So said Churchill on VE Day, but in its own way, 25 years ago, 25th December 1991 was a yet greater day, the day when the Soviet Union collapsed with Gorbachev’s resignation as President of the USSR, and so it vanished after the leaders of Russia, the Ukraine and Belarus had told Gorbachev, who had by then become Lenin’s Dönitz, to go away and take what Auberon Waugh called ‘that accursed, groaning slave empire’ with him.
The events leading up to the disappearance of the USSR are recalled in an article on the BBC website, ‘How three men signed the USSR’s death warrant‘ rather lacking in nostalgia for the slaughterhouse of nations. The then leader of Belarus, Stanislav Shushkevich, was a key figure, as the article tells us:
8 December, at 09:00 the leaders (of Russia, the Ukraine and Belarus), with their prime ministers and various officials in tow, gathered for the negotiations – still apparently unclear what they were about to discuss.
The first suggestion came from a Russian adviser, Gennadi Burbulis – and it could not have been more radical.”I will remember this sentence to the end of my life,” says Shushkevich.
“It is the opening statement of our agreement, the only one which was adopted without any arguments. ‘The USSR, as a geopolitical reality, and as a subject of international law – has ceased to exist.’ And I was the first to say that I would sign up for this.”
The agreement would render the Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev irrelevant, while giving more power in Moscow to Russia’s president Boris Yeltsin.
But putting an end to the centuries-old Russian empire and its successor, the USSR, was a big step. Years later, many wondered whether the three politicians were entirely sober when taking this momentous decision?
“According to a popular myth, we drafted our agreement while drunk,” says Shushkevich. “This is completely wrong! Of course, it was a typical Soviet arrangement, and alcohol was freely available everywhere in the residence – but no-one touched it. The most we would allow ourselves was a drop of brandy every time we adopted a new article.”
In the next few hours, 14 articles in all were adopted. By about 15:00, the document confirming the dissolution of the USSR was ready. The next step was to inform the world, and the Byelorussian leader drew the short straw.
Shushkevich goes on:
“Yeltsin and Kravchuk said to me jokingly: ‘We have voted to nominate you to inform Gorbachev.’ And then I said: ‘Kravchuk and myself nominate you, Mr Yeltsin, to call your good friend, the US president George Bush.’
“I dialled Gorbachev’s office in Moscow – but they wouldn’t put me straight through, they kept passing me from pillar to post, and I had to explain who I was over and over again. Meanwhile, Yeltsin, seeing that I was on the phone to Moscow, dialled President Bush. [Andrei] Kozyrev, the [Russian] minister of foreign affairs, was on the other line, translating Bush’s comments.”
For a more sanguine review of the Soviet Union, the good people at Breitbart have provided this piece, full of details of the horrors of Soviet power.
An example of a diary entry from 1920.
The machine of the Red Terror works incessantly. Every day and every night, in Petrograd, Moscow, and all over the country the mountain of the dead grows higher … Everywhere people are shot, mutilated, wiped out of existence …
Every night we hear the rattle of trucks bearing new victims. Every night we hear the rifle fire of executions, and often some of us hear from the ditches, where the bodies are flung, faint groans and cries of those who did not die at once under the guns. People living near these places begin to move away. They cannot sleep …
Getting up in the morning, no man or woman knows whether he will be free that night. Leaving one’s home, one never knows whether he will return. Sometimes a neighborhood is surrounded and everyone caught out of his house without a certificate is arrested … Life these days depends entirely on luck.
And then there was Brezhnev’s abuse of psychiatric hospitals for those who rejected the logic of Socialism, and it wasn’t just locking people up, it was using drugs for torture.
As head of the KGB in the 1970s, Yuri Andropov (who later was General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union after Leonid Brezhnev’s death in 1982), accepted a new theory in Soviet psychiatry which said opposition to the socialist regime was a sign of mental illness.
Why? Because only the mentally disturbed would resist the logic and the truth of Marxian dialectical determinism and its “proof” that socialism and communism were the highest and most humane stage of social development. Those who criticized the system or wanted to reform or overthrow the Soviet socialist regime were mentally sick and required psychiatric treatment.
And the grim reality?
Of all the drugs administered [at the mental institution] to impose discipline, sulfazine stood at the pinnacle of pain … ‘People injected with sulfazine were groaning, sighing with pain, cursing the psychiatrists and Soviet power, cursing with everything in their hearts,’ Alexei told us. ‘The people go into horrible convulsions and get completely disoriented. The body temperature rises to 40 degrees centigrade [104 degrees Fahrenheit] almost instantly, and the pain is so intense they cannot move from their beds for three days. Sulfazine is simply a way to destroy a man completely. If they torture you and break your arms, there is a certain specific pain and you somehow can stand it. But sulfazine is like a drill boring into your body that gets worse and worse until it’s more than you can stand. It’s impossible to endure. It is worse than torture, because, sometimes, torture may end. But this kind of torture may continue for years.’
So remember when people talk of the need to reform or reduce government, it is possible for an entire State to be swept away, without bloodshed, in hours, and whilst in the Soviet Union’s case, the aftermath was economically chaotic, that was because of where they had been, not because of where they were going.
Edit: TM Lutas points out in the comments, for which I am grateful, the following regarding an apparent error in the linked article:
Sulfozinum is not sulfazine. The former is what was used in political psychiatry. The latter is actually used in legitimate medicine. Could you add the spelling variant at least to the article so people unfamiliar with the substance are not led astray? The following two links above in combination illustrate the problem.
Said the Donald to the Salmon(d), erstwhile First Minister of Scotland, in a letter about the plans for windfarms off the Aberdeenshire coast, we know now from the Trump letters, obtained under the UK’s Freedom of Information Act.
A series of colourfully-written letters sent by Donald Trump to then-Scottish first minister Alex Salmond has been published in full for the first time.
The letters formed part of an intense lobbying campaign against plans for an offshore wind project near Mr Trump’s Aberdeenshire golf resort.
Some examples of Mr Trump’s forthright style:
On 12 March 2012 he asked Mr Salmond: “Do you want to be known for centuries to come as ‘Mad Alex – the man who destroyed Scotland’?”
He added: “If you pursue this craziness Scotland will go broke and forever lose whatever chance you currently have of making Scotland independent.”
he sent a one-sentence missive to the then first minister asking why Swedish energy firm Vattenfall was being allowed to “ruin” the Scottish coastline, adding: “Let them ruin the coastline of Sweden first.”
On 9 February 2012, Mr Trump told Mr Salmond: “With the reckless installation of these monsters, you will single-handedly have done more damage to Scotland than virtually any event in Scottish history.
I note that the letters indicate an appreciation of pragmatism by Mr Trump.
In one letter Mr Trump said: “History has proven conclusively that the world’s greatest leaders have always been those who have been able to change their minds for the good.”
He also said he would be “your greatest cheerleader if you can change or modify your stance on at least the inappropriately placed turbines.”
In the other letter he told Mr Salmond: “Your idea of independence is ‘Gone With the Wind’.”
Well, I am slightly puzzled by Mr Trump’s writings, if only by the use of the future tense in the reference to a third-world wasteland. And he surely meant to say ‘sh*thole’, which in Scots English I’m told is spelt ‘Cumbernauld‘.
I have to say that I am looking forward even more to 12 noon on 20th January 2017.
Yet another knife in the face of the rule of law is proposed in England and Wales, to deal with the problem of stalking.
The Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, appears to be pleased with the proposals.
New stalking protection orders will be introduced to better protect victims at the earliest possible stage, the home secretary has announced.
Amber Rudd called it “a practical solution to a crime taking place now”.
A closer inspection of the proposals reveals a familiar tactic, imposing a court order on someone who has not been convicted of any crime, and making a breach of that order a crime. This has already been in place since the Protection From Harassment Act 1997 was brought in, which was, IIRC, supposed to have dealt with this problem.
And look at the box of tricks that the State is offering:
The orders in England and Wales will help those who are targeted by strangers, giving them similar protection to domestic abuse victims.
Breaching an order’s conditions will be a criminal offence with a maximum sentence of five years in jail.
Police will be able to apply to the courts for an order before a stalking suspect has been convicted or even arrested.
The requirements of the order will vary according to the nature of the case. Typically, the suspect will be banned from going near the victim and contacting them online.
So no need to even arrest someone, just dump an order on them, and that will be a good start. But there’e more, all very Soviet if you ask me.
They might also be ordered to attend a rehabilitation programme, or undergo treatment if they have a mental health problem.
So without so much as a chance to argue your case, you could find yourself ordered to undergo treatment, and risk 5 years in jail if you refuse.
Not that it is much better that this could perhaps only follow a conviction.
So what do the police think?
The National Police Chiefs’ Council’s lead for stalking and harassment, Assistant Chief Constable Garry Shewan, said:”We want to stop stalkers in their tracks.
“The launch of stalking protection orders will help us intervene earlier and place controls on perpetrators to prevent their behaviour escalating while the crime is investigated.”
Not, I note ‘We want to bring suspects before the courts if the evidence justifies arrest, charge and a realistic prospect of conviction in a situation where it is in the public interest to prosecute, even though prosecution is a matter for the Crown, not the police.’, which would be a bare minimum of respect for the rule of law. But clearly not a shoot-to-kill to ‘stop stalkers in their tracks‘.
And what do the ‘charities’ think?
Rachel Griffin, director of the Suzy Lamplugh Trust which manages the National Stalking Helpline, welcomed the announcement.
“We are really excited that the order allows positive obligations to be put on a stalker,” Ms Griffin said.
“But of course that mental health treatment needs to be available at local level.”
This ‘trust’ is named for a murdered estate agent. I don’t see how killing the rule of law is an appropriate memorial to her. And did you note the sly hint that (State) funding is important?
And on what pretext is the rule of law being sacrificed, with a dagger in the chest for the beating heart to be pulled out and eaten warm?
Stalking protection orders form part of a package of government action to coincide with 16 days of action following the 25 November International Day for Elimination of Violence Against Women.
How about the elimination of violence against the rule of law?
What a tasteless joke.
Sweden’s Tax Agency has formally declared Raoul Wallenberg to be dead.
This is long after his disappearance at the hands of the Soviets in ‘liberated’ Budapest, where Wallenberg and others had striven to defy the Nazis and the Hungarian Arrow Cross. Of course, a diplomatic passport was no defence against the NKVD, and whatever happened to Wallenberg, he will long be remembered for his heroism, as should many others be so remembered. I recall reading a book by his colleague Per Anger, who described how a Swiss diplomat, facing an Arrow Cross death squad said something like “So go ahead, kill me, but your man in Berne will hang tomorrow morning.” and they left him alone.
How very modern-Swedish for the tax authorities to be the ones who decide if you are dead or not.
Funny how this story wasn’t made into a big Hollywood movie, just a TV movie, but then again it doesn’t portray a certain cause in a shining light.
The BBC has provided a reminder of the distant past, the early 1970s, when Ted Heath was Prime Minister and Mrs Thatcher was the Education Secretary. Despite a long feud between them after Mrs Thatcher’s rise to lead their party, Mrs Thatcher reportedly thought highly of Mr Heath.
‘…Baroness Thatcher eventually called her Tory predecessor “one of Britain’s greatest prime ministers”….’
Let’s see what the BBC has to say about that time:
Margaret Thatcher was Education Secretary in Mr Heath’s cabinet between 1970 and 1974. Although never close, they shared a commitment to free market policies.
As if. It is true that Mr Heath privatised Thomas Cook, a travel agency (it was nationalised during World War 2 after the German occupation of France as it had become French-owned by then), and some pubs in Carlisle. Yes, that’s right, the British Government had nationalised pubs around Carlisle during WW1, to ensure that munitions workers weren’t too drunk, and with the Kaiser safely in the past, the time was ripe for final privatisation of the remaining pubs came in 1971.
Perhaps every town should have a nationalised pub as a reminder of the ordeal of the drinkers of Carlisle, which effectively lasted a drinker’s lifetime. At a relatively small cost, we could have a live reminder of nationalisation in every town.
From 1972, the government began to change course.
A strike by the miners threatened coal supplies to power stations.
War in the Middle East in 1973 led to a sharp rise in oil prices, feeding inflation.
Inflation, that mysterious dragon that is scared off by high interest rates but which feeds on high oil prices, so the collapse of Bretton Woods and Nixon’s repudiation of the dollar/gold link had nothing to do with inflation, nor did wild printing of money.
Here is a pub price list from the time of decimalisation, 30th November 1970: A pint of beer in the same pub now, even with gentrification, costs not 12 new pence but something in the region of £3.60p, a 30-fold price increase in nominal terms.
However, what did Mr Heath, one-time friend of Deng and Saddam, decide to do in the face of inflation, and demands for pay rises? Reminder, a great many people worked in nationalised industries, and their pay rates were ultimately political decisions. Furthermore, going on strike (i.e. refusing to work) was often seen as the way to muscle a pay rise out of the government, rather than a route to bankruptcy.
Heath, memories of wartime comradeship still fresh, did not want a confrontation with workers, nor, having grown up during the depression of the 1930s, was he willing to see unemployment rise in order to curb inflation.
Instead, he re-introduced government control of prices and pay.
So what happens if you control prices and pay? We are not told. Is it too obvious to need to be said, or are there still people who deny that price controls can lead to distortions? Why not look at Venezuela for a grim current example? (it’s OK, he’s doing it to curb inflation).
And this ‘trade-off’ between unemployment and inflation? That other mysterious relationship that is simply assumed to exist? How about seeing if a market can clear without distortions?
And note, there was no dispute at this point between Mr Heath and Mrs Thatcher over Europe, Mrs Thatcher was completely for membership of the European Economic Community.
In some ways, we have come a long way from the absurdity of the political consensus of the 1970s, yet the State still looms large as does the passing off of old economic fallacies as realities.
And what is Mrs Thatcher reported to have said of that time?
“In the years since, he and I have not always agreed on every political thing, but I was, and I’m proud to have been, a member of his government …”
Quite how Mrs Thatcher got her reputation is a mystery to me, but not how Roy Orbison put it.
A commentator on Breitbart, ‘Rob’, says of the decision by the FBI not to recommend charges relating to alleged violation of the law relating to the use and security of the Secretary’s private email server:
“Until this election, the corruption, coercion, and sleazy backroom deals were just that… backroom. The Clintons… AND Obama… have revealed who they are: criminals. IF in light of this clear abortion of justice this country elects Hillary, the United States DESERVES to collapse and disintegrate just like Rome. Shame on Comey. Shame on Lynch. Shame on Obama. And shame on that sleazy criminal hag Hillary. Disgusting… all of them, and I would love to watch Attorney General Chris Christie put them all in prison next summer.”
You might think so from reports from the usual quarters, including the Grauniad in a piece, which even by the low standards of legal waffle, is utterly devoid of anything approaching a reasoned legal argument. But from their point of view perhaps, job done.
However, some heavyweight lawyers have weighed in with an opinion piece providing some arguments that Brexit would only be lawful if Parliament approved it. And you can imagine their concern that the clearly expressed will of the electorate might be ignored, why the BBC has even picked up this article, letting it be more widely known.
‘…we argue that as a matter of domestic constitutional law, the Prime Minister is unable to issue a declaration under Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty – triggering our withdrawal from the European Union – without having been first authorised to do so by an Act of the United Kingdom Parliament. Were he to attempt to do so before such a statute was passed, the declaration would be legally ineffective as a matter of domestic law and it would also fail to comply with the requirements of Article 50 itself.’
So that was all a waste of time then, and Mr Cameron has resigned for no good reason (from his pov), I hear no one say.
Let’s look at this a bit, (btw my answer is ‘No’).
Article 50 – The relevant provisions of Article 50 read as follows:
1 Any Member State may decide to withdraw from the Union in accordance with its own constitutional requirements.
2 A Member State which decides to withdraw shall notify the European Council of its intention. In the light of the guidelines provided by the European Council, the Union shall negotiate and conclude an agreement with that State, setting out the arrangements for its withdrawal, taking account of the framework for its future relationship with the Union. That agreement shall be negotiated in accordance with Article 218(3) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. It shall be concluded on behalf of the Union by the Council, acting by a qualified majority, after obtaining the consent of the European Parliament.
3. The Treaties shall cease to apply to the State in question from the date of entry into force of the withdrawal agreement or, failing that, two years after the notification referred to in paragraph 2, unless the European Council, in agreement with the Member State concerned, unanimously decides to extend this period.
Article 50 is part of the Lisbon Treaty, and it is enshrined in law by an Act of Parliament (this Treaty was the one that Mr Cameron gave us that ‘cast-iron’ guarantee of a referendum on, until is was ratified, when it was ‘too late’ to have a referendum.)
Looking at 1, this seems to me to leave the decision to withdraw to the member state, and for it not to be a matter for the EU, and nothing more. If a member state decides to leave, it need only follow its own requirements, i.e. the EU does not presume to over-ride any such mechanism, fair enough, and the decision itself must be lawful, lest a would-be dictator seeks to rush out of the EU on the way to mimicking Belarus.
2 sets out the mechanism for the departing State to notify the European Council. Nothing fancy there, a verbal statement could do it, but a handwritten letter would be polite. “Dear Donald, We are ducking out of the European Union in accordance with the terms of Article 50, this letter is our formal notification thereof, Chauzinho, signed ….”. And then a negotiation starts.
Looking at 3, the Treaties shall cease to apply to the State in question etc. from the date of entry into force of the withdrawal agreement (whenever that might be) or, failing that, 2 years after the notification, unless the European Council unanimously* decides to extend this period (in agreement with the departing state)
(*Pay attention folks, 50 (3) crops up below.)
So if nothing is agreed to extend time, or if we don’t leave earlier, exit is automatic after 2 years. Perhaps the Chilcott committee will find a new task for the next decade or so, negotiating Brexit?
The problem, it seems, is that the lawyers think that the Royal Prerogative is constrained by law, in that the Sovereign (on the advice of her Ministers) can do no wrong, but also cannot do anything that is unlawful such as exercising her Prerogative when Parliament has provided for it to be exercised in a particular way or with prior Parliamentary approval, in which case it is no Prerogative at all, of course.
All very well, but the exercising of Article 50 is simply doing what ‘it says on the tin’, the right to withdraw is inherent in the Treaty, so exercising a right provided for in the Treaty is not (well it seems fairly obvious to me anyway) a breach of the Treaty or of EU law. One might ask, if Article 50 does not allow for withdrawal, what on Earth does it provide for?
But of course, it goes much deeper than that, the exercise of the Prerogative is constrained by Parliament and the law. The first line of attack is to argue that Parliament has to approve a decision to leave the EU.
Is this found in 50 (1) “…in accordance with its own constitutional requirements…” Of course, the UK has no written constitution (moan the Lefties), but the referendum was held by authority of an Act of Parliament, and it was only ever ‘advisory’, i.e. it was legally a pointless exercise, as the outcome mandated nothing, whereas a 2011 Referendum did mandate a change in the law in the event of approval to changes in the voting system, by delegated legislation within the Act. So the Act that provided for this Referendum could have provided for a mechanism for its implementation by its own provisions mandating the Prime Minister to trigger article 50 in the event of ‘Leave’ prevailing, or by requiring another Act (which is necessarily subject to Parliament’s will) to trigger Article 50. The Prime Minister may ignore this Referendum outcome completely, of that there is no legal doubt.
But then again, Parliament has constrained the power of the executive (i.e. the Crown as advised) in relation to treaties. Step forward The European Union Act 2011. This Act is a sort of ‘entrenching’ Act, which sets out various obstacles to Treaty modifications without a referendum in the UK, see section 4.
4 Cases where treaty or Article 48(6) decision attracts a referendum
(1) Subject to subsection (4), a treaty or an Article 48(6) decision falls within this section if it involves one or more of the following—
(a) the extension of the objectives of the EU as set out in Article 3 of TEU;
(b) the conferring on the EU of a new exclusive competence;
(c) the extension of an exclusive competence of the EU;
(d) the conferring on the EU of a new competence shared with the member States;
(e) the extension of any competence of the EU that is shared with the member States;
(f) the extension of the competence of the EU in relation to—
(i) the co-ordination of economic and employment policies, or
(ii) common foreign and security policy;
(g) the conferring on the EU of a new competence to carry out actions to support, co-ordinate or supplement the actions of member States;
(h) the extension of a supporting, co-ordinating or supplementing competence of the EU;
(i) the conferring on an EU institution or body of power to impose a requirement or obligation on the United Kingdom, or the removal of any limitation on any such power of an EU institution or body;
(j) the conferring on an EU institution or body of new or extended power to impose sanctions on the United Kingdom;
(k) any amendment of a provision listed in Schedule 1 that removes a requirement that anything should be done unanimously, by consensus or by common accord;
(l) any amendment of Article 31(2) of TEU (decisions relating to common foreign and security policy to which qualified majority voting applies) that removes or amends the provision enabling a member of the Council to oppose the adoption of a decision to be taken by qualified majority voting;
(m) any amendment of any of the provisions specified in subsection (3) that removes or amends the provision enabling a member of the Council, in relation to a draft legislative act, to ensure the suspension of the ordinary legislative procedure.
Zzzzz…. But nowhere in this Act has Parliament put any brake on the exercise of the notification to leave the EU under Article 50! That right is left untouched, yet it could have been constrained. Furthermore, this Act requires a referendum on certain decisions by Ministers (i.e. the Crown) by Section 6.
6 Decisions requiring approval by Act and by referendum
(1) A Minister of the Crown may not vote in favour of or otherwise support a decision to which this subsection applies unless—
(a) the draft decision is approved by Act of Parliament, and
(b) the referendum condition is met.
(2) Where the European Council has recommended to the member States the adoption of a decision under Article 42(2) of TEU in relation to a common EU defence, a Minister of the Crown may not notify the European Council that the decision is adopted by the United Kingdom unless—
(a) the decision is approved by Act of Parliament, and
(b) the referendum condition is met.
(3) A Minister of the Crown may not give a notification under Article 4 of Protocol (No. 21) on the position of the United Kingdom and Ireland in respect of the area of freedom, security and justice annexed to TEU and TFEU which relates to participation by the United Kingdom in a European Public Prosecutor’s Office or an extension of the powers of that Office unless—
(a) the notification has been approved by Act of Parliament, and
(b) the referendum condition is met.
(4) The referendum condition is that set out in section 3(2), with references to a decision being read for the purposes of subsection (1) as references to a draft decision and for the purposes of subsection (3) as references to a notification….
Try an espresso to stay with me, but furthermore, the Schedule to this Act sets out ‘Treaty provisions where amendment removing need for unanimity, consensus or common accord would attract referendum’.
And here we find, at the bottom, Article 50 (3):
Article 7(2) (determination by European Council of existence of serious and persistent breach by member State of values referred to in Article 2).
Article 14(2) (composition of European Parliament).
Article 15(4) (decisions of European Council require consensus).
Article 17(5) (number of, and system for appointing, Commissioners).
Article 19(2) (appointment of Judges and Advocates-General of European Court of Justice).
Article 22(1) (identification of strategic interests and objectives of the EU).
Chapter 2 of Title V (specific provisions on the common foreign and security policy).
Article 48(3), (4), (6) and (7) (treaty revision procedures).
Article 49 (application for EU membership).
Article 50(3) (decision of European Council extending time during which treaties apply to state withdrawing from EU).
So Parliament has set limits on what Ministers of the Crown may do in respect of the Lisbon Treaty, and has said nothing at all about the exercise of the right to withdraw requiring Parliamentary approval, it has left this area alone. Yet, if the UK were to partake in a decision to change the requirement for unanimity from the European Council when extending time during which the withdrawal mechanism applies to a departing state, this would require a referendum.
Of course, triggering Article 50 and Brexit will still leave Section 2 (2) of the European Communities Act 1972 intact and in force, maintaining the supremacy of EU law in the UK after Brexit, because nothing in Article 50 dis-applying the Treaties would necessarily repeal that section of UK law. But that would leave a post-Brexit Parliament in the odd position of being bound by a predecessor Parliament’s decision to make EU law supreme and limit its power to amend EU law. Would anyone suggest that such a situation would last?
The final arguments against Brexit may well be that to leave the EU is a breach of someone’s Human Rights, and is therefore void or should be stopped, or, alternatively that the decision to leave is a breach of EU law and therefore void.
But of course, by the very nature of the EU, the UK’s courts, even if they were minded to grant an injunction or interdict against notification of Brexit (making it void) cannot constrain the EU or stop it from doing what it wishes, such as showing us the door.
UPDATE 19072016: Court challenge to be heard in the High Court of England and Wales in October 2016.
The Liberal Democrat party, with its host of 6 MPs (much reduced in 2015) have pledged to ignore the Brexit referendum result and to campaign for the UK to remain in the EU.
“Nigel Farage’s vision for Britain has won this vote, but it is not a vision I accept”, declared Lib Dem leader Tim Farron yesterday. “Even though the vote was close, the majority of British people want us to leave. But we refuse to give up on our beliefs”, he said.
Mr Farron, the relatively obscure leader of the party of heavyweights such as Cyril Smith, went on:
Mr. Farron argued that his party’s proposition was justifiable in a democratic society as older people’s votes were somehow less valid and because a vote against the EU was really a vote against Westminster.
“This was not a vote on the European Union alone”, he said, but a “howl of anger” against politics.
So, once the votes are counted, and if that ‘fails’, they are then ‘interpreted’ and in line with socialist logic, they don’t mean what a plain reading might fairly be taken to show that they mean. But is he not also saying that the vote was against him, as a member of the Westminster Parliament?
I would like to contrast this attitude with that of General Pinochet, well-known ‘strongman’ of Chilean politics from 1973 to 1990, who held a referendum on his junta (well, him) continuing to rule Chile in 1988, and who respected the outcome rejecting his continued rule, with a little prodding perhaps from General Matthei, the Air Force member of the junta (and friend of the UK in the Falklands War), who called for the result to be respected.
I suppose what we are seeing is a political auto-endoscopy by the Left, each trying to get further up their own arses than the other, with Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s First Minister indicating that the Scottish Parliament may have a veto on Brexit, a surprising interpretation of constitutional law from someone who is a solicitor.
I am confident that the bulk of people will see through all this, and see the Left, in all their shades, for the totalitarians that they are.
Of all the dire threats, this from the French Economy Minister (there is one? an economy I mean) is the most chilling, since it reminds me of how far we have fallen.
Leaving the European Union would make the UK as significant as Guernsey, France’s economy minister has said
So the rate of income tax would be a standard 20% and there would be no VAT and no Capital Gains or Inheritance Tax? That’s some good deal for being insignificant.
Of course, this 20% tax rate is an anomaly in Guernsey, it was introduced as 4 shillings in the pound (20 shillings per pound/livre) in WW2. Let’s look at some of the measures the Nazis introduced in the occupied Channel Islands.
On arrival in the islands, the Germans issued proclamations imposing new laws on the resident islanders. As time progressed, additional laws restricting rights were posted and had to be obeyed. The restrictions included:
radios (1940) then (1942)
motor vehicles (forced sale) (1940)
drinking spirits (1940)
exporting goods (1940)
changing prices of goods (1940)
patriotic songs and signs (1940)
more than three people meeting together (1940)
access to beaches
freedom of speech
access to medicines
some clubs and associations.
drive on right of roads (1941)
rations (1943, 44 & 45)
clocks to German time (1940)
Forced to accept:
exchange rate to Reichsmarks (1940)
identity cards (1941)
food rationing (1940)
increase in income tax to 4/- (1940)
German language in schools
Cycling in single file (1941)
work from Germans
Well we have a long way to fall before that state of affairs, and cycling in double file is by no means discouraged bar some circumstances by the Highway Code, presumably in the hope of causing more accidents.
So let freedom reign, even though the sky (and tax rates) may fall.
And today, I couldn’t help noticing the timing of these sequential adverts on a hoarding in Newcastle.
and next this:
Try as I might, I cannot but chuckle at news coming out of Argentina, of a lawmaker, Señor Lopez, from the Kirchnerite movement in Argentina being arrested in the alleged circumstances of hiding between 5-8 millions of dollars worth of cash and a gun in a convent.
An Argentine former secretary of Public Works with the Cristina Fernandez administration, Jose Lopez, and currently a member of the Mercosur parliament, was arrested on Tuesday in the Buenos Aires province locality of General Rodríguez while he was trying to hide bags full of money and an automatic gun in the garden of a convent.
The reason for the formal arrest was possession of a war weapon, a Sig Saguer rifle, loaded with 25 cartridges.
Lopez was arrested with six bags and a suitcase stashed with dollars, Euros, Yuan and Qatar currency as well as very expensive watches (Rolex, Omega). “We found 160 bundles of cash, 108 of dollars, and some of them still thermo-sealed with the stamps from China’s central bank”, revealed Cristian Ritondo, head of Buenos Aires province security. Ritondo said Lopez tried to bribe the police officers and went into shock when they did not accept, and later suffered a deep depression.
At first he told the officers he was planning to donate the funds to the nuns monastery. In effect one of the nuns interviewed said that Lopez had visited them the previous day and “he was quite crazy”, saying he had stolen the money which was to help the monastery, “but today when he turned up and started dumping the bags, police arrested him. I told the officers he was a good man, he came once a year to visit us and would help us with donations of coffee and tea”
Corruption in Argentina is, at least, like a certain beverage, reassuringly expensive. The comments are quite good, especially the one about the nuns needing a good Rolex to time their prayers.
If tunnel building were an Olympic support, I suspect that Switzerland would bestride the top step of the podium and its virtually unknown national anthem would blare out to the cheering crowd, thrilled by the culmination of a 20-year slog of building the Gotthard base tunnel, the world’s longest rail tunnel, which opens today, co-incidentally the anniversary of a British naval triumph against the French, the Glorious First of June (with those rebellious colonists being involved tangentially).
This twin-bore tunnel opened on time and within budget, and it runs level and almost straight through the varying geology of 35 miles of Swiss mountain, a fantastic achievement, but with sadly 9 deaths, but that seems very low over 20 years and 35 miles. If it can be traversed, per reports, in 17 minutes, that’s an average speed of over 120mph. The idea is to get lorries crossing the Alps through Switzerland off the Swiss roads. Switzerland is, of course, (along with Liechtenstein) surrounded by the European Union but outside it.
And meanwhile, as the Swiss literally give geology both barrels, in England, we have our glorious Channel Tunnel and the Channel Ports (as the Sage of Kettering relayed to me once ‘The problem with the Channel Tunnel is that it has a government at both ends.‘). Well, today a House of Commons committee has come up with a rather skeptical report about a new plan to cope with cross-Channel traffic. For those who do not drive in the South-East of England, there is a standing plan in place to cope with the vagaries of the joys of free movement of goods in the glorious European Union whenever the Channel Tunnel runs into a problem (e.g. when the French start horsing around, burning sheep etc.), called ‘Operation Stack’, where the Kent police close an entire motorway, the M20, and park lorries bound for the Continent on it pending the cessation of hostilities, typically a period of 5 days of so, when a major motorway becomes a lorry park, and to Hell with the locals.
part of the M20 was used 32 times last summer by queuing lorries – a process known as Operation Stack.
The British answer to this problem is, of course, to shell Calais and demand its return to English control (er, no), it is to build a 65 hectare lorry park at a cost of £250,000,000. This would be as big as Disneyland (the one in California) and bigger than the Vatican (a mere 44 hectares) and with the added bonus of no Pope. It will allow 4,000 lorries to be parked whilst the benighted lorry drivers await the restoration of normality. One might ask why each lorry space would cost £62,500 (c.$90,000 US)?
Do we see here cultural differences between the UK and Switzerland? The acceptance of failure and its normalisation, a tendency towards inflated cost and an attitude of weary resignation, against a positive can-do attitude that bulldozes through problems.
So why can’t we be like Switzerland?
Postscript: Eric’s comment indicates that the Swiss may not have been above a bit of creative accounting in completing the tunnel on time and in budget, for which I am grateful, I may have been misled by the BBC (which in Cyrillic was the acronym for the Soviet Army Airborne Forces, what a co-incidence).