Sunday, 18 December 2016

Letter to the Financial Times by a Remain voter

Two Englishmen in Aleppo


I want to know about what went on in Eastern Aleppo in the last 4 years and why the rebels didn't surrender sooner. I hope we shall know very soon. In fact, this weekend it is just starting to emerge from the fog of propaganda.

'This is a bona fide independent journalist. It seems from what he writes that people are very happy the government has won.



'This was an exchange of lives arranged between Russia, Turkey, and Iran, who all have a stake in this conflict. Why though has it taken so long to get to this point at the expense of so many ordinary Aleppans?The operation was repeated several times as slowly each enclave was emptied. It marked a historic watershed in Syria’s protracted civil war, handing President Assad a victory that was fervently celebrated by the crowds looking on. 
In government-controlled Aleppo there was little sympathy for rebel fighters who many characterise as simply “terrorists”.‘Ali’, who preferred not to give his full name, told me: “People are tired of these rebels. The people of west Aleppo have been living in horror for five years.'
This is an English parson (priest)Andrew Ashdown, who's in Aleppo and who says he visited the refugees unannounced by taxi, without a minder. Meanwhile David Miliband in New York says the regime are going from house to house killing civilians.


'The sense of relief amongst the thousands of refugees is palpable.All were keen to talk, and we interviewed several who had arrived only yesterday and today. They all said the same thing. They said that they had been living in fear. They reported that the fighters have been telling everyone that the Syrian Army would kill anyone who fled to the West, but had killed many themselves who tried to leave – men, women and children. One woman broke down in tears as she told how one of her sons was killed by the rebels a few days ago, and another kidnapped. They also killed anyone who showed signs of supporting the Government. The refugees said that the ‘rebels’ told them that only those who support them are “true Muslims”, and that everyone else are ‘infidels’ and deserve to die.

They told us they had been given very little food: that any aid that reached the area was mostly refused to them or sold at exorbitant prices. Likewise, most had been given no medical treatment. (A doctor who has been working with the refugees for weeks told me last night that in an area recently liberated, a warehouse filled with brand new internationally branded medicines had been discovered.) Most of the refugees said they had had members of their families killed by the rebels and consistently spoke of widespread murder, torture, rape and kidnap by the rebels. They said if anyone left their homes, their properties and belongings were confiscated and stolen.

One old man in a wheelchair who was being given free treatment in the Russian Field Hospital said he had been given no treatment for three years despite asking. He said: “Thank God we are free. We now have food. We can now live our lives. God bless the Syrian Army.” They all said they were glad to be out and to be free. All the refugees without exception were visibly without exception clearly profoundly relieved and happy to be free. One woman said: “This is heaven compared to what we have been living.” We asked if the Syrian Army had ill-treated anyone. They said never. One woman said: “They helped us to escape and they provide us with food and assistance.” '

What Mr. Ashdown wrote a few days ago from Aleppo was repeating what government people had told him and describing places his minders took him. This, however, is good stuff.

What news we have had from Eastern Aleppo for years was from rebel sources which were repeated by the Western media pretty uncritically. Let's see what more we find out now.


A year ago a former British ambassador to Syria said "most of the opposition" is made up of "jihadis", the 'moderate rebels' were just 'a footnote', British policy on Syria was wrong and Russia's right


Saturday, 17 December 2016

Discerning truth and falsehood in the Aleppo story


The story about government forces killing 80 civilians in Eastern Aleppo could be true but is completely unsupported by any evidence, even circumstantial.

Both the Assad regime and the rebels, naturally, spend much money and effort on PR but with this difference. The rebels' PR is repeated in the Western press as objective testimony from 'non-combatant activists', while Western journalists who repeat the story the Syrian government wants to get out, like the utterly unnuanced Vanessa Beeley and Eva Bartlett, are vilified as Lord Haw Haws.


Both young women were previously in Gaza. Eva Bartlett reported from there a story that Hamas approved. Had she been critical of Hamas, she would have had to sling her hook sharpish. I am not sure if Vanessa Beeley wrote about Gaza or not. Now they take Assad's side as previously they took Hamas's.

The Syrian civil war became a long time ago part of the conflict between Israel and the Shia states against Iran and Russia. Pro and anti-Israel attitudes colour many people's view of Syria.


Still both ladies appear to be independent and truthful in the narrow sense that they believe that they are telling the true story. Their story should be heard.

Actually, most journalism is repeating the story of someone who has his own agenda. This applies, as we have seen, even to crime stories released by the British police.


Funnily enough, I found myself in a bar in Beirut in October 2014 being stood a drink by a nice Syrian who told me he was a communications specialist who had been hired by Bashir Assad.

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Morally disgusting people praise Castro


Before the Castro tributes, the last time left-wingers were so funny was when Marchais, Yasser Arafat and the others welcomed the Moscow coup in 1991.

But it's not just the left. The BBC are kinder to Castro than they were to Lady Thatcher when she died:

“His critics accused him of being a dictator.”
The Lord Mayor of Dublin has opened a Book of Condolence for Fidel Castro to allow the people of Dublin to "pay their own respects", which is reminiscent of Eamonn de Valera signing the book of condolences in the German Embassy in 1945 on the death of Hitler.

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Juncker, Hollande and Corbyn praise Castro, Trump rejoices

European Commission - Statement

Statement by President Juncker on the passing away of Fidel Castro

Brussels, 26 November 2016
Fidel Castro was one of the historic figures of the past century and the embodiment of the Cuban Revolution. With the death of Fidel Castro, the world has lost a man who was a hero for many. He changed the course of his country and his influence reached far beyond. Fidel Castro remains one of the revolutionary figures of the 20th century. His legacy will be judged by history. 
I convey my condolences to the Cuban President Raúl Castro and his family and to the people of Cuba

He has not so far gone as far as Eamonn De Valera who signed the book of condolence at the German embassy on Adolf Hitler's death.  

French President Francois Hollande has mourned the loss the "towering" former Cuban leader Fidel Castro, while noting concerns over human rights under his regime.

British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn hailed Fidel Castro as a “champion of social justice”, following the announcement of the former Cuban leader’s death, admitted there were “flaws” in the revolutionary leader’s long rule over the Caribbean island, but praised him as a “huge figure of modern history”.

Mr Corbyn said: 
“Fidel Castro’s death marks the passing of a huge figure of modern history, national independence and 20th century socialism. From building a world class health and education system, to Cuba’s record of international solidarity abroad, Castro’s achievements were many.For all his flaws, Castro’s support for Angola played a crucial role in bringing an end to Apartheid in South Africa, and he will be remembered both as an internationalist and a champion of social justice.”
President Barack Obama said: 
“We know that this moment fills Cubans — in Cuba and in the United States — with powerful emotions, recalling the countless ways in which Fidel Castro altered the course of individual lives, families, and of the Cuban nation. History will record and judge the enormous impact of this singular figure on the people and world around him.”


The BBC praised Castro's health care programme and role in fighting the apartheid South African regime, without mentioning mass murder, political prisoners or Cubans celebrating his death. Welfare has taken the place of freedom (and religion) in the minds of many people.

In fact South Africans of all races can be grateful that the National Party regime held on long enough to save them from Castro-style communism.

I don't recall Pinochet getting this treatment and yet Pinochet, not more brutal than Castro, was the saviour of his country and made it the prosperous First World economy it is today. He also stepped down after losing a referendum.

And Donald Trump called Castro a "brutal dictator".

A Facebook friend commented: You know what? I think Donny's going to work out just fine.
Donald Trump also said:

"While Cuba remains a totalitarian island, it is my hope that today marks a move away from the horrors endured for too long, and toward a future in which the wonderful Cuban people finally live in the freedom they so richly deserve,"



Fidel Castro has finally died


Fidel Castro has finally died. Many (most?) in Cuba are rejoicing secretly. But many are mourning, I imagine.

I used to think it interesting that Mao, Franco and Tito were still alive. That's a while back. "Eheu fugaces!' (I was very precociously interested in history as a very young boy.)


"Any man's death diminishes me" but his less than most. But oddly there is always a slight sadness at the end of any era, even an evil one, and his era does not necessarily die with him. A number of people I met in Cuba liked him. Of course people were in tears when Stalin died.


In Miami, they are celebrating wildly in the streets.

Castro reminds me of the Communist turned Catholic Dorothy Day's remark
"Becoming a saint is the revolution." 
In 1960, she praised Fidel Castro's "promise of social justice" and that year she travelled to Cuba and reported her experiences in a four-part series in the Catholic Worker. In the first of these, she wrote: 

Sunday, 20 November 2016

This is only the start of a religious war

"A world is collapsing before our eyes," tweeted the French ambassador to the USA, Gerard Araud, as it became clear Trump had won. He deleted it later but he was right, of course. As I watched, I suddenly felt sure that the election of Trump, with all his grave faults, was a last-minute victory for common sense in America and Europe.
But, if I hadn't thought that then, the reaction of his opponents in the USA and in Europe would have convinced me. One or two of the craziest American 'liberals' talk of resistance (armed?) or of killing Trump. 

The New York Times ran a piece by Californian Daniel Duane who said of his fellow Californians, "nearly everyone I know would vote yes tomorrow if we could secede" from the United States. These are the people who are horrified by Confederate flags.

The mainstream liberals compare the result to September 11 and routinely compare the President elect to Hitler or Mussolini. The liberal papers print misleading nonsense and untruths, while complaining about fake (conservative) news, which Twitter is trying to suppress by blocking Breitbart writers etc. 

Liberal tears were enjoyable, but now the power of the liberal American establishment begins to frighten me.
Trump and his first appointments are extremely Philo-Semitic and supportive of Israel, intend scrapping the accommodation with Iran (which saddens me) and yet are accused of being Anti-Semites, without any rational grounds.
Gerard Baker in the Spectator said that condemnation of Trump’s victory was taken up like the call of the muezzin from the media’s minarets.
"Much of New York City stumbled around in the fog of mourning. The principal of the school to which a colleague sends his child sent a note to parents explaining how the school would lead their children through their grief. ‘And now when we most want to weep and mourn, we must come to work and be a source of both solace and inspiration to all our young students,’ it said." 

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Is the decadent West in terminal decline?

An article in Xinhua, the state-controlled Chinese news agency said that the US election shows 
the twisted mentality of an empire moving downhill.
That makes sense, though I think it is Europe that is in decline much more than America.

Christopher Booker in the Telegraph thinks the same. In an article headlined

It doesn't matter who wins the US election. The decadent West is in terminal decline
he says :
...Britons of the early Fifties could see the society this revolution has now brought about, with half of our children born out of wedlock, same-sex marriage, the all-pervasive cult of empty celebrity, the rise of intolerant “political correctness”, the woefully diminished standing of our politicians, our ever-rising sea of national debt, they would reel back in horror at our “decadence”.
The period since 2000 has been as dramatic as the one 1985-200. The disastrous wars of the last fifteen years have diminished the standing of the West, while its economic dominance of the world lessens. The Euro, immigrants and terrorism pose huge, insoluble problems for Europe. 

This reminds me of historians Neagu Djuvara's and Bernard Lewis's conviction that Europe's inescapable destiny is to become Muslim.

The fact that Europe, more united than at any time since the fall of Rome, feels it requires American, British and Canadian help to defend itself is very telling.


I increasingly feel that we may be living in a period like the reign of Marcus Aurelius, the golden age where Gibbon starts his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Come to think of it, there is something of an outlandish late Roman emperor about Donald Trump, perhaps a rich wheat importer who got his position in an auction held by the Praetorian guard. 


As Goldsmith put it,
Ill fares the land, to hastening ills a prey,
Where wealth accumulates, and men decay.

Europe has been in relative decline since the late 19th century and no longer enjoys the ascendancy that it once did, measured in all ways, over the rest of the world. Clearly this process is continuing. On the other hand, Europeans are enjoying in many ways a golden age, as are most parts of the world, measured not only in material but in many other terms.

But think how few great men Europe (and the West in general) has produced since 1945, outside the spheres of technology, medicine and hard science. Who are the great writers, painters, composers, philosophers?

Christianity is flourishing in Africa, China and Korea, but Islam is flourishing in Europe. Europe is flourishing vicariously in the former British colonies of the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, but they are becoming much less European, less Christian and more multicultural. The old order changeth.

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Conversation with a Professor of International Relations

This is a Facebook conversation with the same professor who, months ago, said to me "I reject the idea of countries".  He's a German, though he thinks that's irrelevant. The beautiful, unworldly spirituality and idealism of the Germans continues to so much harm. Twice they destroyed Europe by insane nationalism and now they seem to be doing so by insane internationalism. 



Prof: And yet the Home Office wants to send asylum seekers from Mosul back to Iraq



Me: Europe unfortunately has to stop taking asylum seekers - we can pay for them to be put in camps or poor countries - this will weed out the many economic refugees. The alternative is a complete transformation of Europe over the next century, unwanted by Europeans, and the end of ethnic states.


Bystander: Strange position for an emigre to take. What makes you such a special human being?



Me: Well I wish there were only 300 foreigners in Romania as in early 90s but those days are gone. We are not many though, max 100,000 all told out of 20 million - perhaps much fewer.


Prof: Foreigners are just people. I find all of this deeply repulsive

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Breasts are very powerful things. Discuss.


What a great general paper question for undergraduate historians that would make.


Off the top of my head, I'd mention Lola Montez (whose bust measured 50 inches) and the Bavarian revolution of 1848. 


Lola Montez was a courtesan and dancer, famous for her 'spider dance', which involved her being forced to disrobe because of a spider that crawled into her dress. Lola Montez was her stage name. She was an Irishwoman of good family and her real name was Marie Gilbert. She was a liberal (by the standards of Germany at the time) and, in the year in which she was King Ludwig's mistress and had a lot of power in Bavaria, she made an enemy of the Jesuits and the Church. Her unpopularity led to her royal lover losing his throne.

Had her bust been smaller, as someone said of Cleopatra's nose...

I was meant to be a historian.

I know about her bust from a curious 19th century medical book that I once dipped into. She approached the author, a doctor, to see if she could have her breasts reduced in size.


Of course tastes in beauty change. I think a character in a Noel Coward play said that when you see photographs of women who are well attested to have made entire trainfuls of men spontaneously stand up to look you find that they look like men themselves. I fail to see from photographs why many women were considered famous beauties, including Marie of Romania, who modestly said  that she was not necessarily the most beautiful woman in Europe but she was certainly the most beautiful queen.

There are some unflattering pictures of Lola but this one explains why the King of Bavaria was captivated.


Image result for lola montez


A true conservative


"If there is a class war—and there is—it is important that it should be handled with subtlety and skill. ... it is not freedom that Conservatives want; what they want is the sort of freedom that will maintain existing inequalities or restore lost ones."Maurice Cowling, "The Present Position," Conservative Essays , Portillo ed., 1978.

I read Conservative Essays as a VIth Former with fascination and agreed with much of it but disliked a certain amount. This cumbrous sentence shocked me when I read it aged 18. I still don't believe in class war (though he was writing in the 1970s) but I do believe inequality and hierarchy are good and necessary things.

Maurice Cowling wrote in 1981 to the editors of the London Review of Books,

“Argument is not what it seems to me suitable to do with opinions. What one does with opinions—all one needs to do with them, having found that one has them—is to enjoy them, display them, use them, develop them, in order to cajole, press, bully, soothe, and sneer other people into sharing (or being affronted by) them. To argue them is, it seems to me, a very vulgar, debating-society sort of activity.”
How very much I wish I had gone to Peterhouse and been taught by him and by the great Edward Norman.

I am very certain that were he alive Cowling would be a strong supporter of Donald Trump.

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Assuming Trump loses, what next for the American right?

Megyn Kelly, seen here worrying about how Donald Trump views women as sex objects.


I never liked Trump and I no longer think he will do. Many of Trump's ideas (perhaps we should call them attitudes) on the other hand I do like.

The real story of 2016 is the cultural revolution against internationalism in America and Europe. Assuming Trump loses (possibly in a landslide), he will have steered the Republicans in a new direction. Will he be the forerunner of a new politics and culture or simply make the GOP brand toxic?

Thursday, 18 August 2016

The plan is a Europe with open borders and without nation states


Ulrike Guérot the "Founder and Director of the European Democracy Lab", at the European School of Governance in Berlin, said in an interview in Deutsche Welle that 
the existence of nation states is in itself one of the biggest problems with the European project. 
She went on to say that Angela Merkel was right to let in the migrants, but did it the wrong way. She should have consulted the other EU countries first. The second point is true. 

According to Frau Guerot, the influx of migrants into Europe is not a problem caused by the EU, but this is not quite right. Were it not for Schengen, far fewer migrants would

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Brexit was the right decision, but we are treading on other people’s dreams



I had dinner last night with a wonderful, young, idealistic Romanian lawyer who has been traumatised (really) by the decision of a country she loves to abandon the European project she passionately believes in. I didnt realise some young Romanians feel this way but they do and very many good people in Britain and Europe feel the same for the sort of reasons I respect - idealistic, noble ones.

Lots more British people worry about how it will affect the economy, which I very much understand.

But a fair few people in Britain on the left feel like Ed Vulliamy in this article in The Guardian (where else?). They hate Brexit because they don't like Britain and want it to stop being so British. This is also a strong reason why they are in favour of lots of immigrants Coming to the U.K.

"For me, departure from Europe was a given: in the tea leaves at a deep and mainstream cultural level beyond the slaughter at Heysel stadium and serial record of England’s football fans, or politicians’ Eurosceptic ranting. It was in the tarot cards of those bulimic, retarded royal occasions – jubilee, wedding, babies; in the sickly nostalgia of The King’s Speech; in the Olympic Games and Boris’s parachute – like Ukip on bad acid. Above all, over the crisis of wretched refugees and migrants, it howled from the pages of newspapers like the Sun, which has never lost an election and wasn’t going to lose this one... 
On the slipstream of empire, I’ve always thought – to the point of treason – of my British passport as a “burden of shame” as UB40 so eloquently put it, “a British subject, not proud of it”. Now, trying to cling on in “the continent”, it is just a downright embarrassment – not only a badge of shame, but also, worse in a way, of pointless, bellicose imbecility."
He is right about one thing - Brexit now feels like it was inevitable, although unlike him I did not expect it.

Some Romanians think our leaving the EU is 'selfish' and we should stay to make the EU a better institution, particularly for Romania's sake. Many (most?) Romanians seem to think Brexit is about racism directed towards East Europeans. The Romanian executive I had lunch with today thinks that, though he said he thought racism was normal. A few admire Britain's courage in leaving. 

In the late nineteenth century Romanian intellectuals looked to France as a source of ideals on which to model themselves, as Lucian Boia pointed out, whereas most Romanians liked the EU because it spends money spent on the country and because they prefer to be ruled by Westerners rather than their own politicians (they are right to do so). However things are changing and a number of Romanians in their twenties believe in European unity. Which makes good sense viewed from Bucharest.


It is not only British freedom that is a romantic idea. The EU has its poetry too. Unfortunately those beautiful ideals segue into ideas like this, expressed by a German Professor of International Relations who moulds the minds of young people at a British university.
I understand the term foreigner but I reject it as retrograde. I don't perceive myself as a foreigner, or any of the people I know. I reject the idea of countries and boundaries should be transcended as much as possible. The very nature of states or countries has changed dramatically. Borders limit human freedom, they are social constructs that need to change. From an IR point of view, the purpose of international institutions is to alter the behaviour of states so that they cooperate rather than purely pursue national interest because the latter results in conflict.....I see the EU as a vanguard promoting freedom of movement which in the future should encompass the world.
This is Romantic with a vengeance - the kind of ideas that the French Revolution produced in the minds of the sillier readers of Romantic poetry.

Saturday, 2 July 2016

Disraeli, Burke, Macaulay and Shakespeare would have voted Leave

"In a progressive country change is constant; and the great question is not whether you should resist change which is inevitable, but whether that change should be carried out in deference to the manners, the customs, the laws and the traditions of a people, or whether it should be carried out in deference to abstract principles, and arbitrary and general doctrines." 

Disraeli, who would have campaigned for Leave. So would Burke, Macaulay and Dr. Johnson. Churchill probably would have been Remain. Shakespeare, of course, would have been Leave. 

The world before 23rd June has gone forever


The world before 23rd June has gone forever.


Peter Oborne likens the referendum result to the Arab Spring. Curiously he means that in a good way.

What we do know is that the referendum will not be held again, despite the march in London today seeking exactly that. Two thirds of the population think it would be wrong, apart from any other consideration.

The FTSE 100 index of the UK's 100 largest public companies closed at a ten month high yesterday, while, strange to say, European stock markets were down. Early days, of course, but we are not yet eating grass and burning sticks for fire.


I recommend sociologist Frank Furedi's very good analysis here of what has been a culture war. It is very true that very many Remain voters simply do not know anyone who voted Leave. But it is a mistake to see the divide as a class one. (Not very many fewer graduates voted Leave as Remain, after all.) The divide is a cultural one. As Frank Furedi says:
Over the past 40 years, the political establishment and cultural elites have successfully dispossessed the others. They assumed a monopoly over what could and could not be said and stigmatised the norms and values associated with working-class culture as masculinist, xenophobic, racist, homophobic, backward, irredeemably outdated, and so on. The one area where the conflict of values remained unresolved was that of national sovereignty. And the rejection of the EU indicates that at least on the question of national sovereignty and democratic representation, the influence of elite cosmopolitan culture is insecure; indeed, it now stands exposed.
I see this in the Remainers I talk to. Some dislike a lot of things about Britain and Brexit summarises the things they don't like. It was this culture war which made me suppress my doubts and decide I wanted us to leave.

It is a cultural revolution. Also a political one and an economic one.

This is the mother of all crises, but is a equally a crisis for the whole EU. After the Austrian court's decision to rerun the Austrian presidential election I start to think this is like 1989. I can see the EU falling apart. Unless they rethink things fundamentally - but they just cannot do that, any more than the USSR could.

Clearly the UK needs a new leader. I didn't blog about the Shakespearean events of Thursday, but they started with Gove stabbing Boris in the front and continued with Boris falling on his sword. Gove is accused of betrayal. 


I am sure he is not Machiavellian, even though he certainly did for Boris and Cameron. People standing next to Gove do seem often to end up dead, but this is a qualification for the premiership.

If Gove destroyed Cameron and Boris what chance does Juncker stand with him.

However, his humility in not deciding to stand a week ago, but instead becoming Boris's adjutant will mean MPs and party members think him treacherous. 

"I did almost everything not be a candidate for the leadership of this party", he said in his speech announcing he was a candidate and I believe him. The Tory party doesn't.

I think both Boris and Gove come out of all this well. I think Gove converted Boris to Leave at a dinner party on February 16,  at which they and their wives sat down with the newspaper owner Evgeny Lebedev to discuss politics. By the end of the night Mr Gove had persuaded Boris, who like many people was undecided, to Leave.

I am perhaps naive but think neither have been Machiavellian and I love both, but Boris is not Prime Minister material.  Gove, by sabotaging him, did the country a great service. 
If his wife persuaded him to stand she did well. 

Some people fear we might end up ruled by Mrs. Gove, if her husband becomes Prime Minister. We could do worse, I suppose. Sam Cam destroyed Libya and made us accept 20,000 migrants. Some say Hillary persuaded Bill not to buy Osama from the Taliban. Time was when wives organised dinner parties and Fridays to Mondays at Chequers. 

Gove is, and it is vital that the next Prime Minister is, a Brexiter and has principles. 

I like him very much for saying “people in this country have had enough of experts”. We want to be ruled by elected politicians not experts. Experts created the EU, the Euro, tower blocks, comprehensive schools, the financial crisis of 2008 onwards.


Gove would make a fine Prime Minister. He believes in Brexit and in public service - and he cares more about class inequality than anyone on the Labour benches. But I think he may have lost the chance, which is tragic. 

Perhaps Andrea Leadsom is the Brexiter with the best chance, but though she had a great career in the City she does not have much political experience and has none of Gove's or Boris's eloquence.

Talking about elites, City types, professional men and CEOs are only a part of it. I imagine most hereditary peers voted Out, though, as few now sit in the House of Lords, there's no way of knowing.  I bet the Queen, who "purred down the phone" when David Cameron told her the Scots had voted to stay in the UK is purring once more.

Friday, 1 July 2016

Oswald Mosley, the first Eurofanatic

One of my friends (who votes Conservative, by the way) just told me that she didn't think Nigel Farage of UKIP resembled Hitler, but rather Sir Oswald Mosley, the British fascist. I pointed out to her that Mosley was the first British politician to advocate a united Europe - in 1947. 

Hitler, of course, had done more than anyone in centuries to unite Europe, but that is another story.

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Like him or not, Nigel Farage is responsible for Brexit


Image result for if there is hope proles

Brexit is the biggest shock in my lifetime.

I said to the Portuguese ambassador last week, talking about I forget what EU policy, 'It's up to you, of course. We're off on Thursday". 


He gave me the smile a corpse gives the undertaker. But I didn't think for one moment that we really would be off. I went to bed at 3 yesterday morning unhappy, thinking Remain had won and was frozen in amazement at 6.45 the next day to open my browser and see the BBC call it for Leave.

I admit my feelings were mixed. Astonishment, pleasure but some fear too.

The electorate have let down the politicians very badly.

When the revolution finally came most (not all) of the left-wing middle class found they were on the side of the rich and the banks. Funny how things turn out.


It's a bit like when the crisis of capitalism finally occurred in 2008, as Stalin had predicted, and the far left was not there to take advantage. The centre-right not the left benefited. The old party divisions that we have had since the 1920s increasingly make less sense.

Nigel Farage is the man who did this. But poor David Cameron and Angela Merkel played equal parts. 

Whatever you think of him and you might loathe him, Nigel Farage, who is the reason this referendum was called, is one of the two politicians in post-1945 British history who changed the country the most. The other, of course, being Edward Heath.

The story of how an amateur, home-made, Ealing comedy party like UKIP, widely despised, directly or indirectly took Britain out of the EU is extraordinary. If it were a novel people would throw it away in disgust as absurdly far-fetched.

The same is true of the stories of Trump, Corbyn, the million migrants crossing Europe, the bizarre American row over transgender lavatories, ISIS, September 11th and so much else. God is not obliged to consider probabilities.

Mr Farage's referendum was hijacked by others and it's good that it was. I am reminded of what Reagan said, that there is no limit to what a man can do if he is content for others to take the credit.

He was not allowed to be part of the official Leave campaign, who were frightened he would make their brand toxic. in the eyes of many he would have done, but he had the wisdom to push immigration into the forefront of the campaign, knowing it was a much better issue for Leave than the economy. 

On the economy, Leave could not stand up to David Cameron's carefully choreographed Project Fear, but immigration let the Leave side instil its own share of fear. Making a major issue of Britain's support for Turkish membership of the EU must have won Leave many votes. It boxed David Cameron into a corner and showed him to have been very economical with the truth. It also enabled Leave to elide concerns about European and non-European immigration, although Brexit will not reduce and may increase non-European immigration.

I saw very few speeches during this campaign and none by Mr Farage, but this one, which i watched today, is remarkably good. He is a better speaker even than Messrs. Gove or Johnson. Why do many people in the UK dislike him so much? He predicted that "this will be a turnout referendum" and he was right. They were queuing round the block to vote. 

I am lost in admiration for the courage of the British people. It took a lot of courage to vote Leave. People thought very hard and in many cases changed and unchanged their minds.

It was absolutely not a result made on a whim, or from prejudice or knee-jerk reactions or to punish the government or taken unthinkingly. It was made very thoughtfully and there was an amazingly high turnout. No-one knows exactly what issues were in the minds of Brexit voters but they were surely many. 


It was not a plebiscite on immigration, though that was important. I think people didn't like being ruled by foreigners.

Had the referendum been held in a couple of years' time Brexit would have lost, because older voters were inclined to Leave and younger ones, educated in the pieties of internationalism and EU idealism, inclined to Remain. 

I am convinced that it will be hugely helpful to the rest of the EU. We might just have saved Europe from a totalitarian future once more.


I want to quote (again) these lines by Philip Larkin.




Sometimes you hear, fifth-hand,

As epitaph:

He chucked up everything

And just cleared off,

And always the voice will sound

Certain you approve

This audacious, purifying,

Elemental move.

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Let's enjoy the next week while Berlin and Brussels fear we might leave the EU


I firmly expect Great Britain to vote to stay in the EU next Thursday, but let's all enjoy every single blissful moment of these halcyon days when our German and other European rulers think we might leave. This is the last moment when Great Britain roused herself to become a free country. After we vote to stay in, it will probably resemble what Claude Cockburn's tutor told him life was like after Oxford: just a long slow slope to the grave.



Bertrand Russell said ‘Collective fear stimulates herd instinct and tends to produce ferocity toward those who are not regarded as members of the herd’. I see a lot of this coming from the In camp who seem almost to hate or despise the Outs. Especially they seem to hate UKIP and despise the working classes. The viciousness is born of fear. I find it disgusting but it is what politics and democracy are about. 

Whatever your views on Brexit what a great argument this referendum is for lots more referendums. Though of course there is not really very much room in the EU for referendums.

The opinion polls today show Leave up to 7% ahead of Remain and the bookmakers, who are  always the best place to look, to find out what's going on  today give Leave an astonishingly high 30% chance. I give it a lot less (5-10%?) but what does impress me is that the polls are swinging towards Leave despite the attempts of the government the IMF and most of the establishment to terrify electors with stories of economic Armageddon.

And could we really leave?

I suppose yes!

And then?

Who knows?

The Germans could want to punish us very hard pour encourager les autres but this would do huge damage to the EU economy and especially Germany’s. The German Finance Minister says we will be booted out of the single market (the same Finance Minister who thinks if Germans do not take immigrants they will start committing incest – he really did say that recently). But I was more interested in what Juergen Hardt, senior CDU foreign policy spokesman, told Der Spiegel. If the UK votes to leave, he said the EU should gauge possible action to prevent a British exit from becoming a reality. “Brussels shouldn't close the door right away.”


I had dinner last night with a very Europhile British friend, 60, public school educated and well off, who is anguished that 'Literally ALL my British friends without exception want us to leave'. More than half his British friends live on the Continent, by the way.  

He made a number of weak arguments for staying in the EU. He said that all economists think we should stay (which is, of course, certainly not true) and that no former party leader thinks we should leave. I mentioned Michael Howard, Ian Duncan Smith, David Owen, Margaret Thatcher, Michael Foot. 

I could have mentioned Jeremy Corbyn who probably does not really want us to stay, but Corbyn is a name even less likely to persuade anyone than Foot's. Instead, I surprised him by mentioning Nigel Lawson. He had no idea that very experienced intelligent people like Howard and Lawson wanted us to leave.


Then he said that he thought nationals of other EU countries who live in the UK should have had a vote in the referendum. This was like the thirteenth stroke of the clock, that not only was not convincing in itself but cast doubt on the other twelve. I don't think he gets the idea of nationhood.

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

A revolutionary moment in Britain



The support in the opinion polls for Britain leaving the E.U. (exactly 50-50 these days) is the nearest the British have come to a revolution since 1848 - and that includes the General Strike of 1926 and the strange revolutionary moment when Diana died. The people (half of them) are battling against the political parties, big business, the banks, the Americans, the Europeans and even the Archbishop of Canterbury. How interesting that the left these days (including Jeremy Corbyn) is always opposed to revolutions.



Donald Trump, of course, is a revolutionary too.

Sunday, 12 June 2016

More Brexit referendum campaign thoughts


When you win, everything you did was an act of genius and when you lose, everything you did was the work of a fool. 

Ed Miliband


A nation that cannot control its borders is not a nation.

Ronald Reagan


We should change the name Conservative Party because we are not.

Margaret Thatcher


The constitution of 1795, like its predecessors, has been drawn up for Man. Now, there is no such thing in the world as Man. In the course of my life, I have seen Frenchmen, Italians, Russians, etc.; I am even aware, thanks to Montesquieu, that one can be a Persian. But, as for Man, I declare that I have never met him in my life. If he exists, I certainly have no knowledge of him.

Joseph de Maistre

In a democracy people identify themselves as part of a first person plural—a 'we' established by inheritance and history.

Roger Scruton


We envisage few political evils worse than that of a government that controls us, but which we cannot control.

Roger Scruton

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Reaction to the referendum result anticipated by Philip Larkin



Reaction to the referendum result if the UK were to vote to leave the EU, as anticipated by Philip Larkin:

Sometimes you hear, fifth-hand,

As epitaph:

He chucked up everything

And just cleared off,

Monday, 6 June 2016

Quotations for Monday



She was also incapacitated by much of daily life and had 'no aptitude whatsoever' for domesticity.


Sybille Bedford

Trump routinely deploys all the subversive transgressiveness that campus Leftists claim to value.

Camille Paglia


A lot of the craziness comes from cultural/ethnic issues—rural White Americans who feel they are losing their country, and they are right. They are losing their country. In the end, the power they now have will go away, but it’s a very difficult and dangerous time until then.


Paul Krugman, 2014

Sunday, 5 June 2016

Back in Cernauti/Chernivtsi

An unmistakable sense of freedom as soon as we arrive in Ukraine. A sense of normal people who think like human beings. A civilised place where people believe in God and love their country. Romania is like that too but is becoming EU-ised.

It took eleven hours to drive from Bucharest to Cernăuți instead of the eight we'd planned on. As happens every summer in Romania there were floods, a road was closed. At the border we waited over an hour. An argument for the European Union. All Romanian borders took half an hour to cross before she joined the EU.

This is my third visit to the Northern Bucovina and Cernăuți or Czernowitz. Cernăuți was its name when it was in Romania from 1919 to 1940. Chernivtsi is its Ukrainian name. Czernowitz was its name in the period of its prosperity, when it was the third city of the Austrian empire, in Austria's equivalent of the Wild West, and Yiddish and German speaking Jews made up much the largest and most influential ethnic group in the city.  

The city was at the same time a centre for Ukrainian, Romanian and Jewish nationalism. Now the streets are named after Ukrainian heroes, the Jews and Romanians are mostly gone and the great synagogue is a cinema - called by wags the Cine-gogue.

The Jews were mostly relocated and then killed by Romanian soldiers during the war, though the Romanian mayor persuaded the Romanian dictator, Marshal Antonescu, to spare twenty thousandThe surviving Jews mostly left for Israel or, recently, Germany. About a thousand remain. That is a small number but a Jew from Cernăuți, Volodymyr Groysman, became Ukrainian Prime Minister in April, belying American suspicions that Ukraine is an anti-Semitic country (though I suspect that it might be).





Friday, 13 May 2016

Vampires do exist II


Vampires, incidentally, do exist, even if Vlad was not one of them. I well remember the Hamburg Vampire in the middle 1960s. He climbed into a flat and drank the blood of a young woman, who asserted that before he came through the window she had felt a deadly chill and become unable to move. The skeptical police took her off to the hospital, where the Vampire was actually caught halfway up the creepers on the wall, on his way to have one more for the road. He ended up in a mental clinic. The victim and the police officer in the case ended up telling their story in convincing detail on German television.

NEAL ASCHERSON, "Dracula in Britain", Games with Shadows

More about real life vampires here and about Vlad the Impaler here.

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

On this day in 1915 General Von Mackensen drove Russia from the Northern Carpathians



On this day in 1915,General August von Mackensen led a combined Austro-German force in defeating the Russian army near the Dunajec River (a tributary of the Vistula which runs through what is now Slovakia and Poland) and decisively ended nine months of victorious Russian advances in the region since August 1914. It was a key turning point in the war.

After Romania declared war on Austro-Hungary on 15 August 1916, Mackensen conquered Romania and on December 6 1915 Bucharest fell to him. Norman Stone said that by entering the First World War on the Allied side Romania delayed Allied victory by a year.  


At the end of the war Mackensen complained when he left Bucharest that
"I came to Bucharest two years ago with a legion of conquering heroes. I leave with a troupe of gigolos and racketeers.”

Monday, 2 May 2016

Back in Bucharest with Fu Manchu, the greatest threat to the white race



What a delight to be back from the Far East.

Bucharest is so much nicer, more poetic, more human and more exotic than Peking or Seoul.

It is always wonderful to be back in Bucharest. I felt this when I returned after Christmas after I had been here only three months. Many foreigners lucky enough to live here told me they felt it was home immediately. Is there a more welcoming, friendly city or people anywhere?


This weekend was the Orthodox Easter. On Friday, the Orthodox Good Friday, the town was full of possessions for the Burial of the Lord . On Saturday at midnight everyone stands outside a church with a candle and then cracks eggs. This is much more interesting than China, because it is Christian.

A long weekend at home alone is the perfect antidote to my travels in the East and I'm finally reading The Mystery of Dr. Fu Manchu. Fu Manchu seemed trash when I bought a paperback in Cambridge market as an undergraduate and bad trash, worse than Dracula. Now I found him on Google books and it's actually rather fun. Who knew? 


The world of Fu Manchu is a very engaging world of lascars, dacoits and seductive but evil oriental women. References to rare poisons in Burma make me so proud that I know Burma.

Dr. Fu Manchu himself is the prototypical evil genius, 'the yellow peril' and 'the greatest threat to the white race'. 

Fu Manchu comes after Professor Moriarty but before a whole series of evil geniuses. Osama bin Laden is part of the line. Osama came from a very Westernised, rich Saudi family and will have seen the Bond films and the Pink Panther film where Herbert Lom threatens to blow up the world. 
The world has been remade by William Le Queux 
says the protagonist of Graham Greene's wonderful thriller The Ministry of Fear which is

Saturday, 30 April 2016

My old China: I was twenty years too late for Peking

Ironically, North Korea in the 1960s and 1970s had far higher living standards than China and North Koreans would frequently congratulate themselves on not having fallen into the chaos and backwardness of their giant neighbour. It was only in the early nineties, with the end of Russian and Chinese subsidies, that the North Korean economy collapsed. 
James Palmer, Heaven Cracks, Earth Shakes: The Tangshan Earthquake and the Death of Mao's China (2012)
Many years ago a young Romanian friend, Alexandra, was about to go to China and asked me for advice. I gave her three pieces of advice: to observe, not judge and to eat dog. She told me she did all three. I have just come back from China and only followed the first of these. 

Tourism in Peking leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Literally. The taste of Starbucks coffee and Starbucks baguettes.  

A shiny, very modern mega-city has been created by order of the Party in a place which

South Korea is a triumph of the human spirit


I was in South Korea for less than three days, as a holiday within my holiday in China. Since I was a little boy I have wanted to see Portuguese churches under a Chinese sun in Macao but am told it is like Las Vegas now. Instead of Macao it therefore seemed a good idea to get out of China and the flight to Seoul took only ninety minutes, though the queue at passport control took slightly longer. 

South Korea is not my kind of place but I liked it. It is a great triumph of the human spirit.

Utterly ruined and impoverished in 1953 it is now one of the richest countries in the world, not because of mineral resources but because of human resources.



The Gyeongbokgung palace
Seoul is a wonderful argument for capitalism, especially useful against people who worry that the state has too little power and multinational companies too much. South Korea has very little welfare safety net and not too many poets or painters, but there are more and