Trident & The SNP

The Scottish people do not want Trident. So say the SNP, ergo it must be true. They voted for the SNP to represent them in 56/59 constituencies (though given suspensions aren’t they now the 54?).

Anyway. Scotland doesn’t want nuclear weapons. It must be true, the SNP say so.

Nope. Scottish voters are basically evenly split at 43/42 in favour/against the deterrent (Source: What Scotland Thinks). Some could even point to the rise from 37% to 43% as a 16% increase in support for the deterrent in Scotland over the past year or so.

So, Scotland is split on the deterrent. Scotland’s MPs are not. The 54+2 voted en-masse against the deterrent, as did the sole Labour and sole LibDem MP. Fair enough. True the SNP MPs are all mindless drones unable to vote against the party line lest that +2 become slightly larger. Anyway. The SNP are out of step with the Scottish electorate. Because the SNP do not represent Scotland. As in any electoral system, they represent a view in Scotland.

Do the people who vote for the SNP care about Trident? Nope.  It comes tenth in a list of priorities, just after Constitutional Affairs & Independence. Source: What Scotland Thinks) But above Defence and Land Reform. So, if pushed Scots are relatively evenly divided on Trident but they have to be pushed pretty hard to actually care about it.

If Scotland voted for a 12% deficit, a new currency and to be outside both the EU and the UK (also known as Independence), would Scots still want the deterrent based in Scotland? Of course not! Scots hate the deterrent and it’s one of the few issues they vote on. Oh…

In that hypothetical where Scotland leaves the UK, voters are again split 41/36 on keeping/removing the deterrent from Scottish waters (Source: What Scotland Thinks). The rent on the base would likely be a valuable source of income to the Scottish Government.

The SNP are not opposed to having nuclear weapons defend them. They are in favour of remaining members of NATO and are fine with allowing US naval vessels with nukes aboard into Scottish waters. Their issue, as always, is with diminishing the UK, shirking our responsibilities, and attempting to drive a wedge between the UK and Scotland by insisting they are the one true voice of Scotland.

The SNP are not Scotland. They may represent most of Scotland at Westminster and form a minority government at Holyrood, this does not make them the sole arbiters of Scottish public opinion.

White Smoke – We Have A PM

Theresa May is all but confirmed as the new PM.

She is by no means my ideal PM.  My ideal PM being me, as benevolent dictator for life. Her record as Home Secretary is largely illiberal. I would far rather DC had remained as PM with a new cabinet.

However, we now have a chance to get a new settlement on the EU as well as crush the Labour party forevermore.

This is a good day. For the economy, with much uncertainty removed. For the party, with the crazy option no longer available.

Theresa May for PM. Until I have a chance to begin my rise to power.

Post-Brexit Racism

I voted to leave.

I am pro-migration. It would not bother me if migration rose after the vote to leave the EU as a result of us being able to attract more people. Migrants tend to have lower unemployment rates, they tend to be younger and so healthier and so use the NHS less than the older ‘natives’. They are a massive net contributor to society and frankly, we need them to pay for the retirement of British people. That isn’t to say there are no issues around integration and so on but that’s a different story. Migrants are a positive contributor to our economy and society. I say that as someone who lived as an expat most of his life.

I was not happy with much of the rhetoric used in the campaign.
I was, and remain, happy with the result.

However, there has been a growing number of stories about the effects of the debate around how we approach racism within the country and the prevalence of racism within the country.

Being a white guy I have zero experience with racism. Possibly some positive racism, I don’t know.

So here’s the statistics on racism from 2011 – 2015.

HateCrimes

Source: gov.uk – Hate Crime Statistics

For some reason there were two different figures for 2013/14, I imagine due to changes in reporting. These are the numbers of hate crimes reported by month in England and Wales. 2011-2014 (under the first set of statistics at least) is largely flat.

One important thing to note is the rise in the number of hate crimes over the summer months. This could be due to more people being out and about, leading to more interactions. It could be due to people literally getting hot and bothered. It could also be due to football related violence around international tournaments. Though looking at it I can’t see a strong link for the 2012/2014 data around the last Euro championship or world cup.

Hate crime numbers have also been trending up over the past few years, this could be due to reporting differences, hence the large jump in the 2013/14 figures between the two datasets and between the 2013/14 and 2014/15 dataset. It could also be due to improved reporting.

However, the single figure I have for 2016 – that blue dot at 6152. That is from two weeks reported hate crime (doubled as it was a two week period). That is not down to heat, increased contact between people, or the woeful performance of the England team at the Euro Championships.

I am not sorry that we have left the EU. I just wish the campaign had focussed relentlessly on the positives for leaving the EU and not the xenophobia that got so much attention because Nigel Farage doesn’t know how to avoid a camera. I think we could have won on the positives alone. Or, rather, on the negatives of the EU as an institution. Not on the migration which has been such a boon to our society.

The Prime Minister and Theresa May (in her capacity as Home Secretary) should come out in support of stricter sentencing guidelines for anyone convicted of a hate crime. If someone can be jailed for six months for stealing water during the London riots, there should be harsh sentences for abusing Poles or Pakistanis or anyone else. We are, by and large, a tolerant nation. We need to promote that idea to the world.

That rise in hate crime is sickening. It needs to be confronted.

Indyref2: Four Country Lock

The SNP, along with various other parties and people insist the EU referendum should have only gone ahead with a four country lock. A way of saying that if Scotland voted to Remain whilst England, Wales and Northern Ireland had voted to Leave the will of the Scottish people should have decided the referendum.

Knowing support for the EU is higher (but only marginally) in Scotland than in the remainder of the UK, barring maybe Northern Ireland, this was a mischievous way for the SNP to attempt to ensure the UK remained in the EU whilst also attempting to drive a further wedge between Scotland and England.

What would this have meant in practice, though?

Constituent Part England (incl. Gib) Scotland Wales Northern Ireland
Population (m) 53.01 5.30 3.06 1.81
Percentage 83.90% 8.40% 4.80% 2.90%
Total Votes Cast 28,455,402 2,679,513 1,626,919 790,149
Leave Vote (m) 15,188,406 1,018,322 854,572 349,442
Leave Vote (%) 53.38% 38.00% 52.53% 44.22%
Value of Vote under 4-Country Lock 1.00 10.00 17.32 29.29
No. Votes Needed to Result in 4-Country Lock for Leave -960,704 321,436 -41,112 45,633

The explicit suggestion from the SNP and others is that a vote in England is worth a tenth of that in Scotland. That a vote in Scotland is worth approximately half that of one in Wales. That a vote in Northern Ireland is worth thirty times as much as one cast in the UK. The value of a changed mind in Northern Ireland is 20x that of one in England. That of one in Scotland 3x as much as an English vote.

Far be it from me to suggest that the SNP enjoy stoking division in their quest to irritate the English into letting Scotland go into a world of 10% deficits, but the explicit suggestion of the SNP is that the votes of the English are worthless. That the votes of one Northern Irishman is worth a thirtieth of that of an Englishman. The SNP may not believe the UK should exist, they’re wrong. But the suggestion that a Scot is ten times as valuable as someone from Cornwall is insulting. Until the SNP can persuade Scotland to vote to leave the UK, the UK votes on a one man, one vote basis.

Sir John Chilcot: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Liberal Interventionism

Today the inquiry into the British involvement in the Iraq War was published. Coming to some 2.6m words it is possibly the longest exercise in confirmation bias ever written.

I had some of my views on the war challenged. I was 14 when the Second Gulf War began so have relatively limited memories of what went on in the run-up to the war so I rely very much on accounts of those days.

I am in favour of intervention wherever there is a crisis we can stop. Where there is a vicious dictator we can destroy and when we can bring harmony where there is discord.

That does not mean to say I think the Iraq war was correct. We went in for the wrong reasons. The allegations about the WMD Dossier being ‘sexed up’ have been largely found to be false. So the intelligence was poor. This does not make our invasion better or worse. There were no WMDs. This is known now. If there was a conspiracy to say Iraq had WMDs it wouldn’t have been a particularly complicated matter to ‘discover’ some mustard gas in a bunker near Mosul but we shall leave that to one side.

Once we were in the war our mission was poorly executed. Our troops were ill-equipped. The de-Baathification of the country was mishandled, taking away vital security infrastructure and denying well-trained men a salary and purpose. I can’t really say much else on these fronts, these are lessons to be learned rather than reasons for or against the invasion of another country.

Lessons learned above. The reason for going to war was wrong. What would have been a better reason?

Saddam Hussein was, for lack of a better word, a c*nt. An awful individual who ruled his country with an iron fist. He killed many many thousands of Kurds, Shia, and Sunni for that matter. He started a brutal war with Iran that killed a million. He used chemical weapons and would have developed nuclear weapons had the Israeli’s not saved the world from that hell in 1981. The world is a better place without Saddam Hussein. He may have kept the tribes in Iraq in their place but he did it with bullets and gas. The world is better with him no longer amongst the living. Is Iraq safer? Probably not. The bombings over the weekend make that “probably” very tenuous, but a counterfactual against Saddam still being in place is impossible to know. If regime change, of a disgusting regime, had been the stated goal, if the post-war planning had been better executed, if the troops had been better equipped, we might not have shrunk from intervening in Syria when we should have – after Assad used chemical weapons. We could have dealt with North Korea before they developed the bomb.

There are vile regimes operating in the world. We have the power to do something to prevent genocides. Where we don’t intervene we are culpable. We should have intervened in Rwanda, in Kosovo (earlier than we did), in North Korea to destroy the vile Kim dynasty, in Iraq to destroy Saddam at the first Gulf War. Regime change isn’t something we should shrink from. There are vile regimes in the world. We are better than they are. We have the power to help. Whether we do it through economic pressure on the lesser evils, such as Saudi, Venezuela, and Russia, or through military might on the greater and more pressing evils. We are good, they are evil. That sounds simplistic because it is. A regime that gasses civilians, that imposes three generations of punishment for not crying sincerely, that hangs homosexuals from cranes is not one that we should allow.

Imperialist? Sure. Call me that if you want. Not living in the real world? Something I can justly be accused of. But it doesn’t make me wrong.

The Iraq War happened for the wrong reasons and was poorly executed. It does not mean the world would be better off if Saddam were still gassing his people.

Brexit: Economic Mythmaking

The UK is likely headed for a mild recession. Mild in terms of GDP but sadly not in terms of unemployment and the human tragedy.

There is a myth being developed that this is down to the Brexit vote or even due to the uncertainty caused by there even being a Brexit vote.

Growth Rates (%) 1960-2014

GrowthRates

Source: World Bank

The average length of an economic expansion in the UK since 1960 is 9.8 years, including the current period. Assuming, as seems likely, GDP expands by a marginal amount over 2016 falling into recession from Q3 onwards the current expansion will have lasted for seven years. Hardly an extraordinary departure from the average over the past 50+ years. The average length of a period of economic growth in the US and EU over the same time periods has been 7.8 and 10 years respectively. There is a cycle to economic expansions as with most other things and to pretend that any contraction in the UK is completely out of character is ridiculous.

OK – of course, there could be a connection to the Brexit vote and to the economic cycle right? Yes.

However, PMI Surveys for the services, manufacturing and construction have all been trending down since Q12016 or earlier. The heat has been going out of the UK economy since the early parts of the year. Employment growth has been similarly slowing since the start of the year (though here it can be at least partially attributed to marginal gains being hard to come by when near full employment.

The National Living Wage came into effect from the beginning of April and was predicted to lead to higher unemployment, accepted as a consequence of increasing pay for the lowest paid. So any upticks in unemployment in the coming months can be attributed more to the NLW than to Brexit.

 

The UK was more than likely due a mild recession. It is likely that the severity of the recession will be increased by the uncertainty around what Brexit means. But the idea that any recession is due to our decision to leave the EU is ridiculous.

 

 

The chancellor has suggested a cut in corporation tax by 5% taking the UK down to 15% by 2020 instead of 17% by 2020. Naturally, I’m all in favour of this but can’t help thinking the economy would be better served by taking a penny off employer’s NICs. Corporation tax cuts have been more than self-funding over the last parliament so maybe even better would be to do both.

Brexit – Rules Are Made to be Broken

We have to accept free movement of labour to get access to the single market.

I don’t know how many times I’ve heard that over the past ten days. I’ve heard it so much that there’s no way it can’t be true. Right?

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EU law, isn’t. It’s a series of guidelines that can, and are, discarded when convenient.

Germany exceeded their deficit limits in the early years of the Euro – illegal? Sure. Any action taken? Against Germany, in the Euro? Come on. Be serious.

Bailouts are specifically forbidden under the Lisbon Treaty. But Greece, Portugal, Ireland, and Spain are all in trouble. Well, damn the law. The Euro is more important than the law.

1. The Union shall not be liable for or assume the commitments of central governments, regional, local or other public authorities, other bodies governed by public law, or public undertakings of any Member State, without prejudice to mutual financial guarantees for the joint execution of a specific project. A Member State shall not be liable for or assume the commitments of central governments, regional, local or other public authorities, other bodies governed by public law, or public undertakings of another Member State, without prejudice to mutual financial guarantees for the joint execution of a specific project. – Article 125, Lisbon Treaty

Politics trumps law every time in the EU. It’s one of the main reasons I voted to leave – because the rule of law, isn’t.

So, will politics – the armed wing of economics – trump the law when it comes to negotiating the UK’s exit from the EU? Most likely.

The EU will need some paper wins to prove they weren’t walked all over. The UK will be made an example of in a very public but very limited way.

The UK is (depending on measure) the country with the highest military spending in the EU. We, along with France, hold a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, we are one of two nuclear powers in the EU. We have one of the two blue water navies in the EU and are (from 2020) able to project power from the Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers. We are Atlanticist in  a way that no other EU country is. The UK anchors the USA in NATO, checking Russian aggression. Is NATO less relevant now than it was 30 years ago? Yes – but Ukraine proves that Russia is still a strategic threat. NATO counters that threat. Poland, Finland, Latvia and Lithuania all share a land border with Russia. Without an economically strong UK, able to fund our NATO commitments, the USA will continue to see Europe as not pulling its weight. Four EU countries, Poland especially, that have a strong incentive to see a deal done for the UK.

The UK has a colossal trade deficit with the EU – primarily with France and Germany. The German CBI went on the record before the referendum saying (correctly) that free trade was in the interest of all parties. The French business lobby is making more noises to the same effect. The EU attempting to punish the City can lead to reciprocal punishments to the French and German car industries. A beggar thy neighbour policy would hurt everyone. So if the EU puts down their gun, the UK puts down its gun.

The EU has a strategic and economic interest in keeping the UK engaged. Keeping the UK engaged on the continent will require a deal that allows both sides to save face but both sides to prosper. The laws… rules… guidelines can, and will, be damned for political expediency.

 

Traitors in Our Midst

I am reliably informed that if we were to see a Remainer as our next PM they would instantly laugh at the people who voted to leave, refuse to ever implement Article 50 and demand Jean-Claude Juncker immediately travel to the UK to take his place as our rightful lord.

Of course this is ridiculous. Every candidate for the leadership of the conservative party has said they will respect the will of the voters and leave the EU. There will undoubtedly be different flavours of leaving shown by the nominees from EEA (including Free Movement) to a WTO deal with the EU. All are however committed to us leaving the EU. There is no conspiracy. Theresa May will bring us out of the EU, as will Andrea Leadsom, as will Stephen Crabb and Michael Gove. Even Disgraced former Cabinet Minister Liam Fox would have us leave the EU.

Whatever the result I trust the next PM to lead us out of the EU according to their platform, but each platform will be for us to leave the EU. It is ridiculous to say that because Crabb and May were on the Remain side of the campaign they would subvert the will of the people and keep us in the EU.

Politicians are by and large decent people. We should remember that.

There is also an important point to make that the votes of the 48% do matter despite being on the losing side. A deal to take us out of the EU must take into account those who voted to remain. They did so for decent reasons. They are just as patriotic and decent as people who voted to leave. Despite being on the losing side their votes still count. They are still part of the UK. They deserve the same representation that I, as a leave voter, receive.

That shouldn’t be something which needs to be said.

Conservative Leadership – Kieran

So, it seems my brothers have pipped me to the post.

Unlike Connor I will not be supporting Andrea Leadsom. Unlike Liam I know who I would prefer as leader.

I’ll deal with the candidates in increasing order of preference.

Liam Fox – Disgraced former Cabinet Minister

Liam Fox, disgraced former Cabinet Minster, who had to resign in disgrace following the controversy over the financial relationship with Adam Werritty can be dismissed straight away. Yes, he’s a Brexiteer. Yes, he has sound conservative credentials. But being forced to resign in disgrace is hardly what is needed for the next Prime Minister.

Andrea Leadsom

I know relatively little about Mrs Leadsom. She is relatively inexperienced and has never held a cabinet level post. What really puts me off supporting her is the apparent support from Aaron Banks – the odious Mr Banks who is such a supporter of Farage’s UKIP needs to be kept far, far away from the levers of power. Without denouncing Banks and refusing all support she cannot be fit to become Prime Minister.

Theresa May

Theresa May is a formidable politician. She has survived at the Home Office for six long years with few memorable scandals. She has been on the frontline of Tory politics since the early 2000s. The Home Office normally eats Secretaries of State for breakfast – the 13 years of Labour government gave us six. Surviving in this post indicates she is able. She supported the Remain side during the referendum yet I am sure would be a strong negotiator, able to broker an excellent deal for the UK. However, the authoritarian bills emanating from the Home Office, particularly in the realm of internet law indicate a flavour of conservative politics that I cannot support. I believe Mrs May will make it onto the ballot for members but unless disgraced former Cabinet Minister Liam Fox or Andrea Leadsom are on the ballot I will not vote for Mrs May.

Stephen Crabb

The Crabbid ticket is interesting. Both are relatively untested, less so than Cameron and Osborne when they lead the Conservatives from 2005 onwards yet these are times when being a tested politician is more important than ever. I place Stephen Crabb so high on the list because of his likely ability to save the union (I do not believe the union is in as much danger as many others but it is a risk). Despite being a remainer I believe he would enact the will of the people without destroying the economy. With a strong negotiating team on his side he would do well as PM.

Michael Gove

The Gover – as he was called by his erstwhile comrade Boris Johnson – would be my favourite candidate for PM. His reforming zeal and thick skin make him ideal to continue the reforms from the Cameroon era. The One Nation conservatism may not be obvious but with his reforms to the education system applied to prison system we’re likely to see a reduction in recidivism and a decrease in the cost of crime to the state. A Gove Premiership with reforms to the tax code, to the NHS, to every aspect of the British state along with renegotiating our relationship with the EU could truly revitalise the UK in a way that no other could.

David Cameron

My ideal candidate would be the PM we already have – yes, he advocated to remain, yes, he did so with gusto. But Cameron is a patriot who recognises the will of the people and would work hard to develop the best possible deal for the UK. After six years of service he has decided this loss means he cannot serve any longer. I disagree but fair enough. He’s earned a break. However, any candidate for the Leadership should remember just how good a leader Cameron was and is. Holding the party together, winning a majority. He has served well and built relationships with foreign leaders. He should be a key part of the negotiation team with our partners in Europe.

Boris

Note that it’s only Boris – stabbed in the front, back, sides by Gove his political career is seemingly at an end but cannot be written off. I do not believe Boris is fit to lead. A series of entertaining columns does not a PM make. With a good team he could have been a capable leader – but this is not the time for a clown.

EURef – Calm Down

One week on from the end of the world and the world is still somehow turning.

The FTSE 250 is admittedly down 8% on last week and has been among the, if not the worst performing asset globally over that time period. The pound has fallen to the low 30s against the dollar and the Euro is trading at parity in some places.

The French economy has overtaken us as the fifth largest in the world and the EU seem to be playing hardball on negotiations, which haven’t even started yet. The picture is not rosy.

And yet, and yet – the most likely outcome for the UK remains a Norway style deal – something if, when taking into account the 48% who voted to remain and the 52% who voted to leave, would get a very high level of support. We will likely have to trade some financial passporting and definitely the Euro denominated trading in turn for restrictions on migration. We will also have to contribute to the EU budget. But we will be outside the EU.

We will no longer need to fund the CAP – New Zealand abolished agriculture subsidies and saw the farming sector boom. We will be able to control the fisheries in our waters, we will never join the Euro and will be able to determine our policy in myriad other ways.

We will be able to sign our own free trade agreements. This is the key.

I’m a classic liberal. I believe in the primacy of the markets. So to my mind we should unilaterally abolish all tariffs, decreasing cost to consumers and industry in the UK whilst building goodwill with other countries. This would only reduce costs by around 3% – non-tariff barriers remain the real hindrance to trade but this would be a good signal. Tarrifs on agricultural products remain considerably higher – unilaterally abolishing these would grant the triple benefit of reducing UK food costs, improving economies in Africa and decreasing the need for the UK aid budget through trade.

We should aim to have in place before we leave the EU a free trade deal with as many countries as possible. Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Singapore are all obvious first ports of call where the likelihood of a true free trade agreement is high. We can replace the lost GDP from the services, which we will inevitably lose, with increased trade with the rest of the world. A free trade agreement with the USA will likely take longer to negotiate but would be in place before TTIP was ever ratified.

We remain the third largest contributor to NATO, we remain a P5 member of the UN Security Council, a member of the G8 and G20. A member of the Council of Europe, the IMF, the World Bank. We remain the centre of the Commonwealth which could form a new loose free trade area. English is still the most widely spoken international language in the world. The world still revolves around GMT – the easiest way to trade with Asia if you’re based in the US is to go through London for the strong legal system, the timezone, the language. London remains a vibrant, international city.

The short-term is a blip. The short term is always more volatile than the long-term. Many economists think we’re likely to enter recession over the coming year. However, the markets will settle down over a period of weeks. Over a six-month timeframe our deal with the EU will become clearer, pending elections in Germany, France and the Netherlands. Over a one year view we will be able to see how initial efforts at external trade deals are going. Over a ten-year view the impact of our shaking off the shackles of the EU will be clear as our growth rate continues to outstrip the EU.

We remain a vibrant economy with a huge deal going for us. The end is not nigh.

 

Yet.