Friday, April 19, 2019

FRIDAY MUSIC: Easter 2019, by JD

Music for Easter week-

How the elite are preparing us for social breakdown

"Over the last thirty years, the UK has been taken over by an amoral financial oligarchy, and the British dream of opportunity, education, and upward mobility is now largely confined to the top few percent of the population. Government policy is increasingly dictated by the wealthy, by the financial sector, and by powerful (though sometimes badly mismanaged) industries. [...]

"These policies are implemented and praised by these groups’ willing servants, namely the increasingly bought-and-paid-for leadership of the UK’s political parties, academia, and lobbying industry.

"If allowed to continue, this process will turn Britain into a declining, unfair society with an impoverished, angry, uneducated population under the control of a small, ultrawealthy elite. Such a society would be not only immoral but also eventually unstable, dangerously ripe for religious and political extremism."

Oops! In copying this quote of Charles Ferguson across from Jesse there have been a few slips (i.e. I have substituted UK for US), but I think the gist still stands.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Automobiles That Changed The World, by Wiggiaatlarge

Normally when presented with a heading like that we are taken on a journey of delight in Delahayes, Bugattis, Rolls Royce, Ferrari, Duesenberg and many more of that ilk, yet however desirable they may be they represent a very small percentage of the automobile industry output. It is difficult outside of lusting after these creations to put them in any semblance of order as to their importance in car evolution.

It is in the lower echelons in the pecking order that the really great cars come from, the cars that made the man in the street mobile, the cars that jumped a generation in the design and engineering stakes, and the cars whose longevity proved their worth as transport for the masses.

It is not as easy as it appears to single out automobiles that had a profound effect on the industry and the people who purchased them as those mentioned often had aims that were fulfilled in quite a different way from that intended .

Some vehicles select themselves. The Model T Ford could not be left out of any selection: not only did it provide the first mass produced car of any substance for the man in the street, but it also heralded the use of production lines that would survive to this day, a method of construction that made the price of cars within reach for so many, no longer the preserve of the wealthy.

Henry Ford himself said of the car….

“I will build a motor car for the great multitude. It will be large enough for the family, but small enough for the individual to run and care for. It will be constructed of the best materials, by the best men to be hired, after the simplest designs that modern engineering can devise. But it will be so low in price that no man making a good salary will be unable to own one – and enjoy with his family the blessing of hours of pleasure in God's great open spaces. “

Little did he realise how prophetic those words would turn out to be, or maybe he knew all along.

The Model T Ford was always going to be a hard act to follow in the great cars stakes and it could be argued that there were no revolutionary cars in the years after the Model Ts demise in 1920, only a natural evolution of the automobile. Certainly in the upper strata of society the automobile took on a very different mantle with increasing wealth, that of the status symbol.

"People's cars" dominate this this argument on greatness. The Model T gave birth to a whole string of vehicles that through their longevity alone proved they had something more to offer than performance and soft leather. All of the below offered a chance for the man in the street to be mobile; some like the 2CV and the Fiat Topolino became almost fashion items, the Fiat more than any, a much coveted little car to this day.

Morris Bullnose (1913) - The Bullnose's official name was Oxford, after its manufacturing home...

Austin Seven (1922) ...
Ford Model Y (1932) ...
Fiat Topolino (1936) ...
Volkswagen Beetle (1945) ...
Renault 4CV (1946) ...
Citroen 2CV (1948)

All had shortcomings, built to a spec and a price they were never going to be all things to all men, but by the Thirties vehicles in more expensive sectors were beginning to be sold in numbers and several there had the credentials to claim greatness of sorts.

Citroen, never a marque to blanch at something different and inventive, produced the  Citroen Traction Avant. First produced in 1934 it was in production until 1957. It had a number of firsts for a car of its type: apart from the front wheel drive the body was of unitary construction, a monocoque; it also had four wheel independent suspension, rack and pinion steering plus hydraulic brakes - new to Europe. It came in various forms from 2 door saloon to a hatchback and a convertible and engines ranged from 1.3 four cylinders up to 2.9 six cylinders. Affectionately remembered here as a “Maigret” car versions of it became the presidential vehicles of the period, this was a game changer for the European car industry.

The photo shows a six cylinder car from 1951, ahead of its time even that late into its production.

Not long after that the ‘peoples car’ the Volkswagen started to evolve. Like the Model T Ford it was designed to be a car for the masses, robust simple to run and at a price most could afford. Undoubtedly this car had a profound effect on the auto industry and is still revered by some and a version has only just stopped production all these years later.

I was never convinced by the VW. I did briefly own one which sadly was a dog, but despite its quality build and interior finish, especially for that period I hated the road holding and the awful driving position that meant you could not use the pedals with your heels on the ground, and despite being simple it was difficult to work on engine-wise unless you took it out, so I never quite got the awe with which is held in by many; nonetheless a very important car.

Citroen did it again in 1955 with the launch of the DS: it ushered in a new world in looks and comfort and engineering ingenuity. Quite simply, there  had not been anything this advanced offered to the public as an everyday vehicle, it was and is in a class of its own. I am not going to go over all the attributes of this car, and a few downsides, instead just a link to a piece I did on it seven years ago.
I never owned one but did travel in a friend's Safari estate version quite a bit when we shared going to dog shows around the country, there has never been a better mile-eater. I did though own two other Citroens with the hydropneumatic suspension so I have been a beneficiary of that.

Another car always destined for the greatest badge is the original Mini. This was really a design coup by Alec Issigonis on packaging as much as anything else, a small footprint with maximum space and simple engineering that worked, giving it outstanding roadholding. As much as anything else it became one of the symbols of the Sixties, a time when this country shone in so many spheres.

I never owned one but I drove several variants. I am six foot one and had no trouble fitting in the Mini. The down side was a sitting position with no real variation available; that was not exactly fun on a longer drive, but the reality it was a city car and as such attracted all the glitterati of the period here and abroad to purchase the car,  often special coach-finished versions.

It also had an awesome rally and race record, despite being handicapped with an ageing design in the engine department, it was remarkable what power they managed to screw out of it in the race versions of the Cooper S race and rally models, but eventually it was that department that saw them overhauled in both race and rallying.

The original Range Rover was a game changer for off-roading and gentleman farmers: at last you had a comfortable vehicle with all modern accessories in a go anywhere car, though the very early models were sparse and practical in the cabin area, and its off-road capabilities were only matched or surpassed by the Land Rover and a few other utilitarian vehicles such as Jeep. The original used a petrol V8 that was not economical even in its class so it was hit badly by the fuel crisis and it was not until ‘88 that a turbo diesel engine was fitted to the Range Rover as an economical choice.

If Range Rover has had a problem it has been reliability and in many markets for 4 wheel drive vehicles it has lost sales to Toyota.

There is a whole raft of vehicles that have given something to the motor car in engineering, as the Volvo 140 did with the first proper crumple zones in a car body, beginning the drive to safer cars. The Toyota Prius heralded modern day electric vehicles in the form of the hybrid Prius from ‘97, long before anyone else, and it is still going. And there are many others.

I have not included sports or luxury cars: they may well have provided individual items that later trickled down to mass produced vehicles and many have become icons in their own right - Ford Mustang, Porche 911, E type and so on and in the luxury market RR Packhard Bugatti - and many more have provided style unsurpassed and quality that only money can buy, yet it is the cars above that remain the great innovators of the automobile.

Are there any more coming on stream? Not so easy today, as almost every car has the discoveries of the 100 years or so of progress incorporated into their build. Electronics move so fast these days that any innovation that is new is almost immediately superseded by something better. It is not so easy to make giant strides in engineering and design as in the past.

For me there is one little car that deserves a mention. Whether it will become a classic like the mini, I have no idea, yet the number of the original Nissan Micras that are still doing sterling service is amazing. They don't seem to rot and they have a fantastic if not overly powerful bomb-proof engine. Those seen on drives and in garages for sale are snapped up even at twenty years old - a modern Mini?

Others made their mark in different ways. The first Ford Cortina was simple, had a great engine line-up, the E series proved to be the bed rock for the majority of race engines of the period culminating in the Twin Cam version and had a gearbox along with the Corsair that was as good as anything in production, not a great car but a significant one.

Naturally everyone would want to include the likes of Porsche 911, E type, Ford Mustang, Ferrari, RR, Packard and many others, but the reality it is those that made a long term contribution and advancement in everyday motoring that deserve the accolades.

The future, who knows? In fifty years' time, with the internal combustion engine consigned to a footnote in history if they have their way, amps and voltages will be the discussion of the day among the self-drives of the period. Doesn't quite have the same ring to it though, does it?

Friday, April 12, 2019

FRIDAY MUSIC: Mediaeval Hit Parade, by JD

It's time for 'Pick of the (Mediaeval) Pops!' Some of these sound surprisingly modern and you will notice a certain amount of singing and dancing in taverns: there are some traditions which will never die!

Tuesday, April 09, 2019

State Power, Home Education and Mission Creep

I suppose two April Fool jokes was felt to be over-egging the pudding. On the first working day after March 29th we found ourselves still in the EU and Ministers are still laughing about that one; the announcement of a home-schooled children register was held over till April 2nd.

‘Please, I've only got so many ribs, Noel Coward,’ as RikMayall’s Richie said. (Not that your ribs belong to you, either, from April (1st?) nextyear; not unless you have found that opt-out page buried in the NHS Organ Donation Register – and provided the doctors remember to check it.)

This is the big theme of our age: the Power versus the People.

At present, the Education Act 1996 says the same as its 1944 predecessor, except for the addition of the special needs aspect:

The parent of every child of compulsory school age shall cause him to receive efficient full-time education suitable —

(a) to his age, ability and aptitude, and

(b) to any special educational needs he may have, either by regular attendance at school or otherwise.

There are various reasons why the State may feel the need to intervene, but please note the order in which they appear in the announcement:

A register of children not in school will transform a local council’s capacity to identify and intervene where the standard of a child’s education isn’t good enough or, in the rare instances, where they are at risk of harm. It will also help the authorities spot young people who may be receiving a solely religious education, attending an unregistered school or not receiving an education at all.

The word ‘efficient’ has remained undefined for the last 75 years, but it is a hinge on which the great door of officialdom can – and will - turn open.

Yet what if you turn the question round: why would you send your child to school?

One answer is socialisation. But this is exactly why some people have withdrawn their offspring: bullying. Anybody here watch Noel Fitzpatrick, aka TV’s The Supervet ? A rural farmboy with a gift of empathy with animals, here is his treatment at secondary school (p.75):

I remember one time going back into class after a particularly bad and mucky bruising when five boys set on me again, one on each arm, one on each leg, giving me the bumps, throwing me up in the air, while the fifth came down hard with his fists on my stomach as I bounced.

It's left its mental marks, even though he struggled on heroically to become a world-class animal surgeon who has much to teach human medicine too. Would we have heard of Isaac Newton or Michael Faraday if they’d been regularly beaten as swots?

My friends educated their three children at home. Two went on to do second degrees and the third has such personality that he has gone to the other side of the world and found jobs for which he wasn’t technically qualified – but which he soon learned to do, well.

Early on, a man from the LEA came round, but soon withdrew when father adopted the strategy of asking eagerly for materials and financial contributions. It’s funny how Ofsted and Education Ministers issue librariesful of advice and instruction to teachers, yet they never fund for a range of approved coursebooks that deliver the curriculum they are so sure is right for children. Why don’t they put ‘their’ money where their mouth is?

And I must have missed it: which Ministry philosopher has managed to answer the millennia-long question, ‘what exactly is education for?’

Friday, April 05, 2019

FRIDAY MUSIC: Pentangle, by JD

Serendipity brought together five exceptional talents for an all too brief period between 1967 and 1973. After six albums they went their separate ways. Pentangle were a 'supergroup' before that term became fashionable; two of this country's finest guitarists plus, from the world of jazz, a first class drummer with a maestro on double bass and all backing the purest female voice in folk music.

And yet, they are largely and unjustifiably forgotten. They are rarely if ever heard on the radio so you can hear them now and relax into a reverie of musical magic with Jacqui McShee, Bert Jansch, John Renbourn, Danny Thompson and Terry Cox!

The band have continued in various incarnations and currently perform as Jacqui McShee's Pentangle -

Thursday, April 04, 2019


In order to exclude the ignorant and stupid people who vote the wrong way, your eligibility to take part in the next local elections and the possible snap General Election depends on your answer to the following question:

"Is Jeremy Corbyn worse than Tony Blair?"

Answer with reference to (a) terrorists and (b) making war on a Middle Eastern country that had nothing to do with 9/11.

You may write on both sides of the paper and, in deference to New Labour "triangulation", on the edges as well.

Length: 500 - 1,500 words. NO CARTOONS.

Noises From The Echo Chamber

Last night's vote on the Cooper-Letwin Bill, evaluated according to Remainer logic: 1. It's not valid, because the majority won 2. Oh all right, majorities can win but this was by only one person's vote so it's too close and is void for that reason 3. OK it's not void because of the margin, but because somebody probably told a LIE at some point so the vote would have been different if only everybody knew all the details of everything and only told the truth 4. Okay, okay, (3) above happens all the time but those who voted for the Bill are probably nasty people who support things good people don't like so their votes shouldn't count 5 Look, here are cartoons to prove I'm right - ships falling off the edge of the Earth, lemmings jumping off cliffs, effigies of populist politicians shooting themselves in the head 6 Oliver Letwin is posh, need I say more? 7 You're blocked, you troll.

BREXIT: Power To The People

Right then: things keep moving on, and in a bad direction. Only a couple of weeks ago, Angela Eagle was complaining of the Government’s bullying towards the Opposition; now Mrs May says goodbye to collective Cabinet responsibility (a majority havecome round to No-Deal) and reaches out to Mr Corbyn, prompting Welsh Minister Nigel Adams’ resignation (good man: his letter is worth reading.)

On and on goes the Prime Minister, despite one smashing defeat in the Commons after another. She clings to power like a limpet; or perhaps, more like a limpet mine, primed to sink the ship of State.

This is autocracy.

Perhaps, if all else fails, her last card, the one that loses the stately pile and rolling acres, will be the use somehow of an Order in Council (such a favoured tool of Blair, ACL.)

Fanciful? Is there anybody who predicted what we have seen so far?

When all this Brexit business is done one way or another, the work of reassessing the British Constitution must begin. Perhaps we could start with a motion similar to John Dunning’s in 1780, altered to say: ‘The power of the Prime Minister has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished.’

What is the point of the 2002 High Court ruling that ‘The British Parliament .. being sovereign… cannot abandon its sovereignty’ if it simply delegates away most of its power, either to the EU under the 1972 ECA, or to Ministers via ‘Henry VIII’ clauses that allow them to issue secondary legislation, or to the Privy Council so that the occupant of No. 10 can govern by fiat?

What is the point of having extended the franchise to 47 million voters, under a First Past The Post system that regularly sees some two-thirds of MPs elected on a minority of votes cast? Of ‘safe seats’ that turn some MPs into complacent, negligent absentee landlords?

Or of a Fourth Estate that suppresses and twists the information the voter needs? – even (this is the one that for me exploded Jon Snow’s credibility, I can cope with his infantile remarks about white people) allowing Blair’s right-hand man to take over one’s currentaffairs TV show without warning, to spin the ‘Iraq WMD’ controversy and then shaking his hand in fraternal thanks at the end (oddly, not shown here, but I cannot forget.)

What is at stake here – what greater theme of history is there? - is overweening Power. We thought we’d settled that in the 1640s and 1680s and the political reforms in the 150 years after 1789. But the barrack-room grumblings of the people today could eventually become something worse, if democratic checks and balances fail to stop Power becoming once again arbitrary and absolute.

Is the EU prepared to reform? Oh yes – in exactly the wrong way. Only last November, the enthusiast Mr Verhofstadt was calling for the abolition of member nations’ individual veto: ‘You cannot manage a continent of that magnitude with such a system.’

Even as it is, AfD leader Alice Weidel’s much-circulated 21 March speech to the Bundestag worried that the UK’s departure threatens Germans’ ability to muster a blocking minority EU veto (min. 35% of EU population.) Already, she says, Merkel and Macron’s Aachen Treaty stands to jam open Germany’s wallet for the depredations of French profligacy and the free movement of eastern Europeans per Schengen rights have led to growing strains on the German economy under Hartz IV socialsecurity arrangements.

It’s not about us ‘crashing out’ of the EU; it’s about the EU crashing around like a bull in a china shop. If no-one will put a ring through its nose, we have to leave the premises. If we mess about, the Germans may get out ahead of us!

And if we do finally manage it, we then have to face the other systemic wreckers closer to home: the ones at the top of our country.

Monday, April 01, 2019

BREXIT: French Leave

Our schools are now required to teach British values. But what are they? Certainly not Empire, the White Man’s Burden and so on. My researches indicate that there are only two:
  1. Animism – not just pagan ritual leftovers like the Abbots Bromley Horn Dance but our deep empathy with pets and farm animals
  2. A deep distrust of the French (remember Hartlepool’s monkey-hangers)
The second is re-justified by the intransigence of M. Barnier, whose task under Article 50 (2) it is  to secure a satisfactory divorce agreement but who has dug in his heels since last Autumn.

And now we discover – by a leaked secret memo, of course, G-d forbid we be told anything openly – that there are three EU preconditions for even beginning to discuss alterations to the draft Withdrawal Agreement; conditions that are for us a surrender in advance of the battle.

But though we are divided at home, the EU itself is not united:

After chiding Ms Merkel for her many expensive policy errors, German AfD leader Alice Weidel’s speech to the Bundestag on 21 March went on to accuse her of “blind loyalty” (3:01) to the French, who want to deny Britain access to the single market. January’s Aachen Treaty on Franco-Germancooperation “had France’s fingerprints all over it” (3:40), benefitting the latter’s inefficient economy but sending much of the bill to the German taxpayer who, once Britain has left, will not be able to command a blocking minority in the Council to prevent fresh fiscal assaults on the biggest remaining economy.

Weidel quoted M. Barnier (5:26) as confiding to a colleague, “My mission will have been a success when the terms are so brutal for the British that they prefer to stay in the Union.”

We are not the only ones with national traits. The Germans love tribal unity and have a lethal penchant for abstract theorising (from Luther to Karl Marx to the Frankfurt School), but the French combine theatricality with sharp dealing and calculating selfishness. Think of William the Conqueror, turning his pratfall on the shore into symbolic seizure of the land, then ordering the Domesday Book to count exactly how much he’d grabbed; the 1789 windy Tennis Court Oath that blew off so many of the Revolutionaries’ heads in the factious struggles that ensued; and Clemenceau’s vindictive 1919 Versailles Treaty that ruined Germany and so set Europe ablaze a generation later.

Don’t expect anything but gaseous difficulties from a French lawyer. Frankly, anything that our hapless Government tries to agree now can be negotiated separately afterwards, when the costs of M. Barnier’s failure begin to bite the Continent. Let’s go now, without permission – let’s take “French leave.”

For all we wanted – what we were sold in the 1970s – was honest dealing and fair trading. What we have had ever since has been money-twisting and empire-building.

And that’s not new. It was a Frenchman who said it best, 670 years ago: 

"Un Po Apres Le Temps d'Autonne"
From “Le Jugement du roy de Navarre” by Guillaume de Machaut (1349)
Translation by "Sackerson"

A little after autumn time
When those who cultivate the vine
Pick their grapes and fill the tun
And with work that’s lightly done
Each man offers to his fellow
Pears and grapes and peaches mellow
When in the soil the corn-seeds grow
And the leaf falls from the bough
By Nature’s or the wind’s design
In thirteen hundred forty-nine
On the ninth day of November
I was closed up in my chamber.
Had the sky been bright and clear
I should have gone to take the air
But the mountains and the meadows
Were hid in fog and deepest shadows
So I was taken by the gloom
Thinking in my lonely room
How all men everywhere are governed
By cronies meeting in the tavern
How truth and justice in the land
Are dead, slain by the hand
Of greed, who over them holds reign
As if she were a sovereign queen
How the rulers rob the ruled
Sack, plunder and assault the world
Crushing them in their distress
Merciless and pitiless
Great mischief seems it to my mind
When vice and power are combined

Friday, March 29, 2019

BREXIT: The Machine Stops

344 to 286: for the third time, and for many differing reasons, Parliament has rejected the velvet-clad handcuffs of the Prime Minister’s draft Withdrawal Agreement.

‘But Kuno, is it true? Are there still men on the surface of the earth? Is this — this tunnel, this poisoned darkness — really not the end?’
He replied: ‘I have seen them, spoken to them, loved them. They are hiding in the mist and the ferns until our civilization stops. To-day they are the Homeless — to-morrow—’
‘Oh, to-morrow — some fool will start the Machine again, to-morrow.’
‘Never,’ said Kuno, ‘never. Humanity has learnt its lesson.’

-          E. M Forster, ‘The Machine Stops’ (1928)

The EU Parliament’s Mr Verhofstadt is willing to show flexibility now - unlike with the Irish Backstop, yet just as the Community did with its supposedly unalterable rule on Italy’s debt-to-GDP ratio at the time of her entry into the EU.

 ‘The only way to avoid a no deal now is for MPs to finally act next week & define a cross-party way forward. If they do, we are ready to change the Political Declaration.’

Mrs May threatens a General Election. Bring it on, say not just Labour but disaffected Tory members across the country. If she wishes to bring the Party down with her, like blind Samson, so be it. What would be in its manifesto this time?

And what has the modern Conservative Party conserved?

As we began our Common Market membership in January 1973, the then PM Edward Heath told the nation on TV:

‘There are some in this country who fear that in going into Europe we shall in some way sacrifice independence and sovereignty. These fears, I need hardly say, are completely unjustified.’

17 years later, he said the opposite on BBC TV’s Question Time:

Peter Sissons: The single currency, a United States of Europe, was all that in your mind when you took Britain in?
Edward Heath: Of course, yes.

For by then, with Mrs Thatcher about to fall from office, Heath must have felt the double satisfaction of seeing ‘that woman’ defeated and his dream of a Britain permanently locked into the EU coming true at last.

He was not to know that Lord Justice Laws would rule, in 2002, that Parliament had retained her sovereignty throughout and in fact did not have the power to give it away (see para 58 here.)

How was it possible for Conservative Prime Ministers Macmillan and subsequently Heath, to plan and carry out their Constitutional Gunpowder Plot? For it was clear that they knew exactly what they were about, since the Lord Privy Seal had told them (December 1960):

‘It would in theory be possible for Parliament to enact at the outset legislation which would give automatic force of law to any existing or future regulations made by the appropriate organs of the Community. For Parliament to do this would go far beyond the most extensive delegation of powers, even in wartime, that we have experienced and I do not think there is any likelihood of this being acceptable to the House of Commons.’

Yet that is exactly and precisely what happened. And a later Conservative PM, David Cameron, spent millions of public money in a pamphlet, to convince us in 2016 that we should stay in; and even got the leader of a foreign country, President Obama, to fly in and say the same.

All Conservatives!

And today, whatever its motives, Labour has saved us, for now – only 5 voted with the Government.
There is still grinding and crashing going on, but the Machine. Must. Stop.

FRIDAY MUSIC: Golden Hour Of Brexit, by JD

In the Film "The Wild One" Marlon Brando plays Johnny, the leader of a motor cycle gang. One of the most telling scenes in the film is this exchange between a girl and Johnny -

"Hey, Johnny, what are you rebelling against?"
"What've you got?"

It felt a bit like that in the House of Commons on wednesday night when every single amendment was voted down. They were rebelling against everything because, like Johnny, they do not know what they want, only what they don't want.

Naturally, the cartoonists and gag writers have been having fun. Take your pick from this selection -

- but I think we should have a bit of music in these difficult times  to provide some tranquility(?)
Or maybe not!

Purcell's Cold Genius (fifth clip from the top) seemed appropriate given that they are all frozen with fear they might lose their seats at the next election.

You might prefer this 'fairest isle' which is from a French production of the opera and is very good:

Yes, this fairest isle or as Shakespeare described it -

This royal throne of kings, this sceptred isle,
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
This other Eden, demi-paradise,
This fortress built by Nature for herself
Against infection and the hand of war,
This happy breed of men, this little world,
This precious stone set in the silver sea,
Which serves it in the office of a wall
Or as a moat defensive to a house,
Against the envy of less happier lands,
This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England. 

In that book I referenced the other day, All Done With Mirrors, part of it includes the speculation/theory that these islands and especially the Orkneys is the centre of the world and the origin of European civilisation. The standing stones all over these islands and as far south as carnac in France are all distributed in geometric proportion with the Ring of Brodgar being the centre. The Greeks referred to Hyperboria in the far north which could have been these islands.

Blake wrote " All things Begin and End in Albion's Ancient Druid Rocky Shore":

He illustrates why we are apart from and above the EU!

Europe will eventually come together just as Wessex, Mercia, Hibernia etc gradually merged into England then the UK, and Europe will be governed by Albion.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

An Email To Quentin Letts

Dear Mr Letts

I am sorry you have left the Daily Mail, but quite understand why. Under the egregious Greig it has become a crossword with garbage attached. You are one of the few people that made it worth reading (I wonder how much longer Littlejohn will stick it out?)

But judging by today's column in the Sun (re Letwin), you seem to have swapped your epee for a bludgeon. Are Sun readers really not up to appreciating your usual - natural - wit and subtlety? I think not. In fact if you were to continue writing as you did in the Mail I would consider making the Sun my regular, despite its being owned by a saltwater crocodile. But perhaps the house style is necessary - I guess I have to leave it to your professional discretion.

Btw I think we have discovered a new political principle: no-one called Oliver should be allowed anywhere near the levers of power; whether Letwin, Robbins or Cromwell.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Brexit: There, And Back Again

After the usual argy-bargy, we had agreed that the trip would be to the seaside. Not that the decision stopped the sulking and door-slamming, of course.

But the real trouble started when Fi insisted that the children had to decide beforehand what flavour ice-cream we were going to have – it had to be the same for all. Yurt, ever the reborn Labrador, insisted on a double scoop of chocolate; Pashmina, despite her teenage body dysmorphia, dug her heels in for strawberry.

Of course we hadn’t told them that the beach kiosk didn’t offer either and when we broke the news there were tears and shouting.

So this morning Fi kept phoning the vendor who now only stocked a mint and quinoa mix – we suspect that’s because the first was all that grew in his garden and the second was leftovers from his cereal cupboard, but he claimed that all his customers wanted it and in any case that’s all they were going to get.

Then the children started to call her a bad mother and Fi said, fine, you work it out between you. The train was due to leave at ten and if they hadn’t sorted out their differences by then there’d be no ice cream at all, so there.

Well naturally, the inevitable happened and there’s an ongoing thumping and hair pulling situation in the lounge. Fi has been online and tried to change the tickets, but the only option is a later departure and much pricier fares, so now we’re over budget before we’ve even started.

I’m the shed and I suspect Fi is eyeing the organic Molina a Vento Grillo Siciliano in the fridge.


Aaaaand that’s democracy, folks.

At least, the Parliamentary version.

Like John Major and David Cameron, Mrs May has spent a long time trying to ride two horses; as in Ben-Hur, except in this Circus Maximus the steeds are galloping away from the finishing post and heading for a fork in the road, determined to take both tracks at the same time.

There is a difference, though: Major, who reportedly prided himself on “knowing how to talk to the man in the four-ale bar” must have been surprised that the latter agreed with the “bastards” in his party; Cameron’s misunderstanding about oddballs who could be sectioned with a visit from Doctor Democracy, turned out a right Eton mess.

At least May knows the score. Now it’s the Commons that is full of “fruitcakes and loonies.”

It’s no use her telling them that the Referendum was on a binding official promise to respect the result; that there was a nationwide majority for Leave that was larger than in many Commons divisions; that most MPs were re-elected on the promise of implementing Leave. For they are the People Who Think They Know Better – the ones that have being making a rowlocks of the country for decades.

And now they’ve thrown out the coach driver and taken charge of the Magical Mystery Tour. They’re all going to sit in the driver’s seat and agree the destination.

What could possibly go wrong?

It’s going to be an interesting few days.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Cashless, by JD

Following the post about the prospect of a cashless society
and the observation that cash in bank notes is not real money, our blog host sent me this link which highlights 'the risks of a cashless society' -

An interesting post and  there were two things he wrote in there which are worth further comment:

(1) "They [the Government] firmly believe if everyone paid their taxes, they would have no problem. Of course, that is a fantasy. Whatever they collect will NEVER be enough to sustain their power."

I remember two years ago Narendra Modi decided to outlaw large denomination notes because 'they were used by tax dodgers' and later I read somewhere that his 'experiment' had been a disaster because it turned out that there was very little in the way of 'black money' circulating but more importantly many businesses collapsed and unemployment went up. Plus it cost the Government in that it resulted in lower tax revenues. Can't recall where I read that but I have found this Wiki page with a summary of events -
Further down the Wiki page it has these reactions from a few real experts -
"Steve Forbes described the move as 'Sickening And Immoral'. He stated that "What India has done is commit a massive theft of people's property without even the pretense of due process--a shocking move for a democratically elected government." Nobel laureate Paul Krugman said that it is difficult to see gains from demonetisation, while there may be significant costs to it. Economic analyst Vivek Kaul stated in a BBC article that "demonetisation had been a failure of epic proportions.""

(2): "In Europe, there is already the tradition of canceling their currency. This is done to prevent people from hoarding cash and not paying taxes."

Long time ago it occurred to me that changing the design of banknotes was a subtle way of preventing people from keeping cash under the mattress. The last time the twenties were changed I had to go to the bank because my mother had rather a lot of notes neatly stuffed into envelopes. She had spent her whole life budgeting for the household and being thrifty. Saving up for what she and the family needed. Everyone did the same in the old days. The only outside savings she accumulated were the 'divi' on her Co-op shopping in an account there, all recorded in her 'Pass Book'. When I went to the bank with the envelopes full of cash I just said "Don't ask!" but they understood because they had mothers like that too and knowing the people who worked there helped also. How things have changed and not for the better. I still keep a wary eye on the papers for the first hint of any redesign of the currency.

Over the years I have learned the hard way that financial institutions are, like governments, not your friend! I know now that my small private pension was pointless with the returns being a lot less than promised and we all know what successive Governments have done to our pension funds.
I also know that the insurance and surety companies will do anything to avoid paying out money. Do you know the difference between a bookmaker and an insurance company? The bookie will pay you without any argument over the sum he owes you!

In the eighties virtually all mortgages were linked in some way to endowments or other 'investment for growth' vehicle. I was looking to buy a property in 1987 but could not find a normal straightforward repayment mortgage. They were very rare beasts indeed so I abandoned the idea of buying at that time. It was quite obvious to even my limited understanding of finance that the projected growth of these funds was highly unlikely to happen and so it proved.

So where to place any savings to keep it safe from all the 'sticky fingers' of government agencies and other financial  wizards with their promises of unlimited milk and honey flowing from their 'safe' investments?

Not a new problem as I see from this randomly generated blog post which appeared in the right hand sidebar of this blog today.


Yesterday I saw the end of one of those RT documentaries and it was Noam Chomsky saying 'money is a form of speech' quoting a legal judgment, Buckley v Valeo 1976. That pricked up my ears so I looked for it and found this -

Truly, "the Law is a ass" as Dickens observed. Legal opinion is based on the extreme logical definition of the words in the legal text with judgments handed down which defy common sense. Remember Bill Clinton defending himself during the Lewinsky affair "... it depends on what the definition of 'is' is."

Humpty Dumpty is the patron saint of Lawyers everywhere -

 “When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’
’The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’
’The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master — that’s all.”

― Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass

I think we have inhabited a looking glass world for a long long time!

Brexit: We Never Lost Our Sovereignty

… but we could.

Until recently I thought as so many still do, that the EU had taken over. At the Third Reading of the 1993 Maastricht Bill, that great if sometimes a little crazy Parliamentarian Tony Benn said it was “my last speech in a free Parliament.

Not, it turns out, quite, thanks to our judiciary.

It began with a pound of bananas. Or rather, 454 grammes.

In February 2000, trading standards officers visited the Sunderland market stall of greengrocer Steve Thorburn and warned him against using pounds and ounces. After another visit in which they erased the authorisation stamps on his weighing machines, they finally raided him on 4 July 2000, seized his scales and successfully prosecuted him in the Magistrate’s Court in March 2001.

For what?

The Weights and Measures Act of 1985 had entitled traders to continue using Imperial as well as metric units; but the Act was amended in 1994 in accordance with various EU directives, outlawing the use of Imperial measures after the end of 1999.

Now, the EU only had the power to issue such orders because we had joined the EEC under the 1972 European Communities Act. A key point is that ECA 1972 included provisions of the type known here as ‘Henry VIII clauses’ that allow Ministers to pass secondary legislation on matters arising – ‘statutory instruments.’ Hence the basket of Weights and Measures Act 1985 amendments laid before Parliament on 19 July 1994 by the then Minister for Trade and Industry, Lord Strathclyde – see Column 182 in Hansard here.

Statutory instruments represent a partial devolution of power from the Legislature to the Executive, obviating the need to pass new primary legislation and so escaping bothersome Parliamentary scrutiny. This is an issue that goes far beyond the meddlesome nuisances of the EU.

Thorburn’s defence was that of ‘implied repeal’: since the 1985 W&M Act came later, surely it overrode ECA 1972? The magistrate correctly observed that EU law had primacy so long as we were still in the Community, and found against him.

Thorburn and other victims of Germaniacally zealous officialdom appealed to the High Court in 2002. Giving judgment against the ‘Metric Martyrs’, constitutional expert Lord Justice Laws explained that it was not a case of EU law versus British law, since ECA 1972 had imported the former into the latter.

So why could the 1985 law not ‘implicitly repeal’ the one from 1972?

The answer was that ECA 1972 is a ‘constitutional statute’ – a special kind that stands above the common run of laws. But – and here is the key to our prison – it arises from and remains in British law, and can be repealed by us. 

Laws LJ went on to say (para 58 here):

‘There is nothing in the ECA which allows the Court of Justice, or any other institutions of the EU, to touch or qualify the conditions of Parliament’s legislative supremacy in the United Kingdom. Not because the legislature chose not to allow it; because by our law it could not allow it. That being so, the legislative and judicial institutions of the EU cannot intrude upon those conditions. The British Parliament has not the authority to authorise any such thing. Being sovereign, it cannot abandon its sovereignty.’

And so, on 25 June 2018, the EU Withdrawal Act was passed.

I am sure that His Lordship is too modest to wish it, but surely he is a strong candidate for a permanent statue on the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square. As is a humble, freedom-loving greengrocer who died tragically young, mistakenly believing he had been defeated.

This is only the beginning. ‘We need to talk about Parliament’ – the use of statutory instruments, of Orders in Council (such a useful tool for the Constitutional vandal Blair), the general ‘bullying’ as Angela Eagle called it last week, of Parliament by the Executive.

Worse, Bruce Newsome's TCW article today shows the outrages that the latter, or at least the Prime Minister personally, is now prepared to attempt.

How tragic, that she seems willing to assist the relentless drive of the EU to make itself master of all Europe, and to snuff out our near-thousand-year-old flame of liberty before its captive nations try to light their own candles from it.

She has gone from laughing-stock to weeping-stock. She, and they, will, must, fail.

Friday, March 22, 2019

New post on "The Conservative Woman"

... in which I discuss Bercow's Monday statement and the points of order arising.


FRIDAY MUSIC: Fandango, by JD

The Fandango is a lively couples dance from Spain, usually in triple metre, traditionally accompanied by guitars, castanets, or hand-clapping ("palmas" in Spanish). Fandango can both be sung and danced.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Why the "Withdrawal Agreement" does NOT mean leaving the EU

Htp: Wiggiaatlarge, JD

I Promise To Pay The Bearer - Nothing, by JD

Reading this in the Daily Mail the other day reminded me that I had seen people waving their cards at the tills and then walking away without collecting any receipt or verification. How do they know at the end of the day what they have spent and where? Do they all have such wonderful photographic memories? Very often the purchase is for a minimal amount which baffles me even more.

But the use of credit cards and debit cards is annoyingly widespread. I say annoying because the users of cards are the ones who hold up the queue while they fumble in purse or wallet trying to find the card. Then they take an age to put their pin number into the reader and then take their time replacing said card in purse or wallet.

(It doesn't really annoy me, it just amuses me and I have all the time in the world.)

But in among the comments was this: "A misleading article. Whilst payment volume is higher by card, transaction volume is still note and coin ahead of card, including contactless."

So what exactly is the percentage of cashless transactions in the 'market place' and what is the percentage of cash purchases?

An illustrative tale:

I was watching the racing from Cheltenham last Friday (Gold Cup day) and enjoying it as usual of course. The coverage includes news from the 'betting ring' at regular intervals. There is one reporter standing watching the bookmakers and telling us about the changing odds. Before one of the races he was standing with £10,000 in cash in his hand and saying it was from a punter who was waging it on a particular horse, he then threw the money into the bookmaker's satchel while shouting at the camera. He did the same again before the Gold Cup. He counted out five bundles of £1000 each and said 'this is for a friend of mine' and he handed the money to the bookie and received a betting slip in return. (Both horses lost, by the way!)

So I thought to myself: how is that going to work in our new exciting and wonderful cashless society? And if 'cashless' betting ever arrives, what happens if you have a winner and you go to collect your winnings? "Give me your bank details please and we will transfer your winnings electronically.", no I don't think so.

 I can't imagine that the bookies will welcome such a thing. More to the point, owners and professional gamblers are all happier to deal in cash and some owners are very rich men indeed and are not without influence in this country.

And then I thought of other instances where cash is the best choice; car boot sales or craft fairs or 'flea' markets and other second hand markets.

My father always had a pocket full of cash and so did I in the days we were building houses. Most traders did prefer cash because it was and is quicker and easier than anything else if you need to buy materials and other odds and ends during the working day. In fact up to the early seventies there were still things like wage packets and people were paid with real cash money! (Pound notes are not 'real' money; they are promissory notes. It is written on every bank note - 'I promise to pay the bearer on demand the sum of £xyz')

I still pay for everything with cash as far as possible. In fact I have forgotten the pin number for my credit card; if I use it at all it is for buying on line. Last time I used it outside was to buy a second hand car - half cash and half card! I suppose I would get arrested if I tried to do that now :)

Will we all be forced into this plastic world or will enough people resist? And is it as widespread as the papers are telling us because I have seen contradictory articles saying that there is still £x billion in notes in circulation.

As my grandfather used to say when he looked at the state of the world "I'm glad I'm on the way out!" and then start laughing at the absurdity of life. I am pleased to say I have inherited his sense of humour!
Sackerson says:

The Bank of England responded to a Freedom Of Information request several years ago, saying:

"The link with gold was finally broken in 1931 and since that time there has been no other asset into which holders have the right to convert Bank of England notes. They can only be exchanged for other Bank of England notes. Nowadays public faith in the pound is maintained in a different way - through the Bank's operation of monetary policy, the object of which, by statute, is price stability."

Faith and trust are in short supply these days; and "price stability" doesn't mean what it used to. The BoE says: 

"Monetary policy affects how much prices are rising – called the rate of inflation. We set monetary policy to achieve the Government’s target of keeping inflation at 2%.

"Low and stable inflation is good for the UK’s economy and it is our main monetary policy aim."

To keep pace with target inflation (and how is that measured? RPI? CPI? Something else?) you need your bank account to give you 2.5% per annum pre-basic rate tax - on all your savings, not up to some wretchedly low limit.

Money used to be a store of value. For centuries, a loaf of bread was a penny. And as I said a few years ago:

"The Bank of England's website has a page that lets you calculate cumulative inflation for any period from 1750 onwards. According to them, a basket of goods and services costing £1 in 1750 would have cost (the equivalent of) £1.80 in 1900 - an average annual inflation rate of 0.3%. That period covers the tremendous increase in productivity introduced by the Industrial Revolution and further late-nineteenth-century scientific and technological developments, so inflation is not needed for business and prosperity."

Then there's the danger of strangers electronically hacking into one's bank account; and the wholesale spying by retailers and potentially the Government, on all our transactions.

But if you want something worse to worry about, there's the EU's Bank Recovery and Resolution Directive (BRRD). Under this, if a bank is in crisis, it can cut its debt to creditors and/or exchange the debt for a share in the ownership of the bank ("Congratulations! You are now part owner of a dodgy business!")

So what, silly creditors, who'd lend money to a bank, you might think. What many people still don't realise is that their bank deposits are no such thing - money left with a bank is, legally, an investment. And, dear "depositor", you are not first in the queue to be paid when a bank defaults.

If more people understood the implications, they would be a little less likely to leave their life savings in those reassuringly solid marble-and-plate-glass fortresses. This is causing concern in high finance circles, too.

Except holding cash - paper receipts for Nothing At All - is hardly an attractive alternative.

Can you imagine that at a time like this, Canada's comical boy PM sold off the rest of the country's gold? Keynes called gold a "barbarous relic", but it has an intrinsic value - they used to say that "an ounce of gold buys a handmade suit" and that's still pretty much true. Compare that with a rotting paper relic.

Clap hands for Tinkerbell, everyone. Only the power of faith keeps us aloft.

Why it's so hard to agree a deal with the EU

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

The Times They Are A-Changing, by Wiggiaatlarge

I had to make a journey down to London from Norwich the other day to see my sister who is not at all well. Having been twice diagnosed with pleurisy by her GP she was taken into hospital just after Christmas in excruciating pain to be told she has bone cancer and ten fractures to ribs and spine and as well as being on a chemo program she is encased in a brace that resemble Robocop.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I rang the door bell but she is amazingly upbeat and is of the ‘have to get on with it’ brigade which certainly helps at times like this.

She has always been the family archivist. If you want a photo, essay, whatever, she will have it tucked away in the dozens of boxes full of photos and much much more. With her husband being a not well man with numerous serious ailments the place resembled a cross between a care home and a museum. So much stuff is kept there, it borders on hoarding.

She started to show me old photo albums and there were dozens of myself as a child that I have never seen, ‘Oh you will have to look at this then’ and out would come another full of family photos going back to before WWI.

My sister has also just taken in the contents of an aunt who just died, the last of the generation of my parents who was 96. A brilliant student at St Martins School of Art before the war, she went on to be a fashion editor for a large magazine group attending the Paris fashion shows and others; always immaculate, as she was to the end when going into hospital more worried about her hair than the illness - habits die hard.

There were folios and boxes of her drawings, not just of fashion, also going back to her student days. Much is being collated and given to St Martins for their archives; some individual pieces were stunning.

Anyway, among all this nostalgia was a series of wartime magazines called Parents, sixpence monthly. I took one copy as it contained a picture of me inside (no, I am not going to show on here): I had been entered for the Bonniest Babies competition. Amazingly it had a £50 prize for the winner, a lot of money in 1944 ! And sadly I did not win, but my mum still loved me ?

Inside this small austere magazine are the articles and adverts of the time and as always when confronted by something like this the usual, “I remember” prefixes dozens of items displayed within plus much within the articles.

The adverts naturally are child associated…..

Some of the articles today would be laughed at - or would they? So much then was basic common sense, something sadly lacking in many areas of today's world, from how to make slippers for your child from scraps from your rag bag (who has one of those these days?) to health tips on how to handle baby’s first tooth, and the problem of “dirty heads” - we all met with nitty Nora at school with her metal comb in the bowl of disinfectant ! Also we all lined up for a dessert spoon of malt from a very big tin, always a wonderful antidote to the cod liver oil we also lined up for. And how to cope with your child and his listening to the radio and its educational value ? 

And Ministry of Food adverts with tips on how to make nourishing healthy meals out of very little and what we can do with cheese - the MoF recommends Cheese Moulds using grated cheese, unsweetened custard breadcrumbs, a teaspoon of made custard, a pinch of salt and pepper, all blended and mixed, poured into a mould and set: turn it out like a blancmange and serve with green salad and tomato and cold potato salad, Does anyone remember that ?

And what appears to be a curious ad for saving paper. Obviously it was a war time request, but the ad does not say what the paper was saved for. It finishes with in bold: “but it is so important, so vital, so necessary  to continue to save paper all the time.” Wartime naturally had a very different set of values, so much today is taken for granted; war condensed requirements down to to the basic, the vital. It is hard to imagine going back to all that. Though the utterances of certain scaremongering idiots would have us believe Brexit will achieve the same; they have no idea.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Brexit: healing divisions, keeping the peace

A few days ago, I posted a piece titled "Fighting Talk: Brexit and civil disorder," arguing that the disconnect between Parliament and the people was potentially - in the long run - a threat to the Queen's peace in this country.

But if that sounds over-the-top (as is so much in the language of public debate these days), consider Professor David Starkey's article in the Daily Mail today

"It is no exaggeration to say that British democracy, which stands in direct line with Magna Carta, is now unravelling before us [...]

"The EU referendum tore apart the veil: it was now the People versus the Parliament...And where will it end? In [an]other very British revolution? Or something nastier?

"I don’t want to prophesy, good historian that I am, but I fear the worst."

Trouble starts with intemperate language, and there's a lot of it now. Not just in the illogical and ill-tempered exchanges on social media, but in mainstream print news. Even Boris Johnson, with all his experience in both journalism and politics, is so reckless as to say that Mrs May has wrapped a "suicide vest" around the Constitution.

And then there's the Union Jacks sprouting everywhere on Facebook, and the self-styled patriotic groups. At first this may be seen as a bit of venting, not to be taken seriously; but then what I remember seeing of the first formations of the Serbian Army in Bosnia was a bunch of fat, scruffy oiks.

Maybe there's a historical rhythm to riot, insurrection and war. It could be that every generation has to start a fight. 1914, 1939, the youthquake of the 1960s, the fall of Russian Communism in 1989... we're about due, perhaps.

These days the word "extremists" is usually accompanied by the adjective "far-right", as though that is the only element that threatens us. I would argue that the State will manage to deal with such people - they identify themselves with little disguise and can easily be spied on electronically, policed, infiltrated, warned, tried, jailed. The task of the State is made harder by the fact that the Internet allows for the proliferation of "echo-chamber" sites, reinforcing the prejudices of the deluded so that they drift ever further away from common sense; the number of these madhouses is such that  not all incidents will be prevented. However, the perpetrators are likely to be caught, sooner or later. It is like the fire service: there will be outbreaks, but they can be addressed swiftly and contained.

A real conflagration requires really serious mass discontent, often with help and encouragement from outside; an analysis of events that promises a better alternative; organisation and leadership; a trigger. And it may succeed if the ruling power has its energies divided.

Think of the historic difficulties between Catholic and Protestant in Northern Ireland. The Fenians  bombed London's Clerkenwell Prison in 1867, but it was the middle of WWI that was an opportunity for a mass uprising.

Then there was Germany in WWI, supplying 50 million gold marks to Russia's subversives so that they could circulate propaganda newspapers among army and navy units and factory workforces; and then sending Lenin to them in a sealed train; all to collapse the established order in Russia and free German divisions to come West and tackle the Allied Powers.

Too late. But the law-abiding, freedom-loving, God-fearing German nation was driven mad with war, starvation through blockades that were continued after war's end, vindictive peace terms that bankrupted them and gave them a hyperinflation that wiped out the savings of the middle class.

Then think of China in WWII, torn by warlords, and Stalin's sponsorship of Mao Tse-Tung as the latter was carried thousands of miles on a litter, reading voraciously so he could learn from the tyrants of the past. And later, Mao's own sponsorship of Communism in neighbouring countries.

A lot has to go wrong, and be made to go wrong, before ordinary people tear up their ordinary lives.

But when society is put under extreme stress, millennial movements spring up. Norman Cohn's classic "The Pursuit Of the Millennium" (1957, revised 1970) shows how mass anxiety and despair, caused by economic breakdown, drive communities crazy.

We're not there now, nothing like. In fact we in this country could lose a lot before we got to be merely as poor as we were in the early 1970s, and that was luxury compared to a generation before, and the privations of the interwar years (the Roaring Twenties didn't roar in Britain, and that was before the Depression.)

Yet there are historians and economists who claim to have identified a long economic cycle of boom and bust (remember Gordon Brown's claim that he'd beaten it?) For example:

  • Nikolai Kondratiev theorised a wave length of 40-60 years, which implied that it was beyond the power of a centralised Socialist government to buck the pattern; so Stalin had him shot in 1938.
  • Irving Fisher's analysis of the 1929 Wall Street Crash and the ensuing Depression saw a cycle of debt growth followed by deflation; these ideas were later developed by Hyman Minsky and then Australian Professor Steve Keen, who was one of the mere handful (he said 12 at first, later revised to perhaps 20) of economists to foresee the 2008 Global Financial Crisis (most of his fellow professionals tend/ed to ignore debt and inflation, thinking that the effects would be spread around in society and offset by wage rises.)
  • Original thinker Charles Hugh Smith sees an even longer wave of 150 - 200 years and thinks we are approaching the breakdown point. 
  • Financial analyst Martin Armstrong has developed a pattern-theory around the number pi and speaks of a "monetary crisis cycle" repeated throughout history (including in the ancient world); he sees 2020/2021 as a turning point ("that is probably where we will see the dollar rally break the world monetary system.")

Rulers of the past had seers and astrologers; today, governments have economists. Maybe it's all nonsense. But modern history certainly shows periodic horrible disruptions to our peaceful lives. What a wonderful period of relative peace and unparalleled prosperity we have enjoyed so far; but it's not guaranteed and not going to continue without our support.

I think there are two points to make here. One is that when disaster strikes, it may not be "far right extremists" we have to worry about so much as mass movements led from the Left and representing groups that feel excluded, ignored, despised and put down. How else to explain the success of Trump's Presidential campaign, and the Leave vote in the EU Referendum? These upsurges may not have been captained by Lefty politicians; but they could be captured by them. And when times are harsh, people become harsh.

Which leads us to the second point. Just as Noah built his Ark in sunshine, and Joseph advised Egypt's Pharaoh to store grain during seven good years to tide over the people in the following lean ones, so this (if not rather earlier) is the time our political leadership and news commentariat should be mending the divisions in our society, so that we can pull together when we face challenges of the scale that we have never confronted in our lives, though our parents and grandparents had to.

Imagine if, in 2016, either David Cameron or his successor Theresa May had said something like:

A very serious and difficult decision has been made, after a long period of fair and thorough discussion and a vote in which a record 33 million people participated. We promised that it would be a once in a generation choice, and that we, your Government, would be bound by it and would implement it faithfully.

This we will do.

A referendum like this was always going to be contentious. But just as the Government itself accepts the outcome, no matter how close, those who were of the alternative opinion, by taking part in it, have also agreed to accept it; and those who did not vote at all, as was their right, have thereby shown their willingness to go along with the result whichever way it went. This is how Parliament itself works - often on much narrower margins of votes - and it is what makes us a democracy and keeps us at peace. After a division, we reunite.

The key decision was whether we should remain part of a political organisation called the European Union. Together, we in Britain have chosen another path. So, in two or three years' time, we will once again have full and exclusive control over our laws and judiciary, our taxes and trade.

For of course we shall continue to work and trade with and visit the continent of Europe and its peoples, whether or not they are themselves members of the EU.

During the transition period, we will be negotiating agreements with the EU about how we deal with them in terms of goods and services, immigration and emigration, travel arrangements, the rights of foreign people working here and British people working abroad, financial services and so on. There is a lot of hard work to be done, and it will be done. We look forward to constructive discussions with our European partners in our changing situation, as well as with the rest of the world.

In the meantime we call on all people in this country, their political representatives, the news media and others to understand and accept that the nation's decision is collective, clear, binding and final. The agenda from now on is to manage the transition as smoothly as possible and to the benefit of all. Not for the first time, the British people have made history together and now we set ourselves once again to work for the common good.

Yes, just imagine.