Category Archives: news

The EU and the Big Hate

Yeah, the EU and Britain. This small island, which thinks it is off the coast of North America is vehemently anti-European, and will do almost everything in its power to leave the grand idea of Europe. The Conservatives, two thirds of the current ruling coalition love to fight themselves into a tizzy about the EU idea. While the other political parties are smart enough to keep shtum about their differences over Europe (and other bits of infighting), the Conservatives have not learned from the 1990’s that while the EU is unpopular in the UK, it really does not matter with regards to my daily life.

So this week, Cameron, yet again, went to an EU summit looking like a spoilt child swinging his mummy’s handbag all over the shop. Embarrassing, even though I really agree with what the PM actually had to say. But he does come across really badly whenever it comes to the EU. And the French, who are really just snivelling self serving imbeciles always come across as slick. Damn those cunning French!

Believe it or not, after all that, I am fairly Pro-European. ‘Fairly’ is the good term to use. To be honest, it does not makes a difference to me whether Brussels, London or Washington is making laws, my taxes are not dropping anytime soon. As a floating voter (and we are dangerous bastards) it is the money in my pocket, not the hue of a flag that swings my vote, if I bother to vote at all. And while I have an opinion on Europe, it will not make my mind up when I go to the polls in 2015. In 2010, I am glad we got a coalition, and despite the cock and bull in the press, I think most of the people who voted then believe it was the right choice for that election. Going into a recession meant that no political party came out with any good ideas to get the UK moving. And it is still the case two years later…

Back to the EU. So, I like it? Yes, but…that is it, the ‘but’ bit. I do appreciate and take advantage of the free trade, travel and movement of people part of the EU. In fact, it is one of the best ideals implemented in modern politics over the past two generations. A lot of Brits (except retirees to Spain) really have not taken advantage of this. Lazy language skills can be blamed for this. But I have. In terms of my personal life, cultural activities and business projects, I take advantage of the EU’s free movement of goods, services and people like crazy. You may have noticed all those visits to Poland over the past couple of years, tak?

That part of me would not have been possible if the EU did not exist. It opened my life in so many ways, probably not envisioned by the grandees who thought up the project in the first place. For that, I am eternally grateful, and if Britain was to withdraw from Europe, it would peeve me off. While my personal life would remain intact (although become more tricky), my working side would become an absolute nightmare, well, I will be blunt, impossible.

And I love my films, get it! (Don’t ask about the rewrite…)

But yes, there are things I do not like about the EU. It is undemocratic, there are a lot of institutions and conventions that the UK never voted to join but were shoehorned into and the corruption levels make duck houses seem like…well, mere duck houses…

The EU will probably never face a proper reformation of its financial order as long as the nations resort to petty squabbling. It is sad, because the big EU contributors are probably more aligned then it seems when it comes to reigning in corruption and budgets. But David Cameron’s wibbly wobbly attitude does not help . The last shameful embarrassment in the EU last year looked like a small man playing to some Middle Englanders rather than a Prime Minister actually leading.

From my own opinion I think it is good for Britain to be a net contributor to the EU. The fact that we have peaceful borders and benign neighbours who are unlikely to attack Britain in the near future is something that cannot be measured by the financial contribution we make (in addition to the extremely successful NATO). So, I would rather see a stable Greece sorting out its tax collection system rather than see a Greece mired in strikes and uncertainty.

In the end, Britain is not going to leave the EU anytime soon. And good. But I do worry about the long term political relationship that the UK is building for itself. I do not want to leave the EU, I want to see a strong, democratic institution that does allow for good business and trade and that keeps the peace on the continent. Both from a personal and professional point of view, I have taken advantage of Europe, and it is something that personally benefits me. I believe if more people in the UK had the attachment via people to the continent that I have, the tide of euroscepticism would be a lot less.

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The last Jubilee – can and should Great Britain become a republic?

Tomorrow the UK and 15 other Comonwealth Realms will celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II. Only one other monarch in Commonwealth history has reached the 60 year mark of rule, and that was Queen Victoria who was on the throne for 63 years. It is very probable, that Elizabeth II will surpass this total, and if I was a betting man, there is a good chance that in ten years time, there could be a celebration of a Platinum Jubilee. Unlike the Golden Jubilee in 2002 which kind of got melded into the Millenuim Celebrations, the Diamond Jubilee has stood out on its own, and will probably be more appreciated than the upcoming Olympic Games in London. It helps that two bank holidays have been strapped nto this weekend – everybody loves time off. Or in my case, extra money for working on those days…

But once the dust settles, and life gets back to normal, here is a question to answer. Can and should Great Britain become a republic. Yes, should the United Kingdom loose the ‘Kingdom’ in ts title and become the United Republic by ditching the Queen as its head of state? Well, here is my own, very personal opinion on the subject.

In effect, the UK is a republic, and more importantly, it is democratic. While all the titles of various public bodies have the term ‘Royal’, ‘Crown’ or something else that implies a connection to Her Majesty, the Queen wields no power. While laws would have to be changed, so that everything operates legally, it would in effect just be a rebranding exercise. Flipping to a republic would just mean dotting a few i’s and crossing a few t’s. That is that. And it has happened before at the end of the Civil War

But should the UK become a republic? While there are some die hard republicans in the UK who believe that the Queen should be tried for Treason, theft and all matter of other grandiose crimes, the bulk of the population – at the moment running at 80% – is in favour of retaining the monarchy. It will be interesting to see what this figure will be once a new monarch ascends the throne after Elizabeth II, but for now Britain is going to remain as a Kingdom and will probably do so as long as the country exists on a map.

So, what is my opinion? Well, I am unashamedly Republican in theory (I believe that all hereditary positions are parasitical), but in practice I am a Monarchist. How do I hold these dual views? Well, it is quite simple; I live in the UK, and I pay my taxes, so I will hold those views, as it is my right to do so. What does that mean in reality?

If I was setting up a new country tomorrow, it would be a republic. Like the bulk of new countries that have established themsevles during the past seventy years, only a few of them have chosen a hereditary Head of State. However, if there was a vote tomorrow, or during any part of my lifetime about whether Britain should become a republic, I would always vote in favour to keep the monarchy.

Why?

Well, it works. As strange as it sounds, as so out of place as the concept of monarchy is in the 21st Century, I would still vote to keep Elizabeth II or any of her descendents above me in the official pecking order. Do not ask me why, but I would not want a President Blair or Cameron smiling at me as I entered the arrivals hall of Heathrow Airport, nor would I want to lick anyone else’s head as I send my letters to their far flung destinations. For now, I am happy as I am, living in a kingdon, a United Kingdom. The UK is an odd country in many respects. Laws are not applied evenly across the country (Scots Law vs the Laws of England and Wales), there are varying levels of democracy across the land(devolution) and the changes from one part of Britain to the next (check out London compared to the rest of the UK) are vast for such a small island.

Britain is a strange country, and the monarchy adds into the blend of weirdness abut the UK. The monarchy is one of those things that makes Britain, British. Simmilarly to keeping the Imperial system of measures and weights for some parts of our daily lives like drinks but not others like petrol, keeping a monarchy makes Britain unique amongst the blandness of the world. Yes, we are a democracy, but on our own terms.

To be blunt, the system works very well. If it ain’t broke, why fix it?

So in light of all f this, while I will not be celebrating the Jubilee, I am very happy to be earning some extra cash for the fact that will be working through it. And whether you are waving a flag, making yourself a lovely cup of tea or simply taking time off, enjoy the Diamond Jubilee tomorrow. Because such an event will probably not happen for a long time to come…

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Blogs I admire (and will imitate one off) 3 – Intelligence

The internet is filled with junk. And pornography. I am the source of most of it. The junk, not the pornography. In fact, I wish I was the source of most of the pornography, as I am one kinky boy. But occasionally, there are some bright sparks through the web of deceit that is the internet. And one of them is Mediolana, a London based publisher of educational materials that also serves as a great analytical magnifying lens on the news that is happening around the world. It makes the Economist pale into insignificance with its own fresh and intelligent take on what is happening, wherever and whenever. Click, take a peek, and here is my own homage to Mediolana below…

Denmark hopes to become the worlds first country to generate all its energy needs from non fossil fuel sources by 2050. This is an incredible target that the tiny European nation has set itself, partly as it is so dependent on these fuels. Its transportation and power is still by and large mostly resourced from fossil fuels. And Denmark is one of the cleanest generators of power, with some twenty percent of all its electricity generated by wind alone. But like all western nations, it is still addicted to oil, and the volatile regions which it sources its supply.

For Denmark’s centre right government, its thinking is not inspired by hippy ideals, but cold, hard facts and economic sense. Fossil fuels are becoming increasingly expensive. And in a world where vehicle ownership is set to rise at incredible rates, it does take a truly forward thinking country to realise that the current path of economic dependence on fossil fuels is not sustainable. With oil comfortably sitting over $100 a barrel, a world built for the internal combustion engine is going to be a world that many will not be able to afford. To keep a population mobile and economically active – two of the great gifts of the car – it will need a massive change in the way that people actually make those transportation choices. While India, China and Brazil are looking at plans to copy the American dream, Denmark is trying to find a path that will truly keep its citizens on the move.

And in a world which is seemingly hooked on only one path to economic growth, Denmark’s ambition is truly radical. In the short term, the effect on ordinary Danes are going to be massive. More expensive energy bills as their grids are restructured and current sources of cheap fuels such as coal are not utilised. But in the longer term, `Denmark’s foresight could prove to be a winner for this small European country. As fossil fuels continue their gradual rise in price from epensive to truly unaffordable, the Danes will find themselves in an enviable position where their citizens will be able to actually go to work and where their crops will actually grow. And this is finding a solution that does not involve Nuclear Energy, something that last year’s tragedy at Fukushima proved, is simply another dangerous source of energy.

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Blackout…

Wikipedia is the most prolific of the websites protesting at the latest attempt to protect big business.

Meanwhile, good old wordpress, is less shouty about it, but still does a fine job of protesting too…

The interesting thing is whether or not this law is enforceable as it makes virtually every person a criminal…

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Was this the most influencial headline in British History?

The conviction, yesterday, of Dobson and Norris for the death of Stephen Lawrence may not have happened if it was not for this headline in 1997. A death that changed the law and blown open the cosy complacency of the British Police.

If you do not know about the case, take a read of the above links. For me, I still cannot believe that 18 years after the crime, someone has been found guilty of it. It is a good thing that forensics have become so advance, but still a tragedy for the Lawrence family, that they had to endure so much just to get this…

And remember one thing, like the headline said. If the Daily Mail was incorrect, they have had 15 years to try and sue them…

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Deathly Times

North Korean Leader Kim Jong Il dead. I will shed no tears.

Unlike yesterday, when one of the world’s great statesmen died, Vaclav Havel, the first leader of the post-Communist Czechoslovakia and after the country’s peaceful separation, the first leader of the Czech Republic. A great leader who led his country trough the turbulent Post-Communist years of the 1990’s so today it is one of Europe’s most wondrous places.

Two different leaders, two countries that have gone in such different directions. Both products of the Cold War, how funny the twist of fate can be…

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Europe vs UK

So I have seen the news yesterday and today that Britain (or our glorious Prime Minister), for the first time wielded the UK’s veto during a European negotiation. Some have cast Britain and the PM as a pariah amongst the nation’s largest trading partner, and some have decided to break out the warm beer and wave the Union Jack that we have stuck two fingers to the dirty continentals.

Now before I go in, let me state that I am a great believer in the EU, but I think that the whole institution is rotten to the core and really needs to be gutted out. Great ideals, horrible implementation of the practicalities. While some fantastic ideals such as free markets, the free movements of people, free trade, the interlinking of culture and exchange of culture has all been huge positives of the EU. A bloated bureaucracy, an ineffective Parliament and a wasteful sense of spending. The fact that the EU has not signed off its own books in over a decade, it does beggar belief that the EU is now going to sign off the books of its member states. And seemingly, without a whiff of democracy – a dangerous maneuver. I think a strong, Confederate Europe, with democracy and free trade at its heart would do wonders for the continent. Instead, an institution, encumbered by the baggage of World War II and the corruption of the 21st Century, holds many people with disgust in the UK, and increasingly, across the rest of the continent. It is more a meeting of the elites rather than a project for peace.

But David Cameron is no diplomat, and he played right into the hand of the Franco-German axis that has for so long dominated the Union. It is quite clear that removing Britain from the negotiating table made a lot of European leaders happy. And that it left Britain open to blame if there was a failure in the Euro. He could have played his hand far smarter.

What Uncle Dave, our glorious PM did, was play to his own political party. He wanted to avoid a showdown with his domestic politics. So while he returns to backslapping, and good show Dave, the guy took the easy route out.

The Germans, the French and the rest do not care about the Conservative Party (think of them as a nice version of today’s Republican Party in the US or a less cuddly version of the current incarnation of India’s Congress Party) to which David Cameron belongs to. Few people in the UK care about it too. But the EU do care about an electorate of 60 million people. Dave could have played his hand far more deftly. He could have said that he would be happy to have a new treaty, and then put it to referendum if it did not protect Britain’s Interests (read that as the banker’s interests, but that is another story). He would have also solved his domestic political problem in one fell swoop.

That would have really knocked heads in the EU together, as everyone knows how Eurosceptic this country is. The EU leaders would have tailored a deal to ensure that David Cameron would not call a referendum. It would have also brought Britain far deeper into the negotiations, and some real progress would have been made.

Instead, David swung his handbag, and lost. Poorly.

The ego of a few pigs at the top trough have left the world’s largest (and arguably its most successful) trading bloc split. 26 nations against its 2nd/3rd biggest member (depending on where you stop counting). Dave may have won this round, but it is not in Britain’s or Europe’s interests to be divided by the English Channel.

From what I have read about the proposals in the press, it seems there is no real plan to Save the Euro. No fundamental addressing of Europe’s real problem. Bloated, spendthrift governments that ran out of money and a population boom/immigration supply to support this. Europe is stagnant, trying to hold onto its past glories instead of using its heritage and history to be creative and dynamic in the 21st Century. It is a problem that all countries in the EU face (including Britain) and it will not be addressed by a few pen strokes in closed rooms, but a fundamental shift in the attitudes of Europe’s people. What is happening in Greece now, is going to repeat itself across Europe, as populations fall, tax incomes drop and populations age. This is an old continent, that despite its history, of looking beyond its borders is becoming increasingly inward looking and incestuous. There is a brave new world out there, and fundamentally, the EU is far better than a bunch of competing nations. But Europe is lazy. Too much resting on its old money. If Europe want s to thrive in this century, its governments and citizens have got to be prepared to work harder, and smarter…

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