Sunday, 18 December 2016

Letter to the Financial Times by a Remain voter

Two Englishmen in Aleppo


I want to know about what went on in Eastern Aleppo in the last 4 years and why the rebels didn't surrender sooner. I hope we shall know very soon. In fact, this weekend it is just starting to emerge from the fog of propaganda.

'This is a bona fide independent journalist. It seems from what he writes that people are very happy the government has won.



'This was an exchange of lives arranged between Russia, Turkey, and Iran, who all have a stake in this conflict. Why though has it taken so long to get to this point at the expense of so many ordinary Aleppans?The operation was repeated several times as slowly each enclave was emptied. It marked a historic watershed in Syria’s protracted civil war, handing President Assad a victory that was fervently celebrated by the crowds looking on. 
In government-controlled Aleppo there was little sympathy for rebel fighters who many characterise as simply “terrorists”.‘Ali’, who preferred not to give his full name, told me: “People are tired of these rebels. The people of west Aleppo have been living in horror for five years.'
This is an English parson (priest)Andrew Ashdown, who's in Aleppo and who says he visited the refugees unannounced by taxi, without a minder. Meanwhile David Miliband in New York says the regime are going from house to house killing civilians.


'The sense of relief amongst the thousands of refugees is palpable.All were keen to talk, and we interviewed several who had arrived only yesterday and today. They all said the same thing. They said that they had been living in fear. They reported that the fighters have been telling everyone that the Syrian Army would kill anyone who fled to the West, but had killed many themselves who tried to leave – men, women and children. One woman broke down in tears as she told how one of her sons was killed by the rebels a few days ago, and another kidnapped. They also killed anyone who showed signs of supporting the Government. The refugees said that the ‘rebels’ told them that only those who support them are “true Muslims”, and that everyone else are ‘infidels’ and deserve to die.

They told us they had been given very little food: that any aid that reached the area was mostly refused to them or sold at exorbitant prices. Likewise, most had been given no medical treatment. (A doctor who has been working with the refugees for weeks told me last night that in an area recently liberated, a warehouse filled with brand new internationally branded medicines had been discovered.) Most of the refugees said they had had members of their families killed by the rebels and consistently spoke of widespread murder, torture, rape and kidnap by the rebels. They said if anyone left their homes, their properties and belongings were confiscated and stolen.

One old man in a wheelchair who was being given free treatment in the Russian Field Hospital said he had been given no treatment for three years despite asking. He said: “Thank God we are free. We now have food. We can now live our lives. God bless the Syrian Army.” They all said they were glad to be out and to be free. All the refugees without exception were visibly without exception clearly profoundly relieved and happy to be free. One woman said: “This is heaven compared to what we have been living.” We asked if the Syrian Army had ill-treated anyone. They said never. One woman said: “They helped us to escape and they provide us with food and assistance.” '

What Mr. Ashdown wrote a few days ago from Aleppo was repeating what government people had told him and describing places his minders took him. This, however, is good stuff.

What news we have had from Eastern Aleppo for years was from rebel sources which were repeated by the Western media pretty uncritically. Let's see what more we find out now.


A year ago a former British ambassador to Syria said "most of the opposition" is made up of "jihadis", the 'moderate rebels' were just 'a footnote', British policy on Syria was wrong and Russia's right


Saturday, 17 December 2016

Discerning truth and falsehood in the Aleppo story


The story about government forces killing 80 civilians in Eastern Aleppo could be true but is completely unsupported by any evidence, even circumstantial.

Both the Assad regime and the rebels, naturally, spend much money and effort on PR but with this difference. The rebels' PR is repeated in the Western press as objective testimony from 'non-combatant activists', while Western journalists who repeat the story the Syrian government wants to get out, like the utterly unnuanced Vanessa Beeley and Eva Bartlett, are vilified as Lord Haw Haws.


Both young women were previously in Gaza. Eva Bartlett reported from there a story that Hamas approved. Had she been critical of Hamas, she would have had to sling her hook sharpish. I am not sure if Vanessa Beeley wrote about Gaza or not. Now they take Assad's side as previously they took Hamas's.

The Syrian civil war became a long time ago part of the conflict between Israel and the Shia states against Iran and Russia. Pro and anti-Israel attitudes colour many people's view of Syria.


Still both ladies appear to be independent and truthful in the narrow sense that they believe that they are telling the true story. Their story should be heard.

Actually, most journalism is repeating the story of someone who has his own agenda. This applies, as we have seen, even to crime stories released by the British police.


Funnily enough, I found myself in a bar in Beirut in October 2014 being stood a drink by a nice Syrian who told me he was a communications specialist who had been hired by Bashir Assad.

Saturday, 10 December 2016

Patrick Cockburn: The only alternative to Assad is Isis or Nusra



Click here for an interesting article in The independent by Patrick Cockburn who says


Though Putin is much demonised in the West, the enthusiasm of Western governments to get rid of Assad has ebbed steadily, as it became clear that the only alternative to him was Isis or Nusra.

Why then did Hillary Clinton say eight weeks ago that toppling Assad was her top priority? I suppose it doesn't matter now, but why is regime change British government policy?


Assad and his government are guilty of unspeakable cruelty, as is Russia, but so are Isis and Nusra. At least with Assad Christians will remain in Syria. Without the regime all will flee.

The left-wing papers today deplore Western leaders going soft on Vladimir Putin, but they do not criticise the Syrian rebels or the Saudi intervention in Yemen. 

They should deplore Theresa May, who knows almost nothing about world affairs, humiliating (symbolically emasculating) the Foreign Secretary for saying the Saudis were conducting proxy wars in Syria and Iraq. A schoolboy knows that this is true. A war is going on in Syria and Iraq between the Sunni and Shia powers, Russia backing the Shias and the US, Britain and France siding hesitantly with the Sunnis.

I am interested that Patrick Cockburn also says that the US are closely involved in the fighting to take Mosul and in helping the Kurds against Turkey.

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Morally disgusting people praise Castro


Before the Castro tributes, the last time left-wingers were so funny was when Marchais, Yasser Arafat and the others welcomed the Moscow coup in 1991.

But it's not just the left. The BBC are kinder to Castro than they were to Lady Thatcher when she died:

“His critics accused him of being a dictator.”
The Lord Mayor of Dublin has opened a Book of Condolence for Fidel Castro to allow the people of Dublin to "pay their own respects", which is reminiscent of Eamonn de Valera signing the book of condolences in the German Embassy in 1945 on the death of Hitler.

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Juncker, Hollande and Corbyn praise Castro, Trump rejoices

European Commission - Statement

Statement by President Juncker on the passing away of Fidel Castro

Brussels, 26 November 2016
Fidel Castro was one of the historic figures of the past century and the embodiment of the Cuban Revolution. With the death of Fidel Castro, the world has lost a man who was a hero for many. He changed the course of his country and his influence reached far beyond. Fidel Castro remains one of the revolutionary figures of the 20th century. His legacy will be judged by history. 
I convey my condolences to the Cuban President Raúl Castro and his family and to the people of Cuba

He has not so far gone as far as Eamonn De Valera who signed the book of condolence at the German embassy on Adolf Hitler's death.  

French President Francois Hollande has mourned the loss the "towering" former Cuban leader Fidel Castro, while noting concerns over human rights under his regime.

British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn hailed Fidel Castro as a “champion of social justice”, following the announcement of the former Cuban leader’s death, admitted there were “flaws” in the revolutionary leader’s long rule over the Caribbean island, but praised him as a “huge figure of modern history”.

Mr Corbyn said: 
“Fidel Castro’s death marks the passing of a huge figure of modern history, national independence and 20th century socialism. From building a world class health and education system, to Cuba’s record of international solidarity abroad, Castro’s achievements were many.For all his flaws, Castro’s support for Angola played a crucial role in bringing an end to Apartheid in South Africa, and he will be remembered both as an internationalist and a champion of social justice.”
President Barack Obama said: 
“We know that this moment fills Cubans — in Cuba and in the United States — with powerful emotions, recalling the countless ways in which Fidel Castro altered the course of individual lives, families, and of the Cuban nation. History will record and judge the enormous impact of this singular figure on the people and world around him.”


The BBC praised Castro's health care programme and role in fighting the apartheid South African regime, without mentioning mass murder, political prisoners or Cubans celebrating his death. Welfare has taken the place of freedom (and religion) in the minds of many people.

In fact South Africans of all races can be grateful that the National Party regime held on long enough to save them from Castro-style communism.

I don't recall Pinochet getting this treatment and yet Pinochet, not more brutal than Castro, was the saviour of his country and made it the prosperous First World economy it is today. He also stepped down after losing a referendum.

And Donald Trump called Castro a "brutal dictator".

A Facebook friend commented: You know what? I think Donny's going to work out just fine.
Donald Trump also said:

"While Cuba remains a totalitarian island, it is my hope that today marks a move away from the horrors endured for too long, and toward a future in which the wonderful Cuban people finally live in the freedom they so richly deserve,"



Wednesday, 23 November 2016

The purpose of a nation is to exclude people

The purpose of a nation, like any other club, or like any house or dwelling, is to exclude people. This is its raison d'être. Discuss.

Excluding others is one important purpose of states, rather than countries, I suppose. I am not sure countries or nations should have purposes. I rather think they shouldn't.

Sunday, 20 November 2016

This is only the start of a religious war

"A world is collapsing before our eyes," tweeted the French ambassador to the USA, Gerard Araud, as it became clear Trump had won. He deleted it later but he was right, of course. As I watched, I suddenly felt sure that the election of Trump, with all his grave faults, was a last-minute victory for common sense in America and Europe.
But, if I hadn't thought that then, the reaction of his opponents in the USA and in Europe would have convinced me. One or two of the craziest American 'liberals' talk of resistance (armed?) or of killing Trump. 

The New York Times ran a piece by Californian Daniel Duane who said of his fellow Californians, "nearly everyone I know would vote yes tomorrow if we could secede" from the United States. These are the people who are horrified by Confederate flags.

The mainstream liberals compare the result to September 11 and routinely compare the President elect to Hitler or Mussolini. The liberal papers print misleading nonsense and untruths, while complaining about fake (conservative) news, which Twitter is trying to suppress by blocking Breitbart writers etc. 

Liberal tears were enjoyable, but now the power of the liberal American establishment begins to frighten me.
Trump and his first appointments are extremely Philo-Semitic and supportive of Israel, intend scrapping the accommodation with Iran (which saddens me) and yet are accused of being Anti-Semites, without any rational grounds.
Gerard Baker in the Spectator said that condemnation of Trump’s victory was taken up like the call of the muezzin from the media’s minarets.
"Much of New York City stumbled around in the fog of mourning. The principal of the school to which a colleague sends his child sent a note to parents explaining how the school would lead their children through their grief. ‘And now when we most want to weep and mourn, we must come to work and be a source of both solace and inspiration to all our young students,’ it said." 

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Is the decadent West in terminal decline?

An article in Xinhua, the state-controlled Chinese news agency said that the US election shows 
the twisted mentality of an empire moving downhill.
That makes sense, though I think it is Europe that is in decline much more than America.

Christopher Booker in the Telegraph thinks the same. In an article headlined

It doesn't matter who wins the US election. The decadent West is in terminal decline
he says :
...Britons of the early Fifties could see the society this revolution has now brought about, with half of our children born out of wedlock, same-sex marriage, the all-pervasive cult of empty celebrity, the rise of intolerant “political correctness”, the woefully diminished standing of our politicians, our ever-rising sea of national debt, they would reel back in horror at our “decadence”.
The period since 2000 has been as dramatic as the one 1985-2000. The disastrous wars of the last fifteen years have diminished the standing of the West, while its economic dominance of the world lessens. The euro, immigrants and terrorism pose huge, insoluble problems for Europe. 

This reminds me of historians Neagu Djuvara's and Bernard Lewis's conviction that Europe's inescapable destiny is to become Muslim.

The fact that Europe, more united than at any time since the fall of Rome, feels it requires American, British and Canadian help to defend itself is very telling.


I increasingly feel that we may be living in a period like the reign of Marcus Aurelius, the golden age where Gibbon starts his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Come to think of it, there is something of an outlandish late Roman emperor about Donald Trump, perhaps a rich wheat importer who got his position in an auction held by the Praetorian guard. 


As Goldsmith put it,
Ill fares the land, to hastening ills a prey,
Where wealth accumulates, and men decay.

Europe has been in relative decline since the late 19th century and no longer enjoys the ascendancy that it once did, measured in all ways, over the rest of the world. Clearly this process is continuing. On the other hand, Europeans are enjoying in many ways a golden age, as are most parts of the world, measured not only in material but in many other terms.

But think how few great men Europe (and the West in general) has produced since 1945, outside the spheres of technology, medicine and hard science. Who are the great writers, painters, composers, philosophers?

Christianity is flourishing in Africa, China and Korea, but Islam is flourishing in Europe. Europe is flourishing vicariously in the former British colonies of the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, but they are becoming much less European, less Christian and more multicultural. The old order changeth.

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Conversation with a Professor of International Relations

This is a Facebook conversation with the same professor who, months ago, said to me "I reject the idea of countries".  He's a German, though he thinks that's irrelevant. The beautiful, unworldly spirituality and idealism of the Germans continues to so much harm. Twice they destroyed Europe by insane nationalism and now they seem to be doing so by insane internationalism. 



Prof: And yet the Home Office wants to send asylum seekers from Mosul back to Iraq



Me: Europe unfortunately has to stop taking asylum seekers - we can pay for them to be put in camps or poor countries - this will weed out the many economic refugees. The alternative is a complete transformation of Europe over the next century, unwanted by Europeans, and the end of ethnic states.


Bystander: Strange position for an emigre to take. What makes you such a special human being?



Me: Well I wish there were only 300 foreigners in Romania as in early 90s but those days are gone. We are not many though, max 100,000 all told out of 20 million - perhaps much fewer.


Prof: Foreigners are just people. I find all of this deeply repulsive

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Breasts are very powerful things. Discuss.


What a great general paper question for undergraduate historians that would make.


Off the top of my head, I'd mention Lola Montez (whose bust measured 50 inches) and the Bavarian revolution of 1848. 


Lola Montez was a courtesan and dancer, famous for her 'spider dance', which involved her being forced to disrobe because of a spider that crawled into her dress. Lola Montez was her stage name. She was an Irishwoman of good family and her real name was Marie Gilbert. She was a liberal (by the standards of Germany at the time) and, in the year in which she was King Ludwig's mistress and had a lot of power in Bavaria, she made an enemy of the Jesuits and the Church. Her unpopularity led to her royal lover losing his throne.

Had her bust been smaller, as someone said of Cleopatra's nose...

I was meant to be a historian.

I know about her bust from a curious 19th century medical book that I once dipped into. She approached the author, a doctor, to see if she could have her breasts reduced in size.


Of course tastes in beauty change. I think a character in a Noel Coward play said that when you see photographs of women who are well attested to have made entire trainfuls of men spontaneously stand up to look you find that they look like men themselves. I fail to see from photographs why many women were considered famous beauties, including Marie of Romania, who modestly said  that she was not necessarily the most beautiful woman in Europe but she was certainly the most beautiful queen.

There are some unflattering pictures of Lola but this one explains why the King of Bavaria was captivated.


Image result for lola montez


A true conservative


"If there is a class war—and there is—it is important that it should be handled with subtlety and skill. ... it is not freedom that Conservatives want; what they want is the sort of freedom that will maintain existing inequalities or restore lost ones."Maurice Cowling, "The Present Position," Conservative Essays , Portillo ed., 1978.

I read Conservative Essays as a VIth Former with fascination and agreed with much of it but disliked a certain amount. This cumbrous sentence shocked me when I read it aged 18. I still don't believe in class war (though he was writing in the 1970s) but I do believe inequality and hierarchy are good and necessary things.

Maurice Cowling wrote in 1981 to the editors of the London Review of Books,

“Argument is not what it seems to me suitable to do with opinions. What one does with opinions—all one needs to do with them, having found that one has them—is to enjoy them, display them, use them, develop them, in order to cajole, press, bully, soothe, and sneer other people into sharing (or being affronted by) them. To argue them is, it seems to me, a very vulgar, debating-society sort of activity.”
How very much I wish I had gone to Peterhouse and been taught by him and by the great Edward Norman.

I am very certain that were he alive Cowling would be a strong supporter of Donald Trump.

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Assuming Trump loses, what next for the American right?

Megyn Kelly, seen here worrying about how Donald Trump views women as sex objects.


I never liked Trump and I no longer think he will do. Many of Trump's ideas (perhaps we should call them attitudes) on the other hand I do like.

The real story of 2016 is the cultural revolution against internationalism in America and Europe. Assuming Trump loses (possibly in a landslide), he will have steered the Republicans in a new direction. Will he be the forerunner of a new politics and culture or simply make the GOP brand toxic?

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Today I have lived in Romania for 18 years


I just checked on a 1998 calendar. Today I have lived in Romania 18 years. The first two crawled past because every day was so strange. The last 16 flew. I am very grateful to live here, in this country that still enchants me, but wish the years would slow down.

Why am I happy to have spent so many years here? I wrote this article called 25 reasons why I love living in Romania, in no particular order which has received 107,000 clicks so far. 

110,000 now.

This is a picture by Octav Dragan of the street in the old town where I live. 



I don't think this was taken recently, as it's now full of huge potholes three years after the asphalt was resurfaced at great public expense. Thank God it's not too gentrified, though a club and a restaurant have appeared and, worst of all, at one point a Souvenir Shop. Dread words (I am becoming Wallace Arnold, I know.) Still gypsies still wander around the street in dressing gowns.



Quotations for Tuesday


"Life is not a journey, it's like a musical. The point isn't to arrive, but to dance and sing whilst the music plays." Alan Watts, the philosopher

"The secret of success is constancy to purpose." Benjamin Disraeli

"It wounds a man less to confess that he has failed in any pursuit through idleness, neglect, the love of pleasure, etc., etc., which are his own faults, than through incapacity and unfitness, which are the faults of his nature." Lord Melbourne 

My head says Hillary will win and my intuition says Trump



For months my head has told me Hillary will win and my intuition said Trump.

Whoever wins, Donald Trump has dismantled the old ghastly Republican party of the early 21st century, which took votes from poor people and sent their sons to die in unnecessary wars. 


How wonderful that Mr Trump accused George W Bush of deliberate lying to justify invading Iraq and still won the nomination resoundingly.

But, in truth, Donald Trump destroyed nothing - the old Republican Party was a dead man standing. Had it not been, Trump would not have won the nomination or come close.


What was conservative about George W Bush? Nothing, except low taxes for the well-off. He spent like a sailor and was blase about legal and illegal immigrants. Worst of all for a

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Things will change radically, but we do not yet know how

Things will change radically but we do not yet know how. Trump and Sanders are part of the change, Hillary not.

Things are changing around the developed world in ways in which it is impossible to understand. Donald Trump is a brilliant politician, or if you prefer, charlatan. (The two are not always distinct.) But he has achieved this amazing degree of success only because he represents and guides powerful forces, whose inchoate ideas he expresses or appears to express.

On the other hand, the people 
Donald Trump represents, middle class (which in the USA means lower-middle and working-class) white Americans, are a smaller and smaller part of the electorate each year, so this might be their last chance.

I think that this great change in thinking is very hopeful.

Interesting insights about Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton


"If you listen closely to Trump, you’ll hear a direct repudiation of the system of globalization and identity politics that has defined the world order since the Cold War. There are, in fact, six specific ideas that he has either blurted out or thinly buried in his rhetoric: (1) borders matter; (2) immigration policy matters; (3) national interests, not so-called universal interests, matter; (4) entrepreneurship matters; (5) decentralization matters; (6) PC speech—without which identity politics is inconceivable—must be repudiated."

Joshua Mitchell, Donald Trump Does Have Ideas—and We’d Better Pay Attention to Them



"Trump’s voters sense the system is rigged against them. This does not mean they blame blacks for their problems. Nor do they have any language for describing themselves as victims of racism. They may be deeply hurt or embarrassed by accusations of bigotry. Perhaps that is Hillary’s thinking in calling them a ‘basket of deplorables’. In an aspirational country where much of the middle class is downwardly mobile and taking its signals from television, people are terrified of exhibiting attitudes thought of as low-class. If Trump himself has recently been pitching for black support, starting in a church in Detroit in September, it may be less to win over black voters than to put his own white voters at ease."

Christopher Caldwell, Trump is right about America’s rigged system


“Most blacks don’t see Donald Trump as a Republican; they see him as blunt-talking

Monday, 12 September 2016

The fall of Hillary Clinton



Democrats wonder and worry: Why isn’t Clinton far ahead of Trump?


was the Washington Post headline on Friday.


Mrs Clinton had not given a press conference 
until last week for 270 days, and when she did it was not noteworthy. In that time she had made some very dull speeches and disappeared for days between appearances. Most of those 'appearances' were behind closed doors, raising funds from rich Democrats. When she finally let the press into her latest fundraiser, for homosexuals, it proved her undoing.
“You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump's supporters into what I call the 'basket of deplorables'. Right? The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic — you name it.”
It raised loud laughter, but it wasn't funny and she isn't laughing now.

2016 will be remembered for a lot of things but, apart from anything else, it was the year when the electors started to get blamed by the politicians and political activists for

Thursday, 8 September 2016

People would hate Jesus much more than Mother Teresa

The Pope canonised Mother Teresa, now St Teresa of Calcutta, on Sunday, which produced an outpouring of loathing and hatred for the new saint in the social media and the English left-of-centre quality papers. 

This is nothing to what people would say about the Second  ... 

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

English journey






Robert Frost said home is where, if you have to go there, they have to take you in. I didn't have to go to England but went because Brexit made me realise not how much I love my country - I knew that very well every day - but how rarely I visited. 


And I like to go to politically exciting places like Iran, Pakistan and North Korea. This summer that meant the UK. 

And I still haven't written up my journey. Here's a start.

I arrived in England at midnight. I had bought a ticket with Easyjet from Nice to Luton and a room in a mediaeval hotel in St Albans. This was not a good idea as my plane was delayed over an hour and I was told I was lucky. Easyjet planes are often delayed three hours.

St Albans. The staff at the station, who had never heard of my hotel, the best known in the town, told me it was too far to walk, which it was not. I ordered a minicab from a dreamy and rather sweet Kashmiri with a beard that stretched almost to his waist. He told me there was a large Muslim community in the St Albans. He had been to Kashmir a number of times and felt equally Pakistani and British.

St Albans is one of the loveliest old towns in England. And a great place to stay if you visit England, as it is very close by train to London but very far away indeed, its buildings Georgian and earlier. It existed, of course, in Roman times, when St Alban was martyred.

Lunch in Inner Temple with two charming people mourning the referendum result and dinner with a friend whose life's work Brexit represented. She, like all the really passionately anti-EU people I know in Britain, is Jewish. I don't think this has any significance, except to disprove the idea that Jews are less patriotic than other people.

What fun Soho is, how beautiful and serious the women are. Morally serious, I mean, not unlaughing. The intelligent people in their late 20s are what make every city. The ones in London are very impressive, unarrogant, stylish but modest. 

England is the best country in the world and nowadays has lovelier women than Romania, although this is partly because the hot Romanian girls are now mostly in London (you, gentle female Romanian reader in Bucharest, are, of course, the exception).

Dinner the next night with a City friend, a former young fogey and strongly Brexit. He said, ruefully, 

Bismarckiana


The statesman's task is to hear God's footsteps marching through history, and to try and catch on to His coattails as He marches passes by.

Laws are like sausages. It's better not to see them being made.

Fools say that they learn by experience. I prefer to profit by others' experience.

People never lie so much as after a hunt, during a war, or before an election.



Man cannot control the current of events. He can only float with them and steer. 

A proletariat of graduates.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Talking to people in England about Brexit

I thought of going to Iran but in the end I decided that the most interesting place to go, since I like holidaying in political hotspots, was England – with a two day stop in Nice where eighty innocent people had been mowed down by a Tunisian immigrant a few days earlier.

And, of course, England is the most astonishingly beautiful country. It has the most beautiful countryside in Europe, even more beautiful than Romania’s. It has wonderful summer weather. Meaning temperate. I speak the language, better than my compatriots. And it has so many wonderful cathedrals and churches, albeit much damaged by the Reformation. And full of such nice people, much nicer than in the 1980s.

So, my first summer holiday in England after emigrating to Romania eighteen years ago.
But I wanted to know what people thought of Brexit. I arrived a month after the referendum, when people were almost getting used to the result. It almost felt old news except people were still in shock

What did I find?

My very inscientific survey. Most (not all) nice people were Brexit. The nice people who voted Remain tended to do so mostly from fear not enthusiasm, pragmatism not ideals.

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Monaco is expensively cheap - Nice is nice - Vermiglia is heaven

I spent two days in Nice on my way to England to check out the reasons for the massacre there. There were several more killings by Muslims in Europe before and after I arrived.

Nice is enchanting, even though seaside resorts usually repel me, but I missed the opportunity to go to the public housing areas or talk to enough people about the massacre that had taken place so recently. Flowers piled up at the grandstand at a memorial for the dead. My waiter at the Hotel Negresco was traumatised by seeing children killed before his eyes as he served guests in the garden beside
the Promenade des Anglais

What did I expect to learn?  It seemed the France of films, books and paintings. Some women in headscarves. Not very many. I was told Muslims do not live in a specific part of town. I should have found out more but I was on holiday and it was very hot.

Nice is cheap to get to and its gracious early nineteenth century architecture is exhilarating. A great, quick and very beautiful train ride takes you along wonderful coast to Monaco, Menton and Italy.


Monaco I had been warned was awful and it is dull and ugly, slightly like Durres in Albania, but with less interesting people. A friend who grew up in Monaco told me it was

Thursday, 18 August 2016

The plan is a Europe with open borders and without nation states


Ulrike Guérot the "Founder and Director of the European Democracy Lab", at the European School of Governance in Berlin, said in an interview in Deutsche Welle that 
the existence of nation states is in itself one of the biggest problems with the European project. 
She went on to say that Angela Merkel was right to let in the migrants, but did it the wrong way. She should have consulted the other EU countries first. The second point is true. 

According to Frau Guerot, the influx of migrants into Europe is not a problem caused by the EU, but this is not quite right. Were it not for Schengen, far fewer migrants would

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Brexit was the right decision, but we are treading on other people’s dreams



I had dinner last night with a wonderful, young, idealistic Romanian lawyer who has been traumatised (really) by the decision of a country she loves to abandon the European project she passionately believes in. I didnt realise some young Romanians feel this way but they do and very many good people in Britain and Europe feel the same for the sort of reasons I respect - idealistic, noble ones.

Lots more British people worry about how it will affect the economy, which I very much understand.

But a fair few people in Britain on the left feel like Ed Vulliamy in this article in The Guardian (where else?). They hate Brexit because they don't like Britain and want it to stop being so British. This is also a strong reason why they are in favour of lots of immigrants Coming to the U.K.

"For me, departure from Europe was a given: in the tea leaves at a deep and mainstream cultural level beyond the slaughter at Heysel stadium and serial record of England’s football fans, or politicians’ Eurosceptic ranting. It was in the tarot cards of those bulimic, retarded royal occasions – jubilee, wedding, babies; in the sickly nostalgia of The King’s Speech; in the Olympic Games and Boris’s parachute – like Ukip on bad acid. Above all, over the crisis of wretched refugees and migrants, it howled from the pages of newspapers like the Sun, which has never lost an election and wasn’t going to lose this one... 
On the slipstream of empire, I’ve always thought – to the point of treason – of my British passport as a “burden of shame” as UB40 so eloquently put it, “a British subject, not proud of it”. Now, trying to cling on in “the continent”, it is just a downright embarrassment – not only a badge of shame, but also, worse in a way, of pointless, bellicose imbecility."
He is right about one thing - Brexit now feels like it was inevitable, although unlike him I did not expect it.

Some Romanians think our leaving the EU is 'selfish' and we should stay to make the EU a better institution, particularly for Romania's sake. Many (most?) Romanians seem to think Brexit is about racism directed towards East Europeans. The Romanian executive I had lunch with today thinks that, though he said he thought racism was normal. A few admire Britain's courage in leaving. 

In the late nineteenth century Romanian intellectuals looked to France as a source of ideals on which to model themselves, as Lucian Boia pointed out, whereas most Romanians liked the EU because it spends money spent on the country and because they prefer to be ruled by Westerners rather than their own politicians (they are right to do so). However things are changing and a number of Romanians in their twenties believe in European unity. Which makes good sense viewed from Bucharest.


It is not only British freedom that is a romantic idea. The EU has its poetry too. Unfortunately those beautiful ideals segue into ideas like this, expressed by a German Professor of International Relations who moulds the minds of young people at a British university.
I understand the term foreigner but I reject it as retrograde. I don't perceive myself as a foreigner, or any of the people I know. I reject the idea of countries and boundaries should be transcended as much as possible. The very nature of states or countries has changed dramatically. Borders limit human freedom, they are social constructs that need to change. From an IR point of view, the purpose of international institutions is to alter the behaviour of states so that they cooperate rather than purely pursue national interest because the latter results in conflict.....I see the EU as a vanguard promoting freedom of movement which in the future should encompass the world.
This is Romantic with a vengeance - the kind of ideas that the French Revolution produced in the minds of the sillier readers of Romantic poetry.

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Just Eton boys, grown heavy

I've always loved these lines by Praed, although I did not go to Eton. I wonder if David Cameron does and find them consoling now.

In Parliament I fill my seat,
With many other noodles;
And lay my head in Jermyn Street,
And sip my hock at Boodles.
But often, when the cares of life
Have set my temples aching,
When visions haunt me of a wife,
When duns await my waking ...
I wish that I could run away
From House, and Court, and Levee,
Where bearded men appear today
Just Eton boys, grown heavy;
That I could bask in childhood’s sun,
And dance o’er childhood’s roses,
And find huge wealth in one pound one,
Vast wit in broken noses;
And play Sir Giles at Datchet Lane,
And call the milk-maids Houris;
That I could be a boy again,
A happy boy, at Drury’s.


Praed evidently enjoyed Eton despite the floggings. I tend more to side with Philip Larkin who said, 'When I was a child I thought I hated the human race, but when I grew up I realised it was only children I couldn't stand.' 

Of course I love children now that I am no longer at their mercy.

Friday, 15 July 2016

Does Nice massacre mean Trump has won? Probably



84 people have been killed in Nice by a lorry that late last night ploughed through crowds gathered for the Bastille Day celebrations. The killer is said, unsurprisingly, to have shouted 'Allahu Akbar' before being shot dead by police. It means Trump will probably win.


Will Marine Le Pen win too? I doubt that, because the other parties will combine to prevent it.


Who knew Nice and the South of France is (so said the BBC's Justin Webb on Radio 4) "a hotbed"? He paused and didn't say a hotbed of what, but it was clear from what he went on to say that he meant of Muslim extremism.

What terrible mistakes France and Europe have made.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Kissing hands - Theresa May becomes the Queen's 13th Prime Minister





Mrs. May kissed hands yesterday and undertook to form a ministry. I wonder what the Queen thinks of her.

The Queen couldn't bear Mrs. Thatcher and I very much doubt she liked Mr. Brown - he has no small talk. She beamed when Cameron kissed hands. Churchill was her favourite. 


At the audience after Mr. Reagan invaded Grenada Mrs Thatcher was not invited to sit down.

Of course Mr. Gladstone never was, not even when 80. As a special favour Dizzy was as he grew frailer. I wonder whether King Edward VII started asking his prime ministers to sit. His first Lord Salisbury, was 71 when Edward VII ascended the throne.


What a shame Prime Ministers now sit down. It's important to keep them in their place.

By the way Andrew Schrader tell me that "Privy Council meetings are still conducted with everyone standing, allegedly because Her Majesty likes them to be quick and businesslike and doesn't want all those privy counsellors lounging around thinking they have all the time in the world.."

The royal family mocked Mrs. Thatcher's deep curtseys but Churchill's bows were deep.


When Clare Short went to kiss hands on becoming a cabinet minister, her mobile telephone rang and she rummaged through her large bag, spewing the contents on the floor, before finding the telephone. As she did so it rang off. The Queen, in what Matthew Parris called the greatest moment in her reign, said sweetly, "I do hope it wasn't anyone important."

Saturday, 2 July 2016

Disraeli, Burke, Macaulay and Shakespeare would have voted Leave

"In a progressive country change is constant; and the great question is not whether you should resist change which is inevitable, but whether that change should be carried out in deference to the manners, the customs, the laws and the traditions of a people, or whether it should be carried out in deference to abstract principles, and arbitrary and general doctrines." 

Disraeli, who would have campaigned for Leave. So would Burke, Macaulay and Dr. Johnson. Churchill probably would have been Remain. Shakespeare, of course, would have been Leave. 

The world before 23rd June has gone forever


The world before 23rd June has gone forever.


Peter Oborne likens the referendum result to the Arab Spring. Curiously he means that in a good way.

What we do know is that the referendum will not be held again, despite the march in London today seeking exactly that. Two thirds of the population think it would be wrong, apart from any other consideration.

The FTSE 100 index of the UK's 100 largest public companies closed at a ten month high yesterday, while, strange to say, European stock markets were down. Early days, of course, but we are not yet eating grass and burning sticks for fire.


I recommend sociologist Frank Furedi's very good analysis here of what has been a culture war. It is very true that very many Remain voters simply do not know anyone who voted Leave. But it is a mistake to see the divide as a class one. (Not very many fewer graduates voted Leave as Remain, after all.) The divide is a cultural one. As Frank Furedi says:
Over the past 40 years, the political establishment and cultural elites have successfully dispossessed the others. They assumed a monopoly over what could and could not be said and stigmatised the norms and values associated with working-class culture as masculinist, xenophobic, racist, homophobic, backward, irredeemably outdated, and so on. The one area where the conflict of values remained unresolved was that of national sovereignty. And the rejection of the EU indicates that at least on the question of national sovereignty and democratic representation, the influence of elite cosmopolitan culture is insecure; indeed, it now stands exposed.
I see this in the Remainers I talk to. Some dislike a lot of things about Britain and Brexit summarises the things they don't like. It was this culture war which made me suppress my doubts and decide I wanted us to leave.

It is a cultural revolution. Also a political one and an economic one.

This is the mother of all crises, but is a equally a crisis for the whole EU. After the Austrian court's decision to rerun the Austrian presidential election I start to think this is like 1989. I can see the EU falling apart. Unless they rethink things fundamentally - but they just cannot do that, any more than the USSR could.

Clearly the UK needs a new leader. I didn't blog about the Shakespearean events of Thursday, but they started with Gove stabbing Boris in the front and continued with Boris falling on his sword. Gove is accused of betrayal. 


I am sure he is not Machiavellian, even though he certainly did for Boris and Cameron. People standing next to Gove do seem often to end up dead, but this is a qualification for the premiership.

If Gove destroyed Cameron and Boris what chance does Juncker stand with him.

However, his humility in not deciding to stand a week ago, but instead becoming Boris's adjutant will mean MPs and party members think him treacherous. 

"I did almost everything not be a candidate for the leadership of this party", he said in his speech announcing he was a candidate and I believe him. The Tory party doesn't.

I think both Boris and Gove come out of all this well. I think Gove converted Boris to Leave at a dinner party on February 16,  at which they and their wives sat down with the newspaper owner Evgeny Lebedev to discuss politics. By the end of the night Mr Gove had persuaded Boris, who like many people was undecided, to Leave.

I am perhaps naive but think neither have been Machiavellian and I love both, but Boris is not Prime Minister material.  Gove, by sabotaging him, did the country a great service. 
If his wife persuaded him to stand she did well. 

Some people fear we might end up ruled by Mrs. Gove, if her husband becomes Prime Minister. We could do worse, I suppose. Sam Cam destroyed Libya and made us accept 20,000 migrants. Some say Hillary persuaded Bill not to buy Osama from the Taliban. Time was when wives organised dinner parties and Fridays to Mondays at Chequers. 

Gove is, and it is vital that the next Prime Minister is, a Brexiter and has principles. 

I like him very much for saying “people in this country have had enough of experts”. We want to be ruled by elected politicians not experts. Experts created the EU, the Euro, tower blocks, comprehensive schools, the financial crisis of 2008 onwards.


Gove would make a fine Prime Minister. He believes in Brexit and in public service - and he cares more about class inequality than anyone on the Labour benches. But I think he may have lost the chance, which is tragic. 

Perhaps Andrea Leadsom is the Brexiter with the best chance, but though she had a great career in the City she does not have much political experience and has none of Gove's or Boris's eloquence.

Talking about elites, City types, professional men and CEOs are only a part of it. I imagine most hereditary peers voted Out, though, as few now sit in the House of Lords, there's no way of knowing.  I bet the Queen, who "purred down the phone" when David Cameron told her the Scots had voted to stay in the UK is purring once more.

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Like him or not, Nigel Farage is responsible for Brexit


Image result for if there is hope proles

Brexit is the biggest shock in my lifetime.

I said to the Portuguese ambassador last week, talking about I forget what EU policy, 'It's up to you, of course. We're off on Thursday". 


He gave me the smile a corpse gives the undertaker. But I didn't think for one moment that we really would be off. I went to bed at 3 yesterday morning unhappy, thinking Remain had won and was frozen in amazement at 6.45 the next day to open my browser and see the BBC call it for Leave.

I admit my feelings were mixed. Astonishment, pleasure but some fear too.

The electorate have let down the politicians very badly.

When the revolution finally came most (not all) of the left-wing middle class found they were on the side of the rich and the banks. Funny how things turn out.


It's a bit like when the crisis of capitalism finally occurred in 2008, as Stalin had predicted, and the far left was not there to take advantage. The centre-right not the left benefited. The old party divisions that we have had since the 1920s increasingly make less sense.

Nigel Farage is the man who did this. But poor David Cameron and Angela Merkel played equal parts. 

Whatever you think of him and you might loathe him, Nigel Farage, who is the reason this referendum was called, is one of the two politicians in post-1945 British history who changed the country the most. The other, of course, being Edward Heath.

The story of how an amateur, home-made, Ealing comedy party like UKIP, widely despised, directly or indirectly took Britain out of the EU is extraordinary. If it were a novel people would throw it away in disgust as absurdly far-fetched.

The same is true of the stories of Trump, Corbyn, the million migrants crossing Europe, the bizarre American row over transgender lavatories, ISIS, September 11th and so much else. God is not obliged to consider probabilities.

Mr Farage's referendum was hijacked by others and it's good that it was. I am reminded of what Reagan said, that there is no limit to what a man can do if he is content for others to take the credit.

He was not allowed to be part of the official Leave campaign, who were frightened he would make their brand toxic. in the eyes of many he would have done, but he had the wisdom to push immigration into the forefront of the campaign, knowing it was a much better issue for Leave than the economy. 

On the economy, Leave could not stand up to David Cameron's carefully choreographed Project Fear, but immigration let the Leave side instil its own share of fear. Making a major issue of Britain's support for Turkish membership of the EU must have won Leave many votes. It boxed David Cameron into a corner and showed him to have been very economical with the truth. It also enabled Leave to elide concerns about European and non-European immigration, although Brexit will not reduce and may increase non-European immigration.

I saw very few speeches during this campaign and none by Mr Farage, but this one, which i watched today, is remarkably good. He is a better speaker even than Messrs. Gove or Johnson. Why do many people in the UK dislike him so much? He predicted that "this will be a turnout referendum" and he was right. They were queuing round the block to vote. 

I am lost in admiration for the courage of the British people. It took a lot of courage to vote Leave. People thought very hard and in many cases changed and unchanged their minds.

It was absolutely not a result made on a whim, or from prejudice or knee-jerk reactions or to punish the government or taken unthinkingly. It was made very thoughtfully and there was an amazingly high turnout. No-one knows exactly what issues were in the minds of Brexit voters but they were surely many. 


It was not a plebiscite on immigration, though that was important. I think people didn't like being ruled by foreigners.

Had the referendum been held in a couple of years' time Brexit would have lost, because older voters were inclined to Leave and younger ones, educated in the pieties of internationalism and EU idealism, inclined to Remain. 

I am convinced that it will be hugely helpful to the rest of the EU. We might just have saved Europe from a totalitarian future once more.


I want to quote (again) these lines by Philip Larkin.




Sometimes you hear, fifth-hand,

As epitaph:

He chucked up everything

And just cleared off,

And always the voice will sound

Certain you approve

This audacious, purifying,

Elemental move.