Tuesday, 2 June 2020

Sinn Féin/SNP are thieves

There are two serious secession movements in the UK. One is in Scotland the other is in Northern Ireland. In Wales secession is not a serious option and relatively few Welsh people support it. Covid changes the debate decisively.

All British people pay income tax if they work and other taxes such as VAT if they don’t. But not everyone pays the same amount of tax and not every business contributes the same amount in taxation. There are areas in Britain that spend more than they raise and areas that contribute more than they receive. This is one of the major benefits of being a single unitary nation state.

The European Union may in time become a unitary nation state, or else it may choose to become a federation like the United States, but at present it is neither. It may be a confederation such as the United States was for a few years after the War of Independence. In a confederation each state maintains its independence and sovereignty. It may be that the EU has not even reached even this stage. But the difference between the EU and Britain has never been clearer than just now.

In Britain not only do we distribute taxation according to where it is needed, our central bank the Bank of England (BOE) works to make sure that the supply of money flows freely throughout Britain and adjusts monetary policy for the good of everywhere. Likewise, in the present crisis each part of Britain receives money from the Treasury to cover the costs of the emergency. It is money from the Treasury that is paying the wages of secessionists in Scotland and Northern Ireland even as they continue to plan secession.

In the EU there is a debate about what to do to help those member states that are struggling because of Covid and decades of recession. The European Central Bank (ECB) wanted to extend the amount of money it could borrow and distribute to places like Italy. The German Federal Court of Justice recently said that the Bundesbank would no longer be allowed to take part, which practically means that the ECB cannot do the job that the BOE is doing in Britain.  

The Bundesbank has no problem distributing money within Germany and is doing so almost without limit. The Federal Court has no objection. What this means is that the Federal Court is saying that the EU is not a federation let alone a unitary state. It is at best a confederation. Germany remains independent and sovereign and the German Federal Court supersedes EU treaty law.

But this has consequences both for the EU and Britain. If a German court need not follow EU treaty law and can overturn a ruling of the European Court of Justice and the European Commission, then every other member state can do this too. What guarantee does Britain have that an agreement we have made with the EU might not be overturned by a national court?

This arguably makes the Euro untenable as a currency, because monetary union without fiscal and political union cannot last indefinitely. It makes no sense for Italy to accept the discipline of monetary union whereby it accepts that interest rates and monetary policy are made outside Italy, if it doesn’t get the benefits of monetary union such that money is distributed freely throughout the union. If the Euro does not have a central bank that can act like the Fed or the BOE, then states like Italy which need such a central bank during this crisis have been cheated.  If Germany doesn’t want to take part, it should leave monetary union, or else Italy must. But if either Germany or Italy were to leave, neither the Euro nor the EU would survive.

Secessionists in both Northern Ireland and Scotland view the United Kingdom as a confederation, which they intend to leave at the first available opportunity. But this is the equivalent of South Carolina and Massachusetts arguing during the confederation period of United States history that they wanted to leave the United States, the former to become independent, the latter to join the British in Canada.

Under those circumstances would United States federalists distribute money to their secessionist neighbours? It would be doing so under false pretences. Why then should the BOE distribute money to those who vote for the SNP or Sinn Féin, when they hate Britain and want to leave? It is pointless to invest in people and jobs that won’t benefit Britain if such people have their way. Why do it moreover when the German Federal court’s decision shows that membership of a mere confederation does not require German money to be sent foreigners. It would neither be sent to those who want to be foreigners.

This is the dilemma for secessionists in both Scotland and Northern Ireland. People who want Scotland to be independent should refuse the block grant and Covid bail-out. They should attempt to finance Scotland only with money raised in Scotland and should ask Holyrood to rescue their businesses and pay their wages. You cannot morally accept money raised by the whole of Britain while planning to leave. It’s a form of theft. A kind of fraud.

So too if Ireland wants Northern Ireland it should be paying Northern Ireland’s block grant, bailing out Northern Irish businesses and paying Northern Irish wages. It is dishonest to want something you are unwilling to pay for.

The Irish backstop and the Belfast Agreement that supposedly justifies it is not so much a Trojan horse as an Irish one. It establishes “ever closer union” between Ireland and Northern Ireland and puts Northern Ireland into a confederation with Ireland. This is the consequence of the economic border between Britain and Northern Ireland down the middle of the Irish Sea, which was demanded by Dublin.

But the German Federal Court has just shown that the sovereignty of the nation state is greater than the European Court of Justice, the European Commission and any number of EU treaties. If this is the case for EU members it is still more the case for non-EU members such as Britain.

We are going to leave the EU without a deal. They do not want a fair deal, so there will not be one. The price of the one-year transition period was the Irish backstop. Let fail to perform any checks. Let the Irish navy instead patrol the middle of the Irish sea, if indeed it has any ships. If a German court can disregard EU agreements, so can we. Let us create a British Supreme Court without spiders which will find a clever loophole that allows us to treat Northern Ireland exactly the same as every other part of Britain.

The task now is for Britain to reassert our legal, permanent sovereignty over Northern Ireland and indeed Scotland.  Secessionists are no better than Putin in stealing what is not theirs. Ireland is trying to nab Northern Ireland like Russia nabbed Crimea, but strangely there is no international outrage merely collusion from an EU that has shown itself no friend to Britain. 

Scotland is British territory. It belongs to all of us no matter where we live.  It does not belong to the SNP and they too have no more right to steal it than do the inhabitants of Luhansk and Donetsk. To suppose that the SNP is justified is to suppose that the Donbas in Ukraine is justified in its secession. It puts you in the company of scoundrels, thieves and murderers. But then rather a lot of SNP supporters chant songs justifying decades of terrorism whether in Ireland or the Middle East. 

Ukraine and every other country in the world is permitted indeed required to defend its territorial integrity against foes foreign and domestic. Why must Britain alone stand by idly and watch our country destroyed by those who hate us?

Those who prefer confederation and later independence have no right to British money. Let the SNP and Ireland pay for Covid if they intend to walk away.

The price of a second independence referendum in Scotland or a border poll in Northern Ireland should be that all Treasury money and Bank of England support instantly ceases from the moment the poll is announced until the moment the secessionists decide that they wish to stay. Let them try secession before they buy it and experience what it costs.  

Monday, 1 June 2020

You can't fight injustice with more injustice

George Floyd died for several reasons. The first was that he was accused of using a counterfeit $20 bill. This is why the police showed up to arrest him. The second reason is that Mr Floyd is alleged to have resisted arrest. Firstly, he resisted being handcuffed and then when he was moved towards the police car, he said that he was claustrophobic, then he intentionally fell to the ground and refused to get to his feet. If he had just got into the police car we would never have learned about this story.

At some point Derek Chauvin put his knee on Floyd’s neck. He kept it there even when Floyd said that he couldn’t breathe. This behaviour was clearly disgraceful. No one should be held down in this way under any circumstances. It would appear obvious that Chauvin committed at the very least manslaughter. He ought to go to jail.

 Did Chauvin intend to kill Floyd? We will find out at his trial. But it is unlikely that he did. He didn’t set out to lose his job and go to jail.  The reason that he recklessly put his knee on Floyd’s neck was because Floyd had resisted arrest. If Floyd had gone into the police car willingly Chauvin would not have killed him.

Why didn’t Chauvin let Floyd up when Floyd said that he couldn’t breathe? The most likely explanation is that Chauvin did not believe Floyd. Chauvin assumed falsely that because Floyd could talk, he could also breathe.

Floyd did not deserve to die. He may or may not have committed a minor offence. The police officers failed in their duty of care to a suspect. Each of them deserved to lose his job for not intervening when Chauvin strangled a man who had been convicted of nothing. Chauvin behaved brutally and stupidly. He may not have intended to kill anyone, but his behaviour was reckless and cruel and deserves to be punished to the full extent that the law allows.

I should never have heard about this case let alone write about it. The reason I am doing so is that since Floyd’s tragic and unnecessary death there have been riots across the United States and demonstrations that have spread to Britain.

We are fortunate in Britain that we have reasonably good race relations far better than in the United States. I cannot think of a similar example of a British police officer behaving in this fashion. It therefore is perverse to demonstrate about a death in Minnesota, when we do not demonstrate about unjust deaths inflicted by the police on innocent citizens when they happen in countries like China. Is it that the demonstrators think that Chinese lives don’t matter, or is it simply that they are unable to watch Chinese television news?

How many people will die because George Floyd was unjustly killed. The riots in the United States have already cost a number of lives they have also led to people who might be infected with Covid mingling with other people. The same sort of mingling also happened in Trafalgar Square. Thousands of other innocent people have been terrorised by the violence in the United States and a great deal of property has been destroyed. We need to ask if this behaviour helps or hinders the situation. I believe it makes it more likely that there will be another George Floyd.

There is something approaching a race war in the United States. It began when the first slaves were taken from Africa. It looked briefly as if there would be peace when Martin Luther King spoke about his dream, but the dream was unfulfilled and if anything, the nightmare has got worse.

There is a vicious circle. White police officers appear frequently to believe that black people are dangerous and violent criminals. One of the reasons why they believe this is that too frequently their prejudices are confirmed by the behaviour they meet while doing their jobs. Too many black people in the United States are involved in violent crime. Too many murder other black people, just as too many are killed by the police.

Because black neighbourhoods are frequently violent, everyone who is not black leaves. Americans from different ethnic groups too frequently lead separate lives which further leads to misunderstanding and lack of trust.

But the actions of the past few days have reinforced the prejudice rather than helped eliminate it.

There is no justification whatsoever to go on a violent rampage in a city hundreds of miles away from Minneapolis. If George Floyd did because the police officers thought he was likely to be a violent criminal who might be a threat to them, the violence of the rioters overwhelmingly reinforces this stereotype.

Millions of Americans will be watching, and they will not be more likely to walk through nearby black neighbourhoods, they will decide never to go anywhere near them.

To end the vicious circle, it is necessary to judge each individual as an individual. Those police officers who have committed crimes must be convicted. Black suspects like any other suspect must be treated with respect and as innocent until proven guilty. But it is as unjust to condemn all white police officers or indeed all white people for the crime committed by one person in Minnesota as it was for those police officers to judge George Floyd because all they could see was his skin colour.

The way forward is for each of us to look at our own behaviour and to condemn all violent death equally.

The rioters would not be rioting if a black policeman had unjustly killed a white man or if a black man had murdered anyone else. Do those lives not matter? You cannot undo prejudice by prejudice. The slogan “Black lives matter”, suggests that the lives of everyone else don’t matter much to black people. But it invites the response “if you don’t care about my life, why should I care about yours”. This is no way to end misunderstanding, ease tension and bring about justice for all.

We all need to get beyond our prejudices if there is any chance of people living together in harmony. This will only be done by treating George Floyd as an individual who was unjustly and cruelly killed rather than as some sort of representative of a race. Punish the individual or individuals who killed him, but don’t punish the innocent with your violence, because that makes you just as bad as the policemen who disgraced their uniform by killing George Floyd.

Saturday, 30 May 2020

If you want to oppose separatism, don’t be separate.

I am a Conservative voter. I support Boris Johnson completely and think he is the best thing that has happened to our party for decades. I believe in free markets, gradually lowering taxes where possible and leaving the EU. I am represented by no one in the Scottish Parliament.

There are a lot of people like me in Scotland. 38% of Scots voted to leave the EU, but not one mainstream party campaigned for this view either before the EU referendum or after it. Four years on and it was more important for Douglas Ross to continue being part of the Remainer Rearguard than it was for him to attack the SNP. He would rather join the attack on Johnson and Cummings than come up with reasons why Scottish nationalism is hindering Scotland. Absurdly he did this even though he knew that he had driven from London to Moray and back again in order not to look after a child but rather to obtain better broadband.

The mistake that the Scottish Conservatives made in 2016 was to not fully get behind the British decision to leave the EU. 38% of the vote gives you a lot of seats both in a General Election and in the Scottish Parliament. Of course, not all of them would vote Conservative, but a distinctive message about the EU rather than agreeing with all the other Scottish Parties would have attracted votes to the Conservatives.

Ruth Davidson was an excellent leader, but her strategy was flawed not merely on the EU, but more importantly on where she placed Scottish Conservatism. She chose a position of consensus with the other Scottish parties on most issues thinking that this would appeal to generally left-wing Scotland. But you don’t win by being the same, you win by being different.

The task for the Scottish Conservatives is to be become the only party that British people vote for. In recent years both Labour, and the Lib Dems have flirted with Scottish nationalism.

Labour needs to find a way to attract its former supporters who deserted for the SNP. Many Lib Dems prefer membership of the EU to the UK. For this reason, both Labour and the Lib Dems are inherently soft on independence. Westminster Parliamentary arithmetic suggests that Labour could only come to power with the support of the SNP and the Lib Dems. When push comes to shove, they will make a deal that grants another independence referendum.

This is why an absolutely unequivocal Scottish Conservative attitude to independence is the key defining characteristic that can attract votes.

While opposing independence the Scottish Conservatives have always been wobbly about a British Prime Minister saying “No, you can’t have a second referendum”. Why? Because they are trying to attract people, who would never vote for us anyway.

The mistake was to have an independence referendum in the first place. There is no right to secession in any other European country and none would allow a referendum on such an issue. We are one nation, indivisible.

But the problem is that Scottish Conservatives don’t believe this. They think of the UK as a Union of Four nations as a sort of confederation. But this is not true. We are a unitary state like France that happens to have parts that are called countries, and which rather absurdly play international football against each other.

For historical reasons the Conservatives are called unionists, but the word unionist helps the SNP. Why else do they use it as an insult? Britain is the result of a union like a child. It is not itself a union. That is to confuse essence with origin.

Devolution did not change the unitary nature of Britain, but it did make our politics unfair and incoherent. This has never been clearer than during the present crisis.

The task of Scottish Conservatives is to become devolution sceptics. Is it really a good idea that there are four different policies on leaving lockdown? Is it sensible to allow Nicola Sturgeon to tell Scots in minutiae what we can do every day? I don’t believe that when Scots voted for the Scottish Parliament that they imagined this. We recently had the absurd situation where Boris Johnson spoke to the nation, only for BBC Scotland to immediately contradict him and say that his words were not for viewers in Scotland. Is he not our Prime Minister too? It is as if we didn’t take part in the General Election.

After the crisis is over Scottish Conservatives must analyse carefully if devolution hindered the response to Covid. Did the confused message that devolution gave us cause lives to be lost in Scotland? Scottish Conservatives need to argue that Britain needs less devolution not more.

The situation now is that Kate Forbes is begging the Chancellor for more money while at the same time demanding that Scotland holds a referendum on independence next year. This is untenable.

The Scottish Conservatives must make clear that it doesn’t matter how many seats the SNP wins at the next Scottish Parliament election there will be no independence referendum. If there were to be such a referendum, it would be logical for the Chancellor right now to exclude Scotland from the British bailout. If you don’t want to be British, how can you demand British money? We are receiving Treasury money because we are fellow countrymen. If you want to be a foreigner, you can whistle for it. Why invest in someone who wants to leave?

In every one of Nicola Sturgeon’s sentences Scotland or Scottish is mentioned as often as possible. The task is not to imitate this. No other European speaks this way. Potatoes in Poland are not called Polish nor do they have Polish flags all over the packet. It would be better therefore if the Scottish Conservatives were simply Conservatives no different from Conservatives on the Isle of Wight. Our leader would then be Boris Johnson and someone else could manage things in Holyrood. If you want to oppose separatism, don’t be separate.

Friday, 29 May 2020

MacHack, what was your price?

Sometime back in 2013 or 2014 a Scottish politician or journalist became aware of the biggest story of the year, but he kept silent. He didn’t ask a question about it in the Scottish Parliament and he didn’t write about it in a newspaper or broadcast about it on television. He decided to keep silent, even though a revelation about the First Minister may have had a major influence on events in September 2014 when we held a “decisive” once in a lifetime vote on Scottish independence.

We have a close-knit community in Holyrood. The press, the politicians and the civil servants socialise together and their friendships, loves and marriages frequently cross-party lives. Many have known each other since childhood, many more are the children of previous generations of the Scottish establishment. Are we to believe that none of these people heard anything whatsoever? Were there no whispers. Did no one see “ein Mensch geht um die Ecke” [a man going round the corner]?

Of course, no one saw.

Und MacHeath, der hat ein Messer
Doch das Messer sieht man nicht

And MacHeath, he has a knife
But the knife you don't see

This is Scotland. Kurt Weill’s Weimar Germany may have been decadent and would soon get worse, but the German press would still have been more likely to point out that MacHeath had a knife than our MacHacks would mention that someone from the SNP did something with his dirk that he ought not to have.

The Scottish press missed the biggest scoop of the century or else buried it, but something worse happened after September 2014.

As the block Scottish Labour vote transformed en masse into a block SNP vote our Labour supporting media and establishment made a similar transition. 

There was a change in Scotland when the SNP were first elected in 2011, but it was as nothing to the change that blew through the country like an autumn gale in the winter that followed the No victory in 2014. It somehow caused people to give up just when they had won. The fierceness of the SNP counterattack was too much for them. As their beloved Scottish Labour collapsed so did they. It left something empty in Scottish politics where the opposition was supposed to be.

As a child I would read the Press and Journal and listen to Mary Marquis on Reporting Scotland. It was dull, but useful reporting. If I wanted to know the price of a Turra Coo at the Mart I would get it from the P&J. The intrepid reporter would be paddling in the sharn [muck] to get at the truth. Reporting Scotland reported about Scotland. It did a good job without pretending to be something that it wasn’t. But it wasn’t enough. It agitated for a “Room of its own”, but instead of becoming Shakespeare’s sister it got a "Scottish Six" that no one watches and a TV channel paid for by a Britain it despises.

What is it about Scotland that so many of us behave like robots with our politics? First you could put up a donkey for a Labour seat and it would win now you put up a sheep complete with its crook and it would win the same seat by bleating “Baa Baa Yes Sheep have you any oil?”  

I haven’t learned anything insightful about the inner workings of the SNP from any Scottish journalist. I haven’t read anything the SNP doesn’t want me to read. There are no damaging leaks from Scottish civil servants or ministers. If there is a Jock BernStein and Hamish Woodward exposing the heart of the Scottish Government I have not read them.

The same can be said for the opposition politicians in Holyrood they refer to their SNP opponents as colleagues and defend them even when they chase after little boys. There was even a sisterhood. We can be friends with people we disagree with as is the case also in Westminster, but at least the fight is for real there.  In Holyrood it’s all rather pretendy.

Ruth Davidson is a first rank politician as is Nicola Sturgeon, but every other Scottish politician of note is either based in London or made their name there. It as if we ended up with the second team.

While journalists in London go on a feeding frenzy when they spot Cummings in the water Scottish journalists never stick the dirk in let alone twist it. Their opinion pieces are derivative and follow the same middle ground sharn in which all Scottish politics is mired. No one dares to question this slightly left-wing consensus. No one makes life uncomfortable for Sturgeon.   

The Scottish Conservatives think of the UK as if it were their beloved EU. They think it is held together by subsidy and that this subsidy makes us “Better together”. It is a narrative of managed decline and it prevents them from questioning the SNP’s assumptions and attacking their record. They fear that in attacking the SNP they will be seen as attacking Scotland. They therefore accept the conflation of SNP and Scotland that is central to the SNP's success. This is why they are unable to make a positive case for Conservatism, free markets and Britain. There is hardly an original Conservative thought that steps outside of the Holyrood consensus. Scottish Conservatism still hasn't got over the trauma of dying through wipeout in 1997 and the constant need to atone for Margaret Thatcher and being that most awful thing in Scotland a Tory [Sturgeon's pronunciation]..

It is for this reason that they never really oppose and therefore are never really an opposition. They apologise for existing.  

Meanwhile we get hagiography from the Scottish media who wait at the bottom of Mount Sinai for Sturgeon to give us her Covid commandments. It would be one thing if it were only The National who bowed down to St Nic, but when did any other paper or TV programme report about Sturgeon in a way comparable to the criticism that Johnson and Cummings faced? When did a Scottish newspaper probe Sturgeon's lockdown movements if any.  When did you last read an article that took the SNP and their leader apart piece by piece? Can you people even write one?

The song ends just as it began in 2013 or was it 2014.

Und die minderjährige Witwe    
Deren Namen jeder weiß
Wachte auf und war geschändet
Mackie welches war dein Preis?

And the minor-aged widow,
Whose name everyone knows,
Woke up and was violated
Mack, what was your price?

There is a story about Covid in Scotland that needs to be told. It is the biggest story of the year, but the chummy club of Scottish Press and politicians will once more look the other way.

Scottish children are paraded in front of the camera like Young Pioneers and go down on one knee in devotion to the blessed Nicola. This comes from a supposedly impartial broadcaster. Yet this same broadcaster has reporters who know the name that everyone knows, the mistakes that were made, the lives that were lost and the rules that were broken. The politicians in Holyrood know these things too. It is this that makes me feel violated every time I realise that Scotland is living a lie. 

If there were a break-in to a MacWatergate building and an insider telling the truth you'd never demand Nicola Sturgeon to sit in the back garden of Bute house while you fired questions at her. 

Our whole country has become a Potemkin village propped up by our politicians and our press. One day we will all look round the corner and see the reality. At that moment the whole Scottish establishment will look like the apologists for Stalin who pretended they could see neither Kulaks being sent to the Gulag nor starving millions dying because of collectivisation.

Our press sees only what the SNP permit them to see. In the same way they can see no dirk, Nelson could see no ships. Only later will they face the devastating question.

MacHack, what was your price?

Wednesday, 27 May 2020

Go on Mr Blackford cast the first stone

I think I am beginning to see a new variant of Covid or perhaps it is just a function of the lockdown. It is causing otherwise rational people to lose all perspective and behave in ways that their Pre-Covidian selves would have considered bizarre.

I’ve always found Britain to be relaxed sort of place. If you don’t do anything wrong, you need almost never come into contact with officialdom. The police don’t stop us to check our papers. The people who check your passport are friendly and its unlikely that a customs official will go through your bags. I’ve been a little concerned lately about some of the thought crimes that have been made up, but I never worried about my neighbours informing on me or being turned in for re-education for making a joke. The last few weeks have changed this.

There is doubtless a lot of stress at the moment. We are worried about getting ill or friends or family getting ill. We haven’t been able to socialise, but something very illiberal is happening. We are beginning to judge the private lives of individuals and if we don’t like it, we are informing the police or the papers.

Britain has done extraordinarily well under lockdown, but my guess is that millions of us have once or twice broken either the spirit of the letter of the rules. Nearly all of us have also done a little more than 30 miles an hour in town and a little over 70 on a motorway. Do we really want to live in a country where our actions are minutely patrolled to see if we broke a rule?

How many MPs are still living in London if they have homes elsewhere? Some of them were quick off the mark and left prior to lockdown. Others like Ian Blackford drove all the way from London to the Isle of Skye.

Mr Blackford, I assume needed to go to the toilet during this journey and didn’t go in the car, as some journalists appear to think Dominic Cummings child should have. Nor did Mr Blackford go in the woods. I strongly suspect that he had a couple of meals in a service station.

When Mr Blackford travelled, he didn’t know if he had Covid. A lot of people who subsequently caught it such as Boris Johnson and Matt Hancock possibly talked to Mr Blackford anyway there were lots of cases of Covid in those days in London and as far as I am aware none at all on Skye.

Did Mr Blackford consider that he might possibly spread Covid on his trip to Skye? He did. Apparently, he self-isolated from his family when he got there. If so, he must have thought that he could have been infectious.

Should the police throughout the UK demand to know what exactly Mr Blackford did to determine whether he correctly followed lockdown regulations all the way from London to Skye? No, of course not.

Cars do not spread Covid. They do not become sick by breathing in the smoke from their exhausts. It strikes me that Mr Blackford’s journey was reasonable. Why should he be separated from his family for months on end just because he happened to stay a day or so after lockdown? With normal care he could have avoided coming into close contact with workers at the service stations and other than that there was zero chance that he could infect anyone on his long journey home.

But if I were sitting in my house in Skye free to drive wherever I pleased on the island, I would be rather more considerate of others making similar journeys to the one that I had made. Mr Blackford after all did not need to go to Skye. He would have been safe and no doubt comfortable wherever he lives in London.

Under those circumstances I don’t think I would have been quite so vociferous in my criticism of English tourists who wanted to visit the Highlands. I likewise would not have been the first to pick up the stone that was thrown at Mr Cummings.

I would be surprised if a single SNP MP is still in London, perhaps I am wrong. But very many of them will have travelled back from London in a variety of ways to places that were at that time free from Covid. Did Angus MacNeil return to the Outer Hebrides? Did other SNP MPs return to remote communities? If so did they not realise that these communities were more at risk from Covid due to their MP’s return home than from anyone else?

Lots of people have faced dilemmas. I know of a son who travelled from the South of England to Northeast Scotland to rescue his mother who was unable to cope on her own. What he did was covered by the rules, but he would have gone even if it was not.

We are going to have to learn tolerance of each other’s mistakes. I think it is perfectly possible that the SNP decision to send elderly patients back to care homes will have led to more deaths than if there had been no lockdown at all. But it is necessary to remember that all Governments were under enormous pressure to empty hospital wards and that we didn’t know at that time that people could have Covid with no symptoms. We weren’t able to properly test even doctors and nurses let alone patients.

It is clear with hindsight that mistakes were made but would other politicians have made similar ones. Probably they would have.

Millions of us have broken lockdown.   Girlfriends have stolen kisses from their boyfriends in every town and village in Britain though it would be hard to find a better way of passing on Covid. Politicians in a hurry and with limited information have made decisions that have cost lives.

We are not going to be able to keep up this level of anger about all those who have made mistakes. We cannot be so judgemental because there are too many of who bent or slightly broke the rules. We cannot live in a country where there is surveillance and a network of informers to ensure that we do what we are told, because that would turn us into China.

So, I am not going to condemn Mr Blackford, but I would suggest we all show a little more tolerance and understanding because we are going to face difficult decisions in the months ahead and some of us will make mistakes. Better by far if we all use our common sense and do the best we can to prevent the illness spreading. Let us not lose sight of the fact that it is this that matters, not whether Mr Blackford drove a little more than he should have to climb a mountain or if Dominic Cummings drove too far when he visited a castle.

Monday, 25 May 2020

This show trial turned my stomach

This evening I witnessed perhaps the most disgraceful scene of Television that it was ever my misfortune to see. Dominic Cummings being hounded by a pack of journalists who were shaking him as if he were a bone that they were determined not to let go until they could say Gotcha, turned my stomach. It reminded of me of nothing less than a Soviet show trial where the victim is paraded before the court until he confesses his crime only to be taken from that place to the basement of the Lubyanka where a bullet awaits.

After about an hour I could just about manage a bowl of soup and some toast. I watched Love Affair (1939) with Charles Boyer and Irene Dunne, to remind myself that there used to be kindness and romance in the world and because I wanted to think about something else than scoundrels taunting a good man who had done his best for his family and his child.

I have written frequently about journalism since the start of this crisis and will do so again shortly, but nothing has angered me more and reminded me that I was on the right track when I described Journalism as missing the mood of the country.

Yesterday when we had the daily press briefing, we had interesting and useful questions from members of the public. Afterwards we had Pretty Polly Peston and friends parroting the same question about Mr Cummings and receiving the same answer from Boris Johnson. They think that if only they hound someone long enough, he will either resign or else he will kill himself because of the pressure. At this point Mr Peston will lead tributes to their great friend and he or she will be elevated into the sainthood of the departed. The hypocrisy of this process tells me that journalism has nothing whatsoever to do with truth, or morals or honour.

I have faithfully stayed inside since lockdown began. I am not a lockdown sceptic. I go once a week to the shops. But if someone else doesn’t follow the rules it is their business not mine. I rather admire their courage. Lots of people are travelling throughout Britain. Journalists for instance are allowed to travel where they please including abroad.

Morality is about focussing on what I do. It is not about condemning others. That is for their conscience, not mine. I did not condemn Catherine Calderwood for visiting her second home. She did no harm. First do no harm. I did not condemn Professor Neil Ferguson for having a friend over. Nor did I condemn Stephen Kinnock for visiting his parents. The vast majority of Brits are obeying the rules, much more than expected. But the law if it is to remain human has to allow for exceptions. It has to allow for the defence that the person had a good reason.

I would have done the same if I had walked in Mr Cummings’s shoes. I would have been frightened that both my wife and myself would be unable to look after my child. But even if I disagreed with what he did I would reflect that he made his decisions while infected with Covid and that this illness makes thinking and judging difficult. The illness itself is an extenuating circumstance, to all but the hounds with the bone.

Mr Cummings has always appeared to me to be an exceptionally intelligent and original thinker.  Our Government needs him in this crisis.

None of the journalists who were desperate today to trip him up have anything approaching his intellect nor indeed his morality. They were not acting for the good of Britain, rather they were acting out a drama that is only of concern to their failing profession. The task they set themselves is to keep attacking as a pack until the victim breaks psychologically under the torture or gives up with submission. If this is morality it is the morality of the mob.

I listened to Mr Cummings’s humility expressed in his rather nice Durham accent. I heard how he admitted his imperfection and his mistakes, and I believed him. This is someone who is doing his best for Britain.

I heard no such humility from the mob that were attacking him from all sides. I heard nothing about the mistakes they have made in the judgements they make with 20/20 hindsight. I have yet to hear remorse from a journalist about the damage he has done.

Dominic Cummings is marmite. Remainers and the Left despise him because he has consistently outfought and outthought them. Journalists despise him because he rightly views them with contempt. But this is a human being who made incredibly difficult decisions while about to become sick with a life-threatening illness. Would I have made better or different decisions? No, I don’t think so.

People who have recently been ill with Covid are frequently very vulnerable. It takes a long time to recover fully even when you rush back to work because you are needed. When someone is vulnerable the last thing, they need is to go through a struggle session with the People’s Liberation Broadcasting Corporation. They need peace and quiet and to be left alone.

There has to be a reckoning for what happened today. We need to tell journalists that we don’t want show trials and gotchas and that their morality is not our morality. If necessary, we need to cease watching their Television stations, refuse to pay our TV licences and cease renewing our satellite subscriptions. We have already ceased buying newspapers.

I hope tomorrow I will be able to eat normally, but the memory of various dogs with a bone that they would not let go will live with me forever.

Sunday, 24 May 2020

Nickleodown: a fable

Once upon a time in a land called Rus there were two brothers Sanya and Kolya.  Everyone loved Sanya, but he was tormented about the path he had taken to power. Had he known about the plot to kill his father Pashka? He could hardly remember himself. One or two other youthful misjudgements he hoped would remain unknown. Sanya’s wife was much older and by now barren.  He had lost all desire to be with her just as he was no longer welcome in her bed. But he couldn’t pass a young woman without undressing her in his mind and trying to find a way to do so for real if he could get her on her own. 

Kolya had always been in Sanya’s shadow. He both envied Sanya’s confidence and success while secretly hating his brother looking always for a way to take revenge both for the death of their father and for the fact that he owed Sanya everything. 

Rus was involved in a great struggle for independence from Galliya. Sanya and Kolya spoke the lingua Galka as did all their friends. Only the peasants spoke Russki.

But Leonid had gone too far this time. Sanya had tried to make friends with him, but the demand to cease trading with Anglia was too much. Now Leonid was invading, and the Rus kept retreating. Sanya was stricken. He liked to gamble, but what horse could save Rus. “A hors a hors my kingdom for an œuvre” cried Sanya.

Kolya had married Alexandra, born princess Pyotra of Murmansk, but while each found the marriage a useful bushel each also looked for pleasure elsewhere. Alexandra preferred the company of her maids, while Kolya was devoted to the salon run by the Gallskii Herald Boba Saphier. They read Greek poetry together.

Sanya lost the great battle of the year fourteen. He couldn’t figure out how the great one-eyed Rus general had cut us off so badly from the rest of his troops and then became so bored o’ the din oh so bored that he asked Leonid if he could give in.

Kolya continued his secret correspondence with the Gallskii Herald Saphier seeking ways to arrange a truce with Leonid, but most of all seeking ways in which Kolya and Boba could be on the same side again.

Moskva was captured Sanya wanted to continue the fight, but Kolya staged a coup in Pyotraberg and Sanya was forced to abdicate.  Kolya sent an envoy to Boba telling him that he was willing to make peace with Leonid.

As the worst winter in memory began Kolya became tsar and all the Rus food and warmth kept Leonid cosy. Kolya and Boba were reunited and cosy too.

Sanya was exiled but plotted how he could return to power. Kolya pretended to be pleased when Sanya was successful in Lutetia in bringing about better terms for Rus. The Kuznetsov Commission gave Rus much more power than anyone expected.

But Kolya had waited long enough to be tsar and he realised the threat that Sanya posed to his power. Rus was ever more divided into the Sanya faction and the Kolya faction. Samara, Novgorod and Petrozavodsk were divided in half as was Rus.

Kolya knew that Sanya’s greatest weakness was his gambling and his insatiable desire for mental and substantial undressing. He sent spies to listen at Sanya’s bedroom door hoping that he might discover something incriminating.

Eventually there was enough evidence to put Sanya on trial, but just at that moment a great plague was starting in Rus.

The whole of Rus had waited for this moment for months. Those who loved Sanya took one side, those who loved Kolya another. But it didn’t go as Kolya had planned. Sanya was acquitted. People wondered what Kolya knew and when he knew it. More and more questions were being asked about him. Some thought Sanya had been lucky because the trial was hurried, and everyone wanted to go home. Others began to worry that all the witnesses worked for Kolya and couldn’t understand why he hadn’t given evidence even though he had constantly been in the same Palace or “Biutska domska” as Sanya.  

But there was no time. Everyone was sent back to their homes to stop the plague spreading. It was known as Nickleodown.

Kolya’s power and popularity increased every day he appeared before his public. He would dispense the wisdom he had learned from Boba who told him of the discoveries and advice of the Gallskii scientists. But Kolya never mentioned either Boba or the Gallskii.

But Kolya had a weakness too. He had always felt ugly even as a child, but since gaining power he had become swanlike with his stylish clothes his manicure and his carefully cut and coloured hair.

The Rus were forbidden to go to the hairdresser. It would spread the plague. So, they had cut their own hair with whatever implement was available from knives to garden shears. They were forbidden to visit anyone outside their own home unless it was to avoid starvation or else to listen to Kolya. One of the Gallskii scientists was ruined when it was discovered that he had been visited by his mistress. The Rus called him a plag-idiot.

But Kolya thought that the rules for Rus only applied to peasants. He wasn’t going to appear in public unless his mirror mirror told him who was the vainest of them all.  

Each night he would secretly go to the hairdresser. He would then go to the manicurist, the pedicurist, the tailor, the trainer and the waxer from Brazilka. Finally, he would get into his carriage and drive until he reached the back entrance to the Gallskii College of Arms. He felt clean, trimmed, coloured, perfumed with all the perfumes of Arabia, and smooth, ready for anything that the night might offer.

But Sanya had his network of spies too which he had cherry picked from the most talented of the Sanya faction and they carefully watched each breach of Nickleodown. They wrote down the time and the place of each infringement and Sanya began to fill his book with the details of not only Kolya’s past misdemeanours but his present ones too. As Sanya’s book grew larger he became ever more determined to show that Kolya was not merely a liar and a cheat he was a hypocrite and not at all the saintly figure he liked to present to the peasants.

Sanya had reflected and had read as well as wrote. He saw that the moral of the story was as Tolstoy put it “Бог правду видит, да не скоро скажет” [God sees the truth but waits].  So, Sanya also saw the truth but waited.

Friday, 22 May 2020


Scotland entered lockdown at exactly the same time as the other parts of Britain. We did so because we were following the advice that had been given to the British Government by the SAGE committee of scientific experts.

Boris Johnson announced a very cautious easing of this lockdown some time ago, but Nicola Sturgeon decided that nothing would change in Scotland. Why?

 I’m not a politician, but this is the sort of question that opposition politicians should be asking. Are there really scientific grounds for Scotland following a different policy? I’m not a doctor, but while there are a lot of Covid cases in the Central Belt especially in care home, the number of cases in rural Scotland is comparable to England. Overall the number of cases in Scotland per 100,000 preoplr is just a tiny bit worse than in England. So, is the delay that applies to Scotland really scientifically justified?

The SNP have come up with a document called “Scotland’s route map through and out of the crisis”. Did Nicola Sturgeon write it? No. She has no medical training. Did any other SNP politician write it? Perhaps someone from the SNP is a member of the SAGE committee, but I doubt it. So, on whose advice are we staying in lockdown and diverging from the advice given in London?

The best scientists from every part of Britain are already advising the UK Government so which scientists is Sturgeon using? Those who couldn’t quite make it onto SAGE? No, she is using the same experts as the Boris Johnson and his Government, but she is taking that advice and telling her civil servants to give it a Scottish rinse and spin.

The last time there was a major pandemic in Britain was in 1968-1969. There was no devolution. Is there any evidence that Scotland faired worse than other parts of Britain because we followed the same Government advice? If not, why are we following different advice now? Any future inquiry will have to ask Nicola Sturgeon if devolution saved any Scottish lives and if so, how many? It must also ask whether devolution helped or hindered the British response to Covid. If it turns out that devolution led to confusion and that this confusion cost lives in any part of Britain then it will be imperative to address questions why for instance SNP politicians expect to influence and vote on health issues that apply only in England, but the British Government has no say on health care in Scotland apart from funding it.

The Scottish route out of lockdown is remarkably similar to the English route, because the science behind it is the same. Sturgeon may allow or ban this or that on a particular date, but the essence of getting us to go back to work and school is the same.

The future inquiry must ask Sturgeon how many Scottish lives were saved by her deciding to wait a few weeks longer that Boris Johnson? But more importantly it must ask her how many Scottish lives did her policy cost.

There is a careful balance between the costs and benefits of lockdown. There was no lockdown in 1968 and a certain number of British people died as a result. But how many would have died if lockdown had been introduced then. If no one had gone to work in 1968 for three or four months how would this have changed the health outcomes in the next decades?

In the next few years we will discover quite a lot about health in Scotland. It may be that the effect of lockdown lasting longer in Scotland than in England will be measurable in terms of educational attainment, unemployment, cancer rates, heart disease and poverty.

There is an experiment going on. We all entered lockdown at the same time. But Scotland is choosing to leave later and move more slowly than England. This could save lives in the short term, but what if it costs them in the long run? In that case it will be the SNP and Nicola Sturgeon who are to blame.

There is nothing intrinsically wrong with devolution. There are various forms of it around the world, but devolution only works when the devolved parts accept that they are subordinate. The states in the US and the Länder in Germany do not think of themselves as countries or nations. They are not continually agitating to be independent and therefore they are not coming up with different policies for the sake of it and in order to justify their existence. It means that this system of Government works well. Devolution plus nationalism is explosive and unstable inherently. You have to take away the one or the other.

Devolution in Britain is lopsided. England has none while the SNP in particular continually uses the Scottish Parliament to assert its independence while relying on Treasury money to fund that independence. This has become incoherent.

Scotland cannot decide to leave lockdown later and more slowly than the rest of Britain while these separate decisions are not funded by the Scottish taxpayer and or Scottish borrowing. If Rishi Sunak is paying Scottish wages and bailing out Scottish businesses, it cannot be that he has no influence at all on when Scots return to work.

Because England is leaving lockdown earlier and more quickly than Scotland, it will follow that English workers will no longer be furloughed while Scottish workers wait for Nicola Sturgeon to tell us to start earning money again? This means that English taxpayers pay for Sturgeon’s desire to be different from England. This might have been justified if Covid was significantly worse in most of Scotland, but it isn’t.

Devolution for the first time has led to border controls in Britain. Covid is being used to further the SNP independence agenda. While the gullible in England cheer on Nicola Sturgeon’s caution and compassion, it may be costing Scottish lives by keeping us inactive, making us fatter and ruining still further our education and job prospects. I have always thought that the long-term economic costs of Covid would kill more than the disease. If that is the case, then Nicola Sturgeon must be held to account for Jockdown, but of course neither Scottish opposition politicians nor voters would dare to do that.

Wednesday, 20 May 2020

Are we having fun in lockdown Scotland?

The task of leadership is not to get people to do things they want to do, but rather to get them to do things they don’t want to do.

It was remarkably easy to get the vast majority of the British people into lockdown. We were scared and we hardly needed to be told at all. With very few exceptions nearly everyone has obeyed the rules even when we thought they were excessive. There has been minimal grumbling, hardly anyone has been arrested and few fines have been paid. The police may have annoyed some of us, but they have enforced the rules and regulations with minimal force and for the most part with consent. A quiet word has usually been enough. This has been a good effort by everyone. It was far better than form filling authoritarianism seen in some European countries.

There are a few lockdown sceptics who will need no encouragement to leave their homes, but I think most of us were quite content to stay at home so long as we  could either work there or got paid 80% of our wages for not working, but this cannot go on much longer.

Staying like this isn’t going to work economically. It isn’t going to work mentally, and it isn’t going to work socially. People are going to have to be able to make new friends, go on dates and get married. Young children will not develop linguistically or learn to behave with others if they are stuck at home.

But how do you get a reluctant population to begin making the steps to normality that are necessary. Boris Johnson and his Government has tried to get Britain back to work, but his leadership in encouraging people to do something they don’t want to do has been hampered by the lack of leadership shown by the devolved administrations with their message to stay at home.

There isn’t going to a completely safe moment when we try to get back to normal. We might wait a year and still there would be a chance that people would catch Covid on their way to work or even in a school. But by then there wouldn’t be any wages and there might not be any food either.

 Nicola Sturgeon may have increased her popularity in Scotland. There is a rally round the flag effect in any crisis. Whether this continues afterwards is another matter. Her argument for Scottish independence is worse now that Britain has demonstrated the solidarity that goes with being a single nation state versus the lack of solidarity that is so evident in the European Union. She also isn’t doing quite as well as some Scottish nationalists think.

Scotland has a number of advantages with regard to Covid. We are sparsely populated compared to most of Europe. We don’t have an international airport hub and we don’t get that many tourists in the Winter and Spring because of our weather. Yet in terms of Covid cases per 100,000 people Scotland is doing rather worse than England. This may be pure chance. One infected person who happened to fly back to Dundee rather than Derby might have made an enormous difference to the statistics

It’s worrying that the SNP have not been entirely transparent about Covid cases such as at the Nike conference in Edinburgh in February. Can we trust them to tell the truth about what has gone on in Scottish care homes? Can we indeed trust their figures at all if for instance they were inconvenient for Sturgeon’s argument for Scottish wondrousness and independence?

While Boris Johnson’s Government faces hostile questioning from most journalists and relentless negativity from the BBC, Sturgeon reacts with fury at a reporter suggesting she might be enjoying the crisis. The reporter repents repeatedly and offers to wear sack cloth and ashes if only Sturgeon will call off the swarm of gnats buzzing relentlessly like the Scottish form of water torture.

If Boris Johnson reacted in such a way to a reporter in London he would be ridiculed and anyway it wouldn’t do any good. Reporters in London are not scared of the Prime Minister, but they are scared of the First Minister. Why? Does Donna Nicola Sturgeone play the fairy godmother with horses’ heads?

Sturgeon’s justification for not following Johnson’s lead on lockdown was that Scotland caught the bug a bit later. While England has 259 cases per 100,000 Scotland has 269. Wales tragically has 400 while Northern Ireland is doing a bit better with 235. But the differences within Scotland are greater than between parts of Scotland and England. On that basis it would have made more sense for her to have put a border between the Central Belt and Tayside and the rest of us north and south of those places.

But having gone her own way Sturgeon is going to have to find her own way out. She has helped those in England who don’t want schools to go back and who don’t want to take any risks at all. But Sturgeon still faces the same task as Johnson. She is going to have to somehow get a scared Scottish population to go back to work and school, this week, next week or next year. She has rejected Boris Johnson’s method. So, what will her method be?

The British Government is facing great reluctance from those of us who are too scared to go back to normal. But it at least it has the ability to offer carrots and ultimately it will have the stick of withdrawing the wages of those who are furloughed. But what can Sturgeon offer? She is paying no one’s wages and the money she is offering as subsidy is Treasury money tied up with a Tartan ribbon.

The fear in Scotland or perhaps the prejudice is such that there are people telling Northumbrians to stay away by writing swear words on the border sign. They are apparently unaware that Northumbria is safer than Scotland. Imagine how Scots would react if we were banned from traveling to England and if English lorries refused to travel to Scotland for fear of getting ill. It also makes little sense for the Welsh to try to keep the English out when the danger of infection is the other way round.

Sturgeon has doubled down on “stay home” rather than go along with the gradualist approach from London. She couldn’t possibly be enjoying having an independent policy, could she? No one is suggesting that she is glad that people are dying, but generals throughout history have taken advantage of wars, they didn’t want to fight, in order to gain fame and success afterwards. To take advantage of a crisis is to be human. To deny this is to claim to be a Saint.

But how does Sturgeon change her message. Perhaps she will be a MacGradualist, only everything will be that much slower than in England. But gradually Scotland is going to fall ever further behind and ever more in need of the Rishi Sunak money coming our way even when England no longer needs it. I’d enjoy hearing from Nicola Sturgeon how making Scotland ever more impoverished and dependent on British money is preparing us for Scottish independence.  Maybe Sarah Smith could ask her.