Sunday 31 March 2019

'Conservative Party engaged in 'sensible and pragmatic' planning for snap election, deputy chairman admits'

A headline I did not expect to see, in the Daily Telegraph this afternoon. It reads like a parody, but it is no longer possible to write parodies or satire.

Conservative Party engaged in 'sensible and pragmatic' planning for snap election, deputy chairman admits

The lead story in the paper this morning was that half the Tory MPs and ten cabinet ministers wanted to leave the EU quickly without a deal.

The fog in which we find ourselves grows even thicker. Sounds of pain from nearby.

Poor Christopher Booker, who has cancer, writes his farewell to his readers in today's 
Sunday Telegraph. He was anti-EEC and a Brexiteer  avant la lettre but is close to omniscient blogger Richard North, thinks only the Norway option would be practical form of Brexit and anything else disastrous. He might be right.

The first priority of all politicians, with a very few exceptions on a few occasions, unless they are about to retire, is the next election. Therefore talking about Brexit today should start there. 

Labour wants one though it would be split badly in an election. The Tories would have to be divided as the Liberals were in the 1918 Coupon Election when half received Prime Minister Lloyd George's coupon and half fought against his coalition government. Yet some Tory MPs say one is necessary.

The opinion poll I read today showed for the first time Labour in the lead by 5%, an understandable poll result after last week. 

There were only really ever four final outcomes: leaving with no deal; no Brexit; something rather like Mrs May's non-binding Political Agreement involving no free movement of people, not being part of the customs union or single market, with the inevitable Backstop to prevent a border in Ireland; and something like the Norway option.

The options today are as follows.
  1. Leaving with no deal. Today half the Tory MPs, 170, say in a letter to Mrs. May that they want to leave with no deal by May 22. I am in favour of this but I am fairly sure it will only happen if the EU gets fed up with us and I imagine they won't because they do not want no deal, partly for Ireland's sake;
  2. The Withdrawal Agreement, which could still pass the House on its fourth chance, if the Speaker gives it one;
  3. The Withdrawal Agreement and then the Norway option, which I would like, if the House and EU agree;
  4. Ken Clarke's plan for permanent membership of the customs union, if the House and the Government agree, which would be BRINO, Brexit in Name Only, otherwise known as Norway Plus or Common Market 2.0;
  5. Another referendum, which could go either way;
  6. A long delay, if the EU agrees, which they probably will but might not. This would probably lead to another referendum.

The Tories would own leaving with no deal or Mrs May's plan. All three would be very unpopular with many.

Labour and the Tory Remainers would own permanent membership of the customs union or a second referendum. They would have defied the people's will. They will not be easily forgiven for that.

Much will hinge on the political advantage politicians will get from the outcome but this is always mixed with genuine principle and the principles involved are deep and emotional. Internationalism and globalism are as emotional as patriotism and nationalism.

Meanwhile the divisions are deep. 20% of Leavers would not want a Remainer as a friend and 35% of Remainers reciprocate. 

Only the divisions over Home Rule in 1886, the Munich crisis in 1938 and Suez in 1956 were equally divisive and the fortunes of war healed the latter two splits quickly. The split over Home Rule kept the Liberals in opposition for 17 of the next twenty years, until the Tories split over Free Trade.

Saturday 30 March 2019

Is Brexit impossible?

Since December [2017], I must have written it ten times over: the EU will force us to choose between Northern Ireland, a Brexit in name only (with free movement) and no deal.
From an article from October 18 2018 headlined This Government has made a fool of our great country  by Juliet Samuel, who voted Remain and remains a Remainer but one who, so she rightly says, lost gracefully.

Of the three possibilities she enumerates, no deal is the best or least bad but needed very carefully preparation by the Tory government over years. The backstop in perpetuity has its advantages, as Juliet Samuel said elsewhere, but means Brexit is Brexit in name only. 

To be honest, staying starts to have certain attractions, so long as it means staying in to prepare for a second escape bid. And to make things as difficult as possible for the people in power in the EU and help Europe do something to staunch the flood of migrants into Europe.

As I keep saying, no deal or the Norway deal are fine at this stage - even Norway Plus provided we can change it into Norway or into no deal in the future without the EU's permission and without the pain of the Article 50 process.

Meanwhile it seems the EU thinking we may leave without a deal and - hey presto! - the Irish border problem has magically disappeared.

Juliet Samuel writing today says she knew as soon as she knew the result of the 2017 general election that the Brexit negotiations were doomed. Brexiteers, however, did not realise this.

Brexit, China and Nato

Externally, the biggest challenge facing the EU is the danger of losing the protection of America against Russia. Donald Trump sees China as America's main threat, which is obviously right, Iran as a major threat to American interests, which is obviously absurd, and (like George W. Bush and Hillary) Vladimir Putin as a man he can do business with. This is only true if Donald Trump sees things cold bloodedly in terms of narrow American self-interest, but it could achieve big results. Perhaps the end of the war in Syria is one of these. 

In any case, Great Britain (and Europe and the USA) should leave Russia and the regional powers to take care of the Middle East. We have no dog in that fight. 

Washington can continue to give money to Israel, if it wants to, and Britain and America can continue to take money from Saudi Arabia, but there is no need to get involved beyond that.

Instead the UK follows the USA and sides with the Sunnis in the Sunni - Shia struggle but takes the EU's side against Russia (although Germany swings both ways on Russia). It would therefore be in the EU's interests to cut the UK a good deal to preserve close relations, especially as there no longer seems any danger that other EU countries may leave the Union. 

Why did Theresa May not play this card? By threatening, for example, to leave Nato?

Because she is unimaginative, unintelligent and an instinctive internationalist.

In fact, leaving Nato would make a lot of good sense in principle for Britain. Leaving the Americans to meddle in the Middle East would make even more sense, especially as Muslims become a bigger and bigger proportion of the British population. Unnecessary wars are not only bad in principle and bad for the Middle East but bad for peace at home.

What happens after the Americans lose interest in paying for European defence? 

A Chinese-German rapprochement? 

How would that work in terms of America, Great Britain, Russia or Iran? At the moment China and Russia like Iran as a bulwark against Sunni Islamism which threatens them because they have Sunni populations. 

Time to repost this, to show how Theresa May got us to where we are

Juliet Samuel says it all in one minute. This is worth hearing if you have not or even if you already have. 

She is very clever and deserves the wonderful job she has.


Humility is an unfashionable virtue these days. Narcissism, along with the Peter Pan or Puer Aeternus syndrome, in other words the inability of boys to become men, are the big psychological problems of our era. 

The narcissism of Barack Obama and Donald Trump is obvious. That of the Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, outstandingly so. He is Mr Toad. But the narcissist who most shocks me is King William of the Netherlands who recently took the throne and announced that he did not want to be William V as 
'I am not a number.'

Friday 29 March 2019

Is Brexit delayed Brexit denied?

Brexit Day is now two weeks away and will presumably be delayed for more than a year, by which time the referendum will have receded a long way into the past and will have lost its authority.

MPs defeated Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement for the third time this afternoon, as had seemed almost inevitable, despite leading Brexiteers Messrs Johnson, Rabb and Rees-Mogg changing their minds and reluctantly voting for it. 

The withdrawal agreement was defeated by a majority of 58 this time, a substantial majority, but much less than the defeat in January by a majority of 230 and earlier this month by a majority of 149.

The DUP voted against. They let the country down by making an agreement to govern Northern Ireland with IRA-Sinn Fein, but they are firm in defence of the Union (the UK not the European Union in case you wondered), despite many Northern Irish farmers liking the agreement.

My head thinks that perhaps this agreement was the best Brexit possible, but my heart is delighted by the defeat. If Brexit does not happen this time it will dominate and embitter British politics for the next ten or twenty years. Perhaps much longer. What the eventual outcome would be I do not know, nor what the outcome would be should the Withdrawal Agreement pass (yes pass in the present subjunctive tense, because Theresa May wants to bring it back a fourth time if she can).

The Prime Minister said a longer delay to Brexit was 'almost certain' and that 'we are reaching the limits of this process in this House' which sounds like another election to me - and maybe Jeremy Corbyn becoming Prime Minister. 

Both parties are badly split over Brexit so it is not clear what the result of an election would be. It might mean  a seat for Nigel Farage and one for 'Tommy Robinson'.

Why a real-life ‘Citizen of the world’ voted Leave

'One of the things that the EU did like about Theresa May was her respect for the process, the sequences, the parameters'

The BBC's Adam Fleming said yesterday on Radio Four, damningly:

“One of the things that the EU did like about Theresa May was her respect for the process, for the structures that were built around the process, the sequences, the parameters and just how it worked.
He went on:

“And so there’s an infamous anecdote of a conversation between Theresa May and Jean-Claude Juncker in Sharm-El-Sheik when the deal was not done in the desert, where Theresa May said ‘Jean-Claude, how can you reassure me that when you retire by the end of this year you are not replaced by a baddy like Matteo Salvini of Italy?’ - somebody who just wants to rip everything up and doesn’t respect the rules. 
“And Juncker infamously said to her ‘Well, how can you guarantee me that you won’t be replaced by somebody like Boris Johnson or Jacob-Rees Mogg?’
The EU's fear of and loathing for Boris Johnson was always one of his strong points, to put in balance with his weak ones. If only the EU had feared Mrs. May. 

How saddening but unsurprising that Mrs May considers Mr Salvini, who is a friend to Brexit and Britain a baddy, rather than Mr. Juncker who wishes Brexit and Britain ill. People who say that Britain should remain in the EU to remake it with the help of the so-called populist governments do not understand how deeply ingrained liberalism is in British political culture. All politicians these days are liberals except for the Corbynites, Sir Christopher Chope and the D.U.P.

Thursday 28 March 2019

'Mrs May will go down in history as one of the worst Prime Ministers of all time, devoid of any leadership qualities'

Leo McKinstry in The Telegraph lets Theresa May have it with no holds barred and is right to do so. I agree with all of this.
Mrs May will go down in history as one of the worst Prime Ministers of all time, devoid of any leadership qualities.

...Indeed, it is amazing that Mrs May ever rose so far. Her record at the Home Office was a hopeless one. After six years there, she passed on a legacy of rising crime, a disillusioned police and immigration out of control. As Prime Minister, she swallowed the fashionable, politically correct agenda, reflected in her support for the divisive transgender ideology in defiance of biological science and women’s right.

Just as idiotic has been her insistence on endless race and gender audits across employments, the sort of Orwellian social engineering that should have no place in Tory policy. As she surrendered to the progressive orthodoxy, she went even softer on crime, borders, welfare reform, and fiscal discipline.

....Her supporters blather about her “resilience”, but in reality this is just a form of inflexibility and lack of imagination. Even after it the unpopularity of

'The course of Brexit was set in the hours and days after the 2016 referendum'

Tom McTague, Politico's chief U.K. correspondent, achieves here in a very well-researched essay that very rare thing, journalism which is the second not the first draft of history. Future historians will find it very useful, providing they find it at all, bobbing along on the oceans of copy produced about Brexit. 

He argues that the very grave problem the UK is in with Brexit is the inevitable result of bad decisions taken before and in the immediate aftermath of the referendum and over the following few months.

They were: David Cameron’s refusal to let civil servants prepare a plan for Brexit; his decision to resign; Theresa May's promise on July 27 2016, at the request of Enda Kenny,  not to allow customs to be collected at the border in Ireland; her agreeing to use the Article 50 process and accept 'sequencing' (in other words, allow the discussions on the divorce payment to precede trade talks); her drawing incompatible red lines; and finally her triggering Article 50 for no good reason and without any plan. 

He says:
'Had London been prepared for Brexit on June 24, 2016, the negotiations might have played out differently.

'“The British government should have offered something very, very quickly,” said one high-ranking official of a large EU country. “If the U.K. had said: ‘Here’s the plan,’ we might have accepted it.”

This is the BBC news

I am trying to give up the newspapers and so am listening to the BBC World Service. A news item today is:
Facebook has said it will block "praise, support and representation of white nationalism and separatism" on Facebook and Instagram from next week.
The World Service anchor asked a BBC journalist if this change would be popular and was told it would be popular with most people and was welcomed by 'civil rights groups'. I listened wondering what civil rights groups think civil rights mean. 

Facebook is a company and can censor what people publish as much as it likes, but freedom of expression is a civil right and the one on which all the others rest. However freedom, in the sense of freedom from being told what to do or say, is out of fashion. 

As Western societies become more ethnically diverse freedom of speech in particular will be curtailed more and more to prevent people criticising increasing diversity. The reason that will be given is that such criticism encourages people to kill. Freedom in general will be curtailed more and more to curtail hatred and discrimination. The age of liberalism will become very authoritarian and very illiberal, before it comes to an end. 

The BBC's next story is about scientists talking about the grave damage done to the ecosystem of islands by 'invasive species like cats, rats and goats' and calling for a widespread cull to save the endangered species they prey upon.

And Brexit. The Prime Minister will resign if the House votes for her motion but the Speaker will not allow it to be moved again and in any case the Government will not introduce it because it is sure at the moment to fail. The Government has promised not to leave the EU without a deal unless the House approves and only 160 MPs voted for it last night. So a long delayed Brexit looks the most likely outcome to me, which means the referendum result losing its power. A better alternative would be the Norway option, for the time being at least, meaning accepting free movement and a hard border in Northern Ireland, but without signing up as Norway does to EU schemes that cost money.

Wednesday 27 March 2019

Theresa May says she will resign if her Brexit proposal is accepted by the House

It sounded by Saturday that Theresa May had no chance of remaining Prime Minister beyond Monday (11 Cabinet ministers told the Sunday Times that she had to go) but then she seemed to recover. 

I assume that the attempt to overthrow her was a Remainer plot to replace her with her 'de facto deputy' David Lidington, another Leaver, and that it shuddered to a halt when Remainers realised that there was no figure who could bind the Tory party together and that a Leaver was likely to take over. Now, a few minutes ago, Theresa May announced she will resign if her deal passes Parliament.

What do I want to happen? The status of Norway would suit me - leaving with no deal, which I should prefer, will not happen. Do I want Theresa May's deal? No, but I do want Great Britain to leave the EU very much.

A single Somali immigrant costs the Finnish state almost 1 million euros

Every single Somali immigrant will cost the Finnish state almost one million euros during his lifetime, according to this survey.

'American Political Thought’ course removes all white men from curriculum

'I can clearly recall the first day of class a few semesters ago when I eagerly began a course called “American Political Thought” at the University of Colorado, Denver. 

'My excitement quickly soured, however, after Professor Chad Shomura explained to the students in the room that most traditional “American Political Thought” courses are too focused on the achievements of white men.
As a consequence, he told us he had removed every single white male and their theoretical perspectives from the entire course curriculum.

Marriage in the Parisian suburbs

In her book Questioning French Secularism: Gender Politics and Islam in a Parisian Suburb (Contemporary Anthropology of Religion series) 2012, Dr. Jennifer A. Selby found that second and third generation immigrant men, whose families came to France from the Mahgreb, like to marry old-fashioned Muslim girls and to reject the secular values of the French Republic and secularism. Dr Selby is an authority on secularismwomen in Islam and gender studies

"What is more striking is that their sons, born and educated in France, seek similar arrangements with North African women even if they often do not share a common language or upbringing."

Kissing the Pope's ring

Yesterday the Pope pulled his hand away to prevent a series of people he was meeting from kissing is ring (his for the first time is silver gilt, not gold). This apparently happened after he allowed several people to make a gesture of kissing it while others had shaken his hand.

According to Christopher Lamb, the Vatican journalist who usually follows the papal line rather uncritically, when he met the conservative American Cardinal Burke in Rome the cardinal's press adviser greeted the cardinal by kneeling and kissing the gold ring on the ring finger of his hand. This is the traditional sign of respect given to a prince of the church but I confess that I did not know this till today.

Tuesday 26 March 2019

Why Britain needs a fairly hard border with the Irish Republic

The European Economic Area (EEA) includes the 28 EU countries and three, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein, which are part of the Single Market but not the EU or its Customs Union.

They are members of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), along with Switzerland, which is not part of the EEA, but belongs to the single market as a
 result of a complicated series of trade deals. They are not members of the EU Customs Union, which means they can sign their own trade deals with other countries, though in practice they are pretty closely aligned to the EU to make trade easy.

Nevertheless, imports of agricultural produce into Switzerland, for example, attract a whopping 30% tariff. There have to be some customs checks on goods travelling between EFTA countries and EU countries and it takes about 20 minutes on average for a lorry to pass from Norway to Sweden. 

'Believe me, the Civil Service is trying to sink Brexit. I have seen it from the inside'

A civil servant has anonymously told Rachel Sylvester of the Times (an unreconstructed Remainer) that
“The civil service is totally against no-deal. Mark Sedwill has warned it could lead to a border poll in Northern Ireland and increase the chances of the Union breaking up. He has also told the cabinet he has security concerns, but they have been ploughing ahead with the preparations for party political reasons.”
Another anonymous civil servant (I suspect that, in fact, he is a diplomat) has told the Telegraph that the senior civil service is trying to prevent Brexit, should you not have already guessed.

I have met thousands of civil servants in the past few years: I can only recall five who voted for Brexit.

Britain was the foreign country that tried to rig the 2016 US Presidential election

On July 27, 2016, Donald Trump said at a news conference, 
“Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”
I thought it a good joke. It was a good joke. His sense of humour is one of his great political strengths. Two absurd men, Fred Wertheimer and Norman Eisen, writing in USA Today in January of this year solemnly argued that these words were a violation of the law that prohibits seeking help from a foreign country to influence an election. 

It reminds me that, when Mr. Trump said that Hillary was the founder of ISIS, Snopes carefully fact checked his claim and determined that it was 100% false.

Russia, of course, tried to influence the 2016 American presidential election. There is no doubt about that.

Although, contrary to what you have assumed, there is no proof or even evidence that Russia leaked Hillary's emails. China or Iran might have done so. We know a random Romanian hacker called "Guccifer" leaked the emails sent to Mrs. Clinton by Sidney Blumenthal.

Cambridge and the Decline of the West

The Cambridge Students' Union has persuaded the University to rescind its invitation to Jordan Peterson to be a temporary professor in the Divinity Faculty. Students were angry partly because he described the concept of 'white privilege' as a 'Marxist lie'. 

I am very saddened, but note that Professor Peterson is not a Christian and probably does not believe in God and therefore was a slightly odd choice in the first place. This however was not the students' union's objection.

The University refused to say why the decision to rescind the invitation had been taken until yesterday, when the Vice-Chancellor said:

“The faculty became aware of a photograph of Professor Peterson posing with his arm around a man wearing a T-shirt that clearly bore the slogan ‘I’m a proud Islamophobe.’

'Theresa May only does what she is told — without question'

Last night MPs voted 329 to 302 for a backbench motion for a series of "indicative votes" on alternative Brexit paths. 

The choice is no longer between leaving with no deal, not leaving at all or Mrs May's proposal. No deal will not happen unless the House agrees to it, the Prime Minister has promised, and so will never happen. I regret this. 

All sorts of things are possible: the Norway option; Norway Plus; a second referendum; a long delay which would mean a second referendum; or even her wretched deal finally passing.

Katie Perrior works in public relations. She worked at one time for Boris Johnson, was appointed Director of Communications at 10 Downing St by Theresa May and resigned when the snap general election was announced. She called yesterday in The Times for the Prime Minister to resign in return for her deal being passed by the House of Commons and said that 
I was was wrong when I said that history would be kind to Theresa May. Instead, future scholars may well identify the prime minister as a passenger at the time when the country needed a rally driver.
What is clear from the past few years is that the prime minister only does what she is told — without question — and is simply only as good as those around her. 

Sunday 24 March 2019

It has to be Michael Gove now

It has to be Michael Gove now. He is the necessary man to be British Prime Minister.

He is stunningly eloquent, as he showed in the House recently defending the government of which he is a member. He is a committed Leaver, which is absolutely necessary if he is to be credible painting the reasons why we are leaving the EU. I was angry with him for not resigning over Theresa May's proposals announced to a disappointed cabinet at Chequers but his loyalty means he can bind the party together.

Eleven cabinet ministers have told the Sunday Times that the present incumbent must go but today Remainers are rallying to her, scared I imagine that their man David Lidington will not succeed her and Mr Gove might. David Lidlington, no doubt an estimable man, would be no good. We know that because Amber Rudd and the other hardcore anti-Brexiteers want him to be Prime Minister. No-one knows who he is, though he was captain of his college University Challenge team, is churchy and disapproves of homosexual marriage. 

But Tim Shipman's long article makes it very clear that every man's hand is against Mrs May at least in private. Of many vignettes, this is the one that I cannot forget.  Almost three weeks ago all the whips went to see her
... to listen to a pitch on her plans for domestic agenda. Paul Maynard, one of the senior whips who voted leave, said: “I’ve heard enough. When I was told that we would have to come over and talk to you I began to cry. I said, ‘I don’t want to go over and talk to that woman any more. She’s betrayed Brexit, destroying our party. I want her gone.’”

Cambridge traditions

According to a story in the FT, Huawei is very pleased with and proud of its partnership researchers at Cambridge university, describing it as “a very good model” for academic partnerships. Cambridge announced the £25m partnership in 2017, saying researchers were

“expected to focus on projects relating to photonics, digital and access network infrastructure and media technologies”.
Why do the names Burgess, Maclean and Philby come unbidden to my mind?

Cambridge, my alma mater, is like Oxford a nest of Remainers. An undergraduate reading

Hijabs and persecution

Headline from a story in the New Zealand news magazine Stuff which took off the net the story of dangerous terrorists attending the Christchurch mosque in 2015:

Hijab wearing police officer's photo makes powerful statement in wake of Christchurch mosque shootings

A Swedish friend posts on Facebook a new story about a hijab wearing newscastress in Sweden.

Both of these things are unobjectionable in themselves, but the tendency is clear. The Western world is changing. Christianity is less and less its default setting. Islam is more and more part of the West.

The consequences of Christchurch killings will be big restrictions in freedoms once taken for granted

New Zealander's Chief Censor yesterday banned the 74-page manifesto written by the man accused of slaughtering 50 people in Christchurch. Someone caught with the document on their computer could spend 10 years in prison, while anyone caught sending it could get 14 years. 

The Unabomber in 1995 sent The New York Times a 35,000-word manuscript and pledged to cease his 17 year-old nationwide bombing campaign, in which three people had died, if The Times or The Washington Post published his manifesto. The two newspapers jointly financed the publication of the manuscript by The Post and it was distributed on the internet which was in its infancy.

Switzerland will allow deportation of terrorists even if they face the death penalty

Switzerland decided last week to allow the deportation of terrorists to their home countries even if they face the death penalty. Amnesty International, in many ways a malign organisation, predictably disagrees. I think anyone who is a convicted terrorist and has committed a capital crime like murder should definitely not be allowed to remain.

'Black Wednesday shows that a no-deal Brexit would be a blessed release for Britain's economy'

Roger Bootle is convinced that leaving with no deal would be a blessed release for the British economy. I wish he could persuade our useless cabinet who think it will lead to riots. 

Saturday 23 March 2019

Trump vindicated by Mueller but still the media distorts the story

I have not bothered following closely the tedious story of the Mueller enquiry into Donald Trump's supposed collusion with Russia in the 2016 election. It was clear from the get-go the that there was nothing in the allegation. It then became clear that Robert Mueller was going round the houses trying to find anything, however tangential, that might be useful against anyone somehow associated with Donald Trump. I presume he wanted to indict people in the hope that they would give juicy information against him in plea bargaining. 

At least Mueller did manage to pay for his enquiry twice over, by uncovering tax evasion, but he should not have taken so long.

Finally all is concluded and although the report has not been published no further indictments will take place. In other words, there is - surprise! - nothing in the idea that Trump and Russia colluded and nor did the Attorney-general interfere with the enquiry. 

Democrat TV show host Rachel Maddow was reduced to tears when reporting it, which is so funny.  It was a reprise of her emotional breakdown in the 2016 election results.

But I am angry because I just read  a long article by Ben Riley-Smith in a conservative British paper, the Daily Telegraph, that contrives to give inattentive readers, and few readers are very attentive, the idea that the investigation did inculpate the president. 

This is exactly what I consider fake news.

I feel foolish remembering how I fell for the stuff left-wingers said, back in the 1980s. The things conservatives say make obvious sense but seem to young clever people unintelligent and narrow-minded. And because the things the left say do not make sense at first sight one thinks they must be profound. So they credit the left with bigger brains and bigger hearts, but it is not really so. 

Accusing the right of being primitive, unsophisticated, unkind and ungenerous is just the left's spiel, their sales pitch.

The right have their spiel too, of course, (dis)crediting the left with a list of vices. The poet, Philip Larkin, who was very right-wing indeed and backed neither side in the Second World War (unlike his father who wanted Germany to win) recited the conservative spiel when he said:

"I’ve always been right-wing... I suppose I identify the Right with certain virtues and the Left with certain vices. All very unfair, no doubt. Thrift, hard work, reverence, desire to preserve - those are the virtues, in case you’re wondering; and on the other hand idleness, greed and treason."

What the papers say

The British people are streets ahead of us. They voted to leave, accepted that we’re leaving on March 29 with or without a deal and want us to respond to these tough decisions rather than constantly working to undermine and frustrate them.

Ben Bradley MP today.

Instead of loudly denouncing the backstop and begging the EU for a trade deal to replace it, we should be running headlong towards it. ...The practical reason is that the backstop delivers a huge swathe of Britain’s Brexit demands. It ends free movement, fully removes fish, farming and services industries (the last being 80 per cent of GDP) from the EU, ends all EU budget payments and massively reduces the jurisdiction of the EU courts over this country.

Juliet Samuel

The fact is that the backstop, intended to prevent a border across the island of Ireland, cannot be accepted. The concern of many Britons is understandable that, under the current agreement, Britain might be forced to remain in a customs union with the EU for a very long time against her will. No sovereign nation would easily agree to such a condition. Even the Bundestag would hardly have voted otherwise in a similar situation.

Marcel Fratzscher, head of the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW) in Der Spiegel the German weekly

Brexit uncertainty may be the immediate cause of the hiatus, but it is also part of a more generalised European malaise which is seeing the Continent fall seriously behind the US and China....It scarcely needs restating that Europe is in a terrible mess; Italy is again a political and economic basket case, France isn’t much better, and the Spanish party political system is likely to be further split asunder in forthcoming elections by the arrival of the latest incarnation of looney tunes populism, Vox, or Voice.

Jeremy Warner

Mary Warnock embodied the worst, not the best, of Britain’s ruling class before Mrs Thatcher

The philosopher Lady Warnock died on Thursday aged 94. She was Mistress of Girton College, Cambridge and chaired the committee that decided that embryos could be experimented on up to the age of fourteen days. Enoch Powell introduced a bill that failed to make such experiments illegal. She complained that Enoch was 
“so much in the dirty tricks department. The moment he called his bill ‘The Protection of the Unborn Child Bill’, I knew I had no respect for him whatsoever.”
As headmistress of Oxford High School from 1966 to 1972, Warnock said that when 16-year-old girls got pregnant, she would encourage them to have an abortion and come back to do their O levels. She was for forty years an ardent defender of abortion and later on of assisted dying. 

She was the embodiment of the phrase 'the great and the good'.

Babies, she said, should be screened at birth and disabled ones killed.

Theresa May was never anywhere near up to the job of Prime Minister - or up to her previous job

Winston Churchill's successor as Prime Minister Clement Attlee was famously a man of few words and unemotional about firing ministers. When one minister asked him why he was being fired Attlee tersely said
"Not up to the job."
Back in the 1980s, when I disliked Margaret Thatcher very much, I remember people telling me that there was no alternative (her phrase) because Labour leader Neil Kinnock was simply not up to the job of being Prime Minister. My reply was that no Prime Minister I ever heard of was not up to the job. The grace of office (Norman St John Stevas's fey expression) descended on them.

This was true except for Sir Anthony Eden, but the grace of office did not descend on John Major who was hopeless and much too small a man to be Prime Minister. The same is true of Gordon Brown and most of all the present incumbent.

Rafael Behr in the Guardian yesterday says her fellow European leaders realised this in September:

Friday 22 March 2019

Douglas Murray in today's Spectator

"My main reason for coming to the region is to speak in Doha for the newly revived ‘Doha Debates’. After my speech, a more than usually aggressive interviewer demands to know why Britain and other European countries have not taken in more Syrian migrants. The Emir’s sister and others are in the audience and I cannot pass up the opportunity to poke my hosts in the eye. I ask how many Syrians have been made citizens by Qatar. There is a terrible silence, followed by some giggling and a small amount of applause which is afterwards said to have come from the foreigners in the audience."

A decision for a short delay - which could become a long one or even go on forever

A rather complicated decision was taken in the early hours of this morning at the Brussels summit, which the BBC at first failed to understand properly. 

To boil it down, Britain has at least three more weeks in the EU. If Mrs May's plan wins the agreement of Parliament it will be a little longer. If it does not, we have three choices: either leave without a deal (which I'd like), or postpone our departure for months and elect MEPs to the European toy parliament or cancel Article 50. 

Postponement could mean lots of things. 

It could mean a softer Brexit like Norway Plus, which was privately David Cameron's policy, until he backed Mrs May's deal out of party loyalty, and is Jeremy Corbyn's. 

Thursday 21 March 2019

'Theresa May has decided she is prepared to take Britain out of the EU without a deal'

This story published in the Financial Times a few minutes ago is a huge scoop. Is it true?
In the early hours of Wednesday morning, Theresa May made a momentous choice. After a day of acrimonious debate in her cabinet and inner circle, the prime minister decided that she was willing to take Britain out of the EU without a deal.
At Thursday’s European Council meeting in Brussels, EU diplomats wondered whether Mrs May was bluffing, but those close to the prime minister said if she cannot secure her Brexit deal she is determined the UK should embark on a no-deal exit.
Of course she might not be allowed to but if her deal is defeated after a third 'meaningful vote' next week the only choices are leaving with no deal and withdrawing Article 50.

If leaving with no deal goes well, the Conservatives take the credit. If it goes badly Mrs May, if she is still in office, and the government can say it tried its very hardest to avoid  this option, which was forced on them by Labour and by Tory rebels from both the Brexit and Remain wings.

Few papers mention the Italian bus driver accused of trying to kill 51 children was Muslim

The Italian bus driver who allegedly tried to burn to death fifty -one children in his bus is of Senegalese origin - and, we now learn, though not from the BBC or other respectable news sources like the Guardian, the Washington Post or the New York TimesMuslim

The unfairly maligned Daily Mail mentions both his religion and ethnicity. Breitbart hasn't so far mentioned the story at all.

The BBC gives the story prominence, though much less than it gives the six day old Christchurch massacre. The BBC account talks about the heroic immigrant child who bravely telephoned for help and saved everyone. The BBC quotes his father saying he hoped his son would now get Italian citizenship.

The BBC goes on to put the story into context for its readers:

Theresa May is strange without being in the least interesting

Do you think Theresa May suffers from Asperger's syndrome, gentle reader?

When I heard  her speak last night I thought her speech was like all her speeches: deadly dull and repeating what she had said before. I was not paying enough attention because setting herself up as the representative of the people against Parliament was not the best way to get MPs on her side. The papers describe it as inflammatory. Autistic is a word that is not allowed these days, except by psychiatrists as a medical diagnosis. But she is an odd person whatever the exact details of her psychology.

Brexit endgame

The three choices open to the UK at this stage are: Parliament accepting Mrs. May's plan, followed after a short delay by Brexit; withdrawing Article 50, followed by another referendum; or leaving the EU with no deal, which would be followed by a lot of negotiations. 

The House of Commons has voted against leaving with no deal and the EU leaders certainly do not want it. It might still happen. Nobody wanted the First World War to break out but it did. 

Still, I would be very surprised indeed if we leave with no deal (which is the best option now). Angela Merkel is trying hard to prevent it.

Will Mrs May withdraw Article 50 rather than allow a hard Brexit?

Allister Heath in the Daily Telegraph today.
"Mrs May is now the Remainers’ greatest asset: she has gone along with all of their destructive plans, at least since losing her majority in the 2017 election. She has refused to sell Brexit to the people, presenting it entirely as a problem to be solved, poisoning the public debate and preventing us from uniting behind a positive vision.

"She has worked for the civil service establishment, rather than the other way around. She signed up to the warped trap that is the backstop, setting in motion a course of events which now looks like delivering a choice between her awful deal and an even softer non-Brexit. She has no authority and has allowed Philip Hammond, her Chancellor, and his allies to seize control."
Allister Heath fears she may cling on and even at the last moment withdraw Article 50. This is very possible. I hope she is too committed to delivering some sort of Brexit.  

What she should do is prorogue Parliament for a week. Then we would have what the people voted for.

He is right to say that what the Tories need is a new  and Brexiteer leader who can win public support and the next election, which might soon be necessary. In any case her cabinet should force her to resign now and use, if the EU allows us one, a short delay of Brexit to hold a leadership election. It is a bad thing in many ways that party members make the ultimate decision about who is leader, but in this case it means it is out of Remain MPs' hands.

But the worrying thing is that the authority of the referendum result is reduced as each day passes. 

Perhaps the backstop is not a hill worth dying on. I begin to wonder.

'Macron will veto any delay to Brexit unless Mrs May has a clear plan' and she doesn't really

Emmanuel Macron will veto any delay to Brexit, according to this report in Le Point, the French weekly political and news magazine, unless Theresa May comes up with un projet clair, a clear project or plan. 

But her only plan is to find a way in which she can continue presenting her proposal to the House of Commons, even though the Speaker has told her that she cannot. 

She can find a way of doing so but there is no reason to suppose she can persuade Brexiteers to vote for it. They have much less incentive to do so if the delay is only a short one. 

A long delay, which she wanted but was forced by the cabinet to drop, would mean she could threaten Brexiteers that the 2016 referendum might become ancient history and lose its authority. 

The other European Union leaders are expected today to set the date for Brexit, but only to grant an extension when and if the House of Commons backs May’s deal, which the House is much less likely to do than before the Speaker's coup de théâtre and the application for a short delay.

However, Paul Taylor writes in his Politico column today that the EU will grant a delay from self interested motives. 
“No EU country wants to be blamed for precipitating a no-deal Brexit that would inflict severe economic damage not just on the U.K. but also its nearest neighbours. So, no one is likely to veto a postponement if London requests one. Nor does the EU have any right to impose terms on May … Doing so would not only violate British sovereignty; it would also set a precedent that could rebound on other member states in future.”
Brexit was a very boring thriller but now, after so many tedious episodes, it has become nail-biting. 

The BBC Radio Four news makes little secret of the BBC collective view that a hard Brexit would be a disaster. The BBC thinks a short delay is likely, but the reporter Adam Fleming just said 
" I have to say this [the danger of a last-minute unplanned hard Brexit] makes me feel a little bit ill".
The programme then moves on to talk about the hardships faced by illegal immigrants in detention.  

News just in: Italian bus driver tries to burn dozens of schoolchildren alive

Italian police have ended a dramatic ordeal for 51 students and their teachers who were tied up and held captive by their bus driver who threatened to torch everyone inside the vehicle.

Police broke glass windows in the back of the bus and got all the passengers to safety without serious injury before the flames destroyed the vehicle, authorities said.

The driver, an Italian citizen of Senegalese origin in his 40s, said he was protesting against migrant deaths in the Mediterranean, Commander Luca De Marchis told local TV. …

Wednesday 20 March 2019

Charles Moore just now in the Spectator blog

"A sad feature of the Brexit story has been how so many people with important official roles have not seemed to understand or, in some cases, even to care, what those roles entail. The Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Governor of the Bank of England are supposed to assist the British economy, not invest in its collapse. Five cabinet ministers, all supposedly bound by collective responsibility, abstain despite a whip, thereby allowing a vote to prevent ‘no deal’ to pass. The Attorney General is supposed to speak soberly: this one is a music-hall act. The Archbishop of Canterbury says he wants to help us ‘disagree well’, but then alleges that a no-deal Brexit will make lorry queues extend from Dover to Leicester."

Mrs May asks for only a short delay (for now)

The Daily Telegraph just now:
Theresa May will today request a short extension of Article 50, a Downing Street source has said, warning that voters are "fed up with Parliament's failure to take a decision".

The Prime Minister will later publish a letter, to be sent to Donald Tusk, the European Council president, which will ask Brussels to agree to a delay.

Mrs May had been expected to request a lengthy extension of up to nine months.
This was the secret decision that Mrs. May refused to share with the cabinet yesterday, even though under the British constitution we have cabinet government and the Prime Minister is only first among equals. 

It may be a surprise to the writer but not to me - because she had no alternative. A longer
delay would mean letting the people speak by taking part in the European toy parliament elections. That could have destroyed both the Conservative and Labour parties, and still

No more warrior saints

Jonathan Foreman in Quadrant yesterday:
In his book The British Dream, David Goodhart recalls a debate with two establishment figures, one a bishop, the other the then-head of the BBC; the first said he would always put global welfare before national welfare, the second said he personally felt a greater obligation to people from Burundi than people from Birmingham. Both men presumably believed that these opinions showed them to be enlightened cosmopolitans, modern citizens of the world. It could in fact suggest a kind of laziness rather than open-mindedness. (A cynic would say such loyalty to everyone really means loyalty just to oneself.) Loyalty to country is admirable partly because it is difficult. It can be much easier to feel an instant connection with fellow academics, bureaucrats, activists, journalists or doctors in other countries than with one’s own countrymen from a different social class and educational background. Disdain for the latter is one of the reasons why middle class Britons so often, like Dickens’ Mrs Jellaby, feel more compassion for picturesque poor people in foreign countries than for disadvantaged folk at home. It is one of the reasons why the UK spends ever greater amounts on foreign aid.
Where do I stand? 

I love my country and the English people with all my heart and soul and feel the same about Romania my adopted country, but I also love every country I ever visited, and I have visited seventy-odd, with all my heart and soul. 

And I feel the same about all the countries I never visited but only heard of. I want them all to thrive and to be themselves, true to their traditions,  rather than globalised and all the same. This is the main reason for disliking excessive migration.

Though to be honest I love all countries in the world passionately with three exceptions: the UAE, Lichtenstein and the USA. I except them probably because they seem to me not real countries but synthetic artifices. 

However I was only in the USA for five hours in Buffalo, the armpit of America, in 1980. I imagine the ghost-haunted American South might enchant me and all those wonderfully conservative beauties. 

I only could stand Liechtenstein for a few hours, with its toy train bearing Japanese tourists around the streets, despite having a friend there, and I was in the UAE for  three days. I did hate Dubai though, as I said in this blog.

And, if I am completely honest modern, superficially Westernised China left me a bit cold. 

But countries sometimes do until you get to know them. Greece took me some time to love, because it is Americanised, up to date and tourist infested. Bulgaria's charms were too subtle for quite a long time.

I also think the poor in Africa or in Eastern Europe are having it much harder than the poor in Birmingham and therefore they have more of my sympathy and I consider helping them in some ways a greater priority than helping my countrymen. It's not that we are more aware of global poverty than in the nineteenth century but we no longer think it divinely ordained or so inevitable.

But, nevertheless, I do not at all like the head of the BBC saying he puts global welfare above the national interest. What alarms me is that he speaks for great swathes of opinion formers and of the absurdly swollen British graduate class.  Here is the crux of the modern developed world's problems.

The bishop's attitude is also telling - post 1960 Christianity is hugely responsible for people thinking patriotism is questionable.   How different were all the warrior saints who died protecting their countries - from my patron St Edmund of East Anglia to Joan of Arc and on and on.