Saturday, April 30, 2016

A truth that's told with bad intent

For the second time in a few weeks I find myself quoting the word of William Blake

And the truth which rather too many people have been telling with bad intent, mostly on the hard left, but I have found one or two people on the right doing it as well (though not anybody holding elected office in the Conservative party) is this:

"Being anti-Israel is not the same as being anti-Semitic."

The trouble is that this truth is being used too often to give people who really are anti-Semitic a pass and let them get away with what amounts to the beginnings of re-heated Nazism.

Here is the internationally agreed definition of anti-Semitism (recognised by the UK college of policing, the US State Department, and the EU ...

If you disagree with the policies of the government of Israel on exactly the same basis that you would disagree with the policies of any other government or party, that isn't racist at all.

To take a simple example, if you think Donald Trump is a berk to propose building a massive wall on the US/Mexican border, and Nigel Lawson was seriously misguided to suggest we might build one on the border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic, then it is not racist or anti-Semitic in any way shape or form to make similar criticisms of Israel's "West Bank Barrier."

On the other hand, if you support Trump's "build a wall" policy and agreed with Nigel Lawson that there would be no problem in setting up border posts cutting the island of Ireland in two following a Brexit vote, but have been denouncing Israel for their border wall, you might usefully ask yourself why you are criticising Israel for a policy similar to one you support for others.

If you are holding Israel to a much higher standard of behaviour than you would expect of another country, if you think it is OK to hate people just for living in Israel, if you think that every Israeli citizen, or every Jewish citizen of that country, is to blame for the actions of their government, then you are not just being anti-Israel but anti-Semitic and racist.

I have already posted an explanation of why it is anti-Semitism of the most offensive kind to compare the policies of Israel with those of the Nazis. But if you are in any doubt whether something is anti-Semitic, there is a very simple test,

Ask yourself whether a statement, comment or joke about Israel or Jewish people would have been considered racist had it been made about Africa or black people, and if the answer is yes, then that statement, comment or joke is anti-Semitic and racist.

It should be obvious from what I have written that if a senior Conservative were to come out with certain of the things Ken Livingstone has said this week, I would want that person expelled from the party for life, and certainly never again allowed to hold any position of responsibility within the party or supported for election to public office.

Another side of George Osborne

Extracts from the chancellor's speech at a Westminster Correspondents' dinner this week

“The Referendum means we’re all arguing among ourselves. The Canadian model, the Albanian model, the Ukrainian model. And that’s just John Whittingdale’s table.”

Remarking that he had his own diet plan, he explained: “It’s called the 5:2. After two out of every five Budgets I eat some of my own words.”

And on Labour:  “We’re joined by the various factions of the Labour Party. Stephen Kinnock – the united front. Rachel Reeves – the popular front. Emily Thornberry – the unpopular front. And Chris Bryant – the Y-front.”

You can read more at the i website at

Quote of the day 30th April 2016

"This row about Ken Livingstone and Hitler is so unfair. One was a horrible extremist obsessed with Jews. The other was leader of Nazi Germany"
— Ian Austin (@IanAustinMP) on twitter April 29, 2016

Friday, April 29, 2016

Cameron's compassion will save children's lives: Dubs' compassion will get them drowned

The argument between David Cameron and Lord Dubs is not an argument between someone who cares about helping refugee children and someone who doesn't.

Both believe we should do something to help. Both have offered a means to do so. I have no doubts whatsoever about the sincerity of either.

The difference is that one is offering a solution which really will help, and the other, for the best of motives, is offering a solution which I believe will get more children drowned.

The British government is giving £2.3 billion to help those fleeing war in Syria. We had previously said we will take 20,000 refugees - we have now said we will take a further 3,000 child refugees.
The Royal Navy is to help save the lives of those making the crossing. It’s not just that Britain is giving more than any country in Europe; we’re giving more than the rest of Europe put together.

And I am convinced the government is right to say that the refugees we take should come directly from the Middle East, not from those who have already reached Europe, to stop the rush to the people smugglers who are drowning ten people a day.

Let's reiterate the key point about child refugees. Only last week, the British Government said it would take 3,000. We will take those on the United Nations’ “at risk” register, which includes teenagers at risk of child marriage or sexual exploitation.

That way we help those most in need and reduce rather than increase the perverse incentive for desperate families to trust the lives of their children to people smugglers.

As Fraser Nelson argues in the Telegraph, David Cameron is right and Alf Dubs and the House of Lords are wrong. The government must stand their ground.

Second quote of the day

"In modern politics you are either quick or you are dead

Labour adds a third category: Zombie."

(Labour supporter Philip Collins in today's Times)

Public meetings - a chance to support our hospitals

There is a set of extremely important public meetings about health services in Cumbria organised under the so-called "success regime" and starting next week. It is vital that as many people as possible attend to support our local hospitals

The dates, times and venues for the meetings are:
  • Wednesday 4th May 1pm-2:30pm: Guide Hall, St. George's Rd, Millom
  • Wednesday 4th May 7pm-9pm: Solway Hall (Whitehaven Civic Hall), 75 Lowther St, Whitehaven
  • Thursday 5th May 12:30pm-2:30pm: Function Room, Skiddaw Hotel, Main Street, Keswick
  • Thursday 5th May 6:30pm-8:30pm: Maryport Rugby Club, Mealpot Road, Maryport
  • Tuesday 10th May 7pm-9pm: Samuel King's School, Church Rd, Alston

The events will see presentations from clinicians and health service leaders about what the local NHS are proposing under the banner of what is called the "Success Regime."

Local residents will then have a chance to ask questions and also contribute their own views on the best options for the way health and care services should be run in future.

More on my hospitals blog at

Quote of the day 29th April 2016

What a pity the Bard isn't around to write a play about the history of the Labour party ...

Thursday, April 28, 2016

If we take more Syran refugees, we should take those most in need from the Middle East.

The whose question of how to deal with refugees from the ghastly war in Syria is a complex one, which reminds me of the saying,

"to every difficult problem there is an answer which is simple, clear cut, and completely wrong."

I know there are people - I've met them on the doorstep - who don't want Britain to take a single refugee.

I don't believe that is the majority view - it certainly wasn't for a few weeks after the media had been full of horrible pictures of a dead child washed up on a beach -  but it certainly is the majority view that Britain cannot take everyone who wants to come here.

If your position is somewhere between the simple and clear cut positions of let everyone in or don't let anyone in, you are faced with agonising choices. How many people is our "fair share," who should they be, and who decides.

I actually think the government has got this one absolutely right in that

1) Britain has been more generous than almost anyone else in the aid we give to people in refugee camps in the area from which hopefully they will be able to go home when the fighting is over, and

2) Where we do take refugees, we take them directly from those in the Middle East based on an assessment of need, and not from those who have already reached Europe.

I think they were right to apply that to the 20,000 refugees that the government first said Britain would take. And I think they were right to apply it when they said that Britain would take 3,000 children.

I respect those who support the "Dubs Amendment" which has been backed by the House of Lords to take another 3,000 from Europe but I think they are absolutely wrong. If they want to take more, we should take them from the refugee camps and not from those who have already reached European countries.

There is no simple and perfect answer to this. Some unaccompanied children who have reached  European countries may be at risk from people-traffickers and paedophiles. But the same is true of some orphans of children separated from their parents in the Middle East.

And if we take unaccompanied children from, say, "the jungle" in France we risk giving an perverse incentive to desperate families in the middle east to pay the people smugglers to get their children to France - a journey on which some of them will die.

If, however, people know that Britain only takes refugees directly from the Middle East, we are reducing the incentive for people to risk their lives, or their children's lives, to the people-traffickers.

Mark Wallace makes the same point on Conservative Home here.

We can argue about how many people Britain should take until the cows come home and there is no right answer. But there is a right answer to where we should take the ones we do take from, and it is directly from the Middle East. That is a policy which will save lives, while the opposite policy, however well intentioned, will cause more deaths.

A historian responds to Livingston

"Ken Livingstone’s characteristically outrageous intervention in the debate over anti-Semitism in the Labour Party – denying it existed while simultaneously proving that it does – was wrong on all sorts of levels, but one of them was in his grotesque mangling of the historical record."

That is how historian Andrew Roberts starts a forensic dissection of Ken Livingston's extraordinary remarks about Hitler today at CAPX.

You can read the rest of his response here.

Petition to protect beds at the Mary Hewetson Community hospital in Keswick

I have often written on this blog about West Cumbria Hospital and will be doing so again soon but our community hospitals at Millom and Keswick are also vital for local people.

Mary Hewetson Cottage Hospital in Keswick is a vital local facility for that part of Cumbria and it is very important to retain it.

Penrith and the Border MP Rory Stewart has expressed his “deep concern” at potential threats to hospital beds as the NHS in Cumbria reviews options, saying the Success Regime should play a greater role in delivering services, not a reduced one.

Mr. Stewart has requested an urgent meeting with Sir Neil McKay, of the Success Regime, and Department of Health minister Ben Gummer to discuss the matters and his “unequivocal backing" of community hospitals in Cumbria

A document released by the Success Regime this month highlights the reasons why Cumbria’s health services are suffering, such as the “super-ageing” population, high levels of ill health and mental ill health, high utilisation of care homes and hospitals, recruitment problems, the geography of the county and “varied relationships” between the public and their health providers.

Mr. Stewart welcomed many of the suggestions to come out of the document.

He said: “Many of the suggested recommendations relating to addressing remote healthcare, and ageing demographics, are very welcome.

“However, I am deeply concerned about the perceived threat to our cottage hospitals, which I shall be supporting in the strongest possible terms.

“Our so-called ‘cottage’ hospitals are treasured locally as an absolutely critical pillar of community healthcare. And I believe very strongly that these hospitals have a greater role to play in delivering healthcare in this part of Cumbria, rather than a reduced role, and I can see no advantage in reducing their scope or centralising services elsewhere.”

He added that financial issues did not always have to dictate closure. “We have shown, in the past years, that local services can be retained even in a challenging financial context. We have preserved services from community ambulances, to snowploughs, to cinemas, to fire engines. Arguably, none of these are as precious as our community hospitals, though, and I resolve to fight any threat to our beloved community hospitals, in no uncertain terms,” said Mr. Stewart.

The community hospital options are contained in a “progress report” on the Success Regime. No decisions have yet been taken.

You can sign a petition to protect the Mary Hewetson hospital in Keswick at

Euripides and Ken Livingston ...

Ken Livingston suspended from Labour party for calling Hitler a Zionist

For the avoidance of doubt, I am not casting aspersions on Livingston's mental health. I am suggesting that his comments about Hitler were such a massive failure of judgement that those comments can reasonably be described as "mad" in the vernacular sense of the term, and hence the reference to what Euripides said nearly two and a half thousand years ago.

A week's moratorium on EU referendum posts.

The EU referendum is extremely important but it does not take place until 23rd June.

As mentioned in the previous post, there are elections virtually everywhere in the UK on 5th May, e.g. a week from today.

There are also things going on in West Cumbria in relation to both our local health service and the so-called "success regime" and proposed nuclear industry developments which may have a massive effect on our county.

There will therefore be a short pause in posts on the subject of the EU referendum on this blog while I focus for the next week or so on 1) local issues in Cumbria and 2) issues relating to the May 5th elections.

Local elections - one week to go

One week from today there will be various elections affecting almost all voters in England, Scotland and Wales for

Police and Crime Commissioners in England
Many local councils
Mayor and Assembly in London
Scottish parliament
Welsh assembly

If Conservatives are successful, what our country could have:
  • Strong Conservative councils across England giing value for taxpayers’ money
  • Effective Conservative Police and Crime Commissioners in England and Wales working hard to keep our streets safer
  • Labour out in Wales after 17 long years in office
  • A strong opposition in Scotland, holding the SNP to account
  • A Mayor who will stand up for our capital city to deliver his Action Plan for Greater London

Or we could wake up to something very different. A Labour Party running parts of our country, led by Jeremy Corbyn, a man who wants to:
  • Put up income tax on hardworking families
  • Print money to pay for public services
  • Back unrestricted strikes
  • Abolish our Armed Forces
Whatever your view, use your vote on Thursday 5th May

Theresa May writes on policing in Cumbria

The home secretary writes:

Conservative Police and Crime Commissioners across England and Wales have shown that they are vital to making local communities safer. They have had the power to hire good chief constables and to fire bad ones, they have set policing priorities for the local area and have overseen budgets of hundreds of millions of pounds. And since the last election three and a half years ago, crime is down by more than a quarter.

It’s a serious role and only by voting for Peter McCall in Cumbria can people be sure that it is done well: to work with the Government to cut crime, to spend taxpayers' money wisely, and to keep the local community safe and secure.

So on Thursday 5th May vote for Peter McCall to be your Police and Crime Commissioner for the next four years.
Thank you,

Theresa May
Home Secretary

Promoted by Alan Mabbutt on behalf of the Conservative Party, both at 4 Matthew Parker Street, London, SW1H 9HQ

This twitter "celebration" is quite literally balls ...

I was rather baffled this morning to see that my twitter feed today was filling up with messages referring to "Ed Balls Day!" and using the hashtag #EdBallsDay which as of earlier today was the top trend in the UK and had been used over 10,000 times.
Turns out this relates to a Twitter fail five years ago today
Hat tip to Rosina Sini at the BBC for explaining that on 28 April 2011 Ed Balls, who was shadow chancellor at the time, tweeted his own name in error.

He was urged by his aide to search Twitter for articles mentioning his name, but instead of doing a search he tweeted his own name by mistake.

So on 28 April Twitter rejoices in the madness and celebrates Ed Balls.

To paraphrase Michael Heseltine, this twitter event really is complete Balls ...

Quote of the day 28th April 2016

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Peter McCall's priorities for fighting crime in Cumbria

Peter McCall: Do you believe in crime targets?

Peter's response to the question, "Do you believe in crime targets?"

Peter McCall on the role of Police and Crime Commissioners,

I voted today by post for Peter McCall, the Conservative candidate to be Cumbria's second Police and Crime Commissioner. I believe he will be an excellent commissioner if elected.

Here Peter explains how he sees the role of Police and Crime Commissioner

And many a true word is spoken in jest ...

The previous post listed and linked to some spoof posts which were funny.

This is one I'm sharing because it makes in a mildly amusing way a point which is actually true.

On 2nd April - the day after April Fool's Day - NewsThump published an article called

People go back to believing everything they read on the internet.

E.g. the suggestion is that on the first of April people know that there may be joke posts and articles so they actually check things, but the following day they stop doing that and are often far too credulous.

It's meant as a joke but this really is a case of "many a true word is spoken in jest."

Much of this article isn't really a spoof at all, it's very good advice. Particularly the final sentence which reads as follows:

"Internet users are reminded to be careful of what they read – and to remember the important rule that if you can summarise a complex position with a single line of text and an attractive picture, it’s probably not true any day of the year and not just on April the 1st."

Spoof posts of the week, including "Doctor's strike results in Dalek victory ..."

Amusing comic spoofs of news reports this week include

Grim Reaper given final written warning

    (NewsThump say "a Divine Source" told them God is "incandescent with rage" with him)

They also balanced a story that

Obama told America would have been stronger and more influential in British Empire


Brexit campaign tell countries they want to renegotiate with to mind their own business.

Meanwhile at the Daily Mash, stories include

Woodland Sprites demand the return of the changeling calling itself Michael Gove,


Nick Clegg publishes his nectar points statement.

The Evening Harold reports that

Ted Cruz and John Kasich have invited Donald Trump to a wedding at Walder Frey's castle.

But the best spoof news story this week has to be the NewsThump piece,

Doctors' strike results in Daleks conquering the universe from which my favourite lines include

"The industrial action led to unforeseen consequences after Davros escaped from The Crucible and destroyed all other life in the galaxy."

“I don’t think anyone could have predicted that Davros and his legions would escape and ravage every planet in an entire galactic cluster,” said Rassilon, Lord High President of Gallifrey.

“Just because he does it every single year like clockwork is no reason to suspect it might happen again.”

"It is reported some Doctors defied the strike with Colin Baker enduring shouts of ‘Scab’ and ‘Blackleg’ as he entered the Tardis to do his 4.3 million year shift, but he unsurprisingly failed to do anything useful."

Martin Wolf assesses the arguments for Brexit.

The favourite argument used by "leave" supporters to dismiss the arguments of any economic commentator or businessmen in favour of staying in the EU is to suggest that they supported Euro Entry - and where the person did, often on similar grounds to the reason they are now arguing for Remain, that's fair enough - and say "Wrong then, wrong now."

They cannot use that one against Martin Wolf, chief economist at the Financial Times: as I have previously noted here, he was a strong opponent of scrapping the pound in favour of the Euro and has been described as one of the five people who were most influential in saving the pound and keeping Britain out of the Eurozone. So he absolutely is not some kind of  passionate Europhile.

Which makes what he had to say in the FT about the leave arguments all the more powerful. I am still deciding how to vote but I find Martin's arguments extremely important.

In the FT here, Wolf lists what he sees as the ten main arguments put forward by campaigners for Britain to leave the EU as follows:

1) EU membership has brought few benefits
2) EU membership has imposed huge costs
3) There is no status quo - the EU will integrate further and after a Remain vote take more control over the UK
4) The UK should leave because a eurozone break-up would damage the UK economy.
5) The EU is growing more slowly than the rest of the world and this may hold back the UK
6) Membership of the EU prevents the UK from opening up world markets
7) It would be easy to agree on alternatives to EU membership
8) It will be easy for the UK to obtain a good deal from the EU, in their own interest, after a Leave vote. Often this argument is supported on the basis that the rest of the EU runs a trade surplus with the UK, which it will be desperate to keep.
9) It will be easy to reach an agreement on controlling immigration.
10) The uncertainty associated with leaving the EU would be modest.

A shortened form of his response to these points is as follows (Text in italic is the Brexit argument: text in bold is the response.)

"First, membership has brought few benefits. This is false. The Centre for European Reform estimates that it has raised trade with EU members by 55 per cent, increasing productivity and output. Trade creation within the EU has far exceeded diversion of trade from elsewhere."

"Second, membership has imposed huge costs. In fact the net fiscal cost is a mere 0.5 per cent of gross domestic product. Moreover, this could be regained in full only if the UK abandoned altogether its preferential access to the EU market. The UK is also one of the least regulated high-income economies."

"Third, an increasingly integrated eurozone will dictate to the UK. Yet a full political union of the eurozone looks quite unlikely. Its members also differ on many points, which opens up opportunities for UK influence."

"Fourth, the UK should leave because a eurozone break-up would damage the UK economy."

"If the eurozone broke up in a disorderly fashion, the damage to its closest partners might be substantial. Yet the EU will remain the UK’s biggest trading partner indefinitely. Thus the UK would be damaged by a eurozone break-up, whether in the EU or not. Arguing that leaving would shield the UK against such a disaster would be like arguing Canada should leave the North American Free Trade Agreement, to avoid a US financial crisis. It makes no sense."

"Fifth, the UK should leave because the EU is slow-growing. It is plausible that the UK’s trade with the rest of the world will expand relative to trade with its slow-growing neighbours. But reducing access to EU markets deliberately would make sense only if membership prevented the UK from trading with the rest of the world."

"Sixth, membership of the EU prevents the UK from opening up world markets. Yet the EU was a moving force in three successful global trade negotiations: the Kennedy, Tokyo and Uruguay rounds.  The clout of the EU gives it far greater capacity to open up the markets of, say, China, India or the US than the UK could do on its own."

"Seventh, it would be easy to agree on alternatives to EU membership."

Wolf points out, however, that those recommending leaving have no agreed position. Reviewing the various options he concludes that "In all, the more sovereignty the UK wishes to regain, the less preferential access it retains. This trade-off cannot be fudged."

"Eighth, it will be easy for the UK to obtain whatever it wants from the EU."

"This is naive. Divorces are rarely harmonious. Moreover, countries with big surpluses with the UK (notably Germany) would continue to sell their goods to the UK, even if Brexit led to a small rise in the import tariff. The share of UK trade done with the rest of the EU is also far greater than the share of EU trade done with the UK. Thus the idea that a departing UK could dictate terms is a fantasy."

"Ninth, it will be easy to reach an agreement on controlling immigration. But if the UK wanted to retain preferential access to EU markets it would be required to retain labour mobility."

"Tenth, the uncertainty associated with leaving the EU would be modest. In fact, the uncertainties would be pervasive: we do not know what the UK government negotiating an exit would want; we do not know what the rest of the EU would offer; we do not know how long negotiations would last; and we do not know what the outcome would be."

You can read Martin Wolf's arguments in full on the FT website here and whether you are supporting Leave, Remain or are undecided, I strongly recommend you do so.

Quote of the day 27th April 2016

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Shadow Chancellor's PPS resigns after admitting extraordinary Facebook Posts

Until today Labour MP Naz Shah was PPS to the Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell.

However, it has now transpired that in social media posts in 2014, a few months before her election as an MP, she had

* Apparently suggested that the entire Jewish population of Israel should be deported to the USA
   (source Guido Fawkes here, see also Jewish Chronicle here)

* Used language like "The Jews are rallying" to encourage people to take an anti-Israel position
   (source Guido Fawkes here)

* Compared Israel to Hitler (see here)

She has now resigned as PPS to the Shadow Chancellor and issued the following apology

If a Conservative MP had said something like this the calls from Labour for him or her to resign would have been deafening.

It will be interesting to see what action Labour takes.

Who are the real voices of Leave?

It isn't impossible to find people making an intelligent, optimistic, free-market case for a Britain which would be open to trade with the whole world rather than a haven for Xenophobic little Englanders.

The trouble is that you do have to go out and look for them.

Writing as a professional economist - e.g. someone with two degrees in the discipline who has used the skills I acquired with those degrees for the majority of my professional life - I was not expecting the debate about the economic advantages of Leave versus Remain to be the walkover for the latter which it has been to date.

The economic case about the risks of Brexit put by George Osborne and the Treasury is not without substance or supporting arguments, and it is silly and childish to dismiss their case as pure scaremongering but that does NOT mean there are no counterarguments and personally I think they have overstated a legitimate case.

But it is most depressing that there has been almost no publicity given to the views of one of Britain's most distinguished living economists, Professor Patrick Minford, who I know does support "leave."

I'm not sure whether I am more disappointed with those pro-Brexit news outlets who have made no attempt to cover the fact that a very strong majority of serious economic commentators believe that Brexit would make Britain poorer, or with the BBC and pro-remain media who have suggested that there is unanimity among such commentators in support of that view.

Both are wrong - there is certainly a heavy majority among financial institutions and economists that leaving the EU would cause an economic shock, but that believe is not universal. If you look carefully you can find views such as those expressed here or here by Professor Minford taking a different view.

However, I have also read that Professor Minford is not at all happy about the way that the official "leave" campaigners have put the case and I do not blame him. As I understand his argument from the pitifully simplified versions which have come through the media, his point is that to get the benefits of leave Britain would need to use the freedom that this would bring to adopt free trade policies, drop tariff and similar barriers and let people buy things at the worlds cheapest market rates - even if that means some industries (e.g. steel) would find things difficult.

There is actually a strong argument for this but it is not the one being made. So we have to ask, what would happen if Britain votes to leave, does the country really support the policies which would be needed to make an exit strategy work?

In the past couple of days both Andrew Stuttaford at the National Review and Ben Kelly who runs a pro-Brexit blog called the Sceptic Isle have argued that Leave needs a plan and an exit Strategy, probably along the lines of the Leave Alliance's Flexcit proposal.

But meanwhile distinguished leave supporters like Charles Moore of the Spectator have been pushing the absurd idea that the Leave campaign would be wrong to lay out a plan for Britain's future.

So which is the real voice of Leave? I don't know, and if I did it would be much easier to decide how to vote. But unless those Leave supporters who do have a constructive plan manage to get it to the attention of the British voter before June 23rd, I doubt their side will carry the day - or deserve to.

Quote of the day 26th Apriol 2016

Monday, April 25, 2016

Ten days to the PCC, council, Scottish, Welsh and London elections

There are just 10 days until voters go to the polls across the UK. Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party are relying on support from the trade unions for their final push.
Will you help us get the message out? Donate today and we will put your money towards calls, letters and leaflets to ensure voters go to the polls. But we have to decide how many people we’re able to contact by 9am tomorrow.

With your vote on Friday 6th May, this is what our country could have:
  • Strong Conservative councils across England continuing to deliver value for taxpayers’ money
  • Effective Conservative Police and Crime Commissioners in England and Wales working hard to keep our streets safer
  • Labour out in Wales after 17 long years in office
  • A strong opposition in Scotland, holding the SNP to account
  • A Mayor who will stand up for our capital city to deliver his Action Plan for Greater London
Or we could wake up to something very different. A Labour Party running parts of our country, led by a man who wants to:
  • Put up income tax on hardworking families
  • Print money to pay for public services
  • Back unrestricted strikes
  • Abolish our Armed Forces

Thank you for your support,
The Conservative Party

Promoted by Alan Mabbutt on behalf of the Conservative Party, both at 4 Matthew Parker Street, London, SW1H 9HQ

A fast motion car-crash

Kathy Gingell has an article one the "Conservative Woman" site which argues that Vote Leave is busy digging its own – and Brexit’s - grave. She says that

"If Teflon Dave pulls off yet another of his Houdini escapes, the reason will be not the strength of his hand, but the incompetence of the campaign leaders of Brexit's troops."

After listing the errors of recent weeks - the failure to respond effectively to the Treasury's arguments, the abysmal appearance of Dominic Cummings before the select committee (see previous post - but only watch the clip if you are a pro-remain sadist or a pro-leave masochist), the failure to pitch an appropriate reply to Obama, Kathy writes

"Everyone (and I am talking about committed and politically well-connected Eurosceptics) I have spoken to is in despair. We have lost, they tell me."

Her advice to the Leave campaign is:

"Vote Leave has two months to get its act together – starting now. So, in a spirit of constructive criticism, I would advise them to:
  • Devise a less arrogant campaign – one that appeals across the board and recognises people have reasonable fears about their economic future and “show that a prosperous alternative is possible" as the Telegraph advised.
  • Remember the foe is Remain, not Ukip! This means a hand of friendship put out to Nigel Farage and the GO team - fast.
  • Stop treating Mr Farage like some sort of pariah or outcast. Yes, it might be great that six cabinet Ministers have nailed their colours to Brexit’s mast but on their own, Vote Leave looks like a typical Tory bash – the sort that turns off three quarters of the British public.
  • Face up to BBC bias. With typical Tory arrogance they seem to think a higher frequency of their own appearances on the BBC means the Corporation has reformed itself. Wrong. It continues to be deeply biased as News-watch keeps showing. Despite this, no co-ordinated effort appears to be being made to put on the pressure on, or to protest – despite Laura Kuenssberg’s and Norman Smith’s latest outrageously negative (for Brexit) assessments of the importance of Obama
  • Take themselves off properly  to plan their (still to be decided) campaign message and ground campaign, rather than cobbling up overnight cynical U-turns as today."
I'm not sure every part of this is right, but they would certainly do a lot better with this strategy than the present mess.

Andrew Tyrie questions Dominic Cummings of Vote Leave

I don't think I have ever seen a conversation in which someone shows themselves as shockingly divorced from reality as the Campaign Director of Vote Leave demonstrated himself to be in this interview before the Treasury select committee.

For the benefit of anyone who is not already aware of this, £19.1 billion is the annual sum which Britain would have had to pay the EU but for the dedicated negotiation on our behalf of a great prime minister, Margaret Thatcher. However, thanks to Maggie a rebate of £6 billion is applied before the payment is made, and that money never leaves the UK treasury. £13 billion is the sum actually paid to the EU.

This is no more a matter of opinion than that 2 + 2 = 4.

Andrew Tyrie is therefore right to challenge the figures produced by Vote Leave and Dominic Cummings is making an error of fact when he claims that Britain pays the EU £19 billion a year or £350 million a week. This is recognised even by intelligent leave supporters like Richard North who writes here that

"This £350m figure is completely discredited and even many of the apparatchiks dutifully toeing the line don't actually believe it. But not one of them has the courage to confront Dominic Cummings, author of this stupidity."

The interview below even had Simon Heffer asking: "Whose side is Vote Leave really on?" Heffer refers to Cummings's appearance as a "bizarre performance", which "left some of us wondering whether he was on day release from a secure facility".

From Vote Leave's perspective it goes down from there, a point recognised by intelligent Leave supporters (see next post ...)

Peter Lilley on TTIP

Nine out of ten of those who have criticised the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership have been talking nonsense - which certainly includes Jeremy Corbyn and David Owen.

However, Peter Lilley is the tenth.

Peter advises both the Remain and Leave sides of the debate that they need to look very hard at the terms of the proposed treaty.

As someone with impeccable free trade credentials, Peter's concerns expressed at Conservative Home here have to be taken a lot more seriously than those of most other critics of the proposed treaty.

Peter does not oppose removing tariffs and quotas, or in principle the harmonisation of product specifications, but he is concerned about the tribunals to be set up to review trade disputes under the Investor-State Dispute Settlement System (ISDS) proposed by the draft treaty.

His three main concerns about these tribunals are that
  1. US companies could sue the UK government should it want to take back into the public sector privately provided services in the NHS, education, and so forth  or open fewer services to private provision. The EU and the UK government have denied that this is possible. But a cogent Counsel's Opinion argues that because these tribunals can award unlimited fines they could exert a chilling effect on government decision making.
  1. These tribunals give foreign multinationals their own privileged legal system, too costly for smaller foreign companies (since the average case costs $8 million), and from which UK companies are excluded.
  1. The Stabilisation Clause protects all investments made under the treaty for at least 20 years. A recent legal treatise explains how this could undermines parliamentary democracy by binding future parliaments. Of course, the UK enters into other long term treaties and contracts but our government can always renegotiate or, in the last resort, resile from them. Exceptional circumstances may make that necessary: but if they don't work well, Peter argues that even if we subsequently left the EU. So we would still be bound by the Stabilisation Clause for 20 years

If I understand Peter correctly, he is not endorsing the ridiculous and hysterical suggestion of some anti-globalisation lefties and thoughtless "leave" supporters that TTIP could allow companies to enforce the wholesale privatisation of the NHS - the issue is with the 6% or so of NHS spending which has already been outsourced and he gives an example of one failed outsourcing initiative from the last Labour government which had to be taken back into the public sector.

Like a large number of medical professionals who previously had concerns about this point, I think the safeguards being proposed to prevent TTIP being used to keep part of our Health service in the private sector against the wishes of an elected government are adequate. But it is fair enough that these and other terms of the treaty should be kept under scrutiny.

TTIP is potentially worth billions to the UK, the USA, and every other country involved. Whether we are in or out of the EU, lower trade barriers in both directions between ourselves and the USA would be a very good thing. But we do need to make sure the terms of the treaty are right.

Knee-jerk opposition to TTIP such as we have seen from some quarters is entirely unhelpful and destructive, and has lowered my opinion of anyone who goes along with it. But when someone like Peter Lilley makes carefully judged and constructive criticisms that is another matter entirely. I hope the government (and the EU negotiators if there is a "remain" vote) will take them into account.


Today is ANZAC day when we remember the sacrifices of soldiers from Australia and New Zealand in two world wars.

The debt we owe to our cousins from Australia and New Zealand is incalculable. Their courage and faithfulness as allies is equalled by few and surpassed by none.

Quote of the day 25th April 2016

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Look who the SNP are copying

There is nothing new under the sun. Here is this year's SNP election poster. (Bit of a cheek for a party which has been running Scotland for nine years to promise change but not a surprise.)

And look who they got the idea from ...

Sunday music slot: Tallis's Salvator Mundi

Sugar savages Khan

Lord Alan Sugar - a former minister in the last Labour Government, though he now sits as a crossbench peer - has made an astonishing and, in my opinion, devastating, attack on Labour's London mayoral candidate Sadiq Khan.

You can read his comments in the Indy here.

Sugar accuses Khan of being responsible, as campaign manager for Ed Miliband's leadership bid and then one of the most senior MPs to nominate Jeremy Corbyn, of single-handedly wrecking the Labour party through causing it to pick leaders who follow anti-business policies.

He described Khan and Jeremy Corbyn as the "Laurel and Hardy" of politics.

Here are some extracts from his comments:

"Khan ran Ed Miliband's leadership campaign. He was in the room when Miliband turned on people like me, attacking the country's largest employers as 'predators', as well as Corbyn who famously called Britain's businesses the real enemy."

"Khan was one of the most senior politicians to nominate Corbyn as leader. Without Khan's endorsement Corbyn would never have made it onto the ballot."

"Under Corbyn the lunatics have taken over the asylum. His ambition is to drag Britain back to the 1970's - union blackmail and three-day weeks, when our best and brightest were leaving the country in droves. Militants, Trots, anti-semites and terrorist sympathisers all seem to have been welcomed into Labour with open arms."

A warning from a friend or a threat from an enemy?

I am morally certain that President Obama's remarks were intended as a warning from a friend.

I can see that they could be interpreted as a threat. Indeed, had the supporters of leave not gone over the top in attacking him from even before he made his speech, we might have had all the press reporting it that way, which would have made the President's intervention more of  boost for "leave."

However, I will be very surprised if the overall impact of this whole affair is not a boost for Remain, because the attacks on Obama from a number of "Leave" sources - I'm not talking about those who politely disagreed or those who used gentle and effective humour like the "Lord North" tweet, I'm talking about the completely unacceptable jibes about the President's ancestry or those who accused him of being anti-British - will reduce the respect in which the people who made them are held, and the extent to which people listen to their arguments.

This sort of nonsense will damage both the people who indulge in it, and the Leave campaign.

Inside or outside the EU we need to be on good terms with America. If anything we will need that friendship more if we leave.

Since it looks like the Republicans are about to hand the forthcoming election to Hilary Clinton on a silver platter by nominating someone completely unelectable - only the FBI can stop her now - and she's echoed Obama's comments, any senior Leave supporters who want to have a cat in hell's chance of being taken seriously, or getting the votes of intelligent people, need to start rebuilding some fences with our friends across the Atlantic.

Quote of the day 24th April 2016

Saturday, April 23, 2016

To mark St George's day and the Shakespeare anniversary Richard II "Sceptred Isle" speech

Remembering Shakespeare 400 years on

Arguably the greatest ever playwright and poet, a man who really "stood on the shoulders of giants" died 400 years ago today.

William Shakespeare's plays and poetry are inspirational - some of the funniest and most profound things ever written.

He was a man of his time but so many of the things he wrote speak across the centuries.

With millions throughout the world I salutes the Bard of Stratford on Avon.

Here is one of the many quotes for which he is worth remembering.

A song for St George's Day: Vera Lynn sings There'll Always be an England

Road Rage and roundabout safety.

Road range is never something wise people succumb to even when they're in the right. (And no mortal human being, no matter how good a driver, is right every time.)

I dare say it is pretty unlikely that the driver who appeared to make a serious attempt to run me off the road at the Howgate Roandabout a few minutes before 1pm today will read this, but if he does, and if he owns a copy of the Highway code he would be well advised to read the section on roundabouts - rules 184 to 190 - and look at the illustrations on routes through a roundabout.

If he does not have a hard copy to hand he could read the Highway Code online here.

Both hard copy and online versions of the Highway Code show an illustration for a roundabout with four exits, like the Howgate roundabout just North of Whitehaven, with two lanes going into it, which applies to that roundabout if you are heading South along the A595 Distington by-pass as both I and the driver who apparently attempted to run me off the road were.

Both illustrations suggest that if taking the first exit from such a roundabout you should approach in the left hand lane unless road signs indicate otherwise, if taking the second exit you would normally approach in the left hand lane unless road signs or a good reason indicate otherwise, and when taking the third exit you should normally approach in the right hand lane.

Rule 185 of the highway code advises that on a roundabout you should "give priority to traffic approaching from your right, unless directed otherwise by signs, road markings or traffic lights"

Rule 186 of the highway code advises that when taking the third exit on a roundabout with four exits, drivers should
  • "signal right and approach in the right-hand lane
  • keep to the right on the roundabout until you need to change lanes to exit the roundabout"

  • Rule 187 of the highway code says that drivers should "In all cases watch out for and give plenty of room to" a number of specific road user groups including. quote
    • "traffic crossing in front of you on the roundabout, especially vehicles intending to leave by the next exit
    • traffic which may be straddling lanes or positioned incorrectly"
    This afternoon, by approaching in the right hand line on the Distington by-pass I approached by the right hand lane, which I believe was the correct thing to do under rule 186.

    I am not in the last concerned that the other driver involved chose a different route through the roundabout because that is not what put lives at risk

    What did put at risk the lives of the other driver, myself, our two passengers (one in each car) and other road users was the fact that he ignored rules 185 and 187, failing to give plenty of room when required by the Highway code to do so in what looked like a deliberate attempt to make it difficult for me to safely get into the right lane.

    This is far from being the first time I have had difficulty with someone who apparently has a different view from me about the appropriate route over the Howgate Roundabout when heading south down the A595 from the Distington by-pass and towards Whitehaven. But it was by far the closest to causing what could have been a nasty accident.

    The Highway code is clear that in such cirumstances you try to keep clear of other vehicles even if you think they are wrongly positioned. There is no consolation in being right if you kill someone.

    Happy St George's Day!

    A very happy Saint George's day to everyone reading this.

    I distrust most forms of nationalism but celebrate all forms of patriotism.

    Nationalism begins when we start defining out nation in contrast to someone else's but patriotism simply means being proud of our own country and loving out own country. Celebrating your own country is entirely consistent with recognising that other people love theirs.

    As a British patriot who rejects British nationalism, I refuse to allow anyone to bully me into hostility to Britain's neighbours or allies, but I celebrate all the achievements and cultures of the four home nations of the United Kingdom, and today, on the festival of the Patron Saint of England, we celebrate St George's Day.

    Raise a glass to St George and England!

    Why have so many famous people died in 2016?

    There is an interesting analysis on the BBC website here on why so many famous people have died so far in 2016.

    Their basic argument is that the post-war baby boomer generation have reached an age when more of them are dying, and combined with this there are more famous people than there used to be.

    Responding to Obama

    You can reasonably say that you are interested in whatever advice your friends and allies want to share and you in turn will be frank with them.

    Or you can say that each country's affairs are their own business.

    But if you loudly welcome each intervention be a foreign statesman which you agree with, while condemning those which you don't agree with as unwelcome interference, there is a word for people like you.

    If you said nothing about Obama's comments encouraging Scotland to stay in the UK but bitterly criticised his encouragement for the UK to stay in the EU, there is a word for you.

    And the word is hypocrite.

    If your argument is that leaving the EU is a way to build better trade links with nations all round the world, it's relevant what foreign nations think.

    I can't believe that a normally sensible and intelligent minister said that President Obama's remarks do not reflect US trade policy. But apparently he did.

    Ironically, if the supporters of Leave had kept quiet about the Obama visit, and said afterwards that "He has his opinion and we have ours" or "I agree with President Obama that this is a decision for the British people," then the President's speech might have had some impact, but not much.

    Indeed, if attention had then focussed on Obama's "get to the back of the queue" remarks those certainly had the potential to annoy the British public.

    As it is I think the ungentlemanly tone of comments from Leave like "Butt out Barack" let alone things like the comments about his Kenyan ancestry have not shown the leave side in a good light.

    Jonathan Freedland argued in the Guardian yesterday that the attitude of the leave camp to President Obama had highlighted the way President Obama had crushed the Brexit fantasy and turned a blow into a disaster for their side.

    He may be reading into it what he wants to read into it, but I think Freedland has a point.

    Quote of the day 23rd April 2016 - Professor Roger Scruton on relative truth

    Friday, April 22, 2016

    The Gove Interventions

    I have been dashing round the country over the past three days and did not have time to write up in full what I thought about Michael Gove's interventions this week at the time he made them.

    Gove is certainly the most senior minister, and probably the most respected figure, among those who are supporting a "leave" vote. He is one of comparatively few people on either side who had, up to this week, had a reasonably good referendum campaign.

    However, although there were some positives to his speeches this week, on balance I found them disappointing.

    As John Rentoul of the Independent pointed out, this was Gove's most powerful and important contribution.

    It sounds great, but I'm far from certain that he's right.

    For a start, there is the basic problem that David Lidington pointed out with the position of almost all supporters of "Leave" including Michael Gove, and it shows clearly in the above argument.

    Virtually to a man and woman, "Leave" supporters seem to believe both that the other EU countries are determined to outvote anything the UK wants, even if this is irrational  - since many aspects of the reforms Britain has been calling for the EU to adopt would very often help the rest of Europe too - and yet they simultaneously believe that if Britain votes to leave, rational self interest would make them offer us good trading terms as an ex-member.

    I just don't buy that. If they're irrationally against us now they will be more irrationally against us if we vote to leave. Not least because if Britain wants to retain access to the Single Market without accepting free movement of EU citizens or paying into the kitty we will be seen as a free rider.

    I wasn't happy to hear Michael Gove describe the cost of EU membership as £350 million a week when as Andrew Dilnot pointed out the figure of £190 million a week would be more accurate and the £350 million figure is potentially misleading.

    I have already linked to an article by Peter North which explains why Michael Gove's suggestion that Britain could leave the EU without activating Article 50 was foolish and completely unhelpful.

    This was not an argument that you would expect a serious player to make. Boris Johnson seems to have a license from the electorate to get away with talking complete rubbish - although he may find his comments on Barack Obama's Kenyan ancestry were pushing the limits of it. The sort of voters who have up to now liked Michael Gove are the kind who like people to get their facts right.

    For the same reason it was incredibly foolish for Michael Gove to quote "Open Europe" and nominate them as a counterpoint to the (overwhelming majority of) economic commentators who have suggest that there will be a negative shock from leaving.

    I presume the Open Europe report he is referring to has to be  Where Next: A liberal free-market guide to Brexit to which I have previously linked.

    What this document actually says about Brexit is not that there will be no negative impact from leaving. Is says that other things being equal there  WILL be a negative growth impact from leaving the EU, which Britain MIGHT be able to use it's increased freedom to reverse IF the right policies are followed. To quote the executive summary of the Open Europe document:

    "The EU referendum is a crucial decision about Britain’s future, but the campaign so far has failed to adequately address how life outside the EU might look. It will not be an apocalypse and it will not be a utopia. The growing economic evidence suggests that there would be a small negative economic result from Brexit, probably in the region of 0.5% - 1.5% of GDP in the long run, presuming a reasonable trade agreement is struck between the UK and the EU.
    The question then is whether the UK can use its new found freedoms to offset this cost or reverse it to a positive outcome.
    We believe it is possible, but the path to prosperity outside the EU lies through:
      * free trade and opening up to low cost competition,
     * maintaining relatively high immigration (albeit with a different mix of skills), and
     * pushing through deregulation and economic reforms in areas where the UK has historically been sub-par compared to international partners

    There is no doubt that such an approach would disappoint a number of people on the "Leave" side and whether there is appetite for such changes in the UK is unclear.
    One thing that is clear is that Brexit cannot be all things to all people."

    SNP all over the place on whether they can call a second IndyRef

    The SNP said during the Scottish Independence Referendum that it was a "once in a generation" opportunity to change Scotland's status.

    After the referendum they have been twisting on the hook they thus impaled themselves on about whether they can call another one.

    Alex Salmond who originally made the "once in a generation" comment went back on it almost as soon as he lost the referendum and for this reason and money others, does not deserve to have anyone believe a single word he says.

    Nicola Sturgeon tried very hard while the SNP were setting their manifesto for the coming Scottish elections, to keep happy her hardline supporters who want another referendum, without making any promises which would force her to call one if she was likely to lose it.

    Two days ago she made a speech which appeared to suggest that she would like to call a second referendum appeared to suggest that the SNP would support another referendum - prompting Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson to suggest that if the SNP did try to do that, David Cameron should tell Nicola Sturgeon to "Take a hike".

    However, when you look at the fine print of the SNP manifesto and of Nicola Sturgeon's speech it does not give a clear mandate for them to demand anything of the sort

    Sturgeon says that public opinion needs to change first, then the SNP need to gain a mandate to call another referendum by winning an election with a manifesto commitment to do that, then they need to win the second referendum.

    And their 2016 Holyrood manifesto does not include a clear commitment to call a second indyref. Which appears to mean they cannot do it in the term of the forthcoming Scottish parliament without a clear pretext - such as they might claim a Brexit vote on 23rd June would provide (but only if they think they can win.)

    Either the SNP are all over the place and don't know what they are doing, or the talk of a second referendum is largely smoke and mirrors. Or both.

    Counterintuitive argument of the week

    And just to be clear, "counterintuitive" is not necessarily the same thing as "wrong."

    Stephen Bush in the Spectator, after pointing out how the Brexit campaign have mishandled Obama's visit, asks if that could actually help them here.

    His argument is not as stupid as it sounds.

    If there is a high turnout, it is extremely likely that "remain" will win on June 23rd.

    But if there is a low turnout, it is much more likely that "leave" will.

    That's because the people who support Brexit are generally much more fanatical than those who do not. You can also make an argument that they tend to include people with a higher propensity to vote - particularly older voters - while "Remain" supporters include more young people, who are less likely to vote.

    Actually though, the characteristics cut different ways,

    Propensity to vote "Leave" is much more common on the political right than the left, and among older people rather than the young.

    Propensity to vote "Remain" is much more common among those with higher levels of education, with the overwhelming majority of graduates backing remain, and among those with higher income levels.

    When you look at it that way, perhaps since I am a middle class professional Tory voter in his fifties with two academic degrees, perhaps it's no surprise that I'm still trying to decide how to vote!

    But what it also shows is that factors correlated to propensity to vote are also pointing in both directions.

    Gradu8ates and middle class people are more likely to turn out to vote than non-graduates, people in low-paid jobs and NEETs.

    It really is all remarkably unpredictable...

    Worst of both worlds eight

    Some people on both sides of the EU referendum debate have been trying  to have an honest and constructive discussion with the British people

    But there has been far too much nonsense talked on both sides.

    Here is an argument that each side ought to retire.

    1) Britain's Contribution to the EU.

    Every well informed person knows, and I have never heard a "remain" supporter deny, that Britain is a net contributor to the EU budget.

    The amount which Britain pays into EU coffers is large, and has been estimated by Andrew Dilnot, head of the UK Statistical Service, at about £190 million per week.

    You'd think when the truth is that we are paying that much the "leave" campaign could build a powerful argument about this, but instead of using this accurate figure, Vote Leave and various prominent "Leave" supporters persist in repeating a much larger and erroneous figure of £350 million per week which Dilnot has specifically criticised as potentially misleading.

    Were it not for Margaret Thatcher we would indeed be paying a gross contribution of that size, although some of it would come back just as some of what we do pay comes back.

    However, Maggie negotiated a substantial "rebate" which is deducted from all payments we would otherwise have had to make to the EU before a penny is handed over. The "£350 million a week" figure fails to take account of this. You can find that figure in some British and European accounting documents but the Margaret Thatcher rebate is deducted from every pound due to the EU before it is handed over. Therefore £6 billion of the £19 billion gross payment theoretically due, and a similar proportion of that £350 million a week, never leaves the UK's coffers and to suggest that we have to pay £350 billion a week is, in simple English, just plain wrong.

    When criticised for using this misleading figure Vote Leave repeated the allegation that the Office for National Statistics accepted the £350 million figure - arrant nonsense since it was their boss who had called that description of the position misleading.

    2) Putin's view of Brexit.

    A lot of people may suspect that Vladimir Putin would fall about laughing if Britain were to vote to leave the EU. Actually, I might well be one of them.

    However, it is time for the "Remain" side to decommission this particular argument.

    The Russian Embassy have objected, every time someone uses this line, to  Russia being dragged into the debate on Brexit. They have also said that the Russian government has no position on whether Britain should remain a member of the EU.

    Unless someone can find an instance when Mr Putin has actually said that he wants Britain to leave - and I don't believe anyone can - it is not appropriate to go on repeating the allegation that he wants this when there is no hard evidence to justify it. You cannot drag someone into a debate based on a guess about what they think.

    Victoria Wood and Prince RIP

    It is in the nature of things that some of the world's most popular people die each year, but the first three and a half months of 2016 have been utterly awful in this respect.

    Earlier this year, when the number of the most talented musicians, best actors and funniest comedians who had died was already remarkable, someone said that it was as if the Grim Reaper had gone on holiday leaving an intern in charge and the intern was working through a list of the most popular people on the planet.

    That was after the deaths of Alan Rickman, David Bowie and quite a few more well loved people but before we had lost Paul Daniels, Terry Wogan, Ronnie Corbett and now within the space of 48 hours Victoria Wood and Prince.

    Other are far more qualified than me to speak about the talents of these individuals and many tributes have already been paid to both Victoria Wood and Prince by people far more eloquent than I.

    But I will say "Rest in Peace" for both of them - two huge talents lost to us far too soon, two people who will be greatly missed.

    Quote of the day 22nd April 2016

    Thursday, April 21, 2016

    Happy Birthday Ma'am

    Today from Windsor to Westminster, from beacons up and down the country to the fictional village of Ambridge, people have been wishing a very happy birthday to a very remarkable woman. (On the Archers Elizabeth, who also had her birthday today, expressed the hope that Her Majesty has had as nice a birthday as she has.)

    The Queen has given nearly a century of service to this country. We have been very fortunate in our head of state for the whole of my lifetime.

    I am sure everyone in the country hopes she has indeed enjoyed her birthday.

    Quote of the day 21st April 2016