Author Archives: Robert Henderson

Defend your national territory  or lose it

Robert Henderson

The present attempts of migrants from around the Mediterranean and  beyond to effectively invade Europe have brought the long simmering immigration threat to a head.  First World   politicians can no longer pretend it is under any sort of control. The question those in the First World have to answer is  gruesomely simple: are they willing  to defend the their own territory as they  would if faced with an armed invader  and by doing so preserve their way of life and safety , or will they allow a fatal sentimentality  to paralyse the entirely natural wish to stop invaders until the native populations of the First World are at best a tolerated minority in their own ancestral lands and at worst the subject of acts of genocide.

The Prime Minister of Hungary Victor Orlan  has had the courage to point out  something which is obvious but anathema to the politically correct elites of Europe, namely, that  immigration on the current scale will result in Europeans becoming a minority in  their own continent with a consequent loss of European values.  Anyone who thinks that Europe (and the rest of the First World) is not in danger should think on these facts:

  • The population of the world is approximately 7 billion. At the most generous estimate only one billion live in the First World.
  • The population of the world is estimated to grow by another two billion by 2050 with all the growth being in the Third World.
  • The white population of the world is projected to be in a minority in Europe and North America by 2050.
  • The First World already has large minorities of those from racial and ethnic groups whose antecedents are in the Third World and who have had their sense of victimhood at the hands of whites  fed assiduously by white liberals for over 50 years. Once established in a First World  country they agitate for the right to bri9ng relatives over and to relax immigration control generally. A  recent report by the think tank Policy Exchange estimates that one third of the UK population with be from an ethnic minority by 2050.
  • Political power in most of the First World is in the hands of politicians who are quislings in the service of internationalism   in its modern guise of globalism.
  • Those working in the mass media of the First World share the ideology of First World politicians with bells on, missing no chance to propagandise in favour of mass immigration.
  • The First World is funding its  own destruction by feeding the Third World with huge amounts of Aid . This promotes war throughout the Third World (providing a driver for Third World  immigrants to the First World) and, most importantly, increases the  populations of the Third World which rapidly outstrip the  economic carrying capacity of their societies.

At present the mainstream media in countries such as Britain and the  USA are voraciously feeding the public what amounts to unashamed propaganda  to persuade them to accept not merely huge numbers of Third World immigrants now,  but an ongoing and ever increasing stream in the not too distant future as the invading hordes gather around the Mediterranean waiting for their chance to entered the promised land of the rich European states of the north.

It is easy to be swayed by photos of  a  young child who has died or   boatloads crammed to the gunnels with miserable looking people  to the point where the resolution to defend your native territory is overridden, but look at the aggression and sense of entitlement the invaders, for  that is what they are, as they battle to leave Hungary. They are in the position of supplicants but far from begging for help they demand as a right that they be let into the richer countries of Europe.

There are very few if any places outside of Europe and  the Anglosphere countries of the United Kingdom,  North America, Australia and New Zealand  which have any serious history of freedom and the rule of law and even amongst that group only the Anglosphere has  enjoyed  both an uninterrupted political system of representative government and been free of civil war for a century or more.  These are countries which have the very rare and valuable attribute of having worked out a social and political system which creates peace and tolerance. That seriously at risk because of mass immigration. Does anyone believe  for example, a that Britain in which there was a Muslim majority would remain a Parliamentary democracy or have any regard for free expression?

Those amongst the native populations of the  First World who propagandise in favour of mass immigration do so in the belief that they will be untouched by the immigration because they live in affluent areas where immigrants cannot generally settle. Not for these people state schools which “boast” that “there are 100 languages here”; not for these people a need for increasingly scarce affordable (social)  housing  in places such as London; not for these people having to use grossly over subscribed medical services in their area.  These people think they are safe  from the effects of mass immigration,  but if it continues their children and grandchildren will not be so lucky. There needs to be a penalty for those who promote and facilitate mass immigration, for example,  forcing them to take immigrants  into their homes and be responsible for their upkeep .

Mass immigration  is conquest not by armed force but by those who are come equipped only with their victimhood and misery and, most potently, the  mentality of the elites in the First World who subscribe to the idea of white guilt and the white populations of the First World who have been browbeaten  into believing that they cannot have any world other than a globalist world which includes huge movements of peoples. We are seeing the scenario described by Jean Raspail begin to play out.

Homo sapiens is the social animal par excellence. All social animals need boundaries to their group because trust has to exist between the members of the group. Human beings can tolerate very large numbers in their group, but there is a limit. To be a member of a functioning human group,  whether that be tribe,  clan or nation,  the members or the group must share sufficient distinguishing behaviours and  attributes to create the necessary trust. Putting huge numbers of people with very disparate background together cannot create that trust. Anyone who doubts that should try to find any society where territory is shared by different racial or ethnic groups  that does not have inter-group discord,. They will not find one in history or the present.

If you wish to save your country ignore the  misery now being waved in your face and concentrate not on the immediate present but the future.  Say no to further mass immigration by voting to leave the EU because while Britain is in it nothing can be done to stop massive numbers of immigrants continuing to come to Britain.  Leaving the EU will  remove from our political elite any excuse for not stopping the causal destruction of our country.

The Tories and Blairites were ideologically hidebound fools to underestimate Corbyn

Robert Henderson

The attitude of Tories towards Jeremy  Corbyn ranges from amused condescension to  an unseemly childlike  and profoundly undemocratic glee as they  dream of a country with no serious political opposition to hinder them .   Blairites respond with poorly disguised incredulity  to the probability  that  a man who does not buy into the NuLabour credo will become the next Labour leader and gnash  their teeth and wail that  a Corbyn led  Labour Party will be at best  cast into the wilderness of opposition for a decade or more and at worst rent asunder never to be a serious political force again. In the mainstream media, most of whom  have sold their souls to the idea of free markets, free trade and the general paraphernalia of globalism, articles and editorials  forecast the end of days if Corbyn becomes  Prime Minister.

Interestingly, this hysteria  has not diminished   Corbyn’s popularity one whit and will  probably help fuel   his rise to what promises to be victory in the leadership race without the second preferences being counted.   Why has Corbyn  garnered so much support? The quick answer is he  offers  an alternative to the free market, free trade religion which has been fed incessantly to the public for decades as the only possible economic system for a modern state.

This immediately gives  the man  pull with those who have old Labour values, but he has attracted a much  wider range of support.  The young have flocked to his meetings.  Surprising at first glance in view of Corbyn’s age, but readily understandable  when it is remembered that   British politicians generally have either failed to comprehend or refused to admit that the world they have created over the past 30-40 years is much tougher and more uncertain for today’s young than it was for them when they were young,  with housing now hideously expensive, well paid jobs difficult to come by and university education leaving graduates with a debt of £40,000 or more and no suitable jobs to go to.   Corbyn is offering concrete policies to help them, not least a huge social housing programme.

But it is not just the young who are suffering.  There are millions of older people of working age through to those in retirement who no longer live a life with any real security, as they struggle with ever increasing private rents and zero-hours contracts.   Corbyn speaks to them as he speaks to the young.

Finally,  there are the huge numbers of people from  across the political spectrum who detested the  wars which Blair dragged Britain into and have a strong animus towards Blair himself.   Corbyn shares their views,  going so far as to state  that Blair should be tried for war crimes.

Why did the  British political class so misread Corbyn’s potential?  The Tories as a breed are simply insensitive in their approach to the poorer sections of society.  This is epitomised by their inability to understand that to those  living lives of great economic  uncertainty  there is nothing more enraging than to be constantly told  the colossal lie “We are all in this together” by rich politicians, as happened  in so often Britain after the Lehmann crash in 2008. They simply assumed that those who were not comfortably off and secure in their jobs and housing  could be ignored.

The most striking thing about  the Corbyn phenomenon is not that he looks as though he will win the leadership election with policies which bear some resemblance to Labour’s old core values. No, the real eye-opener is  how out of touch the Labour elite have become with the lives of ordinary people.  They  either believed  they could manipulate the vote to get the result they wanted  no matter what the electoral process was or so believed the Blairite gospel  of free markets and globalisation that they simply could not conceive of people voting for someone who had the audacity to suggest that Old Labour ideas of state ownership and a disengagement from military adventures  were the way forward.    Whichever reason it was, the Labour leadership was willing to agree to a new electoral process which chooses  the party leader  on the basis of  a  one man one vote  with the vote   granted   to  not only existing party members , but also to affiliated union members and every Tom, Dick and Harry who coughed up £3 to register as a supporter..

The potential dangers for the  Blairites in such a system (entryism from the left, enemies of the Labour Party voting and so on)  should have been obvious,  but they would have remained unimportant  had  Corbyn  been unable to get sufficient support from Labour MPs to go on the ballot form. If there was no Corbyn in the race all that would have been left were varieties of  Blairite to choose between.  The Labour elite’s blind belief in the unshakable dominance of Blairism is shown in the readiness of Labour MPs to give Corbyn enough votes to put him on the ballot.    Many who gave him their  vote  admitted it was simply to ensure there was a left wing candidate in the leadership, race much as Diane Abbott  was placed on the ballot for the previous leadership election.   When Corbyn entered the race his candidature was treated as a joke by the Tories and as of no more than a sentimental wave to Labour’s past.

In summary Corbyn is running rings around the other candidates because:

1) He offers something different. With him there is an alternative. The Blairites have been so  feeble because like all dominant politicians they have not had to argue their case within Labour  for a very long time. They ended up believing their own propaganda. Moreover, their case was never strong because Blairism is essentially Tory-lite plus political correctness writ large.

Blair hollowed out the Labour Party of all its core values: Thatcher did the same for the Tory Party. All we are left with are two neo-liberal internationalist parties wedded to globalism and political correctness.   Corbyn is offering the  chance of restoring some of those lost values to Labour.

2) Blairites and Tories are portraying Corbyn as  a member of the extreme left. This is objectively wrong.   Had Corbyn been putting forward his present ideas  thirty years ago as Labour MP he would have faced accusations of being a centrist sell-out. Worse for the Blairites they do not understand that many people who are  not rabidly left wing would welcome the energy companies, water companies, the Royal Mail and British Rail being returned to  public ownership because they understand instinctively that absolutely essential aspects of the economy should be in public hands. For such people this does not seem like leftwingery but a government just looking after the national interest. Ditto protectionist measures to protect British industry.

3) The people who attack him including the other candidates and many Labour MPs  offer no real argument against him. All they do is point at him  and say either that he is absurd or is living in the past.  They offer no  real argument against what he proposes. On economics his opponents simply assume that anyone who does not unreservedly  buy into the laissez faire religion is either mad or bad. The Tories and the Blairites are both making the mistake of imagining that pointing at Corbyn and shouting “socialist”, “looney left”, “nationalisations”,  “unions” will make him   profoundly politically toxic to the British electorate.

4) When he is attacked over potentially seriously damaging  issues such as  being rather too eager to sup with  terrorists or  the anti-semitic,  his accusers go way over the top.  For example, on his supposed  equivalence between Isis and the USA in Iraq, Corbyn has condemned Isis pretty emphatically and simply said that where the USA has behaved badly it is reasonable to say that should be condemned as well. Or take his wish to see the railways renationalised by letting the licenses run out. All the laissez faire gentry are saying it cannot be done because of the cost and legal quibbles over ownership of assets such as rolling stock.   This is obvious nonsense because the East Coast line was taken back into public ownership without any cost or difficulty and run efficiently.   The effect of such exaggeration negates the criticism which could reasonably be put on Corbyn.

5) In the present circumstances Corbyn has the priceless asset of not having an aggressive personality. That makes the increasingly angry  attacks on him seem absurd.

6) Corbyn actually answers questions rather than trotting out soundbites. Moreover, his answers mostly show he has been well prepared on anything which is likely to crop up. You may  not agree with his policies – I disagree with many of them – but at least Corbyn presents a coherent plan of action for this policies.

7) He doesn’t panic when asked awkward questions.

8) Unlike the three other candidates Corbyn is a recognisable human being, someone untrammelled by focus groups and advisers or years in office being controlled by the party elite

  1. The other candidates haven’t got an ounce of personal authority between them. You watch them robotically trot out the NuLabour mantras and think, God, is this the best the Labour Party can do for a leader?

All that Corbyn promises may well turn out to be pie-in-the-sky. But that is to miss the valuable public service the man is doing.  If Corbyn becomes leader, and perhaps even if he does not but makes  a strong showing, the timeworn  consensus between the Tory and Labour Parties will be broken. That alone  would be a healthy development because it would force not merely the Labour Party to develop and justify its ideological position but also shift the Tory Party from a blind belief in laissez faire economics.

Corbyn, although a strange bedfellow, also has great utility for those who wish to leave the EU. He has given strong indications that he might well move to the OUT camp. To have the leader of one of our two major parties  campaigning to come out would be a massive boost to the OUT campaign.

Abolishing National Insurance would be a tremendous gamble  

 

Robert Henderson

George Osborne is thinking about abolishing National Insurance (NI)  as a separate tax and incorporating it into income tax.  The implications of such a move would be very  far reaching    because  the basic  NI  rules are complex  and effect far more than just NI deductions and the practical IT  difficulties it would create for both the government and employers, both public and private, are immense.

The most obvious and pressing reason why the idea should not go ahead is the fact that NI is one of the big earners for government. In the 2014/15 financial year it brought in £108 billion – see page 15.  Only  VAT  (£113.9 billion) and income tax (£163 billion) provided more tax revenue to the Treasury. To make up for the loss of the NI contributions income tax would have to be increased  massively if  income tax has to raise the £108 billion currently raised by NI  in addition to the £163 billion it currently collects.  That could only be achieved  by getting most of the extra money by  raising the basic rate (currently 20%)  massively, probably doubling  it,  because those paying the  40% and 45% income tax rate are not sufficient in number  to be able to bear the brunt of the increase. Moreover, once tax rates go beyond 50%  they become psychologically  difficult and increase the likelihood of evasion. In addition, the present government is deeply unsympathetic  to raising the higher income tax rates. The situation is further complicated by the government’s stated intention to keep on raising the personal allowance which at least in the short term is likely to reduce the income tax take.

The options  for raising some of the £108 billion by raising other taxes are limited.  VAT could be raised,  but that would be regressive because it  falls on everyone and would almost certainly suppress demand.  The next  two most productive sources of tax revenue in 2014/15 were  corporation tax  (£41.4 billion) and excise duties (£47.2 billion).  The fact that both  bring in so  small an amount in relation to what needs  to be raised means neither could  supply more than a small part of the lost  £108 billion even if their rates were raised substantially.  Moreover, raising corporation tax would go directly against Tory policy of having a low tax burden on business and increased excise duties would again be regressive.

The next  obstacle is the incompatibility of  the income tax and NI systems.    NI operates on a radically  different basis to income tax. Income tax is simple in principle, the complications which arise come not from  calculating the tax due but in deciding what is liable to income tax. There is the personal tax  allowance which exempts a certain amount of earnings  from tax and   three rates of tax (20%,40%,45%)  for three bands of earnings. The operation of NI is much more complex, involving  both employees and employers,  with a  link to benefit entitlements  and  NI rates which do the exact opposite to income tax rates, namely, the NI rate decreases as income  rises.

The NI system is too complex to give exhaustive detail here  but I shall outline  a few of the basic  NI facts to give a flavour of its complexity.  Currently NI  is not paid by anyone earning less than  £155 per week, although someone earning £112 per week  (the Lower Earnings Limit)  gets credit for benefits such as the state pension as if they were paying NI.  Those earning  £155 per week (the Primary Threshold) begin paying NI. When they reach £156 per week (the Secondary Threshold) the employer also begins paying NI.   This employer’s contribution is in addition to the employees and is a payroll tax.  When  the employee earns £815 per week (the upper earnings limit) or above they pay a reduced rate of NI.

People who are employees  pay 12% of their pay between £155 and £814 per week and 2% on their pay above £814 per week.  The employer will pay 13.8% on all earnings above £156 per week.   Benefits in kind, for example use of company car, attract  employers  but not employees’ NI at the rate of 13.8%.  This is a big saving  to an employee  enjoying substantial benefits in kind. There are separate rules for the self-employed which the government has pledged to alter during the course of this Parliament.   As can be seen the NI situation is very administratively messy.

If income tax  and NI are amalgamated a problem arises with pensioners over the state retirement age.    NI is not paid by those over retirement age, but income tax is. Hence, if NI is abolished and income tax is raised to compensate for  the ta x revenue  loss, many pensioners would be left paying far more tax unless the government exempted all or part of their income. But to do that would be incredibly messy, not least because large numbers of pensioners pay income tax.  It is also worth noting that more and more pensioners are working past retirement age.  If the income tax rise to compensate for the loss of NI revenue means a rate of income tax which makes those over the retirement age more expensive to employ, this will probably mean fewer OAPs working or having less income, either of which would create greater eligibility of benefits.

The payment of benefits generally would also create difficulty. At present NI contributions count towards  entitlement for:

Basic State Pension

Additional State Pension

New State Pension

Contribution-based Jobseeker’s Allowance

Contribution-based Employment and Support Allowance

Maternity Allowance

Bereavement benefits

The position with the new  state pension is complicated because , contrary to government suggestions that it would provide everyone with an enhanced pension,  this appears not to be true  with perhaps two thirds of pensioners not receiving the full pension.

Any consolidated system for tax and NI would have to either take into account the entitlement to benefits or the benefits would have to cease to have any connection with what the individual pays in  tax.  There would also be the complication of how to treat the entitlements built up prior to the abolition of NI.   The present  system of National Insurance numbers would have to be retained because they are tied in so firmly to the access to the British welfare state.

Creating an entirely new computer system  to accommodate both the new amalgamated regime  and the present stand-alone system  for income tax and NI  would be daunting at best and probably impossible. ( In this context it is  worth bearing in mind the lamentable record of British governments of all colours with massive computer systems.) It is likely  that both the old and new  Government computer programs would need to keep running.

Then there is the IT problems  and additional costs which would be faced by employers, the vast majority of which, together with  many of the self-employed,  use computerised accounting and payroll systems. All of those would have to be  updated or new systems bought, installed and staff instructed how to use them.  Many current systems would not be updated because they are either too old or the software company which created them has gone out of business. Public service employers are particularly vulnerable as they often  use bespoke systems, that is systems developed for them alone,  which are often very old in origin with many updates patched into them over the years.

Finally, there is the problem of ensuring that the additional income tax revenue is actually collected. There is also  a very real general  danger that a switch to a consolidated income tax/NI tax would not  produce the same revenue even if the Treasury calculates that  it would on paper.  The Treasury might simply get their sums horribly wrong because of the complexity of the integration they are managing.  Alternatively, smart   accountants may simply find ways of minimising any additional  income tax.  The beauty of NI from a tax collection point of view is that it allows much less  tax evading wriggle room compared with income tax.

National insurance is a far from perfect system, but it is difficult to see how it is radically unfair or its operation radically administratively inefficient. Its purpose is a sham in as much as there is no managed  fund created to pay for specific services and benefits,  and the link between NI and earned benefits is increasingly tenuous. But so what?  It is a major revenue source which regardless of the fact that it goes into the general Treasury pot is major part of the funding source of the Welfare State. Moreover, any government could decide to make  NI an hypothecated tax allocated to particular circumstances.

As for being administratively simpler, this  seems wildly improbable  when our past experience of large scale  government  IT systems is of consistent failure and  there will be undeniable extra costs for employers.

At best the abolition of NI  would be a tremendous gamble and at worst unreservedly reckless. Government  policy should never be about gambling.

Greece and the Eurozone : holding tight to nurse for fear of something worse

Robert Henderson

The   Greek referendum on the terms for a further  financial bailout was potentially  a clever move by  Alexis Tsipras and Syriza. If the result of the referendum   had been  YES to the terms put forward to deal with the Greek debt , Tsipras and his government were off the hook for reneging on their election promises. If there was  a NO to the conditions, Tsipras could  play the democracy card and challenge the Eurozone to go against the democratic will of the Greek people or simply walk away from the mess and  pass the poisoned chalice to his political opponents.

Having asked for a rejection of  the terms offered  by the Eurozone in the referendum and  got an emphatic  61% vote  for rejection,  Syriza   could  have  called the Euro elite’s bluff from a position of strength.   Regrettably for Greece’s hope of recovery they have not had the courage to do so.  Instead  they have  humiliatingly capitulated by signing up to an even more severe  austerity deal than  they could have concluded with the movers and shakers  in the Eurozone a fortnight ago. The stark realpolitik of the situation was epitomised by the Greek prime minister  Alexis Tsipras appealing to the Greek Parliament to accept the deal with the words   “We don’t believe in it, but we are forced to adopt it,” The Parliament  accepted by  his plea by voting 229 for and 64 against, but it required support from the opposition because over 30 Syriza MPs either voted against or abstained. From provisional acceptance by the Greek government  to acceptance by Parliament took three days.   Shotgun marriages often take longer to arrange.

Greece is no longer in control of its economy or its political system.  It is having forced upon it huge changes to pensions and public sector salaries, large privatisations,  and perhaps most humiliating, to sell off €50bn of Greek assets , the proceeds of which will be partially used to guarantee repayments on debts owed to the EU and the IMF. The detailed new requirements are:

“To unlock a fresh €82bn to €86bn bail-out, Greece has until Wednesday to pass laws that:

  • implement VAT hikes
  • cut pensions
  • take steps to ensure the independence of Greece’s statistics office is maintained
  • put measures in place to automatically slash spending if Greece fails to meet its targets on primary surpluses (revenue minus expenditure excluding debt servicing costs)

It has until July 22 (an extra week compared with a draft statement) to:

  • overhaul its civil justice system
  • implement the Bank Recovery and Resolution Directive (BRRD) to bring bank resolution laws in line with the rest of the EU

Greek MPs will also have to stomach a move to sell off €50bn of Greek assets.”

This is not the end of the matter. At best the Greek problem and the problems of the Eurozone generally have been simply been kicked down the road. The madness  at the heart of this settlement is that Greece is being further burdened  by a huge amount of extra  debt when the general consensus amongst economists is that the existing  debt was more than Greece could ever hope to repay.  Disobligingly for the Europhile elite,  the IMF  has made it clear since the agreement between Syriza and the Eurozone  that Greece requires a great deal of debt relief and that unless this is forthcoming  the IMF will not take part in the overseeing of the agreement.    But the agreement makes no provision for overt debt relief, although fiddling with the period of repayment and interest rates payable may reduce the real value overall debt (principal and interest)  somewhat.  Nor is this position likely to change, because some Eurozone countries, most notably Germany,  are determined to continue to resist overt  debt relief if Greece is to continue within the Eurozone.  At the same time Germany have made it clear that they want the  IMF involved in the realisation of the agreement. In addition to these obstacles all the other Eurozone countries have got to sign up to the agreement  and this will require some countries, including Germany,  to get parliamentary approval to the terms.  Germany’s finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble has even suggested that Greece leave the Euro for five years.

But even if the Eurozone votes collectively to accept the deal and the IMF  difficulty is overcome,  there is no guarantee it will be realised  for two reasons. The Greek people may be driven by  desperation to  resort to serious violence after they realise that voting changes nothing in Greece and the severe austerity programme takes effect , effects which are aggravated by the fact that   Greece has no real Welfare State.  This could drive the Greek political class to hold further elections with the result that a government is elected which will not implement the deal.

More mundanely,    Greece’s  politics and  public services are severely tainted by cronyism and corruption.  The country  may simply  lack the bureaucratic  structures and expertise to  implement the  complicated and far reaching reforms  which are being sought by the Eurozone.

The sad  truth is that Greece is a second world country which has been masquerading as a first world country.  Before joining the Euro it got by because it had its own currency and  received very large dollops of money from the richer members of the EU.  In those  circumstances its lending was circumscribed by the fact that its debt attracted a high rate of interest because it was seen as a bad risk.  Once Greece had smuggled itself into the Euro by falsifying its accounts,   it was treated as safe a bet as Germany  for creditors who rashly  reasoned that the rest of the Eurozone would ensure Greece did not default.

How difficult would it to be for Greece to re-establish the Drachma? The Czechoslovakian split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1993 provides a reassuring  example of how it might be done.  Initially the two new countries were going to share a currency but within a matter of weeks they came to the conclusion that this was unworkable and decided that each country should launch its own currency. This was accomplished with very little trouble:

 The two countries already had capital controls, but all cross-border money transfers between them were halted to avoid further speculative flows into the Czech Republic. Border controls were tightened.

Komercni Banka, a then state-owned commercial bank, glued stamps, printed by a British firm to ensure secrecy, on 150 million federal banknotes. These were trucked around the country with the help of police and the army.

The exchange for notes stamped by Czech or Slovak stamps, at a 1:1 rate, started on February 8 and was completed in four days. Later in 1993, the stamped notes were replaced by new ones.

People could swap a maximum of 4,000 crowns — then worth $136 (87 pounds) — in cash. They had to deposit the rest. The old money ceased to be valid immediately the switch started.

The whole process, which required 40,000 people just on the Czech side, went ahead smoothly. An opinion poll showed 86 percent of Czechs experienced no problems in the operation. Capital controls were essential to stop bank runs. Secrecy in the buildup was paramount.

The Greek situation is not an exact parallel with that of Czechoslovakia because of the massive debt the country has acquired. Nonetheless, if Greece did relaunch the Drachma creditors would be forced to decide  between accepting  the new currency even though this would certainly mean them receiving far less than the face value of the loans  or in all probability getting nothing.

Would Greece out of the Eurozone be a better bet for Greeks than what is on offer within the Eurozone?  It is difficult to see how things could be worse because , as things stand, Greece is locked into many years of austerity at the least. . Most importantly outside the Eurozone  the Greeks could take charge their own destiny. Most importantly they would be able to control how much of and at what rate they would repay their national debt .  Holding tight to nurse for fear of something worse is not the answer here because long experience shows the something worse will always be the EU.

Film review – Ex Machina

Main cast

Domhnall Gleeson as Caleb

Alicia Vikander as Ava

Oscar Isaac as Nathan

Sonoya  Mizuno as Kyoko

Directed by Alex Garland

This is yet another film exploring the potential of digital technology to radically change our lives. The  subject  here is the relationship between advanced humanoid robots and humans, but with a twist, namely,  can sexual attraction arise between a human and a robot and can that attraction move on to something resembling deep emotional attachment?

The basic  plot is simple. A young  computer coder, Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) thinks he has won a competition at his workplace, the prize being  a week  on an isolated  research station with Nathan (Oscar Isaac), the boss of  the company for whom Caleb works.   In fact, there is no competition and he has been chosen simply as an experimental subject.

When Caleb reaches the research station he finds it occupied  by  Nathan and what he thinks is a female  Asian servant  Kyoto.   There are no other people on the research station. In fact there are only two humans for Kyoto is a robot.

Nathan asks  Caleb to  perform a Turing test. The classical version of  the test  consists of a human interacting with an artificial intelligence (AI) without knowing whether they are dealing with an AI or another human being.  The test is passed if  the human is convinced the AI is human. But this is a Turing test  with a twist.   Caleb knows what he is dealing with, a humanoid robot called  Ava (Alicia Vikander).

Caleb’s ostensible task is to see whether Ava convinces as a human interlocutor, despite the fact that he knows she is a machine.    But his real function is to see how readily  a human being will accept a machine that he or she  knows to be a machine  as a quasi-human being, or at least an intelligence which a human can relate to  as they would relate to another human being.

To make matters more complicated  Ava is physically  portrayed  as  a machine.   She , for want of a better word, is humanoid, but her  non-human   status is made only too visible with every part of her but  the  face, hands and feet  being   rather obviously  those  of a robot rather than a human,  for example, by having some of her machine components nakedly exposed.   As a further barrier to emotional involvement  there is no physical contact between Caleb and Ava because  a transparent screen separates  them.

As the film progresses Ava becomes more and more human to Caleb not only because of the developing relationship between the two f, but in the  way Ava  presents herself physically. She puts a wig over her skull and wears a dress which obscures her machine structure.  With these accoutrements she resembles an attractive woman.

That Caleb should develop  an emotional relationship with Ava is extremely plausible. Just think of the emotional investment that people make in their pets. Reflect on the habit  humans often  have of adorning inanimate objects with some of the qualities of they respond to in humans and animals or on their  sentimental attachment to objects which are associated with those they care about or of events which are important to them.  Humans have a strong innate desire to form  relationships with the external world.   That they might form  deep emotional relationships  with intelligent machines is utterly believable.  (The recent film Her which featured a highly intelligent operating system forming a relationship its male owner covers exactly this ground.)

Caleb learns  more and more about what is going on. He discovers  that Kyoto is a robot and  sees  unanimated bodies of earlier model robots. He finds out that he did not win a competition but was chosen by  Nathan not for his IT skills but for his personality and personal  circumstances, for example, Caleb  is heterosexual and   single (which makes him vulnerable to female attention). Nathan  has also used  developed Ava to appeal to Caleb by basing  Ava’s general physical appearance on Caleb’s  Internet  pornography searches to make her attractive to Caleb.

Caleb is fascinated by Nathan’s AI techniques but disturbed the way he  is being manipulated. After he has already become seriously  emotionally involved with Ava, he  is naturally upset when Nathan tells him that if Ava fails the Turing test  she will  be updated  with her memory wiped. This  will destroy her as the  personality he knows, in fact, be the AI equivalent of death.  Consequently,   Caleb plots with Ava for the pair of them to escape .  In fact, this is the  real  Turing test which Nathan has devised, namely to see if Ava can be convincingly human enough to trick Caleb into helping her escape, an escape Nathan smugly but wrongly believes is impossible.

Ava makes choices for herself in a way which is both human and inhuman. Her final actions at the research centre would be seen as  psychopathic  in a human because she single-mindedly seeks  her ends without regard to what she has to do to attain them. Ava  has  manipulated Caleb without any emotional  investment on her part.  But at the same time she has  a fundamental  component of consciousness, namely, her  own  desired ends  which go beyond mere mechanical programming. Ava wants to escape to satisfy her curiosity as well as to retain her existence as Ava.  She is not a quasi-human but something new, neither insensate machine nor  organic life.

The film ends with Ava showing what a difference there is between a machine intelligence and a human one. Caleb does not escape nor Nathan live to see the end of his experiment. Only Ava  leaves the research station and leaves it without any sense of loss or shame at her betrayal of Caleb.  But because the character is a robot her behaviour does not seem heinous as it would do in a human. It merely seems as innocent of blame as a predatory animal killing its prey.

The performances of  Gleeson, Isaacs and Vikander are all strong, not least because the film is very well cast. . Gleeson has an  appropriately  shambling geekiness  and clumsiness in his relationship with other people and   Isaac is a  dominant brooding psychopathic  presence.   But the real star  is Vikander . She  is weirdly convincing as a being who is at least half the way to being human.   Her realisation of the role  makes the robot flicker in and out of her performance. Vikander, a professional dancer, gives Ava a fluid grace of moment which does not seem quite natural; she speaks in a pleasantly modulated and controlled way but with little variation of emotion; her face is not expressionless but there is a very  restricted range of expression. The overall effect is of an  ethereal other-worldly being. The film is worth seeing for her performance alone.

The digital tyranny – The threat posed by a cashless society

Robert Henderson

We are in danger of sleepwalking into a cashless society. More and more purchases are made by electronic means , through standing orders,  direct debits, debit cards  or credit  cards.   Debit and credit  card purchases already account for over a third of UK GDP and more than three quarters of retail purchases (up from 46% in 2003), while  card and computer purchases have just overtaken UK cash sales.

The next logical step  towards  a cashless society is to have laws which allow private businesses  and any public body  which charges for  its services  to refuse cash payment.  Denmark is seemingly  taking the first tentative steps along that road.  The Danish Government has proposed legislation which if passed  will  remove the obligation to take cash from retail outlets such as petrol stations,  clothes shops  and restaurants next year.

With the combination of more and more people using  methods of payment other than cash and the willingness of technologists to  feed the trend with ever more sophisticated and comprehensive  systems of  cashless payments, there is no reason to think that this trend towards  making cash dysfunctional will stop unless governments take a hand and prevent cash from becoming  defunct by law.  This development  is alarming because the abolition of physical money would  carry  tremendous dangers in terms of  the opportunities for  state authoritarianism  and simple practicality.

The dangers  from state authoritarianism are:

  1. There would be no money which could be held which was not potentially known to the state, because with only electronic money available it would have to be stored electronically and be accessible via the Internet  if it was to be useable.

But what about using virtual currencies such as Bitcoin?  Apart from the dangers of such a means of exchange – the great volatility in value, the frauds which are occurring where Bitcoin is stolen, the lack of a lender of last resort and a restricted range of  goods and services which can be bought – Bitcoin still  needs  to be stored electronically and hence is  potentially identifiable and accessible to governments. There would also be an audit trail from an individual’s source of electronic money  to the purchase point of a virtual currency  like Bitcoin. The only exception would be if someone sold something or did paid work for someone and was paid in a virtual currency like  Bitcoin.

If Britain  went cashless and others did not the likelihood is that a black market in foreign cash such as dollars would  arise in Britain.  There would also be the possibility of exchanges made by barter or a product such as cigarettes becoming a de fact currency.

  1. A cashless system would allow the state to have all  electronic money stored in a central government controlled place.  This would leave  the  individual  at the mercy of the state which could deny electronic money to anyone within their jurisdiction by cancelling or blocking their means of payment.
  2. The state could more readily control the money supply if all bank accounts were  under the control of the state and physical cash did not exist.  The state would be able to manipulate public economic behaviour by  imposing a negative interest rate when increased spending is deemed desirable  – people save less because it costs them money – and a transaction tax every time a purchase is made  – people spend less if because it will cost them to make a purchase – if it is thought an economy is over heating.
  3. The state could remove money from your account at will.
  4. The opportunities for general surveillance of the individual both by the state and by private corporations or individuals would be greatly increased.

The problems of practicality are:

1.The idea  assumes that everyone can  afford a  computer of some sort, whether that be a mobile phone, tablet or desktop, and can afford to replace their means of getting access to the Internet  every few years at best.  The reality is that millions of people are too  poor to be able to meet such costs.  The taxpayer would have pay for access to electronic money for those too poor to buy their own.

  1. Many people cannot use the digital technology.  Huge numbers of people  are still not using  this technology. The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimates that  11% of the UK population (approximately 6 million) has never  used the Internet.  Moreover, the ONS did not ask for frequency of use merely whether someone had used the Internet When the ONS asked whether people had used the Internet in the three months prior to the question being asked,   only 86% answered yes.  Thus 14% of the population had either not used the Internet for more than three months  or   had never used it and, importantly,  only 68% of disabled people had used the Internet in the previous 3 months. Clearly there will be large numbers of people, including  the most vulnerable in society,  who will seriously struggle to use digital technology for the foreseeable future. If cash becomes illegal many of  these people will literally not be able to live if they cannot understand the technology or have no one to operate it for them.

3.The computer systems which support a cashless society will inevitably be subject to  regular disruption, whether from hacking or simple failure because,  as we all know,  digital technology frequently goes wrong and the system downtime can be considerable.   Imagine being unable to access the only means you have of paying for something.  It would probably be necessary to have more than one electronic payment device because of this, although that would not help if the fault was not with your payment device but with that of those from whom you wished to make a purchase.

  1. Many people will have their means of accessing electronic money stolen  or lose it themselves.  They would then need to replace their equipment which allowed them to access their electronic money.  Many would not be able to afford to do so and those most likely to lose or have their electronic money access  equipment stolen  would be the old and the disabled.

A cashless society would have considerable attractions for a government. It would greatly extend the power of the state over the individual. Crime generally might  be reduced without  physical cash to oil the felonious wheels, although cybercrime would become more tempting in the absence of banks to rob and people to mug. Tax evasion would become very difficult for most people (the rich would simply move their money to other jurisdictions) .  There would also be the saving on the abolition of the need to maintain a physical money supply.  Banks  and other financial institutions would also welcome the abolition of cash as it would remove the considerable cost of physically handling cash and maintaining a branch network.

The danger is that cash will become defunct by default,  because the Government shows no interest in protecting cash and arguably is surreptitiously encouraging  its demise by making it either impossible or very difficult to access public services in any way other than through the Internet.  We could reach a point where, say, 90% of the population use electronic money  and a government simply says it is time to go cashless ignoring the fact that millions of people who cannot use electronic money will be left in the soup. Politicians need to be lobbied now to ensure that  the maintenance of cash remains a legal requirement.

But it is not just a case of ensuring that cash remains a legal requirement. Even a  widespread refusal to accept cash  by businesses and other corporate bodies which charge for their services  would be seriously socially disruptive. That idea also needs to be knocked on the head  by making it illegal to refuse cash in payment for anything.

Get writing to your MP.

The Emperor’s New Clothes (2015) – It’s the rich wot has the pleasure and the poor wot gets the blame.

Robert Henderson

Narrator: Russell Brand

Director:   Michael Winterbottom

This documentary shamelessly mimics  Michael Moore  with a large dollop  of  “The smartest guys in the room” thrown in for good measure.  The end  product is a tepid imitation of Moore’s style   and a rather better pastiche of The smartest guys in the room.

Like a Moore documentary there is much in the film which is shocking: the greed and irresponsibility of the bankers:  the overt or tacit  collusion of  politicians which allowed  bankers to be effectively unregulated  in the run up to the 2008 crash; the failure to punish  with the criminal law any of those who were responsible for the banking crash; the ability of the likes of  Fred Goodwin  (the erstwhile CEO of the Royal Bank of Scotland)   to walk away with a pension worth hundreds of thousands a year after wrecking  through his megalomania for expansion  one of the largest banks in the world. More generally the film also makes much of the  growing inequality in Britain.

Sounds intriguing? But the problem is Brand, unlike Moore, never manages to get to quiz any of those responsible or even to  embarrass them  by getting close enough to shout questions at them.   This is in large part simply a consequence of Brand /Winterbottom choosing a subject – bankers’ recklessness –  where getting to speak  to the culprits was a  obvious non-starter.  But  that makes a large part of the  film’s  approach  an anticipatable and hence avoidable  mistake.

A fair bit of the film features Brand arriving at the head of office of, say,  a high street bank, daringly entering the  public foyer  and then hitting a brick wall of indifference as he is left to grill receptionists and security guards on the wickedness of their employers.   The result  is  underwhelming the first time he uses the ploy, but moves from underwhelming to  irritating as the  device is repeated several times.  The nadir of this  “beard them in their lairs” tactic  is  Brand’s  arrival at the home of  Lord Rothermere  (whose family own amongst other publications the  Daily Mail) to tackle Rothermere about his non-dom status. After  Brand  had vaulted over a wall to show his rebel devil-may-care  tendencies, the scene ended with him conducting a meaningless conversation with a bemused housekeeper via an answerphone.  There was a vapidity about all these scenes which robbed them of their potentially humorous situational content based on the incongruity of what Brand was asking rank and file employees.  In the end it was simply Brand behaving boorishly.

All of this tedious , ineffective and self-regarding guff is wrapped within an ongoing theme of  Brand  “going back to his roots”   to  his childhood  town of in Grays in Essex.  (Brand is part of what Jerome K Jerome  called “Greater Cockneydom”).   He is  certainly much  friendlier  in his dealing with the  white workingclass than the vast majority of those on the Left these days who  tend to approach them  with all the delight of someone trying to avoid dog excrement on a pavement,  but there is a cloying quality to his relationship with those he meets as though he is playing in a rather ham fashion  the  part of a cockney sparrow returning  to its  long deserted nest.   He is also rather too keen to prove his street cred- there is an especially  cringeworthy episode where Brand  vaults a underground barrier and claims he has dodged the fare.  More damagingly perhaps, was that  hanging over his  words on the state of the have-nots and the misbehaviour of the haves hung  the fact that Brand is a rich man, a fact he tried  to address by trying to make a very feeble  joke indeed  about the fact.

Ironically Brand  displays a strong conservatism with a small ‘c’  when he laments the change from the Grays of his youth as a place where  the shops were run by local people and  “all the money spent in the town stayed in the town” to a modern Grays of boarded up shops and multinationals who suck the money and by implication the sense of community out of the place.

That is too black and white a view of then and now, but I can sympathise with Brand’s general nostalgia for the not so distant past. My memory tells me  that people were generally more content  forty years ago.  The trouble is that Brand completely fails to do is address the thing which has most dramatically changed places such as Grays namely, mass immigration, which of course is all part of the globalist ideology he purports to loathe.    That he should avoid the immigration issue is unsurprising because it is part of the credo of the modern Left that it is nothing but an unalloyed boon, but it does undermine horribly the credibility of the film as  an honest representation of reality .

The most nauseating part of the film involved Brand using an audience of  primary school children (at his old school) to  get his message across  by feeding them with the most intrusive sort of leading questions along the lines of  “Bankers earn zillions of pounds a year while the person who cleans their boardroom takes home fifty quid a week: is that fair?”  The children were charming, but using children as ideological props is a cheap shot at best and abusive at worst.

The film is at its best  when Brand is working from a script with  crisp graphics and commentary  in the style of The Smartest Guys in the Room. The  cataloguing of  the excesses of the financial industry and the stubborn refusal of the authorities in Britain to bring criminal charges against any board member of  the institutions which were responsible,   even the banks  which required  bailing out by the taxpayer, was  angering. Comparing this escape  from punishment  by high ranking bankers (who invariably  left  loaded with huge amounts of money on their departure from the offending banks)   with the many, often quite severe,  custodial sentences handed out to the 2011 rioters for stealing items worth at most a few hundred pounds and often for much  less  showed a reality that lived up unhesitatingly to the old refrain  “It’s the rich wot has the pleasure and the poor wot gets the blame” .

There is also some strong stuff about the growing inequality in Britain and the thing which with frightening speed is creating a massive generational divided, namely, the grotesque cost of housing which has removed from most of this generation any chance of buying a property  and forcing people  increasingly into extremely expensive  private rented accommodation.   But here again, the immigration issue was left untouched.

The film missed  several important ricks.  One of the scandals about the way bankers have been able to walk away from the 2008 crash without any serious action being taken against them is  that there has been no attempt to apply  the provisions in the Companies  Act  relating to directors behaviour. These provisions  allow the removal of personal limited liability  from  directors  where they have behaved in a reckless fashion. Remove their limited liability and creditors, including the government on behalf of taxpayers,  could seek  every penny they hold.

Then there is the extraordinary fact that the shareholders of the bailed out banks  still hold shares worth something.  The banks  were irredeemably insolvent when the Labour government bailed them out. The shareholders should have lost everything.  This fact  went unexamined.

But the film’s greatest  failure is to spend far too  little time role that politicians played in the economic disaster through their lack of regulation and the aftermath of the 2008 crash.  For example,  there was nothing on the  Lloyds TSB’s  takeover of  the HBOS which ended up capsizing Lloyds.  This takeover was done at the behest of Gordon Brown  and turned Lloyds TSB from a solvent bank with a reputation for prudence and caution into a bank which had to be bailed out by the British taxpayer. The bank is now the subject of a civil action by disgruntled shareholders who claim they were misled by  Lloyds about the state of HBOS.

Much of what Brand dislikes  I also dislike. Like him I deplore  globalisation because it is destabilising at best and dissolves  a society at worst ; like him I think it a monumental scandal that neither the main actors in the financial crash nor the politicians who had left the financial services industry so poorly regulated  were ever brought to book; like him I am dismayed  at the growing inequality in Britain  and the particular  disaster  that is the ever worsening British housing shortage.  But the film offers no coherent or remotely practical  solution to the ills of the age. It is simply a rage against the machine and like all such rages ultimately leaves its audience dissatisfied after the initial adrenal surge of sympathetic anger.

What can we learn from the  2015 British General Election?

Robert Henderson

  1. With First Past The Post less than 37% of votes cast (and less than 25% of registered voters) can give you a majority in the House of Commons , while nearly four million votes (for Ukip) can get you one seat in the House.
  2. The Conservative performance in terms of Commons seats was better than it looks because the size of UK constituencies varies considerably and  on average it takes substantially more votes to elect  Conservative MPs than it does a Labour MP in England  or MPs  in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.  Had the boundary changes put forward  in 2013 to produce more equal  sized  constituencies  not been blocked by the LibDems,  this would have favoured the Tories significantly, perhaps giving them another 20 seats.
  3. The reason for the failure of the pollsters to come anywhere near to the election result is simple: they tend to rely on telephone  and online polls.  Both routinely  result in samples which are not representative of the population. Telephone polls are  undermined by  the large number of people who are unwilling to answer questions  and the time of day  when calls are made, for example, if you ring during the day you are likely to get  a different sample than if you ring in the evening.  Online polls rely on (1) people being online and moderately  IT savvy – which excludes many people – and (2) what are in effect focus groups formed of people who put themselves forward  (which will mean they are unrepresentative   of the general  population regardless of the attempt to choose them in the context of their backgrounds ) who are questioned regularly( which precludes even the basic shuffling of the sample pack created every time an entirely  new sample is questioned.)
  4. The exit poll came much closer to the actual result because (1) it was a very large sample (20,000), (2) people were interviewed face to face and (3) the people interviewed had actually voted.  The pollsters need to go back to face to face interviewing and more rigorous selection of polling samples.
  5. The Conservative Party has a formal Commons majority of 12. Sinn Fein have  four  seats and if they follow their normal practice of not taking up those seats the majority would effectively  be 16.  Add in the Speaker of the House who does not  vote except when a vote is tied,  and the majority is effectively 17  (The  Commons has 650 MPs. Deduct the Sinn Fein MPs and the Speaker and a practical majority is 323. The Tories have 331 seats. That leaves 314 opposition MPs.  The practical majority is 17).   Such a majority is just about a working one.
  6. Even a twelve seat majority is functional because though it may look fragile, in practice all opposition MPs will  not vote against the government on many  issues. This can be for  ideological reasons (they broadly  agree with the legislation), they think voting against a Bill would play badly with the public or the simple fact that the Scottish, Welsh, Northern Irish and many opposition English seat MPs have constituencies which are hundreds of miles away from London.  Tory seats tend to be much nearer London than opposition ones. Moreover, if the government wants to play difficult , they can  always refuse to allow pairing of MPs (MPs of different parties agree not to vote, thus cancelling one another’s votes  out) .  That would put a burden on their own MPs,  but much less of a one than that placed on opposition MPs, because, as  already explained,  Tory   MPs  on average have much less distance to travel to and from their constituencies than do opposition MPs.
  7. The size of the Conservative majority will give their backbenchers far more leverage  on the government. This will be healthy because it will re-assert the power of the Commons over the executive .
  8. In the first couple of years much of the major legislation going through will command widespread support amongst Conservative MPs. However, if the Cabinet starts backtracking on their manifesto promises the Tory backbenchers will want to know the reason why  and will rebel if pushed too hard in a direction they do not wish to go. (Cameron  was rash  enough at the first Cabinet meeting  of the new government to promise that the Tory manifesto would be implemented in full – go in at 11.32 am ) .
  9. Because of the small majority, the Conservative government should push through as soon as possible all their most important legislation. This  includes the EU referendum , English votes for English laws, the delayed boundary changes and  the repeal of the Human Rights Act.  The House of Lords can delay passing a Commons Bill for about a year. After that the government can force it through using the Parliament Act.
  10. The government would be well advised to repeal the Fixed term Parliaments Act, not least because the small majority is likely to diminish before the end of the Parliament and even if it does not it will be very difficult for the government party to maintain its discipline for five years. The danger is a repeat of the last years of the Major government  which saw  constant Tory infighting and precious little being done in the last eighteen months or so.
  11. The election told us that both the Tories and Labour are parties devoid of principle. Thatcher hollowed out the Tory Party converting it from a party which stood broadly for the national interest, strong on defence, protectionist where strategic industries such as coal were concerned  , with its  natural paternalism of the past sublimated into an acceptance of the welfare state.  Blair  cut out the central moral purpose of the Labour Party (to protect the poor  and unfortunate) and replaced it with a  toxic hybrid  of Thatcherism with its the  mania for  privatisation both wholesale and piecemeal  and greatly  increased state spending, much of which was spent to no good purpose and whose justification seemed to be no more than the spending of the money for its own sake to show how “caring” NuLabour were.
  12. While the SNP remain strong in Scotland Labour has no realistic chance of achieving an overall majority in the Commons.  It is worth noting that Labour  won  232  seats  in this election compared with compared with 258 in the 2010 Election, a loss of 26 seats.  As Labour lost 40 of their 41 seats in Scotland  and only one seat in Wales this means they gained 13 seats in England. Thus there is some small glimmer of hope for Labour to if not win form a coalition as the leading party in it after  the next General  Election  if the SNP vote collapses and the  Labour vote increases by a few percentage votes in England. However, it is a very slim hope at present.
  13. For the foreseeable future Labour are only  likely to  form a coalition government  with the SNP.
  14. Labour primarily did poorly because they have for long neglected  the white working class (which was the natural bedrock of their support)   and instead pandered to a motley collection of minority interest groups,  most notably racial and ethnic minorities. Because they had split their support they ended up trying to produce a message which would appeal to wildly disparate groups. Their “core vote” strategy, which involved appealing to around a third of voters and then either adding a few more votes to gain a majority  or at worst  to  be the dominant partner in a left of centre coalition, was both contemptible in a democracy because it ignored the interests of the majority and, as it turned out, a  hideous failure.
  15. If the Labour Party had been in a position to form a coalition they would have found themselves between the devil and the deep blue sea. If they had been able to form a majority  in  coalition with the SNP that would have finished them as an English party: if  they refused to form such a coalition they would have been ruined in Scotland and damaged  them in Wales on the grounds of having let in the Tories.
  16. SNP political leverage within the House of Commons can only exist while there is no English Parliament. Create an English Parliament and the SNP are emasculated . The popularity of the SNP in Scotland is unlikely to last because there is growing dissatisfaction in Scotland at both its economic mismanagement and its increasingly authoritarian behaviour. Time is the enemy of the SNP as the dark reality of what they have created comes to fruition.
  17. It has been claimed by many political commentators that a Tory government was just what the SNP wanted because it would fan the flames of Scottish nationalism and bogus  victimhood.  If this was the reasoning of the SNP leadership it was extremely stupid because it has rendered their party impotent at Westminster .  The intelligent strategy for Sturgeon to have followed  before the election would have been to say that the SNP  would  not have any formal relationship, whether coalition or a looser agreement , but would  support any legislation which fitted in with SNP policies.   There should have been no ruling out of any agreement with anyone, no demonising of any other Westminster Party, no threatening of England, no  trying to portray the SNP  as forcing left facing  policies on England  as being for England’s good .  Had she done that the Tories might well not have been able to form a government off their own bat.  Instead Sturgeon handed the Tories a victory which, if the Party was run by someone willing to look to England’s interests,  would have left the SNP to twist impotently in the wind .
  18. Wales and Northern Ireland have no serious wish to become independent, not least because they are economic basket cases which are heavily dependent on English taxpayers’ money.
  19. This was a profoundly dishonest election. There was a disturbing lack of debate by the major parties on  important policy areas with   foreign policy, defence, energy ,  food self-sufficiency and  the imbalanced devolution settlement which grossly disadvantages England  being  barely addressed.  Other major issues, for example immigration and the still massive deficit in the UK’s public finances were mentioned often enough,  but  without any proposals being put forward which would plausibly  tackle the problems involved.  Apart from Ukip, parties were either   for open borders (The Greens)  or restricted  to promises to cut benefits for immigrants and operate a points system to ensure only skilled migrants came.( Even if such things could be done, there would not necessarily be a reduction in migrants because no upper limit was put on numbers).    Proposals for increased government spending were either not costed at all or relied on fantasy  money coming  from “efficiency savings”  within public service or absurdly optimistic forecasts of how the British economy would grow.
  20. The housing crisis is the prime toxin in not only the British economy but also British society. The absurd cost of  both renting and buying is reducing large parts of the population (and particularly those under 35 who have never got on the housing ladder)  to a miserable, insecure existence.  All the major parties made promises of building hundreds of thousands of new houses a year  without meaningfully explaining where the money was coming from.  Moreover, much of what   they did promise  – 200,00 to -300,000 new flats and houses a year  – will inevitably  be taken by  immigrants because no major party could say these homes would  be reserved for native Britons because no major party is willing to pull out of the EU. Net immigration is currently running at  around 300,00 a year . If it continues at that level new immigrants will want at least 100,000 homes a year.  This fact went unmentioned by the Tories, Labour and  the LIbDems. To put the cherry on the housing mess, the Tories attempted to bribe, probably successfully, 2.5 million housing association tenants with an extension of the Right-to-Buy to such properties (this gives substantial discounts on the market price of a property).  This will reduce the number  properties which people can actually afford to rent in places such as London even further.
  21. David Cameron sanctioned a number of very  risky manifesto  commitments such as promising English votes for English laws, a referendum on the EU and  the repeal of the Human Rights Act. The most plausible explanation for this is he  did not believe the Tories would win an overall majority and had put these items into the Tory manifesto simply to use as bargaining chips which he could discard  in the event of another coalition with the LIbDems.  If that was Cameron’s  strategy it reinforces the idea of the leading politicians in Britain being complete cynics.  The Tories also recklessly  promised no rise in income tax, national insurance or VAT in the next Parliament.  They will have to live with that millstone around their necks for five years.
  22. Political correctness still has a terrible hold on those permitted a public voice. The most notable example of this was probably when the  Ukip leader Nigel Farage had the courage in one of the leaders’ debates  to raise the question of foreign  HIV sufferers  coming to Britain for very expensive and ongoing treatment on the NHS.  He was howled at by the studio audience and berated by  other politicians taking part as though he had placed himself beyond the Pale.
  23. The fact that Ukip are routinely described as “right-wing” and not infrequently “far right” by both mainstream politicians and the mainstream media nicely demonstrates the dominance of politically correct thinking amongst those given the privilege of a public voice. Apart from their wish to leave the EU, Ukip’s policies  are not radically different from those  espoused by the Tories and Labour over the past twenty-five years.  That applies even to immigration, because neither the Tories nor Labour has ever publicly  advocated an open door policy.
  24. The party for adolescents, the LibDems, will now be able to return to their pre-Thatcher role of being able to all fit into a telephone box at the same time.
  25. The party for the pre-pubescent, the Greens, can be safely left until the next election dreaming up ever more ever more febrile fantasies  of what the electorate wants. They will have some work to put in because they set the bar very high in this election with their plea for  open borders and increased foreign aid.

Politically incorrect film reviews – Selma takes the wrong road to watchability

Robert Henderson

Main cast

David Oyelowo as Martin Luther King, Jr.

Tom Wilkinson as Lyndon B. Johnson

Carmen Ejogo as Coretta Scott King

Dylan Baker as J. Edgar Hoover

Tim Roth as George Wallace

Director Ava DuVernay

Selma is the latest in an ever lengthening list of  propaganda films in the politically correct interest. It is Alabama 1965. Martin Luther King is already internationally famous after his “I have a dream “ speech   in 1963 and  the award of the Nobel Peace prize in 1964. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is meeting with resistance and black voters  are  finding they still cannot  register to vote because of the application of local electoral regulations  in ways which are comically restrictive.   King goes to the city of Selma with a clutch of supporters from the  Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC)  to protest  about this thwarting of the law, but their  attempts to help  blacks  register in the city   fail.  As a consequence  a protest march  from Selma to Montgomery , the Alabama state capital, is planned.  The first march is stopped brutally, the second aborted by King and the third allowed to happen.

That is the skeleton of the film.  There is precious little solid  dramatic flesh put on the skeleton. To be brutally frank Selma   is boring. It is too wordy,  too cluttered with characters,  too  didactic and unremittingly earnest.  These are qualities guaranteed to lose any cinema audience.  The problem is particularly acute when, as here,  there is an large cast.   Disputes and debates between King  and his supporters or between King  and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) are so extended and detailed that anyone not familiar with the story would not know what to make of it  and, in any case, as anyone who has ever been involved with an ideologically driven political group will be only too aware,  of little interest to anyone who has not been captured by the ideology. Reflecting life too exactly  on film is not always the best  way to keep people’s attention.  Propaganda films do not have to be boring, although  they often are. The black director Spike Lee would have made a much less sprawling and vastly  more watchable film whilst keeping the ideological message.

There is also a woeful and wilful  lack of historical context.  This one has at its core  a  vision of wicked Southern good ol’ boys  oppressing  blacks.  White involvement is restricted to racists with a penchant for violence,  a few white sympathisers with the civil rights movement who  appear peripherally,  adorned with looks of sublimely smug  unquestioning  utopian naivety not see on film since the initial sighting of a hippy commune in Easy  Rider and Lyndon Johnson who  is shown as sympathetic to King’s views but not interested enough to risk his political future by wholeheartedly embracing the legislation which King says is necessary .  There is  no attempt to see things from the viewpoint of the whites who opposed integration, unlike, for example, a film such as In the Heat of the Night in which  Rod Steiger’s sheriff  attempts  to explain why whites in the South are as they are because of their circumstances,  for example, their  widely held and not unreasonable fear that a black population which has been suppressed may turn on whites . Instead  Selma just rushes in and  points the finger of moral shame at any white who does not uncritically embrace what King advocates with a complete disregard from the fact that  every human being  morally and sociologically has  to start from the  situation into which they are born.

The concentration of the film on a specific time and place is also  problematic, because King’s  ideological  career was a far more complex  thing than the film can show. It also  removes the embarrassment which would have hung around a straightforward biopic of King, such as  the  plagiarism which gained him a doctorate and  his marginalisation as a civil rights leader which eventually saw him reduced to going to support sewage workers at the time of his assassination.  Mention is made of his gross  womanising, but only in the context of a sex tape recorded by the FBI which was sent to King’s wife  Cora. The fact that some who were close to him said  he had a particular  liking for white women – which could be taken as evidence of racism in King if his motive was to revenge himself on whites by abusing their women –  goes unmentioned .  Indeed, it is rather odd that a man as celebrated as King is in the USA  and with a worldwide reputation should never have had a full blown biopic. Perhaps the answer is that King’s private life was too messy to deal with in a film depicting his entire public  life rather than a short period of it devoted to a specific subject.

More importantly the tight focus in Selma  means that the fifty odd years since Selma  go unexamined.  No honest  person  would deny that the position of blacks in the USA and particularly those in the Old South was demeaning at the beginning of the 1960s,  but is what has  replaced segregation and Jim Crow laws  really that much better for most blacks or, perhaps more pertinently, anywhere near what King hoped would happen? Perhaps  the answer to the first question is a tepid  yes, at least for  blacks who have benefitted from  “positive discrimination”,  but it has to be an unequivocal no to the  latter.   Segregation by choice has replaced segregation by law. Illegitimacy  and crime amongst  blacks has rocketed. A fair case could be made for  the  individual  personal relationship between whites and blacks being worse now that it was fifty years ago.

Tom Wilkinson is very decent  LBJ but  David Oyelowo  does not quite cut it as King. It is not that it is technically a bad performance, it is simply that he does not capture the charisma that King undoubtedly had.  His  portrayal of King keeps a question nagging away at one: why would any one have followed this rather drab character?  The rest of the cast do not really have time to develop their roles, although Carmen Ejogo as Coretta Scott King and Tim Roth as George Wallace have their moments.

The insubstantial quality of the film can be judged by the  meagre  Oscar recognition and  its  popularity with the public by the money it has taken.   The film was nominated for  Best Picture  and best song but for nothing else, which is a rather remarkable thing.  Nor did it win as best picture. A public  fuss was made about Ava DuVernay and  David Oyelowo being left out of Best Director and Best Actor categories,  but only in the context of no black actors and directors being nominated.  Considering the public political correctness the American film business emits,  it is rather difficult to imagine that the tepid response to Selma by the Oscar granting Academy voters was the result of racism.  In fact its nomination as Best Picture despite having no nominations in the directing and acting categories suggests that the opposite happened, Selma was nominated for Best Picture regardless of its mediocrity as a sop to political correctness.

The public also responded in less than passionate fashion. As of 16 April Selma had taken $52,076,908 worldwide which placed it 57th in the top grossing films of the previous 365 days.  Not  bad in purely commercial terms  for a film which cost $20 million to make, but distinctly underwhelming  for a film lauded to the skies by most critics and many public figures.  The truth is that people both in the States and abroad have not been that drawn to it, whether  because of the subject or the indifferent quality of the film.  One  can  take the browbeaten horses of the Western world to the politically correct water but they can’t make many of them drink.

The pernicious nature of a film like this is not that it casts whites as the villain,  but that it gives blacks and excuse for anything that goes wrong in their lives, the prize of an inexhaustible victimhood

See mass migration for what it is – invasion

Robert Henderson

The French writer Jean Raspail’s Camp of the Saints describes a situation not unlike that of the present exodus from North Africa and the Middle East. In Raspail’s book the invasion is by large ships crammed with Third World migrants coming to Europe where the ships are beached and the migrants flood into Europe, a Europe which has lost the will to resist because of decades of politically correct internationalist propaganda. Europe and eventually the entire developed world falls to the invasion of the Third World hordes who are armed only with their misery and the Pavlovian response of  First World populations brainwashed to believe that they collectively are to blame for third world ills and  who  consequently  cannot morally deny the invaders entry to their lands.. This is the scenario which is now being acted out in the Mediterranean, but with, in the main, small boats, rather than large ones carrying the mi grants.

The stark truth is that mass immigration is invasion resulting in the effective colonisation of parts of the invaded country because immigrants from a similar background have a pronounced tendency to congregate in the same area. Any other description of mass immigration is wilfully  dishonest.  It is as reasonable for a people to resist invasion by mass immigration as it is to an invasion by an armed invader.

Anti-immigration parties are on the rise because all over the developed world their elites have ignored the wishes of their people and forced mass immigration on them. In Britain (and many other first world countries) this has been accompanied by the increasingly punitive application of the criminal law to those who protest about mass immigration and its effects.

Nor is it only the developed world. Everywhere mass immigration is abhorred, for example, in South Africa where the government has just had to send in the army to stop attacks on migrants

The promotion of mass immigration is a particularly deep treason, because unlike an invasion by military force the legions of the immigrant army are disparate and cannot be readily expelled. Where mass immigration is deliberately  promoted by a government, as happened under Blair according to ex-No 10 advisor Andrew Neather,   to deliberately change the nature of a  society (in Neather’s words, “to rub the Right’s nose in diversity and render their arguments out of date”)  it is the most contemptible of treasons.

Mass immigration is a form of theft by the elites who permit it.  It robs  a people of their collective and individual  sense of national security and an enjoyment of a culture and history in which all share. Mundanely it steals from it people, and especially the poor, the  things which are necessary for a decent life:  housing at a decent price, schools which are near to where children live and which do not boast “96 languages are spoken here”, ready access to GPs and hospital treatment and   well paid jobs which have not had their wages suppressed through immigrant labour.  The whole business is made even more repulsive because the elites who inflict this on their people take good care to live in very white,  and in England, very English, worlds whilst incessantly extolling the joy of diversity.    These people know precisely what they are inflicting on others.

The answer to the migrants flooding across the Mediterranean  is very simple, spend money on surveillance methods such as drones and satellites and a substantial fleet of fast manoeuvrable ships which can patrol the Mediterranean  and intercept immigrant laden boats and ships and tow them back from whence they came.  The ideal would be to unload the migrants  and then destroy the ships.

It is also probable  that  the drone and satellite  surveillance would  provide information on where human traffickers are assembling their passengers and where the boats likely to be used to transport them are harboured.  If so, action could be taken by the Western powers to destroy their boats whilst in harbour. Lest there be a wail against Western states interfering with Third World countries, those contemplating such a  complaint should  reflect on the palpable fact that the states from which the migrants are coming are either failed states or  are actively conniving with the traffickers to get migrants from North Africa and the Middle East  into Europe.

If such a scheme t cost a billion  pounds a year it would be cheap at the price.  In fact if it cost ten billion a year it would be cheap. Such a scheme would be undeniably practical.  All that is required is the political will, of elites and the governed in the West,   to cast aside the politically correct mentality  which says people must be allowed to come, must be saved from perils into they have placed themselves,   regardless of the cost to the Western societies who have until now been expected to  take them in.

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