Sunday, 21 July 2019

More Brexit

Think back five years: how bored we all were with the dull political consensus and how we wished for a change in the established order. Isn’t it great that we got what we wanted?
Rod Liddle in the Sunday Times today

At a seminar at King’s College, London shortly after the 2016 EU referendum, Takis Tridimas, a professor of European Law at King’s said that the result represented the most significant constitutional event in the UK since the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, since it showed that on the issue of Europe, the sovereignty of the people trumped the sovereignty of Parliament. Of course, from a legal point of view, the referendum was merely advisory, but the government committed itself to respecting the result and the outcome was seen by the majority of MPs as decisive. Since June 2016, therefore, both government and parliament have been enacting a policy to which they are opposed. That is a situation unprecedented in our long constitutional history. Europe, therefore, has been responsible for the introduction of a new concept into the UK constitution, the sovereignty of the people. On this issue, the people have in effect become a third chamber of Parliament, issuing instructions to the other two. The sovereignty of Parliament is now being constrained not by Brussels, but by the people.
Vernon Bogdanor, February 27 2019 in his LSE blog.

John Ruskin: All good architecture is the expression of national life and character

All good architecture is the expression of national life and character; and it is produced by a prevalent and eager national taste, or desire for beauty.

John Ruskin's words in Traffic, an essay written under the influence of Carlyle, are a very harsh condemnation of modern Romania. The Communist buildings after the Stalin era are very bad, except for perhaps the ones that Ceausescu built along the Boulevard of the Victory of Socialism but many  buildings built since the Revolution are equally ugly but in a  different way. Political analyst Sorin Ionita said the road from the airport to Bucharest resembles a Pakistani Las Vegas.

Ruskin's words are an equally harsh condemnation of Britain in the twenty-five years before Margaret Thatcher. Public and private architecture hugely improved after she took office, when architects stopped building things that accorded with their modernist principles and started building things purely to make money. Looking back, though I disliked her at the time, this is a persuasive proof that she changed the country deeply and for the better.

Saturday, 20 July 2019


A lie may fool someone else but it tells you the truth, you're weak.

Tom Wolfe

Metternich told lies all the time, and never deceived any one; Talleyrand never told a lie and deceived the whole world.

Lord Macaulay

Fame is the sum of all the misunderstandings that grow up around a name.

Rainer Maria Rilke

Semites [he is referring to Arabs] had no half-tones in their register of vision. They were a

people of primary colours, or rather of black and white, who saw the world always in contour. They were a dogmatic people, despising doubt, our modern crown of thorns.

Beyond our Ken

I like and respect Kenneth Clarke,  even though he is passionately pro-EU. 

He was one of the left-wing Tories who thought Margaret Thatcher's economics too stern and unbending, as did I. He is one of the great British Prime Ministers we never had and a much better one than Roy Jenkins or Denis Healey. Better probably than Michael Heseltine. 

But how very different a Prime Minister would Mr. Clarke have been from Tony Blair? There would have been lower taxes, no new equality laws, fewer immigrants, but the same enthusiasm for a federal Europe.

Rab Butler was long before my time, though I saw his unmade grave at Saffron Walden strewn with flowers, including a  bouquet and hand-written card signed Charles, from the Prince of Wales. Hugh Gaitskell, who opposed joining the EEC, was even even longer ago. Had Labour's Peter Shore, a Brexiteer avant la lettre, been Prime Minister he might have been best of all. 

Mr. Clarke dictated his memoirs with a cigar and glass of brandy in the lonely evenings after he was widowed. Of course the book, Kind of Bluepublished under the chummy name 'Ken Clarke', reads like that. 

I picked it up in a remaindered bookshop and leafed through it so that you don't have to. 


An online friendship does not feel, to me, like friendship. It feels like an ever-receding touch.

Tanya Gold, Guardian October 14 2018 

If Facebook is for lying about being happy, Twitter is for lying about being right. It is exhausting.

It is my (admittedly mildly eccentric) belief that Brexit is not just about sovereignty; on a subconscious level, some of us are trying to claw our way out of a much more serious existential abyss. The companies of the future, like FaceApp and Neural Link, as well as Brussels, are trying to impose on us a disturbingly unchecked, unaccountable definition of human ‘progress’.

Tanya Gold on Boris and Alison Pearson on Hunt

Tanya Gold annoys me. She accused John Cleese of racism because he said the media in England is run by "half-educated tenement Scots". She is always accusing people of racism. It is her metier. But her account in Unherd of Boris Johnson at the Tories' 'final hustings' in the Docklands is funny and perceptive. She can write.
“The fantastic ExCeL building!” he shouted, waving at the interior of this massive shed, as if it were the Royal Albert Hall at the Last Night of the Proms. He can gild ExCel, is his message. He can gild anything, even darkness: it is always darkest, he reminded us, before the dawn. He meant: Brexit is the dawn....
He gave the stripping look – I would love you if I could – to a woman who asked about debt management. Does he save money? “I’ve certainly spent a lot,” he said. He might have said: “I’ve earned a lot”. It is more Tory. “I’ve spent a lot” is more Trumpian. It says: live through me, for I am a scruffy faux-aristocrat who has known hot women. I am effortless.

Thursday, 18 July 2019

Brexit negotiations

The cardinal sin was that David Cameron told civil servants not to make a contingency plan in case Leave won the referendum. 

Had they made one it might have been the Norway option and everything would be very different now. 

We'd have left for one thing and on good terms with the EU - and with  no economic problems.

Michel Barnier said yesterday that Theresa May never threatened leaving the EU with no deal during the negotiations.

Martin Selmayr said yesterday that no-one took the possibility of the UK leaving with no deal seriously because they knew no preparations had been made by the UK. This was a

Three quotations

"The Apollo program was designed by men, for men. If we do not acknowledge the gender bias of the early space program, it becomes difficult to move past it."
New York Times article yesterday

“If I were an Arab leader, I would never sign an agreement with Israel. It is normal; we have taken their country. It is true God promised it to us, but how could that interest them? Our God is not theirs. There has been Anti-Semitism, the Nazis, Hitler, Auschwitz, but was that their fault? They see but one thing: we have come and we have stolen their country. Why would they accept that?”
David Ben-Gurion (the first Israeli Prime Minister): Quoted by Nahum Goldmann in Le Paraddoxe Juif (The Jewish Paradox), pp121.

“Over the centuries, intellectuals and public thinkers in Europe have been ceaselessly selling Protestant theology (albeit dressed in secular clothes) as the summum of human civilisation.”

S. N. Balagangadhara

Trump's knockabout 19th century politics adds to the gaiety of nations

“In America, if you hate our Country, you are free to leave. The simple fact of the matter is, the four Congresswomen think that America is wicked in its origins, they think that America is even more wicked now, that we are all racist and evil. They’re entitled to their opinion, they’re Americans. Now I’m entitled to my opinion, and I just think they’re left wing cranks. They’re the reason there are directions on a shampoo bottle, & we should ignore them. The “squad” has moved the Democrat Party substantially LEFT, and they are destroying the Democrat Party. I’m appalled that so many of our Presidential candidates are falling all over themselves to try to agree with the four horsewomen of the apocalypse. I’m entitled to say that they’re Wack Jobs.” 
These are the words (imagine a drawl) of the irresistible Louisianan Senator John Kennedy (whom we loved in the Judge Kavanaugh hearings). 

They were tweeted yesterday by President Trump.

Donald Trump is having huge fun stirring the pot. It will, of course, help him. It is of course a distraction and a way of shunting the Democrats further leftwards and even further in the direction of identity politics.

Even Democrats can see this but nevertheless they have been triggered.

The Guardian and CNN describe his tweets as racist without inverted commas, though he says nothing about race. 

President Sarkozy made the same point when he said "Love France or leave her", in an election where he was transparently trying to win votes from the Front National. 

Wednesday, 17 July 2019

Theresa May's apologia pro vita sua is her most pedestrian, lifeless speech - but it is her values that repel me

I hate it when politicians talk about values. 

Thank God we shall soon not have Theresa May to listen to but at the moment she is everywhere enjoying the last of her fifteen minutes of fame. Here she addresses an audience of people much cleverer than her at Chatham House about values and says, "the values on which all of our successes have been founded cannot be taken for granted". 

She goes on to talk about "our liberal heritage". 

Does she mean abortion, feminism, homosexual marriage, mass immigration, restrictive employment legislation, high public spending and restrictions on free speech?

Yes, of course she does. 

She is worried about "vile abuse" unchecked leading to fascism and nationalism. She is worried that the internationalist world order and the NHS, "an institution that unites our country" (she makes it sound like the monarchy), are threatened.

I take back every word that I said criticising Margaret Thatcher. She seemed and was mostly interested in free market economics, but she truly believed in the small state and freedom and hated social engineering. 

I see no difference between Theresa May and Tony Blair, Barak Obama or Hillary Clinton, except that the two men are eloquent and can make words work.


  1.   Retweeted
    From St Augustine's Confessions: "In my youth I spake out against sin and evil, and was rightly accused of hate speech. Now, in my old age, I condemn only the climate that changeth and the transphobia of our people."

“America solves problems, Europe manages them...”
John Bolton

"Trump is dangerous because he's not a politician. He may be a fool, but his saving grace may be that his vision is not clouded by an investment in the survival of the political species. He is not of their tribe."
Philip Patrick

"Even Obama in 2014 said asylum claims are not justified for economic reasons. If people are truly in fear for their life, they should apply for asylum in the first country they go to."
Congresswoman Debbie Lesko

I voted to leave the European Union because I wanted to live in an independent country. If required to choose between Brussels and Washington, I will choose Brussels every time.

Transports of delight

“…Formerly, it was the practice for the Boyars, like their ancestors the Scythians, to ride on horseback, from which they seldom were seen dismounted in the streets. It was only about thirty years ago that they adopted the more effeminate habit of riding in carriages; and this practice is congenial to their vain and indolent disposition, that now they would not cross to the opposite side of a street without entering into them. But the circumstance which most distinguishes Bucharest is melancholic dissoluteness of manners among all classes. The town abounds with wine-houses; and, to attract customers, a number of women are kept in each house, who are ready at a call to dance and sing for the guests. To these houses the Boyars repair from their own families and pass their evenings among the most shameless class of females that ever disgraced the sex. In this way it is that Bucharest is rendered infamous for profligacy beyond any other city in Europe. The number of this unfortunate class is so great, that it was proposed to lay a capitation tax to them, as the most profitable source of revenue that could be resorted to and it is expected that the proposal will be carried into effect."

The Reverend Robert Walsh, Narrative of a Journey from Constantinople to England, London, 1828, talking about Bucharest. The whole book is here.

“The beauty of cycling is that you are a part of the world around you — and yet you move through it untouched.”

Boris Johnson

I think that if I could un-invent one feature of modern life, it would be the car. How

Tweets about tweets

Anthony Scaramucci‏Verified account @Scaramucci

Would @realDonaldTrump ever tell a white immigrant - whether 1st, 2nd, 3rd or 4th+ generation - to "go back to your country"? No. That's why the comments were racist and unacceptable. America is a nation of immigrants founded on the ideals of free thought and free speech.

Paulvew‏ @paulica44

America is a country of colonists founded on genocide, slavery and Protestantism. This country of immigrants idea is a 1960s invention. Kennedy to blame.

The best thing I have read about the Pope and Donald Trump

I ask your forgiveness. I do not always pay enough attention to the very interesting people who comment on this blog. 

I shall do so. Toma has led me to what looks at first sight like a remarkably interesting Canadian blogger called David Warren.

Apparently, he used to write for the Ottawa Citizen and since 2012 has written the blog 'Essays in Idleness'.

He said when he began:
Our ambition is to try a blog entitled “Essays in Idleness”; which hyperlinks only sparingly, and always with caution to the MSM; which does not celebrate the incursion of “events”; which may sneer at “breaking news,” ignore the polls, and give no advice in an election; which makes statements that could actually be contradicted, but only by someone who knows something; which rebels against the oppression of “democracy”; then flees from its howling mobs. (…)

Tuesday, 16 July 2019

Let us hope Boris knows how to dance - as Mr Blair did and Mrs May did not

Politics is not chess, or even poker, but dancing. Tony Blair danced beautifully but was never faced with a challenge like this. Boris has to do something terribly hard, to dance us out of the EU.

The boss of Aston Martin that makes the cars that James Bond drives, Andy Palmer, says he prefers Great Britain leaving the EU without a deal to continued uncertainty, even though the car industry will be very badly affected by leaving the Single Market.
“Every time we have to prepare to leave it ties up working capital and brains on something that may or may not happen. First and foremost, I think we now need certainty. I think business was pretty clear that it would prefer a deal with free trade with Europe, and it is true we are looking at a cliff edge without one but at this stage a decision is better than no decision.”
Unfortunately uncertainty will continue for many years whatever the UK does.

Still a decision of some sort has to be taken. 

It has been three years since the referendum, the event that an Independent writer said

Ship without sailors

On 7 May, customs officers in Ostend in Belgium received a box of oysters from West Mersea in the Essex marshes, in England, in case you don't know where my native county is. It came to them across the North Sea, delivered in a 39 foot (12 metre) boat with an aluminium hull and nobody on board. This was the world's first unmanned commercial voyage.

'Yes, we could have a bright no-deal future, but not with this Parliament'

Everything changed in the developed world when the 2008 financial crisis happened and everything will change in the UK again after Brexit.

In his weekly Telegraph article, William Hague argues that a no-deal Brexit, which is a very real possibility, would have to be followed by a general election. It's worth reading. He always is.
'This is actually the biggest problem with a no-deal Brexit: that it would not be possible, without a new and very different parliament, to do what was desperately needed afterwards.'
A no deal Brexit looks more likely today since Boris said yesterday that the backstop had to go completely, not just be limited duration.

Monday, 15 July 2019

Donald Trump trolls the Democrats and Theresa May

Image may contain: 3 people

24 hours ago Donald Trump tweeted,
"So interesting to see “Progressive” Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run. Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how it is done. These places need your help badly, you can’t leave fast enough. I’m sure that Nancy Pelosi would be very happy to quickly work out free travel arrangements!"
I smiled in admiration at the way he uses his opponents' strength against them and they don't see it, ever. 

He inevitably rouses the Democrats to over-the-top outrage, which makes millions voters in middle America side with him faute de mieux

Will his tweet play in Peoria? I don't know where Peoria is, but I imagine it will.

Sunday, 14 July 2019

Boris and the Donald are very masculine - Mrs May is sexless, lacks not just colour but vitality

Freddie Gray writes in this week's Spectator:
 “Unlike Theresa May, Boris has long appreciated the possible upsides of a Trump presidency. He once told a Cabinet minister that he saw Trump as a ‘lifeboat’ that could rescue Brexit. He has also apparently been receptive to the idea — put about by some of Trump’s circle — that after leaving the EU, Britain might join NAFTA. Boris’s ideal scenario would be to persuade the EU that, unless it offers Britain a reasonable deal, Britain stands ready to form an alliance with America.”
Whatever you think of him and whatever you think of Brexit, you have to admit that Great Britain was remarkably lucky that Donald Trump became president of the USA. Mr. Obama said we would be "at the back of the queue" for a trade deal (albeit because David Cameron asked him to, whence the word "queue" not "line") whereas his successor wants one urgently and thinks Brexit a great idea. 

Since Brexit is going to happen this is our great good luck. And yet Theresa May showed no sign of recognising this. Boris will not be such a fool.

Is Boris King Charles I or II?


ir John Major spoke on the Today programme last week about the evils of proroguing parliament. It would be, he said, the first time since Charles I that such an abomination was perpetrated, with civil war the outcome. Those who make eager use of historical analogies are rarely exact in their grasp of the past. The last time parliament was prorogued to get a government measure through was in 1948, during the premiership of the sainted Clement Attlee – a less spine-chilling example, if Sir John had been aware of it.
At various moments in our history, parliament has been treated rather – shall we say, cavalierly? – by governments when it tried to obstruct change. The


Asked on television by Sir Robin Day, after her 1983 election victory and cabinet reshuffle, whether she was a “good butcher”, Margaret Thatcher replied, 

“No, but I have had to learn to carve the joint”.

Chris Arnade, 'Dignity: seeking respect in back row America':

“We have said that education is the way out of pain and the way to success, implying that those who don’t make it are dumb, or lazy, or stupid. This has ensured that all those at the bottom, black, white, gay, straight, men and women, are guaranteed to feel excluded, rejected, and most of all, humiliated.” 

We need someone with the temperament to drive full speed towards No Deal without any thought of using the break. The person most suited to this is Boris.

I see that Bergoglio is having a go at seafarers and fishermen now.

Friday, 12 July 2019

Pope Urban II on Muslims in 1095

"They [the enemies of God] inhabit Asia, the third portion of the world, as their native soil... They hold Africa also, another quarter of the world, already possessed by their arms for more than two hundred years; which, on this account, I pronounce derogatory to Christian honour, because that country was anciently the nurse of celebrated geniuses, who by their divine writings, will mock the rust of antiquity as long as there shall be a person who can relish Roman literature; the learned know the truth of what I say. Europe, the third portion of the world, remains, of which how small a part do we Christians inhabit, for who can call all those barbarians who dwell in remote islands of the frozen ocean Christians, since they live after a savage manner? Even this small portion of the world, belonging to us, the Turks and Saracens oppress. Thus for three hundred years, Spain and the Balearic isles being subjugated to them..."

Thursday, 11 July 2019

Say not the struggle naught availeth

"" ‘Britain not ready for no-deal crash-out, claim experts.’ That was a newspaper headline I saw a couple of weeks ago. It unconsciously encapsulates the Remain mindset. You cannot, by definition, be ready for a crash-out: if you were, no crash would be involved."
Charles Moore in today's Spectator.

So far Boris who should have saved us from Mrs May and a world of pain three years ago seems to be clear sighted. We need to stick close to Donald Trump, of whom she so clearly strongly disapproved. 

We also need close friendships with Italy, Poland, Austria, Czechia and Hungary.

Wednesday, 10 July 2019

Sir Kim Darroch resigns, which reminds me of two jokes

In the past few minutes, Sir Kim Darroch resigned as British Ambassador to what Michael Wharton would have called the American rebels.

Of course, he did nothing wrong. Of course, it is very unfair. 
Of course, he did the right thing by resigning. Of course, Boris Johnson was right not to make a foolish promise not to move him. Relations with Mr Trump are far too important. Of course, journalists who know little and who hate Boris and Donald Trump are humbugs. Of course, television debates are an awful idea at a moment as perilous as this for Great Britain or England or whatever you call my country. 

Four times during last night’s televised debate Johnson was asked to confirm that Sir Kim would keep his job until he was due to leave it in six months' time. Why do TV presenters think it acceptable to badger privy counsellors in this way?

Remember this?

By the way, Boris Johnson whose opinions on all sorts of things are on record going back decades, once accused Mr Trump of a “stupefying ignorance” that makes him “frankly

Monday, 8 July 2019

Boris and the great cause of cheering us up

If he succeeds, there will never have been a party leader who has expressed an opinion on so many things over such a long period of time as Boris Johnson. Except, interestingly, Jeremy Corbyn.

Lord Finkelstein in The Times

"Do you believe in anything? Do you, in fact, have any convictions at all, Boris?"
“Only one — for speeding, but a very long time ago”.

Sonia Purnell in her biography, Just Boris, quoted by Lord Finkelstein

“However ludicrous it may seem, religion sets boundaries, it suggests to bad and loveless people that they are loved. It provides a framework.

"My own faith is a very feeble tinsel object. I sometimes think there might be some kind of celestial radio signal but it is about as intelligible as Radio Tirana.” 

Boris Johnson, November 2006


Tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of fire.

Gustav Mahler, who misattributed it to Thomas More.

The important thing is never to let oneself be guided by the opinion of one's contemporaries; to continue steadfastly on one's way without letting oneself be either defeated by failure or diverted by applause.

Gustav Mahler

Life isn't about finding yourself or finding anything, life is about creating yourself.

Bob Dylan (sometimes misattributed to Shaw)

Saturday, 6 July 2019

R.I.P. Christopher Booker

I was saddened by the death of the great contrarian Christopher Booker, the puppeteer who pulled Dave Spart's strings, the first British journalist who argued for leaving the EU and the most uncompromising of climate change sceptics. 

As an undergraduate at Cambridge, Christopher Booker said his ambitions were to edit a magazine, be on television and marry a duke's daughter. On graduating he became the first editor of Private Eye, a writer and occasional performer on the iconic 1960s satire programme That Was The Week That Was and married the Honourable Emma Tennant, the daughter of Lord Glenconner. None of these things lasted. He wrote a very interesting book called The Neophiliacs.

He thought ‘climate change’ was the biggest scam in the history of the world. James

'Who whom?'

Lenin is supposed to have said at the second All-Russian Congress of Political Education Departments on 17 October 1921, 

"The whole question is—who will overtake whom?"

It was Trotksy and later Stalin who shortened his question to two words 

'Who whom?'

but it is the important question.

Carl Benjamin, blogger (Sargon of Akkad) and UKIP candidate, was visited by the police

during the Euro-elections this year for having in 2016 said of a woman that he “wouldn't even rape” her and then thinking aloud that there again he might. Jo Brand, one of a number of left-wing comics who have never been funny in their careers, said she wanted acid thrown at Nigel Farage instead of milkshakes. Some people complained, but she was

Fiona Hill returns

Theresa May is a weak person who, like most weak people (such as Tsar Nicholas II, for example) is very stubborn. She came completely under the control of two advisers, Nick Timothy and Fiona Hall as Home Secretary and then as Prime Minister, until she lost her majority in the election they egged her on to call and was required by her MPs to fire them.

They were much more powerful than cabinet ministers, whom they addressed with four letter words. Referring to Theresa May's continual talk about eradicating slavery and looking at her and her two advisers Boris Johnson said "That's modern slavery right there." 

They were doubly disastrous.