Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Chauncey Gets A D For Dunce

For those of you who wonder why I call the Leader of the Opposition Chauncey, perhaps you might have a look at his latest jaw droopingly inept appearance on the weekend political shows. I didn't watch them this weekend owing to the fact that I spent most of it unconscious (it's a long story and nothing like as much fun as you are probably imagining) and so this has only just come to my attention.

Just to catch you up fully though, Chauncey is a reference to the character Chance the gardener from the celebrated Peter Sellers film Being There adapted from the book of the same name. The premise of this satire is that a man with low level intelligence, or with learning difficulties as we are supposed, euphemistically, to refer to them these days, could become President of the United States. It's not really funny any more for obvious reasons. Back then though it seemed believable if far fetched.

But anyway I have long been of the habit of calling Corbyn Chauncey because he is clearly a bear of very little brain. This is a man who failed his A Levels having had a very privileged upbringing. He was, it goes without saying, brought up in the kind of middle class, pseudo intellectual household that routinely gravitates towards a left of centre brand of politics. It was just that he became a left wing extremist, a man doomed to operate on the fringes of politics until the Labour Party took leave of its senses in 2015. His attitudes and stance on politics are the politics of those who have never really worked or operated in the real world, who know working class people excusively through depictions in Ken Loach films and whose attitude towards them is patronisingly patriarchal, a little like the way the more liberal members of the landed aristocracy behaved towards their tenants and the local poor in the 18th and 19th centuries.

In short then Chauncey is a sophomoric halfwit. He is a man entirely out of his depth and utterly incapable or original though or of coping with the endless stream of news and political questions flung at him on a daily basis. He tries to cling to his old nostrums and decades old beliefs, but gets cast about like flotsam on the broiling tide of political turmoil.

And Brexit is proving to be a nightmare for him. He cannot get his head around it. I have pointed out many times over the last few months that he simply cannot get his head around the difference between the customs union and the Single Market. He is utterly confused about what they mean and about what his own party's policy is. The same is true of most of his fellow front benchers. Some might imagine they are just being politically canny. They aren't. They are just clueless.

On Robert Peston's programme at the weekend Chauncey demonstrated this beyond any scope for doubt. He doesn't know what the customs union is and what it means. Indeed he's even confused about some basics on trade, he said the following in response to a question about whether or not we will want to be in a customs union: 'There will have to be a customs union obviously because if you're in a trading relationship then clearly you can't at the same time be putting tariffs on goods.'

Chauncey then went on to contradict himself with his next answer relating to trading with the rest of the world because he indicated that he would like to negotiate such trade with a view to issues such as human rights and the environment. Now in part this is because Chauncey cannot resist the opportunity to grandstand, posture and virtue signal. But in part it is also because, even after several months of this talking about all of this, he still does not understand any of it.

Yes, congratulations are in order, because what he said is several orders of magnitude wrong. This country trades with the whole world and puts tariffs on all goods that do not come from within the EU. We have a common external tariff with the rest of the world as part of a customs union meaning that we rely on the EU to negotiate our trade deals for us. But we are also members of a Single Market with the EU. This is different. It means that we have to accept all rules of the EU for trading within that Single Market, including freedom of movement, in return for trading more easily with it. What we want from these negotiations is complex and is the big question. But Chauncey thought he would be doing our negotiating for us by now. Presumably the EU would have had to wait while they explained it to him.

This, needless to say, is hugely important for us all. Chauncey witters away about human rights and environmental protection because that is the kind of politician he is: an empty headed purveyor of slogans and virtue signalling. He has no answers to what this would mean for employment, for employers, for business, for trade, for our international relations. He has no clue because he still cannot get his head around the basic meaning of these two not terribly difficult concepts.

And it's not just Chauncey. The whole Labour front bench is confused and issuing confusing pronouncements about this. Is this because they are trying to have it both ways or are they simply incapable of getting their heads around it? The country should be told. You may not agree with the government's stance or approach, but at least they have been clear about the direction of travel. Labour's has wobbled all over the place, for and against the Single Market often in the same day. Now they are equally confused about the customs union. If Labour were in charge we would not only end up staying in the EU and paying for it, they would probably have us driving on the right to show goodwill.

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Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Blue Passport Mockery

Public Private Dogma

The failure of Carillion seems to be a case of hubris and wishful thinking as can so often be the case with all kinds of enterprises, both public and private. But those arguing that this means there should be an end to all outsourcing are drawing a strange and wholly unrealistic interpretation of what has happened. Outsourcing happens constantly across the public sector and the private sector. Outsourcing simply means getting an outside specialist to undertake work it is best qualified and equipped to do. Get in a plumber for your shop and you are outsourcing. Get in a delivery company for that same shop and you are outsourcing. If a doctors surgery needs these same services or perhaps help with its IT then they get in an outsourcer. The difference with Carillion is that it became too big and unwieldy. It was also bidding for contracts on margins that were too tight and thus it was unable to make sufficient profits to cover its costs when those contracts overran for whatever reason. This was simple bad management. It was bad management on the part of Carillion and on the public sector institutions that gave them the contracts. Sometimes the cheapest is not necessarily the best. And it is never a good idea for one company to be responsible for too many contracts. Did the civil service just give the work to Carillion because it was the easiest option?

But it's hard to see how managing these in the public sector would be better. The public sector has proven notoriously bad at managing major contracts. Outsourcing has usually delivered cost savings meaning that the taxpayer gets more for the same money. It is nonsense to criticise companies for making a profit off the taxpayer if they manage to provide a service cheaper thus saving money. If they are able to do so whilst still making a profit then that is proof of their specialist abilities and the economies of scale. The problem with Carillion seems to have been that they got their sums wrong. There should certainly be questions asked of the management of this particular company, but it has little application to the rest of a huge sector. The public sector could not operate without outsourcing. It is simple dogma to claim otherwise. And yes that means companies making a profit from public sources. So what? Does anyone care who empties their bins or provides school meals provided the service is a good one? My brother provides meat to a range of schools across his local area. Thus he is an outsourcer. Or would Labour like to run butchers' shops too?

No the real reason that Labour and the left don't like outsourcing is that it undermines the power of the unions and of collective bargaining. Thanks to outsourcing and trade union laws stopping secondary picketing the unions were prevented having mass actions meaning pay negotiations became more atomised and localised. The unions want collective bargaining, but when industries are broken up then they cannot achieve this. This is the real reason they don't like privately run railways. Collective bargaining across the whole country is an economic nonsense and is spectacularly inefficient. It gives remarkably poor value for money for the taxpayer. This doesn't mean that wage rises are impossible, but they have to be paid for by productivity improvements, which is of course anathema to the unions. So what Labour are arguing for would be regressive and would be bad for the economy. Outsourcing has been better for the economy, cut costs and made work more flexible. Marxist Labour wants to reverse all of that. That would put up costs for everyone and put millions out of work.

So when Chauncey started with his usual lament about these rip off PFI contracts it's hard to see what he was talking about except to conclude it is cant and hypocrisy as usual. This was a company employing thousands of people running dozens of contracts right across the public sector and which was somehow managing to lose money. Most of the costs of that will be picked up by banks and shareholders. So where was the rip off? If it turns out that some of these contracts were awarded when they shouldn't then there will of course be questions to ask. Time will tell. There is an obvious point to this though: if these were contracts that should not have been awarded because the sums were wrong then this was a failure of the public sector, the same public sector that the left are claiming should manage everything. Something to that narrative doesn't seem quite right does it.

Labour saw a story about a private outsourcing company and rushed to comment with their usual dogmatic response. Yet they didn't think it through. Carillion is a private sector company that has failed. In time other companies will buy up its constituent parts and the same services will be performed. The public sector couldn't do that. And it shouldn't either.  

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Linger by The Cranberries on VEVO.

So sorry to hear of the death of Denise O Riordan, the lead singer of The Cranberries, one of those bands that so defined the 1990s with her piercing lyrics and equally piercing voice, especially on the award winning Zombie.

Zombie (Alt. Version) by The Cranberries on VEVO.

Monday, 15 January 2018

Our Super Successful NHS

Looked at objectively you know, notwithstanding the current pressures - routinely and inaccurately described as a crisis across all sections of our ever dramatic media - the NHS has really been an outstanding success. I'm serious. If you judge it by what it was meant to achieve when being set up two generations before my generation was born, it has done everything that was promised. It has delivered a healthcare system that gives you the best health treatments regardless of your ability to pay. Patient outcomes may not be up to the best the world might expect, but potentially you stand to receive the best and most cutting edge treatments in the world even if you sometimes have to wait a few weeks.

And what was the other promise of those early naive days? That the NHS would be so successful that it would eventually start to pay for itself by making us all so healthy that we would eventually start using it less and less often. Now I wonder where we have heard that before? Oh yes, it's the lie Marxist Labour tells the country to this day about how successful its nationalisation programme would be.

To be fair my slightly whimsical representation of this foundational aim has also been achieved really. We are all more healthy than we were back in the 1930s and the 1940s when the dream of the NHS was first offered up to us. The outcome however has been that we are consequently all living much longer. Allied to the welfare state and we have a system that has achieved everything that those dreamers back then could have hoped for. Therein lies the problem. We are proving the age old truism about socialism. It has eventually run out of other people's money to pay for it all. It isn't that the NHS is failing. It is that we have run out of ways to stop lying to ourselves about how to pay for it without completely screwing the economy.

Now I don't propose that this is the way that the Conservative Party tells the country this uncomfortable truth. But it is the truth.

It all boils down to the lie we all tell ourselves and is the reason why Theresa May lost the election, or at least failed to win it. She opted to treat the British people as sensible and responsible adults who have children and grandchildren or hope to have them and who can handle the truth. The Labour Party lied to them from beginning to end and promised them all kinds of goodies paid for with other people's money. Everything would be okay, said Chauncey, if the country voted for him and allowed him to go on a spending spree and a vicious, vindictive tax hunt to compulsorily confiscate the money of the so called rich so that he could fritter it away on the various vested interests that are just desperate to be allowed to stick their thieving hands in your wallets. We would all wake up to a golden tomorrow if only Labour got to nationalise everything, take the unions off the leash, tax the rich, double council tax, double corporation tax, abolish tuition fees, pay everyone more, borrow more and abandon anything remotely disciplined with relation to money. Oh, except in relation to how people get to spend their own money. Control of that would be draconian, even to the point of preventing anyone taking it out of the country and out of the clutches of Marxist Labour. I paraphrase for what Labour said of course. They didn't say any of that. That's what they meant though.

Now Labour are telling everyone that the NHS is in crisis. It would be so much better if they were in charge they say. How though? They can't  nationalise it, their cure-all for everything that is wrong with the world. They could pour more money into it, their other cure-all. But they have tried that before. Which Prime Minister was it who was berated outside the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham that time? Yes, it was Tony Blair taken to task by Sharon Storer and later backed by doctors in the city. What did they say? Yes, not enough cash. It is never the doctors fault. It is always the lack of cash. Or the system. Mostly the cash though. It has been since the dawn of time, or at least since the dawn of the NHS, something that the doctors were opposed to due to lack of cash. These are the same doctors who were rewarded  by Labour with a pay rise for doing less work. Labour lifted the amount we spent on the NHS just as the Tories had done before and since them. It didn't work. It hasn't worked. It will never work. The NHS is a voracious beast that eats cash. It has been short of the stuff since its beginnings when Labour, yes Labour, had to invent prescription and other charges when initially you got more or less everything for free, always a ridiculous utopian dream. More cash won't work because the NHS is a bad system in which there will never be enough cash. Ever. And that's before Labour get the chance to screw the economy and run out of other people's cash to pay for it all.

But mostly the NHS will never have enough money because it is systemically inefficient. It is set up to work, not for the best interests of the patient but for the people who run it. As ever we should point out that there are thousands of dedicated, diligent, hard working staff in the NHS. But they are battling against a system that is incapable of delivering best outcomes because it is set up to be abused by its patients and by some of its staff.

The great truism of politics is you never get thanked for giving people things. But you do get blamed for taking them away. And that is true of our less than glorious NHS. It is glorious by the standards of the 1940s, but now we have ever higher expectations, but always with the expectation that someone else should pay for them.

Take the welfare state, another invention of Labour that went too far and that nobody knows how to curtail let alone stop. What started out as a safety net designed to prevent 'want' has turned into a system that rewards fecklessness and enables people to have child after child that working people could not afford, get cars paid for them on dubious grounds, even have the right to a state subsidised dog and to complain piteously when politicians try to prevent them having flats or houses with spare bedrooms that they don't need in a country that has a chronic housing shortage. What kind of peculiar socialism is that? The selfish kind?

But this is the welfare state that has enabled us all to wash our hands of our elderly relatives, or indeed to be paid to look after them as their carers. It is generally recognised that one of the reasons, indeed the main reason other than a flu epidemic, for the endless problems of the NHS is social care. But social care is a product of us all abandoning our responsibility and expecting the state to provide.

And we lie to ourselves about all of this. We lie to ourselves about how we have paid in all of our lives and so we have a right to take out at the end of those lives. But have you ever added up what you have paid in and what you have taken out? Try it. Be honest. It's eye popping. Because vast swathes of this country, whole regions of it, not just sections of society, take out more than they pay in. We may all pay our taxes, more and more of us do thanks to more of us being in work, but we often take out more than we pay in. If you have kids, if you use local council services, if you use the roads, if you avail yourself of the NHS once a year perhaps. Then you are probably taking out more than you are paying in. Only if you are quite well paid will this be otherwise. But once you reach a certain age and start receiving your state pension, if you live to the average age you will take out more than you paid in. If you then start using the NHS more and more often then you will become huge drain on the public purse thus wiping out what you have paid in and then some. The vast majority of us will end up having been in the red column by the time we are in an old people's home. Yet we will complain angrily if anyone tries to take that home away from us to pay for that elderly care.

And that's what I mean about the NHS and our welfare system having been too successful. We are all living too long, we have all become too healthy and we have all become too entitled. It is the fault of politicians offering us new and better bribes at each succeeding election and of us not wanting to listen when anyone wonders how this is to be paid for in the long term. It's not just those homes we refuse to sell to pay for old age care. We won't even pay for insurance towards it.

What is the answer? Well in a very modest way Theresa May proposed it at the last election and what was her reward? The country, or at least half of it, voted for the Marxists instead. The Marxists said they would be able to pay for all of the things we already can't afford but would also nationalise everything with all of the extra cash they have going spare. Oh and they will give students free tuition and wipe out their debts too. All paid for by.....oh don't worry your pretty little heads about that. It would all be free. Like in Venezuela, a land with more oil than any country on Earth but where they have a genuine healthcare crisis. In Venezuela the flu is the least of their worries. There it's malnutrition and getting enough basic drugs into the country to stop people dying of minor infections. Those are socialists who ran out of other people's money. They always do you know.

This blog has been arguing for years that we need a Royal Commission to look into the NHS to try and cut through the cant, hypocrisy and mendacity. Indeed I have been saying this for so long that it predates this 10 year old blog. It was such a long time ago that I wrote a letter proposing it, on paper, to Ken Clarke when he was standing for the Tory leadership. Yes, that long ago. It is nice to see that it is an idea with which the world is finally catching up. Ken Clarke was someone else who tried, in a modest way, to reform the NHS. It was he who pointed out that ambulances are often just glorified taxis and did not, strictly speaking, need to be staffed always by paramedics. Of course they weren't called paramedics back then. But how they screamed bloody murder about that very sensible reform. Now it is not even remotely controversial. The same would be true of the reforms the NHS desperately needs to make it into a service that is fit for the 21st century and would keep us fit and healthy for it. It would make doctors responsive to patients.

 The NHS has been too successful in purely 1930s terms and is a failure in 21st century terms because the world has caught up and surpassed us as usual. No other major country has been silly enough to follow our lead and try to create a nationalised health system paid for by taxes alone. We have to find a better and more responsive system and a responsible one too. We cannot expect to get it all for nothing but to have the best care and with no waiting times. We cannot expect to turn up to A & E when we don't need to and not be charged. We cannot expect to be given an appointment at a hospital or doctors and then not turn up without being charged for the waste. We cannot expect to be offered a flu jab and not take it up only to require hospitalisation some months later costing thousands. We cannot expect to be treated without having to fill in forms and to have to prove that we are entitled to treatment. We cannot expect not to have to make a contribution or to make top up payments where necessary. And private healthcare is something that should be encouraged and indeed incentivised. The NHS has been a success but it has also been a failure. The only cure for it is to be honest about what it can achieve, what it should achieve and how much more we should all be prepared to pay for it.

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Sunday, 14 January 2018

The Bible: A Very Grim Fairytale: Deuteronomy: Chapter 5: Revisiting The Ten Commandments

Moses was taking the Israelites through a kind of crash course of revision of their journey to the Promised Land. It was an action packed story of fun: lots of death, destruction, plagues, genocide and casual racism. And now the really fun part. They were going to go back over the Ten Commandments again. I bet they wished they'd stayed in Egypt as slaves.

So, cast your mind back to Exodus. Back then, having rescued the people from Egypt, Moses had gathered them beneath a mountain and given them a set of instructions about how to lead their lives. Of course this was just the basic set of instructions. Leviticus and Numbers were full of commandments too, it's just those commandments were less famous. Indeed religious people tend to ignore all of the other instructions these days about all of the feasts and need for casting out unclean people and the fact that God didn't understand basic hygiene rules and hadn't heard of antibiotics.

And they also tend to ignore the fact that the first four of the Commandments are about God. God has an ego the size of Donald Trump's and quite possibly the same narcissism problem too.

Anyway, Moses began recounting the commandments again for the people, just in case they had forgotten them. The Bible is full of endless repetition. Except this wasn't quite a repeat. There had been a bit of editing going on with the commandments too. They inserted a bit about slavery. They weren't saying that slavery was bad you understand, just that you shouldn't covet another man's property. So that's okay then.

On the mountain the people had allegedly heard God speak out of the fire. This is odd because earlier in the chapter Moses said that they had spoken to God face to face. Now he says that the people were too afraid of God to speak face to face with him. They'd let Moses do that for them. There's also no mention here of the famous golden calf episode, which is a disappointment. Now there was a god I could get on board with. Less capricious, less angry, less vain and much nicer to look at. Oh, and if you stopped worshipping him you could just melt him down and turn him into jewellery.

But Moses concluded that the Israelites, if they were to take the land God was giving to them, had to follow the commandments. What, even the one about killing? Then how are they going to steal the land from the people living there?

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Friday, 12 January 2018

More Lib Dem Confusion Over Being Liberal Democrats

Back in the days when Nick Clegg  was just Nick Clegg and not Sir Nick, when he was still an MP and when he was still the leader of the Lib Dems, there was another MP named Tim. Many of the party had joined with the future Sir Nick and formed a coalition government with the Tories. But Tim had not. Tim didn't want to be sullied by such associations. Many thought Tim would one day make a good leader of the party including Tim himself. They thought him authentic and sincere, although in truth this might just have been because of his northern accent.

Then Tim became the leader of the party. Suddenly it was pointed out that Tim is one of those evangelical Christians who believe that all that is written in the not very good book is the literal truth, even the parts that contradict the other parts. It's actually good preparation for being a Lib Dem.

But this does represent a problem. Because of gay sex. Tim was forced to dissemble, which is another way of saying that he lied. He lied over his conviction that gay sex is a sin. He pretended that he didn't think it is a sin. You might imagine that his nasty God might look on lying to millions of people in order to gain an advantage as sinful too, but I suppose the bad book doesn't say this explicitly.

Now Tim has said that he does think it is sinful after all. And once again we see Liberal Democrats who are confused by at least one of the words that make up their party's name. They are often not very liberal at all and are only democratic when it suits them. But Tim managed a double whammy when he lied to us all. He pretended to be liberal when he really isn't. And in so doing he tried to get millions of votes under false pretences. I know, I know, so did the other parties and Labour in particular, but the Lib Dems like to pretend that they are better than everyone else. Fortunately the electorate saw through them and punished them accordingly. That's why Nick has become Sir Nick. Perhaps Tim will soon become Sir Tim. We can be damned sure he won't be Saint Tim soon, although you never know.

As you might expect and indeed have gathered by reading the above, I have no sympathy whatsoever for Tim Farron and for religious people who go into politics in the 21st century whilst holding antediluvian views based on the facile witterings of flat Earthers. This is why Jacob Rees-Mogg could never become a future Conservative leader and he would do the party a disservice by even standing for the job. I like Jacob Rees-Mogg and agree with him on a great deal but his religious beliefs are a bit of a deal breaker for me. No, belief in this claptrap is not compatible with leadership of modern political parties. You cannot have it both ways as Tim Farron found out. And yes, that was intentional innuendo.

Now of course I wholeheartedly accept that this might well seem a bit unfair. After all people believe all kinds of things and have done for centuries and this has not prevented them from being perfectly good leaders. Jacob Rees-Mogg is perfectly entitled to his views on abortion for instance. But we do not have to respect him or his views. We just have to respect his right to hold those views. Indeed the belief in the sanctity of life is something wholly unobjectionable I would aver. Where I have a problem is when it is claimed that we should believe in the sanctity of life because of a supernatural belief in a god. It's no more worthy of respect than believing that wearing a condom is a sin or taking a pill to prevent impregnation.

Of course it is possible to be a believer and still lead a political party, provided it is the kind of ultra flexible and not very fervent belief in which the British specialise. That's why we invented the wishy washy Church of England after all in which being gay is practically a requirement for membership of the clergy. Not for the C of E all of that silly Catholic nonsense about transubstantiation and contraception. It's just not British to be that certain about things to do with sex. And the idiocies of the other religions are not compatible either. People were too polite to point out that the current Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, believed that Mohammad literally rode up to heaven on a winged horse and that this belief is a bit mad. But they shouldn't be. We should be as critical of such idiocies in other religions as we are in the establishment one. Not eating bacon because of God is silly and so is revering cows. Not cutting your hair is a little odd, but nothing like as silly as believing that a man spoke to the Angel Gabriel in a cave and that he then kept having useful revelations for the rest of his life as occasion demanded.

Britain is a post religious society and so our politicians have to reflect that. We judge those who consider the private lifestyle choices of others to be sinful. We judge those who think that women should not have full control over their own bodies because of someone's weird interpretation of a book. And we should judge them. The religious beliefs of our potential and actual leaders are as relevant as their fanciful belief that spending hundreds of billions on nationalisations pays for itself. Religious belief should be a private matter. It should be a private matter for the very good reason that all religion is inherently absurd and should be ridiculed at best and should rule you out of powerful jobs where necessary. I don't want my armed forces in the hands of someone who believes that there is a father, son and a holy ghost and that the son was born of a virgin. Mind you I'm not keen on our next monarch being someone who thinks that homeopathy is a valid form of medicine either.

In this day and age, whilst it would be going too far to say we are more rational, we certainly value a semblance of rationality in our leaders. Tim Farron found this out the hard way. Perhaps someone should now gently suggest to him that he should either join a different political party (the DUP?) or give up politics altogether and start proselytising in town squares. That way God might eventually forgive him for going soft on gays.

Trump's Cluelessness

There was some spin this week from the White House in response to those entirely reasonable and probably accurate reports about his 'executive time'. This is what they write into the diary when Trump wants to spend time watching TV or tweeting instead of doing his job. Few of us have time to actually make time for watching TV I would suggest. I would have to be dragged by teams of wild stallions to make me watch TV in the morning and can give it a miss most evenings. The President of the United States has it written into his work schedule.

But to counter the idea that he is lazy and would rather sit in bed with a burger and a remote control, Trump allowed cameras into a meeting he chaired. This was not a good move because it simply confirmed what we already knew or at least suspected. He is spending too much time watching TV to the exclusion of acquainting himself with the facts he needs to do his job and make decisions. Trump tried to paint himself as a great genius and brilliant decision maker. Yet he defers to others. This is either because he lacks the brains to come to a decision on his own or simply because he cannot be bothered. On balance I tend towards the former explanation, but there is certainly something of the latter. Trump has always been a man who goes on gut instincts and makes up for his lack of diligence and intelligence by employing people who display both. He then gets by on bluster and bullshit. Either way, is this the man even the most credulous supporter thought they were getting? Is this the art of the deal?

The real worry for those supporters however is that this is a man who has so lost touch with reality he has to create his own. He invited the cameras in for a second time after the first debacle and told everyone watching how successful it had been and how good the 'reviews' had been. The reviews? He even called it a performance. Does he even know that he is the President? He then talked about the ratings and speculated that the media will want him to win again in 2020 because he delivers good ratings for them. Later the White House reversed much that had been said during the meeting anyway because the President, this genius and stable leader, got so much wrong. Don't pay any attention to what was actually said in this televised meeting they were saying. It was just a performance.

Now I am no psychiatrist but I would argue that this is clear evidence of a man in the grip of a delusion and who has lost touch with reality completely. Trump is fond of telling the world what everyone thinks. He likes to provide a commentary on himself. He sounds like a little boy playing football and providing the commentary for his brilliant goalscoring prowess. Except this is a 73 year old man who thinks he is starring in a reality show. I started the week saying he should be removed. I make the same plea now. Cabinet members must be seeing this kind of behaviour all of the time. How can they watch this and not act?

We keep seeing this kind of story emerge from a chaotic White House which is not being led in any real sense by the President. Also this week Trump undermined his own administration's policy on FISA renewal, a policy to do with intelligence gathering, but which Trump clearly misunderstood because he tweeted the opposite. This is part of a pattern. The tweeter in chief disseminates his wisdom to the world only for it to emerge that this is at variance with the actual policy of his administration. So what is going on. Does the President not know what the policy is? Does the President have it explained to him but forgets? Does the President have it explained to him but doesn't understand? Does the President not care? Is the President too busy watching television? Who is really running the country?

Trump is and always has been a brand and nothing more. It is why of all of his dubious achievements he seems to be proudest of his time hosting a reality show. Television, as we all know, is make believe, even shows that purport to be reality shows. Yet this week Trump allowed in the cameras and they showed the reality of this president. Those who allow this situation to persist will be judged by history.

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Thursday, 11 January 2018

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown: Euro Cretin

Awwww bless! Yasmin Alibhai-Brown imagines that her columns have a point. In a remarkably facile - even for her - column for a magazine called the New European, Alibhai Brown trotted out a succession of hackneyed arguments that she may well have lifted from a GCSE student's history paper. Presumably the New European doesn't pay too well, if at all. It might explain the lack of effort into creating a coherent argument.

There are so many blinkered, bigoted, historically inaccurate and illogical arguments in this piece you might imagine that Alibhai-Brown was being satirical when she wrote it. But since she has no noticeable sense of humour this seems unlikely. This read very much like someone going through the motions, although to be fair this is a magazine - no I had never heard of it before either - with a circulation of just 20, 000. It's probably subsidised by the EU. Or Tony Blair.

This was such a lazy piece she starts off by writing of Nigel Farage. Of course. How could she do otherwise. She is so completely convinced of her own rectitude and innate rightness and yet starts off by invoking a man that even those of us who voted Leave regard as beyond the pale. Yet even then she manages to make herself look stupid. She recalls an appearance she made, with Farage, on LBC a few years ago in which she made the sort of blithe assumptions she is still making some six years later about the motivations of the 17 million people who voted the opposite way to her. Such is her arrogant disdain for those opinions she dismisses them without bothering herself with a decent counter argument.

So when Farage became annoyed with her and called her a stupid little girl - in the circumstances this was the least she deserved - she congratulates herself. She is a troll for all intents and purposes. She demanded an apology from Farage and got it. Yet she offered none for her assertion that he hates Europe. And Farage offered a reasonable case for his not hating Europe. It is one many of us would agree with. The EU and Europe are not the same. One is an institution that was created slowly over half a century and in its present form only 25 years ago. The other is a continent to which we all belong and whose culture helped create us. Yet Alibhai-Brown simply does not accept this. She offers no counter argument. She just dismisses it and then accuses Farage of being pompous. Yet he has, as he said, worked for European companies and is married to a French woman. It doesn't matter according to Alibhai-Brown.

Alibhai-Brown, who of course considers herself the epitome of tolerance and progressive attitudes, is a bigot. As she then goes on to demonstrate.

Every facile, doltish, blinkered standard Europhile non sequitur is given an airing here from a woman who accuses Farage of being a hideous right winger. The contradictions are endless.  Leavers see Europe as being our hedonistic playground this cretin asserts along with another piece of bigotry when she informs us that most of these 'jingoists' are English. Presumably she hasn't seen which way Wales voted, or that 40% of Scotland voted for Leave too.  Yet in the next sentence she rightly points out we have long embraced the culture of Europe. Apparently she hasn't noticed that this is an argument in support of Farage and we who see no contradiction between loving Europe and hating a form of government younger than even its youngest constituent countries.

Still she hasn't finished. She's on a roll by this stage. The royals are European apparently. Who knew? Like Nigel Farage's wife you mean? What does this prove exactly?

Andrew Marr apparently wrote many years ago that we have long felt ourselves to be better than our fellow Europeans. Right. Well, for a start I imagine Marr had his tongue in his cheek, an alien concept for Alibhai-Brown, but presumably he didn't distinguish between Leavers and Remainers when making this jokey observation.

That's when the half wit claims that this is the point of her column. I'm not entirely sure what this point is. She certainly doesn't advise us. Oh she claims that leavers wilfully repudiated the historical ties that bind us to the mainland. She offers no evidence for this of course. We voted to leave the EU, a form of government, we didn't vote to cease being European. Indeed the whole point has always been that we wished to opt out of a form of government but wished to remain cooperative friends much as we have done throughout our history. Our oldest ally in the world is Portugal.

Inevitably the intellectually challenged one talks about the war. Yet another quote is offered here, this time from Tom Peck of the Independent who claimed, apparently, that for years we have been told that our finest hour was when we sent our young men to fight against our European neighbours. Stop and read that again and do a double take. I have no idea if Mr Peck actually wrote that or if he has been misquoted. Either way it is an absurd and offensive suggestion. Our young men fought, not against our neighbours, but to defend and liberate them from a vile racist ideology that murdered millions. We did so on more than one occasion in different wars, always fighting alongside our neighbours against Hitler and the Nazis, the Kaiser and Napoleon. Her assertion is historically inept and wilfully blind.

But she doesn't even stop there. She keeps on digging. She points out that Europe's history has been full of savagery and inhumanity in addition to more noble traditions and cultural achievements. We have been part of all of this she points out. But that is further argument in support of Farage, not of hers. Britain has never cut itself off. We could have come to an accommodation with all of the dictators above but chose not to out of solidarity. That is something we are rightly proud of. But it makes our history different to that of Europe and explains why we have often felt less enamoured of the EU.

She points out that there is a long history of Europeans coming to live on these shores. We might point out that we also have a long history of going in the opposite direction. Not bad for little Englanders. The current levels of immigration from Europe are however unprecedented. This is and always has been the point. One that Alibhai-Brown ignores because it is inconvenient to what passes for her argument.

She even claims that there was a huge influx of Europeans here after the Black Death. This is such an absurd contention it is hilarious. The Black Death killed millions across Europe including here. It meant huge economic problems and labour shortages it is true. But that was the case right across the continent. There was no influx to this country from abroad. They had no people to spare. Clearly Alibhai-Brown has read somewhere that there was a large migration of people following the Black Death. But not to this country from abroad. It was within countries as labourers and skilled workers used their new bargaining power to seek out better paid work. This half witted woman has misunderstood history so desperate is she to try and concoct an argument.

She still hasn't finished with the non-sequiturs. Do Brexiteers realise the contribution of Europeans to setting up many of our institutions or of contributing to our society? Well yes we do. But what does that have to do with anything? What does that have to do with the way we are governed? And how would we be cutting ourselves off from the continent?

Ms Alibhai-Brown's article is sadly typical of the kind of arguments deployed by remainers who then accuse Brexiteers of being liars or worse. This smug, self satisfied woman with so very little to be smug or satisfied about even informs us that we will only be able to eat pies from pie shops once we have left the EU. Yes, that's it. The pie argument. Hilariously she tells us that few of us will ever see the light. What light would that be? The light shone by your winning arguments? If only she had played a major role in the referendum campaign we would have won by an extra million votes.

There is actual bigotry in this nasty, snobbish little article, so self congratulatory, so inane, so illogical and full of contradictions and vapidities. It has long been a mystery how Alibhai-Brown manages to earn a living as a columnist and how she keeps being commissioned and invited on to the television. One can only assume that this is because she annoys and infuriates people. It's certainly not because she is capable of rational thought and putting this on to the page.


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