14 April, 2014

Mystery

I've been away on holiday to Sicily, a land of strange contrasts. I've written about it in The Commentator, an internet magazine you should read (it's free!).

As I write, a frantic search is still going on for the disappeared Malaysian Airlines jet in the Indian Ocean.

Why? There is no chance of finding anyone alive after all this time. We (and why does it include the British?) seem to be devoting far more resources to it than we did to the Air France flight which disappeared a few years ago.

There is a lot of speculation on the internet, as always, but even people like myself who reject conspiracy theories are beginning to feel that there is something we haven't been told.

02 April, 2014

Marvin

Incredible - well incredible for me anyway - but yesterday it was 30 years since Marvin Gaye died.

He was shot, aged 44, by his own father.

Gaye led a difficult life, but he could do this:


01 April, 2014

France

I don't follow football, but as an example of life management it repays inspection. When a team is doing badly, the trick is not to fire the players, but the manager, the guy responsible for the strategy.

In France, François Hollande, responsble for the strategy of injecting more socialism into the country (the State takes up 57% of the economy), and for borrowing more and more money, has been found out by the electorate. He is the most unpopular President ever and has taken the biggest drubbing ever seen in the Fifth Republic.

So what happened? He sacked the Prime Minister whom he had appointed.

It would be like the bottom ranking team sacking the ball boys.

30 March, 2014

Earth Hour

Bugger, I missed it. I was watching, on a device which used electricity, Jeremy Clarkson and his friends drive smoky diesel lorries through Burma.

Most entertaining it was, too. Better than turning the lights off, anyway.

I reported on this a few years back when the Environment Minister of British Colmbia lit candles all over his residence and set the cat on fire. That's a carbon pawprint, if you like.

Earth Hour is not for people who are worried about the planet but for people who want to look as if they are. Almost no electricity is saved and it may be that the sudden surge in use at the end of the hour means the event might cause more to be used.

If you think that not using electricity will save the planet, don't use any. You'll be happy. But don't tell us about it. Keep it to yourself.

Virtue is its own reward.

The clocks change

Don't get me started on this, it's bad for my blood pressure. I am remaining on GMT and suggest you do too.

Cock a snook at the State. Say 'I am a free person and know what the time is without being told, wrongly, by a bureaucrat I am paying to do so.'

Keep saying this until you are sane.

The Scottish Pound

We are still hearing a lot of nonsense about a possibly independent Scotland and its currency.

'Walking out of the UK means walking out of the UK pound' George Osborne is reported to have said. I haven't read what he actually said, because I can't be bothered, but he should take care that reportage of his speeches does not come out as utter drivel or loose thinking.

Of course Scotland can keep the pound: it just keeps printing out its Scottish pound notes and fixes their rate at 1:1 to the British £. At present the Bank of England holds £1 for every Scottish £ printed. Also it stands by Scottish Banks as lender of last resort. It is these two things which would change, unless we had a currency union.

As to allowing a currency union in return for Scotland permitting our nuclear weapons at Faslane, the suggestion is risible. Why would we want our nukes in a foreign country? Put them in Portsmouth which already has the skilled workforce and traditions to cope.

Scotland would be very unwise either to seek a currency union or simply to adopt the UK£ as its currency because it would result in it being overvalued and causing a recession, such as we see in Southern Europe today, which has had a vastly overvalued currency (the €) for years, caused by political will rather than economic sense. Thousands of Scottish jobs would be lost.

Let's adopt a simple policy. If they go, they go. They can adopt the Japanese yen as their currency for all I care but they get no help when the plan fails.

28 March, 2014

Cats

The news that cats may be giving TB to humans is disturbing.

When we thought that badgers were spreading TB - even if only to cattle - we had a cull.

The question is whether they should be shot, or gassed in their suburban homes.

The government must act swiftly.

25 March, 2014

The way we live now

I don't know what you made of the news that aborted embryos in NHS hospitals are thrust into the furnace in order to heat the hospital as part of an energy saving scheme. Perhaps you sighed and reflected that this is the sort of world we have created for ourselves.

For me, and perhaps for many, the idea that this is part of a waste to energy scheme lends it a particular horror, I don't know why.

I suppose there will have to be some enquiry, which won't change anything except in that it will make some people feel better about it.

What I can't listen to, however, is people saying that it shows lack of respect for human remains. These are unborn people whom we as a society have decided to kill because they are inconvenient.

Now that is lack of respect.

Europe

Tomorrow Nigel Farage, head of UKIP and Nick Clegg, head of the Liberal Democrats, will debate Europe. For myself, I don't believe it will be an earth shattering event: the parties are so far apart there can be no synthesis, only an individual restating of existing positions. I suppose the major outcome will be the damage it does to the Tories.

Anyhow, just in time for this event Business for Britain, a Group campaigning for European reform, has come up with some rather interesting research.

Since 1996 Britain has voted against proposals in the Council of Ministers 55 times, but on each occasion that proposal has gone on to become European Law. Our vote has counted for nothing, not even once.

The other shocking aspect to this is that we have only voted 'No' 55 times. There have been a damned sight more than 55 damaging proposals in the last 18 years.

Forward, Nigel.

22 March, 2014

Dealing with foreigners

It appears that Gennady Timchenko, a Russian oligarch, sold his share in the oil trading company Gunvor the day before the US put him on its blacklist. Naturally the list had been leaked.

The swine. The utter swine. This is the problem with blacklisting Johnny Foreigner, he just doesn't play by the rules. Timchenko should have left his billions where they were and taken it like a man.

But no. He weaselled out.

Shocking.

Ummmm....is there any chance of the West behaving sensibly on Ukraine, admitting we instigated the trouble by supporting a mob which staged an illegal coup against the country's properly elected government, and just letting it go before we suffer any further embarrassment?

Probably not.

17 March, 2014

St. Patrick's Day

The referendum

I smiled when I read that various Western leaders have described the referendum in the Crimea as 'illegal'.What does the properly elected Ukrainian Head of State say? Given the fact that he is currently in Russia I expect he says 'yes' to it, making it ....er....not illegal.

Of course Britain is allowing a referendum on whether Scotland should remain in the UK, even though the Scots are not ethnically different from their countrymen, do not speak a different language and have much deeper ties to the Union than Crimea has to Ukraine.

And I saw the European Union had condemned it, too. I think President Putin will be giggling here. He will remember that Ireland, having had a referendum, was sent back to the polls twice, because it got the wrong answer, and that when France and Holland voted in referenda against the new constitution, it was changed into a treaty, so there wouldn't be another vote.

Putin hasn't tried any of that in Crimea, he's too honest.

This has been hypocrisy taken to a shocking extent, and we're as bad as the rest of them.

Oxfam

I remember going on a sponsored walk for Oxfam - it must have been a good forty years ago - and I have donated modestly in the years since.

You feel safe giving to Oxfam: its proper name is or was the Oxford Campaign for Famine Relief and you know exactly what it does.

No you don't.

There was a recent case with an actress Scarlett Johanssen who as well as being an Ambassador for Oxfam was in an advert for Sodastream, which is made in ISRAEL. Oxfam had decided to enter the Arab / Israeli dispute on the side of the Palestinian Arabs (I don't know whether Hamas or Fatah) and in the ensuing row Ms Johanssen, to her credit, severed all ties with Oxfam.

Note that Oxfam's involvement in the West Bank was nothing to do with famine relief. It was purely political, the managers taking the money donated by honest folk for the relief of hunger and applying it towards their own political aims. It doesn't matter which side you take yourself, this diversion of funds should outrage you.

Now we read that Oxfam has decided to give its views on the gap between rich and poor - not in Africa, where it is extreme and identifiable as a cause of hunger, but in Britain. It has announced, pompously, that the five richest families in Britain have wealth equivalent to that of the poorest 20%. This is not a complaint that the poorest 20% are suffering from famine (they're not) just that they have perceived a sin (rich people tend to be rich and poor people tend to be poor). They have got involved, as in their Middle East caper, with politics, pure and simple, and using your money to do it.

Personally I shall never donate to Oxfam again.

14 March, 2014

Tony Benn

Tony Benn has died aged 88, denying a bed in an NHS hospital to someone, unlike him, who couldn't afford to go private.

You will find three sorts of obituaries of him: those from a dwindling few who think he was often right; some from the right of the political spectrum who think he was wrong about everything but one of those originals who spoke his mind which is a good thing (like Stalin, I suppose). The third, and there is a particularly ghastly version of this by Mary Wakefield in the Spectator, falls for his innate charm. Wakefield, whom he clearly twisted round his little finger, thought his philosophy was a belief in the inherent goodness of man.

There's clearly quite a lot that needs to be put right here.

In the '60s and '70s my father, the son of working class parents, was, like a lot of managers then, trying to understand what was going on with the working man, whom he had begun by regarding as his own type. In fact the British worker was the same, it was just that a new politics had entered the workplace and disruption, largely for disruption's sake, was its aim. It was the era of lightning strikes, intimidation and bullying, and Benn pushed this programme as hard as he could.

Benn, by contrast, the son of a cabinet minister, wealthy publisher and viscount, had never had any understanding of the working man and didn't until the day he died: there was a leitmotif of patronisation, which even came out in Mary Wakefield's panegyric where he described a couple of his visits to poor areas (Get me, I'm hanging out with the sans culottes). For Benn, the British workers were Karl Marx's useful idiots, catalysts he could put to use in his political melting pot. Most of them, those who weren't his acolytes, hated him.

And he uses in his act the familiar socialist props. He explained to Wakefield, as if to a child, that Hitler and Mussolini nationalised the banks. He doesn't say that he has been trying all these years to put into practice the policies of Hitler and Mussolini, or, of course, that his policies would leave the British Citizen with as much freedom as the Germans and Italians in the 1930s. He must have looked so cuddly as he was saying it.

Benn opposed the European Union, which you may think a good thing, but he did so because he thought it might stop him from imposing an even worse system on us.

Tony Benn was almost an exclusively bad thing for Britain, and worse because he dressed up his illiberal beliefs as daring candour.

De mortuis.... of the dead let us speak nothing but the truth.

13 March, 2014

I yield to no one....

It seems that the Boy Band One Direction are encouraging their fans - which consist largely of randy 14 year old girls - to write to the Chancellor of the Exchequer demanding he maintain foreign aid and and tighten up on tax avoidance.

Now, I am all in favour of getting kids involved in politics and naturally yield to no one in my admiration for One Direction's .... I think espièglerie is the word .... but this is a tricky one. Doubtless Harry Stiles and the other children have a firm grasp of macroeconomics but in Italy, for example, the new Prime Minister, a trendy leftie, has just realised that the way to get more jobs for people is to cut taxes. But if you publicly encourage tax cuts you lose that smug, one world fair trade image which is so important in the music business: look at Bono.

Probably best to stick to the day job, lads.

 

12 March, 2014

Francis's First

Tomorrow, 13th March, will be the first anniversary of the accession to the throne of St. Peter of
Francis I (although he doesn't much like thrones).

Will he be conservative or liberal, good or bad? Will he allow contraception, women priests?

Find out in my article in The Commentator. It's Free!

11 March, 2014

De mortuis....

It only happened this morning, but I am already heartily fed up with being told what a wonderful, warm
person the late trade union leader Bob Crow was.

He was, by contrast, an unpleasant, drunken shit who insisted on living in state-subsidised accommodation despite earning £140,000 a year, blocking other more needy people from getting a home.

He had no taste for democracy and was too extreme even for the Labour Party.

Nobody who couldn't get into work or visit their family because of some unnecessary strike he had called, nobody who paid extra for a train ticket because he insisted on overpaid and unnecessary staff on the trains, none of these people think he was a friendly, cuddly chap whose heart was in the right place.

Let us start speaking the truth about these people. His family might miss him but the rest of us don't.

05 March, 2014

How far we've come

Russia is a country run on different moral and philosophical lines to a western country. We knew that.

President Putin is a nasty piece of work and his tough guy image doesn't just extend to being photographed without his shirt. We knew that, too.

Even the British Foreign Office, which in my view should have been closed down years ago in the public interest, knew these things.

Then the West began to covet Ukraine.You may wonder why: it is an enormous country with some rustbucket industries, subsistence farming and a Russian pipeline running through it. The reasons are that America and NATO wanted to put one over on Putin, whilst the European Union wanted to see its bureaucratic kleptocracy extend eastwards. There would be Ukrainian ministries, with commissioners, under-commissioners, chefs de cabinet and largesse to be distributed to the grateful cossacks. That's the sort of stuff Eurocrats like.

John McCain, the failed presidential candidate who brought Sarah Palin to our TV screens, has been in Kiev stirring up trouble, as has John Kerry, Secretary of State and our own William Hague.

As the mob got violent the EU brokered a peace deal, which the mob ignored. Baroness Ashton completely misunderstood what was going on. They overthrew the Ukrainian President who asked Moscow to intervene. Moscow did not 'invade' - they didn't have to since they had thousands of troops and scores of planes already there, perfectly legally.

David Cameron and Others are now mouthing absurdities about sanctions, and not going to the paralympics, as if anyone cared.

It just goes to show how far we have descended, that senior political figures have connived in the overthrow of a democratically elected government and then tried to blame the outcome on someone else.

The winner is....

After the Oscars ceremony the Italian papers were ecstatic. 'The Oscar goes to Sorrentino', 'Italy wins!', such that you might have thought that Matthew McConaughy, Kate Blanchett and the rest didn't exist.

It was of course for best foreign picture but they were mevertheless delighted. All, except for the Berlusconi Family paper, Il Giornale, which led with 'The Oscar goes to Berlusconi' reminding us what none of the other papers had mentioned, that it was Silvio's production company which made the whole thing possible.

Poor Silvio! No one even wanted to mention him. It was the truth that dared not speak its name.

02 March, 2014

P.I.E. (2)

There has been an interesting and, for me, pleasing development in the case of the Paedophile Information Exchange and the National Council for Civil Liberties.

We have now settled down to the expectation of something new every day, which suggests seriously bad management by the Labour Party. Tony Blair's old supremos Peter Mandelson and Alistair Campbell would never have let it get this far.

There has been an interesting defence of the NCCL by Brendan O'Neill in the internet magazine spiked , which is written by what appears to be a group of left-wing libertarians, if such a thing can exist. O'Neill says that NCCL was right to affiliate with P.I.E. because people shouldn't be censored from expressing their views, whether one agrees with them or not.

To a large extent, as a Libertarian, I agree with this. I have had enough cases where my views have failed to see the light of day because they were 'inappropriate'. You may remember Rod Liddle being told, when he wanted to put a Eurosceptic on a panel show, 'You don't understand, Rod, these people are simply mad'.

But the NCCL appear to have gone further than merely allowing P.I.E. to spread its opinions. They seem to have actually campaigned for them, which is quite, quite different. The new development is Patricia Hewitt, former Labour cabinet minister and then head of NCCL, replying to a letter from a schoolmaster.

That schoolmaster was my old tutor at St Paul's, Philip McGuinness. Philip was fortunate to have gone through life with a strict set of values as to what was right and what was wrong. He wasn't everyone's cup of tea, and certainly not every schoolboy's, but in later life I rather envied him, as I envy those who have no doubts about religion, one way or the other. I have always been wracked with doubt, on almost every subject under the sun.

Philip wrote to Patricia Hewitt:
"I cannot help but think that you do not support civil liberties at all. Your aim is questionable in the extreme. Are you aiming for the destruction of society, for the enslavement of the individual, for the destruction of family life? Is your object to shatter prospective individual happiness at an early age?
....Your title is a shame and a masquerade. There must be some very twisted minds and pernicious malcontents behind your organisation if this is the sort of thing you advocate".

Hewitt had written in a press release

"NCCL proposes that the age of consent should be lowered to 14, with special provision for situations where the partners are close in age, or where consent of a child over ten can be proved."

Her reply to McGuinness suggests that the police should not get involved if there has been consent and the press release suggests that consent could be given at 10 years old..

She and the NCCL seem not just to be giving a platform to P.I.E. but campaigning for it.

26 February, 2014

P.I.E

I am quite enjoying the row about Harriet Harman and the Paedophiles, but only, I should stress, from the point of view of mischief. I don't believe for a moment that she, her husband Jack Dromey or her then boss Patricia Hewitt are paedophiles.

Perhaps I should start by declaring a possible connection: Ms Harman was at St Paul's Girls School at
around the time I was at the boys' school. Contact in those days was limited to a joint discotheque and it is possible that a shy, blushing Harriet allowed me to lead her to the floor to bust a few moves among the collected prefects and swots.

Under the circumstances I shall make no further comment on this matter.

I remember the Paedophile Information Exchange, though. They had a nice sounding chap as their spokesman who said that some people wanted relations with adults of the opposite sex, some with people of the same sex, some with all kinds of kinky stuff, whilst they simply wanted to be allowed sex with a consenting child. One's first thought was that this seemed perfectly reasonable. It certainly sounded reasonable. It was only one's second thought that was 'Wait a minute! This is not normal, this is a disgusting breach of trust with a minor whom we deem unable to give his or her consent.'

So I can quite understand the assorted loony lefties in the National Council for Civil Liberties (it's just called 'Liberty' these days) thinking 'Well, we believe in fighting against persecution on the grounds of sexual preference, so obviously we should support these people who are being banned by the Government.'

In other words they couldn't see beyond their narrow world view: they put the Liberty part before the Civil part. P.I.E. became affiliated to the NCCL and Ms Harman helped it campaign for lower sentences for people in possession of child pornography. The NCCL's evidence to Parliament in 1976 said that a sexual experience with an adult caused no lasting damage to a child.

Ms Harman ought to go a fair bit further with her explanation of all this, but in the end she just needs to say 'I was a barking mad leftie at the time but hope I am more sensible now.'

But I fear the public is unforgiving and perhaps she should consider spending more time with her family.

24 February, 2014

Ukraine

Stupidity, I fear: blinkered stupidity seems to be the cause of the Realpolitik game being played out in this benighted country.

The Ukraine did not make a success of its independence from the Soviet Union. By 1993 it had the world record inflation and whilst things have got better it is still a lot poorer than it should be. It has an aircraft plant, some light industry, incredibly a space programme and the rental income from a pipeline which supplies Russian gas to Europe. It is also heavily dependent on this pipeline for its own energy needs.

Because of its own incompetence and poor governance, Ukraine needs money.

The country is bordered by Moldova, Roumania, Hungary, Slovakia, Poland, Belarus and Russia. Money could come either from the EU or from Russia.

Money has strings attached.

Now we come to internal Ukrainian politics. Because of the country's history, the west of the country, formerly part of the Habsburgs' Austria-Hungary, tends to be more European whilst the east, much of which is Russian speaking, tends to be more Russian. Underneath it all they are as corrupt and incompetent as each other.

In 2004 the presidential Election run-off was between two Viktors: Yushchenko (European) and Yanukovych (Russian). The result was declared in favour of the Russian but no one believed it and thus started the Orange Revolution which eventually got Yushchenko into power. Five years later he
was ousted (fairly, they say) by Yanukovych who managed to get Prime Minister and Abba lookalike Yulia Timoschenko thrown in prison for corruption.

The second Orange Revolution which unlike the first has not been bloodless has seen off Yanukovych again and what is tantamount to a mob has taken over. A peace deal had been brokered by Europe but the pro-Europe mob has gone miles further than what was agreed. One gets the strong impression that the European negotiators got taken for a ride. Most of the people killed have been police and legitimate government officials. Naturally Russia is fairly peeved.

Back to the money. The Russians over the years have kept Ukraine afloat (if poor) with billions in loans and subsidised energy. The EU hasn't offered much (less than €1 billion). The Russians insist on having a Russia-friendly administration and Ukraine belonging to a customs union with other former-Soviet satellites.

Europe insists on Ukraine joining the whole panoply of regulation, political integration and currency union, but not yet: Ukraine would have to go through a candidate phase.

When I say Europe has offered this: we haven't been consulted. This new status for Ukraine has been offered by unaccountable bureaucrats who, unlike President Putin have not been elected and would recoil with horror at having to be. In the end Ukraine cannot join the EU unless the 29 member countries agree and they would be wise not to agree. It is a bottomless pit for our money for very little in return except putting one over on Russia.

What will happen? Likely as not Putin will draw off the Eastern parts into new satellites while the western parts cosy up to Brussels. They will find it curiously similar to their previous masters the Austro-Hungarian Empire: inefficient, corrupt, undemocratic and bearing an inflated sense of its own importance.

You may think that a country has to be truly desperate to see its future in the EU. Ukraine is. Poor people.

20 February, 2014

The Campaign for Fair fines

'Abbey Clancy slapped with a parking ticket after blocking off pavement while running errands.'

What knowledge of gossip I have comes from the Daily Mail, which I find a mystical journey through the lives of people I have never heard of but whom the Mail seems to find important. It is a judgmental newspaper but getting a parking ticket is not nearly as bad in its eyes as wearing unsuitable lipstick (someone called Jessie J) or having cellulite (almost everyone from Kate Moss...er...down).

I can enlighten you here a little. Ms Clancy has recently won a reality TV show, which must be important, and she is married to a Premier League footballer, which is very important. And when it says she was 'slapped' with a parking ticket it does not mean that some concerned citizen, appalled by the triviality of her lifestyle, struck her in the mazzard with an Administrative Penalty Notice. It means she received such a ticket, probably in the usual way.

Phew! I bet you're breathless. But there's a point here.

As a TV star, married to a sportsman who is on tens of thousands of pounds a week, she can easily afford the fine. In fact she'll probably spend more on getting her staff to handle it and perhaps run it past a lawyer (a defence under the Persecution of Celebrities Act?).

So this young woman will effectively have broken the law for free, blocking a pavement, perhaps making disabled people step into the road, while she ran 'errands' (does she moonlight as a message boy?). A person on the average wage, by contrast, would have found the fine a huge encumbrance, possibly needing time to pay.

We desperately need a fairer system. If the fine is £150, that would represent perhaps half the weekly disposable income of a poor person after property costs, food etc.

Ms Clancy's husband makes £40,000 a week and if we add in her earnings and subtract tax and costs (she doesn't look as if she eats much) they must have at least £40,000 a week to spend.

So the fine should be £20,000.

That would be fair.

14 February, 2014

Global..er..change

I really am just a sceptic, not a disbeliever or apostate or whatever term is currently in use for those who don't toe the line on the climate, but I do think we should remember this.

It was not long ago, when the left of centre doom mongers were calling it global warming, that they - George Monbiot, Prince Charles and the rest - were saying that the rivers would run dry and that swathes of Britain and Europe would be desert. Even as recently as November 2013 the Met Office, which is stuffed with these fools, was predicting  a particularly dry winter.

Then they decided, in the face of evidence many of them still don't accept (are you listening, HRH?), that absent any global warming since 1998 they should call it climate change.

So now, when half of the country is submerged, they say 'See, proves what we were saying all along'.

I do not assert that everything is the diametric opposite to what Prince Charles says (although that would be a more accurate forecasting method), I am saying that anyone who uncritically believes what these people say needs his head examined.

12 February, 2014

The Commentator

See my thoughts on Italy in The Commentator.

The Commentator is great political journalism and it's free.

Tony Benn

On a personal level I wish Tony Benn well. He has brightened political life for 50 years, since the days when he tried, successfully, to renounce his viscountcy.

He has been wrong about almost everything he has ever uttered, and proven to be so (I exclude renouncing the peerage).

Now, aged 88, he is seriously ill in hospital. He could easily have afforded to go to a private hospital but instead has gone into an NHS one, blocking a bed which could be used by someone more needy.

09 February, 2014

Surplus to requirements

It appears that a giraffe in Denmark called Marius has been killed by his keepers. There are European laws about animal collections in individual countries, and Marius was deemed to be surplus to requirements.

This is something which should concern us all.

It has certainly put the wind up me. For years, because of my political views, the European Union has described me as 'mad', 'unhinged', a 'swivel eyed extremist' and someone displaying 'disturbing nationalism'.

It seems only a matter of time before Brussels decides, in the interests of the human race as a whole, that I, like Marius, am surplus to requirements, and that, given with the danger that I might breed, I should be put down humanely.

Too late for Marius of course, but my solution is to go into hiding. This post is being sent, not from my usual haunt in Rome, but from a secret location in the basement of the Berlaymont building in Brussels.

Just in case they decide to bomb.

I yield to no one

George Clooney, an American actor who serves as the Cary Grant de nos jours, has decided that Britain should give the Elgin Marbles, more correctly known as the Parthenon frieze, back to Greece. He came to this conclusion at the Berlin film festival.

Now, I yield to no one in my admiration for Mr Clooney as..er..an advertiser of coffee, but suggest that on subjects on which he is not qualified to speak, or indeed knows nothing, he might be better advised to remain silent.

Nor do I want to hear Miley Cyrus on stem cell therapy.

Just smile at the cameras and keep the lips zipped, George.

08 February, 2014

Nexit

Stop me if I've told you this before, but several years ago, around the time of the EU Constitution fiasco, I was lecturing on the EU to some Erasmus students in Rome (Erasmus is the system whereby students can pursue their studies in another European country).

One of them, a young Dutchman, said there was really no need to put the matter to a referendum in his country since everyone was in favour - no opposition whatsoever. A few weeks later the Dutch voted 'No' to the constitution and it had to be foisted on them by calling it a Constitutional Treaty, which didn't require a referendum.

Nevertheless, Holland is one of the founder members of the European project and has traditionally been seen as one of the keenest. Things are changing, however. Economic growth in the Netherlands is tiny, the country has lost its AAA rating and there is concern about immigration and unemployment.

Geert Wilders's right-wing Freedom Party is likely, according to the opinion polls, to be the largest party in the European elections in May. Wilders is anti-EU as well as anti-immigrant and this time will enter the elections armed with a study by Capital Economics to the effect that if Holland left the EU (a concept known as Nexit, but of course it would be Hexit if you call the country Holland and Dexit if you are referring to the Dutch) it would by 2035 have a national income 10% higher than if it stayed in.

Whilst in the past talk has been only of the British leaving the EU (Brexit) or the Danes (another Dexit) this time there are strong anti-EU voices from Marine LePen's Front National in France (Frexit), Greece (Grexit) and for all I know one of the countries beginning with S.

Of course victory in the European elections does not mean victory in the national ones as the British UKIP can attest. But one of the interesting things is the effect this is having on the more mainstream parties. In the Netherlands Prime Minister Rutter, in order to fend Wilders off, is making noises about repatriating powers from the EU. The comical figure of François Hollande was in England last week pleading with Mr Cameron not to go for a Treaty change since he knows he'd never get it past his own electorate. Mrs Merkel, who is on less shaky ground electorally, is inclined to bend a little with the Eurosceptic wind and not rule out repatriation of powers.

One of the winners of this new mood could be David Cameron, who is pressing, not for Brexit but for reform of the EU. Movements by governing parties to make concessions to Euroscepticism could play right into his hands.

My own guess is that Cameron won't succeed in reforming the EU, certainly by his 2017 deadline and that we are past the point of no return.

Still, everything to play for.

03 February, 2014

Scotland

The referendum on Scottish Independence is this year and the papers have got into several flaps about it. What astonishes me is that everyone seems to have made their mind up.

I confess that if I had a vote I should find it very difficult. Scotland has the critical mass to manage its own affairs, with a population around that of Denmark, which doesn't have any hydrocarbons, just a lot of contented pigs and sensible people, which latter resource the Scots may be lacking. But if I were voting principally with my heart I should vote for Independence: the Scots are different to the English, and whatever vicissitudes the new state might undergo, it would be something new, a concentration of Scottishness.

Against that I am quite sure that Scotland will not be able to manage its own affairs with the politicians it currently has. At a time when public expenditure needs to be tightly controlled, Scotland has a choice between the socialist spendthrift Scottish National Party and the socialist spendthrift Scottish Labour Party. Individually or collectively these two are capable of turning the new nation into a basket case. Still, cometh the hour, cometh the man (or woman) and it may well be a leader will emerge who has the courage and intellectual consistency to take the country forward. I see no such person at the moment.

So if I were voting principally with my head I should vote against independence. But of course I don't have a vote, and I don't really object to that. We didn't offer the Scots a vote on joining the UK.

What I do object to is the latest proposal that the Scots and the rest of the UK (RoUK) should have a currency union. I really ought to have a vote on this: after all Britain has kept out of currency union with the rest of the EU madhouse and is generally against the principle. It would carry constitutional implications, forcing RoUK, for example, to bail out Scottish banks if they got into trouble again.

I really think I would need a vote on this: we couldn't just let RoUK politicians give in and commit us to such dangerous uncertainty.

And it really wouldn't be good for Scotland, either. It would find itself, like Italy and Spain, with a grossly overvalued currency, damaging exports and jobs. Of course that would still be the case if it simply adopted sterling as its currency, without the formal currency union, although it wouldn't affect us too much.

The Scottish National Party celebrates its 80th anniversary this year, and you would have thought it would have given just a little consideration to this important point. Scotland needs its own currency, to float up or down according to the economic management of the country (likely to be disastrous, see above) and of course the oil price.

The opinion polls are still pointing towards a vote against independence, though the Nationalists seem to be gaining ground. If they have conducted this debate honestly, and discussed all relevant matters with the people, then good luck to them.

Website

I should have mentioned there is a new website. I hope to improve it as time goes on but it is the best I can do at the moment.

It is www.timhedges.eu and you can send messages to me at the address shown on the site.

01 February, 2014

Foxy Knoxy

I have written a very short piece in The Commentator about the Knox / Sollecito verdict and will be writing more when we receive the official reasoning from the judges.

I just thought I'd offer this interesting little quote from the President of the Court: 'There is no prevalent motive. Until 8.15 in the evening Amanda was supposed to go to work in Lumumba's pub and Raffaele was supposed to go to the station to collect a friend's suitcase. Then the situation changed. The episode was born in an evening when nobody had anything to do any longer ....if Amanda had gone to work probably the crime would never have happened.'

There seems to be a mindset that because these two people were young and modern that they would not act rationally: they took drugs, they had the sort of sex you don't have, so they would think nothing of killing her flatmate. I should have thought the prosecution were on dangerous ground reaching this conclusion without a motive. It would mean they were relying on circumstantial evidence.

But....as I say in the article, I rather want them not to be guilty. I don't know.

10 January, 2014

Renaissance

Happy New Year to everyone.

This blog will reopen at the end of January

Tim

22 November, 2013

Suspension

For much of this year I have not been able to devote as much time as I should have liked to this blog and I feel it would be best to suspend it while I pursue a couple of other projects.

Thanks to everyone who has read it. I hope to be back in the New Year

Tim

18 November, 2013

Monkey business

The Rev. Paul Flowers, head of the ethical Co-op Bank, has been caught buying crystal meth and cocaine.

The radio sternly reminded us that he had been receiving £130,000 a year from his Co-op members.

What? how much was Bob Diamond on at Barclays? £8 million?

If you pay peanuts you get monkeys.

15 November, 2013

Double standards

There's been a frightful amount of nonsense about David Cameron gong to Sri Lanka for the Commonwealth Conference. The Prime Ministers of Australia and Canada have stayed away.

Sri Lanka has a poor record on what I suppose we must call 'human rights' and there is little or no freedom of the press.

Awful? Cameron has just been to China, for Heaven's sake, which has a far worse record, stretched over a longer period and inflicted on vastly more people. When he was brown nosing the corrupt, undemocratic cabal which lead that benighted country, did anyone say he ought to have stayed away?

Sri Lanka at least has proper elections.

14 November, 2013

Happy Birthday

It is Prince Charles' 65th birthday today, and he will spend it at the Commonwealth Conference. This event is no less ridiculous than it always was, but given renewed importance as we desperately search for someone other than the bankrupt EU to buy our exports.

It is telling that at the age most people retire, we are still waiting to see if Charles will live long enough to get the job. This blog hopes he does.

12 November, 2013

New flag

The BBC reports that a misprinted Union Flag was flying near the Cenotaph in Manchester
yesterday.

I think it looks rather good. We need a new design if Scotland leaves the UK and this could be it.

07 November, 2013

Camus

Today would have been the 100th birthday of Nobel Prize winning novelist and philosopher Albert Camus. In fact he died in a car crash in 1960.

Whilst most commentators attach the 'Philosophy of the Absurd' to him, he was rather one of the great humanists, a socialist like his one-time friend Sartre, but who argued with Soviet Russia's Labour camps and the enforced starvation in the Ukraine. His argument with Sartre over whether the philosophy of socialism was worth the appalling suffering was one of the great philosophical duels of he 20th century. His analysis of the Manichean undesirability of two Powers, the USA and Russia, in many ways defined the Cold War.

He was only 46 when he died.

Spanish practices

It is reported that 87.8% of Spanish voters have little or no trust in Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.

What helps him sleep at night is that 91.3% have little or no trust in his opponent Afredo Perez Rubalcaba.

Sharia money


David Cameron has announced that the Government would issue Sukuk bonds, that is to say debt instruments which comply with Islamic Sharia Law. Interestingly, the number of sukuk issued has fallen dramatically of late, after an influential Imam pronounced many of them invalid. You have to get the terms just right.

What interests me is what happens if there is a dispute: does the UK Government have to submit to foreign religious courts?

That would be an interesting development.

Get away....

The delightfully named Soren Bo Sondergaard, a Danish MEP, has written in a report that some of the EU funds designated for rebuilding the city of l'Aquila after the earthquake in 2009 may have gone to companies with ties to organised crime.

Imagine, Soren! (or is it Bo?). Corruption! In Italy!

Even more surprisingly, Brussels has denied it, not believing that such a thing could happen.

It really does make you wonder.

05 November, 2013

Lies, damned lies....

The CBI has put out a paper saying the benefit to the UK of being in Europe is between 4% and 5% of UK GDP, or between £62 billion and £78 billion.

So that's it, then. Nice and precise, these are the guys who know, question answered.

Unfortunately it's drivel.

The figure was taken from a digest of other figures which are themselves dubious: many decided on what the answer was and set out to prove it.The CBI itself has always been vigorously in favour of the European ideal and not so long ago was telling us we would be tragically left behind if we didn't join the euro. We're not hearing too much of that any more.

And there is no analysis of what would happen if we left: the savings in the contributions we make, the elimination of swathes of bureaucracy, just the stale, idiot assumption that Europeans would no longer buy our goods even though we bought plenty of theirs.

Much of what you read about the European debate is rubbish, but if it comes from the CBI, assume it's 100% wrong.

Calabria

A short holiday in Calabria, one of Italy's wildest regions.

There are some places well worth seeing, though they are far apart.

We managed to avoid getting the car stolen, and were not pickpocketed or mugged.

Then we got back to civilised Rome and found someone had burgled our flat.