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Saturday 23 February 2019

Are we there yet?

No, I can't claim to have a clue to what's happening with Brexit. This is perhaps a 'wisdom of crowds' job, with all your views, from the blissfully optimistic to the darkest gloom of the Cassandras, to help give us an idea of where the median lies.

A. Leave on 29th March with a deal
Something spectacular must happen to make this a reality; the House has made it clear it will not agree a deal with the backstop. Either 'boomer' Cox wrangles a legally binding codicil to change its mind or MPs take fright and act like mice

B. Leave on 29th March with no deal
Dream option for many Leavers, and increasingly the public, who are fed up with Brexit and importantly fed up with Brussels and becoming more hostile. But unlikely. The Deep State hate this option - it weakens them. Consequently the DS and their dags in public life will do all they can to prevent this happening.

C. Ditto options but end of June
Any Brexit delay beyond June will mean EP elections in May in the UK. The EU certainly don't want UK MEPs back in July, and as Farage's BrexitCorp with 100,000 volunteer candidates will probably sweep the board (For Euro elections it would get about 70% of normal Tory votes, I'd guess - but only for the EP election) neither Conservatives or Labour want the humiliation. This is my guess - we'll go at end June. Regretfully with some mashed together deal.

D. Article 50 extended beyond June
This will mean UK MEPs in the new plenum - which no-one wants. Since any extension to Article 50 is entirely in the hands of the EU to grant (other than a total withdrawal - which we can do unilaterally before 29th March, but which would kill the Conservative Party stone dead within 24 hours) it's probably unlikely. 

Friday 22 February 2019

1848 - When change in the UK led to Revolution in France

On this day ...

The 1832 Reform Act in the UK (or the English Act and the Irish and Scottish Acts that followed it) was not the end of electoral reform in Britain; it was not, to beg a phrase, even the end of the beginning of Parliamentary reform. But it did do two things - largely abolish the Rotten Boroughs, and increase the electorate to about 20% of the population. I was going to describe this as peaceful change, but of course it was not quite peaceful. There was Peterloo.

And then there was religious fear. In 1829, in response to deep fear of explosive civil strife in Ireland, Roman Catholics were permitted for the first time to stand for election. The non-conformists in their chapels and meeting houses in Birmingham and Manchester were livid; did not they deserve the same rights as the Irish? And so government reluctantly moved in 1832 and enacted the first, slow step to reform that would take a further 96 years to roll out - the final franchise not coming until 1928.

Across the Manche the Kermits also felt outrage. In comparison to our 20% of enfranchised people, barely 1% of the French had the vote. They didn't mess about. In February 1848 they rose up. Forty-two were shot to death by nervous troops and on 23rd February Louis-Philippe abandoned his throne and ran away to England. Thus began the Second Republic (we're now up to the Fifth).

De Tocqueville (a favourite of this blog - I'll give him a post of his own in due course) observed  "We are sleeping together in a volcano. A wind of revolution blows, the storm is on the horizon."

Like a forest fire, the events in France in 1848 spread throughout Europe.

What began almost peacefully in the UK (15 died at Peterloo) set the course for change in Europe. That's why they're so worried about Brexit. 

Thursday 21 February 2019

More than ever, voters need a Power of Recall

The first eleven movements in a long-building political reshuffle of bums on green benches are in - but don't imagine that will be the end of it. Like a little clump of cells flobbling under the microscope, our political class will continue to realign themselves into what they imagine are the groupings to which voters will adhere. As Allister Heath puts it in the Telegraph
Logically, we would end up with four groupings: a pro-capitalist, libertarian Eurosceptic party, an economically Left-wing but socially conservative Eurosceptic party, a pro-EU social democratic party and a neo-communist party.
Apart of course from the SNP and the Irish, who have issues of their own right now.

The prime problem for voters, who generally but not always vote for parties and manifestos in general elections, is that they're left with a cuckoo in the nest. However noble and virtuous a shape-changing MP may believe themselves to be, you can be sure that many of their voters think it would be more virtuous if they didn't squat in the constituency on false pretences - and for the current eleven turners, that means squat until 2022.

Labour have already voiced support for a constituency Power of Recall and it's time for the Conservatives to add their support. The motion should be very simple, and universal:- 
"The electors of Broxtowe no longer have confidence that Anne Mary Soubry can adequately represent their interests in Parliament" 
As for the threshold - I have no fixed figure in mind. There must be a precursor trigger, and the hurdle to dismiss an MP should be sufficiently high as to deter vexatious attempts, but not so high that the number who voted for them in the GE cannot later vote them out. 

Let's see a government Bill for this - now.

Wednesday 20 February 2019

The Remain Party

The seven  - or possibly now eight - MPs sitting for what, to be honest, we must call the Remain Party, despite having been preparing since last month with company registrations and so forth, were singularly unprepared yesterday for the questions of the press. Chukka on 'Today' was classic. "Do you have any policies other than Remain?" "Brexit is a really important issue and we're committed to rescuing Britain from this foolishness" it went, sort of.

So no. The only policy they have is Remain.

I wish them success in attracting a further 29 rebel MPs from both sides of the House, so they may assume from the SNP the privileges of a third party, together with more Short money and a better quality offices. I also look forward to February 2022 and PMQs

"Mr Ummummumma!"

"Will the Prime Minister recognise that the only way out of this Brexit debacle is to allow a further Referendum, to keep us in Europe where we belong"

"I thank the honourable member for Streatham. He will be aware that since we left the EU in 2019, slashing taxes and opening trade borders, our economy has boomed, defying the global downturn and the car crash of the Eurozone. Foreign Direct Investment is at its highest ever, we have the fourth greatest global GDP, the pound buys €2.20 for our holidaymakers who will again flood Europe this Summer. The Trussel Trust has opened its two-thousandth foodbank in the EU and the incredible generosity of the British people in sending their spare packets and tins across the Channel is keeping many poor Europeans afloat. We fully support IMF aid to the Eurozone, and will do all we can to help the nations of Europe to recover democracy and to stand on their feet again. The government however has no plans to join them"

Tuesday 19 February 2019

The Ugly European

Claas Relotius was the darling of the SJW-class in young Germany. For many years his stories captivated the lefty-liberal readers of Der Spiegel with his tales of travels and encounters in America. A Yemeni man tortured at Gitmo, the travels of a death-row groupie, an in-depth piece on the folk of Fergus Falls. Entrancing and engaging tales of American stereotypy. And Der Spiegel enjoyed, up until a year ago, a reputation for truth telling and editorial integrity - qualities I've praised more than once on this blog. There was only one problem. All his stories were bollocks; wholly invented anti-American trash from the bitter recesses of Relotius's own deep hostility and resentment towards the US. Relotius' bile found a welcoming home in Der Spiegel; as The Atlantic commented
Though it is respected abroad as an authoritative news source, Der Spiegel has long peddled crude and sensational anti-Americanism, usually grounded in its brand of knee-jerk German pacifism. Covers over the years have impugned the United States as “The Conceited World Power” (with an image of the White House bestriding the globe), repeated the hoary “Blood for Oil” charge as the rationale for the Iraq War, and, in the run-up to George W. Bush’s reelection campaign, asked, “Will America Be Democratic Again?” When Edward Snowden leaked information detailing U.S. surveillance practices several years ago, Der Spiegel went on a crusade unlike anything in its recent history, railing about U.S. intelligence cooperation with Germany and demanding that Berlin grant Snowden asylum. (The magazine demonstrated none of the same outrage when, two years later, Russia hacked the German parliamentary computer network). Last year, Der Spiegel notoriously featured a cartoon of Trump beheading the Statue of Liberty on its cover. And this May, one of its columnists misappropriated the memory of those who struggled against Nazism by calling for “resistance against America,” quite a demand for a magazine from the country that started World War II.
The magazine has one of the largest and most professional fact-checking departments in Europe, yet Relotius' lies and invention got past all the checks. When he confessed to his editor "I'm sick and I need to get help" you may think, as I do, that the fault was not all on the part of the rogue journo - what about all those smug self-satisfied German readers who lapped it up, who never evinced a single doubt at the crude anti-American lies? They didn't baulk because the articles fed their own anti-American prejudices. As the newly-appointed US Ambassador pointed out

It's not just Germany, but in many of the EU27 that this anti-Americanism has taken hold. And worryingly, not just anti-Americanism; Europe is seeing a disturbing rise in anti-Semitism of a kind not common since the 1930s, also widespread amongst the Left in the UK. Those dangerous passions that cost the European mainland so much blood, so much destruction in the last century are rearing again their ugly heads.

Yet move beyond the heart of Europe and the US, even Trump's US, is held in high regard; Vietnam loves the US just as much as Americans themselves, and the Philippines, South Korea, Poland, Nigeria, Italy, Ghana and Hungary only slightly less so. Spain, Germany and the Netherlands love the US least - along with Russia, Venezuela, Cuba, North Korea and Serbia. European anti-Americanism is more than just jejune spitefulness but is founded, I believe, in resentment - what Gregorio Marañón termed 'the painful slavery of gratitude'.

Those of us who grew up during the Cold War are generally grateful that the US and NATO stood together against the threat of nuclear annihilation that faced us. However, more intelligent UK attitudes towards our alliance with the US are tinged with caution. Our having to develop the nuclear bomb twice - once for the US and once for ourselves from 1947, taught the UK an important lesson - as did Suez, when the US rightly refused to back this particular piece of Anglo-French stupidity. 'Yo Blair' in his over-tight ball-strangling cord jeans was played like a patsy over Iraq, and Obama showed us what a president with an unfriendly face looks like. Yet the US with our three Commonwealth allies forms the heart of the world's most efficient and secret intelligence gathering and sharing partnership in Five Eyes, and the UK's military capabilities are valued above all other NATO allies.

Under Obama, and continuing under Trump, the US is adjusting to a multi-polar world, one in which the US is not alone in holding superpower advantages. As the US modifies its global sheriff role, refuses to carry the EU free-riders of NATO and even anticipates the Yuan joining the dollar as a global reserve currency, America still exercises the influences of a Normative Power. The values it espouses and the power it projects to secure those norms continues to reach throughout Europe, but the EU may be in the process of cutting its own throat.

Donald Tusk (one of the EU's five unelected 'Presidents') wrote to member nations on the eve of the Malta summit
"The first threat, an external one, is related to the new geopolitical situation in the world and around Europe. An increasingly, let us call it, assertive China, especially on the seas, Russia's aggressive policy towards Ukraine and its neighbours, wars, terror and anarchy in the Middle East and in Africa, with radical Islam playing a major role, as well as worrying declarations by the new American administration all make our future highly unpredictable. For the first time in our history, in an increasingly multipolar external world, so many are becoming openly anti-European, or Eurosceptic at best. Particularly the change in Washington puts the European Union in a difficult situation; with the new administration seeming to put into question the last 70 years of American foreign policy.

....... But today we must stand up very clearly for our dignity, the dignity of a united Europe - regardless of whether we are talking to Russia, China, the US or Turkey."
I repeat what Tusk ignores - that the US retreat from a 70-year old post war global role is not a Trump initiative; it began under Obama, and will continue under Trump's successor. I can detect a sort of petulant resentment in the tone of many from Brussels that the EU will cease to benefit from devoting its GDP to butter leaving the US to beggar its own development whilst doing the guns.

Couple this high-level stand-offishness and resentment with a growing EU and Left-wing anti-Semitism and with a low-level puerile jealousy prevalent amongst the EU's lumpen atavistics of America's normative character - Yes, the US is a nation that imprisons and executes more of its citizens than Europe finds comfortable, yet remains a shining beacon of freedom, hope and justice for much of the world, and a magnet for the world's poor - and future relations between the EU27 and the US do not look positive. For how much longer can an EU that openly abrogates the role of NATO, openly signals US exclusion from future defence procurement and openly fails to meet even the minimum NATO obligations, continue to rely on US goodwill?

To end, I pose again the question I first asked back in 2017
Which brings me to an interesting footnote - shared Nukes. The US, to help little countries without the bomb to feel included, has distributed 180 B61 air-launched nukes to Turkey, Germany (?), Belgium, Italy and the Netherlands. These 'dial-a-yield' devices can be set on loading to yield from 0.3 to 170 kilotons (Hiroshima was 15) and they can be launched from a variety of national NATO aircraft - but need US consent to 'unlock' them. Will Mr Trump now ask for them back?
Spiked carries a piece on another German writer mired in mendacity and facing opprobrium - Robert Menasse, formerly hailed as the Alfred Rosenberg of the European Union

Sunday 17 February 2019

The Post-globalist Capitalist revolution is coming

Back in 1910, I'm quite sure, the equivalent of the political adviser was penning essays on the ways in which London could deal with the disposal of horse-dung; no doubt special rail sidings, dung-trains and dung-mountains beyond the suburbs were involved in options to clear the stables and streets of horseapples, designed so that by 1940 London would remain clear of millions of tons of equine product. So mired were they in a world of exponentially increasing horse-traffic in London they became deaf to the noise of the motor-car, blind to the cinema and the early aircraft in the skies. 

I was reminded of these early dung-managers when reading a piece on Conservative Home by Nick Hargrave, former Number 10 SPAD who made policy for both David Cameron and Theresa May. More State, more Spending, more Spin and more Tax are Hargrave's recommendations - thus exhibiting an almost wilful blindness to the reality of the world today, taking refuge in the comfortable horse-dung of an imagination limited to the past. Hargrave is unaware that without radical change there will be by 2040 neither a Welfare State nor an NHS in the UK.

From 1971 onwards, when the effects of Bretton Woods in managing national competitive advantage by regulating national capital flows were removed, globalism in place of international trade became possible. During the past twenty years globalism has been in the ascendant, as Daly wrote in 1999
The classical economists like Ricardo, were nationalists, and that is why they were so devoted to comparative advantage. We are presumably beyond that now. We are cosmopolitan individualists on a global scale, interested in maximizing global product. Comparative advantage, because of its premised constraint on capital mobility, does not maximize global product. But absolute advantage, by relaxing that constraint, does. We are simply not interested in the national distribution of gains and losses from global trade.
That neglect of the distributional effects has given us the Elephant - global gainers including the people of India, Vietnam and particularly China, and global losers including a vast mass of middle and working class citizens in the developed world, who have lost income, status and job security in a period of rapid change in which the balance towards fairness and social cohesion built by a century or more of painfully-wrought agreements on the relationship between Labour and Capital have been junked, skipped and disregarded. The real gainers are the global 1%, whose wealth and income has increased exponentially.

The biggest myth is perhaps that global markets are free markets. They are not. The global corporates use market power, intellectual property and trademark rights, data power and the de facto granting of 'knowledge' monopolies by state actors. Supranational authority that imposes systems of regulation and over-regulation that favour the oligopolistic globals - whether the EU or the UN - at the expense of non-global competition is an ally of globalistic advantage.

The harmonisation of standards through bodies such as the EU and UN is also paradoxically of national disbenefit to the developed world, as Daly explains
When different national markets with different rules for the internalization of external costs merge into a single market, then the different rules of cost accounting present a big problem. Under globalization the market left to itself will resolve the difficulty by standards-lowering competition -- the way of counting costs that results in the cheapest product will prevail......

Under the traditional comparative advantage (internationalist as opposed to globalist) regime, each country could indeed adopt its own separate rules of cost-accounting, reflecting its own values and traditions, and not worry about harmonization. As long as capital must stay at home countries are not forced into a standards-lowering competition to attract and keep capital. Goods and services can be produced and freely traded according to comparative advantage even when trading partners have totally different ways of measuring costs.
I don't want to get mired in theory about globalism. The reality is that if we have not as yet reached Peak Globalism then we are fast approaching it; Trump, Brexit, the Gilets jaunes, Italy and the fast-approaching Eurozone recession are already with us. The reactions and anticipation of outcomes will increasingly define political alignments - I can detect a coalescing of opinion around several divergent standards

Those looking to help design the successor to globalism; Internationalists, Localists, committed to democratic outcomes and social equity. Radical reform of tax and welfare systems, renewal of political identities, utilising capitalism to generate wealth but in control of its effects, recognition of the deep and fundamental changes that AI and technology will bring, committed to achieving a Durkheimian social integrity and coherence in contrast to a globalist anomie

Those committed to global government, a world-wide constitution and harmonisation of everything, open borders, unrestricted global economic activity, worldwide legal, judicial and justice systems, abrogation of personal freedoms to a class of benign appointed experts who will act in the general good, the growth of the 'citizen of everywhere', the rule of benign technocracy over 'old fashioned' democracy, the supremacy of supranational State authority.

Those of all political colours in denial that massive change is underway; the managers of horse-dung, political nostalgics, the patrician elite and the dags of globalism, neo-liberals, the political class and the old fourth estate, all those threatened by what they term 'populism', the 1% and the winners from globalism who just want everything to stay the same. Plus the naive zealots - those who believe that anthropogenicmorphic global warming / Moslem immigrants / 12 foot alien lizards / secret Zionist conspiracies / American hegemony and suchlike are actually responsible for what's happening.

Change is coming. We need people of vision and ability, not managers of yesterdays horse dung.