Saturday, 30 April 2016
Friday, 29 April 2016
Have you ever tried clicking on something on a website on which there are various elements still downloading or on which there are adverts and other features that are squirming about for your attention? It would be easier trying to hold on to an eel. You end up missing with your click or clicking on the wrong item completely. This is at best irritating and exasperating. It can even be highly embarrassing dependent upon what you accidentally click on and where you are at the time. Reading a newspaper on a device on public transport is fraught with all kinds of problems.
But this is what it is like trying to get a straight answer from the Labour leadership right now on the issue of Anti-Semitism, you know the same people who only a few months ago were telling us that they represent straight talking, honest politics.
People still insist that Chauncey is a nice man who means well and who has been fighting against racism all of his life. Except of course he is none of these things. People who mean well are just as capable of racism and bigotry as those who don't really care: people like Ken Livingstone. Chauncey has spent his whole life hating and loathing a whole range of people because of their views, their background, their education, their wealth and yes even their ethnicity. The fact that his particular brand of bigotry is directed at different targets than the norm doesn't make it any less bigoted. He is in his way every bit of a vile nasty reactionary as Dennis Skinner. The fact that he hides this behind his genial, avuncular, soft spoken, bearded demeanour does not diminish this, although it is a large part of the reason that he today finds himself as leader of the Labour Party.
Yesterday Chauncey denied that there is anti Semitism in the Labour Party and thus revealed his bigotry because he is simply refusing to see what is obvious to everyone else. Labour has a problem with Anti-Semitism and his rise to power has encouraged it to come out into the open. Chauncey claimed that those making such claims were just nervous and jealous of his power. That was actually a passive aggressive threat if you think about it. I have the mandate and I am using it. I'll probably even use it to issue a get out of jail free card to Ken and Naz. And there's nothing you can do about it.
Chauncey is not a very nice man at all you see. He is a nasty reactionary bigot. You can tell that by the company he keeps and his reluctance to condemn or even criticise those whose views are at best questionable. He has shared just as many platforms with unpleasant people as Sadiq Khan and Ken Livingstone. He has attended rallies with people who have a less than wholehearted commitment to democracy. He has as his Shadow Chancellor a man who quite recently has been calling for strikes and other activities to bring down the democratically elected government of this country.
Nevertheless this latest example of the amateurish, head swivelling stupidity of Chauncey and his cohorts may prove terminal if of course his enemies have the guts to stand up to him. Next Thursday's elections were already looking to be difficult. Now they may prove disastrous. Even stalwart Labour voters are wondering if they can bring themselves to vote for this party right now. Think of how you would feel as a moderate Republican presented with the choice of having to vote for Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton or staying at home.
Last year I had an instinctive feeling that the Tories were not only going to win but would even sneak a narrow majority. I dismissed this feeling because of all of the experts and all of the polls. I was wrong. Or rather they were wrong and I was right but I lacked the confidence to back my judgement. And so we were all wrong. I'm not going to make the same mistake again. Thus I shall probably be wrong again. Still, at least I didn't have a sneaking suspicion at the start of the football season that Leicester City would win the Premier League.
But here goes anyway: there will be a low turnout in all of the elections, but this will favour the Tories and the SNP more than anyone else. Labour will come third in Scotland behind the ever more impressive Ruth Davidson. Across the rest of the country, Labour will perform poorly and occasionally much worse. Welsh Labour has this week asked Chauncey to cancel a visit there. They are worried and don't wish to be associated with him. It will be a bad night for Labour. But most damaging of all, the row over anti-Semitism and a general lack of enthusiasm for Labour's candidate who is a self serving, preening, hypocritical arse will mean that Labour do not win in London. It will be won by Zac Goldsmith thanks to a high turnout in Tory voting areas.
If I'm right and this turns out to be even partially true, particularly if I am right about London, then this is the opportunity for Labour MPs to move against Chauncey. He knows he's vulnerable, hence the talk about how powerful he is. He probably was too powerful a few weeks ago. But his own dithering uselessness has weakened him. Once the referendum is out of the way, he should be despatched with urgency.
Thursday, 28 April 2016
It's hard to know what to say about the latest fiasco perpetrated by the Labour Party on itself. On the face of it, for those of us who are not members of the British left, the story of Naz Shah and her astonishing tweets about Israel and the 'solution' they had dreamt up for it, this was an open and shut case. The woman had associated herself with something that was disgusting, reprehensible and stupid to the point you would struggle to hear that kind of thing in the seediest and down at heel saloon bar in the dodgiest parts of the country. Surely she should be at the very least suspended pending 'investigation' as Simon Danczuk was last year.
But no. Labour twisted and turned and tried its best not to suspend Ms Shah. It tried to spin its way out of having to do so, claiming, hilariously, that 'she made remarks that she does not agree with.' Okay, I think I kind of understand what they were clumsily trying to say there. It is the perils of Twitter once again. But the fact was that she associated herself with the comments, rather enthusiastically it has to be said, and felt nothing was wrong with them until they were pointed out by the ever eagle eyed Guido.
The suspicion is though that Jeremy Corbyn, and in particular his appalling Communications chief, Seumas Milne, though they cannot admit it, do not really see much wrong with what Ms Shah said and wish they were still free to say such things themselves. Thus their resistance to disciplinary measures until they were forced into them by wiser heads like Ian McNicol, the party's general secretary. Maybe they think that this would be hypocritical of them. And yes it would. Welcome to frontline politics.
Just to confirm our suspicions, it emerged late last night that Ms Shah was set to issue a more fulsome apology and had it watered down, probably by Seumas Milne. Now few of us really believe that Ms Shah meant a word of her apology given the way it had to be wrenched out of her over a matter of days. But it is sadly typical of the Labour leadership that they were unwilling to even go along with that weaselly approach to career preservation.
Look on those of you who voted, naively and credulously, for Chauncey last year believing him to be an authentic, conviction politician of rare honesty and integrity having presumably paid no attention to his previous 40 years in politics. Look at what your stupidity has helped to create. Labour is now in the grip of a self righteous, sanctimonious, supercilious bunch of zealots who see nothing wrong with anti semitism and who apparently know nothing of 20th century history. Given their approach to economics maybe that is the case. Whatever the weasel words and half hearted apologies, when push comes to shove this is a party leader who shares platforms with terrorist apologists and who sees no reason to discipline MPs when they make anti semitic remarks so egregious they would see them prosecuted in some countries.
And as for Labour MPs who have been sitting on their hands and waiting for the moment to act. How much longer can you wait? In a week's time the country will go to the polls in what will be the biggest electoral test of this parliament outside the referendum and the general election itself. Labour is widely expected to do poorly. Then surely the time will come to act. This is no longer a matter of party loyalty or of simple electoral arithmetic. This is a man who is not fit to be his party's leader and so close to the seat of power in this country. His weasel worded approach to this very easily managed scandal has illustrated that as surely as is possible. He should be sent back to the backbenches where he belongs, back to his marches and his megaphones and his dubious friends. Dubious friends like Ken Livingstone, who yesterday claimed that Ms Shah's remarks were not antisemitic. But then this is the same Ken Livingstone who, in 2012, opined that, as the Jewish community is rich they simply wouldn't vote for him in that year's London mayoral election. We can't say we weren't given ample warning of the catastrophe currently afflicting Labour and the left.
Wednesday, 27 April 2016
Europe is dominating, albeit not as much as you might think. It has clearly had some kind of resonance with the public, but it seems that a quarter to a third of us may not have made up our minds. Maybe a good proportion of them aren't really paying attention. These are people with normal lives, unlike those of us who obsess about these things. These are healthy people.
Barack was of course here last week, here to congratulate our Queen on her birthday - even Chauncey did that and in a manner that was actually gracious and amusing. But Barack mainly came here to tell us, forcefully, what America thinks. Or at least what America thinks for the next 8 months. He came to chide us and bully us. Essentially Barack came to barrack. In return for this barracking, Boris gave him both barrels back. Boris essentially made the quite relevant point that Barack doesn't seem to like us very much. And here we learned something valuable. Lefties are allowed to make points referring to the ancestry and ethnic origins of people. The Guardian and others did about the president when he became president. But when Boris repeated the same line? That's racism. Something we should all bear in mind I think.
Last week some commentators - although not this one - felt that Chauncey had a good outing. I felt his questions were long and rambling and elicited nothing. But long, rambling, quote filled questions seem to be a prop of the left. James O Brien indulges in them when he is pretending to be objective and impartial on Newsnight. Perhaps he also writes Chauncey's questions.
The session started today with broad consensus across the House over yesterday's Hillsborough verdict. Chauncey made a stirring speech, for him, only slightly tainted by his oblique reference to the prime minister's apology for the behaviour of previous governments of which he was no part.
Chauncey then launched into his questions proper. And they were a repeat of last week's. Dave called them repeats. Chauncey said that repeats often get more viewers the second time around. These won't have done, or at least people will have switched off half way through.
In reality it was more like a sequel. Labour scored a hit and decided to do more of the same, like Hollywood producers with no new ideas. Dave was ready for him. He provided straight answers to straight questions. No, really. Will the measures on school academisation be in the Queen's Speech? Yes they will. Dave also provided a stout defence of the philosophy behind academies and the powers it gives to schools and head teachers. He had quotes to back him up too. Whereas last week Chauncey had quotes from Tories, albeit those in local authorities with their noses out of joint, this week Dave had a rather more impressive quote from the Chief Inspector of Schools: Michael Wilshaw and from the OECD.
Things didn't start well for Chauncey when he tried to deploy a whimsical metaphor about rocket boosters. Unfortunately he seems to think that they have wheels. The Commons muttered angrily about this. Wheels on rocket boosters? Has the man never watched Apollo 13? 2001: A Space Odyssey? Can he not hire more researchers?
Later Chauncey said he was seeing a pattern developing here. Perhaps he had only just noticed that he was asking the same questions as last week. Was he concentrating more on witty rejoinders about rockets and forgot to change subject? There has been a bit of a contretemps about the NHS this week after all. Chauncey marched along with them. Maybe he thought they were teachers. After all if he thinks that rocket boosters have wheels then maybe he thinks that teachers carry stethoscopes.
He did briefly mention doctors, but only in his confusion about seeing patterns. He alleges that the Government is attempting top down reorganisation of everything. Well, the confused old chap probably doesn't realise that this is what governments are supposed to do. Indeed he could do it as leader of the Labour Party and chuck out or at least suspend Naz Shah for her bizarre and disgusting comments about Israel. Top down reorganisation of his own party. He's actually been doing or trying to do a lot of it to stop him being unceremoniously dumped out of his job. Nothing he did this week would suggest that this won't happen. Indeed Dave pointed this out. Chauncey is the fifth Labour leader he has faced he told us. It won't be long until the sixth. If the predictions about the elections next month are right, he may well be justified. His wheels will have rocket boosters.
In the wake of the Hillsborough Inquest verdict yesterday, but in the wake of so many other recent egregious examples of injustice, corruption and incompetence, has the time now come for us to take a long hard look at our criminal justice system and wonder if it is broken, dysfunctional and in need of radical reform?
It's not just that Hillsborough was a clear example of police incompetence. It was the systematic attempt, successful for a long time, to cover this up, to blame the fans, to cover their own backs, to send off into comfortable retirement those who were culpable.
Nobody is claiming that there was no drinking going on among Liverpool fans. Drinking is a part of the game, if not drunkenness per se. But even in the 1980s, when terracing was still commonplace and when fans were penned in by metal cages, most matches somehow managed to be conducted without dozens of deaths from crushing. That this happened at Hillsborough was perhaps bad luck combined with complacency, inexperience and poor practice. But it was the cover up that made matters so much worse. That cover up traduced the innocent, made scapegoats of the dead and the injured and spun a web of lies and corrupt misinformation ten times more well organised than South Yorkshire Police's management of a football match.
Remember this was no ordinary football match. That would have been bad enough. But this was the semi final of the FA Cup between two of the biggest clubs in the country at the time and in one of the stadiums specifically selected for their suitability for such games. To say this should never have happened would be an understatement of epic proportions.
The sense of injustice felt by the families of the victims and by Liverpool fans in general meant that police attempts to excoriate them rather than accept their own culpability would never be accepted. Nevertheless, ranged against the combined might of the police and establishment they had their work cut out.
So as yourself this, if the police were capable of this level of cover up at a football match attended by thousands and televised for crying out loud, then what else are they capable of? We should ponder that this morning. We should also consider other examples of police incompetence and cover up in recent years. They always seem to be good, very good, at the spin operation, the PR game. Think of the Jean Charles Menezes case. Think of Jimmy Savile. Think of the mishandled investigations into alleged VIP paedophile rings.
And then think how anyone is supposed to fight back against this if they themselves are investigated and accused of something they have not done. if you are just an individual rather than the wronged families of 96 people who died needlessly then how can you defend yourself against the combined might of a police force prepared to lie, cheat and edit statements?
Surely the time has come now to have a thorough and wide ranging inquiry into our criminal justice system and the way it operates: from the way our police forces operate and are organised to the CPS, the courts, the way lawyers operate. Are more checks and balances required? Should we bring in a system of investigating magistrates or grand juries? Is the CPS fit for purpose? Are crime commissioners working? Should police forces be reorganised? Is the way we investigate the wrongdoing of police forces working? How is it that police officers are allowed to retire with huge pensions rather than face action for their incompetent, corrupt or even criminal behaviour?
There are many more questions that could be asked. But it is time to start asking them. Our system is dysfunctional at best and possibly even broken. Hillsborough ought to be the final straw.
Tuesday, 26 April 2016
It will be fascinating to see how many of our junior doctors heed the call to go on strike today. It seems at the moment that not only is the NHS our national religion but that a good many of its practitioners think that they are gods. Few of us doubt their dedication and professionalism most of the time. Yet do they not worry that a national strike without even providing emergency cover and over a piffling matter of pay for weekend working detracts from this?
The BMA has even sent a letter to doctors reassuring them not to worry themselves over the strike. Any deaths that result as a consequence of this strike will not be their fault. They will be the fault of management and trusts.
That highly educated people can have advanced such an argument is or ought to be worrying. From a legal point of view it is probably irreproachable. But morally? More to the point, this is a profession that is trying to kid us that they are conducting their intemperate dispute for all of our sakes. So are they claiming that a few deaths or maimings are a price worth paying? Are they willing to sacrifice us on the altar of their angry refusal to work on Saturdays without additional pay rates?
Doctors are of course perfectly entitled to engage in a dispute with the NHS management over their pay and conditions. They are free to fulminate angrily against Jeremy Hunt, although his sin seems largely to be that he disagrees with them and has had enough of negotiating with them after years of doing so. It doesn't seem to occur to many of these presumably highly intelligent people who are accustomed to gathering and appraising evidence and reaching a judgement based on that evidence that he may genuinely have a difference of opinion with them about what is best for patients and the NHS having taken advice from a range of people. They prefer the hackneyed narrative advanced to them by their union. They prefer to think of him as proceeding from base motives and them to be proceeding from selfless and irreproachable ones. Should we not be worried that people of so little self knowledge or philosophical armoury are allowed to prescribe drugs and wield scalpels?
This is a dispute over pay and working conditions and nothing else. Doctors are annoyed because their outdated working practices are being meddled with. To defend this they are willing to go on all out strike yet claim that they are doing so to defend the NHS. They are doing nothing of the sort. This is cant and hypocrisy of the highest order.
We live in a country that is a lot less willing to accept what we are told or given by those in positions of power. We live in a rights based society in which empowered civilians demand better service. In the information age we are much better equipped to ensure that we get that service and we are not slow in demanding answers when those in positions of power fail us. Yet doctors seem simultaneously to want to live in that modern state of being when it comes to the name calling of Jeremy Hunt whilst imagining that they live in a 1950s world we saw in movies starring James Robertson Justice and Dirk Bogarde in which doctors were revered and respected and drove Rolls Royces to work and knocked off at weekends.
There was some evidence that the last strike was not as widely observed as some in the BMA might have hoped. This is probably why they have sent out their letter informing doctors not to worry themselves about patients dying. One aspect of being a doctor that seems to have been true across the decades is that prospective medical students profess a desire to enter their profession to help people, although it cannot hurt that they will be given well paid jobs, meet lots of members of the opposite sex and be in a profession that is still widely admired. Its unlikely that anyone becomes a doctor but regards it as beyond the pale to have to work on Saturdays. Perhaps they should remind themselves of that this morning at 8 am and then go to work, if rostered to do so, as normal. Any other decision and the rest of us would be justified in questioning their real motivations, always assuming we aren't in too much pain to do so.
Monday, 25 April 2016
Okay, Barack, okay, we get it: you're just not that into us. In truth we had been realising this for some time, notwithstanding your fondness for our Queen. We came to this realisation early on in your presidency and no I am not talking here about that bloody bust of Churchill again. Frankly you can decorate your office any way you please.
But its the casual rudeness and disdain that grates. It doesn't hurt, it just grates. Because presidents come and go all the time, as do prime ministers. Our countries stay close thanks to a confluence of many factors entirely independent of the incumbents of Downing Street or the White House. Your rudeness will have had little effect on that for the simple reason that our two nations tend to work together in many spheres in addition to the purely political thanks to shared interests and a tendency to agree on a lot. The fact that America, in a fit of earnestness and wishful thinking, elected a wet behind the ears, sanctimonious liberal as its president - and I cheered that moment just like everyone else, albeit suspecting I might live to regret it - 8 years ago will have no impact upon that. It won't even matter if Hillary is elected in November, especially when she is impeached a few months later.
But surely, Barack, even someone of your foreign policy naivety, cannot have thought it a good idea to come to a foreign country, an ally, whatever your own private leanings and prejudices, and get involved quite so heavily in an argument that fairly evenly divides that country. Because make no mistake, Barack, that is the case. It will make no difference what the result of the referendum is in June, even if the smug arses in Downing Street are right and they win it 70/30, that will just mean they will have successfully used all of their innate advantages to bully and coerce their way to victory. Most British people are inherently suspicious of the EU. Of course we are. Why do you think we have had to have a referendum at all?
We have had to have a referendum because the EU is a racket, a corrupt, corrupting, vainglorious, incompetent, democratically deficient, dysfunctional, chaotic, sclerotic, profligate, economically illiterate racket. Even those who are most strongly urging us to vote to Remain admit it needs reform. Its just that they have no idea how to achieve reform. David Cameron used to say it. Then he realised it couldn't be done and so he had to lie to his own electorate about what he had achieved instead of facing down the EU itself.
If, and it remains a big if, Britain votes to Remain, then those voting for that outcome will have done so with very little enthusiasm. There may well even be a backlash much as there has been in Scotland after it voted to stay part of the UK. It will likely be against David Cameron. Won't that make life a little awkward for your slowly dying administration, specially if, as seems likely whatever the result in June, a Euro sceptic takes over in Number 10?
And if of course we vote to leave, an outcome a good deal more likely than some are pretending, what then? Does America condemn the democratic will of the British people? Does it join with Europe in demanding a further vote? Does it petulantly do as you suggest and put trade negotiations to the back of the queue? Or does it make a shame faced apology, blame the now ex prime minister David Cameron and make a sheepish phone call to his successor offering goodwill and accelerated talks?
As others have pointed out, the EU and US have no free trade arrangements now, yet we manage somehow to rub along pretty well without them. Britain and America manage to have constructive arrangements on a range of issues, from intelligence sharing to full on military cooperation, are you willing to jeopardise them to spite your face? What of our tendency to vote alongside you at the Security Council? Or do you want to make passing amendments there even more difficult?
How is it that the USA and Australia managed to complete a trading agreement within 10 months when negotiations with the EU have been dragging on now for years? Because your country and Australia has a great deal in common. The same is true between our two countries.
Yours has not been the presidency many hoped it would be. I remember sitting up all night when you accepted the nomination of your party. Mostly this was because I was in agony having just had back surgery, but I could have listened to music that night on the radio. Instead I listened to your acceptance speech and of the hope and change you were promising.
What a disappointment your presidency has been. You ought to have been the wet dream of every liberal around the world, like President Bartlett of The West Wing but made real. Instead you have made the world more dangerous, potentially lethally so, created further chaos in the Middle East where anarchy has reigned, emboldened a kleptocratic, cynical, gangster regime in Russia, appeased the theocrats of Iran, helped to create the nihilists of ISIL, failed to rein in the Chinese and the North Koreans and sucked up to a dictatorship on your own continent in Cuba. You haven't even closed down your own prison camp there as you have been promising to do now for 8 years.
Now you are topping even this act of folly by coming to a democratic ally and pissing off at least half of its electorate by telling us how we should vote. You are claiming that Britain is too small to be worthwhile alone, despite our being a member of the G7 and a permanent member of the Security Council, that we somehow have more weight in the world by being one voice in 28, a 28 in which we can have ranged against us and have to share power with the likes of Luxembourg and Belgium. It is your recommendation, presumably, if we were inclined to seek your opinion rather than being gratuitously offered it, that we should subsume our sovereignty, our courts, our parliament, our democracy itself, just because it suits your needs and because your fair weather friend Dave asked you to do so.
We realise that you may not understand us, Barack, because you are not really that into us. But the British, though often diffident and slow to anger, are also very obstinate. We are accommodating, often far too accommodating, but you can push us too far. We don't react well to people who are rude, impertinent, pushy. Being lectured by an American president seemingly on his farewell tour is irritating enough. But being lectured about something he ought to have had the good manners to stay diplomatically silent about sticks in the craw. You had every right to come and say what you did. It's a free country and you are from the land of the free. But that doesn't mean that you should have done so. It was impolitic for you to do so. Clearly your diplomatic skills are even more wanting than we had previously suspected by watching you on the world stage. Clearly being the president of the world's only superpower and the current possessor of a big plane does not make you a wise, sensible, courteous or pragmatic leader.
I forgot to mention that the Remainers are idiotically claiming that Boris's calling Obama Kenyan American is somehow racist. Boris was just repeating what the president himself says about his origins and what the likes of the Guardian have in the past said. Boris was simply repeating the rationale widely used at the time of Obama's removal of the Churchill bust. He's not very keen on we English. That's his right, although surely if anyone is guilty of racism here it is the president himself, or are all English guilty by association for our country's past?
Sunday, 24 April 2016
Having spent most of the previous chapter complaining about the lack of food, now the children of Israel complained about the lack of water again. You'll no doubt recall that they were complaining about this in chapter 15 too and Moses chucked a tree in a lake and transformed it. Now there was no lake.
And so they began to complain again, threatening Moses and making him worry that they would kill him. This is odd behaviour, after all this was a man who had rescued them, got his friend God to hold back the waters of the Red Sea, drowned the Egyptian army in the process, had provided them with water and food on previous occasions. You would think that they would have learned by now. But that's because it's just a silly story.
Anyway, Moses spoke to God and explained that the people were unhappy at the lack of water. So God, ever the show off, told Moses to take the elders of Israel - nowadays we would call them community leaders - and take his magic smiting rod with him too. He told him to go to a rock, a famous rock called Horeb, wave his rod at it and water would come from it in full sight of the community leaders.
So Moses went to these elders and asked them if they believed in God.
Unfortunately at this moment they were attacked by another tribe, the Amalek, presumably another tribe wandering around aimlessly in the desert like they were. How big this tribe was is not said. But the Israelites were supposed to be 600,000 strong.
Moses, instead of getting his God to smite this other tribe or drown them like he had the Egyptians, told the men to go out and fight them. He went up on to a hill to observe the fighting with his trusty rod in his hand. And when Moses raised his rod up then the Israelites prevailed in the fighting. But when his arm got tired and he let the rod lower then the Amalek started to win. So they sat him down on a rock and held his arm up for him so that they won the fighting.
Then God said to Moses - write this down somewhere - I am going to wage war against the Amalek. Why didn't he do that in the first place? But this was another bit of genocide that God was engaging in, or at least another example of racism against another Arab tribe that the Israelites didn't like.
Moses built yet another altar to commemorate this. God would wage war on the Amalek through the ages. Just because they weren't Israelites.
Saturday, 23 April 2016
Friday, 22 April 2016
Dear President Obama,
Welcome to Britain. Is this part of your farewell tour? It seems to be. I don't blame you, travelling around in that fantastic private jet of yours must be wonderful. And unlike many, I agree you have every right to come here and talk to us about our referendum on Europe. Of course we also have every right to ignore you or at least to profoundly disagree with you.
Because you are wrong. Yes America has a stake in Europe, not just because of the soldiers that died here to help defend us from the tyranny of the Nazis but because America continues to defend Europe now at considerable expense while some of the nations of Europe, members of the EU too, freeload off your generosity and refuse to spend enough on their own defence. That is a very EU like attitude. It's why you are wrong about it.
And yes I know that the central reason that America wants Britain in Europe is not because of friendship as you pretend but because it suits you to have us there, to argue for a British and American approach to free trade. But we singularly fail time after time. We are just one voice in 28. We are consistently outvoted and marginalised in Europe to our own and your detriment because the instincts of Europe are towards protectionism. Those who claim that we have to be part of Europe because we are more influential that way ignore this central fact. We would have more influence outside Europe, as a beacon of free trade and democracy. It was what we were before we joined what was then the EEC and it is what we can be again.
Europe is an outdated, hopelessly badly run, undemocratic, protectionist racket perpetrated by an out of touch elite who always think they know best and yet are consistently demonstrated to be wrong on a range of issues from the hapless euro to the ridiculous response last year to the refugee crisis that is still chaotic and out of control. And look at Europe's approach to Google, a fantastically successful American company that provides, free of charge for the most part, a range of services and yet is being attacked yet again by the EU Commission over what it entirely erroneously claims is that company's abuse of its market dominance.
This is an absurdity. The world of IT, smartphones and devices that we all rely on and take for granted is as competitive as it is possible to be. Those companies that have achieved dominance can be supplanted in astonishingly quick time by new interlopers. Look at Nokia. Look at Motorola. Look at Yahoo. Look at Microsoft, which although still ultra profitable and successful is under pressure like never before. They have to constantly innovate and update themselves for fear of new ideas that could sweep them away. It needs no interference by Brussels bureaucrats.
And that, Mr President, in a nutshell is why Britain should leave the EU. It is holding us back. It is a monolithic organisation that is Kafkaesque in its arcane absurdity. It is in grave need of radical reform and yet cannot be reformed. It has created the economic deathtrap known as the euro and defends it like its life depends upon it - because it does. But it defends it at the expense of unemployment, economic sclerosis and long term decline. Europe is shrinking while the rest of the world is growing. It is under pressure from inward migration and has failed hopelessly to do anything about it thanks to its Tower of Babel like structure.
The best way to reform the EU, to change it into something more democratic and manageable, is for Britain to vote to leave. If we leave this house of cards would topple and fall. Other members would likely follow us. Even France could follow. Yes it would create problems for Europe and for you. But that, believe me, is the better option that the broken and listing status quo.
Frankly, Mr President, as we are talking like friends speaking truth to one another, your foreign policy has been a disaster. You started with all of the right instincts and yet you have helped foster chaos and division around the world. Russia is openly aggressive thanks to your neglect. Iran is playing you like a poker player and bluffing brilliantly. North Korea is a disaster waiting to happen. China is getting stronger and more assertive. War over its territorial demands cannot be far off. Europe too is disintegrating. And I know that you are arguing for our remaining in the EU for this reason. But your prognosis is wrong. Europe needs to disintegrate and start again. It won't bring about war and division. It will simply end a 1950s solution to a different world that is no longer fit for purpose.
And frankly, your arguments about cooperation on cross border terrorism and similar threats make no sense. Countries can cooperate without diluting their own national sovereignty and being dictated to with no power of veto and no democratic control. How is it that Britain and America have managed to cooperate all these years without creating a structure like the EU to control that process? How did we manage to win two world wars and the Cold War together? The EU has nothing to do with our security and what influence it does have is malign with its idiotic insistence on open borders. And your claims are hypocritical anyway. Would you hand over American sovereignty to be shared by Canada and Mexico and have open borders with them? You have a man currently standing for your job who wants to build a wall between America and Mexico. How would someone wanting to share sovereignty and open the border as a fundamental right fare in an election do you think?
So thank you for your interest, Mr President, and we hope you enjoy your stay here in Britain, presumably your last visit as President. Thank you for coming and wishing our head of state a happy birthday. But your wishes about Britain's place in Europe we will respectfully ignore thank you very much.
Prince was like the Mozart of pop, a genuine, bona fide genius who could play every instrument, write the songs, sing them, perform them brilliantly live and make an arresting video or even film to promote them. Oh and he zealously protected his copyright too, that's why I've had to post a video of the song he wrote that Sinead O Connor made a monster hit rather than one of his own. They don't seem to be available on YouTube. For the record though my favourites were 7, U Got the Look, Alphabet Street, Raspberry Beret, Sign O the Times.
It wasn't just that he wrote great songs it was that he dared to be different, dared to be daring, dared to push boundaries and outrage. Sure he was fantastically vain, but then few of us have that much to be vain about.
Thursday, 21 April 2016
It will not surprise you that I do not propose joining in with the embarrassing and nauseating praise for the Queen this morning. She's reached the age of 90. So what? More on that in this week's Video Diary anyway.
Instead let's look to Scotland where the SNP seems to be creating its own Queen. Nicola Sturgeon can do no wrong in the eyes of the SNP faithful. She is on course to win another stunning election victory next month that will hand power once again to a dominant SNP.
Yet they already have that power. Look at that picture above. It says re-elect. The SNP already have all the power they need. Indeed they have been given plenty, devolved from Westminster. What do they propose to do with it? More of the same seems to be the answer. Oh they are going to plough more money into the NHS, but that is about it.
And what of independence, the raison d'être of the SNP? Well even they have to accept that, despite their effective hegemony in Scotland, despite the oncoming landslide, despite the fact that Scotland has become effectively a one party state - actually it has been that for decades, its just that the one party used to be Labour and is now the SNP - they cannot actually have independence. Not yet. They lost their referendum and there is no prospect of another one any time soon. The line is that the referendum will come but only when Queen Nicola says so. She will read the runes and then call her referendum when she is sure she can win it.
But what if that is never? What if the SNP, even when it is as popular as currently, can never persuade enough Scots to vote for independence? You can win landslide majorities by getting a vote share in the low to mid 40%. That is what the SNP is set to do. But by definition that means that you still could not win a referendum even if you were to convert all of your support. There may well never come a time when the SNP can get what it so yearns for and what it is essentially all about. This is the high watermark. It's all downhill from here.
Because the fact is that the SNP is not very good at governing. The SNP is good at shouting loudly and whinging. The SNP is good at blaming others, specifically the English and particularly the Tories. And for the moment it is getting away with this. The land of milk and honey they promise has not come about. They have been given partial independence. They have been given it with an umbilical cord of additional money coming from the rest of the country because Scotland is not wealthy enough on its own to pay for itself. The SNP does not talk of this. It prefers its personality cult, its vague promises.
The Scottish people have not yet started asking themselves what is the point of the SNP. But they will. They are about to give Nicola Sturgeon all of the power she needs to run her one party state. Will the SNP deliver or will they manufacture a new grievance? One thing is for sure: Queen Nicola will not be calling for a second referendum any time soon. She knows she won't be given one and that if she were she would lose again. And then some awkward questions would be asked. The SNP is lying to Scotland and indeed to itself. Fortunately they are distracted by adoration for their dear leader. Maybe she should start celebrating her birthday every year. Maybe she should have two.
Wednesday, 20 April 2016
Such sad news about Victoria Wood. Just listening to this classic again while writing this brings tears to my eyes.
She was so talented, so clever, so versatile and so normal we all loved her. She leaves a fantastic comedic legacy, of sketches, songs, sitcoms and later dramas. Some of her work will be as fondly remembered as any comedy in the last 30 years. She was a one off, a very British comedienne who deployed language with wit and skill. She was one of the very first female comedians, someone from a working class background who worked her way up to become a household name through sheer talent and graft.
There are so many of her sketches and songs I could have posted with this. Acorn Antiques, the brilliant Dinnerladies. But this one was one of her best and most loved. She was funny without being coarse or cruel. She will be mourned as deeply and sincerely as the likes of Ronnie Corbett recently and the great Eric Morecambe. She was most definitively in their league. One of the greats.
9 weeks tomorrow the country will be voting in the EU Referendum. If you find the thought of another 9 weeks of blue on blue attacks, of conjecture presented as facts, of Dave and George's ever more elaborate ways of telling us that they have reformed the EU, or possibly that they have always thought it wonderful and that there was no need for reform, then spare a thought for Chauncey. He has been saying for far longer that he thought it contemptible but has now been obliged to say the opposite to appease his party. His speech last week could scarcely have sounded less enthusiastic had he been delivering a rousing birthday speech for the Queen. And now he's got to do that this week too.
It's all proving too much for Chauncey. He has been offered a short half hour meeting with President Obama this week but his office has been unable to decide. Far too busy trying trying to think of nice things to say about the EU and the Queen for such fripperies like meeting the man, or should that be The Man? However Gordon Brown has let it be known that he would love to meet Barack instead if Chauncey doesn't want to. He'll even chase him through a kitchen to do so.
Elsewhere Labour is apparently so awash with cash in the brave new world of Chauncey that it can turn down money from McDonald's for the autumn conference this year. McDs wanted to be an exhibitor but Chauncey has said no. What is his beef with the beef? Well, take your pick from his wide range of inviolable principles like vegetarianism perhaps or union representation. Actually it's probably more to do with the fact he's still in a bad mood having had to make that speech about the EU and the forthcoming one about Her Maj. So he's sticking it to Barack and McDs instead. That'll show 'em.
Unfortunately, once again Chauncey is showing how much of a snob he is and how spectacularly out of touch with the working man. McDonalds employs over 80,000 people in this country in jobs that, though they may not be the most exciting, are clean, reasonably well paid and which provide many people with their first jobs and even decent careers in the long term. Oh and normal people see them as an occasional guilty pleasure. Kids love them. Only the killjoys of Chauncey's Labour could possibly object.
First question of the day was enough to make the flesh crawl. It was a long and oleaginous question from Tory MP Nigel Evans praising the Queen for becoming a nonagenarian. The PM joined in the praise and even Chauncey claimed he was looking forward to wishing her a happy birthday tomorrow, but then he is saying so many things he doesn't really believe in he is starting to sound like a normal politician, albeit one who doesn't sound very convincing.
Chauncey really wanted to talk, not about the Queen, but about education, specifically the Government's policy of making all schools become academies. Unfortunately, when I say talk he actually rambled endlessly. From what I could gather, Chauncey seems to think that this is a top down reorganisation. He said it repeatedly in his long winded, rambling and wheezing questions that all seemed to be essentially the same, although he did include one of his crowd sourced questions from the Duncan school in Islington that appeared to be from 10 year olds. He should probably have brought one of them with him to ask the question directly. They might have been more coherent.
Dave was on autopilot again. Chauncey stuck so rigidly to his pre-prepared questions he might as well have submitted them in writing. There was plenty of alleged evidence that was shoehorned into the questions but they were so long and tedious anyone listening lost the thread. The evidence Chauncey produced anyway was just a series of quotes from people who don't like change, hardly surprising. At the end Dave managed to turn his answer around to Chauncey's inexplicable dislike of McDonalds. It was dividing Labour, said Dave, adding that he was lovin' it.
It was interesting that Dave defended the policy so robustly though given the nervousness of his MPs and the hints from the Education Secretary this week that they are listening and changes may be made. Chauncey didn't mention this. He could have asked more awkward, concise questions. He preferred to ramble and come up with nothing that will be inserted into news bulletins or the wider political agenda. It is why his leadership is so useless.
And this is not a top down reorganisation. It is the antithesis of top down. It is handing power to schools and away from local authorities. Dave half said that, but could and should have been more forceful.
And Dave used PMQs today to attack Labour's candidate for London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, who has a history of sharing platforms with extremists. This infuriated Labour MPs who tried to shout the PM down. This is an attack line that the Tories have been using increasingly in recent weeks. As the election draws closer the volume will increase. Labour sounded worried. Chauncey called it disgraceful. But then Chauncey and his Shadow Chancellor are used to appeasing supporters of terrorism themselves.
But there was also a lot of blue on blue attacking going on today. The referendum is overshadowing everything. Questions from the likes of Christopher Chope, Liam Fox and Bernard Jenkin were all picking away at the Government line and focusing in particular on immigration figures. Dave sounded shifty and evasive on this subject as well he might.
Just a note about the PJS and YMA case. I wrote a post about it last week in which I named the parties who are being protected by this absurd injunction. That post has been blocked, not by me the author, but by Google at the instigation of the party's solicitors. Unfortunately there is nothing I can do about this since Google are the hosts of this blog.
The Court of Appeal did remove the injunction but PJS is attempting to appeal to the Supreme Court. We should have the result of that this lunchtime, when I trust that the block will be removed.
The whole case is an absurdity and we may now see the end of this kind of injunction. But they should not be ending them because they cannot enforce them around the world and on the internet. They should be removing them because this is a matter of freedom of speech. I have no interest in the sexual activities of the alleged celebrity involved here. He and his activities are now well known even though most of us don't care. I am offended, not by his sexual proclivities but by his attempt to use his wealth to silence us. That is the real scandal here. It is why, when this ridiculous injunction is removed, we should write about it endlessly.
I think we can probably assume that the Remain camp are worried. On the face of it they shouldn't be. Their Project Fear campaign seems to be working and they have a good lead in the polls.
But then polls are not what they were. Leave aside last year's election debacle. Since there is no frame of reference to compare these polls to then pollsters are engaged in guesswork.
But the real problem here is that those defending the status quo are having to engage in Project Fear for want of anything else to say. This is not even like the Scottish independence referendum. There was a perfectly good case to be made for Britain being preserved because it was a good and romantic vision in its own right in addition to being economically desirable.
But more than that the if it ain't broke don't fix it line worked with Britain. It demonstrably does not work with Europe. The Remainers can invoke no great love for Europe because the British people don't even like the EU, let alone love it. Even Remainers cannot claim to love it, unless of course they are employed by it and are fully subsidised members of its gravy train.
Those of us who want Out on the other side are passionate. We loathe the EU. We know we can do better. We have the romantic dream of believing in Britain, but 1000 years of history to back ourselves up. At best the Remainers can claim pragmatism and dodgy dossiers.
The British people are said to want facts. But few can be offered. All we can point to is the woeful record of the EU on governance and corruption and the demonstrable fact that immigration has risen and will continue to rise if we Remain. The alternative is government from Westminster and indeed from your local town hall or national assembly. If things go wrong then problems can be addressed via democracy. The same is definitively not the case with the EU.
Thus when we come to make out decision on June 23rd the chances are that those of us who will be voting to leave will be considerably more enthusiastic about casting our votes than those of us who are holding our noses at best to stay. Those who are desperate for facts may well conclude that they cannot sensibly make up their minds and stay away. That is the nightmare scenario for Remain. It is why I am increasingly confident that Leave is going to win.
Tuesday, 19 April 2016
There has just been a release of a new animated version of the Titanic sinking. It shows, in real time over 2 hours, the great ship hitting the iceberg, the fatal damage being done and the slow motion disaster that nobody could quite believe or understand unfolding.
It's a bit like watching George Osborne really. So ironclad is the Chancellor's self belief that he can present his Budgets or yesterday's forecast of Britain after our exit from the EU with no heed whatever to objectivity or even a basic assumption of the intelligence of those who disagree with him. He considers himself unsinkable it would seem. He arrogantly believes that he always knows best and that he can present whatever bollocks he can dream up as factual.
Yet just like one of his Budgets, this forecast unravelled quicker than it takes an unsinkable ship to be holed below the waterline, to take on water, break in half and descend to the bottom of the Atlantic. There were so many brazen lies and misrepresentations the ship never stood a chance. It was sailing into inevitable disaster at full speed, its captain blithely continuing as usual, confident that, even if he doesn't know best, he will be able to bluff his way out of it and that nobody will see his oh so clever use of language for what it is. Used car salesmen have a better reputation for honesty than this dodgy Chancellor.
£4300 worse off? Really? Based on a Treasury model that has long been discredited. And this is from the Chancellor who has to rejig his figures six months after he releases them to massage them back into shape. Should we really pay the slightest credence to what he says about the state of the British economy in 2030?
And he is playing a classic Gordon Brown game, claiming that we will be worse off when, even by his own figures, we will be better off just not as well off as if we stayed in the EU. His £4300 figure is a phantasm, a spectre. His claim, one that is questionable at best, is that we will be less well off than we would have been had we stayed in the EU. We will still be better off, just not quite as better off. By no stretch is that worse off. Only in Gordon Brown/George Osborne la la land.
And there are heroic and unsupportable assumptions here anyway. Nobody can possibly model something that accurately that far ahead. We have no idea on what basis Britain will trade with the EU or the rest of the world. We have no idea what impact Britain leaving would have. It is just as reasonable to assume that Britain will be a vibrant offshore island that corporations flock to as that they would all leave and flock to the over regulated EU. Nobody knows what will happen. The chances are that it will be a mixed picture. But you certainly cannot model it.
But Osborne tried to simply paint Brexit as being a one way street. It will all be costs and no benefits. This is patent nonsense. This blog firmly believes that Britain will be better off out of the EU, yet it is honest enough to accept that there is a reasonable argument to be made for our staying in and that the EU is not all bad. Osborne made no such admission. His 'forecast' simply assumed that Britain leaving would be a disaster from beginning to end. Such a notion is an absurdity.
We can make a decent and reasonably accurate depiction of what happened to the Titanic because we have all of the evidence to hand. Even then there are many aspects of what happened that terrible night that require some guesswork. But guessing what will happen to an economy as huge and complex as the British economy over the next 14 years is impossible. So what George Osborne presented to us yesterday was a deliberate lie. The only real forecast we can make is that when there is a reshuffle after the referendum, whatever the result, George Osborne should be moved from the Treasury for all of our sakes.
Monday, 18 April 2016
Christer Bjorkman, a po faced Swedish TV producer, made headlines at the weekend by dissing a secular saint of the UK. Sir Terry Wogan died earlier this year. This makes what Bjorkman said bad enough. But he also took aim at Terry's wry and fantastically popular commentaries on the Eurovision Song Contest.
For many the Wogan commentaries were the Eurovision Song Contest. You certainly didn't tune in for the biting social commentary did you. You tuned in to get drunk and laugh and to hear Terry say things like: 'Who knows what hellish future lies ahead? Actually I do. I've seen the rehearsals.'
We always assumed that the whole continent was doing the same. It seems not. They actually take it seriously.
And that sums up the British attitude to the EU doesn't it? What? They are actually serious? We thought you were having a laugh.
Okay, I exaggerate. But only just. There are many elements of the EU we like, actually just the single market really. But, like the song contest, you have to join in with the whole boom bang a bang in order to take part.
They are apparently serious about the peripatetic parliament. Schengen? An inviolable part of the EU. Freedom of movement? The same. The euro? Oh yes, the mass unemployment is a small price to pay.
They think that EU law should take precedence over those laws passed by national parliaments regardless of the opinions of the people. They are on record as saying that proposals are floated and, if nobody notices or objects too strongly, they are enacted. If you have a referendum and produce the 'wrong' result they will likely ask you to try again and not to be so silly. That's the EU way. It makes you wonder if they will actually allow us to leave if we vote for the common sense choice. Is it like the Hotel California? Let's face it we checked out some time ago. But they still won't actually let us leave.
And this is is the only explanation for the sort of fantastical arguments being advanced by the Remain side. You would think, judging from some of their predictions of chaos and permanent recession, that this was not the same entity that has forced austerity on millions in southern Europe to defend their idiot currency, that this is not the same institution that is still struggling to defend its own borders and bullying little bankrupt Greece into becoming a vast refugee centre. You would think that this is not the EU of the Common Agricultural Policy that we have been trying and failing to reform now for 40 years. You would think that this is not the EU that tries as best it can to stymie the City of London with various regulations and taxes to the detriment of this country.
What do they think would happen were Britain to leave? It's not as if we would be towed into the middle of the Atlantic is it? We would still be a very large island nation with a giant economy on the edge of Europe as before. All that would happen if we voted to leave would be that we would get to change some of the terms and conditions and actually get to set our own rules instead of having them set for us. Would we have to accept some EU rules? If we were selling things to them of course. But then the same is true if we sell goods to America, Japan, Canada, China. Only in Europe do they also get to tell us who we can and cannot let into this country and who we pay benefits to in addition. Which genius thought that that was a good deal? Answer: the majority of our political class now for two generations or more.
David Cameron used to tell us that the EU was in desperate need of reform. Then he singularly failed to deliver it. Worse, he didn't even ask for reform. We just got a few tokenistic changes that will likely never survive and failed even to gain control over to whom we pay benefits, a small but totemic issue for the people of this country who actually pay for them.
You will look in vain in that ridiculous document that the Government sent to us all in defiance of economic good sense, electoral law, good manners and decency for proper balanced facts about the EU, the pros and cons. What you get is bland assertions about the perils of leaving, perils which are incoherent and largely supposition. Would there be uncertainty on 24th June if we voted to leave? Of course there would. But only for a time. And nothing would actually change on that date. We would still be members of the EU. That is when the negotiations would start. That is when the bluff of the EU would at last be called.
What that propaganda leaflet does not tell you is that there are plenty of perils if we stay. The euro, unlimited immigration, endless red tape, no democratic accountability, no ability to remove those at the top via elections, the CAP, the deal with Turkey that will make the immigration crisis worse just for a start.
They used to say they wanted us to be part of a reformed EU. Now we get the opportunity to reform it. If we vote to leave, the EU will have no choice but to reform itself. It is the only way they understand. Chauncey last week extremely reluctantly came out for Remain. He said what they always say, that if we are in we can reform it. But we can't. We have tried. We have tried under prime minister after prime minister. Even the most successful of them, Margaret Thatcher, only succeeded in getting some of our money back. Then Tony Blair gave some of it back in return for a promise of reform, reform that never came. They just pocketed the cash and have kept coming back for more.
This is our opportunity to remodel our relationship with the EU to one we are comfortable with, rather than the best our pusillanimous political class can be bothered to ask for. This is the opportunity for the British people to do the job David Cameron should have done. The Eurovision Song Contest is something we can laugh at once a year. The EU isn't funny. It is running our lives and ruining millions of lives. It is uncontrollable and beyond redemption. Britain should vote to leave for precisely that reason. It's a song to be proud of.
Sunday, 17 April 2016
And the people, hardly surprisingly, albeit a little ungratefully given recent events, began to complain that they were hungry and that they might have been better off staying in servitude with the Egyptians where at least they had been given food. Instead, they whinged, they had been brought into the wilderness to die of starvation.
So God said that he would give them food. They would be provided with food every day that would rain down from heaven. But they would only be given a certain amount each day, a ration if you will, and should not take more than they needed safe in the knowledge that more would be provided the following day. On the sixth day however they would be allowed to take double their ration so that on the seventh day God would have a rest, as was his custom. It's sort of: give us this day our daily bread, but with double on Fridays.
So Moses and Aaron, his cut and paste brother, went to the people and told them that God had heard their muttering, he was God after all, and would provide. As they were told this a huge flock of quail flew down and gave themselves up for food. God then provided bread so that they could have quail sandwiches. This was termed manna from heaven.
Moses told them to gather what food they needed and to take no more but no less. They should not leave any food. Typically for these ingrates, they paid him no heed and left some of the food until the next morning but when they came back to it it had become infested with maggots and gone rotten. Moses, understandably, was angry with them. None of us like to see food go to waste.
After this they did as they were told and gathered the food as it arrived and consumed it. On the sixth day they gathered double the amount so that they could eat on the Sabbath, presumably God provided refrigeration to prevent the maggots and rotting, but only once a week. Mysterious ways indeed. Still, baking bread is hot work.
But on this Sabbath day some of the people still went out to look for food and found none. This made God angry. He gets angry about some very strange things. He could probably do with some anger management courses, or simply a sense of perspective. Still, nobody suggested this, perhaps because they didn't want to get him even more mad. So, after God told Moses in no uncertain terms not to mess with his silly and pointless Sabbath, Moses passed the message on and so the people did as they were told and observed the Sabbath. Some would later take this to ridiculous extremes of course, but then that is another story.
The people of Israel clearly came to like Manna and kept the recipe. This bread was laced with coriander seeds and tasted like wafers and honey. Sounds revolting, but each to their own.
The children of Israel must have got a bit sick of it too, because they survived on this for fully 40 years wandering aimlessly around in the desert on a journey that should have taken just a few weeks. This is what they did until they reached their promised land. Maybe God was refurbishing it for them.