A look at the Times; Monday 20th October. Finishing what the Marshall Plan started

Today’s issue is dominated by a large picture of Brad Pitt looking dashing as he adjusts his sunglasses; beneath that whopper is the main headline: Police use loophole to hack phones and email.

I don’t have too much of a problem with this; although I doubt that the government could “force telecoms and computer companies’ to hand over anything. It’s good to know that ‘Civil liberties campaigners’ are working hard to preserve my privacy, but in an age where the bad guys have all sorts of new techniques, I feel an effort must be made to keep up with them.

Next is the secondary headline: ‘Negative’ Cameron is forcing UK out of Europe.

This is almost certainly true; since 1945 the Europeans have endured tantrum after tantrum from our newly humbled island. For Britons, the end of Empire has meant the humiliation of working with other nations like an adult – just imagine! Now is the time to realise that we can’t have it all our own way; or rather 50 years ago. UKIP fails to realise that without our membership of the EU, the ‘English-speaking peoples’ wouldn’t be anywhere near as keen to trade with us.

Speaking of trade with the English-speaking peoples, surely UKIP would be revealed as the empire-nostalgics they really are when, after all their EU huffing and puffing, they failed to make so much as a squeak about TTIP? TTIP stands for the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. To call it a free-trade deal would be a fallacy, because any existing trade barriers between the US and European countries were removed after the Second World War; such was a condition of the Marshall Plan. To open up our markets to an intrusive, dominating and mundane American brand of Capitalism.

This is an agreement which seeks to re-install corporate fascism in the nations of Europe. Legislation which would threaten the profits of an American corporation would be unacceptable, and the offending government liable to legal action according to the judgement of panels of corporate lawyers. This is a travesty; which until recently has been pieced together under cover of secrecy in the European Commission. George Monbiot, incredibly, was a lone voice calling for greater openness, and warning the citizens of Europe what havoc this agreement would play with their democracies.

Surely we can expect our champions – the real knights in shining armour for British interests in Brussels – to make a fuss about this? Surely we can expect to find something, at least a teeny-weeny article on UKIP’s website, protesting this obscene piece of ultra-national legislation?

Apparently UKIP views regulations on the shape of vegetables, and restrictions on life-damaging smoking habits as more of a threat to our freedoms than TTIP; which after all is something UKIP’s donors (90% of which are former Tories) would cherish. A vote for UKIP is an incredible confidence trick, perpetrated by the enemies of democracy, the enemies of the people, and the champions of international corporations which are anything but ‘proudly British’.

http://www.monbiot.com/2013/12/02/managing-transparency/

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The EU, Clegg, Farage: what are they good for?

I wasn’t disappointed with the Farage/Clegg debate; it gave me a chance to seriously mull the EU issue myself.

Let me start by saying this: Nigel Farage is a ridiculous man who lies to the British people everyday. It’s part of his job as leader of UKIP, a party whose base must consist primarily of drunken infants.

He likes to present himself as a beer-drinking country chap, a real Brit who finds himself appalled at the ghastly red tape imposed by Brussels. You see, this anti-establishment, ‘wild-cannon’ image suits him much better than the image of a London stockbroker who went to public school and rubbed shoulders very closely with ‘establishment’ figures. People who describe him a ‘likeable personality’ are being led up the garden path.

Nick Clegg is a man slandered by history; he saw a chance for his small, idealistic party to grasp real power for the first time in almost a century. He took that chance and became a figure of public ridicule, labelled as a Tory poodle by socialists who wish he had done more to restrict the Conservatives. But I’d rather we had slightly neo-liberal policies that a political system governed by dogmatic, tantrum throwing leaders. It’s one of the blessed things that sets us apart from our American cousins.

I didn’t watch all of the first debate, but the second was fairly interesting. Clegg was seen to be shouty and insecure, especially in the first half, but I think he calmed down towards the end. Farage clearly won over immigration and the burden it puts on our infrastructure. With regards to the amount of legislation and bureaucracy in Brussels, the winner was more unclear, although you’d expect Farage to take a lead there.

Farage railed against the competition for jobs between white working class Brits and EU immigrants. He complained that EU immigration is a good deal for the rich and wealthy, claiming that they gained submissive and grateful ‘servants’. A good cord to strike with his core supporters. Clegg couldn’t reply on national television in the way he should have: Farage can easily count himself a member of the rich and powerful, and white working class people are losing to jobs to Bulgarians because they think menial jobs beneath them.

Clegg stressed the need to maintain our ‘economic clout’ in the world; Farage said that we could trade with India, China and other emerging and/or Commonwealth countries instead, and that we needn’t be bound to an outdated, protectionist institution like the EU Customs Union.

Interesting how neither even contested the legitimacy of using ‘free trade’ as a by-word for prosperity and growth. Time was when the British left were horrified of the EU and its potential for enforcing the capitalist agenda over the wishes of trade unions and working people, but we gave up that distaste for the prospect of a left-wing agenda in Brussels. We couldn’t win an election at home, so we subscribed to a distant beaurocracy in the hope it would implement socialist. Michael Foot put it wonderfully:

“We can disagree about whether the EU has been a socialist or capitalist influence, but it is undeniable that it wields that influence without asking the people.”

The British left-wing needs to ‘grow a pair’ generally, but on this particular issue we have particularly let ourselves down. We have left Euro-scepticism to be hijacked by right-wing nutters who want to blame it for every social ill.

I personally believe that Britain can have a future in the EU; but as Clegg said, you need to commit before you can enact change.

  • Political Union must be scaled back to the common-market.
  • That common market must ensure only an absence of border tariffs, and must not include any other obligations or restrictions on worker’s rights.
  • The Euro should be destroyed as an institution.
  • An EU central bank should be formed, to provide unconditional loans to member states in times of severe financial crisis, with very low interest rates.
  • Each member state should pay into that central bank with a lump sum each year, according to that country’s GDP.
  • The central bank should provide loans to Green Energy initiatives throughout the EU.
  • The Tobin Tax should be implemented at a set level throughout the EU; this new tax should help member states pay the annual fee.
  • The European parliament should gain more members, elected from smaller constituencies, to provide a more direct democracy.
  • The European Commission should be made answerable to the European Parliament in all things.

These demands are in line with the two main challenges facing Western civilisation in the 21st century: extremes of wealth and poverty, and climate change.

A Europe-wide Tobin Tax would decrease the likelihood of mass financial migration to the US; banks would find it harder to withdraw from the whole of Europe than from a single country. The Tobin Tax would equip governments with more power to deal with social ills, as well as reducing economic inequality.

An EU central bank would be uniquely placed to provide Green Energy with the initial boost it needs to grow.

I’m sorry if you feel this was a bit long and tedious, but it’s important I say what I feel.

We have a duty to the patriots of the Somme

With a whole host of BBC air-time dedicated to World War One this year, arguments about whether the whole thing was justified have made a resurgence. There are those like Jeremy Paxman, who believe we had no choice in 1914, and those like Niall Ferguson, who think we made a fatal mistake.

Admittedly, most of those in Niall’s camp aren’t there for quite the same reasons as him- indeed, this is a mirrored trend when it comes to Niall Ferguson. While most hate the First World War for the horrors it involved, Niall believes that preserving the glorious British Empire for another decade would have been a far nobler cause than keeping Europe free of German hegemony.

Whatever reason they have for being in that camp, they are still wrong.

In total, Britain has lost roughly 1,582,545 soldiers in European wars between 1803 and 1945. This figure does not even include total casualties of the British Empire, which would have made it far higher. From Napoleon Bonaparte, through to Kaiser Wilhelm and Adolf Hitler, men of the British Empire have given their lives to stop any European power from securing dominance over the rest. Indeed, the cost of WW1 left Britain unable to sustain an Empire after the 1940s.

sommepassendale

Nigel Farage and his “swivel-eyed loons” are demanding a split with Brussels and the European community. Ignoring the fact that most UKIP supporters are mostly remnants of the country gentry, wearing tweed and smoking pipes, UKIP policy fails to recognise our duty towards the fallen.

The men who fell at Waterloo, Ypres, the Somme, D-Day and Operation Market Garden were probably not fighting for grand notions of European solidarity, but we would be wrong not to use the place in European debate that their deaths have bought us. We surely owe them that much? To ensure that the Europe they helped save doesn’t go to the neo-liberal shits?

The EU as it currently stands is not fit for any kind of purpose. Among Britons of all stripes, that is generally the consensus; whether from perceived excessive immigration from Eastern Europe (a paranoia not totally unconnected to the legacy of Bram Stoker) or exasperation at the nanny-state tyranny of the bureaucrats in Brussels.

Contrary to popular belief, what’s wrong with Europe has less to do with vampires coming to England and eating the middle-classes, and more to do with allowing the trans-national capitalist class a badge of legitimacy for anything that takes their fancy.

EuroParl

The European Union needs serious reform: the European Parliament needs far more members, and more power over the rest of Brussels machinery. Perhaps making the EU a more direct democracy will help to calm the British fear of Dracula.