gun list of peremptory questions that gave the Prime Minister just a few seconds to collect his thoughts and begin his answer to each before the next demand was thrust at him. Marr no doubt preened at his petty victory - but on 10th December I predicted the fall of the BBC -
The Prime Minister clearly has a strategy. First, de-criminalise non-payment of the TV tax. This doesn't mean, as some MSM commenters have assumed, that payment would be voluntary - only that recovery would become a civil, not criminal matter. The 180,000 people every year hitherto prosecuted by the BBC in the magistrates' court would in future be defendants in the county court. As many of these simply can't afford the TV tax, the BBC has been happy until now to land them with a criminal conviction and fine, including a compulsory £15 'victim surcharge'. Those paying it are often foodbank users - the prosecutor is a £4bn a year behemoth. Just who is the victim here?

Using bailiffs or other recovery methods to enforce county court judgements for such low value debts will clearly challenge the BBC. TV footage of bailiffs seizing the pathetic belongings of the poorest and most vulnerable in our society (obviously this will not be shown on the BBC ...) will further turn the public against the broadcaster; cameras are banned from the magistrates courts, so their vindictiveness is currently hidden.
Well yesterday the DCMS launched a public consultation on decriminalising the TV Tax and I'd urge all of you to respond to it. I am not as sure as is Allister Heath in the Telegraph that the result is not in doubt -
Quite rightly, non-payment of the licence fee will be decriminalised in two years’ time (rarely has the outcome of a “consultation” been in so little doubt) and the licence fee itself will go by 2027. The Government won’t stop the BBC reimposing the fee on over-75s, a decision which will further reduce support for it.
You will note that in all the BBC's online reporting of the DCMS consultation, it never once provides a link to the government website where viewers and listeners can make their views heard. That is hardly the behaviour of a broadcaster committed to serving the public.

There is an alternative to the TV Tax that will allow the BBC to retain much of its Public Service Broadcaster ethos - not the Netflix model, but the HBO model. HBO currently has operating revenue of £1.5bn a year for a worldwide service - and I think a remodelled BBC could achieve something similar. I have been consistently impressed by HBO's output. Netflix, which costs me €7.99 a month, contains around 85% of unwatchable low-quality crap of interest only to teenagers or morons but is worth it for the 15% of decent-quality output. The BBC's ultra-woke preachy, skewed and distorted output is not of interest even to teenagers any longer, so it needs to change if it is to survive.

Wednesday, 5 February 2020

Could Britain lead Europe's post-ICE vehicle industry?

When a number of seemingly unconnected stories around a single theme hit the news at the same time my alarm bells start to ring. Gliding swan moment or mere coincidence? 

Nissan leaked news that post-Brexit it may consider retrenching to Sunderland, breaking the manufacturing tie with Renault and returning Micra production from France to the UK, where the electric Leaf, and ICE Qashqai and Juke are made. The reason leaked to the FT was to increase UK market share from 4% to 20%.

Next, the EU are almost as desperate to lock the UK into its Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) as they are to gain access to our fishing waters. The Telegraph reports
.. membership requires an acceptance of the EU’s rules and close ties to EU climate policy after Brexit. The Government has not yet decided on a course of action, and a carbon pricing consultation is set to be published in due course.

If targets accepted when the UK was a member state or future agreed goals are not reached, Britain could face punitive measures from the EU - including fines or even the temporary suspension of market access.
Thirdly there is the sour note around the UK's hosting of COP26 in Glasgow - firstly whether Sturgeon's Scotland was actually up to hosting an international event, and secondly the defenestration of the backbench MP who had ambitions to chair it in favour of someone with greater reach. Zac Goldsmith is now being mooted for the post.

And finally of course the 2035 ICE vehicle sales ban - which includes hybrids.

So the petrol / diesel ban first. As a voice on the radio noted, this will probably be your second next new car. Your next is still likely to be an ICE vehicle. Car makers will need to make substantial  investments in new AI plants that employ fewer workers to assemble vehicles whose engines and transmissions also contain many fewer parts than ICE power units. Secondly, one can speculate that the EU desperately want control over carbon taxes and tax offsets to allow it to control the managed transition of Germany's car industry to non-ICE production; if the UK slips under the net and accelerates new investment, innovation and international markets from here it will put the entire EU on the back foot.

That's my take - that there's some furious footwork going on under the surface of the placid waters, and its all to do with Europe's car industry. Am I off-beam here?

Monday, 3 February 2020

Prime Minister emerges from under his bushel

I have only one recommendation today - to watch the Prime Minister's Greenwich speech in full. This was not the painstakingly careful cautious Boris of the December hustings, the Boris protecting himself with a stuttering duffer act, but a keystone speech by a Statesman of undoubted intellectual grasp and vision. He damned the mercantilists and protectionists both, and spent half-an-hour championing the great freedom of trade, Smith and Ricardo. It will make uncomfortable viewing for the EU. He set out Britain's new place in the world as a newly independent State, deprecated the actions of both the EU and the US in blocking free trade and committed his government to catalysing trade against the sclerotic myopia that blinds both to its benefits. 

After half a century of travelling the wrong path, the UK is back on course (my underlining) -
.. we will always co-operate with our European friends in foreign and defence policy whenever our interests converge – as they often, if not always, will – this will not in my view necessarily require any new treaty or institutions because we will not need them for the simple reason that the UK is not a European power by treaty or by law but by irrevocable facts of history and geography and language and culture and instinct and sentiment.

And I say to our European friends – many of whom I’m delighted to see in this room – we are here as ever, as we have been for decades, for centuries, to support and to help as we always have done for the last hundred years or more and the reason I stress this need for full legal autonomy, the reason we do not seek membership or part membership of the customs union or alignment of any kind, is at least partly that I want this country to be an independent actor and catalyst for free trade across the world.
He also blasted the jejune slurs of the dysfunctional left for the pathetic untruths that they are. Our social and environmental protections exceed the EU's - he quoted chapter and verse, available for all to reference within the full text of the speech. Neither would we be selling the NHS to the US. And neither would M. Barnier get any rights at all over the UK's EEZ waters -
We are ready to consider an agreement on fisheries, but it must reflect the fact that the UK will be an independent coastal state at the end of this year 2020, controlling our own waters.

And under such an agreement, there would be annual negotiations with the EU, using the latest scientific data, ensuring that British fishing grounds are first and foremost for British boats.
The reality is that our own fishing industry has been run down for half a century, ever since Grocer Heath gave it away. That capacity won't come back overnight - not just boats and crews, but boatyards and slips, piers and moorings, processing and freezing plants, markets, transport infrastructure and the entire tail of the nascent industry. For as many years as it takes to rebuild UK capacity, we will licence EU vessels to catch fish in our waters. Those catch totals will only diminish - never grow - but how quickly or slowly depends in great part on the speed with which we will rebuild.

This will not always be easy. This is a yard I knew well in Newhaven that built fishing boats under 20m - it is still there (at least on Google maps) but many more are not, replaced by ubiquitous jerry-built waterside apartments with galvanised balconettes and through-colour renders.

  
The Prime Minister helped scotch fears that his team was about to trade away British waters for the commercial gents in the City. It seems the commercial gents are supremely relaxed about EU threats anyway - and only Globalist mouthpieces such as the CBI are raising this as an issue. As Roger Bootle writes in the Telegraph
The fishing industry will, I think, be the litmus test. Apparently, Brussels is going to try to secure continued full access to British waters by trading this off against access to EU markets for the UK's financial services industry. The fishing industry may be pretty insignificant economically - and especially in comparison to financial services - yet it has enormous political importance.

It was sold out by Edward Heath, the then prime minister at the last moment during the negotiations that took Britain into the EU in 1973. And fishing is of particular significance in Scotland. The SNP wants to keep Scotland in the EU. If we sell out the fishing industry again this will be seen as a massive betrayal, especially in Scotland.
As for the financial services industry, that is a different kettle of fish - as it were. The EU needs the City of London as much, if not more, than the City needs the EU. If the EU makes things difficult for British financial services firms then it will be cutting off its nose to spite its face. Meanwhile, the City will thrive, as it always has done, selling services, including new ones based on fintech, around the world.
Guido carries a full video of the speech. Sit back, clutch drink of choice and enjoy!
Prime Minister - Greenwich - 3rd February 2020