Tuesday, 30 June 2015

The EU is not imposing "harsh austerity"

Here follows a partial transcript of President Jean-Claude Juncker's press conference on Greece

This is not a stupid austerity package. Some of the measures of course will hurt in the near term. But the package goes well beyond fiscal measures and proposes a clear way forward. Moreover, this package lowers the fiscal targets and gives more time to the Greek government to achieve them.  

Compared to the previous deal, the one we had, it is more than 12 billion EUR less savings that are requested from Greece in the coming years. And in fact the Greek government has already agreed to this and welcomed it. Although we had to discuss in a very intense manner amongst institutions as you know.

By the way, fiscal consolidation does not mean austerity: it means keeping public finances in control while boosting opportunities for jobs and growth. Many Member States have even higher fiscal targets despite having lower levels of debt.

There are, as I said, no wage cuts in this package. This was never, never ever on the table. What is on the table is a proposal to modernise the wage grid of the public sector. And, for the private sector, we have agreed to review collective bargaining practices. Our only request has been that this should be done in line with the best European practices in cooperation with the institutions and ILO which are the specialists when it comes to this question.

There are no cuts in the level of pensions in this package. Even the Greek government agrees that the Greek pension system urgently needs further reform to be sustainable. It should be fairer so that everyone contributes to the welfare system according to their means. There is a menu of measures to achieve that, starting with removing incentives for early retirement. The government could also substitute measures with alternatives ones as long as the numbers add up.

I am repeating this sentence: The government could also substitute measures with alternatives ones as long as the numbers add up.
The sentence highlighted in red is to denote the role of international bodies in critical EU decisions. As a rule, the EU adopts UN International Labour Organisation recommendations verbatim. One of the many top tables that shape our governance over and above the EU. They are nether harsh austerity measures, nor is it an EU framework per se. Make of that what you will.

In essence, the EU is asking for very little. What we see in the media is political narrative and theatre.

UK democracy: everything's fine until it isn't.

Persuading people of the need for radical change isn't easy. The truth of it is, the status quo just isn't awful enough for people to take a risk. If we listened to the left wing you'd genuinely think Britain was a failing state with massive levels of homelessness, destitution and poverty. That was Labour's whole message during the election. The reason they didn't win is because most people know it just isn't true. Life is hard for some but poverty in this country is usually only temporary except when reinforced by welfarism.

We haven't seen much in the way of radical welfare reform aimed at tackling this, but in the end the gesture politics of welfare reform seem to be working after a fashion and it turns out just small tweaks accomplish a great deal. None of it really goes far enough for my tastes. I still think we have an inherent culture of state dependency. But again, it's hardly something worth going to the barricades over.

The left have a really hard time selling us the idea that we're in poverty and destitution and the left seemingly have little to offer but for the same tired socialist ideas or merely a repeat of Blair's so-called "social amelioration" (fire-hosing borrowed money at the poor to you and me). It didn't solve very much. Now the left are beginning to wake up to the fact that they lack economic credibility. That's why I believe Liz Kendall is the only leadership contender who can prevent Labour being wiped out entirely. But that's all she can really hope to do without any fresh ideas.

It's a fine thing to talk about localism and restoring powers to as many people as possible, but that's a little difficult when everything from fishing and agriculture to waste disposal and energy is dictated by the EU. No council will ever depart from boneheaded recycling schemes in favour of landfill (aka land reclamation) because that power is not within their gift - and is not within the gift of Westminster either. All councils can do is execute their duties within a strongly encoded framework.

Unless councils are sovereign entities the position of counsellor is largely for decoration. I've met a number of now ex councillors, all of whom entered local politics with ideals of public service and reform, only to be confronted with an immovable behemoth that resists reforms, where long standing incumbent councils close ranks to prevent any meaningful change. The notion that we have any collective power over our local authorities is risible.

The slow agglomeration of police forces is a wholly unwelcome development and the scale of councils means money is always concentrated on the district with the most urgent need, at the expense of everywhere else. The idea that money raised locally is spent locally went out of the window years ago. If you pay council tax in Ripon, it's likely to be spent in Harrogate.

All of this has happened very gradually, where local services have amalgamated for their own convenience rather than ours, each headed by officials on gargantuan corporate salaries. Almost everyone is opposed to this development, but councillors haven't been able to stop it. In this the public have been fairly passive. There is a certain apathy about us, but that is a learned apathy.

We're now used to the idea that if you write to a councillor or an MP you won't get a reply. And if you do it's a corporate-speak brush off. From the police to social services to the NHS, where complaints are concerned there is a culture of hostility, defensiveness and denial. You then enter the "f*ck off loop" whereby you're shuffled between departments until you get fed up and go away.We simply resign ourselves to the fact that our lives can be  impinged upon by the state and there's nothing we can do about it. Those who try are harassed and bullied by the courts and end up with crippling legal fees and no justice.

The same is true when dealing with corporates too. It's the same when changing your energy supplier or trying to cancel a phone contract you don't want. Everything is bait - and once they have your name on the dotted line, that's it, they can ignore you. Meanwhile, we're creating a status of second class citizen without access to credit. If one of these corporates asserts you owe them money, through mass mechanised corporate scale abuse of the county court system, they can blacken you name for a decade - with no right of appeal - unless you can afford it.

Which brings us on to the justice system. Actually, don't get me started, we'll be here all day. The short of it is that justice is only for those who can afford it. And if you're up against the mechanisms of councils and the state, you can forget about justice altogether. The police and councils investigate themselves and find themselves free of fault.

On a day to day basis, the benign managerialism of the UK works quite well. If you are obedient, pay what you're told, when you're told to pay it, never ask questions and never demand justice, things are fine. Better than ever. But when you ask for what you've paid for, you won't get it. When you need protection you won't get it. When you want justice you won't get it. What you will get though is an ever larger tax bill.

Until we have real democratic control over our councils and Westminster, we will continue to drift toward corporatism where everything is decided before it gets as far as Westminster - and if a law made at the very top level of global governance kills your business, well, that's just too bad.

While I am a euroscpetic, as much as I resent Brussels rule, I resent London rule just as much. London likes to think it is the engine of the economy, but it is the regions that supply it with our young and vital people. In that respect, London is a parasite that sucks the vitality out of brilliant cities like Liverpool and Newcastle. The media follows power thus culture follows and that's where our young people want to be. The result is that London has become its own country while the rest of the country stagnates. Through boom and bust, Bradford house prices have remained more or less static.

What we get from the Tories is the promise of a Northern powerhouse, but what it is in effect is a Northern super-quango, imposed upon Manchester, which like the Scottish parliament will suck more and more powers and budgetary controls away from councils. It is a perversion of the word devolution. We also now learn that rail developments in the North have been shelved. One thing we Pennine folk know all to well is that cross Pennine travel sucks - and always has - but London always gets what it wants. It's little wonder many Northerners want the SNP to succeed with Scottish independence and take the North with it.

Meanwhile we are governed by an entirely self-serving SW1 claque who are in thrall to the fashions and groupthinks of the Westminster bubble - who see themselves as an enlightened elite - who don't trust people with the power to run their own affairs. The only thing that matches their stupidity is their arrogance. A toxic combination. 

What we need is real devolution and to shift power away from London. At the very least, Parliament should move out of London. London can survive without it. Why are we cramming more houses into London when Liverpool is turning into our own Detroit?

Under the surface, everywhere we look we're being short changed and ripped off. All the left can offer is the old dogmatic mantras about re-nationalisation - as if the people ever wanted nationalisation in the first place. Our public amenities used to be locally owned and locally controlled corporations. They were stolen and sold off. Now they are merely obscure features in the assets column of a Shanghai hedge fund.

The danger of keeping utilities publicly owned was that government would use them as a means of keeping people unproductively employed to the point of bankruptcy. The railways were famous for over-employing. But that is no longer a danger in most instances. A small CHP plant providing power and heat for  large urban area can run on its own with very little human intervention. Why should these things not be community owned? Why should districts not choose their own energy policy? Why should we wait for an EU directive only to have it gold-plated by Westminster and imposed on councils covering massive areas, encompassing several towns in some cases? Why does Keighley answer to Bradford?

Socialism as we knew it is dead. But that does not mean we have a new age of free markets. What we have is corporatism both in consumer markets and local and national government. We can't afford to renationalise even if we wanted to. But we can use the mechanisms of the market to re-municipalise those things which should be under public control. But this would require the one thing that London is most afraid of: Democracy.

Liz Kendall can talk all she likes about returning powers, but such is not in her gift until the left can end their unquestioning devotion to the EU. If we want a radical overhaul of our services and how we are governed, then it must start with Brexit. History is replete with examples of power gravitating toward the centre, holding regions and nations together against their will. In every instance it has failed - and ended in collapse, poverty and war. Now we see the EU pulling in different directions and our serpentine Prime Minister conspires to keep us in at all costs - with no opposition from the party that supposedly represents the workers.

I will throw my vote to anyone who wants to get serious about real democracy. But until I see a mainstream party make the case for leaving the EU and governing for all, not just London, I'll know they're not serious about reform.

Monday, 29 June 2015

Put away the free market dogma. Uber needs regulating.

As much as one can and should complain about the price of London taxis and their aversion to going south of the river after midnight, this is very much a problem created by government.

It is after all government who insists on drivers going through intensive training, carrying various licences and insurances, and driving a vehicle that costs twice that of a well spec'd Toyota Avensis. Government has made it impossible for them to run a competitive service - and the outdated fare protection schemes explain why you can't get them to go south of the river.

For them to then have government sit on its hands in response to Uber and tell drivers to be more competitive is a slap in the face. It is councils who rightly insist on a particular type of vehicle, accessible to the disabled that conform to a series of public service requirements, and for traffic reasons alone, the system must be well regulated.

Were it not regulated you'd have so many drivers clogging up the roads fishing for fares that nothing would get done, making the returns so slight that the London cab system would collapse in entirety. It wouldn't take long after an incidence of rape for people to start demanding registration. Meanwhile road space is at a premium in London. The only way to manage scarcity, or at least the best way, is through price mechanisms.

When London streets are clogged with cars there is little value or merit in hailing any kind of cab. The simple fact is that London is a space with multiple demands upon it thus it does need regulating and it does need to be managed and planned. Enter Uber which practically overnight throws that all in the bin, driving cabbies out of business to the point where we have a free for all, with those aforementioned diminishing returns - and the result, nobody can ever find a taxi at all - especially not if you're disabled. We have rules as to which kind of licences can accept a hail on the street, but Uber in essence has electronic hailing which unfairly gets round the law.

So this isn't simply a libertarian wet dream of the plucky upstart sparking healthy competition. It uses the letter of the law to defeat the spirit of the law - and the result being that cabbies, with five year loans on £40k vehicles go bust, taking their families down with them. Cabbies have every right to be pissed off and to want something done about Uber.

That does not mean to say there isn't space for Uber, nor is there there any excuse for what French cabbies have been doing this week, tipping and burning Uber cars. It's just that Uber operates in a legal vacuum, and if we want a well managed capital transport system, they will have to toe the line too, lest they find themselves also unable to make a living when the bottom falls out of the market.

So why don't I have much sympathy for cabbies? Well, as much as I resent paying £50 to do a relatively short journey, it is they who have had the collective power to bring it down. The unions are well known for bringing the city to a standstill when they want more pay, but as much as a union exists to protect the interests of workers, it is also there to ensure the continuance of an industry. Do you remember the last city wide taxi strike the last time the registration fees were put up? No. Me either. If anyone could hold the authorities to account for the added costs it's the unions. Where have they been in all this?

The truth however is that Londoners will have to suck it up and stop moaning. London roads are oversubscribed, traffic has persistent and expensive externalities which everybody pays for, financially and in terms of health and well-being. It's your choice to live there - so you necessarily accept that taxis are expensive. If you want a cheap life, move to Bradford.

There is never going to be a free market in London public transport and let's pray there never is. Nothing would work in such a rationed space. We're talking about a city that has gridlock at 3am on a Saturday - a place where drivers are belligerent and selfish. The one useful thing London should have done a long time ago is switch to 24 hour operations on the tubes, and that's what will probably make room in the market for a little competition, but a free market is the last thing we want.

Cabbies are right to want something done about Uber before it comes to the crunch, but before they do, they should demand some reforms and regulatory modernisation in their own shop first. What is inexcusable though is the government's complete abdication of responsibility. This is their mess, inaction is not an option and the consequences will be bad if something is not done soon.

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Europe is safer if we leave the EU

There are some myths kicking about of late that really need to be addressed. The first being that the EU nurtures fledgling democracies. To federalists the measure of democracy is the empty voting rituals we have once every few years. In the real sense of the word democracy we barely have it in the UK let alone Eastern Europe.

That said, the eurosceptic cry that we need to return democracy to our national parliaments ignores the fact that representative democracy isn't democracy either. The decisions made by a self-absorbed media-obsessed SW1 claque are neither representative of the nation as a whole and are democratically illegitimate in most cases.

The charge that Britain is run by Brussels means little in that their is little distinction between our own officials and theirs. Their PC fixations and obsessions are much the same, with our politicians using law making as a means of virtue signalling in an increasingly absurd bidding war. For the North of England to be ruled by either London or Brussels is immaterial. Our politicians might as well be on Mars. Similarly, the last people on Earth I would consult on matters of democracy are Euro-federalists. They don't know the meaning of the word.

As trade becomes globalised, so does regulation and as we drift toward greater globalisation, the notion of absolute sovereignty becomes quaint and obsolete. What that means in practice is the eradication of democracy. In Eastern Europe, we're about to do to Poland what we did to Russia. We'll create a new breed of agri-garchs, turning the whole landscape into corporate farms who will in turn import cheap labour, displacing Polish people into the cities - which are already bleeding their populations elsewhere. Free market "democracy" of the EU kind is a free licence for corporate gouging. The EU will do to Polish farming what it did to British fishing.

If Arbroath had a choice of remaining a thriving fishing port or becoming a dilapidated Tesco town, I think they would have opted for the former. Too bad the euro-zealots put their political ambitions before democracy. The result being a decimated North Sea, species extinction and a Scottish heroin problem.

The Euro-federalist perception of democracy is essentially imposing a human rights regime upon the little people, imposing PC cultural values, and allowing them the occasional vote on who gets the cosy sinecure in the local kleptocracy. This is supposedly liberal democracy. Sorry, people power it ain't.

Given the EU's cultural hegemony it's actually not surprising that Putin has in recent years presented himself as the anti-liberal gay-bashing authoritarian leader. This in itself is a consequence of Western NGO meddling within Russia and the East. As part of the EU's neighbourhood policy it has been pushing for gay rights and equal marriage - a position largely imposed upon the people's of Europe without their direct consent. Putin is setting himself up as the opposition to creeping Western decadence - in a part of the world where social conservatism still holds sway. Hardly surprising that Ukippers hold some sympathy for him.

The Ukrainian government is pushing gay rights at the behest of the EU right now. Personally I cannot think of anything more crass to be pushing at a time when Ukraine is culturally and politically divided, at war with itself and thirty years behind in most respects. What this ultimately shows is the EU's total lack of concern for the plight of Ukraine or its own conduct in how it approaches policy reform in the region - where it's own myopic politically correct fixations take precedence over matters of life and death. If you wanted to give Russia an open goal in further sowing division, this is exactly how to do it. If the USA hasn't settled on gay rights (don't be fooled by a supreme court ruling) then the chances of Eastern Europe opening up to gay marriage and abortion are somewhere close to zero. This is a culture war where Putin has a strong hand in retaining regional influence - and sympathy.

This brings us onto the second myth that the EU keeps the peace. As a side, we didn't need political union to defeat the Russians during the cold war and we don't need it now. Quite the opposite, but we'll get to that later. In Ukraine though, I expect debate will rage, but the inclusion of Common Security and Defence Policy in the association agreement was a form of EU military expansionism of its own, part of a long standing policy to cleave nations out of the Russian sphere of influence. As much as Russia does not need excuses for aggression, we gave Russia every reason to defend its own interests in Crimea.

Against a backdrop of continued anti-Russian diplomacy (frustrating Russian arms deals) across the globe and continued NGO meddling inside Russia, there is little wonder we're seeing Russian petulance and paranoia. If you poke a bear with enough sticks, eventually it will bite you. It doesn't take a genius to work out that such a reaction could only lead to further escalation - and it's fair to say the post-cold war peace is draining away.

EU supporters argue that "No-ists" are basically "Putin-toadying quisling scum, who think it possible to appease your way out of a dictator's aggression" at the suggestion that there was a more diplomatically astute means of bringing Russia into the fold - and that entering a tit for tat military build up is folly. Far from appeasement, the EU should recognise its own role as the midwife to Russian strategic petulance and deprecate its own military ambitions.

That said, how we got here is something of a moot point. We are where we are - locked into a cycle of escalation - past the point of no return, because the one thing the EU lacks is self-awareness and humility. Right now the EU is pulling itself apart at the borders, and is fatally incapable of responding to the ongoing asylum crisis. The fault is written into the DNA of the EU and its own hubris prevents it from acknowledging where the problem lies. Thus all the EU ever does is put sticking plasters on to problems it created - not least with the bombing of Libya, the undermining of Kenya and overfishing in West Africa - creating the perfect storm of migration. A recipe for civil unrest at the very least.

The final myth is that pooling sovereignty leads to greater real power in the face of a common threat. In practice it leads to collective impotence and self-deception. We saw in Libya the inability of the EU to reach a common position on intervention - which in the end went ahead as a NATO mission with the EU Commission stamping its brand all over the diplomatic efforts. There was no clear definition of the mission, it shifted in scope and Libya was left to rot in the aftermath. Libya became the EU's Iraq through political cowardice, indecision and vacillation. Similarly, after being so insistent on ramming through Ukraine's association agreement, we see a complete abandonment of Ukraine by the EU, with zero intention of making any decisive moves in Ukraine's defence.

If we rewind to 2008 and the invasion of Georgia, again we saw no decisive EU action. Sarkozy's "triumph" allowed the Russians to call their troops peacekeepers. French mediators caved in and allowed this, thus the stipulated withdrawal of combatants did not apply. Under the ceasefire agreement Moscow could claim - in a strictly legal sense - that Russian troops could stay in Georgia indefinitely.

The European Union confronts Russia in the same way Neville Chamberlain confronted Hitler in 1938; being outwitted and tricked in the cease fire negotiations. There is then no possible outcome other than appeasement. It is then rich of the europhiles to call eurosceptics "Putin-toadying quislings" when the EU is quite happy to assert its soft power to a point but then cave in when it comes to the shooting.

As before, NATO means business, but the EU has proved to Putin time and again that it is timid, toothless and divided. Putin's miscalculation being that a weaker EU makes for a weaker Europe. I would argue that a Europe with Britain asserting its own values, rather than waiting to reach a common position among 28 nations, some of whom are sympathetic to Russia, is ultimately in the best interests of peace. Moreover, a permanently hobbled EU, putting the federalist dream into the dustbin of history removes the existential threat to Russia.

If that still makes me a Putin appeasing quisling, then I'm afraid it's a label I'm just going to have to get used to. The common threads of the EU's history has been idealistic zealotry, hubris and denial of real democracy. Its main accomplishment is to convince its peoples otherwise. To borrow from Simon Cooke, "the EU has spread its red gold across the continent - funding this project and that scheme, supporting international exchanges and generally making people feel that the project is a great big cuddly Father Christmas sort spreading joy and happiness". This is a sophisticated mirage - one that fools the idealists and the fantasists.

What lies beneath is is a power hungry, antidemocratic corporatist empire that simply would not function and could not exist if it ever truly consulted the people of Europe. It is born of a fear that independent sovereign democracies could not co-exist without going to war with each other - and by means of depriving the people of their democracies they can be forced to live in peace. If you ask me, that sounds like a perfect blueprint for war.

Friday, 26 June 2015

End of the line for Polish independence

One thing I am not anything approaching an expert on is Polish agriculture. But like any good hack, that's not going to stop me penning a few observations on it. It's a subject worthy of some discussion. 

The present law on land ownership in Poland has been in force since 1920. This law allows foreign interests to buy only small parcels. Larger plots can be acquired only with permission from the Ministry of Interior, which needs to refer every such decision with the Ministry of Agriculture. Consequently, this regulation makes foreign purchases of farmland very difficult. The accession agreement between Poland and the European Union (EU) allows for the preservation of the existing limitation until 2016 - but only until then at the EU insistence.

At the moment, and up until May 2016, permits are still required for non-Polish nationals to purchase land. But after that, the door will be wide open to legal ‘land grabs’ by outsiders. In retaliation to this and 2011 privatisation reforms, farmers have started blockading main roads in north-west Poland and using their tractors on the streets to highlight the message to keep Polish land for Polish farmers. Little coverage is being given of these issues on international news, and even in Poland, coverage is limited and generally biased against the interests of local farmers. In part this explains Polish hostility to GMO crops and TTIP - and US corporate enthusiasm for it.

The CATO Institute has been pushing the case to reform eastern bloc land laws since 2003 - ever eager for US agricultural oligarchs to move in, forming mega farms regulated by the EU and global bodies, making regulatory compliance unaffordable for smallholdings, making "farmhouse" food production effectively illegal or at the very least prohibited for export.

With a sector badly hit by EU sanctions against Russia, with counter sanctions hitting Polish agriculture particularly hard and in some cases permanently weakened, it will lead to a new EU compensation scheme - which corporates will no doubt be happy to receive. Try getting rid of that in twenty years time.

Though TTIP has temporarily stalled, the ownership reforms will go ahead, and with land prices low, there is still a state incentive for a land firesale and a huge corporate incentive to buy, especially since where the EU is concerned, no never means no. One way or another, a version of TTIP is coming whether you want it or not.

And of course if this is true for Poland, it is also true of Ukraine. It's not what's in Ukraine that interests the EU, but what's under it. Frack baby frack! This will of course mean "loan" conditions will be softened in exchange for favourable privatisation terms when Ukraine is fully bounced into the EU.

While this may lead to cheaper energy, less dependence on Russia and cheaper food it is effectively a corporate landgrab - and Poland will be a GMO nation whether it wants to be or not. Democracy goes nowhere near it.

Ironically, under communism Polish agriculture was the only key industry with a majority of assets privately owned. Unlike other sectors that were subject to rigid central planning, agriculture possessed a large number of people accustomed to risk-taking and familiar with the workings of the market mechanism. Under the EU to use the word market anywhere near the term agriculture is an abuse of the word.

I have often chastised eurosceptics for using the term "EUSSR" since by EU standards, where agriculture is concerned, the Soviet Union was more in line with the quaint notion of libertarian anarcho-capitalism. What we have here is New World Order corporatism in action.

What this does is buy our declining EU economy a few more years of borrowed time - a few more years of relative wealth to underpin its flimsy mandate - but when the Polish find themselves feudal serfs on their own land, they might wonder if it was worth it. Given this is the chief complaint of angrier Scottish Nationalists, invoking their land and people's narrative, one has to ask why they are so curiously fond of the EU? Interesting times ahead, as they say.

Monday, 22 June 2015

Greece, again.

Some readers will remember I didn't get particularly excited the last time there was a Greek crisis unfolding. I said thing would happen then and I said nothing would happen now. Greece doesn't want out of the Euro so Greece will fold at every turn. The reason why is because a return to the Drachma is essentially a factory reset on the Greek economy which leaves everybody bankrupt. Nobody wants that. As far as the EU is concerned, they don't want it to happen because it damages the reputational prestige of the Euro which hurts everybody - including us, in or out of the Euro.

The reason it keeps coming to a crunch is that the Greek people display a certain political immaturity thinking that they can keep all the trappings of their bankrupt state machine without having to pay for it. Far from destroying the Greek economy, the Euro has saved it from itself. Without EU demands for political and economic reform, Greece would have collapsed years ago. It was bordering on a failed state already.

These occasional disputes are just a reminder that the EU could throw Greece to the wolves if they so wished and that reminder is why Greece keeps caving in. Paying up is better than any of the alternatives. The fate of the Euro does not rest on Greece. Greece is a tiny economy and Germany could buy Greece with pocket change if it so wished. To put it in perspective Volkswagon's turnover is similar to that of Greek GDP.

The fact it is viewed as a make or break critical issue is largely down to our infantile media, who enjoy a little bit of drama because politics is more for their entertainment than for our information. The subsequent noise just allows political opportunists to exploit it for their own narratives. After all, economists make a living by telling us things are about to imminently implode.

The left point to it as neoliberalist imperialism imposing austerity on Greece, but in effect, without reform of the endemic corruption and laziness that taints every corner of public life, Greece is done for - and cannot expect to be bailed out again without paying the piper. Germany has been asked to pay once, but there will be no mandate to do it again. Greece knows this which is why economics have triumphed over the sentiment expressed at the last Greek election.

This is why eurosceptics should be hesitant to use Greece as an example of anything. The EU isn't being beastly to Greece. In more ways than one, Greece is getting exactly what it deserves and if the EU, namely Germany, is to save it from extinction then they have every right in telling them how to run their basketcase economy.

There are many good reasons to leave the EU, but the EU's restructuring of basketcase economies is not one of them. We went through it in the 80's and we are much richer for it. Now Southern Europe is being dragged kicking and screaming into the new era. Britain should support the EU in that goal, but unlike Greece, we do not need the EU to tell us want to do, nor do we owe it anything.

Say no to SNP fascism

The Renewables Obligation subsidy for new onshore wind farms is being scrapped a year early from April next year. While this is good news it only gets one cheer from me. This is the Cameron government all over. What we see here is a hat tip to nimbyism in his core constituencies while we continue to build these useless things offshore. It's an insult to our intelligence. Opposition to wind has never solely about the catastrophic impact it has on the countryside (and our bills), but rather the thinking that spawned them in the first place and the antidemocratic nature in which they were imposed upon us.

It comes as no surprise that such moves to scrap subsidy face a legal challenge from the SNP Scottish government. More than anything, I think that's what I hate most about the SNP and their economic vision. Their vision of state directed capitalism is that jobs should be manufactured by the state, having people do pointless and unnecessary things for the sake of keeping them occupied, which is essentially welfarism writ large. It is the view that people do not exist to contribute to the progress of humanity, rather they are cattle who are on earth for a short time and must be kept fed and kept busy by munificent benefactors in government. That's why people call the SNP fascists, and they're right. 

Mix up the blood and soil nationalism, stoking a bogus narrative of land and peoples, a sense of persecution and a smoke and mirrors Marshall plan for the economy and you have something as close as you can get to fascism. Then when you add in a system of state assessments of every child, ticking them off according to what a state approved ideal of childhood and parenting, giving unprecedented powers to strangers who report to the state and you have something very ugly indeed.

The thought of Scotland ever gaining full independence is something we should be terrified of. I could see it driving out half the professional classes. If it were ever to happen that is. But it's not going to happen. Y'see the SNP are liars. Watch what they do, not what they say. In practice they don't want full fiscal independence. That would mean taking on adult responsibility and taking the blame. If they had full fiscal independence they would have to cut harder and faster than ever before and they know it. Economic and political realities demand it. By keeping the status quo they have the best of both worlds - all the cushy jobs and political sinecures, the prestige of office and a strong grip on office by continuing to blame London for "Westminster imposed austerity" which keeps the victim culture alive. It is the height of political dishonesty and cynicism.

Moreover, the recent displays of political thuggery in Westminster tells you what these people are about. Packing themselves in tightly for a photo opportunity during a staged debate on the bedroom tax was a thoroughly cynical exercise - a cheap shot that plays into the profound ignorance of how parliament debates works. As cynical as that is, it's also dangerous. Any stunt like that requires a level of co-ordination that betrays a tight discipline and whenever you get that kind of overriding devotion to an organisation, people can be coerced into monstrous behaviour when the ends are perceived to justify the means.

That is not to say they're going to start anti-English pogroms or have a political purge, but there are signs of discriminatory policies and we can see the subtext in practice. Not for a moment should anyone be fooled that they are a soft left progressive movement. This is ugly politics with an ugly agenda. The promise of sunlit uplands if only THEY had ALL the power. Thankfully, that's not going to happen, but with the power they do have, they will suck to all to the centre and away from councils and local agencies. Theirs is a command and control mentality - the idea that no pound is spent publicly or privately without them sanctioning it.

I once called Ukip the most malevolent force in British politics. I still stand by that in that their craven ignorance, matched only by their arrogance, will destroy any counter establishment movement for a generation - all for just a moment in the spotlight - but the SNP is a different kind of monster. It's not bumbling and directionless everyday prejudice as Ukip is. It's seething, sharply focussed, cynical and divisive.

In terms of the economics, the narratives and the populism, it's barely different from the BNP, only it has a much more sophisticated disguise - and whatever racism is there is largely directed at white English people, which is frowned upon, but they're not a victim group with political currency so it's ignored.

From now on, I won't flinch from calling the SNP what they are - fascists. It's a particular brand of Scottish fascism, but it's fascism all the same. It should be opposed. 

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Can Ukip survive?

Ukip has been a master-class in how not to run a political party. It's easy to see why. The last thing any party needs is egotism. An effective movement needs real leadership. Real leadership seeks out, nurtures and motivates talent and feels strengthened by it, not threatened by it. That isn't Farage. That is why the top team of Ukip is so lamentably weak.

Ukip is lacking expertise in policy and in how to effectively manage a campaign. Nobody in the top team possesses the mental architecture. That's why Ukip's downfall has been so readily predictable for some time. Now we're seeing Kippers playing catch up seeing Farage for the paranoid tyrant he is. All the clues have been there but now is the time they're beginning to connect the dots.

A fair few on Twitter have called for Farage's resignation tonight and through back channels a lot of kippers are concerned we're going to lose a referendum and lose it badly. This is what I spent a year writing about. The question is whether Ukip can survive or will it go the way of the BNP.

The first question is whether we want it to survive? After all, we do have that referendum. I would say that we do need a Ukip or something of its ilk, but it has to keep a low profile and rebuild from scratch after the referendum. With Ukip being a badly tainted brand it can only damage the no campaign. Were it a business, a complete change of management and image would be a matter of urgency. Ukip soon stands to lose all that it has gained - and trends in local by-elections indicate that Ukip is in for a pasting at the next major polls. It's unavoidable.

There will be hard times ahead for kippers. If it can change, it will have to shed a lot of blood to do it. What it needs is leadership but also a coherent message. Clearly it won't be Suzanne Evans who can achieve this. She may well serve as a healer to help the party tread water until 2020, but she lacks any real expertise on EU matters to be any use during a referendum, so should keep shtum for the time being.

As far as the referendum goes, the no campaign is going to have to reach people who would never in a million years vote for Ukip, so the less we see of Ukip the better. Farage especially. He needs to shut up and ship out. Then there's the kipper problem. They are as bad as he is.

The first thing you notice about a people's resistance army in an occupied country is they tend not to wear uniforms and insignia. Kippers are going to have to ditch the twibbons and the Ukip logos and put the cause before the party. They must travel incognito and get behind a unified message that isn't preoccupied with immigration. They might actually be best keeping their heads down. Carswell will be a prominent figure inside the parliamentary no campaign, and he is at least respected. Ukip will just have to get used to the idea that he's the one speaking for them on all EU matters. Whether they like it or not, that's a good thing.

Whether Ukip survives the referendum entirely depends on their conduct and whether they manage to cleanse the rot by 2020. All of Farage's stooges have to go, the NEC needs to step down, the MEP's need to be gagged and the entire communications team, if there is such a thing, should be sacked. That in effect means the clear majority of the inner circle must go.

This will cost Ukip. It will have a long road to rebuild and may even lose most of its meagre gains. That is the price for exchanging sustainable growth for media attention. A new leader without the guts to purge Ukip will kill it stone dead. It must decide upon what it really stands for, structure a message, centre all of its activities on that message, co-ordinate all communications and statements within those parameters and stay the course.

It cannot afford any Faragesque tangents. It must learn to master message discipline, topical relevance and stay away from immigration. It didn't work for the BNP, it didn't work for Ukip, and it won't work a second time either. There are smarter ways to broach the immigration questions and it must be tackled with skill and shrewdness. Preaching to the choir isn't going to cut it nor are populist dogwhistles.

Ukip must have a set of coherent aims which interlink and it must run campaigns on those themes. It must act as a campaign machine, teaching and directing branch leaders. Up to now, Ukip's central organisation has left branches blowing in the wind with no direction and no resource, with everything centred around the electoral ambitions of Farage. If the party is just about getting the leader elected then failure is the only outcome.

Of course, this is all hypothetical because in reality Ukip hasn't got the stones or the wit to do what is necessary. It means slaying a few sacred cows, clearing out the rot and parting ways with certain donors. It's going to need expertise, self-awareness and humility. Not something Ukip is presently capable of.

Ukip is also on the back foot. We have our EU referendum now, we have a sort of conservative government and the left are struggling for relevance. In many respects a great many battles have been won. It will struggle to regain what it has lost and rebuild credibility.

I will say to Ukip's credit that it was Ukip that budged the Tories away from windmills and husky hugging, but that doesn't answer the fundamental sickness at the heart of British politics. The need for a Ukip has not gone away. Local democracy is as anaemic as ever it was, our police and social services are in a total mess, and if we think we have immigration problems now, we're in for a shock. We're making a huge mistake escalating a new cold war, the housing "market" is a mess, rents are too high, taxes are too high and energy costs too much. Councils are greedy and wasteful, quangos still rule the roost and the establishment's idea of devolution is bordering on the comical. These problems are why Ukip exists and they are also why the establishment is still on borrowed time.

The potential for a counter-establishment movement won't be going away because I don't see any of the establishment parties solving any of them. Such radicalism is beyond their paradigm. Eventually, something like the SNP will start in the North of England and meet up with the South East, but it is unlikely to be Ukip. It will have a strong contingent of Ukippers in it and will have a strong whiff of Ukip, but think any counter-establishment movement will have to go back to the drawing broad, learn the lessons and develop a strong constitution to stop another Farage co-optng the party and once again turning it into personality cult.

Had Farage been a leader and a skilful politician, Ukip would not be facing self-destruction. It wouldn't have had it's moment in the spotlight either, but it would still be a gradually growing party and would still be a threat. It will take several years to present any kind of credible threat again. The main job now is to ensure the ground remains fertile for such a movement. In all probability we will lose the EU referendum, but we have to lose it well and by a narrow margin to keep our hopes alive. That means the less we see of Farage and co, the better.

Hurry up and die

So, according to various rumours, Suzanne Evans has been sacked from Ukip in what looks to be a paranoid Farage tantrum. Though thick as a whale omelette, she is often mistaken for competent because she's the least mongy of the kippers, and is at least presentable, to a degree. As far as the kippermongs are concerned she's the obvious choice to replace Farage, and that is precisely why she's been given the boot. Now I seem to recall a certain blog outlining precisely why this would happen. Anyone who presents a threat to Farage gets the boot because he's paranoid and insecure - and knows that without his cult of adoring kippermongs, he hasn't got very much going for him.

Certain individuals assured me Farage and clan would take Ukip to dizzying new heights, but an Ipsos Mori poll has them down to a mere 8% and once again lagging behind the Lib Dems. Something else I predicted. I also said that Ukip would badly damage the chances of winning an EU referendum. Sadly that also looks like a probability.

It really serves the stupid bastards right. They should have listened. We said that a failure to prepare a workable case for leaving the EU, and a detailed plan on how, would be the undoing of the Brexit cause, and it looks like we'll be right again.

I think from now on, the most valuable thing Ukippers can bring to the referendum campaign is their silence. There is nobody in Ukip fit to speak on behalf of any Brexit campaign, they have nothing credible to add, and the job hard enough without having to apologise for their relentless stupidity.

Rumour has it that Twitter and Reddit kippers are finally waking up and turning on Farage. Perhaps the bubble is bursting and the Farage Mirage is over. I can't say for certain if they'll realise just how much damage they do, but even a zombie Ukip still has the potential to ruin any chance of leaving the EU for good. If there is any hope at all, the best thing Ukip can do is hurry up and die.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Brexit: Look who's talking!

Siemens, KPMG and BAe Systems have all in recent times been in receipt of EU handouts. They have all been embroiled in major fraud and bribery cases. You would no more hire KPMG to do a fiscal transparency audit than you would hire Reinhard Heydrich to do a diversity seminar. You won't be surprised to learn that all of them have come out against Brexit.

The reason being that corporates like uniformity, predictability and zero risk. That is something democracy, real democracy, doesn't offer. Democracies tend to be idiosyncratic, prone to change and inefficient. That is why corporates would go to any lengths to get rid of democracy and replace it with benign managerialism. TTIP was just the ticket to blackmail governments against changing policy out of their favour. It's defeated for now, but it won't stop them trying by the back door. That's how they operate.

It's no coincidence either that corporates have always co-operated fully with some of the vilest and most corrupt regimes on the planet. Dictators can offer them everything democracy cannot. But dictators aren't just whackjobs in ostentatious uniforms in black Mercedes. A dictatorship is any state where the people do not have power - and that can certainly be said about the EU.

More than anything democracy is the ability to say no to government. If put to a referendum scepticism about HS2 would win out, as it would renewable energy vanity projects. That's why it's in the interests of Siemens to make sure we don't have democracy. They can always be found lobbying for more "Europe" because in the main, it's the one government the public can't say no to.

Just this week, Airbus is making more Brexit noises. That's no surprise. They can't seem to make their minds up, but the ever vague promise of quitting the UK is never far from their lips. These are the people who received £10bn in EU funds to develop the vanity A380 project, incidentally an aircraft which would have killed many people had a structural fault not been discovered when a Qantas A380 engine exploded. It is now looking like the aircraft is totally unsuitable for the global market with airlines struggling to fill them, and declining sales suggest like Airbus will never actually recoup the public money they spent on it. We might well wonder if Britain would be better using our money to kickstart our own aerospace industry building aircraft the market actually wants.

As to the mutterings of Moody's and S&P, these are the people facing only modest fines for causing the 2008 financial crisis. Dig into any of these companies and you will find corruption, epic levels of bribery, subsidy fraud and good old fashioned theft. More than that, as much as these companies are crooks, they are also, in most respects, commercial failures who simply wouldn't exist if they didn't have our governments as primary customers. Why then are their words of warning to be heeded? Their interests are not our interests and repeatedly they have shown that their business insights are utterly worthless.

And when you look at the EU, whose own auditors refuse to sign off hundreds of billions in spending, a government which knowingly and fraudulently brought a failed state like Greece into the Euro, you can hazard an educated guess as to why all these corporate parasites are so keen on it - and why they see democracy as such an existential threat.

It is then puzzling why the British left are so keen on the EU, siding with the very worst of the corporate scum. These corporate parasites are the very reason we're cutting back on public services. We've secured their future, but not ours, and yet here they are singing the praises of the ones who let them get away with their corruption, and happily finance more of it. Were the left bought at such a low price with extended maternity leave and marginal rights for agency workers? 

These are the banks and service companies who charge us what they like, when they like, bleeding us dry through direct debits and unlawful charges, dragging us through the courts, sending criminal bailiffs to our doors and turning us into second class citizens unless we pay what we're told to pay. If they're the ones who really will jump ship in the event of leaving the EU, then good riddance to bad rubbish!

You might think that's a hell of a gamble to take with the economy, writing off all those jobs at the stroke of a pen, but in truth it's a safe gamble. These people are liars. They said they would leave if we didn't join the Euro. They didn't. They said we wouldn't survive if we didn't join the Euro. We thrived - in spite of them. Nothing these people say or do can be trusted - and when half of them use EU freedom of capital rules to hide their earnings and avoid tax, they have no right to tell us what to do.

The next time you see an empty threat from one of these corporates, Google their name followed by the word "fraud" or "bribery" and take a good look who's talking. The left have some strange bedfellows these days, huh?

The fraudsters are at it again

Long time readers will know of my long running war against criminal bailiffs and the police who collude with them. A new standard has been set by Avon and Somerset Police for irresponsible policing and gross negligence.

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

A few points on healthcare

If you want the actual truth about UK private health insurance, here it is: Private hospitals are very good at routine. Routine is predictable and the costs are therefore easier to forecast. It's in their commercial interests to see as many patience as possible and to keep costs down and especially not kill patients. You don't stay in business if you do. They have smaller hospitals, each with private rooms which massively reduces risk of infection. In fact getting you back home to recover as soon as possible where your immune system is used to the bugs in your own home, you have a better chance of survival recovering at home.

More to the point, it's affordable, with policies that cover most instances for less than £50 a month. It's cheaper than the NHS and everybody could afford it if they weren't paying massive taxes.

The problem with it is that some ailments are not routine and private healthcare does not like surprises. If it can kick the complicated stuff back onto the NHS it will and will even pay patients cash bribes of £2000 to do so. In short, the private health sector could not exist in its current form without the NHS. That said, it performs so well, it's actually cheaper for the NHS to pay for patients with routine illnesses to go private. The logical conclusion of this is that the NHS becomes a healthcare procurement operation running essentially a nationalised insurance scheme to ensure universality. That could come in much cheaper and more effective than a fully state owned NHS.

The less routine ailments make ideal cases for training hospitals which are said to be the best care you can get anywhere. I see these as being self financing by turning all major city hospitals into university hospitals so that we become the number one global producer of doctors and nurses.If we actually enforce student visas properly we could be the health engine of the world. And why not since we already spend a vast proportion of our GDP on health. Why not make it a global export?

We need to get over our collective allergy to private health, but hard-right libertarians also need to acknowledge that the fully private system is no more efficient than a state system and a poorly population has externalities that business ends up paying for one way or another. The truth is that the NHS cannot survive as is, but a hybrid system of public and private (and I don't mean PFI) is probably the only way to ensure we continue to have universal healthcare.

The reason A&E is so badly clogged is thanks to Labour's GP contracts that pretty much pay doctors for nothing. That is where we need a government to do to GP's what Thatcher did to the miners. There is no justification for GPs to be making over £100k at our expense for working as little as thirty hours a week. At that end of the spectrum we do need market forces to drive down wages because we're being fleeced. Let's not pretend that paying GPs top whack means we get the best of the best. I don;t know very many people who have a good thing to say about their local GP. It's hit and miss.

That, in truth is the biggest problem with the NHS. The inconsistency of service. Those with the best education and the sharpest elbows will always get the best treatment. The vulnerable who can't assert themselves within the system will always get the sort end of the stick. That dynamic changes when they are paying customers, paying from their own health budget. That's why I favour personal health budgets - which is not a new thing at all. The friendly societies that existed before the NHS used a similar deposit account system where half of the monthly payments were put into a a risk account while the other half was held as a deposit to be drawn on or even repaid if the policy was cancelled. That is how sick pay was covered.

It is a myth that the poorest had no access to healthcare before the NHS and trusts and societies used to function quite well. We need these as much as we need AXA and Bupa, but the NHS is the glue that binds it all together. Apart from the obvious PFI scandals, the hybrid model we are drifting toward is not nearly as bad as the left would have it. Where there needs to be greater transparency is in the awarding of contracts which are as shady as ever they were. Or that's how it seems to me.

If we're honest, private health is essentially queue jumping, but I don't have a problem with that if it means better service, shorter queues for everyone and a system that works rather than the NHS in its current form where the chief beneficiaries of it are those who work within it. As is it's the biggest blackmail scam ever known to exist and to keep it "free" it will take everything we have.

EU renegotiation: I ain't buying it.

So, that renegotiation.

1. Calling for an end to EU trade exclusivity is unlikely and asking for such betrays a fundamental ignorance of what the EU is. The likelihood of getting that is somewhere around zero.

2.That "regulatory framework" starts at the very top tables, not the EU, but because we're members of the EU we have no independent veto. Something of a moot point anyway since Britain is the lead innovator when it comes to international red tape and we wouldn't veto our own proposals even if we had a veto.

3. If we want to empower businesses we have to leave the EU unless we can get a full repatriation of employment law, bin the social chapter, the agency workers directive and all points between. It sounds good in principle but in practice, it means fewer jobs on less secure terms. This is a concession we are unlikely to get since the EU will insist that a single labour market requires common conditions. I don't see them making concessions since it would require treaty change and most other member states would block it.

4. We already have a "two pillar Europe". In the Euro and out of the Euro. To formalise that would be a fundamental reorganisation of the EU. That is not going to happen without a treaty - which ironically, thanks to the referendum lock, the UK would probably not ratify it. Ending "ever closer union" also betrays their lack of comprehension. It is written through the EU like it were a stick of Whitby rock.

5. Giving national parliaments more of a say in which regulations we adopt would be something close to democracy. Precisely why the EU will never allow it, but will make a concession or mechanism that gives us the appearance of having parliamentary scrutiny, but in practice means we get laws anyway through EU decisions.

6. Welfare is more a matter of ECHR rulings, so we're barking up the wrong tree. It is possible we could get some concessions that would not require treaty change, but this, while not insignificant, is not really enough.

What we can expect is a rag bag of token concessions dressed up as a major victory which nobody will buy apart from the mushy middle 11%, which is all Cameron needs to swing a referendum - and Tories will hail him as the conquering hero. A "historical moment" the Telegraph will say. I will mostly say "Bollocks!". But, according to Tory uncle toms, I'm supposed to be a good little boy and wait and see what Santa brings me before I can tell the PM to Foxtrot Oscar. Not going to happen. Much like Cameron's reforms.

Supposing the reforms dropped on us at the last minute are worth the paper they are written on, where is the guarantee they will be implemented as sold? There is only one certainty in politics. You can never trust a Tory. And I'm not about to start.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Are 75% of our laws made in Brussels?

This is one of those boring debates that continues to limp on, not least because of Ukip's mindless meme tweeting. There have been studies to count all of them in order to express them as a percentage as if that actually meant a damn. So I'm going to make this very simple. It's a question of magnitude not percentage.

There are three kinds of laws. Regulations, decisions and directives. A regulation is a law in itself. There are thousands of them. Decisions are less straightforward and you can read about them here.

Directives however, are instructions to create law, often specifying international standards to which those laws must conform. So while a law may be passed by Westminster, it's because the EU told us to. On paper it counts as a law made in the UK but it has its origins elsewhere.

It gets muddy when our own parliament adds laws to any bills enacting EU directives. To get any measure of what the split is, you'd have to do a long-winded forensic analysis which would be an absurdly complex undertaking that would take years - by which time there would be a whole raft of new laws.

But supposing we got an exact figure, what would that tell us? Can the Dangerous Dogs Act be held in equal stature and magnitude to an EU law instructing us to close down all coal powered power stations? Clearly not.

We also need to get past the idea that any laws are "made in Brussels". The vast majority of technical regulations from vehicles to sewers, beach cleanliness to the curvature of cucumbers are all made by global regulatory agencies such as Codex, UNECE and others too numerous to list. They are adopted verbatim and passed down to the EU where they either become regulations or the template for a directive. The EU couldn't possibly make all the laws it takes credit for because, as they are keen to remind us, they employ fewer people than the BBC.

What matters is that we are told what to do by Brussels because our MEPs voting together cannot block law, we have no veto at the WTO and while directives may be fewer in number, they are of massive consequence - and they bypass democracy altogether.

So when you see that debate going on, you can take it as read that the kippers are wrong, but the europhile zealots arguing the toss with them are equally wrong, if not more so. It's a stupid debate where both sides argue from a position of complete ignorance.

The truth is, governance is global now, we will always end up adopting law made elsewhere, but if we want a voice and a veto at the very top table, to ensure we can block laws we don't want, we're going to have to leave the EU. Even Norway has more influence than we do. Let's get out while we can.

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Europe's strength has always been diversity

As far as complete bastards go, I'm up there with the best of them, but the very pinnacle of complete bastardy is Very British Dude (VBD) who offers a thoughtful piece on why he would vote to stay in the EU. Of all the arguments for staying in, his is one of the very few worthy of consideration. He argues that Putin fears the EU and that weakening the EU works to his advantage.

That's not an unreasonable conclusion. You do have to wonder why the most ardently pro-Ukip media outlet is Russia Today, and they certainly gave the SNP a fair hearing. But as he argues, the economic consequences of Brexit are inconsequential, a position on which we can agree, I would argue that British membership of the EU is inconsequential to European defence.

Firstly, there is no common EU defence position, nor is there ever likely to be. Operation Unified Protector showed the impossibility of obtaining an EU mandate for military action and while the operation went ahead notionally as an EU initiative, NATO was the executor, acting without Germany and without the consent of all member states. The EU was happy to wave the flag and take the credit, but it wasn't an EU operation - and was never likely to be.

That said, where future Russian aggression is concerned, it is unlikely that there would not be a European consensus and it is absolutely inconceivable that Britain would not be a key contributor (and leader) of any operation. While defence cuts have been more severe than either VBD or I would like, what keeps our forces alive are not so much the toys as the systems. The logistics, the institutions and the intelligence - all of which are as healthy as ever they were.

It is unlikely that any moves against Russia could succeed without a strong British role and there is no cause to believe that the UK would not enjoy a privileged position at the top EU table in a geopolitical crisis of that magnitude. What we bring to the table buys us all the influence we could possibly want.

But that's just the grubby details. What Brexit represents is a signal. A gesture. And that quite clearly does signal a blow for the EU - that the United Kingdom has lost confidence in it - which may even inspire other breakaway movements in other member states. That would indeed be music to Putin's ears. It is for this reason the US wants us to stay in the EU.

It's precisely for that reason I think we should leave. As VBD notes, Russia is wounded and humiliated, and not at all enthused by our cultural hegemony. Our persistent meddling in Russian institutions by international NGOs is hugely unwelcome. Further antagonising Russia, we see the US parading the latest military toys just a few miles off the Russian border. The US defence industry is exploiting the tensions playing to the gullibility of US officials which in turn reignites a level of cold war escalation. It is ill-advised.

Parking a squadron of Typhoons in Estonia s probably not a good idea either, and for all we complain at Tupolev Tu-95 Bears flying over the North Sea, we seem to have a blind spot for the daily overflights of RC135's from RAF Waddington. Russian displeasure with the West is not entirely without justification. No doubt VBD would call me a quisling for daring to suggest it, but I think we are contributing to a feedback loop.

As to the notion that the EU has in some way promoted democracy in countries like Poland, saying it made Poland richer, well, that's a bit of a moot point. Poland could hardly have been poorer by the time of the collapse of the USSR, which was milking Poland for all it was worth.

Knowing that there were cultural affiliations in both directions, the intelligent thing to do would have been to create an Efta style bloc for the former Soviet states (as was originally intended) with EU affiliate status as part of the EEA. That would have been a great deal more sensible in that it acknowledges the cultural, geographical and historical links with Russia. It could have been a link in a chain helping to open up Russia rather put up the walls we see today. Arguably such an Efta style bloc would have seen Poland far richer than it is today with access to markets in both directions.

I am aware VBD sees Russian annexation of Crimea as an unprovoked act of aggression, but opinion is divided on the subject to say the least. What we can say is the EU could have played it smarter and slower. A diplomatically aggressive move to ram through the EU association agreement was seen by Russia as a slap in the face. The ultimate outcome being sanctions that make everybody poorer. Polish agricultural exports have suffered especially. A two-way FTA for Ukraine would have been less confrontational. Instead, Russia is now beyond the reach of persuasion, it's a done deal and Ukrainians didn't get much of a say in it.

As to democracy, what we've seen is very little progress from the grubby corruption that has always existed in Eastern Europe, allowing EU farming corporates to buy up land wholesale, effectively gutting rural economies causing an exodus to the cities and youth unemployment. Plenty of Western oligarchs have moved in to take what they can get.

I don't know how VBD defines democracy, but the word democracy stems from the Greek word, dēmokratía, comprising two parts: dêmos "people" and kratos "power". Without a demos, there is no democracy. But people without power is not democracy either. Empty voting rituals alone do not constitute a democracy, and by my measure not even the UK constitutes a democracy when you look at just how little power councillors have. Not at any level does the EU constitute a democracy. 1.2 MEPs per million UK citizens is not democracy - and if their collective voice can be ignored, it doesn't even approach democracy.

The short of it is that an over powerful EU is not actually conducive to regional stability. If anything Brexit is a signal that the EU is not going to get its grand superstate, which might well diffuse tensions both with Russia and internally. The EU does not enjoy the mandate it thinks it does and demoting it to the free trade bloc that we wanted to solves more problems than it creates. An EU superstate with US backing looming down on Russia is not going to engender the kind of behaviour we would like to see from them either. Quite the opposite.

VBD's concerns are also built on a rather large hypothetical that Putin could or would mount any kind of aggression. As VBD notes Putin could not do so without being wiped off the board. In short, it isn't going to happen. Putin is not suicidal - and Brexit does not weaken NATO.

To say that the EU is overwhelmingly a force for good is something of a rose tinted view. It is a steamroller that imposes its values on peoples at a pace faster than nations can evolve, often ignoring the very delicate local balance of power, creating tensions where none previously existed, in some cases with its dogmatic free market ideology wrecking industries that define a country and its culture, paving the way for massive corporate exploitation - and you don't have to be a raving lefty to say so.

Norway has protectionism for a reason. Without agricultural protection it simply wouldn't have an agricultural sector which as much as it is vital for food security it is also integral to defence, tourism and recreation. While capitalism is a force of nature, humanity tames forces of nature and decides where to let it run free to our own advantage, and where to build walls against the tide. The EU rips up those walls and says "let there be capitalism" no matter whether it rips at the fabric of our culture and heritage. I would certainly prefer to see Arbroath as the thriving fishing port it once was than the dilapidated Tesco town it is now, where the only thing that really thrives is welfare dependency. Sovereignty and real democracy of nations is what protects our diversity and vitality.

Finally, VBD asserts that Brexit would trigger another Scottish referendum. Something of a moot point since the SNP are pushing for one anyway. In the worst case scenario, that they do leave, it won't make much material difference to the status quo. Full fiscal independent puts the SNP's spending plans in the bin straight away, and when their defence is tied to ours, it is unlikely the British Army would break up - and there is no way Scotland would dump the royal connection. Nor is it likely Scotland would rejoin the EU or abandon the pound. It's just not feasible. If Britain leaving the EU is economically inconsequential, then Scotland leaving the UK is even more inconsequential. And if Scotland really thinks there is the remotest chance of Trident leaving Faslane, they are dreaming.

All Scottish independence means in reality is a bit more devolution - and if we didn't want that we should never have given Scotland a parliament to begin with. That said, after three years of SNP MPs making turds of themselves in Westminster, I expect a Yes campaign would lose a second referendum quite badly. Named Person is not making them any friends and more and more voters are seeing their true colours. I'm not complacent, but I'm a lot more relaxed about it than VBD.

Brexit just isn't the end of the world, it doesn't end international co-operation, it doesn't invite World War Three, nor does especially weaken the EU in practice. In fact it leaves it free to get on with whatever it needs to do to fix the Eurozone without us drawing red lines all over the shop. More than that, as an independent country, we can still teach the EU a thing or two and continue to lead it on the global stage. Britain is just impossible to ignore.

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Ukip: ignorant timewasters

It's probably not the best kept secret in the world but I run the EU Referendum Twitter account. I'm not as disciplined as I should be because the inanity of Ukippers pushes all my buttons at once. Today a Kippermong asserted that Flexcit was a rip-off of the Ukip manifesto. Nevermind that Flexcit was published months in advance of the very late Ukip manifesto and profoundly disagrees with most of what it says, but that's your average Ukipper for you.

We've had some complaints about the Bastard Blog because it's crude and not very nice to Ukippers. Frankly, it isn't aimed at Ukippers and it is MY blog and I will run it any way I damn well please. But Kippers have accused me of their own crime. Hostility. They complain that I block them and delete their comments. It's true, I do. I've had the same conversation a hundred times over and the Kipper rehtoric is just variation on the same theme. It's tedious as well as depressing, it adds no value and there is zero chance of reasoning with a Ukipper.

They then have the audacity to claim it is I who is damaging the No campaign. But hereabove (pictured) is a genuinely touching tweet left by a left winger I've been speaking with. I've had a lot of constructive and informative discussions with people on the opposite side of the debate, something Ukippers simply can't do since they break into calling people quislings and fifth columnists.

We persuade through means of dialogue and we open minds with a new information. Something Kippers want to insulate themselves from - and brand anyone who disagrees as "enemy".

The notion that their toxic venting, without co-ordination or message discipline somehow benefits the campaign is something they cannot be talked out of no matter how diplomatically one approaches it. So all I have left for Ukip is hostility for being the ignorant timewasters they are.

As it happens, my hostility to Ukip is precisely what gives me an open line to the left, and that is something Ukip cannot cultivate. So there is indeed a strategy at work. It's just beyond the comprehension of Kippers. For trying to explain that the No campaign must up its game and start making friends, this is the kind of response I get from them...

Bizarrely, these people then assume they have the right to come to this blog and spew their venom. Has it occurred to them that what you get out is precisely what you put in? Probably not.

Sold down the river

A new group of 50 Conservative MPs and MEPs has been set up, including Owen Paterson and John Redwood, calling themselves Conservatives for Britain (CfB). They have decided they will formally support David Cameron's efforts to negotiate better terms for Britain's EU membership but, if the Prime Minister fails to achieve "truly radical changes", they say they will join the "no" campaign. 

So the referendum message from the Tories will be "possibly, maybe, we're not sure yet, we'll let you know just before the vote" and from Ukip we'll get "this is the chance we've been waiting for to slam the doors shut on the Aids infected black people and finally remove equality laws for good". When asked how they will manage Brexit without causing a major recession, their answer shall be "I'll be alright I'm sure. Nigel said so".

Not much of a message is it? The referendum is looking more and more like Ukip vs everybody else. That can't win, and doesn't deserve to. Though this does remind us of the cardinal rule of politics. Never under any circumstances should you trust a Tory nor underestimate their stupidity. I just hope the left wing eurosceptics have got some guns to bring into the fight otherwise the job is totally fucked.

The Tory excuse is that their demands will be impossible to meet thus are setting Cameron up for failure. But they underestimate just how much of a weasel the PM is. He's the one who came home from Brussels and declared he'd used the veto when there was no treaty on the table. This will leave them with only a short time, at the very last minute, to declare their loyalties, and if the group goes with Cameron then the group, as far as the outers are concerned, is defunct as a campaigning vessel.

By this time, Ukip will own the No campaign, making it politically impossible for Tory eurosceptics to be aligned with them due to their toxicity. Farage seems to think he's the second coming and can turn his 4 million votes into the 23 million we need to win. Only a narcissistic fantastist could believe that possible. To Ukip, he's the lord and saviour. To everyone else, he's, well, a complete bell-end. That's why the BBC will have him on the telly every single day.

It's entirely possible that this Tory venture will fall apart quite soon when these idiots realise they just gave themselves a gagging order, but it will show them up for what they are. Party political lackeys who will always do as they're told. I had higher hopes of some in their number but today proves that Tories are every bit as thick as Ukip.

Friday, 5 June 2015

His name was Peter Troy

Sadly, Peter Troy didn't make it. This is a huge blow. He was a man who got things done. He worked hard for what he believed in. He went to great expense to help our side win the argument. His accomplishments will outlive him for a long time.

My fondest memory of Peter Troy was when he called to say we had air side access to Sunderland airshow. What that actually entailed was sitting in the pilots lounge getting gradually sloshed while the pilots went off and did their thing. We missed most of the airshow and instead nattered to Bomber Command veterans all day. He was recording most of it. I hope the tapes survive.

I wish everyone could have someone as loyal as Peter Troy in their family. He was a furiously defiant man. He lived on his own terms and I strongly suspect died on his own terms too. We are diminished without him.

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Busting the Norway myth

The repeated europhile meme shall be that Norway has no influence outside the EU. This is a lie. The dishonesty of this received argument preys on the ignorance of the public in where EU law comes from.

The vast majority of EU law is not EU in origin. The EU institutions themselves employ fewer than the BBC collectively thus cold not possibly author the masses of regulation churned out all the time. They come from international bodies such as WP.29, WTO, UNECE, Codex, NAFO and a dozen other bodies you have probably never heard of - on which the EU effectively takes out seat and negotiates on our behalf.

While Ukip and others say we don't have a seat at the WTO and other such institutions, we do. However, trade is an exclusive competence of the EU so we're forced to adopt the common EU position derived from its advanced observer status. What this means is we have no independent power of veto.

Norway on the other hand is a member of Efta but still has its own independent vote because Efta is not a supranational organisation. Thus Norway gets a veto on single market rules and regulation before they even get down to the EU level. Such regulations do not get as far as the European Parliament without a global agreement. So when it comes to things like automotive industry regulations, Norway has more say than we do, and it doesn't even have a car industry. Many of the employment regulations, so called "workers rights" come from bodies as diverse as the ILO and WHO. Norway has a strong influence there too.

Without our veto at the top tables, we only get to influence the minutia at the EU level, horsetrading as to how and when we implement that which has already been decided. That much cannot be changed once it has got as far as the EU commission let alone the parliament. Even if all our MEPs voted together, which they rarely do, we couldn't prevent a law we did not want. Norway can.

We will still end up abiding by Single Market rules when we leave the EU, as will the US because the standards are global, but at least we will finally get a say in how they are made and which ones we adopt.

Europhiles essentially parrot the classic europhile propaganda, that conflates the EU with the single market. The EU is not the single market. It is made up of many concentric circles with no single authority. Many believe the EU makes the rules. It doesn't.

But even at the EU level Norway is on several committees and co-operative bodies and does steer regulations, with a few exceptions which are nether here nor there considering the improved influence they have at the top table.

The likes of British Influence actually know all this full well, but it's their dirty little secret that they keep from you because they know that well meaning people will continue to repeat their mantras verbatim. Public ignorance is their most potent weapon.