Tuesday 17 January 2017

This Brexit thing

One problem I have enjoyed all my life is the inability to understand fancy theories.  My brain can only understand simple things, so I like to go back to principle in everything and, once I have identified the principle to my satisfaction, I know the foundations to which Rococo details can be added.  

So, what about this Brexit thing?  In order to know what leaving the European Union means it seems pretty obvious to me that it is necessary to identify what the EU is.  Once that is defined, we know what the people voted to extricate the country from and can reach a principled view of what the government must do.  

So, what is the EU?  

The answer must be that it is the legal framework that locks the member states of the EU together.  It is not the institutions of the EU (such as the Commission, Council of Ministers, European Parliament and Court of so-called Justice), nor is it the people who work within those institutions.  The UK is only involved in those institutions because it is legally obliged to be involved through its agreement to various treaties that require us to be involved.  

Everything else flows from that, including various aspects of the EU that are administrative rather than institutional.  We are signed-up to the Common Agricultural Policy, the Common Fisheries Policy, the single market, the customs union and various other arrangements that are set-up by the EU institutions by virtue of being party to treaties that establish the institutions.  We are not involved in the CAP and the CFP voluntarily but because it is a necessity as result of the effect of the treaties to which we are a party.  Importantly we are not in the CAP and such by virtue of a stand-alone treaty, we are in it because we are a party to treaties setting-up the EU institutions. 

I was thinking of writing a piece citing the relevant treaties and analysing their major provisions, but I cannot be bothered because principle is principle and stands by itself without citation of authority.  We can only leave the EU by no longer being bound by the the treaties.  Necessarily that means we are no longer members of the EU institutions.  It also means we are no longer bound by any policies of the EU that are not already incorporated into law in this country.  Many EU policies are part of law in the constituent countries of the UK by virtue of domestic legislation but many are not.  For example, CAP, CFP, single market and customs union bind us by virtue of EU policy not by virtue of domestic law in the UK - they bind us because we are members of the EU but our parliaments and assemblies have not adopted them as part of domestic law.  

That is not to say there is nothing to negotiate.  As a result of our membership of the EU, the EU has undertaken obligations to various citizens of the UK.  Former MEPs, Commissioners and civil servants are entitled to EU pensions.  We cannot just wash our hands, no matter how tempting it might be, and claim to have no on-going obligation to contribute to those pensions.  In fact it goes much wider than that, the EU has entered into numerous contracts with individuals and companies which will have consequences for many years to come, it has also entered into agreements with artistic and sporting groups, NGOs and non-EU countries that involve an obligation to make payments for years to come.  We were members when those arrangements were made and cannot wash our hands of the obligation to continue to make contributions in this field as well.  That is what "terms of exit" are all about.  

Matters such as our future trading arrangement with people and businesses within countries that will remain members of the EU are nothing to do with leaving the EU.  They are about what happens after we have left.  There is, for example, no question of remaining a "member" of the single market.  Our government might, if it is so minded, negotiate an arrangement under which the UK has exactly the same trading access to EU countries as it has currently, but that is a post-Brexit arrangement not a term of leaving the EU.  

Mrs May, who remains something of an enigma to me because I cannot recall ever hearing her expound her personal political philosophy, has said many times "Brexit means Brexit".  I hope she stands by her words and makes clear there is no such thing as "hard" or "soft" Brexit.  Brexit means withdrawing from the treaties.  No more, no less.  Everything else is an arrangement of the position once we have exited.  

Wednesday 31 August 2016

The Irish Apple hoo-hah

There is something very troubling about the "ruling" of the EU Commission that a company that has a base in Ireland should pay more tax than the laws of the Republic of Ireland require to be paid.  That the company is a hugely profitable international enterprise with its home in the USA is neither here nor there.  The Commission has decreed that carefully and deliberately drawn laws of a member state of the European Union are not acceptable and must be replaced by something the Commission considers better.  

The magnificent Mr Paine has written on the subject (http://www.thelastditch.org/2016/08/am-i-alone-in-seeing-in-this-a-golden-opportunity-for-britain-post-brexit.html) and I agree with every word he wrote.  I want to look at the matter in a different context.  

Mr Paine's argument is that the UK can benefit enormously because international corporations could find an advantage by basing themselves here in the post-Brexit world rather than being subject to the risk of capricious retro-active laws being imposed by what remains of the EU commisariat.  He is undoubtedly correct.  

I respectfully suggest that two consequences can follow from what the EU Commission has done, neither of which will further the European Union "project".  The first is that the Republic of Ireland (and possibly other states) might consider it an appropriate reason to consider whether their own membership of the European Union is sustainable now that the Commission has made clear that it considers itself a better judge of domestic tax laws and, therefore, of domestic economic policy than the nation states that form the EU.  The second is that international companies, whether based in the USA or elsewhere, will have to think very carefully about establishing in EU countries now that they know their liability to tax (and, no doubt, to other policies that are bad for business) can be changed at the whim of the unelected Eurocrats.  

It is, I think, important not to get too excited about this issue.  As things were believed to be before the Irish Apple "ruling" international companies trading in any democratic country, EU or not, were at risk of changes of governments and changes of policy.  Included in what can properly be called the "democratic risk" was the risk that a new government would take a radically different approach to taxation that would negate the whole basis on which the company trades with that particular state.  We know that risk always exists because we have seen it so many times - every time it involves the populace electing a government that is opposed to the very idea of the market being the determinant of business success.  They always call themselves socialists when in fact they are the particular brand of socialism that is known as fascism.  It has happened all over the world and it can happen in an EU state if the people decide that is what they want.  Fair game, people can vote for whatever they want but they have to face the consequences.  I will chip-in with the obvious point that when the poor vote for the fascist form of socialism they are always the ones who lose the most; at least reality gives them the chance of thinking about what they have done and changing their choice at the next election.  

The context of the Irish Apple issue I want to address is something rather different, something more fundamental about the whole EU "project".  The Commission's "ruling" is, I believe, the clearest example yet that the EU "project" requires the elimination of the nation state.  It is one thing for the EU to make laws requiring uniformity in the regulation of health and safety rules at work or setting standards for the state fruit and vegetables should be in before they can be sold to the great unwashed.  It is something wholly different for it to rule that one nation state cannot adopt taxation policies that might give it an economic advantage over other EU states that choose a different tax strategy.  

Behind this is the need to eliminate competition between EU states in relation to their dealings with the rest of the world.  The government of the Republic of Ireland has adopted business taxation policies that it believes will be of the greatest benefit to the people of Ireland.  Whether those policies are or are not beneficial to the people of Ireland can only be tested over time, but they have been adopted because the Republic of Ireland is a democratic nation state and it is for the people of that state to decide at the next election whether those policies should remain or be replaced by whatever alternative(s) are offered at that election.  

The EU Commission clearly believes that decision is not for the electorate.  It believes, as all forms of unelected dictatorship have believed throughout political history, that it knows better.  Maybe it does, maybe it doesn't, but whose decision should it be?  On something as fundamental at business taxation - something Ireland itself proves to be a major factor in attracting business activity to a country - there is a stark choice.  Either it is for the nation state or it is not.  If it is not, the very concept of the nation state becomes redundant.  

My mind is taken back to one of the big television debates held prior to the referendum.  I think it was hosted by the BBC.  On the "remain" side there was a woman who holds a senior position in a trade union or possibly in the Trades Union Congress.  I cannot remember her name.  She bleated on about how leaving the EU would destroy what she quaintly referred to as "workers' rights".  I listened to her whitterings and was incredulous that those debating against her did not make the most obvious retort.  If our Parliament - that bunch of people who stood for election and were returned to our Parliament to make our laws - wanted to change "workers' rights" laws they have every right to do so.  The changes might or might not be welcomed by the trade union whitterer, but they will be legitimate changes because they are made by our Parliament.  

We now know that the legitimacy of laws passed by democratically elected parliaments of nation states is not recognised by the EU Commission.  Some of us will say we have known it for a long time.  The Irish Apple "ruling" is undeniable proof that the EU "project" involves the destruction of the nation state.  

Tuesday 19 July 2016

Where has all the chaos gone?

So here we are, approaching a month since the modest victory for Brexit at the referendum.  

Something that might or might not have been surprising was in the headlines for several days.  Apparently it's generally known as "buyer's remorse" these days.  People who voted leave were spread around every pore of the BBC telling us what a dismal thing they did because the country was plainly collapsing around their ears and all because the UK voted to extricate itself from the European Union.  Calls for another referendum were promoted by the State broadcaster at every opportunity. 

In a way it was surprising because the vote actually changed nothing constitutionally or economically, we were as much in the EU on Friday the 24th of June as we were before the polls opened the day before.  We had not exited the EU, we did not find our exports to and imports from EU countries subject to tariffs, we did not need visas to visit countries in the EU and their citizens did not need visas to come here, citizens of other EU countries living here did not need to leave and Brits in EU countries were not expelled.  

That, however, does not reflect the rhetoric employed by both sides of the "official" leave and remain campaigns.  Overstatement is often the currency of politicians, no doubt it has always been so yet when there is only one issue at stake it is perhaps inevitable that it will be amplified and each side will say voting against them will result in disaster.  That, of course, cannot be said in a vacuum, it must be backed by reasoned argument and under the scrutiny of questioning by both journalists and, more tellingly, the ordinary people it is probably impossible to resist putting flesh on the bones even though no one on either side was in a position to know what that flesh should be.  

Extremes were promoted on both sides.  Very silly extremes spouted in the hope people would be fooled rather than in the expectation they would ever prove to be accurate.  

And so it was that remainers panicked and reacted to wobbles in the share and currency markets as proof they had made a disastrous mistake.  That reaction is no more rational than the silly exaggerations employed by both leavers and remainers during the campaign.  Now things seem to have calmed down.  

The swift-ish ascendance of a new Prime Minister appears, so far, to have led to a further thinning of mindless panic.  I have to confess that my initial hope was that Mrs Leadsom might be up to the job but she went desperately flaky when the going got tough and had the good sense to leave it to Mrs May to do her best.  Mrs May has the advantage of not having to face a Parliamentary opposition except from the neo-Communist Scottish National Party whose representatives in the House of Commons really are piss-poor.  

My local MP is someone called Jeremy Corbin.  I last saw him on the day of the London mayoral election when he was outside my polling station with a couple of similarly wispy-bearded, middle-aged, naive, scruffy Trots.  He and they approached certain voters but, in a rare example of good judgment, realised their time would be wasted on me. 

I sometimes wonder whether Mr Corbyn knows that the mass migration to Labour Party membership comprises predominantly two categories of people: (i) some opposed to hard-line Socialism who have joined to ensure he remains leader and, thereby, ensure Labour is unelectable and (ii) rather more who are even more hard-line Socialist/Communists than Mr Corbyn.  Whether the latter group really think a policy platform that would make Enva Hoxha envious would make Labour electable is an open question, the religious nature of Socialism/Communism makes me think they probably do.  Not only does the SNP have piss-poor MPs, Labour has two piss-poor people trying to stand against Mr Corbyn.  Angela Eagle has, through her tears, proved herself at least as flaky as poor Mrs Leadsom - far too emotional to take serious decisions on any big issue.  Her opponent, whose name eludes me because I don't think I'd heard of him before the last few days, seems to have few policy platforms to distinguish him from Mr Corbyn and no public profile.  

That's where the chaos seems to be this week.  Things might change next week but I doubt they will.  

The noises coming from the Cabinet ministers responsible for extricating us from the EU and making new trading agreements with countries outside the EU are exactly what I had hoped to hear.  Securing free trade deals with as many non-EU countries as possible provides, in my view, the strongest negotiating platform against the EU on issues of trade barriers.  

The USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, South Korea, Brasil and India all want free-trade deals as soon as possible (you can ignore President Obama's suggestion we are at the back of the queue so far as his country is concerned, we are absolutely at the front for recent historic reasons of comity and because it's an easy deal compared to anything they could negotiate with the EU and because he only has months to serve).  How long it takes is impossible to tell, although Australia, New Zealand, Canada and India shouldn't take even a year - and the same applies to various smaller countries who export a lot of stuff to us; for example Chile makes wines we like, Kenya sells us vegetables out of our season, food exports are also an important part of the economies of most Caribbean islands and we buy loads.  China is probably a harder nut to crack, although Hong Kong might be the key because it undoubtedly wants to maintain it's very good trading relationship with this country. 

If, and it is a big if, deals with these and more countries can be agreed in principle the EU's negotiating position will be undermined.  As it is we know we buy far more from them than they do from us so any tariffs are more likely to hurt them than us; and they will all have to pay more into the EU's coffers when we go so they are risking what I believe the young people call a "double-whammy".  

Who knows?  Maybe further chaos will emerge in the months to come.  At the moment the only chaos I see is between a parliamentary Labour party that is far to the left of any that has been electable since 1974 and the Corbyn faction that is so far to the left it makes Michael Foot's famous "longest suicide note in history" seem like a lullaby.  

We'll see what happens, at the moment I am enjoying observing it all  

Wednesday 24 February 2016

The EU thing

Well, here we are, at long last the referendum is to happen.  

Before the 2010 General Election both parties that formed the 2010-2015 coalition government promised an In-Out referendum.  Of course everything changed when the coalition agreement was forged.  The Conservatives couldn't agree to a referendum because the Liberal Democrats wouldn't agree the terms the Conservatives wanted, and the Liberal Democrats couldn't agree to a referendum because the Conservatives wouldn't agree their preferred terms.  It was all jolly convenient for the career politicians at the head of both parties for whom the European Union was the perfect model for established party elites to be guaranteed not just well-paid jobs for life but also political influence long after they lost electoral support in their own constituencies and countries. 

The repetition of that promise in the 2015 Conservative Party manifesto coupled with that party's win in the election forced the Prime Minister to do something about it.  His chosen course was a renegotiation of the terms on which the UK is a member of the EU and then the presentation of that new deal to the common people of the UK.  

Mr Cameron did not, in truth, have any other option open to him.  Successive manifesto commitments could not be ignored so something had to be done.  His choices were to give us a "take it or leave it" referendum against the existing relationship between the UK and the EU or to try to change that relationship and then offer the vote.  I am happy to accept that he went into the renegotiation on the basis he claimed - namely, with the intention to return certain law-making powers to the UK Parliament.  As it is, he returned with a deal that returns no law-making powers and merely tinkers at the edge of a few minor matters of detail on how existing EU laws will be implemented.  

I must make clear that I am not criticising Mr Cameron's achievements in the negotiation process.  I believe he achieved the absolute most that could be achieved.  He is a clever man, a determined man, a clear communicator and a Prime Minister who wants the best possible deal for the UK.  And therein lies the problem.  Despite his determination to return powers to the UK Parliament and the use of his clever and clear ability to communicate, he achieved nothing of substance.  

He never could achieve anything of substance because of two aspects of the way the EU works.  He was facing not only the self-perpetuating, superannuated bureaucracy in Brussels; he was also facing the honest and understandable national self-interests of the leaders of the other member states of the EU.  The bureaucracy would never allow a return of substantive powers and the other member states would never allow anything to be done to diminish their citizens' access to the benefits of living and working in the UK.  Against this background, to achieve even the tiny change he did is a matter of great credit to Mr Cameron. 

Since the referendum was announced we have been subjected to a bombardment of ludicrous guesswork about how an exit from the EU will affect the UK economy.  The simple fact is that no one knows how it will affect our economy.  Let me give an example of the main arguments I have heard on a central economic issue. 

Those in the "remain" camp assert that we will be excluded from trading with EU countries.  That seems extremely unlikely, although the terms on which we deal with them might well change.  How will they change?  No one knows.  What we do know is that we buy a greater value of goods from the other EU states than we sell to them, so excluding us from trading with them will (in monetary terms) hurt them more than us.  That doesn't mean we will necessarily be allowed to continue to trade without tariffs.  It's something that will have to be negotiated.  Whether - in the short, medium and long term - the UK economy will benefit cannot be predicted.  

Those in the "leave" camp assert, with great confidence, that we will continue to trade as we do now because we buy more from them than they do from us.  That is not necessarily so.  They will be much bigger than us and might use their ability to freeze-out our goods in order to secure a trading agreement which is to our detriment compared to the current position.  

In reality both sides are saying the same thing.  They both say that we will continue trading with the EU but they do not know whether the terms of trading will be the same.  So what?  If we stay in things will change that might or might not benefit the UK.  If we leave things will change that might or might not benefit the UK.  The whole economic argument is a nonsense because no one knows whether the next year of economic activity will be good or bad for the UK, or for France, or for Spain, or for Germany, or for Italy, or for any other country - be it an EU country or one of the 168 countries not currently in the EU.  

For me the most important issue in this referendum is not economic, it is political.  

I believe that the most powerful force in maintaining stability in any country is the general populace having the power to remove its current government and replacing it with another.  Everyone knows that elections every four or five years do not allow Mr & Mrs Ordinary direct power over everything.  They do, however, allow millions of Mr & Mrs Ordinarys to make their decisions and, if, collectively, they are so minded, to remove one government and replace it with another.  

There was, I believe, something very significant in the result of last year's general election.  Despite being bombarded by the BBC and every entertainer and "celebrity" who was given airtime that the Conservative Party promotes the interests of the rich and seeks to oppress the poor, that party was returned with a Parliamentary majority.  It was returned through the votes of people of all ages, races and levels of wealth.  A secret ballot allowing the quiet people to take a decision in private can overturn the consensus view of any self-appointed elite.  

For me the most important issue in the referendum, indeed the only issue of any importance, is the need for the people of the UK to be able to have as much control as possible over those who govern them.  That control occurs not just through the ballot box but also through the ability to influence politicians in numerous other ways.  Some of those ways are affected only very indirectly by the ordinary people, for example they have little direct influence over what the newspapers say and how television and radio stations report issues.  But opinions polls, phone-in programmes and petitions are legion.  In addition MPs attend their constituency surgeries and numerous public events at which views are expressed.  No doubt a huge number of people take no part in any of these means of communicating their views to their governors, nonetheless they are direct means of not only influencing politicians' opinions but also of holding them to account for their previously-expressed opinions.  

If you think our politicians are idiots you might or might not be right.  But they are our idiots and we can, in so many ways, hold them to account.  In my lifetime there have been so many that held high office but were rejected by the little people once they were accountable to Mr & Mrs Ordinary making a choice with a stubby pencil in a voting booth.  They had no right to political power unless it was given to them at an election because government exists for the people and not for the politicians. 

We have absolutely no control over the unaccountable powers of the EU.  We have MEPs but they have virtually no power - they cannot even introduce proposals for new legislation. 

I am a great believer in self-determination.  I believe in it for individuals and I believe in it for countries.  The more the little people have the ability to influence politicians, the more likely it is that those politicians will have to think carefully about every decision they make and the more likely it is that the parish, district, county, constituency and country will be stable.  Influence is not enough, the power to say yea or nae to a particular politician continuing to have the possibility of power is fundamental.  The two most high-profile recent examples are Michael Portillo and Ed Balls - politicians of the highest profile ejected from any political power by the greater power of the stubby pencil in the voting booth.  Long may it continue.  

Whether we stay in the EU or leave, the power to influence our own politicians will remain unless the EU passes laws to the contrary.  I don't expect it to, but it has the power to do so and there will be nothing we can do about it.  I would rather keep that power with Mr & Mrs Ordinary and their stubby pencils rather than with politicians who have been rejected by their own national electorates and been rewarded with more power as part of the EU commissariat. 

Self-determination has kept this country stable for a long time.  Long may it continue.  That is much more likely outside the EU than within.  

Friday 17 April 2015

The election for jobs

The last time I offered some thoughts to the great and good of the world it was on the subject of the love of Scotland to use English money in furtherance of its Socialist dream.  Now we are in the midst of a general election campaign and we are hearing much more of the same, although this time the Welsh nationalists and the Greens are also being heard - spouting the same economically ignorant garbage.  What is interesting to me is that the SNP have now firmly planted themselves in the overtly Communist ground of their Welsh and Green fellow-travellers.  Nationalise this, that and the other; hike taxes on a chosen group of victims; promise vast increases to spending on health, education and social services and assert that every problem can be solved by government having more power. Well, it persuaded voters in Venezuela so why should it not persuade the British?  

These dangerous extremists all start with the same punch-line.  They want the end of "austerity".  

It is a start I simply do not understand.  What is austere about the country's government spending roughly £90,000,000,000 more in the current year than it will receive in tax and other revenues?  Of course it must be accepted that the overspend this year is only about half the overspend in the last year of the preceding Labour government; but it is still a massive overspend which adds £90,000,000,000 to the already vast debt on which we must pay interest every year.  As I understand things, the interest payable this year on the vast sums our governments have borrowed but not repaid is in the region of £30,000,000,000; about as much as the government spends on education, about as much it spends on defence and about a quarter of what it spends on healthcare.  At an interest rate of just 1% this year's overspend will add £900,000,000 to the annual interest bill. That is not austerity, it is reckless extravagance. 

I have long been worried about politicians blabbering on about "the deficit".  Countless times in the campaign so far "the deficit" has fallen from the lips of superannuated politicians of all parties.  I wonder what that piece of jargon actually means to people with little or no interest in politics or economics.  Everyone can understand what is meant by the government borrowing money and having to pay interest on it out of our taxes.  Everyone can understand what is meant by the government owing more and more money every year and having to pay more and more interest on that borrowed money each year out of our taxes.  Everyone can understand that if the government continues to spend more money than it receives the result will be an ever-increasing amount of taxpayers' money that must be used to pay interest rather than being used for the cuddly things that make taxpayers' lives better. Why do they not use simple language to explain simple concepts?  

We know why the dedicated Socialists do not use simple language.  Straight talking promotes straight questioning and none of them can explain how their dreams of spending ever more money can result in anything other than greater debt and greater interest payments.  When push gets somewhere near to shove and they try to give an explanation they fall back on the very theory that seduced the moronic Gordon Brown.  Spend more and the economy will be boosted thereby resulting in greater tax revenues that are self-sustaining and will allow accumulated debt to be repaid.  Yes it worked well for him, didn't it?  It worked well in the USSR, didn't it?  It worked well in Greece, didn't it?  It worked well in the UK during the 1960 and 70s, didn't it?  It works well in Venezuela, doesn't t it?  It works well in Zimbabwe, doesn't it?  It works well in France and Spain, doesn't it?  

We also know why the slightly less Socialist Conservative Party does not use simple language.  Much of that party's problem is caused by a catch-phrase used by the current Home Secretary in a speech some years ago.  She wished her party to cease to be perceived as "the nasty party".  In doing so she gave that very label to her party, no doubt that was not her desire or intention (and nor was it the substance of her speech), but these days catch-phrases capture public attention in politics as they do in entertainment and she gave her party a brand with which it is still, well, branded.  

Mr Cameron has one winning message.  So far it has featured as part of the narrative however it has not risen to the top of the debate.  

We must be realistic, what matters to most voters is whether the policies of the incoming government will improve the lot of them, their families and friends.  They are not, I think, interested in fancy theories or in jargon-dominated statements of principle.  They are, I think, more interested in three things above everything else: (i) having more of the money they have earned to spend for themselves, (ii) limiting the amount of their taxes that go to non-taxpayers and (iii) jobs for their children and grandchildren.  

I might be wrong but I believe the overwhelming majority of people in this country want to earn an honest living and benefit from doing so.  

They accept the need to pay tax but expect income tax rates to be modest on modest incomes.  

They support a limit on the total amount of benefits that any one family can receive because they earn less than the amount handed-out to some; the current cap is £350 a week for single adults, £500 a week for a couple, and £500 a week for single adults with one or more children living with them.  £350 a week is £18,200 a year, £500 a week is £26,000 a year.  These are very substantial sums and it is hardly surprising that those working for £18,200 (on which they pay tax) or £26,000 (on which they pay tax) feel it is unfair for others to receive more in benefits than they receive from working.  

I might be wrong but I believe the overwhelming majority of people in this country consider it right that their children should inherit whatever they have accumulated.  If someone does not believe in inheritance he or she can always make provision to ensure their children get nothing, my opinion is that most want their children to receive the cash value of whatever assets they have accrued during their lives.  

I might be wrong, but I believe the overwhelming majority of people in this country want their children and grandchildren to earn an honest living.  They also know that some peoples work deserves a greater return than others.  Most importantly they want there to be jobs so that their children and grandchildren have the maximum possible opportunity to earn whatever their endeavours are worth and be self-sufficient.  

It was a few years ago now that George Osborne caused his party to leap ahead in opinion polls by announcing a policy to increase the Inheritance Tax threshold to £1,000,000.  The benefits cap caused no great difference to opinion polls, although I am yet to meet anyone other than a wealthy Islington Socialist who opposes it.  

Mr Cameron's strongest hand is jobs.  Five years in government and around 2,000,000 new jobs created in the private sector.  I don't suggest that government policy had a lot to do with it, although it undoubtedly had some effect simply by appearing to be more business-friendly that the student union drivel spouted by the millionaire Marxist leader of the opposition.  

In a country that is so solidly dominated by the concept that government has magical powers it is not necessary to explain how government policy has caused anything, it is assumed by far more than it should be that anything good or bad is the result of government action (or inaction).  

Mr Cameron has one and only one election winning message.  He can assert that his has been a government of 2,000,000 new jobs.  That is a fact, undisputed by anyone.  He says (incorrectly) that his government has created 2,000,000 new jobs.  It did not create them.  What it did was pursue policies that gave sufficient confidence to sufficient job-creators that they were prepared to take a chance and employ people.  

If he has any chance of winning an outright majority Mr Cameron must push the jobs figures.  Mr Milliband, the millionaire Marxist, asserted that the policies of the current government would result in mass unemployment.  Like so many idealistic politicians he is not interested in the truth.  He will not accept he was wrong.  The substance of his argument is that they are the wrong type of jobs so they don't count.  

So far the election campaign has been about fluff and nonsense.  Not just that but it has been dominated by the concept that the more the government does the better things will be.  We can't be surprised, it has been the prevailing consensus of opinion in the BBC and the political and press elite for more than 20 years.  

Mr Cameron would be foolish if he did not use the remainder of the election campaign to use one simple fact to his advantage.  It does not matter whether government caused, contributed to or had no effect at all on employment and unemployment figures; it will be believed by lots of voters to be responsible.  Unemployment is at the lowest level for ages but unemployment is a negative thing.  Employment, on the other hand, is a positive.  He should shout 2,000,000 million new jobs from the rooftops and challenge those who dispute the quality of those jobs by saying "so, you would rather those people had no job rather than the perfect job?"  

This election is the election for jobs.  

Thursday 18 September 2014

Yes, please, North Britain

So the native and adopted Jockanese have a vote to decide on the fate of England. 

It's all been rather interesting.  

Most interesting of all has been the opportunity to hear coverage of the hustings on BBC radio.  These days television for me is restricted to test cricket, a few football matches that seem like they could be of very high quality, the major golf tournaments and the occasional drama (but only if the cast is good and the name of the show indicates a likelihood of gory death).  I have not watched television news for several years and restrict my radio listening to BBC 5 Live and Radio 4 (I will add the shameful part in parentheses, sometimes I listen to football commentary on Shout Sport which, for reasons that make no sense at all, calls itself Talk Sport).  No doubt that has resulted in a somewhat skewed vision of the main arguments being fought-out in the streets of Scotland, but there it is.  

Politics in Scotland seems rather different from politics in England.  Ancient religious bigotries still dominate much of the discourse, with the obvious result that there is little discussion and an inordinate amount of certainty and bitter shouting from all sides on every issue.  Part of the religious bigotry that seems to hold greater sway than the Protestant-Catholic divide is the position of Socialism as the religion of choice in North Britain.  

For someone who finds it difficult to accept theistic theories, it is even more difficult to understand the widespread belief the Scotch seem to have in the religion of Socialism.  

Theism cannot be disproved by events, not least because its very nature makes it incapable of proof or disproof by reference to concrete fact.  

Socialism, on the other hand, has been proved beyond doubt to be a political, social and economic system that results on every occasion it is applied in an accumulation of power and wealth to a self-appointed political elite, the repression of dissent by social ostracism and criminal laws aimed at thoughts rather than acts, the stifling of industrial innovation, systemic corruption in all public bodies, a consequent systemic inability for the poor to make themselves richer and the bankruptcy of the State.  Every single State that has run itself on avowedly Soclialist lines is evidence of these appalling degradations of the human spirit. 

The voters of Scotland have chosen their MPs and MSPs predominently from the hard left.  It is hardly surprising that this is so.  A country divided by religion just as profoundly as Northern Ireland is divided can only be united by a common cause that allows the Protestants and Catholics to find a common enemy.  That enemy is the English.  Labour and SNP politicians have espoused the English as the enemy for more than forty years and with that comes the need to define what it is about the English that should be despised.  

Unlike their English fellow-travellers, the Scotch Socialists do not wage a class war.  They cannot do so because class is not a Scottish phenomenon.  There is no identifiable Scottish upper class to be blamed for the current condition of the poorest Scotch people.  Instead they have to aim higher and argue that capitalism is the cause, English capitalism.  English capitalism causes misery, English capitalism steals Scotch wealth, English capitalism deprives all Scotch people of opportunities, English capitalism deliberately keeps the Scotch suppressed in order to fill the bank vaults of a select few down in that London.  

From this position of racist hate-crime (they invented it, don't blame me for using the phrase), they argue that only a Socialist independent state of Scotland can deliver milk and honey to the poor down-trodden masses.  

If they vote No, the foolish "leaders" in Westminster have promised them powers that almost deliver the same as a vote of Yes.  Save for one thing.  The thing that is at the heart of any economic system that will ever have a chance of surviving and delivering a more comfortable life for the least wealthy people.  And that thing is the threat of having to face the painful consequences of failure.  

The man who, in his own words, saved the World - one Dr James Gordon Brown - decided that the little people should shoulder the losses caused by banks following his direction when they advanced too much money to people who could not pay their debts.  By making those loans they increased GDP and made him look good for a while, but like any Ponzi scheme it could not last.  The Bubble burst and he used future taxes to bail-out the banks when the banks did what he directed them to do and came a cropper.  I say "future taxes" because he had no money in the vaults to hand to the bankrupt banks, instead he borrowed it - a massive debt that could only be paid from future tax revenue.  

Now that same man has taken charge of the campaign to keep the Scotch in the UK.  For once, probably the first and last time, I commend him for his consistency.  He used future taxes to bail-out the banks and now he is promising future tax revenue to bail-out the Scotch when its Socialist government bankrupts it, as it will.  

Within my ample stomach there is a rumbling discontent because there seems a greater chance of the Scotch voting No than Yes.  Were they to vote Yes, the consequences of inevitable economic failure will lie at their door.  Were they to vote No they will be given sufficient powers to introduce the bankrupting policies the Yes campaigners believe will lead to Nirvana and the English will have to bail them out.  

There is hope.  Dr James Gordon Brown is in charge and everything he has ever touched has turned to excrement.  Perhaps it is too much to hope for that his intervention has not come too late and that he can still wield his magic sword of failure to guarantee a Yes vote.  

Let them have their Socialist paradise, is what I say.  Free England from the yoke, rid the House of Commons of 47 hard-left and 11-fairly-hard-left MPs.  Let England have its chance.  

I'm not hopeful because when push comes to shove a big change is a difficult thing for people to vote for.  In fact I would be very surprised if the privacy of the voting booth, where loudmouthed lefties cannot hold the majority of attention, did not register a clear verdict in favour of continued subsidisation by England.  

But I hope.  

And I end as I started.  

Yes, please, North Britain. 

Sunday 17 November 2013

The age of consent

Apparently a barrister in a set of chambers known as Hardwicke (it used to be Hardwicke Building but decided to get trendy and have a single word title, perhaps paying pretend experts a lot of dosh for the idea) has suggested that the age of consent for sexual intercourse should be reduced to thirteen.  On reading of her suggestion I cast my mind back more than forty years and tried to remember what happened in terms of jiggy-jiggy among my classmates.  

It was not difficult to remember.  There were the religious ones, saving themselves for the person their god has chosen for them.  There were the demure ones for whom sexual activity was not appropriate at the time.  There were the ugly (and usually spotty) ones who had no chance whatever they might have desired.  And there were those who felt it right at the time to have a stab at it, or, as the case may be, receive a stab.  

Names could be named because those who "did it" at the age of 13 were known to be doing so, but nothing would be served by giving the names.  What matters is the truth of what was happening and why.  

The why is really simple.  They did it because they decided to do it.  They knew it was against the law but they felt it was right for them at the time.  I have no idea how many, if any, now regret those actions, what I do know is that those who did it were among the most self-assured and wordly-wise boys and girls in my year.  

Needless to say I was in the ugly and spotty category and had to wait several years to learn the inadequacy of my sensual performance.  

The barrister who spoke-out is called Barbara Hewson.  You can read a little about her here.   I know Barbara Hewson and I know Hardwicke very well.  Barbara is not a crank she is a highly intelligent woman and thoroughly practical.  She knows that teenagers will play the jiggy-jiggy game whether or not their parents or the law like it and suggests that it would be better for the law to reflect reality than for it to criminalise something that involves no abuse and will happen regardless of any outside influences intended to prevent it.  

Naturally the BBC has swooped on her expression of opinion and given tacit support to those who criticise it as a molesters' charter.  No doubt they believe there is a host of dirty old men currently suppressing their urge to seduce thirteen year-olds who would lose all inhibitions were the age of consent reduced by three years.  We have to be realistic, no doubt there are some in that position.  Currently they fail with sixteen year-olds and will fancy their chances with younger prey.  But why will they fancy their chances with younger prey?  It seems to me there is only one answer, namely that younger girls or boys will have less strength to resist their "grooming".  Since we have to be realistic it seems inevitable that this would be the case because that is how human being are.  Yet it does not justify teenagers who in fact consent to sexual activity being subject to criminal prosecution simply because the law decrees their consent to be inoperative.  

Perhaps studies have been conducted into the effect of previous reductions to the age of consent.  If so it is tolerably clear they have not produced alarming results or they would have been all over the press and I cannot recall reading anything of the sort. In particular the age of consent for male homosexual activity has been reduced from twenty-one to eighteen and then to sixteen within the last fifty years, each proposed reduction being met by howls of indignation from those who predicted an epidemic of middle-aged men in dirty macs inviting impressionable young boys back to view their etchings.  As far as I know nothing of the sort has happened, although it is inevitable that more approaches will have been made than before and that more will have succeeded, the numbers of such do not seem to have caused panic in the police so it might be reasonable to infer that no real problem arose.  

I think it important not to be too flippant about this issue.  It is easy to say that using the power of age to make a sexual conquest is not a problem because abuse of that power is a criminal offence and anyone doing so is liable to prosecution.  That is the case but prosecuting such matters is difficult because everything usually happens between the participants with no external witnesses and the young complainant is, rightly, subject to cross-examination in court that he or she is usually less able to deal with than the older defendant.  

Barbara Hewson raised a point that is a true dilemma.  How do we de-criminalise genuinely consensual sexual conduct between young people and, at the same time, maintain protection against the exploitative dirty mac brigade, however large or small their brigade is? 

That dilemma actually raises a a false dichotomy.  Preventing the young from being exploited by older people is a matter of effective enforcement of the law whereas de-criminalising consensual activity is a matter of the law reflecting what actually happens and will always happen and, I would suggest, harms neither of the parties involved.  

I do not believe there is a massive horde of dirty old men in dirty old macs just waiting for the age of consent to be lowered so they can realise their previously unfulfilled dream of a bit of teenage totty quivering beneath their flabby torsos.  

Look, your old pervs fall into three categories.  There are those, very few in number, who don't care about the law and try it on anytime they can, for them the age of consent is irrelevant.  In reality they are of the same mind-set as the rapist.  Then there are those who keep to the law and will try their luck with anything legal, for them the age of consent is important because it draws the line between legal and illegal.  And there are those who just fancy someone regardless of age and law, for them it is an emotional matter of the connection they have (or think they have) with the object of their desires.  The second and third categories would never force themselves on anyone although they might be a terrible nuisance.   

An age of consent is an arbitrary line.  There is an argument - the argument made by Barbara Hewson - that it should reflect what young people do these days.  That is the view to which I subscribe, although I know too little about young people today to say whether it should be sixteen, thirteen or lower.  The threat of the dirty mac brigade falls away once one realises that they will only get some legal jiggy-jiggy with the consent of the other person.  Indecent approaches will be made and some will succeed and leave the young recipient of their two inches slightly upset and very disappointed, against that must be weighed the young people who have sexual intercourse because they both want to.  It is difficult to understand that their consensual activity should be a crime.