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Breaking the Brexit logjam

The fundamental problem of Brexit has not been that the UK voted to leave the European Union. The problem has been the fact that the vote was hijacked by ignorant, grandstanding fools who interpreted the vote as a will to sever all and every link between the UK and the European Union. That was then and is now a catastrophic policy. To default to WTO rules, when any member of the WTO could stop that policy was a recipe for the UK to be held hostage by any state with an act to grind against us. A crash out from the EU, without any structure to cope, was an act of recklessness that should disqualify anyone advocating it from any position of power whatsoever. That is now the most likely option because the Conservative leadership, abetted by the cowardly extremism of Corbyn, neither understood the scale of the crisis, now had any vision of how to tackle it.

Theresa May is a weak and hapless Prime Minster, and her problems started when she failed to realize that there was a compromise that w…
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Time Future contained in Time Past

"Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past."TS Eliot
Eliot is, I think, one of the greatest of poets, and as my own eye is distracted by ever more intractable problems in our political process, I have often taken comfort in the more nuanced and universal eye of a truly great poet.
This blog eschews detailed futurology, the present is difficult enough, and the future in detail cannot be accurately predicted. Yet there are ways we can think about the future. We can identify trends, we can make general statements, and as humans, most of all, we can use our imagination to shape the future.
Neither is this blog particularly relativist. There are some universal truths, and saying "it ain't so" does not change them. We can use the scientific method to establish facts about our existence. No matter how powerfully contrary opinions may be expressed, the facts remain supported by analysis and evidence, when mere…

Justice and Civility

For some time public figures have received threats. Rarely do they take them seriously, and in fact only very occasionally are they serious. However in recent years the political discourse has grown very ugly. Although neo-Fascists and populists have fanned the flames of popular hatred, in fact the crisis of "civility" goes back a pretty long way.  After forming a coalition with the Conservatives in the UK, the Liberal Democrat leader faced significant abuse: dog shit through the letter box and all the rest of it. This routine and increasingly extreme abuse against MPs has now become simply an occupational hazard. In the 1950s MPs were generally respected, which is why the profumo scandal was so impactful, but now they are pretty universally denigrated and derided. In fact I believe that the majority of MPs are decent and honourable people who by-and-large deserve our respect, there are very few prepared to express that point of view. 

However, it is fair to say that those MP…

The politics of banality

The essential circus of party politics in the UK is never more cringe making than at party conference time. The spectacle of socially awkward, physically clumsy individuals trying to get "down with the kids" in a vain attempt to assert a non-existent popularity is always a fairly barf-making sight. Even the best political figures tend to feel uneasy about the false ballyhoo of the conference set-piece speech; I recall Paddy Ashdown coming off stage amid a minor fireworks display and muttering a gentle imprecation at the slightly surreal farce he had been forced to take part in.

Neither Theresa May nor Boris Johnson are particularly good political figures. May is an exceptionally awkward personality: "a bloody difficult woman" as other Conservatives have long noticed. Her management style is authoritarian and insecure, her personality lacks empathy and is unusually defensive under pressure. By contrast the extrovert Boris Johnson is a warmer figure, but his charm is …

The rumbling financial markets

Security specialists use a variety of ways to address the risks that they face: and these risk assessments are made in the certain knowledge that the actors in the system hold only incomplete information. Although much mocked at the time, Donald Rumsfeld’s categorization of “known unknowns” and “unknown unknowns”, is now generally recognized as a succinct summery of his strategic quandaries.
By contrast, actors in the financial markets have a more sanguine assessment of the risks they deal with: they divide them into two kinds of risk: quantifiable and unquantifiable. Unquantifiable risk is not generally considered, since there is usually no financial profit that can be made except from pure supposition. Therefore for the purposes of the financial markets, any given event is priced relative to its level of probability, that is to say its quantifiable risk. 
Depending on the market, higher levels of risk generally carry higher prices, lower levels generally lower prices. Clearly such an…

Rallying Round Theresa... No Chance

The Prime Minister (pro tem) of the UK has made another speech imploring the British people to rally round and come together in order to make the country a success post-Brexit.

Let me state why I, for one, will not be doing that.

The surprise result of the referendum on British membership of the European Union could have been answered by the Conservative government in a variety of ways.  Once the Conservatives had time to change their leadership after the precipitate departure of David Cameron, it could have been reasonable to say something like: " we understand that the British people, by a small margin, are asking us to start the process of leaving the European Union. However we believe that it is imperative to retain our economic links in the single market and the customs union, so we will initially negotiate an economics-led relationship that could either be full membership of the EEA, like Norway, or a customs union, like Switzerland, once this is enacted, we can either consul…

Trump and Brexit are the Pearl Harbor and the Fall of Singapore in Russia's Hybrid war against the West.

In December 1941, Imperial Japan launched a surprise attack on the United States at Pearl Harbor. After the subsequent declaration of war, within three days, the Japanese had sunk the British warships, HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse, and the rapid Japanese attack led to the surrender of Hong Kong on Christmas Day 1941 and the fall of Singapore only two months after Pearl Harbor. These were the opening blows in the long war of the Pacific that cost over 30,000,000 lives and was only ended with the detonations above Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

"History doesn't often repeat itself, but it rhymes" is an aphorism attributed to Mark Twain, and in a way it seems quite appropriate when we survey the current scene. 

In 1941, Imperial Japan, knowing its own weakness, chose a non-conventional form of war, the surprise attack. Since the end of his first Presidential term, Vladimir Putin, knowing Russia's weakness, has also chosen non-conventional ways to promote his domestic powe…