Monday 24 December 2018

No deal is the least bad deal but I do not think it will happen

'If the EU has – for whatever reasons - decided that it’s time to treat Britain like the captive in a Stephen King novel, isn’t it best to tiptoe away when we still have the chance? Mrs May’s proposed transition deal and the accompanying backstop would, as the Attorney General has established, be indefinite. We’d have to accept the EU’s trade terms, or leave Northern Ireland behind. And if we think Brexit looks like a mess now, just wait until we have been through two more years of these talks - but this time, having given away the money.
'This, I suspect, is why the Cabinet is now coming around to the idea of leaving the EU without a trade agreement: the no-deal option.The World Trade Organisation rules we would default to keep tariffs pretty low. To Brussels, payment of tariffs might be punishment enough. Before too long, we could soon be in talks about upgrading to a Canada-style free trade deal - but, crucially, on our terms. We can offer scholarships, generous immigration quotas and, in general, start rebuilding relations with Europe and skip the two years (or more) of punishment beatings masquerading as trade talks.
'And the scale of the no-deal disruption? It’s hard to tell because of hysteria, claim and counter-claim. Border chaos is not inevitable if, as French officials have said, fewer than one in a hundred trucks would have to be checked at Calais. Common sense arrangements on aircraft, driving licenses and even expat pensioners have already been agreed. In its list of disaster scenarios, the Irish government this week considers the possibility that British companies thrive under no-deal, especially if the pound becomes more competitive, posing a risk to Irish rivals. Its “highest priority” is not building a hard border, and we would not build one either. Technology would do the work.'

I agree with Fraser Nelson, who wrote the above, that leaving the EU with no deal is the least bad option. I could however live with Norway, for a time, though not Norway plus. I fear though that Mrs May's deal which is not a deal at all will win. She has persistence. Along with vindictiveness and a wish to boss the country around it is her salient characteristic.

Satire died

Ruth Dudley Edwards, who has written many detective stories that are really satires, told me the other night it is impossible to write satire any more. Reading this story about someone saying that the new actor to play James Bond should be transgender made me feel that she is not exaggerating but part of me thinks that he is joking.


“Arguing with a woman is like reading the Software License Agreement. In the end, you ignore everything and click I agree.”

Eyden I., "Kiss Friendzone Goodbye"

"The artist is not a freak or an oracle or a genius. In fact, the artist is at the epicenter of normality. Poets are wounded in the same ways as everyone else, but with one particular distinction--they are not wounded to the point of speechlessness. Instead, they are wounded into speech. Their job, unlike the roles assigned to most of us, is not to conceal or to disguise their woundedness, but make it glaringly evident. Poets are useful to the culture precisely to the extent that their experience is representative--representative, and murderously frank."

Tony Hoagland's essay, "The Poet As Wounded Citizen" in the December issue of The Writer's Chronicle.

Ain't no drone

The Gatwick drone, which stopped flights from Gatwick airport for days, is as real as the St. Osyth lion or the woman hitchhiker with hair on the back of her hands and an axe in her handbag to whom my mother's hairdresser's customer gave a lift, a putative transgender murderer/ess. That story briefly excited the Metropolitan Police until they found out that the axe lady had been reported accepting lifts up and soen the country for years.

But the drone has given bad people ideas.

Tuesday 18 December 2018

Former British Ambassador to the EU takes apart Mrs May's Brexit 'deal'

The hard part is obviously still to come whether something like Mrs May's plan goes ahead or even if it doesn't. The deal settles little.

Sir Ivan Rogers made a lengthy, highly intelligent (of course) and very depressing speech at Liverpool University (full transcript here) at the weekend, which deserves close reading.

He resigned as British ambassador to the European Union in January 2017, after what were said to be innumerable threats to do so going back before the referendum. 
Before serving Mrs May he was private secretary to Kenneth Clark and a close adviser to Messrs. Blair and Brown. He is undoubtedly a Remainer, as almost all senior civil servants are.

He it was who helped David Cameron conduct what Nick Clegg’s wife called the "Mickey mouse negotiation" with the EU, before the referendum campaign started. It was extremely unsuccessful but later Mrs Merkel offered to make more concessions because she was belatedly afraid that Britain would vote to leave. This suggests that the negotiations could have been much more successful. His advice, after the referendum, that it could take a decade for the EU to agree and ratify a comprehensive trade deal with Britain was leaked. It seems he may have been right.

Sunday 16 December 2018

Camille Paglia on Donald Trump in interview in the Spectator

Has Trump governed erratically?
Yes, that’s a fair description. It’s partly because as a non-politician he arrived in Washington without the battalion of allies, advisors, and party flacks that a senator or governor would normally accumulate on the long road to the White House. Trump’s administration is basically a one-man operation, with him relying on gut instinct and sometimes madcap improvisation. There’s often a gonzo humor to it — not that the US president should be slinging barbs at bottom-feeding celebrities or jackass journalists, much as they may deserve it. It’s like a picaresque novel starring a jaunty rogue who takes to Twitter like Tristram Shandy’s asterisk-strewn diary. Trump’s unpredictability might be giving the nation jitters, but it may have put North Korea, at least, on the back foot.
Most Democrats have wildly underestimated Trump from the get-go. I was certainly surprised at how easily he mowed down 17 other candidates in the GOP primaries. He represents widespread popular dissatisfaction with politics as usual. Both major US parties are in turmoil and metamorphosis, as their various factions war and realign. The mainstream media’s nonstop assault on Trump has certainly backfired by cementing his outsider status. He is basically a pragmatic deal-maker, indifferent to ideology. As with Bolsonaro in Brazil, Trump rose because of decades of failure by the political establishment to address urgent systemic problems, including corruption at high levels. Democrats must hammer out their own image and agenda and stop self-destructively insulting half the electorate by treating Trump like Satan.

Saturday 15 December 2018

How Nick Clegg turned me into a Leave voter

From a great article in, of all unexpected places, The Financial Times, by Merryn Somerset Webb, who normally writes about personal finance.
In early 2015 I spent an hour interviewing Nick Clegg. He turned me into a Leave voter.

How? By telling me that we have to accept that we “can’t change the reality” that there are many things in the modern world that can’t be controlled even by national governments. A national government can have “only limited control” over global trade, international crime and climate change, for example. 

He couldn’t, he said, think of an area of public policy that was now not impinged upon by some kind of global decision-making body. This made Westminster something of “a fictional universe”, one in which people “seem to think that they have power” but which is actually a “19th century toytown” in which they do not. 

For Mr Clegg, the former Liberal Democrat leader, this shift of power from national governments was both inevitable and reasonable. For me, as a firm believer in both the value of the nation state and the importance of maintaining the primacy of democracy over technocratic we-know-bestery, it was neither.

Friday 14 December 2018

Things people say

Just as a matter of curiosity, could any responsible government really give a categorical assurance that under no circumstances would there ever be a hard border with the next-door neighbour?
Ruth Dudley Edwards

From the beginning I’ve been a supporter of Macron and his desire to extend economic globalization. But here’s the problem: The West is experiencing a loss of relative status, due to diminished power and influence. Western societies, including France, are being transformed by immigration beyond what many of their native-born citizens had expected. The rising prominence of terror, migration and security issues have boosted some of the less salubrious sides of the right wing. Add to that mix wage stagnation and the increasingly common view — held by 91 percent in France — that today’s children will not have better lives than their parents. Finally, the decline of organized religion, especially pronounced in Western Europe, has created a spiritual vacuum and a crisis of meaning.
Tyler Cowen in Bloomberg Opinion today.

Until today, I’d assumed that those 117 Tory MPs attempted to vote her [Theresa May] out of her job because they didn’t support her. But maybe they were just trying to be kind.

Michael Deacon feeling sorry for Theresa May today in the Telegraph.

Stop caring about the Irish border - then the backstop no longer matters

Great Britain should not have used Article 50 or negotiated about our divorce bill but vetoed every EU measure we could veto till they gave us what they wanted. We should not have declined the EU presidency which we were due to take up in 2017 but used it to  freeze everything we could while until the EU came to heel. We might have droipped clear hints about leaving Nato too. 

The backstop is not the biggest problem with Mrs May's proposal. The bigger problem is that it  gives away £39 billion and then we have to rely on the EU granting us a trade deal, terms unknown, but certainly involving accepting a huge amount of EU regulations which we do not help write. 

Better alternatives: Norway (not Norway plus) temporarily or a managed or unmanaged hard Brexit.

The key to understanding is that the backstop is not needed if Mrs May forgets her stupid promise that there would be no hard border between Northern and Southern Ireland. Mrs May should have accepted the Canadian option, which she said in the House the day before yesterday she was offered by Donald Tusk - and let the Irish chips fall where they may. I am sure they will still let her do this. 

Forget the Irish border. It is not important. 

No-one will erect customs barriers along it and if they did so, which both both Eire and the UK promise they will not and which they will not need to do (because technology can solve the problem without customs officers), that would not in any way infringe the Good Friday Agreement. 

Thursday 13 December 2018

Theresa May, killer zombie, keeps moving forward

I was praying so hard that Tory MPs got rid of Theresa May, but like a killer zombie she seems dead but indestructible. She won by 200 votes to 117 in a secret ballot.

The election was called yesterday morning and was over by early evening. Her briefest of election campaigns was memorable for a big lie. She said a leadership election would take so long that Brexit would have to be postponed when she knew that, unlike the Great War whose centenary we just marked, it would be over by Christmas.

It would seem that most back-benchers voted against her, but no-one knows. Many of the cabinet may secretly have done so. She is now
the self-confessedly temporary leader of an extremely divided minority Government.

Tuesday 11 December 2018

Britain is in her greatest peril since the 17th century

Journalists doorstepped David Cameron today asking him if he feels guilty about the mess he has created by calling a referendum. This is an interesting example of how anti-democratic British opinion formers are, but of course the former Prime Minister they should be mobbing is John Major. By passing up the chance to veto the Treaty of Maastricht in 1992, he is responsible not only for the referendum result but for ruining the European Community.

Theresa May is a much worse leader than David Cameron (who was good in his own terms), Sir John Major, Lord North, who was in fact not that bad, or Sir Anthony Eden. To compare her with Tony Blair is to compare chalk and cheese. He was a consummate leader who did terrible things. She is, like Gordon Brown, a terrible leader but she looks to be a as ruinous or even more ruinous than Tony Blair

Thank God enough letters have gone in to the Chairman of the 1922 Committee to require a leadership election in the British Conservative Party. 

Logically that had to happen, just as logically Theresa May had to postpone the House of Commons vote in which her government's policy would have been defeated by 100 or 200 votes.

Sunday 9 December 2018

Romania is the most religious country in Europe

The Pew Research Center revealed in a report published on Wednesday that Romania is the most religious nation in Europe, judged by four criteria: the importance people ascribe to religion in their lives, regular religious practice, prayer life, and certainty of belief.

I have known this for a long time although, as Eugene Ionesco said, religion in Romania means something completely different from what it does in Catholic or Protestant countries. It is about the other world and about contemplative prayer. It is makes Romania to a Westerner so beautiful and strange.

According to the Pew Report, 64% of Romanians believe in God with absolute certainty and 50% say religion is very important in their lives. 50% also say they attend services at least monthly, but can this last be true?

Saturday 8 December 2018

Atheism usually hides a religion

Terry Eagleton reviewing 'Seven Types of Atheism' by John Gray. I think this is obvious nowadays. The whole review is here.
"Gray also believes that humanists are in bad faith. Most of them are atheists, but all they have done is substitute humanity for God. They thus remain in thrall to the very religious faith they reject. In fact, most supposedly secular thought in Gray’s view is repressed religion, from the liberalism of John Locke to the millenarian visions of the Jacobins and Bolsheviks. The popular belief that atheism and religion are opposites is, in his view, a mistake."

Croon it again: Daniel Cohn-Bendit is scandalised by French protesters

Daniel Cohn-Bendit - Danny the Red - is the man of 1968, the Parisian revolutionary, whose name everyone remembers. Even I do and I was only 6 at the time. He is now, like many far leftists, a Green Party politician. By a delicious irony that historians will relish, he has angrily condemned the Gilets Jaunes, the Yellow Jackets, as the people in the French countryside are known who are protesting against Macron's stinging taxes on diesel fuel. He said, accurately,
“I hear people from la France Insoumise [the hard left] talking about this being a great people’s revolt and how the people are speaking, but these are the same ordinary people who pushed Trump into power.
Daniel Cohn-Bendit's wonderful reaction symbolises everything about what is happening and will happen, not only in France but throughout Europe. 

The world in which we are living is the world dreamt of by the 68-ers: internationalist,

'The myth of xenophobic Britain. Take it from an immigrant: this is one of the most welcoming nations on Earth.'

A Russian British comedian who voted Remain explains how angry he is that British people think leave voters are xenophobes and explains why here in Spiked.

Routines where I ridicule the locals are often better received than jokes about Russia or my marriage. By contrast, a British comic who made fun of the locals in Russia would be the one in stitches, not the audience.

It Girl Becomes a Defender of the Catholic Faith

The New York Times has a lovely and inspiring story about the famous 1980s party girl Princess Gloria von Thurn und Taxis (b. 1960) and her best friend Princess Alessandra Borghese who in middle age have become fervent Catholics and love the Tridentine Mass. I mean no disrespect to either princess, who I am sure have been very chaste, but this slightly brings to mind the Baroness de Courtebiche in Gabriel Chevalier's novel Clochemerle, who at the age of 47 decided to forsake the boudoirs of fashionable Paris for the life of a devout Catholic landowner in her native village. 

Generalisations are always valuable

Generalisations are aphorisms. We need more of them. Gibbon, Macaulay, Addison, all good writers until our decadent modern age traded in them.

But today whenever Oscar Wilde (if he were not in prison for sex with young boys) were to make one of his wonderful remarks people would just reply, 'Oscar, you can't generalise'.

Thursday 6 December 2018

How to identify right-wing children in kindergartens and make them left-wing

Germany's biggest newspaper, Bild, reported that a 60-page guide Ene, Mene, Muh – And You’re Out! has been issued to help kindergarten teachers and parents deal with children who had expressed racist sentiments or appeared to be indoctrinated by neo-Nazi ideology. 

In a story entitled "Row over snooping manual," Bild suggested that it was an attempt to get children to identify “Nazi parents”.

Where Great Britain is now

Allister Heath in today's Daily Telegraph:
Both sides have been terrifyingly naïve. Brexiteers thought they understood the rules: you win the referendum, the government leaves the EU. They didn’t realize the game was rigged.
The anthropological rituals and language of democracy still exist, and have even been extended in recent years, but they are now largely a charade to camouflage a massive power grab by the bureaucracy.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn on love of ones people

"Love for one’s people is as natural as love for one’s family. No one can be faulted for this love, only respected. After all, no matter how much the modern world whirls and jerks about, we still aim to keep intact our family, and we hold it in special regard, suffused with sympathy. A nation is a family, too, except an order of magnitude higher in numbers. It is bound by unique internal ties: a common language, a common cultural tradition, a shared historical memory, and a shared set of problems to resolve in the future. Why, then, should the self-preservation of a people be held a sin?”
I came across this quotation in this very interesting article from the Catholic magazine, Crisis.

Wednesday 5 December 2018


"The freedom to which modern man aspires is not that of the free man, but that of the slave on his day off." Nicolás Gómez Dávila

"A society in the grip of political correctness is on the look-out for the scapegoat, who will heal its divisions, by showing that it is he, not they, that is the cause of them." Sir Roger Scruton

Christianity and feminism

Can anyone who believes the biological differences between men and women are God-given and that wives should obey husbands, as Christians do, be feminist?


"Tomorrow's world cannot exist without morals, without faith and memory. Cynicism, narrow interests and cowardice must not occupy our lives." King Michael of Romania

"A calm and humble life will bring more happiness than the pursuit of success and the constant restlessness that comes with it." Albert Einstein in a note that was sold last year at auction for $1,560,000.

"A study into the differences in maturity between genders revealed both men and women agree men remain 'immature' well into their late 30s and early 40s. But the average age at which women mature emerged as 32." Daily Telegraph, 10 June 2013

'The Labour Party is “led by people who regret the outcome of the Cold War”'. Headline for Daniel Hannan interview in The Backbencher.

December afternoon in Bucharest

Image may contain: sky and outdoor