Thursday, 27 July 2017

But Trump Must Complete His Term

Who voted who would not otherwise have done so, because of Russia? Who did not vote who would otherwise have done so, because of Russia?

Who voted other than they would have done, because of Russia? What did Russia do that affected anything at all?

Whether or not the Democrats will deserve to win the 2020 Presidential Election will depend on who their candidate is, and on who else is a candidate.

But on both sides of the aisle, the flagrant shills of Saudi Arabia and of Israel are attempting to remove Donald Trump because of some nonsense or other about Russia.

Nonsense that, even if it were true, could not have affected the outcome of the 2016 Presidential Election.

They are the traitors and the foreign agents. Just as their friends in London are.

The ones in London had to be stopped from taking down Jeremy Corbyn. And they were.

Now, the ones in Washington and New York have to be stopped from taking down Donald Trump.

If they are not, then, at least in a country where there was no Corbyn, no alternative to neoliberal economic policy and to neoconservative foreign policy would ever again be permitted a hearing.

Trump himself has been disappointing on those issues. He needs to be saved, so that he can be made to know who had saved him.

Their Masada Moment

No one did a damn thing for the Palestinians in Jerusalem.

But they have still won.

This day will be remembered until the End of Days.

Mashed, Indeed

I had been pondering that, at 10pm tonight, you could watch either The Mash Report or Naked Attraction

"How blessed we are," I thought, "to live in these times." 

But it turns out they have moved Naked Attraction to Fridays. Presumably so as not to clash with The Mash Report.

I think that that says a very great deal about each and both of those televisual masterpieces.

Trans Trumping

The made-up billion dollar figure for treating transgender members of the United States Armed Services suggests that there are already that many transgender members of the United States Armed Services.

Do President Trump and his supporters wish to give that impression?

The fact of the matter is that there are between 1,320 and 6,630 transgender personnel among an active-duty force of 1.3 million.

Somewhere between 30 and 140 of those might want hormone treatment, and perhaps 25 to 130 might seek gender reassignment surgery.

Giving a cost of somewhere between $2.4 million and $8 million per annum.

The argument from operational effectiveness, I honestly do not know about, although again there is the question of just how few people are involved.

But as to cost, the US military spends $42 million per year on Viagra.

Oh, and $1.4 trillion on the useless F-35 jet that costs more than Australia's entire defence budget while being decades out of date from day one.

Trump still cannot tell you which of his feet had the problem that prevented him from going to Vietnam.

No one who served there has ever been President, although three of the last four Presidents have been the right age.

The President of the United States might one day be transgender, but he or she will never have served in Vietnam. Nor in any of the wars of Clinton, Bush, Obama and Trump.

Likewise, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom might one day be transgender, but he or she will never have served in any of the wars of Blair, Brown, Cameron and May.

From Tom Tugendhat to Dan Jarvis, those who did so can forget it.

Although no such disqualification afflicts either of Tony Blair's elder sons, both of whom were the right age, and neither of whom has ever appeared to have any health problem.

Neither of them, however, put on the uniform. Therefore, they could still, in principle, become Prime Minster.

Which is nice.

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Unity Is Strength

A magnificent victory today over employment tribunal fees.

Richard Burgon was right all along.

This is why trade unions still matter, and this is why trade unions are always going to matter.

Do Not Beatify John McCain

He is an insatiable old warmonger whose own medical treatment is being paid for by the taxpayers from whom he has just voted to withdraw health insurance.

They also paid him to attend that vote, and they paid the cost of his travel to it.

It is very sad that he is so ill. But he is no hero.

Wipe Your Eyes

Wiping out student debt is not a bad idea, since no one has the slightest intention of ever trying to collect £100 billion of debt. In practice, wiping it out would not cost a penny.

But the sore nearly-winner claim that Labour pledged to do so has crashed and burned with the public. Even majorities of Conservative supporters do not believe it.

In any case, are we expected to believe that those particular voters who were "deceived" might otherwise have voted Conservative, or indeed any other way apart from Labour? Pull the other one.

No Platform, Indeed

Richard Dawkins must be the bane of the existence of atheist philosophers.

Every autumn, another batch of freshers arrives, having all read The God Delusion.

Three years cannot be anywhere near long enough to train them out of that.

In which case, will there even be any atheist philosophers, as such, in two generations' time?

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Whose Cross To Bear?

The Conservatives have cut money from transport in Wales and the North, which tend not to vote Conservative.
 
I get that. I do not necessarily agree with it, on several grounds. But I do understand it.
 
However, they have diverted that money to London, where there are also not very many Conservative voters these days.
 
Indeed, the Conservatives picked up a few seats in the North this year. A very few, but they did.
 
In London, meanwhile, they managed to lose even Kensington, as small Labour majorities turned by the dozen into thumping great ones.
 
Yet this is how they react.
 
What is going on here?

If I Forget Thee, O Jerusalem

"I shall do for the Welsh Jacobites what they did for me; I shall drink their health." So said the aged Young Pretender.
 
The Palestinians have always had cause to say much the same about the rulers of the Arab world, and they have never been shy of saying it. But they have never had more such cause than today.
 
In this last stand for Islamic Jerusalem, where are the ostentatious hajjis among the dictators? Where are the Sheiks of this, and the Emirs of that? Where is the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques?
 
But then, in this last stand for Christian Jerusalem (and be in no doubt that that is what this is), where are we?

Chlorination Chicken

The EU wanted, and it still does want, to flood this country with American meat full of chlorine and dodgy hormones.
 
That was a very good reason to vote Leave, and one of the many very good reasons why some of us did vote Leave.
 
The last thing that we need is for Brexit and its aftermath to be in the hands of people who are as bad as the ones from whom we are supposed to be escaping, and who probably did not vote Leave at all.
 
For example, Liam Fox, Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, and quite possibly the Maastricht whip turned Foreign Office Minister, David Davis.

Lease of Life

The abolition of leasehold was the kind of thing that the nominally Labour Government that was in office for 13 years ought to have done.
 
But it now falls to the Conservatives to deal with it, and to do so only because they have come well within a million votes of being defeated by Jeremy Corbyn.

The Likes of Us

One of several excellent comments posted here anonymously today is this:
 
The Tory Government that has brought state funded abortion to Northern Ireland by agreeing to fund it in England for women from there, is now bringing assisted suicide as well.
 
Notice that while Jeremy Corbyn sided with Charlie Gard's parents, Theresa May sided with the hospital.
 
She is truly the heiress of Margaret Thatcher who legalised abortion up to birth and Ronald Reagan who legalised abortion in California before appointing three abortionists to the Supreme Court.
 
Likewise Donald Trump, generous benefactor of Planned Parenthood and Hillary Clinton's Senate campaign.
 
There is a reason why The Sun supports assisted suicide but the Morning Star opposes it: The Sun wants rid of the likes of us.

Monday, 24 July 2017

Setting The Standard

This is to make possible the launch, in October 2017 or as soon as possible thereafter, of a new print magazine, The Weekly Standard. There will be 25 pages of popular television, pop music, and football.

And there will be 25 pages of alternatives to neoliberal economic policy and to neoconservative foreign policy, including weekly columns by Jeremy Corbyn, Richard Burgon, George Galloway, various supporters of one or more of those, paleoconservatives from both sides of the Atlantic, and the only guaranteed Liberal Democrat columnist in the national media, as well as a page of reflections from the traditions of Christianity in Britain and in the Middle East that are politically radical precisely because they are doctrinally orthodox.

In addition to the regular columns, each edition will feature five guest articles. The subjects of those are already intended to include Modern Monetary Theory, the valiant struggle of the Durham and Derby Teaching Assistants, the scandal of blacklisting in the construction industry, the fraud against the Mineworkers' Pension Scheme, the right-wing case against Trident, the case against NATO by a former Special Assistant to President Reagan, the crisis on St Helena, the Chagossians, the Dalits, the Rohingya, fathers' rights, the persecution of Dorje Shugden practitioners, the secular humanist case against assisted suicide, and the Britons fighting against the so-called Islamic State in Syria. All this, and a great deal more besides.

Alongside popular television, pop music, and football. With a serious commitment to all of them, and to the right of their fans to read intelligent comment that treats them as adults and as the citizens who most need to be equipped for the struggle against neoliberal economic policy and against neoconservative foreign policy.

A Warning About The Dangers

Kevin Yuill writes:

This week, the High Court heard a legal challenge from a terminally ill British man who wants the right to die. 

Noel Conway, who is 67-years-old and has motor neurone disease, wants an assisted death when his health deteriorates further. 

Lawyers are asking the courts to declare that the blanket ban on ‘assisted dying’ under the Suicide Act is contrary to the Human Rights Act. 

The current law on assisted dying was overwhelmingly upheld by parliament in 2015. 

The fact that the courts are hearing a challenge to this is deeply worrying. 

The courts, which recently defended parliamentary sovereignty in the Article 50 legal challenge, should not be used to circumvent ‘inconvenient’ legislation. 

Doing so shows contempt for democracy. 

Moreover, the 1961 Suicide Act is a remarkably good piece of legislation. 

The potential sentence of 14 years in prison for assisting a suicide reflects society’s condemnation of killing, while simultaneously removing punishment of the victims of suicide. 

It has been used only a handful of times, but stands as a symbol of our commitment to the preservation of human life. 

When dealing with such sensitive cases here in the UK, we should consider what is happening in Canada. 

There, the prohibition against assisted suicide was struck down by a single judge, in a single court case, involving a terminally ill individual. 

In 2012, lawyers representing Gloria Taylor, who, like Conway, was suffering from motor neurone disease, successfully argued that prohibiting assisted suicide breached her rights. 

The Supreme Court upheld the decision and ordered the federal government to pass legislation permitting assisted suicide. 

Bill C-14 became law on 17 June 2016, allowing both assisted suicide and euthanasia (where the doctor kills the patient). 

The CBC reported recently that, by the end of 2016, there had been 1,324 cases of medical assistance in dying (MAiD) in Canada – that is, assisted suicide and euthanasia. 

This number is likely to increase. 

Before the ink was dry on C-14, the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association launched a court case to ‘strike down’ as unconstitutional the somewhat slippery provision that a person’s ‘natural death must be reasonably foreseeable’ to qualify for death by lethal injection. 

In the weeks that followed C-14’s passage into law, the Canadian federal government announced that it would conduct research into the possibility of extending the benefits of euthanasia to people with dementia, ‘mature children’, and those with solely psychological suffering. 

In the case of a 77-year-old woman suffering from non-terminal osteoarthritis, the judge chided doctors who had refused euthanasia on the grounds that her disease was not terminal. 

He granted the woman the right to die as she was ‘almost 80’ with ‘no quality of life’. 

And, of course, her death was judged to be ‘reasonably foreseeable’. 

In the province of Ontario, the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care announced that it would force doctors to either euthanise patients who wanted to die, or refer them to someone who would.

Three years ago, it was a crime for doctors to kill their patients in Canada. 

Now, doctors could lose their licence for refusing to participate in killing their patients. 

Judges and juries are generally sympathetic in tragic cases like Conway’s. 

But there is no need to change the law. 

We should take the court case in Canada, which opened a Pandora’s box, as a warning about the dangers of legalising assisted suicide.

Where Are The Wreaths For The Known?

Phil Restino and Ernie Gallo went to great lengths to get this into the Daytona Beach News-Journal. It deserves a wide circulation: 

U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis recently told constituents of how he participated in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery.

He told us to remember and give thanks to those who gave their lives in the service of our nation, as they are the “indispensable Americans without whom we would not be free.”

Ernie Gallo of Palm Coast is the USS Liberty Veterans Association’s president.

On June 8, 1967, the USS Liberty, stationed in international waters, was attacked for two hours by the Israeli military.

That left 34 U.S. sailors and Marines dead, 174 wounded and the Liberty the most decorated ship for a single engagement in U.S. Navy history.

The Navy Board of Inquiry following the attack was a farce and cover-up that included admirals threatening the survivors with court-martial, life imprisonment or “worse” if they ever spoke of the attack, as detailed in testimony to the commission convened by Adm. Tom Moorer, retired chief of naval operations and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Justice has been denied the men of the Liberty for 50 years.

If moved to by his constituents, Rep. DeSantis could initiate a proper congressional investigation into the attack on the Liberty.

Like the men on the Liberty, DeSantis is a Navy man proud of his service as a JAG officer. He knows how a Navy Board of Inquiry is supposed to work.

At noon on June 8, Gallo and his shipmates gathered at the tomb for their fallen crew members at Arlington National Cemetery. Although invited, Congressman DeSantis did not attend.

DeSantis claims to know nothing about the attack on the Liberty.

We owe the 34 “indispensable Americans” who gave their lives on the USS Liberty. It’s time “we Americans” let Congressman DeSantis know about it.

Restino, of Port Orange, is spokesperson for We Are Change - Central Florida. For 10 years he’s organized USS Liberty Remembrance Day events in Volusia County.

Gallo, of Palm Coast, is the Liberty Veteran Association’s president.

For more info, see here and here.

Explanatory note:

On June 8, 1967, while patrolling in international waters in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea, USS Liberty (AGTR-5) was savagely attacked without warning or justification by air and naval forces of the state of Israel.

Of a crew of 294 officers and men (including three civilians), the ship suffered thirty four (34) killed in action and one hundred seventy three (173) wounded in action.

The ship itself, a Forty Million ($40,000,000) Dollar state of the art signals intelligence (SIGINT) platform, was so badly damaged that it never sailed on an operational mission again and was sold in 1970 for $101,666.66 as scrap.

At 1400 hours, while approximately about 17 nautical miles off the northern Sinai coast and about 25 nautical miles northwest of El Arish, USS Liberty’s crew observed three surface radar contacts closing with their position at high speed.

A few moments later, the bridge radar crew observed high speed aircraft passing over the surface returns on the same heading.

Within a few short moments, and without any warning, Israeli fighter aircraft launched a rocket attack on USS Liberty.

The aircraft made repeated firing passes, attacking USS Liberty with rockets and their internal cannons.

After the first flight of fighter aircraft had exhausted their ordnance, subsequent flights of Israeli fighter aircraft continued to prosecute the attack with rockets, cannon fire, and napalm. 

During the air attack, USS Liberty’s crew had difficulty contacting Sixth Fleet to request assistance due to intense communications jamming.

The initial targets on the ship were the command bridge, communications antennas, and the four .50 caliber machine guns, placed on the ship to repel boarders.

After the Israeli fighter aircraft completed their attacks, three Israeli torpedo boats arrived and began a surface attack about 35 minutes after the start of the air attack.

The torpedo boats launched a total of five torpedoes, one of which struck the side of USS Liberty, opposite the ship’s research spaces.

Twenty-five Americans, in addition to the nine who had been killed in the earlier air attacks, were killed as a result of this explosion.

Take Back Control

Matt Turner writes:

‘Take Back Control’. A simple, yet incredibly effective message.

The mantra emphasising the necessity of reasserting British democracy and sovereignty was one of the main factors in convincing 52% of the public to vote for Brexit in the EU referendum last year. 

It’s common sense, and a proposal that resonated with the majority of the population. 

Why shouldn’t we take back control from those who make policy decisions that impact us, yet are wholly unaccountable to our electorate? 

While (often deeply flawed) arguments about immigration and the NHS were put forward by Leavers, in true Bennite fashion, I always found the democratic argument for leaving the EU to be the most poignant. 

The beauty of the democratic argument is that is can be applied to other policy areas — including foreign policy. 

Since the rise of the New Right, cross-Atlantic love-fest between Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, we have not had a truly independent foreign policy. 

The ‘Special Relationship’ that is lauded by both the centre-left and centre-right (who interestingly, are often the most enthusiastic cheerleaders for the European Union) has an anti-democratic sentiment to it. 

Britain’s foreign policy agenda over the last few decades, which has been largely dictated to it by the United States, has made both Britain and the world a more dangerous place to live in.

It is often claimed that the UK and US have shared interests, but the reality is that what is best for Britain rarely comes into the equation. 

Instead, we are subservient to the foreign policy interests of the United States. 

One has to ask: why did Britain happily follow America into propagating and financing the barbarism which has since decided to bite the hands that fed it, namely, the Afghan Mujahedeen in the 1980s? 

During the rigid, ideological warfare of the Cold War, any British reservations of the backlash were cast aside in favour of American geo-strategic hegemony in the Middle East.

It was the then Labour MP George Galloway who during this time, told Margaret Thatcher that she, as lapdog in chief for the United States, had “opened the gates to the barbarians”. 

How right he was. Our acquiescence to American interests has been clear to see over the last few decades.

Just look at Tony Blair’s “I’m with you whatever” commitment on intervention in Iraq to fellow war criminal George W. Bush. 

Those four words encapsulate British foreign policy better than any soundbite, policy proposal or academic paper. We are with America “whatever”.

Fear not that American presidents and military generals were not and never will be elected by the people of Britain, we must toe the line! 

It clearly wouldn’t matter whether the British people were against a certain military action or not — we would go cap in hand to the United States regardless. 

It is evident that our assorted conquests with the United States in the Middle East have had a negative impact on our country — and many of the decisions that have led to the increase in barbarous terrorism over the last decade in Britain can be traced back to the American war rooms — where there isn’t a shred of democratic legitimacy to be seen. 

While we do not have an independent foreign policy, we are nothing but a lapdog, and an obedient one at that. In the current circumstances — this issue is more important than ever before. 

As Theresa May continues to hold hands with one of the most dangerous Presidents we have witnessed in our lifetime, it is more imperative than ever that we consider a more independent approach to our foreign policy. 

We must be able to stand up to the self-serving demagogue Donald Trump, and have the British gumption to say “no” instead of following him at a whim like successive Prime Ministers have to successive Presidents in the past.

Not only this, but the public mood really is beginning to change. Jeremy Corbyn’s foreign policy stance was proven to be highly popular during the general election.

This was arguably the first time a real scepticism of American intervention and British involvement has been pushed by one of the mainstream political parties, and YouGov polling found that around 60% believe that our involvement in the Middle East bears at least some responsibility for the sorry state we find ourselves in, both domestically and internationally.

Why should we continue to assist America’s goal of geo-strategic hegemony in the Middle East when it has destabilised our country, the main actors are not accountable and the majority of the British public are now sceptical? 

Surely, if we are to really ‘Take Back Control’, we must do so from all corners, and our one-sided ‘Special Relationship’ with the United States is nothing but an affront to democracy.

And Here's The Kicker

Phil Hall writes:

Continued membership of the EU is now a serious obstacle to the success of a future Labour government and for this reason we should get out of the EU as soon as we can and leave the single market. 

After the debacle in Greece, whereby the once radical Syriza government was made to introduce an extreme austerity programme and privatise large parts of the public sector, it became difficult to see the EU as benign. 

The EU in collaboration with the IMF forced Portugal, Italy and Spain to introduce cuts which hurt their citizens and depressed their economies.

Within the European Union, the plans of any future Labour government to renationalise the railways and energy industries, increase public spending, provide a reflationary stimulus, subsidise British industry, or prevent labour flows from undercutting the wages and conditions of British workers would be blocked and opposed.

Within the European Union it is clear that a Keynesian-socialist approach is not permitted. Voting for Jeremy Corbyn with Britain still in the EU would have been as disillusioning as voting for Syriza. 

However progressive Syriza’s policies seemed, the EU forced it to implement privatisation and cuts. 

The European Union has generated a tangled ball of legislation which, on the whole, reflects a post-Thatcherite monetarist consensus on what constitutes “good” economic policy. 

Full employment, a Keynesian goal — and also a socialist one — is not seen as a worthwhile objective. Instead, governments are obliged to operate “efficiently,” with low levels of inflation — euphemisms for austerity. 

Reflationary measures, government investment and activation of the economy, are banned by the Stability and Growth Pact and the European Court of Justice has ruled against trade union action aimed at stopping workers’ wages being undercut by bosses importing foreign workers and paying them less. EU competition rules prohibit countries from supporting local industries. 

The Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union blocks state aid to industry or nationalisation because: “A company which receives government support gains an advantage over its competitors.” 

And here’s the kicker: legislation promoted by the EU business lobby and adopted by the European Commission is ratified much more easily than if it were to go through a national parliament. 

The EU is a back door for “business-friendly” legislation that might otherwise be opposed and stopped in a national parliament. 

The infamous Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership is a case in point.

The main, and unconvincing, argument of the soft left for remaining within the EU is still that the EU acts as a break on the more extreme neoliberalism of the Conservative government in power. 

According to the defenders of the EU, being a member of the organisation helps guarantee the protection of the environment, human rights, labour rights and privacy. 

But after the last British election, we see that this argument for remaining in the EU was really always only a counsel of despair. 

Clearly none of the “leftists” who voted for remain, who fully understood the reactionary nature of the European Union, imagined that Corbyn would get so much popular support or that Labour would currently be so far ahead in the latest opinion polls. 

A Labour government in Britain, the fifth-largest economy in the world, would represent a threat to the neoliberal EU. 

Labour Britain outside the EU represents the possibility for the establishment of a strong European-wide alliance of socialist parties and a brake on neoliberal policy making within Europe.

What could never be reformed from within may very well be reformed by the constructive example of a successful socialist country outside the EU and outside its single market.

And the Morning Star editorialises: 

Twelve top big business leaders marched into 10 Downing Street last Thursday afternoon to give Theresa May and her Brexit ministers their orders. 

Representatives from the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), the Institute of Directors, City gamblers Risk Capital, weapons manufacturers BAE Systems, corporation tax dodgers Tesco, the privatised multinational National Grid company and other firms told the Prime Minister and her Cabinet members that they must make the necessary concessions in order to reach a deal with the EU. 

As the Finanical Times reported matters, May “was bluntly invited to back away from the cliff edge.” 

CBI director general Carolyn Fairburn, formerly of Lloyds Bank, demanded a lengthy transition deal and continuing close involvement in the EU customs union and single market “feeling that the political tide was moving in her favour.” 

These and other business leaders have made little secret of their hope that spinning out Britain’s exit process from the EU will create the conditions in which last year’s referendum result can be frustrated and reversed. 

New Lib Dem leader Vince Cable — formerly of the Shell oil corporation and the privatiser of Royal Mail — has volunteered to lead the struggle politically, although the most he can hope for is a return to the post of Business Secretary in another coalition government. 

Last Thursday’s corporate missive was received, understood and acted upon immediately. 

The following day, Environment Secretary and leading Brexiteer Michael Gove began sounding the retreat by revealing that free movement of people between the EU and Britain could continue for at least two years after March 2019, the deadline for reaching a deal. 

Other concessions on this sticky point and others in the exit negotations will follow. 

The Morning Star welcomes continuing rights to travel, study and settle across Europe where these can be negotiated on a fair, humane and equitable basis. 

Indeed, free from “Fortress Europe” restrictions, British governments should extend those rights to non-European partners and families of British citizens already living here — although it remains to be seen how the EU would respond to such an extension of free movement as part of any future arrangements with Britain. 

A shared and major concern of May’s new EU business advisory group and Michel Barnier’s fellow unelected negotiating team is that big business should remain free to move (or “post”) workers around Europe where they can be super-exploited regardless of national or regional legislation and negotiated trade union agreements. 

During last week’s negotiations, Barnier made it clear that “posted” workers must be classified as “service providers” and therefore covered by “free trade in services” or “right of establishment” rather than the potentially more restricted “free movement of people” principles. 

This is the basis on which legislative and trade union action to enforce equal treatment for them has been outlawed by a stream of EU Court of Justice rulings. 

The recent GMB conference was right to sound the alarm about any deal with the EU which allows such super-exploitation to continue. 

As Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn reminded television interviewer Andrew Marr yesterday, free market fundamentalism is no friend of the workers. 

The labour movement should oppose any “single market” or “customs union” deal with the EU and leave a future Labour government free to outlaw super-exploitation of labour, regulate trade and the movement of capital, invest in strategic industries and insist on progressive procurement contracts between the public and private sectors.

"Which Union?"

That question needs to be put to a referendum in Scotland, to a referendum in Northern Ireland, and to a referendum in Gibraltar.

In Scotland, the options would be the United Kingdom outside (or, at any rate, nominally planning to leave) the European Union, and independence with a view to seeking EU membership.

In Northern Ireland, the options would be the United Kingdom outside (or, at any rate, nominally planning to leave) the European Union, and incorporation into the EU member state of the Irish Republic, assuming that it would be willing to take Northern Ireland, which is very far from clearly the case.

And in Gibraltar, the options would incorporation into the United Kingdom outside (or, at any rate, nominally planning to leave) the European Union, and becoming an autonomous community of the EU member state of Spain.

In no case would there be any third option, and in all three cases the result would be final.

All of this needs to happen this year.

Although of course it does assume that the United Kingdom has the slightest intention of ever leaving the European Union.

We all know about "transitional periods".

The Hill Top of Crook, Indeed

"Utterly ruthless, but never exactly in the intellectual vanguard." That was how an erstwhile Special Adviser to a Labour Cabinet Minister described her to me.

Having known Hilary Armstrong for 30 years, and having had the singular pleasure of serving on her Constituency Executive during and around the Iraq War, I treat her latest intervention exactly as it deserves to be treated.

Back in the day, when she was Tony Blair's Chief Whip, she banned me from being a council candidate in her constituency because I was mixed-race, and instead imposed her pure white office boy, who went on to lose the election itself so spectacularly that he took a distinguished councillor down with him.

It is worth noting that a clearly ill-advised Laura Pidcock put this person's image and endorsement on her election literature. Not much in the way of showing racism the red card there.

Armstrong used the hunting ban, of which more anon, to cajole disgraceful Labour MPs into supporting the Iraq War. But she herself did not vote for that ban, nor did Blair, and nor did their close ally, the Stop Gordon Brown candidate of that moment, John Reid.

Around that time, her sometime National Executive Committee "colleague", Mark Seddon, told that, while of course I ought to be the next MP for North West Durham, there was bound to be an all-women shortlist. No one ever bothered to impart such information to the aforementioned office boy, with hilarious consequences.

Speaking of the NEC, Armstrong and her little chai wallah once blocked the Constituency Labour Party here from nominating me to it, thereby preventing anyone else from doing so, since one of my nominations had to come from my home CLP.

In the intervening years, the Conservative Party, while retaining and even consolidating its electoral base, has shrivelled in its membership to a tiny subculture so detached from the mainstream that it regards the repeal of the never-enforced hunting ban as a national priority, while seriously imagining that Boris Johnson or Jacob Rees-Mogg ought to be Prime Minister.

There are, however, still a few people in that party who realise that such ridiculous figures, both of whom are complete confections and not remotely "authentic", could never win a General Election, either against Jeremy Corbyn, or against any of the stars of the 2015 intake in his Shadow Cabinet, which is where the stars of the 2015 intake are.

In particular, they are justly terrified of Angela Rayner. Hence the barefaced lie that Labour promised to write off existing student debt. Now, there would be no cost involved in writing off absurdly high debts that no one has the slightest intention of ever trying to collect. But Labour never promised to do so.

The General Election has taught the Conservatives nothing. They still believe that they can use their courtier media to spread any old drivel and no one will call them out on it. Hence the student debt story.

And hence the deselection story, which is equally baseless.

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Crowing Under The Crown

As we approach the twentieth anniversary of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, the media have reverted (in fact, they did so some years ago) to the situation that obtained before she ever came along.

In those days, books about the Royal Family were written, bought and read only by people who liked the Royal Family, in the way that books about trains are written, bought and read only by people who like trains, while books about stamps are written, bought and read only by people who like stamps.

And now, television programmes about the Royal Family, even ones about Diana of all people, are made and watched only by people who like the Royal Family.

In the course of the present reign, and especially of the last 30 years, Britain is best understood as one of those countries which abolished their monarchies and then brought them back again.

The British monarchy is back forever now.

And Relative Dimension

There are some pretty far-fetched events in Macbeth, but no one suggests changing the sex of the eponymous character.

The proof of the wisdom of a female Doctor in Doctor Who will be whether anyone watches.

Or at least whether anything like as many people, in this country and throughout the world, do so.

But first on The Mash Report (execrable, but then I accept that I am twice the age of the target audience), and then on Dead Ringers, the BBC has gone out of its way to insult even the existing audience.

Doctor Who fans, perhaps because there are just so many of them, crystallise in the BBC's mind its own adolescent sense, not of having too few friends, but of having the wrong ones.

That never bothered me. The cool kids and I ignored each other so happily that, when I did have cause to interact with them, then we got along fine. I am still in touch with a lot of them on Facebook and what have you.

But the BBC is the boy who hates his mates, because they are not the mates that he wants, but they are the only ones that he is ever going to have.

Very occasionally, he lashes out. For example, over Doctor Who. Or in the form of The Mash Report.

Friday, 21 July 2017

Down On The Farm

Farm subsidies go back to the War, and the system put in place by the Attlee Government worked perfectly well until the Conservatives took this country into the Eurofederalist nightmare.

Now, those of them who belatedly want out of that, want it in order to turn this country into a petri dish for the utterly unconservative and un-Tory economic theories that predominated, but which never quite became monolithic, during the 40 years between Jim Callaghan's turn to monetarism and Theresa May's loss of her overall majority.

"Why should farmers get State aid when no one else does?" is the wrong question. The question ought to be why other people did not get State aid when the farmers did.

In any case, the likes of Michael Gove are wasting their time. Theirs is the farmers' party. It always has been, and it always will be.

Everyone else in it is just a farmhand, and the terms of their occupancy of their tied cottages have never been reformed. They can be evicted at any time.

On The Money

Whether either yesterday’s inflation figure or today’s borrowing figure is a good thing or a bad thing, the point is that the Government had no idea that it was coming.

The Government had, and it has, absolutely no idea what is going on in the economy, and absolutely no idea about Economics.

That ought to come as no surprise.

There have been seven recessions in the United Kingdom since the Second World War. Five of them have been under Conservative Governments.

That party has also presided over all four separate periods of Quarter on Quarter fall in growth during the 2010s.

By contrast, there was no recession on the day of the 2010 General Election.

And now, the Conservatives have more than doubled the National Debt. The Major Government also doubled the National Debt.

Yet the Conservatives’ undeserved reputation for economic competence endures. They are subjected to absolutely no scrutiny by the fake news detractors of their opponents.

Until now.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

"That's What Trade Unionists Look Like"

The First Shall Be Last

The really sad thing about how many Firsts are now being awarded is that they really did work that hard to get them.

Worked. That hard. At university. I don't know what the world is coming to.

Of course, we knew the deal: at least 50 for absolutely any old rubbish, in return for no more than 68 for anything, ever.

I was once given back something with a 7 crossed out, and 68 written next to it.

I wish that I had kept it, as a perfect representation of the glory days of an institution that is no doubt well past them now.

Utopian and Scientific?

It's always Hitler, isn't it?

The latest variation on that theme is, "You wouldn't put up a statue of Hitler in Manchester, so why put up a statue of Engels?"

Well, Hitler never lived in Manchester. Engels did.

Many monstrous figures from this country's past are prominently remembered on its streets and in its public places, and why not?

There is no more argument against a statue of Engels in Manchester than there was for Rhodes Must Fall.

"Would we tolerate Nazi propaganda in Manchester?" We ought to be more concerned about Nazi propaganda in Ukraine, whence this statue has come.

The comparison with Engels is any case not Hitler, but Nietzsche, and there are certainly statues of him in the places with which he was associated.

The comparison with Hitler would presumably be Stalin, and there are at least two streets in Britain named after him, both of them falling under Conservative-led local authorities in the South of England.

I should have to check, but I very much doubt that either Chatham or Colchester has ever had so much as an old-fashioned right-wing Labour council.

Never mind a Soviet fellow-travelling one in the immediate post-War period when Colchester presumably erected its Stalin Road, and Chatham its Stalin Avenue.

Again, why not?

After all, we fought a war, we fought the War, not only with him, but essentially for him, and it was his army that actually won it.

No good purpose would be served, but many bad ones would be, if we were ever to forget those facts.

Or if we were ever to forget the connection between Engels and Britain in general, and Manchester in particular.

Barmy Bagshawe

Louise Mensch was once a Member of Parliament.

Just give that a moment to sink in.

Amber Light?

The simple fact that Amber Rudd refused to hold an inquiry into Orgreave conceded the case of those who were calling for that inquiry.

And the simple fact that Amber Rudd refuses to publish the report into overseas funding of terrorism concedes the point of those who are calling for that publication.

But there still needs to be an inquiry into Orgreave.

And there still needs to be publication of the report into overseas funding of terrorism.

Mind The Gap?

The BBC has very successfully spun yesterday's news about itself as being about a "gender pay gap".

But in fact, it is about obscene amounts all round, to upper-middle-class, liberal-Right, mostly white people.

Men and women alike.