Pulling out of the EU is our best shot at saving Europe

Project Fear, as the official campaign for a Remain vote in the imminent British referendum has come to be called, hit a new low of desperation this week, as both David Cameron and his sometime adversary Gordon Brown told us that a British withdrawal from the EU would lead to instability in Europe, raising the spectre of continental war that we would, once again, feel obliged to sort out, at enormous and damaging cost. Much better to stay in and stop it happening in the first place. Oddly, for someone who has traditionally been so inept on his feet, Brown did it rather better, and elegantly appealed to our patriotic pride as citizens of a country whose power and stability is vitally needed in a union of nations that might otherwise fragment and release the safety-catches.

It was a curious change of tack for a campaign that had previously been trying to convince us that Britain is so small and insignificant that it can’t possibly survive outside the EU. But all the speculative figures about the economic impact of Brexit or staying in – from both sides – have been met with admirable scepticism by the public, because it is quite obvious that nobody really knows, but that the truth is that, as our tactically Remainer Home Secretary, Theresa May, wisely said, “of course the sky won’t fall in” if we leave. So now Remain has taken up the line that has been held by our European neighbours all along, namely that it would be self-centred and irresponsible of huge, benignly powerful Britain to turn its back on a European Union in economic and demographic crisis. 

And the thesis is correct, as far as it goes. Britain leaving the EU will undoubtedly give a spur to the far-left and far-right across Europe, as they exploit the populist impetus for the exit referendum among peoples who are fed up, for all their different reasons, with EU regulations and diktats that neither fit their national models nor respect their individual democracies and local economic interests. And the fringe parties will seize the opportunity quickly, before their national constitutions are amended to remove it, as they surely will be, thus bullying dissent beyond the constraint of constitutional means. For while the cosy club of integrationists in Europe continues to pursue ever-closer union, it will continue to alienate more and more people from mainstream politics, until they conclude that the ballot-box is a con, and take to the streets instead. It’s already happening.

And before very long the centrist politicians who have nailed their careers to the European project of ever-closer union might be strung up from lamp-posts in their capitals – unless they wrench the whole machine into reverse, and scrap any further plans for hammering the remaining 27 round pegs into one, great big square hole, with the interstices filled by terrorists, gangsters and institutionalised fraud. But to do that they would have to admit that they were wrong; and such is the ego of the professional politician that most of them would rather blow their off-shore savings on a pad in Brazil and a berth on the last submarine out of Hamburg than acknowledge and act on the popular will. Better the U-Boat than the U-Turn.

It’s a grim prospect, but there is no evidence that Britain staying in the EU would do anything to avert it, for our warnings about the negative effects of ever-closer union have consistently gone unheeded. The best thing David Cameron managed to extract from his negotiations was an opt-out from a policy that is otherwise assumed to be inexorable – and even that is meaningless, because the more the EU regulates and harmonises the more difficult will be Britain’s position within it, so we’ll end up giving in point by point anyway. And even so he was tersely informed that this was it – you’ve had your renegotiation, now shut up, for good. He was drinking in the Last Chance Saloon, and all he got was a half of warm Pilsner.

So it is absolutely clear that Britain in the EU will be powerless to stop it careering smugly towards disaster. Indeed a Remain vote on June 23rd will only encourage the madness; whereas if we vote Leave we will give heart to democratic rebels all over the continent, and there is at least a chance that the establishment politicians of the other main EU states will take the only course possible to stop their extremists capitalising on popular dissent – which is to embrace the principles of national sovereignty and economic diversity in Europe, and abandon their supranational ambitions before it’s too late. It is a slim chance, but it’s the only one there is.

Why the Comrades really hate the Jews

Let’s get this out of the way at the start. If you’re antisemitic you are hostile to Jews and Palestinians, indeed all Arabs, Babylonians and Phoenicians. So, technically, antisemitism and anti-Zionism are, as British lefties are now stridently insisting, not the same thing. But the term gained currency in the 19th Century, when the Jews were pretty much the only Semites to have hit the European popular radar, so it came to mean, and still means “anti-Jewish”, which makes the lefties, few of whom in any case are sticklers for etymology, wrong; for, no matter how many Jews in the world and even within Israel might repudiate Zionism, its opposite is the belief that Israel should be swept into the sea, and mostly not out of a cultural loyalty to the Diaspora and a pious loathing of the secular Israeli state, involving the humane evacuation and resettlement of Israelis before the tanks roll in. Antisemitism and anti-Zionism are, de facto,  synonymous.

Anyway, if I went down that road I’d also have to insist that homophobia is a fear of things that are the same, that a bastion is not a stronghold but a gun-emplacement protruding from a castle wall, and that suburbs is a singular noun. Try to defy every wave on the rising tide of ignorance and you end up looking like a total Cnut (who, by the way, didn’t actually… Oh, forget it). So, for the current purpose, antisemitism will do.

If you’ve been awake for the last few months you will know that this phenomenon has become something of a problem for the Labour Party, as though it didn’t already have enough; but for any badgers who might be scraping the dust from their eyes by reading this blog, various people of no great importance in Labour were suspended or had their wrists slapped over comments that were anti-Jewish, and then Ken Livingstone, whose public profile is still rather higher than that of Jeremy Corbyn (currently Leader of the Opposition), mouthed off on the radio to the effect that Hitler was a Zionist “until he went mad and ended up killing six million Jews”. 

Well, at least nobody can call Ken a Holocaust-denier. But what on earth did he mean? Surely not that Zionism is a sane and rational position from which only the suddenly demented would depart? No. He meant that Hitler’s supposed flirtation with the idea of a Jewish homeland in 1932, before he lost the realpolitik plot, taints the whole idea by association with the most evil man in modern history. Never mind that that flirtation has anyway subsequently been debunked by a string of proper historians pouring scorn on the faux scholarship on which Ken based his remarks. It’s the anti-Zionism that matters.

And the big question that nobody, as far as I’m aware, has addressed (though I can’t read everything, and do correct me if I’ve missed something you’ve seen) is Why? Whence this enthusiasm on the hard Left for the enemies of Israel (the country and the world-wide nation)? 

In one sense this is a bigger problem for what we might think of as Real Labour – not the Tory-lite, election-grabbing Blairites, but the mass of decent, thoughtful people who used to lead their local parties, and represent their communities in Parliament in the long haul for post-imperial social justice – than it is for Corbyn and his ilk. For it makes them question their roots, and wonder if they might unwittingly have been, all along, the acceptable face of something deeply unpleasant.

Such people are not antisemitic. Indeed it is one of their core beliefs that all the people who reside in Britain should be equal in the eyes of its law and the policies of its governments (the Remainers among them haven’t twigged that continued British membership of the EU will destroy their influence on this, as so much else, but that’s for another time). They also frankly admire, as any sensible person would, the Jewish contribution to Western culture. And for them, as for any paid-up member of our civil society, differences in cultural and racial and religious background are the source of genial conversation and mutual admiration, not pretexts for ghetto-isation and politically sponsored victim-hood, let alone for witch-hunting.

And yet sometimes they worry. Surely theirs is the party of the oppressed and the excluded? So why can the Jews, the most consistently persecuted people in history, not be relied upon to vote en masse for a Labour candidate, even when that candidate is Jewish? It doesn’t compute. The conundrum has a lot to do with the fact that they tend to think of voters as blocs of interest, rather than constantly shifting coalitions of opinion; which is odd, when you think about it, because Labour has excelled by responding to public opinion (think of Blair and devolution, Lords reform and the ludicrous hunting ban), whereas the Tories do well when people vote for their pockets. But it’s the same problem that Real Labour has with blacks and Asians, and indeed the whole industrial working class. Sometimes people vote for what’s good for them, not for who is traditionally on their side, and members of the same perceived interest bloc will perversely vote in different ways. It mystifies those old, well-meaning and often charming Real Labour stalwarts. But, alas, in the Jewish context, that attitude is what connects them with the Trotskyites and Stalinists (or “Tankies”) they so despise.

Ah, Trots and Tankies. Let’s include all the sub-movements of the two whose names include the word “Workers”, so that we can say Trots, Workers And Tankies, and use an irresistible acronym. I have old friends among them, all of whom left the Labour Party because it was too right-wing (not under Blair, by the way, but under Kinnock), though they might now have rejoined – I live abroad, so I’ve lost touch with the Internationalists. But I know that they all have Jewish mates – who doesn’t? Even Ken mentioned the “friend in Golders Green” – but also that the individual is of no account in their world-view of blocs of humanity working out the great dialectic. And here the Jews are the ultimate enemy.

If you were stuck in a stalled train with a bloke whose whole life revolved around football in, say, Shropshire, he might break the silence by saying “So, you a Wolves fan?” If you answered in the affirmative, joy would result. If you claimed allegiance to another team, a lively but amicable conversation could ensue. But if you replied that you had no interest whatever in football, a stony silence would be the best of all possible outcomes, the worst being getting your head kicked in. And that’s the problem TWATs have with Jews.

In the context of this current hoo-ha, those TWATs who know some history are keen to point out that it was Communists and Anarchists who organised the demonstration that stopped the antisemitic British Union of Fascists’ rally through the East End of London in 1936, and, in the judicious absence of any fascists, had a riot-battle around Cable Street with the merely order-keeping police instead. There’s a strong case that this was a flash-point that high-lighted British sympathy with British Jews, and stopped the Mussolini-  and Hitler- sympathisers in their tracks. Fine. I’m glad they did it. But why did they do it, and why did they subsequently turn on the people they had defended?

In 1936 it seemed to the TWATs of the time, not unreasonably, that the whole pseudo-democratic, industrial-capitalist order of the Western world might be about to crumble, and either Fascism or Communism would take over. It was what the Spanish Civil War was all about. The Jews of Europe, a people without borders, oppressed to a greater or lesser extent by their rulers and with a common language of Yiddish (though Spanish Jews had their own – never mind), were perfectly poised to be in the forefront of the Internationalist revolution. And what did they do? Bugger all. They just tried to get on with their neighbours, lead decent lives, and not be seduced and divided by the oratory of demagogues. They were not interested in the game. They didn’t lift a finger to undermine the capitalist nation-states in which they lived; in fact, oh, easily dozens of them ran the banks that kept capitalism going. Then the fascists and the communists killed them by the million. But that’s what happens when you don’t engage with the dialectic. It served them right.

And then, in 1948, when there had still been a chance that they might have thrown their weight into the abolition of the nation-state, they had the effrontery to take the capitalist bribe and start a new one of their own, and secure its borders! This was an act of treason against History for which the TWATs will never forgive them.

So forget any plastic sympathy for Palestinians, which, noticeably, is not extended to the victims of, for example, Robert Mugabe or Vladimir Putin. This is anti-Zionism, antisemitism, Jew-hating, call it what you will, pure and evil, because the Jews are the enemies of the Revolution. That’s it. It did not surface in the Socialist foundation of the Labour Party, nor has it been a noticeable stripe in its colours until now, when the TWATs, God willing temporarily, have taken over. But it is not an aberration; it is part and parcel of International Socialism, and the majority in the British Labour movement who are disgusted by it must sort out their philosophy and their allegiance right speedily.

Oh, by the way, do raise a glass this Thursday, May 5th, for the birthday of the great Jew Karl Marx who, being that terrible thing, a brilliant individual, will of course be neglected by those who invoke his name in their own hateful causes.

Footnote: Hours after I posted this there appeared in The Times a piece by Daniel Finkelstein that also addresses the roots of Labour antisemitism, though from a different perspective. Good piece and well worth reading.

 

 

 

 

Europeans love Britain. So vote Leave.

The longer I live on the Continent, the more it is borne in upon me that we Brits are, in only the most positive way, the Americans of Europe. London is so much bigger than any other European capital, and, unlike in even Paris or Madrid or Rome, examples of the grandeur sought by the tourist are far too numerous and too widely spread to be walked across in a day, even by the fittest. And look at BeNeLux. Brussels, Luxembourg City and my home of Amsterdam, though rich in prettiness if not grandeur, are outright tiny by comparison. Then there’s the extraordinary choice available to the British consumer in all departments (except horse-meat), and the military and naval clout that still dwarfs that of our neighbours, and the pre-eminence of the City of London, and the history of global power and persisting cultural influence, through film, television, advertising and popular music that Europe admires but can’t match, and our rich vocabulary in genial banter. In short, the Londoner in Europe enjoys the kudos of the New Yorker in London.

Sometimes the admiration can be grudging; Roman and Parisien men cling to pride in their native style, which is fair enough – except that you will wreck the line of an all-but-weightless French or Italian suit by putting anything in the pockets, which is why they now affect the ghastly man-bag, whereas a proper British suit, constructed for practical use, can carry a wallet and a phone, a notebook and pen, a hip-flask and some change, a cigarette case and a heavy silver lighter, all without showing a bulge. Also it will not be ruined if you get caught in the rain. Its weight might be inconvenient in a southern European climate, but that is not the point, as clearly demonstrated by the fact that the Germans also favour the lighter, impractical cloth. But a British suit abroad draws gasps of admiration and envy, even though it might have cost a fifth of the price of an Armani or a Hugo Boss (draw your own metaphor). Our neighbours clearly admire British style, but have to have a bit of their own as a point of national pride. Why else would they hoover up Burberry and Barbour, brands with which they cannot begin to compete?

When a European professional gets posted to London it is a cause of celebration (posh accommodation, of course, being provided by the company, but just as it would be anywhere else). This is why London, in terms of population, is the fourth largest French city, and also bursting with expats from all over continental Europe. It has more and better hotels, bars, restaurants and shops than anywhere in the world. But the best thing about it is that here even the more powerful Yanks are levelled to the status of fellow-expats, can’t swank too much, and have to put up with their boorish insecurity and skin-deep culture being loftily ignored.

For in Europe we British suffer none of the negatives associated with the United States. We are mild-mannered and cultured and courteous and circumspect. When we settle in a foreign country we make an effort to become at least functional in the local language. Sure, we have our visiting louts for football matches and stag weekends, but even these earn a certain respect for being so much more moronically arrogant than anything the natives could put up in opposition. For they are not just drunken thugs; they are (as a rule) English drunken thugs, the de-mobbed army of Henry the Fifth, usually open to simply worded reason from the voice of command, but not to be messed with. Yanks are just shallow, starry-eyed gawpers, and gangling woossies who can’t take their drink.

To cosmopolitan Europeans, of whatever station, Britain rocks. European politicians hate us for our historically stable democracy, our insistence on the primacy of common law, our effective, adversarial parliamentary system and its straight connection between the elector and the directly accountable elected, and our prudish revulsion at lapses of probity in our leaders, as well as our uniquely British confidence and style. But their people hate them, and love us. 

Recently that great champion of democratic liberty, the veteran Labour MP Frank Field, has urged British voters to leave the European Union for all the established and well-justified reasons, but also because it would be a way of giving David Cameron a bloody nose without having to vote for the disaster of a Corbyn government. 

It wouldn’t just do that, Frank. It would also give a bloody nose to all the Eurocrats in all the countries of the EU, and make their people, who are fed up with that self-serving, anti-democratic and stagnating oligarchy, love us and look to our leadership all the more.

 

Why work is the curse of the (Champagne) drinking classes

We have all read and heard much about what motivates campaigners for a Leave vote in the forthcoming British referendum on continued membership of the EU.  Starry-eyed nostalgia for Empire, hard-headed analysis of economic and political reality, first-hand experience of the European racket, like that of the scarily bright and articulate Daniel Hannan MEP (whose new book ‘Why Vote Leave‘ should be read by everyone who wishes to cast an informed vote in June) – all of these play their part. 

And yet Remain remains the Establishment position, and remains also on the front foot (a cricketing metaphor that only Commonwealth readers will understand). While dismissing those who want us to get the hell out as nutters of various stripes, we have not applied the same pop psychology to those who want Britain to stay the hell in.

So let’s start at the top. David Cameron gave us the impression that if he didn’t return from his negotiations in Europe with a deal he could recommend to the British public he would resign as PM and campaign for leaving. I, for one, admired him for this principled stance. Unfortunately what it actually meant was that any deal he secured would become the one he wanted, and he has painted himself into a political corner, having to advocate continued membership lest the credibility of his government be destroyed, and the Tory right take over his party. That outcome might be a grim prospect for some, but it does not affect the argument on the merits of British membership.

Nevertheless, he is pulling out all the stops to secure a Remain verdict. President Obama’s un-American use of the word ‘queue’ stinks of an outgoing incumbent who doesn’t much care any more, and was happy to take his text from a mate on his way out. The most unlikely celebrity Remainder, Jeremy Clarkson, is such good friends with the PM that he was able to call him when things got a bit sticky in Argentina (see his interview in The Times a couple of weeks ago). Don’t be surprised if Clarkson is recognised in Cameron’s resignation honours list for his services to exports (which, in fairness, he would thoroughly – I was going to say richly – deserve). Then there’s Niall Ferguson, the man who wrote ‘Empire: How Britain Made the Modern World’, a brilliant and ambitious historian who was just too bright and awkward to be the national treasure of a media don he wanted to be, and whose Remain stance now makes him look like a scholarship boy siding with the bullies. 

Let’s now jump down to the likes of you and me, before addressing the middle level of power and influence. Of course many people are worried about the uncertainty of Brexit, whether it will cost jobs and cause recession, and I would refer them to Labour MPs Kate Hoey and Gisela Stuart, who are clearly, within their party, the successors of europhobes Barbara Castle and Peter Shore, as well as the great Austin Mitchell, and understand that the greatest peace-time evil, unemployment, has had a field-day in the Eurozone. These voters must just make themselves as well-informed as they can, develop a nose for mendacious propaganda, and vote with their heads and hearts on the day.

Others, possibly more secure in their employment, are worrying that we have a moral obligation to support European co-operation, even buying the old lie that it has kept the peace (almost) in, well, all the European countries that actually sort of matter, since 1945, with NATO merely lucky in its embarrassing success. They miss the point that after 1945 the old Franco-German animus ceased to be of global significance; the initiative had passed to the US, Russia and China. Only if Europe were united (remember ‘ever closer union’) with a single defence and foreign policy, and armies under a single command, could Europe be the crucible for World War III. And if southern European countries are in serious trouble as a result of their signing up to a currency union they can’t possibly sustain – well, the UK will have a lot more money for foreign aid when its contribution is no longer filtered and diminished through the EU. If the power to do good in the world, especially Europe, is what worries you, then vote Leave.

But now we come to the people in the middle of this debate, the vocal Remainders with collective cred, the’business leaders’, the global bankers, the diplomats, the Treasury officials. And here I adduce a personal experience.

For five years we have been resident ex-pats in Amsterdam (see my previous blog), and our friends here have voiced concern over what might happen to us were we to become no longer citizens of the EU, as though we will be clinging to the undercarriage of the last departing chopper. But this city is crammed with ex-pat professionals from the US, Australia, India, you name it, and they seem to get on pretty well. Maybe we’d have to present ourselves at the British Consulate, which is in the smartest part of town, just by the most beautiful public park, for a rubber stamp once a year. Maybe we’d have to fill in a few more forms. What the hell? It’s just a bit more work.

And that, I’m afraid, is the point for all these experts and leaders and wonks whose pronouncements we are told to take with nods of solemn respect. They don’t want an upheaval because it will mean more work. They will have to deal with new conditions, get out of their comfort zones and think anew, and the younger colleagues who are after their jobs will be better at it than they are. George Osborne’s officials must have laughed at being asked, for the only time in their careers, to come up with the gloomiest forecast they could possibly contrive, but they did it because it might mean less work in the long run. Unemployment might be an evil, but having to work harder for your salary, for those with secure jobs, is deeply unattractive, and that’s what all the bankers and civil servants are going to have to do if we vote Leave, because making it work will be their jobs. And, of course, they will do it – because otherwise their juniors will.

There is currently much public resentment at the salaries and bonuses paid to so-called ‘fat cats.’ I’m not in favour of state intervention in private sector salaries and bonuses, because inequality is the price of freedom, and it’s up to these people to square with their consciences what they do with their money. It is a very British vice to confuse morality with good taste. But I have no objection whatever to their being made to work harder, a lot harder, to justify their weekly envelope. 

So if you harbour envious hostility against bankers and unsackable civil servants, vote Leave, and make them suffer while the rest of us benefit from the freedom.

Next time; Why so many Europeans want to be British

 

High stakes and (almost) a dead cert

There has never been a better time to bet on Britain winning the Eurovision Song Contest, so get down to your local bookie without delay. It is many years since artistic merit materially influenced the outcome of this ridiculous event, and the last time we won, albeit with an OK song that is now completely forgotten, it was because we’d just elected a Labour government perceived to be more europhile than its Conservative predecessor. 

This year our entry is utter dross, a tuneless bit of up-tempo thumpa-thumpa of no interest whatever, but we are offering it at a time when our fellow member states of the EU are facing the very real possibility that we might vote to leave them to it. So it would be no surprise at all if all the core states of the Union gave our frightful teen ditty top marks in the grand final. There would be boos of uneditable volume from the live audience in Stockholm, and Russia might well quit Eurovision in protest. But it would tip the UK referendum vote in favour of Remain, whereas a resounding, and richly deserved “nul points” would certainly hand it on a plate to Vote Leave. Yes, people really are that daft.

As for the subtext of our entry, you might think that the recurring line, ‘You’re not alone, we’re in this together’, is ill-considered as an expression of government-via-BBC enthusiasm for the European project, and of limited appeal to Eurovision voters, for it does have a whiff of ‘fog in Channel, Continent cut off’ about it. But if that’s what you think you do not live on the Continent. In my home of Amsterdam the prospect of Brexit is viewed by Europhiles with dismay, because it would mean fewer shoulders bearing the moral obligation to hold the Union together with bail-outs and subsidies. It would be, on Britain’s part, a cynical act of self-interest. Yes, that’s right;  self-interest. Everybody accepts that Britain itself would be better off Out, but for them that’s not the point. They want a continued call on our power and wealth, braking the former and milking the latter. It’s that simple. So the chorus of the song is actually, as it were, right on the money.

But all this means that the result of the Song Contest this year is far too important to be left to chance, let alone democracy. After all, two years ago the Netherlands was robbed of Eurovision glory by millions of lagered-up lads with smartphones deciding it was a hoot to vote for the bearded bloke in the frock, so you obviously can’t trust the citizenry to think straight on the night. Fortunately theirs is not the only voice, for every country has its own panel of jurors to match the popular poll, and, while it is obviously inconceivable that any of these is susceptible to outright bribery by a foreign power (though, for David Cameron, that would have been a much more effective use of 9 million quid than a domestic mail-shot that is bound to alienate more people than it wins over), it would be madness for their governments, via their participating broadcasters, not to put the case for a British victory with all the charm they can muster. 

Of course the jurors, or even the broadcasters themselves, might tell their political bosses to go hang, which would show admirable independence and integrity. So putting money on the UK is still a gamble. But with most bookmakers currently offering 100-1 on a British win, it’s got to be worth a punt. And this is your last chance. Because even if we vote Remain in June, the memory of our selfish arrogance, in imperiling the EU with a referendum in the first place, will ensure that we never, ever win again.