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Saturday 16 February 2019

All change!

For an inspired series of graphics of the Brexit alignments and realignments in Parliament, visit the Guardian - one of the captures below.

Like an amoeba undergoing mitosis, our Parliament is resolving into four distinct factions. Brexit has split both Labour and Conservative parties, and the papers are just beginning to pick up on the fallout.

The Guardian reports on talks to form a new Lab/Con centrist party, a sort of Son of Blair I suppose whilst the Telegraph reports on 25 Remainer MPs including Dominic Grieve who face deselection by the end of March. Further 'Party Split' pieces by John Longworth and Tobias Ellwood, for the sake of balance I guess, feature in the Telegraph, whilst the Express gives us a 'JRM for new ERG Party' piece.

None of which is at all surprising for a system that has a Leave party led by a Remainer pretending to believe in Leave and a Remain party led by a Leaver pretending to believe in Remain.

All of which makes me cheerful. I loathe the privileged complacency and sense of entitlement of our politics more than anything - it's time to give the bag a shake.

Friday 15 February 2019

Shamima Begum - No free pardon

There really is a load of gumph around about this woman. 'Family plea for Shamima to be allowed home' says the Times, echoed by others of the appeaser ilk. All that's missing so far is an appeal from the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The fact is - a fact ignored by the more hysterical ladies of the press, including the Times - that no-one in government has determined that this woman Begum should be prevented from returning to the UK. She is a British citizen, and does not have dual nationality. She is quite free to return home and face the law - the consequences of having treacherously abused her nation, having aided and comforted the nation's enemies and having been complicit in the barbarous murder of other British citizens. 

Her family, pictured by the Times with a huge Teddy Bear in Islamic robes suitable for a four-year-old, are free to go to Syria and bring her back, or send her the money to book a flight home. The Times is probably even willing to arrange her repatriation itself, in exchange for an exclusive story.

If she turns up at the UK border, she cannot be denied entry. So this is not the issue. It's all about whether she should escape scot-free with no reckoning for her actions. She must not. She must answer to Justice, and if she continues to pose a threat to the UK she must be subject to those restrictions available to protect the nation against dangerous Islamists. Her child - if it lives - will be taken for fostering or adoption, unless her family can establish they are suitable for the task.

Morally, many will argue she has forfeited her right to the care of the State. Well, that has to be established in law. But the one thing she doesn't deserve is a free pardon before she's even crossed the border.

Thursday 14 February 2019

EU over-regulation #94

The pasta factory in Gödersdorf is, for an industrial building, quite pretty. Imagine a small Victorian brewery or mill, a range of buildings around a yard, and flowing obliquely through it a crystal-clear bach rippling over its bed of smooth washed stone. People come here from wide around for partly the discount pasta shop but mostly the cafĂ© - fresh cooked pasta in a range of sauces, and pots of the local lager. The family firm competes quite well against the big industrial pasta factories to the south, and brands are widely stocked in supermarkets in the region.

Finkensteiner have made a unique selling point in their egg content - "Four eggs to every kilo!" is the proud boast. But now they have fallen foul of EU labelling regulations, and face huge costs in re-printing and re-labelling all the packaging to be in exact accordance with EU labelling regulations.

The factory cafe terrace
An official complaint was made to the Justice department, and they have been convicted and fined for breaches including
  • Stating the number of eggs per kilo rather than a percentage figure - and only a percent figure
  • Using an hourglass to indicate cooking time rather than written boiling instructions
  • The storage and use-by instructions are too widely separated on the packets
The illegal pasta label
Ten tonnes of pasta in the warehouse must also now be re-packaged.

Honestly, I can't even begin to condemn the utter stupidity of EU over-regulation.

Where is the gold?

We all know the terminally inept Gordon Brown, Britain's second worst post-war PM, sold off much of the nation's gold at a discount price for a short-term political gain (and no doubt Mr McDonnell will sell off the rest in short order if Labour take power). Britain's gold holdings are now somewhere on the low side, it appears. But are they? (The 395 tonnes sold by Brown would now be worth $13.1bn more - he really was a humungous dickhead)

Our 310 tonnes remaining after Gordon's sell-off seem to leave us somewhere between Portugal and Austria, one of the smaller holdings. And Italy's precipice financial status seems a little less serious when you know she has almost two and a half thousand tonnes of gold squirrelled away - but all is not as it seems.

Zero Hedge reports on an unseemly squabble over who owns Italy's gold - the banks or the Italian State. As entertaining as this is, the more important point is that no-one has physically audited those gold bars since the 1970s. As ZH reports
The Banca d’Italia furthermore claims that 1199.4 tonnes of the gold (or roughly half), is stored in the Bank’s gold vaults under it’s Palazzo Koch headquarters building in Rome, with most of the other half stored in the vaults of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York (FRBNY), and a small balance kept the Bank of England in London, and in an account of the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) in the vaults of the Swiss National Bank (SNB) in Berne, Switzerland. But without any documentary evidence or independent auditing or verification of any of its gold, especially the foreign held gold, these claims are impossible to verify.
There are strong suggestions that Italy's actual gold may be somewhere on a par with the UK's holding - just a few hundred tonnes - the rest of it having been stolen, sold off, defrauded or evaporated. Some bright spark may have realised that what's important is how much gold the world believes you have, rather than how much you actually have.

Which really also leaves all the other claimed balances open to question, doesn't it?

Normally this would be a sort of anorak issue, but with dire warnings that should a catastrophic global financial collapse finish-off paper money we will need to return to the gold standard, perhaps it's something that should be checked?

Wednesday 13 February 2019


On board HM Cutter Vexatious somewhere in the Med ..

The tannoy crackles into life

"Now hear this! We have been ordered back to the UK to patrol Channel waters to intercept up a new wave of migrants crossing from France. We will make cautious passage via a number of ports, combining our passage home with a number of courtesy visits. Number 4 working rig under way with Whites in port until Gib. That's all."

In the wheelhouse the 1st Lt shifted against the chart table. "How long do you think we can string it out, sir?"

"Our orders say 'dawdle'. So I reckon we can take six weeks or so. Maybe develop an engine fault - that could give us another four weeks if needed. The last thing they want is us working the box in the Channel and actually picking up migrants"

"But I don't understand why we've been ordered home, sir? We were doing perfectly well not picking up migrants from Libya, so why go back home to not pick up migrants from France?"

"Politics, Futtock, politics. We have to be there to prove that the government is compassionate and humanitarian, but without actually rescuing anyone who would embarrass the Home Secretary. He's still reeling from putting that twelve year old with a full henna beard and three wives into Knob Hill Secondary. And right now not rescuing Channel migrants has greater priority than not rescuing African migrants"

"Some of the lads were talking about the old days, when they used to board yachts looking for hooky fags and baccy, sir. Or maybe catching some Rupert with a K of skunk. Now they say it's just lying in port with a maintenance watch and sunbathing"

"What's wrong with that? You've never been stuck in a frozen muddy creek near Hull, Futtock, waiting for a non-existent landing of Superkings and missing the final of X-factor. Thank God we had those TV satellite domes fitted before we sailed"

"Oh. And do get back into men's clothes before we reach the Western Approaches, Number One. Those sarong wraps really won't do for Pompey."

HMC Seeker - ordered home 31/12/18, as at 0700hrs GMT 13/2/19 berthed at Gibraltar

Tuesday 12 February 2019

Nervous Hague can't hear the approaching tumbrils

Poor William Hague, a deluded and deeply confused Patrician unable to comprehend the events unfolding around him, exposes his deficient cognition in the Telegraph again this morning. Deselecting Remainer Tory MPs is mistaken, he avers. This is the man who gave us both the Patrician Party constitution that robbed local associations of much of their authority and institutionalised control in a weak and narrow metropolitan elite, and who more recently urged Tory MPs to put this same undemocratic and factionalist Party elite before either country or constituency. He still thinks it's all about Brexit.

Dear William, our party is splitting, as is Labour. Politics is re-aligning, Pompey against Caesar. On your side the pompous Patrician elite, the political class, half-a-Parliament of privilege and an immense sense of entitlement, a sort of Social Democrat cross-party consensus defending your grasp on power. On the other, the Gilets jaunes, Caesar's horny handed legions, ready to take back control, to shoulder responsibility, to reform, renew and democratise. Our MPs also sit on both sides of the House.

And because our Party is splitting, and because 70% of party members out in the shires and suburbs support the Leave insurgency, of course they will use whatever little power you have left them to ensure they have as many MPs in the Commons as possible come the next election. Which will not be fought under your current Leader.

Their actions in deselecting Remainers are very much in the interests of our country, wholly in the interests of those constituencies, and greatly to the advantage of our Party, which, purged, renewed and democratised, will once again lead One Nation in the interests of all our people, not only your own narrow privileged elite.

So I'm afraid you must just suck it up.  

Monday 11 February 2019

UK's Copper Cage is a national disgrace

The maps below, of southern England and of Austria, show population density (see Dan Cookson's stunning map site). You will see that apart from the Vienna-Munich corridor, Austria is very sparsely populated. It is a country covered in steep mountains, deep valleys and thick forests. This makes for two wonderful characteristics; empty roads that delight any English driver, and total, universal, 4G mobile coverage from the Grossglockner to the Neusiedler See. You are reading this thanks to a little plastic cube on my desk that streams Netflix and concurrently provides high speed broadband and Comms connections throughout the house (with a couple of range extenders as needed - it is after all solid stone) all via the mobile network for €1 a day. It does, rarely, once or twice a year, when Thor is engaged with Odin and the valleys shake and the tiles rattle with the thunder of their battle and scorching actinic thunderbolts explode Larch and Spruce in flame and splinters, drop out. But has always come back before it became critical. 

My brother lives in a busy little town in Suffolk, much visited and photographed by tourists in the Summer months. The land is soft and undulating with the homely comfort captured by John Constable. The highest part of Suffolk is a town called Sudbury, perched on a mountain some 20m high. But neither my brother nor any of his neighbours can use a mobile phone in their own homes. They have to walk or drive a couple of hundred metres to get a signal - a situation to which Anglians are so used for it to be quite unremarkable.

He is amongst the one-third of rural households in England (not even the UK) who do not have access to the mobile network. The Telegraph reports
Brian Wilson, author of the report and chairman of Rural England, said: "Nearly a fifth of people in England live in rural areas, yet the evidence shows that many of them face inadequate services, such as being unable to make mobile phone calls or being without transport options.“Two years after we released the first State of Rural Services report it seems clear that rural residents frequently still lose out in terms of funding and access to services.

“The challenges facing rural communities are likely to grow in the coming years and this will be reflected in their service needs. If policies and service delivery were properly rural-proofed it seems evident that those needs would be much better met."

The report found a basic mobile phone call cannot be made inside 33 per cent of rural buildings - an issue which affects just three per cent of urban premises.
Here in my bit of Austria one can no longer order a land-line for domestic use - the phone networks have abandoned these copper cages in other than the well-populated towns and valleys. The 'handy' is ubiquitous, and officialdom here has even stopped asking for both 'home phone' and 'mobile phone' numbers - almost everyone, including the elderly, just has the one.

I can think of a number of reasons, none of them good or adequate, for the UK's abysmal performance. But then again there may be something I don't know, some compelling and over-riding reason why mobile 4G networks can power one of Europe's most sparsely populated regions but cannot allow a bloke in the leafy shires to receive  a mobile call in his own living room.

One of our local phone masts