Sunday, July 31, 2011

Demonstration outside the Russian Consulate in London

It is the 31st of the month and Strategy 31 will be holding its usual demonstration outside the Russian Consulate on Bayswater Road in London, nearest tube stations being Notting Hill Gate and Queensway. There are many buses as well. All the information is here.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Is this likely to work?

Do we even know what the purpose of it is? Never mind, it sounds good. I am talking about Big Society Capital, formerly known as Big Society Bank but renamed on the insistence of the Financial Services Authority, who has now acquired a Board. What do you mean it is not a bank? It may not have any money but it has a Chairman and a Board and good intentions. What more do you need?

The money will be supplied by the government from what they are pleased to call "dormant accounts" and four very reluctant high street banks: HSBC, Barclays Capital, Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds Bank Group. They are insisting that money should be loaned on commercial terms (i.e. not handed out to anyone who comes up with what looks like a bright idea of social investment). On top of that, there is the problem that the Commission might call using "dormant accounts" state funding and that particular problem has not been cleared yet. Also, people might turn up and claim said accounts.
The combination of the lack of state aid clearance and the banks’ conditions on their support means that Big Society Capital as yet has no money in the bank, Nick O’Donohoe, its chief executive, said.

But it has approved in principle its first investment of £1m through the Big Lottery Fund, which is holding proceeds from the dormant assets until clearances are received from the European Commission and Financial Services Authority.

The investment will go to the Private Equity Foundation to develop social impact bonds to get disadvantaged young people into work.
Disadvantaged, in this case, means those who have committed criminal offences.

Social Enterprise gives a warmer welcome to this idea and lists all the Board members but mentions the same problems with the European Commission and the FSA.
Although neither state aid approval from the European Commission or regulatory approval from the FSA has been finalised – both of which are needed before Big Society Capital can get its hands on the money – Minister for the Cabinet Office Francis Maude, who hosted this week’s announcement at 70 Whitehall, said he was confident that both were proceeding without the prospect of a problem.

Sir Ronald Cohen, the renowned venture capital and social investment pioneer, has agreed to serve as the unpaid, interim chair of Big Society Capital Limited until it is fully operational and its board has conducted a search for a more permanent chair.
Of course, it is possible that a better education system, more training and a less tax and regulation encumbered economy would be a better idea in the long term. But would that provide quite so many jobs and positions for people who are already in the system?

What are we to make of this?

RIANovosti (RIAN) and other outlets report that
Norway’s twin terror suspect Anders Behring Breivik trained at a secret paramilitary field camp in Belarus earlier this year, a Belarusian opposition politician said on Thursday, citing security sources.
The politician is Mikhail Reshetnikov, the head of the opposition Belarusian Party of Patriots and he gave his information to
Reshetnikov also claimed Breivik had participated in “sabotage-terrorism drills” under a former Belarusian special service officer and that he had used a fake passport to enter Belarus.

“His codename in Belarus’s KGB was Viking,” he added. “Rumors say he also had a girlfriend in Belarus.”

“The theory that Belarus’ special forces were involved in training Anders Breivik seems, of course, far-fetched,” political expert Viktor Demidov was quoted by as saying.

“On the other hand, [Belarusian] President Alexander Lukashenko’s friendship with Muammar Gaddafi is no secret - neither is his fondness for Adolf Hitler.”

Norway is taking part in NATO operations in Libya and Gaddafi has threatened attacks against Europe.
If true or even half-true, this puts a slightly different perspective on the shooting and bombing. As Viktor Demidov points out, and as this blogger immediately recalled, Lee Harvey Oswald had also spent time in Minsk. [Here is the article in Russian.]

The news from Spain is not very good

Moody is threatening to downgrade Spain. Apparently, the latest Greek bail-out rescue package has done nothing to stop the eurozone problems. One can't help wondering whether anybody at all is surprised by that.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Zapatero has dissolved Parliament and has called an election for November 20, about six months before it was due. The right-wing People's Party (Partido Popular) who won a resounding victory in May's local elections is hopeful that they will be forming the next Spanish government (though why anyone should wish for that particular poisoned chalice is a mystery). Various politicians in that party maintain that they will manage to pass the necessary reforms to sort out Spain's economy this time round.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Good letters in the Telegraph

It is a pity that the Telegraph, true to its mission statement of supporting the Conservatives whoever they might be, gives first slot among the letters to Bill Cash's ramblings. Not that he is entirely wrong - of course this country needs economic growth and, of course, it is difficult, not to say impossible with all those regulations pouring out of Brussels (and Whitehall, let us not forget). But, but, but ....

We cannot renegotiate a different relationship with the EU as we do not exactly have a relationship with it. Mr Cash knows that but he cannot go against party policy and call for a complete renegotiation of all matters, that is called withdrawal.

It is not the Lib-Dims who are the obstruction but the leadership of Mr Cash's own party but, clearly, he cannot actually say that. I shall pass over his well-known obsession with Germany, rooted in the fact that his father was killed during the Normandy invasion.

The second letter, on the other hand, from Lord Willoughby de Broke [you have to scroll down] makes an excellent point and does so very briefly. It ought to have been top of the list. Just exactly, why did George Trefgarne "forget" to mention the ring-fenced though ever-growing sums we hand over to the EU every year?

And so it goes

The news from Cyprus (well, the southern part of it that is in the EU and, indeed, the euro, is that its government has resigned under a great deal of political pressure as it is expected to ask for a bail-out. To be absolutely fair, the reason for the downgrading by Moody, the threatened bail-out and the promised wide-ranging reshuffle of the government were all caused by a massive explosion.
Christofias's centre-left administration has faced unprecedented public fury from the blast, caused when a cargo of confiscated Iranian munitions exploded next to the island's largest power plant, killing 13 people.

Cypriots have taken to the streets in their thousands to demand the resignation of Christofias and his government.

On Wednesday, Moody's downgraded Cyprus to three notches above junk status due to the fiscal fallout from the blast, adding to the strain on the economy from its exposure to Greek debt.

Since the blast, markets have trained their sights on the east Mediterranean nation as a possible fourth recipient of a euro zone emergency rescue after Greece, Ireland and Portugal, and political wrangling now risks derailing much-needed economic reforms.

The island's central banker Athanasios Orphanides has warned that without urgent action, Cyprus could be forced into seeking a bailout.

There have been calls for Christofias, a Communist whose term expires in 2013, to step down, but that appears unlikely. As leader of Cyprus's dominant Greek Cypriot community, he leads reunification talks with estranged Turkish Cypriots to clinch a peace deal to end decades of conflict. The absence of such a deal is harming Turkey's bid to join the EU.
In the circumstances, Turkey may not be all that interested in that bid, though, clearly its government goes through the motions.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Bring it on!

Just had a wide-ranging discussion with the Oracle in which we covered issues such as the TPA hiring ToryBoy blogger par excellence and the general closing of ranks among them. No criticism to be allowed, no dissidents to be tolerated and, above all, the Conservative Party must be presented as the only possible outlet for euroscepticism. Could it be, as this blog has suggested before, that the next General Election is closer than we think?

Or could it be that the various Conservative sites, blogs and organizations are worried about the threatened crack-down on all right-wing sites, blogs and organizations in the wake of the Norwegian mass murder? If so, then their actions are useful in that we can now separate the wheat from the chaff. As one of the right-wing bloggers that might come under that attack (low down on the list as it does not have as many followers as some but a known right-wing blogger, nevertheless) I can only say: "Bring it on!". It is good to know that blogging is once again a worth while occupation, especially if you are on the right of the political spectrum. Or, to quote another great line: "Make my day, punk!". Punk? Well, there are many, starting with the Boy-King who is pretending to be this country's Prime Minister.

Guess who the TPA's new Political Director will be?

In the past my comments about the Taxpayers' Alliance (TPA) have been mixed. Sometimes they do good work, sometimes it is a bit shoddy and their habit of not crediting anyone with previous research is annoying. At times I have also referred to them as a front organization for the Conservative Party, a moniker they have vehemently denied. Well, now we know.

The new Political Director of the TPA is to be Jonathan Isaby, formerly of the Daily Telegraph and, more importantly, of ConHome, where his arrival coincided with the site acquiring a far cosier relationship with the Conservative Party and its leadership. Any particular conclusions we can draw from that?

Real politics

Real debates about real issues and real disagreements that result in real political actions. This is what real politics looks like. Whereas our Business Secretary (what kind of a job is that, anyway?), Vince Cable, infamously described fiscal conservatives as "right-wing nutters". Does that mean he wants those blogs and websites that support fiscal conservatism and .... shock, horror .... the American Taxed Enough Already movement banned, controlled and, possibly, closed down for being right-wing nutters. I would not be surprised to find out that he is thinking along those lines. Guess, what this blog would be classified as?

Monday, July 25, 2011

Pontification will follow

Every now and then I decide to take time off the internet and, indeed, my computer, fond of it though I am. I try to have a life though some people might say with very little success. This means that I am possibly the only person who has not pontificated on the events in Norway and Amy Winehouse's death. The former will follow as soon as I have read some of the latest comments on the subject (though that might be counter-productive) and on the latter I can only say that the death of a 27 year old is always a tragedy even when it is the outcome of her own behaviour. This was the destruction of a genuine talent by internal demons and the subsequent destruction of a life. However, I have no doubt that the media will manage to turn it into a circus and thus erase the sadness one feels. And that really is all I have to say on the subject.

The latest news from Norway is that the custody hearing is to be conducted in camera. Personally, I think this is a mistake. Anders Behring Breivik, the accused, wants to tell the world why he did what he did and the world ought to know. The world is not likely to sympathize with him, no matter what he says, and silencing him will not serve any purpose. I foresee many conspiracy theories being hatched and many more calls for strict control of the internet. Let the man speak.

Moving away from those two tragedies towards another one that has its own funny moments,
Moody's cut Greece's credit rating further into junk territory on Monday and said it was almost certain to slap a default tag on its debt as a result of a new EU rescue package.

It was the second rating agency to warn of a default after euro zone leaders and banks agreed last week that the private sector would shoulder part of the burden of a rescue deal that offers Greece more cash and easier loan terms to keep it afloat and avoid further contagion.
In the long term, this saga, as most of us know, will be of far greater importance.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

One man arrested

As readers of this blog have undoubtedly seen one man has been arrested in Norway in connection with both the bomb attack and the shooting spree at the youth camp. An acquaintance who lives in Oslo, is safe but badly shaken, seems to know no more than we do here, which is understandable at this stage.
The suspect is reported by local media to have had links with right-wing extremists. He has been named as Anders Behring Breivik. Police searched his Oslo apartment overnight.

The BBC's Richard Galpin, near the island, says that Norway has had problems with neo-Nazi groups in the past but the assumption was that such groups had been largely eliminated and did not pose a significant threat.

Police say they are investigating whether the attacks were the work of one man or whether he had help.
For what it is worth, I am finding it hard to believe that one man could be responsible for both attacks without any help at all.

Friday, July 22, 2011

From Norway

The Norwegian police think the two attacks are linked. The PM was supposed to attend the youth camp today. Whether that has anything to do with the timing is not clear. The Telegraph has a timeline and the Global Jihad terror group has claimed responsibility.

The BBC says that it has been confirmed that the gunman has been arrested and that he is Norwegian, whatever that might mean in the circumstances.

Norway's Justice Minister says that his information is that the arrested man is Norwegian but he (the Minister) does not know much else about him (the gunman). Reuters also points out that at present it is hard to tell exactly who is responsible for either or both the attacks, with pointers to both Islamists and possible right-wing extremists though there are claims by extremists that this is a "warning" to Norway and other European countries.

Until the next time

More money to Greece, longer time for repayment for Greece, Portugal and Ireland and eurozone stabilized. Phew! We can all go back to discussing ad nauseam what James Murdoch said or did not say and who else might have been hacked. Until the next time, which should come round fairly soon, perhaps before the summer holidays end.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The real Hacker

Here is Prime Minister Jim Hacker explaining something very important to Sir Humphrey.


To be absolutely honest, I cannot invent or find any entertainment that can better the enthralling saga of phone-hacking, newspapers, dead journalists, resigning senior police officers (the only part of the story that is at all important) and so on, and so on. I do hope that John Putnam Thatcher, the banker hero of Emma Lathen's novels gets on the case soon before it becomes too tedious and before we all become too sick at the gloating shown by the BBC, the Guardian and all other "superior" beings who are hoping that the terrible Fox News (which, I was told by somebody today, has no journalistic credentials being on the Republican side) disappears together with the Murdoch papers like the New York Post that has brought journalism into disrepute.

So, let's go for another story and that is the painting over of the Soviet War Memorial in Bulgaria by some unknown art lover who turned all the Red Army soldiers into Superheroes. The pictures are great and the pompous comments are very funny. Enjoy.

Friday, July 15, 2011

The welfare state - in its beginning is its end

The welfare state sounded like an excellent idea when it started - people who fall through the cracks of private enterprise and charity, which is unreliable, do need some help. The Beveridge Plan in Britain envisaged a safety net for those who really could not cope and had no recourse to help. Who could argue with that. Well, we can now, as we see its outcome.

Dan Mitchell, of Cato Institute, explains the dynamic, giving two pictures as explanation. Here are the pictures, but the piece is worth reading.

Thursday, July 14, 2011


According to the Charlemagne column in the Economist "The crisis of the single currency is political as much as financial". Well, I never.

Austria, too

The great fear is on: the eurozones problems, we are told in order to "make our flesh creep" as the Fat Boy used to say in Pickwick Papers, might have the terrible effect of bringing populist, anti-bail-out, perhaps even eurosceptic parties to power. Forgive me for not fainting or reaching for the smelling salts. (Actually, I don't really like the smell of ammonia.) They were warned, they did not listen to the warning, now we all have to pay and if some people turn on them, well, they were warned about that as well.

It is Austria's turn to produce the flesh-creeping scenario. According to Der Spiegel,
Under its leader Heinz-Christian Strache, the right-wing populist Freedom Party has become a force to be reckoned with in Austrian politics. It is currently neck and neck with the country's two largest mainstream parties in the polls. Meanwhile the governing Social Democrats are struggling to reconnect with ordinary voters.
Ah yes, where have we heard that before? Or this?
Many important SPÖ [Socialist Democrat] figures -- including the new government spokesman, the chancellor's foreign policy adviser and the SPÖ leader on the powerful foundation board of the public broadcaster ORF -- are in their mid-20s or early 30s. They are alert, networked and determined to rescue the legacy of the deeply traditional Austrian workers' movement by bringing it into the age of information technology.

After work, the young Austrian leftists head for the hip section at the back of Vienna's famous Naschmarkt market or the Procacci Restaurant near St. Stephan's Cathedral, where diners pay €26.50 ($37) for linguini with crawfish and are relatively safe from Strache's down-to-earth followers.
So the people are not happy? Well, let them eat linguini though they probably prefer Wiener Schnitzel mit Erdäpfelsalad and who can blame them.

The point is that the old Austrian problem - politics, media and other public offices divided up between two parties proportionately is beginning to annoy the people of that country again. This time round they have something else to complain about.
Polls now place Strache's FPÖ consistently neck and neck with the two "old parties," and in May it was even the top choice among voters. Strache is already telling people that if he comes into power, the country will no longer pay a cent for "bankrupt EU countries like Greece" because, for someone like him, "the red, white and red shirt" -- a reference to the colors of the Austrian flag -- "is tighter than the Brussels straitjacket."
Of this article is at all accurate, Herr Strache is not a particularly charismatic and impressive figure and the party has few coherent policies. Of course, the article might not be accurate. But even if it is, that is not the point, which, to be fair, the author makes clear. The FPÖ is not winning so much as the others are losing, caught in the headlights of their out-dated political consensus.

Fair enough

Lord Willoughby de Broke speaking in the House of Lords debate on the House of Commons rejecting their Amendments to the EU Bill.
My Lords, this is again a wrecking amendment, which is how the noble Lord, Lord Blackwell, described the previous amendment. It goes to the very heart of the Bill and would neuter it completely if it produced a sort of son of a sunset clause. People outside this Chamber and outside Parliament will simply not understand what the House of Lords is doing if it votes for it. The Bill is intended to give British people a voice and protect them from further laws and further integration produced by Europe. They will not understand if the House of Lords supports this amendment, which goes against the whole tenor of the Bill.

On the earlier amendment, the noble Lord, Lord Liddle, made some great play about the lack of trust in politicians and Parliament in general. Although he would not interpret his remarks that way, I take them to support the use of referendums, precisely because of the lack of trust in Parliament and government in general in this country. The noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, prayed in aid the people of Slovenia, who apparently trust their Parliament and say that they do not want referendums. But that simply is not the case in this country. The voters in this country do not have the same faith in their Government and Parliament as the people of Slovenia apparently do. If the amendment is carried, it will drag Parliament even further into the contempt that British people already have for it. It is extremely dangerous, and I hope that it will be voted down by this House.
As readers of this blog will know I am not a great fan of an EU referendum and I do not believe that famous referendum lock, as it is phrased, will make the slightest difference. But one cannot argue with the noble lord's comments.

The House of Commons has rejected the Lords' amendments and the Lords have agreed. So that's that.

"We are where we are"

For some reason (and we can probably guess what it is) Baroness Parminter's Starred Question about the Common Fisheries Policy and what HMG might be doing about it was taken on the day the Commission published its proposed reforms.

This allowed Lord Henley to be even more evasive than usual, as he agreed with most questioners who said rather forcefully that the CFP has been a disaster and pointing out that there are these proposals on the table so we shall just go on negotiating for further reforms and sensible policies, which has done us no good in the past.

Lord Saltoun of Abernethy seemed perturbed by the notion that the Commission was going to take fisheries back the management of fisheries, which, he thought, had been handed over to the European Parliament (and what good the Tory Parliament would be in this situation I cannot even imagine). Not so, said Lord Henley:
As I understand it, following this report from the Commission, this will be a matter for the Council of Ministers and for the European Parliament. It will be a matter for co-decision, so it will take some time. As a result, it is very important that we build up the appropriate alliances in Europe and within the European Parliament to make sure that we can negotiate the best deal possible for a proper, radical reform of the common fisheries policy.
That will presumably be just as successful as our previous attempts to negotiate a radical reform of the fisheries policy.

Lord Pearson made the obvious comment, though he did it to the sound of much laughter:
My Lords, given the success of the fisheries policies of Iceland and the Faroe Islands, and given the fact that 70 per cent of the fish in European waters swam in British waters before we joined the Community, why do we not take back our own fish management to the benefit of our industry? Why do we need a common fisheries policy at all?
HMG did not deny what he said. Lord Henley merely asserted that
we are where we are. We have a common fisheries policy and we are committed to renegotiating that along with the Commission, which has accepted that that policy does not work, and we are going to get that right. With the Commission and a vast number of other member states being on side, and with this country being totally and utterly committed to doing so, we can get that right. We will start that process next Tuesday and continue it as long as is necessary.
What is it that enables people to say things like that with a straight face as they survey previous assurances of negotiations for radical reform that failed?

Belgium bans the burqua

The new law is to come into force on July 23. Belgium will be the second EU member state to pass this legislation, the first one being France. As it happens the estimate is that only about 270 people were the niquab or full covering in the country. (Though, their own communities do not consider them as people but as women who do not have the same rights as men and who have to be separated from society.)

Incidentally, Belgium still has no government but seems to be managing as well as ever.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Self-delusion or self-interest

As readers of this blog know I tend to be very sceptical, indeed, of Conservative eurosceptics and of the various front organizations, especially those who deliberately fudge the issue of supporting a referendum with pulling out. I have written about that too many times to link to all the postings but should my readers wish to do so, I can.

The latest brouhaha about half those asked being in favour of withdrawal because of the economic mess on the Continent is a good example of that fudge. As I said to the East European Furniture Polish campaign:
A referendum campaign is not the same as an understanding of how we get out and what that entails or even the need to get out; an opinion poll or even two, are not the same as winning that referendum as a quick perusal of past opinion polls including 1975 would show you; and "doing something" is not the same as doing the right thing.
It is not, of course, in their interest to unravel these contradictions. All the more reason why we should do so.

EUReferendum, as one would expect has done so citing interesting parallels with the situation in 1974-75. Let me just add one rather depressing thing: in 1975 the No campaign was better organized and, above all, had better arguments than an Out campaign would have now. It did not help them.

To those who say that even if we lose a referendum, it is worth trying and we would be no worse off, I can only reply: we would be back in the position people were in 1975 with the European project far more advanced. We would be considerably worse off.

Will the real Mr Henry Smith MP please stand up

It seems that things are not quite what they seem with that non-existent rebellion over upping the British contribution to the IMF bail-out fund. One of the Tory MPs named by Tim Montgomerie on his list is the not very well known Henry Smith, MP for Crawley. Yet, if we go through the list in Hansard, we find that Henry Smith is there among the Ayes as well as among the Noes. Could there be two Henry Smiths in the House of Commons? Well, errm, no. It would appear that Mr Smith decided to go through both lobbies in order to show that he was actually abstaining. In other words he voted Aye before he voted No. ConHome please take note.

Business as usual

While the Tory "eurosceptics" and the various front organizations that are determined to fudge the questions of how exactly we are to come out of the EU and what are we to do afterwards are celebrating the fact that the latest opinion polls show a tiny swing towards those who want to come out without really knowing what that entails, the EU is engaged in business as usual. Here are the documents on the latest CFP reform proposals. I suspect they do not paint as happy a picture as the media has been predicting for days but it will take me a little time to read and digest them.

Here is another smug little blog from the Freedom Association that sums up all those wonderful results, forgetting that the Conservative Party had better opinion polls for quite a long part of the campaign and those of us who said that is not good enough turned out to be right.

All friends together

According to Der Spiegel the war of words between Denmark and Germany over the former's reintroduction of its borders is hotting up. The Danish People's Party has extracted that from the government in order to fight illegal immigration. They are not happy with German accusations that they are playing with the fire of nationalism. It does seem rather an odd thing to say.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Just for fun

A notice on the staircase in London Library

And while we are on the subject of money ...

... just how much does that European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights cost and what is its purpose. Lord Lester of Herne Hill tried to find out:
To ask Her Majesty's Government what are the objectives of the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights that are not delivered elsewhere; and what is its annual budget.
For those who are interested, this is what HMG replied:
The European Agency for Fundamental Rights provides the EU organs, and the EU member states when implementing EU law, with assistance and expertise relating to fundamental rights. Examples of its functions include the production of data comparing the human rights situations in the EU member states, and the preparation of thematic conclusions and opinions at the request of the European Parliament, the Council or the Commission. EU-specific functions such as these are unique to the agency.

The agency received a total contribution from the EU budget of €20 million in 2011. The 2012 EU budget is still being negotiated.
And worth every euro-cent we spend on it. Well, maybe not.

It worked before, didn't it

Lord Stoddart of Swindon (yes, it is he again) asked in a Written Question:
To ask Her Majesty's Government what is their assessment of proposals by the European Union to impose European Union wide taxes; and whether such proposals would require unanimity to be adopted.
Huff and puff, said HMG in the shape of Lord Sassoon:
The Government have made it clear that the UK is opposed to any new European Union (EU) tax to finance the EU budget.

Under Article 311 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, a change to the way in which the EU is funded would have to be unanimously agreed by all member states and ratified by national parliaments. Upholding the member state veto on tax remains a key priority for the Government.
Nothing to fear there, then. After all these rules and treaty Articles are always adhered to by the Member States, are they not?

Incidentally, my own view is that a direct EU tax might be a good idea in that it will make people realize what is going on and how much of its sovereignty this country has lost a long time ago. The worse it is, the better it is for us.

Good to know

Lord Stoddart of Swindon asked a very pertinent question:
What is the extent of unused funds held by the European Union; and why they are not being returned to member states in proportion to their contribution to the European Union budget?
Surely, the answer is that any surplus is handed over to our glorious MEPs to do what they will. But no.
Any surplus from one year's European Union (EU) budget is returned to member states in the following year. This serves to reduce the amount required from a member state to fund the following year's budget, in line with its share of gross national income-based contributions.

The surplus from the 2010 EU budget amounts to €4.539 billion (£3.907 billion) and will reduce the UK contribution to the 2011 EU budget by €639 million (£550 million).
Of course, that is chicken feed in relation to our deficit but it would be good to know what happens to the money.

Another rebellion (not!)

Last night the House of Commons voted on whether to increase our "subscription" to the IMF or, in other words, whether the UK should hand over even more money for bailing out purposes. As readers will recall, not participating fully in the bail-out was one of the victories the Boy-King has boasted about and a reason for publications such as the Spectator to push his eurosceptic credentials.

The Government won the vote by 274 votes to 246 because the Labour Party voted against the increase. According to ConHome 32 Conservative MPs voted with the Opposition on this crucial matter. Tim Montgomerie lists them. Mostly one can say it's the same old names and, while I applaud their steadfastness, I do wonder about those dissatisfied MPs who have either voted with the government (Ms Priti Patel) or were unavoidably detained somewhere else (George Eustice).

I am shocked, I tell you, shocked

Apparently Greece is set to default on massive debt burden. Now who could have predicted that? And while we are on the subject of predictions, I have run out of ways of saying politely: WE TOLD YOU SO. Can't help remembering the story about the great Sovietologist, writer and poet Robert Conquest. When his seminal book The Great Terror was about to have its second and much expanded and, above all, updated edition, the publishers asked him whether they should change the title and if so to what. Conquest said "what about I told you so, you f***ing fools"?

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Whittaker Chambers 1901 - 1961

Whittaker Chambers, the man who brought down Alger Hiss and explained so much about Communist infiltration of the United States and who also played a great part in the formation of conservative thought in that country died fifty years ago today. This essay about him and the world since his death is by his grandson, David Chambers.

Couldn't have put it better myself

Having not blogged about the tiresome tirade by Polish PM Donald Trusk at the start of the Polish Presidency of the EU (July 1) and his attacks on those political leaders who are paying into the kitty that Poland benefits from (well, some of Poland, not the business section, given how many of them are still here as they cannot find employment back home), I can do no better than link to Charles Crawford's excellent analysis. Mr Crawford knows Poland well, having been our man there from 2003 to 2007 and having taken the trouble to learn about the country, its history and its people.

What's sauce for the goose ...

Reuters reports that WikiLeaks, the hero of all freedom loving people those who think publishing State Department information is the acme of courage, has lost its "Icelanding financial lifeline".
On Thursday, WikiLeaks payments provider DataCell said it could start processing donations to Assange's group again, circumventing a months-long ban by Visa and MasterCard.

An Icelandic bank called Valitor had agreed to accept payments processed by DataCell, but DataCell did not tell Valitor that those payments would include donations to WikiLeaks, the bank told Reuters on Friday.

"Valitor was not informed that DataCell would be conducting these activities when their business agreement was made," spokeswoman Jonina Ingvadottir told Reuters in an emailed statement on Friday.

She cited Visa and MasterCard's prohibition on the "service such as DataCell is offering WikiLeaks."

The world's two largest credit card processing networks were among several companies to cut off services to WikiLeaks late last year after the whistleblower organisation made public a massive trove of secret U.S. diplomatic cables.
Well, if you can use financial power to fight the News of the World, you can use it to fight WikiLeaks. No?

To some extent he is right

Professor Herfried Münkler gives his view on how to salvage the situation. What situation? Why Europe, of course. To be honest, the good professor is playing verbal games. He must be aware of the fact that Europe has existed for a very long time before the creation of what eventually led to the European Union and it is just possible that some of us would prefer to salvage that Europe.

Not so the good professor, who is writing in Der Spiegel:
Europe's political elites are a pathetic sight at the moment, from their contradictory reactions to the rebellions in the Arab world to their timid handling of the euro crisis. Either they persist in doing nothing or they flee from one falsehood to the next, all in the expectation that this will enable them to gain control over the markets. Now that the European elites have had to produce proof of their long-held claim that Europe is a capable player on the global political and economic stage, they have done nothing but flounder. And because they refuse to believe that this is the case, they celebrate every stumbling move as the salvation of Europe and the euro. The poor image Europe is currently projecting is largely the result of the impotence of its elites .

In light of this failure of the elites, it is hardly surprising that we are hearing renewed calls for the democratization of Europe. Suddenly, the people are expected to fix what the elites have botched. Since they are already being asked to pay for the problems caused by the elites, many believe that the people should have more say in how and by whom Europe is controlled.

As reasonable as this might sound, by no means does it make as much sense as it seems at first glance. Even after the democratization of Europe, the elites in Brussels and Strasbourg will still be in charge. The only option available to the European people, to the extent that they can be referred to as such, would be to react to obvious failure by voting their leaders out of office -- and to vote an opposing elite to take their place. Whether this would fundamentally change anything is open to question.

Brussels, also the capital of Belgium, is particularly well suited to show that democracy does not automatically lead to the installation of capable elites. Since last summer's elections, Belgium's political parties have been unable to form a functioning new government. Belgium's democracy suffers from ethnic quotas and political parceling. It has long been incapable of reaching the most basic decisions. And, now, not even compromises are feasible.
I certainly agree with his description of Europe's political elite: it is a pathetic sight but their failure to solve the problem may have something to do with it being insoluble; their failure to project Europe's power may have something to do with there being no power to project; and their failure to come to an agreement may have something to do with the fact that there is no common ground. Giving them more power in the circumstances may sound like a good idea but, among other problems, it would go directly against the thought and spirit of the real Europe.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

A new blog?

Let me make it quite clear: whatever Dinah may say on her blog about her home conditions is news to me and, anyway, I was out to lunch whenever it, whatever it might be, happened.

What I said then

Here is my posting on EUReferendum on July 7, 2005.

Mind you, I was wrong to say that the bombs were carefully co-ordinated to cause maximum mayhem. As it turned out, they were planted where they were because the perpetrators came into London at King's Cross and spread out from there without ever understanding fully where they were with regards to other parts of the city. But that is a detail.

That campaign continues

The Express, home of at least one, maybe more In/Out referendum campaigns, has an article about the Boy-King moving "to switch EU power back to Westminster". Much to be said for it, but how is he going to do it. It sounds a bit like he is going to thcweam and thcweam until he is thick. It may have worked for Violet-Elizabeth Bott because she was a determined young lady but I can't quite envisage the Boy-King following in her footsteps.

The Express is quoting yet another interview with the Spectator, which is in the front-line of the campaign to prove that the Conservatives are the real eurosceptics as this blog has said, repeatedly.
DAVID Cameron last night promised to negotiate a new relationship between Britain and the European Union that will bring back power to Westminster from Brussels.

In a shift in Government policy, the Prime Minister predicted that fresh opportunities for loosening the UK’s ties to the EU were certain to arise as a result of the eurozone crisis.
Well, to start with, we do not have a relationship with the EU, we are part of it. What sort of relationship does Devon or Sussex have with the United Kingdom?

Secondly, changing the structure of the EU requires, which is the only way those powers can be brought back to Westminster, requires a change in the Treaties and the agreement of all the other member states. Will the Boy-King achieve that?

Thirdly, his great boast of "getting Britain out of the bailing out mechanism" amounts to very little.
He said: “I got us out of the bailout mechanism, which has been used repeatedly and from 2013 cannot be used again, so I think I exacted a good and fair price for Britain.”
Jam tomorrow, and today we pay. Also,one can't help wondering whether this is yet another cast-iron guarantee. The great shift in the British position, according to James Forsyth who conducted the interview is an acceptance that the eurozone may not be such a wonderful idea after all and a stable eurozone, not being something that will be achieved any time soon, does not need to be part of British calculations. That's it. Oh and bringing power back to Westminster.

Are they really planning for an earlier election than most of us think?

While we are on the subject of fudging of issues, I note with interest that the People's Pledge (which always makes me think of East European furniture polish) is quoting widely Bob Crow on the horrors of job losses because of the Bombardier fiasco. (No, I am not linking.) Having managed to fudge the question of a referendum with the question of EU withdrawal (not the same thing at all but that is the line People's Pledge and the EU Referendum Campaign are peddling) they are now busy destroying support for both by quoting the man who must be more hated in this country than anyone else. Of course, theoretically, he is merely supporting a referendum but, thanks to the fudge exercised by the two campaigns, it will seem that Bob Crow is supporting the withdrawal. We know how well that played in 1975 and can guess how well it will play now.

July 7, 2005

Show time

It has occurred to me that we have not had any entertainment on this blog for a while. So here is one of my favourite clips from one of my favourite musicals: Peter Lorre, Jules Munshin and Joseph Buloff singing of being sent to Siberia as they have not managed to fulfil their task and have succumbed to the fleshpots of capitalism.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The CFP has not gone away

There was a stealth edit on the previous posting - I was writing about the Common Foreign Policy. This, on the other hand, is about the Common Fisheries Policy, our much hated CFP, the single most disastrous EU policy (says who? Ed.). The fight is not over though we have lost much ground.

Save Britain's Fish may not be active at the moment but Fishermen's Association Ltd (FAL or Fighting Against Lies) is and has just set up a new blogsite.

Well, what a relief

In answer to Lord Stoddart's Written Question
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will take steps to ensure any decisions regarding further bail-outs for the Greek economy are not made using qualified majority voting.
HMG in the person of Lord Sassoon said:
The Government have been clear that the UK should not participate in a new financial assistance package for Greece. At the European Council on 24 June 2011, the Prime Minister secured explicit assurance that a new programme for Greece would be supported by its euro area partners and the IMF, not the European Union as a whole.
We shall see about the EU as a whole but the IMF does, let us not forget, include this country as well.

It seems that the Common Foreign Policy is not dead

Well, not according to Steven Vanackere, Belgium's Foreign Minister in its caretaker government. Well, he should know, though I do not consider the comments encouraging:
The minister acknowledged that European countries do not always act in unison.

We are experiencing a shift of foreign policy paradigm, Vanackere said, adding: It will still take time.

But the challenge should inspire us.
The problem remains that common foreign policy cannot be produced without there being a common European interest, which does not exist. However, Mr Vanackere does understand that the structure can be created anyway and put into place without people noticing too much, as has already happened with the External Action Service.
Vanackere stressed that what he acknowledged was a hybrid of policymaking between national governments, which always will reserve the right to make decisions about war and peace, and a growing EU role and bureaucracy in international negotiations.
One day it will be fully in existence (though not functional)and even Conservative "eurosceptics" and the various front organizations will be aware of it.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The German case at last takes off

The German legal challenge to the bail-outs, discussed on this blog here and here, is finally being heard after a year of procrastination while the bail-outs went ahead and the inevitable default has been postponed yet more. A long and interesting piece by Steven Evans on the BBC site. Well worth reading.

Monday, July 4, 2011

One can't help feeling sad

As I get to the end of Stefan Zweig's The World of Yesterday that describes his life in Austria-Hungary before and during World War I, Austria and Europe between the wars and the catastrophic end, as Zweig saw it, of European culture, the news of Otto von Habsburg's death cannot help making me sad. He was, after all, the son of the last Emperor of Austria and King of Hungary and as good a man as a the terrible circumstances of life in Europe in the twentieth century allowed it.

America and its future

The biggest argument against that much-vaunted decline of the United States and rise of the post-American world is, as I said to a slightly despondent American friend earlier today (it is, after all, that day), the absence of any other power that is remotely as strong, rich and flexible as the one that is on top now. In the past, when powerful nations slowly sank from their position there was someone else to take over. Who is there now? China? Brazil? The EU? Are you kidding me?

Britain, as the progenitor of America and other Anglospheric countries and societies should be proud of this fact and not resentful, as too many on all sides of the political spectrum are.

Walter Russell Meade says much the same but he argues it slightly differently. Here is the link but I think you have to go through Google each time to get round the pay wall. What the heck, here is the article in full, as published first in the Wall Street Journal on July 2.

It is, the pundits keep telling us, a time of American decline, of a post-American world. The 21st century will belong to someone else. Crippled by debt at home, hammered by the aftermath of a financial crisis, bloodied by long wars in the Middle East, the American Atlas can no longer hold up the sky. Like Britain before us, America is headed into an assisted-living facility for retired global powers.

This fashionable chatter could not be more wrong. Sure, America has big problems. Trillions of dollars in national debt and uncounted trillions more in off-the-books liabilities will give anyone pause. Rising powers are also challenging the international order even as our key Cold War allies sink deeper into decline.

But what is unique about the United States is not our problems. Every major country in the world today faces extraordinary challenges—and the 21st century will throw more at us. Yet looking toward the tumultuous century ahead, no country is better positioned to take advantage of the opportunities or manage the dangers than the United States.

Geopolitically, the doomsayers tell us, China will soon challenge American leadership throughout the world. Perhaps. But to focus exclusively on China is to miss how U.S. interests intersect with Asian realities in ways that cement rather than challenge the U.S. position in world affairs.

China is not Germany, the U.S. is not Great Britain, and 2011 is not 1910. In 1910 Germany was a rising power surrounded by decline: France, Russia, the Ottoman Empire and Austria-Hungary were all growing weaker every year even as Germany went from strength to strength. The European power system grew less stable every year.

In Asia today China is rising—but so is India, another emerging nuclear superpower with a population on course to pass China's. Vietnam, South Korea, Taiwan, Indonesia and Australia are all vibrant, growing powers that have no intention of falling under China's sway. Japan remains a formidable presence. Unlike Europe in 1910, Asia today looks like an emerging multipolar region that no single country, however large and dynamic, can hope to control.

This fits American interests precisely. The U.S. has no interest in controlling Asia or in blocking economic prosperity that will benefit the entire Pacific basin, including our part of it. U.S. policy in Asia is not fighting the tide of China's inexorable rise. Rather, our interests harmonize with the natural course of events. Life rarely moves smoothly and it is likely that Asia will see great political disturbances. But through it all, it appears that the U.S. will be swimming with, rather than against, the tides of history.

Around the world we have no other real rivals. Even the Europeans have stopped talking about a rising EU superpower. The specter of a clash of civilizations between the West and an Islamic world united behind fanatics like the unlamented Osama bin Laden is less likely than ever. Russia's demographic decline and poor economic prospects (not to mention its concerns about Islamic radicalism and a rising China) make it a poor prospect as a rival superpower.

When it comes to the world of ideas, the American agenda will also be the global agenda in the 21st century. Ninety years after the formation of the Communist Party of China, 50 years after the death of the philosopher of modern militant Islam Sayyid Qutb, liberal capitalist democracy remains the wave of the future.

Fascism, like Franco, is still dead. Communism lingers on life support in Pyongyang and a handful of other redoubts but shows no signs of regaining the power it has lost since 1989 and the Soviet collapse. "Islamic" fanaticism failed in Iraq, can only cling to power by torture and repression in Iran, and has been marginalized (so far) in the Arab Spring. Nowhere have the fanatics been able to demonstrate that their approach can protect the dignity and enhance the prosperity of people better than liberal capitalism. The heirs of Qutb are further from power than they were during the first Egyptian Revolution in 1953.

Closer to home, Hugo Chavez and his Axis of Anklebiters are descending towards farce. The economic success of Chile and Brazil cuts the ground out from under the "Bolivarean" caudillos. They may strut and prance on the stage, appear with Fidel on TV and draw a crowd by attacking the Yanquis, but the dream of uniting South America into a great anticapitalist, anti-U.S. bloc is as dead as Che Guevara.

So the geopolitics are favorable and the ideological climate is warming. But on a still-deeper level this is shaping up to be an even more American century than the last. The global game is moving towards America's home court.

The great trend of this century is the accelerating and deepening wave of change sweeping through every element of human life. Each year sees more scientists with better funding, better instruments and faster, smarter computers probing deeper and seeing further into the mysteries of the physical world. Each year more entrepreneurs are seeking to convert those discoveries and insights into ways to produce new things, or to make old things better and more cheaply. Each year the world's financial markets are more eager and better prepared to fund new startups, underwrite new investments, and otherwise help entrepreneurs and firms deploy new knowledge and insight more rapidly.

Scientific and technological revolutions trigger economic, social and political upheavals. Industry migrates around the world at a breathtaking—and accelerating—rate. Hundreds of millions of people migrate to cities at an unprecedented pace. Each year the price of communication goes down and the means of communication increase.

New ideas disturb the peace of once-stable cultures. Young people grasp the possibilities of change and revolt at the conservatism of their elders. Sacred taboos and ancient hierarchies totter; women demand equality; citizens rise against monarchs. All over the world more tea is thrown into more harbors as more and more people decide that the times demand change.

This tsunami of change affects every society—and turbulent politics in so many countries make for a turbulent international environment. Managing, mastering and surviving change: These are the primary tasks of every ruler and polity. Increasingly these are also the primary tasks of every firm and household.

This challenge will not go away. On the contrary: It has increased, and it will go on increasing through the rest of our time. The 19th century was more tumultuous than its predecessor; the 20th was more tumultuous still, and the 21st will be the fastest, most exhilarating and most dangerous ride the world has ever seen.

Everybody is going to feel the stress, but the United States of America is better placed to surf this transformation than any other country. Change is our home field. It is who we are and what we do. Brazil may be the country of the future, but America is its hometown.

Happy Fourth of July.

The American view of THAT scandal

A highly rational article in the Wall Street Journal about the Strauss-Kahn story. (And you can get it without going through Google.)

A reminder

Franklin Cudjoe, a man who knows considerably more about Africa, its countries, their economy and problems than our own Andrew Mitchell (no, I didn't want him either), reminded me and others this morning of an article he wrote in 2005 for the Wall Street Journal and reprinted in African Liberty in 2005 about the Nigerian famine and why African countries continue to have famines and continue to need (apparently) international aid.

As we are about to provide another £38 million in aid to Ethiopia where there is yet again famine, this article is worth re-reading and pondering over. (Oh yes, full disclosure: Franklin is a good friend.)

July 4, 1776

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The scandal as seen in France

Dominique Strauss-Kahn may be all smiles and the Socialist Party may be glowing with happiness at the thought of this great and good man coming back to take his rightful position (though the case is not over yet) but the political scene in France has changed as a result of the accusation, says Anne-Elisabeth Moutet.

Meanwhile, back in the free world

The majority of Icelanders want their government to withdraw Iceland's application to join the EU (and who can blame them). According to EU News from Iceland
The majority of Icelanders want to withdraw Iceland's application to join the European Union according to a fresh opinion poll produced by Capacent Gallup for Heimssýn, the Icelandic No-movement.

51 percent favour withdrawal of the application, 38.5 percent want to carry on with it, and 10.5 percent have not made up their minds. If only those in favour or opposed to withdrawing the application are counted about 57 percent want to withdraw it.
You mean the project is not so attractive after all?

Is there an intelligence at work in the depths of the Conservative Party?

I consulted the Oracle on the subject I have been writing about, that is the apparent campaign to prove that the Conservative Party is the "real" eurosceptic one and should thus be supported by those who believe that Britain should be thinking of the future as being outside the EU. The campaign seems to consist of remarkably well co-ordinated articles, as I mentioned here, here and here as well as the two In/Out referendum campaigns that serve to fudge the issue to the Tories' benefit. (That I have written about too often to link to.)

It is fair to add one more link and that is to George Eustice's self-serving column on ConHome in which he calls on all "Conservative eurosceptics" to make one last effort "to break the power of centralized European institutions". Then again, one cannot take anyone who writes this sort of bilge seriously:
We now have a genuinely eurosceptic Prime Minister who is better placed to deliver than any of his predecessors, including Thatcher. He means business, can be ruthless when necessary but enjoys good relations with other EU leaders and does it all with a smile. The role of the Conservative Party should be to urge him forward to the challenge and, most of all, help him devise that plan for a radical overhaul of the EU.
I thought we have finally got over the mantra of Cameron being a real eurosceptic even if his euroscepticism is so well hidden that nobody, not even Iain Martin can see it any more. To be fair, even those commenting on the piece and, therefore, loyal followers of ConHome, have found that hilarious.

The Oracle? Well, naturally, the Oracle is self-explanatory. It is, indeed, the author of EUReferendum and the onlie begetter of the latest ISM, on which we disagree as I have a fervid hatred of all ISMs.

Anyway, what of this curious campaign we asked each other. Let me point out immediately that we both dismissed the notion of it being true that the Conservative Party is the real home of genuine euroscepticism. Experience, both old and new, tells us otherwise. Far otherwise.

Could it be, I suggested tentatively, that they have realized the errors they made in the past, strategically speaking, by dismissing the eurosceptic vote as being of no importance (despite Mr Hannan's valiant and hopeless efforts to bring them all into the Conservative fold) and are laying out a long-term campaign here for the next General Election, whenever that might be. Hmm, said the Oracle, that would presuppose that there is an intelligence at work somewhere in the depths of the Conservative Party. I admitted that to be a difficult proposition to accept but pointed out that Steve Hilton, whose name does keep cropping up in these articles, is of Hungarian origin. That's my best argument - take it or leave it.

So, let us suppose that somewhere in the depths of the Conservative Party there is some intelligence that is thinking ahead of the game. It might appear to that intelligence (hereinafter known as CPI, Conservative Party Intelligence) that the Coalition is even less stable than it seems to those of us who have been watching the shenanigans that would enshrine in law their position as government. In other words, however much Clegg, Huhne, Cable et al might like to cling on to their positions in the government, the party might stop supporting them completely or the next falling out between the Boy-King and his Deputy will be bigger and more fatal than the last one.

If that happens the parties will have to go to the country and the Cameroonie strategy of ditching right-wing and eurosceptic voters in order to get the Lib-Dim ones cannot be said to have been a success. Should the Lib-Dims implode most of the votes will go to Labour or the Greens, not the Conservatives. Therefore, it may be a good idea to turn to those who have been discarded in the past and who have been reluctant to accept the leader's contempt though, to be fair, they have not been terribly anxious to vote for UKIP either.

We can, perhaps, assume that the CPI has understood that haphazard reaction to whatever comes up in the opinion polls or focus groups may not be the right way of going about things if a real election victory is wanted, rather than a defeat snatched from the jaws of victory. Furthermore, it is entirely possibly that the CPI has also grasped that attacking UKIP is counter-productive (we have yet to find out whether it has grasped that) and a general build-up of the Conservative Party as the one to deal with the EU without mentioning the alternative might work better.

Could there be some other plans laid by the CPI? What of the Boy-King and his coterie (though if we postulate that Mr Hilton is one of the begetters if not the onlie one of the CPI then we must assume that some of the coterie is behind this). All the same, can one seriously present the Boy-King as the true eurosceptic after his one year as Prime Minister anywhere except the hysterical minds of the Independent? As we saw above, George Eustice tries that trick but it is not one that will get much applause or, indeed, anything except derisory laughter.

James Forsyth of the Spectator is pushing Hague's credentials as a eurosceptic, credentials that have long ago disappeared in his dismal performance as Foreign Secretary. There was a time when I thought it would be a good idea to give Hague another chance as his leadership was all such a ghastly mistake. No longer. As soon as Hague became Shadow Foreign Secretary I predicted that he would be a disaster and he has been both in Opposition and in Government.

Nobody seems to be mentioning David Davies, the man who was Government Whip when the Treaty of Maastricht was pushed through the Commons and Minister for Europe when the Treaty of Amsterdam was negotiated. He is now a man whose bright future is all in the past. Georgie-Porgie Osborne? I'd like to see the arguments in favour of his euroscepticism or courage in the face of the colleagues in Brussels. So far they have not appeared but, surely, it is only a matter of time.

That leaves Liam Fox, whose record as Secretary of State for Defence has been less than stellar (the Oracle puts it a little more strongly, saying that the man has been a f***ing disaster) and whose eurosceptic credentials are taken a little too much on trust. He is, as we know, seriously ambitious and has positioned himself more or less on the right of the party. Will he now emerge as the Leader-In-Waiting for when the party becomes its true eurosceptic self and will the CPI dangle that possibility in front of the bemused eyes of those formerly known as Tory faithfuls and other eurosceptics? Watch this space.

The campaign is really taking off

More on the "real" euroscepticism as displayed by the Conservative Party or, at least, some of its members, who remain nameless (apart from the few we know about already) and well below the parapet whenever a vote is required. Iain Martin, who, in the past assured us of the Conservatives' basic euroscepticism and was stunned by the "strange death of Conservative euroscepticism" before assuring us that Conservative rebellions over Europe are about to happen, then doing it again, is at it once more.

Half the Tory MPs, he tells us excitedly, want to come out of the EU and lists all the reasons why they might want to do so, reasons that will not exactly surprise readers of this blog. Liam Fox and Iain Duncan Smith are particularly angry. Mr Fox, in my hearing, made it clear that he thought a close defence alliance with France will have no more effect on NATO than a close alliance with America did and since Mr Duncan Smith is busy playing the meaningless populist game of calling on British firms to hire British school leavers whether they want to or not, it does not seem to me to be of any importance what else they might like to say very quietly to Mr Martin.

Still, whatever happens, it is the Conservatives we should trust on the European issue, is it not? Hmmm. That Porcine Air Force is about to take off.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Hmm, I sense a campaign

No sooner have we been told that Cabinet members allegedly talk of the need to withdraw from the EU and of putative clashes between the Boy-King and members of his party who cannot be named on the subject of "Europe" but we are also told, again by the Spectator that "Hague has been vindicated on the euro". Not all people who, either from a political or economic perspective, warned against the creation of the eurozone and predicted the problems we are facing but just Hague, the man who has since shown no sign of understanding the first thing about the EU.

Well, well, well. So, the only "real eurosceptics" are in the Conservative Party and everyone else can be disregarded. I don't just have a bridge to sell, I have a whole Porcine Air Force to hire out.

There may be troubles ahead

The case against Dominique Strauss Kahn has run into difficulties. Sensibly, not only has he produced the only possible defence - consensual if possibly rough sex - but he has been spending money to find out more about his accuser, as the NY Post reports.
Strauss-Kahn’s legal team has hired the world’s best private investigators to ferret out every detail about the the accuser’s past.

They have unearthed photographs of her drinking and partying, despite her professed Muslim faith, sources told The Post.
There also seems to be some evidence of her being connected with drug dealers. The New York Times has more.
Prosecutors from the office of the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., who initially were emphatic about the strength of the case and the account of the victim, plan to tell the judge on Friday that they “have problems with the case” based on what their investigators have discovered, and will disclose more of their findings to the defense. The woman still maintains that she was attacked, the officials said.

“It is a mess, a mess on both sides,” one official said.

According to the two officials, the woman had a phone conversation with an incarcerated man within a day of her encounter with Mr. Strauss-Kahn in which she discussed the possible benefits of pursuing the charges against him. The conversation was recorded.

That man, the investigators learned, had been arrested on charges of possessing 400 pounds of marijuana. He is among a number of individuals who made multiple cash deposits, totaling around $100,000, into the woman’s bank account over the last two years. The deposits were made in Arizona, Georgia, New York and Pennsylvania.

The investigators also learned that she was paying hundreds of dollars every month in phone charges to five companies. The woman had insisted she had only one phone and said she knew nothing about the deposits except that they were made by a man she described as her fiancé and his friends.

In addition, one of the officials said, she told investigators that her application for asylum included mention of a previous rape, but there was no such account in the application. She also told them that she had been subjected to genital mutilation, but her account to the investigators differed from what was contained in the asylum application.
All of that does not necessarily make her accusation against DSK untrue, as Glenn Reynolds points out, but it does make her an unreliable witness whom the prosecutors will not like to put in the box for cross-examination.

So where does that leave us? Not so badly off. Whatever the outcome of this case might be, the truth of DSK's behaviour and the general attitude to male misbehaviour towards women in France (especially on the Left) has now come out into the open and cannot be put back into the secret little box. (Here and here.) That can't be a bad thing.

Furthermore, the IMF (an institution whose time has been and gone, but that's a separate story) has appointed its first woman head. If the case against DSK collapses he may return to French politics and, even, become the Socialist presidential candidate, which will undoubtedly play in the hands of Sarko but, even more so, those of Marine Le Pen. If, on the other hand, the Socialists decide that they don't want the case to be revived too much by innuendo during the campaign, they may well choose Martine Aubry as candidate. Either way, the irony would be very pleasing.

UPDATE: Dominque Strauss-Kahn has been released on his recognizance and his bail returned but he will not be allowed to leave the United States. Next hearing, July 18.