Monthly Archives: May 2015

What next?

This hollow fabric either must enclose,
Within its blind recess, our secret foes,
Or ‘t is an engine rais’d above the town,
T’ o’erlook the walls, and then to batten down.
Somewhat is sure design’d, by fraud or force:
Trust not their presents, nor admit the horse.

Virgil’s Aeneid

Richard North, presuumably out of frustration, writes in an article entitled EU Referendum: Invincible stupidity and frivolity about the inability – or even the wish – to face facts that are exhibited by political commentators and our media. He ends with these words: But if this is the way the campaign is going to be fought and reported, the temptation to walk away from it begins to look overpoweringly attractive.

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Leading the blind

On the BBC Breakfast News this morning was a fairly long piece about ‘The Northern Powerhouse’; featuring Liverpool and the impovements being made to transport and the docks. The reporter in question then ‘went out’ to garner the views of people about the improvements being made – which were greeted with enthusiasm.

Where the improvements in Liverpool are concerned one may look no further than what have been designated as ‘Priority Routes’ by the European Union – explained here, here and here – and how many of those asked knew that these ‘improvements’ were nothing to do with the Westminster government or any initiative on its part, even though Westminster claims the credit.

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Probably a silly question; but……..

Newspaper taxis appear on the shore
Waiting to take you away
Climb in the back with your head in the clouds
And you’re gone

(Lucy in the sky with diamonds – Beatles)

Which just about sums up the vacuous words that are now appearing in the media on the subject of the forthcoming referendum on this nation’s membership of the European Union. According to the Financial Times, the Conservative success at the recent general election has left both pro- and anti-EU lobby groups scrambling to come up with a coherent strategy for the EU referendum.

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The tightening of the screw?

Little noticed it seems and hidden away on the BBC website (@18;09) is the news that apparently the government is set to abolish the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee chaired by Graham Allen (Labour). The BBC understands that the government intends constitutional issues to be covered by the Justice Committee and the Public Administration Committee.

Not that, on a personal level, I was enamoured with proposals that emanated from this select committee, but this latest move does not auger well for any discussion about a written constitution nor for democracy per se. One has to ask where the government derives its mandate for this move as I do not recall any mention of such in their manifesto.

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A North East Conundrum

Bryony Gordon has an article in the Daily Telegraph about the withdrawal of Chuka Umunna from the Labour leadership contest, an article in which she maintains that politics is no place for ordinary people. But should not democracy involve the views of ordinary people; and should not those views carry more weight than they do, currently, under representative democracy?

Since moving to the North East I have been struck by the recurring complaint that ‘Westminster’ is divorced from the North East, not just by distance but also by ideology. The county of Durham is rock-solid Labour, yet knowing the complaint mentioned above still the voters go to the polling booths and elect the same ‘Westminster Village’ people that they complain about, forgetting that history tells them their vote is, in effect, wasted.

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Brussel Sprouts and London Cabbage

First, a Brussel Sprout: Wolfgang Münchau has an article in the FT in which he states:  If you rise above the technical issues, the British problem could be elegantly solved through deeper integration for the member states of the eurozone, and more decentralisation for the restShades of A Fundamental Law produced by the Spinelli Group some time ago?

Second, some London Cabbage: In the Guardian article reporting on the statements by Graeme MacDonald and Lord Bamford (of JCB) is a statement from Lucy Thomas, campaign director for Business for New Europe, who states: …..a Brexit would damage Britain: if it left the EU it would have no say in the rules and would still have to accept them; continuing: Of course JCB and others could still sell their goods to Europe, but they would still have to meet EU standards whatever they happened to be. Surely a seat at the table when rules are decided is better than no say at all?

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Exactly! Just what do they know

Andrew Marr, writing in the New Statesman, asks the question (in relation to political journalism) …….how the hell do we know what we think we know? What value – if any – do commentators, set apart from the professional politicians, actually bring?

The answer, if ‘the televised face with jug ears’ is listening, where truth is concerned is: not a lot! The latest example of journalistic inexactitude, proving that they don’t know because they don’t think, appears in the Guardian. This particular article is the subject of a post by Richard North, one in which he makes the point that it wants to frame the argument, and thereby distort it, in order to declare victory on its own terms; to which the immediate question is: what’s new?

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Egotism

Oh, believe me. The greatest egos are those which are too egotistical to show just how egotistical they are.
William Inge, Bus Stop

It would appear, from reports in the media, that Ukip is now involved in internecine warfare, with Patrick O’Flynn stating that Farage is making Ukip look like a personality cult and blaming his team of “aggressive” and “inexperienced” aides.

………as for the “aides”, it has always been Farage’s style to surround himself with sycophants and to get rid of anyone who he thinks might represent a challenge to him.

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Just who knows what?

Little notice seems to have been paid among ‘the great and the good’ (and the not so good), included in which category is our political class and commentariat, to a recent paper on Brexit. It is indeed surprising, bearing in mind the body from which it comes coupled with the background of the author.

Dealing with the seven legal options once the United Kingdom has left the European Union, the second option – for the UK to join EFTA/EEA(pp 6&7) – is interesting as this option is, in effect, the path proposed by FlexCit. Almost straight away we are informed that these EFTA countries have to follow the evolution of EU legislation concerning the internal market, without having a right to influence much of its content. I will not bore readers by repeating the refutation of such an argument as put forward by Jean-Claude Piris, suffice it to say said rebuttal is contained in this post of mine some time ago – and no, for those interested, I did not receive one reply to the emails quoted.

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Food for thought?

Having moved to County Durham, the first thing of which I rapidly became aware was that the words ‘Thatcher’ and ‘Conservative’ are akin to swear words; and it would seem this feeling is expressed elsewhere in the UK . This is, perhaps, borne out by the following map?

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(click to enlarge)

 Timothy Garton Ash is of the opinion that one answer to what appears to be a disunited Kingdom is federalism. If TGA cared to broaden his reading list he would discover that the answer to the problems caused by the half-arsed devoution plans of our political masters already exists.

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