Monthly Archives: June 2014

The Commons Education Select Committee  and the libel of the white working-class

Robert Henderson

The Commons Select Committee (CSC) on Education has  produced a report on the underachievement of white British working-class children.  This  ostensibly  highlights the poor educational performance of white British children who are eligible for free meals (FSM)  compared to those in receipt of FSM from ethnic minority groups such as those of Indian and Chinese ancestry.  I say ostensibly because there are severe flaws in methodology.  These are:

  1. The definition of white British is far from simple. The report distinguishes between Irish,  traveller of Irish heritage,  Gypsy/Roma and Any other white background (see CSC table 2 page 13).  The Any other white background is the largest.  It is not clear from the report how the white British were defined, for example , a child of white immigrants might well consider his or herself white British.  Who would whether they were or were not British?
  2. The numbers of  some of the ethnic minority groups cited are small, for example, at the end of Key Stage 4 (the end of GCSE courses) in 2013 there were only  168 Chinese in the country who pupils who qualified for FSM. (see CSC table 2 page 13).

3. The use of FSM  as a proxy for working-class  means that  white British apples are being compared with variously coloured ethnic minority  oranges. Most importantly the use of FSM means that the British white working-class as a whole is not represented , but only the poorest  section of it. Hence, the general treatment in the media of the report, that it shows the white working-class to be falling behind ethnic minorities, is grossly misleading. The report recognises this:

…measuring working class performance in education through FSM data can be misleading. The Centre for Research in Race and Education (CRRE) drew our attention to a mismatch between the proportion of children who were eligible for free school meals and the proportion of adults who would self-define as working class:17 in 2012/13, 15% of pupils at the end of key stage 4 were known to be eligible for free school meals,18 compared with 57% of British adults who defined themselves as ‘working class’ as part of a survey by the National Centre for Social Research.The CRRE warned that projecting the educational performance of a small group of economically deprived pupils onto what could otherwise be understood to be a much larger proportion of the population had “damaging consequences” on public understanding of the issue. The logical result of equating FSM with working class was that 85% of children were being characterised as middle class or above.

The  white British group  will be overwhelmingly drawn from the most deprived part of that  group’s population, while many of the ethnic minority groups  held up as superior to the white British children , will have a large  component of people who are not drawn from the lower social reaches of their society, but are poor simply because they are either  first generation immigrants or the children of first generation immigrants and  have not established themselves in well paid work – think of all the tales the mainstream media and politicians regale the British with about immigrant graduates doing menial jobs.  These  parents  will both have more aspiration for their children and a greater  ability to assist their children with their schoolwork.

The range  of  those qualifying for FSM is extensive and there is  considerable  complexity resulting from pupils  going in and out of the qualifying criteria, viz:

(Para 12 of the report) . Of the  Children are eligible for free school meals if their parents receive any of the following payments:

Income Support

• Income-based Jobseekers Allowance

• Income-related Employment and Support Allowance

• Support under Part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999

• the guaranteed element of State Pension Credit

• Child Tax Credit (provided they are not also entitled to Working Tax Credit and

have an annual gross income of no more than £16,190)

• Working Tax Credit run-on—paid for 4 weeks after they stop qualifying for

Working Tax Credit

• Universal Credit

13. A report for the Children’s Society noted that the criteria for FSM mean that parents working 16 or more hours per week (24 hours for couples from April 2012) lose their entitlement to FSM since they are eligible for working tax credit; as a result there are around 700,000 children living in poverty who are not entitled to receive free school meals. In addition, not all those who may be eligible for FSM register for it; a recent report for the Department for Education estimated under-registration to be 11% in 2013. This figure varies across the country: in the North East under-registration is estimated to  be 1%, compared to 18% in the East of England and 19% in the South East. 

4. Greater resources, both material  advantages and better quality staff,  are being put into schools which have a  very large ethnic  minority component  than schools which are predominantly filled with white British children.  This is occurring both as a matter of deliberate government policy and through not-for-profit corporations such as charities.

Government policies are things such as the  pupil premium . This is paid to schools for each pupil  who qualifies under these criteria:

In the 2014 to 2015 financial year, schools will receive the following funding for each child registered as eligible for free school meals at any point in the last 6 years:

£1,300 for primary-aged pupils

£935 for secondary-aged pupils

Schools will also receive £1,900 for each looked-after pupil who:

has been looked after for 1 day or more

was adopted from care on or after 30 December 2005, or left care under:

a special guardianship order

a residence order

The amounts involved for a school can  be considerable. Suppose that a secondary school with 1,000 children  has 40% of its pupils qualifying for  FSM. That would bring an additional  £374,000 to the school in this financial year.   At present £2.5 billion is being spent on the pupil premium.

According to a Dept of Education (DoE) investigation published in 2013, Evaluation of Pupil Premium Research Report ,  a  good deal of this money is being spent on ethnic minorities and those without English as a first language     (see tables 2.1 and 2.2, pages27 and 30) . The pupil premium can be used to provide extra staff, better staff, improved equipment after school activities and so on.

Schools can allocate the Pupil Premium money  at their discretion and often make the identification of where money has gone next to impossible because they do things such as merging the Pupil Premium money with money from other budgets and joining forces with other schools in the area to provide provision (see pages 14/15 in the DoE report).  It is probable that the Pupil Premium money brought into schools by white British working-class FSM children  is being used,  at least in part,  to benefit ethnic minorities. The converse is wildly improbable.

Ethnic minorities are concentrated in particular areas and particular schools. This makes it more  likely that ethnic children will go to schools with a higher  proportion of  free school meal pupils than schools dominated by  white pupils.  That will provide significantly greater funding for an ethnic  minority majority school than for one dominated by white Britons, most of whom will not qualify for the Pupil Premium. .

Because ethnic minority families, and especially those of first generation immigrants, are substantially larger on average than those of  white Britons, the likelihood of ethnic minority children qualifying for FSM will be greater than it is for white Britons because  the larger the family the more likely a child is to qualify for FSM.   This will boost the additional money from the pupils premium going to ethnic  minority dominated schools.

An example of not-for-profit intervention is  the charity Teach First.  The select committee report (para  116) describes their work:

 The Government’s response to the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission’s first annual report noted that Teach First will be training 1,500 graduates in 2014 to 2015 and placing them in the most challenging schools, and that as of 2014/15 Teach First will be placing teachers in every region of England.

The Teach First  website states:  “Applicants to our Leadership Development Programme are taken through a rigorous assessment process. We select only those who demonstrate leadership potential, a passion to change children’s lives and the other skills and attributes needed to become an excellent teacher and leader. These participants teach and lead in our partner primary and secondary schools in low-income communities across England and Wales for a minimum of two years, ensuring every child has access to an excellent education.”

Apart from specific programmes such as the Pupil Premium and special training for teachers to prepare them what are euphemistically called “challenging schools” which end up disproportionately  favouring ethnic minority pupils,  there is also scope within  the normal funding of state schools to favour ethnic minorities because head teachers have a good deal of discretion in how funds are spent. That applies with knobs on to Academies and Free Schools.

There is also a considerable difference in funding between the funding of areas with large ethic minority populations, especially black and Asian groups,  and areas with largely white populations,  for example,   between East Anglia and London: “ The government has announced plans to raise per-pupil funding 3.7pc in Norfolk to £4,494, 7pc in Cambridgeshire to £4,225 and 2.5pc in Suffolk to £4,347 next year following a campaign by MPs.

“But councillors have called for a long term overhaul of the funding system, which will still see each student in the county receive around half of the allocation in the City of London, which will get £8,594.55 for each pupil.”

5. The effect of political correctness. With good reason any teacher,  and  especially white teachers,   will be fearful of not seeming to be devoutly political correct.  They know they are at the mercy of other teachers , parents and pupils and know that an accusation of racism from any  source could well end their teaching career at worst and at best seriously disrupt their lives while a complaint is being investigated. In addition, many  teachers will be emotionally attached to political correctness generally and to multiculturalism in particular.

In such circumstances it is reasonable to suspect that teachers in schools with a mix of ethnic minority and white British children  will devote more time and patience to ethnic minority pupils than   to white children.  They may do this without conscious intent, with either  fear or the ideological commitment making such a choice seem the natural one.

Such preferential treatment for ethnic minority children is facilitated by the large amount of continuous assessment  involved in GCSE.  (This is supposedly being reduced but the results of the change has not yet worked through to the end of a GCSE cycle.  Teachers routinely help children to re-write work which does not come up to par, in some cases re-doing the work themselves . Teachers have also been caught helping pupils  to cheat during exams . The opportunity and the temptation to help ethnic minority children is there and the pressure of political correctness may cause opportunity to become actuality.

6. The disruptive effect on schools of a large number of pupils from different backgrounds with English as a second language, the type of schools where the headmaster boasts “We have 100 languages spoken here”.   The most likely white British children to be in such schools are those from the poorest homes which means they qualify as FSM pupils.  They will be lost in these Towers of Babel not only because often they will be in the minority,  but also because, unlike children with English as a second language or  ethnic minority English speakers  who will have a good chance of enhanced tuition, the white British FSM pupils  will not enjoy  such a privilege and may be actually ignored to a large extent because of the desire of the staff to assist ethnic minority children.

7 . The downplaying of British culture. The school curriculum in Britain and  especially in England (where the vast majority of the British live)   is shaped to reflect the politically correct worldview.  This means that ethnic minority culture and history  are frequently  pushed ahead of British culture and history.   The larger the percentage of ethnic minorities in a school, the greater will be the tendency to marginalise the white British pupils, who will almost certainly be drawn largely from those qualifying for FSM. They will be deracinated and become culturally disorientated.

To this school propaganda is added the politically correct and anti-British, anti-white  propaganda which is pumped out  ceaselessly by mainstream politicians and the media. This  will reinforce the idea that being white and British is  somehow at best  inferior to that of ethnic minority cultures and at worst something to be ashamed of, something  to be despised, something which is a  danger  to its possessor.

Conclusion

As far as the general public is concerned, the Select Committee report is saying the white working-class children – all of them not just those receiving FSM  – are doing less well than ethnic minority children.   The reason for this is simple, the mainstream media have reported the story in a way which would promote such a belief, both in their  headlines and the stories themselves.

A comparison between  the  white British population as a whole and the ethnic minority populations as a whole would be nearer to reality, but it would still be comparing apples and oranges for the reasons given above. The ethnic minority children would still be likely to have on average parents who would not be representative of the ancestral populations they came from, political correctness would still drive teachers to favour ethnic minority pupils,  continuous assessment would still allow teachers to illegally aid ethnic minorities, heads could still decide to divert more funds towards ethnic minorities and the promotion of ethnic minority cultures and history would still exist.

What could be done to remedy matters? Continuous assessment should stop  and end of  course synoptic exams substituted . Ethnic minority children should not have more spent on them than white British children.  School funding in different areas should be broadly similar per capita.  British culture and history should be the dominant teaching driver.  Political correctness should be removed from the curriculum generally.

As for future studies, these should be controlled in a much more subtle manner than simply using FSM  as a criterion.  Any study of all or any part of group should control for parents’ education,  income, the amount of money spent on each pupil, the teacher pupil ratio,  the quality of the teachers and the general facilities of the school.

Those suggestions would not entirely cure the problem,  but it would be good start to both getting at the truth and ending the demonization of the white working-class  which has gathered pace ever since the Labour Party decided to drop the white working-class as their client base and substitute for them the politically correct groups of gays, feminists and most potently ethnic minorities.

See also

http://englandcalling.wordpress.com/2012/04/01/the-english-white-working-class-and-the-british-elite-from-the-salt-of-the-earth-to-the-scum-of-the-earth/

 

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The curse of the Blair Doctrine

The blueprint for the present international mess lies in the overthrow of Milosevic

Robert Henderson

The first Gulf War was the last Western intervention with force under the old Cold War rules. It was limited to evicting Saddam Hussein  from  Kuwait  and establishing a no-fly zone established over the Kurdish part of Iraq . No attempt was made to overthrow Hussein .  Indeed, the reverse is the case because the first President Bush deliberately lifted the no fly order in the immediate aftermath of  the War to enable Hussein to re-establish control, the USA’s  judgement being that it was the lesser of two evils, the greater  evil being  Iraq as a client state of Iran.  This was still recognisably the world of Communist East versus  capitalist West.

The wars which eventually occurred from the splitting of Yugoslavia after Tito’s death gradually  increased the West’s liberal imperialist tendencies and culminated in NATO bombing  – action unauthorised by the UN and illegal under NATO’s own rules because Slobodan  Milosevic offered no threat to a NATO member –  what remained of  the  Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. There was also something new, the desire to remake territories in the West’s image by imposing conditions on a sovereign state over part of its territory, in this case Kosovo. The first steps towards ignoring the UN Charter’s protection of national sovereignty  (chapter 7) had been taken not merely in actuality,  but intellectually.

It was the experience of the wars resulting from the break up of Yugoslavia  and the continuing difficulties represented by Saddam Hussein that persuaded Blair to develop what became the Blair Doctrine. He first outlined this in 1999 in a speech to the Economic Club in Chicago, viz:

The most pressing foreign policy problem we face is to identify the circumstances in which we should get actively involved in other people’s conflicts. Non -interference has long been considered an important principle of international order. And it is not one we would want to jettison too readily. One state should not feel it has the right to change the political system of another or foment subversion or seize pieces of territory to which it feels it should have some claim. But the principle of non-interference must be qualified in important respects. Acts of genocide can never be a purely internal matter. When oppression produces massive flows of refugees which unsettle neighbouring countries then they can properly be described as “threats to international peace and security”. When regimes are based on minority rule they lose legitimacy – look at South Africa.

Looking around the world there are many regimes that are undemocratic and engaged in barbarous acts. If we wanted to right every wrong that we see in the modern world then we would do little else than intervene in the affairs of other countries. We would not be able to cope.

So how do we decide when and whether to intervene. I think we need to bear in mind five major considerations

First, are we sure of our case? War is an imperfect instrument for righting humanitarian distress; but armed force is sometimes the only means of dealing with dictators. Second, have we exhausted all diplomatic options? We should always give peace every chance, as we have in the case of Kosovo. Third, on the basis of a practical assessment of the situation, are there military operations we can sensibly and prudently undertake? Fourth, are we prepared for the long term? In the past we talked too much of exit strategies. But having made a commitment we cannot simply walk away once the fight is over; better to stay with moderate numbers of troops than return for repeat performances with large numbers. And finally, do we have national interests involved? The mass expulsion of ethnic Albanians from Kosovo demanded the notice of the rest of the world. But it does make a difference that this is taking place in such a combustible part of Europe.

Milosovec  lost a Presidential election in 2000, was arrested on April 1, 2001 and extradited to the Hague Tribunal on June 28, where he died in detention in March 2006, before his trial was completed.

What Blair saw  the fall of Milosevic as a success for the Blair Doctrine and this has  laid the foundation for all the misbegotten Western intervention since. Nor has it been simply a matter of military force.  The EU had a hand in making sure that Milosovec  did not survive by dangling carrots such as eventual membership of the EU for Serbia.  From this the EU became more and more ambitious in its expansionist plans to the East, something which is all too apparent in the EU’s messy hand in creating the Ukraine conflict we are presently witnessing by pressing for it to move close to the EU with eventual membership the end of the game.   The imperialist mindset of the EU is  unambiguously  described in an EU document  The Western Balkans and The EU:  ‘The hour of Europe’  (Edited by Jacques Rupnik Chaillot Papers,  June 2011), viz:

Today, more than fifteen years after the end of the wars of Yugoslavia’s  dissolution, the ‘Balkan question’ remains more than ever a ‘European question’. In the eyes of many Europeans in the 1990s, Bosnia was the symbol of a collective failure, while Kosovo later became a catalyst for an emerging Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP). In the last decade, with the completion of the process of redrawing the map of the region, the overall thrust of the EU’s Balkans policy has moved from an agenda dominated by security issues related to the war and its legacies to an agenda focused on the perspective of the Western Balkan states’ accession to the European Union, to which there has been a formal political commitment on the part of all EU Member States since the Thessaloniki Summit in June 2003. The framework was set, the political elites in the region were – at least verbally – committed to making Europe a priority and everyone was supposedly familiar with the policy tools thanks to the previous wave of Eastern enlargement. With the region’s most contentious issues apparently having been defused, the EU could move from stability through containment towards European integration.

There are favourable trends to make this possible: the EU has emerged as the unchallenged international actor in the Balkans; the region, exhausted by a decade of conflict, is recovering stability and the capacity to cooperate; the EU has no other equally plausible enlargement agenda in sight and could use the direct involvement of some of its Member  States in the region to facilitate the accession process.

I wrote the essay below in 1999 for Free Life, the magazine of the Libertarian Alliance.  Reading it now I am glad I placed a question mark after Milosovec in the title. Milosevic  might be said to have won the war and lost the peace, for it was Western interference which did for him. Had he been left,  as Saddam Hussein was after the First Gul War, to fight to retain power in the rump Yugoslavia without international interference he would probably have remained in office. As it was when the Presidential Election was run in 2000 Milosovec

What the 1999 essay does do is show how the move from non-intervention to regime change and nation building was well under way fifteen years ago, with all the disastrous consequences we have seen since, including creating false hopes in many countries democracy could be magicked up simply by removing  a dictator.

Rousseau wrote that people must be forced to be free for their own good : the Blair Doctrine states that people must be forced for their own good  to live by the rules of political correctness.

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A victory for Milosevic?

Robert Henderson

Now that the big boys toys have been put back in the  cupboard and Mr Jamie Shea is returning to run his whelk  stall in the Mile End Road, we really do need to ask why this bizarre act of aggression by Nato occurred because it  has profound implications for Britain. What was it all about?  Well, we all know that, don’t we? To put the Albanians back  into Kosovo, stupid! Wrong! The war started because  Milosevic would not accept the Nato proposals drawn up at  Rambouillet, which was scarcely surprising for they might  have been designed to ensure their refusal.

Not only did the Rambouillet Proposals give foreign soldiers  the right to enter any part of Yugoslavia, they provided for a referendum on independence for the Kosovan population. Add to that the demand that Serb troops withdraw from Kosovo and the refusal to allow Russian troops to be part of a peacekeeping force, and it is all too easy to see why  Milosevic refused them. Moreover, the Rambouillet proposals were not put forward as a basis for negotiation, but as a  fait accompli. They then became the subject of a naked  ultimatum, issued effectively by the US in the egregious  person of Madeleine Albright.

The Rambouillet proposals would have reduced Yugoslavia to the status of a dependent territory, with the virtual  guarantee that the land (Kosovo) which had the greatest  emotional significance for the majority Serb population would  be lost to the hated Albanian minority. Moreover, they had  the knowledge that the loss of Kosovo through a referendum  would almost certainly result in the expulsion of the two  hundred thousand Serbs normally resident in Kosovo, assuming  that they had not already left after the withdrawal of  Serbian troops. Milosevic was offered the prospect of  tremendous humiliation and nothing else. If Nato had wished  to ensure a war they could scarcely have done better. As  Henry Kissinger remarked in a interview with Boris Johnson of  the Daily Telegraph (28/6/99,) Rambouillet was a provocation.

But the Rambouillet proposals were only the immediate cause  of the conflict. The war was really about the imposition of  Liberal Internationalist ideals. Since 1945, the Liberal  Internationalist cause have been growing in strength until it  has become the ostensible ideology of the ruling elites  throughout the West. During the Cold War the territorial  ambitions of the Liberal Internationalists were considerably  constrained. Since 1989 those constraints have been removed.

The result has been an unhappy sequence of interventions,  covered by the fig leaf of UN colours, which have  demonstrated the utter impotence of the Liberal  Internationalist creed by invariably creating situations the exact opposite of those intended by the interveners: Somalia  is a mess of anarchy, Bosnia a UN protectorate with the  warring ethnic groups largely segregated and future conflict  just waiting to happen. The war against Serbia marked a new stage in Liberal Internationalist ambitions: naked  aggression was undertaken without even the indecent cover of  the UN fig leaf.

The persistent failure of international intervention has not  deterred the Liberal Internationalists because, like all  fanatic ideologues, the Liberal Internationalist is  incapable of admitting that his creed is plain wrong no matter have often events prove it to be so. For the Liberal  Internationalist any failure is simply the result of  insufficient resources and time, a spur to behave in an ever  more totalitarian manner; from peacekeeping through outright  war to de facto colonial occupation. Consequently those with  the power in the West continue to intervene ineptly in  conflicts inherently irresolvable in liberal Internationalist  terms. Their response to failure or the contrary evidence of  events is to embark on ever more intervention regardless of  the havoc caused or the long term consequences.

What the war was not about was morality, despite Blair and  Clinton’s inordinate and deeply risible posturing. (In fact  war is never about morality. It is always about territory,  aggrandisement, the removal of competitors and the  imposition of the victor’s will.) The nations attacking  Yugoslavia had stood by during many greater man made horrors  such as the massacres in Rwanda. Most pertinently, the West  had not merely stood by while hundreds of thousands of Serbs  were expelled from Croatia, but in the guise of the UN had  actively assisted in that expulsion by providing arms and  airpower to support the Croat military. Most tellingly, and  most repellently, because it was utterly predictable, Nato  has not meaningfully protected the Kosovan Serbs since the  end of the war. Nor could they have had any reasonable expectation of doing so, for the size of even the projected  peace keeping force (50,000 – which numbers have not been  met) was obviously inadequate to mount a general police  action against an Albania population of nearly two million in  which there were plentiful arms. A cynic might think that  Nato’s aims were from the beginning to produce a Kosovo  ethnically cleansed of Serbs.

The course of the war laid bare the stupidity, incomprehension, incompetence and amorality of the Nato members’ leaders. The objective facts say that the conflict  has greatly worsened a naturally fraught situation. Before the war, the vast majority of the Albanian population of  Kosovo was in Kosovo living in their homes. Since the war  began the, vast majority have either left the country or  remain in Kosovo having been driven from their homes. Thus,  just as the Second World War signalled the beginning of the  Holocaust, so Nato’s action signalled that of the Kosovan  Albanians’ tragedy. Without the war, it is improbable to the  point of certainty that the greatest movement of a  population in Europe since 1945 would have occurred.

The hypocrisy of the whole business was graphically  demonstrated in the Nato members’ attitude towards the  refugees. The public posturing on the need to provide for the refugees was all too clearly balanced by the fear that  any large scale import of refugees to Nato countries outside  the Balkans would arouse considerable dissent in those  countries. Amongst many stomach heaving moments, Clare  Short’s protestations that Britain did not want to move the  refugees away from the Balkans simply because Britain did not  wish to unwillingly assist Milosevic rank very high. The double standards, both amongst politicians and the media  have continued with the end of the war, as the Liberal  Ascendency quietly tolerates ethnic cleansing of the Kosovo  Serbs and the gross acts of revenge taken by the Kosovo  Albanians.

What if there had been no war? Judged by what had gone  before, there would have been continued harassment of  Kosovan Albanians by Serb paramilitaries and some action by  the regular Serb forces, the latter primarily directed  against the KLA. One simple fact alone gives the lie to  Nato’s claims that wholesale ethnic cleansing would have  occurred regardless of Nato intervention. Prior to the war,  Milosevic had ten years to undertake the task and did not  attempt it. Fine ideals are not fine at all if  they are so  out of keeping with reality that they produce evil ends.

Who won the war? Well, let us follow the Dragnet example and just look at the facts. Milosevic remains in control of  Yugoslavia minus Kosovo. Two of the prime demands of the Rambouillet proposals – that the Kosovo population be given a  referendum on independence within three years and the right of peacekeeping troops to go anywhere in Yugoslavia – have been dropped. There is also to be no referendum and the  peacekeeping force will operate only within Kosovo. In  addition, Russian troops are involved in the peacekeeping  force, a token Serb presence will be allowed in Kosovo and  there are signs that the force may eventually come under UN  not Nato auspices. Those are very significant political gains for Milosevic.

Let us make the assumptions which most favour Nato. That the agreement which was reached between Milosevic and Nato was not ambiguous. That Milosevic will keep his word. That the  peace keeping force will be Nato led under a unified  command. That the Russians involved in the peace keeping will not subvert the process on the ground. That money will be forthcoming in sufficient amounts to rebuild Kosovo. That the  KLA will allow themselves to be disarmed. A collection of pretty improbable occurrences. But no matter, let us grant  them. What then?

Even under such propitious and unlikely circumstances, it is  highly improbable that Kosovo will be quickly returned to  normality. The destruction of housing and the spoliation of  farm land alone make that immensely difficult, but given the  will and the money, the material damage might be repaired.

But material renaissance is not the heart of the problem.  That lies in the all too simple fact of the existence of  two incompatible ethnic groups occupying the same territory,  both sides replete with ancestral hatreds and recent hurts.  In such circumstances a peaceful multicultural Kosovo is a  fantasy.

We have the example of Bosnia before us. Stripped of all cant, it is now a good old fashioned League of Nations Protectorate, a mandated territory. It has the experience of several years of UN control. Yet the vast majority of the displaced populations in Bosnia have not returned to their homes and the various ethnic groups there lead largely segregated lives.

But the post bombing situation in Kosovo is unlikely to be anything like so favourable as I have described. The KLA have shown no more willingness to generally disarm than the  IRA. The agreement which was reached is not unambiguous.

Milosevic cannot be relied to keep his part of the bargain.  The Russians have shown that they are not willing to accept  Nato command unconditionally. Money in the quantities suggested as needed for rebuilding (anything between 15-25  billion pounds) may well prove to be too great a hurdle for  politicians to sell to their publics who are being told of  the need for cuts in welfare – The USA and Europe are already  squabbling over who should bear the cost of rebuilding  Kosovo.

Milosevic also has one great general political advantage; he  knows that political life amongst the Nato powers is ephemeral. While he may be in power in five years time, the  majority of his opponents will not. He can afford to sit and  wait until a propitious moment comes to regain all or part of  Kosovo. Milosevic’s position is not as strong as that of  Saddam Hussain in purely authoritarian terms, but he has a vital quality which Saddam does not, namely his authority does not rely entirely on force.

Before the war started the Nato leaders must have known that  a western led occupation of Kosovo would simply replace one   form of repression with another. At best they could expect  a replica of Bosnia: at worst, an ethnic cleansing of Serbian  Kosovans. Since the end of the war, all too predictably the  worst has occurred as the western disregard shown for the welfare of ordinary Serbs elsewhere in the Balkans has been  repeated. The peacekeeping force has stood ineffectually by  whilst Kosovo is cleansed of Serbs by the KLA and their associates.

Perhaps no one has won the war, but that is often the way of  wars. The real question is who has suffered the most damage.  At the moment it may look like Milosevic, not least because the Nato countries in truth had nothing material to gain and  everything to lose from the War. Yet Milosevic has reduced  the Rambouillet demands, probably tightened his control on  Yugoslav politics and large parts of Kosovo has been ethnically cleansed. The Nato countries have made  significant concessions and committed themselves to massive expenditure and the deployment of troops indefinitely. This  will both take money from their own electorates and influence  their future foreign policies. It is a strange sort of victory if victory it be for Nato.

For Britain there is much about which to be ashamed and worried. We have bombed defenceless targets which plainly  were not in any meaningful sense military. This places us in an impossible moral position in dealing with terrorist  action. What moral argument could we have against Serb  reprisal bombs in Britain? That it is wrong to bomb innocent civilians?

More worryingly Blair has shown himself to be an unashamed warmonger. I would like to believe that Blair’s public words were simply a cynical manipulation of the public to promote his reputation and were made in the certain knowledge that  Clinton would not commit troops to a land war. Unfortunately I think that Blair was anything but cynical in his belligerence. The Observer reported on 18 July that Blair had  agreed to send 50,000 British troops to take part in an invasion force of 170,000 if Milosevic had not conceded Kosovo to Nato. Incredible as this may seem, (and it was not  denied by Downing Street) such recklessness fits in with  Blair’s general behaviour. So there you have it, our prime  minister would have committed the majority of Britain’s armed  forces to a land war in which we have no national interest,  regardless of the cost, deaths and injuries. The danger  remains that Blair will find another adventure which does  result in a land war. Over Kosovo, he behaved like a reckless adolescent and nearly came a fatal political  cropper. Yet this government appears to have learnt nothing  from the experience, vide the unpleasant and malicious fanaticism in Blair and Cook’s declarations of their intent to both unseat Milosevic from power and bring him before an international court, vide the humiliation of Russia, vide the ever more absurd declarations of internationalist intent  since hostilities ceased. That adolescent idealists’ mindset could lead Britain down a very dark path indeed. It is also incompatible with a foreign policy that supposedly encourages  elected governments (however imperfect they are) over  dictatorships.

What other lessons does this war teach us? It shows above  all the utter powerlessness of the democratic process and  the sham of international law. In the two countries which have taken the lead, US and Britain, parliamentary support  was not formally sought nor given, funds voted or a  declaration of war sanctioned. The other members of Nato have  been impotent bystanders.

The American Constitution was designed to prevent aggressive  acts of war without congressional approval. That  constitutional guarantee has been severely tested since 1945, but perhaps never so emphatically as in the past months. If  an American president can commit such considerable forces to  a war regardless of Congressional approval, it seriously  brings into question the value of the constitutional  restraint. Where exactly would the line be drawn in the Constitutional sand?

In Britain, the matter was debated at the government’s  convenience but at no one else’s. Incredibly, many will  think, support for the war was never put to a vote in the  Commons.

As for international law, that has been shown in the most  unambiguous manner to be a sham. The war was fought without a  declaration of war, in contravention of the UN Charter and in  a manner guaranteed to cause significant civilian casualties.

Yet Judge Arbour at the War Crimes Tribunal does not indict  the likes of Clinton and Blair, only Milosevic. (Readers might like to note that formal complaints to Judge Arbour about Blair and Clinton have been ignored). Law which is not  equally applied is no law, but merely a tool of the powerful  against the weak. Moreover, there does not appear to be any  illegality at which the US would draw the line. Apart from  incitements to murder Milosevic, there have been newspaper  reports of attempts by the CIA to illegally enter Milosevic’s  bank accounts and drain them of funds (we honest folks call that theft). If governments do not obey the core moral and  legal commandments of their own societies, law does not  effectively exist.

If international law meant anything, the Nato action would  be deemed objectively illegal. It was so first because of an  absence of lawful international authority, there being no  UN sanction for the War. On a national level, neither the  British nor the American Parliaments sanctioned either the  action or the expenditure which permitted the action.

The war also drove a coach and horses through the UN Charter  and the Nato Treaty. The UN Charter was breached because it  prohibits action to amend a sovereign state’s borders. As for  the NATO treaty, this only provides for action to be  taken in defence of member countries. Clearly the Yugoslav  government had offered no direct threat to NATO members because there was no attempt to act outside the territory  of Yugoslavia. Moreover, the only NATO countries  which might have called for assistance to a perceived  threat – Greece and Hungary – did not do so and made it  clear that they were far from supportive of the Nato action.

In general terms, it was impossible before the war began to  make a convincing case that Yugoslavia could present a threat  to the peace of Europe. It is a country of ten  million souls, poor with an underdeveloped industrial base. Moreover, its natural poverty had been greatly  increased by years of civil war and UN sanctions.

Balkan history tells a single story: any of its peoples  which become possessed of the advantage of numbers, wealth  or arms will oppress as a matter of course any other of its  peoples. If the Albanians gain control of Kosovo, rest  assured that they will behave as abominably towards the Serbs  as the Serbs have behaved towards them. The disputed territory is Serb by history and Albanian by present  settlement. There is no absolute right on either side.

 

The reckless mass medication of Britain

Robert Henderson

The reckless and even the enforced medication of the population grows apace.  State bodies are pressing for widespread or universal medication. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE)  recommends the universal  use of statins by men over 50 and women over 60, ministers are considering  making compulsory  the addition of folic acid to flour  and  councils are being encouraged by Public Health England  to put fluoride in the water supply .

That is direct government action. But there are many drugs with potent side effects which are being given out wholesale without any government interference. Potentially the greatest risk comes from  antibiotics to which resistance is being built up all the time. The World Health Organisation warned this year that  overuse was potentially creating a crisis more serious than Aids . Dr Keiji Fukuda, WHO’s Assistant Director-General for Health Security, claimed : “A post-antibiotic era — in which common infections and minor injuries can kill — far from being an apocalyptic fantasy, is instead a very real possibility for the 21st century.”

Antidepressants are being prescribed in record numbers and the side effects, which often make people feel as though they are going around in a mental fog,  can make people feel the cure is worse than the disease. Moreover, they can be prescribed for people who either are not seriously depressed but suffering from a physical illness  or people whose severe depression is the consequence of a physical illness.

There is also the problem of addiction to such drugs with severe withdrawal symptoms experienced by some people, symptoms such as these suffered by a patient identified only as Henry“It was torture. I thought I was going to die, and I didn’t care. For two years, I was in severe physical pain and so weak I lay all day on the sofa. My cognition was severely affected, I was dizzy, with blurred vision, I couldn’t read a bedtime story to my son and couldn’t remember things that had happened just a few seconds previously.”

But even where there is no psychological problems or unpleasant but not immediately obvious damaging physical effects,  drugs can have dramatic consequences. For example, aspirin  is routinely prescribed to thin the blood, especially to those who have suffered heart attacks, but  recent research found that aspirin’s daily use  “ leads to 37 per cent increased risk of internal bleeding and 38 per cent increased risk of hemorrhagic stroke,”  while the  long term use of the contraceptive pill doubles the risk of glaucoma..

Probably the most controversial widely used medication in Britain  at present are statins. Side effects can be extreme.  Statins (which are used to reduce cholesterol)  have been the subject of much complaint by patients. There are studies which claim that statins have little or no side effects,  but the  catalogue of complaints against them is so huge that it is difficult to see how they could have come to such conclusions.

I have taken statins  for many since suffering   a heart attack,  I can I can vouch for the fact that they have powerfully obnoxious side effects. Luckily I did not  suffer psychotic episodes  such as those  which afflicted the unfortunate Dr Allan Woolley before his suicide,  which was attributed to the side effects of statins . However,  I  have experienced severe  disabling symptoms such as intense aching, especially in the hands, a permanent fatigue and a diminution of mental function, especially of memory and concentration (I had  to consciously concentrate on what I was doing rather than simply doing it without thinking, while my power of immediate recall, previously very good, became unreliable.

I only realised statins were responsible for such symptoms in 2007  – for years I attributed them to the  process of ageing and the after effects of the heart attack – after I read several articles by Dr James Le Fanu who both questioned the general value of  statins and described the side effects:  ” Statins are useless for 95 per cent of those taking them, while exposing all to the hazard of serious side-effects and  detailed the side effects….they seriously interfere with the functioning of the nerve cells, affecting mental function, and muscles.” (Sunday  Telegraph  17 3 2007).  He concluded that only those with a personal or family  history of heart trouble should take them.

But even that advice is debatable. Eating an apple-a-day is as effective as taking statins according to a recent piece of research, viz:

“Prescribing either an apple a day or a statin a day to everyone over 50 years old is likely to have a similar effect on population vascular mortality. Choosing apples rather than statins may avoid more than a thousand excess cases of myopathy and more than 12 000 excess diabetes diagnoses. The basic costs of apples are likely to be greater than those of statins; however, NHS prescription prices and convenience may drive people to purchase their apples from a store rather than through a pharmacy, thereby reducing direct NHS costs, or the NHS may be able to negotiate apple price freezes (although defrosted apples may not be so palatable).23”

There are also doubts about whether cholesterol levels have anything to do with heart attacks and strokes, so the concentration on bringing  down cholesterol levels may be pointless.

It might be thought with the ever increasing range of medications available that overall  life expectancy would be increasing and go on increasing . Not so.  In  recent years in the UK the trend towards greater life expectancy after the age of 65 has flat-lined for men and actually declined for women. “Life expectancy at age 65 in 2012 has been projected as 18.3 years for men and 20.6 years for women on average….In 2008 life expectancy post 65 was 19 years for men on average and 21.3 years for women on average. In 2010 it was 18.7 for men and 21.1 for women.”

This suggests that medication of the elderly is at best ineffective in extending lives on average and  may even be a  cause of the stagnation of increases in life expectancy amongst the old.

There is also a  moral question, namely,  how much medication should be given to a patient   regardless of the quality of life  they can experience?  The idea that living is desirable regardless of the nature of the life is difficult to sustain morally.  That is particularly true of the old. I have never encountered anyone over the age of 85 whose life I have known in some detail who has been averagely happy or physically comfortable.   Almost invariably by that age the body has developed some serious malady whether physical or mental.  That is not to say such elderly people generally  want to die.  Rather, it is simply that the life being led is normally miserable at worst and unfulfilling at best.  If they are loaded down with  medications, many or all of which will have obnoxious side effects,  this may extend their lives by a few  months or years,  but the patient  may well feel that there is a case for saying let nature take its course if those few extra months and years will be suffered rather than enjoyed because of the side effects of medication.

Why do patients submit to drug regimes regardless of the ill consequences? Patients generally trust their doctors and are inclined to accept advice in the vast majority of cases. But even if they do not want to carry on with a drug because of the side effects – and many commonly prescribed drugs have effects which make the enjoyment of life seriously difficult – they find it difficult to refuse a doctor’s advice. Often it is not a simple matter of refusing a single treatment, because many patients, and especially elderly ones, will have a range of ailments and  will fear that refusing to take one medication may ruin their relationship with their GP or a hospital consultant, with a consequent diminution in the quality and scope of their  future  medical care. Even if unfounded , such fears will drive patients to carry on with medication which is causing them serious discomfort.

Things could be improved if doctors were required to discuss the side effects of drugs with patients. The only warning I have ever been given voluntarily by a doctor – and I have spent a great deal of the past twenty years with chronic complaints – about side effects is drowsiness, yet most drugs which seriously interfere with the natural workings of the body will have a list of serious side effects.  For example, diuretics, a very commonly prescribed drug to increase fluid removal from the body has these side effects according to  the BUPA guidance :

Side-effects of diuretics include:

mild gastro-intestinal problems, such as feeling sick

a fall in blood pressure that is related to posture (postural hypotension), which causes you to feel faint or dizzy when you stand up

altered levels of salts in your body, such as low levels of potassium (hypokalaemia) and sodium (hyponatraemia)

Less common side-effects of diuretics include:

gout (a condition that causes pain and swelling in your joints)

impotence in men (the inability to achieve or sustain an erection during sex)

skin rashes

headaches

certain blood disorders, which can make you more likely to get infections

What can be done to reduce overmedication? First, if doctors explained the side effects to patients that in itself would probably reduce too ready prescription of medicines because the patient would be put off taking those with serious side effects simple by their recital by the doctor  and doctors would be much less likely to prescribe such drugs  unless they honestly believed a patient desperately needed them if they had to explain the side effects and overcome the resistance of patients who did not really need the medication.

Second, non-medical directions and incentives to doctors to prescribe certain medications widely, whether that be government authored or supported schemes such as folic acid in bread or drug companies peddling medicines to doctors, especially GPs, which materially benefit doctors  should be banned.

 

 

Wall Street, the Wolf of Wall Street  and the decline of moral sense

Robert Henderson

 

Wall Street (1987)

Main cast

Michael Douglas  as Gordon Gecko

Charlie Sheen as Bud Cox

Daryl Hannah  as Darien Taylor

Martin Sheen as Carl Fox

Terence Stamp as Sir Larry Wildman

Hal Holbrook as Lou Mannheim

Sean Young as Kate Gekko

James Spader as Roger Barnes

Director Oliver Stone

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The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

Main cast

Leonardo DiCaprio as Jordan Belfort

Jonah Hill as Donnie Azoff

Margot Robbie as Naomi Lapaglia

Matthew McCaughey as Mark Hanna

Kyle Chandler as Patrick Denham

Rob Reiner as Max Belfort

Director  Martin Scorsese,

Twenty six years lie between Wall Street and The Wolf of Wall Street (TWOWS) hitting cinema screens. Wall Street is fiction, although there are reputedly people in real life from whom the film’s main characters were developed, for example  Sir Larry Wildman is supposedly drawn from  on the British financier Sir James Goldsmith. The Wolf of Wall Street (TWOWS) is based upon the autobiography of a Wall Street trader Jordan Belfort. How much of that is fact  is debatable, although the general tone of the man’s life given in the book  is plausible.

Both films  begin their action in 1980s. Both deal with the shady world of finance. Both are vehicles for the unbridled egotism of their main characters.    There the similarity between them ends.  Wall Street is about  corporate raiders, men who seek to take over companies and then  asset strip them,  sell them on  quickly for a profit or run them as a business for a while, reduce costs (especially by cutting jobs ) and  then sell them . The main criminality involved in the film is insider dealing.

TWOWS  is simply about making a fast buck and the faster the better, with not even a show of doing anything beyond making money.   These people use   any method from the huckster selling of penny shares to insider dealing and celebrate each success in the spirit of the man successfully  running a hunt-the-lady scam in the street.  They are the masters of the universe and those who lose out are suckers.   There is zero concern for or even awareness of the greater general good of a society in the film.

The protagonists in Wall Street are a young stock trader Bud Fox, and a corporate  raider  Gordon Gecko.  Bud idolises Gecko and manages to work his way into Gecko’s circle by passing on privileged information to him, information which he has received from his father Carl who is a union leader at Bluestar Airlines.

Once inside Gecko’s circle  Bud  sheds  his morals and is content to help Gecko  engage in insider trading until the point where he discovers that he is being used as a catspaw by Gecko , who is trying to take over Bluestar  to dissolve the company in order to access cash in the company’s overfunded pension plan. Bud rediscovers his conscience after a fashion and outmanoeuvres Gecko by making an agreement with  Wildman – whom  previously he had helped Gecko to  defraud  through insider trading when Wildman wanted to take over a steel company –  to buy a majority shareholding in  the airline on the cheap  and run it as a going concern.  In doing this his  motivation is more revenge for being betrayed than suddenly being disgusted with what he had become under Gecko’s influence.

DiCaprio’s Jordan Belfort is a trader who loses his job  with a Wall Street broker when the firm crashes, moves into boiler-room trading in penny shares (which are barely regulated and allow for huge commissions to be charged to naïve investors who are often buying shares which are next to worthless). He makes a small fortune doing this.

Belfort then decides to strike out on his own account in rather more up-market  surroundings. With a friend , Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill),  he sets  up  a suitably Ivy league sounding firm of brokers Stratton Oakmont.  They operate on the principle of “pump and dump”  (artificially inflating a company’s share price by tactics such as spreading false rumours or simply buying heavily and then selling the shares rapidly). Stratton Oakmont is given lift off by an article in Forbes magazine which calls Jordan a ‘twisted Robin Hood and the “Wolf of Wall Street”,  which appellations prove a first rate recruiting sergeant for Stratton Oakmont  with hundreds of young stock traders flocking to make money with him.  From that point on he becomes seriously rich.

What the films do admirably  is show the difference between the cinematic portrayal of  the American financial world  in films released  in 1987 and 2013.   To refresh my memory I watched Wall Street again before writing this review. The striking thing about the film is how restrained it is compared with TWOWS.

Michael Douglas’  Gordon Gecko is far more disciplined than DiCaprio’s Belfort.  He  has some semblance of intellectual and arguably even moral  justification for what he does, most notably in a scene where he is addressing a shareholders’ meeting of a company he is trying to take over. This is where Gecko utters the most famous words in the film “Greed is good”. The words have serious context. Gecko is peddling  the laissez faire  line that competition is an unalloyed good because it is the agency which creates natural selection amongst companies and it is only that which keeps an economy healthy. He also  puts his finger on a real  cancer in big business: the development of the bureaucratic company where the company is run for the benefit of the senior management rather than the shareholders. Gecko  rails against  the huge number of senior managers on  high salaries  in  the company he wishes to buy, a business  which has done little for its shareholders.  Whether you agree with the raw natural selection argument in business  – and I do not – at the very least it shows that the likes of Gecko feel the need to  justify what they do, to provide an ethical cloak for their misbehaviour.

There is also a serious difference in the general behaviour of  Gecko and Belfort.  Gecko  for all his faults is not a libertine. For him money is both an instrument and an end in itself. It gives him power and status, a medal of success in his eyes and the eyes of the world he inhabits.  There is purpose in Gecko.  He enjoys the material trappings of wealth but is not overwhelmed by them. In Belfort there is merely an ultimately empty grasping of licence  with drugs,  whores  and absurd status symbols such as an outlandishly large yacht , which his ego drives him to wreck by ordering the ship’s captain to sail in weather which the captain tells him is unsafe to sail in. He acquires a trophy girlfriend , He dumps his wife. There is no solid foundation to any part of his life.

The other big general difference between the films is ethical.  Wall Street has a moral voice which acts  as a  foil to Gecko’s amorality.   Bud Fox’s father Carl puts the case against capitalism red in tooth and claw. After Bud’s  discovery of Gecko’s attempt to buy Bluestar Carl’s dissenting ideological  voice  is added to by Bud. In TWOWS there is no moral voice or pretence by Belfort (or any other character) that what they are doing has any social function or ethical content. Instead the public are simply viewed as a bovine herd to be milked as ruthlessly as possible.  The fact that what is being done – whether it be selling penny stocks in a boiler room or using insider information in more sophisticated company –  is no better than a confidence trick does not cause Belfort and his fellow participants the slightest discomfort only unalloyed joy. They are getting rich at the expense of suckers. It’s all a game whose only end is to make the individual rich and to be rich is a validation of their existence.

Gecko and Belfort end up in prison, so in that respect at least they honour the old American  film tradition of never showing the criminal getting away with it, although  in the case of Belfort he ends up in a place which is not so much a prison as a country club.

Both films are strong in all the technical ways – script, plot, characterisation and acting – that are used to judge films. Michael Douglas’ is a more studied performance than that of  diCaprio who brings an amazing energy to the role.  But arresting as Douglas’ performance is  the film the film has ample space to fill out other characters. Indeed, in terms of screen time it is Bud who wins out.

DiCaprio’s   Belfort has strong claims to be the  best performance in an already  long career, but it utterly dominates the film and consequently the other characters have little room to develop than TWOWS.  They either remain one rather dimensional or like Matthew McConaughey  appear only in cameos.

The quality of the films as films is reason enough to watch them, but their primary value , as a pair,   is their charting, unwittingly,   of the decline of moral  sense between the 1980s and now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Civitas Meeting  – The trouble with Europe  19 May 2014

Robert Henderson

The sole speaker was Roger Bootle of the Daily Telegraph and Capital Economics

Bootle was  promoting his book The trouble with Europe.  The main thrusts of his argument  were

–          Europe is a declining political and economic power.

–          The growth rate within first the EEC and then the EU has been poor overall compared with economies outside the EU.

–          The EU has undermined European economic performance through promoting too generous welfare states.

–          That much of the regulation comes not from the EU but national governments within the EU.

–          That the EU has smothered competition between nation states and this has hindered innovation and enterprise.

–          That Europe’s period of  greatest world dominance was a time of intense competition between European powers.

–          That EU countries have suffered a loss of identity through mass immigration and those with empires had  a further blow to their national self-confidence through their loss.

–          That European elites have had their energies eaten up with trying to create uniformity within the EU to the detriment of such things as investment and productivity.

–          That the Euro is the biggest  economic disaster the EU has suffered,  dwarfing the Common Agricultural Policy.

–          The EU as it is presently constituted is obsolete.

Bootle laid down his terms for Britain  remaining within the EU: an end to ever closer union,   a guarantee of no second class status for the UK if she remains a member, a reduced EU budget, repatriation of powers to EU member states. National governments to be empowered to reject EU legislation and restrictions on the free movement of labour.

These conditions  are  so improbable that it is reasonable to conclude that Bootle in reality wants Britain out of the EU. If Britain does leave the EU, Bootle is in favour of what he called the WTONLY option if a good free trade agreement with the EU cannot be arranged. The WTONLY option is to simply leave the EU and then rely on World Trade Organisation rules to give Britain access to EU markets.

During questions it was heartening to see how many of the questioners were utterly hostile to the EU, despite the fact that many  of those there came under the heading of the great and the good, the sort of people who would normally be considered unvarnished  Europhiles.   Most promisingly, voices were raised against the wholesale takeover by foreigners of British business and the ill effects of multinationals.

I raised the question of how Britain should deal with the mechanics of leaving bearing in mind that the entire British political elite were Europhiles who would do everything to subvert the wishes of the British electorate by stitching Britain back into the EU through an agreement which included the four so-called EU freedoms, the free movement of goods, services, capital and labour within the EU. I suggested to Bootle that Article 50 was a poisoned chalice which would enable British politicians to do just that.  Rather surprisingly Bootle said that he did not think that the mechanics of leaving were important.  I was not able to question him further because of the number of people wanting to ask questions. However, I have addressed the subject and others in the email I sent to Bootle after the meeting. If I receive a reply I will add it to this blog post.

———————————————————————————

E mail sent to Roger Bootle 31 5 2014

Dear Mr Bootle,

A few points I  was unable to put to you at the Civitas meeting of  19 May.

1. How much do you think the status of the  Euro as  the second largest reserve currency has contributed to the survival of the Euro?  I enclose a note on this at the bottom of the email.

2. You advocate giving both sides of the story, of admitting that leaving the EU will not be without costs both material and moral.  The problem with that is twofold.

a) political knowledge and understanding amongst the electorate  as a whole  is  minute. Most will respond to the fear factor points not the reassuring points simply because they do not know enough to assess the situation rationally.

b) all the STAY IN camp will be peddling is the fear factor. Hence, the electorate will be hearing the fear factor language from both YES and NO camps but only the reassuring points from those who wish Britain to leave.

3. How the UK leaves the  EU is not a trivial matter as you suggested. The danger is that regardless of the wishes of the electorate ,  the British political elite will stitch us back firmly into the EU if they are given a free hand over the negotiation. This is so because we have a political class – especially the leading members of the class –  which is  overwhelmingly prepared to act as Quislings (Quislings in the service of the EU in particular and internationalism in general) to ensure that Britain does not escape the tentacles of the EU.

Of course such a betrayal could apply regardless of whether article 50 is activated or a simple repeal made  of the various Acts binding  us into the EU, but  Article 50 carries far more dangers for those who want us out of the EU than a simple repeal of the Acts  would do.  If Britain accepted the legality of Article 50  we  would have to put up with any amount of prevarication and dirty tricks for two years.  Worse,  the time to reach any  agreement between Britain and the EU under article 50 can be extended if both parties agree.

As those negotiating on behalf of Britain would inevitably be politicians who have sold their souls to the “European Project”, the odds are that they would use any obstruction and delay by the EU to justify making an agreement which would practically speaking nullify the vote to leave.  As sure as eggs are eggs, the agreement would  place  us  firmly back into the EU’s clutches  by signing Britain up to the four EU “freedoms” (freedom of movement of goods, services, capital and labour)  and all the rules regulating the single market.  If the break with the EU is done simply by repealing the various Acts which bind us in, our politicians will not be able to use the restrictions and difficulties raised by Article 50 as an excuse for selling the voters down the river with an agreement such as I have described.  Instead, they would have to take full responsibility for whatever they agree to.  Article 50 is a particularly toxic poisoned chalice.  Don’t drink from it.

It is essential that before any referendum takes place that all mainstream UK parties make it clear that whatever  agreement  is reached by those negotiating on behalf of Britain this should only be ratified if the British people vote for it in a second referendum.  Unless this happens the political class will give us something which binds us back into the EU.

5. It is a dangerous argument to claim that competition between governments is a good thing if you are relying on the historical example.  In your Telegraph article Europe’s politicians must embrace competition or face slide into obscurity (19 May) you write:

It is very striking that Europe’s golden age, when European countries bestrode the world and European influence was at its height, was an era of competition between nation states. Admittedly at times this competition went too far and spilled over into war …

The reality of European history is that it has been primarily a history of war as far as you care to go back. War not peace has been the norm. The period of European ascendency was no exception to this and because of technological developments became more and more efficiently brutal.    Use the European historical example and you are simply inviting the Europhiles to say “Told you so. Nation states can’t be trusted to behave”.

6. At present I also have a problem with  all political discussions  and especially those referring to the economy.   We are within striking distance of the production of general purpose robots which will be able to do not only most of the jobs humans now do but most of any new ones which arise.   The implications of this are so profound that they bid fair to render any political solutions or policies currently in play obsolete.  Politicians should be planning for such developments but they are simply ignoring them.  If you read  these two pieces you will see where I am coming from:

https://livinginamadhouse.wordpress.com/2011/07/01/robotics-and-the-real-sorry-karl-you-got-it-wrong-final-crisis-of-capitalism/

https://livinginamadhouse.wordpress.com/2013/06/23/technology-out-of-control/

Yours sincerely,

 

Robert Henderson

 

 

 

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