Friday, 16 November 2018

BREXIT COMPO: No Plan Survives First Contact With ...

... reality.  I wonder how well Mr Barwell's wargaming is standing up to what's unfolding before us.

Anyhow:  it's Compo Time at C@W!

At the start of the First World War the FT ran a compo.  They printed a big empty map of Europe, on which entrants had to mark what they reckoned would be the national borders when hostilities ceased and the losers had been carved up.  (History does not record who won, and how close they came to the actual result.)

So - your predictions, please, for the state of play on Brexit Day 29 March 2019:
  • who will be PM?
  • has there been a GE?   If so, what headline outcome?
  • has a 2nd referendum happened?  If happened - question? result?
  • in broad terms, on what basis is the UK / EU relationship set for the immediate 12 months following that date?
  • has Gove disappeared up his own fundament? 
  • do the LibDems still exist? 
  • tie-breaker: any other colourful details concerning British politics you care to append? (this is not mean as an open invitation to devise cruel and unnatural punishments for your pet-hate politicians)  
Events are obviously moving fast, so we'll set a closing date of midnight Friday next (23rd).  Anyone who offers an early entry is free to offer a revised entry up until that deadline.  Small prize.


Thursday, 15 November 2018

The course I have set is the right one. [citation needed]

Theresa May has come out fighting.

 Image result for theresa may today

 In a speech reminiscent of a previous PM, Gordon Brown, whom she resembles in very many dysfunctional ways, she insists she is getting on with the job. Delivering on her promises. Standing up for Britain. Everyone loves her and backs her. And only a few rebels are against her.
She might as well have added in a Scottish drone, “it’s the right thing to do.” And then stared woodenly and unconvincingly at a camera that wasn’t switched on.

After a day that has seen her lose junior and senior ministers.  Have her cherished Brexit plan savaged by the very person who would be delivering it. And seen the final few letters needed to begin a leadership challenge being delivered to the chief whip, Theresa has decided she will stand firm.
Like a rock. 
A big, granite, lumpen, featureless, brooding, immovable and pointless rock.

Obviously the PM has been in with her advisers. She has looked at the numbers for and against her. And decided that with some bribery and arm twisting. Some stick and carrot, that she could see of a leadership challenge.

There is no clear replacement to her. The party is split and will vote equally for Leave or Remain hopefuls. There will be many hats in the ring. Some loathed by others. Faction after faction will be stabbing and smearing their opponents in the media. She won’t face that. So she can slip through the middle on a split vote. Again. That would have been her advice. Which she accepted.

And as usual, it is poor political and practical advice. Advice from spads and schemers who see survival as a great success in its own right. Instead of the failure that simply being challenged already means she is.

If her advisers were honest with her, they would be more truthful. She has already lost. She was mortally wounded by her own terrible election campaign many, many months ago. And has only been limping on because her main rivals are divided and her official opposition is a joke.

But that does not mean she is a success. Only that others are even worse.

What the most senior and most trusted of her inner circle should be telling her is that it is over. 
 That if she goes now, before the challenge is official, she can go with some dignity. Can always claim she was defeated by opponents who never allowed her to put her brilliant and visionary Brexit plan to the actual test. And that she gave way only because time was so short for the Brexit deadline, and the stakes so high. That for the very good of the nation, she sacrificed herself. And they can also tell her a whole load of other untruths she can spin in her memoirs.

They should point out that if she doesn’t go now, however, she will face a challenge. Like hapless John before her, her majority isn't large enough to be certain a challenge can be seen off. And if she fails to win over her MPs, she will go down as a failed, booted out, PM.

They need to point out that glad-handing, schmoozing, backslapping and bonhomie is not on her skill set. That she will need to be able to woo the party. Individual MPs. Backbenchers. Buttering them up and being their buddy. One on one. And she is useless at that unfamiliar socialising lark.

The advice should be just how long will the contest now take? How much time will be lost. What size of a majority she thinks she needs to win by. Because just winning by one vote isn’t nearly enough. How much weaker will she be if she only got a small level of support? Enough to win, but not to lead. She already knows that 48 are definitely in the rebel camp. And those may be the bravest or most disgruntled 48. But there will be many more timid souls who will wish her well to her face. But will stab her in the back if they can do so anonymously.

And even if she survives the challenge unscathed, so what?
She still has to drive through her divided cabinet a Brexit plan so toxic she dared not mention it by name at her own conference. 
 A plan that is so poor and so weak she has to hide it from her own ministers.
 A plan so awful she has to try and bounce it past her cabinet by not letting them read about its contents until two minutes before a vote on it. And giving them false choices to approve it or ruin the country. To agree with her or take a long walk down a driveway to humiliation.

And if she gets it through her new cabinet appointees, how does she get it past parliament?
Labour are dizzy at the prospect of defeating her over it. The SNP want their NI like own exceptions included.  The liberals..are simply irrelevant.
Remoaners hate it. Leavers hate it. She has lost a remoan minister just this week. And lost two Brexit ministers today. Both saying they couldn’t begin to introduce it, it was so bad.
She lost a foreign secretary the day she tried to force the Robbins plan on everyone.
It has been roundly rejected by everyone who has read it, bar a handful of ultra loyal Mayites.

And even if, by some mathematical miracle, she got it through Parliament? So what?

The DUP who are against it, and will simply bring the entire, fragile,  government down anyway.

And even if they don’t it’s such a feeble framework that the further concessions she must give to the EU will erode any lingering support the prime minister has. While allowing her opponents to jeer,that they told her so!

It’s a bad draft. From a bad Prime Minister. It fails to deliver on all the things she claims it does. And all are aware of that. Hiding the detail isn't leadership or clever politics. It’s cowardice and delusion.
Yet, like the appalling Prime Minister Brown, she seems not to realise what is most obvious to all else.

Early on in his premiership, Gordon the Mad, insisted that 42 day’s detention was “the right thing to do.”  Nobody really agreed with him. But he insisted it was. He made the non issue of pretending to be tough on crime into a contest about himself.  He faced down labour rebels. Demanded loyalty. Sent in his fixers and black ops to ‘persuade’ the waverers. 
 He spent days and nights on the telephone attempting to placate, promise and win over his own reluctant, soft on crime, lefty MPs.
It became a trial of strength. His own Hamburger Hill. A vicious fight with many casualties, for not very much at all.

In the end he used every drop of his already depleted reservoir of political capital and every ounce of his shallow stocks of good will and managed to secure a small majority for his 42 day detention bill.

At a time when he was still popular and had a Parliamentary majority Cameron or May would have killed for, he wasted all his time, effort and resources to secure a mild win on a minor matter. That was, as everyone had told him it would be, defeated in the Lords and abandoned completely soon after.

 He was a bit of a laughing stock in the media. He was never able to reasonably explain quite why he had this obsession. Why his was the only possible solution to the issue. Why he ignored all reasonable advice and alternative proposals. 
 Or why he allowed himself to be sucked into defending an indefensible position in the first place.

It was the beginning of the end for him. And when the real threats and real problems came later on, he had few friends and little power left. He was only saved from his own ignominious booting out by his own party, by the economic catastrophe that he had so happily helped to ensure.
And as we all know he ended his political days as a sad joke. An object lesson. In appointing someone whose ambitions far exceeded their abilities.

So, Theresa. Why persist? The very, very, very best outcome is that in years to come, people will say your Chequers deal was 'Meh!' 
Trust me. There won't be crowds lining streets to raise a public subscription for a statue immortalising you and your Bino. 

What you will be remembered for is failing to win an election with a stonking great poll lead, with national support, against a communist whose own party wanted him to lose.
  Failing to introduce any legislation of note except banning plastic straws and destroying the diesel car industry.
 And by fighting a bloody rearguard, possibly igniting a civil war of succession, that fractures the Conservative party and returns the country to the grip of malign socialism that will take more time, treasure and pain to repair than any cliff edge Brexit ever could.

That's what her advisers should be telling her.
But they won't.

Image result for gordon brown theresa may

Bizarre Development from the ECJ

Here's a piece of news that draws several classic C@W strands together.

As if intentionally trying to illustrate the sovereignty issue, today the ECJ has ruled that the UK's electricity market Capacity Mechanism is illegal State Aid!

That's, the UK's much praised - and emulated - Capacity Mechanism for keeping our lights on in winter.

No, I don't think the electric cooker will go cold under the Xmas turkey, but - what a bunch of plonkers!  If anyone in the Brexit camp actually understands this admittedly recondite issue, and can spare the time from polishing their stilettos, there would be a modest amount of political capital to be made from this.


The Red Pill!

Oh dear, with rolling resignations today the Prime Minister won't last.

The maths are quite simple.

The Tories only have a majority with the DUP voting with them.
The SNP will vote against any deal, as they want to remain.
The Liberal Democrats, both of them, will vote against any deal.
Labour only want power, they will always vote against the deal.,
Sinn Fein will not participate.

There maybe a few Labour Leave rebels, but by my count there are at least 10 Tory rebels at a minimum anyway.

The Lords will vote against any deal too by the way, as the Tories are a minority there.

May said something very insightful in her valedictory last night on the steps of Downing Street,

"It's this deal, no deal or remain."

So it is not her deal, which means we are down to No Deal or Remain. What a choice and a terrible reflection on the Tories to have led the Country to a path where No Deal is not properly prepared for in the event of a failure of the EU to negotiate fairly (which was always going to be the case).

Up until today I laughed at everyone who said there would be a second referendum, that won't be happening going forward. Interested to see in the comments what you would do - vote for hard brexit or remain?

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Brexit - Reloaded

Image result for blue pill

The Blue Pill Option

The Tories are in a right bind now, their Prime Minister has played her really shit hand quite badly. However, a deal has been struck with the EU. One that creates a meaningful path away from the EU over the next 5-7 years, with little disruption to the economy or country in the meantime. Yes, lots of caveats where the EU have had their way and lots of anger that we can't strike trade deals and other such stuff for a few years yet. But Brexit is done and no Government is going to have the willingness or political capital to change this course back once set in stone.

Taking the Blue Pill is this option, the Government with the help of a few rebels passes the Deal, life goes on, May gets another year as Prime Minister and the government can take a look at some domestic issues for a change and maybe even try to legislate in a few areas and make a real difference.

The Red Pill Option

The Tories are in a bind right now, their Prime Minister has played her shit hand very badly. The Deal on offer is not a go-er for the ERG or Remainers. Sensing the winds of change, cabinet ministers start resigning to plot their own coup attempts. The deal does not get voted on and May is gone. Chaos ensues, the EU are exasperated that all this effort was for naught and walk off the stage. The Tories have no credible replacement for May who can deliver a deal when the EU won't play ball. Instead we head for the certainties of a no deal Brexit. The Tory brand looks in a worse place than 1992 - having decided on a referendum they can't deliver the result. So we get a Hard Brexit and a Corbyn Government to boot. Once we let the commies in they will prove very troublesome to remove and in any event the brain drain will knacker the economy even more than Brexit. Northern Ireland becomes a scene of the troubles again too as the gangsters sense their moment for a bit of larceny and extortion. Scotland too fancies another referendum and the SNP gain much support.

So really, when you think about it for more than a few seconds, the choice now a deal has been agreed is not hard. Eat horrid sandwich, the alternative does not bear thinking about.  

Monday, 12 November 2018

Nuclear Winter

I am on record as musing that there will be no more nukes built in the UK - including, just to make it interesting, Hinkley Point C.  News that Moorside has fallen by the way (*until someone else steps into Toshiba's shoes*, yeah, right) is clearly grist to that mill.  

However, the government's arithmetic on electrification of just about everything forces them down the nuclear road.  So all attention will now be on what they will come up with for the remaining "prospects" (Wylfa, Sizewell, Bradwell) by way of a financial package.  The counter to my negative hypothesis is of course that with enough government money you can indeed suspend the laws of gravity - for a time. 

But one has to suppose the developers will insist it is up-front money next time.  Which brings us back to Hinkley.  EDF has certainly been beavering away - the civil engineering is moving along purposefully.  But, famously, although the French screwed a handsome electricity price out of George Osborne, they don't get to trouser it until the beast is up and running.  And never mind all that dredging, earthmoving and concrete: construction of the Hinkley reactors is nowhere near being started. 

Hinkley Point C: mud, concrete, but not much else

In short, the sunk costs of Hinkley, whilst by now probably a couple of billion (they'd sunk nearly one billion before they started any work at all) would not be ruinous for EDF if they decided it wasn't worth the candle.  Obviously, Plan B would be to steam round to our resolute Prime Minister and demand some cash, threatening that Plan C would be to walk away: seeing how *helpful* she was back in 2016, when Hollande wagged his finger at her.

Still, it's not clear this would succeed a second time, not least because unless they get motoring, the chance to browbeat May could disappear forever.


Thursday, 8 November 2018

Actual International Negotiating Success - It Can Be Done

Earlier in the year Trump announced swingeing sanctions on Iran, and anyone doing business with that country.  One company was most put out by this: Total, the French oil major, which had intended to make a very big play there.

So the EU leapt into action and passed a ridiculous "law to forbid [European] companies from complying with US sanctions", very much at the behest of the French".  They also tried to establish a bypass mechansim to facilitate inernational payments using a "non-transparent SPV" device - which, I predicted at the time, wouldn't work.

And, it doesn't.  In fact, none of it works.  Total has thrown in the towel.  SWIFT has thrown in the towel.  
 Like almost all other EU states, France has so far received no exemptions for doing business with Iran. Leading French companies, including Peugeot parent PSA and oil group Total, have already announced plans to curb their Iran activities. [FT]
So much for the EU's much vaunted foreign-policy strength and expertise, to say nothing of its *understanding of markets* (=0).

"Almost all ..."  Anyhow, in the middle of all this is the UK with a very specific problem.  The Iranians hold a major stake in a substantial North Sea asset-base which represents 5% of our gas production, much needed in winter.**  The main operator involved is BP (and funnily enough, Total is also involved.)  As mentioned before, I can tell you that no bugger in the mainstream energy industry (we are excepting the outright pirates) will step over the US sanctions line: which meant that gas production from the relevant fields (Rhum, Keith and Bruce) was set to be shut down - unless something could be negotiated.   

Fortunately, BP is experienced in the ways of the world and, with a little help from HMG, has calmly negotiated a waiver from the US authorities.  The gas still flows.

UK - 1, EU - 0.  These things can be done. There are people who know the score (the first half of this podcast is worth listening to).  If only the right people had taken May in hand back in 2016.

** stand by for some scary days for energy supply if Jan-Feb-March 2019 turn out cold, whether or not this gas is flowing. 

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

It's still the economy stupid - lessons from America

One strong lesson from current politics in the USA this week, is that despite the rapidly changing world around us, it is still the economy that drives politics.

The Democrats in the US, broad church though they are, have much of the Corbynista about them. Many of them are utterly obsessed with identity politics, socialism and many kinds of other ideologies that allow for a stand on both victimhood and hate of the right.

Trump of course, plays this gallery well. He has no votes in the assorted misfits of the Left, but a strong base in the right of the party which can be motivated by anti-immigration rhetoric and tax cuts.

The critical bit is how thought Trump holds onto the centre. At the moment, he has lost the House and held the Senate, without getting into the entrails of it all, the Republicans have had a pretty good run. Especially when you take into account the social media driven accounts of the 'Blue Wave' and the contempt Trump is held in - especially abroad. As ever, the BBC and Sky just can't quite believe that Trump gets any votes at all given how execrable he is.

So how does he hold up the  centre, the swing votes, when the USA as a Country is as divided as Brexit Britain?

The answer is the economy, which through his pump priming, is going great guns indeed. Enough that people who have jobs, can apply for jobs and see wage growth are happy. Happy enough to vote for more of the same, even with all the terrible rhetorical baggage that comes with the President.

Overall, Trumps divide and rule is not a great way for us to drive human society forward. However, for the Tories in Government, a salutary lesson will be that even if they deliver a fudged half-Brexit, if they focus on getting the economy ticking over, job growth and wage growth, then Corbyn and McDonnell will never get the look in - after all, their ideological baggage is at least as bad as the Tories and certainly worse in some areas.

Sadly, the soft Tories we have are not clear enough on the economic development of the Country and instead are playing to Labour's tune of throwing money at the NHS and public services. There is time to change this around though over the next few years if hey can get their act together - which of course, is another story...

Tuesday, 6 November 2018

Nowt wrong with the Brexit backstop

I really can't believe the level of briefing going on by ministers and opposition politicians on the state of the Brexit negotiations. There are, as we have known for a while now, no simple or good options that please everybody.

The EU has made plenty of mistakes along the way to this point. Insisting that its political aims, such as no hard border in Ireland, are in fact technical aims. They knew they had drawn red lines that were incompatible with Brexit and then forced the UK into agreeing them  - yes, the UK was utterly stupid to walk into the trap, but nonetheless, it has not worked out to the EU advantage.

This is because the EU wants a deal too, Macron in France and Merkel in Germany do not want a catastrophic end to UK membership when Eastern Europe and Italy are already finding manifold reasons to dislike the EU. So, a deal will be done.

On Ireland, the Irish have been very content to play hardball with the EU backing but that will change if the EU back off a little themselves.

Yet there is no reason for them too. A UK that remains in the Customs Union for another two or three years whilst solutions are worked out (away from the glare of BREXIT media madness) is the right route to take.

Why the Leavers are so against this is beyond me, all the years of wanting to leave the EU and now they fear they will Leave but not 'properly.' Madness. Also, in Parliament the remain in the Customs Union for a bit is probably the only vote May can win with enough remain rebels on both sides and few Brexiteers really brave enough to push for no deal AND a Corbyn Government.

Hopefully, this can all be decided soon as the economy is definitely starting to feel slow in part due to the tortuous path of the these negotiations. If it takes another three years (still prior to the next election) to work out the Canada Plus trade deal then fine - really, that will be fine with everyone. Immigration is already dropping and the Government can always focus on Non-EU immigration for some red meat in the meantime to sate its UKIP wing.

For the EU, allowing the UK to remain in the customs union whilst exiting is a big deal as it ruins its hand in the future negotiations - quite the opposite from what the Brexiteers are trying to parlay currently. With the UK not suffering any economic damage, the negotiations can proceed in an atmosphere of calm  - to date the Eu has skilfully played on the deadlines imposed by itself and the UK to control the process. After March 2019, a reset will allow cool heads to prevail at last.

Monday, 5 November 2018

What Does the Budget Betoken?

In some idle moments over the weekend I perused a few leftish websites and discovered a distinct strand of opinion on t'other side is that Hammond's effort of last week is a pre-election Budget.

Which might be wishful thinking on their part, I guess.  But perhaps it's worth a moment's reflection?  My impression, FWIW, had been that the Budget was a signal to those Brexiteer Tory MPs who care most of all about tax-cutting that it'll be worth their while to support whatever half-baked deal May finally comes up with.  

Which isn't incompatible with the pre-election thesis, of course.  And it's done double duty, because the tax cuts seem to have thrown Labour into a bit of a tactical dilemma, with suggestions that their private polling has lead McDonnell to be wary on the subject, and consequent awkwardness on the Labour benches.

How do C@W readers interpret last week?


Saturday, 3 November 2018

The Tatooine Times - Now only {3} credits!

The Tatooine Times

General Raab heads off to the Death Star for his meeting with the Galactic Empire's representative, Michel Barnier. The Imperial Senate 27 have not been very amenable to the New Republic in recent conferences. Theresa May has even been refused a meal at Intergalactic dining occasions.
No soup for you.
 She hopes that her representative will have greater success in his encounter with the Dark Lord.
General Raab
In a statement about the November conference Moff May insisted that a leaving agreement for the fledgling Rebel Alliance was 95% done. And she was convinced a Treaty of Friendship and Security would be signed. And that the Galactic Empire were negotiating in good faith. And not just dicking her around.

BREAKING NEWS ***Exclusive footage as General Raab presents the latest leaving proposals to Lord Barnier.BREAKING NEWS**

Image result for tatooine moisture
85% of humanoids now Vegan. Sand farming on Tatooine. Special supplement.

Related image
Watto Trading: Motto- if it ain't broke...then I don't want it.
In other Alliance news, Arron Watto, a private junk dealer from Mos Espa, is being sought by Imperial Intelligence agents for allegedly making donations from funds that may not have been just his own.
Arron Watto: Trader
 Under questioning from the entirely "Impartial Galactic Commission to Prevent Outbreaks of Democracy", Mr Watto said that the credits were all his. He wasn't simply a junk dealer and second hand droid trader. But also a Slaver. And it was in his slaving capacity that he occasionally traveled to Iridonia where he sometimes had dealings with the dubious, poisonous and dangerous,
Dathomiri Nightbrothers.

Friday, 2 November 2018

The 'Softening' of the Armed Forces

Are all RAF pilots like her, Daddy?
The 100th anniversary of the RAF has seen a newly re-vamped exhibition put on at the RAF Museum at Hendon.  I'd been meaning to go for a while, and took an opportunity yesterday.  The major changes are really only one new hangar's worth of general intro to the RAF, plus the retrograde step they've taken of closing my favourite exhibit, the Short Sunderland (which can only be viewed from the outside now: you used to be able to wander through it).

Well, it's all very shiny.  I'd been warned there is much dumbing-down in evidence, but I can't really agree with that; and the hardware is all there (check out that Vulcan bomb bay, lads); and the archive is as fine and professional as ever.

But there is certainly, how shall we put it, a lot of 'profiling' going on.  In this new intro hall, illustrating the 100 years of the service there are many individual stories told on the back of life-size cardboard photos of RAF personnel, like the rather fetching one on the right. 

Are you getting the picture?  Yes: of the 51 RAF people whose photos appear in this hall, 21 are of women, almost 42%.

Now: what % of today's RAF, do you imagine, are women?  Answer: 17%.  And what was the figure at the height of WW2?  16%.  And what % of the 109,484 members of the Service who gave their lives on active service ..?  They don't mention that.

But are we surprised? - when soi-dissant *historian* Dan Snow can lie to his children that women flew Spitfires in combat?  By contrast with shameful behaviour like that, the exhibition is as pure as the driven, errrr, snow.

Still, I am pleased to note the Museum still describes the prominent twin Aden cannon-bulges on the Hawker Hunter as 'Sabrinas'.  Until some passing thought-policeperson notices ...


Thursday, 1 November 2018

2019 - What a Year

1969 saw the first man on the moon.  1979 was quite a year.  1989 was epic.  The -nines weren't so interesting for a couple of decades: but 2019 is likely to stake a claim on the memory-banks.

There are plenty of indications that the Chinese are in line for an economic pause of some kind - which won't pass unnoticed in the rest of the world.  There is no shortage of situations around the globe that are perilously poised.  Many a nation now has a leadership that is new, untried, and willing to countenance significant disruption to the status quo.  The unpredictability of President T is without doubt a force-multiplier (perhaps that should be farce-).  Wars, and rumours of wars, as the Good Book says.

And then we come to our own little challenges.  Better enjoy next month's holiday season, I'd say - before adopting the Brace position ...