Syntagma Digital
Editor, John Evans

POLITICS: Is Calamity Clegg manipulating clueless Cameron?

Clueless Cameron

On 19 December I wrote a Diary opinion piece under Poppycock Watch which questioned David Cameron’s slavish approval of Nick Clegg’s latest big wheeze: changing the law on the Royal Succession.

Not surprisingly, the measure would bind us into European law just when the popular groundswell is pointing to a wish to leave the ailing EU altogether.

It would also do grave damage to whole swathes of English law and precedent, requiring wholesale amendments to the Constitution, as well as antagonising other institutions, such as the Church of England.

Prince Charles has led the backlash, deeming the proposal “rushed” and, by implication, un-thought through, and wholly divisive.

The Daily Mail has begun the journalistic charge with a front-page piece on Monday from its political editor, James Chapman, and an in-depth article from commentator, Simon Heffer.

This morning, it continued the pressure with a centre-spread piece from senior commentator Stephen Glover and a report from its social affairs correspondent on opposition from the Church, which fears the Bill could lead to its disestablishment.

Was there ever such an unnecessary cock-up, which could rumble on beyond the foothills of the next general election?

The question is now being openly asked: why has ditsy Dave handed the reins of constitutional change to Calamity Clegg? Surely this should have been vetoed long ago? It’s all about competence — yet again.

When it was first mooted last year, Syntagma pointed out that, since the founding of the United States of America, there has been a woman on the British throne for around 72 percent of the time. Where’s the problem?

As usual with the left-wing of the Coalition, ie. the incoherent Lib-Dems, this is ideological not realistic. Clegg is demanding blood in exchange for the support of his ragbag party — but not on boundary changes, obviously.

The tragedy for the British State is that the Prime Minister seems willing to go along with it without examining the full array of consequences for the country he leads. It was bad enough watching his ignorance about Magna Carta on American television, a vital document that became a powerful influence on the US Constitution, as well as crucial to British freedom under the law.

Lord Strathclyde’s sudden resignation as Leader of the House of Lords yesterday could well be tied in to this constitutional vandalism.

If David Cameron has any sense of self-preservation he will shoot this down before it causes any more trouble for the Conservatives.

John Evans

… who is the author of The Eternal Quest for Immortality: Is it staring you in the face? Available from Amazon and all good booksellers.

Coming soon: Mystology: A different way of looking at the world. Also a website, mystology.com.

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Monday Musings: A crisis of power and leadership

Ruritania

Britain urgently needs a drawstring to pull in the atomised aspects of its democracy, law and governance.

The recent slapstick over Abu Qatada and other so-called clerics, is waking politicans up to what has been a growing disaster for decades: the loss of the UK’s power to make and police its own laws, the authentic “rule of law”.

Some who should know better didn’t see this coming, or preferred to play along with the slow absorption of Britain into Europe.

Many of us didn’t, and spoke out strongly. The indefatigable John Redwood has a powerfully-argued piece in his online Diary today.

Our problem is that the present effete government ignores the alarming whooshing sound of power passing away, leaving them like emperors without clothes. Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems bear much of the blame, but there’s not a lot of fight in the Tory leadership either. It will struggle to retain the votes it now has at the next election.

An even more pro-EU coalition is the likely result, unless the Conservatives awaken from their complacent slumbers now. Power has been needlessly tossed away by a dysfunctional and essentially anti-British parliament for many years.

It began as a single authority, the King, aided by his barons in the regions. Eventually, they became a parliament of barons, the current House of Lords, now under threat from the Liberal Democrats. Then the franchise was widened and the House of Commons appeared. Ultimately, a universal electorate gave the Commons an irresistible mandate to govern.

An elected Lords, or Senate (how unoriginal and unBritish), will again reverse that process, further weakening the UK’s strength. Is that the purpose of Clegg’s obsession, to give yet more leverage to Brussels? Divide and rule?

What happened in the 1970s is inexplicable and for many of us unforgivable. The Commons, or rather its leaders, began handing more and more of its supremacy to a dangerous foreign power, now the European Union.

Alarmingly, the amateurish European Court of Human Rights, reporting to the so-called Council of Europe, was allowed to trample over Britain’s ancient liberties with the mawkishly ridiculous notion of “human rights”, which were never meant to apply to England’s mature justice system.

Now the country can’t move without being chastised and bullied by this Ruritanian outfit and the equally out-of-kilter European commission and parliament.

Political power has also been distributed to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland — although internally and for good reason — and to a mess of quangos run by right-on types of the Guardianista persuasion.

There is a solution, though, but it requires real leadership and energy, something our current parliament seems bereft of. Someone needs to fashion a political drawstring to pull back these essential governing powers that a free country can’t live without.

The imminent collapse of the Eurozone, and with it the European Disunion, should be concentrating even the most insouciant of minds now.

But there’s not much sign of life there.

John Evans

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Personal Opinion: Breaking the Coalition is in the public interest

Bernie Madoff

Public sector spending is continuing to grow, as John Redwood tirelessly points out, while the non-government slice of the economy — the so-called private sector — is being squeezed remorselessly and forced to shed tens of thousands of jobs.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t the deficit/debt crisis the result of too much money force-fed into the public sector over the past decade and more?

The private sector was taxed to the hilt to pay for this Whitehall “exuberance” and the creation of a self-serving client state. Bernie Madoff and other “off-balance sheet” and Ponzi wallahs must have looked on in wonder.

In the aftermath of Labour’s national disaster, something is seriously wrong with the Coalition’s attempt to strike the optimum balance between wealth creators and the public realm that lives off them.

One could be forgiven for receiving the impression that the whole economy is based on an upside-down view of how the world works?

A topical example is philanthropy. The current definition involves giving money to any organisation calling itself a charity, which might include entertainment companies, foreign dance troupes, various not-for-profit outfits in which the owners take large salaries while professional fund-raisers receive a hefty percentage of what they scoop up from the innocents who contribute.

The “giver”, ie the pretend philanthropist, is rewarded for his public spiritedness by having his tax bill seriously reduced. So-called gift aid, aids the giver as well as the organisation funded. The loser, as ever, is the taxpayer who has to make up the difference in other ways.

That is not philanthropy, it’s a bung for the burgeoning shadow side of the public sector, in other words yet another means of robbing hard-working wealth producers in what has become an underground Marxist society.

The whole confidence trick is performed using familiar smoke and mirrors, plus a dark complexity to keep the truth from the punters. Gordon Brown was the master of these many deceptions. His successors are merely following in his benighted footsteps.

If the Conservatives really do have the country’s interests at heart, why are they perpetuating Labour’s shoddy stratagems? The Liberal Democrats at least have the excuse of gross naivety and a schoolgirl excitement at being in power at all.

If David Cameron and the Tories really want to serve the United Kingdom, they would break the Coalition on the grounds that it doesn’t work, then ride out the turbulence until an election is forced on them. That, at the very least, would be honorable. It might also induce some admiration from the voters.

As it is, they are neither good for man nor beast. And that goes for the rest of the Westminster mob.

John Evans
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Saturday Ramble: Multiple existential crises call for historic change of direction

Opportunity

The starting point for political change is a crisis. The change might be minor if the crisis is small. Not so with multiple crises of an existential nature.

That is now the case with the unstoppable structural collapses within the European Union and the Eurozone.

Hope is no longer an option, even for British promoters of this dying project. An exit strategy is needed.

The open borders agreement, Schengen, is being deftly abandoned, as barriers are raised against mass Arab and African migrations through the soft entry points of Greece and Italy. Brussels no longer has the bargaining power to keep national parliaments quiet. Real democracy is stirring on the Continent, and not before time.

The Euro area is sunk in misery, as its easy-going periphery drowns in debt, while the Franco-German heartlands power to high growth on the back of the tiddlers.

These circles won’t easily be squared. Years of turbulence lie ahead in which the electorates of the north will become ever more angry with the peripheral populations.

Eurosceptic parties are gaining stunning ground in national elections, as in Finland recently. The sensible Right is flowering in many European capitals.

So how should Britain react to this trend? Already we have seen a massacre of the Europhiliac Liberal Democrats in the recent local elections, plus the cutting down to size of the once dominant Labour Party. A substantial victory for the Conservatives is surely on the cards in the period 2013-2015.

But we must act sooner than that. The Coalition Agreement should be amended so that the Tories take complete control of all European issues.

In any case, Nick Clegg and Chris Huhne are almost certainly compromised as former employees of Brussels. They will probably have residual pension benefits, obtained by signing an agreement that they will never criticise the EU or oppose its wishes. In these times they can not be allowed to influence the debate.

The Prime Minister should remove this disgraceful anomaly by taking EU decisions out of the remit of the coalition. Only then will he escape the charge that he is hiding behind Lib Dem objections to further a Europhone cause while neglecting the now urgent need for more distance between Britain and collapsing European political structures.

Such cynicism, if it exists, will not be tolerated, least of all on his own backbenches.

Cameron is strong enough to insist on this move — a General Election now, even without the new boundary changes, would return a dominant Conservative majority. But it should not come to that. The Liberals have nowhere to go. Their only hope of survival is to stick this out and claim their part of the ultimate success of the Government in 2015.

However, with the EU sinking fast into the mire of over-ambition, that success might be jeopardised by unpredictable events (“dear boy”).

Better to ride the wave and dodge all hostages to fortune. This is David Cameron’s historic mission.

He should take it, for the sake of the country he governs, not an amorphous mess called Europe.

John Evans

John Evans is the author of The Eternal Quest for Immortality: Is it staring you in the face? Available from Amazon and all good booksellers.

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DIARY: It’s Christmas, Annoyment: God again, Comprehensive expenses, Gordon’s turkeys, Bloodbath, Red Arrows, Pics of the Week

Santa Kitten I’ve been sat at the computer for at least a day preparing the Christmas advertising offer for our Devon & Cornwall Online newspaper. It’s still early September. Through my office window I can see the sun. The temperature is a warm 70 degrees. Why would anyone even think about Christmas this far in advance?

But they do. Businesses have been musing on their “Holidays” advertising campaigns for some time.

At the risk of sounding like Bryony Gordon, I was out at the crack of 7am this morning, voting in a tedious local election rerun, in a short-sleeved summery shirt. Christmas seemed like another planet.

Mind you, I remember when t-shirts were still being worn in November — 2005, I think it was. Naturally, the Met Office had forecast the bitterest winter since the early 1960s. What would we do without the little darlings?

We don’t have to. The BBC has rehired them for another five years. I expect weather now comes under Light Entertainment.

I suppose the New Zealand forecaster option was ruled out because of the thought of all those Maori weather presenters in grass skirts, bare tops and ceremonial spears.

Now I’m beginning to sound like the Duke of Edinburgh.

* * * * *

Annoyment of the Week

Stephen Hawking’s new book dismisses God as the creator of the universe. It follows that if God didn’t create the universe, there is no God in our terms.

When challenged by the BBC this morning, he said that philosophers had “not mastered the maths”, implying that maths prove that God does not exist.

You see the paradox: How can God be defined by maths if God created everything, including the conditions for maths’ existence? If you dismiss the possibility that God created the universe because maths prove God does not exist, there is an Almighty hole in your argument.

Saturday Ramble: Who, what and where is God?

* * * * *

While we are on the topic of advertising, if you’re looking for a late autumn or winter break take a look at our online newspaper for Devon and Cornwall: DCO. There are ad offerings on almost every page. Thought I’d mention it.

Speaking of which, our new Christmas Ratecard is now up: Ratecard. It’s a bit sketchy because I don’t have much of a feel for the market right now.

With the Comprehensive Spending Review due in October, it’s hard to know what weight of advertising many businesses are planning this year. The marketplace is very flaky and uncertain. Consequently, we’ve gone for lower rates from the start.

My own view of the CSR, is that the blood and thunder approach currently being peddled is deliberately misleading. While it won’t be pleasant, I’m guessing most people will be relieved when it actually arrives. “Could’ve been worse,” will be the prevailing view.

When you think about it, no Tory Government, fighting two overseas wars, would ever slash and burn the Armed Forces in the way we are being led to believe. Stand by for relief all round.

On a psychological note, current propaganda around the CSR can’t be good for anyone. It’s hard right now to plan business for the year ahead when even a well-run construction company in the social enterprise sector like Connaught is forced to the Receivers at the first sniff of public sector cuts.

Their’s was not a good business model for the long term, I grant you, but if cash is on offer, businesses will take it.

* * * * *

With Gordon Brown’s new 90,000 word tome on the financial crisis due for publication this autumn, it would be interesting to know how his previous books have fared.

Many of us will remember his solemn effort on “courage”, a work that uncannily resembled John F. Kennedy’s Profiles in Courage. There was a follow-up title that also dealt with, er, courage, among other things, plus two more books on the same theme, according to Amazon, and another titled Britain’s Everyday Heroes.

None was a red-hot bestseller. Indeed they were much mocked because their author conspicuously lacked bravery during his political career, choosing to hide away in his Downing Street bunker when things got complicated, as in the run-up to the Iraq war.

Gordon allegedly let off steam by throwing office equipment at his staff and manhandling secretaries out of their chairs. He was even accused of bullying by a quango that dealt with abuse in the workplace.

For those of us who are published authors, it’s a relief to learn that Brown’s recent book of his collected speeches (2007-2009), sold just 32 copies. At only £20 a throw, shurely shome mishtake.

But then, who but Gordon Brown would buy a book called The Change We Choose?

* * * * *

Bloodbaths are always difficult to predict with any certainty. This is because they are generally motivated by supremely irrational forces. What novelist could have conjured up a character like Pol Pot and his deeds, for example?

Some bloodbaths are easier to predict, especially if there’s a history behind them. The stock market is a case in point. Here’s a stabette in the (less than) dark.

Economics guru Albert Edwards, a strategist at Société Générale, is warning of a “bloodbath” in share markets in the months to come. October is a traditional month for stock market crashes and it’s beginning to look ominous for 2010.

“Equity investors are in for a rude shock. The global economy is sliding back into recession and they are still not even aware that these events will trigger another leg down in valuations, the third major bear market since the equity valuation bubble burst,” he said.

“So far the equity market has shrugged off much of the weaker data that abounds, and has not joined the bond market in a perceptive move. The equity market will though crumble like the house of cards it is, when the nationwide [US] manufacturing ISM slides below 50 into recession territory in coming months.”

We are about to witness a “valuation nadir” last seen in 1982.

I mention this in passing.

* * * * *

I haven’t got back into the political groove yet. So here’s a little sketch I wrote about the Red Arrows a few weeks ago in another age: August.

It’s the sound that gets you every time.

It starts with a bulldog growl, then in seconds becomes a mighty cacophony of noise that scrambles your nervous system. Almost instantly, the Doppler Effect kicks in — appropriately called the Red Shift — when the tone changes as the flight passes overhead.

Then they’re gone.

For a moment you feel like an omlette, before the exhilaration sets in. You have experienced the Red Arrows.

They always fly very low, demonstrating their attack posture when going into battle.

I’ve been “privileged” to live in two houses directly on the flight path of this troupe of daredevils and their flying machines. Once in Bournemouth where I could watch the entire display from a balcony.

These days, my house in Exeter witnesses them overhead as they shoot down to the Dartmouth Regatta and other Westcountry gigs. Is “gigs” the right word for them?

Last week I experienced the familiar roar of jet engines right above my residence. Why do they always pick on me?

For a moment I imagined a stricken airliner from Exeter airport crunching into on my domestic arrangements unannounced. Then I remembered. The Arrows were back.

This morning I saw them again, heading out Dorset way for more displays. A perfect “V” in the sky, with one plane following behind. Along the way, sheep and cows may drop dead with fright, and householders will cower beneath their beds imagining the worst.

Don’t you just love them?

It’s the sound that gets you every time.

* * * * *

Pics of the Week

River Exe

The photograph above depicts the River Exe in the 1800s. To be precise, it’s Starcross, a small village near the estuary. The two craft on the right are The Swan and The Cygnet, ferries plying between Starcross and Exmouth.

Below is the refurbished Cygnet in the Exeter Maritime Museum circa 1991.

The Cygnet

We don’t have such colourful ferries nowadays. Rowing boats like these would certainly be useful in our age of austerity.

Pictures: courtesy of Les Gibbings

John Evans

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