Author Archives: Paul

The middle has fallen out of British politics

This headline comes from The Economist, which accurately reflects my own view of the two main parties in the upcoming UK election:

Both Mrs May and Mr Corbyn would each in their own way step back from the ideas that have made Britain prosper — its free markets, open borders and internationalism. They would junk a political settlement that has lasted for nearly 40 years and influenced a generation of Western governments. Whether left or right prevails, the loser will be liberalism.

The paper concludes by (grudgingly) endorsing the Liberal Democrats

Backing the open, free-market centre is not just directed towards this election. We know that this year the Lib Dems are going nowhere. But the whirlwind unleashed by Brexit is unpredictable. Labour has been on the brink of breaking up since Mr Corbyn took over. If Mrs May polls badly or messes up Brexit, the Tories may split, too. Many moderate Conservative and Labour MPs could join a new liberal centre party—just as parts of the left and right have recently in France. So consider a vote for the Lib Dems as a down-payment for the future. Our hope is that they become one element of a party of the radical centre, essential for a thriving, prosperous Britain.

It’s a slim hope, but it’s about all we’re left with after this depressingly illiberal contest.

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Parallels

Paddy Ashdown is currently researching the 1930s for a book about the German resistance to Hitler. He says he is horrified by the parallels:

The way that we have retreated from internationalism to ugly nationalism in Britain. The way that we have retreated from international trade to protectionism. The sense that somehow or other democracy is failing.

The habit of lying in our public discourse. What was it Goebbels said? Tell it often, tell it big … stick it on the side of a bus perhaps and drive it around the country. I’m not saying Hitler is around the corner, of course I’m not, although you might conclude the conditions for something like that to emerge are there.

I’m always a bit wary of making Nazi comparisons, but it can’t be denied that May is allowing an increasingly jingoistic press to drag her in a direction that is both populist and authoritarian.

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Quote of the Day: Consequences

A hard Brexit is very likely to hurt. The economy will tank; living standards will fall. But even though this mess was created by the right, don’t expect the left to benefit from the fall out: a fall in living standards will very likely make the electorate more selfish in their politics, blaming foreigners or enemies within for our woes. The end result of Theresa May’s failure may be to make Britain more right wing still.

Jonn Elledge

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Popular nonsense

Rafael Behr takes a look at Theresa May’s “no deal is a bad deal” shtick and finds it wanting:

Who wants a bad deal? If you are haggling in the souk, you threaten to walk away. If the merchant smells desperation, you will be ripped off. But the UK is not buying a deal from the EU. If article 50 talks fail, the rules of engagement with our neighbours still have to be settled. The difference is that the process would happen in a climate of acrimony, frozen trade, travel gridlock and financial meltdown. There is no such thing as “no deal”. There is orderly transition or there is frantic patching-up of essential arrangements as they expire. No deal is the final stop on the bad-deal train.

If May is bluffing, it is only her domestic audience that can be fooled, and they won’t stay fooled for long. If she isn’t bluffing, she is delusional. The rest of the world knows this and fears the consequences.

It really time that May and the rest of the Tory party starts explaining what they want to achieve, what they think they might achieve and what compromises they are willing to make. Because, right now, it looks very much like a weak leader and a deluded fparty are about to march the UK into a disaster.

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Useless coins are useless

The 1 and 2 cent Euro coins are utterly worthless, so it’s no huge surprise that Italy has decided to stop minting them.

The move means all prices in Italy will be rounded to the nearest 5 cents.

Italians were receiving the small copper coins as change but were not spending them, claimed Sergio Boccadutri, the member of the ruling center-left Democratic Party who proposed the measure.

The coins are not accepted by parking meters, vending machines or toll booths, he told national business daily Il Sole 24 Ore. He said they were often left in drawers at home, abandoned in car doors or left at the supermarket checkouts to avoid cluttering pockets.

The Italians join Belgium, the Netherlands, Finland and Ireland in getting rid of this shrapnel and it’s a good thing too. These coins are utterly worthless and really ought to be scrapped across the whole of the Eurozone.

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Quote of the Day: The customer is not always right

[A]gain, this raises the same problem of a truth that can’t be said by politicians. Pointing out that voters were wrong means you’ll be seen as an elitist technocrat whose out of touch with the people. … Politics is dominated by a mental model which sees voters as sovereign consumers. This means politicians can no more tell voters they’re wrong any more than companies can tell customers they are. Even when it’s true, it’s god-awful marketing.

Chris Dillow

When politicians are not able to point out to voters that their assumptions are wrong, they leave a space for populists to thrive and fester.

Brexit is going to bite, and when this happens people are going to become increasingly angry and will blame the same politicians who have let them believe that everything will be a bed of roses. I suspect that Britain will become a much nastier place when this happens.

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There will be beer!

This is what happens when you apply German ingenuity to real problems: Germany’s Wacken hard rock festival gets beer pipeline.

An underground beer pipeline is being laid for the Wacken Open Air (WOA) hard rock festival, which kicks off in northern Germany in August.

It is part of a new 7km (four-mile) pipeline network, which organisers say will make the event more eco-friendly.

The beer flow rate should reach six glasses every six seconds, thanks to the 35cm (14-inch) diameter pipeline.

The only part of this story that is a bit concerning is this:

Besides beer, pipelines will also be used to deliver water to the site and remove effluent from it.

I hope they’re using different pipes.

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Voting tactically against Brexit

Even in light of recent polls, I still think the Conservatives will end up increasing their overall majority in June. But that doesn’t mean that the next five years have to be a walkover for Theresa May and InFacts have come up with a handy online tool to help you decide how to vote if you want to oppose the hardest, most catastrophic version towards which the Tories are marching.

If you live in England or Wales, put your constituency into the search engine and find the candidate best placed to oppose the extreme wing of the Conservative party.

(Via The New European)

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