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The Madness Stalking Democracy will Pass.

“Has there been a general election, Mr Blackadder” asked Mrs Miggins, unaware, until Edmund points it out, as neither she nor Baldrick have a vote. “Hardly seems fair to me” she says.
“Of course it’s not fair — and a damn good thing too. Give the like of Baldrick the vote and we’ll be back to cavorting druids, death by stoning, and dung for dinner”

And that, in a nutshell is the problem with democracy. You simply cannot allow the enthusiasms of the noisier, politically enthused bit of the population to be indulged. The young prats currently cavorting after Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders seem blissfully unaware of the misery that socialism wrought even within their parents’ lifetimes. Nativist chauvinism, a yearning for the “strong leader”, the admiration of Vladimir Putin by the likes of Nigel Farage, Donald Trump or Marianne Le Pen: we’ve seen this before too.

This is why “elites”, in most of the world limit the choice available to electors to people within the bounds of reasonable discourse. It is possible to expand the bounds of reasonable discourse over time, to move the centre of politics around which that “overton window” opens. Clement Atlee did, Margaret Thatcher did. But what is happening right now, in response to a decade of stagnating living standards, is different.

One way of looking at it is a revolt of the left behind. That is behind the rise of UKIP, Le Front National and Donald Trump. After a hollowing out of the traditional working class, as the most able have moved on and up, and after generations of assortative mating, the shallow end of the British gene pool face competition from far more able and energetic immigrants and they don’t like it one bit. If you listen to a ‘KIPper, you’ll hear that they’re “fed up” about “not being listened to” by the “metropolitan elite”. Cameron offered these bloody people their referendum. They now hate him even more. This mood cannot be pandered to, because the policy solutions they demand don’t work. If your response to a few years of stagnant wages and a Polish couple moving in next door is to try to elect Nigel Farage, then you don’t deserve to be listened to. You deserve to be told to shut up and do your homework again. These people have captured the Republican party in the USA, and the party will not elect a president until the “elites” get control back.

And on the left, the highly educated marxists who once would have been guaranteed solid middle-class status as teachers, lecturers and officials, are now competing with self-employed tradesmen who often earn far more, for housing and schools. People, once solidly middle-class find themselves outcompeted by people they regard as inferior, and they don’t like it. The erosion of the status of the Nomenklatura vs. “trade” offends their sensibilities, and panders to an old snobbery against grubby money-making. The old socialism espoused by Corbyn plays to these prejudices, offering status at public expense. Thankfully most people going to University ignore the student politics of the hard-left, and seek a qualification to enable them to compete. And in competing they make themselves, and society richer. These student trots who never grew up are creatures of ridicule. They have however completely captured the Labour party, which is finished as an electoral force for at least a decade.

Morons, it seems favour either full socialism, or some form of fascism, because these ideas simple, easy to understand and wrong. It’s time for those of us who understand the world to stop imagining the grunting ignoramuses or starry-eyed ideologues have a point at all. They deserve ridicule. Point at the Corbynista or the ‘KIPper and laugh for having been taken in by nonsense.

Meanwhile, in the middle you have the broad mass of people doing OK. Unemployment is low. Most people are getting small annual pay rises. Price rises are low, and for capital goods, prices are falling. However people like nominal rises more than they like real rises. And the low-inflation, low interest rate reality means even as people’s real wages, even after housing costs (outside London and the south east anyway) are rising strongly. A lack of nominal increases makes people grumpier than they should be. There is sympathy for Farage and Corbyn shaking things up. Thankfully, the broad mass of the basically OK middle are sensible, and when push comes to shove, see the status-quo is far from intolerable. And those doing basically OK are far greater in number than the UKIPish left-behind and the Socialist-minded Corbynista class.Traditional politicians such as Cameron, who can reach out to this broad middle while keeping the coalitions of which their party is made together, will still win elections.

Assuming the Tory Party holds together after the referendum, and doesn’t go EuroBonkers, they will need to find another politician who can reach out to the broad centre. If they can, Labour, entirely captured by voter-repellent lunatics, will offer no resistance to another decade in power. Over the pond, Trump will attract a little more than a third of the vote. Everyone else will hold their nose and vote for Hilary Clinton however crap a candidate she may be. And in the rest of the Democratic world, people will flirt with lunatic populists along these lines, but will mostly vote for a steady-as-she-goes mainstream candidates.

Democracy – keeps testing these bad ideas, but mostly seems to work. This madness will pass.

The Annual Prediction Game: the world is STILL getting better. Mostly.

Electorates across the rich world are losing the plot, and increasingly backing utter numpties all over the place. Mostly, the likes of Trump, Le Pen and Corbyn will not win elections, and sanity will prevail. The last 6 years have seen middle-class wages stagnate in the rich world and voting for these populist goons is a way express dissatisfaction with this fact. Meanwhile, the global poor continue to get better off. 

2015 saw a continued decline in the number of people in absolute poverty, who struggle to get adequate calories to survive. Fewer than 10% now live on less than a $1.90 a day, down from 36% in 1990. 1990, by the way is the year the world started to abandon the idiotic economic shibboleths of socialism and embraced markets. It’s not even clear in-country inequality is rising in the west. Anyone who says “the rich get richer, while the poor get poorer” under capitalism, is simply wrong. 

Even the rise of populist politics in the west can be seen as a symptom of success. In previous generations, semi-educated morons would be too busy surviving to have opinions, and nor would they have any means to express them. Should morons express themselves, educated people would have had the confidence to ignore them. Now morons not only have opinions, and a means to express them, but they expect to be taken seriously! Worse, educated people, who are usually achingly tolerant, have internalised the idea that all opinions are equally valid, while being ashamed of their status. The morons’ great yawp of disatisfaction mouthed by the likes of Farage and Trump will, however, pass as successful economies resume stuffing their fat mouths with bread and circuses, and the Morons stop listening to politicians again, even ones that stroke their prejudices. 

Corbyn is a slightly different phenomenon: here an antediluvian trot has taken advantage of a disorientating defeat, and been swept on a wave of unusual unity from the hard-left to capture Labour. Young, ignorant pillocks, who don’t remember the piles of corpses and devastated economies left behind by Socialism, have flocked to his banner. Moral certainty, and so the nice-sounding homilies of socialism poison a new generation. 

Democracy means playing whack-a-mole with bad ideas, and this dispiriting process has sucked the confidence out of the West. Without an enemy with which to contrast ourselves, we’ve rightly turned to solving problems within. But this focussing on our problems has given many the impression there are fundamental flaws in our society, and created a yearning for certainties. Hence the support, on both the idiot left of Corbyn and the Trump/Farage moron right, for the likes of Putin. 

The return of real wage growth will see off the populists in a way rational argument won’t. If they’re getting richer, people will stick with the status quo.

War has taken more lives in 2015 globally  than in the previous few years. We have spent the peace dividend following the defeat of the Soviet Union. But Russia is re-arming, China is starting to throw its weight around, and the Middle-East is in flames, and so the West must pull together and re-arm too. Although Fukuyama’s “end of history” was widely derided, we have acted for 25 years as if he was right. The free west needs to rediscover its confidence, and start asserting itself again. Democracy’s march has slowed. Dictators have learned to manage the process. Idiot socialism is coming back. Whatever the faults of our society, the free-market liberal democracy remains the best, freest society yet devised, and we should be confident in our moral righteousness, when facing down our enemies, domestic or foreign.

Si vis pacem, para bellum.

Last year’s predictions were as follows:

  • I think 2015 will be the year the FTSE breaks 7000. One day it will, one day I will be right.
  • Oil will fall to $40, and maybe below and stabilise in the $40-60 range. USA becomes the world’s swing producer
  • The Conservatives will win a thin majority in GE2015. There maybe 2 elections. Don’t ask me how. no polling backs this up. But the country doesn’t want Miliband, and Cameron’s actually done a pretty good job under difficult conditions and doesn’t deserve to be sacked. UKIP to win 3-5 seats, Farage to fail in Thanet, the party’s national vote share in the 10-12% range.
  • China’s growth over the past few years will prove to have been overstated. China’s slowdown to get worse. India to continue to develop rapidly. Modi proving his critics wrong: He may be the man to get India working and taking its rightful place as a major economic power.
  • Russia will try to save whatever face it can for Putin, as it withdraws from Ukraine in response to the falling oil price and continued sanctions. Russia will be set up to rejoin the world financial system in 2016.
  • IS will be reduced to a rump by the end of the year, as having been stopped in their tracks on a number of fronts, they will find the supply of jihadis will dry up.
  • Darfur will be the international flash-point to watch
How did I do?
  • The FTSE did break 7,000 and then collapsed. 1
  • Bang on the money about Oil 1
  • Bang on the money about the election, though I overstated UKIP’s seats. 1
  • Bang on the money about China and India 1
  • I under-estimated Putin’s willingness to make his people suffer for his grandiose designs, though the Ukraine ceasefire is mostly holding 1
  • Perhaps over-optimistic about ISIL’s defeat, but they are certainly in retreat. 1/2
  • Not sure a great deal happened in Darfur, indeed it seems to be quietly solving its problems. 0
5.5/7 ain’t bad! And looking forward:
  • The FTSE 100 will recover lost ground, and make a new high in 2016. Oil will remain below $60 for the foreseeable future.
  • Inflation will remain low, and there will not be an interest rate rise in the UK until at least the 2nd half of 2016, and probably not until 2017.
  • The UK will vote to stay in the EU, and do so relatively comfortably.
  • Trump will not be the Republican nominee, but it doesn’t matter. Hillary Clinton will be the Next president. However ghastly she is, the GOP is going through the same existential madness that is currently gripping the Labour party in the UK. Hell, given the current bunch of twat-o-matic onanists vying for the Republican nomination, I’d probably have to vote for her.
  • Corbyn will remain leader of Labour through 2016, and will poll in the mid 20s by the end of the year. 
  • Labour will start losing MPs to defections and a small chance of a formal split in the party.
  • We’ve seen peak UKIP: I estimate a 25% chance of Douglas Carswell resigning the whip in protest at ‘KIPpers being mostly ghastly pillocks with horrific views.
  • ISIL will continue to be degraded, and continue to lose ground to various forces. Putin will continue to prop up Assad, and Syria will become increasingly binary, as Russian and Regime forces grind down all (non-ISIL) opposition to the regime. 
  • It is likely the west will grudgingly accept Assad’s part in the post war Syria.
  • It is possible 2016 could be the year of the QSD, a Arab League and US-backed coalition of (mostly) non-jihadi, democratic (ish) Syrian groups.
  • The conflict in Ukraine will remain frozen, Putin’s aim being a nation with an open sore, which cannot therefore join NATO or the EU.
  • If the last decade was China’s, the coming one looks like it may be India’s. India is just too corrupt and chaotic to manage ‘big bang’ development by government fiat, but China’s getting old before it got rich, and there is *a lot* of mal-investment to purge. China’s economy will weaken sharply in 2016.
  • India’s rise may be more sustainable, as it will have to be driven from the bottom up. India’s growth rate will be higher than China’s (largely fictitious numbers) again in 2016.

Trump and Corbyn, Le Pen and Farage; Putin and the Crisis of Democracy

Vladimir Putin runs a managed democracy. He controls the media, he ensures that any opposition figures that make it to telly, are risible tosspots. Credible ones are killed, unless they’re too famous, like Gary Kasparov, then they’re just ignored. The country Putin governs responded to the collapse of its empire and subsequent “humiliation” by electing, and then submitting to someone who trades in a simple narrative; that of Russian greatness. We’ve been here before.

Those homo-erotic pictures of a bare-chested Putin hunting, much mocked in the west, are part of a pretty scary cult of personality centred on someone who is by some measures the richest person in the world. He oversees a kleptocracy where wealth flows from power, and power flows from the Kremlin. Why did the Sochi winter olympics cost $51bn? Because grand construction projects are a good way to distribute state funds to chosen cronies.

Much is made of Russia’s “humiliation”. In reality, the former satellites of Russia’s brutal empire are seeking protection against their former master. The Estonians, Latvians, Lithuanians and Poles who escaped Moscow’s grip have absolutely no desire to go back. Georgians sent troops to work with Americans in Afghanistan in a desperate bid to secure NATO membership, and the protection that offers from Russian aggression. Ukrainian’s government are desperate for western support against Russia in their frozen conflict in the East.

Meanwhile Russia is pumping out their Narrative: that Ukraine is “not a real country”, that Russia is responding to NATO “aggression”, and that its neighbours do not warrant full autonomy as independent nations. And useful idiots from left and right lap up this toxic, stupid narrative. Otherwise intelligent people claim there’s moral equivalence between Estonia’s enthusiastic and voluntary membership of NATO with the aggressive annexation of South Ossetia, Abkhazia, Crimea and the ambiguous warfare in the Donbass. Putin’s lie that the people who stood on the Maidan in Kiev were “fascists” and that the protests were “western-backed” stands no scrutiny. Fascists made up 3% of the parliament post-Yanukovych. The Maidan protests were not western backed, and any agents provocateurs there may have been on the Maidan were most likely (though no proof as yet) to have been Regime-backing Russians.

Recently, in a grand and theatrical gesture, Russia deployed a few squadrons of bombers to Syria to prop up the ailing Assad regime. This wasn’t done to “fight ISIL” as many would have you believe. They’re mostly bombing the people the west want to win. It was to secure a say in post-Assad Syria, place Russia (and by extension, Mr. Putin) at the centre of world affairs; ultimately to buy bargaining chips for Putin to negotiate away the sanctions that are crippling his country’s economy. Further benefits: destabilising the middle east may raise the oil price, and the ongoing refugee crisis (made worse by Russian bombing) destabilizes the EU, an organisation second only to NATO in the Kremlin’s demonology.

Social media discourse on politics in general and Russia in particular has become prone to what is known as the “Pish gallop” in Scottish politics. Putin was one of the Few world leaders to endorse Scottish independence, and Russian observers were the source of the rumours of stuffed ballot boxes: the “Pish Gallop” describes the tactic of overwhelming an opponent with multiple lies, each of them egregious but without sufficient time to refute them all, you end up leaving the central idea unchallenged: the grand lie that Russia is responding to NATO “provocation”.

What has this to do with the west?

The lunatic fringes, left and right buy into the narrative of a corrupt and decadent western “elite” which is somehow to blame for everything bad. Syria? the west’s fault for invading Iraq. Libya: the west’s fault for bombing an armoured column in a country that’s already at war. No Arab; not Mohammed Bouazizi, nor the people from Benghazi to Cairo who rose up to overthrow dictators are credited with any agency in all of this. Everything is somehow a grand (and often “zionist”) conspiracy. This is comforting to people who want to see themselves as courageous crusaders against a decadent establishment. But this is self-serving and childish disatisfaction with the messy compromises of electoral politics. Morons have always yearned for Fuhrerprinzip of the charismatic dictator.

Putin is busy corrupting discourse on social media, with professional trolls who go around commenting on everything from the Daily Mail, to this blog. These trolls support all opponents of the status quo, from Anti-fracking activists (Putin has no interest in Western Europe being self-sufficient in oil), to UKIP (an EU without the UK would be much weaker) and “Peace” activists (who mostly share the Kremlin’s belief that NATO is always the problem) and political extremists of all stripes in a general policy of throwing sand in the faces of the entire decision-making apparatus of a free democracy.

Even if these Fringe politicians steer clear of outright support for Putin, the Trumps and Farages, the Corbyns and Le Pens all share some or all of the Kremlin’s assumptions. While Putin’s Russia is far, far weaker than the old USSR, the moral certainty the west once enjoyed has gone. The Kremlin may be weaker, but its “Useful Idiots” are stronger.

The problem is without an enemy – and we’ve been schooled to see Russia as a friend for most of the last 25 years – freedom becomes complacency. The success of western economies means people way down the income distribution no longer have a significant struggle to find enough calories or shelter, and thanks to social media, their voice is now being heard. Those who once struggled for survival are now looking for self-actualisation and respect. Putin is pouring poison into the discourse and seeking to crow-bar open the cracks in our society, even as its success becomes manifest.

Take a step back. The UK spends 2.2% of GDP on its military, lower than at any point in our history. NATO is an association of free democracies (though Turkey is at the moment stretching that definition). Russia is an aggressive kleptocracy, who spends disproportionately on a new and highly mobile military; a nation with an appalling human rights record which has repeatedly annexed territory from its weaker neighbours, and is bent on overturning the post-war security architecture of the world. NATO’s “aggression” is, in reality holding at arms length Russia’s former clients, who’re clamouring to join us in the west with our freedom and market economies. The west faces no significant challenge, but we’re blind to the poison being poured in.

The aim of all this disinformation and posturing is that when the little green men pop up in Narva to “defend” the “Rights” of “Russians” living in Estonia (defence they’ve not asked for, of rights they’re not denied), and Estonia asks for help, the populations of the west will not support NATO kicking the Russians out. The result of which is the Baltic states must once again fall under the sway of Moscow, slice by slice. And this means their proud nations, this time, will die. Is this the best we can we offer the two million brave people (about 1/3rd of the population) who joined hands in 1989, determined to look west? And where will an emboldened Russia stop? Donetsk (Twinned, ironically, with Narva)? Kiev? The Vistula? We’ve seen a dictator play this salami-slicing game before. Stopped early, war can be prevented.

Putin is feeding the “anti-establishment” lines, which get far more traction than they deserve. Our “elite” is not “corrupt”, NATO is not “an aggressor”, our democracy isn’t a sham, Russia isn’t being “provoked”, Fracking doesn’t “poison the water supply”. The ballot boxes were not stuffed in the Scots independence referendum, we are not being lied to by “the mainstream media”. Please stop repeating Putin’s lies, however much you want to agree with them. Please be sceptical of Russia Today. Please don’t say “Putin stands up for his people” because he doesn’t. He is prepared and able, unlike our leaders, to sacrifice the Russian people at will, to the greater aim of Greater Glory of Vladimir Vladimirovic Putin. Do not be his useful idiot.

Immigration: Some is good, More isn’t Necessarily Better

The reason the UK is attracting migrants from all over the world is, thanks to our Empires, our Language is the word language. Migrants are more likely to speak English than French (which is why Algerians and Senegalese tend to stay in France). There are a huge number of people from all over the world already living here, so migrants can plug into existing communities.

Thanks to the invention of free-market, liberal democracy in the 19th and 20th centuries, and especially since the rejection of Socialism in 1979, the UK has a vibrant and diverse economy, that can absorb near-enough everyone who wants to come and play. The UK is richer than Poland, and despite Labour’s best efforts, remains a better place to live than Eritrea. We have secure property rights, which means foreign oligarchs can stow their looted wealth in the form of London property, where the likes of Putin cannot confiscate it.

The UK is a prosperous country, with an open economy, secure property rights and a relatively liberal society. British people are tolerant of immigrants and the UK enjoys good community relations.

We do not have ID cards, and the police cannot stop you on a whim. Thus “illegal” immigrants find it easy to find work in the grey economy. Because we have a relatively generous welfare state, there are a lot of jobs – fruit picking, cleaning, domestic labour, care etc out of which the UK-born have priced themselves. The prize – indefinite leave to remain – is within reach of almost anyone who can get here, and work undetected for long enough.

That is why people cling to the axles of lorries to leave France, and it is mostly something of which we can be proud.

People, self organising in Calais, for the right to cling to the axle of a Britain-bound Lorry.

Immigration is good. It does not follow that more is better. That tolerant and open society requires that the majority in it are born, and steeped in it from birth. The main fear the native population has from immigration is communities – the Bradford Pakistanis for example who come to dominate an area, and then cease to integrate. Integration into mainstream British life is vital, if that open society is to be maintained. The Ugandan asians and the Afro-Caribbeans who came over in the 50s and 60s have integrated. Sikhs and Hindus do. Arabs and Eastern Europeans do. Nigerians do.

Despite our success in integration, we cannot take the millions waiting to cross the mediterranean, though in practice we do end up taking most of those camped at Calais. In making it hard to come (sales of wetsuits, and the discovery of corpses in Holland and Norway are indicative of the risks people are willing to take) we limit the number prepared to try.

We cannot allow too many people brutalised by war, ignorant of how to survive in a liberal society to come, lest they are tempted create their own ghettos like Bradford. Too many people, and the incentive to learn English properly, and the imperative to integrate that comes with it, is lost. And it is the Ghettos that people object to, not immigration. It’s not race, it’s the compatibility of culture and the rate of change of a society; a rate of change that many of the people neither asked for, nor want. When a majority of children in the local school are not British, people question the change: Is this for the best?

So. Net migration to the UK is running at 1-200,000 a year. We add two million people every decade or so. This is why the UK is climbing the charts of National GDP, not falling. We’ve even got Germany in our sights. UK to be the 4th Largest economy (US$ Nominal terms) on earth in the not too distant future. Immigration is at such a level that the UK has halted its relative decline. Whatever the economic benefits, there are limits to immigration consistent with a liberal, tolerant and free society, especially from countries without a tolerant, liberal and free culture.

Labour, in office openly sought to “rub the right’s nose in diversity”, hoping immigrants would vote labour in perpetuity. The risk comes when the electorate never bought into the plan. When it was suggested there were limits to migration, people were told they were “racist”. The idiot poujadism of UKIP was the result: leading to the return of openly Nativist politics to the mainstream of British politics. The contempt Labour have shown for the electorate on this issue, is one of the main reasons they are facing oblivion now. The mixing up of Migrants with refugees and asylum seekers to suggest “we” have a moral duty to take people, is just continuing this ignoble tradition of contempt.

People want to stem migration of illiterate spouses from Pakistan, but these people are coming to join relatives already here. People want to limit Lithuanian bricklayers, or Polish plumbers but these people are covered by EU free movement of people (and in any case are vital to dealing with the shortage of housing…). We and the EU need to do much more to stem the flow, humanely, of very poor people from Africa, Afghanistan and Syria, and this includes aid and intervention to put their countries back together. So this leaves skilled migrants from outside the EU such as Nigerian doctors, Malawian nurses or Chinese people coming here to study, all of whom are particularly helpful to the UK economy, if there is to be any reduction in the number of Net Migrants.

It’s all counter-productive. Cameron deserves blame for setting a silly target on a whim, and Labour deserves blame for encouraging the boil to fester for a decade and creating the problem of legitimacy immigration now faces. Any attempts to control immigration mean putting bureaucrats in control of whom a Bradford Pakistani can marry, or whether a Somali can work as a Taxi driver. It’s going to throw up hard cases and inhumanity, as any bureaucratic system inevitably must. This sticks in my libertarian craw. There are going to be Canadians and Australians not granted leave to remain despite holding down decent jobs and living with British people. And all this because of silly targets, and the failure of some communities to integrate. We cannot stem the immigration people do have a problem with, so we’re abusing immigrants who’re going to accept our norms and be accepted.

We cannot take them all. The right-on left should stop the sanctimonious moral preening of pretending we can. We cannot stop them all coming. The idiot right should stop demonising people who’re mostly just trying desperately for a better life for themselves and their families.

We are lucky to have been born here. Part of our duty is to protect the legacy of good governance and social harmony we’re bequeathed. This legacy needs protecting from immigrants who won’t ever share our values, if too many come at once as well as from idiotic populists on the right, dog-whistling to racists and from left-wing extremists who hate our society and way of life, and who wish to see it swamped to spite an falsely concious electorate which repeatedly failed to vote socialism. Net migration is running at 1-200,000 a year. We can cope with that, just. Especially if they come from a variety of places, both terrible and less terrible. But not much more than that, really.

There you have it: An unsatisfying fudge, like so much of the democratic politics that have created the society immigrants are prepared to risk so much to join. Much more fun to read a moral absolute – a Guardian editorial telling you how brave and noble the immigrants are, or the Daily Mail’s dehumanising sub-fascist rhetoric. But the extreme position is almost always wrong, and the unsatisfying fudge of democracy works, despite appearances.

The Calais Migrant Crisis

Thousands of people are camped at Calais, and are trying to board lorries as they cross the English channel on the Eurostar or Ferries. Most of these people are from Somalia, Eritrea, Syria and Afghanistan. The tone of the debate is ghastly. On the one hand you have UKIP and the Tabloids suggesting “sending in the Army”, describing the people pouring into Europe over the mediterranean hoping to reach Northern Europe “cockroaches“. This is just grotesque lack of concern for a dehumanised outgroup of desperate people. On the other, you have people saying “let them all in”, which is just vapid moral posturing.

They aren’t coming because our benefits system is a soft-touch. They’d probably find the French system easier. They’re trying to cross the Channel because of the Language – they’re more likely to have some English than French, and they believe (rightly) it will be easier to find work in the UK than in France.

We cannot let the millions (yes, millions) who’d come, were the UK to open its borders, settle at will. Why not? Because to let such a huge number in would be disruptive to the society the migrants want to join. Liberal, free-market democracy is a fragile thing, and if you let millions, with a limited grasp of English, brutalised by war, and completely unprepared to cope in a sophisticated market economy, you risk destroying the thing that brought them here in the first place. Government has a duty to the people who’re born here, to manage the flow of people so that it minimises the disruption to society and culture. People feel “swamped” by the flow in certain parts of the country as it is, by people who are pretty similar. The country can absorb lots of people, and doing so will be good for the country, but it cannot be a free-for-all. The differentials in wealth between the UK and Somalia (for example) are just too great, and travel too easy for people to move at will. Lovely though the thought of a world without borders is, borders remain an unfortunate necessity.
Free movement for Poles and Czechs isn’t a problem because they share most of our cultural assumptions, come from up-and-coming countries limiting the ‘push’, and are sufficiently educated to find work in the UK. Yet even the few hundred thousand Central and Eastern Europeans who’ve moved here are vastly controversial. The number of potential migrants from Syria, Eritrea, Somalia and North Africa is an order of magnitude greater. Poles are pretty well educated, and find work easily. This is not true of most Somalis and Eritreans. There isn’t enough low-skilled work for our own British-born morons, without importing desperate africans to compete with them for what little there is. Poles haven’t been brutalised by decades of war, and so don’t tend to form violent Criminal gangs. Somalis do. And so forth. If you pretend to not see a difference between a Polish graduate, and a Somali goatherd because it troubles your left-wing, right-on moral bubble then you need to grow up. Immigration is a good thing. It doesn’t follow that more is always better.
But then we cannot let people die of hunger and cold in “jungle camps” outside calais. Nor can we let them drown in the Mediterranean. So what are the destination countries to do? First admit the problem around Calais, whilst acute, is as nothing to that on Lesbos or Lampedusa. The Greek and Italian authorities are swamped by the tide of humanity moving north over the sea. This is a whole-Europe issue, and it requires a European solution. Unfortunately that means confining and processing migrants, and repatriating those who fail to gain the right to enter. It means shouldering our share of the burden. This needs to be robust, but humane and if there’s to be anything like a solution, rather than booting the problem into the long grass, it will probably involve a vast migrant camp or camps, built and administered by the EU, on a mediterranean island, or somewhere on the North African coast.
This is an issue with no easy answers. But if your solution involves shooting migrants, or, on the other hand, letting them all in, you’re not part of a serious attempt to solve the problem.

On First Past the Post

The purpose of democracy is not to conduct a tribal headcount, but to allow the people to chuck the rotters out from time to time. Does anyone think 1979 or 1997 didn’t accurately reflect the country’s desire for a change?

No electoral system is perfect. List PR gives parties an accurate number of seats to their vote share, but then forces them to govern according to the necessity of coalition-building, not their principles or manifestos. It also insulates those grandees who make it to the top of the list, ensuring no Portillo/Balls moments when a top flight MP feels the wrath of the electorate. It is important to decapitate a senior MP from time to time “pour encouager les autres”. Under proportional representation, patronage of party elites to put people in order on the list, distincentivises individual MPs from exercising their conscience in the legislature. We’d have fewer rebellions, and a stronger executive. List PR is what a political obsessive who identifies wholly and completely with his party thinks a “fair” system, but it has negative effects on the behaviour of MPs and concentrates power in a few hands who exist completely away from democratic oversight. I feel about list proportional representation the same way I think about the UK joining the Euro. I’d stop it, any way I can, for the  system is wholly toxic. I don’t want a PR Lords.

I want PR to go away, and never be spoken of again. Likewise “top-up” regional lists and so forth are fart-arsing about to please political wonks, to little benefit and create two classes of MPs.

On the other hand, First past the post gives a local MP a chance to build a personal following. His or Her standing may be enhanced by selective rebellions against the party whip on certain issues. MPs with a conscience and principles are respected by the electorate. An MP who is caught doing something the electorate don’t like, like Neil Hamilton in Tatton, will be out on their ear, safe seat or no. On the other hand, a diligent and thoughtful MP who works hard, like Nick Clegg can buck the trend of a national wipe-out for their party.

Under first past the post we vote for PEOPLE not PARTIES. It’s noticeable that the thoughtful, consistent, intellectual, honest and hard-working Douglas Carswell got re-elected relatively comfortably, but the opportunistic Judas, Mark Reckless was out on his ear. The voters of Rochester and Strood spoke. Likewise the voters of South Thanet decided that they’d rather not send Nigel Farage to represent them in parliament. This isn’t about UKIP, as Douglas Carswell showed, but about Nigel. I have voted Labour in the past. Yes, me, voting Labour, when I lived in Vauxhall, I was pleased to vote for Kate Hoey in 2001, as she’s anti-Euro and pro-Fox hunting (though definitely unsound on Cycling).  This is a strength of First Past the Post.

I’ll say it again: Voting isn’t a tribal headcount, because most people don’t think like we political obsessives. They think about the government they want, what’s happening in their constituency. You’re a socialist, but Labour can’t win here? Might as well vote Green to send a message, or Liberal Democrat to keep the Tories out. You’re a thick, bigoted Moron? You vote UKIP whether or not they can win, and you’re rightfully ignored. You don’t think the Labour leader is up to the Job? You vote for the candidate most likely to beat the Labour guy, whoever you notionally support. In an electorate of forty million or so these choices usually deliver a result that delivers an executive with a clear mandate. To imagine everyone would vote the same way under different systems is absurd.

The result is a system that sets the bar very high to secure representation. UKIP, mostly failed to meet the required standard, and suffered at the hands of tactical voting. Where it looked like they’d win, the people coalesced around the candidate most likely to beat them. That is a valid democratic choice – the electorate expressing its will clearly that while there are 4m people who like the Toxic yahoos. There are probably 8m people who’d move heaven and earth to keep UKIP away from power. Lots of people can like you. But you also have to have lots of people to not HATE you too. And where the candidate wasn’t obviously a bigoted git who looked like a shaved chimpanzee in a suit who’s just ranting Farage’s morning brain-fart, Clacton, UKIP won comfortably. There’s a lesson there.

Would the country really be better off with 83 grunting ignoramuses from UKIP in coalition, demanding David Cameron send the navy to Machine-gun migrants in the Mediterranean (which they’d in any case already demanded be sent to… um… Nepal) and the RAF to bomb the Strasbourg parliament? What purpose would a dozen hippies from the Green party, demanding the immediate closure of Nuclear power stations, and the shrinking of the UK economy serve apart from to make the business of Government more difficult.

There is a case for some electoral reform, but it’s not strong. Multi-member constituencies (I favour the counties sending 1 to 10 MPs to parliament depending upon population). AV or STV have their adherents, but these systems may serve to exacerbate the swings in a big move, and deliver even more overwhelming majorities to a single party or give overwhelming over-representation to everyone’s second choice. I’m not clear this is any better than the system we have now.

The First Past the Post system isn’t broken, and certainly no worse than any other. Landslides like 1983 and 1997 are rare. Yet the government changes when the mood of the country changes. The people aren’t clamouring for a change to the system, the losing parties are. But the rules are the same for everyone. The losers should just work harder in their target seats and shut up.

An Election Result

Few expected a Tory majority until the Exit poll. I didn’t dare hope until about 2am.

In Eastern England, a Region with a bigger population than Scotland, The Tories’ hegemony is greater than that of the SNP’s in Scotland, yet no-one is going to give these voters the indulgence which will be afforded to the SNP. Here, The Tories secured 50% of the vote, and all but one MP. The one non Tory MP was a Tory until less than a year ago. The Labour party lost ground everywhere, except London.

15% of Scots voted Tory, equivalent to the national UKIP share. No-one is talking about their “disenfranchisement”. There are now as many Tory MPs in Scotland as there are Labour or Liberal Democrats. The Tories advanced in Wales and devastated the Liberal Democrats in the South-West.
Looking at a map, Labour is reduced to inner London, Birmingham, Newcastle, Cardiff, Liverpool and Leeds. Scotland is monochrome SNP, and the rest of Great Britain is Tory Blue. The Tories’ closest allies, the Ulster Unionists did twice as well as expected in Northern Ireland. 
So. What happens next?
First of all, elections are won by parties with the positive vision for the country. The SNP has a vision of Scotland that resonates with Scots, if not with reality. That 8% deficit limits how “full” their fiscal autonomy can be. I can take Sturgeon at her word, that independence remains off the cards for the time being.
Labour on the other hand, spent the election campaign telling the country it was broke, divided, poor, unequal and some vision of victorian workhouse hell, lorded over by a “rich” elite. Given that inequality fell and “the rich” are paying more tax than ever before over the past 5 years, this clearly didn’t ring true. The Tory message: let us finish the job, resonated with England outside the big cities.
The economy is largely sorted. The coalition undid much of the glue Labour poured into the labour market. The self-employed who paid tax on earnings in 2013/14 paid more than expected. Their earnings will accelerate, and the deficit will close faster than expected. I expect there will be more money for Cameron’s second term. 
Cameron’s biggest challenge will therefore be constitutional. What to do with Scotland, giving the SNP as much of their demands as possible, without alienating England. His job is to come up with a lasting constitutional settlement. Constitutional settlements tend to be more lasting and stable when done under Tory governments, as unlike labour’s devolution in the 90’s there’s less short-term gerrymandering for party advantage. This will involve house of Lords reform, though I would regret this. The mountain of cant spoken about English Votes for English Laws comes from people who’ve got used to imposing the will of the Celts on the English, who’ve long voted solidly Tory. It’s likely there will be a more Federal UK. The community of the Isles is being tested more strenuously than at any point since Irish independence.
There will be a lot of nonsense spoken about the upcoming EU referendum, set for 2015. UKIPpers will not believe Cameron will deliver it. They can be ignored. The fact is, the UK will vote by 2:1 to stay in. Cameron will walk tall having secured an unexpected majority. The Eurocrats will have to give something for Cameron to take back, and Merkel has already said what’s on offer. 
Whatever the offer is, it will be derided by UKIP because free movement of people is a red line that will not be on offer. And quite rightly so. The crucial reaction will be the Tory right. Will they ‘rebel’ and make Cameron’s life a misery like the post 1992 “bastards”. My guess however is that Cameron has answered his Tory critic’s main charge: that he couldn’t win an election. This will mean this election has more in common with 1979 – the first majority after a period of unstable minority, than 1992, an unexpected victory by the fag-end of an administration. 
Labour, for its part, must find a narrative after a period of re-building. They must work out what they are for. If they can make peace with business, and more importantly, markets, then they can come back. Social democracy has a future in the UK, but not Socialism red in tooth and claw. Miliband was in this regard, a last hold-out in the jungle, still fighting after the total victory of Thatcher. Whatever happens, such is the scale of their defeat, especially in Scotland, the next labour PM will probably be beholden to the SNP for any majority.
This is the Second or third time the Tories have destroyed the Liberal party, and absorbed its supporters into the broad Conservative church. Perhaps the Tories should make an offer: Fight elections as the Conservative, Liberal and Unionist party? The liberal democrats had the naive belief that somehow being right, for example on Land taxation by council tax revaluation and extending the number of bands, will somehow translate into votes. There is a place for such a party, and I hope they come back. But this will be a generational project. 
Each of these issues will be the subject of a post in the future. We live in interesting times. Cameron has an enormous, difficult and delicate job. He can be the man who either presides over the destruction of the UK, or go down in history as the man who built the lasting constitutional settlement. He’s been underestimated by most. He has an enormous responsibility. But I am optimistic he’s up to the job. After all, he’s been quietly right, calmly ignoring his critics, and content to let his record speak for itself despite the hysteria of lesser characters. He’s steady under fire, to the point of insouciance. I like that in a leader.
Cameron is now proven winner. Holding the coalition together was a remarkable political feat, for which Nick Clegg deserves enormous credit too. And like Napoleon’s generals, Cameron’s lucky. So Far.

On the African Boat People and Katie Hopkins.

My CV reads a lot like that of Katie Hopkins. We both went to RMA Sandhurst. We both dropped out close to commissioning, and both on medical grounds. We both then became polemicist commentators: her on TV, me on here. She made a living out of it, I didn’t though. The Strapline of this Blog is “moderate opinions, immoderately put”. For much of what Hopkins says is genuine, realpolitik sense spoken in a way morons can understand it. And she winds all the right people up, sort of like a skinny, female Jeremy Clarkson, without the wit.

Then Hopkins referred to the people crammed onto fishing boats trying to cross the Mediterranean sea to get to Europe, as “Cockroaches” and there she and I part company. That such things are said and thought shouldn’t surprise anyone. That they are printed in a national paper, though, should. That they were yesterday was shocking, to the extent I don’t recognise my country. Hopkins as one who wanted once to be an officer in the British Army, and in the Corps to which she applied, should know better. Much better. Such rhetoric from a bully pulpit such as a Sun Column is how pogroms start. Germany went from Civilised to Nazis in a little under a decade. It could never happen here? I’m not so sure now.

So, Katie Hopkins put herself way, way beyond the pale to me yesterday. She will be forever tainted with those callous, dehumanising words. Ultimately, I’m a libertarian, and believe in the fellowship of man, and feel enormous sympathy with those driven by poverty, to seek a better life. I believe borders are an affront to human dignity, but they are often an unfortunate necessity, when there’s a precious example of freedom and good government to which adding too many ill-educated migrants brought up in war-zones would risk. Without the example of the West, the experiment in free-market liberal democracy could be snuffed out to everyone’s long-term dis-benefit. Europe cannot accept thousands upon thousands of people from Africa and the Middle east, nor should we be expected to, simply because we are rich, though we should, like the enlargement project seek to extend the principle of free movement, slowly, surely and incrementally to countries which share our values.

Given that the Northern European countries who’re the ultimate destination of the migrants, cannot and will not accept everyone who wants to make Europe home we must try to stop them coming. But nor can we let people drown at sea. It was noticed during the previous ‘Mare Nostrum’ rescue operation that the traffickers would simply get into EU territorial waters, send a mayday signal, and scuttle the boat, the rescue ensuring their charges made it safely to land. EU Navies were being used as a leg in the Journey. It was thought denying the Traffickers the use of this leg would stop the flow. It did not.

So what should be done?

Big picture: we need to work with the Governments, however corrupt and vile, where the migrants come from. The less vile the regimes, the less hopeless the economies, the fewer refugees and migrants will be tempted to leave and make their way to Europe. UKIP and their poujadiste allies in Europe are wholly wrong on Foreign Aid to suggest that budgetary and technical support to governments is “wasted”. No-one though should expect rapid results.

One of the reasons for the current tide is the instability in Libya. One of the things Gadaffi* did for us was to stop the boats. (I am not sure letting them drown at sea is much worse than the methods he used… but ‘out of sight out of mind’ is the key principle of international humanitarianism…). Western governments, France and the UK especially are partially culpable for helping topple the regime, but not committing the resources for stability. But the culpability is limited. Qaddafi* was going to be toppled anyway, the current chaos was probably inevitable, and the UK and France probably averted a massacre in Benghazi. Nevertheless, the Libyan authorities need help to secure the country. This will require an appetite for an Iraq sized counter-insurgency for a decade, but Britain and France. Yup… this is unlikely to be popular.

An attempt to stem the ‘push’ from the homelands will be slow. So we need to make the journey less likely to be successful. We need to police the waters, turning back the migrant ships to their ports of origin on the North African coast. This will require investment in Naval and Aviation capacity from the whole EU and their maintenance on station for decades hence, and being comfortable with the use of force. I’m not holding my breath there either.

The good news is for humanity, the forces needed to police the sea lanes in the Mediterranean will also be capable and on station to rescue migrants whose boats sink. There is no need to turn the guns on the people in the boats, nor is there a need to be callous about their survival in the water. We are better than that.  If there are people in need of rescue, however, the rescue at present means the traffickers and the migrant has won. They’re in the EU, and there are plenty of people able and willing to play the system to make sure they are never returned from whence they came. So we need somewhere where the rules can be applied a little more quick and dirty.

What the EU needs is somewhere rescued boat people can go to be processed by the Bureaucracy. And unfortunately this means a camp, somewhere outside the EU. This is the Australian approach, they have camps in Nauru and Papua New Guinea where migrants who don’t make it to Australia are sent, to be returned home. It’s likely, if this is a goer, an enclave will need to be taken from Libya, with or without the host Government’s permission. This would require the EU to contemplate the long-term use of Hard Power, and this being legislated for EU-wide and under the fire of the Human Rights lawyers. Nope, I’m not holding my breath there either.

Make no mistake. This is a horrible problem, dehumanising for all concerned. But given the unwillingness of Europe to accept people, the journey must be made as difficult, as humanly possible without making it inhumane. No-one comes out of this looking or feeling good. And those who accept some of the necessary steps above, will baulk at the others: A UKIPper despises the foreign aid and unified EU action, like a Green will abhor the necessity of Extra-territorial camps and capable Naval flotillas pointing guns at people.

This is what will work to stop the flow of migrants without letting them die at sea in their thousands. But this is not what will happen. This is why the African boat people are not being mentioned by politicians on the stump. Any soundbite on this subject, will be an anathema to one or other section of the electorate. There are no votes to be won in sorting this mess out, only votes to be lost.

*I never spell it the same way twice.

On the “Patriotism” of UKIP

Patriotism, wrote Samuel Johnson, is the last refuge of the scoundrel. In the election TV debate UKIP leader Nigel Farage claimed the UK couldn’t adequately defend the Falklands. As well as being demonstrably untrue, this demonstrates several mental tics of the UKIPper and it’s worth going through them.

First, it reveals a determination to re-fight battles already lost and won. This attitude comes from the same place as hankering after “A Leader Like Thatcher” who “Took on the Trades Unions”. This is why the thatcherite ultra wing of UKIP cannot see Cameron’s cut spending faster than their blessed St. Margaret Ever did. 45% top rate of tax? Wasn’t cut to 40% by Nigel Lawson until 1988, 9 years into the great lady’s time in office. UKIPpers are stupid, and lack the imagination or understanding to see what battles need to be fought today. Past glories like the re-taking of the Falklands, or the Miners’ strike happened when most ‘KIPpers were in their youth, and they’re hankering after a better yesterday. The world’s a bit different now, and the UKIPper wishes it wasn’t.

Second it’s revealing of a determination to see weakness in yourself, and strength elsewhere. This is behind the UKIPish “admiration” of Vladimir Putin. This is also behind the belief that all the bluster from the Eurocrats like JC Juncker that the UK cannot alter treaties, is truth; while anything David Cameron might say on the subject is merely self-serving bluster. Of course the Eurocrats aren’t going to negotiate before the Election, because with Ed Miliband, they won’t have to. But Cameron has a much stronger hand in EU negotiations than any ‘KIPper will ever admit.

UKIPpers are paranoid. There is simply no indication the Argentines are even thinking about a military solution to the “Malvinas Question”.

Farage might have been musing on the fall in the British Army’s manpower. But even this reveals the party’s ignorance and superficiality. UKIP is obsessed by symbols and totems, not effectiveness. Cap-badges are more important than effective 3-battalion regiments. It should be remembered that the UK recently ran two significant long-term deployments simultaneously AND had spare ISTAR and lift to get the French to Mali and tell them which doors to kick in. “Front Line First” which keeps combat infantry at the expense of support services ignores the fact that it requires a huge number of logistic, signals, intelligence and engineering “enablers” to keep one infantryman in action. 100,000 men kicking undeployable heels in Germany is better in the UKIP mind than 82,000 men who can be picked up, and put down to do a job anywhere on earth.  Would you rather have a platoon of men in battle dress armed with Lee Enfields, or a Section of Modern Infantry with all the logistic tail they need?

UKIP is guilty of hull-counting in the Royal navy too: The Type 45 air defence destroyers can track far, far more targets than the 1960’s vintage Type 42s they replace, so fewer are needed. One Type 45 can do the air-defence job of 6 type 42s. Yes, the Navy is smaller, but an Astute class attack sub can hear a ship leaving New York Harbour. From the English Channel.

And lastly but most importantly the idea the Falklands cannot be defended is simply wrong. For a party that claims to be “patriotic” they don’t seem to have much faith in the UK or her people. Let’s be charitable and say he’s talking about an operation to retake the Falklands in the absence of an Aircraft  Carrier. Fair enough – but HMS Queen Elizabeth will be operation by 2020 by which time the UK will be able to dominate the south Atlantic against any nation bar the USA.

In the mean time, there is simply not a credible threat to the Falkland islands. where there are at present 1,200 soldiers which, being British contain a large number of hardened veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq, plus a company of Falkland islands defence force who’re integrated into the defence plan. This, compared to 57 Royal Marines and no plan in 1982. There is an augmentation force on standby, and a plan to rapidly reinforce the islands from the UK, and an air-bridge to enable it now. There wasn’t any of this in 1982. Meanwhile Argentina has no landing ships, no carriers, and and their army has been shrunk to bare-bones, and has no combat experience and little money to undertake serious exercise.

The RAF has 4 Typhoon a 4.5 generation multi-role fighter on the Falklands, which is arguably the finest dogfighter on earth. Whether it’s a match for the F22’s over the horizon capability is moot, but the RAF isn’t up against F22s. The Argentines are flying 6 (if they’re lucky) Mirage 3 interceptors, some Mirage 5 multi-role fighters, all purchased in the 1970s, and a handful of assorted multi-role, light fighter-bombers, most of which are probably not airworthy.

As well as the Typhoons, there are air-defence missiles on the islands, and the Royal Navy’s Type 45 Destroyers are the finest air-defence platforms afloat. Meanwhile an Argentine Naval ship goes to sea about 12 days a year due to lack of funds. One Argentine naval vessel sank in port in 2013 due to disrepair. Oh, and there’s usually a Royal Navy Nuclear attack submarine there, or therabouts, to which the Argentines will be completely blind until a torpedo slams into the hull. The Argentines couldn’t get there, have no capability to land forces, couldn’t supply any forces they did manage to land, which wouldn’t be a match for the forces on the island even if they did. If anything the Falklands are grotesquely over-defended.

UKIP aren’t patriots, they’re the people who’d have caved in and done a deal with Hitler, as it was all too scary as his victory was “inevitable”. UKIP have the paranoid certainty of the mediocre mind, always fearing the worst, but lacking imagination to envision the best; as a result, they’re wrong about everything, all the time.

On Discrimination Laws

So, Nigel Farage wants to scrap discrimination laws.

And I sort of see where he’s probably coming from. The left and right have very different views of what’s in the driving seat of society. The left, with echos of Marxist-Leninist ‘vanguard of the proletariat’ thinks the habits of the people can and should be changed by law, and law can and should be driven by the elite, leading the way for the people. Most classical Liberals on the other hand think laws against behaviours tend to happen when a majority broadly support them, and not before. It’s the argument in society leading up to the change in the law which changes behaviour, not the law itself. I doubt greatly whether anti-discrimination laws have affected the level of discrimination much, if at all. I suspect they probably reflect a point where there was a change in society’s opinion, which started long before 1965 race relations act, and continued through the 1980s.

Pre 1965 it was common, apparently, (I was born in ’77) to see “No Blacks, No Dogs, No Irish” signs. Nowadays, anyone displaying that sign, wouldn’t get my business either. I am inclined to let people discriminate, but only if they do so openly, and see what it does for their businesses. Society’s distaste is more powerful at curbing behaviour than the law. But I am really not fussed about race discrimination laws, and certainly wouldn’t make repealing them a priority, partly because I don’t want to be misunderstood and thought to be racist, and partly because I might be wrong about society, and I cannot see what harm having these laws on the statute books does. If it ain’t broken, and I don’t think the architecture of Britain’s race relations are broken, don’t fix it.

But ‘KIPpers will not see this, because st. Nigel (PBUH) has spoken and their thick, ignorant activists will go around claiming now that race discrimination legislation allows for discrimination against whites and British, which of course they do not. If there is little racism in society as Farage claims, then race discrimination laws have little effect. And if there IS racism in society, then there is an argument that race discrimination laws are still necessary which is powerful.

This demonstrates UKIP’s amateurishness. If you’re a right-populist party, running on an anti-immigration ticket, constantly beset by accusations of racism, and with several high-profile activists being caught saying really ignorant, stupid things about race, then I cannot see why these laws should be a priority, unless you are openly gunning for the racist, ex-BNP vote in Labour’s northern fiefdoms.

Are you touting for racists’ votes, or are you, Nigel, a thicko with a tin-ear, who’s out of his depth?