Saturday, 16 September 2017

It’s not bad enough yet

 I was going to write about something else this week. I had something almost ready about Jacob Rees-Mogg’s views on theology. But then I saw that he had ruled himself out from being leader, no doubt because of his views on theology. Maybe at a later date I will discuss those views. I think there is an interesting rational argument to be had about the subject. But why stick your neck out. It’s not bad enough yet.

 Every other day now North Korea either has a new test for a new sort of nuclear weapon or else it sends a rocket over Japan. Kim Jong-un is the Little Engine that Could. He’s little and a little round and he can. Everybody gets very angry about this and makes all sorts of threats. But nothing is going to happen until and unless he does. If any sort of nuclear weapon actually lands on American territory or the territory of an ally then there will be a nuclear response. But until and unless that happens Mr Kim knows that he can pretty much do as he pleases. The Chinese don’t want to see a unified Korea, so they will do nothing. The Russian’s chief foreign policy goal is to do the opposite of what the Americans want and so they will do nothing. Mr Kim wants attention and perhaps needs it and so he will throw his rockets out of his pram, but the game requires that he doesn’t go too far. The only problem is if he miscalculates. What if one of his rockets accidentally lands in Japan? Is there a response then? But fundamentally until the situation gets bad enough the Americans will do nothing. It’s not bad enough yet. I think it has to get very bad indeed before any sort of military action is taken against North Korea. So Mr Trump’s threats are probably empty, just as Mr Kim’s rockets are empty. The game is very dangerous indeed, but for the moment that’s all it is.

The same logic applies to our domestic security situation and the situation of every other Western European Country and indeed the United States. Here we face a situation that is much more dangerous than North Korea, but here too it isn’t bad enough yet.

Every now and again for the last while we turn on the news to find there has been another terrorist incident somewhere in Europe or the United States. We’ve had big ones (9/11) and small ones (Parson’s Green) and medium ones (e.g. Nice).  But none of these are bad enough. What we always get afterwards is the same meaningless words from politicians and the same meaningless gestures. The Eiffel Tower is lit up with the colours of another country’s flag. Scared people tell other scared people that they are not scared. We promise that we won’t give in to terrorism while trying to modify what we say and do in order not to provoke it. None of these things do any good whatsoever. We’ve even ceased to listen to what the politicians say as we already know what they said last time and what they will say next time.

The problem is this. Just as Jacob Rees-Mogg has to rule himself out of being Tory leader for telling the truth about his views, so all of us have to rule ourselves out of membership of polite society if we tell the truth about the nature of the problem and provide solutions that might actually solve it. It’s not bad enough for us to do this and so we say nothing.

There is an unforgivable sin in the modern western world. Because of this unforgivable sin most people go to great lengths to prove that they are not sinners. The unforgivable sin is so awful that I dare not even name it. I can blaspheme against the Holy Spirit with impunity, but we all know that certain words and certain truths may not be said in modern Britain. The reason they may not be said is that it isn’t bad enough yet.

Since Scottish politics became a dead issue not worth writing about I have spent the whole summer trying to explore the fundamentals of politics. Our problem is that we have turned equality into a God that must be worshipped at all costs. It means that whenever we face a situation that requires discrimination we fail to discriminate. We may start off with the best of intentions, after all we all want to be treated fairly, but we end up ignoring real difference. There is a real difference, for instance, between men and women. We are all of us who are not blind and unable to touch fully aware of it. But the logic of the equality lobby leads to children of six being told that this difference is not real and that girls and boys are interchangeable at will. The truth remains the truth and reality remains reality. The foundation of human society is the real difference between men and women. Throw away that foundation at your peril. Men and women want different things and to an extent we think differently and are often good at different things. Treat us fairly by all means but don’t ignore the reality of our difference.

There is likewise a difference between the duty I owe to my family, my fellow citizens and the duty I owe to people in general. These are real differences. I do not have a duty to ruin my own country in order to save the people of another. We are not equal.

When we turn equality into the thing to be worshipped at all costs, the cost in the end is Parsons’s Green. Discriminate has become a bad word. Not the worst of words of course, but bad enough. But really it means to recognise a distinction. People are different. Of course there are fundamental characteristics that we share with people the world over. But anyone who has travelled realises that there is a distinction between my society and your society, my culture and your culture. This is a real distinction. The attempt to erase this distinction because of equality is leading the West to disaster. Many people on the Left because of their belief in equality are trying in effect to create a world without borders. The result will be very bad indeed. It already is pretty bad as you may have noticed in the last five years or so. It may get much worse.

Can anything be done? Possibly. The most important step is to leave the EU. This makes Parliament sovereign and gives us the power to elect politicians who will do what it takes to make our country safe. It also gives us the power, if we choose to exercise it, to act in the interests of our own citizens rather than the citizens of the whole world. We must have no foreign court telling us what to do. The problem is that whenever a country attempts to do what is necessary to make itself safe (e.g. Poland, Hungary etc.) other countries condemn them for failing to share in our common danger. Each of our European countries ought, after all, to be equally dangerous otherwise we sin against the God of Equality.

Will anything be done? Probably not, at least not yet. I think it probably needs a plane to fly into the Houses of Parliament and for that plane to be packed with radioactive material or else some form of chemical or biological weaponry. Such a plane could easily have been flown on September 11th 2001 in which case it might have killed 100,000 people rather than 2996. That would probably have been bad enough. In that case our politicians would not have gone on about what this had nothing to do with. Rather they would have solved the problem. We wouldn’t have had any choice. But this won’t happen, not yet anyway, because it’s not bad enough.  

Saturday, 9 September 2017

Indyref; or, 'tis three years since

It’s a pity Walter Scott is so little read nowadays. Waverley (or 'tis sixty years since) is not merely a station in Edinburgh it is the key to understanding everything in Scottish history and if you understand the past you understand the present, for history is not about what was, it’s about what is, it’s not about then, it’s about now.

I resolved earlier this summer to not write about Scottish nationalism, the SNP or even Scottish politics. For the most part I have stuck to this resolution. For the moment there isn’t really anything to write. But as we approach the three year anniversary of the independence referendum I’ve decided to make an exception. But this time I’m not really trying to persuade those who are sympathetic to Scottish nationalism. Rather I think it is for us Pro UK people to learn a lesson.

I have gradually been building towards the conclusion that we were very lucky indeed in 2014. Part of the reason for this is what happened a year ago during the referendum about leaving the EU. Scotland might well have voted to leave the UK and for exactly the same reason that the UK voted to leave the EU. On both occasions the “Remain” campaign was dreadful and achieved the opposite of what it intended.

I have long thought that “Better Together” could hardly have been a worse slogan and strategy. This came to me gradually. For a very long time indeed I went along with it, writing articles about all the disadvantages of leaving the UK and all the advantages of remaining. None of these did any good. All of them missed the point.

“Better Together” implicitly concedes defeat by acknowledging the possibility of being apart. No-one, but no-one, would argue that it is better for Kansas to be together with North Carolina. To suggest that Brittany is better of being together with Normandy would be met with bemusement in France. The reason for this is that both French people and Americans think that they are one nation indivisible. Therefore it is unthinkable that they should split.

“Better Together” acknowledged separation while attempting to argue that we should not separate. It should instead have said that the UK is one nation indivisible and therefore separation is senseless. But this is the problem at the heart of our thinking about the UK. For centuries we have acted as if we were similar to the EU. We have played “international” football with each other and have allowed separate identities to develop. Our Pro UK politicians concede the nationalist argument by continually acknowledging the separateness of the parts of the UK and then use a combination of bribery and threats to try to hold the whole thing together.

The key to defeating an opponent is to deny what he asserts and refute what he assumes. “Better Together” went into battle by accepting what the SNP assumes, i.e. that Scotland is a country in the same way that France is. The only difference between the SNP argument and the Pro UK argument was over the advantages and disadvantages of remaining and leaving. But if you share the SNP assumption then quite logically you must share their conclusion. If Scotland is a country in the same way as France is, then it ought to be independent. Why should Scotland alone out of all the hundreds of countries be the only one that can’t manage to be an independent sovereign nation state? Why indeed? If I thought Scotland was a country in the same way that France is, I would vote for the SNP.

Because “Better Together” agreed with SNP assumptions it was left with mere calculation. Let's tot up all the economic advantages of staying in the UK and point out all of the economic disadvantages of leaving. Also let’s make leaving the UK seem as scary as possible. The worst thing about this is that it is all mere contingency. What if at some point Scotland had an economic surplus? Should we then all vote for independence? The "Better Together" strategy amounts to praying for Scotland to remain poor and dependent. God forbid that Scotland should ever have policies that meant we made a profit! But wishing in this way is not to wish for us to be better, it is to wish for us to be worse. This is obviously not a strategy at all. 

The exact same strategy was repeated in 2016 with regard to the EU, but this time it lost. It very nearly lost in 2014 too. The reason it lost is that it is a terrible strategy. This is not because of economics. We can debate endlessly about economics. Some people believe one thing about economics and vote Labour, others believe something else and vote Tory. It’s not about the economy stupid.

Imagine a young couple who have just got married, but they can’t afford to buy their own house. They decide to remain living with the elderly mother of one of them. There is a lot to be said for the arrangement. The mother is getting old and needs help in the house. She’s lonely and welcomes the company. It’s perfectly possible to imagine this arrangement working well and benefitting everyone. Imagine however that the mother kept going on and on about how she paid more than the young couple. What if she said I pay more of the bills than you do? I pay more for food. I have more money than you do and therefore subsidise you. How do you suppose this arrangement would work out? My guess is that after a short while the young couple would move out. They would do this even if moving out meant a struggle and even if it left them worse off. It’s not about the economy stupid, it’s about the psychology.

Every country that ever became independent went through difficulties. The United States fought a war of independence, so did many other countries. If a country really wants to be independent a few years of economic difficulty are not going to deter it. Why would they? If some countries have thought it worth fighting a war to achieve independence why would a paltry thing like changing currency deter them?

There is a reason why support for the SNP increased and increased so much that they very nearly won the independence referendum. There is a reason too that this support has fallen. “Better Together” caused the increase, the demise of “Better Together” caused the fall.

Every time someone told Scots about what a disaster it would be if we voted for independence one more Scot decided to “leave the house”.
Since the independence referendum fewer and fewer people have been telling Scots that it would be an economic disaster if we voted to leave the UK. It is far better just to let the economic situation speak for itself. We don’t need to bang on and on about it.

Scots are not stupid. We know that the price of oil has fallen. We also know that we get a pretty good deal from the UK Government. But let’s just leave it at that. Don’t rub our noses in it. Families don’t count the cost.

Every year there are the so called GERS (Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland) figures. These are, no doubt, of interest to economists and the bureaucrats who run Scotland, but discussion about these should be left to the financial pages. Scotland is not an independent country and luckily we don’t need to worry too much about whether we are running a surplus or a deficit. If Scotland ever became an independent country our long term economic prospects would depend on the choices, the resources and the decisions of a Scottish Government. Nothing in these GERS figures shows either that Scotland ought or ought not to become an independent country. So let’s just ignore them.

During the independence campaign the SNP made some rather optimistic economic claims. Sometimes they still do. It is perfectly reasonable to point out where they make errors. But generally it is better to let the economic situation of Scotland speak for itself without any glee.

Imagine if my young couple were going through difficulties. The husband was very optimistic about his future, but instead lost his job. Would it be a good idea if the mother every moment told him about how his hopes had been dashed and how now he was dependent on her? Would this make it more or less likely that the young couple stayed in the house? Is it becoming clear yet that Project Fear and Project dash Scotland’s hopes is a stupid strategy?

The Pro UK task is to be positive about the UK and attempt to make people feel unity rather than disunity. We do this by treating everyone in the UK as part of our family. Being nasty about the various parts of the UK, telling these parts that they are useless or dependent or hopeless economically does nothing at all, for our sense of being one family with ties of affection that hold us together.

It doesn’t matter if what “Better Together” said about the economic situation is true or untrue. It doesn’t matter if Project Fear was accurate or inaccurate. It was psychologically obtuse. Tell a teenager how he couldn’t manage on his own and you will invite him to flounce off saying “I’ll show you”. Moreover he will show you.

Support for independence is falling because of what we don’t say rather than what we do say. We don’t every day get some “Pro UK” politician on the news who thinks that insulting Scots is a good way to get us to stay in the UK. It doesn’t matter that the insult is true. If I’m thin and you call me “fatty” I won’t take it as an insult. I’m only ever insulted by things that are true. It doesn’t therefore matter that what certain commentators say about the Scottish economy are true. It doesn’t matter that Scotland would be worse off if we voted for independence. What matters is that we don’t bang on and on about it.  Continually reminding Scots that we are dependent and that we run a "deficit" doesn't help the Pro UK cause, it hurts it. These arguments persuade no-one to join us, but rather persuade many to leave us.  The logical reaction of telling someone continually that they can’t afford independence is for them to try it anyway. This may or may not be stupid economically, but it is the human reaction. It is how we are. 

If Remain had campaigned relentlessly about the merits of the EU and had said nothing whatsoever that was negative about Britain, they would have won. Instead they insulted Britain. They said that the sky would fall in if you vote to leave the EU. They said that Britain couldn’t possibly manage outside the “EU house” and in effect that the EU itself as opposed to the Eurozone was a burning building without any exits. All of the relentless negativity from Remain amounted to an insult. In the end it sounded unpatriotic and it made us seem weak and pathetic. It is for this reason above all that we voted to leave.

'Tis three years since. The genius of Walter Scott is that he portrayed the attractions of Jacobites while at the same time showing that this was something in the past that was not to be revisited. He was in this way able to find reconciliation between the Stuarts and the Hanoverians and for this reason even George IV when he visited Edinburgh could celebrate the 45 Rebellion. In time people in the southern states of America could both celebrate their heroes and their ancestors who fought in the Civil War while being glad that the United States remained intact. This was the key to reconciliation. So too Scott could celebrate the cause of Charles Edward Stuart while recognising the stability and prosperity that came with the Hanoverians.

The key to reconciliation today in Scotland is to acknowledge that those Scots who voted for independence were not stupid economic illiterates. Rather in part they were responding to a misguided “Better Together” campaign that was the equivalent of the Duke of Cumberland bayonetting the wounded. We are one UK family. Let us not count the cost and let us not go on about it. In this way perhaps sometime before we arrive at the sixtieth anniversary of the independence referendum we will find reconciliation just as we did once before. 

Saturday, 2 September 2017

If there is hope, it lies in the Poles

There has been endless complaint since the UK voted to leave the EU a little over a year ago. Not from voters mind you. The vast majority of Remain voters have simply got on with their lives and accepted that they lost the argument. Owing to the fact that the Remain prediction of immediate catastrophe for the UK simply did not occur, many former Remain voters have come to the conclusion that they were duped. But this has not stopped the rearguard action from some politicians and some influential people in the papers. There are still attempts to stop Brexit or to so water it down that it would amount to staying in the EU. Even if the doom and gloom about Britain’s immediate future has been shown by events to be ludicrously pessimistic, we are still supposed to believe these pessimists. It’s as if a weather forecaster kept telling us there would be a hurricane and when day after day it kept failing to appear he kept on expecting us to believe that he could predict the speed of wind. It’s time to realise that that the establishment of political experts in Britain are wrong. What’s more they have been wrong about everything for the past fifty years. It is for this reason that some of the newer EU members such as the Poles are beginning to question whether the whole thing is worth it. The reason is simple. They can watch and they can think.

The whole EU project is based on deception. If only it all happens gradually we can create a United States of Europe without anyone noticing. I don’t think in the end that forming a new nation state called Europe is a good idea. I can though respect those who disagree with me. If it were modelled on the United States of America, with just as much freedom and democracy and with similar rights for the constituent parts, then there could be advantages. But the EU is not remotely like the USA. The people of the USA elect their president and their upper and lower houses of parliament. The powerful people in the EU are appointed. The most important decisions are made behind closed doors. The democratic will of member states (Greece, Republic of Ireland, France, the Netherlands) has recently been overturned. There has been a concerted effort to do the same with the UK. But it looks like it will fail.  There is likewise at the moment an attempt to make Poland bend to the will of its EU masters. Hopefully that will fail too.

If you want to be part of something called the United States of Europe, then it indeed makes sense to support Remain. But few indeed are the Brits who do. This is where the whole project becomes dishonest. I don’t think many French or Italian people want France or Italy to be merely a region of Europe. But after sixty years of EU propaganda and mission creep there is a tendency to think that there is no alternative. A tiny proportion of Remain supporters really believed in European federalism yet that is what they voted for. There is a sort of self-deception that the EU won’t ever quite reach the point of being a United States of Europe. But watch how it has gradually moved more and more towards its goal. There is a single currency. There is border free travel such that in parts of the EU you barely even notice international borders. There is a president. Soon there will be an army. If you don’t think European federalism is happening you frankly are not paying attention.

Brexit may involve some tough choices and it may even involve some hard times. But if we don’t want to be part of a federal nation state called the EU, and the vast majority of us don’t, then leaving is the only option. You either get this, or you don’t. I don’t think you need to be ruled by someone else in order to trade freely with them. But here’s the deal. I would prefer not to trade with them at all than be forced to do bend to the will of the EU. I don’t think Brexit will be nearly as tough economically as some people predict, it may even be such that we barely notice. But again even if it were going to be tough, it would be eminently worth it. Unless you are one of the tiny band of EU federalists you have to agree with me. If you don’t want the UK to be the equivalent of Vermont, then you have to think that it’s better to leave the EU now rather than continue towards the federalist EU destiny.

It is this point that has recently become clear to Poland. Most of us pay little attention to Polish politics. All those consonant clusters can make it difficult to follow. But something important is happening and it is worth paying attention.  There is a now a fundamental dispute between Poland and the EU. The Poles elected a party called Prawo i Sprawiedliwość [Law and Justice].  This party has some fairly traditional Polish Catholic views, but for all that it is currently the largest party in the Polish Parliament. The dispute with the EU may in part be because of this traditional Polish Catholicism, which means that the Polish Government sins in a variety of ways against EU Orthodoxy. But it is in two ways in particular that the EU most disagrees with Poland. The first is that the Polish Government wanted to appoint judges to its Supreme Court. There have been some protests about this in Poland. Fair enough. In every country there are political disagreements. But the EU has told Poland that it may not appoint its judges in this way. Why ever not? The USA appoints judges to its Supreme Court by means of a political process. The EU doesn’t complain about this. Why should it complain about how Poland decides to do these things? What has it to do with the EU? At any rate some rather important people in the EU are appointed and a large number of decisions are made in a less than transparent way. Why threaten to remove Poland’s voting rights in the EU over something as arcane as how they appoint their judges?

The reason perhaps is that Poland has sinned in a more fundamental way. When Angela Merkel responded to the refugee crisis in 2015 by in effect saying all of them were welcome in Germany, what she really meant was that all of them were welcome in the EU. She might have been generous unilaterally, but she expected the consequence of her decision to be shared multilaterally. Poland has refused its share. This is the root of the dispute about judges.

Poland along with other members of the Visegrád Group (Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia) has shown great reluctance to accept any of the people Mrs Merkel let into the EU. Why ever should these countries be so reluctant? After all aren’t we continually told how beneficial immigration has been to Britain, France, Germany, Sweden etc.? Why would anyone want to avoid something that was so clearly of benefit to them?

This is the crux of the matter. The Poles et al have benefited from the EU. They are net recipients and get a large amount of money from the richer EU states. Not only this, but they have also benefited from free movement of people. Many Polish people have been able to live and work in Western Europe. But this has also given them an experience of life in the West. What they have seen is how the Pro EU establishment has managed things for the past decades.

Take Britain where the majority of Polish people have come to live. The UK is wealthier than Poland in part because we didn’t have to live under communism for fifty years. But communism also isolated Poland from much of what has happened to a country like Britain since the 1950s. I think the Poles who have been living in places like Britain have seen where Western values and the EU establishment Orthodoxy lead. They don’t like what they see.

I recently went to a Polish Church service in a cathedral. It was packed with people of all ages who quite obviously were sincere and believed with enthusiasm. My guess is that the equivalent English language service would have been sparsely attended with a few elderly ladies who probably were not quite sure what they ought or ought not to believe. This is the difference. The UK has gone through a revolution since the 1950s. Belief in Christianity has collapsed. Traditional ideas about morality are no longer believed and we have little idea about what we believe about anything. We know what we must not say at least in public. But what is it to be British in Britain today? Few of us have a clue. What values do we have except those vague values that are shared by everyone in the West in general? But then these are not our values. They are the values of everybody. This really means we don’t have our own values.

The Poles have been happy to live and work here. We too have benefited from them coming here. But my guess is that when some have them have returned to Poland they have come with a message. Be careful. If you follow the path of Britain you will turn Poland into the same thing. You see the Poles know exactly what it means for someone to be a Pole and they are absolutely clear about what their values are. What they believe is what they have always believed. They like believing these things and want to maintain their country more or less as it is.

The British political establishment from the 1950s onward has made one hell of a mess. We have debts that we can’t pay, but which instead we must attempt to gradually inflate away. We have destroyed the foundation of our morality (Christianity) without having been able to put something else in its place. This means that large numbers of our citizens do exactly what they please so long as it is within the law or they can avoid getting caught. We have strange combination of “anything goes” while at the same time we peer through the lace curtains to make sure no-one sins against the latest diktat of political correctness. We have completely lost control of our borders and have absolutely no idea of what to do about it. Meanwhile many of our cities have been changed beyond all recognition, such that pictures from the 1940s look as if they are pictures of another country. They are.

It was this that we rebelled against when we voted to leave the EU. We were saying to the British political establishment that we rejected them and everything that they stood for. It is for this reason too that the establishment and its supporters reacted with such fury. It is for this reason too that they have been fighting such a bitter rearguard action.

We should support the Poles. We went to war to defend Poland in 1939, but in the end failed to do so. We probably couldn’t have done otherwise. We lacked the will, perhaps the strength to fight the Soviet Union in 1945. Nevertheless our failure to defend Eastern Europe in those days led to decades of tyranny.  We must not allow Poland to be bullied because it wishes to protect its sovereignty and way of life. We must allow them to learn the lesson of the past decades.

Western cities are now under continual threat. We are told that we must live with this and that nothing can be done. This is no doubt true. But it is not true about Warsaw, Budapest, Prague or Bratislava. Let these cities at least avoid having to say that this fear is normal. We need a new way of thinking, because the old ways have led to what Poland and its neighbours are desperate to avoid. Brexit may be a step in the right direction. If Poland leaves too then we should offer them friendship, help and free trade. Poles have been through tough times to defend their freedom and sovereignty. No doubt they will consider it to be worth it. Perhaps their example may encourage others. The EU and the Western political establishment that created it is part of the problem. We are seeing the consequences of the decisions that were made for the past decades every day throughout Western Europe. It is for this reason that the Poles reject these decisions. They can see where they lead. They are right to reject them.

If there is hope,’ wrote Winston, ‘it lies in the Poles.’