Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Are ALL Guardian readers irredeemably stupid?

It started with a typically whiny Guardian piece yesterday titled "No one cares about us - Brits in Europe". It's part of a big whine from many of the 1m Brits living in Europe for special status - a status that can only come at a cost to the British. It is a typically selfish and self-obsessed whinge, as is normal today. My own view is that those of us who have chosen to make homes in Europe must make shift for ourselves; we made informed decisions. I want no-one in the UK to pay for my choice. 

Anyway, I commented to this effect. What 'protection' do you need, I asked, "To be permitted residence in Austria you have to prove you have an adequate income and are a member of an Austrian health insurance scheme - to demonstrate you are not a burden on Austrian taxpayers. Same before Brexit, same after. What's the problem?"

The problem, it emerged, is that several Guardian readers living in Austria are here unlawfully. If EU or EEA citizens intend to be here for more than 3 months, they must apply for a residency certificate, and do so before the end of month 4 or face steep daily fines.  I have my residency certificate. The Guardian readers do not. One declared that he classed himself as a free spirit and didn't agree with documentation in general, others said they had been here for many years and not been deported, others that said they didn't think the requirement was important. Not one seems to have read the widely available guidance from the Austrian government detailing residence requirements. All seem just to have understood that the EU meant free movement and acted on that - and now that they face problems post Brexit, are whining and moaning that the UK government and all the British people back home should get them out of the shit.

My own view is that the UK should not lift a finger to help them. If they are stupid enough, arrogant enough or misguided enough not even to understand the most basic residence requirements of another country then Austria is probably best rid of them - sorry, UK, you will get some irredeemably stupid and bitter Guardian readers back. I had a drink with my young German mates last night and asked them if they understood the Anmeldebescheinigung. Sure, they said - all of them working or studying in Austria have the 'yellow certificate'. They simply couldn't imagine anyone moving to Austria without checking out the requirements in advance. "They're Guardian readers" I explained "fantasists, dreamers, away with the fairies". They nodded, not quite understanding. 

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

2018 Austrian smoking ban to be scrapped

This is a post about freedom, not an encouragement to smoke tobacco. Myself, I am a committed tobaccophile - I'm just taking a very long break from smoking. If I make it to 70, I intend to start smoking again. I like the smell of smoke and am lucky having local friends who smoke - so my house is still furnished with ashtrays. I've also got some cigars which they will have to smoke for me over Christmas, whilst I bliss out on Colheita Port, Samuel Gawith snuff and the heady scent of best Havana leaf smoke. But because of the health disbenefits, I wouldn't encourage anyone to start.

Austrians however are firm believers in the rights of citizens to injure themselves in any way they wish. There isn't a week goes by without the local paper reporting in a matter-of-fact way another farmer crushed under his tractor, lady kicked to death by a horse, driver heading off a steep ravine or carpenter sawing his arm off. In fact, carpenters here wear their lack of fingers as a badge of honour - good carpenters, they reckon, must have lost at least two fingers. And there is no, I repeat no, whiny wailing in the media that 'Something must be done!' or that 'They must stop this happening!' after each death. Very philosophical they are about such things, here.

It reminds me of a train crash in Ghana in which several passengers had been killed. Our local Accra paper reported that the Transport Minister had visited the scene - not to call for an inquiry, or make vacuous promises, but simply to pour a libation of palm wine to appease the spirits of those killed. A policy at least as sound as, and possibly more so than, UK practice.    

One of the things here I particularly enjoy is my clothes reeking of smoke after a session down at the gasthaus. Sometimes, if I sniff deeply enough, I can still get a hit three days later. The current law does require bars over a certain size to offer a non-smoking room, usually a cold, empty room at the back somewhere, for anti-smokers. From next year all bars and restaurants where food is consumed would have been obliged to ban smoking - but Austria's new political coalition is putting an end to that. The FPOe - the Freedom Party -  is insisting the ban is scrapped. So those of us who really don't mind eating and smoking in the same room can carry on being as sociable as before.

It's a small win, but proof that there's still a libertarian tolerance in places. 

Monday, 11 December 2017

Population growth is not the only option

We go into 2018 with an EU that is already very different. Committed to becoming the USE within eight years, with an army, foreign office, finance ministry and powerful president, much hinges on the federation's forecasts for future growth. These have been gloomy because Euros have been breeding at below the replacement ratio of 1.2 2.1 children per couple. The EU's solution is to import 5m healthy breeders from Africa, the Middle East and Indian subcontinent. It made the decision much as a steel plant decides a new limestone contract, or a pie-maker signs up a new abattoir. Yes, all those sexually urgent young men in Germany are there not because Mrs Merkel felt sorry for them - it's their priapism that is valued, like little breeding rams, to impregnate German maidens and breed a new generation of factory workers for the global corporates. 

The EU also took the decision in secret, without consultation or any democratic endorsement. You see, we ordinary folk don't know what's best for us, and need benign and sober heads such as Herr Juncker's to decide these things for us. It's jolly bad form to question the EU's wisdom and anyone who does so must be a Hitlerite bigot. 

Now I don't doubt the EU's well-meaning. What I condemn is their stupidity. The utter, crass, doltish stupidity of fools like the EU commissioners is the very reason we have democracy - crowds make better decisions than 'experts'.

That they're still pursuing their insane aims at a time when factories are becoming fully robotic, when AI is replacing vast swathes of human labour, when machine pickers intelligent enough to tell a potato half buried in the earth from a stone are in common use, the whole basis of their fatuous rationale collapses. My carer in old age will be a small robot with powerful hydraulics and sensors delicate enough to wipe a geriatric arse gently. 

You see, I really don't believe the replacement ratio or continuous GDP growth are that important any more - we're moving into a new age. The idiots, fools and charlatans at the EU just haven't realised it yet. We can only hope the cooler heads of the Visegrad group apply some sort of brake to their mad ambition.

Thursday, 7 December 2017

German car bosses face jail if they step outside the EU

I'm sure, in the worldwide diesel fraud issue, that carmakers around the globe were complicit in at least a massaging of the test results. But none were as industrially efficient at defrauding the public as German carmakers VW, BMW, Audi et al. With Teutonic efficiency, they defrauded the world on a massive scale.

Now the first German VW executive has been jailed - in the US. He was unlucky enough not to escape back to Germany quickly enough, and the Americans scooped him up. Oliver Schmidt is now doing seven years in a federal penitentiary. The US indicted five other VW executives last January - Heinz-Jakob Neusser, 56, Jens Hadler, 50, Richard Dorenkamp, 68, Bernd Gottweis, 69, and Jürgen Peter, 59. They face summary arrest and detention without bail in the US if they are caught. 

No one has yet been prosecuted in Germany. No EU countries that have been defrauded have issued EU arrest warrants for any of the five VW bosses. The US isn't trying to extradite them from Europe. And this is all because the world knows full well that European justice and its organs the ECHR and the ECJ are corrupt political courts. Courts in China and Russia are rated by the WEF as having greater judicial independence than those in most EU countries. 

However, should those five VW bosses, and others from the other big-name German carmakers, step outside Europe to any country that has an extradition arrangement with the US, they face arrest and detention. After Brexit, if the UK breaks free of the corrupt claws of Euro justice, this includes Britain. And this forms a large part of the reason that the EU is fighting so hard to keep EU citizens in the UK under the protection of the bent ECJ - to allow VW bosses, fugitives from justice and other Euro criminals to visit Britain (and Ireland) without being banged up and extradited to the US. It stinks. EU 'justice' stinks. The collusion between the EU and the global corporates stinks. We will be far better off after Brexit away from that noxious putrescent foulness.  

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Remoaner sabotage reaches a new high

I wonder if we should have an assessed code, somewhat after the manner of terrorist warnings, in respect of attempts by Remoaners to sabotage Brexit? If so, We are forever in the highest categories of SUBSTANTIAL, SEVERE or CRITICAL. Ireland's government is I am sad to say little more than the EU's sock puppet. If left to the British and Irish we could sort the border in a day's talks. And now that loathsome putrefying old zombie Blair has risen from his grave to bother us all again - no doubt fomenting difficulties for the country of his birth.

Juncker and the Federasts are laughing in their muesli. Half the work of undermining the United Kingdom is being done by those with British passports. The Remoaners are now promoting a counter proposal that would see the UK as a 'Protectorate' of the EU much as Bohemia and Moravia was declared a Protectorate of the Reich. It means they govern us, and take whatever economic surplus we have, but we are not represented and have no say in our subservience.

You can be sure that the Federasts never want us again at the same table. They are charging ahead with proposals for their own army - yesterday announcing that they are formulating ways in which EU and NATO forces can exercise together, and take part in joint operations. A UK that could frustrate such jejune ambitions is simply not wanted - they want to live in La-La land away with the fairies without a nagging voice behind them. 

I've given May the benefit of the doubt so far in my mind; we can cope with the money, but my own red lines are complete freedom from the corrupt political court the ECJ and unencumbered repossession of our economic waters. If Theresa May is prepared to compromise on either of those then I join the 'no deal' camp, whatever the ensuing chaos. 

Brendan O'Neill nails it again in Spiked;
They want to Balkanise Britain. Carve it up into Remainer and Brexit enclaves. Divide a nation so that different zones are subject to different constitutions and principles and laws. This is the end point of the EU class’s elitist pseudo-cosmopolitan hatred for the nation: a situation where popular sovereignty comes to be superseded by a dynamic of fragmentation that’s entirely motored by the arrogant desire of the political class to escape the judgement and opinion of the people.

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Another grubby episode; why the police need an officer corps

If there's one word I've found that adequately describes many policemen above the rank of sergeant, it's 'chippy'. Perhaps from being laughed at, excluded from the gang, having odd parents or being academically slow at school, perhaps from resentment of authority, perhaps from an early realisation that they are deeply ordinary, I'm convinced that many (though not all) of those that seek promotion in the police do so from having a chip on their shoulder that they feel having the powers of a constable plus rank will avenge.

And sometimes there are no better examples of innate inability than those who rise to higher command rank. Assistant Commissioner Bob Quick always struck me as such, a blundering idiot promoted above his ability but ingrained with a deep sense of entitlement and grievance. Chippy. And not only chippy but possessed of that particularly stupid stubbornness that convinces policemen of someone's guilt or innocence in the face of a mountain of contradictory evidence. He could not even accept his own dismissal for endangering the public by screwing up an anti-terrorist operation out of sheer stupidity. Last week he persuaded another deeply flawed individual, an ex-detective with evidence of questionable probity to put the boot into Damien Green.  

One of the reasons in the age of the internet that we put men into large open plan offices is to stop them looking at porn. Every large workplace has its tales of managers caught in acts of onanism in little cubby-hole offices. Damien Green may have been amongst them. I don't know. But whatever breaches of Commons policy he may have committed, he did not act against the law. Quick and his weird little chum, in making their grubby claims, unsupported by evidence, have breached every professional standard that the police should maintain, and have undermined public trust in their old employer.

This really is just the latest a long series of incidents of malfeasance, error, blunder and sheer stupid malice that have condemned the whole class of those who rise to command rank in the police. David Duckenfield, Norman Bettison and others are still to stand trial for Hillsborough so I cannot comment other than to mention the fact. 

Is it not high time that we stopped deeply unsuitable individuals such as Mr Quick from reaching rank to which they are unsuited in the first place? Is it not time the police had a professional officer corps, as it had in the past, to lend it professional integrity where it is needed most, amongst the leaders and commanders?    

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Brexit payments; my head says yes, my heart says no.

I suspect that I am not the only EUphobic who is conflicted by the scale of the Brexit settlement. On the one hand, common sense suggests that the scale of the sum mooted is within reason, probably just half the eventual cost of the white elephant HS2, that it is worth it just to get out of their clutches, and that once we're out we can cull and purge and flush every trace of their odious Federasty from our realm. If we pay it at £10bn a year or less, it gives us the option of discontinuing payment at any time they attempt to extend their imperial grasp across the channel. Making sure we get full credit for every single thing the British past contributions have helped buy - including the contents of Herr Juncker's wine cellar - and transparent reckoning for our future shares in EIB costs (and profits) - will reduce the headline figure substantially.

On the other hand, every sinew is willing Britain to tell them to go whistle, get stuffed and pull the bones out of a wet fart. And that's because during the negotiating process the EU has revealed itself for what it really is - a bullying, vindictive, incapable cabal of crooks, fools and psychopaths using the crudest manipulation, disinformation and distortion to try to bludgeon Britain into submissive compliance. A thousand years of history revolts at being told what to do by 'lesser breeds without the Law', cavils at their impertinence. Never mind that we can take our revenge cold. That we can outgrow them, outperform them, attract international business, maintain London's financial supremacy, offer lower taxes and better returns than any one of their second and third rate economies. 

However, whether heart or head rules, one thing is certain. The EU's actions have fomented nothing but emotions from hatred to distaste amongst the British people for their Federast heart. Their greed, their stupidity, their bigoted zealotry has earned them an enemy when they could so easily have made a friend of us.    

Monday, 27 November 2017

Dutch stun trawlers destroying UK fishing grounds - protest today

This story illustrates three problems, all of which should be solved by Brexit. However, Brexit won't fix the very real problem being experienced right now by coastal day-fishermen - that fishing grounds close to Britain's coast are being sterilised, destroyed, by large Dutch boats using forbidden electro stun methods over which we have no control.

The Netherlands has a well developed and large scale fishing industry out of all proportion to the size of her own economic waters. Its success depends on taking fish from the waters of other EU states.

The Dutch also invest heavily in new, big boats - and have no difficulty in getting finance for new boats or converting existing boats to stun technology - at about £300k per boat. Three quarters of the UK fishing fleet are small (typically 8m) inshore boats. Dutch boats take both groundfish and semi-pelagic species - sole, cod, squid, shrimp, rockfish - that abound in the warm shallow waters of the continental shelf. They have traditionally used bottom trawls - chains, beams or steel balls that scrape the seabed, stirring up sediment and channelling the catch into the following net.

However, there are two problems with this. One is that the boat's engine power must be used to drag the beams and shoes, or rock-hopper otter-trawls, over the seabed. The other is that the North Sea and the British coast are heavy with shipwrecks, many torpedoed in two wars, sunken warships or just casualties of the sea. As we hobby sea fishers know, wrecks are a rich haven for big fish because bottom trawlers can't come near them.  

Pulse or stun fishing uses suspended electrodes to stun groundfish into the water column where they are scooped up by trawl nets. Catch volumes are greater, fuel costs are halved and the marine sanctuaries around wrecks are no longer protected. It's like fishing a lake using gelignite. It was outlawed in the EU in 1998. But the EU is deeply corrupt and open to the influence of wealthy actors; in 2009 the EU allowed 5% of beam trawlers to be converted, and the Dutch immediately converted five boats. Since then almost a hundred more Dutch boats have been converted - using a weak and contrived workaround that avoids the ban.

The effects are catastrophic. An inshore fisherman last week posted on FB 
"It is widely believed that thousands of immature fish are dying as a result of this electric shock being passed through them but no evidence has been put forward to support this. The reasons for this are very simple, the majority of immature fish will just get washed through the net never to be seen again. The other reason being the fact that the only research being carried out is by the Dutch themselves and everybody knows that money talks.

"Even if it was proved that this method of fishing was not killing all the immature fish, it is highly likely to be killing all the food that the fish rely on to survive such as prawns, shrimps, small crab, worms. If it was proved that it did not damage these species it would for sure kill the even smaller marine life that they rely on.

"I know from experience that once the seabed has been subjected to the electric shock treatment there is no point in me fishing there. I might as well fish in the desert because I would have more chance of finding life. Even when left alone for several months there is nothing there. To me it is pretty obvious why, nothing is going to hang around in a place where they will starve.

"The Inshore Belgian fishermen are appalled by what the Dutch are doing, Belgian fishermen I have spoken to have never in their lives at sea seen such a drastic reduction in fish numbers as they have once an area has had pulse fishing activity on it. It is the same story in France, the catches there have reduced so much that they plan to blockade all the Channel Ferry ports on the 27th of November to highlight the problems being caused by the Dutch."
One current problem is that Dutch boats can fly the red duster and take UK quotas; the previous requirement on UK flagged vessels being owned by Brit nationals was overturned. Our 1988 Merchant Shipping Act was challenged by the European Court of Justice in the Factortame case and overturned - requiring us to register foreign-owned fishing boats.  A single Dutch owned and crewed vessel, the Cornelis Vrolijk, but UK flagged, accounts for almost a quarter of the entire English catch and about 6 per cent of the total UK quota. It lands all catches - some £17m annually - in the Netherlands.

So a plea. If you are delayed in any way today by the French fishing boats blockading the channel ports, spare them your good wishes and your hopes for a prosperous year. They are fighting the same fight as our inshore boats. This time, we're on the same side.

Sunday, 26 November 2017

Double standards are just fine

Austria's unashamed adoption of double standards, despite its appearance, really does have a kind of underlying logic. Thus crucifixes and Christian teaching in schools is fine but Islamic symbols and teaching are prohibited. This has its roots in Hitler's confiscation of all church land; they didn't have a Henry VIII here, so in the 20th century the church was still the country's biggest landowner. In return for the land (which now belongs to the Austrian state) Hitler gave the church the right to levy a 1% income tax. It was the one Hitler law that was never repealed; we Catholics still have to pay it or go to jail. Not only does this give the church certain privileges, it also makes it very rich.   

So when earlier this year a law against covering the face in public was introduced, intended to ban the Niqab and Burqa, the first €150 fine handed out by the police was to a bloke in a shark costume advertising a computer chain. Those of you who read my piece on the Krampus parades last week must now be thinking "Hang on, isn't covering their faces like that now illegal?"

Well, yes. Unless of course it's being done as part of a traditional Austrian folk display. In which case it's fine. So when a group of Krampus mounted a peaceful march to show they were actually men and not devils, and to prevent any potential anti-Krampus legislation, they had to carry their masks. The police explained that if they were walking peacefully, rather than leaping about amongst fiery flames screaming obscenities and hitting people with sticks, they were not protected by the exemption to the law. 

Friday, 24 November 2017

We're really best off out of the EU's publicity scam

The EU has twenty-seven nations and each has a capital city. If each takes it in turn to be Europe's Capital of Culture, a designation begun in 1986, the earliest - Athens, Amsterdam, Berlin, Paris - would now be in their second go. Except of course that Berlin wasn't Germany's capital in 1988 - it was the capital of a country called East Germany, which was not a member of the EU. 

Actually the programme wasn't called 'Capital of Culture' until 1999. Earlier, it was named 'City of Culture' so great cities such as Florence and Glasgow could be included. I think some 58 cities have enjoyed the designation since it was initiated.

But of course such is the fame and universal recognition that the award brings that all of Europe celebrates each year the designated places, and one can ask any person on the street the two cities so designated in 2017. Or rather you can't. I suspect that only wonks know that Aarhus and Paphos are this year's cities. I haven't visited or seen pictures of either, but I know with utter certainty that both will be absolutely smothered in those ghastly blue speckly flags that signal the dominion of the EU.

It's actually quite a clever scam. The cities pay for it all themselves; all it costs the other taxpayers of the EU is a bit of publicity and boozy lunches for a commissioner or two. In return the EU gets its sovereignty proclaimed in every single city in Europe in turn. Utterly irrespective of merit. It's Italy's turn again in 2033 and if the failing, mafia-dominated crime ridden slums of Gela in Sicily, one of Europe's most dangerous, uncultured and unattractive conurbations, are chosen I would not be at all surprised. 

Now they've kicked us out we ought to set up our own scheme - 'Partner City of Light' or some such, in which we pick one Euro city a year to host joint visits, artistic events, royal ballet show, talks arranged by the British Council, pictures from the national gallery sort of thing, sweetened with a bung of say £1m. In return we'd get one city a year smothered in Union flags to which we can introduce the wonders of Gregg's sausage rolls. 

Gela preparing for 2033 - the speckly flags will arrive later

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Perils of written German

Today I am trying to row-back on a business letter I sent yesterday. 

I intended to type "Sehr geehrte Herren" - Dear Sirs. What I actually sent them was "Sehr geehtrer Herren" - Very Horny Gentlemen.

It's genuinely excuciatingly embarrassing. They have absolutely no sense of humour. 

Oh well. 

Monday, 20 November 2017

Localism will help build more houses

There are some facts from which we cannot escape. One is that the UK is short of housing. Not of bedspaces, mind, but dwellings. That this shortage is exacerbated both by migration and by migrants' desires to live in London and the South-East is also not in doubt. Whatever the arguments over the causes, we can agree that our young people should have easier access to their own homes, and that options of both renting and buying should be available. As neither markets nor central government are fulfilling this, we must look to alternatives. 

As I've written many times before, Localism doesn't just mean making the final unpopular rationing decision in dividing a cake whose size has already been determined by central government. Localism means having tax as well as spend powers. Sure, having a tax levied in Manchester that is not charged in Middlesborough leads to what the Daily Mail derides as a 'postcode lottery' in its support for central Statism, but sometimes local solutions can meet local problems. 

You can't go far in Vienna without seeing the familiar red lettering on a building's upper stories that proclaims it as a Council House (gemeindebau). The huge wave of housebuilding in the 1920s has left a legacy of some 600k people, around a third of Vienna's population, still living today in rented city-council housing. And they're not all poor, by any means. Some of those Alfred Loos designed apartment blocks have the same cachet as Dolphin Square. 

Their construction was originally funded by a city-wide Housing Tax and Luxury Tax, and they were allocated on the basis of need, with rents restricted to a proportion of average income. 

With the construction cost of a new house (excluding land, VAT and stamp duty, fees, cost of money etc) at (very roughly) £150k, it will take a lot of cash to build 300,000 new dwellings nationally. But break that figure down between public and private, and then down to locality, and it becomes manageable. Tax and land concessions together with penalty charges for unoccupied homes and delayed development, some suspensions of RTB in some council areas (e.g in all London boroughs), low cost finance through the Public Works Loan Board and a mix of other stick-and-carrot measures that would usefully include limited local taxation can facilitate new housing without additional burdens on the Treasury. 

I've little hope that Hammond, a grey and modest man of no real quality or ability, can display the imagination required, but we'll have to wait until Wednesday to see.  


Sunday, 19 November 2017

The love of alcohol

Over my life I've watched as several valued friends and many acquaintances have destroyed their lives with alcohol. All the while I've thanked providence for an immunity to addiction; whilst I'm quite happy with a three-day bender (though stamina flags with age) or a bottle every evening, I find that sometimes I go for days, even weeks without a drink; not intentional abstinence, just casual disuse. Yet I'm always up for a session - it being the prospect of good well lubricated company rather than the booze that attracts. 

The casualties have fallen away. An exceptional raconteur and indefatigable drinker, a man of warmth humour and erudition, lost first his solicitor's partnership then his marriage. Another collapsed in debt. A girlfriend who was a secretive and devious drunk and though I loved her it destroyed us. Dan Farson, Bacon's biographer, immensely talented, was a monster anytime after 11.00am. I think it was Farson who recounted the anecdote about he and Bacon visiting a subterranean afternoon drinking club in Soho; as they descended into the noxious gloom one of their party asked "What's that smell?" "Failure" responded Bacon, quick as a whip. And indeed the Colony Room Club, the French House and those other Soho haunts that have given me so much joy, such gales of laughter, such fine friends and lovers, are also peopled with the flotsam and jetsam of lives sunk by alcohol. 

Many men find a sort of semi-disciplined equilibrium with booze, like a car with engine running continuously at idle. But it never takes much for them to hit the gas and I've delighted in many unexpected and ad-hoc sessions this way; we seem to recognise eachother in much the same way that I suppose homosexuals do, and in no time you get a trio, a four, a sextet of middle aged men with voices rich as dundee cake and gravelly with smoke all equipped with a full wallet and an inexhaustible supply of quips, anecdotes, bonhomie and smile-creased eyes all chuckling and boozing away at half throttle as we create our own club wherever we are.   

Those that remember the days when pubs had to close by law in the afternoon - a pernicious restriction and a needless one - may also recall the few remaining signs in bars that ordered 'No Treating'. I was puzzled for years as to the meaning of that until I found in the PRO, whilst looking for something else, the original 1915 Alcohol Control Orders and correspondence. The same laws that closed pubs in the afternoon also banned the buying of drinks for others, rounds or 'treating', all in an effort to reduce alcohol consumption. One of the cases in the file referred to the prosecution by the police of a man who had bought a drink for his wife.   

It didn't have to be like this, our joy constrained by Great War measures to keep munitions workers sober, as I found as a youngster when I visited a chum newly up at Edinburgh University. He met my London sleeper at Waverley Street and at 8am, not five minutes from the platform, we were in the Halfway House, drinking dark ale and scotch chasers in a throat-stinging fug of smoke. Lazy afternoons, when English pubs were closed, were spent in bars around the Regency new town watching videos and quaffing. I was blown away by Scots liberality - this truly was the city of the Enlightenment, whilst my poor England was like some Calvinist theocracy.    

But no longer. 

Over more than forty years of drinking, years during which alcohol has been a good friend to me (given my immunity to its addictive effects), when alcohol has enabled, coloured, enhanced every major event of note in my life, I cannot think of any circumstance in which minimum pricing would have lowered consumption, either mine or of those about me. It will work no better than did those 1915 measures - when also, incidentally, spirits were reduced in strength by law down to 40% abv. That's still one century-old restriction with which we are lumbered. 

Friday, 17 November 2017

Sorry, Europe, but our ways are simply better

The WEF, the World Economic Forum, has recently published its global competitiveness index. The overall rankings are pretty approximate - due to a misuse and misunderstanding of components such as productivity. No-one actually believes the UK is less productive than France. Their productivity measure doesn't include development or use of the world's biggest web platforms or apps, predominantly in English, nor many new IT driven services, just stuff like making widgets. EU nations with high productivity scores are generally late web and IT adopters with workforces poorly adapted to the coming AI challenges. No one will be re-writing software manuals in Czech or Hungarian, probably not even in French or German, so our EU chums had better either up their English classes or adopt AI translators to do the job for them. 

The real meat of the WEF report is in components such as the world ranking of Judicial Independence. Take a look yourself. We are 6th - Rwanda is 23rd, Germany 24th, France 28th, Saudi Arabia 30th, India 53rd, Spain 58th and Italy 65th. Telling us what we already knew - that the EU operate a system of political courts, where there is no real justice, just the judicial arm of the State. If the State is benign and acts in the interests of the people, the argument goes, there is no need for the courts to be independent. We have the Common Law and Equity - they have versions of the Code Napoleon. 

Likewise our constitution. We don't have one. We're not the nth Republic. We settled on our flag in 1703, not five minutes ago when their constitution was also written on a word processor. Fraser Nelson makes the point in the Telegraph - quoting a fatuous comment from the Dutcher Rutte, proving he, too, has no idea how the UK actually works.  

So when, as the Telegraph also reports, David Davis caught the heel of the jackboot in Germany yesterday, it doesn't mean what they think. David told his audience "Shared values are more important than our membership of particular institutions. Values of democracy, of the rule of law, of human rights", perhaps not quite meaning that the sharing was equal, implying perhaps that the EU had more to learn from the UK's shared values than we have from theirs. The German dogs barked. "If you are so committed to our common values, our common interests, our common approach, then why are you leaving the European Union?" demanded the moderator, Herr Krach. 

Because, Herr Krach, we're a mature and stable democracy whose people are committed to freedom of thought, to independent justice, to self-determination and to accountable government. Because when we uphold the idea of one man one vote we don't mean that the one man is Herr Juncker. Because, simply, our ways are better than yours but you don't realise it.

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

If Tory Remoaners bring down the government, voters will tear the throat from the party

There must be a temptation amongst MPs closeted in the plush and rarefied atmosphere of Westminster to imagine themselves inviolable from the wrath of voters, immune from the tensions and passions in the nation clearly audible from social media. Nicky Morgan, Anna Soubry, Heidi Allen, Antionette Sandbach, Dominic Grieve and others may even now be building their future infamy - a future of derision, loathing and contempt - if their jejune and anti-democratic posturing, their preening narcissistic self-regard, their contemptuous dismissal of the popular will, brings down this fragile government and disrupts the Brexit process.

If they do so, the people will turn upon the Conservative party and tear its throat out. Tories will be more rare in the Commons than LibDems. They will have consigned their own party to the dustbin of history, and destroyed for themselves and their families any personal prospect of help or support from their peers. They will be shunned like wet lepers, regarded more lowly than the ordure on our shoes, despised and scorned. 

They are playing not with their own pathetic petty careers, not with their own overweening mediocrity, but with the future of our nation. And that's bloody serious.

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Venting popular steam and keeping the State under control

Each country has somewhere in its traditions, unless utterly repressed by a totalitarian state and its secret police, versions of letting off steam, of warning off the ruling classes or unpopular characters, and of reminding the authorities that democracy is a delicate bloom that must not be abused. In England this was traditionally 5th November; darkness, fires, masks and disguises so that participants can't be identified, and burning effigies. Today Lewes is the only one I know that maintains the full threat of years past - and I bet the local council are doing everything they can to close it down. 

Here the equivalent is Perchtennacht, the night of the Perchtenlauf or the run of the devils. The costumes are elaborate and frightening, there is a complete lack of English style health and safety, and the Perchten are violent and dangerous. They carry sticks, clubs and chains. Traditionally, this was when a village got rid of an unwanted member - a nonce, a cheat, a deviant - by hitting them with sticks, chains and whips. Hard. You see, not to be out and lining the route of the run is an admission that you're not part of the community, so it's obligatory to be there.  

In recent years most of the sting has been taken out of the tradition. Slightly anti-social offenders still get their knuckles sharply rapped with a stick, or get a poke in the kidneys as a gentle reminder, but death and serious injury are rare these days. Organisers are obliged to maintain an identity register, so miscreants can be named, and police maintain a presence. In Völkermarkt last night, however, the old ways were back. It was a riot. Two people targeted by the Perchten were seriously injured and it took the police an hour to restore order. Other people were injured as they fled violent assaults. 

Because this is Austria, no-one is calling for Perchtennacht to be banned and many are speculating whether the targets will now quietly move. Here it's still a reminder to the authorities that if they don't act, if they ignore long-building public disquiet, then people will do the job themselves. It's also a reminder to everyone (including me) of the importance of spending lots of time in the pub, greeting and chatting to anyone you meet and building friendships and trust ... you're either a member of the community, or you aren't. 

When, in the years after the German surrender, this part of Austria was occupied by the British army, a local maid and a lad from the Inniskillings fell in love. When his battalion was due to return home, he deserted. The whole community including the Mayor conspired to hide him until the end of the occupation, when they married and he spent the rest of his life here, dying only very recently. I talk to his daughter most mornings as she walks the dog. 

This is still a country in which local communities are not scared of their own power. I wish my England were the same. 

Saturday, 11 November 2017

All that glitters is not Green

You may have accidentally encountered recently one the many saccharine encomia gushingly worshipping at the feet of Norman Foster's new Bloomberg building in London. If so, you will have been covered in all the ordure of 'sustainability' and 'most environmentally friendly building in London'. It's mostly utter bull. 

Sure, the building has the very highest BREEAM rating, but BREEAM only measures environmental cost in use. I know both this and its partner civils assessment CEEQUAL well - in fact I'm a qualified CEEQUAL assessor, so know the devil in the detail. Neither scheme counts the construction cost, or rather, where this is acknowledged, it can be negated by petty measures such as reducing site waste or ensuring local waterways are protected during construction. You see, steel and concrete are the grossest environmental offenders in terms of manufacturing CO2 cost. They're also critical to new construction.

Bloomberg himself, a zealous Remoaner, also campaigns for the closure of coal-fired power stations. Now, I can't suggest that there's any numerical equivalent between the carbon cost of his new building and the 37m. tonne / pa CO2 output of the UK's  coal power stations, but his own contribution is not insignificant. His building used 15,500 tonnes of steel - twice the steel in the Eiffel Tower - 65,000 cu.m of concrete, 600 tonnes of bronze and 450 tonnes of aluminium. The carbon cost will be close to 250,000 tonnes of CO2. Yet in the Guardian, Rowan Moore almost achieves orgasm in his praise for the behemoth;
This is not just an office building, or rather two buildings joined by a glass link. It’s a full-spectrum chthonic-to-celestial, cultural-social-technological, natural-synthetic, virtual-real, analogue-digital phenomenon....Metaphors and allusions come easily enough – it is Starship Enterprise and baroque palazzo at once, somewhat Ian Fleming, the interior of the personal volcano of a benign Blofeld. There are those aquariums and, behind a big glass wall, a majestic view of St Paul’s, as if it were itself a great stone fish captured and put in a tank....creates a sort of field of art, in which different elements of a single artist’s work reappear in different parts of the building. It reinforces the field-like properties of the complex as a whole, the sense of a pervasive intelligence, a Kirk-Spock figure controlling the art, architecture, technology, sustainability, catering and wellbeing strategies.
Now this isn't a piece about AGW or the effects of CO2. It's a piece about hypocrisy; the hypocrisy of my industry which does everything it can to discount the environmental cost of its activities, and the hypocrisy of the Bloomberg apologists, who praise the great man's fight against CO2. The CO2 cost of new construction doesn't even necessarily count against the UK's total; usefully, CO2 is accounted at the place of manufacture of the materials and components. So Bloomberg's carbon could well be part of China's or Thailand's total. This allows the West both to splurge on high-carbon new buildings and blame the $10-a-day economies for polluting our environment. 

If this building 'saves' 250 tonnes a year of CO2 from its energy efficiency, it will still take 1,000 years to pay-back the construction cost before there's any net advantage. The building has an economic life of 75 years. 

There's little structurally wrong with the 1970s office blocks that are now being destroyed wholesale in order to give our big name architects new pictures for next decade's portfolios. And as long as global corporates are driven by vanity, our cityscape will get these self-indulgences, like Onan's seed falling fruitlessly to earth. 

Thursday, 9 November 2017

The more shrilly the EU begs for money, the longer we should hold out

Herr Barnier has been at it again. This time his shrill demands for money are accompanied by threats to 'shake the tree' to force businesses to relocate from the UK to the EU. This, of course, is a delusion common amongst unelected bureaucrats and petty demagogues who don't understand quite how business makes decisions. It is, however, revealing of Herr Barnier's attitude - and a taste of what we can expect after Brexit.

If the EU is planning how to discriminate against firms headquartered in the UK - even those trading with the EU on WTO terms - it is pretty certain that those measures will be implemented anyway post-Brexit. They will be faced with a nation that has two key weapons in her armoury - corporate tax rates, and state aid. When no longer constrained after Brexit from using these tools, the UK can also apply reciprocal constraints against EU firms, excluding them for example from bidding for government work and so on. A mixture of economic liberalism and targeted protectionism. 

The fact is that the EU are quite desperate for British money. They will beg and whine and try all sorts of blackmail in order to force an undertaking from us. Our tactic must be quite clear; no trade deal, no money. And  if we need to write-in clauses constraining Herr Barnier's tree shaking, that's useful to know.

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

'Copper Cage' is not always a prison

One of the joys of ISPs here is that they provide high-speed unlimited volume 3G / 4G net access for around €1 a day. One of the miseries is that, the cities apart, it's all delivered over the mobile network and is susceptible to weather events. So whilst the UK is still debating how to lay cables with enough bandwidth to allow people to download .jpgs in under a minute, they're rolling out 4G here even to the most remote and sparsely inhabited parts. Austria, about a third as densely populated as the UK, has used the mobile network to escape the copper cage to the extent that the domestic landline has become a thing of the past - even the oldies have dumped them in favour of 'handys'.  

However, our first 8" of snow of the year combined with trees that have not yet shed their brilliant autumn foliage has left us with no web for the past two days. The network crawled back into life this morning and my little Huawei cube is now glowing away wirelessly. Just a reminder that the copper cage is not always a prison - it can confer resilience. 

I am of an age that simply finds alternatives when the web is down. A dvd or cd, a pile of Christmas cards and a fountain pen are useful. Not storing anything digital you own on someone else's server is also a plus. However, the pub yesterday evening was a scene of demented and addicted compulsive phone users checking their dead  devices every few seconds, becoming tangibly angry and frustrated into drinking out of nihilism rather than conviviality, so dependent are they on continuous 3G access.

Is this the way of the future? Will they grow out of it? Can they learn from us before they implode? I have a feeling that as the webwar hots up such outages will become more and more frequent, and Russia and China will throw resources at trying to secure cyberdominance. If the phone-addicks don't learn to live with it they have a lot of suffering to endure.

Friday, 3 November 2017

Forward to the Past!

There's a wonderful piece in the sad old Grauniad with some lovely maps on how the world would look with a rise in sea levels. For those of a historical turn of mind, their feature map of the Wash may look familiar... yes, it's exactly the same as the Anglian coastline back in Roman and Saxon times. 

To be frank, I can see only upsides. With the Norfolk broads once again decently under water and connected to the sea, all those ugly floating caravans known as broads cruisers would be dashed to matchwood by decent storms. Hull would cease to be. Old Anglian cities - Dunwich, Soham and Ely - would again be prosperous ports. 

Looks good to me.

Thursday, 2 November 2017

Dirty Dog MPs need their tackle lopped

You can bet that Michael Fallon didn't jump because he touched Julia Hartley-Brewer's knees some years ago. Oh No. There had to be something much darker and nastier that threatened to burst out - rape perhaps, a serious sexual assault, an offence against a minor. Fallon's rapid resignation stinks of an attempt to stay out of jail rather than an attempt not to embarrass the government. 

What is it with male MPs that they're seemingly incapable of keeping their dicks in their trousers? Does their petty power act like a sort of Viagra? Or is it just the deviant narcissists that are attracted to politics in the first place? And no, women MPs don't behave in the same way. 

And I'm not writing about innocent horny flirtation; these men target their staff, juniors, researchers, new young female party colleagues. In other words they abuse their position to inflict their sexual attentions on those not in a position to repel them. If it was up to me I'd treat them like one does a dog that humps visitors' legs. Lop 'em off. 

Of course we mustn't let this become a witch hunt that uses harmless and innocuous banter and tentative try-ons to target the innocent and foolish. No. But we must scour Westminster of the threat of the really harmful dirty dogs. As with expenses, if they can't manage to restrain themselves, then we must introduce systems that do so.  

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

The evidence says we're right to distrust 'experts'

I don't need to lay out the disastrous economic, environmental and industrial consequences of the idiot official moves, urged by 'experts', to encourage a switch to diesel engines for short-hop urban journey low annual mileage private cars. Non-experts said all along this was tosh, that diesels were suitable for long-hours, hot running and continuous load - for road freight, marine, rail engines. So now we have cities so polluted that 40,000 Brits each year are dying prematurely. It's not just diesels, of course; long before changes to building regs, Ken Livingstone made his own planning changes in London that required developers of large buildings to install renewable-fuel heat systems. They all of course chose the cheapest - pellet-burners - which along with diesels are the major cause of those lethal PM10 and PM2.5 particulates. Without intervention developers would have chosen clean gas-fired systems. Even when tens of thousands of Londoners were dying prematurely from their lying and incompetence, the 'experts' threw yet another lie into the mix to save their skins. All London's pollution, they claimed, was due to some middle class people in Highgate and Islington with wood burning stoves, which they lit each Sunday from September to March. Yep. Throw some hipsters to the mob - and keep the blame away from those crooked, bent, indictable 'experts' and the credulous incompetent politicians who listen to them.

Now a bunch of criminally crooked, lying, devious 'experts' from Public Health England are being exposed for falsifying scientific evidence and distorting scientific recommendations all in order to further their own bigoted and zealous opinions and agendas. I cannot recommend too highly the esteemed Dick Puddlecoat who normally does such a sterling job exposing the lies, distortion and hypocrisy of the anti-tobacco bigots but who gave a heads-up on the PHE alcohol lies on Twitter.  

The full disgraceful exposure of those bent bastards at Public Health England is in the Health-Spectator. I commend it to you. 

Whilst our rogue MPs may be obsessed with sex toys and childish acts of Onanism, along with stealing the stationery, the real rogues are these fake 'experts' who lie, distort, omit and make up false evidence all under the cover of a supposed academic credibility. We're right to distrust them - and we have the evidence.

Saturday, 28 October 2017

Blood and Force are no answer to Catalunya

There can be little I can write about Catalonia that has not already been said by every quality paper, every informed columnist and every intelligent journalist - that we are headed into a tragedy, that it's gone too far, that it never should have happened. And also that neither side, both so pig-headedly stupid, so intransigent, so puffed with ferocious virtue, will move. 

Blood and force will not solve the crisis, will not diminish the urge for self-determination. Civil war is not yet possible - unlike the former Jugoslavia, both sides are not in possession of military hardware. Catalonia's leaders will be consigned for the rest of their lives to grim Spanish prisons. Terrorism instead will emerge; taxes will be unpaid, ministers spat at, Civil Guards on patrol will be slaughtered, government buildings bombed, aircraft flown into the Cortes, the King assassinated, innocent lives destroyed. Eventually, after both sides are utterly sick of the bloodshed, Catalonia will regain a measure of self-government. 

Can we ever realise that we can avoid all the blood, the agony, the grief, the lost years, the economic turmoil and cut straight to the deal? Where in God's name is a Statesman or Stateswoman of stature who can halt this descent into Hell and bang both their stupid heads together? 

You cannot, you simply cannot, hold an entire people captive, subjugated, against their will. The right of self determination is inconvenient but unavoidable. That's why we agreed with Scotland's wish for a plebiscite in 2014, in which they voted No, a result (despite what the SNP may think) that both nations agree binds us for generations. We must also face the reality that Catholics in Northern Ireland will outnumber Protestants possibly within my lifetime, and if that rebalance results in a plebiscite that approves rejoining the Province to the Republic then we must learn to live with it. That's what an advanced and mature democracy does. 

For Catalonia, I pray that both sides will pull back, agree to restore the status quo ante, release the Catalonian hostages from Spanish prisons, and above all agree to a binding referendum on independence when heads are cooler, say in 2022, to allow the necessary changes to the Spanish constitution.  

Friday, 27 October 2017

Decolonising Academia


Please see the important communication below sent today by the Vice-Chancellor from an important academic conference in Val d'Isère

Sam Duggs
Faculty Administrator 

The faculty of Steeple Bumstead University have considered the many representations made by our BAME, LGBTQQIP2SAA and Identity Fluid students on the matter of decolonising our various undergraduate degree courses. We accept that our teaching, based on the canons of western thought, the First and Second Enlightenment, a Judaeo-Christian historical framework and a Eurocentric cultural bias, will disadvantage many students for whom these components are not endogenous. We have therefore made the following changes:-
- A new Chair, the Hegelian Professor of Rap, has been created and we are looking across the Atlantic for suitable candidates. Tunky Dog's Ass, JXee and Nickel Cap Head have unfortunately been appointed to academic posts with tenure at Harvard, Yale and MIT respectively, so will not be available.

- The University library has been decommissioned and converted to a multi-faith Mosque in which adherents of all faiths may worship as long as they accept Islamic restrictions on their beliefs. To promote Wimmin's Rights, we have secured separate facilities for female undergraduates to keep them apart from the men. Wimmin are also encouraged to wear the veil on campus to prevent inherent and unconscious academic bias that may occur if their faces were visible and they could be individually identified.

- We are introducing a number of new texts written in English. These include  "Busted! My crack whore years" by Snaggs Turdish (123pp, large text version with illustrations) "My poetry doesn't rhyme or scan" by Inca Pointless (both sides of the A4 sheet) and "Bollocks to God" by the Bishop of Woolwich (Gay Rainbow press, 422pp, 4to).

- However, the boldest change we're making is in changing the university's use of the English language in all teaching, seminars and tutorials. English is the very symbol of a colonialist mindset, and just hearing the language used triggers many of our more sensitive students. From next term, the University will use exclusively Khoe, the most prevalent of the Khoisan click languages used in Africa, for all lectures, seminars and tutorials, and for all written assignments. With a total vocabulary of barely a thousand words, we expect this to make any writing that students are required to do much simpler. However, as it will take rather longer to explain difficult concepts, it also means cutting large parts of course content to fit the available vocabulary. We will use the Isolate syntax (|gáro = ostrich, !nábe = giraffe, kx'âa = to drink). 
Academic staff will attend crash Khoisan courses over the holiday and students are recommended to purchase the Khoe primer for the discounted price of £89.99 from the University bookshop.

I myself am attending an important academic conference in the Maldives for much of next term but will return to see the final stages of the conversion of the old earl of Bumstead's seat at Palladian Hall into the Vice Chancellor's new residence. I wish you all the very best at this exciting time of change - and  ts'ókwàna ɦatʃ'pitʃ'i as they say in Mogadishu!

Tarquin Bevan
Vice Chancellor

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Billy the Fish on groping charges

I could tell from the way my after-work drinking chum necked his first beer that he'd had a tough day. He'd spent another hour being lectured by a locally prominent Union boss on his management shortcomings. These verbal assaults would be delivered regularly by the little man - barely 5'6", well into his 60s and who dyed his hair black and slicked it with Brylcream. Hence the nickname of Billy the Fish (after the Viz character). He would taunt managers to lamp him, or at least lose their cool and rant back at him - the only way to cope was to keep quiet, endure it and give him and his professional witness no excuse. 

Imagine the rejoicing when a case came to the Tribunal brought by two of the ladies who had resigned from the Union office because Billy the Fish was a serial groper. Others who had left previously gave evidence. One had caught him in an Onanistic act in the office. Billy the Fish was a broken man. The local paper carried full and explicit reports. Everyone took the piss out of him. Any attempts at bluster were met by grinning managers making groping moves or worse with their hands. He was destroyed, abandoned by the small pond of the local Labour Party and by his own Union.

Their own hypocrisy has delivered two Labour scalps in the past few days. Clive Lewis for shouting out "On yo' knees, bitch" and the vile Jared O'Mara for a series of even more vile homophobic expressions. The latter, until yesterday, sat on the Equalities select committee. The former was pulled up for blatent lying on election literature. Even more MPs are fearful of disclosures to come as women politicians scrape their recall to recount every inappropriate touch, every invitation 'for a drink', every hot breath in the lift. They all want to be a part of #MeToo #bandwagon. 

And, oh frabjous move, female staff in the European Parliament for whom being groped must have seemed an essential employment requirement are now starting to speak out - not to internal EU processes that buy their silence but to the press. Unelected officials are rapidly working out how to hush it all up. 

Let me be clear; I do find this both satisfying and amusing, but also deadly serious. No-one, man or woman, should have to endure unwanted sexual behaviour in the workplace. I'm not talking about workplace banter or healthy flirtatious behaviour but dark, unpleasant episodes. 

When I was young chap in my 20s I worked in a temp job for a blue-rinsed female supervisor with a full set of dentures. It took me a week to work out why the other guys in the office had arranged their desks so their backs were hard against the walls. The first time she leaned over me from behind pressing her withered dugs into my shoulders I thought it was a mistake. By week two I would dread her approach and cringed and leaned sideways to try to avoid the loathsome rubbing. No it's not funny. It was deeply unpleasant and I still feel the full unpleasantness. There you are. #MeToo.     

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Spanish State revives the Garrotte

I remember the 1970s very well. I was taking my 'O' levels and impatient for an end to the war in Vietnam; cheap air travel was just starting, though there was a certain hesitation about Spain as a holiday destination because the Fascist dictator there was still butchering his political opponents - Jake Wallis Simons in the Speccie;
Under Franco, Catalan language and culture were banned, and aspirations of independence repressed. Franco maintained this stance up until his death. Just eight months before the dictator shuffled off his mortal coil, a young Catalan revolutionary anarchist, Salvador Puig Antich, had his coil shuffled off for him by a State executioner armed with a garrotte. The killing took place at the notorious La Model prison, which was located about a mile from where those thugs were Sieg Heiling on Sunday. Rajoy has no more desire to see Catalonia break away than had Franco.

If anyone can tell me why the Catalan people don't qualify as a separate people under UN guidelines, and deserving of the proper choice of self-determination, legally overseen by the EU and the UN, I'd be interested to know. 

One can't rely on the Spanish courts - the WEF rates them as corrupt as the ECJ, less independent than courts in Botswana, Azerbaijan, China, Chile and Bhutan. The courts there still do what the Spanish fascists tell them to. Thay will stand by whilst Rajoy garrottes democracy. There's no justice to be had within Spain. In fact the rule of law everywhere in the EU except the UK is so piss-poor that Roland Freisler must be dancing in the flames.

Friday, 20 October 2017

Back to Brexit

If nothing else is certain, it seems now that both sides in the Brexit negotiations recognise that December is the crunch month. The decisions made by both sides at the end of the year will determine whether we leave with a deal or without one; without one, we then have fifteen months in which to prepare for a life with no transitional trade period with the EU, but richer by £13bn a year. That saving can pay for, amongst many other things, at least twenty new Fisheries Patrol Vessels and their crews.

Like others I have a certain faith in brinkmanship, having seen it in action many times. As public negotiations seem deadlocked and intractable, and as midnight approaches, the quiet private talks that have been going on in the background suddenly produce a deal to which both sides can sign up. So I shall avoid any didacticism until things go past the point of no-return. 

One point about what must be a paragraph-heading in the negotiations - a quid pro quo deal that involves the City, and the UK's exclusive economic marine zone. It has been suggested that in return for continuing to allow the City some advantage - passporting rights or somesuch - that we continue to permit EU fishing boats to harvest fish from UK waters. If we go out with no deal, and prevent EU vessels from fishing in our waters, they will have to pay (under WTO rules) a 30% tariff on any British-caught fish imported, as well as the idle-costs of many thousands of EU fishing boats and their crews who currently depend on UK waters for the greater part of their livelihood. The two issues may not be equal in financial terms, but excluding the EU from UK waters would hit the EU very hard where it hurts - popular perception.  

On the menu for last night's EU dinner was aiglefin fumé - smoked Haddock with a Parmesan mousse on a bed of butternut gnocchi. They'd better make the most of it; without a deal, from 2019 they'll be eating remarkably little Haddock. 

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Austrian election - Post 3

Emmanuel Macron's reign as the EU's wunderkind did not last long. He's been usurped by a man not only younger than he is, but one dating a girl his own age, rather than being married to his grandmother. And it may well be this small nation that influences EU policy more effectively than Macron.

British papers have picked up on the possibility that Kurz may take Austria into the Vizegrad group, thus forming an internal EU opposition group that runs from the Baltic almost to the Adriatic. They have also mentioned that the last Turkish seige of Vienna in 1683 left the country with a permanent identity as Europe's final barrier against Islam. To a point, Lord Copper. None I've read have mentioned that it was actually the Polish Jan Sobieski who routed the Turkish forces at the gates of Vienna and it was not Austria alone but a Christian alliance that finally turned Islam from Europe's heart.  

Today, Vienna is as well populated with Turkish kebab shops, per capita, as is London. Only here they're 'Kebap' shops, the pitta bread is round and the chilli sauce is bland and mild to suit Austrian palates. Most of Austria's Muslims are either Turks or from the Balkans; westernised, easy to assimilate, invisible after two or three generations. Not so Muslim migrants from Africa, Pakistan or Iraq. Austria's game plan is to assimilate the old migrants and block any more from settling; Saudi funding of mosques and imams is banned here, Salafist teaching forbidden and any segregated Islamist schools, even nurseries, subject to intense State surveillance and monitoring. And now the Burqa is banned. 

It would seem obvious even to the meanest intelligence that Austria, like Poland, Hungary and Slovakia, will refuse to take part in Juncker's mad plan to distribute tens of thousands of African Muslim migrants across Europe from Italy. Austrian tanks and barbed wire at the Brenner pass are symbolic; the little border road we use to go to Tarvisio for fresh market vegetables and a pizza lunch is manned by just a pair of bored guards. This does not, however mean that Austria will formally join the Vizegrad group; the country is proud of being a bit different, and is the EU's only neutral nation one of four neutral EU nations (and therefore not a NATO member). Austria sees itself as more Switzerland than Hungary, and will want to play a role with a foot in both Vizegrad and the Franco-German EU, holding a powerful but variable casting vote. 

The border
  Austria also desires an EU that suits it. A good example is electricity market deregulation. Only in Vienna and environs does one have a choice of power provider. Here 25% Länder-owned power company Kelag has the monopoly - in the face of EU requirements forcing competition - and the same applies in other Länder. As far as Austria is concerned, competition will only be implemented when it is advantageous to do so, not because Brussels says so.* Austria in particular believes state aid is a good thing, that maintaining jobs and the economy is more important than EU edicts. So firms employing over 15 or so people here rarely go suddenly bankrupt; once they've run up a million or so in debt and the banks won't extend, the local council and the province step in, arrange new contracts, commission orders, pump in money on easy terms, guarantee loans and put together asset deals, all utterly unlawful under EU rules but all utterly widespread here. 

Kurz regards these things as internal, matters that should be determined by individual nations and not dictated from Brussels. He is, in this, closer to Jeremy Corbyn than to Theresa May. The rail operator, OeBB, is wholly state owned and services are superb and fares low. There is a popular consensus that approves the economic role of the State and also accepts that it not need be too efficient, as inefficiency means more jobs. Even estate agents are protected here with statutory house-sale fees of 3%, half-each to be paid by buyer and seller. The consequence of this last is that Austria's estate agents are the laziest and poorest quality in Europe. 

There is an expression that one hears time after time in Austria - 'One hand washes the other'. It applies to everything from petty corruption to nepotism, crooked government deals and bribery. I really can't see that changing. Austria is 17th in Transparency International's corruption index, a way away from Switzerland at 5th place.   

Above all this election means that the EU has lost all pretence at being a homogeneous entity. Brussels must now, rather than uniting ever more closely, become even more expert at playing realpolitik with nations determined upon their own national identity, opposed to any further loss of power, and now with enough clout to make life very difficult in Brussels. Poor Herr Juncker. One can hardly begrudge him the cognac bottle for his breakfast this morning.  

*This has the knock-on that Kelag can dictate consumer hardware; instead of a UK style consumer unit costing £60 - £70 one is obliged here to install a locally-designed 'Kärnten verteiler' made by a local company and costing around €1,000. It is the size of a small fridge, made of steel, and weighs 60kg empty. It is called, without any irony, the 'Eco' by makers Schrack.

Monday, 16 October 2017

Austrian election - Post 2

A couple of weeks ago the Burqa ban came into effect in Austria, banning all clothing that covered the face. The first (and so far only) fine issued by the police under the law was to a performer wearing a shark costume whilst promoting the McShark computer chain. Austria's estimated 150 (yes, 150) Burqa wearers stayed indoors. Of course there's no Burqa problem now, say Austrian friends, but look at France, where the Burqa is used as an outward expression of Islamism to say 'FU' to the Fifth Republic. They don't want that to happen here. 

The election has been a single issue business, all about migration. On everything else there's an easy consensus between the parties; Austria is a protectionist, social-democratic republic with a socialist economy and conservative values. This has enabled the conservative OeVP and the socialist SPOe to govern in coalition for most of the years since the war. But it was Germany's stupidity in opening Europe's borders last year that provoked the backlash; until the young Sebastian Kurz took the initiative in co-ordinating the closure of the Serbian migrant route with steel fences, the tsunami of economic migrants all came through Austria, many staying. 

The Austrian Federal government went over the heads of the Länder in dispersing migrants as thinly as possible across the country. They didn't want to create ghettoes in Vienna. Here in my gemeinde we were allocated 74, though fewer than half that number are actually billeted here. The owner of a closed and tired small hotel, last refurbed in the '70s, volunteered his asset to the Vienna government with alacrity. He houses and feeds the migrants twice a day on boiled pasta and rakes in more money than he's made in the past decade. The Afghans shrug off the -20 winter cold and the snow, the Africans shiver in misery under their bedclothes. CAFOD have donated some bicycles (migrants can't drive in Austria) and volunteers now coach ex-Iraqi tank drivers, Afghan helo pilots and Sudanese taxi operators as they wobble uncertainly around the car park like children. 

Muslim migrants in particular have found an immovable cultural barrier. Not only do the valleys tintabulate to the sound of church bells three times a day, not only can you not travel more than 100m without meeting a crucifix or a Marian roadside shrine, only pork and beef can be bought in the shop, and there are no halal foods, but the locals insist on greeting them in public with a cheery smile and "Grüß Gott!". They know damn well that the God being asked to bless them is the Holy Trinity of the Christian Diety and not the sterile Allah of their own death cult. You can see them wince almost imperceptibly at the greeting. They do not respond. 

In dispersing the migrants so widely the Federal government scored a home goal. In those provinces in which most gemeindes had never seen a black face before the dispersal, the SPOe and Green vote has collapsed and the OeVP and FPOe have benefited. The message is very clear; thus far and no further. The migrants here themselves want to leave the rather bleak and isolated Austrian rural areas for German cities, and the Austrian authorities are complicit in turning a blind eye to their leaving; the whole mess was, after all, Germany's fault. In return, Germany is keeping the Austrian border closed - to intercept both migrants and Balkans cigarettes. 

All this has put Sebastian Kurz in the Ballhausplatz. 

I was in the local pub yesterday evening with a couple of young German friends and the place was fairly packed with folk watching the election results. I'd worked out that the full tables in front of us were SPOe until young Katz nudged me to point out an FPOe 'Strache' scarf draped over a chair on the table behind. This is how rural Austria works. There's only one pub, so Labour and UKIP share, and get on politely enough, greeting eachother in the toilet and enquiring about children. They're likely to be related, after all, in an Austria in which extended families have largely stayed in place on the same land their ancestors inhabited centuries ago. And community and cultural identity are always more important than party politics.