Thursday 31 January 2019

“Their roads grew better as their statesmanship grew worse and central heating triumphed as civilisation fell”

The passage below seems to have a lot of topical significance to me. 

But if the gradualness of this process misled the Romans there were other and equally potent reasons for their blindness. Most potent of all was the fact that they mistook entirely the very nature of civilisation itself. All of them were making the same mistake. People who thought that Rome could swallow barbarism and absorb it into her life without diluting her own civilization; the people who ran about busily saying that the barbarians were not such bad fellows after all, finding good points in their regime with which to castigate the Romans and crying that except ye become as little barbarians ye shall not attain salvation; the people who did not observe in 476 that one half of the Respublica Romanorum had ceased to exist and nourished themselves on the fiction that the barbarian kings were exercising a power delegated from the Emperor. All these people were deluded by the same error, the belief that Rome (the civilization of their age) was not a mere historical fact with a beginning and an end, but a condition of nature like the air they breathed and the earth they tread. Ave Roma immortalis, most magnificent most disastrous of creeds!

The fact is that the Romans were blinded to what was happening to them by the very perfection of the material culture which they had created. All around them was solidity and comfort, a material existence which was the very antithesis of barbarism. How could they foresee the day when the Norman chronicler would marvel over the broken hypocausts of Caerleon? How could they imagine that anything so solid might conceivably disappear? Their roads grew better as their statesmanship grew worse and central heating triumphed as civilization fell.

Wednesday 30 January 2019

Is it too late for the Norway option (NOT Norway Plus)?

Last night Theresa May received from the House of Commons an appropriately nebulous instruction to renegotiate the backstop. Today the EU said that the withdrawal agreement cannot be reopened and there are no alternative arrangements to the backstop. Jean-Claude Juncker told Theresa May the backstop could be renegotiated if Britain were to enter into a customs union with the EU but in that case the backstop would not be needed.

The obvious solution, for the time being, is the Norway option, i.e. entering the European Economic Area if Norway and Iceland would have us, or creating our own replica of the EEA just for us if they won't (they are certainly not keen).

We could do as Norway and Switzerland do. They are in the single market but not in the customs union. They are free to levy tariffs on European goods and diverge from the EU on regulations, but in practice do not. And in practice if we trade with Europe we shall have to obey the EU's rules anyway. Norway's agricultural produce does pay a tariff and her agriculture and crucially her fisheries are beyond the EU's greedy fingers.

After that we can discuss whether to remain like Norway - and Norwegians are very happy with their status and made clear in two referendums that they do not want to join the EU. But so long as we replicate EU regulations and levy no tariffs we do not need a visible border in Ireland - not that a visible border should matter.

But I am talking about Norway, NOT Norway Plus which means joining the customs union and being unable to make trade deals.

Mrs May's idea of a bespoke deal is a terrible one. If we guarantee to pay the Europeans £39 billion (they only have a good claim to about half of that, by the way) and negotiate a bespoke deal France has said she will not allow our fisheries to be closed to European fishermen.

Yes the Norway option means allowing free movement of Europeans (why does the EU insist on this?) but is this such a problem nowadays? Britain will in any case have large Eastern European ethnic minorities for eternity, which is a very long time. And although the numbers of immigrants who came were far, far too big, Eastern Europeans on the whole are model immigrants. We can instead of excluding Europeans exclude non- Europeans.

George Kennan in May 1998 on NATO expansion

''I think it is the beginning of a new cold war. I think the Russians will gradually react quite adversely and it will affect their policies. I think it is a tragic mistake. There was no reason for this whatsoever. No one was threatening anybody else. This expansion would make the Founding Fathers of this country turn over in their graves. We have signed up to protect a whole series of countries, even though we have neither the resources nor the intention to do so in any serious way. [NATO expansion] was simply a light-hearted action by a Senate that has no real interest in foreign affairs.'

''What bothers me is how superficial and ill informed the whole Senate debate was. I was particularly bothered by the references to Russia as a country dying to attack Western Europe. Don't people understand? Our differences in the cold war were with the Soviet Communist regime. And now we are turning our backs on the very people who mounted the greatest bloodless revolution in history to remove that Soviet regime.

''And Russia's democracy is as far advanced, if not farther, as any of these countries we've just signed up to defend from Russia. It shows so little understanding of Russian history and Soviet history. Of course there is going to be a bad reaction from Russia, and then they will say that we always told you that is how the Russians are -- but this is just wrong.''

George Kennan's thoughts in full are here.

Tuesday 29 January 2019

Tweeting Brexit

May’s deal is Remain with no vote in E.U. institutions and no right of exit. Yes, it’s achievable. So what? Suicide is achievable but that’s no reason for doing it. A Remain outcome would allow a later Brexit and provide more than enough fuel for it.

Monday 28 January 2019

A second referendum looks very unlikely - No Deal does too but is not impossible

A Romanian friend asked me at lunch yesterday if England really will leave the E.U. I said that had she asked me a week earlier I'd have said I wasn't sure. But now I felt sure that we would.

It seems, though I am far away, that people in England want this thing decided. Not that leaving with or without a deal will decide things: in either case the negotiations with the EU will go on for years. But at least we shall have left.

Almost half the country wants to leave with No Deal, say the polls. 

The extreme Remainers have suddenly gone oddly very quiet about their demand for a second referendum, because they think it won't happen and if it did they would probably lose it. 

But it won't happen, if only because it would apparently take a year to organise (how come the Greeks organised one in a week?) and would probably come to the same result as last time. 

And then, after another year of anguish and fury over Brexit, we should probably be in the same awful place we are now.


"World War III is a guerrilla information war with no division between military and civilian participation."
Marshall McLuhan, Culture is Our Business 

"The issue which has swept down the centuries and which will have to be fought sooner or later is the people versus the banks."
Lord Acton

"Acton advised the contributors to the Cambridge Modern History: 'our Waterloo must be one that satisfies French and English, German and Dutch alike.' E.H. Carr had his fun with that, but who looks shabbier now - Carr with his denial of the Katyn massacre and his homage to Stalin, or Acton?'"
Tom Deveson

"If the next conservatism is to reverse this decline and begin to recover the America we knew as recently as the 1950s, the last normal decade, it must do three things. First, it must aspire to change not merely how people vote but how they live their lives. It must lead growing numbers of Americans to secede from the rotten pop culture of materialism, consumerism, hyper-sexualization, and political correctness and return to the old ways of living. The next conservatism includes “retroculture”: a conscious, deliberate recovery of the past.
"This recovery should not be, indeed cannot be, imposed through political power. This is the second action the next conservatism must take: putting power in its place. … The rejection of the counterculture that has become the mainstream culture must proceed bottom-up, person by person and family by family, on a voluntary basis."
"The Next Conservatism" by Paul M. Weyrich and William S. Lind in The American Conservative.

Yanis Varoufakis's advice to Mrs May in May 2017 still makes sense

'The only way May could secure a good deal for the UK would be by diffusing the EU’s spoiling tactics, while still respecting the Burkean Brexiteers’ strongest argument, the imperative of restoring sovereignty to the House of Commons. And the only way of doing this would be to avoid all negotiations by requesting from Brussels a Norway-style, off-the-shelf arrangement for a period of, say, seven years.
'The benefits from such a request would be twofold: first, Eurocrats and Europhiles would have no basis for denying Britain such an arrangement. (Moreover, Schäuble, Merkel and sundry would be relieved that the ball is thrown into their successors’ court seven years down the track.) Second, it would make the House of Commons sovereign again by empowering it to debate and decide upon in the fullness of time, and without the stress of a ticking clock, Britain’s long-tem relationship with Europe.'

(Norway yes, for seven years, but not Norway plus please, which means joining the EU customs unions and not being able to sign trade deals.)

Sunday 27 January 2019

Supporting Brexit is now the love that dare not say its name

When I was a undergraduate from a humble background brought into contact for the first time with the upper classes and fascinated by them, I used to love the Tatler. I haven't read it for decades but it seems it is still fun. At least this article is, about how to make sure you don't go to bed with a person who voted Leave.
How times have changed.

Because now there is NOTHING more important on the dating scene than how someone voted in the EU referendum. A new app called Hater allows people to match up according to what they can't stand. Its data shows that a staggering 88 per cent of users matched up according to their mutual loathing for Leave or Remain. Single people need this kind of technology, because it is a biological fact that you cannot tell whether someone is a Remainer or a Leaver by looking at them, or even by having sex with them. They smell the same, feel the same, taste the same - it's just their brains that are different.

That England, that was wont to conquer others, hath made a shameful conquest of itself

I am so old that I remember when Glenda Jackson was a very famous actress. She chucked in acting to become an uninspired and uninspiring left wing Labour backbench MP. That second career ended years ago. Now her son Dan Hodges is famous as a political writer. 

He's a good writer, a Blairite who was David Cameron's favourite political pundit, which tells you how close Mr Cameron and Mr Blair were, and a huge advocate of Third World immigration into the UK. 

Dan Hodges keeps changing parties and recently became a Tory from loathing of the antisemitism of the Labour Party. This too tells you how close the centrists in the two big parties are. He was always a convinced Remainer, until today it seems.

He writes today in the Mail On Sunday:
It's time to end this one way or another. I've written about the dangers of a No Deal Brexit. I believe they are real, not some Project Fear construct. But we cannot continue with this paralysis.
There is nothing MPs will learn about Brexit in nine months, or nine weeks, or nine days that they do not know today. The time for more excuses, extensions and procedural sophistry is at an end.
Many MPs think that, by blocking all other avenues, voters will opt to stay, rather than risk No Deal. But they are dangerously deluded. If forced to choose between No Brexit or No Deal, most people will opt for No Deal. And I know this because I'm one of them.

The transformation of France

From a piece in The American Conservative in 2017:
"Because the [French] government does not publish statistics about race, some curious researchers have looked at the number of newborn babies screened for markers for sickle-cell anemia, a test given if both parents are of African, North African, or Sicilian origin. The figure has risen from 25 percent in 2005 to 39 percent in 2015. In the Greater Paris region it has risen from 54 percent to 73 percent. "

Seen today in the papers

'I prefer the tried and tested recipes… like coming together to seek out the common ground and never losing sight of the bigger picture.'

H.M. the Queen talking to the Sandringham Women's Union, understood as referring to the political crisis over Brexit.

'Our founders believed in national sovereignty. This is why it is so astounding that most Irish people have no sympathy for the impulse behind Brexit.'

Saturday 26 January 2019


"I know that there are young people, the sons and grandsons of distinguished men, whose masters have instilled into them nobility of mind and moral refinement from their schooldays. They may perhaps have nothing to retract from their past lives; they could publish a signed account of everything they have ever said or done; but they are poor creatures, feeble descendants of doctrinaires, and their wisdom is negative and sterile. We do not receive wisdom, we must discover it for ourselves, after a journey through the wilderness which no one else can make for us, which no one can spare us, for our wisdom is the point of view from which we come at last to regard the world. The lives that you admire, the attitudes that seem noble to you, have not been shaped by a paterfamilias or a schoolmaster, they have sprung from very different beginnings, having been influenced by everything evil or commonplace that prevailed around them. They represent a struggle and a victory. I can see that the picture of what we were at an earlier stage may not be recognisable and cannot, certainly, be pleasing to contemplate in later life. But we must not repudiate it, for it is proof that we have really lived, that it is in accordance with the laws of life and of the mind that we have, from the common elements of life, of the life of studios, of artistic groups – assuming one is a painter – extracted something that transcends them."
Marcel Proust

The MAGA hat and the digital lynching of blameless boys

A student from Covington Catholic High School stands in front of Native American Vietnam veteran Nathan Phillips in Washington DC, 18 January 2019

I was completely baffled by the appalling treatment dished out, even by their Catholic bishop, to those admirable young men who marched against abortion recently at Washington D.C., because I didn't notice the MAGA hat that the allegedly smirking young man wore. For this he was accused of racism.

Actually it looked like a polite, nervous smile to me but it was directed at a tiresome American Indian who came up to him banging a drum.

On knowing further and better particulars the boys were largely cleared, even by liberals who had attacked them without pausing for evidence, except in the eyes of some very bigoted liberals.

Hatred is a grave sin, inhuman but part of human nature. We normally repress the urge to hate, but hatred is fun and we feel good hating people when we think it justified: hating people who torture animals and hating the few surviving Nazi concentration camp guards. For half of America, and most opinion formers, people wearing  MAGA hats are the moral equivalent of the latter.

America has been here before of course in the 1960s and early 1970s. But now the liberals are in power and anxious not to cede it.

Anti racists tend to hate just as pacifists are often full of anger.

Vegetarians are sometimes bloodthirsty and murderous. 

Conservatives rarely hate. Racists (there are lots in Romania) usually hate much less than anti racists hate them.

Anti-racists tend to hate fascists but, as Douglas Murray said, the supply of fascists falls far short of the demand. This is because fascism was defeated and became very unfashionable by 1945. 

Racists too are pretty few these days in the Western world and while plentiful are becoming rarer in Eastern Europe. I do not mean by racists people who dislike or regret immigration. I mean people who dislike other people because of their race.

Yes, Mr. Trump has deliberately created this atmosphere in which hatred flourishes, but morbid anti-racism and identity politics brought him to power and he greatly benefits from it. I hope he puts this anger that he has stirred up to productive purposes.

The treatment handed out by the American elite to the boys was very bad indeed and symptomatic of an elite with very false values but still I admire American politics for being so 18th century and vituperative. Much better that than consensual European politicians sitting in semi-circular chambers arguing over things already decided by panjandrums in the EU.

The Covington story is great fun, especially as the baddies had their fox shot. It might slightly impede the descent of America into unreason, when Donald Trump plays it for all it is worth.

But it's terribly depressing too.

I hate to speak ill of a Catholic bishop. Protestant bishops are fair game. But fun aside, the villains are the boys' school and their bishop. They had a duty of care to the boys and yet roundly attacked them, on no evidence but a photograph of a boy in a MAGA hat smiling at someone who wasn't white.  What betrayal.

One of the two bishops who condemned the boys without evidence finally yesterday made the boys an apology, but he still shamefully leaves me suspecting that he thinks that supporting Donald Trump is a sin. I wonder how many Americans and how many Americans in holy orders do think this. 

  1. The American Episcopalian Church has moved far to the left since the 1960s and so has the Catholic Church in America.

Friday 25 January 2019

Leading Swedish newspaper: "By 2050, more than 30 percent of Sweden's population could be Muslims"

Expressen ("The Express"), one of two nationwide evening newspapers in Sweden, reported this week:
By 2050, more than 30 percent of Sweden's population could be Muslims if immigration is high - while the proportion will be 11 percent at "zero" immigration.
This is according to a new study from the well-known American research center Pew .
The data can become political explosives in the infected immigration debate - and several Swedish researchers say that the study does not take into account that Muslims give birth to fewer children when they move to Europe.

It is likely that migrants will adapt to Swedish conditions when it comes to birthrates, says Ann-Zofie Duvander, professor of demography.
In comparison, a poll in France in 2016 said 25.5% of 15 year olds identified as Muslim. Such polls are very rare in France.

Man investigated for retweeting a poem about transgender people

My wonderfully feisty friend Joani Walsh has an important news story in the Telegraph today about a man investigated by the British police for retweeting on Twitter a poem (wrongly called a limerick) about sex-change people. The police found his place of work and the company directors informed him of the investigation. 

The policeman involved had been on a course about transgender shortly before. 

Sir Ivan Rogers makes a good point about Norway and Switzerland

'Whatever one thinks of the Norwegian or Swiss models, to characterise Norway and Switzerland as countries which, despite their sovereign votes not to join the EU, in some way failed to make good a genuine “escape” from European political integration, is patently absurd.
'One can, by all means, argue that neither model is appropriate to the UK, and that we can do better.
'Then set out what you think is better in what you propose, and demonstrate why you have reason to think it is negotiable. With a bloc that, understandably, will think we are a much larger partner, but also a much more sizeable future competitor, than either of those, and will therefore prosecute its own interests very carefully. But one cannot argue that Norwegian/ Swiss type models are “not Brexit at all”.Sir Ivan Rogers, former British Ambassador to the European Union until he stormed off in a huge huff.'

Monday 21 January 2019


"None of our English girls can play Cleopatra".
Kenneth Tynan.

I often think of this remark in Romania because most Romanian women, given acting lessons, could play her. It seems this remark hurt Vivienne Leigh very much and almost drove her to a nervous breakdown.

Sunday 20 January 2019

Barnier's game

Revealing words from Michel Barnier in 2016, quoted in @LePoint. "I would have succeeded in my task if, in the end, the deal is so hard on the British that they’ll prefer staying in the EU.”

The most fascinating moment in British history since the decision not to negotiate with Hitler in 1940

The solution to Brexit is not simple but the starting point is accepting a hard border with Southern Ireland. 

Sinn Fein/IRA will not start murdering people because of the border (which is not mentioned in the Good Friday Agreement). In any case, we cannot let IRA decide the future of Britain. Though this is what people in Parliament and in the media repeatedly argue that we should do.

Both the UK and Eire have said they will not have customs inspectors at the border, but it is it is not in the power of Eire to decide this. It is for the EU to decide how Eire controls her part of the EU border. 

And the EU has no choice either. The EU must insist on customs being levied at the border. That is what a customs union means. And a customs union is the essence of the EU ('the Common Market'). 

The good news, however, is that this can be done using electronic means.

Saturday 19 January 2019

Monet, Belloc and Trump, Muslims, No Deal, Dr Johnson on gluttonous women

Claude Monet: 
To see we must forget the name of the thing we are looking at.

George Will in the National Review, two years ago today, likened Trump to the water beetle described by Hilaire Belloc:

He flabbergasts the Human Race

By gliding on the water’s face

With ease, celerity and grace;

But if he ever stopped to think

Of how he did it, he would sink.

This seemed very true when I read it. I love Belloc quotations.  Belloc serves you well as a child and at all ages.

Friday 18 January 2019

Would a hard Brexit be the latest chapter in Ireland's tearful history?

This was written by Dr Jennifer Cassidy, who describes herself on Twitter as: Irish. Politics Lecturer @UniofOxford. Former Diplomat. PhD Digital Diplomacy (Oxon). Books Gender and Diplomacy, @UN Consultant, TED Speaker.
You invaded us.
You conquered us.
You divided us.
You robbed usof our language,
our heritage, our land.
You starved us.
You starved us.
You starved us.
You shot us.
You imprisoned us.
You killed us.
We made peace.
We trusted you.
We trusted you.
#HardBorder 🇮🇪

We did not starve the Irish and they would have conquered us had they had the means.

I borrowed this argument from the Irish American theologian and heresiarch, John

Douglas Murray on populism

This is a very interesting interview with Douglas Murray, the most interesting and important intellectual in Great Britain on Donald Trump, Brexit and populism. Mr Murray is our equivalent of France's Michel Houellebecq, but without the obscenity.  I quote:
There is no one elite in America or Britain, but certainly a part of one elite and a part of the public are genuinely shocked, public are genuinely shocked, because there was a presumed direction of travel we were all meant to be going in: greater multilateralism, weaker borders, a more porous, interconnected world, and so on. The only job left was to progress through ever more minute remaining rights issues and then arrive at our destination. But then the public came along — twice in a few months — and threw the biggest spanner available to them into this machine. A lot of people still cannot believe the public could do this, and I understand their shock. This was the first time in their adult lives that they were told No, and it destabilizes
everything for them because it suggests we may not be going to the place they thought we were heading. If the Brexit vote had gone the other way, I would have moped around for a day or two and then gone about my normal life. It would never have occurred to me — or to most Leave voters I know — to rage for years, purge from my personal life anyone who voted Remain, and smear the majority of my countrymen with the most hurtful epithets I could come up with.

Seen in a book review on

“Why is it that present day Europeans are expected to take collective responsibility for past Western colonialism, but Muslims don't take collective responsibility for Muslim colonialism and get upset if there is any suggestion that they should take collective responsibility for present day Islamic terrorism.”

[The answer is because teachers and academics have taught two generations to despise Western civilisation and admire its enemies.]

Thursday 17 January 2019

How long can Sweden and the whole of Europe ignore the voters?

I translated this very eloquent and shocking article in the Swedish press by Paulina Neuding using Google Translate, which does a very good job - a far, far better job with English than with Romanian. Paulina Neuding also writes for Quillette.

For a number of years, voters have asked the parties the same question, in different forms: What should one as a voter do to prevent a more liberal migration policy? For as many years, the answer has been more liberal migration.

It was just over ten years ago, in August 2008, and Margot Wallström, then Vice Chairman of the European Commission, was invited to the BBC's flagship Newsnight to be interviewed on the EU's new foundations. The treaty had been voted down in a referendum in Ireland without being seen as a hindrance to EU leadership. The new legislation would be pushed through, the question being just how it would do so technically.

Consequently, a number of times the presenter repeated the same question to Commissioner Wallström:

Can you explain what voters have to do for the treaty not to go through? What must voters do to kill the treaty?

After having questioned the question in various forms, Wallström finally suggested that the voters would "leave to the leaders to discuss what to do a situation like this" and emphasized that these leaders "invested a lot of political capital" in the project.

Michel Houellebecq says the EU is murdering Europe and I realise suddenly that he is right

Houellebecq is a very important figure of our times. He has suggested restoring Catholicism as the state religion of France, to assist Muslim assimilation and still he got the Légion d'Honneur.

I just read an article in Foreign Policy by an annoyingly PC American professor about him, which I recommend - Houellebecq's words shine out from the professor's like diamonds gleaming in mud.

Houellebecq declared he was less interested in the decline of the West than in its murder. By bringing its member states under a single set of laws, the EU “assassinated” them, Houellebecq concluded....

“We in Europe have neither a common language, nor common values, nor common interests, that, in a word, Europe doesn’t exist, and that it will never constitute a people … simply because it doesn’t want to constitute a people.”

The European Union “is just a dumb idea that has gradually turned into a bad dream, from which we shall eventually wake up.”


“You can’t go back and change the beginning. But you can start where you are and change the ending.”

C.S. Lewis

“People are always shouting they want to create a better future. It's not true. The future is an apathetic void of no interest to anyone. The past is full of life, eager to irritate us, provoke and insult us, tempt us to destroy or repaint it. The only reason people want to be masters of the future is to change the past.”

Milan Kundera

Class warfare lies behind populism

Yugoslav dissident Milovan Djilas called these party hacks the “New Class,” noting that instead of workers and peasants against capitalists, it was now a case of workers and peasants being ruled by a managerial new class of technocrats who, while purporting to act for the benefit of the workers and peasants, somehow wound up with the lion’s share of the goodies....

But the New Class isn’t limited to communist countries, really. Around the world in the postwar era, power was taken up by unelected professional and managerial elites. To understand what’s going on with President Donald Trump and his opposition, and in other countries as diverse as France, Hungary, Italy and Brazil, it’s important to realize that the post-World War II institutional arrangements of the Western democracies are being renegotiated, and that those democracies’ professional and managerial elites don’t like that very much, because they have done very well under those arrangements. And, like all elites who are doing very well, they don’t want that to change....

Monday 14 January 2019

"While no-deal remains a serious risk"

"While no-deal remains a serious risk, having observed the events at Westminster over the last seven days, it's now my judgment that the more likely outcome is a paralysis in parliament that risks there being no Brexit."
Theresa May, 20 minutes ago.

"While no-deal remains a serious risk"? For two and a half years she has robotically repeated that no deal is better than a bad deal.

The sandal wearers and fruit juice drinkers are about to be swept from power

For years the white working-class have had their lives lampooned and been smeared with a multitude of ‘isms’ and ‘phobias’ by politicians and journalists who, simultaneously, champion open borders because they believe Europe owes it to the third world. They don’t understand that the misery and poverty they think exists only in Africa and the Middle East is also found closer to home. The victims of globalisation are everywhere.

What France (and the rest of Europe) is witnessing is not a populist revolt but a politically incorrect one. People have had enough of being mocked and marginalised by what George Orwell described as ‘a dreary tribe of high-minded women and sandal-wearers and bearded fruit-juice drinkers who come flocking towards the smell of ‘progress’ like bluebottles to a dead cat.’

The difference between now and 1936, when Orwell wrote that pungent depiction, is that then the ‘dreary tribe’ had no influence. They were swept into cultural power in the 1960s but they are in the process of being swept back out in the second decade of the 21st Century. This will be hard to bear for progressives after a half-century of hegemony. The silent majority has found its voice and it demands it be listened to. A failure to do so will have dire consequences for Europe.

From a post you should definitely read called 'The yellow vests are at the vanguard of a politically incorrect uprising' by Gavin Mortimer in the Spectator

Sunday 13 January 2019

A sort of synchronicity - before I came here my two funniest stories concerned Romania

The funniest line in literature is spoken by Thora Hird in Alan Bennett's 'Me, I'm Afraid of Virginia Woolf'. She is his mam who has descended on him unannounced in the poly where he lectures because she was 
'making some purchases in the vicinity.' 
He loses his temper with her in the canteen and she retreats behind the Daily Mirror, then says: 
'I see the President of Romania's mother has died.'
 'Always trouble for someone.'
I saw that play when I was 20 and the line has always stayed with me. A friend whom I hadn't seen for ten years until last month reminded me of it. 

Oddly enough the second funniest piece of writing I know, the obituary of Denisa, Lady Newborough, also concerns a Romanian and Romanians were a very obscure nation in England in the 1980s. These things have a meaning, though we cannot understand it.

Leaving with no deal won't happen - Britain will probably be a neutered vassal state

The European Union complains that the Government doesn’t know where it wants to end up. Closely aligned to the EU or more distant? Norway or Canada? It is absolutely right.
Cabinet members are united on one point, however. All now hope that May’s deal passes Parliament, if not next week, then later. And, collectively, they will carry on hoping – as authority drains away from them to Dominic Grieve, Steve Baker, and the Opposition, among whose numbers we of naturally include the Speaker. This Cabinet is firewood.

(Paul Goodman on Thursday, in Conservative Woman.)

It looks increasingly obvious that there is no possibility of Britain leaving the EU without a deal, something that makes me very sad indeed. 

I think the deal will probably mean vassal status though, if we had the same deal as Norway and – crucially - abandoned the backstop, this would not be so.

The whole thing has the look of a plot against Brexit. The Prime Minister does not revise her plan which has no chance of passing the House in its present form this week. The EU refuses to consider any changes and tries to hide its delight at the Carthaginian terms it has negotiated. The British press is full of stories about the horrors that would accompany leaving without a deal. Diabetics would die. There would be no mars bars. Soldiers would stand ready in dozens of places to enforce order against an infuriated mob. The Bank of England promises calamity as it did during the referendum campaign if Leave won.

Austin Mitchell on Prime Ministers

Austin Mitchell was a veteran and much liked Labour backbench MP until he left politics in 2015. He always opposed membership of the EEC/EC/EU. These passages are from his memoirs.

Being top dog is debilitating. It drains prime ministers, destroys the gloss and leaves them running on empty.
Labour’s Harold Wilson, the only one who recognised this, confessed that, towards the end, only brandy made the job bearable.
As for Margaret Thatcher, though I opposed almost everything she stood for, she got top marks from me for her cynicism about the Common Market.

Saturday 12 January 2019

Dominic Cummings in 2014 explained why we have to leave the European Union

Dominic Cummings, who ran the successful Vote Leave campaign in the Brexit referendum and was the subject of a recent TV film, explained in this passage from his blog, back in 2014, why we have to leave the European Union. 
One of the things that is most striking is how much of a Cabinet Minister’s box is filled with EU papers. Here the process is simpler than for Clegg’s appalling Home Affairs Committee, where at least there can be disagreements about policy. In order to continue the pretence that Cabinet Government exists, all these EU papers are circulated in the red boxes. Nominally, these are ‘for approval’. They have a little form attached for the Secretary of State to tick. However, because they are EU papers, this ‘approval’ process is pure Potemkin village. If a Cabinet Minister replies saying — ‘I do not approve, this EU rule is stupid and will cost a fortune’ — then someone from the Cabinet Office calls their Private Office and says, ‘Did your Minister get pissed last night, he appears to have withheld approval on this EU regulation.’ If the
Private Office replies saying ‘No, the minister actually thinks this is barmy and he is withholding consent’, then Llewellyn calls them to say ‘ahem, old boy, the PM would prefer it if you lie doggo on this one’. In the very rare cases where a Minister is so infuriated that he ignores Llewellyn, then Heywood calls to explain to them that they have no choice but to approve, so please tick your box and send in your form, pronto. Game over. 
It’s the sort of thing you read in history books about how a capital city operated just before the regime collapsed.

 Let's hope we do leave the EU and in a satisfactory way (no deal is by now my preference).

Yet more quotations

A daydream is a meal at which images are eaten. Some of us are gourmets, some gourmands, and a good many take their images precooked out of a can and swallow them down whole, absent-mindedly and with little relish.

W. H. Auden

Life is, I am sure, made of poetry. 

Jorge Luis Borges

The theologians say the soul has no sex but I wonder, I very much wonder. 

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Pull up a chair. Take a taste. Come join us. Life is so endlessly delicious.

Ruth Reichl

Quotations about food and drink

"Hunger is the best sauce." Spartan proverb

"“There is no love sincerer than the love of food." George Bernard Shaw

"You can eat better in England than in any country in the world providing that you have breakfast three times a day." W. Somerset Maugham

"It has been a common saying of physicians in England, that a cucumber should be well sliced, and dressed with pepper and vinegar, and then thrown out, as good for nothing."
Dr. Johnson, quoted in Boswell's Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides

“After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one's own relations.” Oscar Wilde

Every nation has the government it deserves and other remarks of Joseph De Maistre

Every nation has the government it deserves.

The more one examines the apparently most active personages in the Revolution, the more one finds in them something passive and mechanical. We cannot repeat too often, that men do not lead the Revolution; it is the revolution that uses men. They are right when they say it goes all alone. This phrase means that never has the Divinity shown itself so clearly in any human event. If the vilest instruments are employed, punishment is for the sake of regeneration.

No nation can give itself liberty if it is not already free.


Bob Kostic‏ @causticbob
I settled down to watch this programme about transgender marriage the other night, but was disappointed that it focused on scenery instead. I phoned the BBC to complain. Turns out that the Hebrides are Scottish islands.

Acceptance of what has happened is the first step to overcoming the consequences of any misfortune. William James

Preach the gospel at all times; when necessary use words. 
St Francis of Assisi 

My dears, apart from Anatole France and Albert Schweitzer, there is no man interested in anything but sex.
Barbara Amiel, Lady Black, quoted in Tom Bowyer's 'Conrad and Lady Black'


Life dooms you to success. To enough success to prevent you trying something else.

Thursday 10 January 2019

'No Deal' seems doomed - a prolonged punishment beating for Britain is impending

A couple of days ago Kenneth Clarke and everyone else was saying they simply could not see what would happen about Brexit. They really had no idea.  Note that very clever experienced politicians, commentators and academics do not know what will happen in the future, even though, once it happens, it seems by a trick of perspective to have been predestined.

Today I feel I can see what will happen and it is the worst of all options: the one Mrs May proposes, which is not a deal but puts us completely at the mercy of an EU that has proved its hostile intentions towards us.  'No deal' is not the calamity people fear. It would be a liberation and would respect the referendum result, which Mrs. May's proposal would not, but the politicians and establishment will not permit it. 

Here are some things I read today.

It is not often that Donald Trump and the EU Commission’s Secretary General, Martin Selmayr, agree. But on the Withdrawal Agreement, they are as one. It looked “like a great deal for the EU” to Trump, and Selmayr confirmed to the Passauer Neue Presse in December that the EU had “negotiated hard and achieved their aims.” 

Frenchmen in exile

Unromantic places where famous Frenchmen were exiled: Zola lived briefly in Upper Norwood, Verlaine in Bournemouth and Napoleon III in Chiselhurst. Esterhazy - the real traitor and villain in the Dreyfus Affair - shaved off his moustache and fled to England where he published anti-Semitic journalism under the name of Jean de Voilemont and lived in Harpenden, which was then a village.

Wednesday 9 January 2019

Dominic Cummings explains why Leave won the Brexit referendum

Dominic Cummings, organiser of the Vote Leave campaign, is said to be the hero (or villain, if you prefer) who won the Brexit referendum for Leave. I think the British people are the heroes (or villains, if you prefer) but he certainly played a large part in the result, as did Nigel Farage, Michael Gove and Boris Johnson. 

In this speech in 2017 Mr. Cummings identifies three reasons why feeling in the UK had swung against the EU in the fifteen years since he organised a campaign against the UK adopting the euro.
“Essentially I found that people didn’t know more about the EU in 2016 than they did 15 years earlier. However, three things had changed in the world during that time: the first was immigration – the scale of immigration and the fact that the EU was now blamed for immigration problems.

"The other big thing was the financial crisis in 2008. It undermined confidence in government, in Whitehall, in big business, in the banks and also in the European Union.

“The third big factor was the euro.”

Tuesday 8 January 2019

Anna Soubry and the n-word: it's not disgraceful, it's free speech

One Lucy Mangan, in The Guardian reviewing Brexit: The Uncivil War, the Channel Four TV film about the Brexit referendum, condemns it as superficial and irresponsible for being balanced and not coming down on the side of Remain. 

Move along. Nothing to see here. 

Nothing to say really. Stupid woman is no longer a permitted phrase, even in the case of someone who is (a) stupid and (b) a woman. Especially not in such a case.

Miss Mangan interested me when she said she understood why the writer made Dominic Cummings the protagonist. He organised the 'official' Leave campaign and is played by Benedict Cumberbatch.

You can see why he was catnip to a dramatist otherwise looking out at a sea of grey suits and wondering how to get inside the heads of shapeshifters like Cameron or Gove (as Gertrude Stein famously said of her old home, torn down to make way for something new – “there is no there there”) or persuade viewers that Boris Johnson is real enough to be a protagonist in anything other than the rolling Boris Johnson show that is his life.

This reminds me of a conversation between Harold Nicolson and J. M. Keynes, in which the former asked 
What do you think Lloyd George is like when he is alone in a room?

to which the other replied

Monday 7 January 2019

In today's Daily Telegraph

The result with the best chance of helping Labour win the next general election is probably a very bad Brexit. That is what Mrs May’s deal is offering. If he can, therefore, Mr Corbyn will find a way to let her have it.

Charles Moore 

We escaped membership of the euro by the skin of our teeth. We now need to grit those teeth to escape fully and finally from the very entity that conceived of the euro monstrosity in the first place. In case you were in any doubt, Mrs May’s capitulation of a “deal” would bring not a full and final escape, but rather a further entrapment.

Roger Bootle

Sunday 6 January 2019

Christopher Booker's curious story in today's Sunday Telegraph

My friend Greg Lance-Watkins recalled how, in 1967, as a young officer cadet at Sandhurst, he boarded a packed train from London to Inverness, on which the only unoccupied seat was in the dining car. Seeing his uniform, the chap in the seat opposite invited him to sit down, and Greg recognised him as the former prime minister Alec Douglas-Home.

A question

How would British, European or American interests be endangered if Russia and Iran controlled Syria or Iraq?

Latvia and Lithuania, disappearing nations

In 2000, Latvia’s population stood at 2.38 million. At the start of 2018, it was 1.95 million, a decrease of 18.2%. Lithuania registered a 17.5% decrease over the same period. In Estonia the population has fallen by a more modest 15% since 1990.

Sweden is falling into the sea

Give up your grenades and walk free: Sweden's explosives amnesty gets under way
Between today and early next year, anyone in possession of hand grenades or illegal pyrotechnical equipment can hand them over to police without risking punishment.

Michael Wharton's 1970s satirical fantasy is now our daily reality

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As Ruth Dudley Edwards told me, it is no longer possible to write satire. She knows because she has written a series of satirical novels and has had to give up.

I didn't really find Michael Wharton - or Peter Simple - as funny as many did when I read him in the Daily Telegraph before going to school, but he was a prophet.


I’m prepared to vote for anyone provided we propose to exit the European Union and Nato.
Michel Houllebecq

Hope is a good breakfast, but it is a bad supper.
Francis Bacon

I told him that I was still very much of a swine, and people did bother me. He said that people must not bother me. One must look at other people as one looks at a peculiar type of monkey!
'Jung, My Mother and I: The Analytic Diaries of Catharine Rush Cabot'

... a peculiar frame of mind ... has arisen throughout the Western world since the second world war, and which is particularly prevalent among the intellectual and political élites. No adequate word exists for this attitude, though its symptoms are instantly recognised: namely, the disposition, in any conflict, to side with ‘them’ against ‘us’, and the felt need
 to denigrate the customs, culture and institutions that are identifiably ‘ours’. Being the opposite of xenophobia I propose to call this state of mind oikophobia, by which I mean (stretching the Greek a little) the repudiation of inheritance and home. Oikophobia is a stage through which the adolescent mind normally passes. But it is a stage in which some people—intellectuals especially—tend to become arrested. As George Orwell pointed out, intellectuals on the Left are especially prone to it, and this has often made them willing agents of foreign powers.
Sir Roger Scruton

Two years ago today in Bucharest

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