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."

Monday 11 July 2016

The middle class were not prepared

Overheard in the Athénée half an hour ago. (I hate calling it the Hilton.) 
'How are things in Britain?' 
'The middle classes are still in shock.' 
It is a pleasure to think most of the right of centre and left-wing middle classes have been defeated but in fact it is a bit illusory. 43% of graduates voted Leave. What saddens me is that the FCO will give us EU-lite, because the EU project is their life's mission. I increasingly feel that leaving the single market altogether might be best thing we could do. I also think it is increasingly obvious that leaving the EU is exactly what the British always wanted and the right thing to do. 'Let freedom ring'. 
And a victory for rootedness over citizens of the world. And a victory for people like Roger Scruton, Charles Moore, Douglas Murray and the people of England. We are many, they are not few but slightly fewer than us. It was a glorious victory.

How gracefully Farage conceded defeat a few minutes after 10 p.m. on referendum night after hearing the opinion poll results. Compare and contrast the behaviour of very many vocal Remain supporters, who want Parliament to ignore the result.

I sincerely hope I do not take pleasure in others' misfortunes but the agony of the Remain supporters has it's funny side. 

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.