Thursday, 20 April 2017

Give me Brexit and you can have the rest

The basic problem with Labour is that it assumes a lot of things about ordinary people. At the last election it tried to paint the picture that Britain was a nation at breaking point where the vast majority of people were a huddled mass of impoverished people in need of rescue by their betters. This attracted only the votes of the well-to-do condescending middle classes who believed this caricature - and the usual leftist "working class" who want free stuff in abundance.

Since Corbyn it seems to me that those most enthused by him are those who tend to blame their own predicament on the Tories rather than their life choices.

What the left don't seem to be able to grasp is that most people don't want a handout or a depressing pebble dashed hut gifted to them. They have higher expectations and aspirations.

I can't speak for anyone else but I want a liberal and fluid job market so I can opt in and out of work rather than being tied to the same 9-5 year after year. I cannot cope with the ossified structures of what we call work and I need to be able to opt out. What I want is a reasonable degree of contractual protection but nothing so rigid that I am bound to follow the archaic work structures of 1974.

Labour might well be right to be concerned about the so-called gig economy but my problem is not with the concept. It's that when one contract ends the next ones are few and far between. What I need is more market liberalism not less. The best days of my life were when I could pick and choose my employer.

I think it was Thomas Sowell who said something along the lines of "The hypocrisy of the left is shown by their apparent concern for poverty but complete lack of interest in means to solve it".

Whenever I read leftist drivel I read people who think that they represent the masses when in fact they represent nobody but themselves and their own personal inadequacies. The entire ethos is that they are entitled to a home and healthcare and that somebody else should pay for it.

Leftists whine about capitalism yet ordinary people have never been better off. I'm a slacker but I have a place I call home, a car with all mod cons and freedom to do pretty much as I please. Is this because I'm a high flyer? No. There are few people in the world who do less work than me. It's just that capitalism has made good cars affordable and travel within my means. The only thing standing in the way of a better life are the crippling taxes I pay on everything I buy. Petrol especially.

What capitalism has delivered more than anything in the last century is freedom. So now the question is how we create more freedom, more liberty and more opportunity. That is ultimately what the working class want and have always wanted. The left don't seem to understand this. They want to hobble successful people so their lives are as stunted as their own. I won't vote for that and I never will.

The left still have value to add. An unfettered capitalist system is about as depressing as an unfettered socialist system. I never want the UK to be the USA where everything has a price tag and nothing is ever done without pay. Britain has always been about finding the middle way. I will fight the hard right Tory vision as much as I will fight that of the far left. Britain is the best place to live because we instinctively know where that balance is.

And that brings me to the subject of the EU. The EU more than anything is about hyper-liberalisation to the point of abolishing the nation state and democracy along with it. Now we have reached the point where too much is out of our control. It may well even work in your estimation but there will come a time when it doesn't. On that day we will be glad of the economic sacrifice we have made to leave the EU. Some control is better than none.

For a time we had what is labelled as a centrist consensus. That worked for Britain but as it gradually drifted away from democracy, the centre of politics departed from the centre of the soul. That is why I view Brexit as a corrective.

In this it would seem the vast majority backs the Tory government. Were I a leftist I would not be down hearted. This is only temporary. The nation has decided that change is necessary and that we must see it through. Once we have accomplished that change the Tories are as dead as Labour. When that day arrives, for the first time in decades we can have genuine debate about who we are and what we want to be without the dead hand of the EU closing down the options. Give me this one thing and I will listen. Oppose me in this and I will rain fire.

Thursday, 23 March 2017

The only power terrorism has is the power we give it

I think one thing that marks this terrorist attack out from all the others in recent times is the comparatively muted response to it. All the opinion pieces have been written many times before, nothing about it surprises us and I will be surprised if it occupies the media window for more than another twenty four hours.

That's not surprising though. As terrorist attacks go this was fairly pedestrian. In order for it to be news it needs to have a lorry, a bomb or a machine gun involved. News wise, this doesn't rate. Ratings wise, Islamic terrorism has jumped the shark.

That is to be expected. 7/7 was pretty epic and there's no topping 9/11. There's nowhere you can really go after that. If that didn't topple the west or start world war three they are wasting their time.

As it happens I'm willing to bet more people died from sexual misadventure than terrorism yesterday. A couple of bodged strangle-wanks and an accidental sex swing beheading just in Soho alone probably tilts the scales.

This is where the IRA knew how to do terrorism. If you attack London, it's all in the game. A liberal society, home to one of the planet's first cities is going to attract a random atrocity or two every now and then. It's only really a policy problem if it's rather frequent.

The IRA learned from the Luftwaffe's Baedeker raids, in that if you want to scare the bejesus out of people you have to go outside London to show people that they can be hit anywhere. Warrington made every crank call something worthy of an emergency response.

The fact of the matter is that Islamists are really shit terrorists. They don't rate. Nothing they want is anything we can give them. The IRA wanted Britain out of Ireland. We could oblige them if we wanted. That's what makes the game worth playing. Islamists on the other hand want us to go back to the dark ages and live like cavemen. It's all stick and no carrot.

Y'see the West is better at this "oppressive patriarchy" shit. Because women want "equality" we have gradually handed over the board rooms and the top government positions to women. Most of the top jobs in HR now go to women and pretty soon the same will apply in science and engineering. Women being more capable and motivated, it'll be us blokes sitting at home watching Jeremy Kyle and doing the ironing while the womenfolk are off proving they are equal. More than happy to let them.

The West has functioned on the bogus notion that there is dignity in work and that if we all work hard we can all succeed and be whatever we want to be. This lie is the only reason the West still has a functioning economy at all. If women want to take it over so they have to punch numbers into spreadsheets all day then that's fine with me. Nothing ISIS has competes with that.

As to terrorism, it's just political campaigning using violence. You have a manifesto and rather than using persuasion you use terror. It only works if you are good at it. And Muslims are not. They need the Hollywood pizazz of 9/11 every other week or it's just not going to fly.

Meanwhile, we don't need terrorism for ourselves. It's not because we have a democracy. It's just that you only need a minority party to commit to something for a few years and then it happens because nobody else really gives a fuck. See Ukip/Brexit. We are mainly governed by people who give a fuck. A very small and self selecting minority. I might even venture that this is a good thing.

In that respect, if I ever go postal and kerb stomp John Redwood or Steve Baker, please don't call it terrorism. It's not violence for political ends. These are just motherfuckers who have it coming because they are shitheads on my radar.

As to actual terrorism, I think the current approach of making a few obligatory rhetorical noises then getting on with our shit is probably the right approach. The more counter terrorism measures we pile on London the more we become the sort of paranoid miserable shit hole that refugees risk life and limb to escape. We should resist that. If that means the occasional dead copper then that's ok too. It's a good pension and you know the risks when you sign up.

This may sound cynical and a touch uncaring, but then that's the whole point. Cynicism is the absolutely correct response. I didn't give a toss about the Paris attacks and I sure as fuck don't care about London. It is that complete lack of concern that defeats terrorism. We responded militarily to 9/11 and look where that got us. Total waste of time. The era of Islamic terrorism on Western soil would have been far shorter lived had we simply treated it as compelling TV then carried on not giving a fuck. The only power terrorism has is the power we give it.

Monday, 27 February 2017

Why are you so willing to be manipulated?

The Telegraph reports that Lily Allen has been targeted by "online trolls" after revealing that she suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder following the stillbirth of her son. Except that, as I understand it, she was targeted for some pretty vile remarks about the contribution of pensioners. The remarks I saw were singularly crass and vacuous. But the Telegraph knows this. So why does it report it in this fashion? Bias? No. Outrage manufacturing.

There is an army or right wing bores who will now spend the rest of the week publicising this foul creature. And that's rather a shame because hitherto now I was asking what is a Lily Allen?

Clearly editors have now worked out that there is a commercial formula to manipulating the outrage of their readers - which effectively makes them complicit in their own manipulation. They keep coming back for more.

I am sure though, through running similar stories the BBC paints Ms Allen as a victim because obviously maintaining "online trolls" as a popular folk demon lends weight to successive attempts to close down debate in the public sphere. It is fodder for its own left wing authoritarian outrage junkies.

Outrage manufacture has now become a multimillion dollar industry worldwide. It ensures both camps are nourished with their own sense of moral superiority. This is why I tuned out the whole Milo thing. I have no idea why the political debate for the entire Western hemisphere must be diverted for the benefit of these nobodies.

This then raises the spectre of "fake news". Tune in to Radio 4 on a weekday afternoon and you will hear academics tugging their forelocks about what to do about "fake news" and how "trusted sources" can "reconnect with their audiences". Except that it seems that "trusted sources" are the lead manufacturers of this verbal material. I hesitate to call it fake news because it simply isn't news. I don't know what Lily Allen does let alone why she has PTSD. Nor do I give a solitary toss.

The people who bang on about this stuff insist it is important because the veracity of news vessels is held in question but I hardly see that it matters since both camps are not actually interested in actual news in the slightest. Nor indeed is the media.

What we are actually looking at here is the entertainment industry, of which Twitter is a component. What we find is a series of exclusive and self-referential bubbles shouting about each other with no actual dialogue.

Worse still, this outrage industry is its own little ecosystem for social commentary. Half the pundits on the blogosphere devote their time to this trivia. Even this post is testament to that exact dynamic. Sooner or later, the entire edifice of media loses concept of what constitutes actual news.

It is interesting that those who complain that democracy has been replaced by technocracy would be the same ones commenting on these such affairs. Half the reason the state has gradually erased public participation is because it can. Who will blow the whistle? Not our media. Thus I find denunciation of fake news a little rich when the public have no appetite for actual news when it is genuine.

If citizens lack the self-discipline to ignore deliberate attempts at manipulation and gratify this trash then ultimately they will get the government they deserve.

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Theresa May scares me more than Trump

On the weekend of the Trump inauguration I took the weekend off writing - which is quite unusual for me. As a political animal you might think I would be glued to the media absorbing events as they unfold. But then why bother? We know Trump is to be president and a shindig for his commencement as president is nothing out of the ordinary. Nor are the petulant protests which always follow a Republican victory.

We are told by the great and the good that Trump’s election marks a dangerous turning of events. I don’t deny that an unhinged and functionally illiterate president is not encouraging but it’s hardly unprecedented. The last hundred years has had its share of crooks and idiots in the White House. What’s one more?

More to the point, Britain and Europe has a bigger problem to worry about. Trump is only for four years. Brexit is for keeps. In many respects stupidity doesn’t worry me too much. Stupidity can be predicted and mitigated. While the US Congress is Republican, for the time being, they are not all behind the Trump agenda and the president will not have his own way for very long. If there is anyone who should chill us to the bone it is Theresa May.

Regular readers of this column will know that I am not the biggest fan of the EU. I voted to leave. I think that any temporary economic setback is the price we pay for having given up control to the EU, but my vote to leave the EU most certainly wasn’t an open invitation for the Tories to do as they please.

For those unfamiliar with the Brexit process, Britain leaves the EU by notifying the EU of our intention to leave. Legally that compels the EU to negotiate an exit settlement. The catch though is that there must be an agreement within two years or there is a very real risk of being ejected from the EU with no agreement at all.

Given that the EU governs everything from trade to fishing, air travel, medicines and food safety there was never any realistic prospect of negotiating a settlement in two years. The best we could ever hope for was a framework agreement which would still require a long transition. This would need to be based on existing agreements between the EU and other non-EU countries.

The pragmatic and sensible way to leave the EU would have been to stay in the single market in order to buy us time to take a more careful approach. Theresa May however thinks differently. She believes that all of this can be negotiated from scratch in just two years despite no similar agreement having taken less than eight years.

Now you can argue that Mrs May is at times misinformed or that her policies are horribly illiberal but by no measure can you say that she is a stupid woman. What we are dealing with here is pure political cowardice in refusing to stand up to her lunatic fringe combined with a typically British arrogance assuming that the world will bend to our delusions. Hubris is a far more damaging force than stupidity.

Worse still Mrs May thinks that it is better to have no deal than a bad deal. Superficially this sounds sensible but not when you consider that the UK has been a leading member of the EU for nearly half a century. One does not simply disengage from such an arrangement at the stroke of a pen.

Were she to walk away from the table it would invalidate all of our trade agreements not just with the EU but also the ones we have with outer countries via the EU. Trade would grind to a halt overnight. As much as it would have deep repercussions for the UK it would likely damage the EU as well. Some on May's back benches believe such an approach could even kill the EU – and consider any price a price worth paying to those ends. That though is insanity on stilts. It’s one thing to want to leave the EU. It’s another to want to destroy it.

Whatever Trump may have in mind, the possible consequences of Theresa May’s arrogance would have far more profound and lasting effects. As it happens I believe that Trump will only serve one term and is foolish enough to fall foul of the law in that time leading to his possible impeachment. There are ways and means of dealing with a bad president. There is nothing to stop our prime minister though – and Brexit cannot be undone.

In effect the Tories are frog-marching us toward an accidental scorched earth policy where Britain stands humiliated with only a handful of useless bilateral deals to protect our modesty. What could have been an orderly transition is likely to be a political mess the likes of which we have not seen since the eighties.

There is no doubt that Britain can weather the storm and we can recover - but it will take a lot longer than it should, and the pain we will experience will have been entirely avoidable. It will likely see a decade of political turmoil in which all of our assumptions will be turned upside down.

It would seem that before Britain becomes a "global Britain" we are going to spend a decade or more of navel gazing, out in the wilderness, while we learn what this country really believes. Perhaps though, that is what we really do need? Perhaps that really is the medicine. Maybe this really is the price to pay for having buried our politics deep inside the back rooms of Brussels and withdrawing from the world.

Maybe this is the price we must pay for the hubris of Heath, Thatcher, Major, Blair and Brown. Just another chapter in our dismal tradition of having politicians doing as they please. Maybe this time we will do something about it?

If there is anything positive to take from a botched Brexit it is that the revolution will eat its children. By that measure I ought to be salivating at the prospect of the Tories hitting the rocks. Recent events have seen the party created by Blair utterly eradicated – and that's a good thing. For complete renewal the same must happen to the Conservative Party which to a large extent is still run by the same establishment behind Mrs Thatcher. Davis, Redwood, Jenkins, Johnson and May etc were products of the Thatcher government and their supporting cast in this Brexit trainwreck were the up and coming Toryboys of the era.

If there is to be a new economic era and a new politics then as much as leaving the EU is necessary then it also follows that the Tories, the party that did this to us in the first place, must also be destroyed. I suppose any price is worth paying for that outcome. Just an awful pity we must sacrifice a good deal of wealth to make it happen.

That though, I don't suppose, will keep the people of Stoke on Trent or Sunderland awake at night. I can't say I blame them. Maybe dispensing with our garbage is what really secures our future leadership role in the world. Since they handle everything else as badly as they will Brexit, what have we got to lose? Might as well stop worrying and break out the popcorn.

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Who will save us from braindead toryboys?

While all the slimy Spectator reading bellends chortle and guffaw at Jeremy Corbyn for his deeply flawed ideas, it becomes rather apparent that Toryboys have no sense of self-awareness. On the same day as Corbyn's remarks we get articles from Brexit Central and Conservative Home saying that we should be prepared to "walk away from the table" if we can't get a good deal from the EU.

Only a flatulent self-absorbed know-nothing Tory could ever moot such a monumentally crass notion. Without membership of the various safety bodies and decentralised agencies (or a transition agreement) all of our certifications and proxy access to EU trade deals vanish overnight. Flights are cancelled, ships are diverted or refused entry into ports and all the secondary sectors grind to a halt by the following day. Without recognition agreements and a customs code we can't export at all.

Nothing in Corbyn's arsenal of retardation even approaches this degree of stupidity. But that's what you get when the narrative is controlled by Tory think tank and policy turds who have never had a real job - and instead spend much of the day telling eachother how wonderful they are on Twitter (when they haven't actually got eachothers dicks in their mouths that is).

We would only "walk away from the table" in such an instance where we were negotiating a trade deal where failure does not alter the status quo. In this instance failure radically changes our standing in Europe and the world. The mentality that suggests we can walk away from the table is one that has yet to comprehend Brexit.

Article 50 talks are not a matter of negotiating a trade deal. We are negotiating an administrative de-merger and a framework for continued cooperation with the EU on over three hundred areas of regulatory and technical cooperation. There is no WTO baseline. We would be looking at a cliff edge requiring a number of emergency measures which could very easily be sabotaged by member states looking to capitalise on the confusion. We would have no formal means of discourse with the EU and all of our enhanced rights would vanish. So, if I sound like a leftist at the moment in my visceral and seething hatred of Tories, you now know why. These people are pondlife.

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Brexit is the birth of a new era for Europe

The Berlin Wall

History can be read in many ways. It’s all a matter of interpretation in which case names, places and dates take on their own significance and become era defining. Though the Second World War dragged on for some months after the fall of Hitler, the defeat of fascism is the landmark that has the most significance to the UK; VE Day. By normal reckoning this is viewed as the end of the war in Europe.

That war though was never completely resolved. General George S. Patton wanted to continue the war and fight the Russians. He may well have been right. It might have resulted in a united Europe that included Russia. But Europe was war weary. The defeat of Hitler was enough for us to call it a day.

Consequently, a cold war raged until 1989. As a child of the 80s I remember sitting on the Yorkshire moors watching the Tornado jets practicing for the event of war. The skies were seldom quiet. For a young boy with dreams of being a fighter pilot these were exciting times. The cold war influenced popular culture in many ways. It spawned the James Bond spy series along with films like Rambo and The Fourth Protocol. It was a good time to be a boy.

For the adults though, life was more frightening. My grandparents had known the horrors of World War Two and they knew, like my parents, that war could once again erupt at a moment’s notice. Only this time far more deadly.

This, though, came to an abrupt end in 1989 when the Berlin Wall came down. As a ten year old I have only distant memories of it but I was old enough to know I was witnessing something significant. As much as it marked the fall of Communism, it was in many respects the real end of the Second World War.

In that time between 1945 and 1989 all of our foreign policy and international institutions had been built as part of the post-war settlement as part of Europe’s “peacetime” architecture. In many respects life had been much simpler. We knew who the enemy was and our culture was bound by a recognition that we all faced a common threat and forged a common bond in the face of it.

From that Britain had great pride in itself. The institutions of state were dripping with prestige and authority. We had what was perceived as one of the finest navies in the world and one of the most active. Britain had a presence that was felt the world over and I knew I was growing up in a very distinctive country that I was proud of.

But when that wall came down, that common threat and that common binding began to slowly disintegrate where national pride became unfashionable and in fact something to be scorned. The new altruism of European Union became fashionable. The nineteen nineties were marked by stuffy old Eurosceptics fighting the tide of history as we signed ever more elaborate treaties building the new Europe.

Back then there was a real energy to the EU as we realised something big was being built in our name. One that threatened to subsume the Britain I had always known – the Britain that had defeated Hitler and faced down Communism. The EU introduced its own passport, its own flag and anthem and British debate was centred on whether we were going to join the Euro to become part of a federal Europe.

The ideology at work was that for our future to be forged in unity, our past must be erased. For Germany to depart from the stain on its soul, the old Germany had to be erased along with the British Empire that had defeated it. It was an attack on national identities with a view to forging a new European demos. So grand was this ambition they weren’t going to let a thing like public consent get in the way.

But we Brits were never on board. We wanted open and free trade with Europe but we did not want to end our island story there. We didn’t want their blue flag on our car registration plates, we didn’t want their purple passport and we definitely didn’t want their currency. Had the EU been content to be a Europe of free trade and customs cooperation we would not now be leaving.

Instead of heeding the people successive governments signed away ever more power to this emerging supreme government of Europe. In 2008 the Treaty of Lisbon was ratified on the basis that it was a mere “tidying up exercise” when in fact it was a constitution bringing about a Europe only one treaty away from being a superstate. We were taken in on a deception by a government that had no intention of seeking permission via a referendum, not least because they knew we would say no.

The then Shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague said the prime minister had "no democratic or moral authority to sign Britain up to the renamed EU constitution". It was "a total breach of trust with the British people and a flagrant breach of his solemn election promise to the British people", Mr Hague added. From that moment in history Brexit became a certainty even if we didn't realise it at the time.

Not long after the EU would face would face its first real test as the full force of the global financial crisis made its mark on the Euro currency. Subsequent events showed how completely incapable the EU was in forging a coherent and unified response. For a moment it even looked like the Euro itself could collapse.

A row then broke out at the suggestion that Britain may have to contribute to the bailout of Greece and prop up a currency we advised against to begin with. That has remained in the British consciousness ever since. It was the moment British voters realised the EU was an authority in its own right and we were indeed subordinate. I think this is when the prospect of an in/out EU referendum became a political certainty.

What was once a fairly anodyne political project ticking along in the background was suddenly very real in the minds of voters. We were being asked to pay for the hubris of our political masters - to bail out their vanity project that nobody ever asked for and didn’t want to join and were taken into without seeking consent. Fast forward to 2016 and at the first opportunity to have a real say in the matter and we voted to leave.

In that regard I think the 23rd of June will in the future be viewed as a turning point. Perhaps not as significant as the fall of the Berlin Wall, but as the beginning of the end of the EU - and consequently the end of the post-war settlement.

The lesson here is that humans form communities and institutions of their own. Only the people themselves can bring legitimacy to those institutions. Legitimacy is not won through voting rituals. Legitimacy is through consent.

An ideology was superimposed on the peoples of Europe and was advanced by deception. You can, for a time, subvert the will of the people and deny them a voice but in the end the people will have the final say, one way or another.

What is won in war is a distinct shared bond, through experiences and through family and through joint struggle. It is integral to that identity and from that is born a national story and a sense of shared values and purpose. It is stronger and longer lasting than the machinations of bureaucrats. It passes down through the generations and weaves its way into everything we do.

Zealots looked down upon this as old fashioned, primitive, even racist and sought to replace it with something fabricated, assuming that the baubles of statehood would forge a new story and a new people. They were wrong.

Rather than bringing peace through forced integration they have shattered the unity of the UK, bankrupted Greece, endangered Ukraine and hung eastern Europe out to dry. Having antagonised and alienated Russia, we are once again sleepwalking back into a new cold war.

In this, it is our collective memory of who we are and what we can achieve that will deliver us from another destructive war, not the artificial constructs our rulers impose upon is. Like 1945 and 1989 we are turning a corner into a more uncertain world but this time we really are departing with the past. We are free and clear of the old dogmas and the stains of our past have faded. Now we get design a new future of our own. As we move forward we must never forget that democracy is our best hope for peace and prosperity. Trust in the people and we will have peace. Push them into a corner and they will fight back.

Thursday, 3 November 2016

Controlling our borders shouldn't be controversial

The Sun, the Guardian and the Mail are all running variations on the same story about segregated communities. It was front page news for the Guardian yesterday. To anyone who doesn't live in medialand, it isn't news.

The Mail takes it as a cue to print pictures of Savile Town in Dewsbury which is pretty much a Pakistani tribal ghetto. It's a shithole and it is dangerous for white people. If you're in the mood to be mugged or beaten or generally abused that's where you'd go. The men from that community control it and they make sure everyone knows it. They use intimidation to drive whites out.

This is a particularly northern phenomenon. I know of no equivalent in Bristol. I have been a victim of it. When I lived in Manningham in Bradford I used to get death threats.

These are people who have no intention of integrating or participating, all of their major transactions are in cash, they launder money and exploit holes in the immigration system to bring in whoever they want. The lousy impression Brits have of Muslims is because of these people and people like them. That's why the "left behind" want immigration controls because they do not want their districts fully colonised and they want their streets to be safe. Like they used to be.

Immigration is something that isn't measured. It is experienced. Everyone has different experiences. London professionals will likely meet other young professionals from elsewhere and will largely welcome open borders. These will tend to be fairly well off folks who don't venture into the scarier parts of London where there are Somalis battering each other with wooden bats in broad daylight. This I have seen with my own eyes.

There are some districts in Bristol which are mixed communities where the whites tend to be working class or students. The divisions are not as acute. However when the white liberals who live there start a family and mummy gets baby-brain she insists they move somewhere like Filton. A white area which is ultimately boring but very very safe. The foreigners in Filton are mainly aerospace contractors working at Airbus. They aren't a problem to anyone.

As with Eastern European EU migrants, nobody really cares that I know of. They do integrate (apart from their shitty taste in music) and nobody but the absolute thickest in society claims that these people are stealing their jobs despite what some slovenly fuckwit at the Financial Times says.

As to the Black community, it's interesting that we still commonly refer to them as "the black community". They do seem to have their own shindigs. In London and Bristol you find entire clubs which are almost exclusively black. I don't know what that's about and I don't really care either. Generally they don't appear on my radar. I expect these would be Jamaicans and the descendents of 1950s immigrants. For the most part they have assimilated if not integrated. Nobody really gives a shit that there are still black areas. Nobody writes double page spreads about black ghettos because really there aren't any. Not that I know of anyways.

So really the elephant in the room that the Guardian has gone to lengths to avoid, and the Daily Mail has talked about non-stop is the Pakistani/Bangladeshi Muslims. How relevant the faith is I can't really say. What I do know is that a mosque in a community can be disruptive and the frequent congregations are antisocial.

And that is what really offends me. These people are generally all round antisocial. Not knowing much about Jewish communities in London I wonder if Londoners have the same impression of Jews. I tend to find when any tribe dominates one area then there is an inherent belligerence. I really don't know, I'm just talking about my own perceptions and experiences.

When it comes to northern ghettos though I can't help wondering why we are open to importing more people from these regions where the people who come are barely toilet trained and intermarry to such a degree that Bradford Royal Infirmary has a specialist unit for birth defects.

I know I am supposed to marvel at how culturally enriched that makes us but it seems to me like allowing more of them to come will ultimately result in Northern towns becoming absolutely alien, less safe, uglier, more crime ridden and dirtier.

Having said that I have to balance that with the fact that as they become richer they, like the rest of us, improve their own communities, smarten up shop fronts and gradually learn to take better care of their immediate environments. But then there is an inherent disadvantage for working class whites.

One thing one notes is that the Muslim communities in the north are not actually short of cash by any measure. There are reports of them buying houses with carrier bags full of cash. I believe that. Whatever they are doing to get that money, it certainly isn't legal. And that is what offends the "left behind". The left behind have the not unreasonable expectation of a quiet life if they work hard play by the rules and get on with things. But then in comes a tribe of Muslim immigrants who don't play by the rules, don't pay taxes, generally wreck a neighbourhood and then take it as their own. Obviously if you complain about this you are a racist.

We are told that we should not discriminate. But the glaringly obvious fact is that we should discriminate quite heavily and though tolerance is generally considered a good thing there is no reason why we should tolerate an immigration policy that simply pours more petrol on the bonfire. These people may contribute to GDP but they contribute nothing to the community. They set up communities within communities and then gradually take over as they make life less pleasant for everyone else, parking where they like, making noise at all hours of the night and spitting on white women.

We really do need to be quite hostile toward that kind of behaviour. We're not because we are still haunted by holocaust guilt. We have the holocaust drummed into us at an early age as though the actions of Germans more than seventy years ago has any bearing on British contemporary culture. The thought of taking a robust stance against a minority community fills us with hesitation.

I am by nature fairly libertarian but the liberties we enjoy such as safely walking down the streets in our own towns is one we should fiercely defend. If that means compulsory purchases of property to break up ghettos and tightening up immigration from countries whose exports are clearly and deliberately incompatible then that is what we must do.

I would rather we had a liberal immigration policy but being liberal should not mean we abandon any sense of self preservation. We not not want the riotous knife wielding thugs we see attempting to board lorries in Calais. We don't want London turning into Paris.

It is not unreasonable to want an immigration policy that is mindful of the social pressures that immigration does create. It's all very well for virtue signalling politicians to hold up placards welcoming refugees but the councils are telling us they have nothing in the budget to house them. It's not unreasonable to want to keep your hometown safe.

When Michael Gove said that "we've had enough of experts", he's absolutely right. The data might say one thing but our eyes tells us something else. We do not hold these views because we are mindless zombies who slavishly absorb everything the Daily Mail tells us. These are the places where we live - and data crunching academics do not.

We can enjoy the vast melting pot of London and celebrate its diversity as a global city but most of us do not live in London and we are the ones who absorb the consequences of policies made by London.

It is said that Brexit has emboldened racists but really all it has done is remind people that these views presented are not the domain of jackbooted fascists. They are the views of the majority of people and what they want is a bit of fairness. These are not racist views. If you have a better idea of how to deal with these social problems then go right ahead and make your case but don't pretend that these majority views are those of unenlightened backward provincial types.

In fact, the fact we want our streets safe for people to live their life free from intimidation, regardless of gender of sexual preference shows that we are more willing to defend liberalism than those who would call us regressive and reactionary. But then I can live with being called a reactionary. Reacting is absolutely necessary and it is long past the time when we reacted.

Brexit will probably not see much in the way of restrictions on freedom of movement - and that's really a good thing - but if the government wants to take it as a cue to deal with immigration then its non EU immigration we should be concerned with and we should not be afraid to discriminate against countries whose human exports threaten our safety and store up problems for the future.

We were told that these northern ghettos over time would dissipate. It's not happening. So now we need to act. Policymakers are engaged in forelock tugging asking what we can do, looking to se if we can bend over any further. We are worried that we may infringe on their rights. No bad thing you might say, but what about the rights of everyone else? If there is an obligation it is on the residents of these ghettos to respect the fact that we are an open and liberal and tolerant country. If they feel no such obligation then we ought to remind them that our tolerance does have limits.

The reality is, in the absence of better ideas, that we need a robust immigration system, the pace of change needs to be managed and we have a right to expect that our doors are not open to people who have zero interest in contributing. This isn't about hating foreigners. This is just the basics of civics. We have a decent, safe country and we want it to stay that way. Why is that so controversial?

Some interesting counterpoints to this rant about foreigners can be found here by Bradford Councillor, Simon Cooke. 

Saturday, 29 October 2016

Uber is a problem and petulant Londoners should suck it up

I hesitate to wade into the Uber ruling debate. I take the view that Uber's very existence is a testament to a dysfunctional regulatory regime in need of a major rethink. The service is effectively a cheat to subvert the regulatory regime which actually exists for very good reasons.

On the surface of it, Uber is an example of market dynamics where innovation threatens an ossified market monopoly which is why libertarian minded people celebrate it. In practice it is a means of subverting a mass of long established law and good practice developed over decades, where any Tom, Dick or Harry can enter the market.

What this creates is market oversupply whereby dedicated drivers cannot make a reasonable living. The consequences of that is that the official system then collapses and provision then becomes unstable, erratic and unable to provide for special needs.

Worse still, with a truly free market, you get oversupply at peak times meaning the busiest time is the least profitable time. It means that everyone with a Friday night spare is chasing the same dollar, clogging up the roads, increasing journey times and creating congestion.

So this isn't simply a libertarian wet dream of the plucky upstart sparking healthy competition. It uses the letter of the law to defeat the spirit of the law. In any real and practical and honest interpretation, Uber is a taxi company exploiting a loophole and the result being that established law abiding companies cannot compete fairly.

This causes libertarians to moan but one tends to note that these such libertarians are usually fairly wealthy, male and able bodied. What they fail to note is that taxis are in fact part of the public transport system. In all other cities the normal market competition sees a healthy competitive market in private hire and the demand is such that Uber is not really needed so in fact the Uber debate is very much a London debate. It is a local issue, not a national concern.

In London though, it suggests that an overhaul of taxi regulation is needed and public transport provisions need to adapt to a more round the clock ethos. Were there a functioning regulatory regime then Uber would simply not exist.

What the Uber ruling does is effectively stymie the Uber technique of subverting the system, taking the profitability out of regulatory evasion. If the system is then one that is still dysfunctional it is really up to Londoners to get engaged politically and demand that much needed rethink of public transport strategy. The London transport unions could also start pulling their weight.

The resistance to the ruling is actually a very typical London problem. Cosseted citizens whining that their lifestyle choices are expensive. Uber is the cheat that meets their needs at the expense of everyone elses. This rather cements my view that Londoners are overly spoiled, self-entitled and generally a bit thick. Hence why London voted to remain in the EU.

I appreciate the right wing argument that the ruling leaves the causal drivers less well off but if a system is to function then it needs a few certainties and stability. That is what the regulatory framework is for. It ensures continuity where a laissez faire approach cannot. That necessarily means that taxis in London are expensive, but then so is everything in London. If you live in London that is part of the deal and having no disposable income is something you accept when you move there.

If there is an issue here it is that it has taken a court ruling to decide policy. My view is that this is an issue for politics, not the courts and the ruling should be something for the London Assembly to review. This is where London needs to formulate its public transport strategy, taking into account the ways that Uber can contribute. I feel that a court ruling is trespassing on the political process. Uber does have a role to play and we would be foolish to ban it, as per this ruling, but it is the duty of regulators to find ways to successfully integrate it into the market while reducing the negative externalities.

This may mean modernisation and deregulation of taxis, and that would see the competitive advantage of Uber slashed. We should view the existence of Uber not as a solution to a problem, rather it is a canary down the mine. That we have ignored it since 2009 gives you some idea of how incapable the political system is of responding to changes in the market.

To me that suggests the need for a radical overhaul of London transport authorities and the need for a permanent regulatory review body along the consultative lines of the International Maritime Organisation. Given that London is not alone in facing these exact problems, there is every reason to look at a specialist global entity for managing taxis in international cities.

In this, the only thing I am certain of is that the petulant whining of Londoners is best ignored. Some markets do need intervention and this is one of them. The simplistic mantras of libertarians should be disregarded. Like Brexit, there are no easy answers.

Monday, 26 September 2016

A crisis of competence

So then, it looks like we’ll be seeing a lot more of Mr Jeremy Corbyn! And how could it have been any other way when his opponent was so utterly ghastly? What were they thinking? The troubles though do not end here. It does seem that Labour is in a real mess.

Alarmingly the Labour party elected not to have a debate about Brexit at their conference and all we’re getting from them is mixed signals based on a shallow understanding of what Brexit entails. Nearly all of Labour’s key people cannot make the distinction between the single market and the customs union and none can specify whether they want access to the single market or membership of it. We can read a lot into that.

What that says is that the left as a whole don’t really care about Brexit as an issue and have no real intention of forming themselves into a coherent opposition. That’s a problem. I am all in favour of Brexit but there are many different paths to achieving it and I do not want the Tory right setting the agenda with their obsolete ideas. This is a shameful dereliction of duty.

Instead, Labour has spent the week bickering over Trident, the UKs nuclear deterrent. What this tells us is that Labour is engaged in an ideological retrenchment. The issue of Trident is not actually the subject of any rational analysis. It’s just a totem of the old left. Mr Corbyn wants to reshape the party in his own image and is willing to shed support in order to do it. It’s a bold, if flawed strategy.

David Wearing remarked in the Guardian this week that there are two competing approaches as to how Labour should address the question of electability: marketing, and movement-building. The marketing approach treats the electorate as consumers with fixed preferences, where the ideal politician is a polished salesperson armed with a perfectly calibrated retail policy offer. The movement-building approach treats public opinion as a changeable landscape, where elections are won not only by competent politicians but by social forces mobilised in support of a transformative agenda.

The marketing approach is the approached favoured by centrists and was successfully employed by Blair and Cameron. The pitfalls of such an approach are that politics becomes a hollowed out shell where politicians of principle are replaced with identikit anodyne clones. It spawned a substance free politics that we are all uniformly sick of. This in some way explains Mr Corbyn’s appeal. You may not like his politics but he is at the very least an authentic leftist who believes in all the things leftists are generally supposed to believe in.

It has been a long time since anybody can say that. It has been a long time since there has been any real choice but the status quo at the ballot box. That at the very least is a welcome development. The problem though is that Mr Corbyn’s transformative agenda is an old fashioned one. I could very well see a movement-building approach working but at the heart of any revolutionary movement there needs to be a tangible set of relevant demands and ruthless political competence. This cannot be said of Mr Corbyn.

From Mr Corbyn I’ve heard all the classic leftist mantras such as renationalising the railways, building social housing and dropping university tuition fees, but he suffers from that time honoured leftist ailment; an inability to specify how it will all be paid for. We are told that he intends to borrow the money - but what that tells us is that he is formulating a fantasy agenda without any reference to what is happening in the real world. Likewise the suggestion that we should reopen coal mines - at a time when we are closing down our coal fired power stations. It tells us the man has only a passing relationship with reality.

Had this suggestion come from anyone else I might think that it was a piece of devious populism but I genuinely believe he thinks it’s a viable idea. It is now inescapable that Mr Corbyn is caught in a timewarp and has little to say to modern Britain.

It also raises a lot of serious questions about his political competence. Brexit is the single most significant change in the balance of power since World War Two and he has vacated the field entirely, leaving it for the Tories to do as they please. In all my days I have never seen such criminal impotence. If the role of the Labour party is to stand up for the working class then it has abandoned that role in order to indulge in philosophical navel gazing.

As it happens Britain is quite safe from the fantasists on the Tory right in that they are so completely unhinged that Mrs May can safely ignore them and we will get a more moderate Brexit – but that will be no thanks to the Labour party. In that, though, Mr Corbyn will have missed a genuinely revolutionary opportunity.

The truth is that Mrs May does not want to leave the EU. Few in the establishment do. They know they won’t get away derailing Brexit or holding a second vote but they can engineer a Brexit so that things stay pretty much as they are. If Mr Corbyn wanted a window of opportunity and a genuine “democratic moment” then this is the time to engage fully in the process.

Brexit in the very first instance gives the UK control over trade, aid, fisheries and energy. These are the polices areas that could redefine everything. There are massive opportunities for increasing wealth and reducing the cost of living. This is where we could see a transformation of public administration. The referendum campaign was fought on the promise of “taking back control” and if that applies to Westminster then why should it not apply to our local authorities too? If Labour wanted to make themselves relevant then this is the golden ticket.

But then we are suffering a wider crisis of competence in government. Throughout we have lost any sense of political maturity. Public scrutiny is a dead art. MPs are no longer capable of focussing on grown up issues and applying their intellect. Everywhere you look adult areas of policy, Brexit especially, are dominated by show-boating imbeciles playing to the media for political advantage. This is not sustainable if we wish to remain a first rate power in the world.

It was said during the referendum that an issue like the EU was too complex for the public to be able to vote on and that it should instead be left to the deliberative process. What we have seen though is that our politicians on both sides of the divide have an embarrassingly limited notion of what the EU is and what it does - and that they are ill equipped for such a momentous task. It seems that political competence is a thing of the past – if it ever existed at all.

Friday, 16 September 2016

Brexit is only half the job

The "alt right" is just another iteration of libertarianism popularised after the 2008 crash. It morphed into the Tea Party and has now become an amalgam of right wing nationalist themes. It's remarkably tedious.

What is interesting though is that talk among the "alt right" in Canada and the US is picking up on the globalist theme. I've just sat through an interminably dull video blog of some Septic banging on about global government. Imagine that. Americans complaining that they don't make their own laws anymore and their sovereignty is under attack. Does this sound at all familiar?

And that's what I've been drilling into Brexiteers all these months. You can grunt "invoke Article 50 now" until the cows come home but it's not actually going to do you any good. Once we're out of the EU we are just a parallel node under the same umbrella. If there was a European demos (which there isn't), like the septics, they would be moaning that the EU doesn't make its own laws.

It may actually be that the principal benefit of leaving the EU is that Brits do actually wake up to what is going on and realise Brexit makes no difference. We've had a horribly stultifying EU debate around the thin gruel notion of sovereignty when it turns out that nations very much famed for not being in the EU are having similar complaints. Just about every Western nation is now spawning its own Ukippy movement. With good reason.

In most cases, the EU adopts international rules and regulations on our behalf and tells us how to vote, but now we are leaving the EU we will have our own vote. But leaving the EU while keeping the same establishment in place means they are more than likely going to vote along with the EU at the top tables with or without a diktat from the European Commission.

And then of course we have our own version of the Executive Order known as statutory instruments - which means we still end up with laws on our books that go nowhere near parliament for any kind of meaningful scrutiny. That is where we need serious domestic reform to make sure they can't do to us what they did when they took us into the EU.

And while folks have been getting their knickers in a twist over TTIP, TTP and CETA, these are the decoys. In most respects they deal with convergence of legacy regulation - which will never be fully aligned - and so they have set about a process of gradual equivalence based on recommendations from Transnational Private Regulators and International Organisations. They may fail for now, but they will find a way.

In respect of all new regulation and lawmaking though, they are already signed up to a global harmonisation agreement. So that then gives all of these private regulators serious power. They claim in public that they are not governmental organisations with the power to dictate but through unrelated treaties the "guidelines" they produce become articles of soft law. Nations then become harmonised by way "guidelines" being implemented by national parliaments. And nobody bats an eyelid.

While something may look superficially like it is homegrown law, if it is anything remotely technical, you can bet your ass it isn't. From food safety to internet governance, it did not come from a domestic source. By contrast, the EU is fairly straightforward and transparent.

As far as I can work out, apart from instruments like the WTO Technical Barriers to Trade agreement, there are no hard and fast treaties to bring this global governance into being - and it has no real name. Unlike the EU it has no headquarters and no flag and no expansionist agenda. It's just a morass of bland, seemingly innocuous items of legalese and technical minutiae which is so tedious that nobody in their right mind who isn't directly involved in it would give it a second look. This is the domain of Transnational Private Regulators - and there are more popping up all the time.

A reader yesterday pointed me in the direction of ICANN. I have no real idea what it does. Wikipedia says it the "Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is a nonprofit organization that is responsible for coordinating the maintenance and procedures of several databases related to the namespaces of the Internet - thereby ensuring the network's stable and secure operation. ICANN performs the actual technical maintenance work of the central Internet address pools and DNS Root registries pursuant to the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) function contract".

As I understand it, it resides in the US operating under US laws. There is a huge push from Facebook, Twitter and other big internet players to drag ICANN out of US control in order to make it a multilateral system. There is presently a huge row as to whether such a move is legal. America has very strict laws on the transfer of powers. No nation on earth more keenly guards its sovereignty. (This though is as much a mode of trade protectionism as it is anything else).

Should ICANN become one of the many Transnational Private Regulatosr (TPR), the corporates themselves author their own codes of governance which then become codified into law independent of any scrutiny. This has prompted concern over internet privacy, freedom of speech and net neutrality. Some are in favour of this move in that they don't like the idea of the USA being in control of the internet. Some however, prefer China having a hand in it. "The capitalists will sell us the rope we hang them with". We've had the same debates about GPS and Galileo.

Chances are, ICANN will become a TPR - and unlike things like ITU and Codex, they will not involve governments. Dispute resolution will be on a pay to play basis where corporates have the same rights as governments. The richest wins. This is where we might want the ITU to intercede. But then the USA feels pressured to go along with this move in that if they do not cede control of ICANN then a corporate competitor will spring up. It's unstoppable.

If at this point your eyes are glazing over, then you now know how they get away with it. Like I say, it doesn't have a flag or borders or a headquaters. It's not even hidden. It just exists. In many respects the EUs mistake was to ever have a public face. If they could have resisted the urge to form European superstate and instead simply built the treaties without a parliament and all the fluff that goes with it, nobody would be any the wiser and nobody would have campaigned to leave the EU, (same as hardly anybody is making any noises about global governance).

Now that we have left the EU, Brexiteers think that means we have carte blanche to "take back control" and that post-Brexit we are moving into a free trade world of unicorns and rainbows. We're not. We are moving out of a sub domain and into the parent domain. And that's where things get tricky. We could start feeding all the EU laws into the shredder but would soon find them replaced with practically the same thing only from the original source.

So if you voted to leave the EU to be free of technocracy we're not even started yet. This is a global problem where governance is becoming so complex and so technical that governments cannot keep up, they cannot control it, and increasingly find it hard to even influence it - even if you are a giant like the EU. To stop something happening you first have to know that it is happening, and there are now many creative ways for corporates to back door the legislative procedure. The EU is slowly realising this and has an agenda of its own.

In a recent report on global governance the Commission states that "The EU is committed to a global order based on international law, which ensures human rights, sustainable development and lasting access to the global commons. This commitment translates into an aspiration to transform rather than to simply preserve the existing system. The EU will strive for a strong UN as the bedrock of the multilateral rules-based order, and develop globally coordinated responses with international and regional organisations, states and non-state actors."

This is EU-speak for turning global govern-ance into a global govern-ment. A top-down EU on steroids. A horrifying thought when you look past the rhetoric. That is why it is necessary to leave the EU and this is why I'm hoping Brexit will kill it. The monster of global governance we have created cannot be destroyed but it can be tamed. Governance is no bad thing in that it can improve our lives, but only if the people have supreme authority and veto. If however, we have that same establishment who sees no evil then that veto is useless. It must be a people's veto.

But this is why the post Brexit debate lacks any coherence. I see Brexiteers putting on meetings all over the shop, debating what Brexit means for Britain, assuming that we are now free to enact compulsory serving of asparagus at breakfast, free corsets for the under fives and the abolition of slavery. We're not. There is no rowing back on the technocracy and there is no way we are going to simplify the inherently complex. I did not vote to leave the EU so we can nationalise railways or abolish health and safety laws. The point is that the EU is a useless line of defence against global governance and it revokes our only safeguards.

What we need to do is re-establish our system of safeguards and put more power of veto in the hands of the people. We also need some constitutional constraints on the government to stop them handing powers away, and to stop laws getting in by the back door.

We need to modernise our constitution so that we have better protections against laws we did not make. We are always going to be the recipient of laws and as a matter of fact there is no way we can scrutinise all of them. We can however have a system of opt outs and exemptions and a means by which we can make the implementation fairer. What we need is a system of politics that serves as a goalkeeper rather than a striker for the other team. It is that which makes Brexit necessary, but Brexit alone does not achieve that. The enemy, as ever, resides in Westminster, not Brussels.

Friday, 9 September 2016

The debate beyond Brexit

JD Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin has slammed David Cameron and George Osborne for their conduct during the referendum campaign. In great detail, he criticised them for failing to see the "political chaos" that continued membership of the EU - which he dubbed "an organisation of Byzantine complexity, run by five unelected presidents, with input from numerous other parts of the many-headed Hydra" - would create for Britain.

He's actually got this wrong. The EU is one of the head of this "many-headed Hydra". Normally when dealing with reptilian creatures if one cuts off the head the body dies. In our scenario though, cutting off this particular head causes it a good deal of pain and some considerable inconvenience But it it still a many-headed Hydra.

And the problem with describing the EU as an organisation of Byzantine complexity implies that to leave it that one is also leaving behind that Byzantine complexity into a simpler, more easily understood world. Thus you can understand the appeal of Brexit. But this is where the Brexiteers have it ass backwards. There might have been a time twenty five years ago when that other world existed but as we have headed down the EU cul-de-sac, the rest of the world has been arranging itself along similar lines.

They each take their technical regulation from the same organisations using more or less the same structures. What makes the EU unique is its supranationalism where there is a central authority with a monopoly on trade powers where member states have none of their own.

The problem though is that many newer regional integration bodies are gradually forming themselves in the EU's image whereby member states opt for bloc deals, which use the globalisation agenda to further regional integration - so this notion that post-Brexit the UK will be banging the drum for bilateral deals with independent states is looking increasingly spurious.

What we are actually going to have to do is engage on a multilateral basis looking at a universe of different agreements. Anyone talking about "free trade deals" is at the Janet and John level and they are in for a rude awakening. The agreements we have through the EU will have to be replicated and broken away from one system in order to join another. Through a series of negotiations we establish our own customs code, our own subsidy quotas and re-establish ourselves as an independent entity. But in so doing we being to participate in systems and organisations which did not exist when the EU was conceived.

And this is why there is not going to be this renaissance of sovereignty. It simply does not exist anymore unless you go the way of North Korea and have an internal economy. Some things won't change, can't change and if we did change them we would soon change them back to how they were because much of our technocracy is designed for the removal of obstacles to trade.

All we really get from Brexit is an enhanced voice in shaping that "Byzantine complexity" at the global level with some greater powers to refuse but in most cases, we probably won't. If you have a say in designing the rules then you don't need to veto them. If people think we need to leave behind this complex and tangled web of governance then our only option is to somehow relocate the British Isles in outer space.

And if people really do want to be taken seriously, and indeed if Britain is to make the best of Brexit, then we need to be having a realistic conversation about the world as we find it rather than the one that existed twenty five years ago when John Redwood last read a book.

Brexit to my mind has always been about taking a different path to the EU and navigating the global trade system in a new way. The classic arguments about sovereignty and democracy don't quite fit the mould anymore. This prompts a new debate about globalisation and whether we are in a post-democratic age where technocracy has a place and cannot be easily dispensed with.

It sounds superficially appealing to depart from technocracy but the consequences of doing so, when you give it any serious consideration, are less appealing. Those who argue for it do not seem to have thought it through. To my mind they sound like survivalists who want to live out their lives in a faraday cage and a tin foil hat.

But then of course we now we need democracy as a periodic corrective. So Brexit does present some interesting opportunities and a chance to redesign participation but that debate must include a debate about the limitations of it and a recognition that the people, generally speaking, do not want as much control as they say they do. Their actions do not match their words. That begs the question of whether we accept this dynamic or arrange our affairs so as to encourage greater participation. How much democracy is too much democracy and where do we draw the line against globalisation if we must draw one at all?

Brexit is not a transition from the complex to the simple. It is simply a reconfiguration of a complex machine that will stay complex. It is now complex to a degree where no single individual can possibly comprehend it where some of it works better for the absence of democracy.

Systems that run themselves often have no need of politics and do not benefit from the application of collective ignorance. This might offend the purist democrats but many of these systems enhance our wealth and our liberty And we need to start asking if part of the function of democracy is to defend those things against the extremes of political ideology. In some respects technocracy has abolished socialism and mutes the externalities of capitalism. It would appear we are creating a self-governing machine for the running of the planet that makes our short stay here materially wealthier. Is that really something we should take a wrecking ball to?

But then there's the rub. Humanity thrives on reinvention and renewal. We are not designed to cope without conflict and struggle because conflict and struggle is what defines us and gives our spiritual lives meaning. Like in the film The Matrix, the first Matrix failed because humans were too happy. Perhaps we are a species ill equipped to adapt to a utopia where we want for nothing. Perhaps we should write it all off as a bad idea? I would like us to be sure before we do though.

Thursday, 8 September 2016

There are no good reasons to leave the single market

The main reason we should not quit the single market aspect of the EU is because people are fucking liars. Brexit-o-mongs keep telling me that we should take back full control because democracy. Which is a fucking stupid argument. I am told that "In a democracy you are allowed to have, and even implement if you have enough support, a variety of ideas about how to run things. The single market membership does not allow for this. It puts certain things beyond debate".

Yes it does. And that's a good thing. In a modern, hyper-globalised trading environment we accept that something just work better if they are harmonised. This is the daily grind stuff that nobody gives a tinkers fuck about. If I give you two choices of things to debate, one being something to do with the Black Lives Matter protest and the latest convention on shipping container weighing regulations, an overwhelming majority of you will choose the former because it's idle chatter and you do not have to apply yourself to the subject.

But in terms of which is more likely to have a direct impact on you and the availability and affordability of goods you buy, it's the container regs. Because you are normal people with normal lives and normal concerns and fairly pedestrian desires you do not give a solitary toss. You may say we want to take back control but in actual fact you don't care who regulates these things, why they are regulated or even if they are regulated at all.

And please don't take this as an insult. People are (for reasons that escape me) social animals and prefer the social politics over the technical. You are never likely to get outraged by a trade deal that decides there must be a higher minimum sugar content in strawberry jam unless you are one of the intellectually subnormal Kiptards who think this is a threat to Western civilisation and proof that Sharia law is on the way. There is a good reason we point and laugh at these people. If this were the middle ages we would appoint them as village idiots. In the modern era we just elect them to the European Parliament.

I didn't vote to send Britain back into the stone age and so that we have the freedom to buy a bag of stoats ears in pounds and ounces. There are some things that politics can let slide. We went through the pain of the Single European Act in the 1990's (installing the EU regulatory regime) and it cost a lot of money, killed a lot of businesses, and it was to small producers what Mrs T was to the mines. It was done shabbily, in a rush and without proper consent. But it's done now. Trade has been modernised, regulations have been harmonised and they have been refined over two decades. They are now embedded. Everybody knows how to work with them.

The only reason we would pull out of the single market is if we wanted to go to the massive hassle and expense of reversing that process. Inspectors would have to retrain. Universities would have to completely change their syllabus. Factories would have to run two productions lines; one for the domestic regime, one for the export market. Inspectors would have to train in both regimes. We would lose our automatic mutual recognition agreements and have to be assessed individually by every third country we trade with.

We would also be the odd one out since the EU, as I have outlined time and again, stopped being the driver of regulation some years ago. It now only implements global rules. So if we are moving away from the EU standard then we are also moving away from the global standard. So what you are proposing is a completely pointless revolution in regulation for no commercial advantage over areas of technical regulation where politicians haven't the first clue and don't care either. More to the point, nor do the public. Nobody is going to go to the barricades over the right to sell misshapen fruit.

Britain is part of a modern, global rules based trading system. Pulling out of it would make no sense. Regulatory harmonisation reduces red tape, makes trade faster and consequently makes food and other consumer products cheaper and higher quality.

By leaving the EU we have ended EU legal supremacy. It means we are no longer subordinate to the EU and we have the right to refuse rules we don't want. That's fucking awesome. We have safeguard measures we can invoke as part of the single market and we get an enhanced say in the rules. In the process we are no longer subject to EU supranationalism. But that does not mean we want to end economic integration nor do we want to turn the clock back. Free movement of goods, services and people is a great thing.

What matters is that we are free of the common agricultural policy and CFP and that we are no longer bound to EU directives on energy production and other environmental legislation. We take back control of trade policy and aid, we no longer let the EU make our choices for us and we get to design our own rural and habitats policy. We also bin the "social Europe" nonsense. That to my mind is more than enough.

So again I ask why you are willing to throw away the single market for no reason? Is it that you want to pay more for goods? Do you want us to lose our exports? Help me out here. I don't understand why you would do such an irresponsible and nihilistic thing. Is resetting the clock back to 1991 really that important to you? No.

The fact is, there will always be technocracy. Life is never going to get any simpler and protectionist measures are not going to bring back manufacturing or mass employment. Harmonisation and specialisation is the way things are done now and that is about to explode beyond the confines of the European single market to become a global phenomenon. If we give ordinary people control over technical rules and regulations we'll be back to cavorting druids, death by stoning and dung for dinner.

What matters is that we create better early warning mechanisms for new laws, that we have better consultation and a better, more democratic means of dispute resolution. The EEA agreement gives us exactly that whereby we can be outside of the EU but still, for the most part, trade freely and maintain present levels of trade.

Cutting ourselves off from the single market and erecting barriers serves absolutely no purpose. For sure we would notionally gain control over our laws down to the granular level but you wouldn't take the slightest bit of notice and it really doesn't matter who makes them. Not least since most of what you think comes from Brussels actually comes from Geneva.

If I genuinely thought for a moment there would be a level of political engagement in these things and that what was happening is sufficiently harmful I would says so. In fact I did during the referendum. We're going to get back that vital power of veto.

The truth is though, for the most part, you are all lying bastards and you don't care who is making the laws and when it comes to the test, on any platform you care to mention, this kind of lawmaking is the thing you give the least fucks about. So puhlease, don't give me that "democracy" crap.

People having power over their lives matters but only over the stuff they care about. The rest they are happy to roll with. Nobody has cared about regulation since the 1990's except for Toryboy mouthbreathers and kippermongs. That, if nothing else, is reason enough to think the system doesn't need to be changed. We could leave the single market but there aren't any good reasons for doing so. Not one.

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

It's time to confront Brexiteer dishonesty

There's a lot of intellectual cowardice around at the moment. There is an ongoing pretense that Brexit is simple. It isn't. It's fraught with uncomfortable compromises and dilemmas. Much of EU integration was designed to be irreversible and if we want to do it properly we have to do it slowly and by the book.

Some would have it that the Article 50 process is designed to prevent us from leaving. It isn't. It's just that forty years of global evolution in trade law presents us with choices none of which are encouraging and whichever way we turn the options are not good. We still have a very expensive and time consuming process on our hands.

We are told Brexit means Brexit but in truth the government has no way of satisfying the expectations of leavers without inflicting a good deal of unnecessary self-harm. People think we are leaving a European legal system but it isn't that simple. We are stepping out of a partition and into a broader global legal system where we have to reconfigure our own laws while honouring legacy commitments and also being mindful that close cooperation is still a necessity for the normal functioning of business.

The leave campaign has caused a number of problems. They pretended that sunlit uplands were only a single bound away and that the alternative is instantly preferable to EU membership. It isn't.

The alternative is something we have to build over a long time. The process will be costly and time consuming and it doesn't come simply by waving the Brexit magic wand. Embarking on the Brexit process is the beginning of a long journey which does have a high risk of failure. I still voted to leave because I think that culturally it is necessary and because it's a festering sore that won't go away. Also because Britain does have the potential to be a world leader in global trade - but I won't for a moment pretend it's simple.

Over the years the EU has made some impressive inroads in its trade agreements and if we adopt the EU bilateral approach we could never in a thousand years hope to match them. I believe the alternative approaches are where we can made smaller steps and progress incrementally and in the end surpass the EU while it's still negotiating big bang deals like TTIP to no avail.

I am however becoming increasingly intolerant of Brexit-o-mongs who think we can just rip up treaties, contracts and agreements and then "free trade deals" will just materialise out of thin air. They won't. They will come but we'll have to invest to get them and we're not going to get them if we're sudden breaking international treaty law for shits and giggles. There is no unilateral Brexit and there is no complete restoration of sovereignty. In terms of laws made outside of London we are exchanging Brussels for Geneva and the volume of laws we accept will be about the same if not more. All we get is the power to refuse them, which in most cases we won't.

The Brexiteer vision of Brexit is a child's fantasy filled with rainbows and unicorns. It is a dishonesty of epic proportions and these pet theories belong to 1975. Since then globalisation has happened and nobody gets to do as they please anymore.

Worse still, if you thought Brussels lacked transparency wait until you try deciphering what the nexus of global governance is up to. It's all hidden in plain sight but you have to know what you are looking at. It makes TTIP look transparent by contrast. Brexit will mean that eventually we are in control of that agenda but for the time being we'll be taking baby steps and we're not going to get there without considerable cooperation with the EU. They are not going to help us if we start tearing up agreements and breaking the rules. So please, put your pet theories away and try to engage in the real world - or at the very least pipe down so the adults can get on with it.

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Technocracy is here to stay

I'm not so concerned by calls for a second referendum. There isn't going to be one. Democracy is not "hanging by a thread". There are no dark forces amassing to derail Brexit. What we have are sore losers who are presently incapable of organising themselves into a coherent movement. Lib Dems, Labour and the remains of the remain campaign. They cannot tell Mrs May she cannot invoke Article 50 and there is no appetite for a second referendum.

There is only really one choice left to be made. One between a careful measured Brexit that allows us to evolve slowly out of the EU - and then a Brexit that needless completely fucks everything with little chance of bouncing back to our present standing.

The latter is on the table because some think that Brexit offers us a choice between "Brussels bureaucracy" and the free world. But as we find with most things, if we scrub away the Brussels bureaucracy we find Geneva bureaucracy. There is no wiping the slate clean nor is there any buccaneering "free trade". There are global rules for trade which are just as extensive, just as bureaucratic and just as opaque as anything produced by the EU.

The nexus of international organisations create a worldwide rules based systems governing everything from customs to tariffs all the way through to marketing standards and agricultural practices.

What makes Brexit complex is that even out of the EU we still have to play by the rules. There are legacy rules we must conform to and there are rules that countries not in the EU must obey in order to trade with the EU. Then there are those rules that apply to everyone only they come to our statue book via the EU which have to be re-registered with a number of global organisations.

Some believe that Brexit is simply a matter of sketching out a free trade deal and then we are free to slash and burn regulations like they never existed so we can trade with the lesser developed nations who don't have all these pesky rules. Except that world has not existed for two decades now. Even Bangladesh follows the same health codes and regulations as the UK and they can't export unless they can prove the conform.

And so this notion that Brexit is becoming the province of "educated nincompoops" trying to manage away the Brexit process is a bogus one. The fact is that we have to be global citizens now and Brexit has to be by the book. If we want trade agreements once we have left then our ability to get them depends on our reputation for upholding international law and honouring our treaties. Simply ripping up contracts "because democracy" is not on the cards if we wish to maintain our current level of exports.

We really have to navigate one of the most intricate legal systems ever devised coming from a position of having completely abandoned that kind of administration for four decades. Almost everything to do with trade and regulation has been surrendered to the EU and the process of bringing it back under our control is a mammoth task.

In this we are discovering systems and subsystems that we never knew existed. I was only dimly aware of the TIR system until recently and now I find that there is the AEO system and all of the customs processes developed since 9/11. As to banking rules and trade in services, you will notice that I seldom speak on such matters. Better to say nothing and be thought a fool than to open one's mouth and remove all doubt.

But in this age where cross border trade in goods is diminishing while we increasingly export innovations, the issue of digital rights and intellectual property and patents comes into play. This is a major sector that makes up a significant portion of our GDP. It is governed by the EU as well as WIPO, ITU and the EU. Not to mention the WTO at the centre of it.

If you have been following recent developments then you know that the process of breaking away from the EU to become an actor in our own right at the WTO is no small undertaking. The problematisers make out that it is next to impossible as it requires approval of all other members - which isn't actually true but it is a serious undertaking which has the potential to stall the Brexit process.

Effectively, a unilateral withdrawal would be like bulldozing a house without checking for occupants. As much as it is murderously negligent it doesn't make you very popular in the wider neighbourhood. The people who advocate this do so from a position of complete ignorance. They would gleefully pull the plug on the whole thing just to see what happens in order to rebuild it in accordance with their own dogmas.

The truth is that if we really wanted to depart from all this bureaucracy and go back to a world where things were simpler we would not only have to leave the EU but withdraw entirely from the entire international order and pull out of every multilateral agreement. If you want to make that case I am sure a compelling case could be made but the fact is that if your aim is to move away from technocracy and complexity then Brexit does absolutely nothing for you and would put us in a minority of nations where the nearest comparable nation is Zimbabwe or North Korea. Even China is a fully signed up to the global rules based trading system. There is no winding the clock back.

Brexit is about asserting ourselves as an independent actor within a global community. It means making our own decisions free of EU interference and it means the EU cannot tell us how to vote. It does not mean that the UK is free to do as it pleases and though we have a considerably large economy it is largely built on the basis that we do follow the rules which is why the banks keep their money here.

So really it is not a matter of stalling Brexit. What matters is that we disabuse hardliner Brexiteers of their daft notion and win the battle for a managed and well executed Brexit that doesn't collapse our exports and ruin our international prestige. I am in no rush to press the Article 50 button until this dispute is resolved.

If Brexit is going to work for Britain then we will need to engage more on all the multilateral forums and be a leading global citizen within the institutions that govern trade. We will need to be a leading light in exporting the methods and tools for implementing good governance. That is how we prosper.

And though Brexit will cost us in the interim, this is ultimately why Britain will be richer and and more influential outside the EU. Right now we are having a very serious debate about our trade strategy, exploring the methods and tools at our disposal. It is a debate no longer confined to the tatty offices of the Commission in Brussels. It is a nationwide debate which participation form every sector, with just about every industry engaging with the government to ensure we get a good deal.

In this we are building consultation mechanisms that will outlive the Brexit process and business will get used to the idea of steering trade policy same as the wider public will reacquaint themselves with the topic as a facet of our politics.

Until then managerialism reigns supreme while we work out what has been done to us and how. There are no shortcuts and there are no magic wands. It will be a slow deliberative process and there will be little room for ideologies and political mantras. In most respects the political battles have been made obsolete by way of having a developed system that needs no politics.

As much as anything our rules trade rules exist to prevent conflicts and to resolve disputes. And they work. If you want it some other way you will have to develop a viable alternative and quickly - but you won't find many takers. In the final analysis the world is better now than it was before all this "red tape" and you'd miss it if it were gone in ways you never anticipated. This is the era of technocracy. Get used to it.

Monday, 5 September 2016

A process without a destination

If you were outside of parliament today you might have been inclined to shout "Invoke Article 50 now". If however, you were live-tweeting the proceedings on the inside you might well be so horrified you switch sides entirely. I must confess, my commitment to project mayhem was almost in doubt this afternoon.

You see it's all true what the remainers say. Most Brits have no idea what the hell they were voting for. The nuance is that remainers don't either. And though that is nominally an argument for not having a referendum our politicians enjoy no greater enlightenment.

Some people voted for immigration control. Some people voted to cut off payments to the EU. Some voted in order to deregulate. Some voted against technocracy. Some voted for absolute sovereignty. Some voted simply because they hate the EU. Some voted mainly because they hate our politicians and the establishment. Some voted against globalisation. Some voted for more of it.

So how do you reconcile all these conflicting opinions and how do you produce a Brexit that is sufficiently brexity to satisfy the masses while preserving good relations with our allies?

In this, ignorance reigns supreme. Nobody really has a cost effective idea how to reduce immigration. There are only marginal gains to be had from deregulation, everything falls to pieces if you don't have technocracy and in this age of global regulatory harmonisation there is no such thing as absolute sovereignty.

I would venture that voting to leave because you hate the EU is a perfectly valid reason. There isn't much to like about it or its advocates. But then having dealt with most kind of leavers who seem to take pride in the ignorance it s difficult not to despise both sides of the argument.

What's worse is that every stupid assertion requires a detailed and technical rebuttal. In this nobody really wants to know. All they know is they want Brexit as soon as possible yet nobody as yet knows what that is supposed to look like.

The problem is that most people imagine Brexit means going back to that state of independence that existed before the EU. I don't want to be patronising and say people want to wind the clock back but they do want things to be a certain way in a way they can never be again. Supply chains have become ever more sophisticated and integrated where there is simply no value in divergence. Internet has brought people places and things closer. We could dismantle the EU and erase it entirely but the world would still have to turn and it would still require cross border governance in place of the EU.

If it be the case that people want the simplest and most literal Brexit possible then that would be to simply move into the EEA and leave as much in tact as possible. That would on paper accomplish Brexit. And who is going to argue? But then people also want political change. People want a Brexit that is more than just Brexit on paper.

So how is that defined? How much integration do we want, what are we willing to pay for it and what are we willing to sacrifice to have our cake and eat it. Everybody enjoys the product of free movement of goods and services yet politically they oppose it.

And this is the problem with such an open ended and ill conceived referendum question. We voted not for an alternative. We simply voted to dismantle the status quo without specifying a destination. Thus we are in a limbo. We must devise a Brexit that avoids economic chaos that also appeases the unappeasable. It is likely we will be no closer to defining that even by Christmas.

It's all very well saying we should just get on with it but we must first learn the anatomy of the beast and understand its functions before cutting away at the many strands of integration.

As it happens, some of us did go to the trouble of doing exactly that and we did produce a plan but a certain anti-intellectualism grips the land whereby people would rather not engage in the complexities and have absolutely zero interest in shaping the outcome. They seem to think that building a new model for government comes after the Brexit process. Not so. A transition has to go from one state of being to another.

If it were all down to me I would be invoking Article 50 sometime next year but that's after two years of extensive analysis of the issues. But it's not up to me. It's up to a political process involving one of the worst crops of politicians in living memory. One that is impossibly attached to obsolete narratives and incapable of comprehending what has been built over the last forty years at a very granular level by technocrats, lawyers and experts.

This is like asking cavemen to reverse engineer a jumbo jet. They could conceivably break it down into its components but would have no greater understanding of how it worked and would have no real ability to reassemble and fly it.

But then we are are told that the same time that expertise is neither trusted nor demanded. So what's to be done? Without answering the very basic questions you cannot conceivably commit to a negotiation.

For sure would could just pull the plug and let this civilisation of ours grind to a halt but I don't imagine for a moment this is what the majority voted for and never imagined Brexit had the capacity to do that. Well, it does.

Foolishly the remain camp overplayed their hand to the point where nobody believed them. There's always a problem with crying wolf. But there are risks if we pull certain levers and we need to be clear that everyone is clear on what happens when we pull on them.

The ultimate joke is that if people do not want to understand the issues and do not wish to participate in that deliberative process then once again we surrender the process to the technocrats to simply reconfigure the system according to their best guess.

Ironically, the Spiked "Invoke Article 50 Now" protest in London today was a a group who largely celebrate the mass availability of consumer goods. This does not happen without technocracy and systems of good governance. The very thing they oppose. The group is also broadly in favour of freedom of movement. Yet most would say if we are leaving the EU then it must be curtailed. It seems to me that if the public cannot reconcile their own basic hypocrisy then how can they expect the same of their politicians?

How can one say one is defending democracy when one is perfectly at ease with abdicating the details to the politicians. Is there any real advantage in transferring the technocracy from Brussels to London if the same basic lack of engagement exists?

The notion that we simply instruct our politicians to "get on with it" without defining what that means is to simply abdicate the running of our own affairs to government - which really makes our predicament entirely our own fault. In which case, what am I expending another nanosecond on this for? If the people themselves are not defining what Brexit means then we might as well not bother at all.