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Monday 1 September 2014

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A tragic side-effect of war is invariably the refugee crisis it creates which, in the case of Syria has reached epic proportions. But, as the AFP is recording, the Turkish are losing patience with the influx of Syrians into their country, and are attacking President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's "open door" policy.

Rough estimates are that some 1.2 million Syrian refugees are now living in the country. Some 285,000 Syrians are accommodated in refugee camps in the south and southeast of the country but a far greater number of 912,000, according to official figures, are now living in Turkish cities.

Says AFP, the refugees have become an increasingly visible presence in cities including Istanbul, with entire families huddled together on carpets and begging in the middle of the pavement in the city centre.

This is a country which has had its own people treated roughly when they have emigrated to Europe, but now – in a grisly hierarchy of "discrimination and xenophobia", there have been violent protests against the Syrians in Istanbul and in the southeast.

However, with no end to the Syrian conflict in sight, there is little chance that the refugees will return to their homeland, which means a proportion may well become "motivated" to move on to EU member state territory, either via the Aegean into Greece, or via Egypt and North African states, then thence either to Malta, Italy or Spain. Already, in the latest shipwreck reported off Tunisia, the 36 fatalities were believed to be Syrian.

Another problem, as we reported last December, is that the legal status of the Syrians in Turkey is that of "guest". Officially, they are not refugees, and only become so once they enter the territories of EU member states.

This means, of course, that under international law, Syrians cannot be returned to Turkey, and it is rarely possible to send them back to the intermediate countries, through which they have passed.

With UNHCR now reporting that three million have fled Syria, this is a crisis that is only going to get worse. And Britain is not going to find itself immune.


Richard North 01/09/2014 link

Monday 1 September 2014

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Journalism – and especially political journalism – is about criticism. The meat and drink of the oeuvre is taking people, governments or other institutions to task, either for not doing things, for doing things, or doing them badly.

If they do things well, they are largely ignored. A functioning system doesn't make headlines (although it might if we ever had a government IT system that worked). By its very nature, the media concentrates on "bad" news, and on criticism rather than plaudits.

Strangely though, those very journalists (and their employers) who so freely dish out their criticisms of all and sundry tend to be rather unenthusiastic about being on the receiving end.

In the old days, of course, there was no problem. Letters to the editor, attacking a story (or its author) has no chance of being published, while there was a "gentleman's agreement" between proprietors, that "dog shall not eat dog" – one that largely holds to this day. With the exception of Private Eye, the media did not attack other media.

What then brought the biggest change since newspapers graduated from their leafleting origins, was the internet. It had several effects, one of the most obvious being online commentary.

For the first time, readers were able to air their views on the material they were being offered, without the approval of the letters' editors. However, there were the dreaded moderators, who for a while held the line (and some still do), removing any content that attacked either the medium or the author.

While many posters have thus been banned, there has developed a sort of uneasy vade mecum, whereby you are permitted to attack the author in general terms – although not too often – but you are not allowed to attack the host, the specific media which carries the piece. Mostly, though, generalised attacks on the media are permitted.

As a result, within certain limits, commenters often get a free pass when attacking online authors, many of whom stand above the fray, choosing not to defend their work against what is sometimes a torrent of rather unpleasant abuse – on the very sensible basis that it is unwise to get into a fight with a chimney sweep.

Into this unholy mix comes the political blogger – of which there are three broad types: the media-hosted; the party affiliated; and the diminishing band of the non-aligned, such as EU Referendum, who neither have media backing nor support any particular party.

Sticking with the non-aligned, in common with the legacy media, we are able to take people, governments or other institutions to task, either for not doing things, for doing things, or doing them badly. Sometimes we can do it better. Most often, the media, with its greater resources and contacts, will take the lead.

But, non-aligned bloggers also enjoy the unique position of being able to criticise the media. The party affiliated blogs will not do this, and they are in bed with them, but we can and do take on the giants and point out their all too frequent failings – a process that is so easy at times that it is embarrassing.

To my certain knowledge, the newspapers know this, and hate the criticism. But they adopt the tactic of ignoring it – much the same tactic they used with UKIP in the early days. They don't link to us and, where others place our links on legacy media comments, they very often (but not always) disappear.

However, this means that, as bloggers, we are out on our own, and more so if we are attacking party-affiliated blogs and well as political parties. Some bloggers take great offence at being criticised, believing that – unlike the general media – they should be immune. This belief they often apply to their own comments, ruthlessly deleting those who disagree with them. 

This brings me to the main point of this post, which is to explore the relationship between bloggers and their readers, and with that sub-set who comment on their posts. Here, quite obviously, I can only speak for myself – although I am fully aware that some of my observations will apply elsewhere.

The reason why it becomes necessary to take time to do this is that there is a certain proportion of commenters who have a seriously distorted view as to the nature of blogging – and what bloggers may or may not owe to their readers – and vice versa. Basically, I need a post on the record, to which I can link when I have to confront certain commentators, without having to write a specific response each time.

Firstly, in order to set the scene, I need to explain why I blog, and why I am still blogging after more then ten years – one of the longest-serving non-aligned bloggers in the country. And, as with any complex enterprise, there is no single answer.

The first reason is that I am Christopher Booker's researcher- and have been for over 20 years. I don't work for the Sunday Telegraph (although I used to do so) but for him personally, on issues related to his column.

Before even blogs (and the internet) became established, I used to write every week for him a number of news briefings on specific subjects, that he could use in his column. Some were by request. Others were more speculative, others were markers to flag up developing issues which might become relevant later.

Initially, I was sending these to Booker by fax, and then when we both got internet (and the computers that went with it), I used to send him e-mails. Because some of the content was of use and interest to others, I would also send copies to an expanding mailing list. Eventually, several hundred people were getting my briefings each week.

For a lot of reasons, it then made absolute sense to migrate onto a blog, making it more accessible, and reducing the time it took to administer an e-mail list. And initially, it enabled me to include a co-author, Helen Szamuely, who has since moved to her own blog.

The second trigger which brought us into the blogosphere was the promise of a referendum on the then EU constitution by Tony Blair, back in 2004. We thought it would be a good idea to provide information for "no" campaigners which was not then (or now) being provided by the media or the political parties.

Thirdly, I had by then developed a business as a political analyst and free-lance researcher, providing political and other clients with briefings on specific subjects. As with Booker, some were commissioned – some were general, background briefings. And once again, for a lot of very good reasons, it made sense to publish these on the blog – sometimes as the primary mechanism of communication.

Fourthly, the blog gave me (and Helen) a visible platform- a "shop window", so to speak. Determinedly independent and knowing that no one else could be relied upon to host our material, it gave us a mechanism to reach a larger number of people than we could by normal means. It also offered a small opportunity for soliciting donations to help keep the bailiffs from the doors and it strengthened our influence in certain political quarters.

Of the major reasons for blogging, though, there was one more: the comments system, which gravitated into a forum and then become a comments system as well. The opportunity to get feedback from a wide range of readers has always been one of my main motivations for blogging, as it is through these that one learns a very great deal. Thus, by and large, I welcome criticism, and even insults. In fact, as Winston Churchill might possibly have averred, there is no finer art than the well-crafted political insult.

It appears, though, that this brings me into conflict with a number of my commenters, those who – used to the legacy media way of doing things – believe they have a free pass to criticise me on my own blog, while remaining immune from any response. These are free with their insults (some not even realising they are being insulting) yet take grave exception when I respond in kind.

That brings me to the first point that I need to make. Simply, it is this: I do, most sincerely welcome feedback, and have no problems even with insults (as opposed to abuse). But my main (but not my only) criterion by which I judge comments is whether they add value.

Thus, a comment that tells me I am wrong, without telling me why (especially when I am not), is of no use to me. A comment which picks up any one of my numerous errors is welcome, and treasured – even if I do fight my corner sometimes, before accepting a disputed point.

But what I won't accept is gratuitous abuse, irrelevant dogma or those who complain when I respond in like manner to their own insults, whether deserved or not. This is a blog written by an adult, for adults. Expect as good as you give. 

The second point I need to make is in response to those readers – very often identified by their own statements to that effect – who seem to believe that, by reading my blog, they are doing me some kind of favour. We get a lot of these and not just on this blog. Other bloggers get the same.

Usually attached to that is some kind of condition – in my case, an assertion that if only I modified my writings in some way, they would read more of my posts, and more people would come flocking to the blog.

Of course, I am fully aware that if I wanted to maximise hits, I would need to research what my target audience wants to see and then tailor my output for them. That assumes, however, that I am in the business of maximising hits, which might have been the case once, but certainly is no longer.

In this, I have to introduce yet other reasons for blogging. Essentially, I do it for myself, in the first instance because I enjoy writing, secondly because writing about things focuses the mind and helps me make sense of them, and thirdly, because I am often able to make use of the material in writing books for publication.

That latter process started with The Ministry of Defeat, and carried over into The Many Not The Few, and is currently informing Flexcit, where I am able to try out and develop ideas, before committing using them in a publication. Thus, the blog becomes a test bed for new ideas. 

The point that emerges from this is that there is a hierarchy to my audience. Primarily, I write for myself. Then I write for Booker and a very small group of clients and influence-makers.  And there's the rub. If there was no-one else involved, and no-one else looked at the blog, my output would largely be the same. The blog would soldier on. 

Only then, therefore, is the blog available to the general reader. Make no mistake here – I welcome you to the blog, and enjoy having you follow my work. But you owe me nothing (although I'm incredibly grateful for the donations), and I owe you nothing – individually or collectively.

Essentially, I write what I write, and if you care to read it, I am very pleased to have provided something of value. But I will not accept any form of conditionality, changing my work (or style) just to soothe my critics. For those who tell me that they deliberately turn away from my work because it does not please them, that is their loss. Non-readers, and even regular ex-readers, are of absolutely no interest to me.

And despite the pundits chirping about blogging, as they do from time-to-time, I am one of the few non-aligned bloggers who - the aid of donations and sponsorship - actually make a living out of my craft. It's not brilliant, but it's something very few others have achieved - and that's without having to resort to advertising. In other words, unlike many of my critics, I am a successful blogger, and on my own terms.

Nevertheless, a lot of people do make the assumption that I am after volume (of hits). And if that was my original model, it led to the discovery of two things ...the volume has to be insanely high for a British blog (easier if you are American), and to get the volume you have to make too many compromises. So I've come up (more by accident than design) with a different economic model.

In this, I've managed to square the circle. I have a blog where successes is not dependent on reader volume, which means I don't have to pander to a general readership. I can go for quality rather than quantity. And quality blogging requires quality readers. The rest can go elsewhere.

To conclude, I come to a comment made to my son, who writes the blog, Complete Bastard. He is something of a chip off the old block, but he is his own master – I do not tell him what to write, and nor would I want to. But, to his work (and mine), he got this feline comment:
Must say that you and your dad's "no one understands the world except for us" schtik is getting a bit wearisome ... sorry, gotta be honest.
Peter responded in his own fashion to this "honesty", in some detail. By coincidence, I got something very similar on EURef comments the very next day. It declared of my Carswell piece:
This is the usual analysis. Richard North the sole person on the planet with true insight, any intelligence or honesty. Every other jourmo (except CB most of the time) politician, blog poster etc. is stupid, has no understanding, is corrupt etc … Sadly this is why Richard will always be on the outside looking in, instead of moving and shaking events himself.
I think my response more or less covers it, bringing us rather neatly back to where we started:
At least try some original thinking will you? I've seen this meme floating around for over a year, and it is about as weak now as it was when the first pathetic attempt was made to float it.It is, of course, the classic "straw man" argument. It does not stand up to analysis because the authors rely on sweeping generalisations rather than address individual issues. Mostly, that is because when they have tried, they fail.

Thus, they hide behind their generalisations knowing that, as long as they avoid any specific detail, they can never be challenged on it and be shown to be wrong. On reflection, though, if it keeps jealous inadequates in their comfort zones, who am I to argue? They need their little myths to console them.
The real point, though, is that, on the "outside", we cannot rely on "prestige", the appeal to authority, or the other stratagems the establishment relies upon to pursue their often flawed arguments. Instead, we have to do our research and get things right – otherwise, we have our readers who are only too keen to tell us that we've got it wrong (thank goodness).

Nor will you find me disputing that we do get it wrong occasionally, but I think on balance we get it right more often. That, I suspect, is one of the main reasons we attract so much hostility. And that's why, on balance, I'm not really concerned by criticism of this nature.


Richard North 01/09/2014 link

Sunday 31 August 2014

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Barely credible though we have all found the avalanche of revelations about what had been going on in Rotherham for 16 years writes Booker, they reflect only one part of what has become the most horrifying scandal in modern Britain.

As was documented in Easy Meat, a report earlier this year from the Law and Freedom Foundation, similar tragedies have long been unfolding in towns and cities across the land.

There, with the full connivance of social workers and the police, the criminal abuse of underage girls, many in state "care", has been organised by largely Pakistani gangs of men on an industrial scale. It has then been systematically covered up by the very people who have allowed and even encouraged this to happen: council officials, police and politicians.

If this report is right in criticising how blame has too often in the past been ascribed just to "Asians", it is itself too casual in blaming Islam or even Pakistanis in general. Part of the problem is that many of the culprits are of Pashtun tribal stock from Kashmir, regarded as "trouble" even by many Muslims and Pakistanis.

But this particular tragedy is only one of three different legs making up a very much larger scandal. This is how our politicians have allowed our entire "child protection" system to career off the rails.

The second leg of this scandal can be seen in all those familiar horror stories in which some child, such as Baby P, has eventually met with an awful death, despite social workers, police and other agencies having long known of the child's maltreatment without taking any action. How many times have we then seen some semi-whitewashing report, urging that "lessons must be learnt", and leaving the dysfunctional system to carry on much as before?

The third leg of this scandal, about which Booker has long been writing about in this column, is how, rather than failing to intervene when necessary, the social workers, with full support from the police and the courts, are now also taking record numbers of children into state "care" for what too often appear to be inadequate or even blatantly fabricated reasons.

This can be just as much a crime against humanity and a travesty of justice as what we've been learning about in Rotherham; not least because, as he hears in new cases every week, children unhappily removed from loving families are often subjected, while in "care", to abuse that is much worse than anything alleged against their parents.

When, last week, Booker was asked by his editor "how can we hope to see this mess cleared up?", he could only reply pessimistically that the whole culture of our "child protection" system has become so corrupted that it is hard to see how it can ever be returned to some semblance of decency and humanity.

The "good" social workers of old have largely been driven out, to be replaced by heartless, jargon-spouting zealots who are the last people who should be involved in the life of any family. Few things have shocked me more than the way the police have become such unquestioning accomplices of this cruel system.

There may be a glimmer of hope in the realisation by Lord Justice Munby, our top family court judge, that some start can be made on clearing out the Augean stables by exposing more of the work of those ultra-secretive courts to public scrutiny.

However, the ultimate responsibility for all this must lie with the politicians whose laws set up this system, but who have since turned their backs on how the system has made such a mockery of the high-minded intent that lay behind those laws.

Two years ago Booker reported on how Simon Danczuk, the Labour MP for Rochdale, disclosed in the Commons something of the horrors that had been going on in his constituency. This is where social workers had encouraged the mass-rape of underage girls in "care", on the grounds that it was merely their "life choice" to become prostitutes.

Not one of the many MPs who spoke in that long debate, including two ministers, picked up on what he had said, as, one after another, they applauded a new government move to speed up the number of children being taken into "care".

Until a great many more MPs are prepared to join Mr Danczuk and the admirable John Hemming in getting seriously engaged with this issue, this terrifying tragedy, in all its different manifestations, will continue.


Richard North 31/08/2014 link

Saturday 30 August 2014

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The self-importance of the media knows no bounds. With the hacks determined to milk the Carswell story, they are trying to build it into a mass rebellion of Conservative MPs, naming other MPs who they think might also defect.

Hot on the trail is the Mirror which is targeting Owen Paterson – who lost his post as Environment Secretary in July. In a stunning "revelation", it tells us that he has dined with hedge fund boss Crispin Odey, and now UKIP donor, who later launched a savage attack on David Cameron.

This "revelation" has now been picked up by the Express and the Mail, the latter noting that Mr Paterson "was still Environment Secretary when the lunch is said to have taken place with Mr Odey, a former Tory donor".

In talking up their "revelations", though, what the papers fail to tell us is that the information they are giving us is nothing special at all. They are talking about an event which happened last September, nearly a year ago. Furthermore, details were published - as all such information is routinely published – on the DEFRA website on 17 January 2014.

What the papers are doing, therefore, is "revealing" the content of an official website that has been accessible for over six months, implying that the dinner was somehow a conspiratorial meeting.

As for the possibility that Mr Paterson might be joining his former colleague, the erstwhile Environment Secretary is saying that "the only way of securing an EU referendum is to vote Conservative". The media would be unwise to read anything into the fact that this is what Mr Carswell was saying four months ago.


Richard North 30/08/2014 link

Saturday 30 August 2014

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While the Mail is celebrating Douglas Carswell's defection as "brilliantly stage-managed political theatre", an alternative scenario is beginning to do the rounds.

Far from his "defection" being a principled stand of a eurosceptic MP, frustrated by David Cameron's lack of commitment to his cause, Conservative sources are claiming that he resigned in a fit of pique after being slighted by Conservative Central Office over hotel accommodation during the annual conference.

If this sounds all too trivial, those close to Carswell acknowledge that he is something of a drama queen, prone to storming out of meetings when he feels he is not getting his way. For him to decide to resign on the spur of the moment is entirely in character.

This would also explain the unlikely success of the publicity coup, in keeping it secret right up to the moment his defection was announced. So spur-of-the moment was his resignation, that not even Carswell himself knew of it shortly before the hastily arranged press conference. There had been no time for leakage.

Why this has slightly more plausibilty than anything we have be told so far, is that Carswell's reasons for defecting still doesn't stack up. As we see from his Twitter account, on 12 March (above), he was telling us: "Only the Conservatives will guarantee and deliver an In /Out referendum. It will only happen if Cameron is Prime Minister".

And for those who might have missed this happy thought, on 15 April Mr Carswell was articulating the same idea, writing in his Telegraph blog: "In order to exit the EU, we need David Cameron to be Prime Minister in 2017 – the year when we will get the In/Out referendum, our chance to vote to leave the EU".

The point is that, four months later, nothing has changed. Mr Cameron's commitment to a referendum is exactly the same now as it was then. If Mr Carswell believed back in March and then April that we need Mr Cameron in 2017 as prime minister in order to get a referendum then, at this particular juncture, he has no reason to believe otherwise.

At least, Carswell is no longer an MP. Today, the Chancellor of the Exchequer appointed him to be Steward and Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead, one of the formal mechanisms by which MPs are removed from office.

Traditionally, a by-election is held within three months of a seat becoming vacant, although there is nothing in the rules that requires this to be the case. The seat could be left vacant until the general election. Senior Conservatives, however, believe that Mr Cameron would be unwise to duck a contest, for fear of being accused of running scared.

With a short, sharp but costly election campaign in prospect, Carswell is expecting his expenses to be defrayed by former Tory donor, Stuart Wheeler, which makes a change from the taxpayer having to pick up the tab, although the cost of a by-election is variously estimated to cost between £80,000-200,000.

Meanwhile, there has been speculation in the Mail and the Mirror as to whether other Conservative MPs will follow Carswell. Named suspects (mostly) have denied any intention to defect.

Former political colleague, Daniel Hannan, has his own "take", writing an enigmatic blogpost. He predicts that the constituency will be Carswell's "for as long as he wants it", asserting that "his brand of optimistic, localist, forward-looking euroscepticism is hugely popular".

Says Hannan: "It could sweep the country at a general election, and propel Britain to global prosperity – if only the Conservatives and UKIP could overcome their animosities", to which he adds "No further comment". He might instead have written: "no chance".

In his reference to overcoming animosities, there is a hint of a possible rapprochement, but one which is entirely unrealistic. Carswell is not likely to become a bridge between the two parties, nor any sort of ambassador. In fact, he has set his bridges ablaze.


Richard North 30/08/2014 link

Friday 29 August 2014

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One of the most enduring lessons I've ever learned in relation to problem-solving is that nine parts or more of the solution lie in defining accurately the nature of the problem, and the causes of it.

Talking to Dellers about the nature of the problem in Rotherham, and the generality of the child sex slavery affairs which have riven our towns and cities, he asked me to write on some of my observations, which were published yesterday on Breitbart.

Much of what I wrote was motivated by precisely that enduring lesson, which makes it so instructive to see comments dismissing the work as "left wing drivel". But, more worrying, there is a strong constituency which would attribute this problem entirely to one thing – Islam. Nothing else is of any significance or relevance.

This even mars this otherwise valuable report which attributes the motivation almost entirely to "Islamic doctrine", despite it also noting the "hugely disproportionate presence of 'Asians', particularly those from the Islamic state of Pakistan".

The point, of course, is that there is more than one common factor here. There is Islam and there is Pakistan. And, hidden from sight in the Pakistani communities prone to this behaviour is tribalism. While Islam is a powerful motivator and behavioural modifier, no studies of these communities can be complete without taking into account tribal mores.

Yet, in the report to which I refer there are 416 references to Islam, but not a single mention of the tribe, or tribalism in any form.

A lot of these communities, in fact, are Kashmiri, and many are Pashtun in origin. Any number of scholars have expended huge effort on understanding the relative effects of Islam and the tribal code of Pashtunwali, and the considerable differences between them. For contemporary workers to ignore the possible effects is illogical, and no analysis can be complete without at least considering the role of tribalism as a behavioural determinant.

And nor are we just talking about Pashtuns. Most other tribal groupings have "honour codes" and many of these also co-exist with Islam. In these situations, the codes often pre-date Islam, so the religion forms a veneer, layered over the original codes. And typically, where these is conflict or ambiguity, the codes take precedence over Islamic teachings - which themselves are variable.

Understanding this, understanding how tribal communities work, and how differences in different types of tribe also affect behavioural patterns, goes a long way to understanding how some immigrant communities work, and what might happen when social disciplines fail.

It was this that I sought to explore in my Brietbart piece, observing that the failure of our police and officials to understanding these dynamics have contributed to the lack of early and effective action. Putting it altogether, though, at the heart of these matters is a failure of law enforcement and, beyond that, sequential failures of complaint systems.

Of these men that have committed so many heinous, I take them to be a cultural offshoot, locked in primitive, obsolete tribalism, to which fundamentalist Islam is but an overlay, a veneer.

This is an offshoot that hates and fears its own women, and then gets its sexual gratification from abusing the women of other races. It is a sterile creed that is going nowhere. It can destroy, it can cause endless misery, but it cannot build or create. Hence, I say, fundamentalist Islam is the religion of losers.

Their religion is attractive to them because they were losers first, and can eke out justification for their actions in ancient scripts. It is not the cause of their inadequacies. It is a symptom of them.

But, I conclude, their criminality survives and prospers, not because of their inadequacies, but because of ours – reinforced by that profound ignorance which plagues our officials and administrators. If our officials had had a better understanding of what they were dealing with, and then enforced the law, much of which came to pass would never have happened.

In my view, therefore, putting it all down to "Islam" is simplistic to the point of being dangerously misleading. We need to do better.


Richard North 29/08/2014 link

Thursday 28 August 2014

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In May last year, he was writing on his blog a laudatory post thanking David Cameron for offering us an "in-out" referendum. Now, this vainglorious little man wants to waste £200,000 of public money on a pointless by-election that, if he won it, would have him standing for re-election inside eight months.

He does this because the prime minister's advisers had "made it clear that they're looking to cut a deal [on EU reform] that gives them just enough to persuade enough voters to vote to stay in". He says: "Once I realised that, my position in the Conservative Party became untenable". 

And this a man who seriously wants the voters of Clacton to believe he's bright enough to represent them as their MP? Is this really the same man who in January of this year said, "Let's not bull with the British people" ....
At Bloomberg a year ago, David Cameron made a radical promise. He would seek to renegotiate the terms of our membership, and then hold an In / Out vote. Nothing we do must make the prospect of an In / Out vote less likely.

Having spent all my adult life campaigning to get Britain out of the EU, perhaps we Outters (sic) need to grow up if we are to achieve our goal. The whole point of Bloomberg is that we can now win. The restoration of British independence, the repudiation of the Treaty of Rome, is a realistic option. But we need a little discipline to make it happen.
However, having decided to make the prospect of an "in-out" vote less likely, if and when Carswell does actually resign as an MP (he hasn't actually done so yet), the Conservatives could cook his goose by refusing to move a writ, instead waiting until the general election. Then, it is a moot point as to whether he would win back the seat.


Richard North 28/08/2014 link

Thursday 28 August 2014

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Despite the best attempts by the some to present "Brexit" as the property of a self-referential group of London-based think-tankers, politicians and journalists, we are once again taking the discussion out into the country, where the real debate belongs.

After the pilot run in Harrogate run in June, we are running another workshop in Wednesday 24 September, in Dawlish, Devon, generously sponsored by the CIB and Mr Anthony Scholefield. This means we're able to offer a profession presentation, with all the bells and whistles, without having to make a charge – although donations on the day will be gratefully received.

There is a tendency of the London claque to thing that the debate starts and stops in the capital, hence Tim Montgomerie blithely telling us last week that supporters of "Brexit":
… need to do a lot more to convince people that Britain can flourish as a more independent state – not cut adrift from the EU, as Europhiles suggest, but as part of a free trade arrangement with the EU.
This was in response to Mr Cameron's latest facile attempt to kick-start his "reform" programme, but what the likes of Mr Montgomerie fail to realise is that, as supporters of "Brexit", we have been working on this for a considerable time now. Anything outside London, and Mr Montgomerie's golden circle of contacts, simply doesn't exist.

With the latest version of Flexcit, though, we have 315 pages of carefully researched work, which serves amongst other things to point up the profound ignorance of the London claque.

When, for instance, he hear the lame mantra of "free trade agreements" with the EU, not one of the precious little dears stops to ask about scope, convergence requirements, hysteresis, conditionality, dispute procedures, updating provisions and a whole host of other matters which makes each trade agreement a unique event, and different from the rest.

Not once do we ever get past the first hurdle, in asking whether we are better off with portmanteau agreements, or whether it would be more advantageous to "unbundle" and work for sector-specific (or even product-specific) regional or global agreements, which could then be daisy-chained into a single agreement.

Such sophistication is way beyond the claque, who seem locked into sterile, over-rehearsed talking points which have changed little in decades of discussion, offering absolutely nothing that addresses the real practicalities of global trading as it exists today.

Then we have the self-important fantasists such as Campbell Bannerman, peddling his "EEA-lite", now on the basis of a fantasy scenario dreamed up for him by Civitas, which was already out of date before its author switched on his laptop and started typing.

The fortunate thing is that these people are not only myopic in their vision, but also so imbued with their belief that they represent the state of the art, that they are misleading the equally myopic Europhile claque into thinking that they have the measure of the anti-EU case.

Meanwhile, the real work, the real thinking, the real development, goes on completely unnoticed and unregarded by the respective claques, as we take the case not to the self-important few but to the country at large.

With more than a little help, I aim to have the first edition of Flexcit complete by mid-September, and published with the help of Robert Oulds, in time for the Bruges Group annual conference in November.

When it finally breaks cover, it will be the best and most complete plan ever produced, not least because it is the product of truly open minds, of free discussion and the open process of publication that it has undergone. In time, it will then dominate the territory, but London will be the last to know.

Long after everyone else has come to terms with the real needs for an exit plan, the claques will be prattling about the need to bring the message to the people, when the only ones outside the loop will be them.


Richard North 28/08/2014 link

Thursday 28 August 2014

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Whatever doubts there might have been about direct Russian government support to the separatists in eastern Ukraine (and there were plenty), they are now rapidly evaporating with the latest military hardware sightings.

Pictured above is a tank reported on the outskirts of rebel-held Donetsk, which on first sight might be thought to be a T-90 – rather like these spotted by the Mail just over a week ago.

However, analysis furnished to the BBC from the YouTube video (below – see 1:50) suggests it might be a T-72BM with the skirts removed, the very latest version of the T-72 which first appeared in Chechnya in late 2011. You can get a better look at it here.

The suggestion is that this is exclusive to the Russian Army, although FAS says it was made available for export. Nevertheless, there is no record of the type having been supplied to other forces. Certainly, there is no indication that it was ever supplied to the Ukrainians.

Should this be Russian-supplied equipment, of recent origin, then it does most definitely represent a serious escalation – but very much in character. It has been evident for some time that Putin would not allow the separatists to be destroyed by the Ukrainian Army.

Such determination would, it seems, preclude a military settlement in the region. Whatever the Ukrainians field, it is clear that the Russians will match, thus engineering a perpetual stalemate – or perhaps not.

Reports suggest that the Russians are infiltrating a major convoy of armoured vehicles, last reported about 30 miles south of Donetsk. With Ukrainian forces massing, we could even be shaping up for a decisive battle.

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If this takes place, it will make a nonsense of a meeting on Tuesday between President Putin and Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko in Minsk, aimed at resolving the conflict. Interestingly, the Guardian report of the meeting shows a picture of T-72BM, captioned as Russian soldiers in the Rostov region, near the border with Ukraine (above) - albeit with skirts and a different camouflage scheme.

One hopes that these military manoeuvres are just posturing, but the chances of a political settlement are looking increasingly slight. The hard men look to be taking over, as the Russian tanks roll in.


Richard North 28/08/2014 link

Wednesday 27 August 2014

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With certain noble exceptions, the outrage of the media over the events of Rotherham needs to be taken as much with a pinch of salt as the expressions of regret by representatives of the public services who so egregiously failed in their collective duties.

As much as anything, the media kept the lid on events, only reacting after it was safe to do so, following events tardily and reluctantly, rather than leading the way.

But, as the detail emerges of the 1,400 or so white girls who were "groomed" and sexually assaulted by gangs of Asian (mainly Pakistani) men, the one institution which does not come away with any blame or shame is the European Union.

That is not to say that the role of the EU was impeccable – simply that it was irrelevant. The Pakistani men, some of them second or third-generation immigrants, did not come here under EU freedom of movement provisions. They came here under UK law, in accordance with policies decided by UK politicians.

There was no EU directive that stated that Asian men had a license to rape, or that they should be treated preferentially by public officials, who chose to do nothing for fear of being branded "racist".

There is nothing in any EU regulation that I know of that demands that South Yorkshire police should display its usual level of malevolent incompetence, and there is certainly nothing that insists the police complaints system should be unfit for purpose – a closed, self-referential loop that prevents any complaint being pursued to its logical and necessary conclusion.

Nor can I find any directive that tells us that, of all the many hundreds of officials who were involved in this affair – who took their salaries and will take their pensions for duties they failed to discharge – should escape Scot free, with not a single one disciplined, much less fired.

In other words, in terms of failures, this is a very British affair. This is something we did to ourselves, without the least outside intervention. The EU can rightly hold up its hands and say "not guilty".

And that is the lesson for "Brexit". Despite the tendency in some quarters to blame the EU for all our woes, many of the evils of our modern society arise from the failings of our own system.

The corollary of this, of course, is that leaving the EU will not sort out these problems. An independent sovereign UK would be just as capable of spawning such evils as is the UK as a member of the European Union.

Hence, of course, my assertion, that we cannot be content simply to prepare an exit plan which takes us out of the EU and hands back powers to the very people who have proved themselves criminally incompetent on so many other counts.

As far as local authorities go, I have lost count of the times I have written that the system is fundamentally rotten to the core, and needs root and branch reform. From that premise we built The Harrogate Agenda, the essence of which we have incorporated in Chapter 17 of the Flexcit plan.

In the meantime, the "system" will look after itself. No one will be fired – no pensions will be docked, and apart from the ritual hand-wringing and the token resignation of the Council leader, nothing much will change.

Should we ever get to leave the EU, without us recognising that our own system of government is also irredeemably flawed, we may not end up much better off, despite our best endeavours.


Richard North 27/08/2014 link