Thursday, June 30, 2016


"The prophets were wrong then and they’re wrong now. London and the whole of the UK will flourish mightily outside of the EU since it is manifestly in the economic interest of our friends and partners to agree a deal that involves mutual and universal access to our markets with no tariffs and no quotas. Whilst we remove ourselves from the EU legal order and the supremacy of the European court and take back control of our immigration policy, with a points-based system that is fairer to all the talented and hard-working people who want to come here, whether they are the 7% of the world that are in the EU or the 93% of the world that is not. This is our chance to think globally again, to lift our eyes to the horizon, to bring our unique British voice and values: powerful, humane, progressive to the great global forums without being elbowed aside by a super-national body. And instead of being afflicted by nerves, let us seize this as our moment to stand tall in the world. That is the agenda for the next Prime Minister of this country. Well I must tell you, my friends, you who have waited for the punch line of this speech. That having consulted colleagues and in view of the circumstances in parliament I have concluded that person cannot be me".
The Spectator, "Boris Johnson: I will not be the next Tory leader". 30 June 2016, in
"Per contra to Gideon Rachman, Boris Johnson has not in fact 'failed the Churchill test'. If by 'Churchill' he means Winston Spencer-Churchill, then yes he has. But, if by 'Churchill' he means Lord Randolph Spencer-Churchill then Johnson has passed the 'Churchill test' with flying colors. Why so? Simply put the 'Randolph Churchill test', is that of the youngish, high-achieving, meteoric politician who unaccountably decides for reasons which never quite make sense, to (in the dogmatic expression) 'chuck it all in' and resign office or engage in actions which result in the very same. The list of those who have 'passed' the Randolph Churchill test include not only Lord Randolph, but Sir Oswald Moseley, and Enoch Powell. Note that all three were great orators who seemed to be cresting towards the very top of the 'greasy pole'. When each in an endeavor to reach the top of that pole in record time, did something which had the end result of ensuring that they not only never reached said pole, but were soon enough ousted from the very top rank of parliamentary politics. In the case of Johnson, given the fact that if he had succeeded to joining the 'in' campaign for Britain to remain in the European Union, he would have had almost any office of state that he could possibly desire, including that of Foreign Secretary, one may only conclude that Johnson is not serious about parliamentary politics. And about the drab and boring work needed and necessary to make a success in British politics."
Diplomat of the Future, "Boris Johnson and the Churchill Test". 21 March 2016, in
Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson's decision to not run for the position of the head of the Tory Party, and thus Prime Minister was both a shocking surprise and to a degree inevitable. The first of these was obvious, as Johnson's backing for the Leaver campaign no doubt made the victory on the 23rd of June possible. And with David Cameron's announcement of his resignation, the very next day, Johnson was seen to be in the pole position to be the next Prime Minister. Why Johnson's decision was 'inevitable' is simply that he has not in the entirety of his career shown himself to possess the needed and necessary skills to climb the 'greasy pole' that is the Premiership. He has never held any office of state worthy of the name (being Mayor of London does not fit this category), and is not by any means a 'House of Commons man'. The splendid amateurishness that is Johnson's modus operandi might and did indeed work in his London post, and it also worked in the referendum campaign itself. It most definitely would not work in Number 10 Downing Street. The prima facie evidence for this being his splendid inactivity of the past week. With other than his rather incoherent Daily Telegraph column, Johnson studiously refusing to say or do anything until to-day's surprise statement. Whether it was Michael Gove's announcement that he was going to run against Johnson, or simply a realization by Johnson himself that he lacked the requisite skills to be Prime Minister which caused to-day announcement is difficult to say. Perhaps it was a combination of the two. In any case, I myself am highly conflicted by Johnson's decision. On the one hand, I believe that Johnson and Gove have a moral responsibility to take the helm of state at this point in time given that they are the ones who have landed the United Kingdom in the fine mess that it is in at the moment. On the other hand, it is highly doubtful that Johnson's rollicking, 'sybaritic conservatism' (to quote the late great Maurice Cowling), is really what is needed at the present time (it of course being highly doubtful that Gove's ideological and less than thought through, 'leaverism', is what the United Kingdom needs now either) 1. On the other hand, Johnson's own impish, if not clownish and archaic persona are a delightful change from the very hum-drum, boring and banal nature of contemporary British politics. Au fond, Johnson is someone who unlike almost everyone of his contemporaries in British politics, can be easily pictured as operating in the House of Commons circa 1916 or 1815 or even 1716. Merely not as Prime Minister.
1. Maurice Cowling. The Impact of Hitler: British Politics and British Policy, 1933-1940. (1975), p. 235. Cowling description was in actual fact applied to Oliver Stanley, the 2nd eldest son of the 17th Earl of Derby.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016


"One cannot see the modern world as it is unless one recognizes the overwhelming strength of patriotism, national loyalty. In certain circumstances it can break down, at certain levels of civilization it does not exist, but as a positive force there is nothing to set beside it. Christianity and international Socialism are as weak as straw in comparison with it. Hitler and Mussolini rose to power in their own countries very largely because they could grasp this fact and their opponents could not. Also, one must admit that the divisions between nation and nation are founded on real differences of outlook. Till recently it was thought proper to pretend that all human beings are very much alike, but in fact anyone able to use his eyes knows that the average of human behaviour differs enormously from country to country. Things that could happen in one country could not happen in another. Hitler's June purge, for instance, could not have happened in England. And, as western peoples go, the English are very highly differentiated. There is a sort of back-handed admission of this in the dislike which nearly all foreigners feel for our national way of life. Few Europeans can endure living in England, and even Americans often feel more at home in Europe. When you come back to England from any foreign country, you have immediately the sensation of breathing a different air. Even in the first few minutes dozens of small things conspire to give you this feeling. The beer is bitterer, the coins are heavier, the grass is greener, the advertisements are more blatant. The crowds in the big towns, with their mild knobby faces, their bad teeth and gentle manners, are different from a European crowd. Then the vastness of England swallows you up, and you lose for a while your feeling that the whole nation has a single identifiable character. Are there really such things as nations? Are we not forty-six million individuals, all different? And the diversity of it, the chaos! The clatter of clogs in the Lancashire mill towns, the to-and-fro of the lorries on the Great North Road, the queues outside the Labour Exchanges, the rattle of pin-tables in the Soho pubs, the old maids hiking to Holy Communion through the mists of the autumn morning – all these are not only fragments, but characteristic fragments, of the English scene. How can one make a pattern out of this muddle?... And above all, it is your civilization, it is you. However much you hate it or laugh at it, you will never be happy away from it for any length of time. The suet puddings and the red pillar-boxes have entered into your soul. Good or evil, it is yours, you belong to it, and this side the grave you will never get away from the marks that it has given you".
George Orwell. The Lion and the Unicorn. (1941).
"Whether it was meant to be or not, this referendum was in effect a vote on globalisation, and so pitted people generally in favour of multiculturalism and social liberalism against those opposed to it. Despite being on the wrong side of history the latter edged it, just as I imagine if Elizabethan England had held a referendum on the national religion in, say, 1580, Catholicism would still have won, with the few remaining papist toffs supported by large numbers of rustics who don’t abide with the new progressive faith. Imagine how that would have gone down in London or Cambridge among the angry righteous. One of the central tenets of today’s new faith is internationalism, which is why the arguments for sovereignty which appeal to older people totally misfire with younger voters. Middle class British people under the age of 45 generally have very little sense of nationalism, and I’m not sure nationalism can be entirely separated from patriotism. I wouldn’t say this was a result of post-imperial guilt, or indoctrination at school, rather it’s the inevitable end product of a very individualistic open-looking culture in which people are encouraged to look beyond family, clan and tribe. Or to be pessimistic, we’re at the end of the asabiyyah cycle. Internationalism is a high-status belief, and so it is held by high-status people. (One of the funny things about this whole referendum is that many of the laws in place to control the bad sort of immigration people object to do exist, such as ejecting foreign nationals who have not found a job after three months: Britain just doesn’t enforce them. So the issue is not that Brussels prevents us from controlling borders, but that our political class has lost the will to do it; I suspect the reason is that culturally the subject of border control is just considered embarrassingly low status.) This doesn’t necessarily make our younger generation of internationalists a tolerant bunch. As the slogan ‘refugees in, racists out’ indicates, they’ve simply switched one form of out-group for another, replacing nationalism with political sectarianism. This is what makes them seem quite terrifying, to me, for a moral community convinced that its opponents are devious is a terrible thing to behold. And as national feeling continues to decline in Britain, people will increasingly refuse to accept when they lose in politics".
Ed[ward] West, "Why we need a second referendum – on the EEA". The Spectator. 29 June 2016, in
In the midst of the voluminous amount of commentary that I have read in the past six days endeavoring to explain way the British voting public chose to vote to leave the European Union [hereafter the 'EU'], the short commentary by Edward West in the London Spectator is perhaps the very best that I have come across. He is indeed correct in observing that au fond, the referendum without perhaps meaning to, was an up or down vote on 'globalization' and the concomitant issues of 'multiculturalism and social liberalism'. It seems very much the case, that most of those who voted in favor of leaving the EU are some variant of English nationalists `a la Orwell perhaps, who reject outright or are very ambivalent about all three of the above referenced tendencies. And accordingly, those who are in favor of the same three tendencies voted or were inclined to vote against leaving the EU. For those who voted in favor of leaving, the economic or 'scare' argument did not work, because for many of the self-same voters, the issue was not a economic one, but an emotional one, dealing with nationality, sovereignty and patriotism. The former including many who remember (mostly when young or very young of course) standing up at the cinema to 'God Save the Queen', and those for whom the very idea of the same seems unthinkable, no doubt voted almost entirely for the opposite. For myself, who am skeptical of globalization and positively hostile to both multiculturalism and social liberalism, the reason that I was not, and am not in favor of the leave argument is simply that those politicians who harnessed the leave campaign (in particular Boris Johnson and Michael Gove) were self-evidently either hugely opportunistic (Johnson) or confused and out of their depths (Gove). Not to speak of the reptilian Nigel Farage of course. And the fact that Gove's own wife has now reported in her Daily Mail column that she (and one presumes her husband) found the results of the referendum both ultra-surprising and 'terrifying', shows how completely unprepared were both Gove and Johnson 1. Something that the latter's incoherent mutterings in his own newspaper column this week, seems to support. The other reason for my non-support for the leave argument, is that per se there is nothing in the entire EU superstructure which prevents a truly nationalist and sovereign British government from acting in the way that it wants. Viz the current governments of Poland and Hungary. Which whatever one may say about them, are truly both nationalistic and members of the EU. Showing if nothing else that per se there is no incongruity between the two. Per contra to Messieurs Johnson and Gove, who at bottom are most likely not opposed to either multiculturalism or social liberalism, and probably in favor of globalization, insofar as that refers to free-trade, open markets for goods, capital and to a lesser extent people. With the end-result of a Johnson-Gove duumvirate being some hugely entertaining (unless you are British of course) climb-down, whereby controls on immigration are traded for access to the EU `a la Norway. A result which Martin Wolf in the Financial Times correctly calls simply 'mad' 2. A comment which I believe sums up the entirety of the leave position.
1. Henry Mance, "Michael Gove’s wife says Brexit result ‘terrifying’". The Financial Times. 29 June 2016, in
2. Martin Wolf, "What a Prime Minister Boris Johnson should do next". The Financial Times. 28 June 2016, in

Tuesday, June 28, 2016


"I cannot stress too much that Britain is part of Europe, and always will be. There will still be intense and intensifying European cooperation and partnership in a huge number of fields: the arts, the sciences, the universities, and on improving the environment. EU citizens living in this country will have their rights fully protected, and the same goes for British citizens living in the EU. British people will still be able to go and work in the EU; to live; to travel; to study; to buy homes and to settle down. As the German equivalent of the CBI – the BDI – has very sensibly reminded us, there will continue to be free trade, and access to the single market. Britain is and always will be a great European power, offering top-table opinions and giving leadership on everything from foreign policy to defence to counter-terrorism and intelligence-sharing – all the things we need to do together to make our world safer. The only change – and it will not come in any great rush – is that the UK will extricate itself from the EU’s extraordinary and opaque system of legislation: the vast and growing corpus of law enacted by a European Court of Justice from which there can be no appeal. This will bring not threats, but golden opportunities for this country – to pass laws and set taxes according to the needs of the UK. Yes, the Government will be able to take back democratic control of immigration policy, with a balanced and humane points-based system to suit the needs of business and industry. Yes, there will be a substantial sum of money which we will no longer send to Brussels, but which could be used on priorities such as the NHS. Yes, we will be able to do free trade deals with the growth economies of the world in a way that is currently forbidden".
Boris Johnson, "I cannot stress too much that Britain is part of Europe – and always will be". The Daily Telegraph. 26 June 2016, in
"In his column in The Telegraph on Monday, Mr Johnson sketched a model of exit that seems to entail “access” to the single market — whatever that means — without paying in, observing its laws or honouring free movement. He did not say whether he also intends to bake a pie and put it in the sky. Whatever the sceptics, lacking his Homeric largeness of vision, think of his plan to cajole sentient heads of government into letting Britain systematically undercut them in their own market, he is entitled to try. Those of us who misjudged his potential to win the referendum cannot dismiss his capacity to bring something worthwhile out of it. But Leavers will understand one thing on taking control. Mr Cameron and George Osborne, his chancellor, did not sex up the official advice they received about the economic costs of exit. If anything, they sexed it down to avoid the charge of lurid alarmism that came anyway. The private dreads of people at the summit of the British state were worse than was ever let on. Unless they are taken with a sudden intellectual sunniness, it will remain the advice that Mr Johnson and his ally Michael Gove, justice secretary, hear as the new masters. The advice may turn out to be wrong but, on the morning after the referendum, the two men wore the haunted look of jokers at an auction whose playfully exorbitant bid for a vase had just been accepted with a chilling smash of the gavel. They must now govern as well as they campaigned. Ms May is a serious politician. Stephen Crabb, work and pensions secretary, understands the economically insecure Britain that voted to Leave. But unless we are to make a mockery of the referendum these politicians cannot lead the nation. For the sake of democracy and accountability, Leavers must be left to it, whatever it turns out to be."
Janan Ganesh, "Let the Leavers govern as best they can". The Financial Times. 27 June 2016, in
"My policy on cake is pro having it and pro eating it".
Boris Johnson.
The British press is full of the succession struggle to occupy Number Ten Downing Street. Currently, in the pole position is the ex-Mayor of London, just ahead of the long-time Home Secretary, Theresa May 1. Notwithstanding my own grave disappointment with Johnson's ultra-opportunistic support for Britain leaving the European Union, I am one with the Financial Times' political correspondent, in believing that Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson is the very best person for the arduous job of being British Prime Minister at the present time. It is not, that I believe that Johnson is the most qualified or the very best candidate for the position. He in fact is not by any means either of these. Merely that under the current circumstances, if the commitments that he and his fellow adherent to Britain leaving the European Union, Michael Gove are to be ditched as negotiations commence with Brussels then it is better by far that the 'Leavers' undertake to do it. There will be a never ending storm of hysterics and conspiracy theories if May, who is the ultimate 'safe pair of hands' and is by far a better replacement for David Cameron, were to be selected as Prime Minister and who under the force of events had to water down, perhaps considerably Britain's negotiating positions in return for retaining access to the European Union's common market. If ugly concessions have to be made to Brussels then it is infinitely better that Johnson and Gove make them. Something which Johnson's Daily Telegraph article appears to show that they are slowly becoming aware of. As the chief economic correspondent for the Financial Times, Martin Wolf put it to-day:
"Brexiters must recognise something they prefer to deny: they cannot have their cake and eat it. Mr Johnson insists there will be “democratic control of immigration policy”. He also states that there will be “free trade, and access to the single market”. But, if the EU sticks to its current policies, then the access to the single market the UK has today is unavailable, because that is incompatible with controls on EU immigration. Mr Johnson needs to make a choice. “Access to the single market” are weasel words. Most will take it to mean the access the UK now enjoys. But it might mean the more limited access that the US, say, has. If that is all the UK seeks, it must say so. But leaving the EU and seeking to retain current access to the single market, while accepting free movement of labour, would be mad. If the UK were willing to accept all this, it should stay inside the EU, since it would continue to possess a voice in the single-market regulations that would affect it" 2.
1. See: Isabel_Hardman, "Tory leadership contest: the state of the race". The Spectator. 28 June 2016, in
2. Martin Wolf, "What a Prime Minister Boris Johnson should do next". The Financial Times. 28 June 2016 in

Monday, June 27, 2016


"You can cite perhaps half-a-dozen explanations as to why the once-phlegmatic British voted against their own economic interests by quitting the EU. British exceptionalism, migration, a scandalously duplicitous Leave campaign, stagnant incomes and post-crash austerity are all on the list. But the thread through it all was deep disgruntlement with a political and economic system that is seen as rigged against the hard-working classes. It was always clear that the referendum would fracture the Conservative party. But it was won by the “outs” only because millions of erstwhile Labour supporters deserted their own leftist leadership for the anti-immigrant xenophobia peddled by the United Kingdom Independence party. For decades politics was a game of turn and turnabout among the long established parties of centre-right and centre-left. Now, Conservatives and Labour in Britain, and Christian and Social Democrats on the European continent have lost control. Brexit will leave Britain poorer at home and diminished on the international stage. It marks a retreat from the world. The leaving of one union could lead to the break-up of another if Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, presses ahead with her plan for another independence referendum. A flight of foreign capital and businesses from the UK may tip the economy into recession. The leavers, led by the flamboyantly evasive Boris Johnson, have no plans to cope with any of this. Mr Johnson has not thought beyond an all-consuming ambition to replace David Cameron as prime minister. He has failed to offer a serious prospectus for the simple reason that, beyond some nostalgic nonsense about reconquering the world, he has no idea about what comes next."
Philip Stephens, "How a cautious nation came to tear down the political temple". The Financial Times. 24 June 2016, in
"Not before time it is slowly dawning on people in England that while this was very much their referendum it has consequences for the whole of the United Kingdom. They were warned this would be the case and, if it was not something that was ever uppermost in their thoughts, they cannot claim they were not told. Because they were. I don’t dispute English voters’ right to privilege their disgruntlement with the EU over their weakened preference for the United Kingdom to remain, well, just that. That’s a choice but choices have consequences. It has, in any case, been evident for some time that England’s commitment to the Union is just as provisional and ambivalent as Scotland’s.... In 2014, Better Together warned that voting for independence posed the greatest risk to Scotland’s EU membership. That was true then. It is evidently not true now. Voting, at some point, for independence is now the only way Scotland can become a full member of the EU. The suggestion any alternative is available is a suggestion for the birds. Like David Cameron, Nicola Sturgeon knows this. She is talking about protecting ‘Scotland’s relationship with the European Union and our place in the single market’. That will be the famed Norwegian model, then. Membership of the EEA is the best-available, least-worst option for Sturgeon and, indeed, for the UK. That it is not what millions of people thought they were voting for is not Sturgeon’s problem. But mark this: I strongly suspect that anything less than the Norway model will lead to the break-up of Britain. And even that may not be enough to save it".
Alex Massie, "Is Brexit the beginning of the End of Britain?" The Spectator. 27 June 2016, in
Make no mistake about the matter: regardless of what the deluded hordes of people, sincere, anxious, frightened, alienated masses of the British thought that they were voting for last week, the end-result of last Thursday's vote, was by far the greatest act of mass political stupidity in the past fifty-years. At a time when Europe, the United States, the West in general faces many, many challenges, from Russia in the East to the Peoples Republic of China in the Orient, to the ongoing civil wars and chaos in the Near and Middle East, all eyes have now turned to the frivolous and idiotic issue of the United Kingdom (soon perhaps merely to be England and Northern Ireland) future relationship with the Twenty-seven nations of the European Union. I will not gainsay the truism that there is much to dislike, nay actively dislike about the European Union. The modern-day replica of the Holy Roman Empire in the latter's dotage. Especially, the fraught issue of uncontrolled immigration, as well as the issue of political legitimacy and illegitimacy. Regardless of all these facts and truism, the reality is that endeavoring to take the United Kingdom out of the European Union, particularly now will have the end result of creating havoc: political havoc and economic havoc for both the Great Britain and the European Union. And resolving this completely unnecessary problem will take years and years to do. Will result in lower economic growth in both the United Kingdom and the European Union for years to come 1. And au fond, for a political game which one can now readily see, the instigators of which no longer believe in 2. From a purely diplomatic and political perspective, the upshot of the referendum results is best described in a speech by former American Ambassador Charles Freeman in Berlin on Saturday past to the 'Schiller Institute':
"Britain’s vote for Brexit has just exacerbated Europe’s confusion. Brexit promises to shatter the post-war order in Europe, to remove the British as intermediaries between the United States and “the Continent,” and to deal a potentially fatal blow to Britain’s special relationships with both" 3.
In short the wrong-headed results of last Thursday's referendum are not only an 'own-goal', but perhaps the ultimate case of national self-defenestration. In this instance an entire country has deliberately chosen to take leave of their senses. With consequences both diplomatic and economic which will last for years and years.
1. Martin Wolf, "Brexit will reconfigure the UK economy". The Financial Times. 24 June 2016, in
2. This can be readily seen by Boris Johnson's article in the Daily Telegraph in which as someone has commented accurately: "he [Johnson] almost certainly hoped to lose the referendum by a whisker, which would have left him perfectly positioned to snipe at David Cameron, but spared the tedious business of actually amputating the United Kingdom from Europe. The plan went awry, because he’s too natural a demagogue: like Jeremy Corbyn’s charismatic twin, he put his case too irrepressibly to attain the precise balance between plausibility and unpopularity that heroic failure would have required. Now that he unexpectedly finds himself at Downing Street’s threshold as a consequence, he needs to buy time – and his meaningless manifesto in the Telegraph is designed to do just that". In: Sadakat Kadri, "Bullxit". The London Review of Books. 27 June 2016, in See also: Sebastian Payne, "Boris Johnson must form a tangible plan for Brexit Britain". The Financial Times. 27 June 2016, in
3. The speech titled: "Things Fall Apart: America, Europe, and Asia in the New World Disorder Remarks to a Schiller Institute International Conference". Delivered on the 25th of June. The text of the speech was given to me by a close friend of Ambassador Freeman.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016


"Since 1975 the EU has mutated in exactly the way we then feared and now resembles nothing so much as the Habsburg Empire in its dying days. A bloated bureaucracy that has outgrown all usefulness. A parliament that represents many nations, but with no democratic legitimacy. Countries on its periphery pitched into poverty, or agitating for secession. The EU’s hunger for power has been matched only by its incompetence. The European Union is making the people of our continent poorer, and less free. This goes far beyond frustration at diktats on banana curvature. The EU has started to deform our government. Michael Gove revealed how, as a cabinet member, he regularly finds himself having to process edicts, rules and regulations that have been framed at European level. Laws that no one in Britain had asked for, and which no one elected to the House of Commons has the power to change. What we refer to as British government is increasingly no such thing. It involves the passing of laws written by people whom no one in Britain elected, no one can name and no one can remove".
Leader, "Out – and into the world: why The Spectator is for Leave". The Spectator.
I wonder whether debate about Britain’s membership of the EU has not reversed the usual polarities. Continental Europeans, once associated with airy abstraction, now seem to be weary pragmatists seeking to solve one problem at a time; Anglo-Saxon conservatives often seem inspired by a kind of revolutionary fervour. Hannan points out that countries have frequently entered into the various incarnations of the EU at times of “pessimism”, which is a fair point but one that made me wonder about Hannan’s relationship to his own political tradition. Does he imagine that, say, the third Marquess of Salisbury was an optimist? Is not a desire to hold on to existing institutions for fear of something worse an admirably conservative one? Charles de Gaulle looms over much debate on Europe and has acquired a cult following among Britons hostile to the EU (Hannan among them), but de Gaulle was often flexible in what he did even when he was intransigent in what he said. On the first page of his memoirs, de Gaulle describes his “certain idea of France” as being like “the princess in the fairy tale”, surely a sign that one can deploy a nationalist myth without wholly believing in it. Perhaps British Conservatives should look more to their own party and their own country. Might it be that the current state of the European Union – produced by messy compromises and not always springing from the highest ideals – actually fits in with English Conservatism? Consider the dispatch that Duff Cooper (the man who persuaded the Cabinet that de Gaulle should be allowed to broadcast his Call to Honour on June 18, 1940) sent to Churchill in 1944. He called for the creation of a West European “Bund” that would help contain the Soviet Union. He thought that this new structure should exist under British aegis, and that “it might well be within the framework of the British Empire which has so successfully contrived to combine federations and the retention of state sovereignty”.
Richard Vinen, "Euro stars – the good, the bad and the confused". The Times of London Literary Supplement (TLS). 15 June 2016 in
Au fond, the entire Brexit referendum is a debate something akin to dealing with hobgoblins and long-dead ghosts. The crux of the 'leave' campaign consist almost entirely of xenophobic posturing about immigration (which even someone as establishmentarian as Lord Turner will admit is a legitimate issue), and nonsensical cries and yelps about how much money the United Kingdom contributes to Brussels on a net basis (the leave campaigns figures are considerably off) 1. Which is not to gainsay the fact that the 'Remain' campaign has also indulged in some shameless posturing and sloganeering of its own (inventing figures as to how much the average British family will be impacted in say ten-years time by the UK leaving the European Union). The fact of the matter is that sans the immigration issue, the leave campaign has scarcely a foot to stand on. It being the case that if the UK were to vote to leave the European Union, the likelihood of Britain being able to obtain anywhere near the types of agreements that say Norway or Switzerland have with Brussels is close to being non-existent. There is absolutely no rationale for the other states in the EU to negotiate a moderate settlement with London. When one adds the facts that: i) aside from Vladimir Putin, no world leader worthy of the name has cared to endorse the idea of the UK leaving the European Union; ii) that in the aftermath of a vote to leave the EU, there will be chaos, both political (Scotland might use the occasion to push for another referendum to break-up the United Kingdom) and economic (Pound Sterling might drop precipitously); iii) the upshot of both 'i' and 'ii' will be a completely unnecessary crisis: political, economic and other, in the European and Western world. For reasons which are entirely emotional and irrational. As the London Times' David Smith recently noted:
Since the single market began in 1993, Britain’s GDP is up by 62% in real terms on OECD figures, compared with 42% in France, 35% in Germany and 15% in Italy. Switzerland’s GDP has risen by 48%… I would be the first to say our growth performance reflects many factors, including the Thatcher reforms of the 1980s and Bank independence in 1997.
It is hardily the case that the United Kingdom has been held back by the European Union economically in the past forty-plus years. There are admittedly genuine issues relating to immigration from Central & Eastern Europe into the UK. Something which I can be highly sympathetic about being an long-standing admirer of Enoch Powell. However, the chaos which will ensue in the case of a Brexit, for me cancels out any reason for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union. As Richard Vinen, cogently points out, it is eminently the case that those who wish for the UK to remain in the European Union are the true conservatives, and it is those romantics and ideologues, who are championing the Leave case, who are the radicals. I for one, have no wish to endorse radicalism of any sort. Hopefully, the British electorate will prove to be as conservative as myself tomorrow.
1. See: "I turn to migration. He shares my view that it is problematic if unlimited. “If immigration were the only issue, I could be a Brexiter,” he says. “The British population is forecast to go up from 63m to 74m by 2040. If you ask people what is the biggest determinant of their standard of living, often it is the length of their commute. Some people say, ‘Oh, we’ll just build on the greenbelt.’ But people love the greenbelt. I think large-scale immigration of people who are willing to work in unskilled jobs also probably reduces the wage rate of the people who are there already. And you can’t control your borders, unless you’re out.” Nevertheless, he concludes, “I think the economics, apart from immigration, are clearly for staying in. I think there’s a political case that, however frustrating it can sometimes be, we should be part of a Europe attempting to get to joint points of view on the environment, and so forth"
. In: "Martin Wolf, "Lunch with the FT: Adair Turner". The Financial Times. 18/18 June 2016, in
2. David Smith, "Britain succeeds in the EU: we’d be daft to leave it". The Sunday Times (of London). 12 June 2016 in

Friday, June 17, 2016


"Disappointed, disillusioned men, uprooted and unbalanced, driven by half-conscious fears and gusts of passions, frantically seek a new rallying point and new attachments. Their dreams and cravings projected into the void gather round some figure. It is the monolatry of the political desert. The more pathological the situation the less important is the intrinsic worth of the idol. His feet may be of clay and his face may be a blank: it is the frenzy of the worshippers which imparts to him meaning and power."
Sir Lewis Namier, "The First Montebank Dictator". In Vanished Supremacies: Essays on European History, 1812-1918. (1958), p. 54.
"Mrs Clinton is many things — intelligent, accomplished, hard-working, quisquis — but she is not herself interesting, except as a historical phenomenon — an American Evita, minus the charisma and the balcony. This is likely to make four years of her feel interminable. One year into her presidency, Stephen Hawking may have to revise his theory of time and posit that it is now slowing down. Or has stopped altogether. I don’t think I’m going out on a limb when I postulate that Mrs Clinton is not an exciting persona. If she were, it would be her, not a 74-year-old rumpled lefty with Paleo-Marxist cuckoo ideas, attracting massive crowds of young people. Comrade Sanders’s message may be flawed (rich people bad; government control of the economy good), but it is at least a message. Mrs Clinton has no message other than ‘I am so owed.’"
Christopher Buckley, "The Age of Hillary: what to expect if - when - a second Clinton finally backs her way to the top". The Spectator. 21 May 2016, p. 12.
Improbable as it may seem, there is every possibility that the prospective Republican nominee in the race to be elected the President of the United State of American, Mr. Donald Trump, may perhaps win against his opponent, ex-Secretary of State, ex-Senator, ex-First Lady Hillary Clinton. Admittedly like most of the American and indeed European intelligentsia, bien-pensant or not, the idea of Mr. Trump in the White House sends shivers down my spine. I of course have no love or admiration for Mme. Clinton: the epitome of a Balzacian character: the provincial, petit-bourgeois, arriviste as opportunist. As Mr. Buckley cruelly but accurately points out, Mme. Clinton as a candidate, as a politician, has proven singularly unable to convey any rationale why anyone would vote for her except that she is 'entitled' to be elected President, as a 'reward' for the many (self-induced) travails that she and her husband, ex-President Clinton have undergone in the past twenty-four years. Unfortunately, this is not the type of argument which will cause the great mass of the American public to enthusiastically vote for her. Thankfully, it must be said that in the past week to ten days, Mr. Trump has indulged himself in comments which are so outlandish and political maladroit that it is almost inconceivable that he would be elected President 1. However, the very same things were said one year ago when he first commenced running for the Republican nomination. And while the electorate in the general election is demographically much more varied than the electorate in the Republican party, the fact is that the same variable which caused Trump to rise to the top of the Republican greasy pole, are present in the wider electorate. What are these? Simply put the socio-economic effects of globalization, with its concomitant increases in income inequality and the shrinking of the size of the American middle class, has become more and more obvious. With massive increases in the suicide rates of White, middle-ages Americans. As well as a fall in the life expectancy of the same group 2. And unfortunately, these conditions are not confined to simply Republican party voters, but can also be found in the wider electorate. As was seen in the (relative) success of Senator Sanders' campaign in the Democratic Party race for President. In both cases, a seemingly widespread, 'village explainer' mentality, with its almost psychotic mistrust of elites: political and economic, has aided candidates who sincerely (Senator Sanders) or not (Mr. Trump) gives rhetorical vent to these feelings. Whatever one's opinion (in my case not very high) of Mme. Clinton, the fact of the matter is that she is indeed the 'conservative' choice as compared to a dangerous and ignorant demagogue, indeed a potential 'montebank dictator' like Mr. Trump. Unfortunately, even if he is defeated later on this year, the illnesses in the wider American and indeed wider Western polity will not by any means be cured by this result. Only a change in the wider socio-economic trends will do the trick 3.
1. Freddy Gray, "Trump’s train wreck: how the Donald is derailing his own campaign". The Spectator. 17 June 2016, in
2. Martin Wolf, "How to defeat rightwing populism". The Financial Times. 24 May 2016, in; Sabrina Taverniseapril, "Health U.S. Suicide Rate Surges to a 30-Year High". The New York Times. 22 April 2016, in
3. For an analysis which covers the wider Western world, and not merely the United States, see: Branko Milanovic. Global Inequality: A New Approach for the Age of Globalization. (2016).