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Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Which Brexit?

Assuming that we ever escape the Shelob’s web that Mrs May, her bullnecked exquisite “Olly” Robbins and others have woven in our path out of the EU, the big question is, what next? Is it to be untrammelled “free trade”, or something else? For there are other options.

Hilariously, Left agitators like Owen Jones and unthinking right-on Facebook snarlers represent Leave as purely a Tory initiative, quite forgetting that it was Conservatives like Macmillan and Heath who shoehorned us into this mess in the first place.

Why?

Some say it was because we needed supranational government to prevent a third and even more terrible, nuclear-armed world war. Others say Supermac felt it was a way to block the takeover of socialism in Britain.

Both could be right, for these issues were addressed over sixty years ago, by none other than Lord Beveridge:

‘I believe that there are two desires which are common to all the peoples of all the nations of the world. One is the desire for peace, and the second is the desire to have their own way of life, not something forced on them from outside; to govern or, if they prefer, misgovern, themselves. How can they get both those things—peace and self-government, or self-misgovernment, as they prefer?’

I used to think that World Government sounded like a Good Idea, failing to factor-in human nature: build a Throne for the Ruler of All and “they will come”, the violent contenders for it.

But as Betrand Russell said, power takes more than one form. Such is the terror of Mutually Assured Destruction that the battling has diverted into economics and the Game Of CEOs’ Desks. Our time in the EU has seen big money and little people moving around, which has led to economic and social disequilibrium. There has only been one year since our entry in 1973 when we had evenly balanced trade with the EEC-EC-EU: not coincidentally I think, that was the year of the 1975 Referendum. Otherwise, losses for the UK, and the withering of our industries.

Yet the vision Mr Farage and others conjure up for us, of a Britain trading completely freely with the world, has its own potential pitfalls. For example, when Michael Gove attended January’s Oxford Farming Conference NFU President Minette Batters asked him for reassurances that domestic food producers would not be undercut by imports from countries with lower standards of production and environmental protection.

These are knotty problems, and not just for the developed countries. A 2012 study said that the Great Green Wheeze of making fuel from grain, plus the disruptive activity of international speculators, had the effect of tripling the price of Mexico’s corn and inflicting hunger on its poor.

Similarly, when rich countries draw in skilled health workers from abroad it may be a cheap way to fulfil our needs with ready-trained professionals, but it also means a ‘brain drain’ that is ‘adversely affecting the healthcare system in developing countries and, hence, the health of the population.’ Even the Guardian has noted this effect on Romania, whose health workers are emigrating.

Free trade needs some form of control of pace and direction, just as a car needs brakes and steering. It can’t all be left to the multinationals to decide, because in the interests of maximising shareholder returns they will seek to externalise costs and may ultimately destroy the system.

I have previously likened globalised finance to opening all the locks on a canal at the same time and perhaps this crude graphic will sketch some concerns:



The current situation bears out what Sir James Goldsmith predicted in 1994, that unrestricted international trade would swing the seesaw towards capital and against labour forces and would lead to social tensions.

We are seeing growing inequality, even – especially - in Communist China. Over here, rich individuals can squirrel their wealth offshore while still living in London; multinational companies can incorporate wherever in Europe charges them the least; growing numbers of the poor feed and breed; the middle class, who don’t have enough to run away, get squeezed for tax even as Artificial Intelligence is a looming threat to their ability to earn in future.

But if we could level the seesaw so that we had more real jobs (employment statistics are a lie, even Big Issue sellers count as self-employed and qualify for income supplements) and better pay rates, then the working population would spend more, so increasing demand for each other’s goods and services. The increased turnover of money would also mean more tax revenue – a bite at every turn- so we might at last balance the national budget, instead of self-defeating, demand-shrivelling ‘austerity’. And, perhaps, much of the underclass would be raised from liability status to economic asset.

We must of course trade with the world, but on terms that are more equitable, at a more measured pace, so that all will benefit gradually, rather than this crazy Wild West gold rush.

Everything is a political decision. We have the capacity to bomb the human race to extinction several times over, but so far we have decided not to. We instituted the Welfare State at a time when the country was on its uppers and we couldn’t afford it – but we hadn’t done it in the midst of pre-WWI prosperity, so when was it ever going to come?

Now, we need more freedom to make deep, long-term political decisions.

My argument for Brexit is not that we will all suddenly become much richer, but that we need more flexibility in a changing world; to be able to govern or, if we prefer, misgovern, ourselves, as Beveridge so wisely said.

Friday, April 26, 2019

FRIDAY MUSIC: Dylan, by JD

"The knower of the mystery of sound knows the mystery of the whole universe."

— Hazrat Inayat Khan

This week's music is from Bob Dylan. There is not much to say that has not already been said but I would like to comment on two popular 'myths' about the man.

The first is that he is a 'born again' evangelical Christian, based on three biblically inspired albums in the late seventies and early eighties. Not quite; it is true that he spent three months at the Vineyard Church in California studying the New Testament-
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Association_of_Vineyard_Churches

But he remained and still is Jewish and is one of a growing number who recognise that Jesus was indeed the Jewish Messiah fulfilling the Old Testament prophecies. This link will help to explain-
https://jewsforjesus.org/publications/issues/issues-v21-n03/thinking-twice-about-bob-dylan/

The second 'myth' is that Dylan sold his soul to the Devil which stems from an interview he did with the journalist Ed Bradley in 2005. The relevent passage is transcribed in the above link.

But watch the clip on YouTube and Dylan is trying hard not to be misunderstood or misrepresented knowing, from experience, that journalists are not the most intelligent creatures on this earth.

"Making a bargain with the Chief Commander..." is not the same as selling your soul to the Devil. After all, if you sell your soul what do you get in return? Nothing is the answer. The devil or satan or evil is not a creative entity and so a creative talent has nothing to gain from doing deals with the devil. As pointed out in the link it is a story which probably began when Robert Johnson "went down to the crossroads" as one of his songs puts it.

In a 1984 interview, Dylan remarked, “I think politics is an instrument of the Devil. Just that clear. I think politics is what kills; it doesn’t bring anything alive.”
https://www.counterpunch.org/2015/11/25/bob-dylan-and-christian-zionism/

Aside from all that, it is the music which is important and his perpetual re-interpretation of his own songs which mark him out as one of America's finest poet/musician. His back catalogue is huge so this below is but a snall selection. And just a note about the last video here which is an impromptu duet with one of his best, if not the best backing singers Clydie King who died earlier this year. A fitting epitaph to her memory.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clydie_King















Thursday, April 25, 2019

Selling their souls. For money. - By JD

This is a story that you will not find in the mainstream UK news media. I have made reference to the weekly public executions in Saudi in a previous post. https://theylaughedatnoah.blogspot.com/2016/03/jd-human-rights-or-human-rites.html

The UK Government says arms sales to Saudi Arabia are vital for the British economy. The USA sells arms to their 'vital' ally in the region, Saudi Arabia. But they are silent when the Saudis executed 37 people on tuesday this week. (Their weekly executions are usually held on a friday, their holy day.)

The only place you will find the story is here - https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2019/04/saudi-arabia-37-put-to-death-in-shocking-execution-spree/

You will notice that all of those executed were Shias. Saudi is governed by Sunnis who are 'at war' with that particular sect. The number of sects is 73 only one of which is destined for paradise. The others are detined for hell. There seems to be a great seal of misunderstanding and confusion on the subject. -

    “The Grape that can with Logic absolute 
     The Two-and-Seventy jarring Sects confute: 
     The subtle Alchemist that in a Trice 
     Life's leaden Metal into Gold transmute.”

     ― Omar Khayyam

The only reason I knew about the Amnesty report is because it was mentioned in the Spanish sports daily Marca. The English version of the story does not mention Amnesty International.
https://www.marca.com/futbol/supercopa-espana/2019/04/25/5cc049d1ca4741c26b8b45a8.html

Juventus and AC Milan contested the Italian Supercopa recently in Saudi Arabia and the Spanish FA wish to stage their own Supercopa in saudi Arabia in Janury of 2020.

The corrupting power of money!

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.
http://www.nourishingobscurity.com/2012/03/citroen-ds/

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.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mini



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.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Range_Rover

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!
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pentangle_(band)

The band have continued in various incarnations and currently perform as Jacqui McShee's Pentangle - http://www.pentangle.info/JMPentangle/HOME.html

















Thursday, April 04, 2019

FINAL EXAMINATION PAPER

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