Why We're Leaving Europe

A Choir Called Dave

A Choir Called Dave

William Hague threw his hat in the ring today supporting retention of our membership of the EU. As the referendum debate warms up over the holiday, before getting into full swing in 2016, I hate to disappoint Mr Hague and his fellow EU enthusiasts but he, and they, are wrong. Here's why.

I had the deep joy of popping over to South Harting the other day to listen to Mrs Flashbang and her chums in 'A Choir Called Dave,' for their Christmas concert. I sat next to an old boy and this is how the conversation went,

'Are you from the village?'

'No,' I said, 'I'm from just outside Compton, (two miles away),'

'Oh,' he said, 'It's different over the hill.'

It's a lot more different in France mate I thought. Hague and Co have their hands full if they think this lot are going to sit down and quietly give an inch after being taken for a mile for the last thirty five years.

Jockageddon Averted - Now It's England's Turn

Commentary and analysis from referendum observers is being produced by the bucket load, not all of it has substance. Here though are some salient points to note from friend Marcus Ashworth, Head of Fixed Income over at Espirito Santo, and he writes really, with no particular axe to grind..

"It was Crumble's Ma wot did it........ the silent majority came out in droves to register their understated desire to retain the Union, whereas in Glasgow the turnout was one of the lowest and 53.5/46.5% was not enough of a Yes vote to give Salmond a chance.  Despite all the puff he didn't get his vote out, and in what was probably the largest % turnout in a modern democracy ever (Aus doesn't count as semi-forced voting).  Bully boy tactics clearly backfired.

A double digit majority was what was required to put this issue to bed for now - though of course Salmond doesn't have that in his nature - "at this stage" was a particularly telling phrase in his most ungracious acceptance of defeat speech.  Evidently his only tactic left is to try and grab as much of the "vows" as possible.  However, Number 10 apparently has some other ideas and talk of Devo Max is being downplayed.

The chat from Downing St seeems to a swift volte face to try and redress the growing clamour from the Tory backbenches about what Gordy was allowed to promise in the final days?  For all the sense of panic it is evident that Gordy had this worked out many months ago but was only sanctioned to unleash the dogs of war in the final nail-biting furlong.  His last speech was apparently his best, though equally Cameron did his bit under unrelenting abuse.  The Better Together campaign was pretty much totally Scottish Labour led and Tory free, it is not the winner though.  Labour party conf in Manchester - Ed needs an even better speech this time - pref without that Disraeli one-nation blather.

The West Lothian question is the key piece of egregiousness that will have to be finally knocked on the head - something that Labour has conspicuously failed to do.  Scottish MPs will soon no longer be allowed to vote on England only matters - whilst of course English MPs have never been allowed to vote on Scottish matters.  This will pose a knotty one for Miliband because it could very well permanently emasculate Labour Govts if on budgetary matters there is not enough of an English-only MP backing.  The Barnett formula (which even its eponymous creator thinks should be scrapped) will stick in the craw.  If affords a permanent upward only subsidy of circa £1500 per person to Scotland over rest of UK.  This has not gone down well south of the border.  At all.

Cameron may have been knifed by Clegg on the Boundary Commission changes (which is the most outrageous breach of code for the so-called Mother of Parliaments) - but this way he may partly get his own back.  If he fails then he will really face the chop from the 1922 cmte.  Bear in mind Clacton by-election shortly will see a big slap for Cameron - and his image is very much of the "essay crisis".  Tricky times if he drops this ball on Constitutional change - especially if Salmond gets traction on any perceived signs of backsliding on the vows.

Labour has acted appallingly throughout this campaign being utterly self-serving and using every opportunity to try and turn a battle to save the Union into a call for a Labour Govt next May.  If Miliband fails to engage in a William Hague (as Leader of the House) overseen all-party talks, then it will be Labour who will carry the can for failing to deliver on the myriad of promises offered up by their last Prime Minister.

If only for that fact Cameron should emerge from this as the biggest winner and it's a 2nd big win for him after seeing off the Lib Dems on proportional representation, is he on a roll for winning in Europe as well?   OK that might be a leap of faith too far - still the gamble has largely paid off and the Tories can get to shape constitutional change whilst still in power.  That is a major, major difference from the expected situation that the next Labour Govt (as the polls still point to) would carve it up as they see fit.

........... welcome back Scotland

I find it hard to see (bar Gordy, Darling to some extent and of course the redoubtable Jim Murphy who will clearly get a Knighthood) who in Labour comes out of this with any accolades.  Miliband is a dead man walking - and he knows it.  It is one thing for Cameron to find it difficult to campaign in Scotland but for a Labour leader not to either basically bother to get up there until the last few moments and then not to be capable of walking through Edinburgh is a travesty of not just how the Yes campaign has been conducted but of Miliband's validity.  Clegg has proved that the Lib Dem vote has vaporised.  Question now is whether Salmond can survive, let's hope not as he allowed a very dirty campaign to get quite seriously out of hand - he deserves to go just for that alone.  Only Farage had the temerity to call him out for that."


Syria; Not Our Sandpit

Keep Calm..............

Syria has long been a rogue state with no love lost between us and them. It was a location for Provisional IRA training camps and a source of weapons for PIRA and indeed other terrorist organisations. Nonetheless, the logic for British involvement is flaky at best. David Cameron and William Hague cannot grandstand and assume moral ascendancy when we lack the resource to back it up. We don’t have the resource mostly because Cameron’s government followed a well established pattern over the past 22 years of squeezing Defence in favour of other departments. Currently, the UK has amongst its local assets Cyprus, but with no aircraft on it and the HMS Illustrious group.... with no aircraft. Interesting that the most vocal opponents of involvement in a barely understood conflict are current  and former people from the military and intelligence community. The most pro is apparently the Prime Minister’s wife.

That much of the current instability can be traced back to our previous interventions seems lost on our leaders. Those interventions, achieved very little indeed, especially Iraq. It’s also popular to make comparisons with Kosovo which is extremely misleading, given the huge difference in size of the countries and the ferocity of the current civil war in Syria as opposed to the low intensity conflict in the Balkans.

 

aving avoided involvement so far neither the US or the UK really want to become embroiled in an inter Arab 50 year religious civil war. Based on outrage from the most recent atrocities, (although gas has been in use in limited quantities since March), the “something must be done,” calls don’t take us anywhere beyond lobbing some cruise missiles through the ether to “teach them a lesson,” in some fantasy aspiration that only bad guys will die, (including no doubt a bunch of Russian advisors which could be awkward), and the rest will just give up. Given we haven’t even confirmed the “who,” bit never mind the “what then,” part none of this is credible. Certainly, one question that enquiring minds ought to be asking is “who had most to gain,” by murdering innocents by the foulest of means?” Assad? Really, when he was winning the civil war?

The US of course has plenty of war toys in theatre with another 2 carrier groups on route

Attacks on air defences, military installations, command and control centres and chemical storage and production plants from the air don’t in themselves remove bad regimes. That requires men on the ground. There is no appetite for that either here or in the US, (and with an Army falling to 80,000 we couldn’t do it anyway), both populations being tired of constant war for 20 years. Moreover, the scale of munitions required to destroy and suppress such assets is of a much higher magnitude than was used in Libya. Of passing note of course is that hits on chemical sites are likely to release said chemicals into the atmosphere which would create the collateral damage nightmare of all nightmares. Meanwhile, the largest supporters of the rebels, the Saudi’s, will, along with their allies, be nowhere to be seen. The British Army are not mercenaries to be used to further the geopolitical aims of a bunch of rich sheiks in a country that we don’t know, don’t much care about and have no immediate national interest which actually lies in supporting regional allies, not doing their job for them.

An assumption that we can be involved in an attack on a foreign country with no fear of retaliation is just plain stupid. Syria has always had a sophisticated security network and, potentially with the help of Iran, retaliatory action must be expected, both on the mainland UK and abroad against UK and US assets and individuals. Indeed, rumours to the effect that Hezbollah will begin taking hostages are already circulating in Beirut.

A Reuters/Ipsos poll on August 19-23rd found that only 9% of Americans support US military intervention in Syria, while 90% of British people polled opposed any intervention in Syria. While a re-elected second term US president can afford to ignore public opinion, this is not true of a British prime minister, particularly if a single western weapon goes astray.

Those most opposed to intervention then, could God forbid, end up being casualties of war....... in any of our towns or villages. Do not underestimate the violence which these people are easily capable of perpetrating. A senior figure in the Intelligence community told me three years ago that it was only a matter of time before a European city suffered a significant attack from a rogue state or terrorist group using WMD. He then, was counting the years on the fingers of one hand.

Markets, who are smarter than politicians, have figured all this out and its the uncertain path forward and unknown outcome in the Middle East which is increasing volatility across asset classes. European stress points appearing, Asian contagion and budget issues in the US don’t help an already difficult situation. That any action would likely be propped up by more QE is though, slightly irrelevant at this point. Historically, we do tend to sell off prior to conflict and then rally hard during and in its aftermath but that previously was based on quick and decisive victories. This will be anything but.

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The Dark One Returns?

I recently referred to William Hague's questionable judgement in a light hearted way in, "William Hague, Surely Not?" The point here, is that the general voting public do not particularly care about his orientation; they care if he hired a friend as a special advisor at public cost. Why does the Foreign Secretary need and require a so called special advisor, with no apparent qualifications or obvious qualities when he has the massed ranks of the Foreign & Commonwealth Office to support him? Most people think the whole thing very odd and that Hague has been a bit of a tit.

Blaming rumours apparently promulgated on the internet is anyway, aiming at the wrong target. Most of these rumours originate from Westminster and I'm left asking myself, "Am I the only one who sees the manipulative hand of the Dark Lord behind all of this?"

Did the government really think that Labour would just sit back and let them have a free ride for five years, when they could redeploy a strategy of destabalisation which was so successful in the 1990's? Keep watching, I expect ministers will be picked off one by one.

William Hague, Surely Not?

William Hague has found a new and exciting way of getting some front page news time; if any of the allegations prove to be true though, then we'll quickly be deficient a Foreign Secretary. Whilst perhaps implausible, I suppose that given Westminster's dodgy track record probability doesn't favour a positive outcome, especially as Guido appears to be reporting developments with some conviction.  If true, this would be professional and social self immolation; the matrons of the Conservative Party in Yorkshire won't be taking kindly to this and fellow Yorkshireman Eric Pickles is probably going Super Nova. It's taking on the coalition with the Liberals with just a wee bit too much enthusiasm.

Frankly, I don't much mind or care. I've long since failed to be surprised by the activities and antics of these narcissic, ego centric people. Honour and dignity are words of a foreign language to them. For me, the question mark that hangs over Hague is one of judgement,

Did he really spend the night with his untrained advisor Chris Myers,

in preference to his wife Ffion?

It's a strange world, so it is.