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]

Mr Frisby and the rats of IN

Guido gleefully points out that this song by Dominic Frisby is currently the second best selling album on Amazon music. Presumably he just means UK Amazon, but that is quite an achievement. I am getting automatically generated adverts for it. Yours for a quid! However please note before you serenade the street with your new purchase that it is a tad sweary. Honestly, there’s about seventeen million F*** O**s in it.

It will not be news to regular readers of Samizdata that Mr Frisby is both a respected financial writer and an entertainer so good that he can make it despite being an open libertarian. Brian Mickletwait (repeatedly), Johnathan Pierce, Patrick Crozier and Rob Fisher have all posted about him. My finally joining the club to say he has a nice voice and a cool hat is something of an anti-climax. But he does have both of those things. And I get the feeling he’s a sporting bloke who will forgive me for being the millionth-and-first person to make irrelevant mention of this book just because it has the name “Frisby” in it. I also recommend the book, which I loved as a child and now I come to think about it as an adult has an almost John Galt vibe to it.

You go, Jezza!

Apparently Jeremy Corbyn has “stomped out” of a meeting of party leaders called by Theresa May to discuss the latest Brexit developments. The old boy left in high dudgeon when he saw that Chuka Umunna was there representing the Independent Group of MPs. Mr Corbyn didn’t think Mr Umunna should have been allowed in because TIG is not yet a proper party. Which it isn’t, but one cannot help finding it odd that after seeing fit to meet the IRA, Hezbollah and Hamas in the name of “dialogue” Mr Corbyn should cavil at a few minutes sharing the same air as a former member of the Labour party.

No skin off my nose, tho’. It all makes sense if we assume that he still is the Brexiteer he was for forty years. A stopped clock is right twice a day. He wants No Deal but with May taking the blame if it goes wrong.

Meanwhile Whatsername is due to address the nation. Overdue. You can look at some nice wood panelling on the YouTube livefeed here or the Reuters one here.

Ooh, noises! I just heard noises!

Update: Steps! She’s here… she’s boring.

“You’re tired of the infighting, tired of the political games…”

Not to mention tired of you.

OK, some quite good sense on the damage to trust if Brexit stopped.

Not prepared to delay Brexit past 30 June. Nothing new.

Wha… what? She’s gone away. Was that it?

Samizdata quote of the day

There should be no such thing as a ‘hate crime’… If someone gets assaulted & hit with a brick, their identity group should not make the crime more or less of a crime. And stating an opinion should never be a crime (such as what gender someone else is).

– Perry de Havilland, discussing this amongst other things.

No Deal would be the best option for Theresa May

I agree with Ross Clark of the Spectator who says, “John Bercow is right to block a third vote on May’s deal”. I have no idea why the Speaker has suddenly decided he cares about Erskine May after all. I doubt the reason for his change of heart is a good one, but he is right to say that repeatedly bringing the same question to the House after it has been rejected violates the letter and spirit of the rules. The EU’s fondness for playing the same trick when it came to referendums was one of the things that first turned me against it.

(By the way, the Wikipedia entry for Erskine May the person rather than the book is currently rather amusing:

Thomas Erskine May, 1st Baron Farnborough, KCB, PC (8 February 1815 – 17 May 1886) was a British constitutional theorist. This derived from his career at the House of Commons.

Erskine May much like Lord Voldermort (Tom Riddle) concealed part of his soul into a book this was later found by the current Speaker of The House Commons John Bercow who upon opening the book was taken back to the past to observe both Theresa Mays twice failing ‘Meaningful Votes’ Bercow received the message and realised it was Theresa May all along who opened The Chamber of Lies, though this time it wasn’t follow the spiders, it was follow democracy.

Not done by me, but I like the style of this unknown Wikipedia editor.)

It seems that the effect of this decision by the Speaker is to make it harder for May to kick the can down the road. Deprived of the option for more back and forth over the ill-named Meaningful Votes her remaining options are: to ask the EU for an extension of the withdrawal period (which would only be granted if something significant like a general election or another referendum were put in place), to revoke Article 50, to do some blatant procedural trick like proroguing Parliament and immediately recalling it – basically pressing the “restart” button on the House of Commons – or to throw up her hands, say “**** it, I tried”, and to go for No Deal.

As far as I can see the best option for her personally, never mind the country, is No Deal.

Whatever she does will make many people angry. The question is which set of people’s anger would it be the best strategy for her to avoid?

If she revokes Article 50 the fact of doing it will delight Remainers. But the sort of people for whom that matters most now are also the sort of people who are committed anti-Tories. They won’t be delighted with her – nor with her party. They will judiciously register their opinion that at least the sorry cow did the right thing in the end and then vote Labour or Lib Dem or for the Independent Group if it stands.

The same goes in diluted form if she goes for more extensions and delaying tactics. They may frustrate Brexit in the end, or result in Brexit in name only, but the sort of people who will be happy about that won’t thank Theresa May or switch to voting Tory. But the sort of people who will be utterly infuriated by either the revocation of Article 50 or the death of Brexit by a thousand cuts very much will blame Theresa May and very much will switch from voting Tory. A substantial majority of Conservative voters are pro-Leave. Members of local Conservative Parties are overwhelmingly pro-Leave. Potential Labour-to-Conservative swing voters are also very much pro-Leave and are swing voters because of that very issue.

I do not know if May has any last scraps of ambition to continue as an MP. I would guess that all that matters to her now is her legacy. But whether she sticks around for the voters of Maidenhead or not, if she fails to deliver Brexit her legacy will be the destruction of the Conservative party. Its most committed supporters are exactly the group who care about Brexit most. If she does deliver it these people will still not think much of her but they will judiciously register their opinion that at least the sorry cow did the right thing in the end and then continue to vote Conservative.

I have not so far discussed how the predicted awful effects of No Deal would affect Theresa May’s calculations of her own interests. I have said here that failure to deliver Brexit would destroy the Conservative Party. Many of the comments I read on the internet take a completely different view. They say that the economic harm inflicted by No Deal would be the thing that destroys the Tories for a generation. This prospect is seen as the silver lining to the dark cloud of No Deal by many Remainers. But would it? I mean, even if we accept for purposes of argument that the effect of No Deal would be to mess up the economy, a thing I very much doubt, would the economic mess destroy the Tories? I do not see that as likely. When Labour mess up the economy the usual effect is to make people vote Conservative to repair the damage. In any case no one can accuse Theresa May personally of having wanted a No Deal. Like most Conservative MPs (as opposed to party members), she has possibly gone beyond the call of duty in avoiding one.

Samizdata quote of the day

Unfortunately we are at the stage now where the streets (so to speak) need to go visit their MPs, rather than the other way around. Voting is not the only way to express a political opinion.

– Perry de Havilland, who is just cheerfully channelling the zeitgeist

Please, EU whatever you do, don’t get tough

“I’ve got you this time, Brer Rabbit,” said Brer Fox, jumping up and shaking off the dust. “You’ve sassed me for the very last time. Now I wonder what I should do with you?”

Brer Rabbit’s eyes got very large. “Oh please Brer Fox, whatever you do, please don’t throw me into the briar patch.”

“The briar patch, eh?” said Brer Fox. “What a wonderful idea! You’ll be torn into little pieces!”

Brer Rabbit and the Tar Baby, A Georgia Folktale, retold by S.E. Schlosser

*

Brexit: Brussels gets tough with ‘disruptive child’ UK, writes Andrew Byrne in the Sunday Times:

The EU’s latest thinking is contained in a document circulated among ambassadors on Friday night. It confirms legal advice that the UK must hold European parliament elections in May if it wishes to remain beyond that point. It also contains the starkest warning yet of the threat to the EU’s legal order if this requirement isn’t met.

In essence, the paper identifies a July 1 tripwire that would automatically terminate the UK’s membership and trigger a no-deal expulsion. Unless the UK had taken part in Euro elections or approved May’s deal by that time, both sides would be powerless to prevent it.

That sharpens a three-way choice for MPs: back May’s deal this month and seek a short two-month extension, opt for a long-term extension and organise European elections in May or face a no-deal exit.

This analysis piles yet more pressure on both Eurosceptic and pro-EU MPs to back May’s deal this month. That outcome is favoured by Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator. He fears that anything longer than a couple of months risks unravelling the 585-page withdrawal agreement his team spent two years working on.

Hardline Brexiteer MPs will be pressed to approve the deal to avoid Euro elections and stop Brexit slipping from their grasp. Other MPs will come under pressure to back the deal early to avoid the tripwire. EU officials hope a parliamentary majority can be cobbled together – perhaps through a series of indicative votes – by late May.

While some European leaders still toy with the idea of reversing Brexit in a second referendum, the risks of a rogue UK remaining in the EU after June and disrupting its agenda alarms others. The latest advice argues that the EU cannot impose restrictions on UK involvement in EU decision-making if it extends article 50.

Officials also fear a prolonged UK membership could see dozens of British Eurosceptic MEPs descend on the European parliament. That has added to a broader exasperation among officials who want the UK to leave quickly.

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Samizdata has no ‘official position’ on Brexit. Some of the samizdatistas support it, others do not, and for reasons I fully understand. Fine by me, it is not a ‘libertarian’ issue and opinions held in good faith vary on the likely aftermath either way.

So my view is just my view. And my view of where the UK finds itself is no longer a matter of “is Brexit a good idea?” but rather if, in view of the obvious attempts to roll back the result of the referendum, has the state de-legitimised itself? Has Parliament become a self-serving enemy of the people it supposedly represents? And if so, what can be done about it?

“This is your decision. The government will implement what you decide.”

They didn’t have to say that, but they did. They didn’t have to hold the referendum, but they did. So clearly voting will have been demonstrated as pointless if we do not in reality end the political control of the EU & its associated institutions after a majority voted to do precisely that. If leaving the EU proves to have been a terrible idea, then by all means hold another vote on trying to rejoin the EU later. But implement the result of the referendum first. Otherwise, next time a party gets a majority in Parliament, if I don’t like the result, I say we skip the whole tiresome implementation phase of a government taking power & just hold more votes until the correct result is achieved.

Absurd, of course. But that is what some people want regarding the referendum and they are working hard to achieve that. This is what de-legitimisation looks like.

Well, in my view, if we have not left the EU on the 29th of March, more voting on the issue is worthless. But votes are not the only way to express a political opinion. Demonstrations are of course peachy, but they are also easy to ignore and will be mis-characterised as ‘far right’ by the media no matter who else turns up. That said… I recommend purchasing some Yellow Vests. I am buying five as I have friends who tend not to plan ahead.

Tax strikes, on the other hand, attack the very foundations of the state. If 1,000 people do this, they will get dragged into court and made a public example of. However if 100,000+ do it, the entire system will come unglued, and we now have a real rebellion with teeth.

I never thought I would have to write this article, but here we are. I am not musing on the future, this is what is staring us in the face right now.

Brexit: what happens now?

I went to the Mail for a simple explanation, but they didn’t seem to know.

What happens now May’s deal has FAILED? Brexit could be delayed or ‘cancelled’, Remainers might trigger a second referendum… and the PM could be forced to QUIT

Do you?

Samizdata quote of the day

The British political firmament as a whole is hardly blessed with a multitude of bold, original thinkers, and such figures certainly aren’t among the fabulous seven, the daring eleven or whatever number of forgettable non-entities currently comprise The Independent Group.

All of which is a great pity. As this blog has noted over and over and over and over and over and over again, Britain has entered a period of political discontinuity – a time when the existing political settlement, with its narrow range of policy options, are no longer adequate to the challenges at hand. Such periods of discontinuity require politicians to think the previously unthinkable in terms of policy solutions, not to flee their former political parties in an outrage that people are actually starting to do so.

Samuel Hooper

The suffering of being voluntary

“National service should be compulsory for the young, says Chuka Umunna”

Coming out can be a stressful process. All should have sympathy with Mr Umunna’s personal struggle to accept his inner Tory.

Young Britons should do a form of ‘national service’ to end the current ‘social apartheid,’ according to Chuka Umunna. The Independent Group frontman has unveiled a list of policies, including on tuition fees, education grants and how to fund the health service. The former Labour MP has suggested that youngsters be forced to carry out work to break down barriers within society.

Because nothing builds unity in a society like some of its members using force on others. Both sides are participating, right?

The TIG spokesman stressed the plan would not be a return to compulsory military service but would help people meet other Britons from different social backgrounds.

Mr Umunna said his proposal could build on the National Citizen Service scheme introduced by David Cameron, which ‘has suffered by being voluntary’. It could also draw on evidence from France, where Emmanuel Macron made a national service requirement for 16-year-olds a key policy, with trials beginning this year.

Will no one think of the National Citizen Service scheme? We cannot leave it to suffer this way.

True but not the point

“Police waste too much time over silly spats”, writes Clare Foges in the Times. (Paywalled, but I will quote all the bits that matter.)

But perhaps the most time-sucking of new developments has been the resources spent on hate incidents and online crime. Last year it was reported that in 2015-16, 30 police forces dealt with 11,236 hate incidents which were too trivial to be classed as crimes; one every half hour. Among those lodging complaints were a man who claimed a tennis umpire had made racist line-calls against his daughter, a woman who was told that she looked like Peter Griffin from the cartoon Family Guy, and a person who felt a man had stood “intimidatingly” close because she was “a non-conforming gender-specific lesbian in a wheelchair”.

Instead of realising the folly of all this, the National Police Chiefs’ Council responded by restating that “those feeling vulnerable should report any incident of hate crime to the police”. The trouble is that hate crime is astonishingly subjective. The official definition is “any criminal offence which is perceived by the victim or any other person to be motivated by a hostility or prejudice”.

The College of Policing states that “for recording purposes, the perception of the victim, or any other person, is the defining factor in determining whether an incident is a hate incident . . . Evidence of the hostility is not required.” In other words, any crackpot or attention seeker who feels victimised, regardless of the “offence”, may go to the police.

Sucking up police time on “hate” incidents in the offline world is bad enough, but in the past couple of years the police have been expected to protect us online too. In 2017 the Crown Prosecution Service announced that online hate crimes should be treated as seriously as those committed face to face. This has led us to ludicrous cases like that of Kate Scottow, who last December was arrested in front of her children by three police officers and detained for seven hours. Her crime? Calling a transgender woman on Twitter a man.

In 2017 this paper reported that police were arresting nine people a day in the fight against web trolls, a rise of nearly 50 per cent in just three years. The arrests were made under the Communications Act 2003, which makes it illegal to intentionally “cause annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety to another” with online posts. Annoyance? Inconvenience? Given the cesspit of spite that social media has become, we can only imagine how many are being arrested today.

Commissioner Dick was criticised when she said that focusing on violent crime must be the over-riding priority for police, over misogynistic abuse, over fraud, even over catching those who view indecent material online. “We can’t go on increasing the scale of the mission, unless we are given more resources, or the public is prepared for us to do some things not very well.” No one wants to give a free ride to certain offenders. But in a world of finite resources there cannot be a bobby on every corner as well as bobbies to guard the good name of the Duchess of Sussex and bobbies to police every spat on social media. There aren’t enough resources for this and never will be.

I do not disagree with any of the arguments Ms Foges makes. But I think she is missing something rather important…

Update: I have decided to stop being coy and just say what I think the problem with Clare Foges’ piece is. She talks as if the main thing wrong with the police “increasing the scale of the mission” (as Commissioner Cressida Dick puts it) to encompass the policing of spats on social media is that it wastes police time. So it does, but the scandal of the arrest of Kate Scottow for calling a transgender woman a man on Twitter did not lie in the time wasted by the three officers who bravely took on that mission. It lay in the violation of Kate Scottow’s liberty.

Lawyers for Britain on the poisonous choices ahead

Martin Howe QC has written an article on the choices facing Parliament with regard to ratifying Mrs May’s agreement (as amended) or extending the Article 50 deadline, the Trojan ass beloved of Remainiacs.

Essentially, he sees the worst option as approving Mrs May deal with its indefinite nature, subjugation to the ECJ as an arbitration mechanism and no exit clause (but I think a suitably-phrased Act of Parliament and, in the event of any nonsense from over the water, a few well-aimed cruise missiles as an ultimate fallback would do). I fail to see the disadvantage of breaching such a bad treaty, President Trump is a great one for saying that this arrangement is screwing us, so screw it and if you don’t like it, tough.

A short extension would be a nonsense as the European ‘Parliament’ will take a break from rubber-stamping or worse, gilding (never ‘gelding’ it seems) the legislation put before it so that elections may be held, and it is needed to ratify the final Withdrawal Agreement. It would give three weeks for more procrastination and delay (which is the whole point of Mrs May’s premiership, in case anyone hasn’t noticed).

As Mr Howe notes of the FFC:

The Prime Minister’s statement to the House of Commons on 26 February 2019 opened the door to a “short, limited extension to Article 50 not beyond the end of June” if the House again rejects her deal on 12 March. She thereby abandoned her commitment, repeated in the Commons more than 100 times, that the UK will leave the European Union on 29 March 2019.

Without any apparent consciousness of the irony, she told the House that she would stick by her commitment to hold a vote on extending Article 50 “as I have [stuck by my] previous commitments”.

Mr Howe sums up the advantage of a 21 month extension over Mrs May’s ‘deal’.

A long extension of 21 months would have the same practical result as the “implementation” period in the deal, except the UK would be much better off than under the deal because we would still have a vote and representation in EU institutions and the European Parliament.
Unlike the deal, we would be free to leave on 1 January 2021 without being trapped in the “backstop” Protocol.
Our financial liabilities during the 21 month extension would be the same as under the deal, but unlike the deal, we would have no obligations afterwards.
Unlike under the deal, we would not be subject to indefinite ECJ jurisdiction after 2020.

As Mr Howe notes:

When you want to get someone to do something by threatening them, the normal protocol is that you threaten them with something which is worse than the thing you want them to do. However, in this case, it is the other way round. The ‘threat’ is manifestly more advantageous in every way than the thing the threatener wants the threatened to do (vote for the Theresa May deal).

Would an extension be granted by the EU?

… there are severe difficulties in the way of getting such an extension in the first place. The EU is wary of the problems which would be created by holding the European Parliament elections in the UK. The Conservative Party should be not simply wary, but alarmed across the board, at such a prospect, since a decimation of the Conservative vote in the face of Nigel Farage’s reinvigorated Brexit party cannot be ruled out. And if the Brexit party establishes itself with a big vote in the European Parliament elections, it will not go away and will be a real vote-splitting problem for the Conservatives in by-elections and at the next general election – an even greater problem than UKIP was in the past.

The EU may well not be willing to agree to an extension. It only takes one member state to veto it.

So this is where the Conservative Party has taken the country, to a point where threats of something better that a final outcome are being deployed with a view to getting the worst possible deal for the UK? And our best hope may well be another EU member government deciding to put a stick in the spokes of the extension? Could, say, nice Mr Orban be our saviour? We might see just how far the euroscepticism of some European politicians will take them.