Thursday, March 31, 2011


Readers of this blog will not be surprised to learn the information in this article though they might be surprised that it appeared in yesterday's Independent, a newspaper that is not known for its criticism of Britain's membership of the European Union.
The UK's payments to the European Union almost doubled in 2010, according to the latest data issued yesterday by the Office for National Statistics – soaring to £230 for every household in the country.

The ONS said yesterday that the net transfer of funds from Britain to EU institutions rose from £5.3bn in 2009 to £9.2bn in 2010, a jump of almost £4bn, or 74 per cent – enough to avoid the recent rise in national insurance or the new 50p rate of tax. The UK's contributions to the EU are at their highest level ever, and one of the very few areas of public spending set to increase in coming years despite the cutbacks being made across Britain.
Nice to have those official figures, though we know that HMG will not have a cost/benefit analysis of the country's membership of the EU because, as so many Ministers have pointed out over the years, the benefits are too obvious to need enumeration. Or words to that effect.

One of those benefits is supposed to be trade though why we should lose that if we were outside the EU is a mystery nobody has been able to solve. On the other hand, if we were outside it we might decide not to trade with the rest of that shower anyway.
The ONS also revealed that the UK's trade deficit with the EU ballooned from £14.3bn to £46.6bn last year.

The UK Exchequer is further exposed to rescuing distressed members of the eurozone via a small European Commission fund and Britain's contributions to the IMF, which is also helping fund eurozone bailouts. In all, this could amount to around £10bn in rescue loans.
Well, goodness me, those benefits are all too obvious, are they not?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Who could have predicted it?

Just about everybody, that's who. Well, just about everybody apart from politicians and people who keep spouting stupid slogans because they believe that money grows on trees. Tax those rich bastards. Why shouldn't rich corporations pay their "fair" share? Fair share of what, one asks oneself.

Anyway, as City AM reported today,
THE CHANCELLOR was forced to defend his surprise tax raid on oil firms yesterday after energy giant Statoil announced that it was suspending a $10bn (£6.2bn) investment in the North Sea in response to the hike.
Well, we couldn't consult them all, whined Georgie-Porgie. Of course, they don't like being taxed. What do you mean they can take their money somewhere else? That was not in the script.

The real problem lies in this paragraph:
The government hopes to raise more than £10bn over the course of the current Parliament, to fund an immediate 1p per litre fuel duty cut and a fuel stabiliser to cushion motorists from rising oil prices.
There is no thought behind any of these cuts. The assumption is that we can cut a bit here and a bit there but, basically, the state retains all its powers and portfolio of activity. Therefore, if we cut taxes in one place, the government will not have enough money and taxes will have to be raised somewhere else. How about asking whether the government actually needs all that money in order to do (very badly) many things that it ought not to be doing? Then we can start working out what it is the government does need to be doing.

Here we go again (and again and again)

Despite the many problems around the Geert Wilders trial for upsetting people "inciting hatred and discrimination against Muslims", it will be going ahead again. And, no doubt, again, should it fail this time.

This is what real oppression looks like

I hear a great deal from various parts of the political spectrum that this country has become a tyranny, an authoritarian state, even a totalitarian one. While I do not like (and am on record as not liking) many of the developments in this country and would like to change (and am on record as wanting to change) many political developments, I consider comments like that to be an insult to people who live under real tyrannies.

Try this one.
China's crackdown on domestic dissenters continues, with a 10-year prison sentence issued on Friday to Liu Xianbin, a founder of the China Democratic Party and a signer of Charter 08, a pro-democracy charter. Mr. Liu was sentenced for subverting state power, which in China can mean anything the authorities want it to mean, even advocating for democratic freedoms.
This pattern of political behaviour started in February, round about the time things started shifting in the Arab world.
Mr. Liu's latest jailing is part of a crackdown that started in February, when a U.S.-based website posted a call for peaceful democratic protests in China. Beijing proceeded to round up scores of activists, human rights lawyers and others. Some have been confined to house arrest; others, like blogger Ran Yunfei, have been criminally detained.

The most worrying cases are those who have simply "disappeared" into the maw of China's extralegal shadow jails. Human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng, who has been tortured before, hasn't been seen since April 2010. Teng Biao, Jiang Tianyong and Tang Jitian haven't been heard from since February.

The government is also squeezing the media, both domestic and foreign. The South China Morning Post reports that an outspoken columnist for Southern Weekly, a relatively liberal publication by Chinese standards, was recently pressured into a two-year "sabbatical." Internet censorship remains heavy. Foreign journalists in China's biggest cities have had their movements restricted and some have been physically assaulted by security agents.
Of course, things are not as bad as they were under Mao. Is that enough?

Oh and for those who tell me that what matters is China becoming a great economic power - many of those arrested and disappearing ones have been trying to tell the reality of that economic development. One cannot know the truth about the economy in countries where there is no freedom of speech. The two hang together.

Thirty years ago

The assassination attempt on President Reagan, March 30, 1981 on ABC News. It is worth watching till 4:10 when Frank Reynolds is handed the note with the news. It's also worth watching on to the point when Al Haig announces that he is now in charge. That faux pas was not forgotten or forgiven.

I have always maintained that by surviving the assassination attempt, Ronald Reagan broke Tecumseh's curse. After all, he did not die in office and neither did George W. Bush who was elected in 2000.

The best account and analysis of that momentous event is in John O'Sullivan's The President, the Pope and the Prime Minister about Reagan, Thatcher and John Paul II, all three of whom survived assassination attempts.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Nick Cohen talks sense

An excellent article about the Left not confronting its extremists from Nick Cohen, himself a man of the left, in the Spectator.
The TUC and Labour Party condemned the violence. But they had not warned in advance that yobs would not be welcome on the march because neither is ready for a full confrontation with the fanatics. On the march itself the TUC allowed the SWP to hand out banners and “brand” the demonstration as its own as it called in apparent seriousness for “a general strike now”.

The folly of ignoring or indulging the far left becomes apparent as soon as you realise that the similarities between the SWP and the BNP are more important than the differences. Both are hysterical totalitarian organisations that love vicious rhetoric and promote anti-Semites. The left wing press and the BBC will never acknowledge the overlap between fascism and communism, because they fear accusations of “betrayal,” and have a mental block that prevents them accepting that evil resides on the left as well as the right of British politics.

As a point of contrast, imagine how they would react if the BNP hijacked a Countryside Alliance march. The Today programme would have had a nervous breakdown on live radio.

As for the anarchists, let us be honest and acknowledge political violence is not always futile. If there isn’t violence, the media will give only perfunctory coverage to a demonstration, something that ought to worry my colleagues more than it does. Today’s proponents of breaking the law and scaring shop girls can also say that riots and a mass refusal to pay destroyed the poll tax in Mrs Thatcher's day. I am sure readers can throw the moral argument against political violence in a democracy in their faces, but for me the decisive point is that by the time of the protests against the poll tax exploded virtually everyone in Britain except Mrs Thatcher had accepted the case against it.
I do have some caveats.

In the first place the BNP is not a party of the right but, I suppose, the media and many political activists see it as such.

In the second place, as I have been pointing out ad nauseam the groups that were smashing up private property to protest against the smallest cuts in government were not anarchists.

Thirdly, though this is a gift to the Conservatives, I don't suppose they will manage to take advantage of it the way Thatcher did in the seventies and eighties. I suspect the Cameroonies will once again snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

But I am glad that Nick Cohen, who was on the march, confirms my impressions about the marchers and the police, though I was watching from outside.

A slight error

The Daily Mail, understandably, is celebrating Lord Tebbit's 80th birthday by recounting his various achievements and laying some emphasis on the fact that, but for the IRA's Brighton bomb he might well have become the Prime Minister after Thatcher.

However, one cannot help feeling that the Daily Wail has been misreading history:
Had history taken a different turn, this would still be a proper country. If the IRA hadn’t blown up the Grand Hotel in Brighton, crippling Tebbit’s wife Margaret, he would have succeeded the Iron Lady and Britain today would be a proud, independent nation, not a two-bob Ruritanian province of Brussels
Really? Given the Conservative Party's history in that field, I think not. But, perhaps, he would have realized the wrongness of his party's behaviour before retirement.

Happy birthday, Lord Tebbit, anyway.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Some decisions will have to be taken

We are to have a ring of steel for the royal wedding in a month's time. Goody-goody. Then again, what else can one expect when a few hundred spoilt brats, calling themselves anarchists can destroy quite so much property, terrorize people who are going about their business, in fact, running businesses that bring in the money badly needed by this country? In the meantime, the Met is going through its usual agonizing self-analysis. Did they know this was going to happen and when did they know it? Why did they not warn the likes of Fortnum and Mason about the impending occupation? And so on, and so on. The only cheerful aspect of it all is that there is a good deal of agonizing among those who were on that march and those who organized it. Should they support the idiotic and self-indulgent UK Uncut and other suchlike juvenile manifestations or should they actually stick to the point they were trying to make, which is that any cut in the public sector, however miniscule will reduce this country to the lowest depths of Dickensian hell? There is no possibility of them actually understanding basic economic facts, I fear. Meanwhile, Chris Blackhurst of the Evening Standard has written a couple of excellent articles. In one he doubts that "Britain is open for business" if business is going to be treated the way it was on Saturday.

The message from business after these latest riots is clear and unequivocal: the authorities must get a grip. That comes not just from those directly affected by the violence - though the voice of one of them shook with anger when I spoke to him yesterday - but from all commerce.

There is already sentiment enough that somehow in this country we're anti-business. Standing back and letting this happen reinforces the case. Whatever the argument about tax avoidance - and it is worth remembering that avoidance is entirely legal, evasion is not - the proper forum for the debate is not in Oxford Street or Piccadilly, with thugs and their sticks and cans of spray paint in attendance.

There is a feeling in the business community that the Government's response was not as condemnatory as it could have been. And bosses are not so much concerned by the loss of earnings or damage to their property - they can cope with that; what most bothers them is the trauma suffered by their staff.

Let's face it, the louts who are so upset about tax avoidance and the possible effect that might have on the "wretched of the eart" are not going to be bothered by the trauma suffered by hard-working staff. Mr Blackhurst also has a go at Miliband minor and his ridiculous pretence that people demonstrating, however peacefully and legitimately, for their salaries and pensions are, to be compared in any way with those who had fought for civil rights and against apartheid. (Or for some kind of basic freedom in Egypt or China.)

That would have been fine, Ed. Except Saturday was not caused by a revolt against discrimination but the result of squandering of the public finances by your Labour predecessors.

Not only is it not in the same league, but the very thing of which you were complaining was brought about by your party and - as a former minister in the Labour Government - your colleagues. You acknowledged as much when you said "some cuts" were necessary to balance the books.

Because he is not in power, Miliband does not have to spell out those measures. He can leave it to others to take tough decisions, hoping that every move they make bolsters his standing in the polls.

He said: "David Cameron, you wanted to create the Big Society - this is the Big Society."

Not true, Ed. Of the private sector that actually creates the wealth in this country, there was neither sight nor sound.

Of course, up the road from Hyde Park, businesses were being trashed - and not just the ones that arrange their tax affairs perfectly legally to minimise payments. Anything marked "profit-making" was fair game for the braying mob. "Class War" they sprayed on windows and doorways, while less than a mile away, Ed Miliband (son of an academic, Oxford University and virtually his entire career at the coalface of the Westminster political village) was rousing the faithful.

Apart from the academic parentage the same can be said about the Conservative and Lib-Dim leadership. No wonder business is feeling beleaguered.

Anarchists? Anarchists?

We are hearing a lot (well, a certain amount) about "anarchist groups" breaking away from the main march (which was peaceful and well organized, as I have blogged) and creating havoc in Piccadilly, Regent Street, Oxford Street and, I believe, Trafalgar Square. Blame is being flung about: it was the EDL, it was the fault of the police who dared to arrest those who were creating trouble and so on. I am told that on one Labour forum it was pointed out that most of the faces of the rioters were white but that was not reflected in the reporting or the headlines. As it happens, most of the faces of the demonstrators were white but I cannot see why that should be an issue.

The truth is that the organizers of the event exercised reasonable control over most of it but could not do so over the various fringe groups. Possibly they could do never have done so though some of their slogans of demand may well have acted in an inflammatory manner. Nevertheless, organizers of rallies and demonstrations do have a duty of care and control. It is no good blaming other people. Those in charge have to take responsibility.

All that is by the way. What I object to is the definition of those groups as anarchists. An "anarchist", according to the OED is one who advocates anarchy, which is absence of government and disorder. Some anarchists, for instance, followers of Kropotkin rather than Bakunin, are and were against violence, maintaining that the disorder that would arise from absence of government would create its own, much better order. Bakunin thought violence was essential.

There are various branches of anarchism. Anarcho-syndicalism concentrates on the labour movement, believing in co-operative ownership and production; anarcho-capitalism believes in the supremacy of individual ownership and the free market.

One can discuss these matters at length and, indeed, some people do. What they all have in common is their disdain and dislike for the state. Indeed, they all share a desire to do away with the state.

The rioters in London on Saturday shared the general view of the demonstrators of "no cuts", big state, high taxation, disdain for private enterprise and free economic activity of any kind. They were not, by any definition, anarchists. It is time to think of another name for them. How about "socialists"?

Saturday, March 26, 2011

In a way it was middle England

I see that Brendan Barber, the TUC's completely unknown GenSec (where are the GenSecs of yesteryear whose names were on all our lips?) has called the 400,000 to 500,000 who turned out today for the big demonstration against the cuts Middle England. (The World Service says more than 250,000. Clearly, hedging their bets.) In a sense it was, as a great part of Middle England now lives off the state and is not happy at the thought of it being cut back.

What I saw of the great rally in Trafalgar Square and the demonstration that moved off towards Piccadilly did, up to a point, remind me of the great Countryside march. It was well organized with a great many stewards supplementing the police, good humoured with people who had brought their children and the police, at that stage, quite relaxed. There was also the small counter-demo to whom I chatted and whose picture I took (see above).

Even at that stage there were differences. There were far more police out and they were lined up in close ranks. At the Countryside march they stood around with big smiles on their faces and were ready to chat. Nor were several of the National Gallery entrances closed for fear of violence.

Later on, I watched the police off Regent Street putting on their riot gear and realized that the peaceful atmosphere may well have been dissipated. Later still, I went past some seriously vandalized bank machines in Charing Cross Road. It is unlikely that the vandals managed to get any money out - that not being such an easy process. What they succeeded in doing is making life extremely difficult for people out in Central London for Saturday night. Oddly enough, there are very few bank machines around Charing Cross Road, Covent Garden and Chinatown.

In other words, despite the TUC and other union control, several hundred demonstrators, who came in order to cause trouble, did just that, smashing shops, banks and occupying Fortnum and Mason in Piccadilly, a store that is owned by Whittington Investments Limited that is, in turn, owned largely by the Garfield Weston Foundation, one of the largest charitable foundations in the world or, in other words, an organization that actively helps people through various targeted charitable donations. But that is not what UK Uncut is interested in. All has to go through taxes because otherwise there will be no employment for that section of Middle Britain that turned out in central London today.

The organizers of a demonstration are responsible for its conduct. It is true that the groups that came to cause trouble could not be controlled but I still think that those who suffered should send their bills to the TUC, Unison and the other unions. Let them collect the money from UK Uncut and whoever else there is in those groups, docking the welfare payment at source, if necessary.

Oh yes, there was another difference between this demo and the Countryside march. There were many slogans in both but the overwhelming message of the Countryside march was simple: Liberty and Livelihood. The word liberty did not feature on any of the posters today.

Friday, March 25, 2011

A complete muddle

Charles Krauthammer is one of the most intelligent American commentators. This piece on the Libyan imbroglio details the mess from the American point of view. It all looked so good on paper, you see
And as for the United States, who knows what American policy is. Administration officials insist we are not trying to bring down Gaddafi, even as the president insists that he must go. Although on Tuesday Obama did add “unless he changes his approach.” Approach, mind you.

In any case, for Obama, military objectives take a back seat to diplomatic appearances. The president is obsessed with pretending that we are not running the operation — a dismaying expression of Obama’s view that his country is so tainted by its various sins that it lacks the moral legitimacy to . . . what? Save Third World people from massacre?

Obama seems equally obsessed with handing off the lead role. Hand off to whom? NATO? Quarreling amid Turkish resistance (see above), NATO still can’t agree on taking over command of the airstrike campaign, which is what has kept the Libyan rebels alive.

This confusion is purely the result of Obama’s decision to get America into the war and then immediately relinquish American command. Never modest about himself, Obama is supremely modest about his country. America should be merely “one of the partners among many,” he said Monday. No primus inter pares for him. Even the Clinton administration spoke of America as the indispensable nation. And it remains so. Yet at a time when the world is hungry for America to lead — no one has anything near our capabilities, experience and resources — America is led by a man determined that it should not.

A man who dithers over parchment. Who starts a war from which he wants out right away. Good God. If you go to take Vienna, take Vienna. If you’re not prepared to do so, better then to stay home and do nothing.
And what of our own Boy-King and the embarrassments we have for Foreign Secretary and Defence Secretary?

How sad!

Apparently, the common defence policy is once again mourned by diplomats. It has a habit of going AWOL whenever there is a real crisis abroad. The reason is simple: defence can exist on the basis of foreign policy. Unlike our own government the colleagues have always understood this and have laboured mightily to create a common foreign and security policy, first written into the Maastricht Treaty. Alas, there are no common interests and the usual Monnet method of creating institutions that will, eventually, ensure the content does not seem to work. Real events interfere. Not that our peculiar rush to support a French initiative over Libya can be said to be in our interest or, if it is, it is being kept very quiet.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Toys, I hear you ask

Readers of this blog and of my previous postings on EURef will know that I am profoundly uninterested in toys, whether they be with wings, guns or wheels. That is the Boss's province. However, I was intrigued by two postings written by the same man Hugh Bicheno (full disclosure: he is, indeed, a good acquaintance) on the subject of the RAF, the "Save the RAF at any Cost Review (SRCR) overseen by the Boy Wonder and his hapless Defence Secretary Lame Fox" and the Libyan adventure we have so unwisely blundered into. Part 1 here and part 2 here.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Another one

Con Coughlin is unimpressed by the Libyan adventure. In particular, he points out, the Americans do not want this war but are doing the lion's share of the operations; they want to hand control over to the Europeans who are suddenly not available.
But unlike recent coalition campaigns in Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan, Libya is different. This time, Mr Obama and his generals can't wait for the opportunity to hand over responsibility for the mission to someone else. As one senior US officer told me yesterday: "The Europeans wanted the no-fly zone; so the Europeans can command the no-fly zone."

The only problem with this neat solution is that, as is so often the case when dealing with a major security issue, "the Europeans" just can't agree on how the command structure should be run.

For a start, not all European leaders supported the establishment of a no-fly zone in the first place. Military intervention was very much the brainchild of David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy, rather than a dreaded EU initiative. The ineffectual Baroness Ashton, the EU's foreign affairs guru, displayed her diplomatic naivety when she sided with the Germans in opposing a no-fly zone.

Tensions have even surfaced between London and Paris after the French, with characteristic bravado, launched the first air attacks against Gaddafi's forces on Saturday afternoon without bothering to inform their Nato allies. But then the French have always had a problem with taking orders from American generals, whatever Mr Sarkozy says about overcoming France's historic ambivalence for Nato's command structures.
Right, so the French will now take over and run the whole campaign, preferably with their own and Italy's servicemen and women. After all, they are the two countries that will be most affected if chaos in Libya carries on. Sadly, that looks like another Tale of Porcine Aviation.

Second Reading

As promised, here is the link to the House of Lords Second Reading of the European Union Bill. The debate was very long, interrupted by a Royal Assent with large troops of what Lord Willoughby de Broke (who gave an excellent speech) called the EU pensionariat participating.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

They may be bored by the questions but we are getting very bored by the replies

One is constantly hearing complaints from civil servants about the number of questions and letters they have to reply to that politicians send them. Apart from the obvious point that it is part of their job to reply to those missives and enquiries, one cannot help thinking that if only they would reply, they would save quite a number of follow-up and repeat questions.

Here we have Lord Stoddart of Swindon asking a Written Question or two. First off:
To ask Her Majesty's Government what proportion of United Kingdom business regulation derives from European Union legislation; what steps they plan to take to reduce future European Union business legislation; and whether they plan to try to repeal any European Union business legislation.
The civil servants via Lord Howell replied:
The proportion of planned regulation stemming from the EU between April 2010 and March 2011 accounted for approximately one third of the total volume of regulation. The proportion varies each year.

My right honourable friend the Prime Minister recently announced three new major policy goals to reduce the regulatory burden originating in Brussels. These are to bring in a one-in, one-out rule for new EU regulations; set a new and tougher target to actually reduce the total regulatory burden over the life of the Commission; and give small businesses-engines of job creation-an exemption from big new regulations.
What on earth does that mean? Planned regulation? What about unplanned regulation? What proportion of that comes from the EU? Then again, is this regulation that is directly applicable or requires UK legislation?

Then there are those major policy goals. The Boy-King intends to have a one-in, one-out rule for EU regulations. Of course. And he is going to ensure that this somehow, no-one knows how, becomes part of the system of EU legislation. Of course, the Boy-King has absolutely no idea how that system functions and, therefore, can say such silly things.

The same applies for that new and tougher target. As a minimum, does he envisage controlling completely new regulations or those that are simply amendments of and additions to others? Does he mean directly applicable regulations or those that have to be legislated on? Commission or Council regulations?

There are several other questions from Lord Stoddart and each gets a silly answer. Apparently foreign policy, despite our assurances to the colleagues, is decided on the basis of our national interest, but, as ever, we do not know what that is. After all, we still don't know what our national interest is in the Libyan imbroglio.

Finally, Lord Stoddart asked:
To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Howell of Guildford on 8 February (WA 46-7, what would be the cost of carrying out a cost-benefit analysis of the United Kingdom's membership of the European Union.
They weren't buying that either:
Since there is no intention to carry out a cost-benefit analysis of EU membership, the cost of such an analysis is not known.
Oh goody. Well, these people had better prepare themselves for some more questions.

House of Lords

The Second Reading of the EU Bill is going on as I blog. For some inscrutable reason I cannot watch it on my computer but others might be able to. Here it is. A more detailed posting tomorrow with the permanent link.

When one's opponents have no arguments

There are two major political discussions going on at the moment (now that we have all accepted that the world is not going to die of a Japanese nuclear "melt-down"): one rather parochial about that wretched EU referendum campaign or two, the other rather wider about our involvement in Libya. Interestingly, I am not getting good arguments on either of those issues from any of my opponents who become mildly personally abusive very quickly. Only mildly, though. I suspect it is because they (the various opponents) are not too sure about their stance. How different from the beginning of the Iraqi war when the war in Afghanistan was still the "good war" - the abuse then was virulent though the arguments just as lame. Basically, people were against the war in Iraq because they hated the idea of an American-led coalition while Bush was president. Everything in those circumstances was evil as far as they were concerned and even Saddam Hussein acquired the patina of a martyr. That alone convinced me that there were no good arguments against that war though there were many good arguments against the way the occupation of Iraq, particularly by the British, was conducted.

Let's get the referendum out of the way because that is a thoroughly boring subject and is unlikely to bother us for much longer. We are still at a stage when journalists suddenly announce that the campaign for a referendum is the best thing since sliced bread, that nothing like this has ever been thought of and that all those who are unhappy with aspects of the EU and Britain's membership of it are going to support it. After all, what kind of a eurosceptic would not support an in/out referendum on Britain in the EU? (To be fair, Kavanagh's article is not about the referendum campaign and is mentioned only in passing.)

The answer is, of course, any eurosceptic who refuses to go along with the latest slogan, does not think that the support of such luminaries as Caroline Lucas, Keith Vaz and Bob Crowe is an inducement and does not believe that the in/out referendum will be won by us as we are wasting time, money and resources on stupid campaigns. None of these problems are dealt with, mild personal insults are strewn around and the best argument we get is public opinion is bound to move our way. Brilliant strategy. Marlborough, Frederick the Great, Napoleon, Wellington and numerous World War II generals would be envious.

As to Libya, my opinion that this is not in Britain's interests but is, on the contrary, a poorly thought out emotional response, manipulated by President Sarkozy and Secretary of State Clinton for their own political purposes, is hardening. It is hardening because the supporters of this intervention can produce no arguments except Boys' Own slogans and mild, very mild, personal abuse. There are ridiculous references to the thirties from people who have no clear understanding what was happening then, let alone of the fact that the parallels are not altogether real. I have even been accused of "blimpism" though, I suspect, that was a joke. Or near it.

The reason for the accusation was my refusal to acknowledge that Libya presented a particular security risk to Britain or, even, the EU. I noted that the country that was most at risk, Italy, was merely cheering from the sidelines. If the French, I added, want to indulge in political adventurism, let them do so. What has it to do with Britain or the United States. Answer? Blimpism. I suggested another viewing of the great Powell and Pressburger film.

It is interesting to note that support for this war by any other name is patchy to put it mildly on both sides of the Pond and many of the problems stem from the ill-defined aims. The New York Times is mostly against it though, obviously as this is not Bush's war, they are ambivalent.
Pentagon officials are eager to extract the United States from a third armed conflict in a Muslim country as quickly as possible. But confusion broke out on Monday among the allies in Europe over who exactly would carry the military operation forward once the United States stepped back, and from where.

In Washington, lawmakers from both parties argued that Mr. Obama had exceeded his constitutional authority by authorizing the military’s participation without Congressional approval. The president said in a letter to Congress that he had the power to authorize the strikes, which would be limited in duration and scope, and that preventing a humanitarian disaster in Libya was in the national interest.
The countries that abstained on that UN vote are now openly speaking up against the military operation, which was bound to go beyond whatever anybody thought were the limits. That would not matter if we did not have a President in the United States and a Prime Minister in Britain who believe in the efficacy of transnational rule.

The Arab League's support, much touted before the operation started is, unsurprisingly, doubtful.

None of this is surprising any more than the fact that "Europe" does not speak with one voice is surprising. How could it? On the other hand, if the Americans are looking to hand over the operation to some other participants as soon as possible, the difficulties could become enormous.

However, there are somewhat more surprising opponents of this operation and they are not simply against it because it is led by President Obama or, possibly, Secretary of State Clinton who appears to be gambling her political future on Libya.

George Friedman on Stratfor thinks that this coalition's intentions are unclear and there are too many political complications in Libya and the whole area for a rather simplistic venture to be successful.

Victor Davis Hanson argues from an impeccably conservative (he has even been called a neo-conservative by those obsessed with that group and completely ignorant of it) point of view.
What are we left with? A mission that is part Black Hawk Down, part the twelve-year no-fly zone in Iraq, part working with insurgents as in the 2002 removal of the Taliban, and part Bill Clinton’s various air campaigns over the Balkans. So far, no one has agreed on any objective other than that Qaddafi should not be killing his opponents.

Is he to be gone? If so, how soon and replaced by whom or what? The Libyan military? Westernized intellectuals and professionals? “Secular” Muslim Brotherhood types? Former jihadists whose experience was killing Americans in Iraq? Or is American success defined by rendering Qaddafi impotent and a rebel enclave safe, in the same way that for over a decade the Kurds carved out sanctuary from a closely monitored Saddam?
Most unexpectedly, Caroline Glick (together with other writers on Jewish World Review) is critical. In fact, her argument is similar to this blog's only about the United States, not Britain.
Traditionally, states have crafted their foreign policy to expand their wealth and bolster their national security. In this context, US foreign policy in the Middle East has traditionally been directed towards advancing three goals: Guaranteeing the free flow of inexpensive petroleum products from the Middle East to global market; strengthening regimes and governments that are in a position to advance this core US goal at the expense of US enemies; and fighting against regional forces like the pan-Arabists and the jihadists that advance a political program inherently hostile to US power.

Other competing interests have periodically interfered with US Middle East policy. And these have to greater or lesser degrees impaired the US's ability to formulate and implement rational policies in the region.

These competing interests have included the desire to placate somewhat friendly Arab regimes that are stressed by or dominated by anti-US forces; a desire to foster good relations with Europe; and a desire to win the support of the US media.
Under the Obama administration, these competing interests have not merely influenced US policy in the Middle East. They have dominated it. Core American interests have been thrown to the wayside.
In other words, how are American interests advanced by this adventure? How are Western interests advanced? Has anyone thought about it beyond those, admittedly terrible, pictures on TV?

Mutatis mutandis we must ask the same questions here. I am ready to change my mind if I hear reasonable arguments on the other side.

Diplomad2.0 weighs in.

Monday, March 21, 2011


This is irresistible, even if it is an advertisement for milk I would probably never buy. I recognize several of the participants. The black female who is filing her claws is probably played by my cat Mahalia. The Boss had it on his blog earlier.

This is not something I write about usually

In fact, matters to do with nuclear or any other power are the Boss's province. As it happens I did not believe the hysteria around the possible complete destruction of Japan by nuclear melt-down (or something like that) because the stories were not backed by anything except the inexplicable neurosis the word nuclear brings out in people.

This is, however, a good piece and rather witty. Insert joke about Teddy Kennedy's car and dead people in the back of it wherever you wish.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Something is missing

Don't get me wrong: I shall not be shedding any tears about Gaddafi when and if he is finally forced into a retirement home for overthrown dictators and kleptocrats, possibly on the Riviera. The man is as nasty a piece of works as ever dressed up in ludicrous costumes while organizing terrorist attacks and stealing vast amounts of money from his people. Undoubtedly, the war he has unleashed on his own people is horrendous. So yes, let's get rid of him. Except that there are many others who are the same and do the same: Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Syria, Yemen, Zimbabwe, to name but a few. So which ones are we going to discipline and on what basis?

What is missing from this whole issue is the concept we must not mention: national interest. Our national interest. Is it in this country's interest to go into Libya, suppose we might have to go in, which we all hope will not happen? What do we get out of it that we would not get out of enforcing a no-fly zone over Yemen? And if, as I was and am firmly convinced, it is in our interest to support our greatest ally, the United States (and would be in our interest to support other Anglospheric countries), is it really in our interest to support France who has, clearly reverted to her nineteenth century persona?

Possibly the answer to those questions would be yes and some explanation as to why Libya and French interests are of importance. But we need to discuss them as we ought to have discussed the national interest behind the invasion of Iraq instead of that ridiculous performance over the dossiers. Until we have some clarity about what our foreign policy is or ought to be and what Britain's role in the world is or ought to be no discussion of defence and security can take place.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Common Foreign Policy goes AWOL again

So, we have France in the lead with Britain and the United States following. Of course, there is the curious problem of why it took President Obama so long to decide to do anything and the secondary question of who is in charge on the other side of the Pond. Roger Simon deals with those points on Pajamas Media.

A more interesting question for us is where, oh where is the Common Foreign Policy a.k.a. European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP). Where is the wondrous Baroness Ashton? Why is Europe not speaking with one voice but leaving the problem in that shocking traditional way to individual countries to deal with?

Well you may ask. It seems that the act was not got together again. This time, the fault lies with Germany (France having some traditional interests in North Africa). Germany was one of the abstentions in the UN Security Council and was, indeed, at fault in dragging out the whole process at the UN. Here is an explanation as to why this might have happened with heavy emphasis on internal party politics.

Der Spiegel thinks this could damage Germany's international reputation. And we thought the day of those national problems and competitions has gone.

A question of definitions

As the EU Bill is about to be debated in the House of Lords, it is worth remembering that a great deal of its main part - the referendum lock - depends on definitions. In that connection it is worth noting this exchange in the House of Commons on Wednesday when the adoption of draft European Council Decision EUCO 33/10 was debated.

In case you are wondering what that is about:
At the meeting of the European Council of 28 and 29 October 2010, the Heads of State or Government agreed on the need for Member States to establish a permanent crisis mechanism to safeguard the financial stability of the euro area as a whole and invited the President of the European Council to undertake consultations with the members of the European Council on a limited treaty change required to that effect.
It has to go through the member states' legislatures and it was, therefore, debated in the House of Commons though the vote has been postponed.

At the start of the debate Philip Hollobone, MP for Kettering asked:
Will my right hon. Friend confirm that this is the first time that the passerelle mechanism-in other words, a fast-track treaty amendment without an intergovernmental conference-is being used? Is this the first time that such a passerelle clause has been brought before the House?
This is an important point even though it sounds like a ridiculous little detail for a number of reasons. One of them is that the EU Bill ensures that there will be referendums when changes are made under a passerelle or "fast-track" clause. So, it is of some importance to know whether this interesting little legal trick is being invoked. But do we know the answer to that?

David Lidington, the Minister for Europe, seems to wave the problem away in a somewhat airy fashion:
We can debate whether or not it is a passerelle. It is certainly the first time that the provisions under the Lisbon treaty for a simplified revision procedure, rather than the full-scale procedure to which my hon. Friend alluded, has been employed.
Bernard Jenkin, MP for Harwich and North Essex, tried to clarify the issue that ought to have been under discussion:
Can we be absolutely clear what we are doing here? It used to take months, even years, to change a European treaty. Tonight, we are going to debate this motion for 90 minutes and then the Government will go to the European Council and agree to that change in the treaty. That is correct, is it not, because the next time this comes back for scrutiny it will be a fait accompli?
Mr Lidington continued to wave the problem away:
No, I do not share my hon. Friend's analysis of the procedures that lie ahead of us, and I think he underestimates the further opportunities there will be for the House to consider this proposed treaty amendment. I will come on to that in a little more detail later.
Well now, is this an important change in the Treaties or not? Once the EU Bill has been passed would some change of this sort require a referendum or not? Mr Lidington is not going to tell us but we do need to know.

If you are really desperate

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The European Union Bill

The preposterous EU Bill (another example of displacement activity) has now gone to the Lords. Second Reading is on Tuesday, March 22. By tradition the House does not divide at Second Reading when general issues are discussed. Still, the speeches ought to be interesting and valuable for our own future arguments. And how we shall miss Lord Monson.

After International Women's Day

This year marks the hundredth anniversary of International Women's Day and it is, therefore, pertinent to ask why stories of young girls being sold into marriage "in our own backyard" as Phyllis Chesler says, should be of so little interest to the media and the various feminist organizations.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

And they're off

In one corner we have the EU Referendum Campaign, supported by various MPs and other personalities, particularly Jon Gaunt and promoted in the Express Newspapers; this one has been going for five months or so and is asking us to sign a pledge to .... well, to demand from our MPs that they should support an in/out referendum on the EU.

In the other corner we have The People's Pledge, a cross-party campaign, supported by various MPs and other personalities and promoted mostly by the Mail (and here), though mentioned in other newspapers such as the Express. Conservative Home has also got in on the act. This one is asking us all to sign a pledge that we vote only for politicians who agree to give us an in/out referendum on the EU.

This could become a battle between the Mail and the Express or it could turn into something that both newspapers will lose interest in. Who knows. I am inclined to add, who cares. As the Boss argued in his inimitable fashion on EUReferendum, one can feel nothing but annoyance at the sight of yet another ill-thought-out campaign taking up time, money and energy. Meanwhile, the Boy-King has assured us that there will be no in/out referendum because he seems to think that the result will be an out vote. As I wrote before, that is not a foregone conclusion, no matter what the highly inaccurate opinion polls say.

First of all, why two campaigns instead of one? Well, some say this and some say that but I fear that personal differences and people's inability to work with each other are at the bottom of this ridiculous split. It is all too tedious to go into and, in any case, that is not the problem. Not the real problem.

The real problem is that we have wasted a great deal of time on various campaigns that get us nowhere instead of doing what we ought to be: changing opinion both at the political and the popular level. Ah yes, but we have done that, I hear people cry. Well, up to a point, Lord Copper.
Certainly, we have moved a long way from those days of the Maastricht debates when I became involved with the eurosceptic movement and realized why it kept losing. It is now possible and acceptable to talk of Britain pulling out of the EU and, even, of a European future beyond the EU. Partly that is our achievement, partly the EU's, which has also lost its way. But there is still no clear understanding of how the EU works, why it is a bad idea, what effects it has on Britain and its political life, how we can go about getting out and what should be done afterwards. If there is an in/out referendum the other side will use this vagueness to its advantage. Remember, the other side has not even started campaigning because it sees no need for it. So opinion polls are of little significance.

The Boss discusses one opinion poll in a posting today and there is little to add to what he says. Let us approach the problem from another angle: an opinion poll that says most people think we should have a referendum on our membership of the EU is a reflection of what people think about our politicians and their inability to keep their collective word under any circumstances. We had a similar comment almost a year ago when the Cameroonies failed to win an election against the least popular government in living memory.

People who agree that we should have a referendum will not necessarily tick the "out" box or even turn up at the polling booth. The fact that we consistently get a high percentage saying that yes, the EU is a bad idea and this is not what we voted for means little.

In 1975 the No side started with a large majority; by the time the referendum day came around a third of the electorate decided that they could not be bothered to vote and two thirds of the remaining two thirds voted "yes" to staying in the Common Market.

Ah but "we" were told that it was merely a Common Market; this is not what we voted for; blah, blah, blah. "We" were also told by a number of people who quoted the Treaty of Rome, which was available from HMSO, that the aim of the exercise is considerably more than a market, common or otherwise. It's just that "we" preferred not to listen or were scared by many of those who gave "us" the other side of the argument.

That happened when the No side had mostly well-honed arguments though their idea of organization was as daft as that of the present crop of eurosceptics. One of the causes of the defeat was the presence of the union bosses on that side. Look, said the Yes campaign, look who is arguing against the Common Market: the people who are reducing this country to complete shambles. Even those who were not especially in favour of the concept sighed and asked sorrowfully: what choice do we have, rule by Brussels or rule by Moscow. So whom do we see among the slightly moth-eaten supporters of the latest campaign? Why, none other than Bob Crow, the most hated man in the country, certainly in and around London, which accounts for a good many people.

Some 12 or 13 years ago (how time does fly, to be sure, when one is enjoying oneself) the Boss and I, together with other people looked at the situation in the country, its political class and the eurosceptic movement, which was very similar to the one now, and decided to try to do something about it. Our idea was to set up a think-tank along the lines of the IEA that would produce research and publications at various levels to discuss the various subjects that need to be discussed in order to fight the monster that is the European Union but also other bodies, such as our own state.

We laboured long and mightily but failed for reasons that are obvious: the money went elsewhere. In particular it went, as it continues to go, on various campaigns that are little more than make-work, as the Boss says. We have lost those 12 or 13 years; we have not used them to spread information or inform rational debate.

It is nothing short of tragic that the discussions today have not moved one iota beyond those we were having (or the media was having) ten, fifteen, twenty years ago. Those of us who have spent years on the common fisheries policy, for instance, unravelling its structure and development, understanding and describing its activity, building up alternative policies can only beat their heads against the wall when they see that once again, for the umpteenth time we are treated to shock-horror outbursts about discards. That's where we were 15 years ago; that's when I drafted questions and wrote briefing papers for members of the House of Lords and others on the subject. (Let us not forget the famous Conservative policy on fisheries that the Boy-King discarded the moment he became leader of the party.)

I could list many other issues where the same ignorance remains and the same feeling of just treading water pertains. For that is what the eurosceptic movement has been doing all these years: whipping up emotions and treading water as far as useful rational debate is concerned. We have wasted the years we ought to have used sensibly. We have not changed the political climate or even the terms of the debate. Why do we want a referendum? To lose it?

So we are back to that old question: what is to be done. As the Boss said to me, he has a blog and I have a blog and that is what we do. That means a return to the fray, much as I would like to abandon it. It also means having to up the game and to spread the message wider and more efficiently. So, over to my readers for ideas. And, please, do not suggest that this blog should support the EU referendum campaign(s). If you think that, you have not been paying attention.

We must make up for lost time.

Next time ...

... I go off-line I shall post a warning. But it is time to get back into the fray, much as I dislike the idea.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

I disagree

It's worse than you think. I disagree with the Boss over on EURef. David Cameron defending William Hague means only one thing to me: the man is a gonner. That's it. His position is "unassailable". Well, don't say we didn't warn you about Hague. Heh!

HMG on that car insurance decision

Not sure what to make of the sudden explosion of International Women's Day events and celebrations in Britain. (I do hope, by the way, that none of this blog's readers will feel the need to make the obvious and uninteresting comment about there not being an International Men's Day.) Naturally, given the background, I grew up with knowledge of the festival and it is still taken very seriously where there is also a Men's Day, officially known as Defender of the Fatherland Day. Until recently, however, people in Britain (unless they had links of some kind with Russia or formerly the Soviet Union and its various satellites) looked blankly at me when I mentioned it.

As ever, the House of Lords led the way, as I noted last year: on March 8 all Starred Questions were about women's issues and there was a general celebratory air about the place.

Roughly speaking, the same thing happened this year as well though Credit Unions crept in, somehow, and there was less of an effort to make sure that women peers spoke. Then again, most of them do not need any special promotion. Of course, I do not speak of Baroness Warsi, who is an embarrassment to us all, men and women.

The question of the ECJ decision about car insurance for women came up under the heading of Insurance: Gender Discrimination. The problem here is not that if insurance companies "discriminated" it was because of certain business decisions based on what they thought was adequate evidence. (So, please, do not write to tell me about terrible women drivers you know. It is of very little concern to me and, in any case, that is not the point.)

Baroness Verma's explanation as to what happened summed up, once again, HMG's helplessness in matters of some importance as this decision will have all sorts of ramifications in the pension and insurance business:
My Lords, the UK Government, along with a number of other member states, the European Council and the Commission made oral and written representations to the European Court of Justice during legal proceedings. The representations argued that, rather than preventing true equality, the article in question ensured that different cases could be treated differently, thereby ensuring true equality. However, the court has ruled that the practice of using gender as a factor in the calculation of premiums and benefits must cease, with effect from 21 December 2012.
Subsequent questions and comments tried to elicit some assurance from the noble Lady that HMG will actually try to do something beyond "assisting" the insurance industry with its "can-do" attitude to the problem. Well, it is hardly their problem.

Oh and in case anyone thought of getting round the problem somehow, the Baroness could assure everyone "that any insurance sold in the EU, whether or not it is from outside the EU, will be applicable under these rules". Then again, where there is a will to competition, there is a way of getting round silly decisions which this country is bound to obey as long as it stays in the EU.

Monday, March 7, 2011


Once again there is talk that multiculturalism has failed. The Boy-King of the Conservative Party who is now, for reasons I still find hard to understand, the Prime Minister of this country, has said so and lots of people became quite excited. In fact, people became almost as excited as they did in 2006 when Communities Secretary Ruth Kelly (there's glory for you, as Humpty Dumpty would say) launched a Commission to enquire into the problem of how and why it failed.

Many people knew it had failed back in 1984, long before the question of Islamist terrorism had reared its ugly head, when Ray Honeyford a Bradford headmaster dared to question the ideology in an article in The Salisbury Review (full disclosure: I am a regular contributor to the quarterly and have been for many years) and paid for his temerity with his career.

Nothing very much seems to be done about the matter, partly because our politicians do not seem to be all that concerned with educational problems, possibly because they know in their heart of hearts that the only solution is their removal from the field, and partly because there is no theoretical understanding as to what is actually wrong with it.

So, we possibly need a discussion on the subject that will take us beyond multi-culti is wrong because it produces terrorists, the apparent extent of political thinking.

My friend Jerome di Costanzo, journalist and conservative commentator whose interview with Nigel Farage was published on this blog, phrased his characteristically thoughtful objection like this:
Multiculturalism gets its legitimacy, not from Reason or "in the name of Freedom" but from arbitrary laws and media terror. So it could be morally right to fight it.
To which my reply was:
It is the exact opposite of freedom or reason or enlightenment as it denies individual rights and duties, preferring group rights (no duties). Morally it is not only right but essential to fight it.
Perhaps, readers of this blog can go beyond those two comments.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Been hearing this a lot lately

The most unexpected people, such as Oxford academics are beginning to mutter that, perhaps, there is something to be said for George W. Bush in matters foreign, particularly as one looks at his successor's ineptitude. Indeed, people are saying that maybe, just maybe, it is President Bush's freedom for the Middle East agenda that is being played out now, however awkwardly, through much of the Arab world.

Charles Krauthammer's article in The Washington Post may not come into the category of the unexpected ones but is, as one would expect, cogently argued.
Voices around the world, from Europe to America to Libya, are calling for U.S. intervention to help bring down Moammar Gaddafi. Yet for bringing down Saddam Hussein, the United States has been denounced variously for aggression, deception, arrogance and imperialism.

A strange moral inversion, considering that Hussein's evil was an order of magnitude beyond Gaddafi's. Gaddafi is a capricious killer; Hussein was systematic. Gaddafi was too unstable and crazy to begin to match the Baathist apparatus: a comprehensive national system of terror, torture and mass murder, gassing entire villages to create what author Kanan Makiya called a "Republic of Fear."


No matter the hypocritical double standard. Now that revolutions are sweeping the Middle East and everyone is a convert to George W. Bush's freedom agenda, it's not just Iraq that has slid into the memory hole. Also forgotten is the once proudly proclaimed "realism" of Years One and Two of President Obama's foreign policy - the "smart power" antidote to Bush's alleged misty-eyed idealism.

It began on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's first Asia trip, when she publicly played down human rights concerns in China. The administration also cut aid for democracy promotion in Egypt by 50 percent. And cut civil society funds - money for precisely the organizations we now need to help Egyptian democracy - by 70 percent.

This new realism reached its apogee with Obama's reticence and tardiness in saying anything in support of the 2009 Green Revolution in Iran. On the contrary, Obama made clear that nuclear negotiations with the discredited and murderous regime (talks that a child could see would go nowhere) took precedence over the democratic revolutionaries in the street - to the point where demonstrators in Tehran chanted, "Obama, Obama, you are either with us or with them."
Read the whole thing as it also provides the necessary links to the other articles.

I would, however, like to add one thing. Under President Obama the United States appears to have abandoned its role and there have been rather silly comments about power seeping away from it to .... well, nobody quite knows where. Europe is no longer the preferred successor, China and India have rather a lot of internal problems and the rest is nowhere. Yet, even with this inept politician at the helm (when he bothers to show up) there is no question in anybody's mind which is the only country that could, conceivably, make a difference in a tricky situation like the one in Libya.

Sir Humphrey at work

As it happens there is a good deal to be said about the House of Lords European Union Committee's 5th Report of the 2010-2011 session, published in January and entitled The EU strategy for growth and the UK National Reform Programme. Most of it will not be liked by the few people who will bother to pay attention.

However, just now I should like to leave you with a quotation from the oral evidence given by Lord Sassoon, Commercial Secretary to the Treasury, a man who appears reasonably regularly in this blog.

In response to an admittedly fairly silly question from Lord Dear about who was and who was not consulted in the drafting of the UK National Reform Programme a.k.a. NRP (hands up those who knew we had one of those), Lord Sassoon said or, one assumes, read out what his talented civil servants concocted for him:
What I've described is essentially a top-down process, yes, that has gone bottom-up, as I've described so far, across official levels at Departments very widely. Now we have to make sure that nothing has fallen between the cracks in the stakeholder engagement process, but I think this issue of top-level Government buy-in to it is very important. I see it as a feature of the way that the new Government goes about its business. The approach of Cabinet Committees, with Ministers taking them very seriously, officials being energised by the fact that Committees will come back, rather than the Committee process being in any sense a formality, is something that in a lot of processes, not just relevant to the NRP, is galvanising much better across Government co-ordination in a very productive way. I think this applies to the NRP, as to lots of other things.
Quite so, Minister.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Time to stop laughing

Though it is rather difficult to do so. I don't know which is funnier, watching the Lib-Dims rubbing their collective behind where they were kicked soundly yet again, while insisting that somehow they have enough popular support to be in government or watching the Tories burying their collective heads in the sand yet again. Of course, they were not going to win in Barnsley. But to come third behind UKIP is not quite what the Boy-King had promised them. Given that it is UKIP that came second, it is reasonable to say that the voting was not just about student loans or possible cuts in the bloated NHS.

Nevertheless, it is time to stop laughing. The results are bad for the Cleggerons but not that good for the rest of us. First of all, as ever, over 60 per cent stayed away from the polling booths, saying, in effect, a plague upon all your houses. By all, they meant all, even the small parties. I find it hard to understand that people prefer not to cast their votes at all to casting them for a non-main stream party but that is the situation and it is not a happy one. If we ever have that in/out referendum (not under this government but it might happen one day) how many people will decide that they can't be bothered to cast their vote?

Secondly, UKIP did well but not quite well enough. It got 2,953 votes and as an American friend and supporter said to me, the gap between that and Labour's 14,724 is just too depressing. Not unexpected for Barnsley, I replied, without adding that a three-legged stool with a red rosette would win there.

However, coming a distant second in a by-election and even being, possibly, the biggest party in Brussels in 2014 as Ed West says in today's Telegraph is not enough to make a real difference either to the political structure of this country or to introduce a real debate about freedom, democracy and sovereignty. We have a long way to go and campaigns for a referendum that we might or might not win is not the right way. Neither is a change to the AV system.


All I can find about the full results of the Barnsley by-election is Martin Wainwright's twitter on the Guardian site and it says: "It's Lab, UKIP, Con, BNP, Ind, Lib Dem, and Eng Dem in that order". Is Ind the Monster Raving Loony Party?

BBC tells us that Labour has a majority of 11,821, a majority of over 60 per cent on a turn-out of around 36 per cent. UKIP definitely second.

Update from Martin Wainwright:
Lab 14,724, UKIP 2,953, Con 1,999, BNP 1,453, Independent (Tony Defoy local man) 1266, Lib Dem 1012, Eng Dem 544, Loonies 198, Ind 60
Not a good night for the Lib-Dims or the Tories. Heh!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Even I'm speechless

But not for long. Still, momentarily, this piece by Nile Gardiner silenced me.

It would appear that the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (err, what?) is giving millions of euros, which they do not find on trees, to American anti-death penalty campaigns. Oh goody. Not only they are using our money for purposes hardly intended, they are also interfering with the domestic politics of another country. Indeed, they are interfering with individual State politics within the United States. This is, of course, the sophisticated soft diplomacy of the EU that is so different from American interference in other people's affairs. Oh, I suppose that was only true under President Bush.

Apparently, this organization's key objectives are:
Enhancing respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in countries and regions where they are most at risk;

Strengthening the role of civil society in promoting human rights and democratic reform, in supporting the peaceful conciliation of group interests and in consolidating political participation and representation;

Supporting actions in areas covered by EU Guidelines: dialogue on Human rights, human rights defenders, the death penalty, torture, children and armed conflicts and violence against women;

Supporting and strengthening the international and regional framework for the protection of human rights, justice, the rule of law and the promotion of democracy;

building confidence in and enhancing the reliability and transparency of democratic electoral processes, in particular through monitoring electoral processes.
The United States being a particularly bad example of all these bad things, in the EIDHR's estimation.

Nile Gardiner gives some details:
Here is a list of US recipients of EU EIDHR aid in 2009, which amounted to €2,624,395 ($3,643,951). The recipients of EU aid include the rather wealthy American Bar Association, whose annual budget approached $150 million in 2008.

American Bar Association Fund for Justice and Education: EU grant: €708,162 ($983, 277)
Project: The Death Penalty Assessments Project: Toward a Nationwide Moratorium on Executions

Death Penalty Information Center: EU grant: €193,443 ($268,585)
Project: Changing the Course of the Death Penalty Debate. A proposal for public opinion research, message development, and communications of capital punishment in the US.

The National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty: EU grant: €305,974 ($424,829)
Project: National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty Intensive Assistance Program

Reprieve LBG: EU grant: €526,816 ($731,591) (some of these funds also went to “European countries”) Project: Engaging Europe in the fight for US abolition

Murder Victim’s Families for Human Rights Non-Profit Corporation: EU grant: €495,000 ($686,608) (some of these funds also went to other countries, including Japan and Taiwan). Project: Voices of Victims Against the Death Penalty

Witness to Innocence Protection: EU grant: €395,000 ($548,538)
Project: American DREAM Campaign
Time to ask a few questions on both sides of the Pond, methinks. (Oh and the issue here is not the death penalty as such. I am not expressing any views on that.)

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Just shows what propaganda can achieve

It is now an accepted geopolitical theory that the West, particularly the United States, wages war on Muslims. How that squares with the opprobrium flung at the West, particularly the United States, for intervening after the European countries failed miserably in the war of Yugoslav disintegration, is anybody's guess. However, it would appear that some Kosovan Albanians know as little history as the western media does. How else can one explain the fact that the murder of two American soldiers in Frankfurt and the wounding of two others, was carried out by a Kosovan Albanian?

Fair trade or free trade

As Fair Trade fortnight kicks off and we are subjected to yet more emotional blackmail advertising on the subject, Philip Booth sounds a useful warning in the Daily Telegraph. He does not dismiss Fair Trade completely but points out the many problems with it and the very limited effect it has on poverty, adding that only free trade will help producers in developing countries. Hear, hear.

Incidentally, when those "fair" prices are set, who decides whether they are fair?