Monday, 26 June 2017

Thundering herd tramples Theresa

These days we don't reach considered decisions after serious discussion. We thunder in herds, first in new direction then back in another.That's how bankers speculate, politicians think and pundits come to conclusions. Modernisation doesn't moderate it. It only means that the herds are getting bigger, the thundering louder and the changes of direction bigger.

Now it's Theresa May's turn to be trampled. A few weeks back the herd were busy trampling Cameron and praising Theresa as the savior of the Just Managing Folk and the  great equalizer.Now they've suddenly discovered that she's weak and wilting,about to be replaced, deeply unpopular and  incapable of carrying on. The herd even ruminates on the collapse of the government and an early election.

It's all bull. Don't believe a word of it. In their excitement the pundittieri have forgotten the basic facts they should have known about British government.
 It's an elective dictatorship. The party with a majority controls the House of Commons and can do anything it wants. It can skate on thin ice and continue to skate even after the ice has melted as Jim Callaghan did in 1978.

If the majority is small or there's a hung Parliament, the government still has to govern. So  its perfectly legitimate to come to deals either for coalition, as David Cameron did in 2010, or to agreements for support in motions of supply and confidence as the Lib/Lab pact did in 1976.

To say otherwise is to say that some seats are inferior to others. We are a union. Ulster MPs are as legitimate as Welsh or Cornish. So its hardly reasonable to argue that MPs shouldn't use their power to win a better deal for their constituents. In fact  all do.The Scot Nats could do a deal if they want to, and the Sein Fein MPs who moan about the deal are simply admitting how daft they are in taking their pay but not their seats. No presence no power

In fact I'm surprised how little the Democratic Unionists have asked. They could have changed history had they supported Jim Callaghan's government in March 1979. Then they demanded a gas pipeline to Northern Ireland to give them cheaper power but Jim was too noble to do deals. He lost power by one vote. Now they've only demanded a few billion when they could have asked for Orange parades, more Parliamentary seats for Northern Ireland, the remaking of every road and pies for every Protestant.

So my prediction is that Theresa can carry on and still do pretty well what she wants. The danger isn't now but two years ahead if she doesn't get a good deal on Brexit and has to crawl back or climb down. Both parties are divided on this. There'll be endless rows about what to do and who's to blame and we'll be in a real mess. But then the answer isn't another election. It's proportional representation, the only way out when parties and the nation are  fragmented.The major parties have resisted it for years but if neither can govern its the only way to form a government. Then every MP will have the power to demand their own deal in return for their vote.

It's the mood we're in which influences reactions to Brexit

Britain's decision making process is decided by mood rather than any assessment of the national interest. We joined the EU in a mood of despair about our prospects. We voted to come out because of a mood of dissatisfaction about the results. Now Remainers see  hope in the  uncertainty produced by the election result In fact the election was  about austerity and had little to do with Brexit, but it weakened Theresa May.The Unrepentant Remainers are now seizing that as a new point of attack, encouraged by a surge of optimism within the EU caused by economic recovery coupled with Macronmania. 

Their first demand that we vote again hasn't worked, so Remainers have decided to play a longer game by using both developments to persuade Britain that Brexit is so impossibly  difficult with  our government  weak so and the EU so strong, that we'll have to crawl back in despair and dejection or face decline, isolation and possibly eternal damnation.
That's the Counter Revolution. The  demand to stay in the single market is its key weapon.It shackles us to high immigration, excessive payments, agricultural protectionism and a constant drain of tax revenues to  tax fiddles in Dublin and Luxembourg. It prevents us helping industries and running effective industrial and regional policies but it provides a nice hidy- hole to our flagging industry which is too timorous  to compete on a world scale .

Remaining in the Single Market is much the same as staying in the EU but  will be impossible to achieve unless the EU agrees to change the rules. Which it won't. Which makes it the perfect weapon. We can beat our heads against a brick wall for two years then be forced to give up in despair and crawl back to the EU's less than loving embrace to sit on a naughty step somewhere on the periphery.

I can see why Britain's vested interests and Euro pensioners want to stay in.But the Single Market's vaunted benefits are pretty thin. Our trade deficit with it runs at £50 billion .The other costs of being in, its membership fees and the costs of the CAP, are a further £ 20 or so billion. That's a massive drain on our economy, though Remainers have no proposals for improving our performance  and industry doesn't understand that with a competitive currency we can easily overleap a common external tariff  averaging around 3% .The only real gainers are in the City of London. 

The second set of myths, that the EU is  en marche with inconvenient populists and Theresa May back in their kennels and growth reviving  is equally vacuous. The EU is built on mirages and constantly needs new myths to keep members happy but this new one will be less than the last, on the birth of the Euro.  EU tails are up, Theresa's is down and that gives them the incentive to be even tougher. Nice words about how they love us, but nasty consequences if we go. 

The EU is certainly doing better  thanks to the ephemeral effects of the Euro Bank's massive money printing. Yet the hopes triggered by New Macron,New Europe can only be realised by further centralisation to make the Euro work. This is unlikely. The Euro is structured to benefit Germany and force austerity on the weaker economies. Germany won't  rush to give up that. Nor will it redistribute its huge trade surpluses draining  the weaker members. And us.

The new optimism doesn't help Greece or Italy and any improvement will be confined to strengthening the Euro zone which won't benefit  Britain. So if we stay we'll be even more peripheral, with no chance of returning to  the vaunted position of influence Remainers promise.The EU is ever ready to help new members and finance the transfer of British jobs to Poland ,at our expense, but offers nothing to failed prodigals slinking back because they've lost confidence in themselves.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Brexit: Festival of Fear

It may be that as a long standing supporter of Brexit I'm a little biased but I do wonder  when I see the television and read the newspapers whose side the correspondents and pundits are on in what is after all a conflict of national interests. 

I can understand the fears and doubts we are being deluged with. Business wants to stay in, universities need the money, farmers love the CAP, we don't have the expertise or the brain power to negotiate, the City will collapse, manufacturers, banks and multinationals will leave and God help us. That's what happens when vested interests are upset but its the responsibility of journalists to bring some balance to the argument and evaluate their complaints, not just amplify them. 

Yet none of this festival of fear is ever set in perspective against the growing deficit we run in trade with the EU, the crippling effect of the Euro on our markets there, or the disproportionate  membership fees to belong to a club that drains us, compelling us to accept an agricultural protectionism that's not in our interests and stops us coming to trade deals with outer nations.

Nor is there any coverage of the divisions and doubts which must exist in an EU which has never shown the total unanimity attributed to it on the British case on anything else. Instead of exploring these every Euro loudmouth who threatens us with ruin, is taken as a unanimous view, negotiating bluster becomes gospel truth and an enormous bill cooked up to protect the others from having to pay more, and to finance British sweet manufacturers moving to Poland,  is treated as a debt of honor. The defence of EU citizens here extends to giving them greater rights than the Brits as well as the entitlement to student ,loans, which they can then hide back home without paying off. 

Instead of balancing Euro motes against British beams the sycophantic Euro-chorus claims that the Eurobank's enormous money printing  has solved all  the problems of an unworkable  Euro, Germany's selfish accumulation of huge surpluses which it refuses to spend or distribute is sound economics, and  Macron's proposals to reform the EU by another dose of closer union has not only been accepted but is working its magic after two weeks.  

The lack of balance is particularly striking in my beloved Guardian, usually a source of liberal sense but now gone overboard in its Euro enthusiasm. A paper on the edge of bankruptcy has wasted I don't know how much creating a pro European pop up paper, edited by Tony's representative on earth. It's pundits, Toynbee, Hutton, Keegan, Freedland, Jack and Kettle, waste no time discussing how the wishes of the electorate can be fulfilled. They aim only to reverse it. Everything the EU demands or does is right. Every move the British government makes is wrong. The old adage that comment is free facts are sacred has become comment is free if it's pro EU, facts are selective. What happened to balance?   

All this is heightened by the imperatives of 24 hour news which can't think long term and is obsessed with the day to day trivia. Both are dangerous when negotiations are long term, uncertain and characterized by bluster which is taken as fact. Journalists tend to be liberal intellectuals rather than informed analysts. They follow the herd instincts of the Guardian and the posh print media .Those covering Europe (with the exception of Boris Johnson) become more European than British. Look at the Guardian's Natalie Nougayrede whose gushing admiration of the EU is more a love affair than journalism. 

It's a depressing spectacle and one the European negotiators don't have to contend with. It's right that the media should play down xenophobia  and draw attention to British problems. They're not there to exude contentment .But its not right that they should be so unbalanced and so blind to both national interests and hard economic realities. We need a media which will make us think, not just splutter with anger at the trahison des clercs.

Sent from my iPad

Monday, 12 June 2017

Onward to Brexit

Theresa May's disaster, a predictable result which no one predicted, will be   seized on to rerun the Brexit debate. Prominent Remoaners see it as a chance to call the whole thing off. Yesterday's Men,Clegg, Blair and Hezza  urge a rethink. Business is moaning, Finance  timorous and the vested interests are back to the fear game.Our not so friendly "partners" in the EU claim that Theresa is so weakened that they can play tough. Just make us suffer and we'll give up.

Wishful Euro thinking. The election results hardly show an anti Brexit pattern. Nick Clegg Britain's foremost Euro-creep was beaten.Zac Goldsmith was elected .Go through the results in detail and you'll see no pattern, for or against.

 Brexit was hardly an issue. Theresa May tried  to make it one but failed because it never took fire. Electors were voting for or against austerity, stagnant household incomes and the underfunding of health and education all British issues and nothing to do with Brexit.

How could it when both Labour and Conservatives were committed in their manifestos to negotiate Brexit and even the Libs were ambiguous on the "shall we should we"  point. Remoaners managed to disguise their dissent by demands that we should aim for a "soft" Brexit or even a barely noticeable Brexit, as opposed to  the "hard" Brexit they claimed Theresa May wanted, or the even harder Brexit with  a race to the bottom on cuts, welfare and government spending which the real frighteners predicted.

It was all as much rubbish as operation fear which it emulated. What kind of Brexit we get isn't up to us .All the piety and wit of Tim Farron or the people's Mandy, can't predict or influence something which will be decided by the EU. Whether it wants to maintain a better balanced relationship  or  punish us pour decourager les autres by treating Britain worse than Canada, the US or Switzerland, is for them to decide. 

 Negotiations must now begun. We must aim at the best deal we can get, treating the economic impacts as our first consideration and paying only what we owe on a strictly calculated basis.If we can't get an adequate deal  new considerations come into play.

 As Orwell remarked in 1941 "one cannot see the modern world as it is unless  one recognizes the overwhealming strength of patriotism.... as a positive force there is nothing to set beside it" The liberal elite may have shifted their allegiance to Europe but not the mass of the British The public will surely be angered if the EU plays silly buggers and attempts to bully us.It's hardly possible to accept humiliation and go back, tail between our legs. No party (except,perhaps, the LibDems) will dare justify that to the nation.

The EU will have changed in the two years of negotiations.. The Eurobank has poured out money to stimulate growth but that can neither stop the harsh consequences of the Euro for the less competitive countries, nor write off the Greek debt. Macron's efforts to make the Euro work by a further dollop of ever closer union, will either produce more centralisation and a common budget, or they'll be rejected, but in either case the EU's preoccupation will be the Euro which we can't ever join. In or out we'll be peripheral to their concerns. 

There's no alternative but to suck it and see.That's what the nation voted for and still wants. It's what the parties promised. It's clearly daft to give up before we've started. This may be a game of pygmies on both sides, but it's not beyond the wit of either to get a deal which satisfies both.Let's stop knocking Britain and just get on with it 

Friday, 9 June 2017

Time for a diet of hats!

In 2015 Paddy Ashdown promised to eat his hat f the exit poll was correct.  He never did but the same dietary commitment in 2017 would have produced a mass titfer munching. All the pundits, papers, pollsters, know alls and Mitchell were wrong. Our herd instinct let us down.

Three things dominated this election. Brexit, prospects and terrorism and we got it wrong on each of them. A nation which has been buggered about for far too ,long took its revenge, said they simply wanted a better life and better services and  put the politicians on a shorter leash.

Brexit didn't fly. Theresa wanted to make it the main issue.Having only got a majority of 379 to begin negotiations she felt fragile and asked the nation to back her. The majority  accepted that Brexit is inevitable and were prepared to suck it and see but they also saw that it's not up to us whether we get SB (strong Brexit) MB (mild Brexit) or FAB (guess). That will be decided by how nasty the  EU decides to be, not by whether Mrs May is strong and stable weak and wobbly or some combination of all that. Recognising that its  in the lap of the Euro-sods, electors decided to ignore the issue and vote their party preference.

Terror didn't work either. The media and May both tried to portray Corbyn as soft on terrorism , possibly a secret member of IS, the IRA or Fatah or even president of of the National Union of terrorists and Related Trades. People thought that a little unlikely for such a nice old chap and put the blame on a government which has savaged police spending and drastically reduced the numbers of cops. Very wise.

Which leaves us with prospects, both personal and national. The two are interwoven.  Theresa held out the hope of a nicer Tory Party committed to looking after all of us and in favour of the regular brushing of teeth (for those who have any left- given the costs of dentistry) No one believed her.They saw that they were no better off, inflation was increasing and they were heavily in debt.They were fed up of austerity which clearly wasn't working and wanted something done about the health service, social care and education all of which are seriously underfunded .They were even  prepared to pay more taxes for them, particularly if the weight of taxes was more fairly distributed.

Faced with these three pressures people chose the one which was most important to them, decided that Corbyn was nice and harmless and far from the monster they'd been told, and that and Theresa was too timorous and cold to be the new Boadicea . So they voted for better prospects,hoping to get it by a Parliament that was  confused and cautious rather than strong and stable. A hung Parliament they  saw would make the politicians more sensible.  The politicians wouldn't like it  but who trusts them nowadays. Better to keep them all weak and nervous to ensure they'd listen for a change. So, though the result surprised the political class, it wasn't a huge revolutionary change. Just a shift to sense.

My guess is that there'll have to be an early election .So  the test running up to it will be  for the each party to hang together and learn sense rather than squabble as usual. . The Tories may want a leadership contest and the Remainers will want revenge . Labour will be in danger of reviving the anti Corbyn putsch as the designers struggle to get back on the bandwagon and the Blairites (RIP) complain that only the return of Tony and Mandy will make their party clean and wholesome again. The Cleggless LibDems will purge Faron and turn to Cable.

 But all of them will have to hang together, play nice, stop talking austerity and begin to spend until the next vote decides who's going to govern That's a far harder test than just fighting elections

Meanwhile I'm off to eat a few hats. Let me see. The straw boater with pesto will be nice, followed by the Trump cap with jam. Yummy

Saturday, 3 June 2017

The turning of the tide

At Cleethorpes the tide goes out so far that you wonder if it will ever come back .It always does. Just like Labour's. After being discounted, looking certain to lose a score of seats, if not all of them, and relegated to slow death while, Blair Mandy and Ashdown hovered overhead cawing "I told you so:" Labour is coming back. The gap is narrowing. Jeremy Corbyn is doing well. Like Bernie Saunders on Phyllosan

It's good to see it. It's not happened just because Theresa has proved as stolid as an Easter Island statue with a new hairstyle. The turn around comes because Labour has a good, sensible manifesto much better than the usual effort to be respectable by offering milder austerity with a smile (which nervous Milliband could never manage to produce),It's well thought out, has some attractive lures and offers sensible answers to Britain's looming problems. Corbyn is learning to be a leader .The party has accepted Brexit and the reluctant Remoaners have been gagged. For the moment.

The improvement may be fragile. The enthusiastic young may not vote. The old may be frightened off. Things can change in the six days which remain.Theresa may learn how to answer questions. But Labour's tide may continue to flood in. Who knows? I don't.

It's made the Tories jittery and nervous. It's shocked the ever insufferable Lib/Dems and the supercallifugalistic Blairites. It's horrified Phillip Collins, Tony's representative in the Times, to the extent that he's now begun to worry that Labour may not fall apart after the election allowing the formation of a super Doppler, soft centre, whipped cream party for Tony to either lead or buy. Tragedy stalks. It's almost as bad as if one of Kim Jon Un's rickety rockets turned round and blew him up.

Don't believe it. The Tories will probably win but after that the borrowing bubble will burst,  Brexit hopes will be met by a brick Euro wall, the Tory party will fall apart over whether or not to beat its head against this ,Labour will be proved right and people will realize that it was as daft to give Theresa a blank cheque as it was to put Phillip Green in charge of a pension fund or Fred Goodwin in charge of a bank. We Brits always learn from our mistakes.   It just takes time.