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Showing posts from November, 2005

Croatia

I have spent a week at different corners of Europe. I began the week in Zagreb, the elegant Austro-Hungarian Capital of Croatia and finished it in Tallinn, the Capital of dynamic little Estonia.

Zagreb is an intriguing city. The Gornji Grad and the Kaptol districts retain the street plan of their mediaeval foundation, with a street, the Krvavi Most ("Bloody Bridge"), commemorating the pitched battles that used to take place between the young men of both districts. Around the corner is Tkalciceva, a pedestrian street of bars and restaurants where I recall meeting soldiers on leave from the battlefields of the early 1990's. The edginess of that time has given way to a more gentle, tourist friendly coziness. Around the foot of the Mountain of which these two mediaeval districts form the foothills lies the elegant boulevards of the Austro-Hungarian lower town. Though not so visited as Prague or Budapest, yet the City of Zagreb retains an elegant and cosmopolitan air.

Croatia h…

"Whom the Gods would destroy"

Although it is an early stage in the UK Parliamentary cycle, there is something of the feel of a phony war. The Prime Minister insists that he will not fight the next election, but has not yet started the process of finding a successor and may not do so for several years. The Conservatives are faced with a pig in a poke- David Davis seems to lack the most basic feature of modern politics: communication skills. David Cameron, supposedly set to bid for the centre ground, in fact seems set to begin his leadership with a blazing row about a subject that only Tories are passionate about: Europe. The rather abstruse nature of the European Parliament is understood by few British politicians, still less the electorate, yet DC seems determined to expel the few remaining faintly pro-European Tories by forcing them to leave the current right wing European faction in the EP, known as the European Peoples Party, on the grounds that it is too pro European. No one in Britain will care and all the el…

Albania

Cicero's great friend, Atticus, spent most of his life away from Rome. In fact he spent most of his life on his estates in what is now called Albania. The correspondence between the two friends was life long and covered a huge range of political and philosophical ideas as well as the exchanges that are more usual between friends of such long standing.

Cicero has now received an invitation to celebrate the life of a great mediaeval figure of Balkan history: George Kastrioti, nicknamed Skanderbeg. Skanderbeg was a war leader who successfully resisted the advance of Ottoman Turkey into the region. His citadels across Albania are a now picturesque reminder of (still) more turbulent days. Of course in the current more febrile climate of the modern Balkans even the events of 500 years ago still have a modern resonance. Thus Kastrioti, as an "ethnic Albanian" (a nomenclature that he would have probably failed to understand, still less to claim) has been promoted as the prototypi…

A new climate

In principle, despite being substantially dead, Cicero prefers a warm climate.
There are certain exceptions. One is the formerly barbarian territory of the blackcoated Aestui... the locals call it Eesti, foreigners, ironically, think "Estonia" is the Latin name.
Cicero spends far too much time there- "gentlemen prefer blondes" is a mistranslated view of it.
Nevertheless, there are downsides. I certainly prefer to avoid demented wierdos like the Tory MP David Heathcoat-Amory (and so, it seems, does the British Embassy). Most of the Tories who now come to Tallinn are a bit - well frankly- odd. While Cicero generally avoids the Brits in Tallinn- he does not like vomit on his sandals- he particularly dislikes seeing George Osbourne come to Tallinn and utterly failing to understand the place.

Estonia is not a poster child for Conservative government- it is perhaps the most Liberal country in Europe- the Estonian coalitions have almost always included either of the two membe…

Education

When I hear a British politician talk about "education" I reach for my howitzer. UK politicians are amongst the least educated in the world. There is no equivalent of the French ENA, still less the US Kennedy school of government.. or Hoover Institute or Brookings or so on. That would somehow be "undemocratic". It is not, it is a question of aptitude and IT SHOWS!!

If we have increasing numbers of pseudo qualifications dictated to us by politicians, then perhaps we should ask the same of our newly professional political class. David Cameron or even Charles Kennedy, like Tony Blair before them, have no experience running anything. Speaking as an investor, I would never invest in a CV that went "Student debater, junior legal clerk, MP, junior front bench" (i.e. TB's Experience before he ran a budget of about half a trillion quid). Still less would I buy "graduated, "advisor" to Norman Lamont, "advisor" to Michael Howard, "Co…

"Migration Watch" may lead to softening of the brain

Last week I attended the relunch of the Centre for Reform- now known as Centre Forum. I have never been happy regarding myself, or being regarded, as "of the centre". I was still less enamoured of Adair Turner's words on Immigration during his keynote speech. After listening to Migration Watch drivel on the Today Programme a couple of weeks ago, I have come to the conclusion that those "expressing concern" about immigration either can not count or have another agenda. Milord Turner should stop reading Migration Watch and their dodgy numbers.

This supposed immigration "think tank", Migration Watch, tries not to attack immigration from the New European Union, but they have a clear agenda, which is opposed to immigration generally. The comments which come from this supposedly independent think tank could have been written by some of the more ill informed bigots on the right of British politics. Research that they publish suggests that the UK acquires new …