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Saturday 7 December 2019

UK can lead Europe in climate adaptation

Looking at common ground around the climate issues, I'm becoming increasingly confident that there is emerging a consensus around mitigation / adaptation. The science of climate change is as poorly understood as the pathology of disease in the 17th century, when physicians flailed around with notions of humours, bile and flux but had no better cure than a low diet and bleeding. Business at least is aware that making epochal decisions based on such large degrees of uncertainty is not wise - but if climate change is happening, either warming or cooling - and it seems that it is, it makes good sense to make money out of the ways in which we adapt to it. I'm deeply indebted to our friends over at Capitalists@Work, who reached this conclusion some time ago.

Now it seems that even Christine Lagarde is waking up to the reality. I tend to think that many individuals are placed somewhere close to my own position; I'll happily do my best to reduce, reuse and recycle because it's a good thing to do. I think about my environmental footprint in decisions that I make. And I follow in my personal life what we always termed in the Construction industry BPNEEC ('Bipknec') - best practice not entailing excessive cost, which in practice often became best practice not entailing cost. If Saint Greta leads the black-clad 17th century puritans wailing that we're all bound for Hell unless we eat turnips and live in a puddle, most of us are somewhere on the spectrum where spending a little less time and money in the alehouse and on wenching seems a sensible thing.

Politico.Eu has the story and I won't repeat it. Suffice to say that the ECB has now rowed-back on brave promises to tackle the causes of climate change by the heroic use of instruments such as bond issues. They're now just promising to buy unbleached recycled paper for the office photocopiers and not invest any further euros of the ECB employee pension fund in coal-things. Doing heroic stuff is not our brief, Lagarde is saying. That's up to the EU. Meanwhile the EU is mired in a battle for the post-Brexit budget. At one end are the one-per-centers, who would cap the contributions of member states at 1% of GDP, at the other the Imperialists who want 1.4%. France says she doesn't care so long as everyone else continues to pay for the French agricultural system, Poland says she wants a budget that will make them as rich as Germany, because the others owe it to them and Germany says hands off our savings - and don't challenge our hegemony. In the midst of all this, any meaningful EU action on climate change is truly improbable, and Brussels will fudge it by passing on carbon reduction 'targets' for individual nations to meet from their own resources.

All of which means that a careful and coherent government steer towards investment in adaptation and mitigation, in R&D for the same and of course in the export of both knowledge and technology that delivers adaptation will literally pay dividends for the country with a government coherent and focused enough to deliver the strategy. I'm really hoping that the UK is that country - and Thursday's election will either enable it or consign us to the virtue-signalling cesspit of Euro policy.

Friday 6 December 2019

Nigel's anger at BrexitCorp™ defectors

You'd have needed a heart of stone not to have empathised with Nigel's agony yesterday. After having set up BrexitCorp™ as the perfect vehicle for one-man control, he found himself powerless to prevent the resignation of four of 'his' MEPs. His private company structure may mean he can hire and fire candidates at will, even stand-down 317 from the hustings, but as he has discovered, once they are elected they are no longer 'his' politicians; they are their own creatures, and no contractual straitjacket on earth can prevent them from repudiating his control.

During the last months of the rogue Parliament, my own party experienced a great deal of this sort of thing. Every week petulant Remainer MPs would break-off to join some new party, some even managing to join two new parties within a week. No sooner had they ordered their new party letterheads than the name and logo would change again. At the time there was much angry agitation from Brexiteers that changing party after election should automatically trigger a by-election. I disagreed then and I disagree now.

What if their party change is overwhelmingly supported by their constituents? Why should everyone be put through the nonsense of a foregone conclusion? I'm much more in favour of a constituency's right to trigger Recall in such circumstances, provided the bar is set at the right height. Under FPTP a representative's seat is a matter for the voters, not for their angry ex-party officials. Under FPTP once elected they represent their constituents, not their party.

Now I'm not sure what the EP's rules are. UK MEPs are put in place on a party list system; if a party gets enough votes for 10 MEPs, the top ten names on the list get in. I suspect once they're in they're in - but this clearly doesn't suit for example parties structured like BrexitCorp™. I'm sure what Nigel would like, if numbers 4 and 7 don't suit, is to be able to sack them and substitute numbers 11 and 12 from the list. Happily, such control is inimical to democracy, even, I suspect, in Brussels.

Thursday 5 December 2019

Election fatigue

A week out from polling day and my motivation has plunged. Perhaps this is the low point of the campaign. Even Swinson's outrageous defence of giving the vote to 16 year-olds to game any second referendum just left me filled with contempt rather than anger. We're back to a binary contest, after those exhilarating weeks during which four parties each held some 20% of the vote, when Swinson dreamt of standing on the doorstep of Number 10 and Nigel imagined his drive to the Palace.

We've managed to get past the danger of Trump endorsing anyone in the election; he's flown away in a fit of pique that a playground gang of other NATO leaders were caught laughing at him. I really can't knock Trumpy, despite his manifold failings; Hillary would have been far, far, worse - and the US would have been mired in another trillion dollar war by now if Clinton had been in the White House, with a stream of transport aircraft bringing the coffins home. Better Trump, and families having their husbands and fathers home alive at Christmas.

Macron's desperation came through. He can only hold France together if everyone else continues to pay for it. His thrust to take greater control of the German treasury has foundered, and his defence strategy is centred on getting money, including NATO money, from all of the other EU26 to invest in French defence industries. Islamist terrorism is forcing his internal security to the limits, and the Gilets Jaunes are a continued irritant. No wonder he will be willing to use a fight over French access to UK fishing waters after Brexit (if the Conservatives win) to try to win back his collapsing popular support.

I'm hoping for a Conservative fireworks strategy - that we've been keeping the brightest bursts, the loudest bangs and the greatest impact fireworks in the box until last, to give a crescendo display over the next seven days. Our social media presence has also been risibly poor to date - our supply of talented 17 year-old video makers seems poorer than Momentum's.

One of the highlights of my social media week has been the piss-taking of the Guardian under the #TrollingtheGuardian tag. The newspaper's banning of a parody account on Twitter on copyright grounds has unleashed an amusing flood of pisstaking - leading to what one observer has termed ironic confusion, with the Guardian's real straplines reading like the Onion and the parodies having the flavour of authenticity.  Hey ho.  

Tuesday 3 December 2019

Let's pretend that NATO exists ....

The United Nations, as I never tire of reminding the ignorant, was originally the name of the military alliance that opposed the Axis powers in WWII. Britain, the USA, Russia and China. And at the very end, elbowing their way in to ensure they wouldn't be left out, France. That's why these five nations are permanent members of the Security Council. The young seem to imagine the UN was created out of an upswell of global altruism drenched in love and egality. It wasn't. It was forged from the shrapnel of war. The Atlantic Charter, originally an agreement created and edited by Churchill and Roosevelt in the dark days of 1941, grew into the UN charter. It exists as a forum to prevent wars of aggression through international jaw-jaw

However when jaw-jaw fails we must most reluctantly fall back on war-war. And that's what NATO is for. Formed in a Bipolar world, it fell into decline when the globe became unipolar but today in a Tripolar world it needs a resurgence of commitment - from the old nations of the world and those since 1945 founded on democracy, nations that have eschewed national aggrandisement and aggression and are committed to a defensive alliance.

And that is the big problem. There has arisen in Europe a new empire, a nascent Reich, that has very much not eschewed aggrandisement and pushing out its borders to create lebensraum. It wants all of Europe from Sweden's Iron Ore to Ukraine's wheat fields, from North Sea oil to the Mosul oilfields of Iraq. It wants armed forces to win and govern its territories, global-scale arms research and manufacturing capability and more than anything else it wants the 2% of GDP that its member nations have hitherto committed (in theory, anyway) to NATO.

Britain wants no part of this madness. The US may not be perfect, but at least American citizens are allowed to elect their President. And they have law and courts not under political control. And America, as Churchill said, always does the right thing. Eventually.

And that is the background against which the members of NATO meet this week to celebrate 70 years. I guess those years break down as 40 years of genuine mutual commitment, 20 of splurging the dividend saved from the wall coming down, and the past 10 with France, Germany and the western European EU nations just going through the motions and pretending that they're still a part of it.

The EU's strategy is clear; while we're in their 'transition' phase, they want the US and UK to defend Europe from Russia and China, for free. Once they've got their own army they won't need us any more. Everyone knows this. It's hardly a secret. Yet mutual security is so important that for public consumption we must all pretend it's not the case. But I'd love to be  a fly on the wall to hear what they actually say to each other this week.

Monday 2 December 2019


After this election campaign, the role of broadcasters will never be again as it was. Any reasonable person who watched Marr trying to humiliate the Prime Minister yesterday, without success, cannot fail to conclude that the usefulness of these things has passed. Marr was simply not interested in answers, only with throwing like spears as many barbed, distorted and wounding questions as possible, rat-tat-tat. As soon as Boris was deflecting the last one another was launched. It was not an edifying spectacle.

I can't quite track how the broadcasters assumed that they held this power and authority over our elected representatives - and by extension, assume they hold the same power and authority over we who elected them. But they are grievously mistaken. It's fine for us to disparage, undermine, scrutinise, reform and dismiss the elected political class- we're the voters. It's not fine for the broadcasters to impertinently pretend that they're acting in our name when in fact they're acting for a political establishment now under threat and fighting us for control of the nation. They're not acting for us, or for higher ideals, but for their own power and interest. And this election is the event that has called them out.

We don't elect a President in this country but representatives who ally themselves to a party. If the broadcasters have a job at all it is to present and probe the parties - taking whomever the party decides to put up to the microphone. If they imagine their job is that of attack dogs, establishing their own dominance and authority by savaging individual prominent politicians, they are mistaken. That's our job, not theirs.

Sunday 1 December 2019

Where should Leavers vote for the Brexit Party?

This is the advice for Leavers given by the Telegraph; vote for TBP -
  1. If the Conservatives haven’t won the seat since at least 1992 (or since constituency creation);
  2. If Ukip beat the Conservatives, and gained a vote share of over 20 per cent, in 2015;
  3. And if the Conservatives got less than 30 per cent of the 2017 vote.
OK - so let's look at the two constituencies below

1. Labour have held the seat since 1974..
2. In 2015 UKIP came 2nd with 28% of the vote
3. In 2017 the Conservatives got 34.2%

Result: Vote Conservative

Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford
1. Labour have held the seat since constituency creation
2. In 2015 UKIP came 2nd with 21.3% of the vote
3. In 2017 the Conservatives got exactly 30.0%

Result: Vote Conservative 

I think this is a fair and sensible algorithm for the Conservative and Brexit parties to use - what do you think? It's too late now for candidates to stand down, so it will mean the lower rated party must start campaigning for the other from now onwards.

Well, do we want to Leave or not?