Tuesday 30 July 2019

Don't let Labour ruin Britain again

Governments are very powerful in Britain. The power of Parliament on the other hand is limited. It can pass or fail to pass laws and it can vote a Government down. Governments have been able to declare war and make peace without asking the opinion of Parliament. What this means is that a Government fully intent on leaving the EU with or without a deal has many advantages. It will be the Government talking to the EU. Parliament cannot carry out negotiations with anyone because we are not ruled by Parliament, we are ruled by the Crown that appoints a Government. This means that if Parliament wants to stop a determined Government from taking the UK out of the EU it will probably have to vote down that Government. It is this that brings us to the possibility of a General Election.

Parliament is in recess now and comes back on 3rd September. If a General Election is called, Parliament is dissolved for 25 days. What this means is that there is a relatively short window of opportunity between early September and early October when Parliament can bring down the Government in order to stop Brexit by means of a no-confidence vote. A few Tory Remainers have that power. They would, of course, be kicked out of the Conservative Party if they brought down a Conservative Government, but for some of them Remaining in the EU is more important than anything else, so they may well do so.

It is impossible to predict anything in British politics at the moment, but a General Election will still primarily be a fight between Labour and the Conservatives. The SNP will still win a lot of seats in Scotland and a lot of Remainers will vote for the Lib Dems. The Brexit Party may repeat some of its success at the European Elections, but would this be helpful for a clean Brexit or a hindrance?

The Conservative Party would stand on a “no deal” manifesto promising to leave the EU come what may. If that Government had a working majority it could force through Brexit, but it couldn’t if it depended on the votes of Remainers or a Remainer party. Ten or twenty Brexit Party MPs might help, of course, but what if splitting the Brexiteer vote leads to the Conservatives not gaining a majority at all?

However well other parties do, it is still the case that the next Government will almost certainly either be Labour or Conservative. Such a Government may depend on the votes of others in coalition, but it is virtually impossible for these others to themselves form a Government. For this reason, it is crucial to focus on Labour.

Here are the reasons to vote against Labour:

1. Jeremy Corbyn.

Labour is no longer a moderate social democratic party. Nor is it working in the Old Labour tradition. Old Labour may have been misguided, but at least it was patriotic. Corbyn’s Hard Left Labour is something never experienced in Britain before. Corbyn has a record of siding with Britain’s enemies including the IRA and Middle Eastern terrorist groups. He would do his best to radically change the UK economy so that it as closely as possible matched his Marxist thinking. If you want a communist Prime Minister, now is your best chance of getting one.

2. Anti-Semitism

Labour’s anti-Semitism is not accidental. It is a feature of Hard-Left thinking that sides with those terrorist groups that would like to destroy Israel. It is anti-Semitic because it judges Israel by a standard that it applies to no other country. If a fascist became leader of the Conservative Party, I would expect every decent Conservative MP to resign. So called moderate Labour MPs are guilty by association. They all campaigned for an anti-Semite to be Prime Minister in 2017. They would all campaign for him to be Prime Minister in 2019. People who campaign for anti-Semites are themselves anti-Semitic.

3. Scottish independence.

A Conservative Government will not allow a second independence referendum for at least a generation. It is nearly impossible given the destruction of the Labour Party in Scotland for Labour to win an overall majority without the support of the SNP. The condition for SNP support will obviously be that Corbyn allows the SNP to have indyref2. Whatever Labour says, it would have no choice to make this deal with the SNP. It would be either that or not being in power at all. Pro UK people who vote for Labour in Scotland are therefore in effect voting for the SNP.

4. Remain.

The overwhelming majority of Labour MPs are Remain supporters. This would still be the case if Labour were to form a Government not least because it would in all probability have to form such a Government with the Lib Dems and the SNP. Labour policy on Brexit has been confused and opportunistic. In the past they have wanted an even softer Brexit than Theresa May’s deal. Now they appear to want a second referendum on Brexit in which Labour would campaign for Remain. Large numbers of Labour constituencies however voted to Leave. It makes no sense for any of these Leave voters to vote for Labour. Obviously too, any party that supports a second Brexit referendum because they didn’t like the result of the first, could hardly deny SNP demands for a second referendum on independence. So once more a vote for Labour is a vote for indyref2.

5. No deal.

Some people think that a “no deal” Brexit would be an economic disaster. But what would a Jeremy Corbyn Government do to the UK economy? I can think of no example of Marxist economics leading a country to becoming more prosperous. China is communist in name only. A Conservative chancellor could mitigate any difficulty of leaving the EU without a deal by means of tax cuts, lowering of tariffs with non-EU countries and a bonfire of EU red tape. A Corbyn Government would instead raise taxes as much as it possibly could. Would add still further layers of bureaucracy to British business. It would nationalise as much industry as it could and it would follow the policies of the Corbyn heroes that led countries like Venezuela into chaos and poverty. Which do you fear more a “no deal” Brexit or a Corbyn led Labour Government?

6. Moderate Labour

The Hard Left may control the Labour Party, but who put them there? The answer, of course, is so called moderate Labour. Despite Neil Kinnock and Tony Blair attempting to turn Labour into a moderate social democratic party, they allowed the Hard Left to remain. The Conservative Party would not tolerate fascists as MPs. It would not allow them to be elected year after year, but moderate Labour allowed racist Marxists and communists to be elected. Communism killed far more people in the twentieth century than fascism did, yet somehow communists are still acceptable to Labour. It was only because moderate MPs thought the Hard Left deserved a chance in the leadership contest following Ed Miliband’s resignation that Jeremy Corbyn was nominated in the first place. Labour isn’t a moderate party led by an extremist. It is a party that sympathises with Hard-Left socialism. Moderate Labour MPs may be willing to temper their socialist ideals out of pragmatism, but they would all prefer that it wasn’t necessary to moderate them. They are therefore not moderate.  

7. Tom Watson.

The leader of moderate Labour is Tom Watson. Does anyone believe that Tom Watson would have championed “Nick” if Nick had uncovered child abuse and murder involving senior Labour figures from 1970s? This illustrates the fundamental problem with moderate Labour. Even moderates hate Conservatives (“lower than vermin”) in a way that is quite irrational and is in no way reciprocated. Conservatives think socialism is mistaken, but there is rarely if ever hatred of the Left. Tom Watson made a catastrophic error in judgement when he supported Nick. It ruined the lives and reputation of innocent people. It helped the SNP depict Westminster as a cess pool.  Tom Watson has not even properly apologised for his actions. Given the chance to attack the reputation of Tories, he would no doubt do so again. Do you really want such a man even as an MP let alone one of the leaders of the Labour Party?

8. Defence.

We don’t know what threats Britain will face either from other countries or from terrorist organisations, but we do know that in order to defend ourselves we need our armed forces, our intelligence services and our relationship with the United States. If there were a terrorist attack in the UK, would Jeremy Corbyn support the terrorists? After all, in the past he has sympathised with the aims of the IRA and Islamic jihadists. He has refused to condemn Russian poisoners and has worked for Iranian TV. If Britain faced a crisis in the years ahead would you really want Jeremy Corbyn in charge?

9. Immigration.

The last time we had a Labour Government it opened the door to mass migration so as to “"rub the Right's nose in diversity”. This remember was a moderate Labour Party. The nature of Britain was changed forever. Pressure on housing and public services was increased. The Hard Left is even more in favour of mass immigration than New Labour was. Is there anyone from anywhere who Jeremy Corbyn would forbid from coming to Britain except perhaps Donald Trump? What damage would a few years of Labour do to Britain? They’d rub everyone’s nose in it, not just the Right.

10. Labour makes you poorer

Labour’s solution to any and every problem is to spend more public money on it. It is for this reason that each and every past Labour Government has either managed Britain’s decline or led us into economic crisis. Old Labour gave us 1979 and the Winter of Discontent. New Labour gave us 2008 and the worst financial crisis since the 1930s. Labour promises to help the poorest in society, but because socialism doesn’t work.  It inevitably makes them poorer instead. If even moderate New Labour wrecked the UK economy, what would Hard Left Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour do to our prosperity?

There is an alternative. Boris Johnson’s Conservatives offer us a UK that is fully sovereign and completely outside the EU. This will give us the chance to develop the low tax, pro-business, low tariff economy that is necessary to compete in the modern world. Brexit gives us the greatest opportunity in decades to become more efficient and richer. Economics is really very simple. Decrease the size of the state, lower public spending and tax and offer free trade to anyone who will reciprocate.  This will make not only the poor richer, it will make everyone else richer too. Brexit is about hope. Don’t let Labour wreck it.

Saturday 27 July 2019

Wasn't "Nick" just saying "Me Too"?

The debate between Left and Right used to be about economics, now it is about truth. The distinction between objective truth and subjective opinion founded the scientific revolution and was so uncontroversial that it would have been hard fifty or sixty years ago to find anyone who didn’t recognise it as valid. But the Left has been chipping away gradually at the foundation of Western rationality and in places it is crumbling. The result is barbarism.

It is not accidental that it was the Left that championed “Nick”, the fantasist who accused innocent Tories of unspeakable crimes. It followed logically from the frequently expressed Left-wing viewpoint that victims always had to be believed.

 There used to be the principle in all cases of criminality that the police would look for objective evidence. If it did not exist or could not be found, then there would be no prima facie case. No one would be charged, no one’s reputation would be ruined.

But somehow this principle was gradually undermined. It began, I think with the idea that there was a special case of crimes, usually involving women victims, where the woman’s opinion had to be believed even if there were no objective evidence for it. The Left in the form of the Feminist movement demanded that women’s viewpoints should count for more than male viewpoints, as if women’s testimony should count for double rather like the inverse of the law in the Middle East. It is obvious that such a way of investigating crime will lead to injustice.

There have been any number of cases where high profile men have had their lives and reputations ruined simply because someone said they did wrong with no other evidence at all. Brett Kavanaugh was accused of sexual assault decades earlier. It is obviously impossible to objectively prove what someone did or didn’t do in private twenty or thirty years ago. A case like this would at one time simply have been dismissed as frivolous. Likewise, mere accusation without evidence has been enough to ruin the lives of people like Cliff Richard and Kevin Spacey.

How is anyone supposed to prove what they did or didn’t do decades ago? Yet we have allowed people to be convicted on the basis of mere testimony without any further evidence. Some of these people are no doubt guilty, but how do we know that all of the witnesses were not like “Nick”? People have many reasons to lie. They like the attention. They want compensation. They want revenge. People misremember. Mere opinion should never be raised to the point of “beyond reasonable doubt” unless there is something objective to act as a foundation.

But we systematically undermined the law when we allowed some crimes to become aggravated based merely on opinion. A crime might be described as racist or homophobic simply on the basis that the victim perceived it as such. There need be no other objective evidence. But if a crime can be racist without objective evidence, there is very little preventing the next step of saying that there can be a crime of rape without any objective evidence, or even murder without objective evidence.

The Left has raised mere opinion in certain areas of life to the stage where it has become absolute truth that cannot be questioned. A person born as a boy can at any point in his life simply assert that he feels like a woman and demand that everyone describes him as such. Throughout human history it has been taken as obvious that people were either men or women and that this distinction was an objective fact determined at birth. Now mere subjective opinion in contradistinction with all the objective evidence is enough to determine truth.

We have reached the stage where women who refused to give a bikini wax to a “woman” with male genitalia lost their jobs because of their prejudice. Such “women” have been allowed into women’s prisons, women’s changing rooms and women’s refuges. When you raise the subjective over the objective, you end up losing all sense of what truth is. This is where we are now.

It is a mistake to change the practices of law because of particular, horrible crimes that attract the public’s attention. The murder of a black teenager has meant that some crimes are more equal than others, not because of objective evidence, but because of subjective opinion. Jimmy Saville’s depravity led to a hysterical reaction where decades old testimony was enough to ruin lives. Feminists believe that women should be able to sleep with who they please when they please, but at any time say that what happened in private was rape or sexual assault and be believed automatically.

What happens when you raise mere testimony to the level of truth. You end up with “Nick”. Human nature is such that a proportion of the population will realise that objective evidence is no longer required to convict someone. They will take advantage.

The Labour deputy leader who supported “Nick” and did his very best to use “Nick’s” testimony to destroy the reputation of prominent Tories was following the same principles that are universal on the Left. The victim of certain crimes must always be believed. Objective evidence is no longer needed to determine the truth.  “Nick” is a creature of the Left, he is what happens when we allow Labour to undermine evidence and abolish truth. Why convict “Nick” when he was only saying “Me Too”?

Wednesday 24 July 2019

The Scottish establishment is wrong about Brexit and Boris

There is a conventional wisdom in Scotland about politics that everyone agrees on. It doesn’t much matter which party the Scottish establishment support, they still hold the same assumptions. The problem is that this same Scottish establishment has been wrong about everything ever since they came up with the idea that the Scottish Parliament would kill off the SNP.

Those who write for Scottish newspapers and the people who are interviewed on television are nearly all Remainers. They think that it’s a good thing if public spending in Scotland increases. While they may agree or disagree with Scottish independence, they do so in such a way that they form a consensus with Scottish nationalism. None of them think that the UK is “one nation indivisible” like the USA, Germany, France, Japan and nearly every other nation state on earth. Their biggest concern is not to inflame Scottish nationalism and so they think the solution to every political question in Scotland is to appease the SNP.

 The Scottish establishment thinks of the UK as if it were a three-hundred-year-old EU. Scotland is a member of the UK just like the France is a member of the EU. It is for this reason that they came up with the “Better Together” strategy that nearly cost us our country. Putting forward the advantages of Remaining while emphasising the costs of leaving, is not going to win in the long run. Independence movements throughout history have been willing to go through wars to achieve their goal. A few months of economic difficulty even a few years of economic decline would be worth it to any self-respecting SNP supporter.

So long as the Scottish establishment thinks of Scotland as a country like France that happens to be in a union with the other parts of the UK, then they have already conceded the argument. If you think that Scotland is a country like France, why wouldn’t you want Scotland to be independent like France? Why should Scotland be in that rare class of countries that are not independent? Is it because we are somehow second rate?

The problem with the “pro UK” Scottish establishment is that they watch too much rugby. They love to have their days at Murrayfield belting out Flower of Scotland while not quite meaning what they sing. But they only encouraged those who did mean it.

The SNP play the patriotic card. It’s a very strong card indeed. The thin gruel of appeasement and subsidy won’t win in the end, nor does it deserve to. The Better Together argument could equally have been used by the USSR to discourage Latvia from leaving. After all they had a shared currency and no doubt leaving the Soviet Union was disruptive.

But as the Scottish establishment shares the SNP’s assumptions about Scotland and the UK, it really doesn’t have a respectable intellectual argument left to use. All that is left is to concede the argument gradually. It’s the post-war declinist consensus that was overthrown in 1979 only to be resurrected by the pessimism of Philip Hammond and the wet mush and muddle of Theresa May.

We begin with the Scottish Parliament as some sort of Hadrian’s wall to keep back the Scottish nationalist hordes, only to find that a few years later they own it and use it to do the very thing it was built to prevent.

Why would anyone listen to Gordon Brown about anything? He was wrong about devolution. He thinks that if we just give the Scottish Parliament a few more powers the SNP will lose their support. This is like thinking if only we had given the Germans a few more bits of Czechoslovakia we would have prevented war in 1939.

The only way to defeat the SNP is to change the assumptions of the argument. With the assumptions that are shared by nearly everyone who writes and talks about Scottish politics, the SNP win in the end.

They all think that Remaining was the key to keeping the UK intact. We mustn’t inflame Scottish opinion. We mustn’t make the SNP angry.
But the Remainer Scottish establishment can’t think through the logic of Brexit. The reason is that Remain used a “Better Together” argument and was defeated by a patriotic sovereignty argument. It’s because the Scottish establishment feel nearly no patriotism for the UK whatsoever that they can’t understand this. Almost no one feels any patriotism for the EU. This meant that the Remain argument only had a little bit on the supposed advantages of an organization that is little loved in Britain and a lot on how it would be disastrous if Britain dared to leave.

Remainers kept telling Brits that we couldn’t possibly manage outside the EU, that every disaster possible would follow. But the only patriotic response to this is that we’ve been through worse and will no doubt manage again. “We’ll show them” was the correct answer to the Remain campaign, which is why we did show them.

It is just this patriotic argument about Britain that we have needed to defeat Scottish nationalism.

Apparently, Boris Johnson will inflame Scottish opinion so much that we are all going to vote for the SNP. I strongly suspect Ruth Davidson thinks this. Gordon Brown thinks this. Alex Massie thinks this. But I wonder if Nicola Sturgeon thinks this.

The SNP desperately wants the UK to remain in the EU. As I have argued repeatedly for years, leaving the EU is the best way for the UK to become truly united as indeed we were prior to our joining. Scots were as patriotic about Britain as anyone else when we faced great challenges together. The UK is a great country with a great history and a great future. We need no other story to defeat secessionists, just as the USA needed no other story.

Boris Johnson is patriotic. He is also a fine communicator. He is by far the best writer in Parliament and incomparable as a public speaker. His optimism and can-do attitude may just be what is needed to get us out of the EU completely and then make a success of it. There is a great story to tell about the adventure that might just be beginning. We could leave the EU behind and become a beacon of free-trade and democracy and once more an example of hope for the peoples of Europe who, for the most part, are unwilling to be united under French and German rule.

Gordon Brown et al will pretend to be intelligent about Boris. They will tell us that we need to make more concessions to the SNP and that the EU is crucial if the UK will be kept intact. But Brown has been wrong about everything for decades as has the whole Scottish establishment. When Nicola Sturgeon says next that Boris will make Scottish independence more likely, it’s worth remembering that she wouldn’t be saying it if she thought it were true.

Friday 19 July 2019

The Brexit case against Scottish independence

Let’s imagine that somehow the UK leaves the EU sometime around the end of October and makes a clean break. The EU faced with the prospect of no deal might at the last minute give us a more favourable deal. Alternatively, the UK might actually leave with out further negotiation. All the attempts by Remainers to thwart Brexit might fail, not least because the EU might decide that it doesn’t want troublesome Britain to be an EU member any longer. What would happen next for the SNP?

There would, no doubt, be some economic disruption and therefore SNP attempts to blame the wicked Tory Brexit for any and all difficulties arising. There would be some Europhile anger. But what if despite all the Remainer warnings leaving without a deal didn’t lead to chaos and that the problems were short lived. After all Britain would simply be in the position in relation to the EU that most of the world is. Lots of countries get on fine without being in either the EU single market or its customs union. We did too prior to joining. The SNP therefore might be in for a rerun of 2016. Short term anger about the Leave vote lessened as it became clear that the UK economy was doing fine. So long as the UK economy remains resilient in 2019/2020 the same will happen again.

For so long as there is a Conservative Government it will be possible to block SNP requests for a second independence referendum. They can either go down the illegal route and face a Pro UK boycott and possible jail or they can wait. If the SNP loses its pro-independence majority at the next Scottish Parliamentary election, then that will be it. Independence will be off the table for the foreseeable future. The SNP’s best chance is that sometime soon there is a General Election leading to a Labour Government dependent on SNP votes. Would Jeremy Corbyn give the SNP a second referendum as the price for their support? Who knows? But faced with a choice between Britain and anyone who hates Britain he always goes for the latter. So, he probably would.

But the UK would already have left the EU. How would this effect the argument? This requires some detailed analysis.

1. Currency.

An independent Scotland, if it wished to join the EU would have to have its own currency and would have to promise to join the Euro. These are conditions of applying to join. There may be ways round this. There may be opt outs. But in principle the Scottish public would have to go through changing pounds sterling into pounds Scots and then into Euros. Any debt such as a mortgage denominated in Sterling could either increase or decrease depending on the exchange rates occurring during these transitions. It would be impossible to predict the result of this. If on the other hand Scots preferred to keep their mortgage in UK pounds, then voting to remain in the UK would be the only sensible course of action. Currency union between the UK and Scotland with one inside the EU and the other outside would be untenable. The mere fact that Scotland would have to promise to join the EU would make such a union inherently unstable even in the short term.

2. Free trade.

An independent Scotland would have to choose whether or not to join the EU. No one knows whether the UK would at some point in the future be able to negotiate a free trade deal with the EU. But if it did, this deal would not apply to an independent Scotland. Nor would any other deal that the UK was able to negotiate with anyone else, such as the USA. An independent Scotland would have to negotiate its own deals both with the UK and with the EU. The problem is that it could not automatically expect to have both. If Scotland were in the EU, but the UK was completely outside, then there would have to be tariffs between the UK and Scotland. Alternatively, if Scotland remained completely outside the EU there would have to be tariffs between Scotland and the EU. No one can predict with certainty what sort of deal Scotland would get from either the EU or the UK. The UK could negotiate à la Barnier demanding billions even to start talking about trade. It could demand “independence in name only” just as in effect the EU demanded “Brexit in name only”. Who can predict how negotiations between Scotland and the UK would end. The UK might give the SNP everything they want, but then didn’t Brexiteers think that the EU would give the UK everything we want. We have learned over the past few years that   negotiations don’t always go as we want them to.

3. Power.

The Scottish Parliament will gain extensive new powers, covering 153 areas, because of the UK leaving the EU. If the SNP were to argue for EU membership, they would have to tell Scottish voters that independence would mean giving up these powers. Why do you want the Scottish Parliament to be less powerful? Alternatively, if they were to argue that Scotland would not join the EU, they would have to explain why they were complaining about the UK leaving the EU?

4. Border.

If an independent Scotland were to join the EU, then it would have to agree to membership of Schengen. This would mean that there would have to be passport free travel between Schengen members and Scotland. This would mean that Scotland could not be part of the Common Travel Area that at present covers the whole of the British Isles. The Republic of Ireland can only remain a member of this area because it has an opt out from Schengen. Of course, Scotland could hope for an opt out too, but that would be up to the EU. For this reason and also because there is no way of knowing whether there would be a free trade agreement between the UK and Scotland, there is no way of knowing if there would be some sort of border checking between Scotland and England.

5. Fishing.

If the UK leaves the EU completely then the UK will regain control of our territorial waters. We will return to the situation that existed prior to joining the European Community. This will mean that for the first time in decades UK fishermen will no longer have to compete with the EU. The likelihood is that fish stocks will improve, catches increase and fishing communities will begin to do a great deal better. If the SNP wishes to join the EU, then they will have to explain to these fishing towns that the situation that they have wanted for so long is soon going to cease. Scottish independence in the EU would mean giving up control of Scottish territorial waters.

6. Rights.

At present everyone in Scotland has the right to live and work anywhere in the UK. We have the same rights to benefits, healthcare etc as any other UK citizen. At present EU citizens also have most of these rights too. But these rights are contingent on the UK being an EU member. There will thus after Brexit be a distinction between EU citizens and UK citizens. We may choose to give EU citizens certain rights post Brexit, but we could also limit those rights. In principle a citizen of France could be treated no better nor worse than a citizen of Japan. While the whole of the UK remained a part of the EU the SNP could argue that Scots would retain the same rights in other parts of the UK as we do at present. But with the UK outside the EU where is the guarantee that these rights will continue indefinitely? In the end if you wish to retain the rights of UK citizenship, you can’t vote to become a citizen of another nation state. Of course, dual citizenship might be possible for a time and a future UK Government might grant Scots all the rights we enjoy at present, but it wouldn’t have to. It would all depend on how the divorce negotiations went. Just as post Brexit UK citizens won’t automatically have the right to live and work in the EU, so after independence Scots would have no automatic right to live and work in the other parts of the UK.

7. Sovereignty.

If an independent Scotland were to join the EU, then it would have to recognise that in many areas EU law would be supreme. At present as a part of the UK the direction travel is towards devolution. The UK Parliament has less and less control over matters that only affect Scotland. The EU’s direction of travel on the other hand is towards greater and greater integration. The move towards the EU becoming a sovereign nation state is gradual but inexorable. The long-term success of the Euro will depend on the sort of political union that enables the US dollar and UK pound to work. The supremacy of EU law then at some point not far from now will amount to sovereignty. An independent Scotland then would become a state rather like Vermont or Texas. Under those circumstances it would no longer be able to leave the EU. The European Union, just like the USA would become one nation indivisible. The UK outside the EU on the other hand offers Scotland more practical power over our own affairs. There are rules that make the Scottish Parliament supreme over most devolved issues. This does not amount to full sovereignty, but over the issues that concern most Scots on a day to day basis it amounts to more power than we would have as an “independent” member of the EU.

8. Arithmetic

The UK puts more into the EU than it takes out, while Scotland gets more from the UK than it pays in. But if an independent Scotland were to join the EU it would have to pay more in than it took out. Leaving the UK to join the EU therefore has the double consequence of Scotland losing what we gain from the UK while at the same time having to pay more into the EU pot than we would be able to take out.
There is no membership fee required for the various parts of the UK to trade with each other. This is truly free trade. It is one reason why Scotland does most of its trade with the other parts of the UK. Why would Scotland pay a membership fee to trade with EU countries with whom at present it does a relatively small amount of trade, while having in addition to pay a fee (tariffs) to trade with our greatest trade partner (the other parts of the UK). Simple arithmetic suggests that Scotland is bound to lose from this arrangement, not least because Scottish goods might have to pay a fee to travel through England to reach the continent. How else, other than by sea, would they get there?

The EU and the UK are now on different economic paths. The UK may well become a low regulation, low tax, free trade haven off the coast of Europe. If Scotland chooses the EU path, then the Scottish economy is bound to diverge markedly from the UK economy. Would this divergence be compensated by increased trade with the EU? If so why hasn’t this happened already. After all the UK is still a member of the EU. If Scotland’s share of trade with the EU were likely to grow, why didn’t this growth happen long ago?

9. Union.

Scotland faces a choice between remaining in the UK or joining the EU. It could decide to leave both, which would be the only way for it to become truly independent. But again the SNP can hardly demand independence because Scotland is being forced to leave the EU if Scotland doesn’t intend to become a member. I suspect also that being outside both the EU and the UK would be a step too far for all but the hardcore Scottish nationalist.

Most nation states have the following things in common. Shared geography, such as an island or a peninsular. Shared language and culture. While most Scots would feel immediately at home in any part of the UK, few of us would be able to live and work easily in most European Union countries. The reason for this is linguistic. Many European Union countries are quite unknown to most of us. How many Scots can name more than one city in Slovenia or in Slovakia. Yet the SNP want us to choose to leave a nation state with which we are familiar (the UK) in order to join one with which for the most part we are unfamiliar. The EU lacks the sense of shared history and identity that is necessary for a nation state to function. Germans do not think that Greeks are their compatriots.  They are too dissimilar. Most UK citizens can fit in easily wherever they live in the UK and we are willing to subsidise the poorer parts of the UK without limit. There is no need for bailouts for our profits and losses are held in common.  It is this that makes the UK a nation state that has endured for centuries, while the EU may not survive even the next Euro crisis, because Germans won’t pay Greek debts. Why would Scots choose to leave a union that works for a union that doesn’t work?   

10. Democracy.

Each Scottish voter elects four representatives. One goes to Holyrood, one goes to Westminster, one goes to Brussels and one runs the local council. We have the same say as every other voter in the UK. Scotland’s five million people can be outvoted, but so can Yorkshire’s five million people. This would be the case in an independent Scotland too. Aberdeenshire would always be outvoted by Strathclyde. This is not a fault in democracy. It’s a feature. But who decides how Britain, Scotland and the local council are run? The people we elect. The UK Government is wholly made up of MPs who were directly elected. So too is the Scottish Parliament made up of such people. The local council too. But who runs the EU? Is the EU run by the people that we elect to the European Parliament? Do they form a Government that decides all the important matters? No. Every important decision in the EU is made by people who have been appointed. No one elected Barnier, or Juncker. Ursula Von der Leyen may become the next President of the European Commission and Christine Lagarde the President of the European Central Bank, not because Europeans voted for them but because of a behind closed doors stich up between France and Germany. Why would the SNP want Scotland to leave a fully functional democracy (the UK) where each Scot has the same democratic rights and power to influence events as every other UK citizen, in order to join what is an oligarchy with a democratic façade.

Scottish nationalists are liable to respond to these points with their usual mixture of fury and insult, but unless they can come up with convincing answers to how an independent Scotland would cope with the realities of Brexit, then they are liable to find that they have lost the argument and with it any chance of achieving Scottish independence.

Wednesday 17 July 2019

Who should pay for the BBC?

The withdrawal of free television licences for over 75s should really be looked at in terms of how the BBC should raise money in the first place. At present there is a universal flat rate tax on televisions with some exemptions. What matters is not so much who is exempted as whether this method of revenue raising makes any sense in a world with so many television providers.

 There are really three methods by which a television company can raise revenue.


2. Subscription.

3. Advertising.

The BBC uses taxation. ITV uses advertising. Sky uses subscription, advertising or a mixture of subscription and advertising. It would also be possible to rely on donation. This works for some media organisations, the Guardian springs to mind, but it is hard to imagine the BBC being able to raise anything like its present revenue by means of donation.

I don’t watch much television, but I know that it is important for many people, especially older people who might be living on their own. The BBC has faults. I find it to have a soft left, PC tone. I strongly suspect that the vast majority of BBC employees and presenters vote for left of centre parties and support staying in the EU. I find much of BBC output to be unintelligent, but I also recognise that on national occasions we all turn to the BBC and that it would be a great pity if it didn’t survive.

Thirty of forty years ago the licence fee made a certain sense. There were only three channels and almost anyone who owned a TV would watch a lot of the BBC. Funding could have come from Central Government by means of a grant, but it would still in the end have been coming from taxation. Nothing is free.

Today however it is possible to watch “TV” online. There are endless satellite or cable channels and it is easy to imagine someone who has to pay for a TV licence rarely if ever watching the BBC.  It could well be argued that this is no different from healthy people having to pay for the NHS or childless people having to pay for schools. We all pay for things through taxation that we personally don’t use. But is a TV licence the most cost-effective way of raising revenue?

Why doesn’t the BBC offer a subscription model of raising revenue? It is clearly possible for it to do so. If Sky can charge viewers to watch its programmes, then the BBC could do so also. The advantage of this method of raising revenue would be that there would be no need for TV detector vans to roam the country looking for licence fee dodgers. There would be no need to take people to court for failing to pay their licence.

It would also be possible to partially fund the BBC through advertising. At present between its programmes the BBC has a long “break” where it advertises its own programmes and services. This could easily be replaced with real paid advertising. Within programmes their need be no breaks, just as at present. Would anyone mind? Some might say that this make the BBC vulgar and commercial? But much of its output is already commercial and indistinguishable from ITV. I believe no one would mind adverts between BBC programmes.  

It is also important that the BBC slims down. There is no need whatever for it to fund such large numbers of channels and websites. It is also unnecessary for an organization that depends on taxation revenue to pay presenters and executives huge salaries. Presenters become famous and popular because they work for the BBC. It would not be especially difficult to find someone else to read the news, argue with politicians or talk about football for far less than is spent at present.

If the BBC were funded by a mixture of advertising and subscription it would have to care more than at present that it provided programmes that people wanted to watch and viewpoints that more accurately reflect those in the country. It could provide a core service of two TV channels and four radio stations. It could have a single online news and weather service. It could learn to live within its means.

The cost of paying for the BBC could in this way be reduced, so that it would no longer be a problem either for the BBC or the Government to give “free” subscriptions to the elderly. The benefit of doing so in terms of providing vulnerable people with the television they rely on, would far outweigh the relatively trivial cost of doing so.

In a few years a television and a computer will be indistinguishable. Each will stream television over the Internet. There will be no more televisions to tax. Change is coming whether the BBC wants it or not. Now is the time to find a sustainable long-term model of funding that safeguards what the BBC does best. The fact that it could keep television free for the over 75s at the expense of overpaid and hypocritical social-justice warriors like Gary Lineker would just be a bonus.

Wednesday 10 July 2019

How would a clean Brexit affect Scottish independence?

It may be that we have reached a stage in Scotland where the whole debate about Scottish independence has gone beyond reason. Some people want independence come what may, just because they want it. There is a limit to the power of argument. People support political positions and then find reasons to justify them, not the other way round. But Scottish nationalism faces a greater challenge that most historical independence movements. It not only lacks the overwhelming majority that has usually been necessary for the emergence of new sovereign nation states, it lacks a majority at all.

It is for this reason that Scottish nationalists still need to try to persuade that relatively small percentage of the Scottish public who are undecided on independence or at least open to changing their minds. But this leads to a certain tension within Scottish nationalism, which the Brexit debate has made still more visible.

Who in Scotland is most likely to want Brexit? I strongly suspect more SNP supporters want Brexit than supporters of any other party. Scottish Conservatives are still relatively few in number and a good number are Remainers. Hard Left old-fashioned Labour supporters might think that the EU is a capitalist conspiracy designed to undermine the workers, but these people have been declining since their 70s peak. Liberal Democrats who support Brexit no doubt exist, but must be about as rare as Tories in the Labour Party.

Why do a significant number of SNP supporters want Brexit? Some do so because they think that it makes a second independence referendum more likely. They also hope that the anger some Scots feel about leaving the EU will mean they change their minds about independence. For this reason, an SNP Europhile might cynically support Brexit as a means to an end.

But a significant number of SNP supporters want Brexit because they see it as the condition for the possibility of Scotland becoming genuinely independent. The arguments for Brexit with regard to the UK’s relationship with the EU are, after all, similar to the arguments for Scotland being independent from the UK. They are sovereignty arguments. 

The contradiction at the heart of official SNP policy of being opposed to rule by Westminster, but happy to be ruled by Brussels is obvious. If you so love being in a Union of European countries, why are you unhappy being in a Union of British ones? Scottish independence supporters may argue that the EU is a looser union than the UK and that Scotland could still be an independent sovereign nation state in the EU, but this doesn’t look like a good long-term bet. Ever closer union is liable to turn independence very quickly into independence in name only.

It is therefore reasonable for some SNP supporters to see Brexit as a stepping stone to genuine Scottish independence. The problem they face is the SNP’s official Europhile viewpoint exists for a reason.

The SNP offered the softest possible version of independence in 2014. They put forward a view that independence would be so close to remaining in the UK that we would hardly notice the difference. The argument went, so to speak, that Scotland would be Austria, while the other parts of the UK would be Germany. Crossing the border would be seamless. The currency would be the same. The EU rules and regulations would mean trade went on as normal and we could all live and work where we pleased.

But here is where Brexit makes the difference. If Germany were to leave the EU, then this would profoundly affect their fellow German speakers in Austria. Likewise, for Scotland, if the UK leaves the EU completely, then the idea that Scotland can have soft independence becomes untenable.

This is the dilemma for independence supporters. In order to win the argument they need the softest possible independence, but this depends not only on Scotland remaining in the EU, it depends on the UK remaining too. The problem for the SNP however is that they have no way of controlling how the other parts of the UK vote on Brexit.

It may be that a clean Brexit turns a certain number of Scottish Liberal Democrats and Labour supporters into independence supporters. Opinion polls may show a surge in support for the SNP, but they will still have to win the argument and if the UK completely separates from the EU that argument will be much, much harder to win. Hardcore independence supporters will be happy with hard independence both outside the EU and outside the UK, but Europhile Scots would have to recognise that if Scotland were in the EU while the UK was out, Scottish independence would be harder still.  There could be no pretence that life would go on in more or less the same way. The break with the other parts of the UK would wide and deep. This would be a hard independence and a very clean break.

Even after nearly one hundred years of independence the Irish economy is so intertwined with the UK that a clean Brexit will have severe consequences for trade between the UK and the Republic of Ireland, what would it do to an independent Scotland?

Tuesday 2 July 2019

Is it worth writing about politics?

It may be that we have been living in politically momentous times in the UK, but I have found them dull. Yet another vote in Parliament on Brexit, but can I be bothered to find out who won. A brand-new party wins a national election and sets in motion the possible destruction of the Conservative Party, but does it matter. If so, do I care who leads it?

I have found that there is nothing to write and so I have not written. There is only one question in UK politics and too much has been written about it already. We need action not words.

If Britain can completely leave the EU then there will be the chance to debate other things, but until that happens we are stuck with stupendous events that are sterile.

All that is left for the moment is to explain the logic of the situation and try to get to the essence.

1. The Conservatives need to be led by a Brexiteer. Jeremy Hunt voted to Remain, therefore they need Boris. All the rest of the debate is uninteresting. Going down the Remainer who is now an enthusiastic Brexiteer route has been tried already. We’ve “been through this movie before.

2. There is no point debating what a future Prime Minister will or will not do when these wonderful new things depend entirely on the Conservative Party surviving in Government, which depends entirely on that Government delivering a complete break from the EU.

3. The only interesting issue of the moment then is how a new PM can credibly explain to the EU that we are certainly going to leave on October 31st come what may. So long as Parliament undermines the UK’s negotiating position by taking “No deal” of the table, there is no chance whatsoever of reaching a mutually beneficial agreement with the EU. This of course is the whole point. The Remainers in Parliament are not so much trying to stop “No deal”. They are really trying to stop Brexit entirely. So, given the numbers in Parliament how does the new PM force through a “No deal” Brexit if necessary? We have all learned the word “prorogue”, but is it possible, is it legal, will it work?

4. If it becomes necessary for the Conservative Party to fight a General Election in the near future, either to get majority to force through “No deal” or to continue in Government after “No deal”, how can they possibly win? Millions of disillusioned Brexiteers have moved to the Brexit Party. Would enough of them come back if finally, the Conservatives were about to deliver a complete, clean Brexit? If not, there are two solutions. Offer Farage and friends a pact whereby his party gets a free run in those northern seats where the Conservatives have little chance of victory. Alternatively offer Farage and fifty other Brexit party candidates safe Conservative seats and some cabinet posts. Brexiteers have been divided from the start. It’s time to unite.

5. The SNP as usual are angry. Apparently a “No deal” Brexit would threaten the Union. Nicola Sturgeon doesn’t want Boris to be PM. Always do what your opponent least wants. The SNP are desperate for the UK to remain in the EU or alternatively for us to have Brexit in name only. The reason for this is that a complete break with the EU makes the SNP’s dream of independence much, much harder to achieve. A “No deal” Brexit would make some SNP supporters very angry indeed. But even if we stayed in the EU they would find something else to be angry about. In my view the condition for the possibility of Scotland remaining in the UK long term is that the UK leaves the EU. Otherwise at some point there is liable to be a second or a third referendum on independence and at some point, the SNP will win. No country can long endure with separatists allowed at any point to break it up. So, either take the supposed democratic right to secession off the table like Spain, or make secession so difficult that no one sensible would try it.

6. If the UK can completely leave the EU, then in order to become an independent nation state, Scotland face a horrible dilemma. Do we join the EU or do we not? If we join the EU, which apparently is the reason we seek independence, then we would be in a different trading bloc to our most important trade partner (the UK). Moreover, while the UK economy would be no longer a part of the EU’s Single Market, the Scottish economy would be regulated by Brussels. The present close alignment which Scotland presently enjoys with the other parts of the UK could not continue. If on the other hand the SNP chose for an independent Scotland to be outside the EU, then Scotland would face the prospect of doing free trade deals both with the UK and with the EU. Anyone who has witnessed the difficulty that the UK has faced trying to negotiate a deal with the EU will not look forward to these twin tasks with much optimism. Why shouldn’t both the UK and the EU present Scotland with a bill of billions just to begin talking?

7. We have learned that apparently invisible borders such as the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic are actually more problematic than the SNP led us to believe back in 2014. It’s all very well when, for example, Austria and Germany are both in the EU that they have a seamless border, but the border between the EU and the non-EU has turned out to be a serious issue. If Scotland were in the EU while the UK was not, then the border between Berwick and Gretna would be similar to the one between Northern Ireland and the Republic. The situation for Scotland would in fact be rather worse as a condition for joining the EU now is that a member state agrees to be part of Schengen. The Republic has an opt out.  It may be that with good will a solution to the border problem in Ireland can be found. Perhaps technology can do the job, but no one can now pretend that Scottish independence would have no border ramifications. If Scotland had different trade agreements to the UK or had different immigration policies, then some sort of border checks with regard to trade or migration would be inevitable.

8. In my view Northern Ireland is simply part of the UK.  No foreign power has any more claim on it than any other part of any other European country. The borders of Europe are a result of accident, war and treaty. The fact that parts of Poland used to be German gives Germany no legitimate claim them, just as the fact that Crimea used to be part of Russia gives Russia no legitimate claim. It doesn’t matter if the people of Crimea want to Russian or even if they vote 100% to be part of Russia, it is still legally part of Ukraine. This is how sovereignty works. The UK however wished to have peace in Northern Ireland and made the Belfast Agreement with the Republic of Ireland. If the people of Northern Ireland vote to join the Republic, then it is up to them on the sole condition that the citizens of the Republic agree.

9. At present the Irish Taoiseach looks to be using the border issue to try to bring about a united Ireland. This has always been the goal of the Republic. It hasn’t gone away you know.  The UK could respond in different ways. We could attempt to change the demographic situation by encouraging more British citizens to move to Northern Ireland. Every British citizen after all has a right to live anywhere in the UK. Tax breaks could be given, jobs created. We could use education to unify the people of Northern Ireland and sever the link between religion and politics. But in the end, it has to be admitted that if the majority of Northern Irish people prefer to live in a united Ireland then the existence of the Belfast Agreement means that we can’t stop them. But what we can do is to make clear to the Taoiseach and the Dáil that if you want Northern Ireland you will have to pay for it and if there is any trouble you will have to deal with it. It will be your problem not ours.

10. We either live in a democracy or we don’t. If the UK does not properly leave the EU, why would anyone trust the result of any referendum in the UK ever again? What would prevent Parliament stopping Scotland from becoming independent even if the SNP eventually won a vote for independence? The danger is not so much that failure to leave the EU will destroy the Conservative Party, it will, it is that it will destroy all political parties, because it will destroy any sense that voting, or indeed writing about politics has a point.