Category: Economics

Brexit-Watch: Friday 19 June 2020

Barmier from Barnier with a jibe at London

Note: this article was originally published at The Conservative Woman on Wednesday 17 June 2020

Choosing four recent Brexit-relevant media articles which, while not necessarily meriting a full-length article, nevertheless warrant two or three paragraphs of comment, rather than merely a couple of lines.

NB: (£) denotes article behind paywall

 

London should not be a European financial hub after Brexit, says Michel BarnierTelegraph (£)

This smacks more of either petulant obstructionism or even desperation from Barnier, rather than a credible threat.  However, it’s rather disturbing to see some UK commentators appearing to fall for it, by suggesting we should sacrifice both what’s left of our EU-decimated fishing industry and autonomy over our sovereign territorial waters in return for financial services.

I believe that this is both a false dichotomy, and an empty threat.  Compare the amount of EU-related financial business going through London with that going through, say, Frankfurt, which is the only even possible alternative. There’s no comparison.  And in any event, the EU’s intention to introduce a disastrous pan-EU Financial Transactions Tax would act as a massive disincentive for business to move from London to Frankfurt.

On this, Bottler Boris needs to hold his nerve and hold the line. 

 

Any more Brexit delays would be an affront to democracyDaily Express

In focusing on the nuts and bolts details of the negotiation process, it’s easy to overlook the underlying electoral politics.  Arguably, they mattered less while the Tories were continuing to post polling-leads in double digits, despite misgivings about their mishandling of the COVID19 crisis.  Now, however, with Keir Starmer providing more effective opposition to a visibly struggling Johnson, and with widespread reservations over the Tories’ timidity over exiting lockdown, they start to matter more.

Against this background, the Centre for Brexit Policy has released its new paper entitled Do Not Delay Brexit – The View from the Red Wallwhich backs up its Chairman Owen Paterson’s Express article by showing the extent to which the Tories’ December 2019 election landslide was largely due to ex-Labour voters in the Midlands and the North trusting the Conservatives to deliver a genuine Brexit.

The significance of this, of course, is that, with the opinion polls now tighter, and the proponents of an extension to the Brexit transition period trying to leverage the Coronavirus outbreak as justification for it, a failure to complete the implementation of Brexit on time will rebound adversely on the Tories electorally.  They would do well not to rely on the next election being 4½ years away and think they can take their recently acquired new electorate for granted.   

 

The Economic Case Against Extending the Brexit Transition –  Briefings for Britain

The case against extending the Brexit transition period isn’t only political.  As economist Julian Jessop points out, any theoretical adverse impact from the completion of Brexit on time, even based on exiting on WTO terms if a Free Trade Agreement cannot be reached, is dwarfed by the economic impact of COVID19 and the tremendous costs Johnson’s government has incurred in trying to mitigate it.

As Jessop also points out, the global economic downturn from COVID19 has also slashed borrowing costs still further, to the point where some gilts yields are negative.  This means that any additional Government borrowing as a result of completing Brexit on time may actually have been made cheaper by the Coronavirus crisis, apart from becoming relatively less significant when set against the extent of COVID19 borrowing as a whole.  There is simply no convincing case for deferring completion of Brexit on economic grounds.

 

Free trade is the key to Britain’s success. We can’t let our farmers and fishermen hold us backThe Times (£) 

The fact that this article is far more about farming than it is about fishing, which gets a mention only in regard to a possible trade-off against financial services, made me wonder if the Times‘ sub-editors took a small liberty with the headline to garner more clicks, fishing being such a touchstone issue.

Whether the case or not, the premise for that trade-off is questionable; firstly because the EU’s ability to hold the UK and City of London to ransom over financial services is limited, as I explain in the first link commented on in this article, and secondly because Brussels is now reported to be backing down on access rights to British waters anyway.

The validity of an argument linking farming with fishing, as though they were but two sides of the same coin, looks suspect in any event. Even taking into account the self-sufficiency case for, and the anti-protectionism case against, giving farming and agriculture special treatment, the two aren’t the same.  Fishing isn’t just a trade issue; given that it involves the ‘ownership’ of national territorial waters, it’s far more a sovereignty issue that it is merely one of trade and commerce, and if Johnson has succeeded in forcing Brussels to accept that it is ‘off the table’, that can only be a good thing.

 

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Brexit-Watch: Friday 12 June 2020

The EU has reason to fear the implications of Britain’s historic Hong Kong connections in negotiations over future UK-EU trade relations   

Note: this article was originally published at The Conservative Woman on Friday 05 June 2020

Choosing four recent Brexit-relevant media articles which, while not necessarily meriting a full-length article, nevertheless warrant two or three paragraphs of comment, rather than merely a couple of lines.

NB: (£) denotes article behind paywall

 

EU: Trade with China Trumps Freedom for Hong KongGatestone Institute

It should by now be clear that, having either deliberately released the COVID19 virus or negligently allowed to it escape (the jury is still out on that one, so take your pick), China intends to take advantage of the rest of the world being both distracted by it and intimidated by its dependency on China for PPE, to advance the Chinese Communist Party’s own agenda.

So far, the UK has reacted honourably to the Chinese threat to Hong Kong’s freedoms by suggesting the grant of a 12-month UK visa, as a ‘pathway to citizenship’, for the roughly 3 million Hong Kong residents who qualify for British National (Overseas) status.  The EU, on the other hand, shows no inclination to do anything which might jeopardise its trade links with China.

The UK must resist any moves by the EU in Brexit negotiations to capitalise on a potential future reduction in UK-China trade by being even more intransigent on future UK-EU trade relations.  The EU has more to lose.  Not only would the arrival in Britain of up to 3 million from one of the most dynamic and entrepreneurial economies on Earth be a welcome boost to Britain’s post-COVID19 recovery; the prospect of Hong Kong-style low tax, free market, small-state attitudes growing and thriving only 22 miles off the declining, sclerotic EU mainland would put the fear of God into it. 

 

History will judge Brexit on how the fisheries issue is settledGlobal Vision

This Brexit-Watch series has mentioned on several previous occasions how British commercial fishing has a symbolic, almost talismanic, political status as a proxy for Britain’s surrender of economic and territorial sovereignty since joining the then EEC in 1973, even if that status is out of proportion to the industry’s economic significance.

So the article author Hjörtur Guðmundsson is right to warn that the UK must maintain its stance of refusing to lump fishing in with all other aspects of a UK-EU trade deal – assuming one can be reached at all, which looks increasingly doubtful, though not necessarily harmful – and instead continue to insist that it be treated separately.  UK chief negotiator David Frost has so far also been adamant that EU intransigence on access to UK fishing waters will heighten the risk of the UK walking away from a trade deal, and this pressure too should be maintained.  Playing hardball may be paying off.

The greatest danger here, paradoxically, may arise from Johnson’s reported intention to involve himself more closely in the minutiae of negotiation.  Never a details man at the best of times, the risk that, amid some typically Boris bluff’n’bluster, a disadvantageous trade-off or concession might be made purely to achieve a deal for political purposes but whose baleful effects could reverberate, couldn’t be discounted.  In that case, Brexit would indeed be judged on how the fisheries issue was settled, and Johnson would be in the dock. 

 

No-deal Brexit holds fewer fears for a Covid-ravaged economy – Financial Times (£)

Even the irreconcilably Continuity-Remainer FT tacitly, albeit reluctantly, acknowledges what many have been saying ever since COVID19 first appeared on the horizon.  Set against the costs to the UK economy of the pandemic, or more accurately, the costs of the Government –

  1. putting the economy into the deep freeze;
  2. placing millions on the State payroll;
  3. borrowing upwards of £300 billion; and
  4. restricting civil liberties to an extent unprecedented even in wartime,

all of which it was panicked into taking in response, the costs in comparison of a No-Deal Brexit pale into insignificance.

Not only would the likely scale of the inevitable-in-any-event decline in economic output ameliorate any adverse economic consequences of reverting to WTO terms on a No-Deal final exit, but COVID19-induced unemployment might even be lessened by the recruitment of personnel needed to operate new border controls.

The FT of course quotes the usual anti-Brexit Jeremiahs in abundance, but for it to admit it may not be all doom and gloom is quite something. It’s an ill wind. . . .

 

Free trade with America will see our farmers prosper Centre for Brexit Policy

Considering how the iniquities of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy, and the importance of the UK re-acquiring the ability as an independent sovereign nation to conclude trade deals, were among the significant issues aired during the 2016 EU Referendum campaign, it’s sometimes surprising how they appear to have receded in the public mind since then.

Yet, as this article by former Environment Secretary Owen Paterson makes clear, the calls to maintain EU-amenable levels of trade protectionism, particularly as regards agricultural products, have not gone away, merely re-surfaced under ‘animal hygiene’ or ‘animal welfare’ labels.

To end being told by countries, into whose legislatures we have no democratic input, what regulations we must apply domestically is one of the reasons we voted to leave the EU.  Paterson is undoubtedly correct to say that free trade, policed by reputable global organisations overseeing regulatory equivalence rather than imposing regulatory harmonisation, offers us a better chance of benefiting from our decision while improving animal welfare than does the alternative of continued trade-protectionism.

 

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Professor Lockdown: Wholly Hubris or Partly Honey-Trap?

The circumstances of the extra-marital romantic assignations for which the architect of lockdown broke his own recommended social distancing rules are enough to prompt suspicion that initiation of the relationship might have been neither entirely his, nor entirely for purely personal reasons

Note: updated version of the article originally published at The Conservative Woman on Monday 18 May 2020

Definition of honeytrap

When the scandal of Imperial College’s Professor Neil Ferguson’s breach of the COVID-19 lockdown social-distancing rules for his amorous dalliances with his married mistress Antonia Staats broke, it was not only understandable but also totally justified that the main focus of public attention by far was on his own gross professional and personal hypocrisy.

After all, here was arguably the principal architect of the SAGE advisory group’s ‘expert’ ‘scientific’ advice, which prompted the Government to –

  1. restrict personal freedoms to an extent unprecedented in peacetime;
  1. in effect shut down the economy; and
  1. put half the nation’s entire workforce on the public payroll,

flagrantly doing precisely the opposite of his own recommendations.

The disastrous effects of the Government’s panicked U-turn from mitigation to suppression, so as to follow the SAGE/Ferguson recommendations slavishly, are all too familiar.  The excessively heavy-handed authoritarianism of the Police in enforcing lockdown rules.  The deliberate inducement of the worst recession for 300 years.  A level of budget deficits which will take years to recover from.  They need no more than a brief mention here.

Neither is this the place to debate either the merits or demerits of Lockdown per se, which have been impressively covered elsewhere, or Ferguson’s private morals, which are of no intrinsic concern to us.

However, given the sheer hypocrisy of his personal conduct compared to his professional scientific advice, and the baleful consequences of the Government’s following the latter, it’s not unreasonable to wonder whether there are any underlying political factors which influenced Ferguson’s specific choice of paramour?  Or, possibly, which influenced his paramour’s particular selection of him as the object of her attention and beneficiary of her favours?

Primarily on Ferguson’s ‘expert advice’, a formerly-‘Conservative’ Party government has created a weaker, static, travel-shunning society cowed into acquiescent submission by lurid pandemic scaremongering, and a weaker economy dependent on massive State intervention. It’s pursuing policies which wouldn’t be at all out of place in an election manifesto produced jointly by Momentum and Extinction Rebellion.  No wonder the State-Socialists and the Green anti-capitalism eco-totalitarians are crowing that Lockdown has become the new normal.  So what part, if any, might his inamorata have played in influencing that advice?

It didn’t take very long for the Guido Fawkes website to uncover ‘left-wing campaigner’ Ms Staats’ political affiliations, which turned out, with a wearisome predictability, to be eco-socialist, anti-Brexit, and anti-capitalist.  As to Ms Staats’ other links, including to the US-based online globalist-activism Avaaz, these were set out very succinctly by Janice Davis in the penultimate paragraph of her own The Conservative Woman article of Wednesday 13th May; it needs no repetition or elaboration from me, except perhaps to note the allegations of funding connections with the Moveon.org organization funded by George Soros

Antonia Staats 1, 5, & 6

To those of us disinclined to believe in fairies and unicorns, this all started to ring warning bells, and still does.  A hard Green-Left anti-Brexit, globalist, eco-activist, who just happens to have been bedding the very man on whose ‘expert advice’ coincidentally the Government has been inveigled into trying to re-make the economy and society in ways very similar to what the anti-Brexiteers, the far-Left, and extreme-Greens demand?  Can we totally exclude the possibility that Ferguson and Ms Staats connected by some process other than pure chance?

How long has the relationship been going?  Does the apparent willingness to breach the lockdown rules for the amorous assignations – in Ferguson’s case hypocritically so – suggest that it might still be in its first flush of ardour and therefore of comparatively recent origin?  The pair are reported to have hooked up via the match website OkCupid, but which of the two actually initiated it?  Is Ferguson subject to the Official Secrets Act in relation to divulging via post-coital pillow-talk any confidential information to which he might be privy by virtue of his official role?

Now, it must be said that, from Ferguson’s track record, it’s entirely possible to conclude that his recommendations to the Government via SAGE were formed without any external influences.

Professionally, his history of wrong predictions with disastrous consequences has been mercilessly dissected.  The coding on which his modelling is based has been shredded.  With only small adjustments to inputs on his model, very different outputs emerge

In his personal capacity, he has not been notably reticent about his political views, either.  In 2016, he co-authored a paper on the allegedly terrible consequences of leaving the EU.  Immediately after the 2017 General Election, he greeted effusively the capture of the Oxford West and Abingdon constituency by the spectacularly misnamed ‘Liberal’ ‘Democrats’ who, ever since the 2016 EU Referendum, have consistently campaigned on a pledge just to ignore its result and unilaterally overturn it.

Ferguson - Moran

It’s worth reading in detail this article on Ferguson for The Critic by journalist and founder of Lockdown Sceptics, Toby Young.  It’s worth, too, listening to this James Delingpole/Toby Young ‘London Calling’ podcast of 6th May for the Young’s excellent monologue summary (from 06:36) of how Ferguson so egregiously epitomises the dangerous serial failings of the ‘liberal’-left, authoritarian-statist, fiscally incontinent, groupthink-conformist quangocracy.  His apparent assumption that lockdown rules on social distancing were for the little people to follow, but not necessarily himself, could well stem from an elitist hubris that’s entirely self-generated.

So it’s entirely feasible that little, if any, external influence was actually necessary for him to make up his mind in the direction he did.  After all, his recommendations were hardly inconsistent with his previous positions; it was not as if he’d reversed policy direction by 180 degrees.

But perhaps any influence, if influence there was, was of the more subtle kind, in the form of flattery, or validation, which might just have prompted him to strengthen them in a particular direction?  Would it have been akin to gently pushing on an already open door?

Both in reality and fiction, the honey-trap has a long and chequered history.  Betty Pack, as MI6 agent ‘Cynthia’, used her feminine allure to help Britain covertly abstract from the Poles the key to the German Enigma codes.  In Frederick Forsyth’s The Day of the Jackal, a young female OAS agent deliberately becomes the mistress of de Gaulle’s much older security adviser, to inform the would-be assassin of the action being taken in the hunt for him.  Former LibDem MP Mike Hancock employed as his parliamentary researcher, with access to sensitive Defence papers, the Russian spy Katia Zatuliveter, 40 years his junior, with whom he was also having an affair.

We have no reason to assume the practice doesn’t continue.  And in a world populated by many more non-state actors, there is equally no reason to suppose that sexual entrapment, not undertaken for criminal blackmail purposes but with the aim of either obtaining intelligence or exerting influence in a particular policy direction, doesn’t occur outside government agencies, and is never used by either supranational bodies or well-funded NGOs.  Or, indeed, online activist organisations?

It was intriguing how much the initial reaction to the Daily Telegraph‘s exposure of Ferguson’s liaison almost bordered on the incredulous; based on the first, and most glamorous, photograph of Ms Staats which it published to illustrate it, comment along the lines of ‘What on earth did she see in him? She’s a bit out of his league, isn’t she?‘ was frequent.  At the risk of being un-gallant, subsequent pictures may now have, ahem, modified this impression somewhat; but was he possibly, because of his position & influence, selected as a target for some kind of subtle honey-trap operation?

Antonia Staats 2, 3, & 4 comp

One of the few certainties about the whole COVID-19 imbroglio is that there will eventually have to be a mammoth public enquiry.  Are there not sufficient grounds for a full security enquiry to be held within its ambit?  To investigate whether there exist, not merely ‘questions to be asked’ or even ‘reasonable grounds for suspicion’, but actually something more than either of those?  Were Ferguson’s lockdown recommendations and his own subsequent flouting of them based entirely on scientific certitude and elitist personal hubris?  Or something more?

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Is Boris’ Irish Border Backstop Plan Bluff or Breakthough?

Bluff – but bluff by whom, and targeted at whom? There are several possible candidates for both.   

Note: Extract from article first published at The Conservative Woman on Tuesday 15 October 2019  

Those, maybe, are the real questions, because this drama has multiple actors, all of whom have interests and agendas that may be colouring their reactions.

Though Boris has, since last Thursday remained fairly tight-lipped about the details, some kind of, in effect, double customs union, involving keeping Northern Ireland in a de facto, if not de jure, customs union with the Republic, appears to be the basis for this tentative rapprochement.

RoI-NI

But when 85% of Northern Ireland’s exports are to the UK, with only 5% and 3% to the Republic and the EU respectively, it’s hard to see why Northern Ireland would burden itself with onerous EU costs and regulations for such a small proportion of its trade, and risk disruption to the flow of the major part of it.

Which might explain why, as early as last Friday, the DUP’s Nigel Dodds had already rejected the double customs union as ‘unrealistic’, asserting that the Province staying in a full customs union with the UK was non-negotiable, and that for the ongoing ‘tunnel’ talks in Brussels to disregard this pre-condition would be counter-productive.

Presumably, Dodds had already perceived what other commentators have since come round to concluding – that, far from negotiating in good faith, the EU is actually trying to squeeze Northern Ireland into a NI-only backstop, a view which Barnier’s rejection of Johnson’s proposals and demand for more UK concessions does little to dispel.

The technical assessments of Johnson’s proposals are not especially favourable. Anand Menon of The UK in a Changing Europe reckons the long-term economic impacts are negative, and potentially more damaging than the deal negotiated by Theresa May, but the chart below appears to acknowledge that they do give the UK more independence and flexibility. ALR readers are recommended to visit the UKinCE website for themselves and make their own judgement of its pro or anti Brexit stance.

N Ireland May Deal vs Johnson proposals

Theresa May’s former Europe Adviser, Raoul Ruparel of Open Europe, however, is more sanguine. There are some concerns, he says, but they can be managed. ALR readers should visit OE’s website https://openeurope.org.uk and make their own judgement about its pro or anti Brexit stance, too.

As former Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Paterson points out, a double customs union would also potentially be a breach of the Belfast (‘Good Friday’) Agreement, and a violation of the Principle of Consent which was enshrined within it.

We also know, because former Secretary-General to the EU Commission Martin Selmayr was indiscreetly frank about it, that it has long been the EU’s position that relinquishing economic sovereignty of Northern Ireland is the price the UK must be made to pay for leaving the EU. It would be unwise to assume that the reactions of both Brussels and Irish Taoiseach Varadkar, who has shown himself regrettably ready to pander to nationalist Republican revanchism, scrupulously disregard this.

Bluffing about seeing a way forward would certainly be in Boris’ interest, and the Conservative Party’s. The almost exclusive focus of politicians, media and public on the Northern Ireland backstop serves to obscure the suspicion that, ultimately, he will try to get what otherwise is essentially Theresa May’s (non)-‘Withdrawal’ Agreement through the Commons. Its numerous flaws remain as serious as ever they were.

But Boris knows that, if he fails to achieve Brexit by 31st October, the chances of both his own survival and that of his government, are damaged. As political scientist and Professor of Politics at the University of Kent, Matthew Goodwin, points out, the votes which, because of May’s defenestration and Boris ascendancy to Number Ten on a Brexit do-or-die ticket, have come back to the Tories from the Brexit Party after its resounding victory in the European elections, could once again vanish.

Brexit Election Tracker Goodwin mid-Oct 2019

So he has every incentive to play up the chances of a deal after all, and exaggerate its significance, if it can be presented as something which warrants getting a soft-Brexit over the line. The recriminations can come afterwards.

Brussels and Dublin equally have an incentive, to understate  the significance. The EU will be calculating that, by playing hardball, it increases the chances of a Remainer Parliament, which has already passed the Benn Surrender Act, forcing Boris, failing a 31st October Brexit, to seek an Article 50 extension on humiliating terms, probably involving conceding a second referendum.

In short, almost none of the actors in this drama has an incentive to be 100% genuine. Safer, perhaps, to assume that none of them are?

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The Fight for the Soul of the Tory Party

By deposing the Leader and Prime Minister largely responsible for its current ideological paralysis, the Conservative Party must resolve its intellectual vacuum about what modern conservatism stands for

Note: this is the longer and updated version of the article originally published at The Conservative Woman on Monday 1st October 2018

“There are some of us, Mr Chairman, who will fight, and fight, and fight again, to save the party we love”.

In 2018, 58 years after they were addressed by its then Leader Hugh Gaitskell to the 1960 Labour Party Conference, opposing its move towards the hard-Left and its embrace of unilateral nuclear disarmament, those words need once again be addressed to a party conference. Only this time, to the Conservative Party Conference, and moreover not by its Leader, but at her.

As if Theresa May’s duplicitous preparation and imposition on her Cabinet of her now justly infamous Chequers Plan were not bad enough, she has carried on championing it even after its crushing, personally humiliating dismissal by the EU.

May humiliated Salzburg Summit 3She continues to cling obstinately, not only to Chequers as the sole Brexit option she is prepared to consider, but also, incredibly, to Olly Robbins, her thoroughly discredited No 10 Brexit adviser, whose brainchild it was, and on whose ‘expert’ advice that the EU would accept it she persists in relying, to the exclusion of all others.

Yet not merely other, but superior, alternatives exist, being urged on her constantly by allies and opponents alike, which both better reflect the desire manifested in the Brexit vote for clear political, judicial and economic separation from Brussels, and give better opportunities for a newly-independent post-Brexit Britain to forge new trading links around the world.

The Institute of Economic Affairs’ Plan A Plus maximises the scope for eliminating damaging tariffs and regaining control over our fisheries, as well as facilitating new Free Trade Agreements with the world’s dynamically-growing economies outside the stagnating and scelerotic EU: Chequers keeps us tied into it as closely as possible.

IEA Plan A Plus Launch Sep 2018The Canada Plus arrangement gives us total freedom of control over immigration policy, and independence from the EU’s ‘Common Rule Book’: Chequers gives us neither.

Yet they fall on deaf ears. May has her Chequers Plan, she insists that nothing else is acceptable, and that, for her, is that. To the evidence, both that it is less popular than No-Deal, and that its unpopularity exacerbates that of herself and her party, she is impervious.Unpopularity of Chequers dealBut there is worse to come. May’s obdurate adherence to Chequers is being compounded by her acceptance at the very least, or even endorsement if not something more, of a grotesquely cynical ramping up of Project Fear.

The scaremongering operation born out of the Treasury’s pre-Referendum antipathy to Brexit is now being pushed once again by May in full Stockholm-Syndrome mode – on new ‘expert’ advice from her preferred source? – but this time against a No-Deal Brexit as an alternative to Chequers, as part of a deliberate “Chequers or Chaos” strategy.

We saw a foretaste of it in the run-up to the early-July Chequers Summit, with Airbus warning of an exodus from the UK in the event of No-Deal, very soon, curiously, after discussions with Business Secretary and arch-Remainer Greg Clark. But since then, there have been plenty other examples. To quote just two or three:

After having previously instructed them to spend their summer holidays touring Europe to drum up support for her Chequers Plan, May was in early September ordering Ministers to stress to the public that there was no alternative to it

Or try the Association of British Insurers’ warning that it would become illegal in the event of a No-Deal Brexit for insurance-based pensions to be paid to UK-nationality recipients resident in the EU. Fortunately, fairly easy to demolish.

Then, as recently as last week, May’s government theatrically appointed a Food Supplies Minister, “to oversee the protection of food supplies in the event of a No-Deal Brexit”. Such an appointment has previously confined to wartime and was not even deemed necessary in the rolling strikes and disruptions to distribution experienced in the 1974 industrial crisis and the 1978-79 Winter of Discontent.

In summary, not only do we have a Remainer Prime Minister sticking resolutely to a Brexit plan already rejected out-of-hand by an EU no doubt confident that further concessions can be wrung from a desperate Theresa May in deep political trouble, but shunning all other, and better alternatives. We also have a Remainer Prime Minister colluding in, if not directing, a co-ordinated attempt to frighten the British public into accepting it.Project Fear 2018

It’s perhaps hardly surprising that 56 per cent of those polled by Sky Data think Brexit will be worse than expected. The Remainer dominated media and political elite, including even the Governor of the Bank of England, have done little for the last 28 months except attempt to talk the nation into a state of catatonic panic. Mrs May must be so pleased.

Were Brexit the sole source of the Conservatives’ predicament, the crisis might – just – be containable. But overlying May’s Brexit shambles is the Party’s severe ideological vacuum, epitomised by the instinctively statist, authoritarian, May, devoid of any discernible guiding philosophy, personality, or leadership ability, and of which her self-inflicted Brexit shambles is arguably merely a part – its apparently total inability to come up with any ideas, vision or policies to counter the 1970s-throwback, reheated hard-Left socialism of Corbyn’s Labour.

Not before time, commentators have been lining up this past week to highlight the depth, and cause, of this malaise, and rightly condemn it.

In The Daily Telegraph, Allister Heath correctly laid the vast majority of the blame for Corbynomics being so ostensibly popular with Middle England on the faux-‘Conservative’ Party which has largely stopped countering it and in effect capitulated to it.

McDonnell’s Mad Marxism is very likely to be an electoral winner, warned Maggie Pagano at Reaction, not because of any intrinsic merits, but thanks to Theresa May’s Tories’ timidity & incompetence.

The Conservatives, observed Ryan Bourne accurately, also in The Daily Telegraph, have now spent so long agreeing with Labour’s negative portrayal of our economic system, and even imitating its policies, that they have now deprived themselves of any effective criticisms of them.

Ministers like Philip Hammond, noted The Spectator editor Fraser Nelson, are incapable of fighting back other than with left-wing prescriptions like surreptitious tax rises or expensive new spending projects, so that Corbyn is actually leading the nation’s intellectual conversation.

The Conservative Party must re-embrace freeing individuals & businesses from creeping Nanny-State paternalism & authoritarianism, in favour of aspiration, opportunity & meritocracy, pleaded former International Development Minister Priti Patel MP, writing in the Parliamentary magazine The House.

Red-Labour has been made electable by the pseudo-Tories, fumed Gerald Warner at Reaction, condemning the so-called ‘modernised’ Conservative Party for squandering the once-in-a-lifetime chance given to it by Brexit to cease being an empty, principle-free shell.

The Conservatives, fulminated The Spectator editorial in its pre-Conference edition, are functioning as Corbyn’s Useful Idiots: years of failing to make the case for basic liberty and the free enterprise system, of stealing Labour policies in pursuit of electoral advantage, have left them unable to explain why Corbyn is wrong.

And when usually loyal Conservatives like Charles Moore and Tim Montgomerie legitimately ascribe culpability for the Party’s ideological paralysis to May and call for her to go, in effect saying, rightly, that she is all but guaranteeing the advent of a hard-Left Labour government led by Corbyn and McDonnell, her days are surely numbered.

So in Birmingham, over the next two days, there are parallel Brexit and non-Brexit battles taking place. The unofficial, but never far from the surface, impending leadership contest is almost immaterial, because the ideological struggle over the shape, not only of Brexit but of Conservatism, will determine its outcome.

Will the Party continue on its present ever-Leftward drift, preoccupied with fashionably politically-correct social-justice and identity-politics, and convinced, bizarrely, that the only way to stop full-strength Corbyn economically is to offer diet-Corbyn instead? Or will it somehow re-discover the moral and intellectual firepower to oppose Corbynism absolutely and offer a distinctive and optimistic vision of a freer, less-taxed and better-off society?

For anyone wanting the latter, an irredeemably intransigent, incompetent, inflexible Theresa May, a disaster for her party, the country and arguably democracy itself, and who ideally should not even be giving the Leader’s Speech on Wednesday at all, must be forced to declare that it will be her last. If ever there was a need for a repeat-in-reverse on Tuesday of Macmillan’s Night of the Long Knives, it’s now.

Drastic though it is, the present circumstances do justify a palace coup – whereby she is told by a co-ordinated procession of individual colleagues visiting her one by one as with Thatcher in 1990, and in no uncertain terms, that the game is up: that she cannot lead the party through Brexit, much less into the next General Election which could follow a failure to get her Brexit deal through Parliament before March 2019: and that her only alternative is to resign, with effect from the conclusion of her speech, in favour of a pro-Brexit caretaker Prime Minister.

Labour Party Conferences may well be mainly characterised by a succession of extreme-Left demagogues delivering two-minute rants from the platform on arcane and largely indecipherable motions. But at least policy is discussed and even voted on, albeit after a fashion.

But in almost comically stark contrast, the obsessively stage-managed, anodyne, debate-free rallies of the slavishly-loyal, listening dutifully to ministers’ set-piece speeches, which now comprise the formal proceedings of Conservative Party conferences, have become notorious – rightly mocked even by The Daily Telegraph as merely “paying through the nose for the privilege of clapping”.

Conference audience dutifully applauding

If the Party, despite its current dire ideological and political predicament, yet again prefers to close ranks, eyes and ears, and contrives to hold a synthetically-orchestrated, reality-ignoring Conference: and if the pro-Brexit, anti-May dissenters yet again recoil from openly mounting a challenge, both to her conduct of Brexit specifically and her party leadership generally: then a Corbyn government is a near-certainty, and they will have no-one but themselves to blame.

That modern-day equivalent of Gaitskell’s “fight for the soul of the Party” needs to be taking place. In Birmingham. Here and now.

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Blueprint for a Peaceful, Legal, and Non-Violent Civic Resistance

How the Continuity-Remain Government’s and political class’ anti-democratic determination not to deliver the Brexit which 17.4 million voted for could be resisted and defeated

Note: this is the longer (and updated) version of the article originally published at The Conservative Woman on Saturday 11th August 2018 

Just after the 2016 EU Referendum, I speculated on Twitter that, despite the clear majority vote to leave, the overwhelmingly anti-Brexit ‘Liberal’-Elite, New-Class Establishment would not willingly respect and implement the electorate’s democratic decision without a fight, so that we might have to take to the streets, preferably non-violently, to achieve it.

In hindsight, even that pessimistic prediction was an under-estimation, but the revelations from Theresa May’s now infamous Chequers Summit, and developments since, serve only to exacerbate fears of an impending massive sell-out and a soft-Remain, Brexit-In-Name-Only, at the very least. In my view, even May conceding a second referendum, as the price of the EU’s agreeing a limited or even indefinite extension of Article 50, can’t be ruled out.

Assuming that supposedly Brexiteer Tory MPs continue to sit on their hands, and that the burgeoning grassroots revolt doesn’t grow sufficiently large or irresistible to force her resignation and replacement with a committed Brexiteer, the question arises: what next?

I don’t believe that May and her sycophantic majority-Remain government should be allowed just to ride roughshod over democracy itself. I hope there’d be huge outrage across the country, particularly among the 17.4 million who voted for Brexit, not least on the Government’s promise to implement their decision. But: to be effective, what tangible form should it take?

The ‘Liberal’-Elite Remainer Establishment would undoubtedly love us to take to the streets, so that we could, with the willing assistance of its similarly-inclined compliant media, be painted as ‘violent far-right’. Something more subtle would be required. To quote Sun Tzu in ‘The Art of War’ – ‘the wise general never fights a battle on ground of the enemy’s choosing’.

My provisional blueprint for a rolling programme of peaceful, non-violent, civic-resistance has as its inspiration the fuel price protests of 2000. A maximum of a mere 3,000 people, by cleverly strategically blockading the main fuel refineries and distribution facilities, and skilfully eliciting public support, not only credibly threatened to, but very nearly did, bring the country to a halt, but also, crucially, and as was admitted only later, very nearly brought Blair’s first government down.

Fuel Protests 2000 v2

We’ve become accustomed to believing that, between elections, we’re comparatively powerless. I’m not so sure. True, we may not have direct political power. But what 17.4 million of us in aggregate do potentially have is economic power, and in spades. There are several ways we can exert substantial unconventional political influence, and by wholly peaceful, legal means.

Mass, rent and council-tax strikes can adversely affect local authority finances very quickly. The key is in numbers. They can’t possibly sue and/or prosecute everyone, because that would overwhelm most local authorities’ meagre legal resources, as well as clogging up the Courts; moreover the cash-flow problems it would cause most councils would be damaging on their own. Imagine if council staff couldn’t be paid because of a mass rent and council tax strike.

The next option is for a mass boycott of the corporates who’ve joined in anti-Brexit scaremongering, whether of their own volition or at the Government’s request. 17.4 million is a lot of customers. . . .

Alternative supermarket chains to, for example, Morrison’s, or Sainsbury’s whose Blair-ennobled Lord (David) Sainsbury donated £4.2 million to the Remain campaign, are available. Watch their share prices start to tank if costs rise from un-sold or perishing stock, as sales slump and profits start to slide.

We don’t need to choose, or continue to use anti-Brexit Branson’s Virgin-branded trains, banking services, or satellite TV. Not only are there alternative online retailers to Amazon available, but can we not do without most of what we buy from Amazon for three months?

Because it could take as short as that. Remember, the modern mass retailing business model is predicated on just-in-time delivery for high-volume sales, thus minimising stock-holding and warehousing costs. A significant interruption to the constant flow of high-volume sales, via a mass customer boycott, has the potential for major logistical problems, a build-up of non-shifting stock, and with all the attendant cost ramifications and effect on profit.

And that has the additional possible effect of reducing the State’s tax take, both from VAT on sales and from corporation tax on company profits further down the line.

You can probably think of many more:  but this final one might, I suspect, be a potential clincher. It exploits the old adage that if you owe the bank £50,000 and can’t repay it, then you have a problem: but if you owe the bank £50,000,000 and can’t repay it, then it’s the bank which has a problem. Because a mass withholding of mortgage payments can affect the entire banking system faster than you might think.

This is where it gets a bit technical, but please bear with me.

It’s all to do with the extra capital which, under international banking standards, a bank must retain, once a mortgage goes into non-performing mode for two or three months. Not only that, but banks then also have to increase the provisions they set aside against default and losses too, so it can be a double-whammy. Provisions are a charge against profits, so it means lower profits, no new lending permitted, & in extremis, restrictions on withdrawals, because liquid deposits can form part of the (greater) capital that suddenly has to be retained.

When a bank lends money, it creates an asset of its own –its right to receive repayment, or the indebtedness of the borrower to the bank. But under those same international banking standards, the bank must assign that asset a risk-weighting, which in turn dictates the amount of capital the bank has to retain against it, and which therefore cannot also be lent.

Lending to sovereign governments, particularly those with good credit ratings, can typically be risk-weighted low. Governments, after all, have the power to tax their citizens, backed by the threat of State coercion, to stump up the money to meet their debts, and so are considered a good risk.

Likewise, lending to good-quality corporates, especially those with a high Moody’s, Standard & Poor’s, or Fitch credit-rating, can be risk-weighted only slightly higher than medium-quality sovereign debt.

Basel II Risk Weights

Residential mortgages are typically risk-weighted at 35 per cent to 40 per cent: which means that, for a residential mortgage portfolio totalling, say, £500 billion, the bank must retain, and therefore not lend, a capital base of between £175 billion and £200 billion to support it.

But if a residential mortgage goes into default through non-payment, its risk-weighting has to rise substantially, and can double, to at least 70 per cent to 80 per cent. If a whole £500 billion residential mortgage portfolio went into payment arrears, then the bank would immediately have to set aside between £350 billion and £400 billion against it, not between £175 billion and £200 billion. That’s between £175 billion and £200 million which, suddenly, is no longer available for lending on other, new borrowing, and at a profitable interest-rate margin.

I used to be involved in ‘What If?’ modelling for this kind of contingency: the planning assumed increased mortgage defaults from a major economic crash, but the effects from a mass withholding of mortgage payments aren’t dissimilar.

Clearing banks & building societies, as prime retail lenders, especially, are more vulnerable than often assumed. The shock of a significant part of an entire residential property-mortgage lending book suddenly needing double the previous capital base just to support it is a potential nightmare scenario, particularly for primarily-retail lenders.

And if that newly-doubled capital base is comprised partly of liquid deposits, whose withdrawal has to be restricted, then depositors may start to worry that they may not be able to get their money out. And then you have all the ingredients in place for a bank run. Remember Northern Rock?

It doesn’t stop there. Say the bank decides to foreclose on a mortgage and sell the asset which comprises its security. But banks aren’t in the residential property management business, and don’t want bricks and mortar assets sitting on the books, so they will typically go for a quick sale, even at well below market value, to recover their debt quickly.

Now imagine a small residential close of 20 houses, average market value, say £300,000, but including two whose owners are in default on their £200,000 mortgages, and which the bank as mortgagee is therefore threatening to re-possess and sell.

Residential close

The bank wouldn’t be bothered about market value: it would merely want to recover its debt as fast as possible. So suddenly, two allegedly £300,000 houses are potentially coming up for sale at only £220,000 each. What happens to the market value of the other eighteen? And how do their owners feel about that? Translate that on to a national scale, and suddenly you’re looking at a potential house-price crisis as well.

But, and as Sun Tzu himself might have said, you don’t actually have to create a bank run and/or a house-price crisis – you just have to create the plausible prospect of a bank run and/or a house-price crisis.

To my mind, the ironic beauty of this kind of overall strategy is that, instead of challenging the Remainer Establishment-Elite directly, on the streets, as it would prefer, it instead targets, and in its key aspects – rampant retail consumerism, fractional reserve banking, cheap credit, and a property bubble – the very system which the crony-corporatist globalist oligarchy has created and encouraged at least partially to enrich and empower itself, and then uses it as a weapon against its own creators. Sun Tzu, I suspect, would approve.

These are merely the economic measures. There are others. For example, it needs only six vehicles travelling sedately, but perfectly legally, at 40-50 mph in a horizontal line across all six lanes, to induce motorway gridlock.

In 2000, we saw what just 3,000 people – a mere 0.02 per cent of 17.4 million – so nearly achieved by boxing clever. Just like Sun Tzu favoured, they targeted their opponent where he least expected it, at a point where he was weak, and would have preferred not to fight.Fuel Protests 2000 v1

Imagine what pressure could be brought to bear on a Brexit-denying government and political class by a concerted, concentrated mass participation in a rolling programme of peaceful, non-violent, civic resistance on the same basis.

It feels increasingly unlikely that we’ll succeed in getting our democracy-disdaining political class to implement the democratic result they promised to respect and honour by appealing to their principles, or to their hearts and minds.

But then, as a shrewd, if cynical, man reportedly once said: ‘If you’ve got them by the balls, their hearts and minds will soon follow’. 

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Bring on a General Election: and yes, even a hard-Left, Corbyn-led Government

A General Election would provide the opportunity, both for the Conservative defeat needed for it to lance the boil of its own Left-‘Liberalism’, and for the experience of a hard-Left, Corbyn-led Government necessary to lance the boil of Socialism.

Note: this is the long (and updated) version of the article first published at The Conservative Woman on Friday 22 June 2018. 

That Theresa May, on Wednesday 20 June 2018, survived that afternoon’s vote on Tory arch-Remainer Dominic Grieve’s amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill, which sought to give the House of Commons power in effect to halt Brexit in the event of no deal being agreed with the EU, was no victory, but yet another fudge, kicking the can down the road.

It was preceded by a Prime Minister’s Questions of quite staggering awfulness, not only from her, but from almost the entire House, with both sides first fawning over an Imam whose public utterances at the very least imply he wants any criticism of Islam banned, then competing furiously to virtue-signal their achingly politically-correct Left-’Liberal’ credentials at every possible opportunity.

That, plus the long-evident reluctance of most of its overwhelmingly pro-Remain membership to accept and implement the EU Referendum result, finally convinced me. The present Chamber is moribund, even rotten, led by a Prime Minister who is Dead May Walking, and another election is needed.

Why am I so keen on a General Election now? Or, if not keen, nevertheless reluctantly convinced of the necessity for one, despite the potential baleful adverse consequences? For three reasons.

Firstly, with both political attention-span and memory being relatively brief among the vast majority of the public who wisely don’t pay much day-to-day attention to politics, by the time 2022 comes round, many people will have largely forgotten the 2017-18 attempted, if not actual, betrayal of the 2016 EU Referendum result.

Not to mention, also, being bleakly realistic, that some of those now most angry about that betrayal and thirsting for the chance to wreak electoral revenge may, by then, no longer be around to vent that anger at the ballot-box. An early election would mean that voter frustration with both parties has an outlet before it subsides.

Next, the current Vichy-‘Conservative’ Party needs to suffer a heavy defeat, along the lines of the 1906, 1945, and 1997 landslides, to bring about either a split with, or a purge of, its Cameroon-Blairite Left-‘Liberal’ wing, whose current ascendancy is driving the Party Left-wards, both economically and culturally, with dire results.

Remember, in the last year alone, Theresa May has proposed having the State fix the price at which energy suppliers can sell their product: signalled an intent to intervene in the price/demand side of the housing market instead of liberalising planning controls to incentivise supply: threatened to crack down more on ‘hate-crime’ and ‘Islamophobia’, aka free speech: promised to control and police the internet: approved lifestyle and behaviour-nudging taxes: resiled from tackling mass uncontrolled immigration: and proposed throwing another £20 billion at an unreformed NHS while praising it fulsomely in ever more reverential terms.

And that’s before we consider the Miliband-Lite Tories’ eager appeasement of the Green Climate-Change lobby, the racial and religious grievance industries, an increasingly corrupt and partisan United Nations, and, above all, a vengeful and intransigent European Union over Brexit.

This resolute Leftwards march is no temporary expedient, but merely the latest phase in a process which has been going on for years, even decades. The great failings of the ‘Conservative’ party since the end of World War II, with the exception of the 1980s which sadly must now be viewed as an aberration, have been its reluctance to counter the Left intellectually, and its consequent willingness to accept the Left’s policies, especially when attractively packaged, for the sake of occupying office.

Indeed, the writer Peter Hitchens recounts remarks by YouGov’s Peter Kellner, man of Labour and the soft-Left through and through, to the effect that from time to time a Conservative government must be allowed to occupy office, so as to maintain for the electorate an illusion of pluralism and choice, but provided that it does nothing to unravel previous Labour administrations’ policies. Wittingly or unwittingly, the ‘Conservative’ Party has been happy to comply.

The Party therefore needs an unequivocal electoral defeat and period in opposition, to force it to re-think from first principles what it stands for, then devise a portfolio of policies that aren’t merely politically-promising, but intellectually-consistent, in order to be able to capitalise on it when the Corbynite-Labour bubble bursts.

Finally, the boil of Socialism now seemingly infecting so much of the electorate needs to be lanced. But with the increasingly soft Left-‘Liberal’ ‘Conservative’ Party having totally abandoned making a robust case for low-tax, small-State, civil-libertarian, free-market conservatism as the engine of prosperity, freedom and growth, in favour of timidly apeing Socialist-Labour in the vague hope of a few Corbyn-Lite policies enticing voters back, I  cannot see that happening without a new generation of voters experiencing for themselves the malign reality of a hard-Left government.

Psephologically, before the 2017 General Election, the Labour-to-Conservative crossover point – the age at which people switch to voting Conservative rather than Labour – was assumed  to be roughly 34. 

Age predictor UK politics

But the 2017 General Election, the first with Corbyn as Labour leader, changed all that. The post-election analyses moved that crossover point back by an entire decade or more, to somewhere between 44 and 49 . . . . . 

UK GE2017 voting by age groups comp

. . . . . and Labour now enjoys majority support in all voter age groups between 18 and 45, including the highest-ever ratings among under-30s since 1964.

Hist under-30s support Labour & Sep 17 vote intent by age comp

This shouldn’t be altogether surprising. It’s now nearly 40 years since Britain last had an economically-Left Labour Government (in contrast to the culturally-Left governments of all parties which we’ve had for about 35 years), so that almost no-one under the age of, possibly, 55 at least, has any memory or experience of actually living under one.

Add to that two more factors: firstly, the predominantly Left-leaning sympathies of the UK mainstream media, which means Corbyn’s socialist policies are seldom subjected to the critical examination and questioning directed towards their smaller-state, lower-taxes, and free-market leaning equivalents: and, secondly, the left-wing bias of the Education profession by which two generations have been indoctrinated . . . . . .

Teachers voting intentions 2015 & 2017 GEs comp. . . . . . . . and it’s arguably astonishing that Corbyn’s socialist prescriptions, superficially so enticing to those who’ve never suffered them in practice, aren’t even more popular. 

This is why reminders of hard-Left Labour’s insalubrious history of either supporting or at least excusing tyrannical Communist dictatorships – even while it simultaneously condemned the West of human rights, free speech and the rule of law as fascist – cut no ice. The past is truly another country.           

Corbyn does support some bombingThis is why pointing out Corbyn’s uncritical support for the IRA throughout the 1970s and 1980s, even as it was blowing up British women and children on the streets of the United Kingdom, doesn’t resonate. To today’s devotees of the Corbyn Cult, this is ancient history. It’s 30 years since the end of the Cold War, isn’t it? It’s 20 years since the Good Friday Agreement, isn’t it?

This is why warnings of strikes, power-shortages, punitively-high taxes, and fiscal mismanagement from Labour runaway spending and borrowing, have so little political cut-through with voters, from Generation X-ers through Millennials to Generation Z-ers. They’ve never actually seen it in Britain, so they just don’t believe it: and in my view, nothing short of experiencing for themselves the horrors of living under a left-wing Labour government will dispel their illusions.

In short, we’ve arrived at one of those points which seem to occur every 40 years or so, where a major political upheaval is needed to generate political resuscitation and renewal.

Yes, of course there are risks, and very serious ones, from a hard-Left Labour government, and as someone who abhors every manifestation of Leftism, I’m the first to acknowledge them. The Corbyn-McDonnell Terror won’t be pleasant. But capital markets, via demanding higher borrowing rates, and threatened or actual capital flight, via reduced tax receipts, have a habit of curbing the worst excesses of economcally-Left Labour governments.

In any case, is that really so worse than the alternative? Of years of a Continuity-May ‘Conservative’ Party, ever more in thrall to mushy Left-‘Liberalism’, governing hesitantly and ineffectively while the hard-Left poses self-righteously as Salvation Denied?

Just as, to cure a malignant cancer, painful chemotherapy has to be endured, so rejuvenating conservatism and defeating Socialism may require some temporary hurt. But the sooner the treatment starts, the less painful it is, and the sooner comes the cure.

Fortune favours the brave. Bring on that election.

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The Tories Don’t Deserve To Win – Labour Deserves To Lose

Neither the Tories, with their statist, triangulating Manifesto, nor Labour, with its destructive socialist vision, deserve victory in this General Election

In a few hours, this General Election will be all over bar the results and their consequences.  Yet the usual anticipation of Election Night is muted by an almost palpable sense of relief at the approaching end of a campaign offering such a lacklustre, uninspiring choice.

For Theresa May and the Tories  it was supposed to be the Brexit Election: where, wanting both a bigger Parliamentary majority and her own popular mandate to implement it, she would offer a vision of a Britain mitigating the risks but also exploiting the advantages from recovering political and economic sovereignty.

Both, paradoxically, dictate some loosening of State and regulatory shackles on the economy, a facilitation of innovation and entrepreneurship: especially as the economy inevitably goes through a period of uncertainty and flux as powers are repatriated and trading relationships either reset or forged from new. But that isn’t what we’ve got.

The first intimations were reasonably heartening, But then came the Manifesto.

2017 Manifesto on Core Beliefs

Disparaging talk of “untrammeled free markets”, belief in “the good that government can do”, and abhorrence of “inequality”. The context leaves little room for doubt that the offer to voters is one of an interventionist State, concerned not so much with opportunities, but with outcomes.  

Further on, we are promised an Industrial Policy, a National Productivity Investment Fund, worker representation on boards, and a commitment to continue spending 0.7% of GDP on virtue-signalling foreign aid.

Finally, we get to this Greenery-gullible horror. Yet it accompanies a pledge to give British voters “the lowest energy costs in Europe”, notwithstanding that those two aims are mutually incompatible.

Worse still, it’s to be achieved, not by slashing Green taxes and encouraging more competition among energy providers via supply-side measures, but by capping prices: the same policy that, as recently as 2015, the Tories rightly damned as economically-illiterate when included in Labour’s election manifesto by Green-Left Red Ed Miliband.

So, in aggregate, a largely social-democratic policy programme, advocating a version of active-state Rhenish corporatism that would not look out of place in the manifesto of any milquetoast European Christian-Democratic party.

One can speculate endlessly on the reasons why. Possibly they lie in the fact that May is an instinctive paternalist (should that be “maternalist”, I wonder?) technocrat who’s unconvinced of, as Martin Durkin puts it, the potential of free markets to liberate and enrich.

Perhaps, because Labour has gone so far Left, she was persuaded that a Clinton-Blair style triangulation, with the Tories parking their tanks on “moderate” Labour’s lawn, would work electorally. Maybe she was afraid of frightening off the 2 or 3 million Labour voters who voted for Brexit and want to see it happen, and also the One-Nation tendency in her own party still looking for any excuse to derail Brexit. Who knows?

Then there’s been the campaign itself. May  – and it has been almost exclusively May, from battle-bus, through campaign literature, to media, and all points in between – has come across as by turns either robotically evasive, or uncomfortable and unconvincing when pressed on detail.

The forced U-turn on Social Care brought her campaigning deficiencies into sharp focus, but combine that with her natural somewhat leaden, flat-footed demeanour, plus a requirement to face an inquisitorial public & press far more often than she’s ever had to do before, and the result has been, not failure, but certainly sub-par performance.

Both she and her Party, have emerged from the campaign diminished, and not just in opinion-poll ratings, either. “Strong and Stable” has become something of a stick to beat her with. The whole thing has been rather insipid, disappointing, and very far from enthusing.

Consideration of Corbynite-Labour’s hard-Left manifesto need not take us as long. “Insipid” isn’t a description that could remotely be applied to it: “terrifying” or “economically-catastrophic” hardly begins to cover it, such is the red-in-tooth-and-claw programme that unrepentant socialist Jeremy Corbyn has in mind for the country.

The appalling consequences of a Corbyn-led Labour government have comprehensively dissected, with this by Andrew Lilico being merely one of the latest.   

As Lilico points out, fiscally and economically Labour would impose on Britain the highest level of taxation since World War II: the nationalisation, almost certainly without compensation, of the most important industries: a return to widespread (and excess) unionisation: deliberately punitive taxes on financial services designed specifically to deter private capital: and the effective collectivisation of private business property through imposing public interest duties inimical to both private property rights and commercial interest.

Moving from the general to the particular, just one example can suffice to show hard-Left Corbynism’s economic wrong-headedness. Despite favouring continued uncontrolled mass immigration, Labour proposes to deal with the housing shortage by a price-cap on new houses.  

All that that is likely to achieve is a shortage of new houses. If Labour really wanted to boost the supply of low-cost new houses, it would pledge to ease planning restrictions, not threaten to impose State price and even purchaser – priority to State employees, naturally – controls on builders. 

Non-economically, a Corbyn-led Labour government would see restrictions on the police, the reduction of the Army to a notional force only, and the withdrawal of Britain from its role in international security.

And this before even considering the implications of Corbyn’s 30+-year record of not only sympathy but vocal backing for all manner of anti-British, anti-Western groups, including those engaged in active terrorism, even on British soil.

And thus we come to the end of a singularly uninspiring campaign on what should have been the most important election in Britain for decades. The great issue for which it was ostensibly called to reinforce has been barely discussed beyond trite soundbites and banal generalities.

Hard-Left Labour certainly deserves to lose this election, and lose it heavily: but the Conservatives, on their manifesto and especially on their stuttering and lacklustre campaign, really don’t deserve to win it, either.

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The LibDems Can’t Half Pick ‘Em

The LibDem candidate for tomorrow’s Richmond Park by-election is an unconvincing combination of contradictions. She deserves to be defeated.

We’re used to the LibDems occasionally picking slightly iffy parliamentary candidates to contest either General Election or by-election seats.

The case of one Ibrahim Taguri, the alleged “fund-raiser” forced to resign as candidate in Brent Central after a “donations-in-return-for-access” scandal, comes to mind: as does the case of George Cunningham (Chair of “Brussels & Europe LibDems”, incidentally), suspended as parliamentary candidate in Thanet North after allegations of impropriety which included bringing in donations from abroad.

In the case of Sarah Olney, candidate in the Richmond Park by-election being held tomorrow, though, the LibDems appear to have picked a candidate whose problem isn’t so much one, as it were, of convictions, as of contradictions.

Firstly, on the central issue behind the by-election occurring at all, i.e., former Tory Zac Goldsmith’s resignation as an MP on principle to re-stand as an Independent on his declared opposition to Heathrow runway expansion. Olney, as one would expect, both as a Green-tinged LibDem and, to be fair, on local nuisance grounds, is also opposed to the third runway: but here’s the contradiction – her husband is a town planner who played, it appears, a key role in developing Heathrow’s Terminal 5.

olney-richmond-3 That of itself is perhaps a tad awkward, but probably no more than that if fully disclosed – it’s his profession, after all, and everyone has to live – but the contradiction has been exacerbated by her decision to play down the fact almost to the extent of concealing it.

Her campaign leaflets, we learn, make a point of mentioning his “significant experience in implementing large-scale infrastructure projects”, but, er, omit that one particularly “large-scale infrastructure project” he helped to implement was the last-but-one major project at the facility whose expansion she vehemently opposes.

There’s an interesting potential conflict of interest here. If Olney wins, on an overtly anti Heathrow expansion ticket, she acquires all the pecuniary and status rewards of an MP. On the other hand, the development will probably go ahead anyway, so her husband, with his experience, also stands to gain professionally. Win/win for the Olneys?

If she loses – and bear in mind that the least she’s likely to achieve is a good second, because neither the Conservatives nor UKIP are contesting the seat, and the Labour candidate looks like a no-hoper –  she’s no worse off than she is now, and the Heathrow development probably proceeding anyway still stands to benefit her husband.  No-change/win for the Olneys?

The contradiction between the public position (and it’s without doubt sincerely held) and the limited potential for personal downside is intriguing.

That’s the local factor at issue in the Richmond Park by-election. The national one, of course, is the EU Referendum, Brexit, and the desire of the LibDems either to dilute it to the point of virtual impotence or preferably frustrate and overturn it entirely, whether by parliamentary or judicial manoeuvres. Which is where the second contradiction arises.

As you’d expect, and again as a fairly standard LibDem Europhile, Olney is opposed to Brexit. As their candidate in Richmond Park, where over 70% of votes cast in the EU Referendum were for Remain, she’s also an at least implied backer of the anti-democratic Unreconciled Continuity Remain cabal’s machinations – prominent in which are two of the party’s former leaders and also its current one – to delay, diminish and preferably negate it, whether by Judicial Review, parliamentary vote(s) or even by pressing for a second Referendum.

The contradiction here is this: Olney is on record as previously saying that people must accept the UK’s decision to leave the EU, and that the government should not seek to “re-run” the vote.olney-richmond-2She had even gone as far as calling for Leavers and Remainers to “come together”, and “make a success of Brexit”. But with her party leader Tim Farron already having pledged to make the contest a “Brexit by-election”, the question arose as to how Olney would handle such an embarrassing contradiction.

Very much in the same way, it turns out, as she handled the Heathrow contradiction: by concealing it. On the afternoon of 26 October, apparently, she deleted her personal website and its call for the democratic verdict of the British people to be respected. She now suggests that Theresa May should commit to a second Referendum on our EU-exit terms “to buy herself time and negotiating capacity”. That’s quite a U-turn, even for a LibDem…..

When Olney started her campaign, it was mainly, though in fairness not exclusively, a local one. Airport expansion was the key issue, she claimed, and a vote for the LibDems would “make a stand against Heathrow”.

Whether the third contradiction – the switch of primary focus from the local to the national issue – has come about from anti-Brexit conviction or from embarrassment at family connections with Heathrow expansion is a moot point, but come about it most certainly has.

olney-richmond-4Far from being a “stand against Heathrow”, a LibDem victory would now be nothing less than a “Brexit game-changer”, seemingly. [Notwithstanding the fact that it would bring the number of LibDem MPs up from only 8 to only 9, presumably, and hopefully thereby make not one whit of difference to the Government’s proceeding to implement the democratic Referendum result.]

olney-letter-richmond-parkThat was on 23 November. In the space of a mere week, however, it has mutated into something even more momentous. No longer a mere “Brexit game-changer”, the Richmond Park by-election tomorrow is now, we are told, “the most powerful vote you ever cast”. 

Wrong, Sarah. The most powerful vote any of us alive have ever and will ever cast was the vote of 23 June 2016, when no fewer that 17,410,742 of us voted to defy the imprecations and exhortations of the globalist-utopian political, economic, financial and cultural ‘liberal’-elite, and recover our political and economic sovereignty to our own shores and our own ballot-boxes, to be determined democratically by us and us alone.

For that reason above all, it’s important that the LibDems don’t win this by-election.

I’m frankly ambivalent about Zac Goldsmith. His Mayoral campaign was abysmal: his languid environmentalism is a turn-off: his susceptibility to, and collaboration with, Exaro’s rightly now-disgraced “Westminster Paedo Ring” campaign was misguided or worse: and I believe his opposition to Heathrow expansion is strategically wrong.

But I admire his principled decision to abide by his commitment to his constituents over Heathrow, even at political risk to himself: his advocacy of more direct democracy via a proper MPs’ Recall Mechanism: and above all, his unswerving devotion to the Brexit cause. For those reasons alone, I hope he wins.

But there is another. If Goldsmith does manage to win, it will mean that the Europhile, anti-Brexit LibDems, for this by-election allied with the Greens instead of competing with them for the same voter demographic, and in possibly one of the most LibDem-friendly, Remain-supporting, anti-Brexit constituencies in the country, will have failed.

That would send a powerful message to the egregious Farron, Clegg, Ashdown and all their motley crew of embittered, anti-democratic Remainer plotters, intent on ignoring or overturning the expressed will of the people.

And that will be a very fine contradiction indeed.

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Tax-Havens: Also A Force For Good

Far from being solely amoral, piratical facilitators of crime, kleptocracy and evasion, so-called tax-havens in fact also play a valuable role in promoting economic efficiency and curbing State-predation  

Tax havens Panama CitySo-called tax-havens have a bad reputation. In public and political minds, influenced almost wholly by the clamour of either wilfully-ignorant or Leftist-populist media and political hacks, they’re all, without exception, places solely where unsavoury associates of autocrats and plutocrats soak up the sun in between furtively stashing suitcase-loads of ill-gotten gains in anonymous numbered accounts.

As we’ve recently seen all too starkly. Because one of the main features to become glaringly obvious in the Panama Papers leaks, and in the domestic political furore in the UK which has followed it, is a self-evidently widespread inability (or possibly unwillingness) of the politico-media class and commentariat to differentiate the few truly-nefarious tax-havens from the more numerous well-run and properly-regulated offshore financial centres (OFCs) – they are decidedly not the same thing: or to distinguish illegal loot-hiding, money-laundering and tax-evasion, by corrupt despots, criminals and others, from the entirely legal use of OFCs in perfectly legitimate investment and tax-avoidance.

As so often, reality is both more complex, and more nuanced, than media-driven populist perception.

For a start, on the basic issue of definitions. The OECD lists four criteria which a territory or jurisdiction must fulfil in order to qualify as a tax-haven, as opposed to an OFC:

  1. Imposing no, or only nominal, taxes, even domestically
  2. Lack of transparency
  3. Laws and practices that discourage or even prevent automatic exchange of [tax-purposes] information with other governments on the beneficiaries of its tax regime
  4. No stipulation that the activity domiciled in its jurisdiction be substantive

On these criteria, there are relatively few true tax-havens: even the OECD lists only four, and, on its Automatic Exchange Of Information criteria, a mere two.

Tax havens Waterfront Grand CaymanMoreover, and more importantly, the vast majority of the Crown Dependency and British Overseas Territory OFCs, which Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn incorrectly labelled as tax-havens and proposed arbitrarily supplanting their democratically-elected governments to place them under direct rule from Westminster, don’t even fall into the “tax-havens” category at all.

So when no-one seriously opposes measures to prevent, detect and punish both those who undertake criminal tax-evasion, money-laundering and loot-concealment and the few residual disreputable genuine tax-havens which do facilitate them, the real objections by governments, commentators and so-called social-justice campaigners to the legitimate use of OFCs or any low-tax jurisdictions must originate from elsewhere.

Those objections arise from two principal, and unsurprising, sources. Firstly, the misunderstanding, derived from popular fallacies, of the economic good that low-tax jurisdictions promote: and secondly, the competitive threat they represent to the otherwise-unconstrained power of high-taxing, high-spending states to extract taxes from their economies and populations almost ad infinitum.

To address one of the most popular fallacies – that money deposited in OFCs or low-tax jurisdictions is somehow irretrievably “lost” to the global economy. This is just arrant nonsense.

First, it wrongly assumes there is a fixed amount of global capital whose geographical distribution creates a zero-sum game, where any partial deployment of it to Location A must automatically reduce that available in Locations B-Z. In fact global capital is both dynamic, and fungible, and continues being created in those parts of the so-called “losing” mainstream onshore economies that aren’t sensitive to geographically-differing tax rates.

Tax Havens BermudaSecond, it assumes that all capital deployed to low-tax jurisdictions stays there, static. This isn’t necessarily the case – small islands generally don’t have much potential for domestic infrastructure investment or large-scale economic activity – and it’s especially not the case in a period of low or even negative real interest rates. Although the total of assets located in an OFC may change only slowly, that ignores the stock-vs-flow issue, where many of its components parts may be being directed into other forms of investment in other locations, and subsequently repatriated, on a regular basis.

Inasmuch, too, as the location of capital and/or assets in the low-tax jurisdiction encourages their investment to generate a return not achievable if based in a higher-tax jurisdiction, the OFC is actually promoting more FDI in the investment location. In this way, the availability of low-tax OFCs makes them conducive to an increase in overall international investment and in global capital, not its depletion. They are not “poaching more than their fair share” of international capital, but acting as a conduit for its more productive and optimal investment back into mainstream onshore economies.

Third, international systems of taxation don’t always cope well with avoiding the dangers of double-taxation. If you’re an investor (and remember, you may well be, even via an ISA or your employer’s pension scheme) in a fund set up in a country that levies a withholding tax on redemption payouts, but those redemption payouts aren’t taxable domestically in your own country, then recovering the tax that’s been wrongly withheld from you is going to be difficult. By providing a tax-neutral environment, low-tax OFCs perform a valuable role in making sure that your investment, even an indirect one, isn’t taxed twice. That benefits you.

Tax havens Mossack Fonseca PanamaFourth, the fallacy assumes the “losing” country is automatically forced to raise its own domestic tax-rates to replace the tax-revenue “lost” when assets are relocated to a low-tax OFC. Countries, however, don’t operate in isolation from their international environment: lower tax-rates in other jurisdictions act as a restraint on mainstream onshore governments’ own tax-rate policies. Both firms and workers in those economies therefore benefit in purely micro-economic terms from overseas low-tax OFCs, in the form of lower taxes domestically than might be levied otherwise.

Next, low-tax OFCs also fulfil a vital function in providing a safe harbour for wealth legitimately created and held, against the tendency of inherently corrupt, dictatorial  & kleptocratic regimes to predate on it.

Depending on the definitions chosen, there are approximately 170-190 countries in the world: but only a minority are full democracies where the government is subject to the rule of law and scrutiny by a free Press. The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index 2014 in fact lists a mere 24 as full democracies and a further 52 as flawed, out of a total of the 167 rated, leaving over 90 regimes described as either hybrid or (the majority) authoritarian. Perhaps not surprisingly, there’s a correlation between the latter categories and the Transparency International Corruptions Index 2015’s assessment of the most corrupt countries.

Most & Least Corrupt Countries 2014

These are countries where even if, against all the odds, an honest entrepreneur, investor or businessman manages legitimately to amass capital and assets, they are liable to be arbitrarily seized at any time by the regime, either unashamedly or via a quasi-criminal or complicit judiciary, and confiscated. By existing at all, low-tax OFCs furnish a safe refuge for such assets. In this role, rather than encouraging or facilitating corruption, they are in fact operating so as to thwart it.

Benefits of Tax CompetitionLastly, low-tax OFCs form a valuable macro-economic brake on the overall ability of excess-spending, excess-taxing governments to otherwise levy punitively-high taxes without restraint. In the absence of the tax-rate competition provided by lower-taxing jurisdictions, it’s unlikely that governments, viscerally-disinclined on both ideological and electoral grounds to curtail State intervention and largesse, would not take the opportunity to impose economically-damaging higher taxes generally. 

It’s primarily for this reason that the member-states of supranational political unions like the EU are so enthused by the prospect of cross-border harmonisation of taxes, or centralised democracy-proof pan-European fiscal control, as the corollary to curbing the legitimate activities of low-tax offshore financial centres. 

The vocal but unthinking critics of low-tax OFCs, in their haste to condemn what they see as the obvious, miss a point – that they are also a force for good. The existence, and legitimate activities, of low-tax OFCs both promote greater economic, capital-allocation and investment efficiency, and indirectly benefit employers, employees and consumers in the mainstream onshore economies by protecting them from excess State predation.     

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