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!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

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!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

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 …

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

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.

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

“All for the best …

… in the best of all possible worlds” (Voltaire, Candide)

AS THE Brexiteers ramp up their obsession with “Project Fear” so they expect us to overlook their own Panglossian equivalent: Operation Comfort Blanket.

With Captain Bernard Jenkin in command yesterday they enlisted the aid of the most unlikely attack dog yet released, Telegraph columnist Julia Hartley-Brewer, to yap at the ankles of the unfortunate French economy minister Emmanuel Macon whose only sin was to remind anyone who cares to listen — which does not include the Leavers — that there is no guarantee that France will continue to co-operate with the UK when it comes to having several thousand illegal wannabe immigrants taking up space, time and public money disrupting Channel traffic.

Jenkin of course doesn’t want to hear this; it is of the essence of Operation Comfort Blanket that we all must believe that Brexit will mean a return to the England of warm beer and John Major’s dream of little old ladies cycling to Evensong.

A bit like St Mary Mead without the murders.

“Nothing very much will change,” is the soothing message, “you have nothing to fear from leaving. Bluebirds will sing again over the white cliffs of Dover tomorrow. Just you wait and see.”

Since this is dangerous nonsense let us unpick it carefully.

To begin with a lot of the sub-text of the Leavers is to do with immigration. It’s the pea under the thimble, you might say. When you’re looking at this you’re not paying attention to the other things they are saying. Or not saying.

Because in reality, Cash and Fox and Lawson and Johnson and Farage (perhaps not Farage who is out of his depth in such company) aren’t really all that much exercised about immigration; they are much more interested in a vague concept that they call “sovereignty” but since most of the sheeple don’t really understand that concept and are not all that concerned about it anyway what is needed is something they do understand and “immigraion” seems to be what they are unhappy with.

So if we can convince them that GB can “regain” control of its borders we can keep Johnny Foreigner out and all will be well again. Patriotism is the watchword! The last refuge of a scoundrel, according to Samuel Johnson who knew a thing or two about human nature.

The argument falls down on several fronts:

1 As an island and a country not subject to the Schengen agreement GB already has control of its own borders. It also has, for reasons which should be clear even to the modern breed of Conservative backbencher though perhaps not to a Telegraph columnist,  a vested interest in securing the EU’s external borders, something it can do a lot better inside the EU than outside.

2 While it is true that the Le Touquet agreement is a bilateral arrangement between the UK and France (as far as Eurostar is concerned it now includes Belgium) and is nothing directly to do with the EU, it is an agreement between two EU member states. What would happen in the event that one of those states ceased to be a EU member is anyone’s guess. But M Macon has suggested one possibility!

3 The Leavers are applying Operation Comfort Blanket and guessing that everything would carry on unchanged. The French in the form of M Macon (and to an extent François Hollande who has been making vague noises about “consequences” without being any more specific) are saying possibly not and there are very good reasons, which the Leavers are not bothering to point out, why France might well wish to re-establish the security of what has suddenly become an EU external border.

Why would the French choose to end the Le Touquet agreement? For a start, what’s in it for them? The situation at Calais is an expensive nuisance and an embarrassment. The people of Nord-Pas de Calais would dearly love to see the back of the whole lot of them. If they want to go and make a mess of Britain then let them. And so on.

Then there is the situation as described above. The Channel ports would no longer be simply stopping points between two EU member states. France’s responsibility for frontier security is increased since the Channel now represents an EU external border. Any joint responsibility for its security has ceased. It may be that France and GB have a joint interest in maintaining security but that interest is no longer underpinned by joint membership of the EU. The music has changed. We’re into a different dance.

But in any event this is smoke and mirrors since those who are arguing for Brexit on the grounds of immigration have still not thought their argument through.

Population statistics are easy to find but not always easy to analyse so rather than fill the page with reams of numbers I suggest you look at the government’s own figures.

The point at issue is what happens to population movement in the event of Brexit and there are so many combinations and permutations that the number of possibly answers is considerable.

Let us look at just a few of the variables:

GB rapidly agrees a deal to remain in the EEA — this will mean (at least to an extent) freedom of movement though may provide Cameron with the ability to discriminate against foreign workers. If you are happy with GB discriminating in this fashion try getting a job in Qatar building their World Cup stadia and see how you like it.

GB decides that freedom of movement is a no-no — forget EEA membership.

In the latter case, what happens next? Are we going to deport all the EU nationals currently (legally) resident and/or employed in GB? Are we read for the influx of British ex-pats kicked out of France and Spain?

In this scenario, all EU citizens have become aliens. Is this going to stop Eastern Europeans from attempting to get into Britain thereby swelling the number of illegals in GB?

And what about those illegals anyway? If France kicks them all across the Channel what are the prospects (realistically) of booting them all back to France? Remember the ‘Jungle’ is not full of Bulgarians; it is full of Syrians and Somalis and Sudanese and a dozen other nationalities from all parts of the alphabet who, like Dick Whittington, think the streets of London are paved with gold (though they would probably settle for them not being open sewers knee-deep in camel dung).

And if we really, really “regain control of our borders” (pardon my mirth) can we afford the Border Guards we would need to patrol the coast from The Wash to The Lizard to stop the people smugglers from landing them there?

And all this for what? The Leavers’ dream is a potential nightmare. It’s not a question of “can Britain go it alone?” It’s a question of “what does Britain gain by going it alone?” A spurious excuse for some form of “sovereignty”, as if GB wasn’t a sovereign country already with the right to make her own laws and argue the case for subsidiarity and greater democracy in the EU where she would be looked up to by most of Europe instead of looked down on as a whingeing nuisance.

Cameron has no need of a “Project Fear”. The Leavers are ‘frit’ enough without any help from him!

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

England v The Rest?

IN HIS WEEKLY column in the The Times (£), Hugo Rifkind — a writer with whom I frequently disagree — nails perfectly the contradictions at the heart, or maybe the soul, of the Brexit movement.

As his opening gambit he argues that Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is busily urging everyone to vote Remain on June 23 while in reality hoping that a majority will vote Leave, thereby giving the Scots, who she fervently believes (and probably correctly) will vote Remain, the perfect opportunity to demand another referendum on Scottish independence.

Brexit, he says, would in a nutshell,

… recast(s) the question of “should Scotland leave the UK?” as “should Scotland stay in the EU?” and that is a much easier sell.

It is, therefore in Scotland’s interest for a Leave vote to triumph but that in itself raises certain problems as far as campaigning goes. You cannot reasonably campaign for a Leave vote as a ploy to stay in.

That’s not politics. That’s a con trick you do on a pavement with a trio of cups.

Quite so. But Rifkind then comes to the serious meat of his argument.

In playing with Brexit, British unionists play with fire. They do this because many of them are not truly British unionists at all. Rather, they are English nationalists, who want to maintain a union with Scotland in much the same way that Russian nationalists bemoan the end of the Soviet Union. If you think that sounds like hyperbole, ask yourself why there is so much convergence between Brexiteers and those who campaign most vociferously for an English parliament, or English votes for English laws.

To be honest, he and I part company on that last aspect of his case because it seems to me eminently logical that if you devolve powers over health and education (to name but two) then that devolution must be complete, to wit that if these are a matter for the regions then then cease to be a matter for central government and the national parliament should cease to have any say in the matter. You can be a Remainer and still believe in a proper devolution.

But he then goes on:

They may speak of “British sovereignty”, but what they mean is “English sovereignty”. They just don’t always recognise the difference.

As any Scotsman or Welshman will tell you!

And at that point he strips bare the facade behind which the Leavers attempt to hide and exposes them for the world to see as the Little Englanders they are.

I was roundly condemned in the language now common amongst those who post in comment columns (we really are going to have invent a name for these people!) for applying just that description but consider this remark by Iain Duncan Smith in reply to a question by Andrew Marr:

What if Scotland votes to remain and we remain, and England votes to come out? Does that mean England has to have a referendum to leave the Union? It’s an absurd concept!

Oh, really? How about this scenario: Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland vote by a considerable majority to Remain; England votes by a narrow majority to Leave, a narrow enough majority so that the overall UK vote is in favour of staying in.

Isn’t an English referendum just what the headbanging tendency will be screaming for? Did IDS never read any of the comments in the English tabloid press (and not just the tabloids!) in the six months prior to the Scottish referendum? How many of us would like £1 for every time we read ‘let them go’, ‘good riddance’, ‘why can’t we have a voice as well ‘cos we’d soon get shot of them’? And other less savoury opinions.

Rifkind also makes the point that the United Kingdom is also a Union, something that the Scots and the Welsh are well aware of but which the English all too often appear to forget. And if it comes to the point where Scotland and Wales (I think Northern Ireland is always likely to be a special case for all sorts of reasons) wish to go their own way and England has lost the moral authority to prevent the break-up of that Union what then?

If the rest of the world (including the EU) is not likely to bend over backwards to do favours to the UK once it leaves the EU how much less likely is it to look kindly on England alone? The smaller nations may well find life initially difficult outside the EU unless the other members are prepared to find some fast-track system which permits England to leave while the rest stay but if countries like Cyprus and Malta can survive and (hopefully) thrive inside the EU then there is little doubt that Scotland Wales could do the same.

How England alone and isolated would fare is another matter.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Tories in Fantasyland

TWO ARTICLES in this weekend’s Sunday Times here and here caught my attention.

The first, by Political Editor Tim Shipman, is headlined “Tory threat to oust PM after EU vote” and includes this quote from “another leading Eurosceptic” referring to David Cameron:

He looks like he doesn’t give a s**t about party unity. He’s trying to pick a fight with us

As an example of irony this remark must be in a class of its own and as an example of the lack of self-awareness common to most fanatics it almost defines the genre.

Those of us who have followed the global warming “debate” over the last decade or so are accustomed to this sort of behaviour which might even be categorised as ‘projection’ (defined as ‘denying the existence of one’s own unpleasant impulses while attributing them to others’) but this is the first time I have come across such a blatant example in the political sphere.

I have made the point in other fora that there is no doubt a case to be made for the UK to leave the EU (‘Brexit’ as it is commonly known) just as there is a case to be made for remaining in and I shall be attempting to make the latter case in a future article. What the case for leaving might be is not going to be helped by this “leading Eurosceptic” and other like-minded of his fellow Leavers.

A brief history lesson.

The Leavers have been around since 1975. Their pope is Bill Cash who has never accepted Britain’s membership of the EU and has been joined (inevitably) by John Major’s “bastards” and such luminaries as Liam Fox, John Redwood and Owen Paterson — all carrying their grudges like war medals.

They and a significant number of the Conservative party but never, at least until recently, a majority, have spent 40 years making life as difficult as possible for every party leader from Margaret Thatcher onwards. What part they played in the electoral defeats of 2001 and 2005 it is hard to say but two former party leaders from those wilderness years — Michael Howard and Ian Duncan Smith — are among those now enthusiastically calling for Brexit, Howard (unconvincingly) on the grounds that a vote to leave will galvanise the EU into frenzied activity to give Cameron everything he is asking for (plus free access to the vaults of the ECB, 72 virgins, and Juncker’s head on a platter, for all I know!).

To which my reaction is (i) in your dreams, Michael, and (ii) so bloody what, because the usual suspects as outlined above would still vote to leave whatever Brussels came up with.

Back to the lesson. By 2010 the party had at last elected a credible (sort of) leader though one 10 years older and with some idea of the world outside the incestuous little hot house of PR would have been better. Regrettably that lack of gravitas and experience of the world undermined his confidence to the extent that he was happy to settle for coalition with the Lib-Dems and everyone knew it so that is what he got.

By a certain amount of good luck the Conservatives managed to scrape an overall majority in 2015 so his enthusiastic supporters rallied round, cheered him to the rafters and pledged undying loyalty to the party’s Saviour, right?

Not exactly. Barely was the door of No 10 closed after Cameron’s return from the Palace  than the usual suspects were hard at work undermining his government and before negotiations with Brussels had even started they were niggling away at any media person who cared to listen that the PM was not sincere, that his demands were pointless, that he was bound to fail, and that he and the Civil Service were conspiring to shut the Leavers up.

Once again, ‘psychological projection’ (or maybe plain paranoia) rears its head. Space does not permit a detailed list but it is not hard to find the evidence that the Leavers have been busy practising the very negative arts of which they accuse their opponents. Indeed if they had their way, based on available press reports over the last year, the Remainers would be allowed to say virtually nothing while the Leavers would have carte blanche.

The second article I referred to is by Adam Boulton and is headed “Win and Cameron still faces a neverendum”.

He quotes “a senior veteran of Thatcher’s cabinet” as expecting a challenge to Cameron’s leadership within 24 hours even if the Remain vote wins. Remember that Cameron has already made it clear that he does not intend to serve a third term as PM so any such move, win or lose on June 23, can only be described as a shotgun blast aimed at both feet.

After 13 years out of office, five years hamstrung by the Boy Nick and his fellow nine-year-olds, the Conservatives — instead of making full use of the majority they have and building the foundations for a resounding majority in 2020 — are now proposing to open the doors of Downing Street to a Labour party whose ability to organise themselves a haircut must be seriously questioned.

Correction: with their attitude to Trident in mind, a party that cannot even make up its mind whether to organise a haircut!

Staying in the EU must be better than letting these clowns — on both sides of the aisle — loose on the future of the UK.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment