A Cautionary Tale (1)

WHAT IS the connection between George Osborne’s ‘Northern Powerhouse’ and Durham County Cricket Club?

At first sight not a lot but bear with me.

When Durham was awarded first class county status most people, including many Northumbrians like me who passed the occasional afternoon at Jesmond but were more likely to be found at Blyth or Alnwick or Morpeth, were delighted that top class cricket had finally come to the North-East.

When it was announced that Chester-le-Street was to become a Test Match venue, for some, me included, the pride was tempered with a degree of pessimism because we could see where it was likely to lead.

As indeed it now has.

Why? Because avid followers of Test cricket —the Barmy Army (Home Division) — will travel from Nottingham to Leeds and from Sheffield to Manchester and from Leicester to Nottingham and Birmingham, but to Newcastle or Durham with a bus journey to follow? The Club’s own web site demonstrates the likely problems all too well.

So while Headingley and Old Trafford and Edgbaston have sizeable hinterlands and convenient transport links and even Trent Bridge is handy for the Midlands and the A1/M1, Emirates Riverside — not so much. The commitment to five days or even two or three is going to mean either a lot of travelling or hefty hotel bills.

Three/four-day county matches are not well-attended anywhere these days but both limited overs formats draw the crowds and without the burden of test matches Durham would probably do very well. Able to boast players of the calibre of Collingwood, Onions and Stokes it is by no means anyone’s poor relation.

Would the Northern Powerhouse, if it existed, make a difference? We may find out or we may never know but as they say another step north “it cannae hurt”. Manchester is already a “city state”, as is Liverpool, as is Leeds/Sheffield (very nearly). Newcastle has little chance on its own and I don’t sense any appetite (I’m long away from Tyneside so forgive me if I’m misreading the signs) for a Tyneside/Wearside or Tyne/Wear/Tees entity but either there needs to be a sizeable counterbalance to the Yorks/Lancs axis or we are looking at something akin to a semi-autonomous region including those counties as well as Durham and Northumberland (I’m talking geographical traditional counties not simply current local councils) with powers comparable to those devolved to Wales or Scotland.

Next step federalism!

And even if either of these things came to pass, the North-East is a frontier with a lot of nothing before the traveller reaches Edinburgh. It takes some imagination to see Durham CCC attracting more cricket fans from Yorkshire and Lancashire simply because of an improvement in transport links and such links could equally serve to draw supporters away from Tyneside as to draw the towards it.

I have used Durham CCC’s plight to illustrate this theme but similar situations face a lot of other activities in the North-East as they do in other peripheral parts of England notably Cumbria (even less blessed industrially than Tyneside) and the South-West. What steps we can or even should take to redress the balance is a debate worth having.

But there is something else happening in sport and elsewhere which of which the treatment of Durham is only the latest example. I’ll deal with that later.

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A way forward for the Lords

THE CURRENT ROW over Cameron’s resignation honours list (much of it media hype from,.of all places, The Times) points up yet again the extent to which the whole honours system has become a tool for Prime Ministers to reward their cronies at little expense for doing not very much.

However if Cameron wishes to reward his wife’s hairdresser with an MBE the result is less to devalue the honours system, which has always been used to reward people for their commitment to otherwise unrewarding tasks, than to devalue his own reputation.

Abusing the House of Lords is a different matter.

Having evolved over the centuries to be a highly efficient, if in modern terms unorthodox, revising Chamber, it now finds itself under attack both from within its own ranks and from those outside who are heedless of its function and the effect that their own actions have on that function (stand up, Messrs Blair and Cameron) and those who are obsessed with the idea that anything that does not directly reflect the will of the people (for which read “those who believe that they can manipulate the people to their will”) has no legitimacy in a parliamentary democracy.

It is generally agreed that, however constructed, a second, revising Chamber is to be preferred to a uni-cameral arrangement in the interests of good governance. Recent experience with the Scottish government where it has been left to the courts to adjudicate on the legality of certain aspects of legislation would bear this out. The question that needs to be answered is how the Second Chamber, and more specifically the House of Lords, should look, given its long history, the uniqueness of Britain’s (unwritten) constitution, and the demands of the 21st century in the light of Brexit.

The following is not the finished product but is the result of careful thought by a small number of people interested in the welfare of the British parliament and with no particular axe to grind.

The House of Lords, composed of hereditary peers and leavened with a few life peers such as the Lords of Appeal in Ordinary (judges of the House of Lords sitting as the final Court of Appeal for the UK and certain other Commonwealth countries) was expanded in the late 1950s by the Life Peerages Act in a burst of modernity by the Conservative government, a move which saw the virtual end of the creation of hereditary peers. One effect of this novelty was the inevitable “mission creep” as Prime Ministers used the opportunity to boost their party’s representation in the House or to use the system to acknowledge some genuine outstanding achievement in the recipient’s field.

(It also had the more beneficial effect of introducing women to the Lords since the vast majority of titles are inherited through the male line exclusively.)

At present there are around 800 hereditary peers all of whom, until the 1999 House of Lords Act, had the right to sit though many of them chose not to. It is not easy to give a precise figure for the current number of life peers but the closest figure appears to around the 700 mark. At the last count a total of 1,374 life peers have been created since the passing of the 1957 Act, more than half of them by the last four Prime Ministers. In addition there have been a number of life peerages granted to hereditary peers who were not among the 92 chosen to sit in the House, a situation which arguably only makes Blair’s dilettante efforts at reform even more of a dog’s breakfast than it already is.

That then is where we are. Where can we go from here?

The most contentious aspect of this proposal is the re-establishment of the hereditary peers as the “core” of the HoL and for that reason it is necessary to ague the point first and in some detail.

The principle argument in favour of a core of hereditaries as that they are beholden to nobody and nothing other than their own consciences. A secondary argument is that they are probably (ironic as it may seem) more broadly representative of the British public than the modern politician.

In an article for the Daily Telegraph when peers were called on to elect a replacement for Lord Reay three years ago, Peter Oborne commented:

In last week’s courteous but keenly contested by-election, Lord Borwick was up against 22 rivals, almost all of whom had impressive experience that would have been invaluable to Parliament. Lord Albemarle has worked in design in Europe and the US; Lord Hemphill in investment management and education; Lord Harrowby is a chartered surveyor with extensive experience of managing his family estates; Lord Massereene and Ferrard (Ukip) is a Yorkshire farmer; Lord Morris ran a small internet firm; Lord Stockton is a former Telegraph journalist.

The days when peers of the realm owned large tracts of Britain and spent the afternoons dozing in their gentlemen’s clubs are a thing of the past, if not largely a thing of myth. There is a pool of talent which, as Oborne points out, “would have been invaluable to Parliament” were it not for a dyed-in-the-wool idea that “elected, good; inherited, bad”.

Inevitably we need to ensure that this core will be sturdy enough to provide the stability which is needed. While no peer would be excluded (though there could be case for imposing an age limit, perhaps) there would need to be an undertaking to play an active rôle in the business of the House. There are many ways that can be interpreted and many ways it can be subsquently enforced; these are for whoever brings this, or any similar proposals, into force.  At a guess the number of acive peers is unlikely to exceed around 200 though if there was a danger of the numbers (see below) becoming unwieldy some form of election might be necessary.

There are certain “offices of state” retirement from which has traditionally been accompanied by at least the offer of a peerage, Prime Minister and Speaker of the House of Commons being the obvious ones though holders of the other three major offices (Home, Foreign and Chancellor) have often been included as have retiring Chiefs of the Defence Staff and Archbishops of Canterbury. Continuing this practice should strengthen the core further.

Since the passage of the Parliament Act 1911 which limited the power of the Lords to delay legislation there has developed an understanding that the Lords do not seriously amend or unduly delay Bills which seek to enact manifesto commitments of the governing party in the Commons. It seems, judging by recent events, that this understanding is in danger of being substantially weakened and in a reversal of the situation in which Asquith found himself in 1910 it is an alliance of Labour and Liberal-Democrat peers (and a few others of what might be called the Opportunist Party!) seeking to disrupt Conservative legislation.

All is fair in love and war and parliamentary skullduggery but the mess left behind by the unfinished reform of the House has the potential to leave much of the government’s timetable at the mercy of appointees, either political or “social” who, unlike the hereditaries, are at least to an extent beholden to their patron. (Conversely, of course, one can assume that were the government of the day to be more leftward inclined, its Bills might well enjoy an easier passage and less robust scrutiny with results reminiscent of the Dangerous Dogs Act and other examples of the Law of Unintended Consequences.)

The solution is to replace the run-of-the-mill life peers with Peers of Parliament who will sit in the Lords only for the duration of the parliament. There is no reason not to have these appointed by the political parties by whatever method they choose to adopt (including patronage!) since one essential condition should be that the number to be appointed should be independently determined and must reflect the proportion of the popular vote each party received at the General Election.The Electoral Commission would seem to be the obvious candidate for this task.

These arrangements would provide a House of Lords which builds on its own valued traditions, makes use of the expertise of former holders of senior positions within the British establishment, provides the government of the day with a reasonable chance of getting its legislative programme through and at the same time goes some way to redress what some people see as the “democratic deficit” inherent in the FPTP electoral system.

And I commend it to the House!

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Exit Britain

WITH THE LABOUR party in disarray and the Conservatives increasingly looking as if they may elect as their leader someone whose ministerial experience stretches no further than a moderately lacklustre few months rabbiting the renewable energy and climate change drivel penned for her by the green blob in DECC it would seem that one of the most successful countries ever to exist could finally be off to join the Third World.

A cautionary tale if ever there was one about what happens when you let fanatics loose anywhere near the reins of power.

There is still hope. The Conservatives might just come to their senses and understand that what they are electing is a Prime Minister who, in addition to presiding over what one hopes will be an orderly departure from the EU, also has a government to run until at least 2020.

If so they will realise that the safe pair of hands will be a better bet for the future of country and party than a one-trick pony who will almost certainly sink without trace once she has fulfilled the purpose for which the Brexit fanatics have chosen her, namely to get out of Europe as quickly as possible before too many people realise the pup they have been sold and take to the streets with lengths of rope and makeshift scaffolds!

Make no mistake; the only people keen to see the UK out of the EU as soon as possible are  Jean-Claude Juncker (who hates the British and always has), François Hollande (who thinks, wrongly, that kicking the Brits out will win him some votes next year and attract some of the UK financial sector to Paris — in your dreams, Frankie), and the handful of Brexit extremists who want an end to free trade, free movement, immigration by anyone from anywhere and basically anything to do with foreigners of any sort.

When Baroness Warsi said that these were people she wouldn’t dare get on a night bus with, she hit the nail squarely on the head.

Only an idiot believes that it is possible to negotiate between now and next Spring any sort of deal that will navigate an acceptable way through what the EU are prepared to allow and what the British people actually want which is why Article 50 starts a two-year process. The Brexit fanatics are not idiots of course. They don’t in reality want a deal; they want out on their terms.

Not only do they not represent the 16 million who voted to stay, they don’t even represent the majority of the 17 million who voted to leave. They represent no-one but themselves and if they get their way they will condemn Britain to a generation of isolation and sooner or later internal strife.

Because it will not take the British people long to realise just how comprehensively they have been shafted — half of them already do, of course — and will demand retribution.

Meanwhile on the streets of England the nastiness that never lurks far below the surface amongst the hard-of-thinking members of English society, knuckle-draggers par excellence every one of them, has started to show itself. Allowed to have their way the ropes and scaffolds would already be in use with Polish plumbers first in line and anyone with a slightly different coloured skin next to go. Watch where you sunbathe this summer!

The mob that couldn’t tell the difference between a paedophile and a paediatrician were intellectuals compared with this crew. And do you think those screaming for “BREXIT NOW!” care? Nah! Not our problem, mate! Collateral damage. You get in every war!

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A Brexit interlude

HAVING PROMISED ‘Now, with added hubris … part 2” I can promise that I do intend to deliver.

However, I see no reason not to take advantage of other people’s efforts, so as a  holding operation in this rapidly developing charade, here is an article by Rafael Behr from today’s Guardian which expounds on the dangers facing Britain in the event of a leave vote in two weeks’ time.

One chilling aspect, which has hardly been mentioned and certainly not by those on the political right, is the extent to which any “bonfire of the regulations” is likely to impact on the employee as much as on the employer.

It is true that no-one has yet used the phrase “bonfire of the regulations” but it is at the very least implicit in the claim that Britain will be “freed” from all those terrifying Directives that so stultify and enmesh our lives. How many of these Directives emanate from supranational bodies such as the UN or WTO or other of the plethora of worldwide acronyms that set international standards (and by which we would therefore still be bound) and how many more are being applied in a needlessly burdensome fashion — the UK seems unaware of the principles of proportionality and  subsidiarity, both of which are supposed to be integral parts of how the EU operates to the benefit of its citizens — is not explained. I suspect that neither Gove nor Johnson know and the thrust of Behr’s article is that neither of them care.

Johnson is bent on self-aggrandisement and sees this campaign as a stepping stone to  Downing Street; Gove, assuming Behr’s analysis is correct, sees it as a means of destroying the established order. The behaviour of both with their promise that they will institute a proper system to control immigration and that they pledge that they will give us a list of things that will make Britain better suggests more than just  the hubris which inspired the title for my last post (and next one).

Neither seems to be aware of anything outside their current obsession. The collateral damage that they will be prepared to accept  in order to achieve their ambitions may well turn out to be the livelihoods and standard of living of their fellow-citizens.

It is worth quoting one part of Behr’s article at some length but I recommend reading all of it.

Their creative destructive process starts with a bonfire of regulations, which are presumed to stifle enterprise but mostly shield workers from capricious dismissal and discrimination. Freedom to be sacked for daring to have a baby doesn’t chime so well with the poster invitation to “take control”.

Such sleight of hand is integral to the Euro-vandal fantasy. There is a hidden clause in every promise of radical upheaval, left or right, that indemnifies the authors of chaos against payment for its consequences. The language is suffused with violence but the rabble-rousers never anticipate being at the scene.

Systems need smashing, bastions need storming – which sounds thrilling if you aren’t the one trampled in the stampede. Gove and Johnson indulge creative fantasies of Brexit because they have the capital and connections to weather a spell of destruction. When a revolutionary plans an omelette, it’s always someone else’s eggs that have to be broken.

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Now, with added hubris … part 1

THE BIGGEST challenge facing any individual or organisation charged with defending the status quo is that their argument is always likely to centre on how much things would be worse, or would probably be worse, or could be worse in the event of change.

Even if that is framed in the quasi-positive terms of things will be better as they are the argument carries the undertone of things will be worse otherwise. Either way they present an opportunity for those arguing for change to characterise the Stayers’ argument as “Project Fear” or some other equally naff terminology.

In reality of course the Goers’ position is even more a “Project Fear” stance (which is why they fight like hell to pin that label on the Stayers) because they have no fundamentally convincing argument that things will be better and if things are not going to be better then why change? They are therefore driven to augment their argument with what I call (and if you care to call this ‘naff terminology’ that’s fine by me) “Operation Comfort Blanket” which seeks to make the argument that things will probably be better if we go but in any event nothing much will change.

There will continue to be blue birds over the white cliffs of Dover. Just you wait and see! But I don’t need to wait and see; I can have them now, already. and I don’t believe your argument that you can also provide me with geese that lay golden eggs. Flying pigs, more like!

With just over two weeks to go to Decision-Day the Goers’ position becomes more ludicrous by the day. Let us have a look:

One of the major struts of this ever more rickety structure was supposed to be sovereignty. As one commenter told us a couple of days ago we will regain “total control of our sovereignty”. Which might be very nice if I knew what it meant. Even nicer if I had any confidence that he knew what it meant. Sovereignty is all about frontiers and borders, about keeping people apart.

And there was a time when that made perfect sense but in the 21st century, internet-connected, 24/7 world of smartphones, email, SMS, and social media it is increasingly irrelevant.

To give one example: last December my daughter spent three weeks in New Zealand. So, courtesy of Apple’s “Find Friends”app and Google Earth, did we! We corresponded on matters relating to Christmas as if she had been at home 300km down the road. What frontiers? What borders?

The European Union has opened up an entire continent, free of charge, to anyone who cares to take advantage of it. And that, inevitably, applies both ways. As Brits can live and work in France or Greece, so Bulgarians and Portuguese can live and work in Britain. Why would we want to put a stop to that?

And the answer to that brings us to the second shaky strut — immigrants.

The Goers’ argument, in a nutshell, is “we don’t want them coming here because we can’t cope”. Oh yes, it is! However they dress it up, the “hordes of immigrants” excuse for leaving the EU comes down to the “strain” that “immigrants” are putting on the NHS, on housing, on wages, on schools. “More than the system can bear.” In other words, the UK is a basket case but leaving the EU will solve that. Eh?

“We will have control of our borders again,” trumpet Johnson and Farage and Gove. Yes, and so will the EU. Say good-bye to our freedom to live, work, travel, holiday without question anywhere on the European mainland. Kick out all the EU workers that Johnson was so keen to welcome when he was Mayor of London (or make them apply for work permits; that’ll be fun!) and stand by to welcome all the British ex-pats that will get the boot from France, Spain and anywhere else that they have gone for a warm and comfortable retirement.

(And if you think the EU migrants were putting a strain on the NHS just wait till all those 65+-year-old emigrés make their way home!)

And this is nothing to do with the real immigration problem which is the “hordes” milling about at Calais or increasingly Dunkirk from all four corners of the Middle-East and North Africa because the streets of London are paved with gold and even assuming they aren’t they are certainly an improvement, as I said a few weeks ago, on open sewers knee-deep in camel dung.

So the inevitable question is: do the voters who are being seduced into voting to go really, as in really,  understand what the “immigration” problem actually is? Because there is at least an even chance that while the Goers are talking about stopping the place being flooded with sponging Bulgarians the punter actually hears “economic migrants from the Middle-East and North Africa”. That way confusion lies.

The Brexiteers “solution” (and that really does need to go in inverted commas) is a “points system”. No longer, says Gove, will EU citizens have the right to unrestricted entry to our country. Fine, says the Belgian prime minister (I think it was he), likewise for your lot. We will also apply restrictions.

“Oh no, you won’t!” “Oh yes, we will!” And while Gove continues to give his impression of of a pantomime dame serious consideration of matters that affect the lives of millions continue to descend into farce.

And then there’s the economics. But enough for one day. Part 2 follows shortly.


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Still waiting ……

THERE IS a case to be made for Brexit …. surely. It must be just that I haven’t heard it yet … surely!

Yesterday gave us two more reasons to demand that the Leavers — who are after all those attempting to overturn  the status quo and therefore those on whom the burden of proof must lie — come up with something better than scare stories or blandishments.

The first, and the most obvious, was the confirmation by Barack Obama that the Leavers’ pie-in-the-sky claim (do they really believe them? really?) that the UK could happily drift into a trade agreement with the USA on the morning after Brexit was not going to happen. Most of us never seriously thought it was.

And the rapid rebuttal from Dominic Raab that this was Obama “doing an old friend a political favour” doesn’t hold water either. And his suggestion that the British people are being “blackmailed by … a lame-duck US president on his way out” is as desperate as it is childish as it is offensive. If Mr Raab continues his parliamentary career we can only hope that he learns a little diplomacy along the way.

The comment from ‘Leave.eu’ (interesting that Leavers are happy enough to use the EU’s internet suffix when it makes a snappy title!) shows a breath-taking ignorance of US politics. This president will certainly be gone before negotiations on any deal begin but, unlike the UK where undoing everything your opponents do in government has become the defining characteristic of Britain’s yah-boo politics, the US tends more towards a certain stability and it is a fair bet that if this president believes that a quick deal is unlikely things will not change much come next January.

Dragging the Leave campaign even further into the gutter, Boris Johnson — who is rapidly approaching his use-by date if, indeed, he hasn’t already passed it — attempted to make political capital or simply divert attention by a sort of typically confused hash of the old Churchill’s Bust story with racist overtones added by the reference to Obama’s ancestry.

This is a dangerous ploy as Boris is evidently too thick to realise. Polls suggest that my generation is more likely to vote leave but this will hardly be the case if they think that Churchill is being disinterred and used to prop up the Leavers’ threadbare campaign. And that same generation still has a soft spot for America and her people and her president and while some may have reservations about the current incumbent they will note the infinitely more statesmanlike manner in which he conducted himself yesterday.

The Americans do have an interest in the future of Europe, and while this may be selfish in part (what diplomatic position can ever be completely free of national self-interest or indeed should be?) the argument that the EU is stronger with the UK on board and the UK is stronger as part of that bloc is certainly true from Washington’s perspective and also from Moscow’s. And anyone who thinks that doesn’t matter hasn’t been paying attention.

Writing in The Times (£) yesterday, Ed Conway, Economics Editor for Sky News, understood Obama’s problem:

The worry is not just Britain, but the fate of the wider EU. With the euro in perma-crisis, extremist parties on the rise and Schengen all kaput, the project may not survive another decade, even with the UK still on board. If Britain leaves, a slow-motion implosion looks much more probable.

And that brings me to the second reason to challenge the Leavers which is the thrust of that same article.

Entitled By staying in the EU we can help to dismantle it  Conway continues:

In the long run, the EU is probably doomed, just as the British Empire looked doomed in 1945, which raises a further thought. No other country in the world has more historical experience of dismantling a crumbling political institution from within, relatively painlessly, than the UK. Might that not be the most powerful internationalist argument for Britain to remain?

Whether you agree with that argument is not something I propose to go into here but it has been said before, including by me, that if the EU is on the skids or likely to be in the foreseeable future the UK (and arguably other countries as well) is going to come better out of the whole sorry mess if it is on the inside helping to oversee an organised break-up rather than on the outside where its influence will be minimal and the blame for the demise of the EU will almost certainly be laid at the door of the country that is perceived to have been instrumental in bringing about that situation — whether rightly or not. Logic and common sense will not be to the fore when the bureaucrats are seeking scapegoats for the failure of their project.

Of more immediate concern are what Conway calls the fantasies of the Leavers the problem with which, he says, “is not merely their incoherence but that they are mostly bunk”.

In spite of what they maintain is the situation:

  • Net migration since 1990 from outside the EU has been three times greater than the flows from the EU.
  • UK product markets are less regulated than almost any other country in the developed world.
  • Britain’s labour market is less controlled than any other European nation.

The unpalatable truth is that Britain is knee-deep in regulations because that’s the way we like it. Why else did we introduce some workplace regulations (on maternity leave, on unfair dismissal, on holidays) that go beyond EU requirements? Why else did we go further than the European habitats directive with our laws on dredging in harbours? Why else did we legislate to reduce emissions by far more than the rest of the continent?

The important thing to remember in all this is that one of the supposedly strongest arguments that the Leavers have put forward is that we will be able to make our own rules. Well, there is the evidence that we already do and we persist in making them more onerous than the EU requires us to. With the result that, as Operation Comfort Blanket tries to convince us, we won’t really notice much difference. We’ll still be up to our eyeballs in the same red tape, the only difference being that we can’t blame Brussels for it!

So where is the logical argument for leaving? I’m still waiting …


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Never closer union

ONE OF the scare stories perpetrated by the Leavers in their version of Project Fear is the long out-dated idea (and now myth) that one of the aims of the EU is the establishment of a United States of Europe.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

It is worth spending some time reading the various treaties which established the EU, starting with the 1957 Treaty of Rome, in order to find out exactly what it is what was envisaged and planned for at various stages of its development.

The Preamble to the Treaty of Rome begins:

DETERMINED to lay the foundations of an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe,

which is a fairly clear statement of the intentions of those who set up the Common Market in the first place. But note the wording — “an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe” — and the clauses that follow. which refer to “common action to eliminate the barriers which divide Europe” which “calls for concerted action in order to guarantee steady expansion, balanced trade and fair competition”,”the constant improvement of …living and working conditions …”, “reducing the differences existing between the various regions and the backwardness of the less favoured regions”, and so on and so forth.

On the other hand while ever closer union may be an aspiration, the EU itself makes clear that different countries with different requirements will proceed aiming different paths and at different speeds. Or, in other words, “ever closer union” can mean pretty much what individual countries want it to mean.

The European Council said in June 2014 that:

the concept of ever closer union allows for different paths of integration for different countries, allowing those that want to deepen integration to move ahead, while respecting the wish of those who do not want to deepen any further.

The best place to look for an honest appraisal of what this, and much else in this debate, really means is the web site ‘Full Fact’ and in relation to “ever closer union” herehere, and here.

Once again we see that the Leavers are being less than totally frank and that their version of Project Fear is still alive and well.

On another tack the ability of the Remain campaign to shoot itself in the foot shows no sign of diminishing with an inept interview this morning by Amber Rudd who appears as incapable as any of her predecessors at DECC at escaping from the grips of the eco-idiots that pass for civil servants in her department.

It is hard to know what has been dangled in front  of the eyes of the ministers in this government (or added to their morning coffee, perhaps) to make them think that the nuclear power station proposed for Hinkley Point makes any kind of economic sense but to hear the responsible minister attempt to convince the public that the price of electricity from this white elephant will compare favourably with wind-generated electricity does call her fitness for office into question.

Likewise the idea that Brexit would mean massive increases in bills is simply not the case.

It really is long past time for that whole department to be shut down and the responsibility for UK energy policy transferred to Trade & Industry where it can be run by engineers instead of social science graduates with ideas about the environment that most of us got over in our teens.



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