September 20, 2017

Spanish jackboot on Catalonia

This is astonishing.
Spanish gendarmes have raided at least four Catalan ministries amid escalating tension ahead of the independence referendum.
And
The Spanish authorities, on Monday, also seized control of Catalonia's finances in what [the Catalan vice president] called "total irresponsibility" that would lead the region "to an administrative collapse".
Indeed. "This means that from now on [Catalan leaders] no longer have their money," a Spanish budget ministry spokeswoman said. Oh, well done.

And Spain has accused 740 Catalan mayors of abuse of office. But this is not just a political accusation, the first of them is actually about to go on trial.

The Spanish Foreign Minister says referenda are undemocratic because Franco used them. Orwell would be be proud. Tell that to the Swiss.

September 19, 2017

Despise gutless May

I thought I loathed and despised Theresa May more than anyone else (and I should be a natural Tory voter, by the way). Apparently not. Rachel Sylvester tells it as it is in The Times: May is weak & incompetent, her conduct of government outrageous.

Whatever were Tory MPs thinking of when they voted for her?

Green shoots on Theresa May's magic money tree. The RSPB received £27.5 million in grants from UK taxpayers in 2015 and 2016. Why? Donating to the RSPB is a decision for individuals to make. But gutless May keeps the money coming.

More importantly, scientists say the world is warming more slowly than they had predicted. Oops, it seems we over-estimated climate sensitivity to increasing amounts of carbon dioxide.

But this is still tiptoeing round the problem. The pattern of intermittent temperature changes offers no evidence that they are determined by the small changes in atmospheric CO2. This false science has made the world poorer. Yet gutless May continues to toss away our money in order to make us poorer. Truly a politician to despise.

Get on with your day job, Amber

Head girl Amber Rudd has an inflated sense of her own importance. She feels entitled to criticise the Foreign Secretary on the Marr programme for back seat driving. But what is she doing about her own responsibilities?

One of the major elements of Brexit is taking back control of EU immigration. Never mind that her predecessor, the astonishingly inadequate Mrs May, failed to grip immigration from the rest of the world. It's incumbent on Ms Rudd to do a better job on immigration than her boss. No sign of that so far.

Her area of responsibility also includes what to do about jihadi attacks. So far, the answer seems to be: As little as possible. As Piers Morgan reminds us
On March 22, jihadi Khalid Masood drove a car into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge, before stabbing a policeman to death at the entrance to Parliament. Four other people died, 50 were wounded.

On May 22, jihadi Salman Abedi blew up a bomb outside the Manchester Arena as thousands left an Ariana Grande concert. Twenty-two people were killed, including many children. Another 250 were injured, many seriously.

On June 3, three jihadis - Khuram Butt, Rachid Redouane and Youssef Zaghba – drove into pedestrians on London Bridge, before going on a stabbing rampage at nearby Borough Market. They killed eight people and wounded 40 others.
And since then we have had Parsons Green.

How much more of this are we expected to tolerate? Suppose the Parsons Green bomber had been competent. Would we just have heard little Sadiq saying that this is the sort of thing we must expect in a big city? Would we have heard local government leaders saying that diversity makes us stronger? - whatever that means. Would useless May just have tried to administer more bromide?

As Piers says, we can all talk a big, bold game about ‘never surrendering’, ‘staying strong’ and ‘being resilient’.

But we're entitled to ask: if the tens of thousands of disaffected Islamists in our midst start to pull together, what is the government's policy to be?

Ms Rudd would be the lead minister on this. But she has given us no clue.

Because Amber Rudd probably has no clue.

September 17, 2017

Times journalists can't tell their 'hard' from 'hard'

Sometimes it is the little off the cuff remarks that tell us most about the speaker or the writer. Listening to PMQs, we can learn more about about a Prime Minister's mindset from their passing comments than from the official scripted answers.

Rachel Sylvester and Alice Thomson have written a pleasant enough account of an interview with Caroline Flint. Not exactly probing, and they don't seem to have asked any other politicians for their opinions of her, but it's a relaxing read even if it's hard to see why it took two reporters to produce it (job sharing?).

One comment jumps out:
With Labour dominated by the hard left and the Tories pursuing a hard Brexit, the centre ground appears to have been hollowed out.
These are probably not Caroline Flint's words - apart from anything else, she would never have said that on the record about Labour. So they are the summary of the Times journalists.

They paint the two types of 'hard' as two political extremes: on the one side, the hard left, on the other side, a hard Brexit. Thus to them centre ground 'appears to have been hollowed out' (whatever that may mean).

So centrists are caught between hard left and hard Brexit. Is there any other kind of Brexit? A 'hard' Brexit would involve leaving the single market and the customs union. Which is precisely what we were told we would be voting for if we voted Leave in the referendum. So there is not hard Brexit and soft Brexit, there is Brexit and pseudo-Brexit.

The reporters take it on themselves to imply that 'hard' Brexit is somehow as extreme as the 'hard' left. As an alternative to the hard left there is the soft left. As an alternative to what these journalists call 'hard' Brexit, there is only non-Brexit, pretend Brexit.

The problem for these presumptuous journalists is that a record number of Brits voted for Brexit.

If it is only the Tories who are 'pursuing' the will of the people, then shame on the others.

Let's tell it as it is. Centrists are not trapped between hard left and hard Brexit. They are (apparently) trapped between the hard left and hard democracy.

But Rachel and Alice can't handle this 'hard' truth.

September 15, 2017

Bye bye, George

Political columnists are intrigued by George Osborne. His unusual and high flying political career makes him fun for them to write about, while his shift to journalism has taken him into an arena that they know even better than politics.

But ... so what? During the EU referendum he was ruthlessly dishonest. He was already unpopular with the public even while he was on David Cameron's coat tails; and he has now burnt his bridges with Tory MPs. His steady criticisms of the government had already made him unpopular with his former colleagues, and now he has told his allies that he wants Theresa May 'chopped up in bags in my freezer', revealing just how unpleasant George Osborne is.

His regularly bile-laden editorials were already making him look pathetic, but this is beyond the pale.

Osborne is finished. He is a has-been. Discussions of his career should be left to the history books now.

Bye bye, George. And good riddance.

Of course there is a magic money tree

Theresa May mocks calls for more government spending by saying there is no magic money tree.

As usual, she's wrong. Of course there is a magic money tree. The problem is that the government is stripping it and tossing the fruit straight into the bin.

For instance, why is it wasting its money and ours on green energy spending? First, there is little sign of sustained global warming; and if there is indeed warming, it's hard to see how it could be due to human activity. Certainly the (tiny) concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere has kept rising, but we had a global warming plateau for some 15 years. So maybe any temperature change is largely natural. And anyway the developing world doesn't seem over concerned. On a conservative estimate 621 new coal fired generators are being built, now, 299 of them in China, 132 in India. What difference will it make to the atmosphere if our small economy goes green? None. We will just be poorer, through state spending and through our energy bills.

We are also paying through the nose for HS2. The assumptions of the original business case had to be flawed in order for the outcome to be positive. And the projected cost continues to rise. Yet government ploughs stupidly on with what is a turkey or a white elephant. A huge one at that. Still on the subject of railways, government spent £50m on electrification projects that have now been abandoned. Carelessly tossing over its shoulder money that we do not have in any case.

Imagine how much money could be saved if we stopped spending in these areas. And how much support is there for spending 0.7% of our GDP on overseas aid? Priti Patel has failed to get the spending under control, is clearly over-promoted, and should go in the next reshuffle. We can't even use this ridiculous spending pot towards getting our overseas territories in Caribbean back on their feet.

Of course there is a magic money tree. Trouble is, it's in the hands of a dull, dumb, stupid, stubborn government.

September 02, 2017

Oh dear, Theresa May is back from holiday

So May is apparently to stay on for the convenience of the Conservative party in Westminster. The thinking seems to be that government could use some stability during Brexit.

May is also said to want focus on her domestic agenda. But no one seems to know what that is. Presumably it's no longer her unpopular manifesto. So what is it, and what mandate would she have to implement it?

If the Tories want to skip a political generation, it's also suggested that she will give possible runners a chance to show what they can do in Cabinet posts. Yet she is has a need to control. David Cameron did at least cut Michael Gove and Iain Duncan Smith some slack. But Theresa May has recently brought a former whip into Downing Street to focus on the environment, we are told. What's the point of giving a job to someone with Gove's talents if you're going to plonk a former apparatchik on top of him?

May has no redeeming features at all. She has no imagination, she is indecisive yet she is a control freak, she cannot think on her feet, she has no charisma. What is her strength? Not governing, not leadership, not oratory, not campaigning.

She could not even get it right when she gave the message that she intended to remain PM for the (slightly?) longer term. This is political incompetence at a very basic level.

Next time Matthew Parris suggests that Tory MPs should be the ones to choose the next leader, he should reflect that they lumbered us with the current specimen, inadequate in everyone's eyes but her own.

This blog is drumming its fingers waiting to be rid of her, and meanwhile views Theresa May with contempt.

One political commentator wittily suggested the Tories might want to stop her going on any more holidays because she comes back with daft ideas. The alternative is for her holidays to be very, very much longer.

August 03, 2017

Thursday politics

At school we were disciplined not to judge actions in history by the moral fashions of today. But I find it impossible not to be disgusted by the politicians and commanders in the First World War.

This is partly because the history is relatively recent, but mainly because of our √©lite's commemoration ceremonies. Of course they emphasise "sacrifice" and "heroism" and don't glorify the slaughter. But the calm, contemplative  ceremonies act as a salve.

I want to howl with fury thinking of the thousands forced into the terror of war and horrific wounds and ghastly deaths. The ceremonies themselves provoke that outrage. It just was not all right to force my grandfathers' generation to be fodder for the machine guns, in deep mud. Stately mourning has its place, but for me the overwhelming reaction to the state's embrace of this carnage back then is rage.

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"Public" bodies funded by the state are out of control. They're usually described as "publicly funded", as if that makes them sound somehow benign. In fact they're paid for by taxpayers, but we don't get to sit at the table. He who pays the piper calls the tune, it is said. Not in our case. No one seems to be able to curb the pay and empires of hospital managers. Now the spotlight is turning on to administrators at universities, many of which are not much good anyway. We wait to see whether Jo Johnson will join Jeremy Hunt in the pit of uselessness.

Why does this fall to a middle ranking minister anyway? Secretaries of State are busying themselves with passing the energy prices parcel, or getting into trouble over gender fluidity - where the government deserves all the enemy fire it has chosen to march towards.

Doubtless all this was approved by the inadequate in Number 10. The Tories are hugely to blame for choosing a leader so predictably and obviously useless.

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Would I like to canvass for the Tories? No ... why ever would I want to do that? They want to throw money we haven't got at Hinkley Point C, and HS2. There's no business case for either. And they don't even have the excuse that these projects are popular. At DIFID Priti Patel has gone native, and Philip Hammond is continuing his blithe contempt for his electorate by proclaiming aid for Brazil.

What is this hapless government doing that might be popular? Why would  I want to campaign for this shower?

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Remainers profess astonishment at a recent opinion poll showing many Leavers would still want to Brexit even if it damaged our economy. Cue much tutting and shaking of heads.

This is wholly unsurprising. A cast of the great and the good warned us of dire economic consequences if we voted Leave. None of them have come to pass so far, so it's hard to see why Leavers' resolve would have been dented.

Brexit is about sovereignty.

Our politicians and commentators intone that we do not wish the EU ill. It's not reciprocated. They demand their citizens living here should have the protection of the ECJ. This imperialism ("civis EU sum") must be intended to provoke. If I settle in Spain, I don't expect to be able to be able to appeal to courts in London, despite the growing evidence of Spanish corruption. If you choose to live in another country, you live by their laws (even if you chose Venezuela). The EU understands this, of course. When they are being deliberately unreasonable, why would it be wrong for me to wish their edifice harm?

July 20, 2017

Who wants immigration?

So now we know. High immigration has consequences. It is a high tax policy. Nearly 200,000 births in 2016 (28% of the total) were to mothers themselves born overseas.

Those children will have to be educated. As well as more schools, we will need more doctors, more hospitals, more housing. But no one asked us whether we wanted this.

In fact we were promised the opposite. Since 2010 we have been promised that net immigration would be reduced to the tens of thousands. This policy was left in the hands of the most under-powered senior minister of modern times. Nothing happened. It was easiest for government not to address the consequences of this pathetic failure (who is now Prime Minister.)

As well as more schools, more hospitals, more doctors, more housing, we need more cities. Legal net immigration is the equivalent of a new city the size of Newcastle or Hull every year. It doesn't matter exactly which city. Do we want new city after new city? Do we want every settlement to have to expand? Maybe we like our towns and villages the size they are. But we weren't asked

Don't tickle the sleeping dogs. A survey by Chatham House this year showed that a majority in Austria, France, Germany, Greece and Italy would support a blanket ban on all immigration from Muslim countries. A few weeks ago, Slovakia’s prime minister declared that Islam has “no place” in his country. The Czech Republic has told the EU it will not take any Muslim asylum seekers. And EU countries are building walls. For some Europeans, even a wall is not enough: Austria has been talking about deploying soldiers and armoured vehicles against migrants who might come over from Italy, where the invasion is running at 20,000 a week.

What is the point of us taking back control of EU migration when even legal immigration from outside the EU keeps running far ahead of target? The Pathetic Failure says it's all very difficult, there's no magic bullet etc. It was your policy. And you've decided to keep it, so that your successor can fail too.

The political class think it's fine to keep on not giving us what we voted for.

June 25, 2017

How useless can our MPs be?

Our jaws dropped when we learned that some Labour MPs had nominated Jeremy Corbyn for the Labour leadership, just so that his voice would be heard in the debate (which they were sure he would lose). What have they done to the country, these supposedly professional politicians?

In the event they may have saved us from a Labour government. For who else could have lost against Mrs May?

Tory MPs are even more culpable. All of us in the country knew Mrs May had been a hopeless Home Secretary. Mostly she did nothing except cut police numbers and the border force. When forced to actually do something, like seeing up an enquiry into historical child abuse, she got it astonishingly wrong. Repeatedly.

She ducked governing because she was timid, because she lacked imagination,  and because she lacked intelligence. She ducked communicating with people because she was shy and cold. She sat silently in cabinet meetings because she was out of her depth and had nothing to contribute.

Yet Tory MPs - after seeing this charmless, over-promoted woman up close for years - chose her as their next leader. And she has proved every bit as hopeless as her record as Home Secretary suggested.

May does not deserve our pity for her present situation. She put herself forward as leader when she surely must have known she did not have the brains to be PM, nor the judgement, nor the charisma. This timid, vain woman continues to cost the country dearly with her puffed up, delusional ambitions.

The population of England shot up during her time as Home Secretary. Nor was there any serious attempt to address the separation of Islamic culture from the UK mainstream. May timidly feared that anything she did might make matters worse. She continued to try to communicate through traditional "community leaders".  Liberated Muslim women complain that they cannot get a hearing from government. May stuck her head in the sand and refused any meaningful initiatives. As for boldness and fresh thinking. Pah.

After the latest terrorist attacks she announced that "enough is enough". It was a stupid formulation (we can tolerate a few terror attacks but not so many?), but as ever with May there was no follow-up to the slogan, there seemed to be no thoughts in her head at all.

Outside SW1 we all had our individual moment when we realised how poor May was. For me it was her wooden answers in her interview with Andrew Neil. But there were plenty of other occasions.  By the time she visited Plymouth, she had become a figure of fun.

And how can an experienced senior politician not realise that a manifesto isn't a tick list for governing, it's a sales document? It's not: Here's a list of what we'll do. It's: Here's why you should vote for us. But what reason did she give us? None.

Thanks to this woman the government has no Commons majority, the establishment is stirring to sabotage Brexit, and even Corbyn looks more prime ministerial than May to many people.

For her achievements over many years, Theresa May deserves our deep contempt.