Monday, 27 February 2017

REMOAN the end game


The passage of the bill to give notice of Britain's withdrawal from the European Union begins  a whole new ball game. It's no longer a rearguard action against Brexit or a will- won't we,  phoney war but the start of the real battle to implement  the British people's wishes to withdraw.

The negotiations which now begin will decide our future, strengthen or weaken the British economy, satisfy the people's fears on immigration, jobs, and national control, or fail them. That makes it a national problem requiring everyone to work together for a successful outcome . 

 Remainers can't wish Brexit away forever. There comes a time when they must accept the referendum result and get behind the effort to implement the nation's decision.That means negotiations. They may suceed or may not. No one can tell, until we see what agreement is possible. No use arguing at this stage, that the wishes of the minority who voted to remain must be heard. Of course they must, but neither their wishes nor those of the majority can be fulfilled until negotiations run their course. Until then we're all in it together, Remainers and Brexiteers alike.

That means new responsibilities for both sides. Brexiteers must now work to achieve what they wanted then decide on the best route to the exit door. Remainers should  join the fight for the best outcome.Then we must all decide whether or not we want to accept the outcome.

 Hugh Gaitskell promised to fight, fight and fight again to save the party he loved. Remoaners preferred to fright, fright and fright again to save the EU they love, claiming that the City will decamp, bricks, brains and bonuses, the car industry collapse and the farmers starve to let the EU  show the nations remaining in its low growth high unemployment Euro-Gulag the results of rebellion.None of these fears are  true and now, as the fight becomes one to secure the national interest Remainers should not undermine it by doubts, fears, dire predictions  and claims that Britain is too weak and stupid to win and that the EU is too kind to let them.

The proof (or falseness) of the predicted disasters can only emerge from negotiations .Until they have taken their course who can tell whether the EU will condemn us to the naughty step or agree a solution which both can live with? Until then we all should  work for the best outcome. Remainers may argue that the British people didn't vote to be made poorer, they'd be daft if they had, but the proof is  in the gift of the EU not our own government .You don't win arguments by insulting the intelligence of your own side or warning that the other side will be horrendously tough to teach us sense. Argueing that the government must negotiate for a soft Brexit rather than withdrawal from the single market, ignores the fact that negotiations start with both sides talking tough, then work to reach softer satisfactions. It would be stupid to go in asking for the minimum because it ensures we'll get less.

 You don't win a negotiating by starting, hands tied,with soft demands against an EU playing tough to protect its own fragilities. You argue and persuade them to sense. Fighting a rearguard action against your own side only strengthens EU intransigence and weakens Britain. That can't be what the wildest Euro-enthusiast, or even Tony Blair, wants.

I don't know what the outcome of the negotiations will be any more than Tony or Peter Mandelson. Yet unlike them, I do know that the in-out argument is over. Whether or not to give notice isn't an issue once we've given it. Any arguments about bridge crossing are wasted before we've got to one. This isn't a choice between hard or soft Brexit.What we get depends on the EU negotiators.  We don't even know whether they'll  waste time haggling  about reparation payments, or continue to try punish Britain to show the others not to be naughty  

From this point on little purpose is served by undermining Britain's negotiators. Rather than prolonging a rearguard action which only helps EU negotiators,  Remainers would be better employed in persuading their EU friends to negotiate sensibly. Why not urge the EU to clear up their own mess, rather than trying to condemn Britain to another?

At the end of negotiations we can decide whether the terms of departure are acceptable or not but getting to that point requires both sides  in Britain to  work together for the best outcome. Until then Blair's resistance movement is not the Maquis but the Luddites. To continue to fratch,sulk or try to ensure worse terms actually makes them more likely. Recalcitrant Remainers may want Britain to slink back into Europe, discredited, with our tail between our legs  and only pathetic concessions, such as those offered to David Cameron, to show, but to work for that end now will anger the electorate and betray the majority.

No use now telling Britain that, like Brer Rabbit and the tar baby, we're stuck
Only national unity can ensure that the EU doesn't offer Britain less favourable access than it has already given  Canada and Switzerland, that Britain isn't required to go on suffering a sixty billion trade deficit every year so  Germany can  build up huge, selfish surpluses to drain everyone else, that the failure of the Euro continues to drive citizens of the poorer countries to Britain,and that we aren't burdened  with French agricultural protectionism to keep out  cheaper food.Shouldn't we work together to achieve all that.

Why do we love Europe so?


I've tried long and hard but I cant see why my party is so enthusiastic about the European Union. I can see why our EU pensioners and Euro MPs feel obliged to sing for their supper and understand why long standing devotees like Blair and Hattersley feel Euro-enthusiasm as a mater of religion. What I can't understand or accept is why something Tony Crosland considered peripheral is so central for so many that it eclipses everything.

It's not a historic commitment. Gaitskell committed Labour against the Common Market. We urged withdrawal in our 1983 manifesto . Why then have we so reversed our position that we registered to support Remain in the 2016 referendum, spent eight times more on it than the Tories who's idea it was, bullied a leader who 'd been consistently against it into speaking for it, then blamed him for not being enthusiastic enough?

It's all a mystery. The EU benefits  the better off with cheap labour, cheap servants, cheap retirement villas and Erasmus scholarships but what about the workers? It  does little if anything for those lower down the pyramid except drain jobs, keep wages down,and strain their social, educational and housing facilities.

It's difficult to see why a Union with which we run a sixty billion trade deficit, which costs eleven billion a year to belong, which imposes higher food prices to protect France and whose aid is our own money back with their strings and their heavy costs deducted, is of any great benefit to the people we represent

It may be just naive idealism but even that shouldn't conceal the fact that the deficit is the export of jobs, a major cause of deindustrialisation,  and a drain on demand . Financing it  requires Britain to borrow  and to sell companies ,houses, land and property, leading to a proportion of foreign ownership greater than any other member. 

It's true that Gordon Brown  overruled Tony Blair's impetuous desire to join the Euro which has made the EU the world's low growth high unemployment blackspot Yet the effects of Europe's deflation still hit us because the EU is our main export market and the Euro- misery in the weaker economies brings more immigrants to Britain.

Being a party of the people  requires Labour to boost employment, growth and the industrial economy which sustains both. Yet the EU. Is a  corporate plutocracy created to serve the purposes of French agriculture and German industry in which a dominant Germany drains the other members by running enormous surpluses  and uses the Euro to keep its exchange rate down to boost its industrial power.

Labour is about democracy, the EU a framework devised and run by the bureaucratic elite which controls it through a  Commission surrounded and influenced by an enormous penumbra of lobbyists, big business and vested interests and largely unchecked by a play way Parliament which lacks any effective party system to allow it to control the executive

Why then were we so out of touch with the British people? Why do so many Labour Parliamentarians want to negate their vote, by  carrying on a long rearguard action against it? Why did we neither learn the lesson of the Scottish referendum, that backing the government helps them not us, nor seize the only opportunity we've had since 2010 to bring down the Cameron government and end its austerity?

Why were so many of our MPs keen for Britain to follow the old EU technique of asking the electorate to reverse any vote the EU doesn't like, and why, now that we've lost all the arguments are we still prepared to let the Tory government seize the centre ground because we're sitting on a pro-EU limb and preoccupied by refighting a battle we've already lost rather than providing a coherent effective opposition

The answer is we're abdicating.There's nothing the EU can do for us in respect of rights, unions, security or the environment that we can't do better for ourselves. There's no support the EU gives to rebuilding industrial strength, improving health and education or advancing equality. On the contrary it proscribes most of the techniques rivals have used to grow strong and reduces improvements to lowest common denominators.

Pinning so many hopes and responsibilities on a failing institution is saying  we've given up hope of winning power and have lost faith in Britain and in ourselves. It's time to move on. Stop fighting a war that's lost. Forget the Euro plumage. Leave the dying bird to the Liberals who're better at fighting dead causes .Instead fight to make Britain strong again and work for the best outcome from Brexit: a Britain that serves the purposes of the people. Not Brussels

When oppositions fall apart.....


The law of political fragmentation (which I've just invented) states that when oppositions fall apart, government is all powerful. Usually our two party system  prevents this. The opposition maintains a continuous critique of the executive, develops an attractive alternative and stands ready to take over when and if the existing one fails

That hasn't worked when parties have broken up or opposition is divided. In 1884 the Liberals split over home rule and Liberal Unionistssustained a period of Conservative rule which went on, albeit with a brief and powerless Liberal government, until the Tories themselves fell apart over tariff reform twenty years later.

It happened again in the 1920s when another Liberal split gave Britain a three party system which lasted until Churchill brought all the parties together in his grand coalition in 1940. Now as Brexit and the rise of the SNP fragment the opposition once more, its happening again.             These precedents are bad. Previous fragmentations gave Britain stable but bad government as the Conservatives instead of driving to the centre as governments facing an effective opposition do  ignored the social and industrial problems of the long recession as Salisbury did or failed to deal with post World War One decline  and the suffering it produced as the government of the twenties did.

Now, a similar situation brings back the prospect of one party rule in which another Conservative government  isn't kept to the mark and the centre by an effective opposition. This is partly due to the slow death of party allegiance with fewer people voting for the two majors, more voting as consumers not loyalists, partly too to the erosion of Labour's base as Britain became more middle class now because the second party has split (yet) but because the opposition is  divided and it's component parts can't agree on much.

Paddy Ashdown and Peter Mandelson want  a new grouping to bring Labour and Liberals together. This is unlikely because, the Lib-Dems now have so little to offer that it would be like trying to mate an elephant with a flea. The Liberals are no longer the attractive partner they were when Tony Blair turned coalition down in 1997. They're in constant conflict with Labour in the councils, they disagree about the trade unions and equality , their socially liberal policies aren't too attractive to Labour's core support and Labour can never match their vacuous enthusiasm for the EU.

 Labour faces another threat on the other side from from UKIP though that is in its northern heartlands not Parliament  UKIP may win council seats and threaten Labour marginals by taking votes away but  the only possible relationship is frigid distaste. Labour MPs are too priscilly middle class to want anything to do with UKIP's populist upstarts whom they regard as a boil on the bum of the body politics,not potential partners.

The real problem is Labour's loss of its Scottish base. The rise of the SNP not only creates two oppositions but brings back, on a smaller scale, the problem the Liberals faced in 1910 . Labour can only be effective with nationalist support as the Liberals were with the Irish nationalists.Back in Edwardian times,however, the Liberals had something to offer in Home Rule which kept the nationalists in line. Now Labour has nothing .The battle in Scotland is a fight to the death to win back Labour's once and former heartland.

Another dose of devolution won't satisfy the SNP. Labour can't outbid them in their devotion to the EU, and with English financial support, the SNP inScotland has been able  to offer the Scots more than Labour did or can. The SNP's threat to call another referendum is pure bluff .They'd lose it thanks to the decline in oil revenues and the dependence on English subsidies but though Labour can win back seats it is never likely to win all the seats it once held . Without them it can't offer an effective alternative to the Conservatives in either Westminster or Holyrood

The Tories are compounding the opposition's problems by taking steps to entrench themselves. The massive redistribution consequent on the reduction to 600 MPs will hit Labour harder than the Conservatives. They've restricted trade union and Parliamentary funding, purged the electoral rolls by personal registration and are even considering  requiring ID to vote a device the Republicans  use to purge Democratic voters in the US

Taken together all this means that a government with a minuscule minority isn't threatened. It's opponants cant agree. They hate each other more than the government. They're are in direct competition with each other on the ground and all of them fear an election. They can agree on are the Health Service and demonstrating their distaste for President Trump but on no issue neither can they push hostility so far as to defeat a government which can treat any defeat as a question of confidence  and go for an election where the SNP is certain to lose some support in Scotland, Labour more in England.

 The ice is thin on any conventional measure but Theresa May can continue to skate on it and mobilise  all the powers of the elective dictatorship as if she had a majority of 200 and can continue to do that  up to 2020 just s as long as she gets a presentable deal on the EU, drops a few items from the Thatcherite menu of austerity, spending cuts and starvation of housing and local government and lives up to her own rhetoric by tilting things back to the "just managing"(who're probably also just Labour). Given that, it may be May for the foreseeable future. 

Monday, 20 February 2017

Fishing for Failure

Fishing was Ted Heath's greatest failure when he took Britain into the Common Market. Before negotiating with the three most powerful fishing states, Britain, Norway and Denmark the existing members saw their chance to take over more prolific waters and  cobbled together a Common Fisheries policy weeks before negotiations began just to do that. 

It was no more than the simple principle of equal access to a common resource Norway refused to fall into the trap but Ted Heath, desperate  for entry, regarded fishing as disposable and didn't even try to change a policy which was still malleable. He accepted it with only a ten year derogation before European fleets could fish right up to our beaches This ensured that Britain was unable to follow the world trend by taking its own exclusive waters and when it was forced out of Iceland the British fishing industry couldn't be rebuilt within our own limits

The result was the decimation of the English industry given only a three mile exclusive limit while Scotland was better protected by a 12 mile limit for a"North Britain" (which didn't include Yorkshire). The result was a conservation crisis caused by over  fishing in the wider waters where British vessels had traditionally fished. The lesson was clear. Only the nation state can maintain conservation  to hand sustainable stocks onto the next generations. Every nation outside the EU was doing that. We couldn't because Common access means paper quotas to allow everyone to grab their share. EU vessels crowded in, their fleets rebuilt and modernised with EU money not available in Britain because the government refused to put up the match funding. It wanted to decommission the fleet.

It's no wonder that the fishing ports and the shrunken British industry, rallied for Brexit.They see fishing as the forefront of the fight to take back control. No wonder either that the other EU members including, even those which are landlocked will fight  to protect their access to our fish.

It will  be difficult. British limits extend to 200 miles only to the North and west .Elsewhere the median line will be fifty miles or less. A bigger fishery protection effort will be necessary. Infringements will have to be dealt with though there is no need for any cod war. Only national control can rebuild the fishing industry with all its ancillaries in marketing, engineering and processing. The argument that we will need mutual arrangements to encourage conservation is specious in the light of the damage the CFP has already done to conservation. So is the argument that our fish exports will be damaged. In fact they will increase if other countries aren't able to catch our fish for us.

The best precedent is Greenland It got a clean break on leaving the EU and abolished all historic rights and now lives by fishing though it gives controlled access to others Or take the example of New Zealand which charges for access. With national waters we can stop French vessels  destroying the pots of Yorkshire shell fishermen,stop French depredations on Sea Bass, Spanish registrations as British to catch our quota and ship it to Spain or the farce of one Dutch vessel taking a third of the British quota. 

Once we manage our own sustainable quotas we can agree reciprocal catches with other fishing nations such as Norway and Iceland or even allow limited access to others paying charges. If the EU is prepared  pay for EU vessels to loot the waters of third parties, it can pay for controlled access to ours.

Fishing may be difficult case but it's crucial and should not be sacrificed again for other objectives, as it has been. It's the worst EU failure and offers the best prospect of benefits if we take back control. The government may want to delay the issue but it should  establish the principle of national control first then decide the details later. Brexit won't be real without our own waters to manage. For their good and ours. 

Monday, 6 February 2017


After all the grandstanding huff and puff by recalcitrant remoaners the bill to give notice to leave the EU under Article 50 will pass because none of its critics wants an election. That brings us to the end of the phoney war and begins the real battle of Brexit; a fight which is no longer between homegrown Brexiters and Remainers, but a serious grapple between Britain and the EU, with major consequences for both sides.

This is a whole new war game.It requires a domestic armistice in order to fight a bitter battle with  a European Union which is going to use every trick in the book to stop Britain's departure. Article 50 is designed to make leaving as difficult and unattractive as possible and the processes as obscure as Euro-enthusiasts prefer. The Brussels bureaucrats know that if Britain leaves others will want to change the terms of membership to make the EU looser and weaker. They also know that it will cost them by ending the eleven billion pound contribution Britain makes to boost Brussels. 

We're going to have to fight and fight hard to escape from the EU on acceptable terms which will benefit both sides, rather than terms designed to damage Britain and teach us not to be naughty. While British factions argue about what form of departure they'd like, soft, hard or hardly any Brexit at all, the EU ,the Commission, France and Germany and even the smaller nations have announced in a synchronised chorus that we can't have any deal which approaches fairness. We'll will have to suffer on the naughty step to encourage everyone else not to stray.

Negotitions are a game of bluff and bluster in which both sides start out by maximising demands. Better therefore to intimidate an opponent right at the start by making their task look impossible, severe damage look inevitable and the outcome painful. They'll face no internal opposition in doing this. No one is going to break ranks to demand a better deal for Britain, all fear that our departure will require the others to pay more, German manufacturers want to keep a market which gives them such a handsome surplus and French farmers want to keep us buying their dear food. So they all want to put us off and bring us back, submissive and chastened into the boot camp.

Britain has no such advantages, We enter the fight on a battleground  heavily slanted against us. We're less sure what we want. Remainers want to make our demands minimal others to make none at all. The media are divided but bound, by their love of conflict and argument to amplify every problem, heighten every difficulty, and exaggerate every complaint. For the two years of negotiation government's intentions and the electorates' hopes will be undermined and  questioned, every fear exacerbated.

The other side faces none this. If we were at war it would be rated as treason and those who did it labelled fifth columnists. But we are in a fight for the future, which is why Remainers must now  recognise that we're in a different game, fighting not the British government, but an undemocratic entity which doesn't have Britain's interests at heart. We're fighting for our future in much the same way as we fought for democracy in real wars.

In that conflict those who undermine Britain's case for a good and honourable deal which keeps the British economy strong are really working to ensure that we come out of the two year negotiations damaged and weaker with an economy which isn't able to bear the burdens or provide the benefits the nation needs. No use saying they want a Parliamentary say on the final deal. We should have that of course, but it requires  Remainers   to fight for the best possible terms rather than trying to stop Britain fighting at all and constantly criticising government for doing so.

 The electorate voted for coming out They couldn't have voted on the terms on which we did that.Those depend on the EU not us. But they'll be angry if we get a bum deal and have to slink back with our tail, and all the subsidies we pay, between our legs. They'll be even angrier about any one who contributed to such a humiliation by undermining Britain's case. Subverting  the people's will  by doing that damages not only a government doing its democratic duty to fulfill the intention of the people, but the economy and  the country. Do the rampant Remainers seriously want that?

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Full English Brexit: the people's revolt

The vote for Brexit was the revenge of the people and the regions left behind. It came from the old industrial heartlands, the less well educated, the unskilled and the older people who remembered better times. None of them are fashionable but should neither be viewed as if  unworthy to take such an important decision nor dismissed as oldies who'll soon be dead and replaced by a smarter, younger generation which loves the EU

To understand it we must ask what makes Brexit voters feel as they do? Why have they been left behind ? What's wrong with Euro Britain which makes so many  want to reject the wisdom of the elite? The answer cant be the spread of dementia. It must lie in the way the economy has been run and the consequences of this for the people and their lives.

 In the first decades after the war, les trente glorieuses (which translates as  the Never Had it So Good years) the economy was run to reward the people for their sufferings in depression and war by full employment, maintained by Keynesian demand management, a welfare state, and  steady economic growth all underpinned by the post war settlement of fixed exchange rates.

This fell apart in the seventies. Growth stalled,  inflation roared and competition became a zero sum battle between workers and business. Governments tried incomes policy and high benefit spending to cushion the failure but this produced its own nemesis .The trade unions lost control of their members and destroyed the Labour government . The Conservatives came in to offer punishment In place of appeasement by disciplining labour and imposing neoliberal policies: monetarism, high interest rates and an overvalued exchange rate to control inflation and destroy jobs.

This was the revenge of the rich, a group embracing the wealthy, big business,  the banks and  Britain's well off elite. Having fretted through decades of pleasing the people they took their revenge by breaking  the trade unions, destroying their base, manufacturing and basic industries , privatising public assets for private profit and rolling back the State, the protector of the people, to give power to markets which benefit the strong not the weak. To him that hath shall be given, and it was to encourage  initiative , enterprise and the proliferation of gold Rolexes.

Labour, the party of the people, initially protested but soon found that to win it had to accept the new norms, take its base for granted and reach out to the south and the middle class who'd not been as hard hit.As a result the Blair government embraced much of Thatcherism and didn't deliver enough to either its people or the depressed areas but gave generously to Finance and the City, the architects of the new paradigm. It encouraged globalisation and became passionately pro European both of which which drained demand, money and jobs  from Britain.

 Labour was brought down by the Great Recession, produced by the financial forces it had ,liberated .  This brought in a Tory party to implement a cruel austerity, cutting benefits to the poor to give tax cuts to the rich. It turned London into taxhaven on Thames and encouraged the  inflow of funny money to buy up companies, property, land and citizenship .Deregulation made the labour market casual and uncertain. Immigration, unemployment and offshoring kept wages down. The economy was kept running by rising debt, a form of privatised Keynesianism and a lax monetary programme which boosted asset prices.The South East, the City, Finance and wealth got the best of the deal. The suffering heartlands were ignored.

In other countries this might have produced resistance and revolt but what could Britain's losers do? Riots are not the English way. We're better grumblers but the whole game was slanted against the people.The media preached neo liberalsm, and Labour, becoming more middle class, spoke their language rather than that of the people..Critics were viewed as scroungers, dinasaurs and relics. Trade unions and  workers were powerless.  Unemployment and immigration kept incomes flat. The middle class could manage by coping, doping, hoping and shopping, to which one could have added, viewing, for television is the opium of the people, and borrowing on an enormous scale  to keep up living standards. The result was a growing burden of debt, pressing hard on the poor for whom  credit terms  were harsh and punishments vindictive. The only consolation was  watching celebs and a greedy, grabbing, elite  enrich themselves.

Their only chance to fight back  was to seize the opportunity David Cameron had unwittingly provided in his referendum . This allowed them  to use the by-election weapon of slinging off, by focussing all  their discontents on a European union they had no reason to like. The high vote for Brexit was an outpouring of the  bitterness and resentments accumulated over thirty years of punishment and pain from  globalisation, neoliberalism, immigration, austerity, high unemployment, growing burdens of debt and all the other  punishments to which the people had been subjected in the name of a business friendly dynamic economy.

Here wasn't just a verdict on Europe. It was a people's protest, a plea for help which requires government not just to come out of the EU, but to tilt the economy back to the people and give them the fair deal they're demanding  and deserve. 

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