Saturday, 8 December 2018

Turning the key

There were always two types of empire. There were those like the British and the French that spread overseas. British and French people would move to Delhi or Saigon and pretend they were living at home only it was rather hotter. These empires were always fragile. The other type of empire spread from a small centre, but did not, for the most part, spread overseas. The Russian Empire and the Chinese Empire are still largely intact because where they spread was contiguous. The same, dare I say it, might be said for the American Empire moving from a coastal strip to embrace most of a continent by means of colonisation.

A feature of both the Russian/Soviet and the Chinese Empires under communism was that there was always a pretence that they were democratic and that their various parts were autonomous or even independent. Both the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic and the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic held seats in the UN in 1945. So too did the countries that would later make up the Warsaw Pact. But the Polish October and Hungarian Revolution in 1956 ably demonstrated that these places had neither sovereignty nor any real freedom. But this had already been made clear in 1953 when the German Democratic Republic, with the help of Soviet tanks crushing demonstrators, had shown its name to involve a contradiction.

The citizens of these empires could either pretend along with their rulers that they lived in free democratic societies, taking part in elections, campaigning for this or that or even trying themselves to become part of the ruling elite, or they could just ignore as best they could the whole thing.  Just as the various parts of the Soviet Empire pretended that they were free and democratic, so the people, for the most part, pretended to take part. This was the only sensible way to live. There was no point battering your head against a door that wouldn’t open. Rather the key to existence was to retreat into private life, say what needed to be said, play the game and keep your real thoughts to yourself.

Eventually patience was rewarded. While the Russian Empire did not completely collapse, it turned out that by some miracle it was possible for Warsaw Pact countries to once more become sovereign nation states and even more miraculously it was possible for parts of the Soviet Union to leave. It would have been utterly pointless for Latvians and Estonians to have attempted to leave the Soviet Union in 1971. To have even suggested it would have been unwise. My guess is that if the Soviet Union had been able to hold itself together until Mr Putin reached power then it would have been impossible for the Soviet Republics to have asserted their sovereignty. But there was a window of opportunity between 1991 and 2000 when the Russian Empire for the first time in its history was willing to lose territory without a fight.

It was something of a leap into the dark for the Soviet Republics. They had to give up their currency (the Soviet rouble) and the trading relationship they would have with the other members of the Soviet Union including Russia was suddenly very uncertain. There were also conflicts and border disputes some of which are still continuing. These have led to the deaths of nearly 200,000 people. But countries could leave the USSR. They were allowed to.

But while the Russian Empire reached its peak in1945 and went into decline in 1991 another empire has been rising out of the ashes of its threefold defeat in 1806, 1918 and 1945. While Russia since the fall of Constantinople has been the successor to the eastern half of the Roman Empire, the EU is its successor in the West.

While Latvia was able to leave the USSR in 1991 by 2004 it was already a part of the EU. It had so to speak voluntarily entered into a prison put its own key in the lock and then chucked it out of the window.

It must have seemed to the Latvians and all the other citizens of the EU Empire that they were free and that they had free and fair elections which might really change things, but just like in the Soviet Union these were all illusions.
We face momentous events, but it is becoming boring. If it turns out that we really can’t leave the EU, then it is a subject that is no more worth studying or writing about than Marxism/Leninism.

If politics in Britain is constrained within carefully defined limits, then it rapidly becomes clear that certain debates are pointless. If Britain can’t leave the EU then self-evidently Scotland cannot properly leave the UK. If the one can be prevented, so too can the other with rather more ease. I doubt very much that a radical Labour Government would be allowed to be quite as radical as it thinks it might be. So too I don’t think a truly conservative, low tax, low public spending, free market Conservative Party would be allowed. We are left then with the mush that extends from the Labour moderates to the Conservative moderates. They each believe more or less the same. It isn’t worth arguing about.

We may still break free. Nothing we would have to face would be anything like what the former members of the Soviet Union had to go through in order to gain their freedom. A few traffic jams must be a price worth paying for the cause that we are supposed to hold higher than any other: freedom and democracy. But has this cause always just been a pretence? An opium to get the masses to enlist.

Too much already has been written about the EU. Let us await events. If it turns out that we are trapped, take comfort from the fact that there will be other chances. There is no need to wear yellow vests. Our present politics will not survive the failure completely to leave the EU in 2019, nor indeed, I suspect, will the EU. If Britain can’t leave the EU, then no-one can. EU citizens will then retreat into private life just like Soviet citizens before them, but we will wait for the moment when the walls begin to crumble. I don’t think we will wait that long.

Sunday, 18 November 2018

An open letter from an 85 year old Gordon constituent to her MP Colin Clark

Dear Mr Clark,

I write to complain about what feels like treachery by our Prime Minister for allowing such a poor deal on Brexit even to be considered as acceptable to the British population.

I spent the first 5 years of my life in Jersey, daughter of a non-Jersey born clergyman. It was only by the grace of God, or maybe more accurately the decision of the Bishop of Winchester who offered my father a living near Bournemouth, which saved him from being sent to a Nazi concentration camp. 

A search light camp was established adjacent to our vicarage – later bombed. During the war we had evacuees and after the war we gave refuge to starving children from the Netherlands.

As a child I followed D Day and the liberation of France, Belgium and the Netherlands by the British Army, Navy and Airforce and lived through the years of shortage which followed. Now Theresa May is willing to accept a deal that imprisons us by the very people we liberated from the Germans. Why are the EU’s negotiators so anxious to punish us who seek freedom when we helped them in their time of need? Have they forgotten that we sent food and lost many people and suffered much damage so that they might be free?

Recently we have gone through a shared reflection on the First World War. Yet as the print on the so called “Brexit Agreement” dries, another period of domination by the EU looms large against the British. How can Theresa May be so blind and so arrogant to allow the EU to inflict this upon those of us who went through so much when we were young.

A war child now 85 years old.

Friday, 16 November 2018

She betrays what they fought for

A week ago we commemorated the 100th anniversary of the ending of the First World War. Theresa May laid wreaths on the graves of those who had defended the freedom and democracy of our country while knowing that she intended to surrender both of them. For this alone she must go.

No free, democratic country that has not already been defeated in warfare would sign a legal treaty in which it agreed to obey the laws of a foreign power without any say in their formulation and that this arrangement would continue until that foreign power agreed that it would cease. It is just this that we fought to avoid in 1914 and 1939. For this reason Theresa May and those others who have been responsible for formulating this treaty have betrayed not merely those of us who voted to leave the EU in 2016, they have betrayed more importantly everyone in British history who fought to establish the democracy in which we live.

We were willing in 1914 to sacrifice the lives of a generation in order to defend Belgium neutrality.

We were willing in 1939 to go to war to defend Polish freedom.

In both cases we could have remained neutral, but we decided to fight for a principle and because it is the British way to stand up to bullies. Now once more we have to stand up to defend a principle, only this time we won’t have to fight anyone.

No-one knows for sure what exactly would happen in the event of a “no-deal” Brexit. I have read speculations that vary from it being relatively straightforward to it being relatively difficult. But in any event it would be worth it.

Markets crashed in 1914 and our trade with the rest of the world was hindered by the fact that U-boats fired torpedoes at our merchant fleet. Nothing as bad as that would happen in 2019. From 1940 onwards British trade with the continent all but ceased, but we were able to dig for victory. Nothing nearly as bad as that will happen in 2019. The worst that will happen is that we will trade with the EU in exactly the same way that we at present trade with the USA. There may be some traffic jams in Kent, there may be some short term shortages, but surely Britain can still take it.

What is to be done?

1. Get rid of Theresa May.

2. Appoint a new Tory leader quickly. Get us David Davis in a week. Give him the job for a year. Have a full blown leadership contest then.

3. Apologise to the DUP and the people of Northern Ireland. Make clear that Belfast is as British as Bognor Regis and that no UK Government will ever treat it differently.

4. Remind the EU that we have not been defeated and that we reject their deal.  Announce that we are leaving in March without a deal.

5. Sack Philip Hammond and appoint a Chancellor who is willing to spend any amount of money to ease the British economy through the transition and to deal with any economic shocks.

6. Remind Parliament that it has already agreed to Article 50 and that the Government intends to stick to the Brexit timetable come what may.

7. Inform the Republic of Ireland that we will impose no border checks, but that the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement cannot be used as a means to annex UK territory, for which reason we renounce it. Furthermore we are no longer interested in having the Republic of Ireland in the Common Travel Area or giving its citizens any more rights with regard to the UK than those from Japan. In future we will treat any Republic of Irish claims to Northern Ireland as being equivalent to Russian claims to the Crimea. It doesn’t matter how the people in Crimea vote, they are still in Ukraine. If the Irish Republic chooses once more to take advantage of terrorism to further its foreign policy aims then we will respond as we always do to terrorists and their sympathisers.

8. Inform the EU that UK armed forces will only be used to defend our territory and they will under no circumstances serve abroad.

9. Attempt to arrange a new security structure involving UK, USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand as these are our true allies and friends.

10. Make Britain the easiest and cheapest place in Europe to do business. Undercut every EU nation in corporate taxes and offer free trade deals to anyone and everyone willing to reciprocate. Get rid of EU bureaucracy in order to outcompete them. Make them regret every sentence of the deal they wanted to humiliate us with.

I will never vote for a Conservative Party that is led by Theresa May and if we leave the EU on the terms that she has put forward I may never vote again. There isn’t much point voting when you’ve lost your freedom and your democracy.

Friday, 9 November 2018

Happy birthday Poland

The writer of the Polish national epic, one of the last epic poems written in Europe, was born in present day Belarus and wrote in the first line of his poem Pan Tadeusz:

Litwo, Ojczyzno moja! ty jesteś jak zdrowie; [Lithuania, my fatherland! You are like health]

From this you can deduce everything that is important about Poland history.

Adam Mickiewicz was Polish, but was not born within the boundaries of present day Poland. The countries of Central Europe expand and contract as history passes. A German Kafka could live in what is now the Czech Republic. He was not Czech. A Hungarian Liszt may not have spoken a word of Hungarian and was born in present day Austria, yet somehow Hungary claims him even if his parents were German. All is a muddle and a melting pot that did not melt difference.

Poland begins sometime around the year 960 AD and covers a territory not dissimilar to that of today.

Who were the Poles? They were the people who worked the land and tilled the fields [pola].

The Slavs who had a certain unity of language and perhaps identity, gradually separated into Rus’, Czechs, Slovaks, Bulgarians and other Southern Slavs. The greatest division perhaps was that the West Slavs looked to Rome while the East Slavs looked first to Byzantium and then when Constantinople fell to the Third Rome that became the capital of Holy Rus. It still is the capital and wants desperately to unite all the lands of Rus whether they want to be united or not.

But Poland was never Rus. From the beginning what made someone a Pole was that he was not Rus. Later the distinction was because a Pole was Catholic while a Rus was Orthodox. Later still the difference perhaps was because the Pole looked westwards to Rome and beyond Rome to everything that was of the West, while the Rus never quite managed to be part of Europe even if he tried hard.

But where is Poland? At various historical periods Poland has extended as far North as present day Estonia, as far East as Ukraine and certain parts of Russia and as far South as the Black Sea.

So what is it to be Pole? Is it someone from Smolensk, Riga, Vilnius or from the Black Sea Coast? All of these place were once at least in some way part of Poland. Then again at another time there was no nation state called Poland. It looks rather like a part of Eastern Europe that is both everywhere and nowhere.

The Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth came about because of a marriage. Jogaila Grand Duke of Lithuania (1377–1434) married Jadwiga of Poland (ca 1373-1399). The best university in Poland “Jagiellonian” is still named after the dynasty that resulted from their “love”.

This was an Empire to rival that of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, but contained the same weaknesses that were to eventually bring about the latter’s destruction in 1918. Austria-Hungary was partitioned because it contained far more than merely Austrians and Hungarians, but at least Austria and Hungary remained and survived the destruction of their Empire. Neither Poland, nor Lithuania would survive the fact that their commonwealth contained too many people who were neither Polish, nor Lithuanian.

How many different peoples made up the Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth? Besides Poles and Lithuanians, there were Germans, Jews, Hungarians, Czechs, Slovaks, Romanians and Ruthenians (i.e. East Slavic speakers who spoke the languages which became modern Russian, Ukrainian and Belarusian). The Commonwealth was more tolerant than the average realm at the time. It was known as paradisus judaeorum. While other European countries expelled Jews, Poland welcomed them and treated them better than anywhere else. But this tolerance saved neither the Poles nor the Jews.

The weakness of the Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth ultimately can be traced to the fact that it was Polish and Lithuanian. A Lithuanian can marry a Pole, but unless they learn each other’s language they can’t understand each other. The distance between Polish and Lithuanian may not be as much as between German and Hungarian. There was a proto Balto-Slavic language which the ancestors of both Poles and Lithuanians spoke, but they had diverged to such an extent that this language family would only be apparent to linguists.

The Commonwealth never really achieved unity. It was split down the middle into a Polish part and a Lithuanian part. Different customs and laws applied. Different identities were maintained. It is this that led to the partitions. Lithuanians and all of the other identities never really had any loyalty to Poland, nor did Poles really have any loyalty to them. A Pole did not much mind a partition that sold Lithuania down the Volga, nor did a Lithuanian mind if Poland was sold down the Rhine or the Danube. This is why both Poles, Lithuanians and the others who made up their Commonwealth were willing to betray each other and give up their Empire for temporary gain. No-one quite had a homeland because their ultimate loyalty was to the language that they spoke and the people who they were rather than to a dynasty that didn’t really represent any of them.

The three partitions of Poland that took place in the eighteenth century could well have been terminal for both Poland and Lithuania. If history had turned out only slightly differently Poles may well have been the equivalent of Kurds, a people without a land. The problem is that when you are divided between Syria, Iraq, Iran, and Turkey, you need to fight all of them to unite to form a Kurdish nation and how can you do that if Kurds are mixed up with everyone else.

So too Poles lived in the Austro Hungarian Empire, the Russian Empire and eventually the German Empire. No matter how much they might revolt in the nineteenth century it must have looked simply impossible to create a land which would unite all the Poles. How are people without a state to defeat three empires?

The process of uniting Poland began with the end of the First World War. This was what Poles had been waiting more than a century for. This was the condition for the possibility of there being a Poland. If Russia had remained undefeated and allied with the Entente then Poland as we know it would not have been created. Who would have rewarded Russian sacrifice with the loss of its Polish territory? At best some Polish lands may have been taken from Germany and Austria Hungary, but it would have lacked the heart of Poland.

But the Poland that was created after the First World War repeated many of the mistakes of the Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth. In trying to gather in all that had once been Polish it overreached itself and ended up containing far too much that was not.

By extending the boundaries of Poland Eastwards into the lands of the Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth, post First World War Poland gathered in most of the Poles, except those still living in Germany, but it also gathered in huge numbers of non-Polish speakers and people who had little or no loyalty to Poland.

The newly formed Polish Army by virtue of the Miracle on the Vistula was able to defeat the Soviets, but led Poland into a temptation. It took advantage of temporary Russian weakness to extend its boundaries eastwards into the lands of the Rus. But Russia would not always be weak. The victory was temporary and led directly to the fourth partition of Poland.

Once more Poland effectively ceased to exist. Even when the Second World War ended and Poland was as it were shifted westwards, it didn’t really have independence. The entire Eastern bloc was really just part of an extended Russian Empire renamed the Soviet Union. Poland was on the map, but it was a Russian vassal.

The results of the Fourth Partition of Poland remain. The territory lost to the Soviet Union is still lost and forms parts of modern Lithuania, Belarus and Ukraine. The territory gained had been German for centuries, but brought Poland back to its beginning with the Piast dynasty.

But in history it is always necessary to take the long view. Poland won the Second World War. It gained a Polish nation state for almost the first time in history whose population was overwhelmingly Polish. 97.7 % of the Polish population are Poles.

Prior to the Second World War there was a significant German population in Poland who wished to citizens of Germany. There were also significant populations of Lithuanians and East Slavic speakers. Where did the loyalty of these people lie? Some of them no doubt were loyal to Poland, but not all. Some would have looked north towards Lithuania, others East towards Minsk, Kiev and beyond.

Tragedy followed for the population of Poland in the war years. Jews were murdered to the extent that there are now few Jews in the land that had been their main home for centuries. Ukrainians killed Poles living in what they thought was Ukrainian land and punished Poland for its resurrection and its extent. Lithuanians were grateful that the Fourth Partition of Poland gave them back Vilnius, just as Ukrainians were grateful that it gave them Lvov. Each complained about Soviet rule but kept the results of that rule. No-one quite noticed the hypocrisy.

Many of those Poles who had lived in the Kresy Wschodnie ended up living in places in Western Poland that had been German for centuries. Ordinary Germans were driven out just as ordinary Poles were driven out from the East. But for all the tragedy that occurred it is necessary to recognise that Poland won the Second World War.

The Soviets tried to decapitate Poland in a forest near Smolensk and by standing by as Warsaw rose and was then raised to the ground. It must have seemed to many Poles who had fought in the Battle of Britain at Monte Cassino at Arnhem and elsewhere that their sacrifices had been futile. Britain and France went to war to liberate Poland, but Poland was not free. Worse the land lost due to the Fourth Partition had not been restored and never would be.

But Polish history teaches us one thing. Be patient. The tradition of rebellion against the Russian Empire continued in Gdansk and although they were crushed in the short term, this time it only took a few years before they succeeded.

Poland after 1989 was free and united in a way that perhaps it never had been before. This was the victory that was gained over those who wanted to wipe Poland from the map again.

Poland was decapitated again in 2010. The president of Poland Lech Kaczyński and many others died in an air crash that had strange echoes of that which killed Władysław Sikorski in 1943. But this time Poland was fortunate for Kaczyński had a twin.

How many hundreds of years did it take to arrive at 1989 and a free united Poland. Yet only a few years later there are those Poles, reminiscent of those who cooperated in the first three partitions of Poland who would like to collaborate in a fifth.

By good fortune and through tragedy the Polish population is both united and Polish, but the European Union would prefer that it ceased to be quite so Polish and ceased to be quite so free.

Western Europe has chosen to imitate the Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth by becoming so tolerant that it allows anyone from anywhere to live in its territory. It can’t bear that Poland having experienced throughout its history the consequences of a divided population and seeing the results of the experiment in places like London and Paris, chooses not to take part.

The solution proposed by the European Union is absorption into an ever closer union. To achieve this end it is willing to bribe. It pays money to Poland and threatens to cut it off if Poland doesn’t do as it is told.

It may for a time be possible for Poland to maintain its identity and its freedom while accepting the bribes given by the European Union, but it won’t be possible for ever.

The bribes and the threats are the same ones that have threatened Poland’s existence since the Partitions began. You either get this, or you don’t. Kaczyński gets it, for which reason it is most fortunate that just as we can survive the loss of one eye and still see, we can survive the loss of one twin and still see Donald Tusk’s cooperation in betraying everything that Poles have been fighting for since the eighteenth century. If Poles partition Poland once again for 30 pieces of silver it is hardly likely that they will be forgiven.

Friday, 19 October 2018

Check hers

September 2014
The Yes side win a vote for Scottish independence by 53.4% to 46.6%

November 2014  

Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon begin negotiations with the UK Government led by Michael Gove.

December 2014

Michael Gove announces that the UK will only support a free trade agreement with Scotland under the condition that Scotland pays an exit fee. This will be ten billion pounds. Unless Scotland agrees to pay this fee the UK will refuse to enter into negotiations regarding free trade.

 January 2015

Scottish independence supporters bitterly complain about the UK’s negotiating tactics. But everyone recognises that there is just over a year until 24th March 2016, the intended date of Scottish independence.

March 2015.

Michael Gove proposes that there should be a backstop agreement applying to those areas of Scotland that voted No. These places should not be disadvantaged in their trade relations with the UK. For this reason Scotland must agree that if a free trade deal with the UK should turn out to be impossible to negotiate, they should remain part of the UK Single Market and Customs Union.

April 2015

Scottish independence supporters continue to complain and to demonstrate their displeasure with the Salmond/Sturgeon negotiating team. Representatives of No voters try to prevent Scottish independence continuing by taking legal action.

May 2015

Scotland takes part in its final UK General Election. MPs for what are now known as Remain supporting parties win a majority of the seats. There are loud calls for a “People’s Referendum”.

June 2015

Fear of a “no deal” Scottish independence grows in Scotland forcing Salmond/Sturgeon to agree to the exit fee and the backstop.

July 2015

Salmond Sturgeon and other members of the SNP Government meet at a large country house in order to come up with a plan. The debate is between fundamentalists led by Salmond and pragmatic gradualists led by Sturgeon. Salmond loses the debate and resigns. The agreement is known as “Check hers” because on leaving Salmond says that “They wouldna read my plan, they only wanted to check hers.”

August 2015

Sturgeon goes to a meeting with Michael Gove with her “Check hers” plan. Gove rejects it. He thinks that Sturgeon is wanting to cherry pick the UK single market.  

September 2015

Salmond is shouting from the side-lines that Sturgeon should chuck “check hers”

October 2015

Michael Gove insists that there can be no free trade agreement with Scotland unless Scotland agrees that the Borders, Orkney and Shetland remain in the UK Customs Union and Single Market, which would mean that although they would have no representation at Westminster, UK MPs would still control the rules and laws applying to these parts of Scotland. Alternatively Scotland could agree that the whole of Scotland would remain in the UK Single Market and Customs Union, meaning that it would not be Edinburgh that controlled Scottish trade and customs policy, but London. In order to retain these benefits Scotland would have to pay a membership fee of five billion pounds per year on top of its ten billion pound exit fee.

November 2015

Scotland is deeply divided. Some independence supporters are determined to leave the UK come what may even if there is no deal. They reason that they would still be able to trade with the UK on WTO terms. Other Scots begin to regret their decision to leave the UK. They demand a second referendum. The SNP argue that it is undemocratic to demand a second referendum and that the result of the September 2014 referendum must be respected.

December 2015

Sturgeon continues to plead with Michael Gove to relax the terms of the backstop. She complains that it puts her on the horns of a dilemma. Either she must break up Scotland or deliver independence in name only. Gove responds that it wasn’t his choice to vote to leave the UK.

March 2016

Gove continues not to budge and as the clock ticks towards Independence Day Scotland becomes ever more divided.

Faced with a choice between leaving with “no deal” and staying in the UK, the Scottish Parliament narrowly votes to stay. Salmond calls them traitors.

April 2016

Gove accepts that the result of the September 2014 referendum has been annulled, but decides to also annul Scotland’s rebate (Barnett Formula) and abolish all of the devolved Parliaments. From now on the UK will be treated as one nation indivisible with no preferential treatment for anyone.

Friday, 12 October 2018

The 9th circle

When Theresa May returned to Britain after being humiliated in Salzburg she made a defiant speech where she maintained that she would stand up for Britain and that on certain issues she would not bend.

 She rejected outright that the UK would remain in the European Economic Area (EEA) and Customs Union.

She rejected outright that Britain would be given a free trade agreement but that Northern Ireland would be forced to remain in the Customs Union with in effect a border down the Irish Sea separating the United Kingdom.  

Like many other people I applauded the speech Theresa May made on the 21st of September. My only caveat was that I was unsure that she meant what she said.

The trouble is that since becoming Prime Minister Theresa May has said rather a lot of things and later we have learned that she didn’t mean what she said. She kept saying “Brexit means Brexit”, which must mean that Brexit will be real rather than fake.

In her Lancaster House speech of 17th January 2017 she made clear that the UK would leave both the EU’s Custom’s Union and Single Market. The reason for this is that all of the advantages of Brexit depend on us doing so. These points were reiterated in the Conservative Party Manifesto later in 2017.

But the promises Theresa May made ended up with Chequers. This amounted to promising while crossing her fingers. While under the Chequers proposal the UK would technically leave the Customs Union and Single Market we would have had to mimic both of them. Most of the potential Brexit benefits would once more be slipping through our fingers.  

My one fear was that the EU would accept Chequers, but they rejected it, or at least that was the appearance. Theresa May stood up like some latter day Boadicea and said that she wouldn’t budge.

“Here I stand”, she said, “I can do no other, God help me.”

Metaphorically she said “We will fight them on the beaches”

When leaders make speeches like that it is the duty of citizens to be moved and to rally round.

When Churchill made the speeches he made in 1940, it didn’t matter if you were a Labour supporter, a Liberal or a Tory. Here was our leader at a time of national emergency inspiring us. It was time to put aside party squabbles and come together as one. Everyone apart from a few fascists and Scottish nationalists did just that.

But what would we think of Churchill today if he had told us “We will fight them on the beaches” only to surrender a couple of weeks later?

A leader simply cannot make a speech like Theresa May did in September and then back down. It not only makes them look ridiculous it makes them look cowardly. It’s a betrayal of everyone who listened to the speech and believed her.

The trouble is that Dante is quite right to put those who commit acts of betrayal right in the innermost (9th) circle of Hell.

We must wait and see. Perhaps the EU will reject Theresa May’s plans once more. Perhaps somehow by means of Parliament or by some other means we will end up with a full complete Brexit. But the signs are not looking so good.

The Democratic Unionists are threatening to withdraw support from the Government. It is disgraceful that it has reached the point where they feel the need to do so.

The EU with the connivance of the Republic of Ireland is attempting to in effect annex a part of the United Kingdom. This is the sort of thing you go to war to prevent. Defending our territory from foreign powers is the main reason we have armed forces.

Perhaps the DUP have misunderstood, perhaps they can be bought off, but let’s hope not, there’s a special place in hell too for people who take pieces of silver.

Nothing that might happen in March if there is “no deal” can be worse for our country that betrayal.

We might have a recession if we leave the EU without a deal. It would be worth it. We might have some queues at Dover and the EU might make it a little more difficult for us to go on holiday. It would be worth it. We should be willing to accept almost anything that might happen in order to avoid our Prime Minister breaking her promise to the nation and surrendering. If that happens then Theresa May will have damaged her country more than any Prime Minister in history. She will have betrayed us. She will deserve her place in history. It will be in the innermost circle.

Saturday, 6 October 2018

Separating the cows from the bulls

Since ancient times there has been a debate between those who believe that “Man is the measure of all things, of things which are, that they are, and things which are not, that they are not” and those who believe that there is such a thing as objective truth outside of human subjectivity. It is a key debate because if man really is the measure of all things then there can be no question of there being a God who transcends me, no question of there being moral rules that come from outside me and ultimately no reality that I don’t choose to judge as existing. Everything becomes a matter of taste. No-one can show that Beethoven is objectively better than Beyoncé, which makes music a subject not worth studying. It is all simply a matter of preference just the same as my disliking spinach, but you wanting to eat it every day.

It is strange that this debate is still active, because there has been a word since ancient times for those who believe that all is relative and that there is no objective truth. They are called sophists. The argument always collapses into a form of solipsism, whereby the doubting sophist cannot tell for sure even whether other people exist. If I am the measure of all truth and if I determine what exists and what does not, then does it even make sense to say that you have an existence outside of me.

No-one actually could live this way. We assume in going about our daily lives that there is an objectively existing world and people in it. We assume that truth is determined by reality, not by subjective opinion. Yet despite the fact that it contradicts everything we experience, the sophist’s argument keeps reappearing.

The latest reappearance is the idea that someone’s being a man or a woman is something that they can determine by themselves rather than something that is determined by an external, objective and shared reality.

One of the key insights of the twentieth century, that ought to have finally killed off any last strains of sophism, was the idea that the language that we use is determined by a community of language users rather than by a subjective individual conversing with himself. How do I learn words like “girl” and “boy”, “man” and “woman?” When I’m a child someone points out that this person is a man and that person is a woman. Gradually I learn to make the distinction. If I make a mistake I’m corrected. The same process goes for every word I learn and also for the words that turn them into sentences. Without this process I would be mute. So it cannot be me and me alone that is the measure of the words that I speak. Without other people determining the correctness of my vocabulary I would not even be able even to utter so complex a sentence as “man is the measure of all things” let alone say it in Greek.

But how do we determine who is a boy and who is a girl. There is a simple method that has been used since time began. When a baby is born we look. After that we might ask a parent whether their baby is a boy or a girl. Subsequently we judge by appearance. This works in nearly all cases.

It is of course possible for a man to pretend to be a woman and for a woman to pretend to be a man. This occasionally happened in times of war, when a few women were desperate to take part as soldiers. Some of them might cut their hair, bind their breasts and wear male clothing. Sometimes they went for years without being caught. But there was something that could determine whether they were pretending or not pretending. There was an objective truth of the matter. Sometimes such a soldier was injured and on the operating table it became clear that here was a woman not a man. The method of determining this was much the same as when the person was born.

But what was this soldier feeling. Did the soldier feel like a woman or like a man? The mistake is to suppose that it matters what she felt like. This once more is to suppose that “man is the measure of all things.” When I see a grassy field in springtime I may say that it is green. If someone else says that it is red, I tell them that they have misunderstood the word “red”. But what if what they see is different from what I see? It doesn’t matter. So long as we all use green in the same way, to describe grass and lettuce and such like, it matters not all what we sense. So long as we each say that a post box is red it doesn’t matter if you see it as “blue” and I see it as “yellow.” The usage of the word is not determined by subjectivity, it is determined by the community of language users who do not have access to each other’s subjective inner experiences.

But this goes for all words. It is literally senseless to suppose that there is one word for how I feel, which might differ from how I am. This is a distinction without difference. To apply the same distinction across the whole of our language would mean that we couldn’t even speak to each other. Once this is understood then the debate about girls who want to be boys and boys who want to be girls, simply collapses. What we are is determined by the public community of language users, not by private feelings unavailable to that community.

No person can know what it feels to be like another person. We can imagine what it would be like to be an Ancient Greek, but we can’t know how such a person felt. Likewise I might think that I feel like a man feels, but I have no idea whatsoever how he does feel. How then can I suppose that I am correct in my judgment that I feel like a man, when I simply don’t know how he or anyone else actually does feel. 

The mistake is to suppose that the use of words like “man” and “woman” has anything to do with how people feel. This is pure sophistry. The meaning of words like “man” and “woman” is determined in exactly the same way as words like “rock”, “drop” and “floor”. Whether or not I drop the rock on the floor is verifiable by the community. To suppose that it is subjective is to suppose that these words have no meaning.

We determine that there are cows in a field by looking. If we make a mistake and they are really bulls, then this is either because we don’t understand the word “cow” or because we are not very observant. It matters not at all what the cow or the bull feels. We have no idea whether this particular cow has always wanted to be a bull and has felt that it inhabited the wrong body. Moreover we are uninterested. It is not this that determines how we use the word “cow.”

Are we to suppose then that in all of the animal kingdom we can determine these matters objectively, except in the case of human beings? At what point in our evolution did the ability to choose whether we were men or women evolve?

I’m afraid the method by which we use the words “man” and “woman” are exactly the same as the method by which we use the words “cow” and “bull” each of these words is grounded in a reality that cannot change. It no more matters that a man thinks he is a woman than that he thinks he is a bull. The reality is that man is not the measure of these things. Reality is the measure.

You can, of course, put a man who is pretending to be a woman into a woman’s prison, but this will have much the same effect as putting a bull into a field with cows. There is a reason why sometimes it makes sense to have fields where there are only cows and where bulls are not allowed. It doesn’t matter one little bit what the bull feels. It doesn’t matter even if he mistakenly thinks that he is a cow. He is not a cow. You will get a shock if you try to milk him. No matter what you try, you simply cannot turn a bull into a cow. It doesn’t matter what you cut off or attempt to add. He won’t give you any milk or any calves. This inability is not accidental, it is not a matter of choice, it is something that was determined when we came into existence.  I can no more choose what I am than I can choose whether a stone falls when I drop it.

Saturday, 29 September 2018


There may be ways in which Britain still influences the United States, but they are as nothing compared to the influence the United States has on us.  Few of us follow in much detail political debates in France, almost nobody could name the leader of Latvia or Slovenia. A shared language makes influence far easier. For this reason the French aren’t nearly as interested in #MeToo as the Brits, while many Eastern Europeans find the norms of Western liberalism baffling even bizarre.

Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia are completely misunderstood by EU, because they didn’t have the Sixties in the way that we did. Communism meant that there was no sexual revolution. They never experienced mass immigration. Lots of people still go to Mass. To be a Hungarian is to be descended from people who have lived in Hungary for centuries. The culture of these places comes largely from themselves. They are largely immune therefore to whatever comes from America.

But in Britain we will follow on soon enough. I remember laughing at the idea of safe spaces and trigger warnings two or three years ago when I first read about campus politics in the USA, but soon enough it all began to happen here. You most likely won’t find such places in Paris and in Bratislava they would mean literally a place that is not dangerous, but in Britain we are punished because we gave to the New World our language.

It frightens me to see what is happening in the United States today, because all too soon it will happen here. It already is happening here.

The United States is becoming divided in a way that it hasn’t been since the 1860s. It is divided politically, racially and sexually and it is losing the consensus that holds a nation together.

When I studied in the United States I thought the Democrats and the Republicans were more or less the same. Some Democrats were more right-wing than most Republicans and vice versa. I couldn’t quite work out what made someone one rather than the other. It seemed to be a debate about whether you liked Donkeys or Elephants. Not now.

Today there is a cultural war going on between two tribes and they hate each other. They each appear willing to do anything to win this battle. But will they have a country left to fight over when it is finished. Will there be anything to unite in the United States?

Though we share a common language I find Americans frequently hard to understand. I have never felt this more than watching the nominee for the Supreme Court being accused of sexually assaulting someone in the early 1980s.

Just as no British person could seriously stand up and put his hand on his heart while singing the national anthem, so too no British person could either accuse or defend in the way that Americans do. The sentimentality and the sobbing are alien to us.

Like everyone else I have no idea who did what to whom in the early 1980s. I don’t want to judge who gave the better performance. Each gave a better performance than I could have done and I suspect 99% of other Brits. We would have been embarrassed, tongue tied and simply incapable of even remembering what we did or didn’t do in 1982.

This has gone too far folks. This now gets very dangerous indeed. I have written about this a few times, but we keep finding new examples. At some point soon a very serious injustice is going to occur.

We cannot allow a situation to arise where there is a certain class of crimes (sexual), which uniquely among all other crimes require a lower standard of evidence. An uncorroborated witness statement is not going to be enough to convict anyone of anything be it theft, physical assault or murder. Something more has to be required otherwise anyone could denounce anyone of anything.

If it was the case that everyone told the truth, then by definition there would be no need to have trials. All we would need to do would be to ask the accused if he was guilty or not guilty and jail him or let him go according to his answer. The fact that we have trials at all is an admission that people don’t tell the truth.

Just as we cannot have a class of crimes that require a lower standard of evidence, so too we cannot have a class of witness (women) that is deemed to be more reliable than others. Men lie, women lie, people lie. We are all just people.

Someone is going to have to carefully explain to women that if they complain that they have been raped or sexually assaulted, then there has to be some evidence beyond the mere fact that they say it. If there is no evidence beyond the mere testimony then it is simply going to be impossible to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a crime has occurred. This will be the case even if the supposed crime happened yesterday, let alone in 1982.

The madness that has taken over the United States is such that people’s lives are being ruined because of unsubstantiated allegations that go back decades. If we allow this to become the norm then our politics will simply become impossible.

Let’s imagine I am scared that Jeremy Corbyn might become the next Prime Minister. Well what is to stop me searching for some woman who he went to school with or who he went on demonstrations with twenty, thirty or forty years ago. Eventually I might be able to discover one who is willing to say that in 1982 he groped her, or assaulted her or raped her. If only her testimony is enough to convict Mr Corbyn then my worries about him becoming Prime Minister are over. It isn’t even necessary that he should ever have met her. It’s only necessary that she says she did and that everyone believes her. Because women never ever lie.

The philosophy of law that we gave to the United States was founded not merely on the idea that everyone was innocent until proven guilty, but more importantly that we had a standard of proof that meant it was highly unlikely that the innocent would be convicted. This is what reasonable doubt is about. We have long believed that it would be better that ninety-nine guilty people went free than that one innocent person was unjustly convicted.

It is this above all that #MeToo would like to overthrow. If the testimony of any woman in a sexual case on its own is enough to convict any man, then men will have no defence whatsoever against any woman who accuses them of sexual assault or rape. How many men out of our one hundred will be unjustly convicted? Ten? Twenty? Who knows? If women are allowed to convict on the basis of their testimony not merely about what happened yesterday, but about what happened in 1982 then no-one will be safe from accusation. Any political rival, any job rival, any ex-boyfriend or divorcing husband can be destroyed not merely on the basis of what he did yesterday, but on the basis of what he did decades ago. Feminism has long since ceased to be about equality it is female supremacism.

Men and women need each other. We cannot live in a society where without any other evidence we can accuse each other of crimes that will send us to jail for years, prevent us from gaining a new job or which will allow us to take revenge at will. It will poison the foundation of human society by making the relationship (love) that builds nations lose all sense of trust.

The United States Supreme Court is perhaps the most respected court in the world, but if someone can be prevented from serving because of mere accusation without any other evidence then it too will lose its foundation. We base our whole way of life on judging according to evidence not denunciation. It is this that distinguishes us from tyranny. 

We moved from theocracy towards enlightenment when we decided that science required evidence and that justice was not determined by ordeal. But just as we cannot determine guilt or innocence based on whether a witch sinks or floats, so too the ability to perform before a tribunal does not by itself tell us what is truth, nor indeed does the ability to pay for an expensive, clever lawyer. If the law is not about discovering truth based on objective evidence then it has fundamentally made no progress from trial by ordeal, because this is what we are witnessing.  For this reason I accuse the law.   

If Mr Kavanaugh had been a Liberal, there would have been no accusations. There are accusations only because he is a Conservative and Liberals dislike how he may change the balance of the Supreme Court. But if the left can succeed with such tactics, then the right will use them next time in which case who will dare to stand for anything? We in Britain gave the United States it’s language and its law, but it would be better by far that we all spoke Polish than be infected further by this injustice. J'Accuse.

Friday, 21 September 2018

All behind you Theresa

There is something peculiar about the EU and its member states. They want the UK to defend them if they are threatened militarily. They want us to come to their rescue if their banks fail or their single currency gets into trouble. Yet they think they can treat our democracy with contempt by telling us to vote again and they expect us to do their bidding because they are making it hard for us to leave. They think they can humiliate our Prime Minister and we’ll love them for it.  I don’t think they have any understanding at all of the British mentality.

I have been fairly critical of Theresa May lately. I thought her Chequers plan was worse than remaining in the EU. It would have tied the UK to mimicking the EU’s Single Market and Customs Union more or less forever, which in fact would have been more beneficial to the EU than to us. After all they trade more with us than we do with them. We would have had to follow EU rules with no say whatsoever in the forming of them, which would have made it difficult, perhaps impossible to form trade deals with anyone else. For the privilege of doing this we would have to pay something close to forty billion pounds. Yet even this wasn’t enough. The EU would like to keep the security that Britain provides, but they don’t want to cooperate with us on Brexit one little bit.

We’re now at an impasse. The EU offers either a free trade deal like Canada’s, but this would not apply to Northern Ireland, which would remain in the customs union, and in effect in the EU. Alternatively the EU offers that the whole of the UK could remain in the Single Market and Customs Union, like Norway. This would make it impossible for us to limit free movement from the EU.

No nation state would allow a foreign power to impose a border between one of its parts and the others. This is the sort of thing you go to war to defend your country against. The British people likewise made it absolutely clear that we wanted to be able to control immigration.

Theresa May has said that she is unwilling to change on these issues. I hope that she means what she says. Far too often lately she has talked firmly only to later change her position. This is the main reason why so many Conservative MPs and supporters have lost confidence in her. But if she has sense she can still turn the situation around.

Now is the moment to appeal to the British people. We face an important moment in our history. The EU wants to damage Britain. They want us to be humiliated and to come creeping meekly, begging to get back into their club. If we did so we would, no doubt, have to pay more even than we do now, but far worse than that, who would ever think of us as a serious power from then on? Can you imagine the loss of confidence that would hit our country if we tried to break free from the EU, but couldn’t manage? Long term this would damage us far more than anything that might happen next March.

The crucial thing to realise is that the leaders of the countries that gathered to humiliate Theresa May in Salzburg are not our friends. They don’t want what is best for the UK. They don’t want our relationship to be mutually beneficial, rather they want the UK to be worse off.

The EU, and all the countries that make up its membership, is now a hostile power. We should have nothing against the citizens who live there, but let’s be honest about it, they wish us harm. So let us begin behaving accordingly.

Britain has to look elsewhere for our friends. We must prioritise making alliances with those countries that think like we do and speak the same language as we do. More generally we should make friends only with those who want a reciprocally beneficial relationship.

We have six months to prepare for no deal. This is not a long time. But it is a lot longer than we have had previously to prepare for far more difficult situations.

If Theresa May doesn’t get a positive response to her post Salzburg statement from the EU in a very short time she should end the uncertainty and declare negotiations have concluded. She should sack the Chancellor and appoint someone who actually believes in Brexit and is willing to do what it takes to make it succeed. The forty Billion pounds that was to have gone to the EU should instead be used to prepare for leaving the EU without a deal and for compensating any businesses that might be in danger of losing out.

The EU would respond to this with absolute fury. They would threaten us with this that and the other. This would still more clearly show that they were not our friends. Why should we defend and buy so much from those who dislike us?

The UK should turn itself away from Europe. A no deal Brexit would give us the freedom to undercut the EU in terms of business rates and in terms of efficiency. We could offer a tariff free deal with anyone who wanted it. Let us buy our cars and our wine from new friends rather than from those who hate us.

If Theresa May appeals to British patriotism and calls for unity and a common struggle in the months ahead, we will be fine. It’s time for some defiance. In a few years we will look back on these months as another example of how we have stood up to tyranny and triumphed.

I can think of few more unpopular Prime Ministers than Theresa May, but she has the chance to make history forget the mistakes that she has already made. All it would take is one rousing speech to the Conservative Party conference offering nothing but blood, sweat and tears and we’d all get behind her, because it would be worth it. There is glory to be had in making a success of Brexit, let us grasp it.