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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Satan announces three-pronged attack upon humanity: Ebola, Isis and Nigel Farage

DAILY MAIL ONLINE: Here’s Mr Farage, showing all kinds of muscle.

 

Speaking at a UN conference last Tuesday, Mr L Satan said: “After the end of the Iraq War, I started to realise that Tony Blair just wasn’t enough. I knew I needed something to really screw them up. Not necessarily death-camp kind of evil, but certainly the kind of evil that restores your country to the middle ages in terms of social outlook and economic activity.”

When asked whether he was worried the British people would see through such a scheme, he chuckled mildly and added: “If you think Mr Farage will be foiled by such novices in the satanic arts as David Cameron and George Osbourne, then you are sadly mistaken. Their kind of evil is okay when you’re whipping your fag at Eton, but they’re playing with the big boys now.”

Mr Farage was said to have replied: “Of course I’m delighted to have been chosen for this exciting new role, and I look forward to working closely alongside my new colleagues-Ebola and ISIS – in order to screw up humanity. We’re meeting next week to brainstorm some ideas, but I’ve got a few started already: How about we install a flat rate of income tax? Surely my new employer, the honourable Mr L Satan will be most pleased with such a transparently self-serving idea? Right, toodle-oo, I’m off to open the award ceremony for Clacton ‘village idiot’- they hold the competition every four years, don’t you know, but this year they’ve had to cut it a bit short, as the former incumbent felt his allegiances were misdirected. Thank God he’s finally come to his senses, and joined the true lunatic party!”

ON A MORE SERIOUS NOTE:

UKIP causes mixed feelings to bubble up. Hope; that they might split a Conservative majority, handing a barely deserved victory to the Labour Party. The next is disgust, at their people, their ethics and their everything. If you had brought the parliament of 1600 into the 21st century, you’d have a collection of far more open-minded and sensible men than you’d have at a UKIP conference.

One thing that’s really interesting about their rise is the extent to which Tory donors have swung round to the right, effectively giving Cameron a kick up the ass for bringing his dirty, “modernising” ideas to a party still firmly under the grip of the aristocracy. Don’t get me wrong; I far prefer the rural gentry to some jumped up ‘entrepreneur’, but my opinion doesn’t decide the matter. Whether the Tory party is permanently broken, it remains to be seen. A part of me dares to hope that Osborne will end his days as a secretary, but the more cynical part of me can’t believe that a party which has stood for 4 centuries as a bulwark of vested interests and reactionism should be so easily dislodged from power.

 

Scrapping the union for a unicorn

In September the Scots will go to the polls, and a 300-year union saturated with a history of wealth, culture and power will be at stake.

Alistair Darling has done a fairly good job as leader of the ‘No campaign’; his grasp of the numbers in the television debate was firm. In many ways that embodies the No campaign: uncharismatic and unshakeably sensible.

The union is not perfect – all would agree. Following a No vote, which is very probable, structural changes will have to be made. Scotland’s relationship with the union is strange. It hands over taxes on its North Sea oil, in return for higher per capita spending than the rest of the UK.

It sends MPs to Westminster, which provides them with lesser representation in contrast to England; southerners dominate Westminster because of their huge population. There are more people in London than in the whole of Scotland, and England’s total population is five times the populations of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland combined.

But Scotland, like Wales and Northern Ireland, was given a devolved parliament in the 1990s, which provides a Scottish administration to deal with purely Scottish affairs. England was given no such devolution: it was considered, as the historian Linda Colley so brilliantly puts it: “as the big sister whose reliability could be taken for granted”. But dominating the British legislature by no means makes up for lacking its own parliament. The English have grievances as well, which Westminster will have to consider.

At present, there are few people who feel properly contented with the Westminster style of government; English people north of the M25 feel that their needs are neglected (which they are); the south-east of England feels that its money is used for spending which doesn’t concern them (they’re wrong); and Scotland feels their oil money goes to the wrong people, and that they have an inadequate voice in decision-making (they too are wrong, but we should try to accommodate them, for old-time’s sake).

The rise of UKIP is one indicator of that. I’m not for a moment suggesting that voting UKIP is a legitimate means of protesting against the establishment; its arguable whether voting for UKIP is even an acceptable way of conducting yourself in 21st century Britain. UKIP’s policies are more “establishment” than the establishment. An Englishman voting for UKIP will be trying to deal with a general feeling of mistrust towards the political class as a whole; its out of the question that he’s misplacing his angst. A vote for UKIP is a vote for isolationist, medieval thinking about everything from gender rights to British identity. It relies on a complete unwillingness to accept that times have changed, and that Britain can no longer act independently and with the brash arrogance that formerly characterised our foreign policy. Diplomacy rather than weaponry will define the following century, and we had better get used to conciliation in Brussels, rather than the tantrum-throwing of which our European partners have begun to tire.

When you weigh up the growing feeling of under-representation among all UK citizens with growing political apathy, and what borders on a psychopathic hatred of the entire political class; a far-sighted (not to mention wildly idealistic) chap might consider a whole-sale reform of the British political system.

Not too long ago I would have considered regional assemblies for the whole UK; but I doubt now whether such a system would be accountable and familiar to the citizen.

It’s clear that we need a national legislature: but at present its decayed and corrupt. The House of Lords is a remarkable relic of medieval politics. Having a queen is quirky, and can be passed off as a mystical eccentricity to amused foreigners; the Lords are a blatant symbol of elitism and clientelism. We would be better off- in this one, isolated instance- in taking a lesson from the Americans.

The US senate acts in much the same way as the House of Lords- but its elected, and gives equal representation to each of the Union’s component parts: the states. Two senators for each state. The Lords could act in a similar way; reform of the Lords is inevitable, but we should use this opportunity to give each component part of the UK an equal voice.

Several voices have started to sing a similar tune; Chris Huhne in his article for the Guardian wrote: “Lords reform could be part of the package for fair geographic representation”.

The House of Lords is useful as a chamber of experience and expertise, but too often senility is confused for these qualities. Prime Ministers use peerages as rewards for big party donors, which has led to a bloated chamber, now only second in size to the Chinese National People’s Congress among legislative bodies all over the world.

How would these ‘new lords’ be elected? I suggest creating an assembly for England, and sending delegates from all four national assemblies to the House of Lords, of course in equal numbers. These delegates could be selected by lottery, possibly – but these are questions for much drabber men than myself to deal with.

Enjoy what remains of the British summer.

We need to talk about UKIP…

There should be nothing more absurd than a former investment banker calling on the working classes to help him “topple the establishment”; but the line between absurdity and normality has become blurred in Britain these days.

Another example of our impending, ever-expanding and all-consuming absurdity is the total media blanket surrounding the Green Party’s steady and considerable success in the recent election. Although our progress wasn’t much of an “earthquake”, I believe it still deserved more than two or three articles written in a slightly sarcy tone on the BBC website.

When you compare this with the strange, morbid fascination BBC executives seem to have developed about UKIP; what with all their “surge”, and “momentum”, I start to feel that there’s something wrong with the way news is reported. Reporting the success of the Greens is to concede validity to their ideas, and to confront the status quo. No wonder the main corporate-owned media outlets are reluctant to talk about it. (Another complication, by the way, to the argument surrounding press freedom.)

UKIP is a party based on deception, idiocy and sheer luck. They put their success down to disillusionment with ‘the establishment’, as if somehow they are separate from that establishment. What exactly do they mean by that label? Apart from their radical and nonsensical approach to the EU, their policies are just Tory, but much more so. They are still in favour of benefit cuts combined with tax cuts for the richest: all the neo-liberal tripe that most voters despise. To top it all off, their policy regarding climate change is simply to ignore it. First class thinking there.

What UKIP voters want is a return to the 40s; without seeming to realise that the modernity which they so fear is a consequence of over reliance on the US, not the EU. Those are the bedrock of UKIP support, who have been there for some time. The others are more likely to be financially insecure, politically dispossessed voters (which is almost all of them) who want to send a message, without properly examining the fine-print of their own letter.

Immigration is a topic with which many sympathise; personally it’s never bothered me until recently, when I attempted to understand the viewpoint of older generations. The Britain they knew is vastly changed, in ways my generation can’t truly comprehend.

On balance, immigration is something which has so-far enriched us, but also something to be considered and controlled. I don’t doubt that Farage overstates fears of a Romanian “flood”, but if we don’t wisen up, we may start to see the sectarian strife which so plagues the French authorities.

I hope rumours of a UKIP- National Front alliance to disrupt the EU parliament is unfounded; I can’t think of anything less constructive to do with our money, as European citizens.

 

 

Is there anything so useless as the Daily Mail?

The Daily Mail, famed worldwide for its shameless dirt-digging on members of parliament, and for its online site that verges on becoming a soft-porn channel, reached new depths of contempt this week.

I’ve written before about Ed Miliband. I view him as a slightly laughable figure who should win the next election by an ironic stroke of luck; UKIP’s appearance in politics has done two things, firstly to create a culture of mistrust and ignorance amongst the electorate, and secondly to give Labour the helping hand they need. By splitting the right wing vote, Nigel Farage and his ‘swivel-eyed loons’ have given Miliband the best shot he could hope for of winning the next election.

But whatever I feel about Ed Miliband (a mixture of amusement and intrigue), I share his disgust at the Daily Mail’s loud boast of his father’s hatred for Great Britain. I have read the article, and the numerous follow-ups which trumpeted ‘The Mail will never apologise!’ The main body of the original article seems to consist of a description of an ordinary Marxist, without any evidence for Ralph Miliband’s ‘hatred’ for his adopted country.

Ralph Miliband was a Jew from Brussels, who fled the Nazi onslaught to the safety of Britain. He made a life there, and even fought in the Royal Navy during the Normandy landings. Interestingly, a photo of the Daily Mail’s founder socialising with Hitler himself has been circulating on Twitter:

View image on Twitter

The only evidence the ghastly man (Geoffrey Levy) can find to substantially smear his victim to the degree that his readers are accustomed was this: “The Englishman is a rabid nationalist. They are perhaps the most nationalist people in the world . . . you sometimes want them almost to lose (the war) to show them how things are . . . To lose their empire would be the worst possible humiliation.”

In this case I have to agree with Ed, and what he said in his response: “To ignore his service and work in Britain and build an entire case about him hating our country on an adolescent diary entry is, of course, absurd.”

Even if Ralph Miliband was guilty of a greater crime than the sickening corruption of socialism, I fail to see what business the Daily Mail has in harvesting family photos of political figures. Truthfully, one of the captions was: “On Holiday” –below a picture of Miliband standing with his mother and aunt. The fact that these paranoid hacks can showcase your family history to their entire readership, and still call it ‘political comment’ is both astounding and terrifying.

The Daily Mail, however, has built its odious reputation for shady morals, inflammatory headlines and a never-ceasing paranoia about socialism over many years. It has such an obsession with that dreaded word, that any excuse to smear a left-winger and associate him with extremist factions is too golden an opportunity to miss. If the Mail or its readers think this overly harsh, they need only review their own history to know that I’m right.

But for all that, Miliband has come off this business far happier than he went in. It gave him an excuse to openly boast of his father’s military past, without appearing to do so blatantly. It has shown the Daily Mail, one of his harshest critics among the press, in a very dark light. On the whole, the public appear to have taken Ed Miliband’s side on this, which is good to see.

But never believe that the Mail might have learnt its lesson. It never does.