30 March, 2012

A Credible Strategy

This press release, regrettably bogus, came from the office of His Magnificence Hermann van Rompuy

Brussels, 29 March 2012



Eurozone summit next weekend

Press Statement

It has been confirmed that a Eurozone summit will be held on April 1.

Due to inadvertant wording of the Treaty on Stability, Coordination & Governance, which refers to countries "whose currency is the euro", it has been confirmed that this summit will also include the heads of state or government of Montenegro, Kosovo, San Marino, Monaco, Andorra and the Vatican City, all of which use the euro.

The presence of His Holiness the Pope affords an opportunity to pray for divine intervention to save the euro. This is now seen as the most credible strategy.

Nice to think that someone there, at least, has a sense of humour.

29 March, 2012

The good and the bad

Each year the European Court of Justice publishes the details of which countries have received judgments against them for failing to implement EU directives: who the good Europeans are and who are the bad. Before looking at the list, try to guess who the best and worst Europeans are. You may be in for a surprise.

Here it is

Belgium 9
Italy 8
Portugal 8
Spain 7
France 6
Germany 5
Greece 4

The best Europeans included the UK, Denmark, Slovakia and Latvia: no cases against any of them.

From 2007-11 the worst Europeans were the Italians, with 66 cases lost, followed by Spain, France and Germany.

It seems the countries which talk most about the need for further integration and the importance of being communautaire are the ones worst at it.

'The more they talked of their honour, the faster we counted the spoons'.

The pasty season

It is usually August, when there is no news to write about, that idiotic stories appear in the press and attract undue attention, and it is known as the 'silly season'. So it is a bit of a surprise to experience this phenomenon at the end of March.

Gideon 'George' Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer, having composed a budget designed to keep his party out of power for a generation, slipped into it that a new tax would be payable on a hot Cornish pasty but not on a cold one (the assumption being that you buy the cold one an take it home and cook it, so it isn't a takeaway meal). How a supposedly intelligent man got caught up in this twaddle escapes me, but people started accusing the government of not being in sympathy with the pasty eating classes.

The Prime Minister, abandoning all reason, started to ascribe working class credentials to himself (cor, guvnor, nuffink like a pasty and no mistake!') and talked of his passion for the food, thrilling his audience with the story of him eating one in a railway station last year. Unfortunately on the occasion he described the shop had already been closed for four years and so people doubted his tale.

In the meantime the Cabinet Office Minister, poor Angus Maude's son, advised people threatened with petrol shortages to fill a Jerry can. He probably didn't know this, but it is illegal to store more than 10 litres of petrol in two 5L canisters, so an idiot debate started as to the size of  Jerry can, and whether it meant that Mr Maude was posh if he didn't know.

I've said it before, the presentational wheels have come off this government and something needs fixing.

Back to the caviar, Cameron!

For readers of this blog, however, the solution is at hand. Make your own pasty!

500g flour, 250g lard (yuk), an onion, a swede, a potato and 200g finely chopped or minced beef.

Put a pinch of salt in the flour, rub in the lard, add water and roll out the pastry into a circle. One one side put the finely chopped onion, parboiled potato and swede chopped finely and the meat, salt and pepper and fold over the edge to make a D shape. Crimp the edges together, poke a hole with a knife to stop it exploding and bake in a hot oven until the pastry is golden. Eat warm, making rude gestures towards Downing St.

27 March, 2012

Leaving bad alone

With another cash-for-something scandal in our newspapers there has returned the age-old call for party donations to be illegal and for the taxpayer to finance our election campaigns. Normally the response to this is that these are straightened times: the last thing we want is to pay more through our taxes for the politicos.

But in fact it is a very bad idea for a quite different reason. The biggest risk to our country, to its prosperity, its democracy, to its very future, lies in the uncontrolled growth of the political class. These are civil servants, workers in quangos and those bogus charities which take taxpayers’ money to lobby the government with suggestions the government want to hear. The political class also includes those career politicians, not the ones who take risks and make a bit of a splash but the ones quiet at the back, shuffling papers without making waves.

The political class likes proportional representation, because it never produces shocks or violent changes. In Italy, where they have PR and the party list system, the same people seem to be in power all the time, even standing for different parties from those they represented before. They have greased their way to the top and they stay there: self-serving rather than public servants.

And of course what these people love is party funding. It lets them establish themselves and stay in place, the immovable apparat paid for by a people conned into thinking they have a democracy. And with taxpayer funded parties there will be no shocks. Political parties which in the last few years have got their message in front of the people and started to challenge the status quo – the Scottish Nationalist Party, UKIP, the Greens – would soon be no more. How much would these parties be handed out? Not much, you may be sure. Who will decide how much? An independent commission, you say? Who will appoint that commission? Ah. What about when your local doctor decides to stand for parliament in protest at the closure of your hospital? How much will he get given to campaign? Probably nothing at all. You see he is rocking the boat and the political class don’t want it rocked.

I know it sometimes seems as if the Tories were in the pocket of business and Labour were in the pocket of the unions, but the alternative is worse.

The objection to taxpayer funded parties is not about money.

It is about democracy.

26 March, 2012

Deeper and down

Waking up to headlines such as 'Cameron sinks to the depths' I confess I wasn't surprised. Somehow the government made a fairly harmless budget seem as if pensioners were to be starved in order to give millionaires that little bit more, and then the chief Tory Party fundraiser, a man who seemed like a second hand car salesman, was filmed by Sunday Times journalists offering quiet dinners with David Cameron en famille in return for £250,000.

The wheels seem to have fallen off the Tory presentational machine.

The budget was timid. Our upper income tax rate of 50% was the highest in Europe and an independent report said it was damaging rather than helping the economy. Osborne should have reduced it to 40%, which is still high. The tax regime, which makes 5% of earners pay 25% of income tax, is still far too progressive. But all sections of society are taxed too much because of Osborne's (and Brown's before him) passion for public spending: Osborne borrowed an extra £140 billion in his first year and will borrow an extra £120bn in his second.

I had no idea that pensioners have a higher tax threshold than ordinary people and it seems sensible to close this gap. Independent reports are that pensioners, on average, will lose a quarter of one percent of their income. This desn't seem much and, as Mr Osborne says, we are all in this together.

These are criticisms the Government should have swept aside, but didn't. Mr. Milliband's suggestion that cabinet ministers would benefit from the budget was contemptible, and someone should have said that.

As to the 'cash for access' stuff, it's useless trying to lobby the Tories because they can't even get their own ideas past the LibDems in the coalition.

Something is badly wrong here with the workings of government and party and Cameron needs to clear it up.

Oh - the headlines were about a film director of the same name going in a submarine.

25 March, 2012

Happy Day

I don’t know what it is about 25th March that makes people do significant things – perhaps it is the visible onset of spring which makes them say ‘Yes! Up and at ‘em!’

Today is the anniversary of the formal founding of Venice in 421, so La Serenissima is 1,591 today.

25th March is Independence Day in Greece, which marks its founding in 1821, making it just 1,400 years younger than Venice. Greeks will listen to their anthem, ‘Hymn to Liberty’ and wonder what the devil they are doing approaching starvation levels under the guidance of a Prime Minister imposed from Belgium (founded 1831).

We can all celebrate today the signing of the Treaty of Rome in 1957 making the bogus idea of ‘Europe’ 55 today. Doubtless the Greeks will ponder that, too.

It is Waffle Day in Sweden, when families sit by the fireside reciting European Agricultural Directives.

24 March, 2012


Tomorrow the State will try to tell you what the time is.

It will be wrong.

Ignore it.

The fictional and the overpaid

Daft Idiot
Inspector (Commissario) Montalbano, the fictional Sicilian police chief, will be known to many Britons and expats. The books, by Andrea Camilleri, are excellent, and available in English, and the television programmes, also very good, are shown on the BBC, with subtitles.

Now the good Inspector is in trouble. In the books and programmes, much is made of his passion for food, in particular (being Sicilian) fish, but the European fisheries commissioner, incredibly a Greek called Maria Damanaki, has complained that his liking for baby squid, totani, is wrong, in that the sale of them is illegal under her regulations. She is writing to Andrea Camilleri – good luck there, he is a chap who speaks his mind – to ensure Inspector Montalbano in future eats only food approved by her, perhaps fish McNuggets.

This is awful on so many counts it is hard to know where to start. Firstly we are paying her a six figure sum annually to come up with this dross. She has scores of assistants, also well paid and with good pensions, none of whom saw fit to advise her not to be such an idiot.

Second, Montalbano is a fictional character: that is to say not a real person, Maria, but one who exists only on the pages of a book and the frames of a film. It will be difficult appearing before a court to prosecute someone who doesn’t exist. The Courts don’t like it.

Third, the eating of baby fish – not just squid but all types - is common in Mediterranean countries. One place it is just as common as Italy is Maria’s native Greece.

Next, the European Union’s contribution towards saving fish stocks is to make fishermen throw fish away, dead. So if you are fishing for sole, with a licence from Ms Damanaki, and you accidentally catch a red mullet, over the side it goes. It doesn’t help fish stocks because now, like Inspector Montalbano, it is not alive.

I don’t expect to solve the EU problems overnight (at least my solution for any self-respecting sovereign nation is to leave it) but could we please, some time, take some small tentative steps towards reality? Please?

Food Trucks

The city of Sydney, in Australia, has passed a bill permitting healthy, interesting fast food outlets opening at night. 'Food trucks' will appear at 13 destinations in the city, offering delights including Cantina Mobil, Let's do Yum Cha and Veggie Patch to replace the usual greasy burger or kebab.

This is an excellent idea which the mayoral candidates in London would do well to follow. The Food Trucks, checked for financial viability as well as cleanliness, are a mobile equivalent of Singapore's excellent Food Halls.

Good luck to them.

23 March, 2012

Team What?

There has been a lot of complaints about the new kit for the UK's athletes at the Olympic Games. I don't really share this view: there is some red, some white and some blue on the shirts, which is about as much as you can expect if you waste money asking Stella McCartney to design it (as if enough money hadn't been wasted on this vanity project already).

What I do object to is that we have got the name of the team wrong. The country is called The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland so the team should be called 'Team UK', not 'Team GB'. We screwed this up last time - how come nobody has noticed?

21 March, 2012


Six months ago Judith Tebbutt, aged 56, was holidaying with her husband David in a resort in Kenya. Attackers staged a kidnap attempt, during which Mrs Tebbutt was captured and her husband was killed. She has been a hostage for six months, and has now been released following the payment of a ransom.

Naturally I am pleased for Mrs. Tebbutt, but I cannot condone the payment of a ransom. It simply means that kidnappers know they can make money from this crime, and will encourage further kidnappings, further murders.

The countries of the West should get together and agree that under no circumstances will ransoms be paid, whatever the circumstances. It will be difficult, and lives will be lost as the bandits begin to learn, but eventually many lives will be saved as the criminals realise it won't work. If the whole of the G20 made this pact, countries which had not signed it would realise they were putting their citizens at risk.

We need to bite the bullet, now.

Worth a flutter

Britons have the reputation among their neighbours of betting on anything and everything, but surely one of the most ridiculous is the book made on the colour of George Osborne's tie as he delivers today's budget.

For your information you can get 2/1 on purple, 3/1 on blue and 25/1 on orange. Almost the entire contents of the budget have been leaked in advance, but the colour of his tie remains a closely guarded secret.

PS it seems to have been a spotty light / dark blue. I don't know if this means a stewards' enquiry.

All quiet in Europe?

Europe seems to have gone out of the headlines for a while, with the Greek default / bailout, Mario Monti making some progress in Italy and the other Mario, Draghi of the European Central Bank, flooding the market with a trillion euros of cheap 3 year loans to the banking system. They have bought themselves some time.

But how do we stand, in real terms? It doesn’t look too pretty.

Greece. Lucas Papademos, the man chosen by Merkel and Sarkozy to be the Greek leader, has made optimistic noises to the effect that Greece will start paying its way in two years. Unfortunately no one seems to share this view. The latest IMF report on the bailout makes it fairly clear that Greece simply can’t hack it. Further cuts of some €12 bn – more than 5% of output – need to be made in the next three months, and there are elections coming up in which the people are unlikely to forgive the existing leaders. If Greece doesn’t make these savings – and I can’t see how it can – the IMF will withhold its aid payments and the whole pack of cards will come tumbling down.

Portugal. It seems inevitable now that Portugal will seek a second rescue package this year. GDP will shrink by at least 2% this year, unemployment is 14% and rising and all this despite 20% cuts in public spending. The idea was that Portugal would be saved by the rescue package and then export itself out of trouble. Its main export market is Spain.

Spain. Budget deficit will exceed the limit imposed by the new pact, as Prime Minister Rajoy simply ignored it. In the middle of a recession Europe wants Spain to reduce public expenditure by 5.5% over two years and it does not seem likely this can be done. The banks are nearly bust due to the collapse of the property market, and it is likely to fall further.

Italy. Mario Monti has made progress but is gaining a reputation for giving in too easily. It seems likely that the new labour market reforms will be watered down. Italy’s debt is still rising at an alarming rate and entered recession at the turn of the year.

The Pact. The Merkozy agreement to limit deficits and for indebted countries to put this in their constitutions seems to be breaking up. Spain announced a breach on the very day they signed the pact, François Hollande has announced that he will renegotiate it, and the Dutch have declared they will follow suit. Slovakia didn’t sign it and the Irish are holding a referendum.

Europe has been undone by the indecisiveness of its leaders and it has come up against democcracy, as it was always going to: the people don't always choose what is best for them.

There is a pause in the shooting, but the European Army is surrounded and out of ammunition.

18 March, 2012


I wrote about John Demjanjuk a couple of years ago. He had been convicted in Israel in 1988 of being Ivan The Terrible, a sadistic guard at Treblinka camp during the war, and sentenced to death. Before they managed to do away with him the Israelis found they had the wrong bloke and sent him back home to America.

Then he was arrested, to stand trial in Germany as having been a guard at Sobibor camp. The Americans cancelled his citizenship and sent him off to Germany (even though there was no suggestion he had killed any German citizens). He was found guilty in May last year.

Now he is dead, aged 91.

I don't know if Demjanjuk was guilty - I suppose he was - but I do know that charging a man on the evidence of survivors more than 60 years after the event is dubious. And I do not believe it to be in the public interest to keep raking over the coals of the last war.

Let us hope Demjanjuk's departure to a higher court draws a line under this nonsense. I was born ten years after the war and am in my fifties. Enough.

16 March, 2012

Back where he belongs

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, has resigned. He is going off to be an academic, at Cambridge, which in my view is what he was fit for all along.

When he became Archbishop in 2003 everyone knew what his tasks were. He had to diffuse the remainder of the row on women priests, and he had to sort out a burgeoning split on homosexuality. As to the first, the issue of women priests per se had been sorted in 1994; there remained the issues of whether a safe place could be found within the church for people who disagreed with the idea, and whether women could become bishops (and thus ordain other priests). The homosexuality issue was driven by a separation between the Western Church, in Britain and America, where liberal attitudes prevail, and the African church, equally numerous, where there is great intolerance of homosexuality. David Cameron's recent push towards making marriage equal for everyone is merely an exacerbation of the rift.

There are two ways in which you can resolve crises such as this. One is to take a principled stand, the other is to negotiate. Williams chose the latter and it was the wrong choice: these debates were not being conducted by a malleable general public, who, by and large, couldn't give a damn. They were conducted amongst educated, principled people with fundamental differences on what they saw as vitally important matters. They weren't going to be fobbed off. If there were a measure of confidence and satisfaction among churchgoers it would be lower now than in 2003.

What Williams lacked in organisational ability he more than made up for in original thought. He once said that Britain should be ready to accept pockets where Sharia Law was practiced; and on the issue of whether Christians had a right to wear a cross or crucifix, he said that many people were taken in by the business of selling souvenirs. Both of these were intellectually defensible but idiotic as utterances of the Archbishop.

For most of my lifetime the Archbishops have been soaking wet liberal ditherers. Church attendance under their guidance has collapsed and no one believes anything at all. The last Archbishop who was any use was Michael Ramsay, and he retired in the 1970s. In my view the Anglican communion will now split up into Anglo-Catholic, Evangelical and Liberal arms. Its future, if it has one, lies in the third world.


Just heard that Indian batsman Sachin Tendulkar has completed his 100th international century, a feat so remarkable it is hard to comprehend.

Tendulkar has scored more than 15,000 test runs, 2,000 more than the second on the list, Rahul Dravid, who has just retired. Tendulkar has scored 6,500 runs more than the highest ranked England player, Graham Gooch, who retired 17 years ago.

He also easily tops the One Day Internationals batting list with over 18,000 runs and once scored 200 not out in a one day match.

I can't imagine Tendulkar's feat ever being repeated, although I would have said it was impossible in the first place.

15 March, 2012


At the recent Crufts Dog show, five pedigree dogs, while being put through their paces, were injured; their owners decided that rather than keep them alive it was easier and cheaper to have them put down.

Well, actually, no. But this is what happened to five horses at the current Cheltenham Festival. I invite you to imagine what, say, the Daily Mail would have made of it, if it had been dogs.

Racing is watched or attended by millions of people but managed by a group of self-appointed and, on the surface at least, rather smug individuals called the Jockey Club. I have wondered before whether it isn't time to review who is responsible for the sport: the rules, the betting, safety at the track, animal welfare.

14 March, 2012

Measuring success

The International Criminal Court in The Hague has found someone guilty.

I mention this because the ICC has been in existence for nearly ten years and has cost something around a billion dollars, and this is the first person it has found guilty. Just one.

His name is Thomas Lubanga and he is from the Democratic Republic of Congo, better known as Zaire, or the Belgian Congo. The country is huge, the people poor and uneducated. It has been at war for most of its unhappy existence.

Lubanga has been found guilty of recruiting and using child soldiers ten years ago. Obviously it is a disgraceful act and something I myself, living as I do in Europe, would never do. But I didn't know it was illegal. Wrong, yes; illegal? Did you know this?

Supposing one lived in an area of the world - Central Africa, for example - where using child soldiers was the norm. Life expectancy is around 45 so presumably to commit an atrocity you have to catch your employees young.

I don't wish to be flippant but what we have done here is impose a set of western values and call people who don't live up to them criminals. In my view the concept of a universal morality set is nonsense, and is there merely to appease the bien pensant in the civilised world.

A billion dollars spent educating Congolese might have been worthwhile.

12 March, 2012

Equality vs. Equalities

Sometimes one looks at what is going on and wonders whether the whole world is mad.

The British Government is opposing, in the European Court of Human Rights, the right of Christians to wear crosses or crucifixes at work. This daft crusade is being led by Lynne Featherstone, the confused and completely useless Equality Minister. The Government's opponent in the case is its own Equality Commission.

Britain is one of few countries in the world with an established church: Bishops sit in the House of Lords and the move permitting women priests had to be approved by Parliament. The Church of England, headed by the Queen, is part of the fabric of life in Britain, and you would have thought the Government had enough sense to stay out of this one.

Of course Mr. Cameron has already upset the Church with his proposals for gay marriage, which I have commented on recently. He has also upset people who live in the countryside with his changes to planning law and ruinously expensive high speed trains. He has upset a lot of people with his poorly explained changes to the Health Service, and he is about to start a row with changes to the taxation of pensions. On top of that people are seeing their standard of living fall for the second year in a row, youth unemployment is far too high and fuel far too expensive in part due to his insane environmental levies.

All of this would not really matter if it weren't for the fact that within a couple of years he will be asking these people to re-elect him.

10 March, 2012

Hostage fiasco

Meanwhile a row has broken out between Britain and Italy over the failed rescue mission for the hostages in Nigeria.

President Napolitano, whose constitutional position forbids him from commenting on anything but the most important issues facing the country, has said that Britain's behaviour has been inexplicable.

It would appear that faced with two hostages, one British and one Italian, the British trained up a team and landed them in Nigeria and found no time in all this to discuss the matter with the Italians until the mission was underway.

It is accepted that few countries have the ability to mount such an expedition and Italy is not one of them, but it will be seen as high handedness in the extreme. Given it was a joint operation with Nigeria, it seems Mr Hague had plenty of time to discuss it with Lagos and none with Rome. The Italians couldn't have contributed much militarily but they might at least have warned that telling the Nigerians would mean telling the kidnappers.

Salary madness

Mario Monti's policy of transparency in public sector remuneration has thrown up some interesting disparities. A public letter signed by the heads of the most important art galleries in Italy, including those of the Gallerie Borghese in Rome and the Uffizi in Florence, declare that they earn less than €2,000 a month, less than a quarter of the salary of a clerk at the President's Offices and less than a sixteenth of the pension of the former Secretary General of the Senate.

Of course it will take years to eliminate the jobs-for-the-boys culture of the Italian political class, but in this case Monti has made a good, if timid, start.

However, writing in the Financial Times, Beppe Severgnini, who refers to the unelected Prime Minister as like a nanny and calls him Mario Poppins Monti, says that he has been too cautious in front of several vested interests and the cap of €295,000 for public officials will only apply to new contracts.

There's a lot of anomalies to dissolve, including Article 18 which prevents companies from laying off workers and means foreign direct investment in Italy is effectively zero.

Poppins only has a year left.

08 March, 2012

International Women's Day

In my local Umbrian village this morning I must have seen half a dozen women within 10 minutes who were carrying a sprig of mimosa to commemorate International Women's Day. There will be dinners, there will be speeches, there will be eager politicians on the bandwagon.

For the remaining 364 days a year these women will be sidelined, paid less, expected to keep their place, prevented from entering the top tier of business. Scantily clad females will support even the most banal TV programmes and newspapers will discuss the youthfulness of their bottoms as if it were the only thing God put them on this earth for.

This is why I am against UN or other days of support: people feel they only need think about it for 1 day a year.

07 March, 2012

Non investment

Continuing this blog's advice on what not to invest in, Italy has established a four year bond which you can buy over the internet. Very convenient!

However, there will be elections in Italy next year, and the new government may or may not do exactly what the unelected Monti government has suggested. It might be an administration of a completely different mindset. Opinion polls say that the Monti administration, if it were to stand for power today, would receive 22% of the vote (100% in Berlin, of course, but they won't be part of the poll).

Sit this one out.

Super Tuesday

Yesterday was the day when, in a rush of states to declare their support, an American political party wants to be anointing a new leader. This race, for the Republicans, has been at the same time the most expensive, the most aggressive and the least inspiring. The man who began the race as the front runner, Mitt Romney, has spent millions bad-mouthing his opponents, and he could never really unite his party. An interesting cultural note here: in almost all pictures of Americans, the woman has her mouth open, as if to declare astonishment at how happy she is. Here Romney's mouth is wide open, saying 'My! You are having a good time, aren't you?' but his wife is sufficiently unemoted that she can breathe normally. It sums up his campaign.

Newt Gingrich's wife looks as if she is going to deny ever having known the man, as if nothing in the conduct of the campaign or in the man's behaviour is anything to do with her and that she is only hired help for the day. She is his third wife and this pretty well sums her life as well as his campaign.

Rick Santorum, the evangelical nutter, who has got far further in all this than he really should have, makes an Archbishoply embrace of the world ('Dearly beloved..') but inclusion is not really his thing. I think he would have liked to have been a lot nastier in the race but his sanctimonious public persona wouldn't permit it.

Having done better than anyone thought, he may be a force to be reckoned with but I somehow doubt it.

Ron Paul looks tired but he is in his 70s and after this will hand over the libertarian mantle to his son Rand (named in part, I think, after Ayn Rand). He was this blog's preferred candidate and did well, on the back, astonishingly, of young people and students. Now America may have a libertarian future.

Romney will win, but to quote Mark Mardell of the BBC, he hasn't sealed the deal with the American people. It is good news for Obama and therefore bad news for Britain.

05 March, 2012

The ties that bind

There is an emerging row of the political / religious establishment over gay marriage. You'd have thought they all had something better to do.

'I don't support gay marriage despite being a Conservative, I support gay marriage because I am a Conservative' said David Cameron in one of the most fatuous comments by a party leader in a generation.

Cardinal Keith O'Brien, leader of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland, accuses Cameron of trying to redefine reality, and changing long-standing laws and traditions at the behest of a small minority of activists.

So there's going to be quite a row, and it's hard to know what it is all about. Homosexuality has been legal in Britain for 45 years, so gays can live together, a state which is also chosen by a large number of heterosexual couples. Then a few years ago there was introduced the new concept of registered partnership, which means that gays can openly and legally make the assurances of love and commitment which are normal for heterosexual couples. So it can't be that.

What it seems to be is just an attempt to redefine the word 'marriage' (away, incidentally from the definition in the UN Declaration on Human Rights). It means making both sides definitionally the same as well as practically.

I have many gay friends and oddly enough a lot of them regard themselves as different, and rather relish that difference.

So it seems to be a lot of fuss about nothing. This blog is neither in favour of it nor against it, but it is opposed to the Government wasting so much time. 

03 March, 2012

Humpty or was it Dumpty?

One - just one - of the reasons I have never thought that Britain should be an integral part of the European Union is that we really don't understand them. Sometimes they mean what they say, and sometimes they don't.

Take for example our accession to the then European Economic Community in 1973, nearly 40 years ago. A couple of sceptical politicians reminded the then government that the Treaty said it was for 'ever closer union'. The Prime Minister, Edward Heath, said in a broadcast that there was nothing to worry about, this was the sort of language these European Johnnies used, and there was no question of any political element to it. Of course we now know that this was something they said and meant, but didn't want us to know.

On the other hand, consider this. Spain, on the very day  that it enthusiastically signed the new budget agreement (Britain, if you recall, refused to sign it and is a pariah) on the very day, announced a proposed budgetary deficit in excess of that permitted. But they signed! The thing will have lasted intact for minutes rather than hours, rather than as Angela Merkel said 'it will last for ever'.

Nicolas Sarkozy announced that their strategy was bearing fruit, on the day that Greece was downgraded again.

I mean, what on earth is it all about?

'When I use a word', Humpty Dumpty said, 'it means just what I choose it to mean - neither more nor less'

02 March, 2012

Picking a loser

Born Arnold George Dorsey and nicknamed Gerry, the reason for his change of name to that of a German opera composer is lost, thankfully, to history. Engelbert Humperdinck (he changed his name by deed poll) is Anglo-Indian, born in Madras. In the 1960s he was a hairy, open shirted crooner of unparalleled awfulness.

He is now 75 years old and has been selected to represent Britain in the Eurovision Song Contest.

Needless to suggest we are unlikely to win; I think we must study the strategy a little deeper. After we have limped through the litany of 'Royaume Uni - nul points' there will be a feeling of the inevitable. People will ask how we were supposed to win when represented by a hirsute old age pensioner who seemed outdated 50 years ago. It will take away some of the sting.

Incidentally it is for this reason that I don't believe Harry Redknapp is the right choice for England football manager. We need a foreigner, on whom we can blame our traditional and ineluctable first round loss to a team of the level of Azerbaijan or Burkina Faso. People will be reluctant to blame defeat on the charming, blokey, Redknapp. If there's a Frenchman out there with managerial qualities, he's our boy. Step forward Arsène Wenger.

01 March, 2012

The Ice Man

In better days
It is a fraction over 20 years since the discovery in the Alps between Italy and Austria of the body of an ancient man. He has been nicknamed Oetzi after the valley where he was found.

Since then the body has been prodded and poked, cut and examined. We know that Oetzi is some 5,300 years old and 1.65m tall. Researchers have taken samples of and examined his mitochondrial DNA and his nuclear DNA. They know that his family came from Corsica or Sardinia, that he was blood type O, that he was lactose intolerant, predisposed to heart condition, suffered from Lyme's disease, even that he had brown eyes.

If this had been a war grave - and Oetzi died from loss of blood after being hit by an arrow - you wouldn't be allowed to touch the bodies.

I know it's science, and I suppose it's important, but I am just wondering whether we shouldn't allow the poor chap some dignity.

Davy Jones

Davy Jones, lead singer of The Monkees, has died aged 66.

The Monkees might be said to be the first modern band. Founded in the mid-1960s for a TV programme, being photogenic was the first requirement. Stephen Stills, later of Crosby Stills and Nash was turned down for a role due to his looks. The TV programme, featuring absurd antics and superb music ran for 58 episodes and there were spin-off films and of course records. At one stage they were more popular than the Beatles. The diminutive Jones became an international heart-throb.