September 20, 2017

Spanish jackboot on Catalonia

This is astonishing.
Spanish gendarmes have raided at least four Catalan ministries amid escalating tension ahead of the independence referendum.
The Spanish authorities, on Monday, also seized control of Catalonia's finances in what [the Catalan vice president] called "total irresponsibility" that would lead the region "to an administrative collapse".
Indeed. "This means that from now on [Catalan leaders] no longer have their money," a Spanish budget ministry spokeswoman said. Oh, well done.

And Spain has accused 740 Catalan mayors of abuse of office. But this is not just a political accusation, the first of them is actually about to go on trial.

The Spanish Foreign Minister says referenda are undemocratic because Franco used them. Orwell would be be proud. Tell that to the Swiss.

September 19, 2017

Despise gutless May

I thought I loathed and despised Theresa May more than anyone else (and I should be a natural Tory voter, by the way). Apparently not. Rachel Sylvester tells it as it is in The Times: May is weak & incompetent, her conduct of government outrageous.

Whatever were Tory MPs thinking of when they voted for her?

Green shoots on Theresa May's magic money tree. The RSPB received £27.5 million in grants from UK taxpayers in 2015 and 2016. Why? Donating to the RSPB is a decision for individuals to make. But gutless May keeps the money coming.

More importantly, scientists say the world is warming more slowly than they had predicted. Oops, it seems we over-estimated climate sensitivity to increasing amounts of carbon dioxide.

But this is still tiptoeing round the problem. The pattern of intermittent temperature changes offers no evidence that they are determined by the small changes in atmospheric CO2. This false science has made the world poorer. Yet gutless May continues to toss away our money in order to make us poorer. Truly a politician to despise.

Get on with your day job, Amber

Head girl Amber Rudd has an inflated sense of her own importance. She feels entitled to criticise the Foreign Secretary on the Marr programme for back seat driving. But what is she doing about her own responsibilities?

One of the major elements of Brexit is taking back control of EU immigration. Never mind that her predecessor, the astonishingly inadequate Mrs May, failed to grip immigration from the rest of the world. It's incumbent on Ms Rudd to do a better job on immigration than her boss. No sign of that so far.

Her area of responsibility also includes what to do about jihadi attacks. So far, the answer seems to be: As little as possible. As Piers Morgan reminds us
On March 22, jihadi Khalid Masood drove a car into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge, before stabbing a policeman to death at the entrance to Parliament. Four other people died, 50 were wounded.

On May 22, jihadi Salman Abedi blew up a bomb outside the Manchester Arena as thousands left an Ariana Grande concert. Twenty-two people were killed, including many children. Another 250 were injured, many seriously.

On June 3, three jihadis - Khuram Butt, Rachid Redouane and Youssef Zaghba – drove into pedestrians on London Bridge, before going on a stabbing rampage at nearby Borough Market. They killed eight people and wounded 40 others.
And since then we have had Parsons Green.

How much more of this are we expected to tolerate? Suppose the Parsons Green bomber had been competent. Would we just have heard little Sadiq saying that this is the sort of thing we must expect in a big city? Would we have heard local government leaders saying that diversity makes us stronger? - whatever that means. Would useless May just have tried to administer more bromide?

As Piers says, we can all talk a big, bold game about ‘never surrendering’, ‘staying strong’ and ‘being resilient’.

But we're entitled to ask: if the tens of thousands of disaffected Islamists in our midst start to pull together, what is the government's policy to be?

Ms Rudd would be the lead minister on this. But she has given us no clue.

Because Amber Rudd probably has no clue.

September 17, 2017

Times journalists can't tell their 'hard' from 'hard'

Sometimes it is the little off the cuff remarks that tell us most about the speaker or the writer. Listening to PMQs, we can learn more about about a Prime Minister's mindset from their passing comments than from the official scripted answers.

Rachel Sylvester and Alice Thomson have written a pleasant enough account of an interview with Caroline Flint. Not exactly probing, and they don't seem to have asked any other politicians for their opinions of her, but it's a relaxing read even if it's hard to see why it took two reporters to produce it (job sharing?).

One comment jumps out:
With Labour dominated by the hard left and the Tories pursuing a hard Brexit, the centre ground appears to have been hollowed out.
These are probably not Caroline Flint's words - apart from anything else, she would never have said that on the record about Labour. So they are the summary of the Times journalists.

They paint the two types of 'hard' as two political extremes: on the one side, the hard left, on the other side, a hard Brexit. Thus to them centre ground 'appears to have been hollowed out' (whatever that may mean).

So centrists are caught between hard left and hard Brexit. Is there any other kind of Brexit? A 'hard' Brexit would involve leaving the single market and the customs union. Which is precisely what we were told we would be voting for if we voted Leave in the referendum. So there is not hard Brexit and soft Brexit, there is Brexit and pseudo-Brexit.

The reporters take it on themselves to imply that 'hard' Brexit is somehow as extreme as the 'hard' left. As an alternative to the hard left there is the soft left. As an alternative to what these journalists call 'hard' Brexit, there is only non-Brexit, pretend Brexit.

The problem for these presumptuous journalists is that a record number of Brits voted for Brexit.

If it is only the Tories who are 'pursuing' the will of the people, then shame on the others.

Let's tell it as it is. Centrists are not trapped between hard left and hard Brexit. They are (apparently) trapped between the hard left and hard democracy.

But Rachel and Alice can't handle this 'hard' truth.

September 15, 2017

Bye bye, George

Political columnists are intrigued by George Osborne. His unusual and high flying political career makes him fun for them to write about, while his shift to journalism has taken him into an arena that they know even better than politics.

But ... so what? During the EU referendum he was ruthlessly dishonest. He was already unpopular with the public even while he was on David Cameron's coat tails; and he has now burnt his bridges with Tory MPs. His steady criticisms of the government had already made him unpopular with his former colleagues, and now he has told his allies that he wants Theresa May 'chopped up in bags in my freezer', revealing just how unpleasant George Osborne is.

His regularly bile-laden editorials were already making him look pathetic, but this is beyond the pale.

Osborne is finished. He is a has-been. Discussions of his career should be left to the history books now.

Bye bye, George. And good riddance.

Of course there is a magic money tree

Theresa May mocks calls for more government spending by saying there is no magic money tree.

As usual, she's wrong. Of course there is a magic money tree. The problem is that the government is stripping it and tossing the fruit straight into the bin.

For instance, why is it wasting its money and ours on green energy spending? First, there is little sign of sustained global warming; and if there is indeed warming, it's hard to see how it could be due to human activity. Certainly the (tiny) concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere has kept rising, but we had a global warming plateau for some 15 years. So maybe any temperature change is largely natural. And anyway the developing world doesn't seem over concerned. On a conservative estimate 621 new coal fired generators are being built, now, 299 of them in China, 132 in India. What difference will it make to the atmosphere if our small economy goes green? None. We will just be poorer, through state spending and through our energy bills.

We are also paying through the nose for HS2. The assumptions of the original business case had to be flawed in order for the outcome to be positive. And the projected cost continues to rise. Yet government ploughs stupidly on with what is a turkey or a white elephant. A huge one at that. Still on the subject of railways, government spent £50m on electrification projects that have now been abandoned. Carelessly tossing over its shoulder money that we do not have in any case.

Imagine how much money could be saved if we stopped spending in these areas. And how much support is there for spending 0.7% of our GDP on overseas aid? Priti Patel has failed to get the spending under control, is clearly over-promoted, and should go in the next reshuffle. We can't even use this ridiculous spending pot towards getting our overseas territories in Caribbean back on their feet.

Of course there is a magic money tree. Trouble is, it's in the hands of a dull, dumb, stupid, stubborn government.

September 02, 2017

Oh dear, Theresa May is back from holiday

So May is apparently to stay on for the convenience of the Conservative party in Westminster. The thinking seems to be that government could use some stability during Brexit.

May is also said to want focus on her domestic agenda. But no one seems to know what that is. Presumably it's no longer her unpopular manifesto. So what is it, and what mandate would she have to implement it?

If the Tories want to skip a political generation, it's also suggested that she will give possible runners a chance to show what they can do in Cabinet posts. Yet she is has a need to control. David Cameron did at least cut Michael Gove and Iain Duncan Smith some slack. But Theresa May has recently brought a former whip into Downing Street to focus on the environment, we are told. What's the point of giving a job to someone with Gove's talents if you're going to plonk a former apparatchik on top of him?

May has no redeeming features at all. She has no imagination, she is indecisive yet she is a control freak, she cannot think on her feet, she has no charisma. What is her strength? Not governing, not leadership, not oratory, not campaigning.

She could not even get it right when she gave the message that she intended to remain PM for the (slightly?) longer term. This is political incompetence at a very basic level.

Next time Matthew Parris suggests that Tory MPs should be the ones to choose the next leader, he should reflect that they lumbered us with the current specimen, inadequate in everyone's eyes but her own.

This blog is drumming its fingers waiting to be rid of her, and meanwhile views Theresa May with contempt.

One political commentator wittily suggested the Tories might want to stop her going on any more holidays because she comes back with daft ideas. The alternative is for her holidays to be very, very much longer.