Thursday, 30 June 2016

Brexit is a shock for everyone

When he promised the referendum I thought Cameron’s great historic achievement would be securing the UK in ‘Europe’ forever. He thought so too.


Instead, a sense of huge shock.

Last time things were this chaotic in UK was 1831-32, I think.

The NHS trust in South East London and Kent have offered staff free counselling to help them cope with their concerns about the referendum. 

There's huge fear among Remainers. Partly it's because of Remain's Project Fear and absurd of for example a 10% fall in GDP. Partly it because leaving IS very scary. Most Leavers are pretty scared too.

Brexit feels very sudden. It feels as though the campaign was short but it wasn't. the decision feels sudden because many people like me didn’t take it very seriously at the start because it seemed a foregone conclusion that Remain would win. I said that to a British friend (strongly Remain) over dinner on the night of the vote, who was explaining why Parliament should ignore a vote to leave

'What’s the point of discussing it? Remain have won.’
He wisely replied: 
‘You can’t be completely sure.’
It feels sudden and incredibly final. It seemed a game until suddenly it wasn’t. But in fact we had several years’ warning since David Cameron promised a referendum.

Last year I read that the number of British people wanting to leave ‘Europe’ had fallen to its lowest level since 1973 – 33%. I thought then that Farage et al stood no chance. That 33% figure itself speaks eloquently to how little the British ever liked the European Union or its earlier incarnations. In other countries in the EU that figure used to be around 3%. Though now in several it is up around 50%.

All will be well. This speech might cheer you up, dear reader, if you are worried for Britain. Even though I was on the other side politically I always thought Peter Shore an amazing speaker. Even better than Powell or Foot, who were very good indeed, and much better than anyone now.

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Britain and Europe in crisis - we're flying blind, people

When was the UK as divided as it is now by Brexit? I suppose the most recent occasions were when Mr Gladstone announced his conversion to Home Rule for Ireland in 1886, Munich in 1938 and Suez in 1956.


The tweet above was tweeted by a writer on the Telegraph, a conservative paper.

There's incredible bitterness, furious rage and abject misery about Brexit - and that's just among my Facebook friends. Imagine what the feeling is like in the chanceries of Europe. An amicable divorce looks hard to achieve. They usually are.But at the moment half the British seem acrimoniously divorced from the other half.

In fact the EU, even more than the UK, is in great danger. It's as much a crisis for the EU as for the UK. They are facing  an existential crisis. The EU leaders suddenly feel the wind of death, to use a Romanian expression.

The choice the EU now faces is between 'more Europe' and a common Eurozone treasury and fiscal/tax policy, as called for in the Five Presidents' report last year, 

or changing tack and decentralising. But unravelling the political semi-union risks making the Eurozone crisis even worse. 

I thought on Friday that Brexit would save Europe by making its leaders rethink. Today I suspect the EU is not capable of fundamental reform. Like a tragic hero it moves on inexorably to a terrible doom.

Dominic Johnson thinks like me and put it beautifully:

They will obviously go for greater integration. When faced with a binary choice they will unerringly choose the path through the haunted forest past the graveyard.
I suppose a third choice is muddling through and kicking the can further down the road 

And what will happen in the UK? It looks like Corbyn will be ousted which might male Labour electable. Who knows? They have badly alienated their voters.

It has been very striking since the campaign started and especially since Friday how much many on on the Left despise Labour supporters. It's a bit like Gerald Ratner. I don't suppose Labour will suffer exactly his fate.

Many happy returns of the day to all Paulas, Pauls, Petras, Petronelas, Pavels and all celebrating SS Peter and Paul's day

SS. Peter and Paul by El Greco.

Eastern Europeans make wonderful immigrants

I am pleased (though terrified by) by Brexit but I think Romanians and other Eastern Europeans make great immigrants. I hope and think the UK will continue to accept, in fairly large extent, freedom of movement for Europeans. Switzerland and Norway, not in EU, allow complete freedom of movement for EU citizens. 

This is what I wrote in February 2013. 

Admitting a million Poles, even though in good manners, industry, church attendance and many other ways they put the English to shame, was certainly a mistake on the part of the UK. We know this because ministers said they expected tens of thousands to come. Still, if Britain and other Western European countries have decided that they need immigrants, and they have, they should be very grateful that the EU has a supply on hand of Eastern European would-be immigrants. Yet while the British press worry about an influx of Romanian and Bulgarian immigrants after January 1 2014, David Cameron announces that 

‘There is no limit on the number of  students who can come from India to study at British universities, no limit at all. All you need is a basic English qualification and a place at a  British university. What’s more, after you’ve left a British university, if you can get a graduate-level job there is no limit to the amount of people who can stay and work, or the time that they can stay at work.’

Romanians, like other people from the former Eastern Bloc,  are highly-educated, conservative, Christian and European. Romanians come from a Near Eastern culture, unlike the Poles, who are Catholics and Central Europeans, but they bring with them so many qualities that the British seem to produce less often than in the past. Romanian women are womanly (and very often beautiful), Romanian men are virile even if they seem very effete at first sight. Romanians are family minded, esteem education and usually believe in God. Best of all, they come from a part of the world where the 1960s never happened.

Romanians were disappointed but not in the least surprised by the noisy British reluctance to let them settle in the UK. As far as Romanians are concerned, they blame this reluctance on confusion abroad between Romanians and Roma. (Roma is the modish, EU-approved term for gypsies.) It is no use saying to Romanians that Romanian gypsies are both Romanian and Roma. ‘Romanian’ is understood here as an ethnicity not a citizenship. A Romanian man I know, for example, always says that he is Greek not Romanian, even though his family came to Romania in the t860s. Similarly, few ethnic Romanians think Romania’s Hungarians, German or Jewish minorities are Romanian. Children of mixed marriages do though.

Romanians usually have a very high opinion of England, based partly on books and films. I would expect Romanians to be disappointed by the reality of violent crime, binge drinking, feminism and innumerable rules. Romania, where people smoke in bars and say whatever they like about most things, is a much freer country these days. But no, Romanians usually love England and so they should. Things work in England and people are kind and honest, though the trusting nature of the English provokes wonder and seems naive. Britain is still a wonderful country and London is the only big city in Europe which is not a museum. The small minority of Romanians I spoke to who did not like England gave as their reason the number of non-white people there.

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Brexit words

I just came off the telephone from talking to a very wise friend (who has made some millions) in London. His view is that the EU is an 'utterly undemocratic, corrupt and utterly useless organisation, but leaving will be very painful". "It is a divorce and in a divorce emotion takes over." 

David Cameron's resignation puts Boris in a terrible position and he looked very miserable as soon as he knew of his famous victory. My friend thinks it will be a Pyrrhic victory. He thinks the next Prime Minister needs to be 1. trusted 2.clear-sighted 3. hard-working and 4. consensual. Boris is none of the above.

My friend is very pessimistic but did say 'In the end it will be all right'.

From the social media

EU leaders are worried about the Brexit "contagion" - when you describe democracy as a contagion, something has gone seriously wrong with your system of government.

People no longer sing 'England Arise!' but England has risen all the same

A.J.P. Taylor ends his magisterial Oxford History of England 1914-45 with the words ( I quote from memory):

'People no longer sang 'England Arise!' but England had risen all the same.'

I think and hope this will prove true of Brexit.

A.J.P. Taylor, a left-wing socialist, of course was the biggest opponent of joining 'the Common Market' forerunner of the EU. He said:

"We have been most secure when we kept out of Europe. Meddling with European affairs has brought us nothing but toil and suffering. The greatest age of British economic achievement was in the nineteenth century. Then we were truly the workshop of the world. The sole principle of our foreign policy was Splendid Isolation. This was the basis for our prosperity.

Monday, 27 June 2016

They lied and lied

John O'Sullivan says the debate this time was much better than in the 1975 British referendum on the the EEC. 

Everyone complains that this time it was not much good. I don't know. There were some good articles in the press. 

Certainly Cameron Osborne and Remain were shamelessly deceitful and played very dirty. On top of this Leave and David Cameron tried hard to exploit the killing of poor Jo Cox. 

Why mention this? Because it means that as well as the 52% who voted Leave huge numbers wanted to but were frightened by irresponsible threats of 300,000 job losses, welfare cuts etc and maybe by linkage of Leave to far right etc. This makes Leave's victory all the more convincing.

Cameron's terrible mistake

Scotland would have had devolution in 1979, because 52% of the votes in the 1979 Scottish devolution referendum were in favour, were it not for ‘the Cunningham clause’ in the enabling legislation saying that 40% of registered voters had to vote “Yes”. In the 1979 referendum 52% of votes were in favour of devolution but they represented only 33% of electorate. On Thursday 52% of voters (about 36% of electors) wanted to leave the EU. 

Had Cameron insisted on a Cunningham clause things would be very different. Very incompetent of him – though his MPs would have launched a war within the Conservative party had he tried it. However it’s too late to change the rules of the game after you’ve lost it.

My sister told me she couldn't decide whether David Cameron was clever or an idiot till he was caught on tape repeating the Queen's satisfaction about the outcome of the 2015 Scottish referendum to the Mayor of New York. Then she knew he was an idiot. 

We all know that now.

Politics is a rough old trade, as Alan Watkins used to say.

Odd that Jeremy Corbyn probably wants Britain to leave the EU and Boris Johnson probably doesn't.

Funny how things turn out.

EU presidency

In a few days Slovakia ("We shall not accept a single Muslim migrant”) becomes President of EU for 6 months and then it's the UK's turn and there is no legal way this can be prevented. Expect fun!

Those sort of people

The punishment for those sort of people is being those sort of people. Sins are self-punishing.

I coined that aphorism talking about bitter losers in the British referendum who accuse Leave voters of racism and bigotry and every bad thing, not realising it is they who are the bigots. However it can be applied to anyone you like, or rather anyone you don't like.

3 Brexit quotes

The fight on our hands now is no longer between Leave and Remain; that’s done. It’s a far greater fight, a more historic one, one that will shape Britain for decades: a fight between those of us who believe in democracy and those who don’t; between those of us who trust the people and those who think the people are mentally and morally ill-equipped to make big political decisions.

Brendan O'Neill

The British leave the EU not as narrow-minded snobs but proud Democrats who no longer want to put up with EU's flaws 

German newspaper, Die Welte

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Creating a European demos means restricting immigration into Europe

There can never be a democratic EU unless there is a demos and creating a demos out of 28 (27 now) disparate nations is extremely hard, probably impossible. But Europeans do have very much in common. The Greco-Roman tradition and a Christian culture being the most important things.

Shouldn't EU have a very restrictive  policy on immigration INTO the EU if it wants to create a common European identity? Perhaps even the Fortress Europe policy that Gerhard Schröder and Angela Merkel have said Europe must avoid.

Had Mrs. Merkel and the EU followed this policy Europeans would be very much happier, the UK would not be leaving and Marine Le Pen would not be a strong contender in the next French presidential election.

Gove for Prime Minister

Surely Mr. Gove is the man to be Prime Minister. Certainly not Mr. Johnson, of course, much as we love him. Apart from his integrity, brains and courage, Michael Gove has the merit of being Scottish and persuading the Scots to stay in the UK is our No. 1 priority now.

Unfortunately I don't think he wants the job. I hope he can be persuaded to change his mind.

Like him or not, Nigel Farage is responsible for Brexit

Brexit is the biggest shock in my lifetime.

I said to the Portuguese ambassador last week 'It's up to you, of course. We're off on Thursday". He gave me the smile a corpse gives the undertaker. But I didn't think for one moment that we really would be off. I went to bed at 3 yesterday morning unhappy, thinking Remain had won and was frozen in amazement at 6.45 the next day to open my browser and see the BBC call it for Leave.

I admit my feelings were mixed. Astonishment, pleasure but some fear too.

The electorate have let down the politicians very badly.

When the revolution finally came most (not all) of the left-wing middle class found they were on the side of the rich and the banks. Funny how things turn out.

It's a bit like when the crisis of capitalism finally occurred in 2008, as Stalin had predicted, and the far left was not there to take advantage. The centre-right not the left benefited. The old party divisions that we have had since the 1920s increasingly make less sense.

Nigel Farage is the man who did this. But poor David Cameron and Angela Merkel played equal parts. 

Whatever you think of him and you might loathe him, Nigel Farage, who is the reason this referendum was called, is one of the two politicians in post-1945 British history who changed the country the most. The other, of course, being Edward Heath.

The story of how an amateur, home-made, Ealing comedy party like UKIP, widely despised, directly or indirectly took Britain out of the EU is extraordinary. If it were a novel people would throw it away in disgust as absurdly far-fetched.

The same is true of the stories of Trump, Corbyn, the million migrants crossing Europe, the bizarre American row over transgender lavatories, ISIS, September 11th and so much else. God is not obliged to consider probabilities.

Mr Farage's referendum was hijacked by others and it's good that it was. I am reminded of what Reagan said, that there is no limit to what a man can do if he is content for others to take the credit.

He was not allowed to be part of the official Leave campaign, who were frightened he would make their brand toxic. in the eyes of many he would have done, but he had the wisdom to push immigration into the forefront of the campaign, knowing it was a much better issue for Leave than the economy. 

On the economy, Leave could not stand up to David Cameron's carefully choreographed Project Fear, but immigration let the Leave side instil its own share of fear. Making a major issue of Britain's support for Turkish membership of the EU must have won Leave many votes. It boxed David Cameron into a corner and showed him to have been very economical with the truth. It also enabled Leave to elide concerns about European and non-European immigration, although Brexit will not reduce and may increase non-European immigration.

I saw very few speeches during this campaign and none by Mr Farage, but this one, which i watched today, is remarkably good. He is a better speaker even than Messrs. Gove or Johnson. Why do many people in the UK dislike him so much? He predicted that "this will be a turnout referendum" and he was right. They were queuing round the block to vote. 

I am lost in admiration for the courage of the British people. It took a lot of courage to vote Leave. People thought very hard and in many cases changed and unchanged their minds.

It was absolutely not a result made on a whim, or from prejudice or knee-jerk reactions or to punish the government or taken unthinkingly. It was made very thoughtfully and there was an amazingly turnout. No-one knows exactly what issues were in the minds of Brexit voters but they were surely many. 

It was not a plebiscite on immigration, though that was important. I think people didn't like being ruled by foreigners.

Had the referendum been held in a couple of years' time Brexit would have lost, because older voters were inclined to Leave and younger ones, educated in the pieties of internationalism and EU idealism, inclined to Remain. 

I am convinced that it will be hugely helpful to the rest of the EU. We might just have saved Europe from a totalitarian future once more.

I want to quote (again) these lines by Philip Larkin.

Sometimes you hear, fifth-hand,
As epitaph:
He chucked up everything
And just cleared off,
And always the voice will sound
Certain you approve
This audacious, purifying,
Elemental move.

We were just not that into you

24 hours after the earthquake and things become slightly clearer. It is becoming clear that from 1973 onwards except for a smallish minority most of the British never liked the EU much but put up with it, considered it a necessary evil. On the continent they believe in the EU project.

Friday, 24 June 2016

Saving Europe

"England has saved herself by her exertions, and will, as I trust, save Europe by her example." 

William Pitt the Younger

Thursday, 23 June 2016

It's still the masses against the classes, but the liberals have swapped sides

Gladstone said that all the world over he backed the masses against the classes (proof, incidentally, that he had a Northern accent). Nowadays liberals take exactly the opposite view. This referendum has done many valuable things. One of the most important is to show that liberals these days really do fear and despise the masses. If you don't believe me just read the Guardian or the stuff some of the In people are posting on Facebook.

Britain decides today

The Austro-Hungarian Empire was the nearest to a federal Europe that I could have accepted. Though the Hungarian half was idiotically mismanaged. But it had a demos and in the end became democratic, which the European Union never can.

Yugoslavia, a Serb told me, was the EU before the EU. I was not sure this was a happy augury.

Now today the UK is voting on whether to leave the EU (Brexit) and if it does this could precipitate the beginning of the end of this attempt at uniting Europe, seventy-one years after Hitler’s failed.

The EU has, on balance, done a lot of good in Eastern Europe, though harm too. Elsewhere since 1999 it has been a disaster. The Euro has destroyed the economies of Southern Europe, Schengen has failed to protect countries from invasion, the EU has shown that it cannot be a player in foreign affairs and now leading Eurocrats plot to give the EU the power to control tax rates across the Eurozone.

Immigration, by the way, is not a key issue - Brexit might not affect immigration at all - except that people who want a million or three million migrants to enter Europe without papers in a single year are very dangerous people - mad, bad and dangerous to know.
The one strong argument for Britain staying in the EU is that Scotland might secede in ten years time. If we do vote for Brexit expect the EU to come up with a counter-offer. And more referendums till we get the answer right.

In fact I don't think we shall ever escape. And young people are educated in the pieties of internationalism, so this is our last chance.

The latest polls say it's 50-50. John Curtice, the Strathclyde University professor who oversaw last year’s accurate election exit poll, said two days ago: "After weeks and months of basically no change, it does look as though there has been at least some movement towards Leave in the wake of the advent of purdah.”

It may be that the Jo Cox effect – the effect of a young pro-diversity MP’s murder allegedly by a man who has been linked to the far right - is not crucial.

The linkage between the murder and the Brexit camp was very carefully managed. Any murder is terrible, and especially of an elected member of Parliament is terrible but how different the reaction to the murder by the IRA of poor Ian Gow and Airey Neave. To a large extent this reflects the new English habit of mass emotion which had not begun in the 1980s. Still, worth mentioning that Ian Gow and Airey Neave were killed by the IRA for political reasons in 1979 and 1990 but were not treated as martyrs - as fervent Unionists they were considered with suspicion. Private Eye character assassinated Neave even though he was a war hero.

Even poor Drummer Rigby who was beheaded last year by Muslims in the streets of Woolwich didn't get this treatment - quite a few people seemed more worried about EDL demonstrating for fifteen minutes about the murder than anything else. The authorities tried to persuade us that the crime had no link to Islam or to politics.

Had Farage been murdered or an Official Ulster Unionist of impeccable patriotism I wonder what the reaction would have been. The Diana-like outpouring of grief for Jo Cox is linked to her passionate belief in diversity and the benefits of immigration. I am not quite sure why.

It is no doubt largely spontaneous but has also certainly been carefully managed by Remain. Her funeral yesterday - rather soon? - may also have an effect on the vote though I hope not. Her murder is irrelevant. Yet a number of people in the papers openly say it is a reason for voting Out and implying Brexit is the far right racist option.

Leaving and staying both seem to have more disadvantages than advantages at first sight but staying is not choosing the status quo but signing a blank cheque. Last summer, Europe’s leaders came up the “five presidents’ report” that laid down a step-by-step plan to achieve a United States of Europe: banking union, then a common budget and finally political union. Electorates will not put up with this - at least for now - but these people are running the EU.

Both options in the referendum are unattractive and scary. I think leaving is on balance the lesser evil. Perhaps, in the end, the strongest argument for the UK leaving is that staying is writing a blank cheque to people who dislike the idea of nation states or ethnic states. 

I think Remain will win by something like 55% or maybe more. But no-one knows and for another few hours Brussels will be scared of us, which is a novelty. 

Strangely enough, when historians look at our era, the most important British Prime Minister since 1945 - the one with the biggest legacy - is not Margaret Thatcher, nor Tony Blair or C.R. Attlee, but Edward Heath. He took us into the Common Market as the EEC (now EU) was called.

If Britain votes to leave the EU today, David Cameron (whose idea the referendum was) and Nigel Farage (whose party's success led Cameron to promise one) will eclipse Heath and be responsible for the most important event in our history since our Pyrrhic victory in 1945. Only Nigel Farage intended to do so, of course. onsible for the most important event in our history since our Pyrrhic victory in 1945. Only Nigel Farage intended to do so, of course. 

Three last thoughts (not mine) on Brexit

I am assuming that, should Remain triumph, there will be complaints from those who voted for it, within about six months along the lines of "that's not what I voted for". Let me enlighten you: if you vote Remain you vote for whatever the EU decides to throw at you and whatever happens in the EU next. No complaints, please.

Helen Szamuely 

I'm feeling so much solidarity today with those old people, poor people, working-class people, Old Labourites, Shire Tories, blue-rinse ladies, nurses and tradeunionists who, despite being defamed as bigots, despite having the entire establishment lined up against them, despite being smeared as thick and overemotional and dangerous by the political class, the media and celebrities, and despite being told by hysterical officialdom that they are bringing about the end of Western civilisation, will nonetheless go out today and say a polite, cool and radical "No thanks" to the EU. That takes guts. To stand by what you believe in against the capitalist class, the political class, the media class and the Brussels bureaucracy -- that takes bottle. To me, these people represent the best of democracy.

Brendan O'Neill

To the best of my knowledge not one of the commissioners, and it should have been Junker, have made any comment not even along the lines of 'may the best man win'. They remain faceless, arrogant and apparently disinterested, evidently disconnected from the turmoil of the Demos,for why should they not? they have their plan, their predestined path, they are untouchable. Unless you vote OUT to make them understand that it is our world and we have a say in who runs it.

Nick Ward 

If Britain votes to leave the EU today, David Cameron and Nigel Farage will be responsible for transforming Britain

I think Remain will win by something like 55% or maybe more. But no-one knows and for another few hours Brussels will be scared of us, which is a novelty. 

Strangely enough, when historians look at our era, the most important British Prime Minister since 1945 - the one with the biggest legacy - is not Margaret Thatcher, nor Tony Blair or C.R. Attlee, but Edward Heath. He took us into the Common Market as the EEC (now EU) was called.

If Britain votes to leave the EU today, David Cameron(whose idea the referendum was) and Nigel Farage (whose party's success led Cameron to promise one) will eclipse Heath and be responsible for the most important event in our history since our Pyrrhic victory in 1945. Only Nigel Farage intended to do so, of course. 

The fortunes of political leaders don't matter a jot at a  moment like this but nevertheless while we wait for the result, I can speculate.

Mr. Farage is reviled by many in the press but, according to a recent poll, he is the most popular party leader in the country with a 38% approval rating, followed by David Cameron at 35%, Jeremy Corbyn at 27% and the Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron at 19%. 

Mr. Farage has not had a bad campaign, unlike the other party leaders. Cameron was caught out being "economical with the actualité over Turkey's application to join the EU. When he said Turkey would not join by the year 3000 he deeply shocked Mr Erogan, who said he thought Mr Cameron was the principal supporter of Turkey' joining. Corbyn's campaign was worse, very half-hearted and far too honest as when he admitted the obvious truth that immigration could not be controlled while we remained in the EU. It culminated in him, a man who has shared platforms with Hamas and Hezbollah, refusing to share one with David Cameron, even though they are both campaigning for Remain.

It's win-win for Boris Johnson. He wins if Brexit wins or loses. 

He'll probably be the next Prime Minister, though Michael Gove would be much better.

And it's lose-lose for Cameron.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Minister of finance) George Osborne I imagine is a dead man walking. They will never forgive him for the way he prostituted the Treasury civil servants. Poor George but we have the fortitude to endure his misfortunes.

I have been following this referendum campaign in the press and social media but last night i caught up with some television and watched a few minutes of Wednesday night's debate.

Ruth Davidson said many stupid and disingenuous things in the debate last night. Like don't vote Leave unless you are "100% sure" Brexit will be a good thing or that not "one single job" will be lost as a result - these cannot be the criteria for deciding how to vote and she must know It. Yet she got warm plaudits. 13% to 65% of our laws are made in Brussels depending on whether you include regulations and secondary legislation. Instead of acknowledging this she said only four bills last year came from Brussels and accused Brexit of lying. She twisted the facts yet no-one calls her a demagogue. I suspect what Mrs Thatcher said of John Smith is true of her - no-one would take her seriously if she didn't have a Scottish accent.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Remaining in the EU is signing a blank cheque

The EU has, on balance, done much good in Eastern Europe, though harm too. Elsewhere since 1999 it has been on the whole a big disaster. The Euro has destroyed the economies of Southern Europe, Schengen has failed to protect countries from invasion, the EU has shown that it cannot be a player in foreign affairs and it is clear now, as should always have been clear, that it can never be democratic because it has no demos.

Immigration is not a key issue - Brexit might not affect immigration at all - except that people who want a million or three million migrants to enter Europe without papers in a single year are very dangerous people - mad, bad and dangerous to know. The one strong argument for our staying is that Scotland might secede in ten years time. If we do vote for Brexit expect the EU to come up with a counter-offer. And more referendums till we get the answer right. 

I don't think we shall ever escape. And young people are educated in the pieties of internationalism, so this is our last chance.

Monday, 20 June 2016

Germany is afraid of Brexit and is rethinking Europe

A German friend has sent me a fascinating article from Die Welte which I read with Google Translate. As he says, Breitbart has come to Germany. 

Highlights include: 
"The British referendum is not the iceberg, but the alarm bell. ..This reconnection of the European idea of the people's will, which would be unthinkable in Germany, scared of democracy and ruled by backroom politics....Schengen and Euro are failures. Systemic depletion of the initially carefree Mediterranean countries and the systemic responsibility of central Europeans for state bankruptcy in the south - these were two disaster scenarios some economists predicted in 2001 and which came to pass. ...Without the British Brussels would be manned by idiots." 
For those who have German here it is.

George Orwell on free speech

On a plat­form, or in cer­tain recog­nised open air spa­ces like Hyde Park, you can say al­most any­thing, and, what is per­haps more sig­nif­i­cant, no one is frightened to ut­ter his true opin­ions in pubs, on the tops of busses, and so forth. The point is that the rel­a­tive free­dom which we en­joy de­pends of pub­lic opin­ion. The law is no pro­tec­tion. Gov­ern­ments make laws, but whether they are car­ried out, and how the po­lice be­have, de­pends on the gen­eral tem­per in the coun­try. If large num­bers of peo­ple are in­ter­ested in free­dom of speech, there will be free­dom of speech, even if the law for­bids it; if pub­lic opin­ion is sluggish, in­con­venient mi­nori­ties will be per­se­cuted, even if laws ex­ist to pro­tect them. 
How far we British have regressed since he wrote these words. Stanley Baldwin said England's secret was freedom. No-one would say that now.

Brexit through the Hungarian looking glass

My friend Mark Griffith is one of the most erudite voices in favour of the UK leaving the EU. He has lived for many years in Budapest. He has kindly given me permission to republish his article on Hungarian attitudes to Brexit, published recently in The Salisbury Review. I hope to blog about Romanian attitudes to Brexit, which in some ways are similar to those he discusses. However, Romanians I speak to seem aggrieved that the English should contemplate leaving and tend to see things through the prism of objections in England to Romanian immigrants. These hit Romanian amour propre hard. They think the English are being racist in wanting out of the EU. Behind this (slightly unconvincing) anti-racism is often anger that my countrymen tolerate Third World immigration without complaint but some complain about Romanians. The truth that leaving the EU would not reduce immigration (not much and probably not at all) is lost on them. To be fair, it also seems to be lost on most British people.
Europe’s former communist zone in the east can feel a bit like the mirror in Lewis Carroll’s second Alice story. Russians will tell you with completely straight faces that they need to militarily defend their country from neighbours like Estonia, (half the size of Iceland). Hungarians say “Hello” to mean “goodbye”, peel bananas from the other end and hold bouquets of flowers upside down. Serbs told me during the 1990s wars that they were fighting Bosnia on behalf of Christendom because the Bosnian Muslims were the pure Slavs while they, the Serbs, were tainted with Turkish blood.  

Of course, there are local variations of flavour across the region. The Hungarian version of this cynicism produces in
 public strenuously dull journalism and official commentary which stresses caution at all times, hedges its bets against every possible risk of having said the wrong thing, and repeatedly uses “complex” as a term of praise. (A “complex solution” for example, is the proper approach to any problem in Hungary because it is a solution which is exhaustive, complicated, would take far too long to explain here, and will require a team of very serious experts to work out in detail.) The greyness of public views in Budapest is only partly a legacy of communist bureaucracy. This is not least because the Habsburgs perfected numbing officialdom for centuries before Marx’s followers seized a single state. Kafka and Ionescu were pre-communist writers, and their absurdist literary nightmares of red tape owe more to pre-COMECON Balkanism than to the baggy-suited trilby-wearing apparachiks of the Warsaw Pact.Not the least fascinating part of this looking-glass world is how the East Bloc sees western Europe. For one thing they think we westerners are fools to believe the BBC. For East Europeans whatever’s in the newspaper or on radio or television is taken as a matter of course to be lies or distortions shaped by someone’s agenda. It’s not that they believe the old communist line against West Europeans – they assume everybody is lying. At first it seems silly, then it seems cynical, then after a few years (as your correspondent from the west goes native perhaps) it starts to seem obvious.

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Quotations for Sunday morning

Tennessee Williams The world is violent and mecurial handwritten note about love

On the whole, we will repeat that this Religion of Mahomet's is a kind of Christianity; has a genuine element of what is spiritually highest looking through it, not to be hidden by all its imperfections. The Scandinavian God Wish, the god of all rude men, — this has been enlarged into a Heaven by Mahomet; but a Heaven symbolical of sacred Duty, and to be earned by faith and well-doing, by valiant action, and a divine patience which is still more valiant. It is Scandinavian Paganism, and a truly celestial element superadded to that. Call it not false; look not at the falsehood of it, look at the truth of it. For these twelve centuries, it has been the religion and life-guidance of the fifth part of the whole kindred of Mankind. Above all things, it has been a religion heartily believed. These Arabs believe their religion, and try to live by it! No Christians, since the early ages, or only perhaps the English Puritans in modern times, have ever stood by their Faith as the Moslem do by theirs, — believing it wholly, fronting Time with it, and Eternity with it.

Thomas Carlyle

Jared Wyand (@JaredWyand):
Jesus doesn't call Christians to kill
Muhammad demands it
That's the difference

A soldier asked Abba Mius if God accepted repentance. After the old man had taught him many things he said, 'Tell me, my dear, if your cloak is torn, do you throw it away?' He replied, 'No, I mend it and use it again.' The old man said to him, 'If you are so careful about your cloak, will not God be equally careful about His creature?'
Abba Mius

[Post-1688] Politics was a branch of religion, rather as 21st-century politics is a branch of economics. 

Robert Tombs