Saturday 24 September 2016

"But he hasn't got anything on at all"

As I frequently say I am in the business of questioning assumptions and I don’t think there should be things that cannot be said. This must be said. So let it be said.

At some point in the past fifty years or so someone decided that there was a thing called gender that differed from biological sex. From this all sorts of unlikely thinking has arisen. As with everything else it is necessary to go back to first principles and question everything. 

In the 1940s John Steinbeck wrote his novel East of Eden. At one point a little girl tells her uncle that she would like to be a boy and could he help her become one. The uncle points out to her that it isn’t possible for her to be a boy and she has to accept what she is. Over time she does so. She grows up and becomes a woman.

Imagine this same conversation today. I still think most parents would try to convince their little girl that it wasn’t possible for her to become a boy. But there is always the chance that someone would eventually agree with the little girl. They would take seriously the idea that she felt that she was really a little boy and they would set about making her dream come true. Would this story have a happy ending?

Let’s look at the ideas involved in modern day assumptions. It is assumed that gender can be different from biological sex. The little girl’s biological sex is female but her gender is really that of a boy. But how do we determine this gender? Is there anything empirically that we can point to in order to determine if it is true? All we have is the little girl’s statement that she feels like a boy and wants to become one. But how does she know that she feels like a boy? How does she know what being a boy feels like? I do not know what it feels like to be any other person. I only know what it feels like to be me.

Moreover, if what matters is that someone says they feel like something else, what if the little girl had said I feel like a cat and want to become a cat? Should we take that statement seriously and set about turning her into a cat? Why can’t we make a similar distinction between our biology as homo-sapiens and our feelings that we are cats? This is clearly analogous to the distinction between being biologically a little girl and feeling like a little boy. It may not be technologically possible to turn people into cats, but this is a mere medical limitation. One hundred years ago no-one thought it possible to turn a girl into a boy. So we could work towards a time when we could fulfil the little girl’s desire to be a cat, meanwhile accepting that although she is biologically a human being she is really a cat.

If however we accept that there is a distinction between biological sex and gender why ought there to be a need to change biological sex. If gender is determined by how someone feels, why not say you can feel as you please, no-one is stopping you. But why then do you feel the need to change your biological sex? There is a contradiction here. Either whether someone is a girl or a boy is something objective or it is not. If it is a matter of how someone feels, there need be no need to get medicine involved. If on the other hand it is something objective, then it ought to be determined objectively. But how is it that we determine the sex of infants? This is either the criterion of who is boy and who is a girl or it isn’t. You can’t have it both ways.  There is nothing hindering you being subjectively a little boy even if you were born a little girl. But subjectivity is not truth and ought not to determine reality. Once you go down the route of making subjectivity the master of thought then you can quite soon believe absolutely anything, no matter how unlikely. This unfortunately is the case throughout much of the Western world. We have reached the stage where “black” will soon mean “white” if that is what the latest PC fad suggests. Moreover we all must conform or else face censure. Soon we will be commanded to believe that 2 + 2 = 5 and we will all do so willingly. 

With regard to the sex that someone is assigned at birth, there are no doubt instances of people who have a medical condition that requires intervention, but these are few and far between. However, in the vast majority of cases it is simply unhelpful to make a false distinction between gender and biological sex. In the world we live in today I suspect 99% of the population understands sex as an objective matter that is almost always determined at birth. Only in the West have we got ourselves into a terrible muddle by making a distinction where there is no difference. The correct response to someone who says they were born with the wrong gender is to point out that they are simply mistaken. You may feel like a boy, but you are not a boy. You may feel like a cat, but you are not a cat. It is better to be what you are than to try to be what you are not and can never become. That way only lies unhappiness, because it is to try to build a house on the foundations of falsity.

It is unreasonable to base our whole theory of identity on a few people who describe themselves as transgender. The norm for nearly everyone is that there is no distinction between sex and gender. Creating a distinction where there is none because of a small group of people who are objectively mistaken is clearly odd and lacking in logic. Moreover it is I believe harmful. Many little girls who would grow up to be women and little boys who would grow up to be men are being confused by an assumption which has no evidence behind it. It is quite simply something a few academics made up out of their heads mainly because they are sophists who have fallen for the old lie that “man is the measure of all things”.  Plato showed the folly of this position thousands of years ago. There is truth and it is objective otherwise what I am writing right now would be self-defeating and pointless.

There are objective qualities and there are subjective qualities. For the vast majority of us it is simply a fact that we are male or female, black or white. I cannot say that I feel like a black woman and therefore I am a black woman. This quality of being black is objective. To fail to realise this rapidly leads to the nonsense of someone pretending to be black even though their parents were white.  For the self-same reason I cannot say that I feel like I am a man, therefore you ought to help me become a man. It is more correct to simply say to me, “I’m very sorry but you are mistaken. You are a woman. Accept it for this is something you cannot change.” If we really thought that the idea of someone being a girl or a boy was subjective we wouldn’t determine it in the way that we do at birth, but rather we would wait for every infant to become eighteen before giving it a name or deciding what sex it was.  

There are exceptions to every rule and we must be kind and understanding. But we do not define words by how they are used by a tiny minority. The fact is that for nearly everyone in the world there is no distinction between sex and gender. We determine both by looking at someone when they are naked.  The whole theory of gender being distinct from biological sex falls down upon a simple examination. It’s a wonder that so many people believe in it. But then there is a lot of pressure on them to do so. But I’m very sorry, I may be something of a lone voice here, but I feel the need to point out that the emperor has no clothes on at all.

A world without work

I am running out of things to write about Scottish politics. Maybe it is just that I have written too much. I certainly imagine that my opponents think this. There is a special place in their hearts for me. Eventually they all blow up and say something nasty even if I have never said anything unpleasant about them. I attack the idea, not the person. But Scottish nationalists so identify with their ideology that they treat any argument against the SNP as an argument against Scotland and against themselves personally. It isn’t.

What I have been trying to do with this blog lately is to get people to think clearly about their assumptions.  The only way that any of us can do this is if we question them. There are far too many ideas in the Scotland and the West in general that cannot be questioned in polite society. It makes for very dull and uninteresting thinking. Question everything and say those things that you don't quite dare say. I have an example in a companion piece to today's blog. 

The Left has become intellectually bereft since the fall of the Berlin Wall and has now gone up a blind alley. The foundation is still socialism, but no-one in the world seriously thinks that socialism is either practical or desirable. This experiment has been tested to destruction.  The problem though is this. When Labour supporters were growing up they believed in socialism. Who joined the Labour party to be a Blairite? People become moderates because they realise that socialism wouldn’t work or it won’t get them elected. But they still wish that socialism did work. So they water down socialism and try to make it fit in better with how the market works. This is usually called “social democracy”. But it’s not exactly an inspiring sort of thing. It is for this reason that left-wingers favour Corbyn. At least he is the real deal.

So we are left with a choice. Either we are moderates but insipid and also to an extent hypocrites or we have faith in the true religion, but we have no chance of gaining power. Worse than this though, moderation doesn’t work, because it is still based on assumptions that are false. Watered down socialism is still socialism. The problem still remains. It is contrary to human nature. I work for myself and my family. Everyone else is a stranger. The free market harnesses human nature to make the economy productive and wealthy. Even watered down socialism can never compete with this, because its model of redistributing wealth and hoping to achieve equality will always make the economy poorer. This is not accidental. It’s a feature.

For this reason it is also not accidental that Scotland is poorer than the south of England. The fundamental cause of this is that nearly everyone in Scotland who has influence or who is in power believes in their heart that socialism ought to be true. They dislike business and think that working for the state is more to their liking. They think that the solution to every problem is that the government spends more public money. They think that government planning is the way to achieve economic growth rather than leaving people alone to get on with their own businesses. So long as the SNP remains in power Scotland will always be too poor to achieve independence. As I have sometimes said it’s not Scotland that is too small, too poor and too stupid. It’s the SNP and the Scottish establishment.

There is change in the air. Brexit was part of this. People are gradually realising that socialism or even social democracy will make you poorer. Eventually this idea may even penetrate into Scotland. It will take time. People change their assumptions slowly. But it is becoming blindingly obvious that the devolved parts of the UK that elect left-wing governments are doing worse than those that don’t. This is one of the more tragic consequences of devolution.

But there is the possibility for redemption for the Left. I have spent my whole life disagreeing with left-wingers, but there is an issue that needs addressing and it ought to be an issue for the Left.

Every day I see students on the bus. They go to university for four or five years and then later I see them working in Tesco doing a job they could have done at age eighteen. There was a time when you could leave school after doing your highers and find a decent job. You would gradually work your way up. There was no particular limit to your prospects. Most jobs after all do not require a degree. Unless you are studying something specialist like medicine or law, a bright eighteen year old should be no worse off than a bright twenty-two year old. But those entry level jobs for school leavers don’t really exist anymore. There are huge numbers of jobs created by the UK economy but far too few of them lead to worthwhile careers.

We are training grossly too many students in subjects that will not lead them to employment.  But worse than that, many of the jobs that used to be done by people can be done better by machines. Whereas before a clerk had to tot up figures in a ledger a programme can now do this more accurately and more quickly. A lecturer could record a model first year lecture and put it on video and it could be shown to students all over the world. Some aspects of surgery can be carried out by robots more accurately than surgeons. Many of the transactions in the stock market or currency exchange are carried out better by computers than by people. Who knows if my job will still exist in twenty years’ time or in thirty?  Or your job for that matter. But then we have a problem. How do we determine how much a person will earn in a world where there is likely to be underemployment?

At the moment how wealthy I am is a matter of how much I have inherited and the job that I do. But what if we lived in a world where only ten or twenty percent of the population had high paid jobs? Those who worked for Google or Apple would be fine. They would control the robots. People who owned businesses would be fine. They would employ those who made the coffee or performed other services. But what if there was an abundance of wealth an abundance of food and other necessities, but not an abundance of work. At this point we would have to think of another way of determining who got what.

There are a variety of possibilities. Some suggest that there should be a basic wage which everyone receives whether they work or not. This could then be topped up by whatever work a person chose to do or not do. Could an economy afford such a citizenship wage? At what level could it be set? What would it do to the work ethic if you didn’t have to work? What would it do to efficiency and productivity? Could anyone qualify for such a wage even if they had just arrived here? These and many other questions will need to be addressed by people on the Left and the Right.

We cannot be Luddites. We cannot smash all the computers. But the world of work is changing. Not yet perhaps or not obviously so. But it is clear that between the top 20% and the bottom 20% a whole swathe of formerly well paid jobs will soon cease to exist. Look back a century and more and you will find that jobs that used to be common place are more or less no more. How many coopers do you know? How many smiths? How many tailors? All we have left are the surnames. This will continue to happen. No doubt there will be future jobs that none of us have dreamed of. But this industrial revolution is really different. People are being replaced.

The Left is still debating about a world that rapidly will not exist. Mr Corbyn is stuck in the 1970s and his ideas were obsolete even then. Almost no-one is even thinking about the meaning of the words Left and Right in a world where the whole concept of work is changing and where it will be necessary to find a way of determining who gets what from the wealth of a country. If only 20% earn nearly everything, they will not be able to keep it all for they will be outvoted assuming that we remain a democracy and if not we will be a tyranny of the oligarchs just like in other countries that have given up their democracy. These are important questions. We need a new model of debate. There is a vital role for the Left in this, because it is naturally their issue. But can the Left look forward. Can it cease squabbling? Can it ditch dead Russians and the temptation to flirt with terrorism? Can it cease being wrong about everything and start being right about just one thing.  

Meanwhile in Scotland all our energy is devoted to a question that we already answered and model of government that makes us poorer. We look back to battles fought with swords and pikes and concern ourselves with what is obsolete and in this way don’t even notice that the world has moved on from our obsessions and it is leaving us ever further behind.  

Saturday 17 September 2016

A "Hard Brexit" will bury the SNP forever

I never thought economics was a subject worth studying until 2008. But suddenly with the worst economic crisis since the 1930s making a difference to all of our lives, I thought it best to try to come to some sort of understanding of what was going on. I didn’t, of course, go to the library and find the latest first year economics textbook. But I did start reading the financial pages in the newspapers. Also I investigated ways of making a return on an investment in a world where interest rates were near to zero and succeeded by learning on the job.

In my college we discussed each other’s subjects and people didn’t pull rank. What’s the point of discussing at all if someone just says I know best I’m a physicist? In the end all subjects become one. Study gives you a command of the details, but in the abstract anyone with intelligence can comment on the whole thing in general. They may get the detail wrong, but the detail doesn’t matter.

In the Story of Louis Pasteur (1936) the actor Paul Muni portrays the French chemist who has a theory that disease is caused by unseen microbes. He advocates that doctors who are treating women in labour should wash their hands and boil their instruments. But he is dismissed by the medical community as a charlatan and a crank. How could these things that no-one has ever seen possibly cause disease? I always remember this story whenever I come across a consensus that overwhelmingly argues for something. Truth is not democratic. One person can be correct and all the others can be wrong. We are social beings and we like to fit in. To get ahead in the medical profession in the 19th century it was necessary to dismiss Pasteur. To be taken seriously as an economist prior to the referendum on the EU it was necessary to say that leaving the EU would be a disaster for Britain.

The same is true of far too many subjects studied at university. There is enormous pressure to write unoriginal papers and books that simply find different ways to agree with the consensus. In the Soviet Union a history article would be vetted according to whether it fitted in with Marxist-Leninist orthodoxy. But it is no better in the Anglo-American world where it is necessary to fit in with the liberal leftish worldview. Try questioning any of these assumptions in a radical way and you are liable to find yourself unpublished and perhaps without a job. Is it any surprise then that so much of what passes for thought in universities is dull and pointless. The consensus, of course, may well be correct. There is a consensus after all that balls when dropped fall to the floor. But only if someone is able and willing to challenge orthodoxy is there the chance to think originally. Test even your basic assumptions, perhaps one day you will find balls sometimes fall up.

Imagine if we could go back a few months and begin the EU referendum campaign knowing what we do now. We would then know that the overwhelming consensus of economists and politicians was wrong. We have voted to leave the EU and there has been next to no chaos. Of course we haven’t left yet. But we were promised by people like George Osborne that immediately on voting to leave the British economy would suffer something like a heart attack and would need an emergency budget to keep it on life support. In fact the opposite has happened. The UK economy still looks in better shape than any other in Europe.

The vast majority of Remain supporters were quite wrong about the immediate effect of voting to leave the EU. So why should we trust their views on actually leaving the EU?

Remainers are still working with the assumption that the EU is good and leaving the EU is bad. For this reason even when they accept that the UK must leave the EU they hope to mitigate the situation by arguing that the UK should leave the EU as little as possible. It is for this reason above all that they want the UK to remain in the single market. But this is really to fail to overturn the assumption and admit that they were mistaken. It is to continue to work within a consensus that is rapidly being shown to be false. The EU is not good. Brexit is not bad. Leaving the EU far from being a disaster will bring freedom and prosperity. Remainers may well be washing their hands but they still don’t believe in microbes.

There is nothing to negotiate with the EU. We are leaving and we must simply leave on our own terms. Of course we would like to trade with them. For this reason we should be always willing to lower any trade barriers with both the EU and the rest of the world as much as possible. We should then say to everyone "you can trade freely with us". We are open for business. If you choose to charge an entrance fee to go to your shop we will try to find another shop where we can go for free. So it will be you that loses, not us.

It is vital to realise that the EU is above all about protectionism. It is a customs union that allows its members to trade freely with each other, but prevents them from trading freely with anyone else. The price of membership of this customs union is too high. When I go to Tesco every week I don’t have to pay a fee to go in the door. But the EU charges an enormous sum every year just so you get to trade without tariffs. But this fee means that we don’t actually have free trade at all. Paying to have free trade is self-evidently not free trade, for the simple reason that it is not free!

If we had to pay a tariff to trade with the EU, what would be the cost to the UK? No-one seems to be able to agree on the figure, but it doesn’t matter. The important question is this. Would we save overall if we simply chose not to pay the EU entrance fee while paying whatever tariff they choose to charge? 

This is not only a question about money. The EU charges more than money in order to be a part of its customs union. Think of all the things that the UK had to give up or take on in order to trade "freely" with the EU.  We used to have the right to all the fish in the waters around the UK. We had to give this up. In this way our fishing fleet was nearly destroyed. That too was part of the price. We had to accept that the laws made in our own democratically elected parliament would be subordinate to the laws made in Brussels. We had to accept all sorts of rules and regulations that we could not change even if we wanted to. A British firm that sells light bulbs to another British firm is governed by rules made in Brussels that we in Britain cannot change. The rules by which someone is employed in Britain are frequently set not by people we elected in Britain but by people who are unelected in Brussels. Bossy people keep telling us what to do simply in order that we can trade "freely" with other European countries. The price keeps getting higher and conforming to these regulations makes our businesses ever more inefficient.

The highest price of all however is this. So long as we remain a member of the EU we cannot make a trade deal with anyone else. Moreover, rather too frequently the EU itself cannot make such a trade deal. It is sometimes thought to be an advantage that the EU is a large bloc that can use its power to get good deals. But it now looks as if the EU free trade deal with Canada may fall through. The free trade deal with the USA is almost certainly dead. The reason for this is that in order to do a deal the EU has to keep all of its members happy. But many of those members are protectionist by nature. It is in the nature of a customs union to be protectionist. That is what it is for. The Common Agricultural Policy is a way to protect French farmers from competition so that they can continue to farm inefficiently. Therefore, the fact that the EU struggles to make free trade deals ought not to come as a surprise. So this too is part of the price of trading “freely” with the EU. Don’t dare trade freely with anyone else.

Britain at the moment is talking to other countries about possible trade deals. It makes sense for us to prepare the ground. But immediately the Germans tell us we are being naughty, because we have to wait until we actually leave the EU before we can even begin to negotiate a free trade deal with Australia. It’s quite a price to pay in order that we should have a trade deficit with Germany. Better by far to say to them keep your Mercedes we will go elsewhere.

I have never thought that immigration from within the EU was a problem. Given our demographic situation we should get down on our knees and thank every Pole and Czech who chooses to come and work here. But the price of trading "freely" with the EU is that anyone who has the right to live in an EU country has the right to live in the UK. What this means is that practically speaking we have little control over our own UK border, because the EU has lost control of its own external border. Anyone who can get into the EU can get into the UK. We have no control of this.  This too is very a high price to pay.

Some people would like a world without borders. But this would simply mean that our welfare state would collapse and we would have no National Health Service. Our system of universal welfare depends on the concept that you pay taxes in order to at some later point receive a benefit whether it is sickness pay, unemployment benefit or healthcare. It is a sort of universal insurance. But I pay insurance so that if my house burns down the insurance company will help me buy another. But if someone who has never paid insurance can also get his house rebuilt, the insurance company would collapse under the strain. You can have a welfare state or you can have unrestricted immigration. But you can’t have both. If someone can simply turn up in Britain and gain the same rights as British people who have paid taxes all their lives, it will mean that in time the whole system of benefits will collapse.

A world without borders would be a world where we had to share equally with everyone. We would all be part of one giant country. The average per capita income in the world is six thousand pounds a year. Call me selfish, but I’d rather have borders because they and they alone protect my lifestyle. If you want to take a massive pay cut, be my guest. Why not stand for the Pay Cut Party and see how many votes you get?

The price of trading freely with the EU is that we have to treat everyone in the European Union as if they were a British citizen. But what do we get in return? If I choose to move to Warsaw, will I get unemployment benefit? Will I get free tuition in their universities? Will I get free language classes in Polish and will I be able to claim tax credits if I work there and child benefit if I have children? No. I will get nothing whatsoever. EU citizens from countries that would give us no benefits can still claim whatever benefits are available to Brits here. This is not only unfair, it is simply untenable. It damages not only Britain it damages Poland and the Czech Republic, because their young people naturally enough prefer to live here rather than at home.  

So here is the deal. Every EU citizen who at present lives in the UK should be allowed to stay. After we leave the EU, every EU citizen should have the right to live in the UK, but they should only receive the benefits that a UK citizen receives if they have paid taxes for a certain period of time, for example. five years. We will grant work visas to any EU citizen who is highly skilled and we will grant work visas to any unskilled EU citizen up to for example 100,000 people ever year. After that figure is passed we will be reluctant to give any more visas that year to anyone from anywhere. This would still be a very generous immigration policy. But most importantly it would be the UK Parliament who decided immigration policy. Those who want to make it laxer than I suggest can campaign for this. Those who want to make it tighter can campaign for that position too. Above all we must recognise that it is too high a price to pay to trade "freely" with the EU that we lose control of our borders.

I am in favour of a so called “Hard Brexit” because the price we have had to pay to be a member of the EU single market is far too high. The UK economy will have to adjust. But the fundamental fact is this. You do not have to be in the EU single market in order to trade with EU countries. Japan trades with them. So does China, so do Australia and New Zealand. I want the UK to be in the same position as those countries. We must simply say to the EU we want to trade with you as freely as possible. But if you make it hard for us to trade with you that’s fine, we will go elsewhere. You can make life hard for us if you want. But it will hurt you more. The UK economy is performing much better than the EU. If you want to cut yourself out of our market by all means be my guest. If you want to make life tough for Brits who live in the EU now we will welcome them home. We want to trade freely and have a friendly relationship with our European neighbours, but it has to be two way traffic.

So let us talk to the EU by all means. Let us make plans and try to come to a consensus. But their hand is weak. All we want from them is that we can sell our goods as freely as possible and buy theirs in return. If they don’t want this then we simply walk away.

I was I think the first to point out that leaving the EU would make Scottish independence untenable. My friend Malcolm Cameron calls this the "Effie Deans Doctrine". I kept making this point when Remain supporters thought that Brexit would lead to the collapse of the UK. They were wrong about this, just as they were wrong about what would happen to the UK economy when we voted to leave. But it is leaving the single market above all that makes Scottish independence impossible. If Scotland were in the EU single market while the UK was not, Scotland could not make a trade deal with the UK. They could not make one any more than the UK can at present make a deal with Australia. Scottish trade with the UK would therefore be controlled by Brussels.

Scottish independence given a “Hard Brexit” entails the following. It means that Scotland would probably have to join the Euro. It probably means that there would be hard border between England and Scotland. This is to assume that Scotland would have to join Schengen. But this is after all a condition for membership of the EU. It would mean that Scotland would no longer be part of the UK single market and might have to pay tariffs at Berwick and Gretna. We would lose the billions of pounds a year we receive from the UK Treasury and we would have to pay a subscription to the EU without any rebate. If any of that appeals to you, then by all means vote for Scottish independence.

When Scotland elected 56 SNP MPs it was clear to me that in order for Scotland to remain in the UK something had to change. The momentum was with them and in time there would probably be a new independence referendum. If things had stayed the same, it looked like the Pro UK side would eventually lose. It was for this reason that I began to campaign for Brexit, because I could see a glimmer of hope. Brexit I believe will bring the UK closer together and also it will bring us prosperity. The EU is in trouble. Its two main means for bringing the continent together are failing. Free movement of people (Schengen) has led to new border posts going up. Everywhere in the EU people are building fences. The Euro is acting like a drag anchor on the EU economy. We have a positive story to tell about the UK’s future outside of the EU. Just watch as we succeed, while the EU gradually realises that it is a failed experiment. A Hard Brexit makes the choice clear for Scots. The fanatics and the fundamentalists will want independence come what may, but they are a minority. The moment has passed just like so often before.  

The last chance for Scottish nationalism is that the UK stays in the single market. This is why Nicola Sturgeon’s is now making that her red line. The weakness of her position is shown by how her red lines keep changing. She threatens and blusters but never does anything. It is absolutely simple really. Our task is to defeat the SNP. But the first rule of battle is “always do what your opponent least wants”. If the UK remains in the single market, then the whole doctrine of how Brexit stops Scottish independence in the long term is liable to not work. If the UK stays in the single market, it is as if we stayed in the EU. Then Scotland could vote to leave the UK with the comfort blanket intact and the SNP could argue that nothing fundamentally would change. There would be no hard border, no damage to trade none of the huge disadvantages that Brexit can bring to Scottish nationalism. So Pro UK Scots and Brits everywhere must face up to this choice. The vote for Brexit required something like a miracle. It may later be seen as a second Dunkirk. Ordinary people rising up and doing what was necessary when our country was in danger. Brexit will equally save our country for the long term. It will keep it intact. But for pity’s sake don’t throw the SNP a lifeline. It really is time to change your assumptions. Brexit only defeats Scottish nationalism if it is a Hard Brexit.

When you have a weed that keeps reappearing each year you have to dig it out at the roots and then pour weed killer in the hole. This is what a Hard Brexit will do to the hopes of Scottish Nationalists. They will bluster and they will threaten, but their threats will be empty. Pro UK Scottish Remainers have been wrong about everything. They are wrong about this too. The price of staying in the single market is too high not least because in the end it will destroy our country. You either change your assumptions and wash your hands of the SNP, or you don't. 

Saturday 10 September 2016

Always call a thing what it is

Everyone must respond in their own way to the continual attempts by the SNP to break up our country. We all have different experiences and make different choices based on those experiences. I’ve been in the debate from the beginning. I thought at the start that it was a simple matter of making a rational case for the UK and putting forward arguments for why it was better for Scotland not to leave. There was always a difficult balance between the positive and the negative. I think the Better Together campaign got that balance catastrophically wrong. We were lucky. David Cameron and George Osborne blew a massive lead in the EU referendum by making ludicrously exaggerated claims about Brexit. They almost did the same in the Scottish independence referendum by orchestrating a campaign that was far too negative and at times obviously false. There was simply no need to exaggerate the difficulties an independent Scotland would face. There was no need to refuse anything or come up with ever more lurid scare stories. All we needed to do was be positive about the UK and point out that independence would involve a huge amount of change and uncertainty. 

Scotland in the long term could be at least as successful an independent country as the Republic of Ireland. But everyone on both sides of the argument needs to recognise that it wouldn’t be especially easy to arrive at that destination. It wasn’t, after all, easy for the Republic of Ireland. To get where they are today they had to go through a civil war, partition and decades of poverty.

It’s vital that everyone in Britain recognises that Scottish independence involves wrecking our country. The only argument we need to make is that the UK is our home and has been for centuries. It is a great country. Few countries in the world are more prosperous or free than we are. It is the country that our ancestors fought for and anyone with the least amount of ordinary patriotism should be sick and tired of those British citizens who continually try to break it into little pieces.

My favourite maxim of philosophy is “Always call a thing what it is”. I’m not sure who said it. It may have been Aristotle, but I can’t find the quote. So then again it may have been me. It doesn’t matter. I think it is about time that we actually took the fight to the SNP by recognising exactly what they are. They are trying to use the ballot box to destroy our country. They are trying to achieve what countless enemies of Britain failed to do through the centuries. Some of them may be nice people, others of them clearly are not. It doesn’t matter. They all hate our country and would like to destroy it. I have always thought that what they are doing is fundamentally treacherous. For a British citizen to try to destroy the UK is to act as an enemy within.

This may appear overly provocative. That of course is the role that I play when writing these blogs. There is a cosy consensus in Scottish politics. Everyone more or less agrees with everyone else. There are certain views that everyone has whether Lib, Lab, Con or SNP. Our newspaper columnists, with one or two exceptions, have the same “liberal” consensus of rehashed, second rate Guardian articles with a tartan fringe. It’s all just virtue signalling and deeply predicable. I know exactly what any article will involve just from the headline. So I don’t play that game. I call a thing what it is. I may be wrong. I frequently am wrong but I don’t use euphemisms and I’m not part of the cosy consensus. Scotland needs a Socratic gadfly to stir things up a bit and get people thinking.

It’s only possible to come up with interesting political ideas if we’re willing to test the boundaries of what can be thought. The purpose of what I write may be the reaction it gets. It may be to develop my own ideas. It usually isn’t what’s on the surface. Dig a little deeper.  

How did we act during the Second World War when we found German spies pretending to be British or British people helping the enemy? Did we debate with them? Did we cooperate with them? Did we even talk to them? No of course not. I am coming to the conclusion that we must relearn this lesson with regard to the Scottish nationalists.

I have spent years debating with Scottish nationalists, but it always ends the same way. They may start off being polite, but they nearly always end up making insults or supporting those who do.  I have failed to persuade a single Scottish nationalist to support the continuing existence of the UK. So why write at all? Someone has to oppose them.

Pro UK politicians especially in Scotland continually fail to oppose the SNP. The reason for this is obvious. They want SNP voters to vote for their party. Therefore they are as nice as possible about the SNP. They cooperate with them. They form a consensus. They are friendly with SNP politicians.  The idea of destroying our country is treated with as much niceness and understanding as possible. It is in this way that the UK sleepwalks to its own dismantling.

Part of the problem is that far too many Scots who are nominally Pro UK sympathise with most of the ideas that the SNP holds. The fundamental basis for the SNP argument is that Scotland is a country in the same way that France is. Nationalists view the United Kingdom not as a single unitary nation state, which it is, but rather as something similar to the United Nations or the EU. The absurdity of this is that it would mean that Scotland was already what Scottish nationalists want it to become. But then why campaign for something you already have?

The problem is that most Scots, including No voters,  think of Scotland as if we already were independent. For this reason we fight Scottish nationalism with the disadvantage of agreeing with it. This is why Better Together was so insipid and at no point made the patriotic case for Britain. The problem more often than not is that even people who voted No don’t feel very British. No wonder their support for our country is so lukewarm. If you were willing to sell your birthright for the mess that is the European Union, then clearly your support is barely worth having. I keep coming across No voters who prefer the EU to the UK and who flirt with Scottish nationalism. This is our problem. Such people fundamentally sympathise with the SNP. They are the reason that we couldn’t make a positive Pro British argument and had to resort to negativity. It’s only if people feel British that we can appeal to their patriotism. Anyone who would give up his country because of losing a referendum on the EU has already given it up. So what are we left with? Endless negativity about economics that may well be true, but which misses the point. Scottish patriotism in the end will always trump economic arguments. If we lose the identity argument the economics won’t matter.

I’ve said this many times. Countries have fought wars and gone through all sorts of struggles to become independent. In the short term Scotland would be worse off. But so what? If you really want independence, that ought not to deter you.  At the moment there are not enough Scots who are so patriotic that they don’t care that they will end up worse off. But eventually if we keep going in this way there will be. The SNP now controls education. They do everything they can to assert the difference of Scotland from the other parts of the UK. They are continually negative about Britain. If you think GERS will continue to protect the UK, you are mistaken. This sort of argument does not help us. It may even hinder us. Eventually Scots will say stuff your economics we’ll make a go of independence somehow. It’s a very good argument and there isn’t an answer to it.

To fight those who hate our country we need unity. We need every British citizen who cares about the UK to join together in opposing the various nationalisms that threaten our country. We must cease to think of ourselves as Scottish first and British second or English first and British second. This way of thinking simply helps the separatists because it make the UK seem disunited. We must think of the parts of the UK like states in the USA or Länder in Germany. Only with a UK wide patriotism that we all feel and we all share can we defeat the powerful forces that want to break up our country.

How to respond to the SNP’s latest drive for independence? Here’s how I’m going to respond. I’m going to keep on writing as much as I can. I will continue to make the case for the UK. I will continue putting forward arguments against the SNP. But I’m not going to debate with them. I’m not interested in their arguments. I don’t care why they want to break up my country. I have had a long experience of these arguments going nowhere. On Twitter I keep getting random people contacting me, trying to bog me down in long discussions. No more. It’s clearly orchestrated and there is no chance whatsoever of persuading these people to change their mind. So I recommend simply not engaging with anyone who has a little yellow thistle in his avatar or anything else that suggests they are a nationalist.

I have been the victim of endless attacks from SNP supporters. These too are orchestrated. Suddenly the message goes out to attack Effie and they come in their thousands with the most vile and insulting comments. My response to this now is to block en masse. I simply go down my timeline and block any nationalist I see. Problem solved.

I write blogs for the benefit of my own side. I try to keep spirits up and encourage everyone to be positive about our country. Morale is crucial. Sometimes I write to annoy the nationalists. This follows the motto “Always do what your opponent least wants” If they are annoyed with me, they are not thinking clearly and the way they respond frequently makes them look bad. Our greatest ally is the cybernat so always encourage him to follow his worst instincts.  

I try to always come up with innovative ways to oppose Scottish nationalism. Not only may this give us new arguments, it may also put them off guard. So if you read something that seems a little unusual, you should recognise that there may be method in my madness. Alternatively I may be mistaken. But I have written hundreds of blogs by now and trying to come up with something new requires that it may be a bit different. If you have been challenged, if you disagree with me in an interesting way that hasn’t occurred to you before, then I have succeeded. That was the purpose. But this method also means that sometimes I will write something that won’t in the end stand up to scrutiny. You have to dare to be mistaken sometimes in order at other times to say something truly interesting.

Our side must come together. The EU Referendum is passed. I voted for Brexit, you may have voted to Remain. I don’t know who was right. Only time will tell. But let’s work together just as we did during the independence referendum. Let’s not continue to refight the EU referendum when at some point we may have to fight against a common foe.

Be confident. I don’t think there will be a second independence referendum. Brexit makes it much harder for the SNP to make its case. But if there is another independence referendum, we will win it again for the reason that the SNP doesn’t have an argument and it simply doesn’t have enough support. For this reason most of what has happened since June is just bluster.

Don’t fill in any forms sent by the SNP. Beware of Nats bearing surveys.  Information you send may help them and hurt us. I don’t want anyone in the SNP knowing my address or what I think. Who knows with whom the SNP will share the information? Lots of SNP MPs and MSPs are friendly with some of the worst cybernats. The SNP don’t want to listen, because they only hear what they want to hear. So simply don’t take part.

Put pressure on Pro UK Scottish politicians not to work with the SNP.  A cow would be foolish to cooperate with a slaughter man. The same obviously applies here. We should oppose a second independence referendum not because we are not confident, but because none of us want the disruption to our lives and because it would be so damaging to unity in both Scotland and the UK. For this reason it is vital that Theresa May stick to her line that the issue has been settled.

If Nicola Sturgeon attempts to organise an independence referendum without  the consent of the UK Government, we should have a campaign of boycotting it on the grounds that the decision has already been taken. A 100% vote for independence on a 50% turnout would obviously not lead to independence. It would have the validity of an election in North Korea. The Pro UK side should simply refuse to engage with the SNP. There should be no politicians or anyone else with whom the SNP could debate. Let their conversation be only with themselves.

I have been called every name you can imagine for simply writing nearly every week a blog that opposes Scottish nationalism. I am sick of it. I will continue to write, but I will not respond. I will not read the vile comments that SNP supporters make and I will block them en masse for they are all the same. I urge everyone who supports the UK to do likewise. Don’t debate with those who hate our country and in the end hate us too. Ignore them. Block them. Boycott them. We said No. We continue to say No. Perhaps if we all treated them in this way they would finally get the message.  

Saturday 3 September 2016

The Disunited Kingdom of South Britain and Northern Ireland

There are an awful lot of British citizens at the moment who are at best indifferent to the fate of our country or at worst hostile. The most vocal of these are Scottish nationalists, but they are not alone. There are Welsh nationalists too who somehow think that Welsh independence is a realistic prospect. It is odd enough to suppose that it would be sensible for European countries to go back to the borders they had in 1707, but it is something else again to think we should re-establish boundaries that haven’t existed since the 13th century. Then too there is Northern Ireland which contains a significant minority who would like to join another country. One of the main motivations of Scottish nationalism sometimes appears to be helping this to happen. By a very warped logic I keep coming across Scottish/Irish Republicans who think uniting Ireland is a worthy goal just so long as it can be done by partitioning Britain.

It still remains the case however that the majority of people in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland want our country to continue to exist. In the only campaign that mattered Scotland rejected independence decisively. Welsh nationalists are a small minority. Most people from Northern Ireland want to be part of the UK, not least because the present arrangement gives everyone some of what they want. I also strongly suspect that the Republic of Ireland would be wary of actually trying to unite Ireland, because it wouldn’t solve the problem it would just import it. The British people in Northern Ireland are going to be British no matter what. They are not suddenly going to become happy citizens of the Republic. We have reached equilibrium in Northern Ireland and the situation is a lot better than it was. Does anyone really want to throw a stone into the pond just to see where the ripples end up?

What worries me most has always been England. When I studied in Cambridge I found England to be the least nationalistic place I’d ever been. English people routinely thought of themselves as British. Being patriotic and wishing to keep your nation state intact is, of course, not a form of nationalism otherwise the word “nationalist” would have no meaning as it would apply to practically everyone in the world.

English people supported any of the home nations at football or rugby if England wasn’t playing. They were delighted if Scotland was able to defeat Holland at football or France at rugby. They simply would not have understood the mentality of someone who said “anyone but Scotland”. I encountered very mild banter because of my Scottish accent and never came across hostility to Scotland or Scottish people. The contrast with Scotland was astonishing and also rather liberating.

Mild Anglophobia is a part of everyday life in Scotland. At school I saw children with English accents taunted and made to feel that they had been cursed with the worst luck of being born in England. People in Scotland routinely said things about English people that they wouldn’t dream of saying about any other place or people in the world. Our fellow citizens were often described as the “Old enemy”. I never experienced something similar when I lived in England and it made me feel ashamed that I and my fellow Scots were so full of prejudice.

As John Hartigan points out in his book The Betrayal of Britainthings have been going wrong for some time. I don’t normally write reviews, but I was very kindly given a copy of this book to read and can highly recommend it. He makes the point that we have forgotten our country. We’ve forgotten Britain.

I once saw an old Broons cartoon from just after the Second World War. There was some sort of party, perhaps celebrating the safe return of Hen and Joe or maybe just the end of the war. But anyway there were British flags all over the room in which the Broons were celebrating. I imagine that this would have been a matter of routine all over our country at that time. It didn’t matter where you came from in those days, we all fought for Britain.

But somehow that idea has gone into decline. In Scotland even in the 1970s few of us had much of a British identity. The situation is obviously still worse today. Nearly everything is prefixed with the adjective Scottish and covered in a saltire. Hardly anything is called British. Even those things that once were called British, like the British Legion, have dropped the British prefix. It’s uncommon to find a Union Flag on anything. It’s pretty obvious why. Unless everything is called Scottish and has a saltire on it, the Scottish nationalists complain or boycott. A British, let alone an English, flag might hurt sales.

It’s an extraordinary situation when compared with that of France or Germany. No one would dare show such disrespect to the French tricolour or fly the flag of Saxony without also flying the national flag. These symbols obviously matter, which is why the Scottish nationalists make such a fuss about them. It’s time for Pro British people to start a fightback. Anything that is paid for by the British tax payer as a whole should have a dirty great Union Jack stamped on it. Anyone who doesn’t want the Union Jack should do without whatever it pays for.

The biggest problem however, is that English people too are now beginning to reject the idea of Britain. I keep coming across English people who show signs of English nationalism. Granted they are a minority, but it has become much more commonplace to see people flying English flags. What’s worse hostility to Scotland has markedly increased.

It is of course a natural response to rejection to feel hurt and respond with a similar rejection. If a woman loves his husband, but he seeks divorce, it is natural that she should cease loving him. The same thing happened during the Scottish independence referendum.

There are two brilliant ideas in John Hartigan’s book that really deserve more attention than they have received up to now. The first is that the Scottish independence referendum lacked the consent of the British population as a whole. Constitutional change should only be made if the British people consent to it and the only way they can consent is if someone puts it in a manifesto at a General Election and then goes on to win that election. Too often recently huge changes that would affect all of us have been made by politicians as if on a whim. This was best demonstrated by the so-called Vow. No party ever put this in a manifesto and therefore there was no consent from the electorate. We must continually remind our politicians that they cannot act like absolute monarchs, but that they require our electoral consent with regard to matters that would change all of our lives.

Personally I don’t think there should ever have been a referendum on Scottish independence. Few countries in the world would allow themselves to be broken up in this way. There is no universal right to secession especially when you live in a Western European democracy. There is not another country in Europe that would allow a part to secede by means of a referendum. Why on earth should we? To suppose that this is anti-democratic is to suppose that France and Germany, which likewise are made up of parts that once were independent countries, are undemocratic. However, I accept that my view on this matter may not be held by the majority across the UK. Let us therefore have a debate about this issue. Let parties put it to the electorate and let the whole British electorate decide.

I’m sure all Scottish nationalists and even some Scots who support the UK would disagree with me and argue that Scottish independence is a matter for Scotland alone. But here once more John Hartigan is very good indeed. If Scotland had voted for independence, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland would have ceased to exist.

When Germany was partitioned after the Second World War we commonly called the parts West Germany and East Germany. Well similarly we would have had to change the name of the UK. Great Britain includes Scotland and so clearly that name would have had to be modified. But also we could hardly have continued to call ourselves a United Kingdom when we would so obviously have been divided. Therefore the United Kingdom would cease to exist if Scotland became independent and would become the Disunited Kingdom of South Britain and Northern Ireland.

If Scotland had left the UK it would have affected ever British citizen, not only Scots. I would have lost my country and so would everyone else in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The Nation State in which I was born would have ceased to exist and would have been put in the dustbin of history along with Prussia, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia. It is for this reason that such a momentous decision should have required the consent of everyone not only Scots.

Here too is why I find it foolish when I come across English people who have become so hostile to Scots that they even support Scottish independence. I understand why they feel this way. If I lived in England I too would be tempted to say good riddance to Scotland, just so that I didn’t have to see Nicola Sturgeon on the television any more. English people have a just complaint that Scotland receives more money from the UK Treasury and then uses that money to fund services that are not available to people in England. It is obviously unjust that British students from outside Scotland in effect pay for Scottish students to study for free.

Over the years there has been injustice added to injustice, but worst of all the Scottish nationalists bite the hand that feeds them. John Swinney fought very hard indeed so that the Barnett Formula should continue and indeed increase, even though Scotland has been given the power to raise and lower our own taxation. The SNP therefore are desperate that the UK should continue to subsidise Scotland while maintaining the right to immediately leave when it suits them. But this clearly isn’t a fair arrangement. Why should the UK Government invest in Scotland if there is no guarantee that Scotland will even remain and provide a return on that investment? The UK Government has bent over backwards to give Scotland new powers, but it’s all been for nothing. On the first occasion the SNP didn’t get what it wanted, it once more began agitating to leave. Did any of these new powers help then?  Have they made the UK even a little bit more secure? On the contrary we have simply been helping the SNP take little steps on the route to independence and we have been feeding their insatiable desire. I can fully understand why English people might be sick of this.

But let’s be clear about this. Britain is our country. Britain is what our ancestors have fought for these past centuries. It is as Britain that we have succeeded and achieved greatness. It is downright unpatriotic to want to see our country broken up. It is foolish too, because it would diminish every single one of us.

Do you really want to live in the Disunited Kingdom of South Britain and Northern Ireland? Perhaps you’d prefer that this country should still further divide into Wales, England and Northern Ireland. That sounds rather disruptive to me. What if we ended up with an independent England? What would be to stop London declaring independence? After all London subsidises the rest of England. Perhaps alternatively the South of England would find it much more profitable to ditch the North. Once you begin seceding it’s not always easy to know when to stop.

What sort of place in the world would we have if our country became dismembered in this way? How would other countries view our armed forces if we couldn’t even hold our own country together? It would appear unlikely that they would respect us all the more. Would they take us seriously at all? What would happen to our country’s reputation as a place that people wanted to visit or do business with? How do you react to countries in the world that start splitting up? Do you really want to import that sort of instability into Britain?

At present one of the most dangerous disputes in the world is over some uninhabited islands claimed by both Japan and China. There are other such territorial conflicts all around the world. Argentina has maintained a long standing claim to the Falklands even though no-one who lives on the Falklands wants to be part of Argentina. Spain has long wished to take back the tiny peninsular of Gibraltar even though the people there don’t want to be part of Spain. Why is it that other countries care so much about tiny pieces of territory while some people in Britain appear indifferent to losing a third of our territory? If you think you would be indifferent to losing Scotland you should think again. You would lose everything. You would lose your country and what’s more you would lose much of what you take for granted.

We need the whole of the British population to reassert that we are all British and that we want our country to remain intact. I would like to see an organisation set up with the task of bringing unity to our country so as to counter the propaganda of those who hate us and those who would divide us. But I am just one small voice. I can do nothing on my own. I have no power and no influence whatsoever. I know no politicians. I sometimes tire of the task of writing so regularly with small reward except insults. I’m not the sort who can organise anything. It’s a challenge for me even to send a text message on a mobile telephone.  But we need such an organisation tasked with promoting Britain and countering separatism. It could campaign for ever more things to be done together. The Olympics has shown what Britain can do as a team. It would be better if all international sport was done only as Team GB.  Not only would this help us develop a common identity it would help us perhaps to win. 

It is irrational for international sport to take place between places that don't have an international relationship. Why should Britain have four football teams while Germany only has one? After all Germany was made made up of two independent sovereign nation states until as recently as 1990. Those people who can’t bear the idea of losing the English, Welsh, Scottish or Northern Irish team should reflect on how having these separate teams helps nationalism and how not having them would help unity. 

Let there also be schemes which encourage people to live in different parts of the UK. Let there be citizenship ceremonies where we are all express our commitment to our country. Let there be television programmes that celebrate what we share rather than what divides us. The UK Government should realise that until and unless we defeat nationalism our country will always be under threat. Investing a tiny amount of money into an organisation tasked with promoting unity would be money very well spent. What is the point of spending billions on defence if our country could be destroyed from within? It’s time for the UK Government to start helping ordinary Brits to defend our country against those who hate it and who hate us.

I will do all I can and I’m grateful for the support I’ve been getting, but it’s not enough. People who love Britain must join together. It doesn’t matter what your politics is, people from the left, the right and the centre can all work together for Britain. Ordinary Brits must not let nationalism divide us. That is what the SNP want. Our task is long term, but if we work together we will succeed. We must banish separatism from Britain and we must put Scottish, Welsh English and Irish nationalism in the rubbish bin where they belong.