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Saturday 7 October 2017

Felipe of Spain - just the same old don?

Felipe VI of Spain showed his real attitude to self-determination back in July, on a State visit to the UK during which we pretended he was welcome and he pretended that he enjoyed being here. The toy king (founded 1975) who owes his throne to the unelected bureaucrats of Brussels refused to recognise the government of Gibraltar (founded 1713) or the rights of the people of Gibraltar to determine their own future; a true EUphile, he wanted instead to trade the freedom of the people of the Rock without any reference to their own views. 

His uncompromising and brutal speech on self-determination in Catalonia confirms his attitude towards extending democracy within his toy kingdom. No calls for dialogue, no door left open for a future legitimate referendum, no compromise. In the world of kings he is something of a counter-jumper, an arriviste, a nouveau roi. Perhaps his grasping approach to what is left of the Spanish empire is not unexpected; neither Ceuta nor Melilla, holdings far less legitimate and democratic than Gibraltar, will be allowed to slip from Spain's grasp. 

Many in Catalonia now blame Felipe for the paramilitary violence last weekend. They know their king better than we do, and have a shrewd idea of the extent of his power to direct Spain's military. This also raises whether Felipe is personally behind the long series of military provocations against Gibraltar this year. Is Felipe just the same old unreasoning, fanatical don that we have known before? Has loyalty to the Pope just been replaced with loyalty to the EU? 

I sincerely hope that both sides pull back from the brink next week, that Spain concedes a proper referendum, that the Catalan parliament resists declaring independence. Felipe and his EU masters have shown themselves to be both wilful and stupid so far, driving the region to secession. Let's hope more balanced voices are heard - possibly Switzerland, which has already offered to mediate, but has been spurned by both Spain and the EU. 

Felipe may want to take note. Switzerland is what an actual democracy looks like - and every Canton retains the right to leave the Swiss Federation. Perhaps he was sick on the day they taught democracy.

Felipe II and Felipe VI - the same old don?

Thursday 5 October 2017

Council housing doesn't work any more

The Parker-Morris standards for Council houses are almost always described as minimum space standards. They are not. They are actually maximum space standards. When the committee was investigating during the 1950s, at the height of what was then called 'slum clearance' in which gorgeous Georgian terraces and the remains of 16th and 17th century urban villages were destroyed along with any houses that had inconveniently survived the Blitz, the government faced a demand problem. If they built houses that were wind and weathertight, with indoor privies, heating and all modern conveniences, good strong roofs and damp courses, better in fact than most privately rented housing stock, how would they curb demand? The answer was to make them small - with every square inch of space calculated; room for the bin, and the pram, for a small 2-person sofa, a table for the wireless, a dining table for two. Making them as small as possible - smaller than the private alternatives - was intended to restrict demand, and in the 1950s, to an extent, it worked. It also allowed economy in construction, housing 25% more people than new private construction for the same cost. 

In 2017, private housebuilding builds to almost exactly the same space standards as the 1961 Parker Morris quota. But with no room for the landrover baby buggy, the fridge freezer, the dish washer or storage for clothes and shoes twenty times the size of the lean post-war wardrobe. The owner of a modern estate home may also rent a self-store space in lieu of a garage and loftspace, or clutter their parents' homes with their overspill of stuff. 

Off-site fabrication, increased quality control that means thinner, leaner structural sections, eliminating wet-trades, de-skilling construction and global procurement* have all combined to deliver new houses at minimum cost and minimum size with barely acceptable economic life; you can expect the roofs to fail economically in twenty years, services to fail economically in fifteen years. However, for those houses built with a slot-in pre-plumbed bathroom wall that just needs connecting to water and bolting in, owners may well need to remove sections of the external brick cladding to replace the plumbing. Yes, we're now building instant slums, with poor soundproofing, shoddy materials and, still, hammer-induced fitting of precise components. 

It's no longer possible to build council houses better than private homes for lesser cost; there is also no longer a 'cheaper' option as private builders have already attained the nadir. There's just new housing, all the same. The only variable is land with planning consent. Unless the government cracks this one, new council housing just won't work any more.

*A consignment of cement-woodwool boards from Thailand on one of my jobs was delayed when HMRC found a few kilos of heroin hidden in the load.

Wednesday 4 October 2017

Dear Evening Standard - saying "Death to Allah" is not illegal

From the strapline in the ES, you'd think the bloke was facing jail for saying something rude about the Muslim fetish-god, wouldn't you? One needs to read the story to discover that the crime was actually criminal damage, for writing on an expensive business class seat, or rather for 'religiously aggrevated' criminal damage. This is a curious quirk of English law; saying 'Mohammed Sucks' in criticism of the Muslim idol is fine, printing it on a blog is perfectly legal; indeed, one's right to do so is clearly enshrined in s.29j of the 2006 Racial and Religious hatred Act:-
Nothing in this Part shall be read or given effect in a way which prohibits or restricts discussion, criticism or expressions of antipathy, dislike, ridicule, insult or abuse of particular religions or the beliefs or practices of their adherents, or of any other belief system or the beliefs or practices of its adherents, or proselytising or urging adherents of a different religion or belief system to cease practising their religion or belief system.
However, spraying a wall with the same message in a way that causes criminal damage can be 'upped' to the more serious offence. Clear?
Otherwise, saying 'Death to Allah' only becomes illegal when it escapes from the umbrella of s.29j - when it is proclaimed with the intention of breaching public order, causing hatred or violence, when it is used to harass to intimidate. When, in other words, the aim is other than legitimate 'discussion, criticism or expressions of antipathy, dislike, ridicule, insult or abuse'

I know this entire concept may just be too hard for many simple minds to understand. It seems to have defeated Tristan Kirk, the author of the piece. Or this may be wilful obtuseness; it suits a certain metropolitan cabal to try to threaten, bluster and shock folk into saying absolutely nothing derogatory about religion. So let's thank goodness for all the Greg Tingeys out there who do such sterling service in the cause of free speech.  

Monday 2 October 2017

EU regional policy - yet another grievous error

The EU set up the Committee of the Regions in 1994 with a huge lie. Its real purpose was to establish direct governance links between Brussels and European local government whilst bypassing those pesky democratic national governments and states. Sometime over the last ten or fifteen years, the EU decided either that this regional policy was a huge error or that, following the Treaty of Lisbon, that it was no longer needed. Today the Committee of the Regions is a poorly-funded embarrassment in Brussels, with an unknown President (the fourth or fifth EU President?), currently Karl-Heinz Lambert, and the third-smallest budget in the EU, largely spent on itself. The EU will never abolish it, of course, but it will just be gradually pushed further and further to the margins, absent from news releases, ignored, underfunded and unfashionable. Its Presidents and members feature on no ballot papers, and I'll bet there's not more than half a dozen people in the UK who know more than one of our 24 members. Shortly to go.

Yet during its lifetime, it has wasted more money and fomented more conflict than pretty much any other EU cabal. Ambitious regions, in conflict with their national governments, have even established 'embassies' in Brussels, in the most egregious display of snouts-in-the-trough misuse of tax money. Catalunya is one consequence, one that the EU now bitterly regrets.

It is quite possible that Catalonia will gain independence, but not from this referendum, at least not with any legitimacy. It will take a proper referendum, sanctioned by the Spanish government, overseen by observers, absent threat or coercion. 

What a bloody mess. What utter stupidity - Spain's and the EU's. Forgive me, but everything the EU touches turns to shit. This could all have been avoided if skill and experience rather than zealotry and purblind anti-democracy had driven these fools.

Sunday 1 October 2017

EU seeks to destroy self-determination

The UK, post-WWII, has been one of the world's most fervent upholders of the rights of a people to self-determination. From Palestine in '45-47, Indian independence in '47, the wave of African independence in the 1950s right through to officially arranging TWO independence referenda in Scotland, few nations have done more to defend and promote self-determination.

In return, we assert those rights on behalf of the people of Gibraltar and the Falkland Islands. And also, with greater finesse, for the people of Northern Ireland, a falling majority of whom wish to remain part of the UK. 

Indeed, the West was very much in favour of self-determination until the fall of the Wall, when strangely there was a shift towards the idea of 'territorial integrity' trumping self-determination. Oh sure we believe in self-determination, said the EU, except when territorial integrity is more important. So for Western Ukraine, self-determination but for Crimea, territorial integrity. The EU's unelected officials love the new approach; it allows Imperial inconsistency. For an antidemocratic organisation that has fomented war and conflict in the Balkans, Ukraine and Baltic, which has encouraged the Spanish neo-fascists to provoke an armed incident in Gibraltar, it's therefore no surprise that the EU is wholly behind the neo-fascists in suppressing the people of Catalonia. Maybe Germany and France are even prepared to offer new Condor Legions to help the fascists.   

Now the EU, an unelected empire renowned worldwide for foreign policy incompetence, for creating division and for fomenting conflict, is blundering clumsily, foolishly and maliciously into Northern Ireland. The province is a matter for the British and Irish governments alone, and for the people of the province alone to determine. We can simply not allow the EU to destroy the carefully wrought peace. If they try to re-ignite armed conflict there, we must drop all defence and intelligence co-operation immediately, and walk away from Brexit talks. 

The anti-democratic nomenklatura in Brussels must learn one lesson - the power of the ballot box, whether in Catalonia or anywhere else.

Catalan independence supporter wounded by EU police today