Thursday, October 30, 2008

Not Russia yet

Turkey is still a more democratic society with a media that has more freedom than Russia but the signs are not good.
The Supreme Board of Radio and Television, or RTÜK, President Zahid Akman decided to shut down 11 channels belonging to the Doğan Media Corporation's D-Smart, along with several other channels, because they had not acquired the necessary broadcasting licenses.

Şaban Sevinç, an RTÜK member who voted against the closures, said RTÜK ignored license requests from these channels for two years and that their decision was linked to the Lighthouse e.V. affair.

“Akman deliberately left the applications pending so that he could have leverage over the channel owners,” Sevinç told the Turkish Daily News yesterday. “In 2007, after a brawl between Akman and D-Smart, he sent a warning to the company to stop their unlicensed broadcasts.”
This method is not unknown: you make it impossible for companies to acquire the documentation they need and then you close them down for not having said documentation.

For the moment it is possible to challenge and criticize.
Hürriyet editor-in-chief Ertuğrul Özkök noted the suspicious nature of the RTÜK decision and pointed out a recent frequency change by Türksart Company. Türksart is responsible for satellite broadcasting and recently set about rearranging the order of television channels, burying Doğan Media Corporation's flagship Channel D at 41st in line.

"Do you think these two developments are coincidental?" asked Özkök in his article published yesterday.
Well, um, now that you ask, no.

Attempts to remove Zahid Akman from the post are continuing and his involvement in dubious commercial ventures are widely publicized (presumably why he is trying to shut down certain TV stations). The ruling AK Party is doing all it can to keep him in place.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

How do you "win" democratic legitimacy?

Whatever responses our readers may have had to that question they may as well forget them. The fluffy-brained Fragrant Margot, a.k.a. Commission Vice-President in charge of institutional relations and communication (there’s glory for you) will disagree with you.

As part of her evidence to the House of Lords Select Committee on the European Union, printed in “The Commission’s Annual Policy Strategy for 2009”, which I have already mentioned, the Commissioner said (Q. 61):
What citizens will remember is what we do on energy and climate change—that we have addressed that, that we are doing something on biofuels—or where we are visible with things that are very, very concrete. This is what citizens will see, and very few, as you rightly say, will remember that as part of a five-point agenda or whatever. We win democratic legitimacy by doing the right things that really change the lives of European citizens. That is how we win legitimacy.
Give the lady a prize. She really understands politics and political theory.

Dear Fluffy-Brained Commissar, one either has democratic legitimacy or one does not. You and your colleagues do not. There is nothing democratic in the way you are chosen, in the way you impose your views, ideas and legislation on the people of Europe or in the way you are not accountable to the people in any way.

The idea that the Commission or, indeed, the European project as a whole, will acquire “democratic legitimacy” because of “the right things” they do for our welfare whether we like it or not, whether we agree with it or not, is laughable. It is, of course, the argument that is produced by numerous Europhiles as they hope to lull us all into thinking that managerial governance is better and more desirable than the political and democratically accountable version.

One reason why I am not laughing quite as loudly as I should is the House of Lords Committee’s reaction to this completely fatuous comment (Par. 11):
We welcome the priority on "Putting the Citizen First", but regret the lack of coherence among the disparate sub-priorities gathered underneath this heading. The Commission should do more to stress the weight it places on putting the citizen first throughout its work, thereby giving more coherence to this list of sub-priorities. Particular attention should be paid to issues impacting on communities and local projects.
There appears to be no clear understanding here of the crucial problem with the Commission “putting the citizen first throughout its work” rather than governments being accountable to said citizens.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Bruges Group dinner this evening

The Bruges Group will be commemorating the Bruges speech with a special dinner this evening in the presence of Lady Thatcher herself. Main speaker will be Lord Tebbit and there is a video of Vaclav Klaus, everybody's favourite European politician addressing the event.

This is rather late in the day but one or two of our readers might be interested in finding out whether there are any tickets left. If you are, don't bother me. I have nothing to do with that. Get in touch with Robert Oulds on 020 7287 4414 or

Anyway, I shall write about it tomorrow so you will know what you have missed.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

That elephant nobody wants to mention

VAT is one of those things everybody goes on about. There are periodic campaigns to lower or abolish VAT for whatever happens to take people's fancy at the time. On a previous occasion I mentioned the fatuousness of the Cut the VAT campaign. I have been told by organizations and individuals involved that it was a good campaign even if it could lead to nothing. I beg to differ. A campaign that is pointless is not a good one. It makes people feel that they have been cheated.

In that posting I mentioned that the Commission, the one organization that can actually do something about VAT has been planning to introduce a little flexibility in the structure. Not, you understand, that any country will now be able to decide on various matters to do with VAT, let alone be allowed to opt out of it and decide to have, let us say, a local sales tax. Far from it. Just a little flexibility.

Lord Willoughby de Broke asked HMG in writing what they proposed to do about the Commission proposals.
Whether they will support at the November Economic and Financial Affairs Council meeting the European Commission's proposal to amend VAT directive 2006/112/EC to allow member states flexibility on VAT rates for labour-intensive services.
Let's face it our government can do nothing about the tax itself or any flexibility. It can support or not support the European Commission's proposals.

It would appear that even that is beyond them. Here is Lord Myners's reply:
The Government are generally supportive of the legislative proposal adopted by the Commission, consistent with its position of supporting the flexibility of member states to apply their own choice of VAT rates to further their domestic priorities and social objectives, provided that this does not materially affect the functioning of the internal market.

Member states are currently discussing the Commission proposal, and whether any amendments should be made before it is considered by Ministers, at official level in Council working groups. The Government will take a view on the final text when it is submitted to Ministers by the presidency.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

They never learn

With a straight face the BBC reports:
The European Commission is stepping up efforts to get its message across to Irish voters and other EU citizens ahead of European elections next June.

The commission, stung by the Irish rejection of the Lisbon Treaty, plans to form a partnership with the Republic of Ireland to raise public awareness.

The "management partnership" involves explaining EU goals and policies in plain language to ordinary citizens.
Are these people listening to themselves? I mean really listening?

The EU makes it clear that they wish to ignore the results that a freely and fairly run referendum (give or take EU money) produced and then it says that they want to "raise public awareness" ahead of the European elections. Surely, what really bothers them is too much public awareness. Then again, that phrase has become code for "they wish to ensure that more people vote the way they are told to or stay at home and not bother us".

Meanwhile the House of Lords European Union Committee has produced one of its excellent reports on "The Commission's Annual Policy Strategy for 2009". I shall blog on it in more detail as soon as I have read it right through. Let me, however, quote Paragraph 1 of the Introduction:
What is the Commission's Annual Policy Strategy?

1. The Annual Policy Strategy is one of the two key strategic planning documents published by the European Commission each year. The Annual Policy Strategy (or APS) published in the spring sets out the Commission's priorities for the following year, and forms the basis for discussion within the EU institutions and beyond. This discussion is intended to influence the Commission's Annual Legislative and Work Programme, published in the autumn, which fleshes out those priorities and sets out detailed plans for the year ahead.
Let us not forget that the Commission is the sole initiator of EU legislation, which then takes a long journey through the various institutions such as the Council and the Parliament with possible negotiations between representatives of member states being done behind the scenes. Once it gets to a national parliament it cannot be thrown out. At no time during that journey are the people consulted though the odd organization that is part of the EU controlled and often financed "civil society" may well have an input according to its own agenda.

I am only guessing, of course, but could that be the real reason for voter apathy?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

How's that British foreign policy doing?

One of the oddest aspects of modern British politics is that neither the government nor the opposition have anything remotely resembling a foreign policy or plan to have one, so far as anyone can make it out. Yet, questions and debates on the subject come up with regularity, at least in the House of Lords, where there is still a pretence that we are an independent country with political leaders who have adjoining brain cells.

Yesterday there was a Starred Question about the situation in Zimbabwe and what anybody was going to do about it. To be fair, a number of their lordships have understood that nobody apart from Zimbabwe's neighbours can help the people of that unfortunate country and they, particularly South Africa, still under the presidency of Thabo Mbeki, seem very reluctant to do so.

Lord Blaker's question was low-key. He asked Her Majesty's Government:
What is their assessment of the allocation by Robert Mugabe of portfolios in the proposed Government of Zimbabwe.
HMG replied in the shape of Lord Malloch-Brown, former bag-carrier for the last SecGen of the United Nations, Kofi Annan:
My Lords, along with other EU states, we have condemned Robert Mugabe's unilateral allocation of ministerial portfolios. The allocation of portfolios needs to be agreed by all parties and reflect the will of the Zimbabwean people as expressed in the 29 March elections, which gave Morgan Tsvangirai and the MDC a clear majority.
It is, of course, impossible for Britain to do anything in the international field on her own or simply with other Western states. Everything has to be agreed with the EU and decided on at that level.

Mind you, condemning Robert Mugabe, who knows full well that the EU is not going to do anything to hurt him. It will not even ban him from attending various meetings and summits for fear of losing the attendance of other African leaders, despite the fact that there have been numerous agreements not to let the Zimbabwean dictator step on European soil.

In fact, there is nothing anybody can do unless South Africa decides to deal with the situation. Re-running the election, as suggested by the President of Botswana, is hardly a solution, even if it is done under international supervision, whose presence is impossible to ensure without some show of force. Suppose the international supervision is in place by some miracle; suppose the election is re-run; suppose the MDC wins again. Then what? Neither Lord M-B nor, I suspect, the President of Botswana knows the answer to that.

Meanwhile, it would appear that we are still sending aid to the country with no checks on how it is distributed. In answer to the Duke of Montrose's question on the subject, Lord M-B, the former Annan and Soros henchman (at least, one hopes it is former) answered:
My Lords, it is an astonishing story. Zimbabwe was a country of 12 million people: 3 million have gone into exile; of the remaining 9 million, some 5 million will be dependent on food aid by the end of the year. We have just made an allocation to the World Food Programme of £9 million. Ours and other contributions will make sure that appropriate food is available in this man-made tragedy.
Available it may be but to whom? And who is doing the distribution? Do villages where the MDC has done particularly well get any of the aid?

That is not the full extent of our involvement as Lord Howell's question made it clear:
My Lords, as Mugabe and his gang are obviously determined not to surrender power quietly or wisely, can we be assured that the hard currency money the UK is providing to the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe and through our UN and EU agencies is going towards the purposes for which it is intended and is not being siphoned off and manipulated for the benefit of the ZANU-PF gangsters?
Well, well, we do not hear much about that hard currency this country provides the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe. I wonder what happens to it. Somehow, I do not find Lord M-B's assurances entirely credible:
My Lords, the noble Lord draws attention to an appropriate issue. The central bank is making every effort to find any source of foreign currency to keep its patronage operations for the top leadership ticking over. The noble Lord should be assured that we are making absolutely certain that our moneys in no way fall into the hands of Government and go directly to UN and non-governmental partners, mainly for purchases made outside the country.
As the noble lords ought to know money going to the UN and NGOs are not necessarily well spent. There was this little thing called the oil-for-food scam, for instance. But, of course, neither the UN nor the NGOs need to be accountable to anybody for what they do.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Just a couple of reminders

Today is the anniversary of President Kennedy's announcement about the presence of Soviet missiles on Cuba and the beginning of what was probably the worst and most terrifying crisis of the entire Cold War when the two superpowers stood face to face with no intermediaries.

Tomorrow is the anniversary of the start of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 - another crisis, of power for the Soviet Union and of conscience for the West.

Normal service will now resume.

Interesting suggestions

Well, now we know the answer to the question Jeff Randall posed just a few days ago. George Osborne was invisible because he was trying to beat Peter Mandelson (now the noble Lord Mandelson) at his own game. Of course, if you are going to do that, you ought to be better at it than Georgy-Porgy is turning out to be. (But then how good is he at being Shadow Chancellor?)

The net result of all this is that Osborne's career is in danger. As I write, Cameron has not yet announced that the Shadow Chancellor's position is unassailable, so there may be hope for Georgy-Porgy.

Both on ToryBoyBlog and on Iain Dale's blog commenters have been free with suggestions of replacements. One name that comes up immediately is that of Ken Clarke, the man of the day before yesterday, a throw-back in most people's minds to John Major's government, not the Tories' most glorious hour.

The rest of this posting has been deleted.

Anyone knows what they are playing at?

There has been a certain amount of discussion about the number of Conservatives in Britain (the American bunch is a separate issue) who are supporting Obama in the American presidential election, apparently not bothering to find out much about his record (such as it is) or the statements he has made like the infamous one to Joe the Plumber that showed him to be a socialist who believes not just in big government but a redistributive tax system.

As David Pryce-Jones points out the list now includes such luminaries as Charles Moore and Lord Rees-Mogg. Interestingly enough, both of them are devout Catholics yet seem uninterested in Obama's record on abortion and his repeated votes against giving medical help to babies that survive a botched operation. (No, I am not discussing abortion per se, merely the Catholic view of it.)

Their argument: the election of a black (well, mixed race) President will solve the race issue in the United States and, for all I know, everywhere in the world. It does not seem to occur to these sages that voting for a man because he is black (well, mixed race) is perpetuating the race problem. What if, as David Pryce-Jones asks and as most of us consider almost certain, Obama makes some really disastrous decisions as soon as he gets into the White House? After all, his running mate, Joe Biden, thinks there is a strong possibility of that. How is that going to help race relations in the United States?

I presume none of these race-obsessed Conservatives to whom nothing else matters have noticed that the present and previous Secretaries of State were black. Did that make any difference to race relations anywhere?

Then we have Boris Johnson, Hizonner the Mayor of London, pontificating on that subject, even having the gall to refer to Martin Luther King's famous speech, in which he had hoped that one day people will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by what was inside them. Incidentally, King was a Republican, considering that the Democrat Party was historically the party of slavery and Jim Crow laws.

The thing is, our Boris is not just a commentator, who is entitled to his views, however foolish they are. He is a Conservative politician, the Mayor of London, elected by the people of London to undo the damage inflicted on the great city by his predecessor. What business does he have interfering in the American presidential election? Is he now going to follow in Livingstone's footsteps and establish a foreign policy for London?

On the other hand

Germany is opposing the creation of European "sovereign funds" in order to buy into various key economic enterprises and prevent foreign investment in them. Who leads the charge for this idea? Why, that well-known free-marketeer, President Nicolas Sarkozy.
Germany, which fought longest and hardest against the idea of Europe-wide bank bailouts, immediately criticized Sarkozy's latest idea. But Italy is already mulling legislation to limit investments from foreign state funds, and Spain is actively courting such investments from oil-rich Arab countries.

Sarkozy, who has never made a secret of his penchant for an activist industrial policy, said that joint action by European state investment funds would protect well-known champions of European industry from falling into the possession of foreign investors.

"I don't want European citizens to wake up in several months' time and find that European companies belong to non-European capital, which bought at the share price's lowest point," Sarkozy told the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

"This might be an opportunity to create our own sovereign wealth funds," he said. "And maybe these national sovereign wealth funds could eventually coordinate to form a business response to the crisis."
While this sort of political and economic thinking (if one can call it that) may not sit well with such past French luminaries as Claude Frédéric Bastiat or Marquis de Condorcet, it is well in line with most traditional, right and left, French thinking.

The question from our point of view is not dissimilar from the one posed in the previous posting. If the French government wishes to create sovereign funds to prevent its economy from acquiring international investment, that is up to the French taxpayer to mull over. But a European fund involves other taxpayers, namely us. We are already paying through the nose for Supergordon's plans. Do we really want to do the same for Le Chauve-Souris' ideas?

Oh and how does that Spanish idea of courting investments from oil-rich Arab countries fit into this scheme?

A single European voice will speak truth unto Russian power

Yeah right, if I may be pardoned such a vulgarism. Charles Crawford gets it right:
The key argument in favour of an 'EU Foreign Policy' we hear in the UK is that it acts as a multiplier for British positions.

What tends not to be mentioned is that it acts as a multiplier for other EU Member States' positions too, not least when they disagree with us.
There is also the problem that quite often British positions are not all that clear with Supergordon Brown waiting for the consensus before he can make up his mind.

This is where I part company with the highly esteemed Edward Lucas, author of "The New Cold War". His view is that the EU must work out a common foreign policy, that being the only way it can stop the Kremlin's machinations.

All very well but what if the common foreign policy becomes Germany's policy, which seems to be one of complete appeasement, despite the occasional eruptions by Chancellor Merkel? The only reason this has not happened is the East Europeans, with some support from the Scandinavians and an occasion hum-ha from Britain, challenging the Franco-German line on the subject.

This morning's International Herald Tribune has an article that once again confirms that point of view.
Nowhere was this marriage of interests better expressed recently than in a top-level gathering last month at a castle overlooking the River Elbe. Attendees oozed confidence that, despite the August war in Georgia and the gathering storm in world finance, Russia and Germany would only deepen their centuries-old bonds, perhaps even realizing the dream long held by some of binding Russia closer to the West.

Among the hundreds of guests, all sniffing deals, were German managers in from Moscow mingling with Russian officials, even as East German veterans of Soviet enterprises chatted up younger Russian entrepreneurs.

"The long-term goal is about integrating the Russian economy with Europe," said Peter Danylow, director of the East and Central European Association, an independent business body that promotes contacts between Germans and Eastern countries. "We are a long way from that. But Germany is not prepared to give up. There is too much at stake."

Last year, more than 3 percent of Germany's total exports went to Russia, with trade volume between the countries reaching €57 billion, or $74.6 billion at current exchange rates. German exports to Russia increased by 20 percent in 2007. During the first quarter of this year, they jumped a further 25 percent, according to Klaus Mangold, chairman of the Ost-Ausschuss, the influential group that promotes Germany's economic interests throughout Russia and the former Soviet bloc.
There is no particular reason why Germany should not look to its financial and economic interests, though recent experience indicates that doing business with Russia is a hazardous exercise because of the Kremlin's obsession with power. Furthermore, given President Prime Minister Putin's policies and those of his teddy bear (mishka), President Medvedev, putting quite so many eggs into that basket is likely to turn out to be a bad move.

From our point of view, though, the problem is that Germany, ever more closely tied to Russia and ever more dependent on that country economically, is dictating foreign policy to the rest of the European Union.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Busy, busy, busy

Everybody wants to save the world. First it was Supergordon Brown. Now it's Nicolas (the Batman or le Chauve-Souris) Sarkozy. He has announced to the Toy Parliament that before next month's world summit that will save the world he wants an EU summit. And just to make sure that everything happens he will personally go (together with Commission President Barroso, in his role of Robin) to Beijing "to convince China and India to participate in the world summit". Presumably, the trip to Beijing will not be sufficient. They will have to cross the border and go to New Delhi as well. Ahem, who is paying for all this?

Meanwhile Le Chauve Souris Sarkozy and his very special Robin, alias El Presidente Barroso, have gone to Camp David to have a chat with outgoing President Bush. Of course, Sarkozy is also outgoing as President of the EU because France's time will be up at the end of December but the media does not seem to realize that.
Three world leaders - George W. Bush, Jose Manuel Barroso, and Nicolas Sarkozy - declared in Camp David Saturday they would make every effort to maintain the 'foundations of democratic capitalism', while not allowing the 'malevolent practices of recent years' to reoccur. The most eloquent of the three, the French president, said emphatically that it would be a disaster to undermine the foundations of the free market economy, while 'continuation would mean the same problems causing the same disasters'.

Do these words mean anything? Of course nothing. Politicians are simply trying to cover the confusion they have been thrown into by a financial crisis whose dimensions they did not expect and whose effects they underestimated. By crying 'Things must change!' they are trying to divert the public attention away from their own helplessness.
Tsk, tsk, these Poles are so cynical. Mind you, I wouldn't myself call the President of the European Commission or the temporary President of the European Union, who, just like a previous temporary President, Chancellor Merkel, prefers to spend his time rushing round the world instead of looking to some of the problems his own country is facing, world leaders.

The Christian Science Monitor seems to think that President Sarkozy is emerging as a new leading force in the world.
This week Mr. Sarkozy worked with President Bush to set up a series of meetings to reform the global economy, and he's now off to Asia to broach the idea of bringing India and China together with G-8 nations in a "Bretton Woods II" framework of economic rules. This comes just weeks after he moved with alacrity to broker a cease-fire deal to end the Georgia-Russia war.

Critics still point to Sarkozy's proclivity to turn politics into a show and to unashamedly take credit whenever possible. Yet in the space of a summer he has consolidated his power and blended substance with showmanship, and is now winning praise as a crisis leader in a more multipolar world.

"I think today that everyone, even those who had misgivings, acknowledge that [Sarkozy] not only has great political energy, but also exceptional leadership qualities," commented José Manuel Barroso, the EU chief who accompanied Sarkozy to Camp David this weekend.
Well, if all you need to be a world leader is to rush around setting up lots of meetings regardless of whether they achieve anything or not (the war in Georgia, for everybody's information, ended after a fashion, precisely when the Russians were ready to move and not a moment before, Sarkozy or no Sarkozy) and to have the Commission President endorsing you, then Sarkozy has it made. What will happen in January when he will have to go back to being a French President, no longer un Chauve-Souris?

Oh my, another one

Remember the World Bank-Wolfowitz scandal when the man who tried to clear out the corruption of that organization (the Augean Stables had nothing on that problem) was forced to resign because of misdemeanours of which he was subsequently cleared by all enquiries?

Well, can we expect the same at the IMF where Dominique Strauss-Kahn "is under investigation for what he delicately calls an 'incident which occurred in my private life'. The 'incident' involves former senior IMF economist Piroska Nagy, with whom Mr. Strauss-Kahn had a brief sexual liaison earlier this year until Ms. Nagy's husband found out about it".

As Mr Strauss-Kahn is merely a French politician and not a supporter of the war in Iraq and is unlikely to want to look too closely into some of the curious deals transnational organizations do, the chances of him suffering Paul Wolfowitz's fate are slim.
Mr. Strauss-Kahn has apologized to the IMF staff while insisting that "at no time did I abuse my position" in his dealings with Ms. Nagy, and that might be true. Then again, the managing director seems to have kept his relationship a secret from most of his own board of directors, even after a formal investigation was begun at the behest of one board member in August. The final
judgment will rest with the full board once a report is delivered at the end of this month.

The judgment will tell us something about whether the IMF board -- particularly its nine European members -- will exhibit the same outrage toward Mr. Strauss-Kahn as their World Bank counterparts did last year during the staff coup that ousted former president Paul Wolfowitz. We won't hold our breath, even though Mr. Wolfowitz's purported offenses pale next to what we already know about l'affaire Strauss-Kahn.

Unlike Mr. Strauss-Kahn, Mr. Wolfowitz disclosed his personal relationship with a staff member prior to becoming Bank president and sought to recuse himself from making any decision regarding her next job assignment. A misnamed Ethics Committee nevertheless foisted that decision upon him but later disavowed its own ruling when it became politically convenient to do so. The Bank's European board members then sought to run Mr. Wolfowitz out of the bank
in kangaroo-court proceedings while piously claiming to be safeguarding the institution's reputation.

Mr. Wolfowitz's real sins had everything to do with his tough-on-corruption policies, as well as his previous role in the Bush Administration as deputy secretary of defense. In its report Sunday on Mr. Strauss-Kahn, the New York Times noted that "Mr. Wolfowitz's ouster was fueled . . . also by a visceral dislike many at the agency felt for a major backer of the Iraq war." Now they tell us.

By contrast, Mr. Strauss-Kahn is a paladin of the European establishment, a former finance minister of France and a leader of its Socialist Party. Not surprisingly, he is also popular with the IMF staff. So we also won't hold our breath for a stream of invidious staff leaks about the managing director of the kind that were aimed at Mr. Wolfowitz, much less one-sided "news" from the European court stenographers at the Financial Times. We may hear, however, that the IMF can't afford to be "distracted" by some purely personal issue at this moment of global crisis.
This should be interesting, especially in the light of Supergordy Brown's proposal to give more powers to the IMF over the international financial and banking system. Incidentally, Irwin Stelzer says that anyone who believes the United States will agree to that harebrained scheme (my expression not his) should get in touch with him as he has a bridge to sell.

A few thoughts after yesterday's Bruges Group meeting

And a very good meeting it was, too, with two proponents of the Anglo-American understanding and special relationship, Andrew Roberts and Irwin Stelzer, on parade. Andrew Roberts talked mostly about his latest book, “Masters and Commanders: How Roosevelt, Churchill, Marshall and Alanbrooke Won the War in the West 1941 – 45”, which sounds fascinating and I shall read it just as soon as I have finished Mr Roberts’s last tome “A History of the English-Speaking People since 1900”. And no, I am not envious of his amazing capacity for work, not at all. Grrr.

For the purposes of this blog I shall concentrate on what Irwin Stelzer said about American politics and economic possibilities as well as Andrew Roberts’s comments on that subject rather than the latter’s amusing description of the clash between those four titans.

So, first things first. Dr Stelzer does not think the presidential election is in the bag, however much the Europeans and by that he means the British, as well, may wish it. My own feeling is that the Europeans, including the British know precious little about what is going on in the presidential election as they rely on the European/British media, which is almost completely pro-Obama (as it was almost completely pro-Kerry) and publishes stories that are several days out of date. Thus, there are still articles wittering about Sarah Palin being made fun of by some ridiculous comedienne and how that hurts the McCain/Palin ticket while the story is that Palin is attracting many thousands to her meetings and is doing far more news interviews than any other candidate.

As Dr Stelzer said, if you watch the BBC you will think that Obama is already president. Last time, he added, he did follow the election on the BBC and he did not realize till about spring that Kerry had lost. That was a semi-joke.

The polls, endlessly referred to, are somewhat volatile in this election as Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit keeps saying. They are also a lot closer than the headlines would lead us to believe.

On the other hand, it is more than probable that Congress will go Democrat, so what will happen if Obama wins and there is a clean sweep of the legislative and executive, shortly to be followed by the judiciary, as Supreme Court judges die or retire and new ones are appointed?

Let’s get the most worrying Obama promise out of the way first, though it is an internal American matter and that is the abolition of secret ballot in the unions. If this is passed and, given the Democrats’ reliance on the unions it probably will be, this will be a seriously regressive step in business development.

So what might an Obama presidency mean for Britain and Europe and will all those who wish for it be happy with it? Obviously, all prediction is guessing on the basis of past performance and there is precious little of it in Obama’s case. There are all those buddies of his, starting with Bill Ayers, and his unfortunate admission to Joe the Plumber that he is looking to raising taxes on small to medium-sized businesses in order to redistribute. In connection with that there is the extraordinary notion of “tax credits” to people who do not pay tax as those who earn $50,000 and under do not in America. That “tax credit” will be a hand-out and someone has to pay for it and for the officialdom that will be redistributing the money. So, the economic situation looks a little bleak, though Dr Stelzer pointed out quite correctly that the American economy is a good deal more flexible even now than European or British. Furthermore, the American bail-out (larger than fist defined, naturally enough) will be the equivalent of something like 5 per cent of GDP. The German bail-out will be the equivalent of 16 per cent of GDP and Supergordon Brown’s British bail-out, with which Dr Stelzer does not totally disagree, will be the equivalent of 30 per cent of GDP. Not good.

However, it is the foreign policy that really matters in the case of the President and Obama is likely to be highly protectionist, which will not be good for America but will be even worse for others. The union bosses will do well, though.

His idea of soft diplomacy and working through multilateral, i.e. transnational organizations bodes no good as it recalls the disastrous presidency of Jimmah Carter. In fact, many things about Obama brings that to mind.

The problem, as far as those pro-Obama Brits and Europeans might well find, is that he will most probably will be as isolationist as they would like him to be. That means the Europeans will now be expected to contribute more to the campaign in Afghanistan as Iraq will, most probably, be relatively sorted in the near future. The Obama-bots are not going to like that. Nor will an isolationist America be particularly popular with those countries and people who behave like teenagers – demand all kinds of rights and privileges in the certain knowledge that when things start getting difficult the parents will turn up to deal with problems. What if those parents, i.e. the Americans refuse to turn up?

America is likely to recover from the recession faster than either Britain or Europe and will remain the world’s superpower for the foreseeable future, no matter what some overwrought journalists and analysts might say. I was particularly delighted with Dr Stelzer’s prediction that the GOP’s 2012 candidate is likely to be Governor Sarah Palin. The other side may well field Hillary Clinton. How much fun is that going to be?

In the meantime, instead of gloating over America’s problems or wishing a disastrous left-wing presidency on it, we should start thinking seriously what our future is likely to be.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

He does have one friend

Apparently one country has recognized the rather curious independent status of Abkhazia and South Ossetia that consists of them being part of Russia and controlled by Russian troops: Nicaragua, once again controlled by the egregious Daniel Ortega.
Consider the rogue's gallery that refused to go along: Hugo Chávez's Venezuela, the Castros' Cuba, Bolivia, Iran and Syria. The club of seven authoritarian former Soviet republics known as the Collective Security Treaty Organization also demurred. Even Moscow's puppet autocrat in Belarus, Aleksander Lukashenko, deferred to his toothless parliament; in other words, nyet, for now. Russia was rebuffed by China and India at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

In addition to Mr. Ortega, Russia did manage recognition by Hamas, Hezbollah and the Moldovan regions of Gaugazia and Trans-Dniester. But that is little solace for a Kremlin whose bigger goal in the war was to declare a Monroe-ski Doctrine for its "near abroad" and lead a new anti-American block.
Then again, it has always seemed pretty clear to me that, despite all the bullying swagger President Prime Minister Putin and his teddy bear, President Medvedev, tend to lose heavily when it comes to dealing with other countries.

The ECB extends its reach

The financial crisis keeps developing in its own way, unpredicted by the politicians and the regulators who are hoping to use it to extend their power and are, unfortunately, finding that their actions do not seem to have the results they predict. That, of course, will not stop them from taking action, any action; nor will it stop them from trying to accumulate more power. One does not need to be a soothsayer to predict this.

The ECB is now in a position of beginning to interfere in the finances of countries that are not in the eurozone and, as things go, may not be there for some time. No, I don't mean Britain, though it is not to be excluded that there will be strong murmurs that the answer to whatever question the financial crisis has posed (and nobody who is working in that world knows the question, let alone the answer) is for this country to join EMU and adopt the euro. After all, it has been such a success in the countries that did just that.

The country the ECB is extending its sway over, admittedly, as requested by its central bank, is Hungary. The best summary of what happened was, as ever, in the Wall Street Journal Europe but sadly, one has to subscribe to be able to read the articles on the net. (You can get the editorials, columns and the summary of what is on the net for free, though.)
The ECB said it will lend the National Bank of Hungary up €5 billion ($6.75 billion, £3.89 billion), enabling Hungarian authorities to funnel euros to their cash-strapped commercial banks. the move marks the first time the ECB, which makes monetary policy for the 15 nations that share the euro currency, has stepped in publicly to lend to a country outside the euro-currency zone.

The ECB's extraordinary action highlights growing conern among economists and investors that the euro zone would also suffer, should Hungary's economy founder. Some 80% of the assets in Hungary's banking sector are foreign-owned, according to research firm Capital Economics. Austria - a euro-zone nation - is a major presence across Central Europe.

Hungary has been hit hard by market turmoil in recent days, as its heavy reliance on foreign borrowing made it a prime target for investors pulling out of risky bets. Its currency, the forint, fell to a two-year low against the euro this past Friday, and the government has struggled in recent days to find buyers for its bonds and shorter-term Treasury bills. Earlier this week, government officials put in a request for potential help from the International Monetary Fund, though they maintain an IMF loan is a last resort.

The ECB's emergency loan, in combination with a package of government promises that included trimming the budget deficit to 2.9% of gross domestic product next year, cheered investors. The forint strengthened against the euro in reaction to the announcement.
The Financial Times has the story as well. The loan did not solve the general economic problems as this article reports.
Hungary cut its economic growth forecast for 2009 to 1.2% on Friday from an earlier 3% forecast, against a background of tightening credit at home and a downturn in its main export market, the euro currency area. The worsening outlook and pressure from international financial markets has forced Hungary to draw up a new, tighter budget for 2009, which the government was due to present to parliament on Saturday.
AFP reports a somewhat panicky "national summit" in Hungary where everybody made obvious comments without producing any specific ideas, at least not in public. Perhaps, we shall have to wait for a secret recording to be made public. It has happened before, when we found out that the Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány told a political meeting of close colleagues that he and his supporters had "lied morning, noon and night" to the electorate during the previous election campaign.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Conservatives win ...

... in Canada. While Stephen Harper may not get the majority he wanted, his party has increased its number of seats, which would indicate, despite the National Post sour comments that more Canadians want to press forward with conservative reforms than otherwise.

Could it be that our own Conservative Party, not to mention John McCain and other Republican Representatives and Senators are playing it wrong? Surely not.

Interesting information

There is always some interest attached to Westerners, particularly if they have been involved in somewhat questionable political activity, who then decide to live in countries that are not, shall we say, entirely of Western persuasion.

For instance, two of the high-ranking American officials, investigated for their Communist links and espionage activity, which they vehemently denied and which have been definitively proved since, gave up their US citizenship to live somewhere else.

Take the case of Lauchlin B. Currie, who was Roosevelt’s special representative to China and is one of the people credited with making sure that help meant for the Nationalists never reached them, thus ensuring Mao’s victory.

He did other things. When the FBI started investigating one of the most successful Soviet spies, Gregory Silvermaster, Currie warned the MVD (the KGB was called that at the time). Silvermaster managed to get away and continued his work.

This is the real killer, so to speak. Mr Currie took part in preparations for the Bretton Woods Conference that set up both the IMF and the World Bank. Mostly the conference was organized by Harry Dexter White, a known Soviet agent himself.

Then in 1954, Lauchlin B. Currie resigned from his position, went to Colombia and gave up his American citizenship.

Or let us take the case of Frank Coe, a close colleague of the self-same Harry Dexter White at US Treasury and the IMF. Also a Soviet agent, an allegation indignantly denied, he resigned in 1950 and went to live in China in 1958. There he remained until his death.

So, apart from the fact that these unresolved issues from the thirties, forties and fifties are still poisoning politics in Britain and America why did I suddenly recall these individuals?

I opened my e-mail from the Wall Street Journal and found an interview conducted by Claudia Rossett, whose work I admire enormously with the man who proudly claims to be the “godfather” of the Kyoto Treaty, Maurice Strong. He, too, it seems has moved to China, the country that is least amenable to the sort of transnational control that Mr Strong has advocated all his life and has, one way or another, managed to inject into American politics. Oh and it is the country that is possibly the most polluted in the world.

It is well worth reading the article in its entirety. Mr Strong is, as it behoves a man who has had a long and successful career with the UN though it ended in unresolved problems to do with the Oil-for-Food scam and a very large cheque paid into his account, is very proud of the fact that, despite not being accountable to anybody he has managed to manipulate matters to such an extent that his favoured policies have been accepted by American politicians and imposed on the American people without their say-so.
In his most recent stint at the U.N., from 1997-2005, Mr. Strong served as an Under-Secretary-General and special adviser to former Secretary-General Kofi Annan. He was point man on matters ranging from U.N. reform to environmentalism to North Korea. By some accounts, including his own, he has been a benevolent toiler in the multilateral trenches, a friend of Mikhail Gorbachev and Al Gore, networking to save the planet.

By other accounts, he's a self-dealing and self-declared socialist who has parlayed his talents into a push for collectivist global government. These days he is living in China, where he says his ties go back "40 years."
Ms Rossett gives interesting details of Mr Stong’s political and financial dealings prior to his move to China. On this side of the Pond we are well used to this destruction of democracy but Americans who read this interview might find it all a little surprising and unnerving.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The end of what exactly?

As the financial crisis unfolds and as governments everywhere use this opportunity to nationalize banks (if they can afford to pump in the money) there is a great deal of hand-wringing about the end of capitalism as well as gleeful predictions of the collapse of America's pre-eminence.

On the whole, we do not hold with any of that. Yes, there will be hard times ahead but capitalism is not dead and is not going to die any time soon. Yes, governments will acquire power that they will not know how to use well because they never do know but the financial institutions will, eventually, break free or circumvent the most appalling regulations like the ones that have actually caused the crisis.

But what about America's pre-eminence? Will that disappear? Yes, burble all sorts of people in Europe as well as the New York Times (which will disappear a lot sooner if the present trend of catastrophic fall in readership and share prices will continue). If we are to accept this we have to ask ourselves who is to take her place as the strongest economy, bearing in mind that, no matter what the financial situation is the American economy is doing quite well and actually growing.

Well who? China? Russia? India? Japan? Any European country? The moment you ask that question you can see the basic problem: everybody is in the same mess and many countries are struggling a great deal more because of other problems peculiar to them.

Bret Stephens put it even more strongly in this morning's Wall Street Journal:
Almost in unison, Germany's finance minister, Russia's prime minister and Iran's president predict the end of U.S. "hegemony," financial and/or otherwise. The New York Times weighs in with meditations on "A Power That May Not Stay So Super." Der Spiegel gives us "The End of Hubris." Guardian columnist John Gray sees "A Shattering Moment in America's Fall From Power."

Much of this is said, or written, with ill-disguised glee. But when the tide laps at Gulliver's waistline, it usually means the Lilliputians are already 10 feet under. Before yesterday's surge, the Dow had dropped 25% in three months. But that only means it had outperformed nearly every single major foreign stock exchange, including Germany's XETRADAX (down 28%) China's Shanghai exchange (down 30%), Japan's NIKK225 (down 37%), Brazil's BOVESPA (down 41%) and Russia RTSI (down 61%). These contrasts are a useful demonstration that America's financial woes are nobody else's gain.

On the other hand, global economic distress doesn't invariably work at cross-purposes with American interests. Hugo Chávez's nosedive toward bankruptcy begins when oil dips below $80 a barrel, the price where it hovers now. An identical logic, if perhaps at a different price, applies to the petrodictatorships in Moscow and Tehran, which already are heavily saddled with inflationary and investor-confidence concerns. Russia will also likely burn through its $550 billion in foreign-currency reserves faster than anticipated -- a pleasing if roundabout comeuppance for last summer's Georgian adventure.

Nor does the U.S. seem all that badly off, comparatively speaking, when it comes to its ability to finance a bailout. Last month's $700 billion bailout package seems staggeringly large, but it amounts to a little more than 5% of U.S. gross domestic product. Compare that to Germany's $400 billion to $536 billion rescue package (between 12% and 16% of its GDP), or Britain's $835
billion plan (30%).

Of course it may require considerably more than $700 billion to clean out our Augean Stables. But here it helps that the ratio of government debt to GDP in the U.S. runs to about 62%. For the eurozone, it's 75%; for Japan, 180%.

It also helps that the U.S. continues to have the world's largest inflows of foreign direct investment; that it ranks third in the world (after Singapore and New Zealand) for ease of doing business, according to the World Bank; and that its demographic trends aren't headed toward a tall and steep cliff -- as they are in the EU, Russia, Japan and China.

Above all, the U.S. remains biased toward financial transparency. I am agnostic as to whether mark-to-market accounting is a good idea; last month's temporary ban on short-selling financials seemed a bad one.

But a system that demands timely and accurate financial disclosure and doesn't interfere with price discovery will invariably prove more resilient over time than a system that does not make such demands. If Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were financial time bombs of one kind, then surely China's state-owned enterprises are time bombs of another. Can anyone determine with even approximate confidence the extent of their liabilities?
Well, it makes sense to me but I would be interested to hear opinions from readers, particularly those more knowledgeable than I am on matters economic.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Can they really predict the future?

As we watch politicians and regulators making one futile and potentially dangerous and highly expensive gesture after another to “save the situation”, “restore confidence” or simply rescue their own careers over the financial crisis, it is worth turning our attention to other situations they have messed up with their certainty that they have knowledge that is denied to ordinary mortals.

Today’s post brought the latest pamphlet from the Institute of Economic Affairs: “Climate Change Policy: Challenging the Activists”, and very interesting it looks, too.

From the Foreword, written by Bruno Prior, Director of Summerleaze Ltd, renewable energy entrepreneurs:
Certainly, the public pronouncements of politicians and the detailed central planning and regulations that they propose seem predicated upon the belief that politicians, their advisers and their regulators have limitless knowledge about the science and economics of climate change, energy use and the environment.

Or perhaps the political class does not have such knowledge, but nevertheless the precautionary principle demands that something must be done. That is the asymmetric precautionary principle, which demands precaution against the risk that today’s freedoms may harm future generations more than they benefit present generations, but opposes precautions against the risk that today’s constraints may harm present generations more than they benefit future generations.
From a politician’s or a regulator’s point of view that is a wonderful situation since we do not really know what will harm or benefit future generations, though we can make some assumptions on the basis of historical knowledge. Therefore, as far as that politician or regulator is concerned, as well as, sadly, too many people in the outside world, any horrifying prediction can be made with no fear of contradiction.

Well, some fear of contradiction and that fear is growing. More and more people are defying what was not so long ago known as a complete consensus (a frightening idea as, for instance, Louis Pasteur could have told us). One of the earliest to do so was Björn Lomborg and there was another well-argued piece in the Times a week or so ago. The comments at the bottom are quite interesting, too, and far more varied than one might have expected though there is still quite a lot of sheep-like bleating as well as the odd piece of silliness, which the author clearly considers to be very witty. You get them everywhere.

Meanwhile, it is worth noting that, as Mr Prior says, government targets rather than market solutions destroy flexibility in development and response to unforeseen contingencies:
State rationing needs firm numbers. The uncertainty may be vast and the permutations of all the unknown variables impossibly complex, but we can provide the necessary figures by applying statistical techniques to sets of tenuous assumptions. The probability of future developments conforming with these assumptions may be negligible, but (having rejected a genuine market approach) there is no option to do without assumptions, and any other set of assumptions will be equally improbable. In a few steps, we convert uncertainty into certainty and dictate that our critics must do the same.

Thanks to this certainty, there is no need or space for entrepreneurs in the traditional sense – that is, those who discover new information in the economic process. Governments have worked out the reasonable costs and expected volumes of each technology (or good), and how much each sector of industry and society will contribute (or require), so there is no need for innovation nor opportunity for the unconventional. The job of business is to deliver as cheaply as possible
what governments have specified. Without rewards for innovation – for betting against the crowd and winning – the economy coalesces around large businesses with low financial costs, high volumes and low margins delivering what governments have ensure will be the most financially viable (though not necessarily the most economic) solutions.
Socialist planning by any other name is likely to bring about the same sorry results.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

We shall see

Dr Liam Fox has assured a number of people in my hearing that he was a unionist, Atlanticist, pro-American eurosceptic but had not the slightest intention of calling for a withdrawal from the European Union.

He does not like the Lisbon Treaty but seems unaware that certain matters to do with the common foreign and security policy have been developing ever since the Conservatives foisted the Maastricht Treaty on us. No, there was no referendum then, either, though muggins here was one of those who worked hard to secure one.

However, he is absolutely certain of one thing: the Conservatives, when and if in government will pull out of the European Defence Agency. They have already told their colleagues that they will follow the right path for Britain in this as with the EPP. Yes, he did say that. I expect it will be just the same but miracles might be possible. We shall see.

While we are on the subject of what we shall see or not, Dr Fox also assured us all, that he and his party were absolutely certain that NATO must decide for itself who shall be its members and not allow Russia to intervene in the process.

That is all very well, but as I recall the Conservative Party made no statements at the time of the Sofia Summit when Germany and France with support from Spain, Italy and the Benelux countries opposed all plans to start the process of taking Georgia and Ukraine into NATO because Russia did not want it.

As it happens, the final statement was very different from what our French and German “partners” wanted and promised that the two countries’ Membership Action Plan (MAP) applications would be sorted out by the Foreign Ministers of NATO at their forthcoming meeting in December.

As we know, President Prime Minister Putin and his teddy bear President Medvedev assessed the situation accurately and went ahead with their plans to invade Georgia, where the Russian troops have remained despite many promises to withdraw.

Chancellor Merkel has just visited Russia and, while doing a certain amount of grandstanding about how unhappy she was with the Kremlin’s behaviour, in actual fact, assured her hosts that NATO foreign ministers will do nothing about either Georgia or Ukraine at the December meeting. So much for that.

As it happens, Dr Fox did not explain whether the Conservative Party would be making any statements on the subject when those foreign ministers meet; nor did he mention the possibility of a debate about NATO’s relationship with Russia in the Commons. Still, he made some very firm statements about it all. We shall see what they might lead to.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Who will ...

... sponsor on-line debates of such seriousness in this country? Can't be expensive. Not on-line. Come to think of it, will anyone sponsor a website on which such debates can be conducted? Because, you see, the present tumult and shouting will die (I am still voting present on what to do about the economic mess beyond saying tentatively, get rid of all politicians) but the need to understand politics at its widest will remain. The Right in Britain should be thinking about this but is not.

Yes, I know, it has been cross-posted from EUReferendum but the subject needs to be discussed on as many forums as possible.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Dear, oh dear

Errm, have you seen the news official CCHQ blog, called, in a burst of originality, The Blue Blog? This is the Conservative Party deciding to come into the twenty-first century and admitting that there is a blogosphere out there.

They haven't quite got it. Not just because the blog is truly bad - badly laid out, ridiculous in content (Who on earth is Shazia Awan and why is she allowed to write that sort of celeb-magazine style rubbish?) and infrequent in appearance. They have also not understood the point of the blogosphere. Its purpose is not to produce official party propaganda though, obviously, some will or to gush about the leader or to preen oneself about how savvy and yoof-oriented one is. The blogosphere, as it exists in the United States and as it will, I sincerely hope, one day exist here, is there to provide a different and balancing point of view from the political establishment.

But then, what can one expect from a party that is apparently supporting the Chancellor's plan to part-nationalize the big banks?

Hmm, about that foreign policy

Apologies if some of the postings on this blog veer towards American politics at the moment. In the last few weeks of the presidential and other electoral campaigns, developments over the Pond have become very important.

The Vice-Presidential debate has aroused a great deal of interest and excitement with the MSM or Big Media or drive-by media playing an ever more desperate and unpleasant role. As this is of vital importance in modern politics, I shall do a separate posting about that.

Now I just want to call attention to an interesting fact. It has been assumed by many of our political commentators and our own media, which tends to be ignorant at best about America and partial to the left most of the time (I don't mean just the BBC, either) that Sarah Palin is a ditzhead who says the cutest things about foreign policy.

This ignores Governor Palin's solid achievement in the Alaskan and Canadian pipeline negotiations and deliberately obfuscates on the subject of Senator Biden's knowledge as displayed by his statements. Experience he has none, having been a Senator for most of his life. But, as Rudy Giuliani said, when Biden says the cutest, people, especially in the media, just shrug their shoulders. That's just Joe, they say with a tolerant smile.

The Wall Street Journal, I am glad to say, does not have such double standards, probably because they want McCain-Palin to win. Here the editorial article analyzes the gaffes and/or lies that Senator Biden produced during that debate and which passed "unnoticed" by AP, CNN and others of that ilk.

The worst was his assertion that at some point America and France (huh?) managed to throw Hezbollah out of Lebanon. That would be news to the Lebanese, to Hezbollah and to the Israelis. There are other equally "cute" statements.

As the WSJ says:
We think the word "lie" is overused in politics today, having become a favorite of the blogosphere and at the New York Times. So we won't say Mr. Biden was deliberately making events up when he made these and other false statements. Perhaps he merely misspoke. In any case, Mrs. Palin may not know as much about the world as Mr. Biden does, but at least most of what she knows is true.
On the other hand, is there any evidence that Senator Biden knows anything about the world at all? And is there any evidence that our own ditzy journalists have even asked themselves that question?

Friday, October 3, 2008

Will this make the Polish government more popular?

The trial of General Jaruzelski has started in Poland. He and his co-accused are pleading not guilty. In the long run, as I have written before on EUReferendum, his defence will be that he saved Poland from the far more brutal oppression by strengthened Soviet forces. It is still unclear how the Poles will react to the trial so many years after the events and after the collapse of the Soviet system.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The state the Right is in

The list of top 100 people on the right is up on Iain Dale’s blog. You can see the names here and here and read the explanation of how the choice was made. My very limited and unrepresentative sample of people on the right whose opinion of the list I asked came up with a 30 – 40 per cent recognition rate. Who are most of these people was the question. I would be interested to know other people’s reactions.

The reason for the non-recognition is quite simple. This is not a list of important people on the right so much as people who are well known in the Conservative Party. (Even by that standard some of the decisions are odd. Chris Patten as a new entrant at number 45? Chris Patten?) What we have here is largely a list of politicians, ex-politicians and wannabe politicians.

There are two bloggers, Tim Montgomerie and Guido Fawkes; only one writer, Charles Moore; no historians and a few think-tank people, most of whom are down from last year’s position. Journalists are not allowed into the list, even if they are authors of important books. Thus we have to do without such names as Christopher Booker, Simon Heffer, Peter Oborne and Daniel Johnson. Where is Andrew Roberts, for example, or Jeremy Black? Where are the economists like Tim Congdon? Where are the political philosophers? Perhaps there are none.

A similar list in the United States would consist largely of writers, political analysts, essayists, historians and bloggers with politicians as an also ran.

Two conclusions can be drawn, both rather disturbing. One is that the Conservative Party has no interest in anything except day to day politicking and has no desire to understand anything that might be called the larger picture or to take on board any ideas.

The other is that the Right in this country has allowed it to happen and is, therefore, withering on the vine. Whatever the election result will be in November in the United States, the Right in that country will continue to flourish and to run with ideas. In Britain it will also make little difference what the electoral results will be. The Right will remain nothing very much, allowing the Conservative Party to usurp that position.

Politicians are not the proper people to carry a political ideology. They rarely know or understand what is going on and, quite possibly, have no time or ability to do so. If we are to have something called the Right once again flourishing in this country, we need to look beyond MPs, MEPs, former ministers, shadow ministers, councillors or candidates. None of them are going to be creators or disseminators of ideas. Most of the time they do not even understand or want to understand what politics is about.

Their combined inability to grasp the role of the EU in this country’s legal, political and constitutional structure is beyond lamentable, as we have chronicled on this blog. Their combined reluctance to decide what it is they really believe in shows up their ignorance beyond low-level politicking.

And that is the Right in Britain, officially. The question is what is to be done about it.