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Saturday 10 August 2019

EU nations divided by visceral self-interest

Here's a paradox. You want to ship a 20' container of tools from Shanghai to Munich. You'd think the best route, after Suez, would be a port as close as possible to Munich, wouldn't you? Somewhere in the north Adriatic? Suez to Koper is about 1,750nm and 7 days at sea. From Koper, the Adriatic's largest container port, to Munich is also only 500km by road. Well, the freight rate Shanghai to Koper is around $1,750. However, if, after Suez, your container turns west and makes passage to Gibraltar, the entire length of the Med,  then north through the straits of Dover, and the North Sea, then finally east to Hamburg (4,250 nm, 18 days at sea) the freight cost will be, erm, around $1,350. $400 cheaper for an extra 11 days steaming. Road distance to Munich is about 800km.

The insanity of receiving substantially more freight from China through Rotterdam, Bremerhaven and Hamburg rather than through EU ports closest to Suez has escaped the attention of neither the Chinese nor the Italians. And just as Germany has shown two fingers to the EU in a deal with Putin to deliver Nordstream II, Italy has done likewise by signing up to China's BRI in a deal that would prioritize development of five key ports in the north Adriatic as a primary point of entry for Chinese goods into Europe. Even Saint Greta couldn't complain at the Eco-sense of it. However, the Dutch and Germans will be very cross.

Meanwhile, the US is seriously considering starting to move its 50,000 troops and defence personnel from Germany, which fails to pay for NATO, to Poland, which pays its full 2% of GDP. Given that the German armed forces under vdL were reportedly down to just one working helicopter at one time, the famed Leopard tanks are rusted and immobile and the army trains with broomsticks, America's departure would leave Germany militarily helpless but again paradoxically make many Germans, who like all true EUphiles loath the USA, very happy.

And so as the Italian government fragments, a blanket of choking tear-gas smothers Paris, German industry disintegrates and the Eurozone shudders just like Mrs Merkel on a hot day, the fiction of an EU united in purpose becomes every day more apparent.

Ignore the doomsters and gloomsters. We're actually going to be in a good place if we Brexit on Hallow'een.

Friday 9 August 2019

O'Shaughnessy and Tanner - Trashed by their own spin

I do love our informed public. This is the story. Either the think-tank 'Onward' or the website 'Politico' commissioned a large poll from Hanbury polling, one presumes to support an opinion they wanted to promote. The poll didn't quite produce the results they wanted. The two blokes behind 'Onward' are soft remainian ex-SPADs, so they weren't going to let that stop them. They penned a piece for the Telegraph - poorly written, semi-coherent. It barely lasted 12 hours online, uninamously rubbished by every single one of the BTL comments, before the paper decently buried it. In addition, at around 4pm, ten hours after our own piece below, the guido fawkes site trashed the whole thing

James O’Shaughnessy and Will Tanner must be feeling like a right pair of dickheads today. The BTL comments on guido are, as you would expect, considerably more vicious than those that the Telegraph has now buried. I was wise yesterday to refrain from commenting on the pair's spin until I had sight of the polling data. It really doesn't support the narrative they want to promote.

A poll of 5,000 respondents, even conducted wholly by smartphone, is expensive. Who paid for it? O'Shaughnessy and Tanner claim it was them -
But Hanbury Polling say it was Politico
Overnight the polling data - what we'd all been waiting for - appeared on the Hanbury website. It's good, a rich source of evidence for many posts ahead. But not posts that will support the hapless pair's agenda.

Thursday 8 August 2019

Are we raising a generation of fascists?

Some years ago I assisted in arranging a garden party for those mainly of the younger generation. We had awnings, food, booze and a string band - all, we imagined, that was needed for these bright young things to become effervescent. As I watched, they had splintered into many small pairs or trios that knew eachother, and worryingly many lone figures not interacting. A septuagenarian Chelsea Arts Club member stood with me and advised firmly "You've forgotten what it's like to be that age. They want to be organised, told what to do. Go on!" So we organised games, encouraged non-sexual physical contact and interaction but most successfully got them dancing English folk dances that were designed for just this purpose. Don't laugh. If you've never Stripped the Willow or circled the Draper's Maggot* you haven't lived. We were blessed with a skilled and enthusiastic string band who for little more than money and beer exceeded their contractual sets and it became a roaring success.

I share that anecdote by way of introduction to a report and poll that, at time of writing, are not available online but clearly will emerge soon from their embargo as the Telegraph's Camilla Tominey has penned a teaser piece. "A third of millennials want martial law and 66 per cent prefer strong leader over parliament, poll finds" reads the strapline. It will I am sure be more nuanced than that, but the spin is the thing for the originators.

'Onward' is a Cameronian soft sort of dilettante centre right remainian think tank based on the premise that what young people want is, erm, a soft Cameronian centre-right remainian politics. However, they have produced one decent report - Generation Why? -  that is worth reading. I will wait for both the Onward report and supporting Hanbury Strategy poll before commenting on the pre-release spin.

I have commented before on other research that suggests strongly that the young are far less keenly committed to democratic forms than my own generation. Of course, they've never lived through the Lord Chamberlain's censorship, the battles that TW3, the Pythons, Oz, Private Eye and the whole counterculture movement fought in the '60s and '70s. Or the Cold War, when the nation's wealth went on guns rather than butter. We didn't drink Mateus Rose because we had no taste but because the economy had little room to support frivolities such as wine.

Forgive me if once again I stress the utterly fundamental importance of free political association, universal suffrage and the secret ballot. If the anti-democrats who are so determined to erode these fundamental guarantors of freedom are making headway with the Millennials, I am worried.

*Both of which, for maximum enjoyment, should be danced slightly drunk by people who get the moves wrong

Wednesday 7 August 2019

Police - Wrong, Wrong, Wrong

John Sutherland writing yesterday in the Telegraph is an ex-copper. A few years ago it would certainly have been ex- writing as serving plods were simply not permitted to voice personal opinions in the columns of newspapers - today one has to find the fact hidden in the article. Anyway, cutting the waffle, what John really wants more than anything is for our democratic society to stop telling coppers what to do - so like Judge Dredd they can get on with dispensing justice free of all constraints. I'm not kidding.
..we need to re-establish operational policing independence from political control, starting with the abolition of Police and Crime Commissioners.
I'd guess John was off sick the day they did 'The history of the police force' at copper school. Policing has never, ever, in any remote way been free from democratic control - and rightly so. Before the 1964 Police Act local forces were governed by Watch Committees, made up of both local elected burgesses and local magistrates. The fight between SW1 and local communities for control of the police has been a long one; the 1964 Act was a victory for the Home Office, and centralised control of much of the authority previously exercised by the Watch Committees. The Watch Committees were abolished. Crime Commissioners are nothing but an ineffective sop to Localism by a Home Office under pressure for their power-hoarding.

John of course is not alone in his anti-democratic and extremist opinions. They are held by most senior police officers, who want nothing more than a national police force controlled by no-one but themselves. To this end they have created numerous bodies - funded by our own taxes - to promote this outcome, and lobby for anti-democratic powers at every opportunity. They are part of the anti-democratic nexus that in the words of Betz and Smith has captured the democratic State -
What we appear to be witnessing is the corrupt mutation of the notion of the representation of the people in parliament, into the substitution of the will of the people by the interests of the political class. We are entering the realms, no less, of state capture. What happens when sectional interests capture the political institutions of the state? This is a question we will get to, but first it is worth reiterating that in many senses this has been a long time coming, and to emphasise, in the British case has little or nothing intrinsically to do with Brexit.
In our fight against extremism - of the Left, Right and Islamist - we must never forget that those who seek to destroy democratic control over the institutions of the State are also extremists. Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Someone also needs to tell John that it's not the job of the police to dispense justice - we have courts for that. I can't help feeling that we've been recruiting the wrong sort of people to the police.

It's time we had a fundamental review of the role and structure of the police, similar to the Royal Commission that reported in 1962, but this time not rigged by the Home Office. Remember - 98% of police work is call-outs to disturbances and policing non-indictable offences. I can see no reason why such work cannot be undertaken by local, accountable forces of coppers skilled in the basics. Organised crime, terrorism, specialist investigations and serious indictable offences can be undertaken by regional or national squads or bodies under democratic oversight. Why not?

Tuesday 6 August 2019

Harland and Wolff

The final demise of the shipyard that built the Titanic will be largely un-mourned. Only around 100 workers are left, engaged on maintenance activities, including having kept one of the yard's two great cranes, Samson and Goliath, in working order. For many Catholics, denied work at the yard until the 1960s, the erasure of the place from Ulster's landscape will be welcome.

It all started, in a surprisingly modern way, with a smoking ban. Imposed in 1854 by the nascent yard's didactic new manager, the 23 year old Edward Harland. In addition to the ban on smoking, Harland cut wages as he reckoned the work was sub-standard.

It was never a pleasant or progressive place in which to work. The employment system was tyrannical and nepotistic. Bullying and victimisation by the brutal cadre of foremen was the norm rather than the exception. Unskilled labourers, employed casually, were treated like scum, barely better than Catholics.

And the foregoing three paragraphs tell you all we know about the fourth industrial revolution; until now, shipyards, factories, mines have all been seen as formed by the men and women who built them and spent their lives working in them. We discuss them in terms of their workforce. In fact, the yard need not be redundant - though the workforce is history. A shipyard located where slipways fall into deep, sheltered water, where there is an abundance of power, where there are transport links, rail, ports and above all 5G comms, could well become a resurgent industry later this century. CNC steel cutting and shaping, robotic movers and welders, AI build supervisors and driverless cranes could see shipbuilding return to Belfast - but not employment. New jobs will be in a comfortable, climate conditioned computer control and monitoring suite, or servicing the CNC machines and robotic welders.

If the site is so suited, we must make efforts to secure it from being lost to woke hipster housing, leisure centres or MUGA cages paid for with the billions of the supply and confidence arrangements.We must recognise that locations that can be used for AI replacement industry are key assets - and protect them now.

Monday 5 August 2019

Set the Finance Spivs on German savers

Many years ago I had an endowment mortgage for a few years - five, to be exact. It was a time at which the economy was booming, the FTSE was growing like a Texas steer on hormones, the nation was becoming measurably wealthier. All that is except for me. For some reason, year after year, my regular monthly investments did not grow by even one per cent; if the whole lot had been invested in FTSE100 companies, I would have made 50%. So what went wrong? The answer of course was that I, and millions like me, were being robbed blind by the endowment mortgage spivs.

So what happened to the finance spivs when we all wised up and ditched our endowment mortgages? Or sadly only most of us did. Some poor souls who believed the lies that if they only gave it a full 25 years it would all come right lost their homes, their wealth pissed away in Balls Brothers and the champagne and lap dancing clubs. After the endowment scam I guess they split 50/50 - half of them went into selling double glazing, the other half into running pension funds.

The ones running pension funds quickly dropped back into their old endowment mortgage ways; prudent savers and small-time investors are always easy prey for the finance spivs. Well, they may have to look for alternative rip-offs; Frank Field's Work and Pensions select committee, in a final and welcome parting shot for both Frank, whom I have long held in some regard, and for the current parliament, is seeking to force the finance spivs to be honest with their customers.

Reporting the moves, the Telegraph feels a little proud of itself.
The Telegraph ran a two-year campaign to secure action to lower fees, having exposed how hidden pension charges cut savers’ retirement funds by as much as half over a working career. It led to charges on auto-enrolled pensions being capped at 0.75 per cent a year from 2015. However the MPs’ new report has suggested the charge cap needs to be reviewed by the Department for Work and Pensions in 2020 after failing to have the predicted impact.
Now, with an inevitable Brexit looming, the finance spivs will be looking for another outlet for their talents, another well to drain to meet their insatiable demand for cheap sparkling wine, flash cars and fast women. Well, lads, I'd recommend you learn German. And invent a new offshore, EU-external, tax efficient savings product for the thrifty Germans who are sitting on billions that would do far better invested in the UK - less your skim, of course.

Gl├╝ck Auf!

Sunday 4 August 2019

The Politics of Woke

There is a faint survival of civilisation on BBC Radio 4 - but only a trace, and I suspect that before long it will be gone for ever. Bells on Sunday has been a quirky snippet early on Sunday morning for as far as I can remember. It is a short two-minute snippet of English church bells. This morning was Merton College's eight bells, cast in 1680 we are told, the tenor bell tuned to E

What follows is pure BBC Woke broadcasting - 'Four Thought' - a trite and banal waste of airspace in which various snowflakes, illiberals, intolerants, narcissists, self-obsessives, entitlists and asocial egoists are indulged. This morning we had a self-described "Poet/ theatre maker/ dramaturg/ producer", of whom not one of you will have heard, describing how she attempted to bully some people off their train seats after she had failed to reserve a seat of her own. She describes herself as a 'Sensitive' and claims she comes from a long line of similarly characterised women, including seventeenth century witches. We are all now supposed to defer to the needs of 'sensitives' it seems.

Broadcasting, artistic or creative merit? The programme has none. It is neither a philosophical catalyst, moral vanitas or religious nudge. It is pure self-indulgent woke claptrap. And that's the politics of Woke - it is entirely inward focused. We must all be sensitive to their individual needs whilst allowing them to be utterly insensitive to the nation, the society, the community in which they live.

It will not be long before there will be no more Bells on Sunday - they will have been silenced,the bell-ropes removed, the clappers stilled, in order to appease all those offended by their joyous sound, the 'sensitives'. Listen while you can.