Archive for March, 2017

So Is There A Grand Strategic Plan?

Thursday, March 30th, 2017

Possibly. I have learned from a friendly American source that the QM2 is off Shanghai housing a trade summit for three days designed to improve trade with China post Brexit. Mark Garnier, the UK trade minister is hosting the event. No reports of this appear in the media. So that is interesting. If you read between the lines of May’s Article 50 letter she is looking for a Special Relationship with Europe not unlike the one we have with the US, but with free trade.

We already know that we are working on the same thing with China and now are closer to Beijing than any other Western country. We even gave Xi Jinping, the Chinese President, a gilded State Visit, including an address to Parliament. China is important because with its centralized control, it can potentially deliver a trade deal much faster than either the EU or the US, helping to mitigate the potential shock of Brexit to the UK. Indeed securing a deal that helped grow our exports could well be sufficient to hold Scotland within the Union.

May’s problem is that in order to get any kind of worthwhile free trade deal with the EU, she will have to concede so much that  it will seem to the hardliners in her party and in the country, that leaving is pointless. On the other hand hard Brexit, she now realizes and so does the rest of the government, would be an electoral disaster. Because people have  constantly been told that Brexit will make them better off. If, or perhaps when, that turns out not to be the case, angry voters will be after blood. Hers.

So I could be be onto something here, or perhaps not. There may be a grand strategic plan. Or it might be that, as many report, the government is just splashing about out of its depth in a pool of wishful thinking, without a clue how either to stay afloat or  climb out.

You decide.

A Black Day: Article 50 Triggered

Wednesday, March 29th, 2017

I have nothing to say about today other than I hoped it would never come. It is not about economics. It is about the unification of the European family whose blood flows through my veins.

To walk away from what I have repeatedly called the greatest political achievement since the fall of the Roman Empire is an act of deluded vanity without historic parallel. It will do no good to us nor to Europe. Somehow we will all get by, but for me this is a day of shame. To draw a phrase of inspiration from history,

March 29 2017

A Date Which Will Live In Infamy. 

Mosul: Killing Civilians

Tuesday, March 28th, 2017

It is a sorry fact that war kills. And it kills civilians. Which is why it is no longer a reasonable option for settling disputes. But war goes on and much of it is fueled by the West.

Having raged at Russia for bombing civilians in Syria, it is disappointing that the American led airstrikes, in which the RAF is engaged, in the battle for Mosul in Iraq, are killing even more. The belief is that under Trump the rules of engagement have been quietly relaxed to allow much more aggressive tactics in the battle with IS. The risk/reward ratio is bloodthirsty. Razing one building to take out one sniper can also kill two dozen civilians and injure many more. The rationale behind this tougher approach is that it is better to bring a war to a bloody conclusion, than for it to go on without end.

Unless you are an injured child orphaned by your home collapsing on your family. Then you would say it is better not to have any war in the first place.

Trump Loses Big (ly): But Does He Save His Presidency?

Saturday, March 25th, 2017

There could be no bigger slap in the face for the President than the collapse of the replacement for Obamacare, the more especially because  the Republicans control both Houses of Congress, the Representatives by quite a margin. There are two points worth making without getting involved in the detail of the issue.

The first is that Trump is not really a Republican, nor is he a Democrat. He is America First, but Trump First of All. So his relationship with his adopted party is of convenience rather than blood, whilst its relationship with him is one of sufferance rather than acclaim. So it is hardly surprising if he runs into problems with his legislative agenda. This is made worse by the fact that the Republican party is broken into three factions; moderate mainstream, liberal leaning and conservative right. Unfortunately they all pull in different directions unable to find common cause with each other. This makes the President look weak and raises worries about his ability to deliver on his promises, including his trade deal with the post Brexit UK.

The White House is therefore wise to go hell for leather for his much vaunted tax cuts, especially the extortionate corporation tax which causes vast profits of US companies to be domiciled in tax havens outside America. The easing of the tax burden for middle income families is a smart move. Together they should  start  a growth spurt which will do much to raise Trump’s ratings profile. It will also create a revenue black hole before the fruits of growth deliver and how to finance that could cause a whole lot of problems on the Hill. But it is the only way forward that makes sense for this unique Presidency.

The second point is this. Had the new Healthcare Act got through, it is estimated that some 14 million Americans would lose their cover and not be able to afford the new deal. Most of those seem to have voted for Trump. So if they had been let down and turned away, there could be a Republican rout mid-term. That would face Trump with the Democrats again in control of both Houses. The first thing you would notice would be a lot of Special Prosecutors. So for Trump his healthcare failure is probably a blessing hardly needing a disguise.

Berlin’s Tribute: A Historic Moment

Friday, March 24th, 2017

I had an emotional and proud moment when I saw images of the Brandenburg Gate illuminated as a Union Jack, in a bold statement of solidarity with London after the Westminster terror attack. Having been born into the English segment of an Anglo-German family with a wartime childhood under flying bombs and rockets, whilst we rained firestorms down upon my cousins, the sight of the Brandenburg Gate decked out in the Union flag was an extraordinary and heart warming moment. It was not lit by the British as a symbol of conquest. It was lit by the Germans, free, united and peaceful as a spontaneous act of respect, solidarity and unity of one great European people to another. Because after centuries of fighting and for the first time since the fall of Rome, all the powers of Europe have come together in the EU as one. First we are all Europeans. Next comes our national identity.

But soon my pride turns to anger. For, through a fraudulent prospectus which promised the undeliverable, England, not Scotland or Northern Ireland, with Wales in the process of changing its mind, has voted to walk away from the greatest peace project in all of civilized history. Not only has this stupid display of vanity and bravado placed at risk the EU. It has put a very real strain upon the Union of the British Isles. So the Brandenburg picture may have historic significance. The days of the Union flag itself may be numbered.

I hold these,  mainly English, Brexiteers responsible for a shocking act of political vandalism, which devalues the great sacrifices made in two terrible European wars and squanders the heritage bequeathed to us though the blood of millions. Instead of moving forward as a great power within the European family, their vision is to become some sort of international courtesan, sleeping, sorry trading, with everybody and partnered to no one. We all know how those stories end.


Terror Breaks Through

Thursday, March 23rd, 2017

We had been warned repeatedly, yet when it comes, the raw tragedy of so many people killed and injured for no reason and without warning tears the heart. This blog joins the endless list of those expressing shock and sympathy. Having lived through the years of the IRA campaigns there is a cold familiarity of the sequence as it unfolds. Not bombs now or even guns, but vehicles used as weapons. But with the same outcome measured in human suffering.

Yet across the Irish Sea there is today an event remarkable for all the opposite reasons; the funeral of Martin McGuiness. He began as a terrorist commander and ended as a statesman whose drive to bring peace to Northern Ireland enhanced the lives of all who live not just in the island of Ireland but across the British Isles. The mourners told the story. From the illustrious to the humble, Catholic and Protestant, Unionist and Republican, together assembled to pay tribute to a remarkable life. Thousands died in the Troubles, yet with peace at least there is meaning.

If Britain wants to give meaning to yesterday’s victims it must do all in its power, not simply to defeat IS, but to ensure there is a fair and just settlement across the Middle East so that fighting ends and the Shia, Sunni and Kurdish populations each receive a homeland which they can themselves independently rule, according to their own traditions, without fear of each other. If we fail in that endeavour we will see more of the suffering and violence spread to our shores.

Labour’s Agony Goes On.

Tuesday, March 21st, 2017

A political party has members at its base and , depending on how successful it is, it has elected representatives in local, regional and national government. Labour is a Movement and has a formal link and relationship to most, though no longer all, trade unions. Normally there is lively debate between members and the party leadership in all political parties. These are democratic institutions in a land of free speech, so people can say what they think, more especially in politics. But broadly, although every political party is something of a coalition, everyone pulls in the same direction. If they don’t they go nowhere.

But in Labour now there is a rift so glaring and a naval gazing fest so addictive, that the party is becoming arguably unleadable and certainly  unelectable. There is a schism between the majority of the party in parliament and the majority of its members in the country. This Blog will not now explore the whys and wherefores, as many previous posts have done that.

But it is important to warn that unless this stops, there will be massacre at the polls for Labour, whenever an election takes place. Nobody wants everlasting Tory government in England, even Tories. The parliamentary Labour party must set aside its hate of Corbyn and get on with the demanding job of Opposition. Never mind their own problems because their country has many more. And they come first.

May’s In Tray Piling Up?

Sunday, March 19th, 2017

Lord Heseltine could have been right when he suggested that it would have been better for May to position her government in the active left centre running the country and improving people’s lives by a combination of reform and efficiency, supported by economic revival, to create an economy fit for whatever kind of Brexit happened. He also suggested the Brexiteers should have been put together to sort out the strategy and detail of Brexit, for the rest of the government to approve. In others words tell the Brexiteers ‘you got what you wanted, now deliver it.’

Instead she has embraced Brexit with the blind fervor of the gullible convert and is pushing forward regardless of problems piling up. She exhibits a reckless disregard for the need for both a proper costing of the bill for her chosen hard Brexit and a well rehearsed plan to deal with its aftermath. We continue to hear reports of shambolic meetings behind the scenes and have watched the damaging spectacle of the unraveling budget. Now she has been politically outsmarted by Sturgeon, who knew from the very beginning that there was no chance of a referendum on Scottish independence being agreed, but huge political mileage to be gained from a refusal. This would highlight Tory willingness to over-ride the Scottish parliament, reinforcing the injustice of pulling Scotland out of the EU when two thirds of its voters opted to stay in.

As a consequence Scotland is now the elephant in the room of the the coming EU negotiations, with  the prospect of doing a deal to keep it in an attractive option to EU hardliners anxious not to give Britain an easy time. Moreover the consternation about the sudden fragility of Britain’s Union is noted in every EU capital and will weaken May’s bargaining power. The picture of what she has to lose is now floodlit.

Further complications arise from the loss of the Unionist majority at Stormont and the near impossibility of creating a customs free border between the North and South in the event of hard Brexit. At the moment the two economies work as one, only the politics are split, and when it comes to jobs, free movement and trade, the North, faced with a choice of fencing itself in to remain in the Union, or staying open and doing a political deal with the Republic, will chose Dublin over London, not least because, like Scotland, the majority voted to Remain.

May resorted to one of her vicarage strictures to brush off Surgeon. ‘Now is not the time’ she trilled. She was right over sentiment but wrong over subject. Now is not the time for Brexit. It never was and never will be.

Trump Fiasco : Now A Climb Down

Friday, March 17th, 2017

To emphasise the scale of this GCHQ claim blunder, to tap the communications of the president-elect of an ally, or retrieve and release transcripts of communications recorded in bulk data, would require authorisation of the government, i.e the Home Secretary and the Prime Minister. Such authorisation would only be given if they were presented with evidence that the individual was an agent of a foreign power engaged in activities against the interests of the UK and its allies. In other words there was evidence Trump was committing treason.

This is clearly preposterous and why GCHQ, which never comments on security matters, issued a statement saying that the White House claim was ‘nonsense, utterly ridiculous and should be ignored’. As an official put down to the White House by the UK, this is almost unthinkable, especially as that statement itself would have been approved by Downing St.  The White House has now apologized, but this has been a damaging episode in a series of mis-steps that must now end for the credibility of  this Presidency not to be damaged beyond repair.

Tories : The Sleaze Party Returns?

Thursday, March 16th, 2017

May is not having a good week. It now turns out that gross violations of funding rules were broken by the Tory party in its 2015 battles in key marginals. The police are involved, in addition to the record fine by the Electoral Commission. However, the real issue is whether in these affected marginal seats a re-run will be required.

For example it is now clear that Farage would have won Thanet South without the intervention of these expensive, £18000 apparently, Tory bus-ins of  activists from outside the area. This all means that the Cameron won in 2015 by fraudulent means. Quite shocking. There is no point in warning about Russian hackers when the real threat to the integrity of our democracy comes from cheats in the political parties we are supposed to trust.