Sunday, 21 August 2016

There is nothing at all radical about Corbyn’s Labour

Everybody looks forward to summer. Unless of course you’re political animal in which case you’re in for six weeks of pure tedium as the entire political machine shuts down. It leaves us news junkies with little to cogitate. As far as politics goes there are only two stories. Brexit and the labour leadership contest.

The latter is of diminishing interest. It rather looks like Mr Corbyn is going to see off the challenge comfortably. And it’s easy to see why. Labour’s big beasts are more concerned with their career prospects than mounting an effective challenge. Losing in 2020 is a near certainty for Labour and none of them wants the job when it means a wipeout. Consequently the challenger is nobody with all the charisma of flat-pack furniture.

It seems that Labour has no-one to challenge Mr Corbyn’s appeal. He is well liked because he is a figure people can relate to. It’s not what he is. It’s what he isn’t. British politics in recent decades has been beset by a dismal ratings chasing trend whereby policy announcements are made on the basis of what their focus groups have told them – fighting over the centre ground.

The product of this has been bland managerial policy devoid of any principle or ideology pushed by anodyne people. You can barely tell them apart. There seems to be little point in voting when all of the major parties are chasing the same handful of voters and why bother with a political party chasing power for its own sake?

Labour as a party has largely forgotten who it serves and what it is for. A genuine movement is one that decides what it believes it, defines what it wants to accomplish and then goes out and sells it. Whether the agenda is popular or not should not matter. If you have the courage of your convictions you stand by what you believe and you build your movement over time. If it has something to offer then through persistence it will succeed.

Contrast that with Blairism. The Blairite way it to hold one’s beliefs cheaply – to ditch principle depending on the basis of what the most recent poll says. That may well be a shortcut to power but power without a real agenda is simply administration.

In that regard Labour should be bold and not afraid to lose support. It is better to have a coherent movement where voters know what you’re about than to have a generic umbrella party full of ambitious charlatans climbing the greasy pole. The test of whether it succeeds or not is really down to the ideas on sale. That is ultimately why Corbyn will fail.

Labour is supposed to be the party for the working class – but that is an increasingly nebulous term. It can apply to those on minimum wage with insecure jobs or it can apply to families with a mortgage and two cars. The latter being aspirational working class who have increasingly conservative views on taxation – and though largely socially liberal, not as permissive as the progressive left. The idea that the working class is a huddled mass of hapless serfs in need of rescue is an obsolete one. Labour continues to misdiagnose Britain.

Labour’s article of faith is that zero hours contracts should be abolished. While that may be noble in intent it’s not actually that big a problem and affects comparatively few people. Some even prefer the flexibility it offers. The insistence by Labour that Britain’s working class are necessarily poor and living in Dickensian poverty paints a picture that simply does not exist and is not recognised by ordinary voters. It cost Miliband the 2015 election. The patronising paternalism that comes with Labour’s anti-poverty crusade is also a big turn off.

And then we must look at Mr Corbyn’s bizarre fixation with nationalising the railways. Who owns the railways is neither here nor there. What people want is clean, affordable rail that turns up when it says it will. That’s all they care about. Presently it achieves none of these things.

But rail is beset by two problems. Overcrowding and price. Subsidise the fares and you create more overcrowding. Moreover, if you’re subsidising fares for London rail commuters then chances are that’s not a way to help poor people. You’re more likely subsidising middle class higher earners in London. It’s not a policy that speaks much to Labour heartlands like Sheffield where people take the bus to work – or walk.

What this tells us is that Corbyn has failed to understand Britain’s ills. Rail nationalisation is a solution in search of a problem. Britain needs bigger ideas than throwback socialist ones. The fact is we could spend a trillion on creating new rail infrastructure and not make any real impact on our capacity crunch. Rail is an expensive business. What we need is fresh thinking.

In Britain it’s not actually that difficult to find relatively good wages. The issue is how much of it we get to keep. After we’ve paid income tax and national insurance we’ve already taken a big hit in income. Add to that commuting costs and all the other costs associated with work and even a highly salaried job starts to feel like a mugs game. We need to rethink the very idea of work.

For starters, commuting is an absolutely absurd waste of time. We spend at least two hours in the day travelling – usually at the same time as everyone else – creating congestion along with all the health problems that go with it. Why? And if you’re not spending money on rail fares then it’s parking fees – often to do desk work we can just as easily do from home. This makes no sense. If we can get the workforce working from home then not only can we reduce spending on infrastructure we can end the spiral of wage inflation. This is where we can make tangible gains.

Instead of this, the Labour party under Blair introduced income support benefits and the minimum wage – but all of this is increasingly gobbled up by the cost of living – while at the same time adding to the overall tax burden or debt mountain. This is not sustainable – and the Tory national living wage is the same kind of thinking; inflationary measures which sound good but do nothing to increase our spending power or our ability to save.

What we need is radical ideas to bring down the cost of living and the cost of doing business. Nearly half the country can’t afford to save for a pension. We can live fairly comfortable lives on a day to day basis but it’s increasingly insecure with most of us being only two paycheques away from financial oblivion. The pound in our pockets is the key to electoral success – not who owns the railways.

In that, the government is going to have to do something about how much it takes from our wages. We have done a lot to take the low paid out of general taxation but you can’t have a dynamic economy unless people have money to spend, save and invest. But this is something that is alien to Corbyn. He thinks we are not taxed enough. It’s difficult to see how that message can connect with middle Britain. In that regard, Labour’s centrists have a point.

But then it’s Brexit that really tells us what’s going on. Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU. That in its own way is a judgement on London. There is a lack of trust that London will do right by them. The rest of England voted to leave – again in defiance of London.

Politically, economically, socially, London is increasingly divergent from the rest of the country. The political narratives are forged in London. Banking, media and government is all based there. It has spawned its own insular culture that lives in a parallel universe to the rest of us. The political debate in London is one alien to the one happening elsewhere. Policies imposed on the regions have little or no relevance to the distinct problems of the north of England. London has too much power.

While we have seen a largely platitudinal effort to devolve powers to the north the new authorities are again imposed by London and in all likelihood will take power away from councils. Labour should have opposed this, but to them it’s just another elected office to fill and Andy Burnham couldn’t wait to give it a bash. The inherent paternalism of Labour will ensure it is yet another rotten borough just like Birmingham.

We need an agenda to restructure power in Britain. One that gives the public direct control over taxation and spending so that they are in control. An agenda whereby people are trusted to manage their own affairs and give themselves a break when the politicians won’t.

We need a movement that seeks to take the power back to give to the people rather than to take it for themselves so that they can pull the levers of power. And that's not Corbyn. There is nothing at all radical about Corbyn’s Labour. They are the same old paternalists who think things would be better if only they were in charge. It never occurs to them that people are perfectly capable of finding their own way. They are every bit as establishment as Mrs Thatcher’s Tories.

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Education needs better ideas than grammar schools

There seems to be a debate about grammar schools. I don't think it matters. A childs education is largely contingent on the amount of effort put in by the parents. A school can make a difference but only if the teaching is good. Grammar schools are no guarantee of that. It just so happens that if parents care enough to get their kids into a selective school they will be mixing with other kids whose parents also give a shit. Obviously that will bring about better results.

Personally, I don't like the idea of grammar schools. I think it leads to social warehousing where the comprehensive schools are stripped of their bright pupils, creating sink hole schools full of kids whose parent simply do not care. Meanwhile, grammar schools gain prestige where it is assumed that one is necessarily better educated by way of what school you went to. This is how we get the "Tim Nice-but-dim" types in the civil service and in all of the top jobs. Stratification in education ultimately damages social mobility in my view.

I think what we have to look at is improving all schools. That is somewhat more challenging. A bad system will lead to bad teaching. If teachers are forced to teach to a test, and to satisfy tick box criteria then stats culture takes hold where it doesn't matter if kids are leaning anything just so long as the metrics say they are. It leads to uninspiring teaching and it drives good teachers out of the system completely. And that is usually the product of state run and maintained schools. They become political footballs to me measured and played with, much like the NHS. Ultimately it is for the parents to judge whether the teaching is effective, not the state.

Somehow we have drifted into a situation where parents withdraw from their role as educators of their own children and consider education the job of the school. The school is only half of it and is mainly there for the purpose of socialising children. A good education comes from knowledgeable and active, curious parents.

Ideally schools must engage pupils. Many drop out of the system not because they are incapable but because they are not challenged, under-stimulated and bored. How can schools adapt to the needs of children when they also have to satisfy a state criteria?

My own education informs my view of stats driven teaching. I was never at all interested in space and astronomy. To this day I find it a deeply dull subject. But somewhere there is a report card showing that I have understood the concepts and and passed the "learning objectives". This is because a science teacher under pressure to push up her averages sat down with me for an hour and explained all the concepts in list form and ticked off the boxes as I confirmed my understanding. None of it has stuck with me and that is not teaching.

Nor is squinting at an OHP to copy out notes about oxbow lakes. I failed Geography simply because I regarded it as thoroughly tedious, yet when taken as a whole the field of geography is and should be one of the most fascinating. It dips into the deeply political and the social and the historical and it ought to be exciting. Having some dullwitted junior teacher have us watch dated Open University videos is an abandonment of a vital subject.

To teach anything effectively you have to have a passion for a subject. It's the only way you can bring dry subjects to life. Conveyor belt teachers straight off the production line who have no real experience outside of the education system are neither role models nor especially inspiring people. Children need far more exposure to real experts in the same way that university students are. Half the challenge of teaching anything is getting kids to see the point of it. Learning is addictive if you are learning toward an objective. In that regard kids need to be able to set their own learning agenda and teachers should be making core subjects relevant to their interests.

What we need is to pull education away from managerialism and integrate schools the wider community and the world of work. Presently they are run as sealed off units that barely interact leaving young people completely bewildered and directionless when they leave school, not knowing what is out there and not knowing what is even possible. Hence why so many are so lacking in ambition.

It seems to me that resurrecting grammar schools is yet one more sign that the establishment is completely out of ideas. Everywhere you look politicians are dusting off tired ideas like renationalising the railways or introducing proportional representation. There is no radicalism or originality and no political courage in seeing through new ideas. As it happens I really like the idea of free schools but I think they will need time to establish and will have to fail a few times in order to learn from their mistakes and innovate.

The problem, as ever, is that those working within the system have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. Politicians and authorities cannot resist meddling and the idea that education would be out of state control is anathema to them. And so both sides of the debate dust off their tired old canards and we never see any real improvements.

To get the best education system possible we are going to have to free it of state control and we are going to have to slaughter a few sacred cows. We are also going to have to change the culture where parents are held to account for their lack of input. Schools are only as good as the parental involvement and far too many think that just throwing money at the problem will fix it. That doesn't work. All we get is more waste while we end up overpaying bad teachers who should be drummed out of the profession.

Ultimately I think social mobility should be a main concern. There are too many glass ceilings where your potential is governed more by your class than your ability. We are wasting a vast natural resource in letting talented people slip through the net and condemning them to mediocre lives just because they didn't go to the right school.

I think on balance that if we return to grammar schools we'll just promote middle class ghettos which through sharp elbowed parents will get the lions share of the resources which will be yet another middle class subsidy. Ordinary schools will suffer and we will be engineering an underclass that will ultimately lead to a resurgence of inner city slums where crime is rife.

You can try and persuade me to the contrary as I am open minded about this but it strikes me that grammar schools is just an obsolete sticking plaster idea when what we actually need is a bold revolution in education with some completely fresh thinking.

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

The bloodstained hands of the liberal left

Liberal lefties are the worst hypocrites in the world. I couldn't count the ways in which the EU has exported misery to Africa. By insisting on the removal of tariffs, without having developed tax collection systems, governments are more dependent on oil and mineral bribes than they are their people. It also fails to protect emerging industries from competition, thereby eliminating the possibility of ever building a domestic tax base. It then makes them dependent on food aid. This is exactly the sort of policy that drives mass migration leading to exploitation and death. This combined with granting licences to corporate seabed hoovers has demolished inshore fisheries so that locals cannot even feed themselves.

Add that to a completely outdated asylum policy serving as an open invite and you see a mass depopulation of skilled workers and professionals from Africa. Make no mistake, the EU's hands are dripping with blood. And let us not forget about the mountains of non tariff barriers the EU uses for protectionism in a completely asymmetric trade relationship. Now add in UN sustainable development dogma in order to push microfinancing on peasant farmers to replace paraffin stoves with useless solar panels and you have a recipe for a pretty miserable development policy. And that's not even accounting for French barberism.

Meanwhile, having created bulletproof anti-pollution measures within EU borders the EU now exports most of its toxic waste to be dumped on beaches around the world, poisoning habitats for people and wildlife. And yet somehow the europhile left seem to get away with calling themselves liberal and progressive. These people also attempt to appropriate the mantle of being anti-racists but in practice their policies are profoundly prejudicial against poor non-whites.

Worse still the agencies that inflict such misery on Africa tend to be Oxford educated PPE graduates in NGOs and IOs where absolutely nobody in their ranks has ever been elected. These the same people forming a cross party group to overturn the EU referendum result. And do they intend on using the ballot to do it? No. They intend to use their privileged positions within the state apparatus. It's as much a takeover as what is happening in Turkey only with a better PR department.

And yes, I do think these people cannot be surprised if eventually people start putting them in six foot holes in the ground. If they seek to undermine democracy then there is bound to be a price. The state holds the monopoly on violence, and every law is underpinned by the threat of violence. We consent to this by way of a social contract. Democracy. That thing by which the people influence the decisions taken in their name. 

When we get to a state where those occupying office can undermine and subvert democracy then the social contract is torn up. In those circumstances, violence in both directions is entirely understandable, and probably justifiable. And why should we shed a tear when it happens? Their vanity is nurtured with our money with no regard for the tens of thousands of people they are killing and detaining in transit camps. If that's what being a progressive entails then I don't want to be a progressive.

Monday, 18 July 2016

So what would a useful left wing agenda look like for Labour?

Right now, if your primary focus is not Brexit and the complications and opportunities therein are not you immediate concern then you are simply not relevant.

But I can see why Labour cannot focus on the issues because it does not as yet know who it represents. The leadership represents the members and his politics are far closer to those who voted to leave the EU so we would naturally assume that would be the angle to start from. But then there is the PLP who seemingly represent themselves and the middle class "liberals" working their way up the greasy pole. So there are in fact two Labour parties. One which wants to go back to uselessly firehosing the public sector with money that we don't have, and another which wants to go back to uselessly firehosing the public sector with money that we don't have. The distinction is which particular powerbase they hose it at. The quangos and the special interests or actual poor people. Neither is particularly useful.

If the left had any moral compass at all they would be looking at ways in which people can have good jobs for a decent wage. And like it or not, working class people want proper jobs, not service sector jobs in air conditioned offices like our snowflake youth. They want to be building and making things. So the question is how we do this when we are mainly a service based economy? I would venture that the answer probably lies in building houses.

So the question would be how they raise the money to do it without doing something deeply unpopular. Borrowing. So if you are insistent on taxing the City, you are going to want to safeguard the city at all costs. They are saying that passporting services is key to them remaining in the UK. So the Labour party really ought to be making serious noises about remaining part of the single market in the face of a government Brexit team who doesn't actually want it. As much as this would show that Labour was informed and relevant it would be serving the function of being an official opposition.

Working class people are pretty pissed off at having shit jobs for no money with ridiculous rents and completely unaffordable houses, crap pensions and a pretty bleak spiritual life. They associate that with the loss of industries that we central to the character of their towns and cities and have been dumped on ever since by a patronising paternalist social democratic consensus where it doesn't matter who gets elected because nothing changes. So clearly people do want some kind of motivated opposition with a jobs and growth agenda and a means of delivering it. The problems is, it must also be electable which means having a credible leader who isn't fixated with railways when the rest of the planet's political order is collapsing.

So in reality, given that the leadership does not even recognise the need for policy ideas or credibility there is zero likelihood of Labour achieving power any time this side of 2025. And if the leadership contenders are anything to go by, being lamentable as they are, it would seem that Labour simply does not have the intellectual stock to ever recover. Not least when there are bloodthirsty Blairites lurking in the background.

If by then the party then becomes the property of the somewhat dismal millennials, we are back to that same middle of the road rootless internationalist zealotry that the working class so despises. As ever the only chance Labour has of winning is through Tory incompetence and being utterly fed up with them. And then we are back into the same cycle of ideas free presentation politics and ritual virtue signalling. I'm afraid I see no value or purpose to this utterly repellent party. We are looking at ten years of Corbynites making a laughing stock of left wing ideas and demonstrating how irrelevant and bankrupt socialist ideas are. That would be fine by me were we not so desperately in need of effective opposition. Too bad they are too preoccupied with ripping holes in each other.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

How Labour can stop being shit

Not being a Labourist, I don't really know what makes them tick. What I do know though is that we need an effective opposition now more than ever. While Labourists are ripping holes in each other they have left the goalposts wide open for the Tory right to shape Brexit any way they like.

That means people who think quite a lot like me circa 2012 are actually in charge of the country. That should send a chill down your spine. People who would pull at levers not knowing what they do just to see what happens under the nihilistic assumption that it can't make things worse. A deeply wrong assumption.

So if you are a Labourist, you need to bring your civil war to the most rapid conclusion possible. If you can't do that you need to tune out of it and ignore the bickering over Iraq too. We can't afford for politics to be raking over old ground when we have the future to shape and a rapid deadline just ahead.

Brexit could quite easily fuck the UK if mishandled and a Brexit solution that does not involve the single market next to guarantees we lose Scotland. And in a way I would not blame the SNP in that a non EEA solution basically says "Fuck you Scotland". And while I dislike the chippy and austere Scots mentality, Scotland deserves to be listened to if we value the union.

This is not a time to be caught up in distracts and for gods sake, find somebody more credible than Angela Eagle. I mean for fucks sake, is that really the best you can do? And Owen Smith looks and sounds like a junior project manager. Just don't go there. Why not press Rachel Reeves into service? She's a hard-nosed bitch who asks some halfway intelligent questions. I also dislike her intensely which is probably why she's a good idea for the left. And don't get any ideas about that twat Dan Jarvis. He's too dreary for words.

Also, get some ideas while you're in the business of reform. Localisation and remunicipalisation of energy generation is actually a sensible alternative and it's market driven socialism which puts things back to how they were before they were nationalised. Nobody is going to disapprove of real local democracy either. It's radical and yet at the same time is anodyne and doesn't involve hating jews. Also, giving less of a fuck about Palestinians and more about Northerners might do you some good. I know that would be hard for you but give it a try. We're an oppressed minority too.

And instead of all this blether about reopening mines how about examining some of the benefits that our own post-Brexit trade policy could do. Y'know - that stimulating jobs thing. On present trajectory you are making being left wing synonymous with being a massive douchebag. Oh and it turns out that real left wingers are not as keen on bombing people as you are. You might want to wind that in a bit. Your Blairite colleagues will need to stop making excuses for Blair too. And don't even think about shunting the working class back onto welfare either. We have only just fixed that mess.

It's too much to expect that you could become a party of government inside a decade, and giving you power would be like giving high power superglue to a bored teenager, but you could be a constructive opposition in just under two years if you could stop hating each other. You might have to get your head round the fact that nobody cares who owns the NHS so long as it is free and nobody really gives a toss who owns the trains either so long as they turn up on time and you don't need to remortgage to get a season ticket. You'll just have to wake up to the fact that socialism is dead and nobody wants it. Especially not the people who actually have it.

There are lots of left wing things you can do without driving the country to bankruptcy or being dicks to everyone who doesn't think like you. It just means you will have to learn a few things about making relevant policy and come up with some ideas that aren't based on 1970's politics and won't be laughed at by serious people. Also hating Jews is still inexcusable even if you need the local Islamist vote to rig a council by-election. In fact you should probably pack that in completely.

Have a look at the Chartists and people in your history who achieved things and weren't complete shitheads. Stop sneering at working class people with ordinary views and stop being determined to call everybody racists just for expressing the view that certain immigrant communities should stop treating women like property. Y'see, that's actually a left wing view as I understand it. Unless times have changed? I can't keep up with it all now that left wing is now defined by how hard you emote about something pointless.

I know it's a big ask but it can be done. Otherwise just pack up and let someone else fill that void you are needlessly occupying. If you have nothing of use to say, please just go away. We don't need you just to loathe the Tories. We have the SNP for that. And they are better at it. You need a new angle. Being hypocritical misogynist Trotskyite shit-heads is passé and that's why you lose elections. And don't try to be New Labour. It was a shit idea and it's one of the reasons we're leaving the EU. Ordinary voters don't want what Blair wanted for Britain - and you can't blame them for that can you?

Bottom line: shape up and stop being a bunch of knuckle-scraping losers. You're starting to make Ukip look credible. Yes, that's how utterly fucked your party is. Let that sink in.

Why Labour loses

Why is Labour out of touch? Why are people so pissed off with the establishment? Why are they voting for other parties? After all, all the clever people say that inequality isn't a thing and that poverty isn't that much of an issue. Well, I have a few ideas. It's a matter of life quality. In this post I outline a few things that piss me off. And while they appear to be a list of irreconcilable whinges, stick with me. There is a point to this.

Car insurance

The car insurance industry is a grubby cartel. It isn't a functioning market and I do not like giving money to crooks. For sure you can get a low price provider, and that's all very well until you have an accident and then you discover your insurance is next to worthless. 

Speeding points

A fine is a pain. Fair is fair though. They do paint speed cameras bright yellow. But why harm job prospects and add hundreds to my car insurance?

Bus lane fines

Sure, fine me £60 for being in a bus lane for nine seconds. Because that's really a problem for commuters at 1am on a sunday isn't it? 

Council CEO salaries

Golden hellos of £90k and wages reaching £235k in some instances for town clerks. Nobody in the public sector is worth that much. Nobody. Don't fucking tell me you need to cut the local library when you are heaping cash on these useless cunts. 


Councils have turned law breaking thugs into millionaires - chasing money that isn't there for a grossly unfair tax system. Offensive. 

Affordable justice

If you have any legal bother at all, you'll need £1500 for starters. Most people can't put their hands on £1500. Justice only for those who can afford it? That's not Britain is it?

Credit scoring

Some corporate decides I owe them money when I don't. The system says "talk to the hand". I can't get a mortgage now. Fucking awesome. I know we need a system for credit scoring, but the one we have is totally fucked because the county court system is a conveyor belt and it's open to industrial scale abuse by corporate parasites.

Council tax

As a single person I have no demands on the council and need my bin emptying once a month only. I pay upward of £1100 for a small flat. Why?

Availability of doctors appointments

Usually if I'm sick I wait two weeks as I will probably get better. If I'm sick enough to call a doctor, I need to see one that day. A&E's are filling up for that reason. 

Poor quality doctors

Arm falling off? Here, have a tub of E45 cream. Seriously, do we just drag people off the street and make the GPs?

Affordability of education, Access to decent training

There was once a time when you could be good at something and succeed. Now that everything is compartmentalised requiring high levels of specialisation, you get nowhere without decent qualifications. It shouldn't be that way but it is. And let's face it, £9000 a year is way too much - especially when university teaching is shit and degrees are increasingly utilitarian. 

Business rates

Absurdly complicated and grossly over expensive. Shops empty on the high street? Abandoned warehouses? Have a guess why. 

Useless police complaints system

Arsehole plod? Write to the police commissioner. The reply "We do not comment on staffing or operational matters". Bureacratese for "Fuck you".

Useless healthcare complaints system

Drinking water from flower vases? Your problem, not theirs. 

Availability of jobs

Permanent jobs were once commonplace, but after a string of new "rights", it ironically created a thriving temp market where even small cities had a dozen shop from temp agencies.

It was a pretty good time to be starting your career where you could bum around and try things out, knowing that if you got fired in the first week you would bounce into something else in the next. A fluid and dynamic labour market is essential for young people.

That was about the time when if you managed to stay in a job for six months there would be a reasonable chance of converting it to a permanent job. If you showed some aptitude you could even be offered a better job. It worked. That was the general understanding that made you try a bit harder.

But then along came a bunch of new rights where employers were obliged to give you more rights after six months. The result of that was rolling six month contracts. That social contract that had existed was ripped up. This then became the norm and as more rights crept in, permanent jobs became even rarer.

And to fix the problems all those new entitlements created they then gave us the Agency Workers Directive, affording gold plated protections to workers after three months. The result of that... zero hours and insecure contracts.

Cost of public transport

Governments moan about congestion caused by cars. Yet public transport is more expensive and slower. What do councils do? Axe more bus services. 

Impossibility of home ownership

Along with out completely fucked credit scoring system, houses are just too damn expensive. And they shouldn't be. 

Cost of booze

£40 for a bottle of scotch. Does this deter binge drinking? No. I just means people buy the cheaper, nastier stuff that causes more health problems and have even less to spend on food. Why make poor people with alcohol problems even poorer?


To borrow words from Paul Mason, "for the past 30 years the whole structure of politics and economics in Britain has been built around the project of making the lives of working class people worse, not better, and disempowering them in the process."

How can this be true? Every metric says we are healthier, wealthier and better off. Or so they say. 

But this is why Labour can't understand why ordinary people reject them. It's not about numbers on a chart somewhere. It is a matter of being in control of our lives. 

Most of the problems we face in our lives, admittedly first world problems, are those things that interrupt our normal functioning. They are those things that limit our chances, those things that take food from our mouths and those things that crush social mobility. They are all in some way a result of remote government systems or systems responding to government policy. 

For sure, most of us have the basics in our lives but we are not involved in our own governance and when the system makes decisions, more often than not, they are final unless you can afford the legal battle. 

We have a system that goes fairly easy on violent criminals and thieves but one that will ruin you if you for administrative offenses. Council facilities have been outsourced, complaints go unheeded, and the system fucks you around to the point of exhaustion and despair. All of this absolutely crushes any sense of personal obligation to behave as a citizen. 

The system is designed to manage us as a herd rather than serve us. Humans are removed from the decision making process at all levels. We are absolutely disempowered - and the government won't do anything about it because the government likes it. 

And yes, all of the above can be attributed to the fact that I drive too fast, drink too much, didn't make the right choices in the past - and most of my complaints could have been avoided by not falling foul of the system and living a drab and austere existence. But why should anyone be condemned to that? And why should choices of ten years ago be irreversible?

Social policy makers look at the charts of income distribution and see a wealthier population, but I would venture that social mobility has stalled, people feel trapped by their circumstances and there are masses of bureaucratic and financial obstacles in the way of getting even a basic foothold. The English dream of a house, a car and a family was once a birthright. Now if you have a crappy semi in Wiltshire and a car less than five years old, you might as well be Alan Sugar by the estimations of most young people. 

With so many things now beyond the reach of young people without making unacceptable compromises, they are resigned to live a pointless life with no stake in anything, working in service jobs, grazing according to their short term whims and no real direction. And we're supposed to vote for more of the same? 

These are the reasons why Labour has absolutely nothing to say to working class people. Or anyone with a pulse for that matter. They are far too obsessed with their own internal feuds and bombing Syrians for no reason. The Labour leadership cares more about Palestinians than Yorkshirefolk.

It is not interested in removing these bureaucratic constraints because they are major sources of revenue for their public sector empires. They are not interested in creating more freedoms for people. They like telling us how to live and controlling what we do. 

This is why I am instinctively a conservative. I believe it is the job of government to remove obstacles, not create them. If you want an aspirational society then you have to give people a helping hand and second chances. If even the basics are out of reach then you simply don't have a society. You have cohabitation. Miserable cohabitation. We're left to rot, filling in forms, working tedious jobs to pay exorbitant rents, unfair taxes and a mountain of public debt. 

If you look at the list of gripes above and they are very much hangovers from the Blair era. The era of massively inflated public sector, nannying interventions, ever more CCTV, unnecessarily outsourced public services and a mortgage system completely warped by Labour's debt binge. And what has Labour got to say for itself now? Nothing. Even now, the Blairite wing of Labour is conspiring to reassert control over the party when they are the ones who made Labour unelectable. 

And why would Labour have a clue what it's like to struggle to find a path in life? When you have Jo Cox's and Chuka Umunnas and Corbyns, none of whom ever had to lift a finger, it's little wonder they are out of step with just about everyone in the country. With a head full of fair trade and sustainable development bilge, their world is not our world. 

In our world a penny on petrol matters. A bus lane fine means cancelling a school trip, speeding points mean crippling insurance, a CCJ costs the chance of a job anywhere in the banking and insurance world, and a hike in business rates closes down the local shops we rely on. Bailiffs make us frightened to answer the door. Council tax means the poor never get a holiday. Court costs means we can never address injustice. Education costs mean we can never change careers. Public transport costs eat into our disposable income. That is Labour's legacy. That is why Labour deserves to die.  

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Labour is a zombie party. Let it die.

Various Labourists outraged at Corbyn today for killing the Labour party. Little do they realise it has been a zombie party for quite a long time now. Jo Cox was emblematic of that cancer within. Leftists more bothered about palestinians than Brits. More troubled by meeting UN targets than bringing down energy costs for working people.

We suffered a major financial crash in 2008. Labour's answer to this was to pile on costs on energy production making it even harder for business and working families. Looking good on the international circuit mattered more than winning the trust of voters. They took their base for granted and parachuted scumbags like Jo Cox into safe seats over the heads of local parties.

Now that Labour is stuffed to the gunwales with these identifit clones they now blame Corbyn for their party's lack of electability. Meanwhile, Corbyn, whose politics I despise is still more presentable than any of them. At least we know what he believes in. You couldn't say that about Chuka Umunna or the bloodthirsty Hilary Benn. These people aren't even democrats.

And then when you look at the thought leaders of the Labour party, like James Bloodworth, they are still concocting arguments to defend the legacy of Blair - a man who destroyed the public sector - turning it into a warehouse for people who should have been in real jobs, destroyed the voluntary sector, destroyed the community ethos and shattered the dynamism of the labour market.

This is a party that uses the working class but is used to not having to answer to them on the assumption that Barnsley, Bradford and Rochdale will always vote Labour. It's only because of Corbyn Labour can even manage to hang on to these heartlands.

Even Labour at its least offensive is still grossly inept at handling the economy. And while I can't say much for Cameron's tories at least they were instinctively repulsed by the idea that working class people are a powerbase to be plied with welfare. Meanwhile this is a party that screams about racism but does absolutely nothing about antisemitism in its own ranks.

It preens about "fair trade", pushing councils to parade their virtues, adding to the cost of food. It circumvents the council tax referendums by charging for services we have already paid for. This is a party that doesn't give a solitary fuck about the less well off. This is a party that made millionaire bailiffs - chasing people for money that just isn't there. This is the party that criminalises ordinary people, limiting their life chances for administrative offenses. I don't even answer my door anymore. Not in case of violent criminals but in case of council officials. That's labour's legacy.

And as shitty as they are, when you read threads by those seeking to oust Corbyn they think they are the electable ones, despite the fact that Miliband was their creation and was even more of a laughing stock than Corbyn, unless you're one of the well-to-do do-gooder class.

I have never identified as left wing and I am barely working class, not least because I don't do any actual work, but I can knock up a popular list of working class concerns on the back of a fag packet in two minutes that would take Labour MPs months of focus groups to come up with. These people couldn't work up a social policy if their lives depended on it. These people are profoundly anti-social.

Meanwhile, it's not the left calling out the EU on it being a viper's nest of corporate interests. Labour would take us back in in a heartbeat. Yet somehow Sheffield, Sunderland and Bradford voted to leave. I don't know who Labour represents but it isn't the working class. It isn't even the middle class. Whatever it has become is actually deeply unpopular with those trying to make a life in this ever harsher world and Labour is doing nothing to help.

It's not surprising people find some empathy with Corbyn because his politics at least come from a time when Labour used to represent working class concerns, even if his ideas are antiques. Labour would rather get rid of him because they would actually have to fight on a platform that appeals to people they actively hate.

They call Corbyn unelectable but they are the unelectable ones. They have no ideas, no agenda and seek office for its own sake. They see themselves as guardians of a working class constituency that belongs to them - as though working class people were a herd to be owned. God forbid the plebs should actually organise their own party to represent themselves. It's a new form of electoral feudalism.

Labour is a shell of a party that believes in nothing, commits to nothing and has no idea how to govern. It isn't even interested in governing - only occupying high office. That is why Labour is at war with itself. They are squabbling over who gets to the keys to the petty cash drawer. They think if they emote strongly enough that people will identify with them but these are not people interested in policy. This is why the public look on in dismay and bewilderment. I certainly have no dog in the fight and I won't care who wins. Neither wing of the party presents anything on any level I could vote for.

Ever since Blair left office the party has been a dead man walking. Labour sold its soul for a turn in office and now it is a hollowed out shell that thinks it can recover power by continuing in Blair's image yet not one of them possesses even a tenth of Blair's cunning.

They believe that taking power is just a matter of projecting the right image rather than talking to real people, asking them what they want and offering an agenda that speaks to them. They have abandoned politics entirely. This is a party that exists for no reason. It isn't even an effective opposition. The best thing it can do is hurry up and die. Politics will be all the better for it.

Monday, 11 July 2016

Brexit: plus ça change

Today highlights what a monumental failure Farage is. Today the eurosceptic movement was routed and does not have a seat at the table in the Brexit proceedings. At best we may see Leadsom or Gove in a junior role as a courtesy - but more as an act of party unity. But these will be ceremonial roles only.

And is this because of an establishment stitch up by the Tory machine? Kind of but not really. You see, had the eurosceptic movement campaigned with a plan and a set of specific demands, they could have called the shots post-referendum. Having failed to do so it has failed to capitalise on the referendum win in order to take us the rest of the way. Now the process of leaving the EU is to be decided entirely by the establishment along with the domestic agenda.

All the likes of Ukip and the Tory right have been able to muster is some fantastically naive proposals on what Brexit might achieve and some or other nonsense about an Australian points based immigration system. Not at any point have they put the work in to demonstrate that any of it is even possible and now it is down to the technocrats and the lawyers to decide what Theresa May means when she says "Brexit means Brexit".

And so in many ways, hopes that Brexit would kick of a revolution of sorts are now dampened. There is no momentum left in the movement and no tangible ideas behind it, hence the "invoke Article 50 now" nonsense.

That is not to say there will not be a revolution in governance, not least with so many branches of government cut off from EU funding, it just means those who instigated this chain of events are no longer in control of it. The Tory right have been exposed as risible and it is difficult to see where Ukip can drive the agenda now that it will soon be cut off from EU funding. As a backstop they have Arron Banks who has pledged to spend £10m to fight May, but twice that amount did little for Jimmy Goldsmith in 1997. Not forgetting that Banks is also a lunatic and a pathological liar.

So to me it rather looks like we will be shunted into a dead end version of Brexit whereby it will take a new movement wholly divorced from the original sinners to break us out of that. It may add a decade or so more to the process.

The problem has always been the lack of a plan of any kind. If you are going to overthrow the orthodoxy then you need to be sure that you are the ones with the ideas otherwise people will go with what they know in the ideas vacuum that follows. That is why there is no place for Farage, Gove and Johnson et al. They are men of no substance with nothing to add to the process.

But then I'm actually ok with this. The direction of travel is out of the EU, you could pick worse leaders than Theresa May and in many respects, after forty years of being in the EU, the best we could hope for. The country is safe for as long as it takes for the Labour party to self-correct.

What we can say for certain is that Corbyn will never be PM. His departure is only a matter of time. We're probably looking at a decade of Tory rule now. If the upstarts wanted it some other way, they should have thought about that before going into battle without a plan. For the time being what we get will be better than the EU and better than whatever clueless fruit-loops like Leadsom could dream up.

I appreciate I am not exactly prone to optimism but I find when it comes to these sorts of things it is always best to significantly lower ones expectations, that way there is room for pleasant surprises, but in the end, Farage and pals have given a new lease of life to the Tory establishment of yore.

Looking at our recent defence purchases, it would appear that we are back to being partner in crime to the USA. We'll have a woman PM, a radical republican president, a cold war with Russia and defence spending through the roof while Labour is run by a far left windbag with no hope of winning. We'll have two new aircraft carriers with useless VTOL aircraft and a shortage of serviceable ships while we see sabre rattling from Argentina. Meanwhile France will be imploding. Folks, welcome back to 1982. Let's hope the hairstyles don't suck as much this time around.

Thursday, 7 July 2016

If Leadsom wins, there is no point in leaving the EU

Both Leadsom and Lawson support leaving the single market. "The rest of the world is outside the single market and they do ok". They really do say these things. Let's overlook for a moment the fact that the rest of the world is not doing ok and that most of it is a poverty stricken mess, they have one particular feature in common that we don't. They have never been in the single market. They can negotiate their relationship with the EU from scratch. We on the other hand are reversing engineering forty years of economic integration.

Worse still we have the task of working out which bits work and whether we want to keep them and what we will have to compromise in order to do so. So in a more technical sense it;s not so much a case of leaving the EU as deciding which bits of the EU we want to leave. Quite obviously we are done with the political integration which is absolutely a good thing but the cooperation programmes we have matter, not just in fostering good relations but also in terms of ensuring continuity of trade.

Were we to leave the single market without securing some kind of enhanced preferential access we would be in a right royal mess. For starters our trucks would have to go through different customs channels to be inspected which would add costs and delays. There are any number of physical complications that the single market eradicates. This we do not want to lose out on.

The EU takes the view though that of the four freedoms, freedom of movement is essential to the functioning of it. And they are right. The challenge for the incoming government is to navigate the various difficulties in order to satisfy the public demand for greater controls. The dilemma is whether we are willing to sacrifice trade and jobs for immigration controls that in all likelihood will not work and will cost money to implement. I have no idea why we would want to make ourselves poorer.

I really don't want to get bogged down in that question. That is one for the negotiators. Efta seems to manage it so that is where I would look. What matters is that we retain the same level of openness. We do this by way of having regulatory harmonisation.

People like Leadson and Lawson assume that being outside of the single market means we can deregulate for the majority of business who do not export to the EU. This overlooks the fact that the rules are no longer made by the EU and increasingly more nations subscribe to them not just for enhanced trade with the EU but also for trade between non EU members, It's good sense. Why do we need ninety different regulatory standards for aubergines?

So by leaving the EU to have different regulations we would be adding compliance costs for anyone exporting to the UK to the point where they might simply choose not to bother. Moreover we'd then force domestic producers to have to conform to two standards and have two productions lines. To save money they would adopt the export standard. So there is zero value in deregulation.

This thinking of their stems back to 1992 when businesses when through a lot of pain in order to conform to modernised EU standards. Now they propose to go through the same pain again for no real advantage. Put simply, their perceptions are flawed, outdated and entirely unrealistic. These are fundamentally unserious people with completely stupid ideas.

So where do we want to be? Do we want to wind the clock back and make ourselves poorer for the sake of controlling the borders to no avail, or do we have bigger ideas than that?

The rhetoric of Lawson and the Leadbangers is that we should trade more with the rest of the world. But on what basis? Since they are increasingly adopting the same regulations as the EU from the global bodies, why would we seek to be different? We have already seen how trade barriers such as regulations freezes out African producers. Why would we wish to continue in that tradition when we have spent the last eighteen months pointing fingers at the EU for the same crime? Since we are seeing the emergence of a global single market why would we not wish to be part of that?

And so that is really what Brexit is about. It is not about leaving the single market. It is about enhancing it, expanding it, rationalising it and snatching it out of the EU's control. At the moment the EU controls the entrances and exits. It is a tightly sealed internal market which takes years to negotiate entry into.

What if we could change that so that the EU 27 were outnumbered in a global rules based trading system? If we make UNECE the core of global regulation (as is the EU) then the world has leverage over the EU to weaken its entry requirements and drop its political demands of trading partners. This would make the single market develop faster and reignite global trade. It would be on an opt in basis rather than having the EU dictating the rules.

That is the sort of visionary thinking we need injected into Brexit negotiations. Not this shrivelled kipperish little englander approach adopted by Leadsom. It seems all the Leadbangers want is to be out of the EU at all costs for no tangible rational reason. Certainly none of their campaign claims stand up to scrutiny.

It's a question of whether we want to be an isolated little island or whether we want to be a major voice in something far bigger and more ambitious and more liberal than the EU. With that in mind we must be extra careful not to go into negotiations without a plan and with ambitions beyond simply leaving the EU. If we don't then we end up in the dead end of the EEA with no real plans to progress leaving us only marginally better off than before, still a supplicant of the EU and probably no richer for it.

If there is to be a subversion of the referendum result, this is how they will do it because they do not believe that Britain can be an influential voice in its own right. This is why Philip Hammond must be sacked immediately. They believe we must seek the single market as a shelter rather than as a starting position. They lack any vision at all. They would never be so unsubtle as to overturn the result. They will simply engineer the illusion of having left the EU and morons like Leadsom will believe it.

That is why the technocracy matters. That is why we have to watch them like hawks and that is why we need to promote a credible and ambitious vision. Otherwise we might as well not have bothered. If the shrivelled vision of Andrea Leadsom is all we want from leaving the EU then there is no point in leaving the EU. It's the same mentality as the EU only a lot smaller.

Leavers haven't thought Brexit through - and it shows

Most of you at some point recently have filled a shopping trolley with goods from all around the planet. You see brands you recognise and use regularly and you put them in your trolley without a second thought. You do so in the full expectation that it will not kill you. Society would look very different indeed were there not that base level of consumer confidence. Think about it. Think hard about it. Looks totally different doesn't it? We also make our purchases in the full execution that we may return goods without confrontation or challenge. That is what makes life easy and a good deal more pleasant.

Behind this is a whole universe of regulation, standardisation and inspection. It is connected to policing systems and surveillance systems to ensure dangerous, poisonous or fraudulent goods are kept out of the system. Your health is safeguarded and so is the intellectual property of brand owners. People trading on your brand with bad produce diminishes your business. So we expect and demand from both ends that our rights are upheld.

There are inspections at the local, national and international level with monitoring of every stage of the supply chain. Legions of bureaucrats work day and night to ensure the supply chain is not corrupted or interfered with. We see ever more stringent regulation to ensure those seeking to subvert or corrupt the system cannot. We are increasingly removing opportunities for bribes, theft and substitution. We also look to make these supply chains more cost effective and safer for the people who work with in it. Workers are at risk from hazards in the workplace all the way through to piracy.

None of this functions without policing, testing, documenting and regulating. Some of this is done internally in conjunction with standards bodies and insurers, some is carried out by government. And this stuff is seriously expensive. We do it because expensive though it may be, it is cheaper than the alternatives.

And it works too. The last egregious example of food fraud was the horsemeat scandal. While that is a systemic failure it is the exception rather than the rule. We hear so little of it these days for a good reason. We're good at it.

Now the main business of international trade politics is less concerned with tariffs. They are not easy things to remove. Governments like them because they are instruments of social policy. That is why the tariff removal mission of the WTO has stalled. Tariffs are now inconsequential when compared with the cost of regulatory compliance. And so the main drive of the WTO is now regulatory harmonisation and mutual recognition of qualifications for inspection.

Every effort is being made at the international level to bring about standards on everything from a jar of anchovies to televisions. Every effort is made to take forms and inspections out of the supply chain, to remove red tape and speed up shipping. And in so doing we are now looking at those bottlenecks where decaying infrastructure like roads, airports, ports and bridges create delays and opportunities for hijacks and intercepts.

This is now at the very heart of trade talks. That is why we have seen such a poverty of debate surrounding Brexit where certain individuals believe Brexit is as simple as sorting out a free trade agreement. It isn't. These days when talking about trade, if you are not talking about regulation then you are not talking about trade. And with this freedom of movement of goods must go the free movement of people otherwise you can expect more red tape and more expensive goods. That's right. Immigration is a major aspect of free trade. How can one sell goods and services without the people that make it happen?

And so when I read the blissfully ignorant demands for simple free trade deals, dispensing with technocrats in favour of idealists, I become instantly suspicious. I'm all for idealists if they actually live on planet earth with an appreciation for reality, but the witless naivety that says we can sweep away forty years of EU integration by banging on the table and making impossible demands should be treated with contempt.

Our government has a mandate to leave the EU. Perhaps inside that mandate is a rejection of EU technocracy and a desire to take back control, but we really do need to ask what we want to take control over and why. Messing around with systems for the sake of it to no political or logistical advantage is pointless. We may all rage at "red tape" but we would be quite lost without it.

Moreover, politicians have not been given a mandate to wreck the economy without justification and without an alternative model. And we won't have seen any alternative models because an appreciation of all this has not even landed between the ears of most politicians - or indeed the public.

So yes, Brexit will require than the men in suits with degrees who know about this stuff get together and work out how we do this without shooting ourselves in the foot and how we take back control in a meaningful way to our advantage. In many respects there are no particular advantages to "taking back control". It leads to duplication of research and putting in controls where no control is required or necessary. So yes, we do have to hammer out an agreement as to what should stay in place, how much we pay for it and who regulates it and on what basis.

And in this it means we cannot deliver on what the leave campaign have promised. We won't be having a bonfire of regulations, we won't be spending much less on international cooperation and it is difficult to see where restricting freedom of movement adds any value. At best it just means more automation of low skilled work, requiring highly skilled technicians. Those jobs are not going to go to the impoverished and disenfranchised peoples of Hull, Sunderland and Stoke on Trent. So what have we solved by leaving the EU? Superficially, not very much.

What it does do is give us room to innovate and space to reinvent but in and of itself, leaving the EU solves nothing at all. What replaces it is what matters. In this we are not going to see any material changes to supply chains or employment distribution and we are certainly not going to see any major shifts unless we look at our industrial policy and look at delondonising the economy. That is where we will need some radical thinking. We will need to decide how we bring the rest of the country back into the main economy.

But that is for later. Right now we have a tangled mess to unpick. We do not have the luxury of hacking at it with an axe. We have to do this slowly and carefully and with patience and skill. There is no use at all in repeating empty mantras about deregulation and spending more on the NHS. None of this relates to reality.

And in part we have a bit of a dilemma here. What matters more? Taking back control or ensuring things still work? If it's both then we need a coherent idea of what we want and a plan to get it - and given the marginal differences it will actually make you'd better have something in mind that makes it worth the trouble. This is why we don't want Andrea Leadsom as PM and this is why we need a lot fewer moronic articles from the Spectator. As to invoking Article 50 now, well, good luck with that. You might want to give it a little more thought before you do.

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Time for leavers to grow up

Whether you like it or not, Brexit is a technocratic process that will require patience, intellect and skill. There isn't room for bang the table rows and petulance based on a faulty understanding of what is possible. Therefore the leadership of the Tories must go to Theresa May simply because she is under no simplistic illusions. It's certainly not ideal but it's preferable to the deluded alternatives.

The is pressure to end freedom of movement and Andrea Leadsom seems to think doing so must come above all else even if that means leaving the single market. From an economic perspective, this is simply not a grown up proposition. At the very least we will need the single market as a transitional mechanism in order to gradually analyse and unpick forty years of technical integration. Anyone who thinks it can be done in a single sweeping act resulting in a buccaneering free trading Britain is deeply mistaken.

What we don't need is ideologues who think post-Brexit Britain is going to slash and burn at regulations and fire-hose money at the NHS. If you genuinely think that you are a moron.

And no this is not bureaucratic snobbery. This is just an article of fact. If you start pulling at levers with no idea what they are connected to then you will break things. You wouldn't put Andrea Leadsom in charge of Brexit for the same reason you don't give razor blades to toddlers.

What we are looking at here is not a blank slate. We can't just pick a concept and pursue that as a Brexit avenue. We have to reverse engineer a deeply complex mess that will take decades. So the idea that we should invoke Article 50 now before we even have an in depth idea of where we are and what we want is cretinous.

Some are concerned that we may never press the red button. If you have been watching parliament as I have, those intent on overturning the result are in the minority. Double figures at best. They do not have the power to overturn the result. In the end I trust Theresa May will do as instructed. She is a pragmatist.

I don't even think it will be our own establishment that attempts to subvert the result. It will be our own officials in conjunction with Brussels who manage to shine up shit and call it gold. We may go through the motions of leaving the EU but remain members in practice. That is what we have to be alert to. They would never try anything so unsubtle as to defy the public. We are wise to that. They will go for the long con.

Many would rather dismiss what I say, saying that I am too absorbed in the technocratic furrow and that I cannot see the woods for the trees, but actually the founding fathers of the EU were visionaries who managed to bring about their grand project by gaming the system. It won't be the blusterers and the table thumpers who steer the future. It will be the plotters and the schemers. That is the mentality we must adopt to play the EU at its own game.

We have two options. We can either carry on as though this were still a public campaign or we can delve deep into the detail and start exposing the officials and academics conspiring to do the dirty on on us during the exit process. That is where the battle ground is. If we fail we end up as a supplicant of the EU. If we succeed we can wrest the single market out of the EU's control and make it a voluntary multilateral trade area.

This is why I have no time for wafting tosspots making grand pronouncements. This is not a time for lazy and unserious people who cannot be bothered with detail. They add no value and add nothing but ignorance to the debate. What is needed here is some serious thinking about what we want and how we go about getting it. We won't get it by making grand gestures. We will have to do it incrementally and over time and we will have to make unpopular temporary concessions for the greater good.

In the meantime nobody is going to be satisfied. I very much doubt we will see a reduction in payments to the EU or immigration or regulation. The only way to do that is to start ripping up treaties and disavowing any good relations with the EU. This I do not support and I have no time for leavers who would rather self-harm than negotiate an amicable exit. In fact, I would go as far as saying if those are your reasons for wanting to leave the EU then you missed the point of this whole exercise.

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Questions for the future

There is always going to be a disconnect between what politicians do and what people want. Mainly because people want some pretty dumb stuff. If you doubt me just look at the petitions floating around at the moment. And sometimes, even very popular ideas are still dumb. Not least this Article 50 nonsense. So it looks like we are always going to have a conflict between the public and the political class.

Populists pander to what the people want because they know they will never be tasked with implementing it. And that's dangerous because they popularise bad ideas - not least this ridiculous mantra about an "Australian points based system". This is why I am going to miss David Cameron who rightly dismissed such notions as complete nonsense. It is also why I think Theresa May is the right choice for PM because she has a solid grasp of the basics where immigration is concerned. She won't put up with any nonsense.

But the real problem we have is how are politicians supposed to know the difference between a genuine demand and a fanciful notion? This is where I think direct democracy comes into play. Not because the public will necessarily make better decisions but rather because they will make some especially shitty decisions and have to live with the consequences.

We will then get in the abit of putting more thought into them and exploring the consequences more. The short of it is, Brits don't really get referendums and the media doesn't know how to do them either, as was made clear just recently. This is not an argument for not having them. This is an argument for having more of them, not least as a safety valve. Brits are not acclimatised to democracy having had so little of it, so we will have to go for more public consultations - especially when it comes to military interventions. The crowd tends to be wiser in such eventualities.

But then there is the matter of who asks the question and who phrases them and who funds the campaigns. We are told this is why deliberative consensus of representative democracy is better, but this is prone to the bubble effect which leads to persistently distorted decisions which in no way reflect the will of the people.

And then we must ask how much we want to leave to the technocrats and what we want control over. We do not need to be having lengthy debates over the minimum sugar levels in jam for export. But then sometimes these decisions do have a profound impact. Where is the safety mechanism?

As government grows ever more complex people want ever more simplistic and less confusing solutions. They want things to be simple but things are not simple and never will be again. We demand our politicians do right by us but at the same time demand they do what we want which is not always sane. Sometimes when they contradict the people we call it leadership, at other times we call it a betrayal by our political class.

So do we need to reappraise our own cynical attitudes to politics? I don't know. I am certainly not innocent of using florid language in regard to MPs whose uniform stupidity I despise, but that is actually representative stupidity. They are as dumb as the rest of us. So do we want smart and clever people as MPs or do we want very ordinary fuckwits?

They keep saying we need a new politics but one never materialises because we are not asking the right questions. What do we want politics to look like? How much involvement do we really want in decision making. As it happens there is another disconnect between what people say they want and what they actually want. There is a huge gulf between what people say and what people do. They say they want to be better informed but uniformly still go for prestige titles to be spoonfed what they already think. Almost all of you are guilty of that.

Could it be that the messy muddle we have is about as good as we can realistically expect or is there a better way? Is it that we need more honest politicians or do we need to be more honest with ourselves? How can we expect honest politicians if we are not honest with them? Do we even need politicians?

And what do we get instead of debate about real reform? The same tired questions about proportional representation, boundary changes and MP recall. This is a system completely out of ideas so it's really down to citizens to start presenting these ideas and asking those questions of themselves.

How much democracy is too much democracy? How much of our lives are we willing to give over to making decisions? We know that the Eu is the price we pay for tuning out completely but nothing at all will get done if we have to be consulted on everything - and what worse way of concluding matters can you get than to have matters decided by a self-selecting minority?

Fucked if I know to be honest. The Swiss model looks superficially appealing but it seems they have a constitutional crisis more often than not because of the complex contradictions in modern governance. I can't see that lasting forever.

And what role is there for experts now. I grant you many have squandered their reputations during the referendum and our academic institutions will rightly never be trusted again but we are now entering a time of complex negotiations where we will need those same experts. How do we hold them to account?

You can really see why poliicians have been so keen on a technocratic dictatorship all these years can't you. Many questions with no satisfactory answers, with populists lambasting them while at the same time providing no answers of their own.

Now that we are leaving the EU we are going to be free sooner or later to address these questions. We cannot expect fresh ideas from the think tanks or from our political class, so it is we who shall have provide them. That starts today. It starts with you.

Leavers are losers

I am now leaning toward the view that the leave camp is going to get exactly what it deserves. Having failed to put a credible plan on the table they are going to be played for fools.

Instead of engaging in the detail they indulge in paranoid histrionics about Theresa May not invoking article 50. Consequently they are either putting all their faith in a shrill god bothering lunatic or indulging in other weak fantasies. Rightly, saner people will run a mile and give May the mandate as the least dreadful candidate. I don't blame them. Leadsom would be a catastrophe.

May will then wait until it is safe to invoke article 50, isolating the lunatics, and will negotiate an "EEA plus" deal with an agreement with the EU to amend the EEA agreement to make it more akin with an association agreement - which basically sees us remain in the EU on almost exactly the same terms, but we will have no commissioners or MEPs in order to maintain the illusion that we have left the EU.

This could be prevented if adults are prepared to step up to the plate, learn what the distinct avenues and issues are and watch the select committees closely - but they are not going to do that. They are going to retreat to their comfort zone and whinge instead of presenting worthwhile alternatives. They will run silly fringe campaigns that make them look like morons and everyone will ignore them. Again, I don't blame them.

This is why I was making all that fuss long before the designation process. The lack of any coherent policy or plan is why no leavers will have a say in the process, except for a token voice kept at arms length.

This is ultimately why Ukip was a failure of a party. At the end of this, not only will the establishment still be in control, we will be back to business as usual without really having progressed out of the EU, with most of the leave morons actually believing we have left, burying the issue for more than a generation. It will be a political masterstroke.

Given that leavers have clung on to their idiotic "invoke Article 50 now" mantras, and that they have stubbornly clung on to unrealistic ideas of how we leave the EU (and what it can achieve) they will have brought it entirely on themselves. They will have been politically outclassed in every way. It will have been a complete waste of everyone's time save to get rid of Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Nigel Farage - which I suppose in the end is no bad thing.

I am not known for my optimism so this may be overly bleak but when you look at the way leavers are behaving, you can see it happening and it has a depressing air of inevitability about it. Throughout leavers have spurned the need for credible ideas and have rejected the need for detail. Even now they don't even believe credibility is a campaigning necessity. Because of them this will go down as the revolution that never was. But don't cry. Dry those tears. You were given every opportunity and every warning. Now suck up the consequences.

Monday, 4 July 2016

The decision is made. Now embrace the change.

I would like to think I have been as forthright as humanly possible throughout this political event. That does not mean I have not been free of bias, conscious or otherwise. I have been very keen to accentuate the positives. What I hope I conveyed is that they were in the main long term benefits - and I believe I was forthcoming about the risks.

In fact, a lot of what serious remainers were saying in response to the entirely unserious leave campaign was absolutely right. The Tory right and Ukip have an infantile idea of what is at stake and what is involved which is why we deserved to lose and why I thoroughly expected we would.

The main difference between me and the remain camp is that I think all this hassle and risk is necessary. They don't. But they are right. It's a lot of hassle and a lot of risk.

To date though they claim that Brexit was unnecessary and things were certainly not bad enough to warrant a rejection of our entire system of government and the European post-war settlement. And I suppose in a way they were right. It wasn't bad enough in terms of the day to day but it wasn't good enough to keep either.

We have heard more or less the same boilerplate political rhetoric from just about every political campaign about more jobs, more security and a better NHS but we are all wise to that. What we also know is that the system doesn't deliver and it tends to abandon the losers except for a privileged class who think and act the right way.

The inherent problem with the status quo is that it is predictable. That's great for business but not so great if you were born into a class where social mobility is zero. What we get from political change is a radical shake up of certainties and a break with habits and reflexes. It puts us all on our toes. And boy do we need it.

In science and engineering we are way behind our global competitors and a bit of a kick in the complacency won't do us any harm at all. And if you look inside a busy city NHS hospital, the medical profession is from India, Brits are the admin staff. We have luxuriated into obsolescence and now the world is wondering what it owes us.

That is also clear in patterns of trade too. China is establishing its own rule book and we are seeing regional regulators popping up all over the shop wondering by Brussels gets to set the agenda. Consequently Fortress Europe is being gradually bypassed.

So this isn't change for its own sake. This is rattling the cage of a political class who have become insular, inward looking and remote. This is a wake up call. Those conspiring to overturn the result are those who were happy with the status quo, and happy with the glorious slumber of European politics.

This is a rude awakening for them, but they should think of this as a smoke alarm. Everybody hates smoke alarms. They constantly go off when there isn't a fire, and very often just because the toast is burning. But it's always better to have that warning than to die of smoke inhalation or worse still to wake up to discover the house is on fire and all the exit routes are blocked.

The remainers repeatedly assert that there are no positives to leaving the EU. From a pure transactional perspective, they are probably right. I see major disruptions on the horizon, tense negotiations and a probable recession along with restructured markets. I also imagine there will be a degree of divestment until the dust is settled. If I had money I would certainly think twice before making any long term UK investments and would choose stocks carefully.

And this has remain inclined economists puzzled. They have been telling us this from the outset yet we still ignored them. It baffles them. But in the end it comes down to pure instinct that it very much is time for political change and we accept the consequences of that with open eyes.

And what of those "selfish" old people we hear so much about? Those who have done so well form the political settlement? Well the thing about old people is that they know things. Also old people sooner rather than later will die. And they will pass on their assets to the next generation. And so the next generation to a point is more secure than they deserve to be. That makes us well insulated against turmoil. They have done us a favour.

In the end society thrives on change and reinvention. The EU is the antithesis of that. It is a regulation machine to regulate and to keep things orderly and running like clockwork. And when you look at logistics chains it works pretty well. Except when it doesn't.

When it doesn't we find that markets must respond by changing, but can only change within the scope of the law. And law that does not respond to change can only deaden innovation and reinvention.

And so we must part ways with the old order. It has served us reasonably well but in order for it to survive it must mutate. That is what Brexit is about. The EU entity is dying. It no longer enjoys the consent of Europe's peoples. It has been made obsolete by globalisation and it has become subordinate to higher institutions. It is no longer at the heart of commerce and trade. It is just as much a passenger as its members.

This is of course lost on our political leadership and it remains an enigma to our media who still haven't grasped what goes on outside the confines of the EU - but necessity will expose the reality of what goes on over and above the EU. It will be a mass political awakening for our governing class.

This is an important and necessary step for Britain and Europe. We have heard the smoke alarm and now we must act. And if your politicians wish to go back to sleep then we must keep hitting the test button to continue making shrill noises.

We are saying now is the time to change things and now is the ideal time since the conditions for change are about as safe and secure as they are ever going to be. We are witnessing a global reordering of power and we are seeing precisely the same dynamic in the USA. We want and need government to happen a different way.

In truth the immediate effects of this change will be largely unmeasurable and intangible. And while the basic economic metrics won't look very healthy for a while, I can only see it as a positive that the public and their politicians are shaken out of their habits and exposed to different ideas.

With that in mind it is time for the remain side and the left to stop whining. This is a major opportunity for anyone with fresh ideas. Make the most of it. We have an ideas vacuum from our political class so now is the time to be organising, talking and thinking. Rather than trying to put the genie back in the bottle, why not ask it to grant your three wishes?

Invoking Article 50 now would be moronic

"Invoke Article 50 now" nonsense should be called out for what it is. Abject stupidity.

If there is one thing I hope I have managed to convey to you in all of this time it is that Brexit is complex. This seems to have utterly escaped the Leadsomites but for the most part, adults seem to have comprehended this basic fact of life.

Now I want to make life even more difficult for you by saying however complex you think Brexit is, well, it's more complicated than that. The best case scenario is that we move into Efta or adopt the EEA agreement as the basis of our relationship with the EU. That leaves much of the single market and various cooperation programmes in tact. What it doesn't deal with is agriculture and fishing. Nor does it deal with our revised membership of the WTO.

I have already alluded to how complex the fishing industry is. Because of the politically charged nature of it, it is awash with disinformation and political narratives, many of which may have been true at some point but are no longer relevant or truthful.

In international law any contracts made inside a particular legal framework has to be honoured unless there is a transitional phase out and a compensation scheme. We have to decide if we are going to let quota contracts expire or buy them out. So when you get docile twats like Andrea Leadsom promising we will cut loose and spend all the money on the NHS, you know they are speaking from their moist flaps.

As to the technical regulation of it, there are zoning licences, pollutions control, net sizes, boat classifications, you name it. As much as we lack the capacity to enforce the rules we lack the expertise to replace them. So we are looking at a very long phase out.

And while we are already members of the WTO, it is not as simple as voting independently of the EU. We must establish the Vienna Convention as a basis on which to resume existing trade deals and we will have to renegotiate agricultural subsidy quotas which will take several months, if not years and could be the factor which sees the whole process collapse.

There is also the possibility that some states will not agree to continuity agreements with the UK and so we will have to negotiate agreements on standards and inspections along with tariffs from scratch. Nobody has the first idea how that pans out because this is absolutely unprecedented.

The short of it is, it is going to take a series of long debates just to decide what is and isn't up for debate and what we are willing to compromise on to get the concessions we want. Thanks to bellends like Farage insisting on cuts to freedom of movement there is a strong chance we will lose some of our agricultural subsidy quota or make a grievous concession on something that may even wreck an emerging industry. We have some difficult choices to make.

In this, everything is on the table for discussion and yes that does include visas for foreign workers if needs be. If the EU plays hardball then we must in kind. So we cannot bind ourselves to any promises we cannot keep. The only assurances we can make is that international law will be respected.

As for agriculture - this includes CAP subsidies, export rules, disease control, disease surveillance, animal health, GMO rules, habitats and waterways and a whole plethora of areas barely even considered by the general public. Or farmers as it happens.

And this is best case scenario should we elect to retain single market membership. Worst case scenario we are looking at falling back n international trade rules alone which sees decades of talks and possibly a complete breakdown in UK-EU relations.

So yes, this could very easily go wrong, nothing is going to happen quickly and we most definitely should not make any moves until we have had a comprehensive hearing of sector experts and consultations with stakeholders. Only when we have has scoping talks with Member States will we have an idea on how to proceed and only then will we get an idea of time scales.

Even if you think it is imperative to keep up the political pressure to ensure that we do leave, what we don't need is pillocks demanding the politically impossible for expediency. We are looking at unpicking forty years of regulatory integration. It's massive. It simply does not lend itself to a cavalier botch it and scarper agreement. Nothing is served by discrediting the leave case by revealing how clueless leavers are about what this entails.

I am not sure how many times I have to say this but it really is time people stopped the idle chatter and engaged in what is going on. If you see someone claiming that we do not need an agreement with the EU or that we should invoke Article 50 now, just freeze them out. These are not people with anything of value to add. They are noise makers and their ignorance is something we all need less of.

Also we need lot see a lot less confirmation seeking. Just because the markets recovered it doesn't mean we are out of the woods. Like I say, talks could go either way. Many are hedging their bests and delaying investment. Growth will suffer as a result of this and there could be other market panics along the way, especially when it comes down to the WTO level negotiations over subsidy quotas.

Be under no illusions, there will be more tense moments to come and there will be more volleys coming from the Commission seemingly in defiance of the member states. We will see a war of words and nothing will be taken off the table, including the long term rights of EU citizens. Much of it will be bluff but this is how serious negotiation works.

Much of this will be news to Brits because we have never seen anything of its type. We have delegated trade discussions to the EU for the last forty years. That is why Australian and New Zealander citizens have a better grounding in the subject than we do and its why that kind of news still makes it to their media. We are not acclimatised to this kind of politics. But this is the very serious business which will replace the frivolity we are used to.

I have said before that this marks a return to adult politics and I was not exaggerating. And with that comes some pretty hefty responsibility to keep up to date with political reality. Retreating to the comfort zone of culture war crap is simply unacceptable. This now turns on detail, and details like the Article 50 process absolutely do matter. Those who pretend otherwise are engaging in exactly the sort of childish politics they have spent all these years denouncing. So please, for the love of Christ, either grow up or shut up. It's decision time.

Gesture politics

Theresa May is right not to guarantee the rights of EU citizens in the UK. Mainly because she can't. She can guarantee those rights already acquired rights as defined by national and international law but it is not within her gift to go further. There are complications to hammer out. 

Moreover she is sending a signal to EU member states that they have something to lose by not being cooperative. Poland for instance receives £1.2bn in remittances alone. That's real money and not numbers on a screen. It sets a tone that Britain does have leverage and could use it, even though it probably won't. That is the kind of shrewdness we want in a PM - not gesture politicking from a naive mouthbreather like Leadsom.

This notion that "people are not bargaining chips" should be dispensed with also. People are not, but visas are. I would prefer to leave freedom of movement pretty much as it is, but if the Commission can't keep a muzzle on idiots like Cecilia Malmstrom then nothing is off the table. Harsh? Yes, but we are not paddling in the shallow end anymore. This is what serious politics looks like.

And is it fucking with people's lives? Yes, yes it is. But we have had forty years of the EU fucking with people's lives, wiping out whole industries at the stroke of a pen - to the advantage of low paid EU workers and to the disadvantage of British working class kids, who thanks to Blair, spent their formative years on the dole. Why the double standard?

So, no, I am not overly sympathetic nor will I subscribe to gesture politics. This is not to say I have suddenly become illiberal. Like I say would rather keep visa arrangements as they are, but with so much at stake we will have to stare down the EU, showing that we won't flinch from using whatever leverage we have. This is pure hardball politics. This is how it's going to be now.

The whole point of Brexit was to draw a line in the sand and accept no further rule from Brussels. This, kids, is what it looks like. Get used to it.