Saturday, 18 November 2017

Shocked I tell you.

If you're wondering why I'm quiet on Twitter, it's because I'm temporarily suspended. As a thought experiment I tried tweeting about remainers the same way they talk about Brexiteers. I see how this works now.

Friday, 17 November 2017

EU funding was always propaganda

Following my piece on the FT's poverty safari, a friend sent me this video featuring Nick Clegg on a safari of his own in Ebbw Vale in South Wales. It features little Cleggy boy puzzling himself as to why the ungrateful plebs could have voted to leave the EU when there are so many shiny regeneration projects stamped with a blue flag in the district.

Not least of those is a £2.5 million European Union funded funicular (pictured). Yep. Somebody somewhere thought that was a worthwhile regeneration project. 

This is very much a product of quangocrat thinking who have no concept of how to go about regeneration. All they know is they have a budget and they must spend it. This is the product of central economic planning.

One other example of this thinking can be found in this Guardian piece, exploring what needs to be done to close the north/south divide:

"Unlike the overcrowded south-east, the north is not short of homes, but its housing stock is often run down and energy inefficient. So there should be a nationwide programme to improve insulation, starting with cities in the north. Such a scheme would cut fuel bills, reduce carbon emissions and provide well-paid jobs for local people".

No it wouldn't. Get real. A fund would be set up. It would be farmed out to councils who would manage it badly, waste most of it, fail to install insulation on more than a handful of homes, probably of the wrong type, resulting in no meaningful reduction in bills and largely installed by corporate contractors, each of whom would take their skim off the top. Cynical? No. Because that is what happens every single time. Eyes passim. These people never learn.

All the while the deeply ingrained obsession with carbon emissions means they will always take the most cost effective means off the table while convincing themselves that the most expensive, least effective means is in the long term interest, thus justifying the vast sums of our money thrown at these initiatives. But these people are experts donchaknow.

The fact of the matter is that these places are never going to be restored to their former glory and the locals know it. The towns aren't going to be regenerated and no stainless steel dragon sculpture is going to offset the encroachment of the internet on high street retail. The only thing that keeps small rural towns afloat is tourism and and that's only if they have a particular charm, which former mining towns are not known for. 

In this respect one can quite understand the growing resentment as millions are spent on clueless baubles to decorate these derelict towns. They might marginally improve the look of the place but unsurprisingly such "regeneration" rapidly falls into disrepair and soon looks tarnished. One is often unsurprised to see that regeneration projects carrying a blue flag plaque are now tatty relics from the 90s. The places are abandoned even by the EU. 

The difficult truth we have to face up to is that the best regeneration for any of these places is yellow, caterpillar tracked with a large dozer blade on the front. We are living in a post industrial era and increasingly we are moving to a post-work economy. In the past it has been a policy priority to try and prevent agglomeration but now with small businesses catering for evermore niche interests, policy must look to creating cities large enough to create markets for them, lest everything gravitate toward London. 

Strategically we need let the inherent crunch points of London be their own deterrent, with no policy attempts to remedy them, while investing in Birmingham, Glasgow, Leeds and Manchester. The wrecks and relics of the industrial revolution are far beyond salvation and only private money in the hands of individuals can ever really bring life back to them. That is only going to happen when we allow private capital to do its thing. 

The public cannot be bought with their own money, nor do they wish to see it squandered on political vanity projects and white elephants. This is something the EU and its advocates has never understood. All the blue plaques achieve is to remind us that we are a defeated, occupied country kept afloat with subsistence grants - dressed up as the munificence of eurocrats even though the money is ours. This spending we have absolutely no say in. Had Ebbw Vale's local population had a referendum on how to spend £2.5m I am certain a funicular would not have been top of the list. 

The intent of the European Regional Development Fund was always to buy the advocacy of idiots like Nick Clegg. It rather looks like it worked on him. It did not, however, work on the people of South Wales, who have more depth and wisdom than our entire political class (if not the education). It is for that reason I will take democracy over technocracy any day of the week.  

Meanwhile, as we are on the subject of funding for decrepit relics struggling to survive and fading in relevance, don't forget to donate to this blog. This is one cause the EU is not going to bail out. 

Brexit: It's a values thing

In an attempt to make the EU more appealing to voters and counter rising eurosceptic sentiment across the bloc EU leaders have proclaimed a set of twenty “social rights” . The set of social rights, supported by all EU governments and institutions, spells out what the EU believes are the foundations of fair and well-functioning modern labour markets and welfare systems. It encompasses principles ranging from equal access to jobs and fair working conditions and wages to social protection and unemployment benefits and training.

European Commission President Juncker said. "Our Union has always been a social project at heart. It is more than just a single market, more than money, more than the euro. It is about our values and the way we want to live. Today we assert our common values and commit ourselves to a set of twenty principles and rights. From the right to fair wages to the right to health care; from lifelong learning, a better work-life balance and gender equality to minimum income".

Who could find that in any way offensive? You guessed it. Me. I wasn't able to immediately articulate by reaction but Sam Hooper could: "So the European Union continues to be something done *to* member states and citizens rather than any kind of organic response to what the people might want. Normal business then". Exactamundo.

Instead of initiatives fighting their way to the forefront of politics, backed by a popular movement, the technocracy, according to its own warped value system, takes a punt at what the people might want, without actually asking them and imposing it whether they want it or not. We could notionally elect MEPs to oppose it, but they wouldn't because they themselves are marinated in this same soft left consensus bullshit and you can be assured the NGOcracy will have their say as it travels down to us.

The consequences of this is a number of research agendas pumped through the various propaganda arms of the EU and into domestic institutions - along with regional funding that usually translates into technocratic centralist initiatives having precisely zero impact on the people who actually pay for it.

This, of course, keeps all the policy wonks and apparatchiks in business, with plenty of junkets to Brussels along with engagement workshops and seminars sucking in mayors and council chiefs and all the other dismal functionaries of modern managerialist command and control government.

The biggest problem with all this is that the only truly unapproachable concept for our euro-establishment is that it might be a big part, if not the whole, of the problem. The unintended consequences of just about every regulatory intervention in the labour market has caused a good deal of misery - and the very idea of the EU in any way influencing welfare policy is too horrifying even to contemplate.

The proclaimed set of rights - known as the European Pillar of Social Rights - says everybody has the right to quality education throughout their lives and that men and women must have equal opportunities in all areas and be paid the same. The unemployed have the right to “personalized, continuous and consistent support”, while workers have the right to “fair” wages that provide a “decent standard of living”. Minimum wages should be ensured to satisfy the needs of workers and their families, the leaders agreed.

While the rights would not be directly enforceable by the EU, except where they already exist in national laws and therefore subject to national courts, they establish a common EU standard and language for discussion of social issues. That, though, is only the opening volley. Any moves toward common standards is nearly always the beginnings of integration and the beginnings of a transfer of sovereignty to Brussels.

In effect this completely eliminates the very possibility of voting for a radically different model of governance. You can have any mode of government you want just so long as it conforms to the social democratic consensus and implements the welfarist agenda of the left. It locks in social policy to the extent that it cannot be reformed in any meaningful way (like all other areas of EU competence) and by definition excludes the possibility of a conservative/liberal political agenda.

What is most telling is how the denizens of the EU ecosystem look on in incredulity that people might actually vote against something they view as entirely benevolent, offering them rights and entitlements. It never occurs to them that the people themselves may wish to define the parameters of the society they live in.

Economist Simon Wren-Lewis describes the referendum as "people voting to make themselves poorer than they might otherwise be for some ill-defined notion of control or because of myths about immigration". To him and his ilk the notion that the plebs would prefer democracy to the idea of being farmed like animals is conceptually obscure.

This is ultimately what makes the EU an anti-human enterprise. It embodies the mindset that the people themselves cannot and should not be the authors of their own destiny and that democracy requires their qualified supervision. To them there is only one true way and their perfect order can only come about through the confiscation of vital powers.

It is further telling that those most opposed to Brexit are the same who oppose any privatisation of the NHS, oppose any reform of welfare, oppose any changes to EU funded academia, and fully subscribe to the climate change dogma of the elites. There is no sense of scepticism, no application of critical faculties and they simply cannot imagine a society not designed down to the last detail by statist technocrats.

I have no doubt that Brexit will unleash its own brand of turmoil and administrative chaos, but in so doing will release the human potential long constrained by the invisible bars of the EU construct. The EU is a utopian delusion where reality seldom ever intrudes. It can never truly respond to the needs of people because it is not of the people. It occupies an entirely different universe and for as long as it exists it will continue to govern in the interests of its denizens and dependents rather than those it nominally serves.

We are told that Brexit will bring uncertainty but democracy by its very nature is uncertain. Certainty is preferred by those who dislike disruption. But then the disruptive nature of democracy is the very point of it. It is a corrective to elites who become set in their ways, mired in their own dogmas and unwilling and unable to see their own follies and corruptions. To our establishments academic and political, the EU offers the perfect insurance policy to ensure that their agenda is unimpeded regardless of any vote. 

This is why I would vote to leave the EU every single time. It has not fully dawned on the people or the government yet but Brexit is regime change. The remainers get it - which is why they would use any means at their disposal to overturn the vote. This is why remainers can be found on Twitter openly praying for the deaths of senior citizens - to tilt the demographics in their favour. It is that which reminds me that this is as much a question of values. Democracy and liberty over the cold, calculating ambitions of genocidal technocrats. It's a potent reminder that you can have the EU or democracy - but not both. 

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Financial Times goes on poverty safari

My absolute pet hate in media is poverty safaris where hacks making a name for themselves venture out into the wilds of Northern England to see how the natives live. This latest effort from the FT is a singularly awful example where Sarah O'Connor ventures to Blackpool.

The reason I hate the genre is because it's exploitative. It tells us nothing we don't know, it's derivative and its only function is to secure the praise of other hacks inside the closed loop of London media circles. More to the point, we have been here before. Depression and joblessness in the regions is epidemic and has been for some time. This stuff is easy to write, cheap to produce and it adds nothing.

What puzzles me is why any of this is a mystery to our gifted class of pundits. If you are rotting without a job, on benefits, and stuck in the arse end of nowhere one might expect some difficulty in maintaining one's mental health.

In this instance we are talking about Blackpool but could just as easily be the Welsh Valleys. Places whose primary function is long redundant. Modernity killed the mines and the airline killed the seaside resort. The jobs came and then the jobs went. And they are not coming back.

So why would you have a welfare policy that pays people to stay in a place where there are no jobs? Furthermore why are GPs throwing antidepressants at patients on demand? Simply because GPs are not in the habit of saying no and mental health nurse practitioners hand them out like smarties.

Moreover, patients don't like to be told that their condition requires some maintenance work on their part - and that there is more to recovery than simply popping a pill - which is largely rendered inert since drugs and alcohol also involved. Not least habitual use of cannabis which for some is a major cause of mental disorder. It can be an extremely mentally invasive drug leading to psychotic episodes.

As much as anything recovery from depression is about breaking the habit of depression - forcing yourself to do things whether you feel up to it or not. Too often people make excuses for themselves and it is politically incorrect in our therapeutic age to call bullshit on it. The very last thing we should do is park people on incapacity benefit because that is a sure fire way of making it a permanent condition.

Moreover, depression then becomes a golden ticket to avoid taking up responsibilities and once word gets round, entire towns are diagnosed with it. It doesn't take Sherlock fucking Holmes to work out why there are high concentrations in these welfare slums.

For adult males of a working age the best prescription is a dose of "shut the fuck up, get on a bus to the city, find a spare room on the internet, and get a fucking job". The first month you will feel cold, vulnerable, miserable, despondent, bleak even. And then a pay cheque arrives. And then you can buy a few nice things.

Then, a month later, another pay cheque arrives and you are on your way to a having a deposit for a more substantial let. Six months later, you have a routine, an income, a secure place and you're not in fucking Blackpool. A year later you might even have a job that doesn't suck. You might still have depression but you will manage it better.

But no. Such a diagnosis is out of place in the era of the snowflake. It's not the job of men to go and find work and be men. It is our role to be victims and wait to be saved by government regeneration schemes. Meanwhile, we are told there is nothing we can do to help ourselves and pulling the duvet over our heads and popping another pill is all we can do until a job falls out of the sky.

Now I am not unsympathetic to depression. I know what it's like. I am a depressive nihilist myself. When I hit the rocks I hit them hard. But I know you have two choices. You can sink or you can swim. It is a choice. You can keep buggering on or you can guzzle down a bottle of something and throw yourself a massive pity party. I've done the latter once or twice and clawing your way out of it is not easy. It takes work. Self-pity is a very potent drug.

Punching through that motivational barrier when you really don't care if the universe implodes is the discipline you have to develop. Right now it's 15:37, and it's almost dark outside. I can feel the last of my neurotransmitters bleeding away and in an hour or so I will be in a state of catatonic despondency. It's typical for this time of year. I've had to develop management strategies for it because otherwise I will find myself back on my arse again.

And you know something? I don't live in Bristol because I like the local cuisine. I came here because I knew there would be work after failing to find work in another derelict seaside town. I did rough it. It wasn't fun. Except for the bits that were. This is why I can vote for Brexit because if I need to do it again I can and I will. That is self-knowledge born from experience.

This is why I also don't care about the economic impact of Brexit quite so much as the handwringers do - because I know that Brexit will force cuts and it will force tough choices - and it will shatter the status quo that leads to these welfare ghettos. We won't have £24bn to spend on housing benefit.

Britain needs to grow up. There are no answers when it comes to Blackpool and Blackwood. These places are long dead and no central state planning is ever going to restore them to their former glory. A regeneration scheme here or there is not going to change the fortunes of their miserable residents. Only a better life can do that and a better life is something you have to work at.

For this, and so many other emerging issues, the politicians don't have any answers. They don't have the courage to make the cuts or seriously examine the viability of our creaking welfare state. For as long as politicians are held hostage to generation snowflake there will never be a reappraisal of our command and control economy - and for as long as we treat adults like entitled children they will go on behaving like entitled children.

Since the politicians won't act, Brexit will force the issue. This is a long time coming - and though there will be pain, nothing good can come from leaving things as they are. Brexit cannot come soon enough. We have exhausted the possibilities of the current political settlement and if the cold reality of Blackpool is this far beyond the grasp of the Westminster bubble then it's a wake up call we are badly in need of.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Russian "interference" is symptomatic of the West's political weakness

To the untrained eye some Twitter parody accounts are indistinguishable from the real thing. The same can be said of Twitter bots and fake accounts. There are usually tell tale signs but some of them are virtually indistinguishable from Leave.EU followers and alt-right accounts. I have in the past had friends go down that avenue of politics and have since broken off contact. I have no time for it.

These will be the people most susceptible to subversive manipulation attempts since they retweet anything on the basis of confirmation bias. How much influence it has I really can't say for certain but I am a massive sceptic.

According to The Times, Russian Twitter accounts posted almost 45,000 messages about Brexit in 48 hours during last year’s referendum in an apparently co-ordinated attempt to sow discord. More than 150,000 accounts based in Russia, which had previously confined their posts to subjects such as the Ukrainian conflict, switched attention to Brexit in the days leading up to last year’s vote, according to research for an upcoming paper by data scientists at Swansea University and the University of California, Berkeley.

Russian activity allegedly spiked on June 23, the day of the referendum, and on June 24 when the result was announced. From posting fewer than 1,000 tweets a day before June 13, the accounts — many of which are virulently pro-Putin — posted 39,000 tweets on June 24 before dropping off almost entirely.

However, according to Sky News, although co-ordinated, Russian activity appears to be at a much lower level than in the US presidential elections. Analysis was carried out by Yin Yin Lu, a researcher at the Oxford Internet Institute. Ms Lu cross-referenced a pre-existing database of 22.6 million tweets she created last year with the 2,752 accounts identified as creations of the Russian Internet Research Agency by the US senate. She found 416 tweets from the Russian usernames from March to July 2016, including during the referendum period itself.

Ms Lu told Sky News: "First of all the number of these tweets is important to highlight. So there's about 400 tweets here out of 22.6 million. That is a very infinitesimal fraction. So the word interference is perhaps a bit exaggerated." However, those accounts appear to have co-ordinated strategically, retweeting each other to amplify their message and making much more use of photos and videos than normal Twitter users during the same period. "There's some kind of network happening here," Ms Lu said.

So this opens up a few questions. How much effect did it have? What is the agenda? Can it be countered? 

Clearly there is a case for the regulation of bot activity and Twitter has legal and moral obligations. That is an ongoing discussion. I think Twitter probably can and should do more. Propaganda wars are here to stay and the West is vulnerable. The bigger and more difficult question is to address why it works (if indeed it does).

We will never be able to precisely pinpoint exactly what swung it for leave. Primarily I think it was a two fingered salute to the establishment and there are a number of milestones in the campaign where the remain effort jumped the shark in its hectoring tone, condescension and fearmongering. For them it is comforting to believe that Mr Putin had more of a hand in their defeat than they. 

We should, however, be prepared to entertain the notion that coordinated external activity can sway elections. Certainly the model is not without merit. The Leave Alliance founding strategy was to establish a network of bloggers each disseminating themes to their own audiences.

To a point it was successful in that we did manage to lodge some arguments in the debate but we were not sufficient in number and not active soon enough. We have enjoyed more influence since the referendum than before. Our intention, though, was not to engage in the mass appeal material, rather we sought to target opinion formers in the media to at least lodge the idea that there was an economically neutral means of leaving the EU.

As to the populist front we had Leave.EU and to a point, Vote Leave. The former invested heavily in Facebook advertising through native tools with no real science. For Arron Banks is was simply a popularity contest in order to win the official campaign designation. The bitter feud between the camps better explains some of the tactics in play.

In the end, Leave.EU efforts were so cringe-worthy and amateurish that anyone serious about winning disowned them. They attracted a large contingent of what could loosely be described as alt-right followers, tweeting anti-muslim material and centring on immigration. Though this stuff does have reach it also has an inherent glass ceiling and what we saw from a number of Twitter mapping exercises was a distinctly tribal flow of data.

From the illustration above we can see from the large green blob that leave activity was largely self-referential. The Leave Alliance triangle is indicated in the circle thus demonstrating we did manage to reach a different audience while the blob was talking to itself. I do, therefore, wonder whether populist material from Russian bots, largely indistinguishable from Leave.EU material, would have had the slightest impact. I can't see that any bot material would have influenced anybody who wasn't already planning to vote leave. 

If there is any purpose at all in publishing highly contentious material it's for the purposes of electoral judo where you use the overwrought reaction to your own advantage in which case Leave.EU was more successful than any Russian bot. We might also note that bot traffic surged about the time when all other traffic also surged so as a fraction of output it's impact is minimal.

Ultimately if the UK is vulnerable to external manipulation - a case which is not proven, policy makers would be better advised to examine why. In this you only have to look the choice of guests Russia Today which has always sought to give air time to popular fringe figures. For a time the right wing bias on the UK edition of RT was the equal and opposite of BBC output. At one time I would even have said that RT was a welcome antidote to the sterility of the BBC.

One imagines this helped foster the perception that there was an establishment collusion to exclude the authentic voice of the people from the media domain. The best the BBC can muster is a token slot for Andrew Neil as a licensed dissident.

The BBC as an inherently left wing bureaucracy will always fail in its mission for neutrality. Of late it has overcompensated but that's because it will never really know where the political centre lies. Institutionally it is out of touch. This leaves the BBC a constant source of suspicion and where there is suspicion there is fertile ground for conspiracy theories and a willingness to believe, well, just about anything. 

But then this is more than just a PR problem. Populism goes for the weak points. The populist narrative holds it that the West is threatened by "open borders" while an indifferent elite enrich themselves, blind to the concerns of ordinary people.

The narrative pushed by Russia is socially conservative, encompassing anti-Muslim and anti-gay sentiment. It is very much designed to break eastern European nations out of the EU sphere of influence. It speaks to religious conservatives who view the west as permissive, decadent and vulnerable to terrorist attacks. It would appear to be highly effective in the Visegrad states. This is with a view to weakening support for sanctions against Russia.

One might, therefore, venture that policy-makers turn their attention to the domestic cultural divides which have long festered without redress. If you wish to render Russian propaganda inert then you have to drain the sea it swims in. To do that we need to stop the adoption of leftist degeneracy as public policy.

Russia is positioning itself as the defender of white Christianity against the creeping "cultural Marxism" (whatever that means) of the West. It's cynical, hypocritical but highly effective. When we can't even have an open debate about CSE in Rotherham and elsewhere and we are unwilling to assert our own values in fear of offending middle class white liberals, some might conclude hat Mr Putin has a point.

Presently we have a political class which dare not even speak in the same terms as those it purports to represent. Consequently politics is ever more estranged from electorates. Unless we are prepared to start having difficult conversations where the public and politicians are able to speak freely, the poison from the Kremlin will continue to take root. The West will have no defenders if there is nothing left to defend.

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Death by a thousand sandwiches

Today it was reported that Millennial couples priced off the London housing ladder could save enough for a deposit in five years by giving up six “luxuries” ranging from phone upgrades to sandwiches and overseas mini-breaks.

Strutt & Parker's original analysis applies to a couple saving for a house over a period of five years, so the figures are a lot more reasonable than they appear, even if it still seems a bit steep for a weekly spend. Their analysis focusses on the potential savings that could be made by a couple cutting back on: coffee, gym membership, takeaways, lottery spending, and not going out once a week.

Naturally this triggers howls of incredulity as hard pressed young things compare their meagre habits to those presented but there is certainly some truth to it. Even in this time of so-called austerity our buying habits have trended ever more toward convenience. Over the last decade we have seen an explosion in supermarket brand express shops opening wherever there is a vacant lot.

A quick look at the refrigeration units tell us that it's geared for luxury and convenience foods. It's a peculiarly British thing to see fresh made sandwiches in petrol stations and corner shops. I do, however, think that the report has it wrong. Millennials are not priced out because they spend on luxuries. They spend on luxuries because they are priced out. Cash rich and asset poor. There is a certain sense of futility and a refusal to live an austere life in pursuit of an ever more unlikely goal.

It is this same spending pattern which in turn fuels the demand for service sector workers - which in turn sustains a lot of growth. This I believe leads to much more transient lifestyles, a higher turn over of people and a wholly different set of cultural attitudes - and I think this goes some way to explain the demographic shift in the Brexit vote.

This goes back to a recurrent theme of this blog; that we are becoming a nation of overindulged children with little in the way of adult responsibilities, no stake in society and unsurprisingly it drifts away from the home owning social conservatism upon which UK post war culture is built. The speed of transition also goes some way toward explaining the Brexit vote.

Meanwhile the narrative has it that the structural problems of an ageing and property-less country can only be served by maintaining current levels of immigration. We are told that we must not blame immigration for any of the problems, rather it is a short sighted government failing to invest in health, housing and infrastructure. Which to a point is absolutely true but the growth in itself is its own pull factor. Development can never hope to keep pace this exacerbating the problems with availability of housing and strain on transport infrastructure.

As much as this dynamic explains the vote to leave it also explains youth opposition who would rather not experience austerity for real, and have grown accustomed to the conveniences of a hyper-charged services economy. One side thinks the other are gammon-faced old Tory bigots who in turn think the young are limp-wristed metrosexual leftist wastrels - and if The Guardian and Vice are anything to go by, they are not wrong.

The kids do have a point though. There's lot to be celebrated about a consequence free nice life with nice things and no commitments where liberal attitudes mean people are free to be whatever they want. The snag is that it is not consequence free and the current model is not sustainable, and because it works just well enough for those who didn't miss the property boat we are not going to see any serious attempts to remedy the problems.

And this is where I see Brexit making a difference. Changes in the supply chains are going to have an impact on consumer habits, we will see a drop off in convenience products and subsequently a decline in the kind of service jobs which have traditionally attracted migrants. I can then see the housing bubble finally popping and we return to a state where frugal habits allow for saving.

As is, policy is geared for ever rising house prices to protect the investments of those who have the power. If that is to be permanent I can see why kids would want freedom of movement so that they can bugger off elsewhere. I don't blame them - and I expect the EU loves that idea.

The trouble is we have to build a country that does work for everyone and a model that promotes rootlessness and transience basically demolishes any kind of civic ethos. Not for nothing do Ukippers call the EU a Marxist enterprise - and this is why Mrs May's "citizens of nowhere" riff resonated well outside of the media bubble. A clever piece of rhetoric.

That is what makes Brexit a culture war. We are told that the old fogies should shut up because the future belongs to the children of the European Union - as though the experience and wisdom of age counts for nothing and elder voters are not entitled to a legacy. Hardly surprising then that the debate has become visceral.

Being statistically between the two camps I can see merits in both but ultimately I think Brexit is going to make a lot of things better in the long run. Brexit arrests a number of trends which are out of control and it is a yank on the leash for our politicians. As much as I know it's going to bring economic and political turmoil, all my best instincts tell me Brexit is still very necessary and it is going to be worth the sacrifice.

If by some means the politicians manage to stop Brexit, they will rush to put this whole sorry debacle behind us and pretend the rifts have simply evaporated. They will make a few token adjustments and patronising gestures in the direction of leave voters and pat themselves on the back for a job well done.

Some predict riots and civil unrest if we do not leave but I don't think so. I think it would just lead to the quiet death of democracy. All the while the civil, cultural and infrastructural decay would continue unabated until that one day when the system cannot cope and folds in on itself. I rather expect the consequences of that would make Brexit look like a walk in the park. 

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Brexit is a wake up call for Britain

A lot of people ask me how I can be so cavalier in pursuing a political decision I know will have considerable economic fallout. Unlike other leavers I make no pretence about Brexit. I will not sugar coat it and I have little time for those who do. By the same token, however, I am equally unimpressed with remainers who seem to think that remaining in the EU is a safe choice which at least preserves the status quo. It doesn't.

A report in today's Telegraph has it that the number of "silver renters" in England is set to treble to a million, analysis of official data shows, as more people are leaving it too late to buy their first home. According to analysis carried out by campaign group Generation Rent, the number of private renter households in England headed by someone aged 65 or older is set to increase from 370,000 in 2015-16 to 995,000 by 2035-36. The rise will come as the result of more people reaching their forties without having made their first step onto the housing ladder, at which point it becomes increasingly difficult to get a mortgage, the report said.

Meanwhile, other reports indicate that about 15 million people have no pension savings and face a bleak future in retirement. The Financial Lives survey of 13,000 consumers by the FCA, the biggest of its kind, found that 31% of UK adults have no private pension provision and will have to rely entirely on the state in their retirement. The full state pension is £159.55 per week, but that is only available to individuals who have a complete record of national insurance contributions.

Of particular worry is the group of people aged over 50 who are not paying into a pension and have few years left to build one up before they reach their 60s. When the FCA asked why they had made no provision, 32% said it was too late to set one up, 26% said they could not afford it and 12% said they were relying on their partner’s pension.

Auto-enrolment has brought millions of people into pension saving for the first time, but millions of self-employed and part-time workers are not in the scheme. Then turning to another report in The Guardian we see that British workers can expect among the worst pensions in the developed world. This is as councils are set to spend more than 40% of their budgets on adult social care.

When it comes to pensions and mortgages, both of these financial frameworks are geared toward the model of yesteryear where you could reasonably expect that a permanent job was permanent. However, we increasingly find that middle band salary roles are being shunted into contracting. The traditional financial instruments have not kept pace with sweeping changes in society. These are problems to which nobody I know of has a solution.

What I can say with some confidence however is that whatever it is we do, it will have to be radical. We are sitting on a time bomb. Policy-makers continue to use immigration as a sticking plaster but supply of road, rail, health and housing infrastructure is not keeping pace with population growth. Something must be done. 

In this it is easy to see why many peg their hopes on Jeremy Corbyn who hopes to borrow £500bn to spend on public services and housing. That, though, does not do anything to arrest the emerging omni-crisis and without a fundamental economic restructuring all it can really do is kick the can down the road and make things worse.

More to the point, anything radical will necessarily require some deeply unpopular choices. And look what happened to Mrs May when the media labelled her social care reforms as the "dementia tax". Ain't no politician ever going there again.

And then look at the shambles in Westminster currently. As this blog continues to point out, this is by no means a new thing. There simply isn't the vision, the talent or the courage to radically rethink our economy. Living standards are only going decline, things are only going to get tougher and as politics travels deeper into its pocket of unreality it becomes ever more estranged from the public.

While we might prefer the relative stability of the status quo and a lot has been said of the uncertainty of Brexit, for that to qualify as an argument we must examine what that certainty entails. What it likely entails is a further degradation of politics, no radical reform and more political resentment, while incrementally, by the millions, people fall into a position of absolute state dependency. Do we expect Deliveroo and Uber drivers to prop all this up?

I take the view that the UK economy is that the fag end of a giant Ponzi scheme and if there is one certainty about such such schemes it is that they always fail.

So why Brexit? Well, one way or another it forces the issue. We have to make radical reforms simply because we literally cannot afford not to. Already the exchange rate is a deterrent to immigration, we are already seeing movements in the property market and at some point we are likely to see another round of cuts. Then we have to have this out once and for all.

Brits have grown up used to certain entitlements and expectations born of post war socialism. It cannot be a coincidence that collectively we do not bother to save for retirement. Between the state pension and housing benefit (the latter underpinning a rentals floor price), it's enough to get by on. All the while we tell ourselves comforting lies that if only the government would crack down on tax avoidance then we can continue to firehose the NHS with money. 

Entitlement is something that runs deep in UK society. I see people hobbling themselves and squandering their potential in order to get higher upon the list for a government hand out. Either directly or indirectly the state subsidises our life decisions. The state has become an all purpose assurance scheme which ultimately promotes irresponsibility. It has a cultural as well as economic cost.

If we want to break the UK out of its cycle of decline then we need to break the psychology of expectation and entitlement. Britain's welfare dependency goes far beyond the usual targets the Daily Mail goes after. One rather suspects that the most subsidised demographic of all is the Daily Mail reader. Collectivity we are unable to admit to our manifest hypocrisy.

I'm not looking forward to a decade of economic turmoil. All things considered, I could really do without it. What I do know, though, is that if we don't bite the bullet we will evolve further into a state of learned helplessness and we will continue award ourselves many more perks, each time torpedoing any attempt at vital reforms. The result is a far bigger crisis that we pass on to the next generation.

Over time the UK can restore trade links with Europe. It would be better not to lose them but if that is the price then I am still willing to pay it. We need a long and serious conversation about what we can still expect of the state in a world of hyper-globalisation, ever more insecure work and ageing populations. Psychologically the UK mindset has not evolved much beyond 1945. We expect the world on a plate and we expect the Easter bunny is going to pay for it. Not for nothing are employers more keen on eastern European labour.

Brexit is going to be a wake up call for Britain and Brits will have to get their heads around the notion that the post-war era is over. Britain is going to have to compete without the many advantages it has previously enjoyed. It is going to have to reinvent and innovate in order to survive and our traditional financial models will have to modernise.

The traditional model of work is dying. Our ossified state structures cannot cope. Our mentality is behind the times. Our politics has expired. It is therefore a matter of practical and moral necessity that we change our ideas. So far as I can see, Brexit is the only thing likely to cut the apron strings and the only catalyst that can bring about meaningful regime change.

Many have said of Brexit that we are taking a step back in time. I couldn't disagree more. It's the EU stuck in a timewarp, clinging on to its WW1 era vision. It is unlikely to modernise. It is unlikely to reform. It will maintain its regulatory iron curtain and quietly suffocate. Eventually Europe will have to undergo its own revolution to shake off the dogma of the last century. In that respect Britain is ahead of the curve.

Nobody knows what Brexit will look like or what will emerge from the turmoil. What we can say though is that it will be a democratic and economic correction to a long stagnant system. Though it will be tough it will at least be an opportunity to break the political deadlock. We are unlikely to resolve anything until we do.

The battle for democracy has only just begun

Over on his blog, Oliver Norgrove remarks that "Three years ago I asked myself a very simple question. How do I, an EU citizen, influence EU policy? I came quite quickly to the conclusion that I couldn't, and I have not veered from this analysis".

That is really the essence of it. I know that in more than one instance I have influenced the national debate. The Leave Alliance bloggers put a number of arguments on the map. We may be losing the war against the Brexit ultras but we have not made it easy for them and in many instances have been well ahead of the pack in exposing their methods and motives.

Starting from a position of relative campaigning inexperience a number of our ideas have been aired in the Commons and there are occasional hints that some things we have said have been taken on board. We have punched above our weight. We are, however, up against a number of influential blockers with far greater resources and better access to the Westminster machinery.

This points to a number of problems in our own democracy not least the collapse in ethical standards which has led to the Legatum Institute becoming a privately funded shadow civil service. This has not gone unnoticed and in the near future we will have this out.

In fact, the main reason some in the media are alert to Leagtum is because we made it that way. With persistence, patience and skill, with only modest resources, it is possible to influence British politics. There are many questions to be asked as to have we can improve that, but it remains the case that we can at least make a difference.

Part of that reason is is the common language and culture of our politics. Westminster, for right or wrong, is the focal point, and our media is geared to that dynamic. That is the basis of a demos. Something the EU can never accomplish.

But in many ways Westminster and the EU share a number of similarities. For instance, Legatum Institute does not enjoy a position of influence from the quality of its work. Nobody with a grounding in the basics of trade, or with a working knowledge of how single market systems function, has anything good to say about Legatum Institute.

The way the Legatum serpent has coiled its way around the throat of government is to tell those with the power exactly what they want to hear. It is easy to gain influence in you skilfully play the vanity and ignorance of politicians. The system, therefore, is wide open to abuse by those with less than honest motives. Just like the European Union.

Norgrove asked how he could influence policy and concluded that he can't. He's right. He can't. Nor can I. But there are plenty of people who will tell you they can and they have. What they all share in common is that they have bought into the EU wholesale and have gone native. As we head into the most critical point in Brexit negotiations, they are the ones gaslighting for the EU.

These will be the bland, compliant functionaries of the Jo Cox ilk. Fully signed up to every soft left agenda of the NGOcracy and politically correct to to the core. Exactly the sort of people who will tell the EU exactly what it wants to hear - that we should have more EU regulation, more power for them and less for us.

Ultimately the EU only hears that which it wants to hear. Every single one of our MEPs could belong to a eurosceptic party, and irrespective of how effective they were, they would still not influence the technocratic agenda of the EU and would not be in a position to block initiatives even if they voted unanimously.

Were our Mr Norgrove to turn up to Brussels dressed in a blue and yellow leotard singing Ode to Joy, scribbling crayon drawings pleading for the EU to do more to reduce fossil fuel usage, he'd be on the cover of every glossy internal PR rag and eventually given a cushy Eurocrat job - on a very tidy salary. Not for nothing do NGO wonks have a life of frequent expenses paid travel to Brussels and Strasbourg to attend workshops and jamborees.

Ultimately the EU will never get the message because it's just not receptive to inputs contrary to its fanatical devotion to ever closer union. Consequently, it can only ever become more remote and out of touch. There is nothing to interrupt the the closed circuit. It pays NGOs to lobby itself to the point where it's stuffed to the gunwales with conformists, and then wonders why the public do not relate to it.

There is a well trodden career path for those who want a ride on the gravy train, but from the outset requires that all critical faculties are suspended and all scepticism to be spoken only in private. After forty years of membership we now have a well pensioned legion of Euro-aristocracy who will take their message of brotherhood and unity out to the plebs.

Having cemented itself so deeply into the civil institutions of the UK it enjoys unparalleled influence over UK political culture which explains the gulf between the establishment and the electorate. They inhabit entirely different worlds.

In this respect, Brexit is only the first battle in a long war for democracy. The EU successfully mounted a silent coup, taking control of the UK. What we are watching now is an attempted counter-coup by the Tory establishment. Neither side is interested in democracy and neither side will ever seek public consent for their agenda. They will simply use the mechanisms of state to manufacture the illusion of consent.

Though this is of grave concern, the point remains that through that same patience and persistence we have a shot at derailing the agenda of the Tory right. That is why localised democracy is the only real protection we have - and the only means by which we can usefully defend ourselves against unwholesome agendas.

Very often I am told by pragmatic remainers that if they have to choose between the EU regime and one of the Tory right then they prefer the devil they know. But to that I say we are not forced to choose between two equally dismal outcomes. We outnumber them, the power is ours and all we have to do is use it.

I have made no bones about this. Brexit is a revolution - but leaving the EU of itself is only the beginning of the process. The removal of the EU will lead to a power vacuum and the Tories are attempting to fill it. I do not see that they will succeed in that they have already overplayed their hand. The immediate battle, therefore, is to ensure they do not enact their scorched earth policy on the way out. Either way, the battle to "take back control" only begins on Brexit day. If you thought leaving the EU alone was "mission accomplished" then you never understood the problem. 


Every year we are treated to the full array of opinion in respect of Remembrance Sunday and the meaning of the poppy. It seems that each year we achieve a new low for attention seeking crass remarks by people looking to excuse themselves from a simple act of reflection.

What is lost in this is the universality of the poppy. Whether you mourn the loss of a loved one or wear one in respect for an ancestor, there are many other issues upon which we can reflect. We can lament the naivety and venality of the politicians who bring us to such unimaginably awful events. We can salute the bravery of the men and women who fought, but we can also salute the courage and persistence of the people who came together to to help each other.

Then there are the conscientious objectors who faced imprisonment and death. They would sacrifice their lives for an equally noble principle. They would face the shame and ridicule of society to stand for an idea. Their contribution to the liberty we enjoy today is just as valid. We can even pause to think of the eight million horses who died in combat. Whatever your reason, there is always a reason. 

Ultimately the annual ritual is a moment of national unity where we reflect on what the poppy means to us. My reason is not the same as yours, but for one day it matters to reflect on where we have been, where we are going, and what we stand for. By all means excuse yourself if you wish. That is a choice you are free to make - but that freedom is not a given - and that is why this simple act is still important.

Saturday, 11 November 2017

Brexit: It's the democracy, stupid

Eurosceptics are political obsessives. If you meet one the chances are it's their primary occupation. We are implacably opposed to the EU and there is little compromise to be had. We will not trade democracy for economic convenience. The freebies and entitlements are no substitute for self-determination.

Every initiative from the EU has one of two functions. Either advancing integration (assuming control), or arresting disintegration. On the former it will never seek consent. On the latter there is no amount of other people's money it will not spend.

Take the Euro. There was never any economic necessity to it. It was entirely an ideological enterprise for the advancement of le grand project. The books were fiddled to bring Greece on board and when that failed member states had to dig deep to ensure it did not fold.

Similarly when freedom of movement is entirely ideological. EU citizenship as a framework to give common rights to all EU citizens is primarily about engineering an EU demos with a view to putting the EU at the centre of political attention, thus establishing hitherto absent legitimacy. Freedom of movement of itself is not so objectionable, but EU citizenship is social engineering.

No consent for this was ever sought and the implications never subject to a public debate. It largely slipped in under the radar and only by the time of EU expansion did it become fully clear what was being done in our name. We were never even asked.

Now you can debate the pros and cons of freedom of movement but the fact remains that, for the EU is it an ideological pillar, and it is prepared to see the UK suffer substantial economic damage in defence of that principle irrespective of the fact Britain is not alone in its discomfort.

This ideological extremism is driven by europhile fanatics. The dynamic is the same throughout. When Juncker said "There can be no democratic choice against the European treaties" he was stating a fact, not an opinion. That is another way of saying that once the EU has the power it will not give it back.

In this the EU plays the long game. The modus operandi is integration by stealth, manufacturing consent by way of capturing institutions over years and decades. More than anything this explains the demographic split in the referendum vote. Academia and youth are more likely to have been subjected to EU propaganda and more likely to have bought into the dogma.

In that respect it is EU membership, not the Brexit vote dividing the country so deeply. Moreover it should not come as surprise to see that the activist remainers tend to be pro-humanitarian aid, pro-renewable energy, believers in AGW and all of the other NGO inspired political fads through which the EU cements is powerbase. For them the means justify the ends and the ends justify the means. The have become credulous, lacking any scepticism at all.

On the other hand we leavers are no anti-cooperation nor are we especially anti-immigration. We just believe in government by consent. This is where remainers have it wrong. They believe that because they consent to the EU that we have government by consent. It doesn't work like that. The fact is we might actually be pro liberal borders provided we are asked and we have adequate unilateral safeguards.

After four decades of stealth integration the British public has decided, albeit by a narrow margin that we wish to break with the status quo, take back control and take the country in a different direction. Having made that choice, we now discover that taking back control is not so easy. There are an elaborate set of rules which force difficult choices. The implicit dilemma is that we can have economic cooperation or we can have democracy but not both.

Since the status quo works very well for the establishment, it would prefer to stay in the EU and it will resist to the last. They scoff at democracy and tell us "sovereignty does not put food on the table". Except of course that the establishment is failing in its obligation to govern in the interests of the public and is doing little to arrest the slow decline or relieve any of the daily pressures we face.

For a long time politics has turned in on itself, living in a parallel universe. We see stagnating wages, a property bubble that shows no sign of correction, and a decaying political culture that simply does not share the values of those they nominally serve. There is no plan to address these issues. The continuity remain campaign just wants things to go back to normal so they can carry on in their cosy bubble of indifference.

In fact, they repeatedly observe that many who voted to leave will by now have shuffled loose of the moral coil, thus there is grounds to nullifying the vote. That is their answer. Rather than remodel the economy to build one that works for all, they intend to deny democracy just long enough for their political opponents to die off. Charming.

Were they able to the make the case that continued EU membership were likely to remedy the current economic stagnation then perhaps they would have won the referendum. But when we cast our eye over politics as we find it we see an insular and self-absorbed establishment, ever estranged from the public, still intent on imposing its own warped value system on the rest of us.

The question then becomes one of whether we can afford the luxury of not upsetting the status quo. In this I cast my mind back to the 2008 and the financial crisis which brought the entire global monetary system to the brink of oblivion. What we needed to see was some radical policy-making to ease the pressure and get the economy back on track.

Yet what did we see? The 2008 Energy Act committing billions in spending largely toward a a number of EU objectives piling energy costs on industry and substantially adding to the price of heating for the less well off. There is no upper limit to what they will spend in the service of their vanity. Virtue signalling has become the entire basis of our energy and foreign policy while we continue to defer essential reforms to services such as the NHS, choking under the dead hand of socialist dogma.

We can no longer afford the fad driven politics of the EU and the establishment they have so successfully captured. The relatively comfortable status quo is but a cycle of managed decline. It would be entirely convenient not to rock the boat. That would be the safe and easy thing to do. But the institutionalised negligence and incompetence of our political class most definitely has future consequences.

I take the view that nothing short of a radical shock to the system will drag our politicians out of their self-indulgent navel gazing. Even now as we coast toward a cliff edge Brexit they are still trapped in the pre-referendum paradigm unable to usefully influence the proceedings and easily distracted by trivia. Our politics as we have known it is no longer fit for purpose. It cannot survive nor does it deserve to. Britain needs a reboot.

In this, the remainers can't see the woods for the trees. They point to the dysfunction "unleashed" by Brexit as evidence that Brexit of itself is bad. But this is the dysfunction that has been festering for two decades under a well crafted and stage-managed veneer of competence.

Similarly they point to the bloating of the civil service to manage this task, making reference to the massive workload where just about every piece of legislation comes under the spotlight. Well,kids, that is kinda the point. This is a complete system audit and a total revamp of politics that will necessarily have to prune out the wastrels and the pretenders.

The instability it has introduced is probably here for the long haul. We must tolerate a dysfunctional government for the time being and likely another one headed by Corbyn. Neither will enjoy the backing of the public and both will be manifestly incompetent. This is the chaotic space in which, from an unexpected corner, a new political movement will emerge. Why? Because it always does.

From here we can expect some turbulent political times with unions reasserting themselves, and local politics livening up and making demands of its own. That will be the remedy that Brexit brings because it is only through a re-engaged public asserting its own authority over politicians can we expect to see a sea change in how we are governed.

As EU members we passively accept directives and rules, largely without scrutiny and then turn our increasingly quangoified ministries over to implementing that technocratic agenda. This is not democracy. It's barely even politics. It's managerialism while our Westminster wastrels occupy themselves with bicycle shed issues. We've forgotten what actual politics even looks like.

What we can also expect is some years of economic turbulence, disrupting incumbents, toppling monopolies and the release of zombie capital. That is what will bring about the foundations of a fertile economy. Ultimately a thriving economy is one where there is movement of capital in the real economy. In the present settlement the haves keep what they have and the gap widens from the have nots.

I have no crystal ball. I cannot say how this will all transpire. I do not no what form the new political settlement will take or when it will arrive. What I do know it s that it will profoundly impact on the culture and the culture of politics and will bring about demands for meaningful reform where the causal indifference and indolence of our political class will no longer be tolerated.

I have never made claims that Brexit of itself will deliver sunlit uplands, I have only ever said that it starts a process of renewal, allowing us to reinvent culturally, politically and economically. It will come at great cost. It will touch the lives of everybody in the UK. It is, however, the only chance we will get in our lifetimes to substantially reform the country. It is a window of opportunity.

In this it really comes down to a choice as to whether you believe in the utopian fantasies of europhiles or whether you believe in the power of democracy. I take the view that we cannot hope to kick start the economy until we have resolved the deep seated political decay - and we cannot hope to unite the country until we have removed the pernicious influence of that antidemocratic entity in Brussels.

Should our establishment decide to overturn the verdict of the referendum they will have elected to extend their incumbency whereupon the supreme authority of the EU will be preserved with no prospect of meaningful reform. That may dodge the bullet of uncertainty but it does nothing to address the sentiment behind the rejection of the status quo - and while they remain the incumbents, it will not take very long for that resentment to reassert itself.

By that point the message will be read loud and clear - that our rulers only respect the votes they like and that voting cannot get rid of the incumbents. In one act they will attack the very foundation of democracy - for which, eventually, there will be consequences far worse than anything Brexit may do.

To say that we should remain and reform at the European and domestic level is to ignore the last two decades, ignoring the fact that neither establishment wants to reform. You cannot expect the people who are the problem to resolve the problem - and if votes cannot remove them then, inevitably, bullets will.

Friday, 10 November 2017

Make no mistake, Brexit is a revolution

The departure of Priti Patel has made DfID, fleetingly, a relevant topic of debate. Now to me, if you want to understand Brexit you are best looking at DfID. The reason being that its very existence is the product of the left wing capture of the establishment and is emblematic of it. It is the canary down the mine.

A lot of crap has been written about "the establishment" by people who confuse money and status with power. Real power is control over the institutions because from there you can subvert the culture. Not for nothing did the USSR invest so much energy in infiltrating UK academia and media - and not for nothing did the EU set about doing the same thing. If you can do that then you are the establishment. 

Though there has been much denial that the EU influences education, the denials are from a position of ignorance. The EU does not keep it's objectives secret. The "conspiracy" is hidden in plain sight.
Cultural changes and global interdependence have led to the creation of a tremendous variety of European and international networks, focused on specific objectives. Some have been supported by Community funding. These networks link businesses, communities, research centres, and regional and local authorities. They provide new foundations for integration within the Union and for building bridges to the applicant countries and to the world.
Though it's dressed up in Eurocratese when you look at the flow of funding it all starts to make sense. Universities are recipients, as are NGOs and the BBC. For years we on the right have complained about the encroachment of the soft left social democratic NGO inspired consensus only to be met with calculated ridicule from BBC Radio 4 "comedy" output. See The Now Show/NewsQuiz. Except we were right and we still are.  

The reason the EU influence tends to be NGO inspired claptrap is because the globalist NGOs are immensely powerful lobbyists. But there's more to it than that. Because there is no European demos to speak of and the EU does not enjoy democratic legitimacy it had to manufacture it by way of paying NGOs huge sums to lobby it. A well documented phenomenon. A mutually advantageous PR merry-go-round. Everything from climate change to saving the bees. Astroturfing as it is now called.

It has since set the agenda for media campaigns, and academic syllabuses. This then works its way into popular culture. Not least through children's television. There was always a dose of NGO propaganda on the BBC from Red Nose Day (and the celeb culture therein) to the near constant agenda driven content of Blue Peter and Newsround. School projects and teaching materials were also subverted. I would perhaps venture this is why millennials are such credulous wet blankets and hopelessly enamoured with the EU. 
By the early nineties the buzzword "sustainability" could be found everywhere - and culminated in Cameron's husky hugging eco-conservatism (just as the fad was waning). In between we've had any number of job killing eco targets driving energy costs up for the poor. But this is the mentality which is common to the globalist elite. It is ultimately politically sterile left wing populism with its own dogmas, demanding conformity for advancement just like any other political bubble.

The encroachment of this political consensus was so advanced at one point that politicians thought it was an election winner. It was this assumption that caused Cameron to sanitise the Tory party and alienate the right, pushing them out into Ukip. I think that was probably when Brexit became an inevitability. The Tory party was weaponising virtue signalling. This brings me to an illuminating piece from Prospect Online, featuring the testimony of a DfID official.
When the financial crisis hit in 2008, Cameron forgot his previous commitment to match Labour’s wider spending total and embraced retrenchment. Dfid, however, was immune. Aid was not merely shielded from the planned cuts, like the NHS, but continued to be ear-marked for the rises required to get Britain to 0.7 per cent.

Cameron ventured to Rwanda where he gave a speech about development and announced the launch of his party’s own aid venture, Project Umubano. An annual two-week trip to Rwanda for Conservative Party MPs and activists, this proved to be Cameron and Mitchell’s secret weapon. As an aid project, Project Umubano is terrible. It’s gap-year-style volunteerism—building classrooms, teaching English, helping out in health clinics. The Instagram feeds of the volunteers are filled with pictures of them surrounded by smiling, grateful children. It’s striking how many people who have been involved in Umubano refer to their trips to “Africa”, not Rwanda.

But as a political project, it was genius. It attracted a stream of volunteers—ambitious would-be Tory MPs soon realised that a fortnight teaching English in a Rwandan village was a sure-fire way of getting yourself on the new A list for a safe seat. A decade on, the project’s alumni includes MPs, Lords and special advisers. Mitchell admits that helping Rwanda was only one aim of the project. “I introduced it, above all, to try to make sure that within the Conservative Party there is a core of people who are passionate about development. One of the reasons I bigged it up this year [on its 10th anniversary] was to try to rectify this drift in the Tory Party.”
Now you might write this off as typical Tory cynicism but this is endemic to the culture of Westminster. Here I come back to the words of a controversial blogger, who I shall not name. He observes that in the immediate aftermath of Jo Cox’s death tribute after tribute bore witness to Jo Cox’s uniqueness. "But in reality, nothing could have been further from the truth. In fact, women like Jo Cox are ten a penny across the West these days — bland, compliant functionaries who have been marinated in political correctness and are happy to regurgitate the platitudes and attitudes of their political masters. And are well-rewarded for doing so.

She was that toxic combination of self-righteousness and entitlement which believed itself possessed of a special moral insight into the moral shortcomings of their own people. Never slow to parade her compassion, she was also calculating enough to help more dubious causes, as when she lent her name to a government minister who was lobbying for Britain to begin bombing in Syria. Bombing and babies; it was all business for Jo Cox.

Hers was the typical smooth career path of the modern political cog. From her grammar school, where she was the Head Girl, she seamlessly moved onto an extended period at two universities before emerging as professional aid worker for Oxfam and Save the Children. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation was another fashionable international development outfit in which she managed to wangle a position as “advisor.”

She certainly travelled extensively, but to what extent did she get her hands dirty? Rather than mopping sweat-covered brows, her role as a policy consultant seemed to revolve swanning around seminars, conferences and committee rooms in Brussels and London. Networking, rather than counselling, seems the main skill in this field.

The safe Labour seat seems to have been a reward for acting as a bag-carrier for prominent political wives such as that of former Prime Minister Gordon Brown and a former Labour leader and Euro aristocrat Neil Kinnock. Her constituency seat had been represented by local white men for decades so an all-female shortlist had to be imposed on the local party to ensure an acceptable candidate could be given this plum.

It was a gilded lifestyle with a houseboat on the Thames beside Tower Bridge at which she hosted networking events for important left-wing women. There was a second house in her constituency which was a venue for a huge Solstice party each year.

The role of international aid worker is highly valued among a section of shrewd university-educated females. It offers a particularly attractive combination of a good salary in an expanding sector, frequent foreign travel and high status among the do-gooding circles."

As you might expect these words, at the time, went down like a lead balloon, but are nonetheless true. This is how the system works and if you want to get close to power this is the narrative you must follow regardless of your party affiliation.

The reason the sentiment at the time was that the political parties were all the same is because they were. Nobody dared break ranks. Except of course Ukip, whose asinine "plain talking" garnered much support as a protest vote against an increasingly venal and shallow political class incapable of relating to the public.

In fact, the vote to embed the 0.7% GDP aid spending target was carried by a massive majority in the Commons while all polling suggested that few wanted to see an increase in aid spending. The terms "virtue signalling" and "out of touch" don't even begin to cover it. This is a form of madness.

Our DfID official observes that in the post-Brexit world, "one reason that aid is proving so suddenly vulnerable is that nobody ever made the argument about what modern development involves. It’s not just grain handouts and paying for teachers or nurses. Often our support goes on things which, when ripped from its context and placed in size 72 font on a tabloid headline, can look like a waste. One such project was created in Ethiopia, an innovative crackdown on an epidemic of child marriage".
It was called Girl Effect and Dfid funded it to the tune of £5.2m. A culture brand was created, called Yegna, which included a radio show and a girl group. The aim was to change perceptions of what girls could do, instead of entering into a marriage before they were 16. Dfid thought it was a success, giving it an A rating.
Well of course it did. It makes everybody feel lovely. And that's what counts isn't it? Same as sending half a dozen clapped out RAF Tonkas to fire missiles over Syria makes us feel like the right hand of vengeance. Doesn't actually matter if it has no measurable effect or even if the effects are vastly counter-productive.

And this is what we critics mean when we say there is no accountability. The system is largely self-audited by its own values (however far departed from reality they may be). We should note that the example cited is largely in line with UN Sustainable Development Goals which is pretty much written into the DNA of all UN regulatory activity. Watchers of UNCTAD and the fringes of the WTO will have seen a massive drive for gender equality and all the popular claptrap of the NGO set.

This is usually without listening to the natives who are not especially imbued with meddlesome Western cultural and moral imperialism. Very often there is devastating blowback which seldom ever goes reported.

It is not a good idea to impose Western social mores on tribal peoples. Ultimately it is the women of the West who have asserted their own equality and through trade we need to enable other women to do the same. Ploughing in with moralising lectures from upper middle class white saviour barbies is most certainly not the way to do it.

The touchy-feely narcissistic aid doctrines of the West have on a number of occasions proved utterly disastrous. Not for nothing do we see African nations starting to expel NGOs. They're a menace.

This is not to say that DfID could not be put to good use but firstly the culture must change and our institutions must be decontaminated. Our aid policy is running almost entirely independently of the FCO, largely to an alien agenda to questionable effect. Its perverse culture is deeply intertwined with the EU which accounts for £5bn of our aid spending.

The whole system has lost the plot, lost its moral centre, forgotten who it serves - and who pays its way. In this regard it's something of a pity that Ms Patel has blown it for herself. An idiotic wrecker is probably the right medicine for a department as bent out of shape as DfID.

For all that we have nominally had a conservative government for the last seven years we have in fact been living under the same regime since the early nineties. There has been a silent coup where the instruments of state have been re-purposed to serve the agenda of Brussels and the globalist NGOcracy. It is difficult to tell where one ends and the other begins.

This is why the establishment has fiercely resisted Brexit because it affects their income stream and their access to the levers of power. When they say that Brexit means we will be less influential they mean they will be less influential. This is actually their naivety at work in that the culture rubs off on them and they go native. Hence why academia will go to bat for Brussels every time.

There are plenty of commentators who have noted there is a certain revolutionary zeal about Brexiters. They are not wrong. We want the narcissistic wastrels purged. We want the adults back in control. We want to see academic rigour and an academia that doesn't mindlessly spout leftist doctrine as though it were the centre ground.

Now you'll get no argument from me that the Tory right are absolutely insane but these wreckers will break the institutional melding between the EU and UK, will cut off the funding for divisive EU political agendas, and will starve the beast; forcing many of the decisions politicians thus far have been too cowardly to take.

Often I get lectures from the great and the good that revolutions are destabilising and often dangerous. Indeed they are. The Tory right will be the first to be consumed by it. But it will rip through politics like a cleansing forest fire.

You tell me it isn't necessary and there are other means of achieving change, but there really isn't. They system saw Ukip coming a mile off. It knows how to play political judo. The system is rigged for stability. That is part of its merit. But when it has been captured by an occupying force, we have no other choice. As much as the right-on, mustn't offend, must not act in the national interest mentality has completely consumed DfID, the intellectual stultification that comes with it is widespread.

It goes hand in hand with the political correctness of the left to the point where a shadow minister must resign for the criminal act of telling the truth. When Westminster is more concerned with Julia Hartley-Brewer's knee than systemic child abuse it becomes a matter of urgency to clear the lot of them out - no matter the cost. Make no mistake, this is a revolution and if it does not succeed then the UK will be consumed by the narcissism and venality of the establishment to the point where nothing functions. By the looks of things we may be too late.

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Brexit dismantles the delusions of the establishment

Tim Collins writing in The Times remarks that "The sorry truth is that, even on the threshold of leaving Europe, Britain has no foreign policy to speak of. It is hard to think of any global dispute in which our view matters, apart from the fight we have picked with the EU. British irrelevance is not helped by the fact that we have an unspeakable foreign secretary who should never have been appointed and now ought to be sacked. Yet it is also more than that. It is a sign of times to come".

The premise of his article is that the latest ministerial shambles exposes what we’ve been hiding from for years - "we’re a lesser power than we think". Course, one would ask; who is this "we", paleface? It's a jolly good wheeze to wag the finger in the direction of Brexiteers, and you will get no argument from me that that Johnson, Patel et al are odious specimens, but if we want to talk about those with delusions of greater glory then we need look no further than our remainer establishment.

A report in late 2015 described Britain as suffering from a crisis of confidence in foreign policy that leaves it “sidelined in Syria, ineffective in Ukraine, unwilling in Europe, and inimical towards refugees”. These are the words of a report by some of Britain’s most senior former diplomats, intelligence officers and foreign policy academics.

Authors of the damning report include the former head of British intelligence Sir Richard Dearlove, the prime minister’s former adviser on international affairs Jonathan Luff and HSBC’s chief economist Stephen King.

The report claims that the crisis of confidence stems from a crisis of identity as "successive prime ministers and foreign secretaries shy away from significant foreign policy engagements”, leaving Britain “self-absorbed and insular”. The commission says: “There is a great deal of disquiet among the UK’s diplomatic community that British foreign policy lacks a clear purpose, and that as a result there is an approach to the distribution of resources that lacks strategic coherence".

This is not altogether surprising since our foreign policy is schizophrenic at best. On the one hand we seek that elusive "special relationship" with the USA, keeping our defence policy aligned with them, meanwhile we outsource regional policy to the EU - with the rest being a grey area. There are obvious conflicts and contradictions stemming from member states respective former colonial interests. It is a wonder it functions at all.

But one only need examine how our military adventures in recent years have played out to see where the UK stands. Iraq was motivated by a militaristic me-tooism, seeking to re-enact the glory days of allied righteous victories, but in the end marked Britain as incompetent and arrogant in the extreme. Similarly our contribution to Afghanistan was ineffectual where as far as the UK battlefield contingent goes, we could best be described as a nuisance.

Having learned nothing from that, David Cameron was at the front of the queue to be seen to to be leading the campaign waged against Libya which has since been described as Europe's Iraq. Following that I have ever seen parliament so eager for military engagement than when it voted for strikes in Syria, resulting in less than a dozen Tornados engaged in a long campaign of dropping expensive munitions on low value targets to questionable effect.

Our "leaders" get their opportunity to swan around looking important on the world stage, which to them constitutes an exercise of influence, but in actuality is a self-deception far exceeding that of any Brexiteer. If anyone is caught up in the delusion that Britain is a power to speak of it is our pro-remain establishment.

Meanwhile, as the great and the good lament the loss of British influence in Europe they might note that Britain is already irrelevant not least because the migrant crisis does not affect us quite so acutely, and as a non-Euro member, the economic woes placing Germany in the spotlight are even less to do with the UK. And thank heavens for that. Problems to which Germany is welcome.

It's tempting to get carried away with the notion that it's just the UK disintegrating as Europe powers ahead, but that is a dangerous delusion. One might best describe Mrs Merkel's long reign as equivalent to our Blair era. Germany is a bit behind the UK and has yet to expose its own dysfunction to the world. Sooner or later Merkel will be gone, and Germany will have similar problems finding an adequate statesman to fill the void. Germany will have to undergo some soul searching of its own.

We are told that EU membership amplifies UK influence in the world - and that somehow leaving means giving up on "diplomatic engagement, value-exporting and the exercise of cultural power". What that means in practice is gathering of Europe's out of touch political elites congregating to commit us to ever ruinous vanity projects and ill-conceived bombing campaigns.

In so doing the values they "export" are not British values, rather they are the values of soft left social democratic consensus, marinated in political correctness. They are ever happy to regurgitate the platitudes of the globalist NGOcracy. Where this does not manifest in bombs raining from the sky, we see a murderous trade and aid policy leading to thousands drowning in the Mediterranean.

All the while the EU presents an attractive career path for the bland, compliant functionaries of the establishment. It offers a particularly attractive combination of a good salary in an expanding sector, frequent foreign travel and high status among the do-gooding circles. It infests our universities producing a class of unthinking conformists who cannot conceive a society that isn't managed top-down to the last detail by the state - as a petridish for their social manipulation. 

This is not without consequence. This has given rise to a political deadlock in which we are able to arrest the decline as all the democratic tools have been removed. Even as we leave the EU it will do everything in its power to prevent the UK becoming more competitive.  

It is not a given that Brexit will remedy any of this, but at the very least it is a decapitation strategy ensuring that UK political elites are excluded from the globalist jamborees and that our universities are no longer the mouthpiece of Brussels. Moreover it forces Britain to engage diplomatically, forces trade and foreign policy debates in the public domain, and stops us using the EU as a proxy for influence.

As British politics slides further into unprecedented dysfunction we will see a steady drip of nostalgic articles pining for the days when stage managed politics propped up the illusion of influence. Remainers will clamour to be back in the cosy state of denial, oblivious to the decline the EU is unable to even acknowledge. It seems to me that if anyone is harking back to glory days of yore, it is the establishment. 

I am under no illusions about Brexit. It is no panacea, it is no miracle revival of or fortunes. It will come at a considerable economic cost and the price we pay will be higher that it ever needed to be thanks to the ineptitude of our government. But its main useful purpose is the shatter the delusions of the entire political class, including the Brexiteers. 

Some would have it that it makes us down and out on a permanent basis. That remains to be seen. What we can say, however, is that decline is the direction of travel while our rulers inhabit a parallel universe. Brexit is at least the opportunity to address these questions. It is down to us not to squander it.

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

The Tories are firing blanks at Labour

I don't know if it was always like this but Twitter has certainly amplified the dynamic. We live in an age where politicians are under constant fire. The main mode of politics now is to throw enough shit around until some of it sticks.

It's even done on a collective level. The debate this week about the government release its Brexit impact assessments has nothing to do with any actual desire to see them, rather it is to further expose a government on flimsy ground. And though we might lament the methods, this is just how modern politics gets done.

What's interesting is how material only becomes live ammunition when somebody somewhere inside the bubble decides it has legs. It can sit there in full view of everyone like a bad pierogi on the plate until somebody notices. If the media ever decides to go at Steve Baker then the man is very seriously in some deep shit. He's just not a target for the moment.

Because of this dynamic Corbyn's grubby history does not seem to have hindered his survival either. At some point, when the powers that be want to get rid of him it will probably rise to the top - but it won't be anything at all new or especially secret.

The media has become highly effective at weaponising the past. It's all about timing and who needs to get got for the most urgent political purpose. In that respect, if the media has the right sense of priorities, this is how it can serve democracy. Too bad it doesn't.

That leaves those of us more interested in policy than politics operating in a different world wondering if and when politics will ever get its act together. At some point some adults have to step in and pay attention to the details.

We are starting to see signs of that with Stephen Kinnock, Keir Starmer and Heidi Alexander getting to grips with the EEA option. This week I notice Starmer has been consulting Ulf Sverdrup which is a very positive sign.

That is indeed a problem for the Tories. As foul as I find Corbyn and the Momentum tribe, if that emerging competence is increasingly noticed by the public then nothing the Torybots can throw in the air about Jezza will have any effect whatsoever - much though it should - were these normal times. 

As with all politics power tends to find its way into the hands of those who know what they want and know how to get it. Right now either Starmer or Kinnock look like they could, in time, topple the hard left and bring politics back to the centre. More's the pity we don't have the time to avert a Brexit calamity. By the time they do make their case we will teetering on the cliff edge.

In this the Tories should take note. The Brexit ultras especially. If you want to achieve anything you need a plan and you need to carry the confidence of the public. If you can do that then even your worst sins are forgiven. This is what we said from the outset - and if in the end the weakness of this government (and the mendacity of the Brexit ultras) is what does kill Brexit in the final hour, they will only have themselves to blame.