Sunday 31 July 2022

Truss must defend the United Kingdom


It is now almost certain that Liz Truss will be the next Prime Minister. Unless something very strange happens, Sunak has already lost.  Her first task is to protect the United Kingdom. Any Prime Minister whose action or inaction leads to the break up of the UK will be remembered for that and that alone.

The UK is threatened in two ways one threat comes from the SNP the other threat comes from Ireland and Sinn Féin. Truss’s task is to neutralise both.

The Northern Ireland Protocol is an existential threat to the UK, not immediately but long term. This is why Ireland and Sinn Féin are so concerned to defend it.

Brexit means that the UK will gradually diverge from the EU. Indeed, ideally, we should diverge as much as possible and undercut the EU wherever we can.

This gradually makes Scottish independence harder to achieve, because it would mean Scotland would have to diverge greatly from the former UK in order to join the EU. This would make issues such as trade and the border between Scotland and the former UK more problematic than if the divergence were small.

But because Northern Ireland remains in effect a part of the EU and has to follow EU regulations, any UK divergence from the EU increases the divergence between Northern Ireland and the other parts of the UK.

At some point Northern Ireland finds itself so closely aligned with the EU and so divergent from the UK that it depends economically on its relationship with Ireland. At this point Northern Ireland de facto unifies with Ireland, because they each follow the same EU regulations. The next step becomes a matter of course.

The task therefore is to ditch the Northern Ireland Protocol. It must be treated as an existential threat to the UK and treated accordingly. Truss, I think understands this. Ireland and the EU will threaten and perhaps act on these threats, but it is necessary to realise that the British Government must fight on this issue or else lose gradually and completely in the end.

Ireland at least at the moment cannot afford Northern Ireland. The withdrawal of British money from Northern Ireland could not easily be made up by the Irish taxpayer.

Truss needs to explain carefully to the Irish Government that the UK Government would abolish the Common Travel Area if Northern Ireland ever left the UK and would put relations between Ireland and the former UK into the deep freeze. Any troubles arising from Irish unification would be the responsibility of Ireland alone and the former UK would see Irish unification as a victory for terrorism and that the Irish state had taken advantage of that terrorism.

It is an advantage that Truss spent part of her childhood in Scotland. Most English journalists and politicians have little understanding of Scottish politics, because they have only visited Scotland on holiday.

Truss will have experienced in Paisley the foundation of Scottish nationalism. As a little girl she would have been told by all of her friends that there is one preeminent quality “being Scottish” and you don’t have it.

She would have experienced that every adult, every official body and every television programme and newspaper was united in belief that the solution to every problem is to spend more public money on it and for it to be more Scottish.

Scottish nationalism doesn’t depend just on the SNP, it depends on the conformity of opinion in Scotland that there are only left-wing solutions and that the state is responsible for looking after Scots and that we are never to blame for anything because Tories are to blame for everything. Even the Scottish Conservative Party believes this.

Because she grew up in Scotland Truss will know that Paisley is not a bit like Oxford and that the mentality of the people in the prosperous cities of southern England is not a bit like the mentality of people in Dundee, Glasgow or indeed Paisley. It is because of this difference in mentality that these people are poorer, with less hope and fewer chances. It is why they kill themselves with drugs, or junk food or Buckfast. It is why life expectancy in parts of Scotland is worse than Syria and Sudan.

As a little girl Truss would have believed in socialism. Her parents were socialists. She therefore will understand better than most the attraction of left-wing thinking. It attracted her. She will also understand better how to counter it.

London and the South East are more prosperous than Paisley because the people there are Conservatives. They believe in working hard, getting good qualifications and being entrepreneurs. In Paisley and most of Scotland business is a dirty word. People who are successful and earn large salaries should have as much money as possible taken away from them by the state. No wonder Paisley is poorer than Palmers Green.

But Conservatives can only persuade people tempted by socialism if Conservatives make us richer. Truss’s first task is to rescue the economy. If two years from now we are no better off then why not give Starmer a chance?

Just as Northern Ireland is on the Liverpool Pathway to unification unless Truss revokes the Protocol, so too Scotland will inevitably at some point leave the UK if you continue down the present path of increasing devolved powers and eventually allowing an independence referendum when the SNP wants one.

Even Truss who is better on this than most is merely telling the SNP that you will have to wait a generation. But it’s already been ten years since the last referendum. After another ten we would be getting close to a generation. Ten years in the lifetime of the UK is little more than an instant.

Truss must do more than say not now, she must work on integrating the UK in such a way that it becomes practically impossible for Scotland or Northern Ireland to leave.

Use British public spending to integrate each part of the UK so that it depends on every other part. Make trade deals which it would be disadvantageous for firms in Northern Ireland or Scotland to ditch. Do everything you can to treat the UK as one country rather than four. It is for instance senseless that the UK has four teams at the Commonwealth Games. Scotland is not a member of the Commonwealth, neither are the other three.

Gradually Truss needs to change the political convention whereby it is seen as just that if the SNP wins an election that it eventually gets an independence referendum. If you do that for a hundred years you might win four times, but lose the fifth.

There is no democratic right to secession. No other country thinks there is. Nor should we.

The UK will never be fully secure until someone has the courage to state that we are one nation indivisible, just like the United States, and that we will use all means at our disposal to defend our territorial integrity. Perhaps, just perhaps, Liz Truss is the person with the courage and the insight to turn this statement into law and to face down those foes whether foreign or domestic who might try to break up our country.

Tuesday 26 July 2022

The whole SNP argument depends on misunderstanding international law


Nicola Sturgeon’s twin track approach to achieving Scottish independence either by means of an unofficial advisory referendum without the UK Government’s permission, or by means of turning a General Election into a de facto referendum depends on the idea that the Scottish Government is ultimately acting in accordance with international law. She hopes that the British Government will finally be shamed by its actions appearing to be undemocratic and that other states will become sympathetic to Scotland seeing the justice of her case. But this depends on a misunderstanding of international law.

It is widely understood in Scottish nationalist circles that there is in international law a right to self-determination and that this right applies to Scotland. But this is a mistake as the following example shows.

The Canadian Supreme Court was asked in relation to Quebec whether there was a right to secession in international law and concluded in 1998 that there was not.

The Court decided that

It is clear that international law does not specifically grant component parts of sovereign states the legal right to secede unilaterally from their "parent" state – 111.

Quebec is obviously a component part of a sovereign state called Canada. But Scotland is equally a component part of a sovereign state called the United Kingdom. To suppose that this were not the case and that Scotland were already a sovereign state, would be to suppose that Scotland were already independent.

The Court also decided that

a right to secession only arises under the principle of self-determination of people at international law where "a people" is governed as part of a colonial empire; where "a people" is subject to alien subjugation, domination or exploitation -- (3) Question 2

The international law of self-determination as it has developed by means of such rulings has made it clear that the right applies only to colonies or places that are occupied. But in no reasonable sense can either Scotland or Quebec be described in this way. The soldiers who are based in Scotland are most frequently Scots. Scotland is not a colony ruled by the UK, but rather part of the UK.

The point is made further in this way

The right to external self-determination, which entails the possibility of choosing (or restoring) independence, has only been bestowed upon two classes of peoples (those under colonial rule or foreign occupation), based upon the assumption that both classes make up entities that are inherently distinct from the colonialist Power and the occupant Power.  --131

So, the only argument Sturgeon can make to international opinion is that Scotland is a colony under British occupation and that it is inherently distinct from the UK. But there have been seven Prime Ministers who were born in Scotland and Scots have played a full role in politics and all other aspects of British life. More Scots live in England than English people in Scotland so it is not obvious who is colonising whom.

The Court points out

The various international documents that support the existence of a people's right to self-determination also contain parallel statements supportive of the conclusion that the exercise of such a right must be sufficiently limited to prevent threats to an existing state's territorial integrity or the stability of relations between sovereign states. –127

What this means is that even if the right of self-determination applied to Scotland it would have to be balanced by the UK’s right to maintain its territorial integrity. If Sturgeon thinks that she has a mandate for secession if she wins either an election to the Scottish Parliament or a majority in a General Election, this would have to be balanced by the British Government having the right to seek a mandate across the whole of the UK for the territorial integrity of the UK.

The Court argues

A state whose government represents the whole of the people or peoples resident within its territory, on a basis of equality and without discrimination, and respects the principles of self-determination in its own internal arrangements, is entitled to the protection under international law of its territorial integrity. –130

Quebec and Scotland already have self-determination. We have equality with all other British citizens with regard to parliamentary representation and indeed have in addition a devolved parliament which controls many domestic issues and is allowed to diverge from the British Government when it chooses.

Scotland cannot in international law argue that it is undemocratic that we vote for the SNP but end up with a Conservative Government, because Scottish voters are not discriminated against. We have the same opportunity to elect MPs as everyone else in the UK. The fact that we don’t vote for a Tory Government or any other party is not undemocratic as this is a feature of all democracies.

The Canadian Supreme Court’s ruling about the international law of secession together with the Clarity Act that followed destroyed the threat of secession in Canada. But it has also significantly clarified the understanding of international law with regard to self-determination in the years since. No one nowadays thinks that parts of democracies have a legal right to secession in international law.

This might seem to be all very theoretical, but it is actually crucial. Many Scottish nationalists hope that an independent Scotland could join the EU. But there are two conditions for this.

1 The former UK cooperates with Scotland’s membership application to the EU.

2 Scotland achieves independence legally and in such a way that all EU member states recognise that it was done legitimately and fairly.

If the former UK argues in the court of international opinion that Scotland left the UK illegally and without the consent of the British Government then there is zero chance that Scotland would get into the EU. So too if the SNP Government were to achieve independence by means of actions that were deemed too uniliteral and illegitimate then that too would affect its application to the EU.

But this is the SNP’s fundamental problem. If the right to self-determination applied to places like Scotland, then it might get a bit of leeway if it bent the rules. But the precedent set by the Canadian Supreme Court suggests that the SNP does not have the law on its side, but instead the UK has the legal right in international law to defend its territorial integrity.

The SNP has no right in international law to expect either an unofficial referendum or a de facto referendum to lead to independence, because it does not have the right to independence unless the British Government consents to it.

So long as the British Government stands firm there is nothing the SNP can do and international opinion fearful that a dangerous precedent will be set would agree with the UK.

Scotland already has internal self determination because we live in a democracy with the same rights as everyone else. For this reason, Scotland has no right to external self-determination or secession.

In the UK there is a political tradition of being willing to grant a referendum on independence under certain circumstances, but it is no more than that. Traditions change. There is no law saying a second referendum must be granted if the SNP wins this number of seats or that number of votes, or even that there was a change in material circumstances (i.e., Brexit). That is just something the SNP made up.

This then is the difficulty for the SNP. It has already gone quite far down the unilateral route with an unofficial referendum and a proposed attempt to hijack a General Election. But the SNP absolutely depends on achieving independence legally and with the consent of the former UK and the recognition of the international community. Without these the SNP doesn’t have close to a majority. Many, perhaps most SNP voters would reject the chance of independence achieved unilaterally or illegally. But there is only so far you can push the unilateral approach if you want the cooperation and consent of the former UK.

Stray too far down the unilateral approach and you end up with Catalonia gaining zero support from the EU or indeed any EU member state. After all there is not a single EU member state and almost no countries in the world that think that the right of self-determination applies to places like Catalonia or indeed Scotland. It is for this reason international law says the right of self determination does not apply to Scotland. The SNP’s grievances are founded on a misunderstanding of the law.



Sunday 24 July 2022

The SNP's indyref2 legal argument is based on lies and deceit


I like court room dramas, but I’ve never been interested in law as a subject. The reason is that it is neither about morality, nor is it about truth. I accept that laws are necessary and that therefore there must be lawyers to interpret the law. Law is a lucrative profession that pays more than most of have the chance of earning, but much of this earning power is a function of law being deliberately obscure and obtuse. A simplification of our laws just as a simplification of our tax regulations, would put many lawyers and accountants justifiably out of business.

My dislike of law does not mean I dislike lawyers. Everyone has the right to earn money as he pleases and use the circumstances that exist.  Lawyers provide a necessary service, which all of us need and can charge what the market will bear. But the reason I hold law as a subject in contempt has been ably demonstrated by the attempt by Dorothy Bain, the Lord Advocate, to argue that Nicola Sturgeon can hold an independence referendum without the permission of the British Government.

Bain argues that such a referendum can be held because it would be advisory. But we learned in 2016 that all referendums in the UK are advisory. This had never occurred to me prior to 2016. No one during any of the previous referendums that had taken place had ever said that the result could be ignored. I keep expecting someone to pop up after the next General Election to tell us that the vote was merely advisory and that the party that won had actually lost.

Bain argues that it is within the powers of the Scottish Government to “ascertain the wishes of the people of Scotland on their future”. But it is just this that makes me hold such legal reasoning in contempt. Because the Scottish Government would not merely be ascertaining the wishes of Scottish voters. The SNP is merely pretending that such a referendum would be advisory. If Yes won, the SNP would be demanding independence and would use the so called advisory referendum as justification for it.

To be genuinely advisory it must be possible for the Westminster Government to legally, morally and politically reject the result. We know after 2016 that it was legally, morally and politically possible for politicians to campaign to reject the Leave vote. People like Nicola Sturgeon campaigned and argued that it was justified to Remain in the EU or else to ask the electorate again in a people’s vote.

So, if we are to take seriously the “advisory” nature of the proposed referendum on independence it must be possible legally, morally and politically to reject the vote or at the very least ask the voters to vote again on the question.

But the SNP would go crazy if Westminster treated a Yes vote in this way, even though they treated the voted to Leave the EU in exactly that way. The SNP did not think that the vote in 2014 was advisory, nor did anyone else. They expected it to be implemented in exactly the same way as a General Election. We all did. The SNP would expect the same for indyref2 whether advisory or not.

So, it is not true that the Scottish Government thinks the proposed referendum is advisory. It is crossing its fingers when it argues in this way. Bain like so many lawyers is using clever words, stratagems and ruses to evade truth. The fact that the law allows her to do so is why I view the subject as uninteresting.

Although the Scottish Government would expect the result to be implemented (i.e., it would not really be advisory), Bain argues the referendum   “would not purport to alter or impede any legal rule constituting or affecting the Union of the Kingdoms of Scotland and England either directly or indirectly” But this involves a contradiction. The Scottish Government would expect the referendum result to be implemented, but does not think it would purport to change anything about the constitution, i.e., it would not be implemented.

She thinks the Supreme Court should ignore any practical effects of a Yes vote because any political changes would be speculative. But this too is dishonest the practical affect that the Scottish Government expects and would demand is not speculative. It expects the practical effect to be Scotland leaving the United Kingdom.

Bain argues that the referendum “would not purport to restrict the powers, authority or jurisdiction of the UK Parliament”. But she knows this is not true. The Scottish Government thinks that a Yes vote would force the British Government to grant it independence in just the same way as a vote in 2014 would have forced it. This would restrict the authority of the British Government and its jurisdiction because it would no longer have sovereignty over Scotland.

Bain thinks that the “Yes/No question Ms Sturgeon wants to use on the ballot paper is “neutral” about whether Scotland should be independent and the proposed Bill is “not directed at any particular outcome”.

Why then doesn’t Sturgeon ask the Electoral Commission to adjudicate whether Yes/No is fair. How can it be fair when polling consistently shows a different result for Leave/Remain? But the idea that the proposed Bill to hold the referendum is not directed at any particular outcome, is simply untrue and Bain knows it. The purpose of the Bill is to achieve Scottish independence by means of a referendum. To pretend otherwise involves a deception.

The reason the law is held in contempt by so many of us is that it is frequently used by lawyers to argue something that is untrue or simply not in the law. Abortion has nothing to do with the 14th amendment, but that amendment was used to justify it for decades. Illegal immigration has nothing to do with the right to family life, yet lawyers use such a right to prevent criminals being deported. It is perfectly clear that the Scotland Act reserves constitutional issues to Westminster, but clever lawyers uninterested in truth try to find a way round this.

The ability of lawyers to evade the meaning of the law is precisely what enables them to command the salaries that they do. Bain will earn more than an average lawyer, because she understands the law well enough to be “economical with the truth” about it.

It is the moral equivalent of a lawyer who knows that his client is a murderer who uses his knowledge of the law to evade the truth of his client’s guilt to get him off.

The Scottish Government knows that it does not hold the power to organise a referendum like the one we had in 2014. It knows this, because that referendum was agreed with the British Government and the one that it proposes next year would not be agreed. Bain knows this too, but she wants to get the Scottish Government off. She wants to give it powers that it does not have, by evading the truth.

It is for this reason that I think the law is neither about morality, nor about truth and it is also why I would simply ignore a referendum founded on lies and deceit.

Saturday 23 July 2022

Sturgeon is giving aid and comfort to Ukraine's enemy


Since February I have seen a lot of Ukrainian flags in Scotland. It is right and proper that people of all political viewpoints express support for a country that has been invaded brutally by its neighbour. But I’ve noticed something else too, which I find rather tasteless. Ukrainian flags are frequently being used to justify Scottish independence. This is both ignorant and wrong. The SNP is giving aid and comfort to Ukraine’s enemy while trying to destroy its greatest friend.

I think Scottish nationalists feel justified in pairing Saltires with Yes on them with Ukrainian flags, because they see Ukraine as an example of a place that achieved independence after leaving a union, the USSR. But what they forget is that Ukraine now is a sovereign nation state that is primarily trying to protect its territorial integrity. It opposes the secession movements in the Donbas and Crimea. It does not think that the people living in the Donbas or Crimea have the right to vote to leave Ukraine even if the majority would like to.

Russia’s attitude to secession is entirely hypocritical. It supports Scottish independence and recently the Russian press and politicians have been using Nicola Sturgeon’s statements about a second referendum to justify holding unofficial referendums in Crimea and the Donbas. The argument goes if Scotland can hold a referendum without obtaining permission from the Government of the United Kingdom, then there is no reason why Crimea and the Donbas cannot do so too.

This argument naturally does not apply to Russia itself. Russia would crush any independence movement within the Russian Federation like it did in Chechnya. But it is very easy for Putin to apply Sturgeon’s argument to Ukraine. Crimea voted unofficially to leave Ukraine. The poll may or may not have been rigged, but there is little doubt that the majority of Crimeans would choose to leave Ukraine if a poll was run fairly and legitimately. The Donbas too could have an unofficial referendum in whatever part of it Putin conquers, or alternatively it could turn an election into a de facto referendum.

If a devolved government can achieve independence by means of an unsanctioned referendum or a General Election turned into a referendum, then anywhere in the world can do likewise.

There are any number of secession movements of which Scottish nationalists are blissfully unaware. There are Russians living in the Baltic states, who would be delighted to rejoin Mother Russia. There are Hungarians living in Slovakia and Romania who might like to rejoin Hungary. There are Corsicans who would like to leave France and Austrians who would like to leave Italy. They each have as good a claim to leave as Scotland does.

But most countries don’t think like the UK. They absolutely forbid secession and would go to war to stop it. No one has ruled out Scottish independence forever. The British Government has just said be patient. You lost your referendum only 8 years ago. No one in Europe would have given you a referendum in the first place.

There would be war in Europe if Sturgeon’s argument applied everywhere, because Italy would fight to stop Austrians leaving and Romania and Slovakia would fight to stop Hungarians seceding. There would be chaos the world over as everyone refought ancient battles over borders.

The SNP argument not only undermines the position of Ukraine that it has the right to defend its territorial integrity, it undermines the idea that national sovereignty gives Ukraine the right to claim all its territory even if the people in  a particular part vote to leave. The SNP undermines the very concept of national sovereignty which Ukraine requires to justify its attempt to regain the territory it has lost.

If Scotland or its people are sovereign and this is more important than UK sovereignty then likewise Crimea can claim that its people are sovereign and that this form of popular sovereignty justifies them choosing to leave Ukraine and join Russia.

But not merely is Sturgeon undermining the Ukrainian argument, she is furthering the foreign policy goals of Ukraine’s primary enemy Russia. There is no doubt whatsoever that Putin would be delighted if the SNP succeeded. The British Army, Royal Navy and RAF would cease to exist at least in their present form if Scotland left the UK. They are British.  Whatever succeeded them would require the permission of the Scottish Government to be in Scottish territory airspace or waters.

The UK’s nuclear deterrent would have no base unless it could negotiate the lease of Faslane. Sturgeon might want an independent Scotland to join NATO, but its entirely unclear if SNP members would agree given their historic hostility to it. We don’t know too if NATO would want a Scotland that has just destroyed the UK.

The United Kingdom would become the Former United Kingdom, there would be every expectation that Northern Ireland would soon follow Scotland and perhaps Wales after that.

There are only two serious military forces in Europe, France and the UK. Putin would have seen one of those diminished and perhaps neutralised. What the USSR could not achieve during the Cold War would have been achieved by the SNP alone.

The idea that present day Ukrainians would want to see their primary European Ally, the UK, dismantled is preposterous. The idea that they would delight in seeing Scottish nationalist flags flying next to their own is as likely as their wanting to see the Russian flag flying alongside it.

Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP and Scottish nationalists in general are giving aid and comfort to Ukraine’s enemy. Flying Ukraine’s flag in those circumstances is not merely opportunism, it is morally contemptible.


Thursday 21 July 2022

In Liz we Trusst


Politics is partly about opinions and persuading others to vote for those opinions, but it is much more about truth. In an election we are faced with a choice between Labour and the Conservative parties. Each puts forward a set of policies and personalities and the voters choose between them. It’s partly a matter of taste. Do you prefer the Left to the Right? But much more importantly its about the truth. Which policies actually will lead to this or that outcome and which will not?

The same of course goes for Scotland. The SNP puts forward at each election a vision of what Scotland would be like if only we voted for independence. But while this might seem to be a matter of opinion, there is a fact of the matter, there is a truth of what would happen.

There is a tendency in politics to try to please everybody or at least as many voters as possible. It is this tendency that sees political opinion grouped in the centre.

Labour has moved back towards the centre with Keir Starmer being a sort of duller Tony Blair. But many Labour voters and MPs still believe in socialism. They prefer public ownership to private enterprise. They distrust the market. Their instinct is always to increase public spending rather than lower it. But Labour knows that it will struggle to win an election with an honest socialist manifesto, so it is toned down, made more palatable and more moderate.

But what matters is the truth of whether socialism will lead to economic prosperity. You can call it social democracy, or democratic socialism or something else, but will increasing the size of the state make Britain wealthier or not?

The same goes for the Conservatives. Free market economics is unpalatable to the electorate. British voters like free things. They like ever higher public spending on their beloved NHS. Whenever something goes wrong, they want to be bailed out by Nanny. So, Conservatives always move to the centre too.

We end up with a choice between watered down socialism and watered down free markets or in Scotland watered down independence (i.e. devolution).

While crowding round the centre and adopting each other’s policies may make sense politically, because the task is to persuade voters that your opinion is palatable, it only works long term if your opinion is true.

You can give voters what they want, you can increase public spending and pay them to stay at home. You can give them free meals and free beer and they will love you for a while, but if you make them poorer by doing this, they will kick you out no matter that they once loved you.

Socialism is a theory that has been tested to destruction. It is contrary to human nature and contrary to the natural way in which we conduct business with each other. People have traded with each other since time began in order to make a profit for themselves. They have worked to help themselves and their families, not for people they have never met. Our goal has always been success for ourselves and our families. We have never worked for equality with strangers.

But we are attracted to the idea of equality. It makes us feel good, noble and virtuous and so we keep giving socialism a chance. But if socialism is contrary to human nature, then watered down socialism will also be contrary to human nature. It won’t work as badly as socialism proper, but neither will it work well, because it is contrary to the natural economics of barter and exchange.

Everywhere in the world where there are genuine free markets without corruption there is an increase in prosperity. Trade may be selfish, but it benefits both the seller and the buyer.

What this means is that theoretically if you could only arrange society to allow the freest possible markets you would have the most prosperity.

At the heart of Conservatism is an economic theory that goes back to the beginning of time, which has always worked. But Conservatives never quite dare to introduce it. Conservative Governments invariably spend far too much trying to please the British public who are socialists at heart. This means that we end up with public services that are mediocre and inefficient. We don’t allow the market to determine wages, but rather set a minimum wage and we never do what we could do to make Britain more profitable, because it would in the short term be unpopular.

The choice then is between a true theory (laissez faire capitalism), that has been tried and tested for centuries, except we don’t dare to fully try it and a false theory (socialism) which remains false even if it is mixed with a bit of capitalism.

The task is to shrink the size of the state and lower public spending to around 30% of GDP. Having lowered public spending, it will be possible to lower taxes. People will then work harder, earn more and spend more. 

People are not naturally idle, but if you give them enough to live for free then they may forget that they are naturally capitalists. It is necessary therefore to encourage them to cease to be idle, while looking after those who genuinely cannot earn for themselves.

Brexit will theoretically make Britain richer, because the EU is a protectionist organisation and leaving it ought to enable Britain to make more free trade deals around the world than we lost by leaving the Single Market. But it will only work if we are willing to undercut the EU and make it cheaper to do business here than there. Naturally the EU wants to stop us doing this, the folly is that we have allowed them to.

Some argue that picking a Tory moderate would enable the Conservatives to appeal to Lib Dems and Labour voters. It might. But at the cost of being wrong. Free market capitalism would make Britain richer, imitating the Lib Dems and Labour would make us poorer because these parties essentially want to make markets less free. That is what Government spending the profits of capitalism does. Leave capitalists, i.e., us to spend our own money.

The EU with its rules and regulations and its social charter and its protectionism that stops French farmers facing competition is a grand social democratic theory that has sent its member states into gradual decline. Leaving it is the equivalent of Thatcher’s revolution in 1979, but only if we have the courage to take advantage of the opportunity.

Just as Thatcher was able to move us decisively away from the failed experiment of nationalisation and rule by the trade unions so there is a chance to make Britain genuinely less protectionist and freer economically. This will work, but it needs time and the courage to do what is necessary even if it is in the short term unpopular.  Cutting public spending will hurt some people and the Labour supporting media will go crazy.

But the prize is this. Ten years from now Britain could be much richer. Just as we were much richer in 1990 than in 1979. By following truly right-wing free market thinking, we could pull ahead of the EU and in doing so destroy by means of prosperity the SNP’s dream of breaking up Britain. If the EU were worse off than the UK then the SNP would be homeless. If you make the UK prosperous enough no one will want to leave.

Perhaps just perhaps Liz Truss has the guts to do this. Rishi Sunak by contrast as chancellor spent more than Jeremy Corbyn planned to do.

Tuesday 19 July 2022

How to pick the next Prime Minister


To determine who should be the next Conservative Party leader you first need to decide what are the main issues facing Britain. They are as follows:

1 Winning the next election

2 Keeping the UK intact

3 Making Brexit beneficial to the UK.

4 Raise the average standard of living.

5 Defeat wokeism.

 If you don’t win the next election, then you won’t be able to do anything else much, but rather you will watch Keir Starmer in conjunction possibly with the Lib Dems and SNP do it instead. So, the Conservatives need to pick the leader with the best chance of winning.

But this is difficult. Some great leaders are easy to spot, but others come out of nowhere. The past is not always a good guide to the future. Ulysses Grant was a drunk and a failure before the Civil War, but was more responsible than anyone else for winning it.

Charisma matters in politics, but less so in the Britain than in the USA. It’s possible that one of the candidates will discover charisma in the job, which will help in winning the election, but doing the job well will help more.  None of the candidates will have Boris’s charisma, but lack of scandal and mistakes may make up for that.

Charisma rating:

Sunak 6

Truss 4

Mordaunt 7

Badenoch 8


I would rather have intelligence than any other characteristic. Without intelligence you cannot understand the problem nor can you understand the solution. Worst of all you cannot distinguish between what is important and what is trivial.

Sunak has a first from Oxford in PPE, plus an MBA from Stanford and went on to work for Goldman Sachs.

Truss also studied PPE at Oxford and worked for Shell and Cable and Wireless.

Mordaunt got a 2.1 in Philosophy at Reading and worked in public relations and the Navy

Badenoch studied computing at Sussex and then an LLB at Birkbeck, she worked as a systems analyst for the Royal Bank of Scotland.

Sunak 10

Truss 9

Mordaunt 5

Badenoch 8


The only way we are going to make Brexit beneficial for the UK is if we have a leader who believes in it. Truss voted Remain and at Oxford was leader of the Lib Dems. She keeps proposing to get rid of the Northern Ireland Protocol, but never does so. It may be that she has genuinely converted from her previous views or it may not.

The key to making Brexit work is to be daring. We need to undercut the EU and abolish any regulations that hinder British business. We need to be willing to seriously upset Ireland and the EU or else accept that Irish unification is a matter of time.

Sunak 8

Truss 6

Mordaunt 7

Badenoch 8


To defeat the SNP long term, it isn’t enough to say No you have to wait. You have to come up with a new way of thinking about the UK, that makes us more like countries such as France and Germany that are not threatened by secession. You have to be imaginative, for instance, making the SNP an offer they would refuse and finding ways to bypass the devolved parliaments. You have to have the nerve to do something outrageous if it is necessary to stop the SNP. After all there is not much point defeating the Russians if you lose the UK.

Scottish nationalism is an anti-Tory movement, it would be far harder for Sturgeon to portray either Sunak or Badenoch as English toffs. Sunak however would be hindered by his personal wealth and his ultra-rich wife.

Sunak 7

Truss 6

Mordaunt 6

Badenoch 10


Woke issues are not a side issue. They are the whole issue. Having lost the economic argument in the 1990s the Left turned to changing how we think in order to change human nature so that we could be made ready for socialism.

Communism failed because of human nature. We are naturally capitalists who understand profit, loss and free trade as ways to personally become better off. We all try to earn more for the benefit of ourselves and our families.

The task for the Left is to make us care more for equality than personal self-interest and to care for society more than ourselves and our families.

This is the purpose of first political correctness and then woke. Once you can get people to believe that men can become women, it becomes easier to make them think in a different way about their families and their selves. If you daughter can become your son, then why can’t a stranger be your son too?

It seemed initially preposterous that basic ideas about human nature could be changed, but look how far we have come since the Berlin Wall came down. Homosexuals can marry, which makes marriage no longer a matter of family and having children. A lesbian can be a man who thinks he is a woman who is attracted to another man who thinks he is a woman. Ted Hughes has been cancelled because of an ancestor who owned slaves.

Mordaunt clearly stated that trans women are women her attempts to dodge this issue merely make her more dangerous. She also advocated that the NHS should use homeopathy, which is a pseudoscience that has been completely debunked. This means that she believes at least two things that are false.

Badenoch has spoken out at some risk to herself about critical race theory. She and Sunak are best placed to counter accusations of racism from Labour and the SNP.

Sunak 8

Truss 6

Mordaunt 0

Badenoch 10


Mordaunt’s work in public relations means that she is good at communications, but she fundamentally lacks substance. Her views on woke issues ought to make it impossible that she become Conservative Party leader. It is extraordinary and surely a mistake that she has come so far.

Sunak understanding of finance and general intelligence could be hugely useful in a leader, but he has the disadvantage of being in part responsible for the mess we are in now. His wealth would make it easy for Labour and the SNP to attack him.

Truss has achieved little despite her experience in Cabinet.  She may be a right winger, but I don’t trust her previous commitments both to Remain and the Lib Dems.

Badenoch would be the ideal candidate to take on woke and Labour and SNP accusations of racist Tories. Her main disadvantage is lack of experience at the highest level.

There is a window of opportunity for leadership candidates. Too young and you don’t have the experience, too old and you have missed your chance.

We have very limited information to choose. If it were up to me, I would take a chance on the next two years. If the Tories lose the next election they can pick a new leader, then anyway. Truss offers little, Sunak would be better as Chancellor.

The leader both the SNP and Labour fear most would be Kemi Badenoch.

Friday 15 July 2022

Is there a democratic deficit in Scotland?


The SNP’s latest paper “Renewing Democracy through Independence” attempts to show that there is a democratic deficit that justifies Scotland leaving the UK. The argument goes that Scotland votes differently to the UK as a whole in General Elections or during the Brexit referendum. We get Tories though we voted for the SNP or Labour. We get Leave though we voted for Remain. What the SNP’s paper does not point out is that this is a feature of all democracies.

If Scotland became independent there would be parts of Scotland that would habitually vote differently from the whole. But Scotland would be a unitary state and the Borders or Orkney and Shetland would be mere regions of Scotland. The SNP argument is therefore that there is no democratic deficit if a region such as the Borders votes differently from the whole. Orkney and Shetland could not have an independence referendum due to voting differently to Glasgow because they do not form a country.

But it is obvious here that the SNP argument is assuming what it is trying to prove. It's only on the assumption that Scotland is a separate country from the UK that it matters that Scotland sometimes votes differently to the UK. It doesn't matter that Vermont votes differently to the USA. It is simple logic therefore that the SNP is using the logical fallacy called begging the question.

The democratic deficit argument only works on the assumption that Scotland is already a separate country from the UK. This assumption is then used to justify Scotland becoming a separate country.

The whole problem is that the words “country” and “nation” can be used in different ways. Normally when we talk of the countries of the world, we mean sovereign nation states, but we also use these words in looser ways. Scotland is commonly called a country, but it is not a sovereign nation state. If it were it would already be independent.

Because Scotland is called a country the SNP attempts to treat it is as if it already were a sovereign nation state and uses this to complain of a democratic deficit. But in a General Election there are not citizens of four countries voting one of which is outvoted by the others. There are citizens of only one country. They are British citizens. So where is the democratic deficit?

If in a Presidential election there were 49 states with American citizens and one state California with Californian citizens, it might be justified for the Californians to complain that they have been outvoted by the other 49 states and that they did not get the President that they voted for. But they would only be Californian citizens if California were a sovereign nation state. They cannot legitimately complain if they are all American citizens and California is a part of the USA. There is no democratic deficit there.

Does it change anything that Scotland is called a country and that it once was an independent sovereign nation state? No. This would only change anything in a UK General Election if people living in Scotland did not have the same citizenship as people in the other parts of the UK. But we do. It is this that makes us one electorate. It is this that justifies counting our votes and constituencies along with everyone else’s.

The SNP argument is that Scots are a different people and that Scotland is part of a multi-nation state called the UK which requires the consent of each part continually for it to remain together. But as I have argued previously this is to treat the UK as a confederation, where each member is already independent and has sovereignty. But this would mean that Scots were not British citizens.

Indeed, it would mean that there would be no common citizenship in the UK. But in that case, it would be expected that each part of the confederation was self-sufficient economically and did not expect fiscal transfers from the others. Logically Nicola Sturgeon should first give up all Treasury funding before seeking another independence referendum.

The reason why many people in Scotland think that there is a democratic deficit is because in the 1980s and 1990s Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Scottish establishment told them that there was. It was unfair that Scotland voted Labour, but got Thatcher. This was the justification for devolution, but the folly is now clear because it can equally be used to justify independence.

Historically the UK is almost unique. We retained the sense of being separate countries even as those countries joined to form a single unitary nation state. The SNP presents the unitary nature of the UK as the Westminster viewpoint, but it’s alternative multi nation description of the UK if taken literally turns the UK into something like the EU. But this would mean Scotland already had independence. So again, the SNP would be assuming independence in order to justify independence.

Historically what happened in the UK is no different to what happened in other countries where various kingdoms merged to form a larger whole of similar people. The main difference is that there was no attempt in the UK to erase the “national” identities of the parts.

In 1869 the Japanese annexed the northern most island of today’s Japan Hokkaidō. It was then called Ezo and the people who lived there the Ainu did not speak Japanese, but a language completely unrelated. There are now approximately 100 Ainu speakers left. Japan had a policy of Japanification. Everyone in Japan had to assimilate and lose all sense of separate identity. But there is no democratic deficit if Hokkaidō votes differently to Japan as a whole.

In every modern democracy there are the descendants of people who once formed independent states or kingdoms. The fact that they either retained this previous identity or lost it is an historical accident that reflects well or badly on how they were treated. Scotland and England retained a separate identity because we were allowed to, because it was not seen as a threat to the UK as a whole. But to use this to justify destroying the UK is perverse.

There is no such thing as a separate Scottish people voting in elections, that does not get what it votes for. I only have one citizenship and it is the same as everyone else who is voting. This is the same in every democracy. If there is a democratic deficit in Scotland then Sturgeon needs to make clear that there is a democratic deficit in Japan, France and Germany, because they too are made up of people’s that used to form separate countries.

The fact that somewhere is called a "country" does not give it the right to independence otherwise we might see the Black Country seek secession or the West Country. Country is an ambiguous word that signifies precisely nothing. What matters is not what you are called, but what you are. Scotland is not independent, and cannot surreptitiously assume independence (“we’re a country, not a region”) to justify independence.

The only democratic deficit is that Sturgeon began campaigning for indyref2 five minutes after losing indyref1 and would campaign for indyref3 five minutes after losing indyref2. Meanwhile if we lose once we lose forever. That is your democratic deficit.


Saturday 9 July 2022

How to make the SNP turn down independence


There doesn’t appear to be any escape from the SNP. With 45% of the vote, it is going to win nearly all of the seats in Scotland at a General Election and will win a majority of seats at Holyrood if not an absolute majority. It’s hard to see what could change that.

The SNP will continue to ask for an independence referendum and will continue to try to put pressure on the British Government either by means of an unofficial referendum or a de facto referendum during a General Election. In the short term these ruses may not succeed, but Scotland will forever be in campaign mode. We never get to relax, because the SNP will always be campaigning for independence. Is there a way to stop this?

It would be perfectly legal and democratic for a British Government to repeal the Scotland Act on the grounds that the Scottish Parliament is being misused because it is continually acting outside its remit. Alternatively, the Scotland Act could be amended to make it illegal for the Scottish Government to attempt to deal with reserved matters with appropriate sanctions if it disobeyed.  

But a British Government is unlikely to have the courage to abolish devolution and if it did there might be demonstrations in Scotland and support for the SNP might increase. It is vital that the UK does not push Scotland into rebellion because rebellion is likely to succeed unless you are willing to crush it and there is not the will in the UK to do that. English people would prefer Scotland to leave.

The British Government could pass a bill making secession illegal, which would make campaigning for it illegal with financial sanctions if the law was broken. Again, it is unlikely that a British Government would do this. Too many people throughout the UK think that the UK is a union of four nations each with the right to independence if the majority in that part wish it. European countries that have forbidden secession, either don’t think in this way or like Spain are willing to do whatever is necessary to keep their country intact.

The fundamental problem with the situation we are in now is that it involves the SNP asking for a democratic referendum and the British Government continually saying No. But eventually if support for independence increases to 60% it will feel the need to say Yes. At that point the future of the UK will depend on at best a coin toss, but more likely going into an indyref campaign twenty points behind.

But there is actually a way to stop this quite easily, not by forbidding an independence referendum, but instead by telling the SNP it can have independence whenever it wants it.

The whole problem with the situation at the moment is that it involves Pro UK people either saying you must wait or you shouldn’t have a referendum at all. It makes us look weak as if we won’t give a referendum, because we think we would lose it. But it’s possible to make the SNP look weak instead.

What we should say to the Scottish Government is that you can have independence any time you want it. You don’t need to win a referendum. You don’t even have to pass a bill in the Scottish Parliament. A phone call will be enough. But you can only have it on the following conditions:

1 Independence begins on the day you ask for it.

2 UK Treasury funding ceases instantly on independence.

3 There is no transition period.

4 There are no negotiations.

5. Everyone resident in Scotland must choose either to remain a British citizen or become a Scottish citizen. There will be no dual nationality. Scottish citizens will need a visa to travel to the former UK.

6. Scottish citizens will not be allowed to live or work in the former UK and will have no free access to public services and receive no pensions. If British citizens living in the former UK choose to be Scottish citizens, they must leave.

7 The former UK will neither hinder nor help Scotland in any way.

8 There will be no currency union and the former UK will not help Scotland to use the pound unofficially.

9. There will initially be no trade deal between the former UK, nor cooperation on anything else.

10. Scotland must accept a population share of the national debt.


That’s the deal. You can have it any time you want it.

If Scotland is really a cash cow, that raises huge amounts of tax and sends it south of the border, then Scotland would have no problem with this arrangement. If on the other hand Scotland is making a loss and our public services depend on the UK Treasury keeping them going, then we might find that Scottish schools and hospitals might have to close and we might find that we could no longer afford free prescriptions and free university tuition.

I think that Scottish nationalism depends on the idea that Scots can hate the English, but the English will give us a great deal if we ever choose to leave. The answer to that is to explain carefully that if you choose to leave you will be treated no better nor worse than any other country in the world. Relations will be neither friendly nor unfriendly, but there will be neither cooperation nor conflict either.

Would the SNP be prepared to accept independence on those terms? It would be completely mad to do so. The new Scottish state would face immediate economic collapse.

It might or might not be possible to decide to come back to the UK if Nicola Sturgeon chose to obtain her visa, and come to London dressed in sackcloth and ashes rather than in red.

If a British Government ever clearly and distinctly explained what Scottish independence would really involve, then we would be able to break free from the impasse that prevents Scotland moving either forwards or back.

Of course, the British Government will do no such thing. The EU can try to take revenge on us because of Brexit and make life as hard as possible for the UK, but we couldn’t possibly do the same to the SNP.

But it would be amusing indeed to watch Nicola Sturgeon turn down the offer of independence and there would be no longer any need to deal with Scottish nationalist plots involving pretendyrefs or indeed anything else.  

Thursday 7 July 2022

And now, the end is near


The odds of Boris Johnson remaining Prime Minister in 2022 are now 1/41. If you think he will stay until 2023 you can get odds of 29/1 or until 2024 37/1. This means we are going to have a new Prime Minister soon.

There is no point any longer debating ought Boris to go. Unless something very strange indeed happens, he will depart probably within the week. A Prime Minister has required the support of a group of MPs to continue since the times when they were known as “friends of so and so”. That hasn’t changed. Boris has no friends left in Parliament.

Boris has turned out to be like Winston Churchill after all. He had one brief moment. Nothing Churchill did up to 1939 much merits the attention of history apart from negatively. A brief footnote about Gallipoli. So too from 1941 onwards Churchill’s contribution was subsumed in what the Americans did. Few remember his post war years. So, his reputation rests on what he did in 1940 and that was very much indeed. He was the difference between defeat and victory in May 1940.

Boris was the difference between defeat and victory in the EU referendum of 2016 and his becoming Prime Minister in 2019 both saved the Conservative Party and saved Brexit, but his hope now is that everything after winning the election in 2019 will be forgotten by history, just as history remembers Ulysses Grant for winning the Civil War rather than his later presidency.

In the short-term Boris has bequeathed his successor an almighty mess. The Conservatives reputation for economic competence is tatters, but crucially not because of truly Conservative policies that have gone wrong, but rather for adopting Labour policies.

During Covid the Government increased public spending to an extent that even Jeremy Corbyn could not have imagined, but this has not made the Conservatives popular with Labour voters nor the SNP.

Johnson’s Government was the most left-wing Conservative Government in history. Labour could hardly have taxed more and spent more if it had won in 2019. It is for this reason that the standard of living has fallen and inflation has increased to 1970s levels. It has been as if we were ruled by the ghost of Harold Wilson.

The key lesson of British politics comes from Margaret Thatcher. She was hated. Many of her policies were disliked even by her own side. But the standard of living in Britain was much higher when she left than when she started.

What matters is not short-term popularity. Lockdown was popular as was paying people to sit at home. What matters is long term prosperity.

It was hugely unpopular when Thatcher took on the miners, closed pits and steel works. The British people think they are socialists, but they are not. Each of us wants to earn more money and live in a society that is gradually more prosperous. If doing unpopular things gets you there you win.

After doing all those unpopular things in the 1980s Thatcher’s true victory was seeing Tony Blair try to imitate her economically. This is how you defeat Labour long term, by making Labour Conservative.

The other lesson of British politics is that voters elect Labour to give us socialism and the Conservatives to give us capitalism, but we end up with the grey mush of the centre no matter who we vote for because the Civil Service stops any Government doing anything.

With an 80 majority the Conservative Party could still in the next two years do what is necessary to make Brexit a success. The point of Brexit was to give Britain economic freedom so that we could undercut the EU by providing better trade terms to non-EU countries and by abolishing the rules and regulations that hinder business.

We are in part hindered by the Northern Ireland Protocol which was designed specifically to prevent us taking advantage of Brexit, by forcing us to align with the EU.

Civil Servants will tell ministers you can’t get rid of the Protocol, it will upset Ireland and the Americans. You can’t get rid of the EU bureaucracy because it will upset the Remainers. So, we do nothing.

But sometimes it is necessary to upset Ireland or the Americans or the Remainers or the EU. Let them be upset.

We keep promising to do something about the Protocol, but it never actually happens.

But if we could make British business more productive and efficient, if we could increase trade with non-EU countries, then the prosperity we would achieve would easily outweigh whatever short term unpopularity was necessary to achieve it.

Free market economics will make Britain more prosperous, but in many cases, it will be unpopular in the beginning. People lose jobs and have to work harder. But it is the job of a leader to do what is necessary for the long term good of the country.

We left the EU because we wanted to be in control of immigration, but find our efforts to stop migrants in dinghies thwarted because of various European judges. But with an 80 majority you can banish these judges. It would be wildly popular with voters, but the civil servant tells you that you mustn’t upset other countries.

It would equally be wildly popular if the Government had a bonfire of the woke and reverted to common sense views on what a woman is and ditched divisive ideas like Critical Race Theory and Black Lives Matter. This might be unpopular with Guardian readers and students, but everyone else would be delighted. The civil servant tells his minister that we mustn’t upset these people. So, nothing is done.

It is fear of short-term unpopularity that prevents Conservatives from doing what would make our country more united and prosperous.

If Nicola Sturgeon threatens unilateralism tell her that it would be very easy indeed with an 80 majority to repeal the Scotland Act, abolish the Scottish Parliament and bulldoze it. It would also be very easy to pass a bill banning all future independence referendums.

Oh, you couldn’t do that minister, you would upset the Scots. Sure, some would be upset in the short term, but there would be nothing they could do except march on London hoping for French support only to have to turn back at Derby.

The UK is legally a unitary state. Simply make clear as other European countries do that it is indivisible. An 80 majority can do that in an afternoon. Oh, we couldn’t do that minister. Why not?

This is Boris’s failure. Margaret Thatcher believed in something and this was why she was willing to go against the establishment, go against the civil service. It was why she was able to lastingly change our country. But Boris did not really believe in anything other than his own ambition and so failed to do what was necessary even if it was unpopular. It is why he has achieved nothing since being elected in 2019.