THE LAST DITCH An Englishman returned after twenty years abroad blogs about liberty in Britain

Posts categorized "European Union" Feed

Killing two bolshie birds with one stone

Pete North asks if the Union can survive Brexit and “do we really care?” Personally I think this damp archipelago, including Ireland, belongs together. We Scots, Welsh, English and Irish are interbred beyond all separation. I never encountered an unmixed family. More importantly we are unarguably one people culturally. We teach our children the same nursery rhymes, laugh at the same jokes and share the same magnificent literature, art and music.

Most of us can’t tell without asking which of the nations our fellows “belong” to. I stopped calling myself Welsh after a vile nationalist was rude to my English mum and no-one but her noticed. It seems, if not crazy, then at least very petty-minded to separate politically — even leaving aside the economics of it.

What’s driving the Irish government nuts about Brexit is how obvious it will make it that the Republic is economically not independent at all. No more would Scotland be. As Pete unkindly says, it would be “Zimbabwe with fried Mars Bars.” That’s perhaps a little harsh and unhelpful in such delicate discussions as we may be about to have, but not entirely unfair  

It is odd that people who think multiculturalism will unite peoples with the most profound ethical and ideological differences can also believe trivial differences between the Home Nations necessitate actual apartheid. Holding contradictory ideas in the same brain is a key postmodernist skill, I guess. Yet the Union is voluntary or it’s nothing. If the Scots want out, as the Irish did in their day, then that’s up to them and off they must trot. Sad though that will be for me and my Scottish pals (all of whom are economically-active Unionists). 

I don’t see why only the Scots (and others who happen to live there) should be asked to decide though. The United Kingdom, not its component parts, is the member state of the EU. However Brexit goes, if Scotland leaves the UK it will then have to apply to join (not rejoin) the EU. Previous applicants had to demonstrate economic stability before admission. That would prove difficult for a Scotland deprived of English gold. Spain, afraid of its Catalans (and far less relaxed about separatism than England) would veto their application. Their path would be rocky and that would never do because we love them and wish them well. So wouldn't it be better instead to ask the other Home Nations if they want to leave the Union?

England would certainly do so. It contains 85% of the UK population but 95% of the economy. Even if it took a Barnett formula adjusted share of the national debt with it, it would be a far richer country and the threat of Celtic-fringe imposed Socialism would be removed forever. Goodbye Mr Corbyn.

I’d be relaxed either way but I imagine Wales would vote to leave the UK too. We Welsh like to rattle our sabres in imitation of the Scots in pursuit of subsidies etc., but we know which side our bara brith is buttered. If Northern Ireland voted to remain in the rump UK, then the reduced member state could withdraw its Article 50 notice and the Brexit divide would be neatly resolved. Leave-voting England (& Wales) would be free from whatever EU or post-Brexit treaty entanglements remained at a single bound. The Irish could stop bleating about backstops and deal instead with the other side of the sectarian terrorist violence they encouraged (and clandestinely supported) for so long.

It’s an actual opportunity for karma, no less!

My contempt for the farce that is the UN is so profound that the idea of Scotland on its security council actually quite appeals. If Saudi Arabia can be a member of the UN “human rights” council, why the hell should a nuclear-free Scotland not sit at the top table with Russia, China and the US? Particularly as the US has always meddled in the UK’s internal affairs on the side even of violent nationalists. It would be hilarious to see the US government’s reaction to the Scottish Peoples Republic wielding its veto. Yet more karma in fact! In an ideal world our old comrade Councillor Terry Kelly would be Scotland’s U.N. ambassador!

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I offer this solution, as you will have discerned by now, mostly in jest. It’s far too sensible for the buffoons in power to accept it and of course far too much of a threat to their globalist agenda. But what actual objections — gentles all — do you see to it? 


Luxembourg

Perhaps it’s not an obvious destination for a European road trip but we have friends living in the Grand Duchy and wanted to visit them. So after breakfasting on Belgian waffles in the main square in Bruges we hit the road south. Our first problem was that an inconsiderate hotel guest  had parked his SUV next to Speranza at a jaunty angle, blocking access to the driver’s door. Mrs P came up with the solution of lowering the roof from the passenger side so I could climb in and we were soon on our way. Apart from some traffic jams on the Brussels ring road, we had a splendid journey south in beautiful sunshine.

Belgium has good infrastructure but you can tell when you’ve arrived in Luxembourg by the quality of the roads on the approaches. The charm of the eponymous small city is only marred for the moment by enormous construction works to install new tramways to provide eco transport for a population planned to double.

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The Grand Duchy was an industrial economy when it joined the European Coal and Steel Community that was the precursor of the EU. It has since exploited its membership to provide a corporate haven to allow its neighbours’ citizens to mitigate the costs of business in their highly-taxed homelands. It has a smug sheen of wealth but has not become a nowhere place like Monaco because it’s not a tax haven for individuals. The wealthy keep their corporate vehicles and some of their money there (and visit them) but otherwise leave the country to the locals. They have opportunities to work alongside the foreign bankers, lawyers and other professionals servicing the foreign money or join the highly-paid and lavishly-housed civil service. It works well for them.

Our local friend, a former client of mine when he was with a German bank doing business in my old stamping grounds of Eastern Europe, gave us the guided tour of the city after hosting us to lunch at his club. Then he picked up his lady friend and led us out to the German border for a wine tasting. The modern winery had a terrace from which we could see Germany and France on the other bank of the Mosel, separated by a bridge. The Schengen accords that removed most  internal EU border controls were signed nearby and the winery celebrates this with one special wine made from the grapes of the three countries.

We then drove through France (for a few yards) into Germany and to our nearby hotel where we hosted our friends to dinner on another terrace with leafy views of wine country. Over an agreeable meal we inadvertently gave Mrs P II insights into the dynamics of the relationships (and the inaccuracies - or otherwise - of the stereotypes) between the European nations represented at table! Now onward to Switzerland.


In which I urge you to overcome your sense of futility and vote this Thursday

I thought taking part in the Leave march to Parliament Square might have been my last political act. As I wrote afterwards, it actually gave me hope again. 

The old political tribes in Britain are in trouble and deserve to be. They have long taken their members, supporters and voters for granted; becoming steadily more divorced from the everyday lives of most Brits. They were smugly secure that most of us would keep voting for one or the other of their parties regardless. So they could safely ignore us while they grew their power and enriched themselves by steadily growing the public payroll and the National Debt. They turned their backs on us and forgot we were here. 

I never deluded myself about the nature of democracy. Grandiosity about “government of the people, by the people and for the people” made me smile. I take Tony Benn’s more practical view as stated in the last of his famous "five questions"

“The House will forgive me for quoting five democratic questions that I have developed during my life. If one meets a powerful person--Rupert Murdoch, perhaps, or Joe Stalin or Hitler--one can ask five questions: what power do you have; where did you get it; in whose interests do you exercise it; to whom are you accountable; and, how can we get rid of you? Anyone who cannot answer the last of those questions does not live in a democratic system.”

Simply, if (and to the precise extent) that a majority of us can succeed in getting rid of any given set of people in power, we have a democracy. The political obsessives and/or moral degenerates who are attracted to the idea of running for office are very unlike the rest of us so the practical point of any democratic system is to keep them honest-ish by forcing them at intervals to appeal to us normals, on pain of peremptory dismissal.

Brexit has broken this model because it transcends the old left/right divide. It’s an issue that speaks to us normals at a very deep level. It goes to our sense of who we are as a set of British nations. These are near-mystical matters that the grasping, narcissistic rogues in office can’t grok. 

If they loved the peoples of Britain, they wouldn’t be feeding on us like so many plump fleas. If they gave the merest damn about our nations or their history or if they had the slightest respect for who we are, they wouldn't ever have wanted to lord it over us. Just as the feudal lords of medieval Europe dealt more comfortably with their counterparts across the Channel than with the serfs they saw as little more than cattle, so our political masters feel more at home with their parasitical brethren in the EU apparatus than with us. That hugger-muggery has not gone unremarked and has intensified our sense of being ignored at best (and despised at worst) by those elected to serve us. 

In the end, Brexit’s historical importance will have nothing to do with our membership of the EU. That dubious institution will pass in time, with or without us. We would find our way forward in or out of it. The true value of the attempt to leave has been the way it has exposed the terrible weakness of our native institutions. Whether they atrophied because of our EU membership or have just withered from long neglect scarcely matters now. They are rotten, need to be fixed and the people tasked with their maintenance and repair have been shown to be utterly useless.

It's a challenge, but our economy is stronger and our demographics are better than any European rival. Despite Brexit, our legal system and the strength of our financial institutions continues to attract foreign direct investment on a scale our neighbours can only dream of. Once this farce moves on to its next act, the peoples of Britain — armed with their new-found understanding of what fools our masters are — now expect our institutions to undergo as thoroughgoing a refurbishment as the one planned for the physical fabric of the Palace of Westminster.

There is much to be done and new people must be inspired to do it. And new political parties will be needed as all faith in the Conservatives has been destroyed and Labour is a disunited rabble of cowards or fanatics.

Our first chance to put the fear of the fierce God Demos back into the black hearts of our politicians is on Thursday. For us Brits at least, the usually entirely pointless elections to the EU’s ludicrous fig leaf of a pretendy Parliament have an important use this time. This, even though our MEPs are not expected to serve a full term and will certainly be ignored even more than usual until we finally leave the EU. Since the elections are literally about nothing else, we can use them to signal to our wretched government and opposition that our democracy is not to be swatted aside when they don't like what we say.

I have joined and donated to the Brexit Party and will attend its London rally at Olympia tonight. Whether you voted Leave or Remain (and there were respectable arguments each way that no longer need rehearsing) I would urge you to vote for us this week. If you think the vote to Leave was a mistake and you don't give a damn about democracy, then your choice is easy. You must vote LibDem. Otherwise, please vote for The Brexit Party. Not for Brexit but for British democracy itself. Let’s not give the dastard Tories or the fence-sitting Corbynites any room for manoeuvre when they interpret the outcome in planning their General Election campaigns. On Thursday please add your voice to a full-throated roar of righteous popular rage that will make the villains tremble. 


Truth, morals and democracy

Democracy does not determine right and wrong. Democratic outcomes are not necessarily correct. If you live in an unfettered democracy like that of the United Kingdom, you will often find yourself on the wrong side of majority decisions that are misguided at best and quite often wicked. Classical liberals must be careful of crowing about "the will of the People" when they find themselves on the right side of a vote, because we are far more often on the wrong side. 

Opinion polls suggest that relatively few Britons support free-market economics, freedom of expression or even (apart from their own) private property. A majority of "Conservative" voters, for example, seem to support Labour's new policy of issuing unpaid-for shares to employees and appointing trade-union directors to company boards. Those shares will not be "free." Their issue will dilute the value of existing shares. The value they represent will have been taken by force from the company's owners. Also, when investors find companies with employee shareholders less attractive, the value of the company will be further reduced. Appointing employees whose interests conflict with theirs will have negative consequences to the shareholders who own those companies. If they wanted such directors, they could have appointed them at any time. It is said that Labour intends to have employee directors trained by the Leftists of the Trade Union movement, so they will (like the party under its current leadership) be hostile to the very concept of capitalism.

No amount of democratic perfume can make such theft and economic vandalism fragrant. It's immoral. It's wrong. And yet the national debate is not about ethics but practicalities. If a mugger steals your watch at gunpoint, you don't reserve judgement on the morality of his actions until you know what motivated his crime or what it will do to the reputation of the neighbourhood. Yet, when the BBC news reported on Labour's new policy, its "expert" merely commented that Britain's status as one of the world's top destinations for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) may be adversely affected. The rights of pensioners, life assurance policy-holders or people like me living in retirement on my investments count for nothing – unless we are foreigners with other choices who might take our money elsewhere.

A democratic vote is not a sacrament. It is just an alternative to violence as a way of settling societal differences. When we are on its losing side, we had best remind ourselves of that. To oppose a democratic outcome is to encourage a return to violence. That is what the Remainers in Parliament are risking. I was for Leave but if the vote had gone the other way I would have respected it. Our unity as a nation is more important to me than having my own way – even on a subject as to which I have been passionate, angry and frustrated for decades. It seems I was naive. Neither the unity of our nation nor favouring non-violent ways to resolve disagreements means anything to some prominent Remainers.

My grandfather returned from his military service in World War II as a cripple. His country's reward was to "nationalise" (i.e. confiscate) the trucking business he and his brothers had built pre-war with their own sweat and their savings from working as boys, teenagers and young men down a coal mine. Elected on a manifesto that promised the "nationalisation," the Labour government had appointed the only local valuer they could find who was a party member to fix compensation as low as possible. Successive governments then took decades to pay it, in ever more debased coin as inflation eroded the already-rigged value. I asked him years later how that had felt. He told me this.

My friends and some of my family voted for it. Labour people sincerely believed the government could run my business better than I could. I knew they were wrong and time proved me right but at the time what was I to do? I could have been angry with my neighbours and miserable for the rest of my life. Or I could accept the democratic vote, get on with my life and do the best I could.

I loved, admired and (for all his faults) respected my grandfather. Never more so than at that moment. 

This week I visited the "I Object" exhibition at the British Museum co-curated by Ian Hislop, the editor of Private Eye. His co-curator Tom Huckenhall talked me and other members through the displays at a private viewing. One of the subversive pieces is an image of Egypt's last Pharaoh, Queen Cleopatra, copulating with a crocodile. Tom commented that "sexual slander" has always been used as a political weapon. Interestingly he also said that this was one of several pieces in the exhibition that had not been created by or for dissidents but had instead been commissioned by a political opponent. It was part of a slanderous campaign by Octavian (later Caesar Augustus) to strengthen his claim to be Emperor over that of Cleopatra's lover, Antony.

I cannot have been the only person present who thought of the US Democratic Party's campaign to discredit Brett Kavanaugh, President Trump's nominee to the Supreme Court. Sexual slander is indeed a potent political weapon, now as in 30BC. Its being perpetrated by democratically-elected politicians does not make it any less vile and rotten than when committed by a would-be tyrant of the ancient world. As I watch my beloved America torn apart by a politically-motivated sham as far from the truths so self-evident to the Founding Fathers as could be conceived, I remind myself again that democracy is not an ethic. It's just a very human, practical but flawed device to avoid violence.

It is not, has never been and never will be a means to divine truth, justice or morality.


Of truth, reason and persuasion

I have left instructions that Paul Simon’s song “the Boxer” should be played at my funeral. Apart from the bit about “the whores on Seventh Avenue” I think it’s a good broad brush account of how my life has felt to me. It contains remarkable wisdom in the line;

A man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest. 

That a 16 year old Jewish kid from Queens was wise enough to know that still surprises me. I first heard the line when I was about that age myself and it should have been a helpful gift, but I was never able to internalise it usefully. I only ever remembered it too late; when my desire to believe something had led me astray.

One of my daughters once told someone “People have Dad wrong. He’s not a cynic. He’s a disappointed idealist.”  Time after time I have trusted when I shouldn’t and ventured where angels fear to tread because I was not as wise as young Mr. Simon. The will-o-the-wisps of my hopes and dreams led me through Life's swamp. I’ve been lucky and have no complaints. My regrets, such as they are. are actually about my more cautious moments. Inspirational hopes and dreams lead men where dry calculation never would and – up to a point – that may be a good thing.

in my brief career in student politics, I heard wise old sorts in the Conservative Party say things like “the facts of life are Tory” and “Tory at 20, you have no heart. Labour at 30, you have no brain.” Slightly advanced by Ricky Tomlinson*, my own trajectory confirmed the latter at least. My career as a business lawyer certainly confirmed the former — at least when the Tory Party was still Conservative and based its policies on the facts of economic life. 

So it’s not surprising that wave after wave of youngsters falls naively for the puffery of the snake oil salesmen of the left. Why, however, are there mature individuals who can’t see what poison Socialism is?

Partly it can be accounted for by the wisdom of the young Paul Simon. No-one wants to hear that the "facts of life are Tory" – especially if life is not going well for them personally. If the market values your labour less than you do yourself, it's obviously easier to believe that the market is wrong than to do something about improving your value to it. If you've trained for a dead industry, it's easier to demand that the state keeps it moving – zombie like – than to accept your mistake and retrain. Yet there is so much evidence that Socialism doesn't work. More than half of mankind lived under Socialist planned economies in the 20th Century. The empirical results of this monstrous experiment were uniformly terrible. Tens of millions died. Billions were impoverished economically, morally and in terms of liberty. 

This is recent history. Many of the people who lived through it are still alive. As this article shows, (behind a pay-wall but you can still read a couple of articles a month for free) young people who listened to their family's experiences learned the ideological lessons. They did so even when they belonged to identity groups courted by the left in its attempt to foment divisions and hatreds to be "resolved" by their panacea;  state violence to constrain free choice and free expression.

My childhood was awash with my family’s forlorn recollections about the hardships they endured under communism in Poland: the chronic scarcity of food, medicine and other basic necessities; outright hostility to basic liberties. And if we didn’t like it, too bad: they killed anyone who tried to leave.

Yet there are leftists in Poland today. Indeed there are statist authoritarians of both right and left who believe (though their grandparents are there to tell them otherwise) that an inexplicably virtuous state directing the masses will make them more moral, more patriotic and more productive than they would choose to be themselves. It would be funny if it were not so damned tragic. I lived in Poland from 1992 to 2003 and delighted in the fact that I met no-one, ever, who was inclined to believe such nonsense. In what is, perhaps, another example of my "hearing what I wanted to hear and disregarding the rest", I told myself the Polish nation was inoculated forever against the virus of statism. I was wrong. The ideological hog cycle may be even shorter than the economic one

Confirmation bias is another explanation of people's ability to ignore evidence. We are seeing it daily in the never-ending national shouting match over Brexit. Every twist and turn just leads each side to exclaim "See! I told you so!!" It is all (even for someone so enthusiastically anti-EU that his late wife once demanded he make a New Year's resolution to shut up about it for 12 months) so damned boring that I have stopped watching the news or reading my daily newspaper.

Not too long ago, we saw the British Left praise Hugo Chavez's socialist experiment in Venezuela as an example to us all. Now it has ended, as all previous experiments did, in shortages, hardship and oppression, the very same people "hear what they want to hear and disregard the rest". It wasn't socialism after all. Mistakes were made. There was external interference by agents of capitalism. There was sabotage. All the excuses, in fact, that the Stalinists used to explain the stubborn divergence of tractor production statistics from reality. 

It seems that every fact is Janus-faced to those informed by ideology or faith. The closest the left has come to acknowledging this was in developing the doctrine of post-modernism, This denies the very existence of truth and argues that all "facts" are mere social "constructs" shaped by the class, ethnic or other identity of the people positing them. How that can be true, when there is no "truth" is a question for longer-lived humans than I expect to be. I need time to have some more fun before I die, thank you very much.

Jeremy Bentham, perhaps the most pragmatic of all English philosophers, is said to have died regretting the great error of his life. which was to assume that it was only necessary to show Man what was right in order for him to embrace it. We who aspire to be rational must learn not to despair when Man cleaves to the irrational. In winning people over to the cause of Reason we must work with, and not merely scorn, their foibles. Were any religious people persuaded to renounce their faith by the late, great Christopher Hitchens' (probably correct) characterisation of their views as the product of "wishful thinking" for example? I have a close friend who is religious and, when I fear he is making a mistake, I rack my brain for the teachings of my long-ago Sunday school to construct a theological argument for him to act differently. Sometimes it works – at least a little better than telling him his faith is "wishful thinking" would! I care about him enough to shape my arguments to his beliefs when I want to help him. Perhaps I should extend that courtesy to others? How far though can I extend a courtesy that costs little when dealing with a kind and (mostly) rational man before I am respecting the monstrous views of barbarians?

If there is no Truth, life is just a pointless frolic. Yet, as Professor Peterson tells us convincingly in his books and videos, all the research suggests that the search for meaning is what makes us happy, not (pace the Founding Fathers) "the pursuit of happiness" per se. We don't need there to be Truth or Meaning to be happy, but we do need to be looking for both. Post-modernism is quite literally a counsel of despair and I suspect is only meant to dispirit most of us into inactivity while its hypocritical proponents get on with their quest to rule the world. 

Where, gentle reader, do you stand? Is there truth? Should it be sought? Can it be found? To the extent that it requires others to accept it in order to improve the world, how best can one persuade them?

*In the linked post, I said I couldn't be sure that it was Tomlinson. My father has since read that post and confirmed that it was.

 


Conservative Renaissance Conference 2018 organised by .@ToryProgress

I am not sure how I ended up on the mailing list but I was invited to this event today so I went. Part of me wants the Conservative Party once more to fulfil the function it did in Margaret Thatcher's time – as a radical opponent of Big Government, dedicated to free markets, deregulation and privatisation. I encounter the occasional member from the libertarian wing like Dan Hannan or Syed Kamall and hope springs once more in my naive breast. I had met Kamall at a Libertarian Home meeting. I found him somewhat wanting ideologically, but the fact he showed up raised hopes. It was his name on the programme and that of David Campbell-Bannerman MEP that made me decide to risk wasting a Saturday that could have been spent on my pleasures. 

The name of the organising group – Conservative Progress – should have tipped me off. Progress is a good thing, just like being social. But organisations that use either word in their titles are usually to be avoided. This one was founded by two enthusiastic young politicos named Nabil Najjar and Luke Springthorpe and describes itself as follows:

We are a grassroots organisation founded by Conservative activists for Conservative activists. We host events that are relevant and engaging, and offer training that is beneficial to developing activists. We also promote and share good practice and offer a platform for the views of conservative minded political activists.

Most of the people at the conference were either pro-Brexit, or were Remainers who accepted the referendum result. The Soubry Faction was not in evidence. So the discussions around that issue were both illuminating and encouraging. Suella Braverman MP, Under Secretary of State at DEXEU, assured us that there is "a lot of unity" in Cabinet on Brexit and that the legal agreements to give effect to it are about 75% complete on terms that Parliament should be able to approve. She pointed out that if Parliament didn't, the only alternative would be a "no deal" Brexit. That would leave us dealing with the EU (as many countries successfully do) on WTO terms. 

Even more encouragingly, as he's not under Cabinet discipline, Campbell-Bannerman was just as optimistic. He said the EU has offered a free trade deal on better terms than with any other country and that we should simply accept it. He said the legal terms were "about 80% agreed". He was as relaxed as I am about a "no deal" exit but said that as a good "Canada++ free trade deal" was on the table, why not get it done? For me, accustomed to the views of the BBC and others longingly predicting the catastrophic outcome they desire and to those of Brexit bloggers fearful of betrayal, this was worth losing a few hours with my hobbies.

The rest of the speeches were less edifying. I was clearly not among the classical liberal elements of the Party. James Palmer, Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, for example remarked that "Conservatives would find it hard to accept" his idea of capping development land prices at, say, ten times their agricultural value. Damn right they would. Price controls are economic idiocy that lead to shortages, rationing, violent expropriation and corruption. No true Conservative would find it easy to accept such wickedness. But no-one in the hall seemed to share my concerns. 

The logic behind Mayor Palmer's dottily immoral idea was that, if the Party can't solve the problem of millennials not being able to afford to buy houses, they will be lost forever to Labour or the Liberal Democrats. So to hell with the economic principles that a true Conservative Party would exist to preserve. Let's instead be "pragmatists" (as I have remarked before, Tory code for "unprincipled shits") and bribe young voters. I tried frantically to intervene during questions but the young moderators preferred mostly to call upon people of their generation; often friends whose names they knew. So I did not have chance to point out that while Mayor James and his colleague from London were blaming development companies, land banking and (God help us) "capitalism" for the housing shortage, the solutions are in the hands of national and local government. 

Real estate is not really a free market anyway. If a piece of land is worth £x without a planning permission and £20x with one, then most of the value of a development site is within the gift of the planning authority. This is why real estate is the most corrupt area in most economies across the world. If a piece of paper issued by a modestly paid local official is worth more than land; for most of human history the most fundamental of all economic assets, then that official is – shall we say – always going to be treated very well. The only reason planning engenders less corruption in Britain than in the other countries where I have worked (Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, Romania, Bulgaria, Russia and China) is because there is a legal presumption in favour of development that complies with published zoning plans and the appeals procedure is efficient. A bribe would get your project approved perhaps six months more quickly here and that time certainly has economic value. But usually not enough to risk gaol and disgrace. That, and not any moral superiority on our part, is what keeps us from the crookedness common elsewhere.

In London in particular the solution to the housing crisis is greater density. Our Capital City is far less densely built than, for example, Paris or Berlin. Where I live in Ealing, the world's first suburb originally spawned by the world's first metro - the District Line, one might almost be in a village judging by the terraced villas with their poxy little gardens and the grander homes interspersed amongst them. At the same distance from the Place de la Concorde as Ealing is from Trafalgar Square, you would be among high rises. Yet Ealing's planning policies forbid them and make even more modest multi-family housing more difficult to build. And the same Conservatives in Name Only who were blaming greedy development companies for pricing housing out of young hands campaigned on a slogan in the recent elections of "Keep Ealing low-rise." The other local politician on the panel understood this well enough to propose massive densification of public housing (occupied by Labour voters) but not for the private housing occupied by his own. How little like a true Conservative did he sound when proposing to build lots more council flats at subsidised rents mostly paid by welfare benefits to solve the housing crisis? I leave it to you to imagine.

Of course, to densify London would involve upgrading roads, sewers and utilities to support all the new residents (or the more widely dispersed millennials released from their squalid house shares). Yet when Labour has periodically set the economy ablaze and the voters have called in the Conservative Fire Brigade to quell the flames what has it done? Has it reduced the ranks of public servants doing pointless jobs? Has it reined in public spending and reduced taxes? Has it withdrawn from all the busy-bodying and prod-nosing begun by its Labour predecessors? No! It has usually just pushed back all the infrastructure projects the construction of which is one of the few valid jobs for government. Keep the "Diversity coordinators" and spend millions on "Public Health England" to nag us about our diets. But let the roads degenerate to Third World standards and let fatbergs block the Victorian sewers.

Even more terrifying than the support from Comrade Mayor Palmer was the wild enthusiasm for Penny Mordaunt MP, Secretary of State for International Development. Mordaunt is a great speaker and I tip her as a future PM. She had the room eating out of her hand by saying all the right things if you believe that the State can ever be an efficient and honest dispenser of largesse to the world's poor. If you believe that nonsense, however, you're not a true Conservative and should not really have been in the room, let alone cheering her on. She was all for clever targeting of aid; directing it to relieve pressures that might otherwise lead poor people to become economic migrants for example. But she was naively confident that, six months into her brief, her talent was such that all British aid was now finding its way to deserving recipients. This, despite the fact she admitted that on her first day her department could not account for where any of it had gone until then!

She began by talking about how generous Brits are in donating to development and poverty relief charities but then, like any Socialist would, set about conflating the generous nation with its ugly, nasty guard dog, the State. A true Conservative would stop taking money from poor people in rich countries to give to rich people in poor countries and would let taxpayers make their own choices about charities to support. Ms Mordaunt is no true Conservative in that respect and neither were any of the people in the audience judging by the rapturous applause her meretricious speech received. 

The "Blue Labour" jibe against the "Conservative" Party seems well justified on today's showing. The people I spent today with were well to the left of any Labour government to date. They were only "Conservative" by comparison to the current Labour leadership, but then by that comparison Mao Zedong and Joseph Stalin could have joined us. My subscription is up for renewal and I can't imagine I will stay a member.


Who are these people?

After my teenage flirtation with Maoism, I became Chairman of my Conservative Association at University and I remained a member until Margaret Thatcher was betrayed. I was not a "Tory" but a Thatcherite and was as utterly out of place in its ranks as she was (though she, impressively, was such a force of Nature that she wasn't aware of it). We didn't just think Socialism was a bad idea promoted by kindly fools. We thought it was an evil and destructive doctrine; a threat not just to prosperity (a point we didn't even need to make in those days, with trash and corpses piling up in Britain and the Soviet Union in evident collapse) but to freedom. We didn't apologise for capitalism and free markets. We loved them, while rigorously distinguishing between capitalism and capitalists and between markets and the people trading in them. We knew that what capitalists, business-people and socialists had in common was that they were human and therefore prone to lie, cheat and steal if given the chance. Deregulation and privatisation were designed precisely to deny them that chance by promoting more of the only thing that can keep homo economicus virtuous – competition.

How very unlike most Tories we were in that respect. Their stance was more that of a well-meaning but stupid vicar in a village full of social and economic problems. They condescendingly assumed ordinary folk can't take care of themselves. They were far too inclined to treat voters as children to be directed, protected and bribed with little "treats", rather than as adults free to make (or break) their own lives. In talking down to voters, they conspired with Labour (which openly and honestly sees people as mindless drones to be directed by the Guardian-reading "woke") to turn elections into corrupt and despicable "benefits auctions"; a destructive game Labour is usually bound to win. They were also inclined to "Buy local" economic parochialism. A Thatcherite doesn't give a damn who supplies goods as long as consumers get what they want. A Tory thinks the companies that fund his election campaign and employ his voters should be protected from nasty foreign competition and is therefore far too ready to be swayed by old Gerald down at the golf club into agreeing to raise barriers to market entry over a glass of electric soup. Or by old Den to temporarily nationalise the company his board has brought to ruin. Wet Toryism does more harm to economic competition than Socialism's open enmity to it.

Such Tories are every bit as much to blame for Britain's failure to fulfil its potential and for the decline in its citizens' freedoms as Labour. I am inclined to hate them more for it because of the way they "wave the Red Flag to oppose the Red Flag"; naming their child "Liberty" while selling freedom out at every opportunity. At least Labour is open about wanting to enslave you – "for your own good", of course. Tories incrementally rob you of your liberty while haw-hawing about freedom. Yes, Labour usually first proposes all the worst ideas but Tories fret, pander and make unprincipled compromises where they should fiercely oppose. Worse, they fail to make positive, principled proposals, leaving Labour to set a cretinous agenda. They are, as the Left calls them, "reactionaries" and I loathe them for it.

So, once these Tory "pragmatists" (their euphemism for "unprincipled shits") took back control of their Party from "that bloody woman", there was no place in it for me. Besides, with Tony Blair falsely but plausibly presenting himself as her heir, it seemed back in the 90s that the final battle against that insanely destructive doctrine was won. It took first John Major's assault on the presumption of innocence and Tony Blair's assault on habeas corpus to make me realise that the battle for freedom never ends. With that dark, slow realisation came a scary appreciation – doing business in two Continental European countries mainly with citizens of the others – that the "Social Chapter" of the acquis communautaire meant that, while the spectre of Communism may have been exorcised from Europe, the zombie of Socialism still walked. All this, while working cheerfully on helping my clients to rebuild East European economies it had wrecked.

There was little that I could do from a distance except blog. It never occurred to me to rejoin the Conservative Party. Stung by its betrayal and more aware of its true nature than most of its political opponents I probably hated it even more than the most partisan of my Labour relatives up North. I changed my mind after the EU Referendum result. The Party had been run (and its membership had been declining) for years on the assumption that its EU sceptical grassroots were simply out of touch with popular opinion. Suddenly the metropolitan liberals discovered that it was they who were the "swivel-eyed loons" on this subject. I felt that without the divisions about the EU (now far greater in the Labour Party) and with the inevitable return to the fold of UKIP voters, there was an epochal opportunity for the Conservatives to become once more the "natural party of government" in an essentially conservative nation. I wanted to support the Daniel Hannan classical liberal faction within the Party as it (I hoped) took control. 

I have been disappointed so far. The nature of the beast is still just as I remembered it and Theresa May – possessor of a second-rate mind untroubled by principle - is its archetype.  I was a Conservative Party counting agent at my local authority elections this week and spent a few hours in the dejected company of candidates and volunteers in a solidly Labour London Borough. My impression was of a Party that sees Labour as the engine and itself as the brakes. Or perhaps more kindly Labour as the arsonists and itself as the Fire Brigade. No Marxist ever subscribed so thoroughly to his doctrine of "historical inevitability" as these people. A consumer regulator might usefully force both parties to change their names to the "Let's Fuck it Up" and the "Let's Fuck it Up More Slowly" Parties. The only encouragement I took from the evening was when I wandered off and mooched around the Labourites. My God, what an unappealing bunch they are, at least in London.

The Trotskyite takeover of Momentum/Labour still offers an opportunity. So many young people have lost interest in practical politics because their votes really don't make a difference. The muzzle is off Labour's rabid hounds and as the recent elections showed, the voters don't like it that much. Where the Momentum push was hardest, the voters responded worst. If the technology existed to clone Owen Jones and Eddie Izzard so as to put one of each on every Labour voter's doorstep, the Conservatives could just stay home and prepare for government. More practically, I can't help but feel that there's an argument for the Conservatives to offer voters the first principled choice since Thatcher was deposed – so that our votes really do matter next time, as they always should.

What say you, gentles all? Should they? Can they? Will they?


The Moggster reminds us what Brexit is about

As resolve seems to be weakening, here is the Moggster explaining to the Oxford Union just why we are leaving the economically-destructive, anti-democratic, extremism-inducing shambles that is the European Union. Note there is no mention of immigration nor any hostility to our European neighbours. Actually, he expresses affectionate concern for them. His speech is about the things that motivated me to vote "Leave", namely concern for justice, democracy and fairness and fear that damned institution's manifold idiocies will cause more economic catastrophes like that in Greece, and bring back the political extremism to which the Continent, with its top-down Roman Law approach, is so prone.

 


Hope for the future

I take no satisfaction in having been right about the unnecessary election of June 2017. The voters punished Mrs May for putting party before country. In their ire they came close to inflicting upon us all a government Communist in all but name. We had a narrow escape. I was in New York and watched the result through the eyes of a baffled America that wants to like us but just can't help seeing us as has beens with baffling delusions of grandeur.

About the only lesson that everyone (but Mrs May) can agree upon is that she is an idiot. She's a dead woman walking and it's only gracious to avert our pitying gaze. So what now?

The contempt of our EU colleagues (for now) could scarcely be intensified but, having worked closely with Continentals for decades, trust me; they never wished us well. That's not to say that they can't be friends at an individual level. They can and are. But they are absolutely united in their humiliating folk memory of Britain astride the planet when (in their view) so clearly a barbarian, uncultured race far far below the salt of the cultural and legal descendants of Ancient Rome. We have put our Empire behind us and moved on but I doubt the erstwhile rulers of Europe's failed and far more vile empires ever will. 

Here is my positive take. The next phase of our history is like an FA Cup match in which all believe us to be lower league minnows with little hope of success. Good. Expectations are low and those who wish us ill are over-confident that we can be lightly regarded and swiftly despatched. We have been here before. We shall be here again. So let's play the game as best we can and take what we can from the occasion.

The Brexit negotiation has its own internal logic. There is no reasonable compromise on offer because (to frighten others who might think of leaving) the EU can give us nothing. I am more afraid of betrayal from within. Since they can give us nothing, anything we pay them beyond their strict treaty entitlement will be a waste of resources we need to husband against an uncertain future. 

I believe in Britain's prospects. I really do. But our future is ours to take — or throw away. Given the alarming proportion of young people who, on the evidence of last week, are economic illiterates, ethical degenerates and brainwashed identity warriors, there's no guarantee of success. 

At least, after Brexit, we are under our own management. Win or lose the outcome will be ours to live with. 


European Union demands are more imaginative than legal

European Union demands indefinite right to remain for unborn children of EU nationals in UK.

Ignoring, for the time being, the demands on immigration, it seems that the EU has finally given some workings on their calculation of financial demands on "divorce" (as they emotively choose to characterise our leaving their political club).
“financial settlement should be based on the principle that the United Kingdom must honour its share of the financing of all the obligations undertaken while it was a member of the Union. The United Kingdom obligations should be fixed as a percentage of the EU obligations calculated at the date of withdrawal in accordance with a methodology to be agreed in the first phase of the negotiations”. 
Readers will be aware of my cynicism about the binding nature of International Law, but clearly Britain is going to comply with the governing treaties for diplomatic purposes so, ultimately, this is a legal negotiation, based upon their terms. I have only one question therefore. Where in the treaties governing the relationship of the member states of the EU is the above "principle" stated? Spoiler alert. It isn't.
 
I made my living as a negotiator. There's always a ritual dance. No-one opens with what they expect to get, but this is a joke that destroys the EU's credibility as a negotiating partner. It is a signal of bad faith and an insult to the British people.