Monday, 29 February 2016
Or there is the prime minister's own gem about the couple of dozen different remedies that we Leavers have offered about what is the preferred solution for Britain's trade relations outside the EU. Is this as opposed to the half a dozen (at least) different prescriptions for a bottom line on negotiations on the deal that would make Dave walk away from the negotiating table?
It was revealed at the weekend too that the PM was advised by no less a figure than Sir Lynton Crosby to walk away from that pathetic non deal, put the referendum back to 2017 and ask the EU to do better. This is advice that this blog offered more than once. Instead Dave tries to bluff and bluster his way into convincing us that he got a great deal, even though he got nothing like what he was demanding just last autumn and nothing approaching what he originally demanded when the whole farce was started and when he never thought he would have to deliver thanks to the intervention of the Lib Dems.
Incidentally the reason that we on the Leave side have offered so many different prescriptions for what can be achieved as a trading deal with the EU is that there is no way of knowing at this stage. How can we know? It's best to be honest about this. But one thing we can be certain of is that, in a world where free trade deals are being done between sovereign nations across the globe and between nations as varied in size as the USA, India, Singapore or Chile, we can be certain that a long established trading nation like the UK, a nation that has the fifth largest economy on the planet, will most decidedly be able to forge a new path for ourselves after regaining our power to do so.
In truth, whatever anyone says, it is impossible to say what impact a UK secession would have. But the economic impact would likely not be particularly great one way or the other. The great hope of the Remainers is that they can put the fear of god into all of us to convince us to vote for the status quo. In reality the economic risk is negligible and difficult to calculate with any degree of certainty. We do know however that as signatories to the WTO, the EU and a newly independent UK would at the worst benefit from the regime put in place by that organisation and would surely do much better.
So far this campaign has been sullied by the ridiculous and even underhand tactics employed by the Remain side from the name calling and patronising to the silly claims about leaving being a leap in the dark. All bear little scrutiny and, as we will remind the British people ad nauseum, sound an awful lot like the warnings that were sternly administered about our reluctance to join the euro.
The problem that the Remain side have is that they promised a reformed EU and could not deliver. But the bigger problem is that they acknowledged before they failed to deliver that the EU is in serious need of reform. They can make no claims of love of Europe, no claims for the EU being something to which we owe great fealty or loyalty. So what then should we conclude is the only reasonable course for the British people to take given their own stance? Its no wonder their arguments are looking so threadbare after only a week of what has passed for debate.
Sunday, 28 February 2016
So God told Moses to go once again to the Pharaoh and tell him to let his people go so that they could serve him. Quite how they were supposed to serve him is left unsaid. Perhaps he felt in need of lots of shameless toadying and obeisance accompanied by burnt offerings. God is a strange chap at the best of times. Oddly quixotic.
God was getting serious now. He told Moses to tell Pharaoh that if he did not let his people go then he would kill all the animals in Egypt, all of the cattle and sheep, but he would leave the animals of the Hebrews alone. What was to stop the Egyptians from taking the animals of the Hebrews? And why did slaves have their own farms and animals anyway? Isn't that a strange kind of slavery?
And, his deadline not being met, God did as he had threatened and all of the animals in Egypt were killed but not the animals of the Hebrews.
God sent out servants to see and they confirmed that all of the animals except those of the Israelites were dead. But still the Pharaoh wouldn't let the Hebrews go, although this could be simply because God had hardened his heart deliberately. So all of this is just sadism. The authors of this story just wanted to be mean to the Egyptians who were and still are the big power in the region. Its a bit like the British making up a story about how we had a God on our side who made the Chinese stop dumping cheap steel on us and gave them smallpox until they agreed.
So then God, who still hadn't had his sadism satisfied, told Moses to go to the Pharaoh and take some ashes from the bottom of a kiln. Then he sprinkled the ashes into the air. These ashes became small dust particles and were spread throughout Egypt becoming a terrible disease that brought forth boils on the bodies and faces of everyone in Egypt - apart from the Israelites of course. It even afflicted the Pharaoh's magicians.
Once again though God hardened the heart of the Pharaoh and he still wouldn't yield.
And so God told Moses to go to the Pharaoh the next morning and tell him that God was going to send all of his plagues and all of his pestilences so that he and everyone would know what a big, bad and powerful God he was. No special pleading there then. What a terrible inferiority complex this obscure tribe that came to be known as the Jews had when they wrote this stupid story.
All of this, the plagues and the suffering were just to show how big their God was compared to the puny ones worshipped by the Egyptians including Pharaoh himself.
God warned Moses to tell people to get themselves and their animals to safety because tomorrow he was going to get properly nasty and go and do a bit of smiting to show the Egyptians who was boss. It would have been easier of course had he just unhardened the Pharaoh's heart, but this is clearly the way God works. He's a bit like Vladimir Putin really.
So the next morning Moses went to see Pharaoh and he stretched forth his rod again and hail rained down across Egypt, ruining crops and it was interspersed with lightning and fire. The authors, who were ignorant people who didn't understand these things, were probably confused about what lightning is. But it wasn't fire raining down, presumably it was just meant to be hail and lightning. Either way it was all very nasty.
Only in the land of Goshen, where the Hebrews lived with their farms and animals despite their supposedly being slaves, did the hail and fire not come, which of course begs the question of why Moses needed to warn anybody.
Anyway, the Pharaoh finally saw the error of his ways and sent for Moses and Aaron his cut and paste brother. We are all sinners said Pharaoh and we can see how splendid and big and mighty is your God. Please beg your God that there shall be no more hail and lightning and I shall let you and your people go.
And Moses said 'What? I can't hear you for all of this thunder.' Actually he didn't. I just made that up. He instead said that he would only stop all of the thunder and lightning once he had left the city.
And he did as he had promised but once again the Pharaoh, whose heart was by now harder than diamond, refused to let the people go once he could see that the hail and rain and lightning had stopped. Its not clear whether, in addition to hardening his heart, God had also addled his brain.
Saturday, 27 February 2016
Friday, 26 February 2016
We're just about a week into the campaign to get Britain out and we have the momentum. David Cameron is a class act and is making a very decent fist of defending his stance. Unfortunately for him his stance is indefensible.
The prime minister has not achieved any of the aims that he set out to make. Europe remains unreformed and as arrogant as before. The only way to shake them out of their complacency is to vote to leave. They know that a successful Britain outside the EU - and we would be successful if we had a government prepared to turn us into a low tax, dynamic economy - would mean the end of their project. Whatever they say now, they would be desperate to stop that happening. Britain outside the EU and thriving would undermine their project probably fatally.
The likes of Michael Howard and David Owen have declared for Out today. That is important. They make the point that the EU, for all of its talk, does not actually achieve what it claims to achieve. Unity does not work. Trying to impose uniformity does not work. Ultimately the EU project will fail because trying to turn 28 countries into a single homogenous whole is never going to work.
Britain is not the only country that is resisting this. It is just that we have come up against an unstoppable force that is pushing back.
Thus the best and most viable solution for the UK is to stop pushing and to change the game completely by leaving. If you don't like the rules of the game and consider them destructive, which even ardent Europhiles would agree with if they were being honest, then you have to leave.
That is the bottom line. If the EU would agree far reaching reforms it would be worth staying. But the EU refuses to change. Britain should vote to get out.
Thursday, 25 February 2016
Do you understand what the point is, what has been accomplished by Dame Janet Smith's report into the activities of Jimmy Savile and others published today? Essentially the report seems to exonerate most staff who are still working at the BBC or who are regarded as useful whilst excoriating those who are either dead, in prison or whose contracts can easily be terminated.
We already knew that Jimmy Savile was a weird sociopath. Unable to form proper human relationships he took his very minimal talent and, through cunning and the peculiar tastes of the 60s and 70s for cliched disc jockeys, managed to forge himself a career that gave him power, influence and wealth out of all proportion to his status as a not especially good tv and radio presenter.
Should the BBC, our national broadcaster, have looked away while he and his friends acted with impunity towards teenage girls who were dazzled by them? No. But then that was what happened and likely still happens to this day with those who work in television and radio or in the world of rock and pop. Is there going to be an investigation into the sexual activities of pop stars going back to the dawn of pop up to and including the sainted David Bowie? If not, why not? Do we seriously think that this was a culture restricted to Savile?
The only difference with Savile was that he became so hooked on the kind of sexual kicks he got when his fame was at its zenith that he cunningly found a way to continue it when by all normal standards he should have been seen for what he was: a dirty old man. So there was the charity work, there was the work for the NHS, there was the prodigious fundraising. It was all done because he found that it gave him the power to continue his paedophile activities and become even more of a deviant than he had ever been. For him these activities were necessary. He was a man who liked sex and power over young women but didn't want, or more likely was incapable of forming, normal adult relationships with women rather than with impressionable, underage girls.
But please let us not pretend that this was a problem restricted to Savile and his ilk. It wasn't. There is a case being reported today about a teacher, Andrew Willson, 48, who smeared Nutella on an infatuated 14 year old girl. He will not be the last man, or woman, who is unable to resist the temptation of sex with young girls or boys over whom they have influence.
Jimmy Savile was a vile and especially cunning paedophile. But he did what he did because he operated at a time when such things were overlooked in an industry in which it is common. Attitudes have changed in the decades since, but nothing like as much as this report pretends.
There was a time when this blog used to publish regular pictures of our favourite chanteuse, the divine Rihanna, This is a tradition that was discontinued with regret some time ago. I now resurrect it since Miss Fenty was in the UK for the BAFTAs and, well we need some light relief from all the talk about the EU.
Wednesday, 24 February 2016
There is going to be a referendum. Had you heard? Dave has completed his renegotiation and all that he has to show for it is enough airmiles to keep him and his family in the air for years to come after his retirement. That retirement may well come sooner than he thinks if the referendum does not go as planned. Dave says he would stay on and negotiate our leaving. Given the success of his last effort the country is unlikely to trust him with the task I would suggest.
But Dave is at his best when cornered and on the defensive. He came out fighting on Monday and attacked those around him who have announced their defiance. In particular he rounded on Boris with all kinds of cracks about his advocacy of leaving the EU which, Dave suggested, was more to do with his leadership ambitions. Boris adopted a 'c'est moi?' type face.
It had been suggested that Boris would come out for leave and then retreat into the shadows without doing much campaigning. But will he now be more active following the prime minister's very personal attack? Whatever they think of Boris's motives, Number 10 wanted him on their side precisely because they know he is popular and can win votes that other politicians cannot reach. Dave's attack may turn out to have been impolitic if Boris now becomes more active. The two are bitter rivals, albeit behind a polite face, at the best of times. Is the polite face now to be a scowl?
It is of course a bit rich for this prime minister to criticise others for facing both ways on the EU. Dave came to power by pretending to be a Eurosceptic, detached his party from a federalist grouping in the EU parliament, promised far reaching reform just a couple of years ago and then got nothing and is nevertheless advocating we vote to remain. It is why people like me, Tim Montgomerie and many Tory backbenchers are so angry and disgusted with him.
At least the Remain side have nothing to fear from Labour. Chauncey has been as confused and confusing as we have come to expect. He has attacked the prime minister's deal, attacked what the EU does, the jobs it costs, the lack of democratic accountability. And then he said that Labour want to remain in it. Oh and he also attacked the prime minister's very limited reduction in benefits for EU immigrant workers. So Chauncey thinks the EU is bad but wants to stay in. Oh and he thinks that we should be paying them more in benefits. Brilliant!
It is no wonder that Chauncey is now just a figure of fun. On Monday, in his response to the PM, he told how he had been to Europe at the same time and he met fellow socialist leaders. 'One of them', he said, 'said to me.....' at which point a helpful Tory MP, Christopher Pincher, suggested 'who are you?' The house collapsed into helpless mirth for a full half minute. See for yourself.
Why was it so funny? Because like all the best jokes it was delivered with exquisite timing but mostly because it has a fundamental basis in truth. People laughed because it was entirely believable. Chauncey is an irrelevance. He is a joke. A figure of fun. Even his own front benchers struggled to keep straight faces. Some gave up even trying.
What makes it funnier is Chauncey's complete lack of a sense of humour. Anyone else would have joined in the laughter or come back with a witty rejoinder. Chauncey just stands and stares angrily like a disappointed supply teacher who has lost the class. This is probably what it feels like to be Louis Van Gaal.
And Chauncey brought similar form to PMQs.
This week he did at least raise an issue that the country is talking about, the latest announcement of strikes by junior doctors in their ongoing dispute.
Fascinatingly and revealingly Chauncey decided that the best way to attack this issue was by disputing the figures that excess deaths are caused at weekends because of the current working arrangements that the new contract is seeking to address. The figure is wrong he said. So he seriously seemed to be arguing that he did not think it possible that the diminution of staff at weekends would have any impact. But, even if this were true, he seemed to be arguing that the NHS should not be a 24/7 service. Is that Labour's position? All of that investment in equipment, all of that investment in staff training and they should clock off at 5 every Friday?
In response to Chauncey's irrelevant assertion that figures about excess deaths have been misleading, Dave claimed that the they were indeed misleading - since they were an underestimate. New figures he claimed were even higher hence the Government's determination, a determination that Labour themselves had admitted was popular with the public, to address the patchy cover at weekends. The PM also argued that it was the BMA which has been playing fast and loose with the truth making untrue claims about doctors' pay.
Chauncey made another irrelevant intervention, this time pointing out that there was no dispute in Wales or Scotland over junior doctors employment contracts. Dave pointed out that they were not trying to introduce better cover at weekends.
Chauncey said that you do not build a strong NHS by provoking industrial action. In Chauncey world - a theme park coming soon - all industrial action is provoked by the employer and never by employees being unreasonable. Presumably he would adopt the Nye Bevan approach and stuff their mouths full of gold, although whether you can print gold is moot. He asked if Dave would be writing another letter to himself regarding a deficit at his local NHS Trust. Ask your mother shouted out a Labour MP. Dave went into full attack mode - Boris was unavailable - and said that his mother, if asked, would say 'put on a proper suit, do up your tie and sing the national anthem.' Who could he have been addressing?
Chauncey mumbled breathlessly about his own mother and the NHS. It made little sense. He is not a man given to soundbites, in much the same way that he is not given to changes of jacket and matching ensembles. Its fortunate really that parliament has so many recesses to facilitate the dry cleaning of said jacket. Or does he have half a dozen crumpled brown jackets?
It comes to something when a Tory prime minister can actually beat up a Labour leader on the NHS and even claim Nye Bevan on his side, although Chauncey had an interesting take on how to pronounce the NHS founders' surname this blogger for one has never heard before. Bevan, said Chauncey, would be turning in his grave. He wanted an NHS for all. But not one that works unsocial hours at weekends? You have to wonder what is going on in that head sometimes. Maybe they should scan him to find out. Just make sure it is at a time that suits the medics.
Let us pause momentarily from the diet of EU arguments that are largely going to make up the output of this blog for the next four months and talk about Scotland, the SNP and the BBC again. The Beeb is under constant pressure from the SNP about its output. The SNP wants it to be more Scottish. In other words, dear reader, the SNP wants to take more of your money and spend it on themselves once again.
And it doesn't matter where you live, assuming that you live somewhere in the UK. It doesn't matter whether you are English, Scottish, Welsh or Northern Irish, the money you individually pay towards the BBC coffers goes into a central pool. It is not English, Scottish, Welsh or Northern Irish money. It is British money. It would be this, by the way, even had Scotland voted for independence. Because as ever Scotland would be demanding its cake and eating it as voraciously as ever.
At the moment Scotland gets the benefit of the BBC's wide ranging services for a comparatively small sum. As ever with Scotland though it wants the best of both worlds. It wants more of 'Scotland's money' spent in Scotland whilst benefiting from all of the programmes made with the money contributed from the rest of the country to make programmes we all enjoy such as the recent superb War and Peace, the new The Night Manager, Poldark, Doctor Who, Happy Valley, River, Radio 4, the Proms, Radio 2, well you get the idea.
The BBC, as a sop to the SNP, is currently looking into making a nightly news show for an hour every night at six o clock. This would be news from around the country and the world 'from a Scottish perspective'. In other words it would require the BBC to employ additional staff to report on the same stories as all of the other staff in order to provide reports from a Scottish perspective. The other day when that scrum of reporters was outside Boris's house I joked on Twitter that only half of them worked for the BBC. It was only a slight exaggeration. The SNP want to add to that scrum or scrums like it so that reporters and presenters with Scottish accents provide news to Scotland. Does that sound like a productive use of your money?
And bear in mind that there is no evidence from polling or focus groups that Scots actually want this service. It is purely to appease the SNP. One of the loudest complaints you will ever get from Scottish BBC viewers and listeners is that they are often denied the same services as those in the rest of the country because of opt outs to provide them with 'Scottish services' decreed necessary by Scottish politicians who don't watch television anyway except to see themselves. The BBC is already having to make cuts to services to fit in with the new fiscal reality and yet would have to find the extra money, which would be substantial, to provide this service that nobody wants other than a few loud mouthed, selfish Scottish politicians. The Scottish version of the Six would probably cost all or most of the money recently saved by closing down BBC3 and putting it online. And for what? So that Scotland can live in an alternate universe from the rest of us, paid for by the rest of us, as usual, watching the same news but with different faces presenting with different accents. Next they'll be demanding a Scottish presenter on the new politically correct Top Gear. Or perhaps a Scottish version entirely.
Scotland does not have an automatic right to have all the money raised in licence fees spent in Scotland. It already has regional and local programming just like the rest of the country. The BBC is a service for all of us for which we all pay in a central pool of money. That is how we get such a distinctive and mostly excellent service. The BBC should simply say no to further demands for the Scottish-isation of output. Its the BBC, not the SBC. We had a referendum about all of this a while back they may recall. They lost. Tell them to get lost.
Tuesday, 23 February 2016
To be fair to David Cameron he gave a strong, forceful if sometimes angry performance in the Commons yesterday. As usual on these occasions he has the clear advantage because, though his opponents can ask him questions, he can answer them in any way he likes and they cannot then respond to him. This is how he made the headlines and appeared to best his new frenemy Boris. Dave was angry and gave Boris both barrels.
Analyse what the prime minister actually said yesterday and he was a good deal less impressive. And lets forget the issue of a second referendum. There is no need to talk about a second referendum. If and when Britain votes to leave the EU we will have then to talk to the EU and negotiate the terms of our leaving. Essentially we would write to the EU Commission and inform them that it is our intention to invoke article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. We would set a date for our secession and they would have no choice but to accept that. They could of course make us a counter offer to try and get us to stay. It would be up to the Government of the day what it would accept. There is no need for a second referendum. That would require further legislation. This is not to say however that it could not happen. That would be a matter for parliament. it would also be a matter for a new prime minister. There is no way that David Cameron could stay on having presented his faux renegotiation and having been dismissed by the British people. We would require a new PM and a new government from the Conservative Party.
Oh and yesterday one of the more glaringly ridiculous assertions that Cameron made was that the EU is good for the poor. He made no attempt to justify this bland and absurd assertion.
The EU has been disastrous for the poor in this country. The EU makes our food more expensive thanks to the Common Agricultural Policy which rewards poor productivity and puts external tariffs on imported food from outside the EU.
But most importantly for those on low pay in this country our membership of the EU has allowed 2 million EU citizens to come and live here as of right and compete for work. Many of them are working on minimum wage jobs ensuring that employers never need to pay more. We saw just this week that the authorities are concerned about employees of Sports Direct in Derbyshire living in unsafe conditions packed into houses like sardines and working for low wages.
This is a simple issue of supply and demand. If you have a plentiful supply of workers prepared to work for low wages and to live in conditions that are akin to the Victorian era then there is no need to pay more. This also means that British productivity is low since employers see no need to invest in new technology. They of course extract plenty of work from their exploited workers but feel no need to train them, invest in them and make them more productive. Sports Direct and companies like it are the modern equivalent of Victorian cotton mills. And this is something that can be laid directly at the door of our EU membership.
We are going to hear many bland assertions such as those David Cameron made yesterday. Analyse them however and they are meaningless and brazenly dishonest. The EU is good for employers who like lots of cheap workers. That is not good for the poor and it has not been good for the British economy overall.
Somewhat petulantly David Cameron yesterday dismissed the right of the British people to demand a better deal than the puny one he managed to gain for us with his cack handed diplomacy. Boris Johnson has suggested, perfectly reasonably, that perhaps the best way of getting a better deal on our membership of the EU - perhaps a semi detached one - is to vote to leave and then see what they offer us.
No said Dave. That is not what is on offer.
But how does he know? Why is it for him to say? In the event that Britain votes to leave on 23rd June then we and the EU will have to settle down and start negotiating again. But this time there will be no phoney negotiation, no choreography. It is our way or we walk out. We would surely be best advised under those circumstances to put the ball in the court of the EU Commission and the 27 other nations of the EU and see what they offered us.
All that David Cameron revealed yesterday, other than that he is a poor loser and that if he does win he will be less than gracious about it, is that if he loses he is the last man we will want negotiating for us. His renegotiation never amounted to much, he revealed his hand and never really believed in it. It was just a tactic. If in June the country votes to leave then we will want a skilled negotiator. But we will also want one who is fresh to the job and is open minded about what can be achieved. Why would we at this stage wish to dismiss out of hand the possibility of negotiating a new status for the UK, a best of both worlds? Who knows what might be possible?
The prime minister claimed yesterday afternoon that because he is set to leave his job before the next election he has no axe to grind but just wants the best for Britain. Yet he used to say that the best deal for Britain was a reformed EU. He has not achieved that. His diplomacy failed. Our experience teaches us that the best way to get a deal from the EU is to hold a gun to its head. Anyone who genuinely wants the best for Britain would be prepared to use this referendum in June to get it. David Cameron wants nothing of the sort. He is failing to negotiate properly once again. What a serially useless, arrogant and complacent man he is.
Monday, 22 February 2016
When he was Leader of the Opposition, David Cameron would often accuse the then prime minister, Gordon Brown, of taking the British people for fools. Perhaps that is the fate of all who enter Number 10 or indeed who take high office. One is obliged to say things that the British public can see are untrue, one is obliged to take positions that are the opposite of what has been said previously. It goes with the territory.
Even so, the pathetic deal Cameron did with the EU on Friday and his stoutly dishonest defence of it is taking us for bigger fools than all of his predecessors up to and including Neville Chamberlain. At least Chamberlain had the noble intention, backed by much of the country at the time, of preventing another disastrous war. It wanted to believe that he had achieved peace in our time. Now the only people who seriously believe in this deal are those ministers who are intent on clinging to their posts and opportunities for preferment. What an abject spectacle they and this prime minister are. They cannot seriously expect us to believe in their tawdry little deal.
And what an abject spectacle Cameron made as he gave his speeches in front of a lectern, propagating myths and lies and talking of a future outside the EU as if Britain would be heading into the abyss. His assertions about how much more secure we are as part of the EU are absurd given recent events and the ongoing migrant crisis, a crisis almost entirely of the EU's own making. His speaking of Boris Johnson, before he came out for out, as potentially walking arm in arm with Nigel Farage and George Galloway was low and contemptible. It was also desperate.
In the coming months we are going to hear many arguments and many of us will be making them. I hope we can steer away from such lowbrow scaremongering and ad hominem attacks. There are few things I agree with George Galloway on, but like many on the left he has an instinctive dislike and distrust of the corporatist EU. It is a distrust that was shared by many in the Labour Party long before we joined the then EEC, including figures like Tony Benn and Hugh Gaitskell. It also, until he became leader of the party less than 6 months ago, included Chauncey.
We are of course going to hear scaremongering from both sides, but most of it will likely come from the Remain side largely because they are hardly in a position to make the argument for a great and noble European future are they. We all know the depressing reality, after all Cameron and even the most ardent Europhiles admit it needs radical reform. Now they are left to argue for the status quo with clearly no reform possible as we have seen this weekend. The EU is what it has always been - a game of grab as much for yourselves as you possibly can and leave the bill for others to pick up. Thus the Europhiles have to adopt the devil you know approach, one that, it should be admitted, seemed to work 18 months ago in the Scottish independence referendum.
Yet there is no comparison. The United Kingdom is a full political and economic partnership and one in which Scotland not only has a voice but plays a full part in the government of the country and disproportionate influence. Britain in the EU, for all of the talk that we must have a seat at the table and a voice influencing it, is outvoted almost always. We only had to look at how Cameron had constantly to water down his demands both in the lead up to and even during the negotiations for this failed deal.
That ultimately is what this referendum is going to be about. There are going to be lots of arguments at the margins, lots about how many jobs the EU creates, how many will be lost, how much money we spend. But its not really about any of that. If truth be told the difference on many issues, economically at least, will be marginal at best. Britain will be fine outside the EU just as we have been doing fine within, albeit largely because we had the good sense to ignore the sort of people now claiming all kinds of disastrous scenarios if we leave when they formerly told us we had to join the euro. We didn't. Thank god we didn't as even the greatest advocates for monetary union might now have the grace to admit.
The point of this referendum though is nothing to do with any of that. It has nothing to do with us being good Europeans or of us suddenly and mysteriously becoming a grey, cake eating island cut off from the mainland should we leave, as argued by Emma Thompson. No wonder she is chiefly known for making fairytales these days. Quite how she explains Switzerland, right at the heart of Europe but not in the EU is a mystery.
But then that is all that advocates have to argue. We are somehow better people by being more European. And we can only be thought of as being European by being members of a one size fits all superstate that tramples on the democratic will of the little guy. They were furious about it when the EU was doing the trampling of little Greece. Now they are going to be ardent admirers of all things EU.
Because what they cannot argue is on the issue of democracy and sovereignty. Yes the S word. Ignore it. What it means is the ability of the people of this country to elect a government, kick it out if necessary and hold it accountable for good or bad decisions. Last weekend we saw that membership of the EU, even with the sword of a referendum dangling above it, meant that Britain will never get what it wants, even when our demands are watered down to the point of being meaningless.
If we vote to leave things will only get worse. The demands for more and more money. The ratcheting up of regulation, the tightening of controls on the City of London that so many on the continent are either jealous or suspicious of. And there is nothing that we can do about it. Remember that demand for an extra £1.7 billion that David Cameron angrily rejected? He paid it because he had no choice. Its always the way. The EU is a one way street. It would only get worse once the threat of a referendum was removed.
That is the point. That is why it beggars belief that anyone who has previously described themselves as Eurosceptic can seriously argue in favour of our remaining. David Cameron promised fundamental reform of the EU. Had he got it then we could have slapped him enthusiastically on the back and carried him at shoulder height through the capital cities of Europe. Because Europe needs fundamental reform. It is an organisation that only works for French farmers and for the bureaucrats and translators of Brussels. It has created mass unemployment, a peripatetic parliament, a mountain of endless and pointless regulations, a never ending gravy train, expensive food and a mass migration crisis it has actively made worse and more tragic by the day. It has turned Britain - an island for crying out loud - into a net importer of fish, has priced our milk farmers out of business and made our food more expensive. Britain has welcomed 2 million people to come and live and work here and yet they presume to tell us to whom and how much we pay benefits.
How dare they lecture us about European solidarity. If we leave we might shake them out of their arrogant complacency and start again from scratch. Even if we don't succeed in that, by voting to get out we can at last unhitch ourselves from this slow motion disaster and start to govern ourselves again.
David Cameron has called leaving a leap in the dark. It is nothing of the sort. Somehow this country managed to govern itself before we joined the EU, managed to become a nation that helped defend Europe from various dictators and became a beacon for democracy and the rule of law. We are now hitched to a new form of petty dictator, one that ignores democracy and makes up rules and laws as it goes along without bothering to consult the people of the continent it rules. Leaving that is not a leap in the dark. It is a leap into the sunlit uplands of democracy. The fact it will also rid us of this lying hypocrite of a prime minister is just a bonus.
Sunday, 21 February 2016
And so we get to the plagues. Before we start with the various plagues, it should be noted again that these were only necessary because God, apropos of his mysterious ways, decided to harden the Pharaoh's heart and not listen to the entreaties of Moses and his brother.
So God spoke to Moses and told him to go to the Pharaoh and tell him to let his people go so that they might serve him. So there we have it, the real reason for all of this: God is feeling a but un-worshipped.
God instructed Moses that if Pharaoh said no - which he would because God had hardened his heart -then he would bring forth a plague of frogs. Exodus goes into great and lyrical detail about all of the places that this plague of frogs would go. But let's just say that they would be everywhere. Like everywhere. That's what plagues of things do.
Weirdly, the Pharaoh's magicians - people believed in magic in addition to oddly selective and self serving gods - then made the frog plague worse by creating their own frog plague. So is God just a magician?
The Pharaoh then called on Moses and Aaron and asked them to remove the frogs. Why didn't he ask his magicians? If they did this, he said, then he would let their people go.
Joyously Moses and Aaron told God this. Surely, being God, he didn't need to be told? But anyway the frogs were removed, or at least died out and were gathered into large, unsanitary and festering, stinking heaps. Nice.
The frogs were anyway duly removed from Egypt, at which point the Pharaoh reneged on his promise, which seems impolitic at best. Perhaps it was because he had had his heart hardened.
So God told Aaron to stretch out his rod and smite all of the dust in the land and turn it into lice. Quite why God needed someone to stretch out a rod to do this is a mystery. God it seems is a bit of a showman. Who would have thought?
The Pharaoh's magicians tried to replicate this trick, having apparently not learned from the frogs debacle but could not. Frogs are easy but lice are not it would seem. Suddenly everyone was convinced that God was, well, God.
Still the Pharaoh's heart was hardened, because that was how God had made it. Why? Why didn't he unharden it? Wouldn't it have been easier than plagues?
God said to Moses: go and see the Pharaoh as he is going for his bath in the morning - presumably this was in the river since Moses wouldn't be allowed access to the royal bathroom. Let my people go, he was told to say. If not then there would be a plague of flies sent.
Now interestingly at this point someone seems to have pointed out to the authors or tellers of this stupid story, that God would have been sending these plagues to punish not just the Pharaoh and his advisers and magicians, not just the Egyptian people who may well have been blameless since this was hardly a representative democracy, but he was also punishing the Hebrews - his own people who he was trying to free. And so they inserted an afterthought that makes no sense and was never mentioned before. Suddenly the Hebrew people were living in a different part of the land to the Egyptians, the land of Goshen. And so God promised that the plague of flies would not be visited upon this demarcated line. Stupid, eh? But revealing if you want to see it.
Now even Pharaoh had had enough. He told Moses that they should go with their people and make sacrifices to their God, presumably if they could find somewhere away from all of the flies, in an effort to appease him. But Moses and Aaron said that this was no good for if they did this then the Egyptian people might stone them, although wouldn't their big, bad, fly sending God have protected them, perhaps with a plague of stone repellers?
Instead Moses and Aaron proposed to lead their people into the wilderness for 3 days so as to make burnt offerings to God. God likes this sort of thing you see. He's a very vain and needy God.
Moses told the Pharaoh that he would pray to God to remove the flies but that if he did Pharaoh had better not renege on the deal for them to be allowed to go and make sacrifices to God.
But of course this is exactly what Pharaoh did once the flies had been removed. The people were once more barred from leaving, even for the three days of the initial agreement. Bad bad Pharaoh. What will God do now?
Saturday, 20 February 2016
We cannot know at this stage just how much of the renegotiation was for show and how much was the triumph of hope over expectation. But there is a strong suspicion of the former. Long nights, tired faces and lots of talk of brinkmanship. But then: Hallelujah! The triumph is announced just in time for the 10 0 Clock News, although even then they cut away unimpressed. Dave didn't really prevail this weekend because he never really tried. He thinks he can do his usual trick of soft soaping us and winning the referendum, delivering a reluctant country into the arms of Europe forever. What a legacy!
Yes, in truth we know what happened this weekend. Nothing much. It was never going to. The late Geoffrey Howe once brought down a famously Eurosceptic prime minister by accusing her of being a captain sending in her batsmen to negotiations with broken bats. This time we had a captain who broke his own bats and gave the opposition a 300 run lead.
David Cameron never believed in this renegotiation and never believed he would have to undertake it since he didn't believe he would win the election. He would have used LibDems as his cover for collaboration with the enemy. Instead he had to talk tough whilst wielding a tickling stick. Perhaps that was what they were doing for all of those hours of non negotiation. As many have pointed out: if Europe cannot agree this comparatively small scale reform without hours and hours of histrionics, what chance when they have to agree something vital? No wonder they are making such an unholy mess of the migrant crisis.
What Cameron emerged with this weekend is nothing. That is generally what you will get if you ask for nothing. This was a man going into a game of poker telling his opponents that he was going to bluff them. They then called that bluff and he effectively handed them more of our money. They knew that he wants Britain to stay in and wants this confirmed in a referendum this June. He had every opportunity to walk away, to tell them to get stuffed, to ask the British people to back him. He chose none of these perfectly viable routes, not because he couldn't, but because he didn't want to. Now he is bluffing and lying to the British people instead. He is even reduced to trying to claim credit for the better negotiating achievements of his predecessors. We aren't going to be forced to join the Euro? We already knew that. We aren't going to be forced to join Schengen? We already knew that.
And so we will have our referendum, although the date has to be confirmed by parliament in a bill that will be introduced this week. There is a possibility for mischief there, after all the timescale is ridiculously tight. Dave wants his cut and run referendum as quickly as possible.
But this is our opportunity. It is time to despatch the antidemocratic, shameless, dishonest, corrupt EU and at the same time this mendacious, sly, serially useless prime minister. Given every advantage as prime minister, much as he has been given every advantage in life, he has squandered them. He went into bat in this renegotiation with the advantage that everyone can see that the EU needs reform - even the LibDems acknowledge this essential truth. But we saw this weekend that it cannot be reformed. Hiding behind the notion of solidarity, our partners did what they always do - they engaged in protectionism. Eastern Europe wants access to our markets, including our jobs market and even wants access to our welfare system. Dave just surrendered. France wants to stymie the City of London. Dave just surrendered. The EU overall wants to export the unemployment the Euro has created to us. Dave just surrendered. The EU will want to keep sending us ever more regulation, ever more rules and keep sending us bigger and bigger bills. Dave just surrendered.
There is going to be plenty of time to make the case for us to get out of Europe. This blog will be making it forcefully. Its likely we will talk of little else. But the crux of the matter is this: Britain wants to govern itself and to have a friendly cooperative relationship with our neighbours. As this weekend has amply demonstrated, the only way to accomplish that is by voting to get out as soon as practicable.
Cameron, in addition to spinning what a great deal he has got us, has confirmed that the referendum will be held on 23rd June. Let's vote to get him and us out. Win win.
Friday, 19 February 2016
While we wait with bated breath our glorious leader's deal with Europe which will be part of his lasting legacy along with talking tough with his alma mater concerning black student admissions and talking softly and carrying a tickling stick concerning prisoners, we must in the meantime turn to other matters.
On such occasions, those when there is no news or when we are waiting for news, this blog traditionally turns to North Korea.
They have even more glorious leaders there of course than our own dear Dave. There they have the Fat Leader, a man who has not yet created legends about his prowess on the golf course with 18 holes in one or of being born on the slopes of Mount Paektu like his father - even though his father was in fact born in a refugee camp.
But it seems that the Fat Leader is intent on something even better. What, better than the perfect round in golf I hear you ask. Better than all of those operas that his father wrote, in much the same way as Ernie Wise used to create plays what he wrote. Better even than the deal what our prime minister has wrote?
Yes indeed. The Fat Leader is going to make a mountain blow its top. It seems that the repeated atomic tests taking place in the region may well shake Mount Paektu to the point where it erupts. When it does it will either be seen as the product of the Fat Leader's genius or some kind of act of American aggression that will be met with savage and immediate retaliation much like that film the Americans made about the Fat Leader that also caused much fist shaking.
It seems that North Korea may well be readying its next atomic test. Incidentally what is the point of an atomic bomb if it takes your country weeks of preparation to set it off? Isn't that like the approach of our own dear bearded leader of the Labour Party and his empty submarines? Or like the approach of our prime minister to negotiation in which he sets out his demands, waters them down, waters them down some more and then tells his interlocutors to be mean to him in public and to insist that this is the last time they will talk about this with we recalcitrant Brits.
Its enough to make those of us who want to get out of this ridiculous club blow our tops much like a volcano. See what I did there?
More on the deal - if and when it emerges - later.
Thursday, 18 February 2016
So we're here at last. Dave is off to Brussels and, we keep being told, things are set to go down to the wire with an all nighter and lots of desk thumping going on.
As this blog opined earlier this week, if it is the intention of our prime minister to engage in this sophistry, to leak about how fractious things have been, to engage in a phony war only to then claim victory then he should spare himself the bother. The nation is not in the mood. The nation's newspapers are not in the mood. The nation's parliament is certainly not in the mood. We will not be appeased by vacuous nonsensical promises that we all know amount to nothing more than spin and wishful thinking. We know the EU by now. We know its ways. Its why so many of us want to get out.
The tragedy of this is that it all could have been so different. A poll conducted by the egregious Lord Ashcroft revealed that Britain is well liked by other European peoples. They don't want us to leave. Its their leaders who don't much like us. We risk upsetting their applecart. We risk forcing democracy on them with all that that implies. The great objection of so many of Dave's interlocutors this weekend is not high principle as many of them will pretend, it is that if they give way to us then they will open the door to other similar demands. Soon you will have a bunch of disparate nation states behaving like disparate nation states, or like the French. Where will it all end? It will end with the high ideals of the EU falling foul of its own contradictions, economic reality and democracy.
And that is why the prime minister's lack of ambition is so infuriating. He's not just letting down his own country, he is letting down the entire continent.
Lefty luvvie Emma Thompson let it be known this week that of course we should be voting to stay in the EU because we should be tearing down national borders not putting them up. Its a lovely idea of course. Wouldn't it be great if we could all be nice to one another. Wouldn't it be great if we could go to each other's countries without border checks. Wouldn't it be great if we could all use the same money. Wouldn't it be great if there was free movement of goods, services and people.
But unfortunately those high ideals are why we want to get out. Because they never actually work in practice and create anomalies and unfairnesses along the way. Free movement without border controls was at least partially responsible for the Paris massacre because unfortunately not everyone shares the high ideals of we Europeans or our way of looking at the world. Having one currency is one of the reasons why Europe as a whole is still struggling to emerge from the great recession and why there is record high unemployment and hopelessness across whole swathes of our continent. Free movement of goods services and people is supposed to be an inviolable rule but it breaks down the moment that national interest is compromised. The French claim that a dairy cannot be taken over by a company outside of France because it is a core national company. Borders are erected across Europe the moment they become inconvenient. There still isn't a free market in services as this would open up European economies to competition from Britain in an area in which we excel. But that doesn't stop them trying to stymie the City of London with rules and regulations they insist we must not be able to veto.
All of this could have been challenged by David Cameron this weekend. But it won't be. It seems unlikely he will even get his fellow leaders to agree to let us stop sending our child benefit to children who don't even live here. It may be a trivial issue, for a trivial sum of money, but it is the principle of the thing, it is totemic.
The British people don't understand why we should have to negotiate with the leaders of other countries over who we pay benefits to, who we allow into our country, who we pay in work benefits to, who makes our laws and regulations. We want to elect our own government and, if we don't like what they do, chuck them out again. We cannot do that with the Brussels commissioners. We certainly cannot do that with the German Chancellor, the French president or the Spanish prime minister who are all capable of legislating for us or at least preventing from spending our money the way we want to. Oh and they can demand more of our money for the EU too. So membership of the EU means we have to pay benefits to people who don't live here and keep sending our money to the EU to send to the rest of it as part of our ever increasing contribution.
As I wrote on Monday of this week, there is no rush to hold a referendum. One has to be held by the end of next year. If David Cameron cannot get the deal he wants, or rather if he cannot get the deal that we want then he should walk away. If his fellow European leaders will not play ball then he should take away the ball and walk away. Tell them and us that the referendum will be held in the summer of 2017 and that they have until this time next year to give us the deal we want or else we will likely vote to leave. We can have the arrangement we want with Europe, a relationship of mutual interest, cooperation but of national determination. The only way to get that relationship, as things stand, is to vote to leave. The best card that David Cameron can play is that of his sceptical public. If he does that then he might end up playing a blinder after all and will return not waving a piece of paper proclaiming a great new deal. It will be better than that. It will be the beginning of Britain governing itself again, of refusing to play the European game of bluff any longer.
Wednesday, 17 February 2016
Parliament is in recess this week, which is of course fortunate for the stage managed histrionics of our prime minister's frantic negotiating with his EU tormentors. How would the poor man have coped had he also had to face a terrible, debilitating and humiliating inquisition by his witty and fleet footed opponent on the Labour benches?
Fortunately he will instead have to face down those wily operators in Europe instead. How fortunate then that he has asked them for nothing and then watered that down to the point that it was essentially a kind of homeopathic deal. That, incidentally, is why Prince William gave his backing for it at the behest of his father - a great proponent of
But, since the deal is not yet hammered out - they are probably hiding in a back room playing Call of Duty or something whilst the spinners tell hacks how down to the wire it is all going to be - and since there is no PMQs to write about, we have to find something else instead.
And so I thought I would talk about vellum.
Yes, vellum. Sometimes you have to despair about the Conservative Party. Does it really have to be so......conservative?
In case you missed it, the House of Lords had proposed that we cease the centuries old practice of printing our laws on vellum and use paper instead. If we wanted to get really radical we could conclude that the silicon chip and IT seems to have caught on to a sufficient extent now that even paper isn't strictly necessary.
But no. Some Tory MPs were outraged. What? We are going to stop using the dried out skins of calves and use high quality paper instead? What a constitutional outrage. What next? House our parliament in a building that is not falling apart, beset by rats, leaking at the seams and sliding slowly into the river? Its enough to make Nicholas Soames stop wearing a tie and dress like Robert Peston.
And yes I know that tradition is fine and makes us what we are. But really what is the point of preserving our laws on vellum other than for tradition's sake? So that once in a while TV crews go and film the archive room and put on those cotton gloves so that they can look at ancient scrolls of our laws and find the names of Theresa May and Michael Gove there alongside Disraeli, Gladstone, Churchill, Attlee and Lloyd George?
Tradition is just something we call practices that passed from the merely arcane to the whimsical. There was a time when the Speaker dressed in his robes and wore a long wig. But then Betty Boothroyd came along and stopped that and just in time because had Bercow worn one everyone would have thought he was just preparing for a career in pantomime.
There is no rational reason anymore for our MPs to not address each other by name, no sensible explanation for the continued existence of the House of Lords. Vellum is just another old notion from antiquity that should be replaced. If, next week, Putin brings our civilisation to an end by provoking Armageddon and future archaeologists discover our Houses of Parliament, they will undoubtedly be confused by our retention of writing our laws on animal skins whilst at the same time tweeting about how stupid it all is and prompting lots of LOLs on social media. Of course their confusion will only be heightened as they discover proper bona fide dinosaurs on Labour's front bench.
PMQs returns next week.
Tuesday, 16 February 2016
As from today, BBC 3 - or BBC IIi as it seems to want to be called - (no, nor me) moves online. What the hell does that mean? Well maybe that's why they've chosen that witless new ident for it. Because it nicely sums it up. Nobody understands what the hell they are talking about.
This is a television channel that is moving online meaning that viewers can watch programmes any time they like. Programmes will initially be branded as BBC IIi, will be available via the iPlayer, or perhaps the IIiPlayer and via the IIi website. But later the same programmes will be shown on proper tele - on BBC One and BBC Two.
So, and I realise that I am not a highly paid BBC executive, I am just a former BBC announcer, but why not just show the programmes on BBC One and BBC Two and have done with it? Why not just abandon the whole 3 brand altogether? What's the point?
This is the trouble with the modern BBC. It always tries to be all things to all men. That is why it is spreading itself too thinly and why it constantly prioritises the wrong things. BBC3 was from an era of plenty. So when the plenty became, well less plentiful, why not simply say sorry we cannot afford all of these poorly received yoof shows anymore and certainly cannot afford Family Guy. As for the sitcoms, well some of those were pretty good but we are sure they will find a home on the other channels.
In time we all know the BBC IIi brand will die because it is pointless. What's the point of a channel that doesn't have a channel any more? If it were trying to be like the new Netflix then fair enough. But its not. This is the BBC. It has lots of channels that broadcast and everything. So shove all the programming on to them, get rid of the endless repeats and shows about antiques presented by men in hats and just have 6 TV channels instead of 7. But don't change the numbering. Have them called BBC One, BBC Two, BBC Four. It will be an excellent question in a trivia quiz one day in the future, or be one of those quirky things about Britain that confuses tourists.
BBC 3 was closed down to save money. So good. Close it down. Don't be so half arsed about it. And give the money to BBC4. Now that's a proper channel.
Monday, 15 February 2016
Some are saying that the above penalty by Lionel Messi squaring to his teammate Suarez is disrespectful. Maybe it is a little. But then it is also brilliant. And entertaining. That is why people love watching Barcelona.
The very best footballers are a little arrogant. So what? Wouldn't you be if you could play like Lionel Messi?
In the age of social media there tends to be a reaction to such events. But that is just because people have a forum in which to express publicly reactions that would be best left in the living room or the pub. We don't have to listen to them just because they are out there.
So people are expressing outrage. So what? Tune them out. It was a moment of genius and has got the world talking. That is what football is supposed to do. Its entertainment.
Just in case David Cameron is under any illusions, an opinion poll at the weekend showed that he and his renegotiation are held in pretty low esteem by the nation. He is fortunate that he lives in a world where Labour are led by Chauncey. Even Wallace would by now surely have been scoring a few direct hits on Dave's cack handed attempt to convince us all that he being really really tough with our European partners.
Yet the spinners were at it again this weekend. We're not sure, they informed anyone who would listen. It will go right down to the wire next weekend. Its all going to be touch and go. Will he emerge with a deal? Will he not emerge with a deal? We're confident but you never know. And then ooh look what he got for us. Aren't we all grateful! What a clever boy!
If this is really the intent of the prime minister and his team then they should be urged to think again. Did they not notice that their last attempt to hoodwink us did not go down too well? Do they really want headlines like that again? Are they really going to fire the starting pistol on a referendum based on such gossamer thin papering over of the EU/ UK relationship fissures?
What is the unholy rush anyway? Why this desperation to hold a referendum at the earliest possible date? Anyone would be forgiven for thinking that our prime minister always intended to campaign for Remain and never really intended on undertaking a serious renegotiation. Anyone would be forgiven for thinking that this really was an exercise in party management.
The trouble is that the party is about to become unmanageable. It may well be that several figures in the Cabinet are about to throw off their caution and any chances of promotion or even of hanging on to their jobs in order to campaign for what they have always believed in. Oh sure some have been lost along the wayside, somehow imagining that this cynicism will be rewarded by a promotion or maybe even a shot at the leadership. But how do they imagine that their arch behaviour will be seen by a profoundly Eurosceptic party?
And as for this prime minister, well he has miscalculated in a catastrophic way if he thinks he can just bully his way to a victory. Why can he not see his way clear to being quite so machiavellian with our European partners?
Because here't the thing, Dave. There is no need to accept any deal they offer you this week. You can always walk away you know and tell Europe, the world and your country that the deal they were offering was unacceptable. You don't even have to hold the referendum this summer. You could walk away from the deal they offer, tell them to come up with a better one or else you will call the referendum for later this year or early next and then recommend to the British people that they vote to leave. That would be negotiating to win. It would be showing Europe that you mean business.
And frankly, prime minister, if you do not do this, if you come back from Brussels next Monday and present to us a deal with a few optional extras added on that we all suspect will be on offer then all bets are off. Not only should most of your Cabinet join us in the campaign to get Britain out, they should join me in my current one man campaign to get you out of Downing Street. Unlike you however I am prepared to keep an open mind. Surprise us, Mr Cameron. Either get us a really good deal that will persuade us to stay in this ridiculous, absurd, undemocratic, labyrinthine, Kafkaesque nightmare of an organisation or have the decency to stand aside to make way for someone who isn't afraid to do his or her job properly.