Tag: Business-Regulation

Just What – Or Rather Who – Is Driving Theresa May on Brexit?

Two in theory separate but in practice closely-aligned groups of anti-democratic vested interests are influencing, with her concurrence, Theresa May’s obdurate pursuit of a Soft-Remain Brexit-In-Name Only       

Note: longer and updated version of the article originally published at The Conservative Woman on Wednesday 24th October 2018

On the “what” of Theresa May’s catastrophically-inept, stubborn, secretive, submissive and duplicitous conduct of the United Kingdom’s Brexit negotiations, there is little room for doubt.

The original story, of her deceitful complicity in the covert No 10 operation that gestated her infamous Chequers Plan – which she obstinately persists in clinging to, despite its manifest flaws and rejection by both colleagues and Brussels alike – has received extensive media coverage.

Since then, the details of her successive capitulations to, and appeasement of, the EU’s intransigence, such that the position she is now reduced to claiming is a meaningful EU exit that delivers the Referendum result is scarcely distinguishable from continuing membership at all, have received equally widespread publicity.

In summary, having let herself be totally outmanoeuvred on the Northern Ireland backstop – with the connivance, on this and much else, of  a Civil Service opposed to Brexit in principle and resolved either to dilute it to insignificance, or thwart it altogether – she now proposes a £57 billion-costing, non-voting vassal-state transition until 2022, before a permanent Customs Union, adherence to EU Internal Market rules, inability to strike external trade deals, continuing subservience to the European Court of Justice, and possibly also even surrendering domestic control over tax policy.

And that’s disregarding her also signing away UK Defence and military autonomy to the incipient European Defence Union on the sly.

What UK Gov has agreed re EU Defence

So there’s no lack of knowledge or detail about what May is doing.

In contrast however, the “why?” of May’s incompetent, disingenuous and potentially-disastrous, yet doggedly determined prosecution of a soft-Remain (non)-Brexit has received little attention in comparison. This may be an understandable omission in the urgency of reporting and analysing day-to-day developments: but it’s surely as equally important. It’s time we started considering the possibilities seriously.

First, is it just an admittedly truly staggering level of ignorance and incompetence, but nothing more? May’s failings of both competence, intelligence and leadership are hardly either unknown or doubted: indeed, I’ve argued myself earlier this year that she should be ousted and replaced on those grounds alone.

But it does seem unlikely that anyone could be merely incompetent to May’s degree. Nor would it account for the combination of calculated deviousness and intolerant-of-dissent petty authoritarianism by which she had her Chequers Plan formulated behind the backs of Cabinet, MPs, Party and country, then pre-cleared with Merkel, before imposing on her Cabinet without prior warning, on pain of dismissal. Other factors must surely be in play.

A conspiracy theory occasionally advanced is that the myrmidons of the Deep-State – or the New-Class Establishment Elite if you prefer – which always was and remains viscerally opposed to Brexit, have something on May and/or her husband which would be acutely embarrassing, even resignation-inducing, if revealed, and can therefore control her approach to Brexit. Adherents hint darkly for example, about how the Home Office Inquiry into allegations of Westminster organised child sexual abuse was effectively neutralised during her reign.

But is this not also unlikely for a self-described “goody two-shoes” whose idea of taking daring risks is skipping though a field of wheat? Besides, if so, wouldn’t she have anyway used her 6-year tenure as Home Secretary to ensure that any such material was safely buried, as Jack Straw is widely rumoured to have done with MI5 files on the New Labour hierarchy’s past Communist allegiances?

In her Sunday Telegraph article of 21st October, Janet Daley suggested that a submissive May is surrendering to the EU’s playing hardball with her in the Brexit negotiations because both it and she are impressed by the constant stream of out-of office Referendum-repudiating Remainer politicians dancing attendance on it in Brussels, assuring it that Brexit can be stopped if it continues to display the intransigence it has to date.

I don’t buy this. If the EU is knowledgeable enough about current UK politics to know that May is in deep trouble, and is a pushover, then it’s surely also knowledgeable enough about current UK politics to know that the opinions of the Unreconciled Continuity-Remainer political claque epitomised by Blair, Clegg, and Major actually carry very little weight in UK. The theory that May is capitulating to its intransigence because it thinks that they represent UK public opinion and that she is in fear of it, seems to me to just not stand up.  

For what it’s worth, my theory is this: that May is knowingly, in effect willingly. being held hostage by, and dancing to the tune of, two nominally separate but very closely aligned groups.

Theresa's Puppet-Master Olly RobbinsFirstly, the Number 10, Cabinet Office, and Foreign Office officials, in whose hands – having little discernible knowledge, judgement or confidence of her own – she has been ever since taking office, who are reportedly uniformly opposed to Brexit, and of whose private and unreported contacts behind the scenes with EU officials we are unaware.

Secondly, the pro-Remain side of Big-Business that’s essentially crony-corporatist rather than competitive free-market capitalist, and which channels its collective view to Government through the CBI, which represents predominantly that particular type of business organisation.   

There a reason why May, instinctively a big-government statist, might be particularly receptive, both to the blandishments of this particular lobby, and to the idea that “business” equals the CBI.  

To the extent that she is ideologically wedded to anything at all, May seems much more inclined to the EU’s preferred model of state-interventionist, crony-corporatist “Rhenish capitalism” than she does to the quintessentially Anglosphere small-state, low-tax competitive free-market model of capitalism. She did after all join the Conservative Party in 1973 when it was led by Heath, who thought very much along those lines.

Remember, too, the CBI was fiercely pro-Remain, despite its undistinguished record of having being wrong about almost every major issue for the last 100 years. including nationalisation, Prices and Incomes Policy, the Exchange Rate Mechanism, and, most of all, the UK joining the Euro.

EU Lobby LandCBI-type pro-Remain Big-Business finds EU membership most congenial. First, the EU’s regulation-heavy regime is highly susceptible to corporate lobbying – in 2016 there were an estimated 37,000 lobbyists in Brussels alone – for regulation and restrictive practices that favour the interests of large producers over those of consumers, and which tend to entrench oligopoly rather than generate competition. In addition, the EU’s secretiveness and lack of transparency at the very least facilitate outright corruption.

Second, the large CBI-type corporates that do the lobbying have the economies of scale to cope with the mountains of EU-originating red tape, forced compliance with which cripples their smaller, nimbler potential rivals, especially innovative start-ups. And the deal which May currently wants to accept would in effect keep all UK business, not just the mere 15-20 per cent of it involved in exporting to the EU, subject to the EU regulation which Big-Business specifically lobbies for in pursuit of its own anti-competitive interestContinuing membership for all intents and purposes thus acts acts as a barrier to entry for its competitors.

There has already been persuasive circumstantial evidence of Big-Business complicity in, if not influence on, the Government’s conduct of Brexit. Readers will remember how, in the earlier iteration of Project Fear about a No-Deal Brexit, in the run-up to May’s infamous Chequers Summit, Business Secretary and arch-Remainer Greg Clark emerged as not merely been the willing mouthpiece of pro-Brussels, crony-corporatist Big-Business, but perhaps its persuasive script-writer too.

And it’s still going on. But keep that name in mind. Because for some time, there have been unsubstantiated rumours that the same Greg Clark – possibly the ideal choice for the role of the Government’s Big-Business’ fixer, being so utterly uncharismatic and unremarkable as to be virtually anonymous – had long assured Japanese motor manufacturers in the North-East that Britain would be remaining in the Customs Union come what may, despite all the guarantees for public consumption that Brexit would involve exit from both it and the Single Market.

Corroboration, however, is now starting to emerge. In an article for Conservative Home on Tuesday 16th October, Stewart Jackson – former Peterborough MP and more recently Chief of Staff to David Davis when the latter was May’s Brexit Secretary – openly called Greg Clark’s dealings with Nissan “dubious”and condemned Clark’s refusal to publish his correspondence with the company, despite Clark having pledged to do so to the House of Commons.

Jackson went to say that pro-Remain Chancellor Philip Hammond, plus Clark and his officials, were briefing, from January of this year, that the UK would be staying in the Customs Union, and that the Irish backstop was the cleverest possible wheeze to ensure that this happened. Significantly, perhaps, those allegations have not been refuted.

Jackson is not alone. Recently, Daniel Moylan, former both deputy chairman of Transport for London and chairman of Crossrail, has openly disparaged online the anti-Brexit “fightback of vested interests and their Cabinet advocates”, and also speculated  whether, as now seems highly likely at least, such a secret promise was indeed given by Clark, with May’s blessing, to the motor industry.

If so, then it would at the time have been totally inconsistent with the vision of Brexit that May was publicly advancing so clearly in her Lancaster House and later Mansion House speeches. And even now, the UK negotiating team appears to be closing down every significant element of Brexit: one by one: laws, trade deals, money.

The theory, therefore, about why May is prosecuting Brexit in the way that she is – deceitfully and secretively negotiating the softest of Soft-Brexits, not in the wider interests of the British people and economy and honouring the Referendum result and her own 2017 Manifesto pledges, but in the narrow sectional interests of anti-Brexit Whitehall and pro-Remain Big-Business – at least appears plausible.

And it leads on to another, equally intriguing, one.

For two years, the Cameron and then May Governments have been excoriated for having failed to plan in advance for the possibility of a Leave vote in the EU referendum, for instructing officials not to prepare for one, and for not doing very much to plan its implementation for several months afterwards.

But what if we were all looking in the wrong direction, and Plan B was there all the time, hiding in plain sight? What if a contingency plan for a Leave vote was prepared, in secret, and the title of that contingency plan was: ‘Theresa May’? And prepared because it had been determined, at the deepest, innermost levels of the State, that whatever the Referendum result, even an 80:20 win for Leave, Britain’s exit from the EU could not be allowed to proceed?

May coronation July 2016 1On this theory, there was an intention that a Leave vote would never be honoured if it occurred, but muted, if not thwarted. So did Cameron assist by resigning to be conveniently replaced, in a rigged MPs-only coronation, by a Theresa May who, although a Remainer, had basically spent the entire campaign hiding behind the sofa, so that she was available and not too tainted by it when Cameron resigned?

A May who then proceeded, under the sway of, and with the full co-operation and support of, the equally pro-Remain, anti-Brexit Civil Service, backed up by a similarly inclined Big-Business and reliably on-message media, purposely to delay, dilute and diminish Brexit, including calling the unnecessary 2017 General Election? 

By writing, in concert with her closest confidantes only, a Manifesto whose contents even Cabinet Ministers were unaware of, and hardly saw before its launch? And then by deliberately throwing the election via a lacklustre campaign and crucial manifesto gaffe on long-term social care halfway through it, in order to weaken her own Commons majority and thus make it harder to get any pro-Brexit legislation through an anti-Brexit Parliament?

Fanciful? Maybe. But we live in strange political times. Who would have thought, three and a half years ago, that in the Autumn of 2018 we would have a Prime Minister whom large parts of her party believe to be complete disaster, but is kept in place out of genuine fear of her being replaced by a 1970s Trotskyist throwback as Leader of the Opposition?

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The Overpowering Stench of Treachery

The sheer scale and level, exposed by the past week’s revelations, of Theresa May’s deceit and double-dealing on Brexit have created an overwhelming miasma of perfidy that now envelops her, her Government, and her Party

Note: this is the longer (and updated) version of the article originally published at The Conservative Woman on Wednesday 18th July 2018.

If there was already a whiff of treachery surrounding Theresa May’s Machiavellian double-dealing revealed in her Soft-Remain (non)-‘Brexit’ plan sprung on her Cabinet at Chequers on Friday 6th July, then the past week has transformed it into nothing short of an overwhelming stench.

On Thursday 12th July, it emerged that May had not, as she claimed, merely ‘shown’ her plan to German Chancellor Angela Merkel: as many had suspected, correctly as it turned out, it had actually been submitted for approval. At the Chequers ‘summit’, the now-resigned former Brexit Secretary David Davis was, reportedly, told by May that her plan could not be changed, because ‘I have already cleared it with Angela Merkel’.

What an admission. Britain’s head of government requesting approval of her plan for Brexit, (if the ‘Brexit’ label can any longer be accurately applied to it all) before its disclosure even to her own Cabinet, from a foreign leader who, if not an enemy, must certainly be regarded as an adversary.

2018.07.12 Me Theresa Chamberlain Betrayal in our timeWas May really so naïve as to imagine that its content would not immediately be relayed to Michel Barnier and the EU’s negotiating team? If so, that surely beggars belief. Several less than flattering comparisons with Chamberlain’s 1938-1939 undue deference to Hitler inevitably followed, but were hardly excessive. May’s No. 10 Downing Street team reacted by issuing an (unconvincing) denial of the words allegedly used to Davis, but, tellingly, not of their substance.

Then, late on Saturday 14th July, came the bombshell. Former (and also-resigned) Minister of State at the Brexit Department, Steve Baker, revealed the covert, cloak-and-dagger operation, mounted by 10 Downing Street and presided over by May, not only deliberately to foil a Brexit which would fulfil the pledges of May’s 2017 General Election Manifesto and her Lancaster House and Florence speeches, so as to engineer as a substitute for it the Soft-Remain plan presented to the Chequers ‘summit’ as an unalterable fait-accompli, but also secretly to use the Brexit Department’s functions and output as deception and camouflage to fool Ministers, MPs and the public into believing that a genuine Brexit was being pursued.

Baker’s quotes were, and are, political dynamite, and almost defy belief:

An establishment elite, who never accepted the fundamental right of the public to choose democratically their institutions, are working towards overturning them.’

‘The Brexit Department was effectively a Potemkin structure designed to distract from what the Cabinet Office Europe Unit was doing for the Prime Minister’

May had willingly deceived not just us, the voting public, but even her own Ministers and MPs. She mobilised them to defeat the Lords’ Brexit-wrecking amendments in the House of Commons over the past few weeks, so as to preserve the façade of a plausible-sounding Brexit. At the same time, she was presiding over a secret plot cynically to deceive and exploit her own Brexit Department as a camouflage to conceal her Cabinet Office Europe Unit’s backstairs operation to procure her preferred Soft-Remain (non)-Brexit, in collusion with the EU negotiators.

In hindsight, it’s easy to see why the Eurocrats refused to negotiate with us on the basis of May’s fabled ‘Red Lines’, if they were at the same time being privately sounded out on what became the Chequers Deal. The ineradicable suspicion is that Brussels was being secretly assured all the time that our ‘official’ negotiating stance was mere theatre for the consumption of the gullible masses, and that the UK would accept whatever crumbs were chosen to be dropped from the Brussels table, at whatever cost.

Almost simultaneously, from sources close to Airbus, came allegations that May’s arch-Remainer inner circle had manipulated it into issuing, in the week preceding the Chequers ‘summit’, its much-publicised dire warnings about the dangers for jobs and exports of a No-Deal Brexit.

However, this commentary, by someone with the technical knowledge to know, suggests that the reality is rather more prosaic and long-term, and that subordinating the commercial imperatives of aircraft manufacturing to fulfilling the short-term expediencies of politicians with an agenda isn’t always the wisest course.

Whatever its effect, Airbus’ ‘welcome’ anti-Brexit contribution had, it was said, been agreed after discussions with the Government – presumably signifying Business Secretary and arch-Remainer Greg Clark having been not merely the willing mouthpiece of pro-Brussels, crony-corporatist big-business, but also its helpful script-writer too.

That, in the midst of all this, both Business Minister Andrew Griffiths’ forced resignation after sending over 2,000 ‘lewd’ texts to two female constituents, and the Government awarding a £2billion RAF contract, not to its compliant partner-in-deception Airbus, but to Boeing, passed almost without comment, spoke volumes.

Political observers were still trying to digest the Baker revelations when May herself appeared on the BBC’s The Andrew Marr Show on Sunday 15th July: though not before claiming, somewhat incredibly in The Mail On Sunday that she was ‘fighting for the Brexit that the British people voted for’, but later contradicting herself by issuing her ‘Back my Brexit, or I’ll abandon any Brexit’ threat.  How the latter was meant to assist the former was unclear.

Predictably, May’s interview with Andrew Marr did not go well. It culminated in what May obviously intended to be the takeaway soundbite, but which backfired spectacularly. Her “People may have voted with their hearts, but I have to be hard-headed” remark successfully managed to disparage 17.4 million Leave voters by condescendingly portraying them as merely un-thinking and emotion-driven.

It emerged later that day that, as if No 10 threatening dissenting Ministers with a walk home from Chequers on Friday 6th July wasn’t petty enough,  Conservative Central Office was now apparently contemplating threatening to withhold centrally-disbursed funds from Brexiteer Tory MPs.

2018.07.16 Strafford Tory threats de-fund Brexiteer MPsAlthough, if true, its enthusiasm for this may be tempered by the prospect of some of the £4million loans extended to it from constituency associations being recalled and used locally to support Brexiteer MPs, it did tend to show May’s claque behaving more like the henchmen of a paranoid Mafia boss than the office of the Prime Minister in a democracy.

The morning of Monday 16th July brought what is arguably the next phase of the Remainer-Elite’s Project Overturn Referendum, Justine Greening’s proposal for a second vote on  Brexit. Which is curious, to say the least, given her January 2017 assertion that, although she was a pro-Remain campaigner and voter, nevertheless ‘we have to respect the overall democratic result.’

Greening re 2nd Ref via Change Britain

If incredulous initial observations, that this was less likely to be an original idea conceived by Ms Greening, hitherto most noted for proposing that individuals be empowered to change their gender merely by ticking a box on an official government form, than a pre-planned, scripted, intervention using her as the designated mouthpiece, may have been merely churlish, the subsequent trenchant criticism and the  widespread derision heaped on her suggested Referendum question – two Leave options to split the Leave vote, but only one option for Remain – was more than justified.

Justine Greening's 2nd referendum planThe afternoon of Monday 16th July saw May make a statement to the House of Commons on the previous weekend’s NATO summit. Standing at the Despatch Box, and with a completely straight face, she criticised Russian President Vladimir Putin for ‘undermining democracy’. Not for the first time, she gave the impression that her brain simply does not connect her mouth with her memory.

The House then debated the Taxation (Cross-Border Trade) Bill. After (rightly, but, predictably, for the wrong reasons) May had accepted four amendments tabled by Brexiteers of the backbench European Research Group, the consequences of which would be effectively to render May’s Soft-Remain (non)-Brexit Plan unacceptable to the EU, the most die-hard Tory-Remainer MPs retaliated by actually voting with Labour, the Liberal-Democrats and the SNP, against the Government trying to pursue the Ultra-Soft Brexit they claim to want.

We thus saw alleged ‘Conservatives’, plotting with Leftists to prevent the Government honouring the very Manifesto commitment on which those same ‘Conservatives’ had been content to stand for election and be elected, a mere 13 months ago.

On the morning of Tuesday 17th July, those same die-hard Tory-Remainer MPs were reported to again be aiming to defeat their own Remainer-dominated Government in further debate on the Cross-Border trade Bill that evening. Despite knowing full well that, should they succeed in defeating the Government, that could precipitate a General  Election whose outcome was likely to be a Corbyn-led Government, no fewer than 12 of them voted with Labour and other Leftist parties in a way that reflected starkly their anti-Brexit recalcitrance and desire to see it halted it in its tracks, whatever the cost to their Party.

The 12 Remainer rebels

They failed. Thanks to 5 brave Labour-Brexiteers defying their Party and voting with the Government, not to ‘support the Tories’ but to uphold democracy, the Government won the vote by 307 votes to 301. This almost certainly means that the May-Robbins Soft-Remain (non)-Brexit Plan will be dead on arrival in Brussels, containing provisions that the EU could probably never accept.

However whether a Prime Minister, who by now evidently lacked the authority even to persuade MPs to award themselves five extra days’ paid holiday by bringing Parliament’s Summer Recess forward, would have even noticed is in itself debatable.

To an extent, the Greening proposal and the Parliamentary antics of the die-hard Tory-Remainer MPs are peripheral to the reek of deliberate betrayal now pervading the May Administration and the upper reaches of the Conservative Party. But they are nevertheless an integral part of it.

With the possible, and even then disputable, exception of Blair on Iraq, I personally cannot recall in recent political history an example of a Prime Minister practising sheer anti-democratic duplicity and deception on a level and scale equivalent to what has been revealed about May in the past week.

While pretending to be implementing the democratically-expressed wishes of the British electorate, she has in fact been systematically deceiving her own Cabinet, Ministers, MPs, activists, voters, and the public, in order to manifest the wishes of a small coterie which clearly regards both the demos and the institution of democracy with undisguised contempt, and as something to be ignored, if not covertly circumvented, if it delivers an outcome uncongenial to them.

Moreover, the Party that she nominally – and I use the word advisedly – leads cannot escape the charge of complicity in her perfidy. Which other Ministers were in on the plot? Who knew what, and when? At the very least, that the majority of its MPs, even now, support her desire to mute if not negate the largest mandate for one specific policy in British political history leave them open to that charge.

Were her chicanery and double-dealing, and their own charlatanry, restricted to matters of domestic politics, they might, though still egregious, evade the ultimate accusation of treachery. But they are not. They prejudice and endanger, not only the enduring public consent for our constitutional settlement and the continuing validity of our democracy, but also the nature of our relationship with a foreign power who, though it may not be an enemy, is arguably an adversary and certainly not, in this matter, a friend. It is this latter element which surely makes the accusation of treachery tenable.

The present ‘Conservative’ Party, at least in its higher echelons of command, has been exposed this past week as a morally-bankrupt cesspit of political putrefaction, a rotting, decaying husk. In another, perhaps better, time, a Prime Minister accused of what Theresa May now, with justification, stands accused of, would have been defenestrated within days, if not hours. That she is allowed to cling insecurely to office, incompetent and ineffective in everything she does except calculated betrayal, is the visible manifestation of the overpowering stench of treachery that envelops her and her Party.

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We Must Re-Create The Brexit Movement

The Brexit Movement, prematurely wound down after the EU Referendum, needs re-creating to continue making the case for it, so as to keep pressure on the Government to deliver it.

Note: this is the long (and updated) version of an article first published at The Conservative Woman on Friday 17th November 2017.

Like many ConWom readers, I suspect, I spent the early dawn hours of Friday 24 June 2016 in a state of ecstatic semi-euphoria that the British people had ignored the pro-EU hectoring of the massed ranks of the New Establishment and their globalist backers, and had voted to leave the EU. It didn’t last very long.

Such was the furious reaction of the Remainer-Elites and their compliant media courtiers to their unexpected defeat that, before the day was out, I’d become convinced that while we had won the Referendum battle, we certainly hadn’t yet won the war, and that the celebrations of some, on the assumption that all that was needed to achieve Brexit had been done, were hubristic and perilously premature.

I even tweeted as much, as this selection from my Twitter timeline between early that Friday morning and late that evening shows (with apologies for the profanities…)

But sadly, this is precisely what happened after the Referendum. The Vote Leave campaign wound down: its principal Conservative politicians dived headlong into the internecine strife within their party from which its Remainers emerged predominant, while its successful CEO, Matthew Elliott, decamped to the Legatum Institute.

On the Leave-EU side of the Brexit movement, an insufferably bombastic and complacent Nigel Farage resigned as leader of UKIP to forge a new career in the media as the man who won the Brexit that hasn’t occurred yet. UKIP meanwhile has collapsed into virtual irrelevance after the two most credible replacements were seen off by the residual Farageistes, is now led by a non-entity, and is near-invisible. 

A couple of pro-Brexit campaign groups persist, but active mainly on social-media only. One of them, connected to the Leave-EU movement, has a website where it’s comparatively rare that the space taken up by the text of a blogpost actually exceeds the space taken up by images accompanying it. 

In effect, the loose coalition that delivered that historic vote by 17.4 million people to retrieve their sovereign nation-state popular democracy from supranational unaccountable-elite technocracy, and the communications infrastructure that made it possible, has all but dissolved.

It’s this article’s contention that this has been a catastrophic error: that developments,  not only since the Referendum generally but specificially more recently, are placing Brexit in ever-greater jeopardy: and that the Brexit movement needs to be re-constituted and go back on to a war footing, to fight for what the British people voted for, and even contest if need be the second referendum which I personally believe to be the Unreconciled Remainers’ end-objective.

Although the Leave coalition subsided, the Remain campaign never ceased. Unlike Vote Leave and Leave-EU, the pro-Remain Open Britain campaign has never wound down, and continues to make the anti-Brexit case.

Readers will recall the ugly post-Referendum orgy of anger and hatred directed by ‘liberal’ Remainers and their cheerleaders at Leave voters, the constant attempts by the academic and judicial elite to delegitimise the Referendum result, and the sometimes near-hysterical anti-democratic polemic of, to name only two egregious but typical examples, the philosopher A C Grayling and Labour MP David Lammy, so I need not reiterate them.

It intensified once again during the Gina Miller litigation designed to facilitate a majority pro-Remain House of Commons vetoing the Government’s Article 50 notification. But it lessened somewhat after Parliament voted by 494 votes to 122 to authorise the triggering of Article 50 by 31st March, and matters reached a sort of uneasy equilibrium.

But then came May’s ill-advised, mismanaged General Election. When she and the Conservatives were returned drastically weakened, the Continuity-Remain movement was re-invigorated and its political, civil service, media, academic and judicial channels have visibly stepped up their campaigning by several levels of magnitude. They’re making the running: they look increasingly confident that Brexit really can be stopped and the Referendum reversed, and a majority-Remain Government seems at best half-hearted in response.

Now the fight is intensifying even more with the tortuous passage through Parliament of the EU Withdrawal Bill. The parties of the pro-EU Left have made clear their intention to conduct a guerilla war against it, voting against even the clause setting out its overall purpose, aided by 15 or more Unreconciled-Remainer rebels on the Tory back benches, some with considerably less honourable motivations than others.

In passing, let’s dismiss the disingenuous platitudes so many of these utter about wishing to do no more than “improve” the Bill. In many cases, it’s self-serving cant. They want to keep us in the Single Market and Customs Union, and under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice,  not out of genuine concern for our post-Brexit trade prospects or the position of UK-resident EU nationals, but to engineer either a Brexit-in-name-only, or one which is so close to EU membership that re-joining would seem like a logical step.

Many remain unreconstructed supporters of the EU Project and Britain’s submersion in it. It’s long been clear that, for them, the prime attraction of EU membership lies in is its very anti-democracy: it enables them to put as much policy-making and as many decisions as possible beyond the reach of what they see as the capricious domestic democratic process and an electorate whose views they by-and-large do not share and for whom they harbour a visceral contempt.

If some of the amendments being proposed already seem very technical and legalistic, be prepared: worse is yet to come. In this very detailed long-read published on 12th November at Brexit Central, Professor David Campbell of Lancaster University sets out how the legislative process of Brexit could become almost impenetrably bogged down in the morass of a quasi-constitutional conflict over the supremacy of the Judiciary, or Parliament.

It doesn’t look impossible that it could establish the supremacy of the Judiciary over that of Parliament. Just think what that would do to the prospects of Brexit happening at all. That partly explains, in my view why such an ardent anti-Brexiteer as Labour’s Keir Starmer is so keen to maintain the jurisdiction in post-Brexit Britain of the European Court of Justice.

Professor Campbell concludes that we may need an Assertion Of Parliamentary Sovereignty Act to make Brexit tamper-proof from judicial-activist usurpation of the powers of Parliament to implement the express instruction of the electorate.

If the EU Withdrawal Bill is set to have a rocky passage through Parliament, imagine how difficult it would be for a minority Government to push legislation, whose effect would be to prevent the pro-Remain Judiciary from blocking Brexit on constitutional grounds, through a marginally pro-Remain Commons and a majority pro-Remain despite unelected Lords.

Another potential complication emerged on 14th November, with a European Court of Justice ruling that EU citizens who become British do not lose the right to bring a non-EU spouse from a non-EU country to live with them in the UK. The continuing post-Brexit application of ECJ human-rights rulings is figuring strongly in debate on the EU Withdrawal Bill, so this is a further area where continued pro-Brexit advocacy is lacking.

May herself arguably opened a new front in the anti-Brexit campaign with her speech to the Lord Mayor’s Banquet on Monday 13th November. Yes, it is possible to interpret her remarks on Russian interference in Western elections as a desperate ploy to divert attention from her domestic travails: but it’s also possible to interpret it as a fresh attempt to de-legitimise by association the entire Brexit vote, especially the evening before the EU Withdrawal Bill was re-introduced into Parliament, with every prospect of the Unreconciled Remainers on her own back benches determined to vote it down on any pretext?

The signs are ominous. The EU is refusing to move on to talks about a post-Brexit trade relationship unless its exorbitant financial demands are agreed. Each UK concession on these is banked, not reciprocated, and met with merely a request for a larger sum. On 20th November, it even had the temerity to demand in effect an EU veto on UK domestic tax, environmental and business-regulatory policy after Britain has left the EU.    

Its intransigence is being encouraged by a UK media overwhelmingly hostile to Brexit and resolved to paint it in the worst possible light. Sir Humphrey, for whom Britain’s EU membership has been axiomatic for 40 years and thinks Brexit a monumental folly of crude populism-appeasement, is dragging his feet.

The Government is being forced by its weakness and wafer-thin, DUP-dependent, majority into unwanted concessions. It’s conceding votes in Parliament on aspects of Brexit which, with the clear instruction delivered by the Referendum result, should no longer be in play at all. In these circumstances, that it might, to win a crucial vote, concede a second Referendum, either on the terms of our exit, or even on the decision itself to leave, can’t in my view be ruled out.

If that comes about, the Remainers will have achieved what has been their prime objective – and also the EU’s, for it has an unsavoury record of ignoring plebiscites with unwelcome outcomes and requiring electorates to vote again and again until they come up with the “right” answer.

And then what? Unlike Vote Leave and Leave-EU, the pro-Remain Open Britain campaign has never wound down, and continues to make the anti-Brexit case. Continuity-Remain could gear-up for a second EU Referendum comparatively quickly. The money would come flooding in.

It’s victory, though, would be far from a foregone conclusion. Since June 2016, the electorate has seen the EU moving faster towards ever-greater integration and centralisation in ways the Remainers denied were even being contemplated. It’s seen how so many of the scaremongering predictions of Project Fear failed to materialise. A second Referendum could be won with another Leave vote.

But not without a campaign organisation. Even without a second Referendum, Brexit feels in enough danger to justify the reconstitution of the Leave coalition, if only to continue to make the case it made so effectively in the first half of 2016, and hold the Government’s feet to the fire. The Brexit movement needs to be re-created.

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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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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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Why The Red Lights All Show Green

In theory, Environmentalism ought to be a conservative, or at least apolitical, philosophy: but, in its politicised Climatism mutation, it’s been captured and exploited by the Left and Centre-Left, as a means to pursue Leftist ends 

Between small-“c” conservatism, especially in its classical Burkean tradition, and environmentalism in that word’s true, literal sense, there should, on the face of it, be a natural philosophical affinity.

Burkean conservative thought holds that society makes better progress, and simultaneously better preserves its legacy for future generations, not by the tearing-down of its structures and customs in orgies of radical, revolutionary fervour: but by preserving and perpetuating, though also adapting, established social, political and cultural institutions that have stood the test of time.

Englands green & pleasant landIt contends that the environment in which we find ourselves, not only the social, economic and cultural but also the physical, is not ours exclusively to re-make afresh solely out of desire to indulge the narcissism of the immediate, or even just to satisfy present needs; that we are not its absolute, unfettered owners, but trustees, stewards and custodians: that the corollary of societal betterment is an obligation to safeguard for those who have gone before the inheritance which they bequeathed to us, and in turn to pass it on as our legacy to generations yet unborn.

On this argument, then, environmentalism – in that word’s true, literal, sense – should be primarily a concern of philosophical conservatives – even its “conservation” synonym suggests as much.

Yet, because of the well-documented hijacking of the environmental movement by the hard-Left following the fall of the Berlin Wall, it’s now across that part of the ideological spectrum that spans from far/hard-Leftism to Cameroon ‘Liberal’-Centrism where the new politicised Environmentalism predominates.

cover climatism steve gorehamA better name for it than “Environmentalism” is Climatism, after Steve Goreham’s excellent book of the same name, debunking its dubious scientific claims and political prescriptions. It bears little resemblance to Environmentalism in its original, true, conservation-oriented roots: Climatism is its mutation into the more familiar, stridently-collectivist, statist, anti-capitalist, intolerant-of-dissent, authoritarian secular Green Religion – eco-socialism, eco-fascism, eco-communism, or whatever specific eco-variety of Leftism one cares to assign it.

And so, unsurprisingly, it’s politicians ranging from Hard-Left to ‘Liberal’-Centre – perhaps we should just call them Climatists as convenient shorthand, to save time agonising over whether they’re eco-socialists, eco-fascists, eco-communists, or just eco-opportunists – who seem regularly to place the most reliance on it, to justify almost anything. As can be seen from merely a quick selection from the UK political scene in the last month or so.

natalie bennett green party spring conf 2016First out of the traps, as you might expect, are those über-Climatists, the Green Party. In her keynote speech to its 2016 Spring Conference, leader Natalie Bennett employed well-worn Climatism-misanthropic memes to bemoan both the availability of relatively-inexpensive, reliable energy, and the greater mobility and travel opportunities which our 21st century prosperity has brought within the reach of vast numbers:

“The government is encouraging, subsidising, the frackers, the oil-drillers, the destructive open-cut coal miners. It’s promoting new roads and new airport runways”

Not content with that, Bennett went on to propose in effect  State control, not merely of monetary policy, but money creation itself, and also its deployment into the economy:

“We must build a future with a new system of money creation that puts resources into the real economy rather than casino finance”  

Red Ed pro-EU speech Mar 16But here, for example, adducing Climatism to advocate Britain’s continued membership of the EU, is Labour’s Red (or rather, Green-Left) Ed Miliband – progenitor of arguably the most damaging piece of legislation ever passed by Parliament, and written at his invitation by Friends Of The Earth’s deep-Green ideologue Bryony Worthington, the 2008 Climate Change Act – in his recent pro-Remain speech:

“That’s why we need to be in the European Union. Take the most important threat of all: climate change. It just isn’t realistic to think one country can do this on its own. It’s only EU legislation that is forcing any action from this Government”

There are, incidentally, at least three blatant falsehoods contained in those short four sentences, but for the purposes of this argument, we’ll let that pass.

Jezza Corbyn straight talkingHere too, this time enlisting Climatism in the cause of State-directed investment, control of markets, and curbs on business freedom, is Labour’s Hard-Left leader Jeremy Corbyn:

“We need a state that invests. This means we can shape markets and shape the goods they produce. All of this must be driven by democracy in the production of energy.”

Tim Farron Spring Conf 2016Now, also embracing Climatism to justify a vote to stay in the EU, comes Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron, in his speech to the party’s Spring Conference:

“We face vast international challenges: climate change, the refugee crisis, a global economy. Do we best tackle these together or on our own? We are stronger together. We are Stronger In.”

aileem mcleod snp spring conf 2016Next up, citing Climatism as justification for greater wealth redistribution and overseas aid, administered and dispensed at one remove from full democratic accountability and control, is the SNP’s Scottish Government “Climate-Change” Minister, (suitably-attired in Green, naturally) Aileen McLeod:

“We have doubled the innovative Climate Justice Fund, a global first that is supporting some of the world’s poorest communities to deal with the impact of climate change”

Nicky Morgan 4

Finally, impeccably metropolitan-Cameroon ‘Liberal’-Centrist Education Secretary Nicky Morgan, blatantly and desperately recruiting Climatism as a helper to try and win over the self-appointed trendy and the youth vote in the Government’s increasingly flailing and fear-mongering campaign to keep Britain in the EU, in her pro-Remain speech of 29 March:

“Whether it’s tackling poverty or protecting the environment and tackling climate change, young people know that our voice and impact are magnified by playing a leading role through the EU” 

It’s nigh-on impossible not to be struck by the remarkable, and consistent, similarity between many of the prescriptions advanced by Climatism and the Climatists, and policies that are recognisable Hard-Left, Centre-Left and even ‘Liberal’-Centrist shibboleths, but for which they struggle to gain popular consent if advanced openly via the normal democratic process. To document the main ones:

Democracy-bypassing supranationalism.

Unlike UKIP and the Conservative Right, all the parties referenced explicitly favour removing swathes of public-policy decision-making away from domestic dependency on voter consent to mainly unelected, unaccountable, anti-democratic supranational bureaucracies.

The SNP knows its peculiar variety of nationalist state-socialism, while presently-dominant in Scotland, has minimal, if any, political traction south of the border. The LibDems and the Greens are psephologically near-irrelevant. Labour, in its post-Blairite iteration and despite its lip-service platitudes, has never really trusted democracy to back its policies since its three successive shattering defeats of the 1980s. The currently-reigning social-democratic, paternalist, ‘liberal’-Cameroon wing of the Conservatives openly disdains the Party’s robust classical-liberal pluralists.

Club of Rome New Enemy quote

To all of these, the attraction of ensuring the implementation of electorally-unobtainable policy, by re-locating its origination and direction well away from vulnerability to democratic rejection, is irresistible. And what better ostensible justification for it could there be than the supranational regionalist or even globalist eco-stewardship they assert is inseparable from Climatism?

Thus, their near-unanimous support for, in particular, Britain’s continued EU membership, with its incipient pan-EU supranational energy-union and emissions-trading scheme which Green campaign groups still insist is not climate-policy at all, but a neo-industrial policy.

Greater State control of monetary policy, economy and markets.

Hard-Left Labour and the Greens are at least quite open about it. Between them, they overtly intend, in the name of Climatism, a much more economically-interventionist and controlling State: one that not only usurps control of monetary policy from an independent central bank, but also inclines towards almost directing producers what to produce and even consumers what to buy. As near to Soviet-style central planning, in fact, as the West has seen since that model’s deserved ignominious collapse in failure in the 1980s.

But they’re by no means alone. All the featured parties favour more State involvement in the economy to some degree or other, and in some way or other. Think of the LibDems’ Green Investment Bank: the Cameroons’ risibly ill-designed and ill-fated Green Deal: and the eco-benefits claimed by Osborne to justify his ludicrously-expensive and crony-corporatist deal with EFD and China over the Hinkley Point nuclear power facility.

Higher Taxes.

Climatism offers ample opportunities with which to justify the increase in the State’s overall tax take, and therefore its share of national GDP, that so beguiles the hard-Left, the Fabian “Progressives”, and the paternalist ‘Liberal’-Centrists alike. Beguiles them, because common to them all are the Left-ish –

  1. assumption of the State as indispensable and irreplaceable enabler:
  2. conviction that the State really does know better than the citizen how his money should be spent: and
  3. innate distrust of leaving wealth, as Gladstone put it, to “fructify in the pockets of the people”.

Higher eco-taxes on petrol and diesel, in addition to excise duty and VAT, which mean that tax of one kind or another accounts for up to 70% of the pump price. Green levies and taxes aimed at “carbon” reduction, to be recouped from domestic consumers, and which load their energy bills by up to 15%. Environmental obligations imposed on businesses, but which inevitably have to be passed on to the purchasers or consumers of their products in higher prices. Air Passenger Duty, supposedly a targeted incentive for reduced “carbon” emissions, but in reality an indiscriminate, scatter-gun, catch-all tax on overseas holidays and business.

These aren’t direct taxes, in the sense that they’re visible deductions from monthly or weekly pay-slips: they’re more insidious, in that they’re indirect, or hidden, secondary-effect, stealth taxes. But here’s the sting – they still come out of the poor taxpayer’s same wallet or bank account, and they still wind up in the same Treasury till for disposing by the State that, remember, knows best. Leftists of all persuasions love that.

Forced Income and Wealth Redistribution.

Climatism’s high apostles make no secret of the redistributive aims of the secular Green Religion. Here, for example, are Ottmar Edenhofer, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group III, and former Canadian Environment Minister, Christine Stewart: they make no attempt to conceal the true, socialist-redistributive objectives of globally-directed, nation-state democracy-immune Climatism.Edenhofer-Stewart comp 2

It doesn’t require a great leap of the imagination to discern the same sentiments in Bennett’s “putting resources into the real economy”, or the SNP’s “Climate Justice” Fund: as Friedman, especially, shows us, any movement with “Justice” as its suffix is almost unfailingly in reality a campaign for wealth/income abstraction and redistribution via State-coercion. And the universal support among our chosen Party luminaries for Britain’s continuing EU membership is a pointer, too: the EU seeks ever-more control over member-states’ economic and fiscal policies, with greater distribution explicitly included in its aims.

Curtailment of Personal Freedom.

The broad church that constitutes the Left in its widest sense distrusts individual liberty: philosophically, it remains in thrall to the Rousseauian concept of the human born pure but corrupted by his surroundings: to the inherent perfectibility of human society, given only sufficient power residing in the hands of the State. Climatism furnishes myriad openings to justify the extension of restrictions on personal freedom – and in how noble and incontrovertible a cause! – nothing less than the salvation of the planet itself.

Thus the increasing exhortations against flying (remember the Green Party’s Caroline Lucas, equating flying to Spain on holiday with murder by stabbing?), and the public implicit shaming of those whom the self-appointed arbiters of eco-propriety deem to have exceeded their allocated entitlement: the vocal disapproval of food choices on the laughably-flawed “logic” of grazing-space or food-miles: the drive to install smart-meters or third-party control systems into private homes to monitor, and even remotely-curb, energy consumption.

 Intolerance and Suppression of Dissent.

Few political movements have exhibited the vicious intolerance of dissent from the Green orthodoxy for which Climatism is, rightly, reviled – with the possible exception, that is, of those found in totalitarian states.

Dispute the received wisdom, that the mere 3% of atmospheric CO2 that results from human activity is catastrophically dangerous while the residual 97% that results entirely from natural climatological phenomena somehow isn’t, and you will be met, not with an attempted explanation (because there isn’t one, apart from the basic premise being wrong), but ad-hominem abuse, usually including an adverse judgment or three disparaging your moral worth as well as your motives.

Challenge why global average temperatures have been flat for 19 years despite continued rising atmospheric CO2, and you will be called, not an adherent to Popper’s Scientific Method, but the catch-all insult of “denier” – which is quite rich, considering that Climatists, to cling to the Green Orthodoxy, are themselves forced to deny 4½ billion years of more or less constant climate change, ever since the Earth’s formation, and often far more dramatic than any over which Climatism professes to agonise.

Confront the quaint notion that increased floods from (entirely natural) climate change are better prevented, not by improving flood defences but subsidising inefficient, expensive renewables off the backs of the poor’s energy bills, and you will be treated, not with discussion but with ferocious scorn and derision (but little else).

This is pure Leftist technique, the late 20th/early 21st century manifestation of what’s in Alinsky’s Rules For Radicals (from which Obama, incidentally, draws so much of his inspiration). “Your views are so self-evidently morally-repugnant (alternative: “driven solely by greed“)”, goes the Leftist narrative, “that they absolve me from any obligation even to debate the issue with you at all, especially as my aims are noble and altruistic, so that their ends in any case justify whatever means are required to realise them“. It’s called Shutting Down The Argument. Leftists (and Climatists) deploy it routinely.

None of this multi-faceted consistency of aims and policies between Leftism and Climatism should surprise, given the historical circumstances in which they came together. The 1989 collapse of Soviet-style communism and the end of the Cold War deprived the Left almost overnight of the models – economic, cultural, societal and geo-political – which for 70 years it had revered as inspiration for and validation of its state-authoritarian, collectivist, anti-capitalist, anti-Western philosophy.

The nascent environmental movement was the ideal candidate to replace it. It offered, not just an alternative justification for totalitarian-inclined, anti-capitalist, anti-Western, anti-freedom disaffection, but one with an even wider potential: this time, the oppressed victims, deemed to be in need of salvation from exploitation and subjugation by liberty, capitalism and free-markets, were not merely the downtrodden working-class masses: they were humanity in its entirety, and even the Earth itself.

Green New Red 3As described and referenced above, the takeover of the environmental movement by the hard-Left proceeded over the next 10 years or so, and it continues to this day, to the extent that Green and Socialist policies and outlooks are now virtually indistinguishable from each other on the Left of the politico-ideological spectrum.

It’s why the prescriptions advanced by and in the name of the secular Green Religion of Climatism bear such an uncanny, but strictly non-accidental resemblance to what Leftist political-economy has long advocated. Green really is the New Red. The red lights of politics, from the palest tinge of pink to the deepest shade of crimson, are all showing Green.

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The Heseltine Fascination

Chancellor George Osborne’s enduring deference to Michael Heseltine’s 1970s model of state-crony corporatism will lead to poor policy, regionally and nationally

Osborne budget boxUnderstandably, most of this week’s post-Budget reaction focussed on two things – Osborne’s continuing failure to ameliorate Britain’s worsening structural fiscal position, and the introduction of the illiberal (and almost certain to be largely-ineffective) sugar tax.

Less noticed, however, was how two Osborne announcements reveal, not only his ongoing attachment to the 1970s-style state-crony corporatism epitomised by (Lord) Michael Heseltine, but even his enduring fascination for Heseltine himself.

The first instance came just after Osborne’s reference to the Greater London Authority moving towards full retention of its business rates. He added:

“Michael Heseltine has accepted my invitation to lead a Thames Estuary Growth Commission and he will report to me with its ideas next year.”

To anyone familiar with the history of Heseltine’s political-economy, this should have rung warning bells. First, the very name “Thames Estuary Growth Commission” itself carries connotations of the semi-bureaucratic, state-interventionist, “Government picking winners” model of infrastructure development that Heseltine has long so admired (and of which more later).

ebbsfleet-map 2014 v3Second, it recalled Osborne’s previous, and underwhelming, foray into Thames Estuary development. In the 2014 Budget, he announced, to the now habitual fanfare, that “Britain’s first Garden City in 100 years”, including 15,000 houses, would be built at Ebbsfleet. Critics, however, soon pointed out that a mere 15,000 houses hardly amounts to a Garden City, plus the inconvenient fact that Ebbsfleet itself, sitting on a flood-plain with an average height of just 2 metres above sea level, bordering the Thames Estuary, might be a, shall we say, less-than-ideal site for a new Garden City.

 Two years later, just 65 of the planned 15,000 houses have been built.

Then, shortly afterwards, Osborne named-checked the National Infrastructure Commission (beginning to sound familiar?) which he’d established under the aegis of the Treasury last year, and proclaimed the following:

“They recommend much stronger links across northern England. So we are giving the green light to High Speed 3 between Manchester and Leeds”

HS3 would, of course, be an extension of HS2, which is itself far from certain to go ahead, being mired in controversy:

  • Its projected cost has risen inexorably from even the risibly-low estimate of £50 billion once peddled unconvincingly by the Government, which, astonishingly, excluded off-balance-sheet costs.
  • It would have to be funded almost exclusively by borrowing, when the National Debt is already £1.5 trillion and rising.
  • HS2 IEA WellingsIts claims for economic regeneration of the North are dubious.
  • It is, and is likely to remain, beset by planning approval disputes and housing-blight claims, for years.
  • Its claimed service improvements could be met by lower-cost alternatives.

HS2’s flaws were comprehensively and forensically exposed by Dr Richard Wellings’ 2014 paper for the Institute of Economic Affairs.

Heseltine Infrastructure CommissionTurn now to Osborne’s National Infrastructure Commission itself. Who does one find adorning the ranks of its Commissioners? Why, none other than ……. Michael Heseltine.

Heseltine was recruited into the Treasury, with Osborne’s approval, to “advise” on infrastructure development and urban renewal, because of his 2012 report “No Stone Unturned In Pursuit Of Growth” that purported to be a putative blueprint for stimulating economic growth.

In its 89 recommendations, however, over 80 of which the Coalition accepted, it presented in miniature a picture of the interventionist-government corporatist state of the 1960s and 1970s: the decades in which Heseltine cut his political teeth, and for which its practitioners could, despite its manifest flaws, conceive no alternative.

It showed that Heseltine remains an unrepentant apologist and enthusiast for Big Government: that his vision for stimulating economic growth is one of national industrial policy, governmental top-down oversight, regional-quango consensus investment, local council-level enterprise partnerships with spending grants. For Heseltine, Adam Smith’s invisible hand must, it seems, be subsumed within multiple layers of statist-corporatist glove.

Heseltine no stone unturnedHis is an approach that instinctively eschews solutions based on economic liberalisation, deregulation and free markets: like regional pay to mitigate any crowding-out effect of nationally-set pay rates, especially in the public sector, on local job opportunity uptake: like encouraging more non-State free schools and academies, with the freedom to adjust their curricula to make them attractive to students who will be seeking employment in the area: and like, above all, unblocking the planning process in which so many developments can get bogged down.

He appears to favour what he termed “growth funds” being allocated through new Local Enterprise Partnerships. But given that the money would come from people and businesses via the tax system in the first place – Government has no money of its own – quite why government and the local quangocracy would be better judges of investment potential than savers, investors and businesses themselves was not explained. Not much of Gladstone’s enjoinder to let money “fructify in the pockets of the people” there.

Heseltine’s recommendations were roundly criticised at the time by a Professor of Economic Geography at the LSE(!), no less, as “a return to policies, many of them not particularly successful, that were developed in different times, to tackle different challenges”. It’s difficult to suggest these words don’t equally apply in 2016.

The FT’s Janan Ganesh wrote in late 2012 that Heseltine’s prescription for encouraging infrastructure development was very much a Gaullist vision. This still resonates: Heseltine’s vision is more akin to France’s state-dirigisme of Les Grands Prôjets: yet it’s in France where the State’s share of GDP persists at an unsustainably-high 50+%, unemployment is at levels not seen for two decades, and competitiveness continues to fall.

osborne delivers budget 16mar16Osborne’s reverence for Heseltine is misguided, and counter-productive. To stimulate the infrastructure growth of the future, Britain needs, not reheated 1970s-style regional industrial policy predicated on state-interventionism, but a comprehensive supply-side revolution. We need a smaller state, lower, simpler and flatter taxes, less-onerous workplace regulation, a freer and more responsive education system, and a major reform of planning law.

Sadly though, while we have a Chancellor of the Exchequer so ideologically in hock to Heseltine’s state-crony corporatism, that will remain an impossible dream.

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The Incredible Shrinking Chancellor

Formerly seen – not least by himself – as a master strategist and astute political operator, George Osborne’s authority is eroding before our eyes

“Events, dear boy, events”, former Prime Minister Harold Macmillan is reputed to have replied when asked to predict the factor most likely to derail his political plans. He meant “the unexpected”: in modern political parlance, the “unknown unknowns” that can, and almost always do, erupt, unforeseen, seemingly out of nowhere, to blow the most carefully-crafted plans off course.

Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne could be forgiven for spending more time than usual ruefully recalling Macmillan’s remarks at the moment. Because, since the start of 2016, his plans for his own political advancement have been derailed spectacularly, to an extent which, on 1st January, he can surely scarcely have imagined. Yes, partly by some of those unknown unknowns: but, ironically, also by his own blunders. His stature and authority are crumbling astonishingly, virtually on a daily basis.

Osborne with shadesYet, contemplated from Osborne’s New Year’s Day breakfast table, 2016 must have looked satisfyingly promising. First, Budget Day on 16 March would give him the opportunity to continue the centre-leftwards tack started in his 2015 Autumn Statement, designed to capitalise politically on Corbynite Labour’s charge towards hard-Leftism, by hoovering up disaffected Blairites and Labour moderates into the Cameroon social-democracy-leaning Big Tent.

Second, David Cameron would round off his tour of European capitals pressing for EU reforms at the Brussels EU Heads of Government Summit over the weekend of 19-21 February. True, he’d return with only trifling and essentially cosmetic reforms. But, accompanied by some lurid Brexit-alarmism, a Cabinet united in campaigning for Remain, and a “helpful” media narrative, they should be just enough to persuade a risk-averse British electorate to vote to stay in the EU. Clearing the way for Cameron to resign in triumph as Prime Minister and Party Leader some time in 2017 or 2018, and leaving Osborne in pole position to see off any  challenge and ascend to No 10.

Except it hasn’t quite worked out like that. In fact, it’s rapidly going pear-shaped. “Events, dear boy, events”.

Take the EU “re-negotiation”. Yes, Cameron did indeed return from Brussels with a “reform” deal: but one of such abject and transparent paucity, ineffectiveness and unenforceability, that it had unravelled, and been both rightly exposed and excoriated for it, within 72 hours. And to such an extent that the Government’s official Remain campaign strategy adopted, almost from Day 1, what had been hoped would be the back-up strategy of Project Fear. Any plausible pretence that there is a “reformed” EU at all has been dropped. Brexit-scaremongering Project Fear, to all intents and purposes, is the  Remain campaign.            

Conservatives - Careers before countryThen, from Osborne’s point of view, came the bombshell. He must surely have reckoned that both Boris Johnson and Michael Gove would be reliably on side, fully signed up to the Government’s official position, as fellow-advocates for Britain staying in even the risibly non-“reformed” EU that was on offer: Boris because of his general pro-EU and internationalist outlook, including a desire to see Turkey in the EU, and Gove because of his personal loyalty to Cameron. Before the Brussels summit of 19-21 February, even this political cartoon was circulating: the Party heavy-hitters, including Boris and Gove, lined up, Dad’s Army style, in Captain Camwaring’s pro-EU Home Guard platoon.

Not any more. Because in fact, the opposite happened. Boris, after much public and private agonising, declared for Leave, and Gove, with what must be one of the finest personal statements to grace British politics for a very long time, did the same.

Those two “defections”, I suspect, rocked Osborne back on his heels: not just on account of their unexpectedness, but also because of their implications, both for the EU Referendum itself, and consequentially, for Osborne’s own political future. On the Leave campaign, to Boris’ public appeal is added Gove’s principled integrity and intellectual heft. They make the outcome of the Referendum far closer and far less predictable: that the Government and Remain could actually lose it, and that Leave could triumph in a vote for Brexit, really isn’t beyond the bounds of possibility.

If that happens, despite his bluster, Cameron would, politically, be Dead Man Walking: and given that their political ideologies and fortunes have been so inextricably linked for 25 years, that means Osborne would too. Even with a wafer-thin Remain win, Cameron’s credibility, and thus Osborne’s, will be seriously damaged: the latter’s, possibly fatally, with intra-Party talk already being that the next leader will almost certainly have to come from the Party’s pro-Brexit wing.

osborne looking grimNo wonder Osborne has suddenly seemed such diminished figure, thrown off balance, ever since. His prospects of following his planned and mapped-out route of a smooth ascent to No 10 in the wake of a benignly-departing David Cameron have suffered a severe blow: they may even be receding, a victim of Boris’ burgeoning popularity with Party members and activists since his ostentatious and publicity-maximising conversion to the Brexit cause.

And it gets worse. Because, intriguingly, in only the barely three weeks that have elapsed since the denouement of these events, a gaffe-prone Osborne has been either been caught out and had to retract hubristic claims, or forced to execute a sharp policy U-turn in an humiliating climb-down, or experienced an open challenge to his authority and rebellion from his own backbenchers, on no fewer than seven separate issues.

First, the Google tax deal. A clearly pleased-with-himself Osborne made extravagant claims for the £130 million agreement he had reached with Google, presumably on the calculation of reaping political capital from the vocal lobby opposed to any (entirely legal) tax-avoidance by multinationals. That soon unravelled, however, with the revelation that it covered a full 10 years of back taxes and amounted to an effective tax rate of only 3%, against the UK standard corporation tax rate of 20%. It concluded with scathing criticism of Osborne from his own backbenchers, both the Commons Public Accounts and Treasury Committees launching separate inquiries, and both Google and HMRC being asked to re-appear before themGoogle, meanwhile, are reportedly furious with Osborne for making self-aggrandising claims which have given them additional poor publicity.

Second, the claims of extra tax revenue from the lower top rate. Osborne boasted  that an additional £8 billion in tax revenue had been generated from the reduction in the top rate of tax from 50% to 45%, attributing the entire amount to the rate change. Unfortunately for him, that was quickly challenged as “precarious” by none other than the Institute for Fiscal Studies, on the grounds that it ignored any deferment factor and was more a one-off gain than a systemically-permanent windfall. We have heard no more about it.

Third, the planned tax-raid on pensions. Osborne had been planning a very Gordon-Brownian stealth-tax: to abolish higher-rate tax relief on pensions, and lower the threshold at which money invested in a pension pot starts to attract high, almost penal, rates of tax. The entirely predictable backbench uproar duly ensued, with Osborne’s plans being rightly denounced as simultaneously both economically-incompetent – disincentivizing prudent retirement saving – and politically-inept – targeting a natural Tory electoral constituency. They have been dropped.

hinkley Point comp 2Fourth, Hinkley Point Nuclear Power Station. This was announced with much fanfare by Osborne on his September 2015 trade visit to China. The deal, was, though, subject to a £2 billion taxpayer guarantee to EDF, without which they would have struggled to secure project finance, and immediately attracted informed criticism because of its capital intensiveness and cost per MWh of output. It’s now emerged that the building cost has roughly trebled, the strike-price per MWh for its output has doubled, and the start date has been put back 8 years: all within 6 months. The calls for it to be scrapped as an expensive and uneconomic white elephant are growing.

G20 vs EU How Do They Cope via Julia H-BFifth, the G20 warning against Brexit. At Osborne’s initiative, the plan was for the G20 group of advanced economies to warn Britain against exit from the EU. That quickly collapsed, to widespread derision, when commentators pointed out the inconvenient fact that 16 of the 20 G20 countries are actually outside the EU, yet self-evidently still manage to be in the top 20 economies globally. Prompting the question: how could they then credibly warn Britain, the 5th largest, that it must be inside the EU to ensure its very survival? Silence.

Sixth, this week’s Sunday Trading liberalisation débacle. Despite being warned of the likelihood of both the SNP yet again ignoring their pledge not to vote in Westminster on what are devolved matters in Scotland, and an incipient Tory backbench rebellion, Osborne nevertheless determined to push the Bill through the Commons. When it became apparent that the SNP and Osborne’s own backbenchers would indeed carry out their threats, there was a ham-fisted attempt to water down the Bill’s provisions, culminating in an humiliating rebuff from the Speaker who refused to accept a related Motion.  SNP MPs duly supported Labour, the Tory rebels duly rebelled, and an embarrassing defeat for the Government, plus the loss of the liberalisation measures, was the outcome.

Seventh, another Tory backbench revolt, against another Osborne tax rise, this time on motor fuel duty. Despite 74% of the pump cost of a litre of diesel or petrol now comprising tax, Osborne, it appears, had planned to use next Wednesday’s Budget to increase the duty even further. Cue the now normal resistance movement, by up to 150 MPs, and the plans for a hike in the duty are reportedly being shelved.

These kinds of setbacks aren’t unprecedented: Osborne has had wobbles before. Think of the Pasty Tax in the 2012 Omnishambles Budget: a previous attempt to raise fuel duty with effect from January 2013 which similarly had to be abandoned on backbench pressure: and the tax-credits imbroglio of 2015, when an Osborne converted, we were told, to “listening mode” was equally forced into an embarrassing retreat.

osborne looking grim 2But Osborne’s present troubles look and feel different, quantitatively and qualitatively. Quantitatively, because they’ve been coming thick and fast – no fewer than seven, and in just three weeks, which, I’d venture to suggest, is unprecedented. Qualitatively, because they contain an element which hasn’t been present in earlier iterations – a ready willingness, particularly among Tory backbenchers, not merely to voice misgivings, but vocally and robustly to resist, rebel, criticise and take to the media to denounce the Chancellor’s proposals in no uncertain terms, both as economically-disadvantageous and politically-inept.

The latter charge being especially ironic, and wounding. Because Osborne is, above all else, a Political Chancellor, far too prone to seeing virtually every aspect of economic and fiscal stewardship through the prism of partisan political triangulation. The shameless stealing of Blairite clothing in the form of a National Living Wage (aka, arbitrarily raising the floor price of labour to employers by State diktat) is but the latest example.

Osborne has long been lauded – not least by himself – as a political master-strategist. But, in truth, his excessive concentration on it, to the detriment of his economic and fiscal stewardship, has had decidedly mixed results. He’s been allowed to get away with increasing the National Debt by more in five years than even that preposterous antithesis of fiscal rectitude, Gordon Brown, managed in thirteen, largely because, when only 6% of the population know the difference between deficit and debt, few votes were risked by it.

Yet being master-strategist for two elections, 2010’s not won, even against Brown, and 2015’s, not expected to be won, but won mainly out of voters’ fear of a Labour-SNP government, tell a different story. As does the prevalence of the “austerity” narrative, despite the lamentable pace of deficit reduction. During the 2010-2015 Coalition, the overall rate of public spending reduction was a miserable 0.4% pa in real terms: supposed political master-strategist Osborne, however, succeeded in being portrayed as the heartless architect of Victorian-workhouse austerity, for the macro-fiscal equivalent of reducing a weekly £200 shopping bill by 80p.

So the last month’s acceleration in the decline of Osborne’s standing is partly an overdue reckoning: but its litany of serial hubris, politico-economic miscalculation, U-turn and climb-down, in just 20-odd days since the shock of Boris’ & Gove’s defection to the Brexit cause, have notably exacerbated its visibility. The wider appreciation of his Brown-like inveterate political-meddling and fiscal neo-Keynesianism, stealth-taxes and all, mean that the “Osbrowneomics” and “Osbrowne” memes are gaining wider currency.

osborne looking hauntedAs each successive Tory backbench anti-Osborne rebellion yields results, his critics are becoming more emboldened. They’re getting a taste for it, scenting blood. Osborne suddenly looks at bay, haunted, error-prone, wan, vulnerable, yesterday’s future, a fast-diminishing figure, in a way few can have predicted on 1st January.

He really is The Incredible Shrinking Chancellor, his stature and authority crumbling daily before our eyes.

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