We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

A humbling must come to pass

It is rare that I agree so strongly with a fervent supporter of the European Union. Nesrine Malik of the Guardian argues that “the Brexit reckoning must happen” on the grounds that

A humbling must come to pass. From the beginning, Brexit created its own momentum. Once the question was asked – in or out? – all the grievances, justified or not, could be projected on it, with “in” being widely seen as a vote for the status quo. Within this frame, nothing else matters – not economic predictions, not warnings about medicines running out, nor threats of the need to stockpile foods. The remain campaign could not have done anything differently: it lost the moment the question was asked.

And so, maybe, in the end, we will finally believe that immigration is necessary for an economy and an NHS to function, that the inequality between the south-east and the rest of Britain is unsustainable, that our political class is over-pedigreed and under-principled. We might even believe that other crises, such as climate change, are real, too.

Maybe, in the end, the country outside Europe will find its stride by confronting its issues rather than blaming them on others, and forging its own way. But there is only one way to find out. What a shame Brexit is that path – but better to have a path than none at all.

She is right about our political class being over-pedigreed and under-principled, right that unless Brexit happens the country will be torn apart by claim and counter-claim as to what would have happened, and right that a humbling must come to pass. Let us go forward together and find out whose.

A question for the seven MPs who have quit Labour

Those people who voted for you a couple of years ago thought they were electing Labour MPs. Given that things have turned out differently, and that your opposition to Brexit was a major motivation for your departure, should not each of you be confirming that you still have the people’s mandate by submitting to a People’s Vote, sorry, by-election?

Discussion point: the fate of the ISIS bride

What do you think should be done with her?

Former MI6 director says schoolgirl who joined Isis should be ‘given a chance’

Although Shamima Begum has shown no remorse, Richard Barrett says Britain should be strong enough to reabsorb her

A pregnant British teenager who fled to Syria with two schoolfriends to marry an Islamic State fighter should be “given a chance” and allowed to come home, a former director of global counter-terrorism at MI6 has said.

Describing Shamima Begum as “a 15-year-old who went badly off the rails”, Richard Barrett said British society should be strong enough to reabsorb her, despite her lack of contrition. By contrast, he said the immediate reaction of the British government “has been a complete lack of concern for her plight”.

Begum fled her home in Bethnal Green, east London, with two schoolfriends to join Isis fighters in Syria in 2015. Interviewed this week in a refugee camp in the north of the country after fleeing Isis’s last stronghold, she told the Times that she was nine months pregnant and had fled the fighting after her two other children had died. “I’ll do anything required just to be able to come home and live quietly with my child,” she said.

Those words do get my sympathy. The next ones, less so:

She did not regret going to Syria, she told the newspaper, and expressed support for the murder of journalists, whom she said had been “a security threat for the caliphate”. Seeing a severed head in a bin “didn’t faze me at all”, she said, adding that her husband had surrendered to a group of Syrian fighters.

Meanwhile in other news…

The end of the world is imminent. The Guardian Observer reports,

Plummeting insect numbers ‘threaten collapse of nature’

Exclusive: Insects could vanish within a century at current rate of decline, says global review

Obviously my first thought was “Okaaay, tev. I will believe you believe it if it still keeps Brexit off the front page for, say, the rest of this week.” But given the stakes one should keep an open mind. You guys think there’s anything to this?

Samizdata quote of the day

O Lord our God arise

Scatter her enemies

And make them fall

Confound their politics

Frustrate their knavish tricks

On Thee our hopes we fix

God save us all

– the little-used second verse of the National Anthem, quoted in a 2015 Independent article entitled “God Save the Queen lyrics: The troubling words of the National Anthem that are being ignored”.

To be clear, this is not the verse dating from 1745 containing the line “Rebellious Scots to crush”. That was never official anyway. I just thought the lines about politics and knavish tricks somehow seemed appropriate to our current situation.

Like Top Gear but not funny

The Times reports,

Son travels 170 miles and beats ambulance to injured mother

In a race between a man travelling 170 miles by public transport and an ambulance starting ten minutes’ drive away, most people would have backed the ambulance.

Mark Clements assumed as much when he left his home in London to help his injured mother in Devon, but when he arrived after four hours she was still on the floor and the ambulance had not yet arrived.

Mr Clements caught a bus, the London Underground and two trains from London to Exmouth on Saturday after his mother fell and broke her hip. The first 999 call was made at 9am but paramedics did not arrive until seven hours later.

Who are you trying to fool?

On July 29th 2004 John Kerry accepted the Democratic nomination with the words, “I’m John Kerry and I’m reporting for duty.” Then he gave a little salute.

Odd, even for Americans, who I know from The Brady Bunch sometimes call their own fathers “sir”. By Kerry’s own account he had committed atrocities during his naval service in Vietnam. His view of the US Navy was such that on April 23 1971, as part of an anti-war protest by Vietnam Veterans Against the War, he had thrown his medals – or possibly just the ribbons – over the fence in front of the US Capitol.

Never mind whether the claims by the group Swift Boat Veterans for Truth were fair or not, the metamorphosis of medal-throwing Kerry to reporting-for-duty Kerry would have been a propaganda own goal even if that group had never existed. Because who on Earth did he think he was appealing to with the salute? As I said in 2006, “What a low opinion of Republicans Democrats must have if they thought that throwing them this little crumb would be enough to gain their votes. Look, he’s a soldier. You like soldiers.”

The Brexit saga has had its own little “reporting for duty” moment over the last week. Gina Miller (remember her?), the Labour peer Helena Kennedy, and the Conservative peer Maurice Saatchi (remember him?) launched yet another anti-Brexit campaign, “Lead not Leave”, billing it as a form of Remain that Leavers could get behind.

It did not go well. Within hours tweets were flying about saying things like,

Christ alive! Just had a glance at Lord Saatchi’s draft Bill for @thatginamiller’s Lead not Leave campaign. Reading this, I can only assume it’s a plot by someone with an obsessive hatred of Germany to guarantee that the UK leaves the EU. Have a look. Dreadful bullshit. 1/

That series of tweets by Steve Bullock @GuitarMoog described a speech in the House of Lords by Lord Saatchi that has now been deleted from the “Lead Not Leave” website. Here it is. Among other things it said that the UK should demand as a condition of it consenting to remain in the EU that the UK should have equal votes in the EU to Germany, despite having a smaller population. The little matter of gaining the agreement of the EU to this drastic and morally unjustified change was not covered. Why should the Germans put up with the UK suddenly deciding they should be put back on probation, as if World War II happened last year rather than a lifetime ago?

And what an insult to Leave voters to assume that all that was needed to get them on side was to insult the Germans. You don’t like Germans. Here’s some anti-German stuff. Now get with the program.

Ah, happy days

“Bill Gates says poverty is decreasing. He couldn’t be more wrong”, writes Jason Hickel, an anthropologist at the London School of Economics.

Prior to colonisation, most people lived in subsistence economies where they enjoyed access to abundant commons – land, water, forests, livestock and robust systems of sharing and reciprocity. They had little if any money, but then they didn’t need it in order to live well – so it makes little sense to claim that they were poor. This way of life was violently destroyed by colonisers who forced people off the land and into European-owned mines, factories and plantations, where they were paid paltry wages for work they never wanted to do in the first place.

The comments give me hope.

The game goes on

Earlier this afternoon Guido posted a list of the amendments* to be voted on in Parliament this evening:

(a) Jeremy Corbyn – calls on the PM to rule out no deal while, predictably, keeping all options on the table

(o) Ian Blackford – notes that the SNP don’t like Brexit, calls for no deal to be ruled out and Article 50 extended

(g) Dominic Grieve – suspends normal Parliamentary procedure on six dates in February and March allowing MPs to hijack Brexit

(b) Yvette Cooper – suspends normal Parliamentary procedure on 5th February to allow MPs to bring a Brexit-blocking Bill in

(j) Rachel Reeves – calls on the PM to seek an extension to Article 50

(i) Caroline Spelman – notes that Parliament rejects leaving without a deal

(n) Graham Brady – calls for the Northern Ireland backstop to be replaced with alternative arrangements to avoid a hard border

As Guido said,

However, of all the amendments, only Grieve and Cooper have any legal effect as they would actively change the Standing Orders of the House, upending centuries of precedent. All the others, including Brady, are only statements of the Commons’ preferences.

The votes have now taken place. All the amendments failed except Spelman’s and Brady’s. That is, the only amendments that passed were to authorise the writing of two new (and largely contradictory) entries on Parliament’s wish list. I was glad to see that the amendments by the Tory Dominic Grieves and Labour’s Yvette Cooper, both of which aimed to stop Brexit by procedural tricks, were voted down by larger than expected majorities, including fourteen Labour rebels voting against their Whip on the Cooper amendment.

Much of what we saw tonight was tail-covering. Spelman’s amendment passed so that if No Deal happens and the zombies come, MPs can say, “Don’t blame me, I voted against zombies”.

Regarding the successful Brady amendment, the EU side has repeatedly said it will not re-open negotiations, so I assume its main purpose is to put the guilt of being the last people to say “No” onto them.

All in all, not a bad night’s work.

* “Amendments to what?” you ask. No idea, unless “Theresa May’s Brexit Plan” is the name of a Bill.

Why should she care?

Mike Smithson of politicalbetting.com says that:

The Telegraph is reporting details of at telephone conference call earlier this evening by about a dozen ministers who are pro-European. They include Amber Rudd and Greg Clarke the Business Secretary.

Basically they want the PM to commit to securing her Brussels deal within just two weeks. If that doesn’t happen then they will resign.The paper’s Steven Swinford notes:

“Ms Rudd and other Cabinet ministers have previously warned that as many as 20 ministers could quit so they can support the amendment tabled on Tuesday by Yvette Cooper, a senior Labour MP.

In the old days a Prime Minister who had ten ministers quit on them would have resigned out of sheer embarrassment, but given that Corbyn remained as leader of his party despite at least twenty of his Shadow ministers resigning the day after the referendum, why should Theresa May care about the loss of a mere ten?

It will save her the trouble of trying to keep sweet those foot-stampers who issue such meaningless demands as wanting “the PM to commit to securing her Brussels deal within two weeks”. If she were capable of securing a deal just by “committing” to it she would have done so by now. Unfortunately for her, deals involve two sides, and she has even less power over the EU side than she does over the side jokingly referred to as “hers”.

I am sure Mrs May will find ten up-and-coming MPs willing to take up the vacated positions.

While on the subject of deals with two sides, another politicalbetting.com article well worth a read is this one from Alastair Meeks: “Disastrously successful. The EU’s Brexit negotiation”. It starts with an apology for “going all Godwin on you” and then launches into a discussion of the Treaty of Sèvres after WWI. Never heard of it? You’re not alone; it was so harsh to the Turks that Atatürk and the Turkish nationalists rose up in outrage and overthrew those who had signed it. It was never implemented. As Meeks said,

The best outcome is one that will actually stick, not the one with nominally the most favourable terms.

Spanish practices

Taxi drivers in Madrid are on strike over “unfair competition” from online ride-sharing services such as Uber and Cabify, reports El Pais. In English. On the internet.

Discuss.

You and whose army?

Here is my cunning plan to avoid a hard border in Ireland.

Don’t build one.

The UK doesn’t want it, Ireland doesn’t want it. Problem solved, I’d have thought, but the EU does not agree:

No-deal Brexit would mean hard Irish border, EU confirms

The EU has injected further pressure into the Brexit talks by confirming it will enforce a hard border on the island of Ireland in the event of a no-deal outcome, despite the risk this would pose to peace.

It will enforce? Er, with whose… personnel will that be done?