Sunday, 31 December 2017

The Bible : A Very Grim Fairytale: Deuteronomy: Chapter 3: More Slaughter & Conquest

God and Moses were reliving some of their former glories, all of that slaughter they had got up to on their long journey from Egypt to the Promised Land. Well, they had to have something to do on the journey didn't they? Travel Scrabble hadn't been invented after all.

So now, as Moses retold the tale, he got to the part where they had fought and killed Og of Bashan and his people. Don't worry, God had told him, you haven't got to worry, I'm going to see that you beat them. Oh and what fun they had. They killed and killed and killed. They took over sixty cities and lots of land. Moses even listed the land and told of the high walls and fences around these cities that had failed to keep them out. Oh and Og and his people were giants too and they had still beaten him. Apparently he was 13 feet tall.

This is just one long fantasy designed to show how great God is and to justify their claim to land. Note that there is no mention here of how loving and beneficent God is. He's just someone who helps you kill your enemies and help yourself to their property. What a guy!

Moses then gave this land they had stolen to various tribes of Israel. The deal was done with these tribes, but they promised that they would still fight alongside their brethren when the time came. Quite why this was necessary though when they had their big bad god on their side is a mystery.  When the men went to fight, said Moses, they would leave behind their wives and children and cattle. For, said Moses, I know that you have lots of cattle. This is such a silly fantasy they even boast in their holy book of how much stuff they'd acquired.

Now they were getting close to the Promised Land Moses felt a bit wistful. He petitioned God to let him go into it. But God angrily dismissed him. This was the people's fault said Moses. They had cost him his chance to see the land he had led them to. That's possibly true, but it's also true that their nasty and capricious spoilt brat of a God was to blame too. God told him he wasn't allowed to see it. He'd have to climb to the top of a hill and see it from afar. Moses would never be allowed to live there.

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Tuesday, 26 December 2017

This Time Lord Needs A Script Doctor

So there it was, the last episode in the Capaldi/Moffat era of Doctor Who heralding in the new era of Whittaker/Chibnall. I am open-minded if a little nervous about the new era, not because the Doctor is going to be a woman, that is the least of my worries, but because I'm not sure about Chibnall. Chibnall is an excellent and accomplished writer, I'm just not convinced that he is going to be a very good Doctor Who writer. He hasn't been up until now.

This is something of a poisoned chalice for anyone. Moffat is a tough act to follow. But then on the evidence of this episode the end of his era has not come a moment too soon. After last year's delightful, laughter packed, genuinely inventive episode, this was the worst of Doctor Who. A confused and pointless storyline that barely qualified as a story at all and that looked as though it was just there as the foundations for the gags. Moffat is a great gag writer. He writes some clever lines. It is the stories they always run out of first. This is particularly the case with Doctor Who, which has a voracious appetite for stories. This was often very funny, the interplay between the two Doctors was clever, engaging and nicely observed with the gags about the unPC era of the 1960s particularly rewarding, especially as Moffat recently claimed, apparently seriously, that he would have had a female Doctor had it not been for Brexit. Maybe that was just another example of him knowing how to write comedy.

This could and should have been so much better though. It clearly had a big budget and they had decided to bring two Doctors together again. The last time they did that was for Moffat's tour de force for the 50th anniversary. He has never risen to those heights again. But what was Bill Potts brought back for? She was a spare part. She was tagged on for the end of an era episode. It was done so much better when Russell T Davies left. A writer of Moffat's gifts could surely have done more with the advantages handed to him.

And Peter Capaldi has been remarkably poorly served for storylines and scripts. He is a fine actor and a fan of the show. He must have hoped for better from his tenure. Surely he would not have left so soon otherwise.

Many Christmas episodes have of course been bitter disappointments. This was not one of the worst but then few episodes have had its rare advantages. And it will have had a huge audience given what we all knew was to happen. They will not have been encouraged to come back. I could hardly blame them.

I shall of course be hoping for a return to the glory years of a show that has lately lost its way. Steven Moffat has written the best episodes of the modern iteration of Doctor Who and has given us some genuinely thrilling and clever moments, although to my mind he has never recaptured the glories of The Empty Child and Blink, both many years ago now and long before he was show runner. In the end he lost his way and stayed a couple of years too long, perhaps overstretching himself with this and Sherlock.

Perhaps the time has come for the BBC to look again at the show runner methodology and think again. Is it too much for just one man, or should that be person? It is to be hoped that Chris Chibnall shares the writing around and that the BBC does not make the same mistake again by allowing him to write too many episodes and stretch himself too thinly. They would be better off appointing a really strong executive producer with the power to bring in a number of writers and to send them away when they turn in shoddy scripts.

As for Jodie Whittaker. Well it is impossible to tell much from her opening few shots as has been the case with every regeneration. She presents the opportunity to do something interesting and innovative. But good writing is what the show needs more than anything else. For the next series, might we suggest they go back to basics. Before they start writing the script, make sure they have a decent story to write it around first. There are plenty of excellent scriptwriters in British television. Now they should be introduced to some storyliners.

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Sunday, 24 December 2017

The Bible: A Very Grim Fairytale: Deuteronomy: Chapter 2: The Cousins of the Israelites and Their Promised Lands

They always say that great writing is not about the writing but about the rewriting. In other words you should go back over what you've written and check it for mistakes, add and subtract things and generally edit. And God and Moses seemed to take this advice to heart. Moses was rewriting the story of the Israelites journey to the Promised Land.

Moses was retelling their story, the story of their 40 year journey from Egypt to the Promised Land of Canaan, a journey that ought to have taken just a few weeks at most. But God made them wander around. Now Moses filled in a few gaps. Along their way they met some of their long lost cousins, which was nice. Yes along the way they met the descendants of Esau. God told them not to mess with these people or steal their land. God had apparently given them this land. So hang on, God had been making promises to the children of Israel for centuries and yet all along he had given land to his none chosen people centuries earlier?

Anyway, God told them to buy meat and drink from these people with all of the spare cash they had despite their wandering in the desert. And then they also met the Moabites, the descendants of Lot who had had children after an incestuous affair with his daughters. Well, I say affair, they had got him drunk and know. Nevertheless God had given this distantly related tribe land too. This is him and his mysterious ways again isn't it.

The story was essentially a call to racism and to theft and genocide. God gave land to people, supposedly, but it was land they had to kill or enslave other people to possess. Then, once his various chosen peoples - there seems to be more than one by this telling - have possessed their lands they are protected. Well, kind of. This is a myth after all.

Oh and since this was a blatant rewrite it had a piece inserted a long time after as a kind of afterthought. There is a mistake here because the authors got their timing wrong and spoke of having taken the Promised `Land. Except they weren't supposed to have got there yet.

And then we skip ahead a bit. By 38 years actually. God told them to take the Promised Land but they didn't do as they were told and so he punished those who would not commit mass murder for him. They were forced to wander in the desert.

Then we get another diversion. They were told to take the land from some peoples whom God didn't like because they didn't believe in him. But others, distant cousins of the Israelites were protected and indeed had been protected despite having to take their lands from a race of giants called the Anakim.  No, really.

Then God told his Chosen People, even though he seems to have chosen a lot of peoples, to attack another race, the people of King Sihon. This was to help spread their reputation through the lands and make others fear them. They had a big bad God on their side after all. Okay he was a bit pedantic, a bit capricious and a bit, well nuts really, but he was on their side. Well, kind of .

Anyway the Israelites offered King Sihon a peace treaty but he refused it because God hardened his heart in much the same that he did with the Pharaoh back in Egypt. The point is though, why offer the peace treaty at all? Well that's because this is yet another way for the authors to tell the world what a big, bad, powerful, imaginary God they have on their side.

So the Israelites slaughtered Sihon's people just to show they were not to be messed with, all of which of course is morally ambiguous to say the least. Fortunately of course none of it really happened.

All of the above is super repetitive, super confusing and confused. That is how it is written. I made the best sense of it that I could. Ultimately this is a copy and paste job done over decades or longer and makes no sense whatsoever. Not much of a basis for a world religion is it.

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Saturday, 23 December 2017

Friday, 22 December 2017

Damian Green and Our Skewed Priorities

A more robust Prime Minister, someone, to coin a phrase, who is strong and stable, would not have sacked Damian Green this week.

Was Mr Green foolish in his denials about the pornography held on his work computers? He was. It is less than clear why this is a resigning matter, other than the ridiculous pretence that Cabinet ministers are paragons of probity and honesty who lie to us constantly or at least bend the truth on matters of government policy but must be entirely honest about matters that are none of our business.

The public at large will have been entirely unshocked that  someone, even an MP, has accessed porn in this day and age. It was certainly unwise and a little seedy of him to have done so on a work computer, but few will have regarded it as a resigning matter. What would have happened in the past had Green been found to be in possession of a dirty magazine after all?

If people do disapprove then they would have the opportunity to punish Mr Green via the ballot box. That is the proper and indeed only proper way to deal with errant MPs.

The investigation into Green, which seems to have taken an astonishing amount of time given the simplicity of the thin case against him, found that he was in breach of the ministerial code. This is simply a consequence of his being less than honest when confronted with accusations that should never have been put in the public sphere. They became known because two policemen, Bob Quick and Neil Lewis, committed an act of malfeasance and let it be known that, during a raid on Green's office that they should never have undertaken and for which they had no warrant, they found some materials that were entirely legal but which they claimed to have been shocked by. Clearly these upstanding and irreproachable officers would never, under any circumstances, look at pictures of naked ladies and are appalled that anyone would. Pull the other one it's pantomime season.

And all of this became known because these two officers were pursuing a petty vendetta against Damian Green dating back to when they undertook their raid, presumably thinking that they are part of a police state. Green had been receiving leaks about issues that the then government found embarrassing. The over zealous police, instead of stating, correctly, that this was not a police matter and that it would be wholly inappropriate to raid the offices of an MP and shadow minister, overreached themselves and found - nothing. Green had done nothing wrong. Even the porn stash was legal notwithstanding it having offended the delicate sensibilities of these two latter-day puritans.

And it is this that we should all be shocked and outraged by. Because if the police can raid the offices of an MP simply because he has embarrassed the government and then retain information they were supposed to have destroyed for their own ends then what chance do the rest of us stand? The police are given huge powers over all of us and will, if we are investigated, become privy to a vast quantity of information that we would not want widely known, not because we are doing anything wrong or illegal, but because few of us are saints and do not have secrets we would not want widely disseminated. The police have a duty of care and confidentiality in the same way as do doctors, priests, nurses, lawyers. If they cannot be trusted to keep our secrets then our system of law and order and justice will break down.

And this comes just a few days since a blameless student, Liam Allan, was acquitted at the last minute after being prosecuted for a rape he did not commit and for which the police had evidence that clearly demonstrated that his accuser was a liar. His accuser remains anonymous and he now has to rebuild his life.

Damian Green has suffered an egregious miscarriage of justice too. His only sin was one of being dishonest. But then he was being questioned about something that we should never have known about in the first place. He had every right to be dishonest and to be outraged at the behaviour of the police. Like the accuser in that rape case they will get off with a fine. They should be prosecuted for something else such as misconduct in a public office. They should, in short, be made an example of.

Remember this all came about because Damian Green was accused by Kate Maltby, a journalist of low talent and lower morals, of having behaved inappropriately. Her allegation did not stand up to much scrutiny. She admitted herself that the light brush of her knee might well have been inadvertent. The remarks she claimed to find objectionable were similarly open to a different interpretation. Yet the investigation said that her accusations were plausible, which is to say that they could equally be regarded as implausible and tendentious. Most who read Kate Maltby's hysterical article outlining her accusation found it to be the latter. It sounded like someone out to traduce a man for the furtherance of her career. She was no better than those two police officers or that anonymous rape accuser and fantasist. Now she has given an interview to the Telegraph in which she claims that a brush of her knee and a couple of text messages amount to a 'pattern of behaviour.' The only behaviour with a pattern here is that of Ms Maltby who continued exchanging messages with Damian Green until she spotted an opportunity to get some free publicity and try to kickstart her flatlining career. Instead she complains that the whole episode has lost her work. Good.

Theresa May should have protected her friend and colleague and drawn a line in the sand. She should have sent a message to the police that this kind of behaviour will not be tolerated and that she stood four square behind Green even if she regretted that he had been dishonest. The allegations of Ms Maltby, even if we are being generous, are at best unproven. They may have been a simple misunderstanding. Even if they weren't Green brushed her knee, he didn't assault her.

We are living in a post Weinstein world in which women and some men now feel empowered to speak out about inappropriate behaviour. That is something to be celebrated. But justice has to prevail too. Matt Damon has been criticised this week for making the common sense observation that there is a spectrum of behaviour and that we should not conflate low level male boorishness with proper sexual assault. If Damian Green brushed Kate Maltby's knee it might well have been inadvertent. Are men now to be accused and punished every time they make slight contact with a woman's knee? Must they automatically lose their jobs as a consequence? Is inadvertent contact now to be a strict liability offence? If so then maybe Chauncey's suggestion of a couple of years ago of all female train carriages should be implemented immediately, to protect men as much as women. Maybe we need segregated offices and bars too.

And in the wake of the Damian Green affair there are yet more reasons to dissuade our brightest and best from pursuing careers in politics. Don't become a politician if you have ever made a clumsy approach to a member of the opposite sex that they regarded as unwelcome. Don't become a politician if you have ever accessed pornography, no matter how legal. Don't become a politician if you have ever had even the lightest brush with the alleged forces of law and order in case they keep any information they glean for a rainy day. Maybe it would be best if politicians took a vow of celibacy and live a life of monastic purity prior to becoming ordained as MPs after of course a full star chamber investigation into their lives, predilections and tastes.

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Thursday, 21 December 2017

Is Trump About To Attack North Korea?

The Telegraph reports that Donald Trump is planning on a 'bloody nose' strategy to attack North Korea and send it a message. This is an extraordinarily dangerous course to take. Of course, as has been pointed out before, there are no good options where North Korea is concerned. Pressurising China to deal with its troublesome neighbour is demonstrably not working.

A military option has to be an option worth considering. As I have written before, confronting North Korea militarily might ultimately be the best and only option to preventing something much worse occurring in the future. I am not talking here of the possibility of nuclear attack on the US mainland, although that is the clear and present danger. There is a greater danger, even if North Korea can be trusted with nuclear weapons, that this would lead to a new nuclear arms race in the region and beyond. If the likes of South Korea and Japan started acquiring their own nuclear shields then this could easily spread around the world. Iran might acquire such weapons openly and would be emulated by Saudi Arabia and others in the region. Pretty soon the danger of terrorists acquiring nuclear weapons would become ever more likely. And of course the more nuclear actors there are in the world the more likely a miscalculation leading to world war 3.

Under such circumstances a limited attack on North Korea can be defended and might even be thought to be the least worst option. It might even be thought the least worst option if we can state with certainty that North Korea would quickly retaliate and cause mass casualties across the region and in South Korea in particular. This is by no means certain. The DPRK is a a brittle regime and would likely disintegrate very quickly if put under intense pressure. Similarly its military is nothing like as robust as the propaganda would suggest. It cannot feed all of its soldiers sufficiently, let alone keep all of its hardware in good working order. The mountain it uses to test its nukes in is collapsing and its rockets take days or even weeks to assemble. A lightning attack by the US, which is massing forces nearby, would lead to Kim Jong-Un being toppled and the collapse of the military. Chaos would reign. Some collateral damage would be inevitable, but it would not necessarily be as devastating as is assumed.

The great unknown, or at least the greatest unknown amongst those, Rumsfeld style, we know that we do not know, is the response of China to an American attack. This might be why the Trump administration is trying to provoke the Fat Leader to attack. If he could convincingly argue that any attack he ordered was in retaliation to a DPRK attack the Chinese would likely look the other way. The chances are that America is using diplomatic channels to tell China that it will have little choice but to attack soon since the Chinese haven't done anything to rein in the North Koreans.

The great worry though is that Trump is entertaining thoughts of a military assault, not because of genuine fears about the hermit state but as a distraction exercise from his own woes. The Mueller investigation is getting ever closer and there are persistent rumours that Trump would like to fire him. This is denied of course, but then the president is a liar and his administration follows his lead. Trump is worried about Mueller and wants to change the subject. A war would be the ideal way of doing so. When Trump fired a limited number of missiles at Syria earlier this year in response to their using chemical weapons he won a few days of rare good headlines. In retrospect we were all played for fools, but Trump enjoyed the praise from newspapers and other outlets he usually calls purveyors of fake news. Don't be surprised if he decides the right time to attack is when the Mueller ratchet is getting ever tighter.

It would be a bad move and a counterproductive move for Trump to fire Bob Mueller, but that doesn't mean he won't do it. This is a president who thinks normal rules do not apply to him and who is always willing to take a risk. None of which means that the idea of attacking North Korea is a bad idea. Just so long as he does it for all the right reasons. It is unlikely that the right reasons are high priorities. Quite apart from anything else, he won't have read the reports briefing him about it all.

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Wednesday, 20 December 2017

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Cherry Picking EU

Theresa May and her Cabinet had their first discussion of what kind of trade deal they want from the EU now that we have been judged to have made sufficient progress for them to start doing what Article 50 actually requires of them. In other words they have managed to extract some cash from us with menaces and so now they are prepared to talk about what kind of future relationship they are generously willing to offer.

Michel Barnier, who has had the upper hand thus far we must acknowledge, is now letting it be known that Britain must not expect some kind of bespoke trade deal, that we will not be able to cherry pick, to have our cake and eat it. And yet, if they want our money, then they may well find that £39 billion will buy an awful lot of cherries and indeed maybe even cherry laced cake. Otherwise we might well decide we would be better off keeping our cash and purchasing our own cherries and cake.

Yes the EU won the first round, but nothing is agreed until everything is agreed as they always remind us. So we will be demanding a bespoke trade deal. Why would we not do so? Nothing like Brexit has ever happened before and so how can we have anything but a bespoke trade deal? To argue otherwise is a nonsense. Yes we may well start with the nuts and bolts of a Canada model but on to that we will add some additional options. Brexit is going to end up being like using one of those car configurators and checking a lot of options to personalise Brexit and make things more comfortable.

And there really is no reason why such a deal would not be possible. We start after all with a deal that  enables free trade between us. We are leaving the Single Market but want access to it on preferential terms. In return we will offer the same to our highly lucrative market. The only reason not to have a free trade agreement that is considerably more ambitious than the one signed with Canada is thanks to EU theology and their determination to punish us and to ensure something so disastrous never happens again. As ever with the EU they refuse to take the pragmatic approach and take the ideological one instead. That is why we voted to leave and why those of us who put our cross next to that box cannot understand why so many people are so keen on the EU and consider it to be the 'progressive' option. It demonstrates time and time again that it is anything but.

This is not to say that we cannot forge a constructive relationship with the EU going forward. Britain has been constructive and open minded in our dealings so far. Th EU has been the opposite. Even their round of applause for our Prime Minister last week was done for wholly cynical reasons as anyone with eyes in their heads and who has been paying attention these last few months will have quickly concluded. But their success in the opening round was just a win in the initial skirmishes. All if left to play for and we have that money dangling above their heads tantalising them and tempting them. If they are ever going to reach it though they had better start being nice. It's no wonder they wanted that deal in writing before trade talks began. The money remains our bargaining chip. We will walk away without a decent deal. Theresa May will be deposed before the Conservative Party allows her to bargain away our money for just a Canada style deal.

The EU tells us that we cannot cherry pick and yet that is precisely what they are trying to do with the money. They are trying to extract cash from us but threatening only to offer us a minimal trade deal in return. This time though the solidarity will not last. They want our cash but they also want our trade. Many of them also want and need the City of London. Barnier is not a fool. He knows all of this. His bluster this week is the opening salvo in the next round. That round is going to be a lot more difficult for him than for us. They have been remarkably united until now. But if there is one thing we all know about the EU's members, they always look after themselves in the end. It is why it is such a divided, divisive and absurd project and why we opted to leave.

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Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Bitcoin Is In The All Together

We've long been accustomed now to the way that the internet, new technology and the IT revolution has, well, revolutionised our lives. I admit that I was wholly wrong when I was sceptical about the valuation placed on Facebook when it went public for the seemingly stratospheric sum of $16 billion. And that was just the shares being offered. It valued the company at $108 billion. Initially the newly floated company struggled and the sceptics felt smug and prescient. Not so much now. If you invested   back in 2012 you would have paid the then absurd $38 for each share. Now they are worth $180.

And yet the scepticism surrounding Bitcoin looks a lot better placed. Bitcoin is no Facebook. It is no one way bet. Facebook was and is a company with a product, premises, billions of customers, trillions of terabytes of precious data on us all and is awash in cash. Bitcoin has no intrinsic value. It is a punt, a gamble which will almost certainly prove to be a chimera. What started out as a kind of techno geek project to create a form of currency that is out of the control of the authorities and thus brought to the world of money the disruptive attitude of the internet has not disrupted very much at all. It has just become a kind of digital fool's gold.

What is most perplexing about the Bitcoin phenomenon is that more or less everyone is saying the same thing: this is a bubble. Put your money on this and yes you may well end up making a small fortune. Nobody can call the top of this market. But it will top out and then collapse. It is inevitable. It is inevitable because it is not a proper repository of value. The money in your pocket too is a lie, but it has behind it governments. That is why the most stable and trusted currency in the world is the US Dollar, because it has behind it the government of the world's most powerful nation. Bitcoin has nothing behind it. Worse it can be mined by solving puzzles that use eye watering amounts of electricity and huge server farms. It is an absurd currency that uses an absurd amount of resources for precisely nothing.

Yet it seems that nobody is listening. Or maybe most people are. This is a commodity - it's not even clear that it is anything at all really - that is being driven up by people who are seemingly more terrified of losing out than they are of losing their shirts. Or maybe the people who are buying can afford to lose it and so are doing the digital equivalent of putting a grand on red. Maybe most of us are sitting watching this whilst a few feckless or credulous idiots pile in risking everything. Or maybe they just regard it as a bit of potentially highly lucrative fun. Certainly a few people have become astonishingly rich by backing this view and certainly there was a case to be made for it when it first launched and was innovative and exciting. Now? It's just become a financial fetish, a fad every bit as cursory as the latest disposable pop song. The problem is that the hype feeds the frenzy and it becomes ever more manic. The acceleration in the price over the last few weeks just makes it look more and more bubbly.

Not that this is at all dangerous for the wider economy. This is a clear bubble, but one few of us will get involved in, not least because of the eye watering price for joining this club. And so we watch and we wait. We all know that the crash is coming, it's just a question of when the brakes screech and the tyres squeal and then comes the sickening thud.

The problem with Bitcoin is not just that it has no intrinsic value or that limited supplies are driving its price higher as more people hear about it. It is that it is astonishingly difficult to liquidate your assets if you have them. Selling is not as easy as people imagine, it is slow and ponderous compared to more normal forms of currency and other forms of investment meaning that when the crash comes panicking investors will not be able to liquidate their assets quickly enough to avoid crystallising their losses. If they are lucky they will just lose money they never really had. If they are unlucky they will lose money because they bought at or near the top. That is the way bubbles always work. But Bitcoin has the added difficulty factor thrown into the mix. Finding someone to buy your falling asset is difficult enough. But it won't be easy to sell it at all when the frenzy comes. It wasn't built for speed.

This looks more and more like the dot com boom which saw companies given ludicrous valuations according to whether or not they had .com in their names. Internet startups were created and quickly sold for multi million deals. Few lasted the course. Bitcoin is the same. It is a currency that isn't a currency and that can be stolen in seconds with no recourse. There are no banks behind it and all owners are anonymous. If you buy this you are a fool. But plenty will. Of course I could of course be wrong, just as I was back in 2012. But I bet I'm not. Betting is all that this is.

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Monday, 18 December 2017

Why Aren't Chauncey and Marxist Labour in Power By Christmas?

It's Christmas and so let us think of happier things this week. Most notably we should remember that only six months ago Chauncey was of the opinion that he would be Prime Minister by Christmas. Well, only a week to go Chaunce.

In truth he should be thankful that the ghost of Christmas future that told him this has turned out to be wrong. Because the cult of Chauncey wouldn't last five minutes with him in charge of the country.

It's not just that he is so catastrophically incapable of the job, it is that the people around him are too.
It's been a few weeks now but are we at all sure that John McDonnell would yet have an answer to the questions he kept refusing to answer about the debt he would saddle the country with? And the intellectual contortions of the Shadow Chancellor about debt and taxes and where the money comes from for the debt when you are imposing punitive taxation and exchange controls on the country are as nothing to the party's contortions over Europe. Are they in favour of the Single Market and the customs union? On a second referendum? Nobody really knows, not least the various members of the Shadow Cabinet because each of them gives different answers. Sometimes, like yesterday, they gave different answers on the same day. Okay, one of them was Diane Abbott who probably struggles to put the correct shoes on her feet, but these are people who aspire to be running the country for crying out loud. Chauncey thought they would be by now.

It turns out you see that the ability to bawl leftist bromides at people who agree with you is not great preparation for running a country. Because life is a little less clearcut than lefties would like to believe. That is why they have habitually lived on the fringes of our polity. They are more comfortable there, getting angry at people who compromise and who have grown out of their teenage obsessions. People who believe the same things they did when they were 19 should not be trusted to run a whelk stall, let alone a country. Not that they would ever do anything so capitalist anyway. And when you believe that a bear of so little brain as Chauncey is the authentic answer to your dreams then you are not less deluded than those who voted for Trump, much as middle class Chauncey backers would be shocked by the comparison. After all one Labour MP last week complained that the hated fake news media in this country had shamelessly ignored Chauncey's receipt of an award for peace and love and kumbaya that nobody had ever heard of, not least Marxist Labour's own press team. That's the kind of keen minds who think they should be running Britain's economy at the most pivotal moment in our recent history.

The problem that Chauncey faces is that, though he has been a hit with the sort of middle class wanker who thinks he is authentic, they do not seem to realise that he is as middle class and clueless as they are, just not as well educated. That is why so many of them are still so perplexed and/or angry about Brexit. Of course Chauncey has long been in favour of our leaving the EU and still is, but the authentic one chooses not to talk about that when using his megaphone.

The likes of Chauncey and his middle class social justice warriors simply do not get the working class. They don't understand their motivations, their aspirations, their anger. They behave instead like 19th century aristocrats doling out welfare and patronising them and complaining about Tories. In reality the real problem is the socialists. They confuse their bleeding heart liberalism with actually being caring. If nobody has yet put the confusion of the panel at last week's Question Time as they were berated about their attitude to Brexit on a gif then it should be done with despatch.

And this is why, though Marxist Labour have convinced themselves that they are on the cusp of power they will be disabused come the next election. The public nearly bought the Chauncey spin and homilies of the caring and sharing softly spoken man last time, but they won't be fooled again. Neither, we hope will the Conservative Party. They will need to fire all barrels at him and expose him for the dangerous charlatan that he is.

Democracy has delivered some profound shocks to our politicians this last year but as usual they are only hearing what they want to hear. Marxist Labour thinks that it is riding to power on public anger. It isn't. The election in June was a very peculiar confluence of the aftermath of the referendum, remainer anger with no port to sail into, Labour and Chauncey being fatally underestimated (Chauncey played to his strengths and the people heard what they wanted to hear) and a spectacularly awful Conservative campaign. None of these things will happen the same way the next time. After the election of 2015 the SNP thought they only had to push a little harder to get to the promised land of independence. They have been in reverse ever since. The same will be true of Chauncey's Labour. If only the party could rid themselves of the bearded half wit they would likely ride to a Blair style landslide and be assured of a decade or more in power. But if that happened they would likely try to take us back into the EU and thus rewrite electoral assumptions all over again.

In truth our politics is in flux. But it remains the case that it is not sufficiently in flux to deliver Chauncey into Number 10.  I have had some low moments since June, not least because of this awful Prime Minister. But she is still in the game and she is still level pegging with Chauncey in the polls. Things, as a political party once told us, can only get better. That is a cheering thought this Christmas.

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Sunday, 17 December 2017

The Bible: A Very Grim Fairytale: Deuteronomy: Chapter 1: God's Greatest Hits

So, at the end of the last book of the Bible, Numbers, the children of Israel finally reached the Promised Land and God had even got around to telling them how to divide up the land that he was giving them - that's after they had slaughtered all of the people living there of course. So now, in Deuteronomy, they finally get there and start living there right? Nope. First God wanted a kind of retrospective - his greatest hits to date.

Now Moses gathered his people and told them a story. This wasn't really necessary because it was their story and presumably they already knew it. And presumably Moses had a really big and impressive PA system because there were supposed to be hundreds of thousands of Israelites camped out. But we'll ignore that.

Anyway, Moses began his retrospective. He gathered them near a mountain - he likes to do this kind of thing near mountains for some reason - to give them a long lecture. There is some dispute about which mountain this was supposed to be taking place at. It's called Mount Horeb. But that might be Mount Sinai. Anyway, it was a mountain and the people must have sighed and gathered for yet another lecture, like a really boring Sunday morning sermon in a cold church.

Moses told them that it was time for them to go and take the Promised Land he had given them. It's an odd way of describing it really because he was not giving them anything at all. The land was occupied and they had to go and take it for themselves by slaughtering and enslaving the current occupants. But Moses told them it was now time to stop wandering in the desert - something that God again had made them do - and to start their new lives.

Before this though Moses told them of all of the events of the last few years, several decades actually, on their long and perilous journey. He told of how the Lord God had multiplied them in number, of course he had also slaughtered quite a lot of them and so multiplication had been necessary. Moses mentioned that he had implemented a system of justice administered by wise men from the tribes because he couldn't do it all himself. Spot the agenda there? The authors of this were telling people that they had to accept the law as they told them it was because they were doing it with the authority of Moses, a fictional prophet of a fictional God.

Moses then told of how the people had sometimes pleased God and sometimes displeased him and that he had been forced to punish them accordingly by preventing that generation from entering the Promised Land. He had also said that Moses would not get there either, which seemed terribly unfair. But of course this is why we get all of this before they get to the Promised Land. Moses cannot enter there. So he had to give them this long lecture before they arrived. The authors wanted to use the fictitious prophet one last time.

Moses reminded them of the consequences of their being ungrateful or of them disobeying God. They had tried to fight other peoples without the support of God and had been defeated. But when they fought with the blessing of God they prevailed and without a single man being killed. So that's the message. Do as you're told.

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Friday, 15 December 2017

The Crown Proves That TV's Future is Online

Like many people I've been binge watching the new series of The Crown on Netflix this week. It is every bit as good as the first, which is quite an achievement given the heights that it soared to and the dramatic storylines it told. Not that this second series lacks dramatic storylines, it was just that the first series was new and thrilling. This second settled into the same groove, but it was a groove we had been in before. Here however familiarity has bred only fondness and admiration.

The world of television and film is changing and changing rapidly. That probably explains why Rupert Murdoch has decided to go back to what he knows best and sell large parts of his empire in a mega deal with Disney. The future is going to be dominated by digital colossi like Netflix and the upcoming Amazon, along with new entrants like Apple and Google. These services have deep pockets, endless ambition and shareholders seemingly entirely content to receive no dividends for the foreseeable future as empires are created and extended. Mature companies like News Corp must see the writing on the wall. Only an empire as huge and well regarded as Disney can possibly hope to compete. Even Sky, which has been such a hugely successful new entrant in the world of television must now fear that its glory days are over. If one of the aforementioned IT giants chooses to compete for sports rights, in particular Premier League football then all bets are off.

The Crown is a case in point. No conventional broadcaster can possibly hope to compete with Netflix's spending power. This is not a drama that can be funded by advertising alone. It needs subscriptions and lots of them. But this has proven that people are prepared to pay for quality content. And it's not just the quality but the depth and breadth of them too. Netflix gave us The Crown but has also given us Stranger Things, a new Star Trek series on which I have become hooked, not to mention House of Cards, now sadly killed off in the wake of allegations against its star, a decision that is regrettable if understandable from a purely PR standpoint.

As one of the most renowned centres of excellence in the world for acting, writing and technical talent, Britain can do nothing but benefit from this new model for television production. It does however give the lie to the propaganda that the BBC routinely trots out about public service broadcasting. People are prepared to pay for quality and so there is simply no excuse for the Beeb not to move to a subscription model. Indeed given its huge archive this is something it should be doing with urgency. It has been genuinely innovative and at the cutting edge with its iPlayer service. Yet it now risks being left behind. The days of old fashioned schedules and event television are dying. The future is online. Indeed the only events likely to get us to watch together in the future are likely to be sports and very occasional national events. The Queen's coronation was famously televised in a revolution that began the television age. Maybe, in an ironic twist, her funeral will be screened by Netflix. They could include it in the last series of The Crown.

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Thursday, 14 December 2017

The Rebel Alliance

Many of us have criticised the negotiating efforts of the Government and Theresa May, notwithstanding the deal done last week. But let's face it, it is hard enough negotiating with the intractable arrogance of the EU and their fanatical zealots who leak and criticise, berate and impugn and then complain piteously when Britain indulges in some politics of its own for the domestic consumption.

But the efforts of Theresa May have not been helped by those on her own benches on both sides of the Brexit divide. Last night's vote on the endlessly supercilious Dominic Grieve's amendment giving the Commons a 'meaningful vote' on the deal was the first defeat, but there have been many moments that have undermined her.

We get it. Many on the Tory benches are very angry about Brexit. They are apparently angry with the British people and consider that we have made a terrible mistake. But it is a decision that has been reached and they claim to accept this. All of which makes their efforts to constantly frustrate and undermine Theresa May so baffling. What are they trying to achieve? Why are they behaving like fifth columnists?

Please don't mistake me. I am not like the Twitter trolls who call Dominic Grieve and Anna Soubry names anonymously and threaten and berate them. They are perfectly entitled to vote any way they choose. But what is their gameplan? What are they trying to achieve? Because from here it looks an awful lot like they are trying to stop Brexit altogether or land us with a deal that means we will barely be leaving at all. These are Tory MPs who are undermining their own Government and making its already difficult task harder still. What effect does that have on the Tory brand? How will it affect their own chances of re-election? And what effect does it have on the Government's ability to get a deal with the EU and take us out? What effect does it have on our ability to leave at all?

That remains what the EU want. They have extracted some money from us and are pretending to care about Northern Ireland. But their ultimate aim is to either ensure we stay umbilically linked to them or don't leave at all. If we do leave as planned, on whatever terms, they would then hope that we rejoin at some point in the future and be treated as returning prodigals - proof that you can check out but never leave. Is that what the Tory rebels want? It certainly appears that way.

As the Government argued, all that a meaningful vote means now is that the EU are empowered to play their usual games of timing and pressure and watch as the Government squirms under the unrelenting pressure from both sides. It means we will end up with the worst deal imaginable so that the country will likely wonder why we are bothering to leave at all. That is the EU gameplan and this vote facilitates it.

This has nothing to do with Parliament asserting control over Brexit. It has already done so by voting for the Article 50 process and of course authorising the referendum in the first place. Now they are claiming the right to insert themselves into the negotiation process. Yet how does that work? What happens if the deal the EU condescends to give us is unacceptable to a majority in Parliament? Do they then demand that we start a new negotiation? Do they demand that we stay in until satisfied? This looks more and more like an attempt to stop Brexit happening at all.

The likes of Anna Soubry, Dominic Grieve et al are the sort of MPs who tell us that they are passionate Europeans. This is a perfectly respectable position to take, except that they are rarely honest about what it means. Because what does it mean? Are they passionate about ever closer union? Or just about the Single Market? The customs union? Free movement? Because by forcing this vote they make it all the more likely that we will end up with one or all of them permanently, something that the British people definitively voted against.

Remainers are fond of telling us that the leave side told lies during the referendum campaign, something of course that they were in no way guilty of with their project fear tactics. Yet their lies were also lies of omission. Because they never told us what they are for. They never argued for their vision of our staying in a club that is trying to forge a path towards a country that is Europe. They hide behind our need to be close to the market and forget what that means. But by forcing this vote they make the chances for our negotiating a decent trade deal all the more unlikely. This was not a vote for our democracy, it will undermine it.

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Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Trump Watches 4 - 8 Hours of TV A Day

Revelations in the New York Times over the weekend show what a fruit loop Donald Trump truly is and how he is practically begging to have the 25th amendment invoked for his own as well as the world's protection.

It's not just that he is a narcissist. We know that, although in my own defence I would never have voted for him even if I was entitled to do so.

It's not just that he is an ignoramus. We knew that too.

It's not just that he is so stupid that he keeps getting himself into legal jeopardy thanks to his stream of consciousness angry tweeting.

It's not just that he is a bully and a sexual deviant. We knew that too.

It's not just that he is a serial bankrupt, a sociopathic liar, a corrupt, crooked, treacherous half wit. We knew all of that, although I refer you once again to the first answer above.

Now it seems that not only is the most powerful man in the world obsessed with watching cable news channels endlessly. We knew that. But it seems that he is living in a fantasy world in which he is starring in a TV show. Seriously.

Now I am no psychiatrist, but that sounds, to me, like the man is in the grip of an out of control psychosis that would make him dangerous in many jobs, but particularly in his. What happens if he regards, as well he might, his approval rating as being like the TV ratings? What happens if he decides he needs a big end of series moment to create a cliffhanger to boost those ratings? There is a pattern to his big moments since he became President and they all fit the pattern of him playing a role rather than governing. That is the only way to explain his decision last week to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move the US embassy there. Nobody was pressurising him for it and nobody supports it. The State Department has said it has no immediate plans to actually implement the decision. Trump is playing a role. God help us if he decides he wants his own Vietnam.

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Tuesday, 12 December 2017

The Irish Wedge

It was understandable of course after a fraught week, but perhaps our relief that a deal had been done may have blinded us to just how desperate the PM was to do a deal, any deal. It was the best deal available to us under the circumstances, but has almost certainly kicked the can a bit further down the road. Ultimately they will either have to build more road or plunge us all headlong over the cliff.

It becomes obvious now why the EU was so insistent, at variance with logic, that a deal had to be done on Northern Ireland. That was the fatal weakness. They claimed to be concerned about peace. In  reality it was a wedge issue and they deployed it with great skill to the extreme discomfort of the PM. This was fudged last week with language over full alignment. This means that either Britain has the softest of soft Brexits or something else has to give.

People like me are going to argue in increasingly vitriolic terms that there really is no point in our leaving if we effectively agree to align with the EU's regulations and standards. If that is what is being proposed then better that we had walked away. It's understandable that the Irish held out for  this because it is in their interests to do so. But they should never have been allowed to be used as a wedge.

What is required now is for us to create some wedge issues of our own. The Irish are prime candidates. Perhaps that is why the briefing is now emerging that the British interpretation of what is agreed is that full alignment is legally unenforceable and that the only way to get what the Irish want is for them to ensure we get the trade deal we want. Otherwise we walk. That will have an effect of course in the Province, but that too is a wedge issue. There is no need for a hard border in Northern Ireland. Unless you want a border that you want to use to extract concessions.

If Britain really did make a deal last week that is not really worth the paper it is printed on then I applaud the Government for their impressive sleight of hand. The suspicion remains however that they would rather play fast and loose with the truth as told to we the British people and to Parliament than to our 'partners' in the EU. That is certainly what David Cameron did and he paid for this duplicity with his job. The same will be true of Theresa May if she is trying the same game and is intent upon offering us a deal that amounts to the Norway option rather than the Canada +++ option we all want and expect.

The PM made all the right noises in Parliament yesterday vis a vis the so called Brexit bill and our deal with Ireland that is not actually a deal. Not yet anyway. That is a reasonable way to proceed. It was a statement of intent rather than a binding commitment.

For now I hope that Mrs May did her deal last week just because she needed to get past the EU's asinine compartmentalisation of these negotiations. Now the hard part starts. They have the promise of money, but that is contingent upon a trade deal. Otherwise we walk out. If need be we will do so with a new PM leading us out.

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Monday, 11 December 2017

The Grand Tour Goes Back to Basics

The biggest televisual events of the weekend weren't actually on the TV, indeed for those of us who loathe Strictly with every ounce of our being, this was a welcome distraction. No heterosexual male with any self respect should be found watching Strictly anyway and so the alternative of the new series of The Grand Tour came as manna from heaven. Also this weekend the new series of The Crown was released on Netflix. I'll review that separately.

I was a big fan of The Crown. To my mind it was the best TV series of last year in a year in which normal television discovered it had much to fear.

The Grand Tour was a different proposition. It was a reboot of something that had decamped from TV to a computer or similar device near you. It also had a budget that TV can only dream of. As a consequence it often tried a bit too hard, forgetting that what made Top Gear under Clarkson, Hammond and May so entertaining was good old fashioned and cheap wit, badinage and iconoclasm.

On first impressions this new series looks like it has settled down from that first bombastic attempt and has remembered what made them so popular in the first place. Gone is Celebrity Brain Crash, which was funny the first couple of times but then became tedious. This was Clarkson making fun of the fact that the BBC now owns many of the items and features that he and Andy Wilman came up with for Top Gear. The lawyers told him he couldn't have celebrities driving an ordinary car around a race track for fear of being sued. And so he had them turn up and then suffer a terrible accident. It was a little amusing. But that is all.

Now they have relaxed and decided to let rip. Gone is reasonably priced car to be replaced with a rather gorgeous looking Jag. And it will be 2 celebrities instead of one (although TG tried this for a while too). This part, along with when the 3 boys just chatted in the studio was by far the funniest part of this first show thus proving that high production values are not necessarily the be all and end all.

The film that took up the bulk of the show was the same film we have seen done umpteen times before, but with different cars. This was, we were told, the past, present and future vying with one another in the form of a Lamborghini hypercar with a good old fashioned petrol engine, the Honda NSX hybrid car and an electronic car from Croatia of all places by the name of a Rimac. The boys bickered, raced, drove their hyper cars on motorways and tracks and through the narrow streets of a beautiful Swiss town, often struggling to fit them through the narrow streets. This had been done before on more than one occasion.

The point of this contrivance was actually just a gag about the fact that Hammond was driving an electric car and needed to keep plugging it in. In the end they solved this problem by driving it to its destination, a hill climb event, on the back of a lorry. It was safer that way though because, once there, Hammond infamously crashed it. Not that we saw this because the cameras missed it.

As ever the production values were first rate, the scenery stunning, the jokes often very funny and sometimes risqué. It was not vintage stuff, but it was certainly better than much of the first series and all of the new Top Gear under Matt Le Blanc and co and their continued attempts to create chemistry between him and Chris Harris and Rory Reid. Clarkson, May and Hammond have it in spades. It is frequently what saves the show.

We're told that The American has been despatched for this series and that is a relief. We have yet to see what will be done if they want to put a car through its paces on the test track. Will the test track even be used again since the new track the celebs will be driving around is now in rural Oxfordshire and is part gravel?

This is still not the very best of what the boys are capable of. It could be that they are simply not capable of reaching their former heights. There is a definite suspicion that they are repeating themselves and are struggling to come up with new ideas. Of course there are always new cars to test, new items of news to riff around. But the old show became so popular because it invented the idea of the races and the challenges in which the cars themselves became mere props. This show was a conscious attempt to recapture past glories, it didn't quite take the chequered flag but it certainly, unlike one of its expensive props, didn't crash and burn either.

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Sunday, 10 December 2017

The Bible: A Very Grim Fairytale: Numbers: Chapter 36 - God's Rules About Marrying Outside Your Tribe

And so we reach the last chapter of Numbers and you might imagine that it would see the chosen people reaching the promised land with lots of happy cheering going on, fanfares, rainbows, God being a little less grouchy and a feast or two. Nope. He's still got a few more administrative measures to talk about. The promised land? Are we there yet? No, we're not.

Now back in Chapter 27 God briefly became a feminist when he accepted that it would be unfair on women whose father died without a son to not be able to inherit land. So God duly gave them that right. The daughters of Zelophehad were duly given property rights.

But now some members of the tribe objected. What if, they said, those daughters then married outside the tribe? That meant the tribe lost some of its land because the land would belong to their husband once they married.

Well Moses pondered this and had a conference with God about it and God agreed. Losing land through marriage would be against the law of God who had gone to great trouble to ensure that the land was divided equally. So it was agreed that the daughters of Zelophehad could marry anyone they wanted, but only in the same tribe.

The daughters in question were fine with this because they all wanted to marry their cousins, as you do. But it was a bit of a retrograde step for feminist God wasn't it.

And that's it. The end of Numbers. No promised land. We're just told that God had told all of this to Moses on the plains of Moab. So they must be saving the promised land for the next book of the Bible right? Well, I wouldn't get your hopes up.

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Friday, 8 December 2017

Mrs May Gets Her Deal

To be fair the deal that Theresa May seems to have done with the EU - remember nothing is finalised yet, this is a deal to continue on to the next phase - is a good one. £39 billion is acceptable, albeit at the top end of what is acceptable. There has been a fudge on Northern Ireland. This may all have worked to our advantage. The EU cannot afford for these talks to fail either. They need our money.

But it is crucial that they have only agreed that the money is contingent on the EU agreeing a free trade deal. If they try to keep this to a minimum then we simply take the money off the table. And it is spread over ten years too. This will help plug the gap in their finances going forward but it also means we have a sanction available to us if they do not honour agreements or come to a decent one in the first place.

There are problems with this though. We have not played the negotiations well and should have been a lot tougher, although to be fair Mrs May isn't in a strong position to force her will through Parliament and so we should cut her some slack. There is a the distinct feeling that we are heading towards something that looks an awful lot like a very soft Brexit, or possibly something that won't look much like Brexit at all, but at a very heavy price. If Mrs May tries that then she can expect to be not long in her job. For now though she has done enough to continue and try to get a deal and make us all consider that heavy price worth paying.

And so, though I have been a critic of Mrs May, I have to acknowledge that she has done a good deal, or at least one that is good enough for now and this will have done her no harm. She cannot remain PM for long because she is a hopeless campaigner and all round politician. But she has accomplished what few of us thought possible only a few days ago and that is to her credit.

Despatch May and Hammond and Save Britain £50 Billion

Philip Hammond let it be known the other day that we are on the hook to the EU for £50 billion whatever the result of the trade talks, despite the fact that these may not even get started at all. Do these numpties have no idea whatever of how to negotiate?

It's been bad enough that, from the start, we have allowed the EU to dictate the way these negotiations have been handled and navigated. Indeed they have even sought to dictate what we are negotiating about and imposed an artificial and illogical compartmentalisation of the talks. Why did they do this? Because they were desperate for our money and knew we wanted a trade deal. But that didn't mean we had to let them.

On the money issue they initially talked about £50 or £60 billion and then upped this to the ludicrous figure of £100 billion. This was a signal that £50 billion was what they really wanted. But that meant of course that we could easily have forced them to settle for less. Instead we have given them exactly what they were demanding. We have done this despite there being no legal basis for the money as has been demonstrated repeatedly and to the intense displeasure of the EU negotiators. But once again we blinked and handed them the cash. We did this, not because the EU had a strong hand but because we have a weak PM who is seeking to buy her continued residence of Downing Street with taxpayers money, money that was promised to the British people as the reward for our leaving the EU.

Now just this week, faced with another wholly artificial EU deadline and that outrageously offensive phrase 'insufficient progress' Theresa May surrendered and offered to sell out part of the UK to appease the Irish who are terrified that Britain might leave on terms that are disadvantageous to them on the geographical periphery of the EU and hugely reliant on trade with the UK. If the deal that Theresa May agreed to on Monday had gone through then we would have effectively remained EU members and paid £50 billion for the privilege. Brilliant strategy!

And we also know that Philip Hammond thinks we should pay up regardless of what happens anyway. We should do this because that is what Britain does. It is what we stand for. And it is this tradition of playing with a straight bat that means they are running rings around us.

This has to end. Theresa May has to go and she can take her Chancellor with her. Install a new leader in Number 10 and tell the EU that the deal is off. They can go whistle for that money and we are going to start preparing for a no deal Brexit. We will pay for it with the £50 billion we are saving by not giving it to them. This may not be the British way of doing things, but then we have learnt the hard way that the British way of doing things does us no favours. We have been trying it for the past 40 years and not just the last few months. It is why we are leaving.

Leavers have been arguing for weeks or even months that Britain has to be prepared to walk out of these talks and to embrace the no deal scenario and that we should have been saying this all along. We should have brooked no talk whatsoever over ECJ jurisdiction for EU citizens living here any more than Brits living in Europe could appeal to the Supreme Court in London. We should have told them that the money would only be discussed once they say what kind of trade deal they were offering. The Irish should be told that their objections to the hard border are a nonsense and that many solutions can be deployed without any of the issues that are being complained of, but that there is no way of figuring any of this out until we see what kind of trade deal is being agreed. And we should have told the EU to stop using the objectionable and plain offensive term 'sufficient progress.' Thanks to the DUP this week the PM has effectively been forced to walk out. But if left to her we would now be signed up to the softest of soft Brexits. Indeed if reports are to be believed then a deal may well have been agreed ready to be signed today. If this has involved another word fudge leading to that soft Brexit then it will be time to call time on Theresa May's tenure.

The EU thinks they have us over a barrel. We should disabuse them. Parliamentary democracy is a wonderful thing. It should rid us of this useless Prime Minister this weekend or early next week. She is by far the worst PM this country has seen in a couple of generations. She is a national embarrassment and should resign in disgrace before she is forced out.  Otherwise the 1922 Committee should be sent the names of enough MPs. This has been humiliating. Jean-Claude Juncker is said to be worried that Theresa May could fall next week. He is right to be worried since it would mean they overplayed their hand and forced the Conservative Party to act. These negotiations are not over yet. Indeed if we play our cards right they should start again from scratch under a new PM. Our opening bid on money is zero. Now show us some sufficient progress to persuade us that we should pay you more.


Since writing the above the PM has got her deal that we have made 'sufficient progress' and it is a deal that most Brexiteers can probably live with. £39 billion is acceptable, but only if we get the trade deal. Otherwise they get nothing. That is the bottom line.

I remain of the opinion that Theresa May has to go sooner rather than later. But after a torrid week she has emerged with the deal she needed to buy her time and to progress the talks. The country will heave a sigh of relief. But nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.

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Thursday, 7 December 2017

President Stupid Makes His Stupidest Move To Date

Supporters of Donald Trump will no doubt claim, even if they do not necessarily believe, that the great dealmaker's gambit on Israel yesterday is a genius move that once again trashes the established order of doing things. The argument that can be advanced to support this, and indeed was advanced, after a fashion, by Trump, was that the established way of doing things has failed for decades. Perhaps Trump genuinely believes that it is time to shake things up and try something new.

No. That is not why Trump did this. He has the naive belief that he needs to make good on the promises made on the campaign trail and shore up his base, as if the kind of hicks who voted for him care much what happens 6000 miles away or could even point to Israel on a map. Does he care about Middle East peace even? Only insofar as it would burnish his own image and enable him to claim that the dealmaker has done the ultimate deal. In his head he is the man shaking up Washington and showing them how it should be done. The man with the epic inferiority complex born of the fact that he really is as dumb and ignorant as he appears has wondered out loud how difficult peace in this most intractable of disputes can be. Until January he didn't even know what the two state solution is. Judging by this move he still doesn't.

You can tell that the President had no real clue what he was talking about because he stuck so rigidly to the script that had been written for him. This was just an opportunity to play once again to his base, to big himself up and of course to distract from all of his other travails as Mueller gets ever closer. But the only voters who care about this are the kind of evangelicals who were somehow persuaded that a vote for this man was the Christian thing to do. They are the kind of people who believe that the Bible is an accurate historical account and that Israel is a consequence entitled not only to exist but to occupy all of Jerusalem.

Unfortunately for Trump this is not a deal in which one side can win and the other lose, although of course that is true of international diplomacy in general (although tell that to the EU). This is not a zero sum game. But with this move Trump has simply handed even further advantages to the side with all of the best cards. He has now handed them the Trump card, presumably because he considers that possession really is nine tenths of the law.

It is of course the case that president after president for decades has been promising to do what Trump did yesterday. That is a principal reason why he did it. The dummy just saw that and will now boast of it. It will not occur to him that his more intelligent predecessors hesitated because by doing this peace will become much less likely. Indeed it might well make violence more likely. There will not be war. Israel's neighbours are focused on other things. But it makes the two state solution more or less impossible. That is why the issue of Jerusalem was always put off. It is the most intractable issue of them all. Trump has just succeeded in making it more so.

This was not a deal that needed to be done. But that is because Trump no longer thinks in terms of deals. He thinks in terms of politics. He thinks like a politician. It's just that he is not a very good one. Of all of the many boneheaded moves that he has made, this is by far the worst because it is potentially the most dangerous. And it has been done for no good reason. Nobody was calling for it. Nobody was complaining about it. But Trump did it anyway. He has been saddled with a number of difficult issues to contend with as President, most notably North Korea. On that it might well be that he has to take the choice we all hope he doesn't and it would be difficult to condemn him for it. But this was done just because he wanted to. It is by far the stupidest move of a very stupid man.

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Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Step Up Conservatives

I make no apologies to coming back to the inadequacies of Theresa May and the urgent need now for the Conservative Party to get its act together and despatch her before it is too late. There is too much at stake now for us to continue listing as we are now. This is not just about Brexit, vital though that is. This is about the very real possibility of a Marxist Labour government if the Tories do not sort themselves out.

It isn't as if Marxist Labour is presenting a coherent case for being an alternative government. When the talks broke down between Britain and the EU on Monday, on Tuesday Marxist Labour did not put up a spokesman on any of the main broadcast channels. Why? Because Labour is clueless, divided and incoherent on Brexit.  Theresa May's government has no clear sense of direction on the issue thanks to it being led by a woman catastrophically out of her depth. Chauncey however drowned some time ago. It's not at all clear that he has yet got his head around what the Single Market and customs union are. When he went for an interview with GQ magazine recently he didn't even know to wear a suit. The young hipsters who went to interview him were ready to be impressed. They left underwhelmed.

Marxist Labour has no answers on so many of the pressing issues of the day, but is getting away with sloganizing posturing instead. John McDonnell has still not come up with answers to the questions he was being asked a fortnight ago after the Budget on borrowing. Why? Because he cannot get his head around the detail but wouldn't want to tell us even if he could. He prefers to offer economically illiterate fatuous answers that he has probably been reciting by rote since he was a teenage socialist. Nationalising businesses for reasons of dogma and burdening the country with excessive debt because of it is not a coherent economic plan. And no, it would not pay for itself. Quite apart from anything else, this pat answer makes no sense on its own terms. Marxist Labour claim they want to nationalise the utilities and railways for instance so that the profits being paid to shareholders are instead reinvested. Yet at the same time they tell us that nationalisations would pay for themselves by using profits to pay for the debt. So which is it? It can't be both. And if profits are going to be used to pay the debt interest then why not just keep the businesses in the private sector and leave well alone?

And Marxist Labour and the left in general keep repeating their egregious lies about worrying levels of income inequality. From this bogus statistic they go to claim that there is widespread poverty. Yet the way that poverty is measured is a statistical nightmare that no government can ever hope to cope with. The more prosperous the country becomes the more the 'gap' grows and so the more difficult it is to lift those on the lower incomes. They are not poor, except as measured by this bogus statistical anomaly. It is the governmental equivalent of a dog chasing its own tail. Yet still the tendentious, virtue signalling report of the Joseph Rowntree Trust was reported uncritically this week and was illustrated by the likes of the BBC with piteous tales that are entirely unrepresentative. Nobody is arguing that there isn't poverty in Britain and some of them were of course included in the reporting. But we do the poor no favours by lumping them all in together and assuming equivalence between all of them. The real poor are being neglected as a consequence of this tail chasing.

Yet this Conservative government is not making these basic Conservative arguments and about an Opposition so incompetent and deranged they are still using the same policy pronouncements that teenagers make when they discover they know everything about the world. It's like being found jokeless at a roast for the England football manager or being the only prize recipient at the MOBO awards who can't dance.

There is a chance that Mrs May was trying to bounce not only the DUP but her entire party into a soft Brexit that would amount to barely any Brexit at all. If so we all owe the DUP a profound vote of thanks. And we should be demanding the PM's head on a platter. It's bad enough that she has been offering no resistance at all to the unreasonable and intransigent demands of the EU. She has more than doubled the cash offer to them when we need make no offer at all. The spin has emerged that she  'put her foot down' over the ECJ. Yet what then emerges is that the ECJ will 'only' have jurisdiction over EU citizens living and working here for 5 years. Again there is no need to offer them any jurisdiction at all. That is one demand that should have been summarily dismissed from the start. There is compromise to be done on cash provided they talk about trade. We should simply refuse to talk about the ECJ at all.

And it is Theresa May who is the problem. She was supposed to be on borrowed time, only one more mistake away from doom. Well she has made that mistake and, after an all too brief period in which she looked half competent, she is now looking hapless again. The problems over Brexit are really not so difficult to solve, but they will require talents that she simply does not possess. She needs charm, panache, imagination, charisma. But she also needs ruthlessness, guile and cunning allied to the guts to call the bluff of her rivals. Her school swot reputation is not enough. The kind thing to do now would be for the men in grey suits to pay her a visit before she does any more damage. She should be removed before the year is out.