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 Fran├žois 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.