Thursday, 19 October 2017

At the EU Summit: Why Not Walk Out, Prime Minister

I am never going to be Prime Minister, I am more or less resigned to this uncomfortable reality, although you never know given who is currently leading the Labour Party and the current poverty of choices in the Conservative Party. I mean even Vince Cable says he thinks he stands a chance.

But if I were PM right now I'm not at all sure I would be bothering going to the latest EU summit meeting in Brussels, a meeting at which European leaders will meet first with Chauncey so that they can hear his brilliant negotiating tactic of giving them everything they want in return for us agreeing to effectively stay in the EU. What a coup de grace that would be for them by the way. Get the British to sneak the bearded wonder into power, have him declare unilateral negotiating disarmament, pay them even more than when we do as full members, continue to allow freedom of movement, give them some more fish and beg them for their forgiveness for ever having the temerity to ask the great unwashed for their opinions. The people's republic of Chauncey is going to be one of those democratic republics that isn't too keen on democracy it would seem.

Labour's position on Brexit is absurd. They have claimed that they would not countenance a no deal. In so doing they might as well hand Brussels the keys to the Treasury and tell them to help themselves. If they will not countenance a no deal then what does that mean? I would really really love to buy a house off these guys. They would end up paying me.

Britain is making such heavy water of these negotiations in part thanks to the game playing stupidities of the remainers and of the endlessly confused Labour Party. Presumably Labour will relish explaining to the British people why we should in fact be paying more to the EU than £20 billion. How do they imagine that will go down?

One of the arguments being put forward by remainers is that those voting to leave were not voting for a no deal. Well first of all people voted for lots of reasons and I for one was entirely relaxed at the prospect of no deal. But in any event it kind of was what everyone who voted leave voted for. It was made explicit that we would be leaving the single market and by extension the customs union, although few people back then really knew what the latter was. But there was always the possibility that the EU would indeed play the kind of games they are playing. And so there was always a chance that we would leave with no deal. This need not be the end game. There is no need for this to be the final word on the issue. There is no need for us not to have separate talks about other matters such as air travel cooperation and to play hardball on things like security cooperation and access to the City of London's huge lending markets. But leaving with no deal on free trade? So what? It's really not the end of the world. I seem to recall saying so last year. Even if we crash out, there's nothing to stop us negotiating once it is all over and when time constraints are no longer an issue. We will be negotiating with the rest of the world of course, but they are welcome to join the queue. We Brits love a good queue.

Think about it. We currently have a free trade agreement with the EU. Yet we voted to leave despite this. So therefore the point of our leaving was over other issues. Would a free trade agreement be better for all concerned? Undoubtedly. But if the EU wants to cut off their noses to spite their faces, if they are willing (once again) to imperil people's jobs for the good of their ideological fundamentalist outlook of ever closer union then so be it.

And this is why Mrs May should no longer put up with their grandstanding. When they all cold shoulder her later today, instead of standing around and looking sad and lonely she should just leave. She should walk out and give a short press conference. Britain is leaving the EU in March 2019 she should say. We have made a good offer. That offer is now time limited. Start talks on trade by November or we will assume that the EU has no intention of engaging in such talks in good faith and so there really is no point in talking anymore. We will then start preparing for no deal. We will have been left little choice. The plus side is though that we get to keep all of that money and the EU will have to either find someone else to pay or will have to rein in their spending. We want our money back they said last week. This at least shows that we have donated our sense of humour to them as well as our cash.

But what of parliament you might well ask. Well what of it? Parliament has already accepted that we are leaving the EU. Deal or no deal does not enter into it. There is the EU Withdrawal Bill but that is just a procedural device to make our leaving bureaucratically easier. We leave at the end of March 2019 and that is the end of it. Even if the Commons were to vote against the government they would be rejecting our lack of a deal but offering no alternative. And we are leaving at the end of March 2019, deal or no deal. The Conservative manifesto in June was a flawed and listless document that got us into this mess, but it did explicitly state that the Government was prepared to countenance no deal rather than a bad deal. Since the EU will not even talk about a deal then that is where we are. No deal is being offered and so we will have to just go ahead and countenance it.

As I say I am unlikely to be PM and I certainly won't become PM by this afternoon. But if I were that would be what I would be preparing myself to say in the teeth of the EU's inevitably hostile reception. If Mrs May were to do that she would likely win rave reviews for her bulldog spirit. It might even get her a deal after all. Either way it is better than our current position.  

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Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Philip Hammond Should Be Sent To Spend More Time With His Spreadsheets

The future of Philip Hammond, our yawn inducing Chancellor of the Exchequer, is hanging in the balance it would seem. This is mostly because he has managed, with an acuity previously only seen on the Labour front bench, to have alienated both sides of his own party in the great Brexit debate. Leavers and remainers both want him gone. It is only Theresa May now who stands between him and the end, an ironic turnaround given his prospects prior to the election.

Like many people I have been irritated by his interventions on Brexit, not least because it was always my understanding prior to the referendum campaign that he was a Euro sceptic. But then his flip flop on this issue was in common with many leading Tories from the current Prime Minister to her predecessor to several in the current Cabinet. In many cases this was simple pragmatism or ambition. Hammond however has displayed the zeal of the convert in his Brexit interventions. It's no wonder he has become so universally loathed. 

But the reason he should be removed from post is not because of his arrogance on Brexit or his irritating lack of any political nous. It is the fact that he has proven to be such a lousy Chancellor. Thus far, admittedly in his short tenure, the most interesting and inspirational thing he has done has been to announce that there will be no more Spring Budgets. In the annals of great reformers, this will hardly have them readying a plinth in Westminster. 

Hammond is a dream for the pen pushing killjoys of the Treasury and HMRC. He has been entirely captured by them and has bought into their worldview. This man who is so pleased with himself has failed to challenge them. Only a year into the job he lacks any kind of radicalism or imagination. He is a dreary manager, dullness and uniformity personified. His NICS debacle of earlier this year was entirely down to the fact he was presented with this reform by his civil servants and simply waved it through unchallenged without thinking through the political consequences or wondering whether hitting the self employed was really a terribly Conservative thing to do. The Treasury had been trying to get a Chancellor to slip this reform through for years to no avail. Hammond handed it to them without a word of protest. Is he even aware that he is allowed to protest? Or to say no? 

What is needed now from our Chancellor is real radical thinking to make a success of Brexit, to get the British economy firing on all cylinders again and to demonstrate to our feckless youth that socialism is not the answer to their problems, or the bringer of peace, prosperity and goodwill to all men. There have been encouraging noises coming from Number 11 that Hammond is considering the idea of offering a lower rate of tax to younger taxpayers. But his inclination to pay for this by hitting older taxpayers demonstrates that he still hasn't learned the lessons of NICS or the general election. Generational fairness is a great election slogan. But actually making it a fiscal reality is a different matter. The electorate always say they are prepared to embrace higher taxes to pay for things deemed desirable. The electorate tells lies. 

No, Hammond will just have to get more creative. And he will just have to accept that we will have to borrow more to pay for the tax cuts we need to demonstrate Conservative ideas and principles. We need reform of stamp duty and to reverse the ruinous Osborne regime. We need a new tax deal for the young. I would like to see people offered a lower rate of tax for the first few years. Maybe even a lower rate of tax or even a tax holiday for the first couple of years after full time education. Could tuition fees be made tax deductible? Could Corporation Tax be cut even further? Could we prepare the ground for a no deal on the EU by offering such a deal to companies? That would concentrate minds as negotiations continue.

Most of all we need a big, eye catching scheme to build hundreds of thousands of new homes during this parliament. This requires some generous tax breaks for developers and, if necessary, massive public spending to build. That is proper investment in things the country needs. It is the sort of borrowing and spending that is desirable and even mandatory in a prosperous, successful and fair society. 

These are just a few ideas off the top of my head. I'm sure that many are wildly expensive and maybe even impractical. Some may be illegal in European law. But then we are leaving Europe and so this represents an opportunity, always provided you are prepared to embrace this new reality and recognise its potential. For that we may need someone with more imagination than Spreadsheet Phil. 

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Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Sex, Lies and Hollywood

It's interesting isn't it the reaction to the various scandals over sex, sexual abuse, powerful men and their proclivities. When Jimmy Savile was exposed as being a nasty, malicious, malevolent, manipulative pervert few defended him and he was rapidly exposed as this country's worst ever paedophile. Yet when allegations were made about Cliff Richard for instance people were considerably less sure and he has subsequently been exonerated and the police have had to pay him damages. Edward Heath was many things, including being an odd and not especially likeable man, but he was not a satan worshipper and paedophile. It's not even certain that he was particularly interested in sex. Other than some fantasists and Wiltshire Police, there seems to have been few who believed the lurid and absurd tales about him.

Few are finding it difficult to believe stories about Harvey Weinstein, although, as Keith Olberman argues in the previous post, his excesses do not seem to be any more outrageous than those of the current  occupant of the Oval Office. Weinstein has not been charged with any offence, but neither is he denying many of them other than those that could see him serving time in prison. He has claimed to be suffering from the made up condition of sex addiction. In reality he is just a very rich, very powerful man who exploited women who had neither but who wanted them. The fact that many of them stayed silent until now is an illustration of his power but also of the double standards and hypocrisy at play in show business. And in politics. He was not suffering from any addiction. There is no such thing. He just is a man too weak and unpleasant to be a better man.

Many of the more aggressive social warrior feminists out there will have heard of this and it will feed into their belief that all men are the same, that all men are rapists and that we would all behave like Weinstein if we could. I beg to differ. There are few single men who would not have as much sex as they could get with consenting adult women. That's certainly true. But many or even most men are perfectly capable of being monogamous, faithful, loving boyfriends and husbands. Few of us are capable of rape or even of harassment. We are appalled by the behaviour of Weinstein and his ilk as anyone else. We do after all have sisters, girlfriends or wives too.

There is a lot of hypocrisy surrounding this story from women who stayed silent about Harvey Weinstein until someone courageously exposed him at last. There are plenty of people, male and female, who knew what he was doing and chose not to expose him. The same was true of Jimmy Savile, or think back to Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former head of the IMF and a notorious out of control rutting animal incapable of controlling himself until he was exposed by a humble New York hotel maid to be the pig that he was and is.

Many are expressing the hope that this will be the beginning of the end of this culture in Hollywood. It is unlikely to be. Men will always like sex, some will always be amoral in how they get it and some women will always be prepared to give them what they want to get ahead. It is when they are coerced into it that it becomes something objectionable and culpable. Certainly the Weinstein story may make men be more cautious in how they operate from now on. But it doesn't alter the fact that the adulterer and misogynist in chief remains in the White House and his boasting of his behaviour didn't seem to do him any harm.

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Monday, 16 October 2017

The Problem With the NHS

There was much consternation and outrage over the weekend, a great deal of it confected of course, when a story emerged that access to our beloved NHS might be rationed. Worse it might be restricted to people who actually need it.

The rather sensible idea has been floated that people, rather than self diagnosing and then just turning up at their local A&E with their imaginary illnesses, ought to first have to speak to someone in order to get some guidance about how suitable this is. Cue all kinds of outrage that this is just an attempt to relieve pressure on overstretched departments ahead of what is expected to be a difficult winter. Well of course it is. But why are our accident and emergency departments so overstretched?

Well there is no one answer to this question of course. But let me offer you my theory.

The NHS is free at the point of use. This is supposed to be and for the most part is a splendid levelling idea meaning that we are all given the same treatment, regardless of our wealth, regardless of how sick or old we are. The problem is one that the architects of the NHS never foresaw. And that is that a free service isn't valued by many of those who use it. Instead of using up this finite resource responsibly, we tend instead to take it for granted and abuse it. We tend to regard it as infinite and then complain when we have demonstrated to us that of course it isn't.

If you have been watching the BBC's excellent series Ambulance over recent weeks you will have seen this demonstrated to you. The ambulance service is often inundated and has to prioritise. For this they are often abused by those calling them, many of whom have no need to call in the first place but demand attention and complain  bitterly when it is denied to them. The ambulance service even has frequent customers, people known to them who call daily or sometimes several times daily because they want a free lift, or because they are feeling a little unwell, or lonely or a bit sad because their girlfriend recently dumped them and they imagine themselves depressed and suicidal. And of course the staff are not allowed to chastise these time wasters, to fine them for using up a precious resource and potentially even denying life saving treatment from someone in real need. That is one consequence of the free at the point of use ideal.

Christopher Ecclestone's maudlin commentary inevitably painted a picture of a service under pressure and of heroic staff battling against the odds. The programme routinely depicted them as inundated and of the ambulances racing from one emergency to the next. The reality is of course rather different and less dramatic. There are periods of calm and of quiet. Ambulances will frequently sit waiting for a call or be allocated non urgent calls such as transporting sick patients between hospitals or to hospital after receiving a non urgent summons by a GP. But when the service is under pressure it is often due to selfish people who don't worry about having to pay and thus afford that service no value.

The same is even more true of A&E departments where people can simply walk in and be treated or at least seen regardless of need. It is an appalling waste of resources and puts enormous pressure on the NHS and its staff. So what precisely is wrong with adopting a new approach ensuring that those resources are better utilised for people who really need them?

As it happens I got to test this theory myself over the weekend. My Mum suddenly became ill and we were worried about her. I called the 111 service who asked some questions. It was decided that she needed a paramedic to come and see her and then, when they had assessed her she was taken to hospital and then admitted. Happily she is now recovering and will hopefully be home again today. But that was an example of how such a service could and should operate. Nobody is suggesting that genuine emergencies should not be treated as such and that is what the 999 service is for. But it is high time that those who abuse it were fined and censured. This is a public service and a precious resource. It needs to be allocated to those who really need it.

This ultimately is a matter of education. I'm sure the vast majority of people do use the service responsibly and think twice about calling or attending. But what of those who don't bother turning up to appointments? What about those who call 999 needlessly? What about those who do attend A&E for no good reason? What about those who demand antibiotics for illnesses that are viral and cannot be treated that way? What about those who use a free service in a manner that they would never do if they were paying for it out of their own pockets? What about those who don't eat healthily, don't exercise, don't take responsibility for their own health but demand high cost medication to save themselves from their own stupidity?

The NHS is struggling for a lot of reasons including its own inefficiency and because it was created in the wrong way with the wrong model. It struggles because of this. But it also struggles because, though we revere it and treat it like a secular religion, we do not really value it sufficiently to use it responsibly. Until we do and until we ask ourselves some tough questions about what should be available in a service struggling with the rising cost of medicine in an ageing population it will always struggle, however much money is poured into it.  

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Sunday, 15 October 2017

The Bible: A Very Grim Fairytale: Numbers: Chapter 28 - God Wants Gifts and Offerings

Being God is full on, time consuming work. It also, clearly, makes him very very hungry. He wants animal sacrifices all the time. He even has a recipe book for how to cook them and what to serve them with. It's just that God likes his meat very well done. To a crisp.

At this point then, before more senseless slaughter and cruelty (don't worry, more of that coming up really soon) we have a short break while God tells us what sacrifices he demands. Essentially he wanted them all the time. His priests were clearly very very hungry. It's funny how people who believe all of this rubbish tend to ignore the need for animal sacrifices and altars isn't it. 

So God laid out his very specific rules for how to cook his food and what bread to serve it with. He wanted offerings every day. Lambs, grains, wine. He wanted the lot. He even gave recipes setting out how he wanted his bread made, what proportion of flour and so on. And this was just for his daily offerings. 

There were other bigger occasions that demanded more elaborate sacrifices and offerings. There were weekly offerings for Sabbath (presumably slaughtering beasts and hauling the dead carcass on to an altar didn't count as work) and there were even monthly offerings for the New Moon. 

And that's before we get to the big annual ceremonies. Once again we are told, for the umpteenth time, about what God wanted for Passover. This was a big deal. Unleavened bread for 7 days - God likes his bread flat - and no work on the first and last day. Oh and lots and lots of meat offerings. 

There was also Shavuot. This was not as big a deal as Passover but still meant a nice day off for the chosen people even if it did mean they had to kill yet another animal and burn it for their greedy and rapacious God. 

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Saturday, 14 October 2017

Friday, 13 October 2017

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Britain Will Get Our Deal If We Stand Firm and Ignore Labour

You know, whisper it but the British negotiations on Brexit, far from being the disorganised shambles depicted by many in the media, may actually be starting to work. Yes the latest word from Brussels is impasse, but the mood has subtly shifted. Theresa May's gambit in her Florence speech may have succeeded in creating divisions in the ranks. But better still they are starting to believe that Britain may actually walk away if their current uncompromising stance continues.

The reason that the EU is starting to worry that they may have gone too far is that they can see that, though the PM is weak and her Cabinet divided, the Conservative Party is broadly Euro sceptic in nature and will not tolerate the antics of the EU negotiating team much longer. We were prepared to go along with the idea of a transitional deal and could see that the offer of continuing our payments during that period was a good compromise. The EU simply banked this and went full Oliver Twist. We could also get on board with guaranteeing EU citizens already in the UK their status, we saw no reason why they should demand special status and ECJ jurisdiction to ensure their rights. That was an outrageous demand and would not and could not be accepted. The demand for more money was always excessive and we have demonstrated beyond doubt that there is no justification for it, moral or otherwise. Yet Theresa May made a generous offer that no EU country should be out of pocket because we are leaving. We however have no obligation to make such an offer. It was done in the hope of compromise. None has been forthcoming from our interlocutors.

Yet we do seem with our approach to have succeeded in sowing division in the EU ranks. Some, like France and Germany (albeit the latter without a functioning government) are standing firm but others are wavering. Even Michel Barnier himself, it is reported, is questioning the wisdom of his current uncompromising remit. Germany and France are demanding that we put in writing the commitment of Britain to pay the offered sum in Theresa May's speech before we move on to trade talks. To which the answer should be nein or non. Not until we see sufficient progress, to choose a phrase at random, on trade talks to mean we are getting our money's worth.

Tory MPs should make it very clear, clearer than they have already, that this is a red line for them. We  will be willing to pay up, for a couple of years dressed up as a transitional deal to save blushes all round, in return for a good and honourable trade deal that benefits everyone. It would essentially be a continuation of what we are already doing. Anything other than that and we walk away and keep our £20 billion a year. Some of that we will simply use and distribute ourselves instead of sending it to Brussels first and have them send it back less their charge for administration. The rest is money we will genuinely be getting back and choosing to spend as we see fit. Some of it might even be spent on the NHS as promised. The EU has no legal basis for demanding this money. Their only chance is to tie it to trade. So therefore the two have to proceed in tandem. Otherwise no deal. Mrs May should walk. If she doesn't then she must be made to walk the plank by Tory MPs.

Oh and to facilitate all of this even more and grease the wheels of that deal the PM should immediately sack Philip Hammond who has got so far above himself that he could sell aerial photographs. We should be preparing for a no deal scenario because it is a realistic prospect. That is what government is for. We have to plan for every eventuality. If the Chancellor will not allow that then he should be despatched. After all the First Lord of the Treasury lives next door. She is the one in real charge of the nation's purse strings and the nation is only 18 months from our glorious exit.

I won't say I am hoping for a no deal. But I am entirely relaxed about it. But I am more confident than ever that we will get our deal. This however is notwithstanding the self serving antics of the Labour Party whose confused and confusing position on Brexit is twistier than a strand of DNA. They claim that they want to stop a no deal on Brexit for the good of the country. In reality they are simply trying once again to have the best of both worlds. We are for Brexit they tell us but would have voted remain. We are for Brexit but want to continue with unlimited immigration. We are for Brexit but won't accept a no deal and will try to derail it. This would be bad enough if we had a government with a massive majority. But given the parliamentary situation it is just handing the advantage to those with whom we are negotiating. Mind you this week Chauncey went to meet the EU negotiating team for no very obvious reason other than his being told it might make him look prime ministerial. In reality, given the opaqueness of his position, it probably led the EU negotiators to thank god that they are talking to someone relatively straightforward like David Davis. At least he understands the difference between the customs union and single market. Chauncey doesn't.

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Thursday, 12 October 2017

Innocent Unless Dead

I like to walk. I am fond of walking. This has long been the case. I have never been much of a runner, was never very sporty and even when I did play sports I wasn't very good at them. But I have long enjoyed walks both in the country and in town. They are better when accompanied by a large German Shepherd dog, but they are good for you either way.

Interestingly my fondness for walking gets remarked upon by complete strangers. They notice you out and about and comment. They are nice comments but comments nevertheless. This happens both in the country and in the city. Total strangers stop you or question you about walking. Why do you walk so much? Well, why not?

I was even stopped by the police once who considered the fact that I walked a lot somehow suspicious. There I was strolling home one afternoon through the streets of Solihull and a police car stopped at my side. The officers jumped out and on specious grounds began questioning me. When they do this they adopt the time honoured tactic of sussing you out and seeing if you look guilty. They were looking for a man wearing a leather jacket they told me. I pointed out that this must not have narrowed their numbers down by very much. They then wondered if there was anything I wanted to tell them, if I was feeling guilty about anything. Since there wasn't I said no. This confused them because I walked and anyone could see that this was suspicious behaviour. But since they couldn't pin anything on me they generously allowed me to go on my way. I have always wondered what their reaction would have been had I simply told them they had no grounds to ask questions of me in the first place and that they certainly couldn't detain me while they fished for any possible guilt. Fortunately I was feeling unusually diplomatic that day and smiled cheerily at them and continued my walk home.

All of which lengthy preamble about ambling is my way in to the remarkable and disgusting farrago of Wiltshire Police and Edward Heath. I hold no particular candle for Heath. He was a lousy PM, a lousy politician with even less humanity and charisma than Theresa May. After he was deposed from the leadership of his party for the very good reason that he had called an election and lost it (remember those days?) he went on the world's longest sulk making him look ridiculous at least in those pre-Trump days of innocence.

But, though I stand to be corrected, it seems highly unlikely that he was a paedophile, let alone the sort of predatory one as has been alleged. Heath was a man who was not overly concerned by sex and indeed may have been asexual, although he was engaged to a woman in his younger days whose death he never got over. He was clearly a man who found emotions difficult and so this seems entirely plausible.

Yet in the febrile post Savile era we now live in the police have felt it necessary to launch major and hugely expensive inquiries into predatory paedophiles and to do so without fear or favour. The result however is that they have fearlessly blundered into areas of complete innocence. Their determination to show no favour after Savile has led them to go too far the other way. Like those two coppers who decided I was a wrong 'un based on suss, the police looked at Heath and decided he was clearly a deviant of some kind on account of his having been a bachelor. Since I am also a bachelor and walk too it cannot be long until I get a knock on the door.

The police are only human of course and make mistakes. They engaged in these investigations against public figures because they made mistakes by not investigating Savile and his co conspirators and sought to make amends. But they made amends on the back of innocent people by trying to concoct a case having decided he was guilty of something. It is a classic case of confirmation bias and it is dangerous in any field, let alone one where liberty is at stake. Yes Edward Heath is dead and so no real harm has been done there. But an innocent man's reputation was traduced by the police who believed silly stories about him and sought to prove them true without bothering to check with those who knew him best and could confirm that he was incapable of committing the crimes he had been accused of, not least because he was an ex Prime Minister and they are never alone for long enough to make so much as an impolitic remark let alone commit a heinous crime against a child.

What has made all of this an even greater scandal is that Wiltshire Police, instead of holding up their hands and admitting that they were mistaken and have wasted public money on a case that should have required a couple of detectives to check the plentiful evidence that Heath could not have done what he was accused of,  have instead tried to spin their way out of it by engaging in sophistry and evasion. They have left out evidence from their report and have alleged that they would, had Heath been alive today, have interviewed him. This nonsense on a stick and they know it. The evidential threshold for interviewing a suspect is so low as to be non existent. The police would probably still have thought twice about interviewing a former PM however when he was alive and could hit back. Now they can impugn him to their heart's content. They should be ashamed of themselves.

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Wednesday, 11 October 2017

PMQs Review: Suspended Indefinitely Due To Extreme Boredom

Owing to the unsatisfactory nature of the exchanges each week between Theresa May and Chauncey I have taken the editorial decision not to bother covering PMQs for the foreseeable future. I shall instead be reviewing drying paint on a variety of walls. Of course there is the small chance that Mrs May could have a coughing fit, that one of her cabinet colleagues could stomp out over her answer about Brexit or that Chauncey could wheeze through a session and knock the figurative ball into the perennially open net left by the PM. But life is too short to wait for such unlikely moments.

It is this blog's oft stated stance that Mrs May should be despatched from the Dispatch Box. Until she is and we have someone half competent answering the questions I am finding something better to do with my Wednesday lunchtimes. Today for instance I am going to see my doctor regarding a foot infection. If I am very lucky he will poke a scalpel into it again to remove the suppuration. Either way it will be less painful than watching these second raters cross swords across the Commons. Yesterday for instance the PM appeared on LBC and refused to answer the question how she would vote if there were to be another EU referendum. She would, she said, consider the matter carefully and then refuse to answer it. I may be paraphrasing slightly, but that is the gist. Please god will someone rid us of this tedious woman.

Hopefully at some point in the not too distant future the PM will be replaced after an exciting coup. At that point normal service will be resumed.

The full video will be here later for you to watch. Feel free to write your own review or to lose the will to live, whichever comes easier and sooner.

This Is A Micro Aggressive Blog

I have a solution for the great student fees question. The next time that we hear from students about their terrible woes and the iniquities of having to pay for the education that, all things being equal, will make them more employable, more rounded, better informed, with keener minds, it might be as well to also ask them where they stand on the safe spaces and micro aggressions debate currently inhabiting some of our seats of learning. If they actually believe in this drivel we should demand that they pay at least double the current going rate. And if they believe it whilst being students of any of the colleges of our two oldest and most revered seats of learning perhaps we should ask questions of whether university is all it is cracked up to be.

Balliol College, Oxford, the alma mater of 3 former prime ministers and great novelists and thinkers going back centuries has made the headlines this week because it banned the Christian Union from its freshers fair. To have the CU exhibit at the fair would have been alienating for those of other religions, apparently. It would have been a micro aggression.

Quite right. Perhaps all of those plate glass windows, churches, chapels and choirs dotted around Oxford could be seen as macro aggressions too. Anyway, Freddy Potts, the vice-president of Balliol's Junior Common Room sees all of this history dotted around Oxford as unforgivable. Christianity, he says, is just an excuse for homophobia and neo colonialism. This is clearly not a man who knows much about Christianity at all where homosexuality is practically a requirement if you want to become a priest.

Clearly, Freddy said, impressionable young students would be alienated by the presence of someone preaching love and forgiveness and kumbaya and this won't do at all. He airily dismissed the view that this alienation is never reported because the alienated were worried that their hurt and anger would not be widely shared, it apparently having not occurred to him that they may not have reported this simply because they did not feel alienated. Or perhaps this did occur to him and he is just preparing himself for membership of the Labour Party and to be a probable future leader. In the minds of lefties, our insistence on sticking to our culture and traditions is a form of aggression akin to colonialism. How very dare we? There must be students with other backgrounds shivering quietly in their lovely and well appointed rooms at Balliol right now at the appalling iniquities of having to live in this terrible and alien environment.

All of this has, predictably, received a lot of attention in the press, which is of course also a micro aggression. Or fake news possibly, regardless of its truth. Balliol has therefore banned all newspapers from its grounds so as to establish a safe space. It hasn't. I made that up. But you can kind of imagine it can't you.

Its remarkable how the likes of Freddy manage to convince themselves that their special kind of bovine stupidity masquerading as tolerance is liberal and caring. To the rest of us it looks like white liberal guilt, the sort felt especially by the very privileged and slightly dim. Freddy was a team member of Balliol's University Challenge team. So he clearly has a fine memory for arcane knowledge. It's just that he has no means to apply his knowledge to real world problems such as why those attending university need to be protected by wholly imaginary micro aggressions and to have cocoon like safe spaces created for them to protect their delicate sensibilities. Are delicate sensibilities appropriate for seats of learning?

Micro aggressions are a brilliant wheeze aren't they. Essentially they have propounded the notion that some forms of language, regardless of their intent, are hurtful and demeaning. This started out in the area of race, inevitably, but has now been adopted by social justice warriors as a means of furthering their battle against common sense and reason everywhere. It is also, of course, an assault on freedom of speech. It is an attempt to control us by the left by alleging the hurt we are causing by just talking normally.

As ever this is an area that has been seized on most enthusiastically by permanently angry white people battling for minority groups so benighted and oppressed that they don't even know what they should be angry about. I'm almost tempted you know to apply to go back to university to study something, anything, just so that I can piss off anyone who demands a safe space. If I walk up to an SJW and tell them that I want to invade their safe space would that be a micro aggression? Would I need a remedial class? I do hope so.

Crash Course Literature: Lord of the Flies

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The Truth About Pence's Despicable NFL Stunt

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Little Point in Further Negotiation

Now the crunch comes. As the latest negotiations got underway in Brussels yesterday both sides are playing hardball. Given that Britain had made all of the concessions thus far it is about time. We have been all reasonableness to date. Now is the time to get tough. 

In her Florence speech last month, Theresa May made a number of concessions. She now needs to draw a line in the sand. She should add that, if our concessions are not met with reciprocal gestures then the concessions offered will be off the table. And that included cold hard cash. 

Britain must now start preparing for us to walk away from these negotiations without a deal. It will be a great deal easier to do so given the intransigence and bone headed arrogance of the EU side. They are accustomed to getting their own way in these matters. They did it with Greece. Indeed they have gone it once before with the UK when David Cameron demanded concessions only to then recommend the lousy deal he was finally offered. The British people then rejected that deal at the referendum. Now the government is once again playing the same games with the EU. It is time to say no to them at long last, just as the British people did. 

They want our money and their businesses would rather keep trading with us. In that case it is time to drop their 'sufficient progress' language. We are not supplicants in these talks. We are making a reasonable and fair offer. The alternative is to walk away without paying a penny just as we are legally entitled to do. It might be as well to do that right away. There is little prospect of the EU being treasonable between now and their progress report to the governments that sets their negotiating parameters. 

They like to inform us that we have obligations that we entered into and that we must honour those obligations. Actually we must do no such thing. We entered into those obligations whilst full members of the EU. Then we decided to leave. Logically then it is incumbent upon them to offer us something worth our while. Otherwise they will either have to rip up their funding agreements or find someone else to make up the shortfall. Either way it is hard to see why Britain should pay up given their high handed behaviour. The EU believes that it has the whip hand in these negotiations. It actually betrays the weakness of its hand. By making an illogical insistence that we have a sequence of negotiations very much in its favour but which makes no sense in any other respect they just direct attention to how desperately they want our money. Were want a trade deal. But the £20 billion we get to keep instead will cushion the blow nicely. Oh and we keep our fish too. We should plan to leave with no deal and that planning should start now. This week. Today preferably. 

Is Warp Drive Physically Possible?

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Monday, 9 October 2017

Marxist Labour and The Pendulum Theory of Politics

Democratic politics, the world over, is rather like a pendulum. It switches back and forth, from left to right and back again as the electorate watches each party get into government armed with promises and highfalutin rhetoric and spin and then watch them struggle with the realities of governing. When they are elected, often after the other party has governed for many years and then run out of steam, they are frequently extremely popular. Then they learn the hard way that government is hard and that compromise is inevitable. The electorate, seemingly, has to learn this all over again each time. Politicians too as we are currently seeing.

When John Major's government started its long decline after his unlikely victory in 1992, the triumph of Tony Blair's Labour Party began to look more and more inevitable. It managed this by not being too offensive to middle England. Even people like me, though I certainly did not like the idea of a Labour government, could accept the result with equanimity. That is no longer the case. Labour is now Marxist Labour, an extremist party of nasty ideologues bent on revolution. It represents an existential threat to this country. It is incumbent upon the Conservative Party to fight them all the way. At present it is not doing so.

According to conventional wisdom of course the way to do this is to try and occupy the centre ground and even to tack a little to the left. Given the current state of the Labour Party this is arrant nonsense. The Tories cannot compete with Labour on stupid, irresponsible promises that the country cannot afford. The Conservative Party is the party of responsibility or it is nothing. Last week Theresa May tried to make a few half hearted concessions to students and the public sector. It didn't work because they looked half baked and drawn up on the back of an envelope.

The only way for the Tories to win the argument and to defeat Labour is not by trying to imitate them, it is by being authentic Conservatives. The Conservative Party, like it or not, is never going to be seen as more caring on matters like the NHS. What it has to be is the party that is the party of grown-ups. It is the party that is like your parents, who tell you home truths you don't want to hear but which, deep down, you know to be sensible and responsible. It is a simple matter of common sense that the country cannot keep spending money that we don't have. No politician wants to deny funding to key departments, no politician wants to saddle students with debt or to deny public sector workers pay rises. But that is the world we currently inhabit. Labour always makes promises of lavish spending and always runs out of money. It always bumps up against fiscal reality, sometimes monetary reality too. Then the Tories get elected, start clearing up Labour's mess and Labour criticise them for doing so. That is the pendulum in action. It means that Labour can always present itself as caring and sharing and the compassionate party. In reality it is none of these things. Making promises based on borrowing and confiscation is not caring or sharing. It is actually a form of tyranny.

But instead of pointing to these facts of political life, the Tories are running scared and trying to compete with Labour on spending promises. They have long posed as the party of austerity and yet have been nothing like austere enough. We still have not eradicated the deficit, yet Tories are being painted as cruel and parsimonious. In reality spending has kept on increasing, but has been eaten up by certain key departments. Government is about choice. Tories have made choices, hard choices, but are being criticised for them. Labour want to make no choices at all. The corollary of that would be fiscal implosion and the hardest choices of all.

And Tories keep trying to pose as being progressive on social issues. Witness their current embrace of the latest facile identity politics of supposed transsexuals. It was reported at the weekend that the next census, due in 2021, will not ask us to identify our sex for fear of offending the tiny minority of people who imagine that they are in the wrong body.

This is another example of Tories refusing to be Tories. Transsexuality is a made up condition. It does not exist except in the mind. It is a mental health issue. You cannot be in the wrong body. Sexuality is binary. There is no evidence at all that this condition exists and if it does it is a mental illness that should be treated accordingly. It is impossible to change your sex and it is ridiculous to pretend that we can. Yet politicians, posing as progressive when in reality they are merely credulous and bovine, are telling us that gender is fluid, that men can become women and women become men - why is it incidentally that it is almost always men to women and not the other way around? Doesn't that tell us a great deal?

Yet we have got ourselves into the ludicrous position that transsexuals do not now even have to have had treatment before they can magically be regarded as a different sex. They can just self define and become a different sex. Oh and they get access to different changing rooms and single sex colleges too. This is the politics of the madhouse. Yet Conservatives are afraid to expose this emperor with no clothes for fear of being branded nasty. It's not nasty. It's common sense. It's grown up.

Conservatives need to grow up and embrace what we are. We are never going to stop some people fulminating loudly about us. We are never going to be seen as the nice party. By the same token however we are the party of good manners, democracy and of hearing people out without shouting them down. The Conservative Party does not have a problem with anti-Semitism and Laura Kuensberg did not need a body guard to attend our conference last week.

The pendulum of politics could saddle us with a Marxist Labour Party in power. Unless Tories wake up and embrace this reality and the role nature assigned us then we are as useless as a transsexual at an orgy. We are confused about ourselves when we have no need to be. We are the party of grown ups who are honest about what government can and cannot do, that tells students that there is no such thing as a free lunch and wears our resultant unpopularity with pride. Grow up.

Crash Course Literature: Huckleberry Finn Part 2: The Weird Ending

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Sunday, 8 October 2017

The Bible: A Very Grim Fairytale: Numbers: Chapter 27 - Women's Rights and Moses' Successor

Generally speaking women are not treated well in this story. They are treated as second class citizens, indeed barely as citizens at all with no rights or privileges. But now, out of the blue, comes a bit of very early feminism. Honestly!

So in the last chapter God had called a census so that the land they were headed to could be distributed to the people. But there was an anomaly. Five daughters of a man called Zelophehad, complained that, because he had had daughters and no sons, they were to receive nothing simply because of their lack of a penis between them.

They went to see Moses, who in turn consulted God. And God was clearly in one of his good moods because on this day he agreed with these women that it was unfair and that they ought to be able to receive some of the land in these circumstances. They should, said God, take a share of what their uncles had as that was how the land had been distributed. In the event of a father dying without having had a son then, decreed God, property should pass to his daughter.

And speaking of inheritances Moses, who had been told that he would never see the promised land, asked God whether he should appoint his successor. Moses by this time was very very old. God agreed that a successor was necessary and so he appointed Joshua, the son of Nun in whom he had spotted some talent as Moses' successor.

Joshua was duly appointed and this was done before the priests and before the entire tribe, all 2 million of them. The ones at the back probably didn't see much.

What Marx Got Wrong

White Supremacists: You Won't Like Your DNA Results

Friday, 6 October 2017

The Nihilist's Agenda

Four days on from the terrible events of Las Vegas and the more we know the less it makes sense. Except perhaps it was never meant to. Perhaps Stephen Paddock himself did not know, as he was pulling that trigger, why he was doing what he was doing. He just knew he wanted to do it and, as a man of wealth with little much to live for, he decided to hell with it.

Is this what modern life is really all about? If you are a nihilist perhaps this kind of end makes a kind of sense. We are always being told that there are psychopaths all around us, psychopaths of the non murderous sort. But what if someone who is a psychopath decides to become the murderous sort without bothering to start small? That might well be Stephen Paddock.

If there is one bright spot from the events of Sunday night, other than the random acts of kindness and heroism we always hear about in the wake of such events, it is the pathetic claims of ISIS that this hard drinking gambler was acting for them having had a late life epiphany. It's quite reassuring really that these arch cynics are at such a low ebb that they are now having to claim the crimes of every murderous madman as inspired by their peculiar brand of imaginary friend inspired hypocrisy dressed up as piety. I expect they liked the idea of one of their own turning guns on the infidel in the the modern Sodom and Gomorrah. But I don't think it's a line of inquiry the authorities need spend too much time on.

Stephen Paddock seems to have been an enigma. He seems to have been a quiet guy, although often quietness and apparent decency can mask an inner rage. Or maybe he really was just someone with a pathological hatred of his fellow human beings. Psychopaths do not need a reason to hate, they hate for hate's sake. After these sort of events we can usually point to signals of something wrong, something askew. With Paddock there was nothing, although of course his fondness for guns was a red flag. But this is America. Fondness for guns is not unusual and so nobody blinked an eyelid. Even after this latest massacre there are still people up and down this land, but in particular in the south, who defend their right to own guns, even multiple guns that would not look out of place on a battlefield.

You cannot legislate for the inner demons of your fellow man. And Stephen Paddock kept his hidden in plain sight. What you can legislate against is the ownership of lethal weaponry. There is no clear sign that America will do anything about this. Indeed plenty would go to war with that weaponry to defend their right to carry on owning it. It is America's enduring dilemma. And it is its enduring tragedy.

Crash Course Literature: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Pt 1

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Thursday, 5 October 2017

If Theresa May Won't Go She Must Be Forced Out

In all the world is there any word as dispiriting as prankster? I know it is one of those words that is only used by newspapers in the same way as nobody in the real world ever talks about trysts or talks of revellers, but prankster is a very newspaperish way of describing someone who isn't funny and is a bit of an arse.

Theresa May actually handled the alleged comedian Lee Nelson with great dignity and aplomb. His ever so hilarious stunt (another newspaper word) however may end up doing us all a favour. This cannot go on. Quite apart from anything else, only a few months since two London attacks and one just across town in Manchester, how was it possible that someone was able to get that close to the Prime Minister to hand her a piece of paper? What else could he have handed to her? And this same individual, after this security balls up, then went to speak directly to three members of the Cabinet, one of whom is responsible for security in this country at a time when we are supposed to be at very high risk of terrrorist attack. I suggest that Amber Rudd convene a meeting of Cobra this morning, instead of talking to Lynton Crosby and ask some awkward questions.

Anyway, back to the slightly less existential question of the week, that of the leadership of the country at a time when we are all in dire danger from being taken over by leftist revolutionaries bent on property expropriation. What are we going to do about this? How is the only party able to stop them going to react? Theresa May is demonstrably not up to the job she won by default last year. I think we all suspected that this speech would go down like a lead balloon even before it happened. The way it imploded just added to the tragedy of this proud and dignified woman who is in above her head. It was always going to be bad or at best ineffective. The fact that it was as awful as it was may simply mean that the Conservative Party comes to its senses and despatches her. Anyone, with the possible exception of Andrea Leadsom, would be better right now.

The stench of failure and defeatism is all pervading in the Conservative Party despite the fact that the former is not true and the latter should not be an option. But persisting with Theresa May is defeatism personified. Look at us, it is saying, the most ruthless election winning machine in politics cannot find itself a new leader, cannot agree upon even that and so we are sticking with this failure in kitten heels, this one woman lacuna where policy ought to be. Labour last year could not get rid of its useless liability leader. The Tories just won't, not out of loyalty or fealty, but because they can't think of anyone better. Leaders usually resign after election debacles, this one is being held hostage.

Theresa May has of course been unlucky, particularly yesterday. But she has also been incompetent and complacent. She aspired to the top job with no clear idea of what she wanted to do with it other than some opaque and disparate ideas about fairness and the just about managing. There is no clear political philosophy, no hinterland, no ideas, no strategy. She cannot give rousing speeches, she cannot lead from the front, she is a middle manager risen too high. Her cough yesterday was a symptom of her breathlessness at the dizzy heights she has reached.

Just look at what she said in this great relaunch speech. It was fortunate that she was interrupted and then incapable of getting the words out because they amounted to nothing much. No great housebuilding revolution just bureaucratic tinkering at the edges, which may end up delivering a few thousand new homes in addition to adding to a scheme that actually adds to house price inflation. This country needs hundreds of thousands of new homes. This is a necessity.  We cannot afford not to build new homes. Currently we have market failure being created by bad policy. This could be remedied by a simple combination of freeing up the planning laws and by offering one off, time limited tax concessions. It's a market solution powered by allowing the market to cater to a huge pent up demand. What's not to like about it?

Instead of bold new ideas on student debt and tuition fees we have had freezes, rate rises and promises of reviews. We all know what the problem is here too. It was supposed to be a market for higher education yet it isn't acting like one. Again that is thanks to a government cap. So get rid of the cap. Allow free floating fees. Make people make rational choices about their education instead of seeing it as a rite of passage regardless of what they actually learn. Make universities compete and innovate.

The same leader who was supposed to be giving the country a ringing endorsement of free market economics did so with the same clarity that Big Ben is currently announcing each hour. She is going to bring in a cap on energy bills, a statist, illiterate policy that will not work and which only gives grist to Marxist Labour's dark satanic mill of state intervention. Caps on fees be they on energy bills or on rent do not work. They just create anomalies. Energy companies should be forced to provide their energy on easy to understand tariffs that can be compared without the need for a masters degree in mathematics.

But Theresa May made none of these arguments. She sounded as dry and passionless as ever. Where was the fervour? Where was the anger? Where was the mea culpa for landing us in this mess? Oh I know she took responsibility but she nearly choked on those words just as she did on all of the others.

This cannot go on. This government, her government, looks more and more like Gordon Brown's in 2009. Or John Major's any time after 1992. It is sleepwalking to disaster, reversing itself when it has no need to and blithely carrying on with a range of policies that could and should be reversed. The principles behind Universal Credit are sound, but why not take more time testing it before it is rolled out for everyone. And get out there and make the argument for it when you do roll it out, or are the follies of the poll tax forgotten by Conservatives now?

Why are we still underfunding our armed services and leaving them under strength in these dangerous times when we can apparently afford to waste billions on overseas aid?

Why are we so afraid to show some steel in the face of the transparent tactics of bluff and bluster coming from Brussels? She could have taken the high moral ground by guaranteeing the rights of EU citizens living here, but guaranteed according to British laws, British laws of fairness and of democracy as contrasted to what is happening in Spain at the moment and the EU's silence on the subject. Her Government has been pusillanimous on that as on so many issues.

Theresa May is a decent, hard working woman who lacks people skills even though she has plenty of determination.  She won plaudits, rightly, for battling through and even making a joke of that P45 prank. Frankly even that could have been better. She doesn't want to hand Jeremy Corbyn a P45, she wants to stop him causing people up and down the country receiving theirs thanks to his bonkers policies. But she won't stop him. She is actively facilitating him with her performance and her red Tory policies. She should have been talking with passion about low taxation, self reliance, a strong economy, low unemployment, living within our means but still spending where it is necessary and prudent. These are Tory policies. That is a Tory philosophy. We heard none of it.

There was lots of rubbish in the news about metaphors surrounding the optics of the speech. But this is a Prime Minister who has no clue where she is going and where she is taking us. She has had disaster after disaster, some of her making, some for which she is blameless. But there is no sense that she ever knows what to do in a crisis. Yes she is calm under fire, but her instincts are rarely right beneath that calmness. She is being led by Labour and trying to ape them instead of offering alternative policies from the right of centre, policies that are rooted in reality and proven economics. There is just no sign that anything new or inspiring can come from this leader. We need radicalism. We got a cough and a splutter. Even if the speech had gone without flaw we would still have had a cough and a splutter.

The Tories need to step up now and send in the men in grey suits to tell Mrs May thanks very much but your time is up. There is no time for a leadership election and so the Tories need to show some maturity and agree a successor and unite around him or her. There is still time to repair the damage of the last few months, remember Chauncey was seen as a bad joke only six months ago. But the time is short. The process has to start now.

Crash Course Literature: Their Eyes Were Watching God

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Wednesday, 4 October 2017

A Conservative Prospectus For Victory, Not Survival

Even those of us who would rather like to see Boris Johnson as the leader of the Conservative Party and Prime Minister have to accept that this does not seem very likely at the moment. There is sufficient hostility toward the Foreign Secretary, more than sufficient in fact, that he may well find his ambition thwarted once again if the time ever comes to mount a challenge. This is why he probably should simply chance his arm at some point in the near future, when Theresa May is at her weakest. What does he have to lose?

Barring this however it is hard to see where the Conservative Party goes for its next leader since Ruth Davidson persists in denying that she has any such ambition and actually sounds like she means it. Would it not be worthwhile the men in grey suits talking to everyone and getting everyone to unite in making Ruth an offer. The job is yours, Ruth. Please come and lead us.

If this is not an option then the Conservative Party is left hoping for someone to emerge in the coming months or years, if we are lucky. Things are looking so desperate I might even have a go myself. We also have to hope that Labour's current priapic mojo becomes deflated and that their transparent attempt to use their union buddies to stage coordinated strike action does not succeed and indeed damages them.

This is where the Prime Minister herself comes in of course. Today, in the latest of her most important speeches of her career, Theresa May addresses a dispirited and flat Tory Party conference and attempts to galvanise them to action once again. Boris had a try yesterday and did pretty well. Ruth also raised spirits. Even Damian Green had a go by falling over. But it is the PM herself who will have to send her troops on their way ready to go once more unto the breech when they might feel like ducking for cover and indeed sheltering their assets in case of Chauncey the PM.

What should she say? She needs to strike a confident and inspiring tone. She needs to sound like a Conservative and to stop apologising for being one. She needs to contrast the decency of her party with the real nasties of Labour with their name calling, their anti-Semitism, their bullying and now their strike calling to try and bring down an elected government. Imagine what the real nasty party is capable of if they win an election. Imagine what the party of Corbyn and McDonnell are capable of. It's not just that they would ruin the British economy, it is that they would bring their Marxist, Trotskyite instincts to bear on all that we hold dear about British life. Property rights, the constitution, the law, the armed forces, Britain's role in the world even democracy itself would be seen as fair game for these petty minded revolutionaries who have never grown up and continue to harbour the kind of juvenile resentments and self righteousness most of us grow out of in our mid twenties.

That is not what Britain wants or deserves. And we must fight to keep them at bay. Labour attempted to bribe and lie their way to victory in June and almost succeeded. But they did not succeed. Millions turned out to keep them out. We must harness that determination to defend Britain and the British way of life we hold so dear.

This is not to say there isn't much to be done, much to changed or at least amended. There is a need for much more house building right across the country. We must all get on board with that, even if it means building on parts of the green belt. Everyone has the right to a decent home and Conservatives have always believed that more than any party. Now we must make good on this basic desire and a basic part of our philosophy.

And we have to make a success of Brexit. That means an end to recriminations and for us to all work together to a common end. Again Labour will be cynical and opportunistic. This just disguises once again their lack of principle and their inability to agree. That is why Conservatives must agree. We will seek a free trade deal with the EU and we will offer them a reasonable deal. But we will also prepare for no deal because we have had enough of the passive aggressive muttering from the EU. We have had enough of their meaningless talk of sufficient progress. Nobody knows what it means for the very good reason that it doesn't mean anything. Britain is leaving because we have an honest difference of opinion about the path the EU wishes to go down. But we are your neighbours and your trading partners. We cooperate with you and are your friends. It is time to accept democratic will and that many do not agree with you about your union. That is their right. That is the right of all nations and we will not be bullied. We will walk away from a bad deal, but there is no need for that to happen. It just needs good will on both sides. We have shown plenty.

What then is the vision for Britain under this Conservative government? It is of consistency and decency and of community spirit. It is of small government that gets out of the way of people unless necessary. It is of freedom and openness to the world under laws set by parliament. It recognises the awesome power of free markets to enrich us all. It recognises that free markets are the best and most fair way to operate that the world has ever seen. Not perfect by any means, subject to the law as is everything and everyone. But markets are the best way to assess and apportion risk, to find winners and to create prosperity. What is the Marxist Labour Party's alternative? For civil servants and politicians to decide what is best. That by definition is subjective and prone to error and to corruption. Markets, for all of their failings, are essentially objective. That is why they have consistently delivered the prosperity we have all come to take for granted.

Let us be honest, all politicians have been known to pluck fruit from the magic money tree. For all the talk of austerity these last few years, Britain is still dealing with a deficit, still adding to our debt. We have all been feasting on the magic money tree, adding to our debt rather than take even tougher decisions than we have been forced to take. But Labour would strip the tree bare and then chop it down to use for firewood. They would ramp up taxes, confiscate property and punish our brightest and best with punitive taxation driving them abroad. They have admitted that they are planning for a run on the pound. But we have had one since the Brexit vote they say. Well the pound has certainly fallen. But if you think that has been bad (hint: it hasn't been) wait until Chauncey arrives in Downing Street as PM. Even the magic money tree would make a run for it.

Conservatives will be a bold and reforming government because that is what Britain needs. We will not fritter away cash on pointless nationalisations, we will reform the privatised industries to make them work better. We will inject greater competition into the railways so that commuters have a choice of at least two companies on each line. Energy providers will have to all work to the same tariffs decreed by regulators so that consumers can make an easy comparison and choose on price or on service. Switching will be made even easier than it is already. Competition is the best way to provide good prices and good service. We see that in our cut throat supermarkets sector, or with our airlines where flying abroad has never been cheaper. Telecoms and in particular mobile phones show the advantages of multiple providers. That is the aim for our entire economy. Marxist Labour would stop all competition and hand entire industries to nationalised corporations ripe to be plundered by newly empowered unions who would hold us all to ransom and usher in an era of bad service, endless strikes and double digit wage demands.

Conservatives will deliver greater competition and we will cut taxes for everyone starting with the low paid. Millions already pay no tax at all on their earnings. We will ensure that more are paying less tax or no tax at all. We will reform stamp duty on homes and look to abolish it altogether for most family homes. As we build more new homes across the country this means that ordinary people and young people who are working hard will keep more of their earnings and will be able to afford their own homes again. By building more homes this will mean that supply is increased putting a cap on rental prices in a way that Marxist Labour's cap would never achieve.

This is a properly Conservative prospectus. It is what being a Conservative really means.

Crash Course Literature: The Poetry of Sylvia Plath

Puerto Rico Deals With Another Storm: A Presidential Twitter Storm

The State of Gun Violence in the US, Explained in 18 Charts

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Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Automatics for the People?

As self inflicted wounds and catastrophic misjudgements go, the election last year of Donald Trump, by however slim a margin, ranks as one of America's greatest ever mistakes. And yet it was a mistake that was only made once and, we hope and trust, will not be made again even if the orange buffoon manages to beat the odds and stay in office for his full term.

But the endless slaughter of Americans by gun toting criminals and/or madmen is an enduring and never ending mistake that astonishes and perplexes the world. No country is immune to gun crime of course. We have had a few in this country from time to time. But the regularity of them in the US still stuns and infuriates. How can it be that this land of liberty has so confused that enduring dream that so inspires with a right to own firearms, and in particular the right to own automatic guns that can mow down people hundreds of yards away with a minimum of skill. 

The latest madman sounds utterly un-mad, which just makes matters worse. Time will tell if he had money problems, health problems, an undiagnosed mental health issue. But it is just as likely that this was a man who had none of these problems. In a country where guns are so freely available there is every chance that a damaged or merely angry man (they are always men) will seek to make his mark on the world by living on in infamy. This was a man who was able to purchase freely and without need of criminality, around a dozen automatic weapons, secrete them in a Las Vegas hotel bedroom with a perfect vantage point and then simply await his presumably planned moment. 

Going on a shooting rampage is actually a quite common fantasy. It is just that in America it is ridiculously easy to turn that fantasy into reality. Coupled to the fact that these shooting sprees perpetrated by loner loser figures gain the killers a kind of infamy that some find attractive and the copycat effect can be quite profound. Again when the guns are so easily accessible it all becomes so much easier. 

All of which should surely mean that legislators in Washington at last take notice and do something about this. It isn't just these well publicised massacres. In America 93 people a day are killed by guns.  Since 1968 1.5 million Americans have died from gunshot wounds. And yet still the argument persists and is accepted by many that the right to bear arms trumps the right to life of a million people and that good guys armed to the  teeth can better defend themselves against the bad guys armed to the teeth. Well tell that to the people being mown down by an unseen attacker high above them in Las Vegas Sunday night. Unless they had happened to have an armoured tank regiment or an attack helicopter about their person they didn't stand much chance. This latest attacker not only had the time to stop and reload before continuing the mayhem, it appears he was actually able to stop and pick up a completely different gun and continue shooting with that. 

There is simply no excuse for this any longer. Gun laws are not a diabolical infringement of liberty, they are a defence of it. Here in Britain we have some of the strictest gun laws in the world. I have never even seen a real gun let alone fired one. I have always seen this as something to celebrate rather than bemoan. We live in a country where even our police are not routinely armed. There are 300 million guns in America with more being sold every day with little or no controls. That has to stop. There is certainly no reason for gun manufacturers to keep selling automatic weapons of the sort used by Stephen Paddock on Sunday. A country that enjoys hunting and the right to defend itself presumably does not seriously demand the right to inflict Somme style carnage. Yet that is the consequence of this blind spot in American politics.  Don't expect Donald Trump to have the decency to do or say anything about this. He is far too busy appeasing his base. But decent politicians should. 

Lessons in Democracy

Imagine for a moment what would have happened if, in the wake of the SNP winning their 2012 Scottish election, David Cameron had been silly enough to deny them the referendum to which they had long aspired. Cameron could have pointed out that he was constitutionally perfectly entitled to deny such a vote. It would still have been politically and even morally suspect to do so. The law is an ass in such a situation. In the end Cameron bowed to the inevitable and gave Salmond his longed for vote. He even allowed the Scottish Government the advantage of timing and of setting the question.

Most English people shrugged about this. We were happy for the Scots to debate the issue and to decide it democratically. It was really nothing to do with us. Would we regret their leaving? Certainly. Did we not really understand why they would want to? Oh yes. Did we think they were being lied to by the SNP and that Scotland would struggle economically? Definitely. But they should have their vote. To deny this would be lunacy.

And so, when the SNP lost that vote but then started immediately to agitate for another they lost legitimacy and the support of a good part of their own country let alone the rest of us. The matter was settled and that was that.

All of which makes the actions of the Spanish Government so difficult to understand. They didn't want a referendum. They refused to allow it and so technically such a vote was illegal. But to send in their storm troopers to drag people out of polling stations and use violence to quell it? That was and is disgusting and absurd in equal measure. People casting votes is not an act of insurrection.

The response of the British Government and in particular the EU has been pusillanimous or, in the case of the EU, self serving and hypocritical. As ever the EU simply does not understand or refuses to acknowledge the desire of people for self government and self determination. Yet surely even they should be criticising a government for using violence to prevent people casting a vote?

All that the Spanish Government had to do was allow the vote to go ahead, which there was ever chance the no side would have won anyway, and then simply ignored the vote. That would have been the grown up and sensible response. Instead, by acting the way they did, they have lost the moral high ground and reinforced the image of unbending arrogance and disdain for this wealthy and proud region felt by many Catalan people. Many who might have voted against independence will have voted for in response to this stupidity.

Now Spain will be plunged into crisis as the Catalan Government declares UDI. It is to be hoped that Spain sees sense and agrees to talk. Or maybe they could agree to another referendum, this time one without their bovver boys to beat up those exercising their civil rights. Either way their impolitic and plain stupid response to a genuine sense of grievance, whether or not it is justified, has only given Catalans a bona fide sense of grievance. All governments everywhere should condemn them. This is the kind of action we expect of the likes of the Chinese or of old style colonialists. It is not something that should be possible in Europe and should certainly not go uncriticised.

As we have seen here in Britain since our own referendum that Europe and indeed the whole world would rather we had not even held, democracy often creates outcomes that many would rather it did not. But the response should not be to deny it but to embrace it and debate the issues properly. We should learn that lesson as the Marxist left rises here. Debate them, don't try to shut them down, talk to them and show them reasons and reasonableness. Yesterday in Manchester a small and ill-mannered mob invaded a meeting being addressed by Jacob Rees-Mogg and tried to shout him down, labelling him despicable. When challenged however they had no real argument other than soundbites and accusations about food banks and name calling. That is the way to take on extremists and people who don't like those with whom they have simple political differences. Other opinions need to be engaged and not silenced. That is what democracy means after all.

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