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Saturday 22 December 2018

Last Christmas (for many MPs?)

Ipswich used to have an MP called Ken Weech, whom despite being a Labourite was generally held in some regard by the whole town. He was not ambitious, never aspired to the ministerial ladder, was happy on the back benches and was known as a fair-dealer without pronounced views. Every year on this weekend, after Parliament had risen, he'd spend two or three hours just standing about on Cornhill, outside the Town Hall, on his own, just shaking hands and making friendly small-talk with constituents. He was rarely unengaged - no-one was deterred from approaching him, he wasn't scary or pompous and he consequently generally had a constantly shifting audience of two or three around him. 

He had a smooth way with the occassional pest who wanted a disputatious monopoly of his time - he'd just turn slickly to a passing shopper, smile, extend his hand and freeze the pest over his left shoulder. Likewise, he'd be gone before the customers of Mannings and the Golden Lion on the adjacent side of Cornhill spilled out after lunch, neatly avoiding the drunks. 

We used to sit in the front window seats at Mannings and watch him at work. He was a pro - it was a joy to see. People were genuinely happy to meet and greet their MP, and the brief encounters enhanced a tedious pre-Christmas shopping scramble for many. It was one of those little social happenings from which everyone got something. All credit to him. 

I'm sure he's not the only MP to have done this, or who will contemplating doing similar today. Except that many will be facing constituents for whom Brexit has been an enforced diet for months, and many, particularly from my own Party, will be facing constituents anxious to hear their MP's reasons for not supporting the constituency's Leave vote in the Commons (or, more rarely, Remain vote).

I suspect there's going to be a lot of Westminster flu about this weekend (like diplomatic flu, but the virus only becomes active outside of SW1). Which is a shame - as if there's a GE before next Christmas, it may have been their last opportunity to do so.

Thursday 20 December 2018

Gatwick Drones - a gross failure of government

London's second airport has now been closed for 24 hours and responsible ministers are running around like headless chickens. They don't know how many drones there are, where the operators are, when they will appear next and certainly not how to get them out of the sky once they are up. 

This didn't come out of left field. This whole thing was entirely predictable; a universally available technology with no restrictions, a known vulnerability, the risk events with potentially catastrophic consequences. There is NO excuse for the police and security services not to have formulated a response which should have gone into effect last night. This is a gross failure of government, a sackable omission for senior responsible officers and an embarrassment for the nation. Heads MUST roll.

If they're still out there waiting for a little Remainer with a joystick to launch the next one, or have set up their signal jammers, they may be disappointed. Drones can be pre-programmed with course and altitude; there's no reason why the perp didn't leave a dozen drones on hidden rooftops around Gatwick a week ago, each in sequence taking off, flying over the runways a bit and then ditching itself in a body of water.  All preset within the drone and no signals to jam. They've no idea how many there are to go or what the launch frequencies are - will another six take-off on Sunday? And they can be initiated either with a mobile phone call or an inbuilt timer.

One thing's for certain. Our police and security services had better get their acts together pronto - their failure to date is simply not acceptable. 

Update - Friday am
Perhaps ill-advised for PTSD Adonis to post thus on Twitter - I understand he's already been reported to the police for a 'glorification of terrorism' offence. He talks bollocks, too;


No Deal Brexit - 263,365 growing
STOP BREXIT - 101,143 sclerotic 

In fact the Adonis option has actually been overtaken by a petition to "Make grey squirrel rescue exempt from Invasive Alien Species Order 2019"

2nd Update - 8.53
Yes! The boss of Drone Defence, UK's premier drone countermeasures company, has just been interviewed on R4 'Today' and said in his expert view (1) more than 1 drone was involved - probably several and that (2) they were likely to have been pre-programmed.

Just as we posted over 12 hours ago. Raedwald  - Truth First.
And a special prize to Jack the Dog - the responsible Minister, Grayling, has just made a statement saying that 'Lessons have been learned'. As predicted. 

Globalism is dead - the future is Local

Belgium faces a snap general election in January as the country's Prime Minister, Charles Michel, was forced to resign for signing up to the UN's Migration Pact. The UK's signing-up to the pact has been lost in the noise of Brexit, but the US, Italy, Hungary, Austria, Poland, Bulgaria, Slovakia and Australia have rejected it which means it has now become just an empty gesture, a crumbling pillar barely sustaining the globalist entablature. Peter Sutherland, the Godfather of Globalisation, died earlier this year having already seen his dream of a world without borders, in which benign global corporates reduced the world (except for the elite 1%, natch) to an equality of semi-poverty, shattered. Sutherland happily accepted that the price for raising billions out of absolute poverty would be the pauperisation of Europe, the US and the old Commonwealth, the hollowing out of the old middle classes. When he appeared before a House of Lords select committee in 2014 he was quite explicit - the EU had a mission to undermine the cultural identity, the congruence, of nation states, and millions of migrants was the way to achieve it.*

My loathing, resentment and anger is reserved for Peter Sutherland and those of his kind, and so should yours be. Sutherland, ex-Chairman of Goldman Sachs, ex-EU Commissioner, ex-Irish government minister, typified the symbiotic links of a corporatist-governmental complex working to impose globalism on unwilling peoples.  

It's important to understand that the antonym of globalist isn't nationalist but internationalist. 

Macron and his fellow globalists make silly speeches in which they denounce nationalism as an impractical sole alternative to globalism. It's a false comparison. The practical alternative to globalism is internationalism - independent, sovereign nations trading with eachother, exchanging knowledge and skills, agreeing common standards where these offer common advantage, maintaining flows between universities and research institutes, and above all acting in restraint of sovereign or territorial aggrandisement of a sort that causes war. 

Churchill was aware that neither France nor Germany were capable in the long term of being responsible internationalists. Both had cursed Europe with war for two hundred years, and neither can still be trusted alone to act in the common interest. Tying them together in a political-economic compact is a very effective way of protecting the world from their malign tendencies - even it it means for them a sclerotic economy, reduced growth and potential. For seventy years this has largely worked - bar a few war-fomenting behavioural lapses in the Balkans and Ukraine. The mistake, the error that should never have been allowed, was to tie the UK into this harness. 

Macron is terrified that a France and a Germany independent of eachother will revert to their old ways. His fears are justified. This is why he's so terrified of nationalism - and so uncertain about the EU's ability to be an internationalist player. For Macron it's globalism or chaos. 

So let us be aware that just as we are at last rectifying the mistake and resuming our place in the world as an international player, we must work equally hard to preserve an EU that keeps France and Germany shackled to eachother - for Britain's long term national security lies in keeping these beasts chained. 

The Elephant - Peter Sutherland's godchild
* Page 263

Wednesday 19 December 2018

Raab wants to throw UK taxpayers' money at Airbus and Renault

There's a half decent article in the Telegraph this morning by Dominic Raab (£) in which he sets out many sensible measures we should be taking in advance of a clean break with the EU in March. However, he ruins it with an ill-considered and ill-disguised suggestion of a massive bung from UK taxpayers to the global corporates, including Airbus, Renault, VW and Fiat;
Third, the Treasury must prepare a Brexit budget to identify businesses – including ‘just in time’ manufacturers – most at risk from a departure on WTO terms. We should cut business taxes to boost them as they transition, and offset the cost from the £39 billion the UK would have paid the EU.
It's disingenuous and mendacious.

First, the UK will not avoid having to make a very large payment to the EU. It may not be in 2019 with a clean break, and it may not be as much as £39bn, but even if we kick it over to the International Court in the Hague, I suspect we may have have to end up paying as much as half, say £20bn. 

Second, compensatory tax measures should be limited to UK owned and headquartered firms. We know Airbus, whose aircraft wings are made here, is not one. Nor should we compensate any EU firms with satellite plants in the UK - it has been the EU's bloody minded intransigence that has precipitated a clean break scenario. 

Raab's Telegraph piece appears to have been co-ordinated with the global corporates, who are this morning whining at full chat and demanding taxpayer cash to enable them to continue paying multi-million pound bonuses to their bosses, or they sack Welsh workers. 

My own view is that in the end we won't get a Clean Break Brexit. May's government is now orchestrating a full scale national panic - the end play of Project Hysteria - that will act to terrify the Commons into submission early in the new year. Some minor concession from Brussels and MPs, and the symbiotic Axis pact between government and the big corporates will continue - and bugger the people of Britain.

Tuesday 18 December 2018

Loss and anger

Before summing up, I had intended to pen a post today on cultural loss and cultural identity. However, I've had more trolling and attempts to hijack the blog agenda over the past few months than I've had in years, so I'm going to skip that one. The challenge is to recognise the reasonable concerns of people about rapid changes to the nation's demography without sinking to the loathsome hate-filled victimisation of the immigrants with which many have become complicit, even only as fellow-travellers. I've posted many times before like a broken record, don't blame immigrants for immigration.They're just doing what is economically rational and best for themselves and their families - they are no different from you or I, no better and no worse. If you're upset about the extent of immigration - as many of you are, and with some justification, then direct your ire against the politicians who enabled it. It is NOT the fault of the immigrants. 

WE started with common factors that characterised the roots of the anger, frustration and hunger for change that has gained much traction not only in the UK but across Europe; 
  • Increasing inequality
  • Living standards down
  • People excluded from decision making
  • Decline of working class power
  • Globalism / AI causing disempowerment
  • Cultural loss - damage to cultural identity
Inequality is not just the Gini coefficient and the wealth of the top 1% but a fundamental inequality between an urban, graduate, adaptable, agile and equipped cohort who earn their living with their minds rather than their hands and who will gain from AI changes, and those otherwise situated who will not, and also inequality between my own cohort of older, asset-rich, pension endowed beneficiaries of decades of economic advantage and whole younger generations for whom such financial comfort is beyond reach. 

The impacts of managerialism and the reach of the corporates into our lives - enhanced by our own unelected officials 'gold-plating' the raft of petty restrictions from those other unelected officials in Brussels mean that a way of life passed from father to son in years past is now gone. I can recall being quite used to removing the cylinder head of a Ford 105E at the age of 13, cleaning the pistons and replacing the bolts in sequence to the right torque before coating the engine bay in Gunk and hosing it clean. Now not only is it not possible for people to service their own vehicles, but the EU wants to prohibit it in law. 

It's this combination between technology that deliberately excludes its owners and government regulation that enables the power of the corporates to capture consumers economically, a combination between an oligopolistic service and infrastucture economy that creates dependence on private firms for the basics and essentials of life and disables citizens from self-reliance, and parallel government regulation that gives private firms a  quasi-official status. This is all also part of a loss of control that people feel, part of a perceived exclusion from decision-making. Personal car leases, the 'cloud', firms that hold DVDs and CDs and even software that you 'own' digitally and remotely for ransom - at least when I buy my real CD I'm not obliged to remain a customer of the bloke who sold it to me for eternity in order to be able to listen to it.   

It may be a generational thing. Certainly the young people I know seem unconcerned at being 'captured' and 'owned' by the dominant corporates, and are simply happy to comply with new laws compelling them to buy LED lamps. Looking at the live video feeds from the Gilets Jaunes in Paris one sees many grey heads as well as many people dressed for middle-class petty posing rather than for the tear gas, suggesting that those on the street come from the full spectrum of the C-E social classes and of all ages, in other words the huge cohorts of the population most affected by negative change. 

There are those - mainly amongst the elite establishment, but also amongst those young metropolitan elites who are happy to see 'Leavers' die - whose response to the current and forthcoming plight of those bearing the brunt of change is to leave them to it, and do nothing that might worsen their own wealth or privileged position. I cannot express how vile and repugnant I find this attitude.  

As a nation we're all in it together. That's what being a nation means - we share risks, rewards and a common cultural congruence and responsibility. We also owe a duty to our fellow Britons to ensure not only a safety net but, in Australian terms, 'A Fair Go' to allow them to participate in a new economy. It is simply not acceptable in any form for either the deeply selfish old privileged establishment or the deeply selfish young metropolitan elite who will do well from globalism and AI to shrug off a responsibility for those not so advantaged.  

The Parties are struggling right now with novel alignments. I will mark my ballot for whichever party stands for justice, freedom, equity, our nation as One Nation, internationalist not globalist, and above all with a vision that Britain can be a exemplar to the world of how to manage stupendous change with care, compassion, dignity and national determination. 

And if a 16 year old were to ask me what best to do in life, my advice would be to train as a chef with a good Bangladeshi restaurant - our demand for good curries won't decrease, but the loophole that has allowed the import of curry-house cooks rather than training domestic young people is closing. Avoid the iron slave-collar of student debt. And one of the few things that AI will never be able to displace humans in doing is flame-range cooking with complex combinations of heat, spice, meat, and skill. 

Monday 17 December 2018

Democratic robbery

The UK has the worst level of democratic representation in the developed world. I've just checked again our lowest level of democratic representation; we have 45m voters and 21,000 local councillors. That's 2,143 voters for each lowest tier elected politician. In France it's 100, Germany 250, Italy 400 and Spain 600. Here in Austria our gemeinde of 2,500 souls has its own Council, Burgermeister and Town Hall - with eight full-time officers delivering waste, refuse, street cleansing, street lighting, snow clearance, water, sewerage, parking, building control, planning, registrar, business licencing and regulation and so on.

The problem is compounded by our own ignorance - every idiot who cries "no more bloody politicians!" is cutting-off his or her own foot. Instead of politicians we get unelected officials, little jobsworths and prodnoses who can't be kicked out at the next election, can't be harangued at public meetings and in many cases don't even live in the same community as we do. I'm even more astonished about those who have spent the last decade fighting the unelected officials in Brussels who then resist more robust representative democracy in their own communities. The truth is that the 1974 local government reorganisation is now unfit for purpose, past its sell-by date and in urgent need of reform, but every government in recent history has been unwilling to touch it. There are no votes in LG reform - but it's something that's desperately needed. 

We can't leave it up to Whitehall. Their sole instinct is to centralise control and weaken local democracy; they would halve the number of councils (and councillors) on the grounds that it would save money. It's not something one can expect folk to come out on the streets for, but the truth is that we need far greater local control - over both tax and spend. Switzerland splits tax-authority three ways; the central government taxes about a third for national institutions and infrastructure - the army, air traffic control and so on. The Cantons tax another third, and the local municipalities the final third. In the UK, 95% of our tax-take is decided, rationed and distributed solely by central government.  

Of more fundamental concern is that the establishment have turned their attention to our most fundamental democratic rights. I made the meme above in the week after the 2016 referendum result, and I am now scared at just how prophetic it was. Intended as a joke, we've instead been hearing for the past two years proposals to reform our democratic systems from those who really, truly believe that the parodies above constitute responsible public policy. 

The usual suspects the Electoral Reform Society have been punting alternatives to the FPTP system to which I've always said I'm opposed. I was one of the 4m who voted for UKIP in the GE, without a single MP resulting. On the face of it it seemed grossly unfair - now less so with the passage of time. Imagine a Parliament in which Gerard Batten and his Muslim-baiters shared opposition benches with the Antifa Party and the Muslim League. No, the AV system and PR is loved by the little radical parties of the far right and far left but isn't good for British political stability. 

More worrying are efforts by respectable bodies such as the RSA that in effect act to undermine those most fundamental rights, the secret ballot and universal suffrage. They're proposing something called 'Deliberative Democracy' designed to prevent 'stupid' people from majority voting; under it, a special citizens' panel would be lectured first by 'experts' on the subject under vote, then deliberate collaboratively to reach an outcome amenable to the facilitators. Various versions of this are being punted by academic institutions, think tanks and other establishment dag-clumps, all designed to prevent, as my poor joke had it, the 'wrong people' from using democracy. 

Direct democracy also has a place in our system, but not so great a place as some radicals from the far right and far left would wish. Representative democracy provides the best default outcomes, at both national and local levels, but there will, from time to time, be decisions at both micro and macro level to be taken that cross all boundaries - such as the 2016 referendum. Direct democracy is in such circumstances can be the most appropriate tool. But for normal, routine governance and administration, plenaries of elected representatives have proven themselves most capable. Polls should also be available, as in Switzerland, for matters raised by the public - but with a correspondingly high bar. 

But one strength, one freedom of which we should never lose sight, never relax our grasp is the protection we get from our system of universal suffrage, the right to associate and to form political parties and above all the right of  every adult man and woman in the Isles to cast a secret ballot.  

Deliberative democracy and the notion of Sortition had an outing on R4 Today in the context of a way in which a new referendum question could be decided. I told you they were serious. The problem is of course that the one thing a truly representative citizens' panel set up to decide the Referendum Question couldn't conclude is that, erm, there shouldn't be a second referendum. 

The Irish establishment have used this method to get both gay marriage and abortion through the referenda process - I don't disagree with the outcomes, but for a critical response to the 'means' rather than the 'end' see Dr Mathew Wall's blog entry here