Showing posts from May, 2016

The Labour threat to national security ...

Subject: National Security   Last week’s Queen’s Speech was a One Nation Queen’s Speech from a One Nation Government. It used the opportunity of a strengthening economy to focus on delivering security for working people, increasing life chances for the most disadvantage and strengthening our national security. But the Labour Party want to derail that plan: they are a risk to our nation’s security, our economy’s security and your family’s security. Jeremy Corbyn, Leader of the Labour Party has invited terrorists to our Parliament: ‘It will be my pleasure …to host an event in Parliament where our friends from Hezbollah will be speaking… I’ve also invited friends from Hamas to come and speak as well.’ You can help stop Jeremy Corbyn. Donate £20 today and we will send you a limited edition ‘LABOUR: STILL A RISK TO OUR NATIONAL SECURITY’ mug as a thank you. Thank you for your support, The Conservative Party PS: there aren’t many of these mugs so donate £20 now to make s

Remembering Jutland 100 years on

A hundred years ago today the Royal Navy's Grand Fleet and the German High Seas Fleet were locked in combat in the North sea in what became known as the battle of Jutland. It as far and away the largest naval battle in history up to that point and, on some criteria, was still the largest naval battle of all time. First the Germans led the British scouting force into a trap, and then the tables were turned as the British led the entire German fleet into an even bigger trap, from which they only escaped by fleeing for home under cover of darkness. Because of previously unsuspected design flaws, three British battlecruisers blew up with almost their entire crews of about a thousand men each. In consequence the British lost more ships and more men than the Germans, who claimed a victory. .However, the morning after the battle the Royal Navy, with 27 fully operational battleships and over a hundred other warships, was left in control of the North Sea, from which all German ships

Quote of the day 31st May 2016

Referring to the start of the official referendum campaign: "It needs to begin with an amnesty on misleading, and at times bogus, claims. The public are thoroughly fed up with them. The public are right". (Andrew Tyrie MP, chair of the Treasury Select Committee) He added that "The arms race of ever more lurid claims and counter-claims made by both the leave and remain sides is not just confusing the public. It is impoverishing political debate." Full report available at

Bank holiday music spot: Bach's fourth Brandenburg Concerto


Your vote: Your Future: Your decision - the first two referendum broadcasts

The first referendum broadcasts from each side have now been put out. If you missed either or both, here they both are. The really interesting thing is that while both have, I regret to say, repeated claims that the Treasury select committee and others have advised them to drop, and both had a mixture of positive and negative messages, the "Remain" broadcast about securing the best future for a cute 14 month old boy named Sam has "mood music" which is overwhelmingly sending out positive emotional messages - vote Remain for our children's future. The Leave broadcast is the one which is predominantly negative in tone - the attempted "dog whistle" is "Vote leave or he NHS will collapse and we'll be flooded with millions of Turkish immigrants." So here is "Remain" with "Vote for a bright future for our children." And here is the Leave broadcast, "Vote Leave or the NHS gets it." Your vote. Your future

Treasury Select Committee report on the EU referendum debate

I will probably come back to this several times but the Treasury Select Committee's excellent report on the EU referendum, "The economic and financial costs and benefits of the UK’s EU membership" Is now available at the Hansard website here .

Time for both sides to stop "Blue on Blue"

The worst possible way to engage the majority of voters, particularly those who are not members or supporters of the Conservatives, is to give the impression that the EU referendum is some sort of internal squabble within the Conservative party. It is far more important than that, and it affects everyone in the country. Those on either side of the debate who indulge in personal attacks on their opponents in the same party harm both their cause in the referendum and the cause they will be contesting at the next general election. Paul Goodman was right to write on Conservative Home calling to an end to what he called " This foolish futile leadership challenge chatter ." As Paul pointed out to leave supporters, "All it is likely to do is to distract attention from the referendum at exactly the moment when, thanks to purdah, Leave now at last has a chance to fight the campaign on a level playing field." In three and a half weeks' time British voters wi

Timothy Garton-Ash on Free Speech

A more fundamental principle of freedom even than the right to vote is that of Free Speech. And there is no aspect of freedom and democracy which is more under threat, either in Britain or elsewhere. Timothy Garton-Ash has written a  new book on the subject, Free Speech: Ten Principles for a connected world , and judging by Nick Cohen's commentary on the book on the Guardian/Observer website , I am going to have to read it. Cohen's review is certainly worth a read: it begins as follows. "F reedom is worthless if it is not lived. However important rights are in a constitutional democracy, they will wither unless you use them. From John Milton ’s polemics against the Presbyterian attempts to enforce Calvinist censorship on the England of the 1640s, via John Stuart Mill ’s rebellion against the conformism of the Victorians, to Salman Rushdie ’s argument with the Islamists, the urge to defend and expand freedom of speech has been created by the threats of its enem

Quote of the day 30th May 2016


Sunday music spot: Vivaldi - Concerto Grosso in G Minor


There is not going to be an "EU Army"

I have not lost sight that there is scaremongering going on by some people on both sides in the EU referendum campaign. Anyone who has had more than a cursory look at the articles on this blog will, I hope, recognise that I have been very critical of both, and the fact that I'm trying to share the truth  about one of the issues Leave has bee scaremongering about in this post does not mean "Remain" have a pass from me. Some of the things being said alleging that Britainwill have our armed forces subsumed into an "EU Army" if we vote Remain are beyond ridiculous. As I have previously pointed out, no well-informed person should have a problem with Britain's armed forces taking part in common military action with our allies in Europe. We have been doing it for years through NATO, of which the vast majority of members of the European Union are also members. Has the fact that we have been working with the German Federal Republic through NATO for well over

Quote of the day 29th May 2016


Saturday music spot: Bach - Concerto for 3 Harpsichords


Babies for Brexit?

When I was a student there were all manner of student campaign groups of bizarre kinds, some real, some front organisations, often without any of the people who they supposedly consisted of. For example,  " Tories against Cruise and Trident " or TACT  had been set up by CND-supporting socialists to make a point, and didn't actually have any significant number of Tories in it, if any, and surprisingly enough, " Babies against the Bomb " had not actually been set up by babies. We now seem to be seeing a similar explosion of groupuscles for the Referendum. SCientists for Europe: Scientists for Britain. Economists for Brexit - Women for In. You wonder what on earth each side will try next. Babies for Brexit? One-legged Mongolian basket-weavers for Europe? Dead Statespersons for Britain? Rastafarians for Remain? Remember, you read it here first.

Guilt by association

There are many valid reasons to criticise the EU and many to criticise Jean-Claude Juncker . But the fact that, more than a decade before he was born, Juncker's father was conscripted into Hitler's army is not one of them. Nor is what his father-in-law may or may not have done did during the German occupation of Luxembourg a decade before Juncker himself was born I'm not impressed that some of the British Press and some UKIP supporters on msocial media appear to be trying to make something of this. It's not relevant and it's deeply offensive. Play the ball, not the man.

Quote of the day 28th May 2916


Commandments Eleven and Twelve

OK, I am going to add another couple of commandments for conducting a referendum campaign with dignity and respect ... 11) Thou shall not drag dead people into the argument based  on a guess of how they would vote or on misleading quotes.  I think I shall scream next time someone on either side of the EU referendum debate claims Margaret Thatcher, Winston Churchill, or any other dead political hero as a supporter of their side unless they can produce a verifiable quote which puts the opinions of the individual concerned beyond doubt. Mrs T voted for and emphatically supported the "Remain" side in the previous referndum and, as Prime Minister, used a three-line whip to force the Single European Act through the House of Commons. It is entirely possible that she would take an entirely different view if she were alive today, but sadly she isn't so nobody knows. Winston Churchill is on record as expressing the opinion that a United States of Europe would be a very good

Religious Toleration

Religion can inspire human beings to do great things. Unfortunately hatred of a religious view (including atheism) - by those who have a different view has also inspired some of the worst crimes in history. And no view, be it a religious faith or the more intolerant kinds of atheism, which cannot rise above that and consign it to history deserves to survive into the future. Persecuting people because of their religious views, including the decision not to follow any religious faith, is completely unacceptable, whether it is done by adherents of a slightly different version of the same faith, a different faith, or where either party is an atheist or agnostic. No religious position (again, including atheism) has completely clean hands in this respect although every religious position contains millions of people who do practice tolerance and respect for others. But it is time that egregious acts of religious sectarianism stopped being tolerated, and states which practice religious

A tribute to the power of human imagination

A few days ago I posted Christopher Tin's "Baba Yetu" as a music slot on this blog., because it is a fantastic piece of music. It was also written for the fourth iteration of Sid Meier's computer strategy game, "Civilisation." I am posting the trailer for the sixth iteration of that game, not because I am particularly trying to sell it (I own no shares of other commercial interest in the companies concerned) but because this trailer is an inspiring statement of faith in the power of the human spirit, the human imagination, and human will and courage.

Quote of the day 27th May 2016

"It is with regret that I have to take issue with General Sir Michael Rose, Vice Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham, Major-General Sir Julian Thompson and the other signatories to the Veterans for Britain pamphlet as I have great respect for them, but the spectre of a European army has no place in the context of the controversy of whether to leave the European Union" ( Field Marshall Lord Bramall KG, letter to the Times, 26th May 2016)

Worst of both worlds Ten

It says something about the way the EU referendum campaign has been conducted that this is the tenth in my "Worst of Both Words" series of posts. Each of those posts has identified a comment or argument from each side in the debate which was seriously unwise at best, or complete nonsense at worst. And there is still nearly a month to go! Both sides really need to up their game if they are to provide the British people with the opportunity to choose between sound, accurate, and well-presented arguments. This time I'm going to take aim in three directions: first at those in both campaigns and the press who are stoking bitterness and division, second and third at inaccurate and invalid arguments made by the Remain and Leave campaigns. 1) Talking up anger and division is bad for Britain, and unjustified . Every Conservative parliamentarian who I have asked about this or heard speak about it says that the divisions within the Conservative party are nothing like as bad

Why the Leave campaign should have backed Flexcit

If the official "Leave" campaign were putting forward a comprehensive proposed strategy for Britain to adopt if we quit the EU, such as the Leave Alliance's FLEXCIT proposal, they would of course have come under fire from those making criticisms of the specific details of that proposal. And they would not have been able to run with some of the arguments they have used - for example, the immigration argument would have had to be put far more carefully and while making less extreme claims if the FLEXCIT plan were being followed. (Mind you, with a lot of floating voters that might not have been as big a negative as much of UKIP and other hardliners appear to think) However, if Leave were putting forward a clear plan, they would not be as vulnerable to attacks like the poster and tweet below both of which appeared on Twitter today. I still think this referendum is going to be close and could yet go either way. But both the official Leave campaign, and their rivals a

Quote of the day 26th May 2016


Spoof posts of the week

I gather that the Taleban really has named a new leader, but  this report about who it is should be taken with a pinch of salt. As should the story that a newly discovered passage from the bible advocates leaving the EU . News Thump also have their own unique take on the NHS doctor who joined DA'ESH for better working conditions , Meanwhile, as rumours suggest that the long-awaiting Chilcot report might actually turn out to be worth waiting for and may even eviscerate what's left of the reputation of Tony Blair, the former Prime Minister still doesn't appear to get that the worst way he can help any cause is to speak in favour of it, whether the cause concerned is "Remain" or a " proper ground war " against DA'ESH. One spoof which is not too far from the truth describes this with the headline, Proper ground war needed to defeat ISIS insists proper war criminal . There are a lot of people who would not consider that a joke ...

Speaker tells MPs to "Keep calm and behave like Ken Clarke" ...

Speaker Bercow tweaked the tails of MPs on both sides of the House of Commons (especially leavers, I suspect) asking them to take a leaf out of the book of Ken Clarke, sit down and remain calm ... I've been trying to include the clip and finding, not for the first time that embed codes can be temperamental, but I think it is working now, touch wood ...

What's in a Name?

What will "Legal Highs" be called from tomorrow when they cease to be legal? I gather the answer is "Psychoactive Substances." Whatever we call them, and whether they are legal or not, the evidence strongly suggests that they are dangerous. Let's hope the policy of banning them works.

Palmerston at the FO

It looks like the Keith Simpson MP and Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond have been following my tenth referendum commandment to keep a sense of humour. Keith Simpson asked at Foreign Office questions whether Palmerston, the Foreign Office cat, has been positively vetted, and whether the Foreign Secretary could confirm the that cat is not an EU Commission mole. Comparing Palmerston with the Chancellor's former cat Freya, Mr Hammond replied: “He is definitely not a mole and I can cat egorically assure you that Palmerston has been regularly vetted. “As for being a sleeper, he is definitely a sleeper, I am told very often in my office.” “But unlike Freya, who went missing for two years, his attendance record has been 100 per cent. “My experts tell me that that pretty much rules out the possibility of him being a commission employee.”

Quote of the day 25th May 2016


Free Speech in danger?

If there is one value which is absolutely fundamental to the preservation of democracy it is the one usually attributed to Voltaire: Even Frederick the Great, who made Prussia a great power, made a point of allowing free speech, though not all of his successors followed suit. And if there is one place above all others where the battle for free speech is most critical, it is at Universities and Colleges. Students attend colleges to have their minds expanded, not to be allowed to retreat into "safe spaces" where they can block out ideas they do not like. This is obviously a battle which has to be re-fought in every generation. I was a student between 1980 and 1985, and there were far too many student unions doing outrageous things in the name of "No Platform" policies back then - including, in one particularly egregious case, banning a college Jewish society in the name of anti-racism. Back then, that got the college student union concerned suspended fro

National Security

And now for something completely different: a political message which is nothing to do with the referendum ... A message from the Conservative Party. Subject: National Security Last week’s Queen’s Speech was a One Nation Queen’s Speech from a One Nation Government. It used the opportunity of a strengthening economy to focus on delivering security for working people, increasing life chances for the most disadvantage and strengthening our national security.   But the Labour Party want to derail that plan: they are a risk to our nation’s security, our economy’s security and your family’s security. Jeremy Corbyn, Leader of the Labour Party has invited terrorists to our Parliament: ‘It will be my pleasure …to host an event in Parliament where our friends from Hezbollah will be speaking… I’ve also invited friends from Hamas to come and speak as well.’   You can help stop Jeremy Corbyn. Donate £20 today and we will send you a limited edition ‘LABOUR: STILL A RISK T

Quote of the day 24th May 2016

Mr Duncan Smith seems to think Turkey joining the EU is an imminent threat. Which is odd, because that would require the EU to be efficient and decisive. And Mr Duncan Smith thinks the EU is the opposite. Indeed, that’s one of the main reasons he wants us to leave. “The EU can only move as quickly as its slowest member states, and that means it can only move very slowly indeed,” he said. “EU leaders and the Brussels army of bureaucrats can’t agree on how to fix the euro. They can’t agree on what to do about refugees. They can’t agree on what kind of transatlantic trade partnership they want with the USA – such that it is very unlikely that it will ever happen.” S o the EU is hopelessly slow, inefficient and indecisive, then – even when pursuing trade deals that would be in its own economic interest. Oh dear. That’ll make it difficult for Britain to strike a trade deal with the EU after we’ve voted to leave. Won’t it? Suddenly, Mr Duncan Smith’s view of EU efficiency changed. “W

Should I add an eleventh commandment?

I'm thinking whether I should add to my list of commandments in the post earlier today. 11) Thou shalt not publish the private telephone numbers of people you disagree with and encourage lots of people to ring them. You would think that would be too obvious to need mentioning? Apparently not . And this would have been bad enough if it was the Leave side doing it to the Remain side or vice versa. No, it's the Brexit supporters doing it to one another. Gordon Bennett.  I'm wondering if Jim King was right in the comments and they want to lose.

Gaffe of the Week

On the BBC news today I listened to a presenter who was talking about the Chancellor's warning that Brexit might precipitate a recession. He meant to quote the treasury report as suggesting that " up to 820,000 jobs could be at risk " However he actually said, presumably by accident, that " up to 820,000 votes could be at risk ." Definitely a contender for Freudian Slip of the Week ...

Ten Commandments for conducting a referendum with dignity and respect

1) Thou shalt not accuse all Remain supporters of being unpatriotic Firstly, this does not help your case, and secondly, it isn't true. Saying things like "Remainers hate Britain" may apply in a few egregious cases of "every century but this and every country but his own" such as Emma Thompson , but it does not, repeat not, apply to the vast majority of those who may vote Remain. If someone genuinely believes that Britain will be richer, better defended, and more influential in the world inside the European Union, then the patriotic thing for them to do is vote remain. It is very unlikely indeed that either side in this referendum is going to win by much more than ten percentage points - if that. Both sides have been above 40% in the great majority of polls, which means if the turnout is similar to a general election, there will probably be more than ten million votes in each pile. Do you seriously believe that more than ten million British voters hate our

Quote of the day 23rd May 2016


Turkey - Facts and Scaremongering

A classic example of how not to discuss a sensitive and difficult issue if the way some people on both sides of the EU debate have been discussing Turkey, migration from Turkey, and whether and when Turkey might join the EU. The first thing which has to be recognised in any such discussion is that many people on both sides of the EU debate have changed their minds about Turkey over the years, and this does not prove that they are fools, liars, hypocrites, or have elastic principles. There is a saying often attributed to John Maynard Keyes, although there is no proof that he ever said, it, which is nevertheless a wise one: For thirty years after Turkey's first free elections in 1950, the development of democracy in Turkey was regularly interrupted by army takeovers: the last such military coup was in 1980. But from the election of Turgut Osal's Motherland party government in 1982, there followed a period of 20 years when power alternated as the result of elections bet

Sunday music spot: Charpentier's Marche en Rendeau


Quote of the day 22nd May 2016

(Sir Edward) "Heath loved to sign copies of his own books. Indeed it became a common joke that an unsigned copy of one of his books was a rare item of value. One day, while he was signing, a woman approached him and shyly asked for his autograph, handing him a book. It was Harold Wilson's volume on the governance of Britain. Heath said nothing, inscribing carefully and slowly closing the book before handing it back. The woman thanked him and left with her prize. Nobody said a thing but watching over her shoulder Stephen" (Sherbourne)  "noticed what he had written. 'A million apologises for the damage I have done to Britain, yours Harold Wilson.' " (Anecdote told by  Stephen Sherbourne about his former boss Ted Heath as recounted in yesterday's Times by Lord Danny Finkelstein )

Innocent until proven guilty

There is no crime other than murder which can do more devastation to the lives of vulnerable people than child abuse. There is no crime including murder of which a mistaken or malicious accusation can cause more devastation to the lives of innocent people than child abuse - such harm including, of course, the genuine danger of being murdered by vigilantes who believe the accusations. In the wake of a whole raft of scandals from the Saville Affair to Rotherham, most intelligent people have reached the ghastly conclusion that child abuse is significantly more common in Britain than we had until recently thought, that people of any colour, any creed, and any status in society many be perpetrators or victims, and that our society has failed too many victims by not taking genuine accusations seriously enough. Sadly there is also far too much evidence that we have also failed those who through mistaken identity or malice have been wrongly accused of this awful crime. Danny Finkelstein

The most powerful countries in the world ...

An interesting study by a geostrategy consultancy, reported here on the UK defence site, suggests that Britain is the second most powerful country in the world, behind only the United States, in terms of the ability to project power globally. The study divides nations into Superpowers, Global powers, Regional Powers, and local powers. It finds that the US is the world's only current superpower, and Britain as the only Global Power, putting us ahead of the eight countries ranked as Regional powers which are Russia, China, France, India, Canada, Japan, Germany and India. This is based on global reach and the proportion of the world in which a nation is capable or projecting military power. An interesting analysis, but before we get too complacent I think that, despite the fact that this gives NATO countries the top three spots and two more of the top ten, both the UK and other NATO members states need to take a long hard look at what plans we have in place to deal with any

Justine Greening on the EU vote

Justine Greening has a piece at Conservative Home today about which side she is supporting in the EU referendum and why. I will say that it makes a nice change to read an almost entirely positive piece from either side, which in my opinion does not contain a single scaremonger, personal attack, or dodgy statistic. (I see from the comments that someone on the other side from Justine, who appears to have been on the lookout for something to be offended by, managed to find three words that they could take as an insult but I don't agree with them.) You can read Justine's article in full here  but here is a sample: "I have never been a default ‘Remainer’: in fact, I have always had what I consider to be a pretty sceptical streak when it comes to Europe. When I went to work as a chartered accountant in mainland Europe for a couple of years during the 1990s, working with European clients, I did wonder if I’d come back a converted Europhile, but I didn’t. I grew to love th

Saturday Music spot: a Vivaldi Concerto arranged by Bach

To be clear, this magnificent piece was actually written by Vivaldi for four violins, and in that form was one of the many pieces of Vivaldi's music popularised by the late Yehudi Menuhin after, like almost everything Vivaldi wrote, it had been long forgotten. JS Bach transcribed Vivaldi's music for four harpsichords instead of four violins, and that is this version. It is unbelievable, but true, that the musical world somehow largely managed to forget about both Bach and Vivaldi for one and two centuries respectively. Bach was then "rediscovered" and popularised by Mendelsohn and Vivaldi, almost within living memory, by Menuhin. In my youth I remember reading a letter in The Times by a professor of music about the fact that his generation of music students were told that they would probably never hear a piece by Vivaldi performed, but they ought to study him because he was important to the development of other composers (like, I presume, Bach). He added that he r

Quote of the day 21st May 2016


The problem with polls

Veteran pollster Peter Kellner has a fascinating article in the Politics Counter today. The article is about why he thinks Remain is more likely to win the EU Referendum and most people reading it will probably focus on that conclusion but actually what he says about why opinion polls are often wrong is in some ways even more interesting. I had a twitter exchange with a journalist on the North West Evening mail this week, after taking exception to the results of one of the voodoo polls in the paper. Basically any newspaper website, or any other website, which simply asks readers to click on their view without making any effort to check for things like multiple voting is going to produce totally unreliable results and would be anywhere near correct only by great good fortune in the same way that a broken clock is right twice a day. That's why Mike Smithson of Political Betting calls such polls "Voodoo polls" and he's right, The interesting thing about today&

Surprising news

I was astonished to learn this evening that  Rod Liddle has been suspended from the Labour Party . Not because I find their action in suspending him in the least surprising, obviously. I'm astonished because he was still a member. Considering how rude he has been about them in his columns in the papers for years, it is very remarkable indeed that he has neither resigned nor been expelled before now!

Worst of both Worlds 9: Juncker and Vote Leave lose the plot again

If I had a hundred pounds for every really, really silly tweet, message, article, leaflet or newpaper piece I have read during the EU referendum campaign, including material from both sides, I could afford to retire early. This week's examples of how not to make the argument come from EU Commission President Jean Claude Juncker and from the Vote L:eave campaign. When you are trying to explain to people how you will respond if they do something you are trying to persuade them not to do, it is usually an excellent idea to try to make the comment sound like a warning from a friend rather than a threat from an enemy. You'd think the President of the EU Commission would know that. Apparently not "I'm sure the deserters will not be welcomed with open arms" was what he told readers of the French newspaper Le Monde in an interview reported here by Reuters , adding that "The United Kingdom will have to accept being regarded as a third country, which won