Monday, May 31, 2010

Deliberately provocative

For the record, it is necessary to note the events in the eastern Mediterranean last night, arising after six "aid" ships, carrying more than 600 pro-Palestinian activists and 10,000 tons of supplies, had left for Gaza on Sunday.

Defying a radio warning from the Israeli navy not to approach the region, the ships then ignored Israeli government instructions to steer for the port of Ashdod, their crews stating their intention to land in Gaza and disembark cargo.

This resulted in the predicted, expected and deliberately provoked boarding of the vessels by IDF personnel, in international waters. Subsequently, nine or more activists were killed and an unknown number injured. At least six IDF personnel were also injured, at least one seriously.

Israel's Defence Ministry has blamed the violence on activists aboard the flotilla, who they said had attacked soldiers with knives, metal bars and snatched rifles, and had tried to "lynch the security forces".

The greatest violence appears to have taken place on the Mavi Marmara a vessel sponsored by the Turkish Islamic aid organisation Insani Yardim Vakfi (IHH), which Israel says has links with Hamas.

Turkish television footage, we are told, showed how one by one as Israeli commandos descended by ropes to the deck they were ambushed by waiting passengers armed with what appeared to be metal bars, sticks and in one case, a table.

The reception for two commandos descending from a helicopter was brutal (above - h/t Witterings from Witney) – the first was battered to the ground and heavily beaten and the second, landing seconds later, was assaulted by a man with a bar and forced to retreat into a doorway before fighting back out.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish prime minister, accused Israel of committing "inhumane state terror". "It should be known that we will not stay silent," he said in live televised remarks ahead of his departure from Chile to Turkey, cutting short a Latin American tour. "International law has been trampled underfoot," he added.

In Istanbul more than 10,000 Turks converged on Taksim Square in the centre of Turkish capital to voice anger at Israel's use of force and pray for the dead. Elsewhere in Turkey, families showed their usual respect for the sanctity of human life.

The so-called Israeli "attack", meanwhile, has elicited a a statement from the Cleggeron administration. It has also sparked "international outrage" which, of course, was the whole purpose of the exercise.


Slowly unravelling

Australians are losing interest in global warming, according to an opinion poll by Sydney's independent Lowy Institute, released today. It shows 46 percent of respondents are "really worried" by climate change, compared with 68 percent four years ago.

Thirteen per cent of the more than 1,000 respondents said the science of climate change was still in dispute, up from 7 percent in 2006 when the poll series started. One-third of respondents said they were not prepared to pay anything to address what prime minister Kevin Rudd famously called the "greatest moral challenge of our time." That compares with 21 per cent when the same question was asked in 2008.

Slowly, slowly, the great global warming scam is unravelling, leaving the politicians stranded, trapped by their vacuous obsession.


You can't fault the logic

"Once an individual claims any kind of state subsidy, his privacy is forfeit: the humblest benefits recipient could confirm that," writes Gerald Warner. Simples really, so it is quite amazing that a politician like David Laws, slated as the "pocket genius" by The Guardian, couldn't see it. But then, he lives in the bubble and, as we keep saying, in the bubble they are blind.

Warner states the obvious: "The one certain way to have preserved his privacy was for Laws to have claimed no money – as he could easily have afforded to do. Laws is a multi-millionaire as a result of his previous career in banking: he was a vice-president of J P Morgan and then the managing director of Barclays de Zoete Wedd, before he was 30."

But then, if you are going for public office, it's not so clever expecting privacy, and more so if you are taking public money. "That an MP with that kind of personal wealth elected to take more than £40,000 from the taxpayer says it all about politicians' sense of entitlement," says Warner. It also says the man was so far up his own backside (to coin a phrase) that he could not see how his actions would play in the real world, especially as he was far from being the innocent that he would have us believe.

Warner avers that it was the sense of entitlement that brought him down. You can't fault the logic. His private life was revealed by Laws himself, in a transparent attempt to claim victimhood.

To some degree that ploy succeeded, as the Dianafication of the former Chief Secretary among his colleagues and some elements of the media over the past 24 hours testifies, Warner adds. Cameron's letter also said: "Your decision to resign from the Government demonstrates the importance you attach to your integrity." It is good to have that on record, Dave, Warner notes. Otherwise we might have imagined it had something to do with greed, media exposure and public anger.

And, if you want to pick any one, try the last. It is quite fun to watch the likes of Iain Dale squirming, not least because it confirms that they (the political classes) still don't get it. Even more is this confirmed by fellow homosexual Matthew Parris who describes Laws as having "made an error of judgment," for which he should not have had to resign.

He made an "error of judgement"?! HE BROKE THE FRAKKING RULES, PARRIS!

What we have been trying to do on this blog - what Warner and others do routinely - is convey to the denizens of the Westminster bubble how loathed they are. This is not something we make up, that we pluck from thin air - that somehow, we woke up one day and decided "we hate the political classes". It is something we pick up, from the real world. The one the political classes don't inhabit.

Thus, when something like the Laws affair erupts, normal rules don't apply. People have been sensitised. They are already of the firm opinion that the political classes are a bunch of self-serving shits. That is the "default" mode. Episodes like this simply confirm that which is already held to be true.

How the political classes break out of this death spiral (if, indeed they can) is going to be interesting to watch, but simply whingeing about the injustice of it all – à la Dale, and that idiot Parris - isn't going to cut it.


In tatters

It doesn't really matter what they do now. When the Cleggerons appoint a man as Chief Secretary to the Treasury who, until five years ago was press officer for Cairngorms National Park, their credibility is shot to pieces.

When it turns out that this same Danny Alexander designated the property as his second home for the purpose of claiming parliamentary expenses but described it to HM Revenue and Customs as his main home, their credibility is in tatters.

Alexander didn't break any law but the Cleggerons are planning to increase the rate of the tax for owners of second homes in an emergency budget next month. And Alexander is going to be a key member of the team that shepherds this change through the system.

It's not just that they are a bunch of low-grade, two-faced shits that sticks in the craw - it's that they're doing it with our money and then sticking us with increased tax bills to pay for it all. The time for slaughter comes ever closer.


Sunday, May 30, 2010

They just don't get it

A multi-millionaire breaks the rules and in the process rips off the taxpayer for £40 grand – yet gets to keep his highly-paid job as an MP. And it's a personal tragedy?

My heart bleeds.


Going through the motions

The resignation of David Laws would be big news at any time, but the homosexual relationship gives it an extra edge. The saga of "poofters in power" – as it was characterised by one of my correspondents – has a special fascination in the Westminster village, which is far more interested in who is buggering whom than it is the general proposition that the population as a whole is being right royally buggered by the political classes.

Needless to say, the extravagant coverage being given to the affairs of Mr Laws has pushed other issues further down the agenda and excluded other items completely, not least by the absurd proposition that the low-grade-Laws will somehow "bounce back" once this bit of local difficulty has been quietly forgotten.

One of those issues which has doubtless got less coverage than it might is the vexed matter of Afghanistan. But then the unnecessary slaughter of (mainly) heterosexual young males through the cupidity, incompetence and manic stupidity of our political classes – willingly aided and abetted by the military itself - is of very little importance compared with the weighty matters of state to which the likes of Mr Iain Dale wish to draw our attention.

Nevertheless, some coverage has survived as, it appears, "Call me Dave" is this week convening a "secret summit" of military experts, ministers and Tory MPs on the war in Afghanistan. It is to be held at Chequers and will also be attended by members of the new National Security Council, including NickNick, Hague and little Georgie Osborne.

Also in attendance though will be (or so we are told) Conservative MP Adam Holloway, a former soldier who served in Iraq, Bosnia and Afghanistan. He has publicly suggested that the mission is on the brink of failure, and warned that the heavy presence of coalition troops is "aggravating the problem" in the area.

Another "outsider" will be Rory Stewart, a new Tory MP and former British Army officer, described as having "extensive experience of the conflict". Although rather too full of himself for some tastes, he too has voiced his concern about the mission, suggesting it is doomed, and has publicly questioned the government's key argument for Britain's continuing involvement in Afghanistan - that it reduces the terrorism threat in Britain - describing it as "ridiculous".

Coincidentally (not) we have seen in the media a raft of what could loosely be called "strategy" pieces, the latest being from Denis MacShane in The Observer, who repeats an earlier call to bring the troops home.

The MacShane thesis is that our soldiers have shed enough blood and the strategy of sending patrols out to be shot at by the Taliban is needlessly costing the lives of British troops. Thus, he argues that it is "time to stop the blood sacrifice of our young soldiers in Afghanistan," noting that Britain has no general, no "master of strategy" with the 21st-century vision to stop the blood-letting as officers and men are sent as IED fodder.

War is too important to be left to generals, he says, then asserting – almost certainly correctly – that ministers past and present have flinched from thinking strategically. Instead, far too much has been left to the generals. Says MacShane:
Every six months, a new commander is sent from London to head the fighting soldiers in Afghanistan. These brigadiers rotate, so that, instead of fighting one six-year war, we have fought 12 six-month wars, so that future red tabs can punch their tickets. The can-do, will-do power-point style of the British army impresses politicians, and every visiting minister and journalist is in awe of these tough, sun-burnt, dedicated professionals.

It is hard to say that they and their generals are wrong, but the time has come to put parliament and elected ministers in charge. The pro-war tabloids say they are backing our boys. They are not: they are backing the generals. Officers and men ready to criticise the campaign have no voice.
The problem with that line is that putting "elected ministers" in charge means giving 13th Century Fox and William Hague their head. Yet nothing they have so far offered gives any confidence that things will be better than they were under Labour.

On the other hand, leaving the campaign to generals means more of the same, with precious little being done about the "blood sacrifice". This is largely regarded as tolerable - and necessary to keep the new kit coming and the funds flowing. After all, if the Brass was not allowing the Taliban to spread a sample of its finest in pieces across the plains and hills of Helmand, politicians like "Call me Dave" might actually start asking what the Army is for – and that would never do.

Interestingly, Charles Moore attempted that on Saturday – sort of. Along the way, he remarks that "the current truth" is that Britain's effort in Afghanistan is not working.

But the Grand Charles, who so often dines with the great and the good that he has long lost touch with reality, believes the failure arises because it (the effort) "is not granted political, developmental or military freedom of manoeuvre."

His answer is to ditch Stirrup (who has been a disappointment, not least as one of the few senior officers with any experience of counterinsurgency) and appoint a new CDS. "One hopes that rumours that Mr Cameron would rather appoint a soldier fresh for the task are true," says Charles. This man, though, is still locked in the claustrophobically narrow world of the military perspective, looking for a British military figure akin to General David Petraeus who can lead our forces to the promised land. He will search in vain ... this is not a military problem.

At least MacShane is thinking in geopolitical terms, arguing that "diplomats and development aid should be redirected to Pakistan and India, as well as to China and Iran, to remove the widespread feeling among Muslim communities that this is Kipling's west again seeking to control the lives of people whose customs and needs they do not understand." And thus does he focus on the "burning issue of Kashmir", which is one of the keys which will unlock the Afghan conflict.

The one thing that the Tories - and especially the Grand High Tories like Charles Moore - don't do though is think. Anyone who ever attempts such a perilous process is quickly exorcised from the party ranks. And that is why you have Con Coughlin noting that they have already sold the pass, with an analysis piece headed: "We will never defeat the Taliban if they think we're going home".

Politicians both sides of the Atlantic, says Coughlin, are desperate to escape from the quagmire that is Afghanistan. Yet paradoxically, the only way we stand a chance of extricating ourselves is by sending a clear and unequivocal message that we are going to stay the course, he writes.

Well, we can do that but, frankly, no one would believe it, least of all the Taliban. In that sense, Liam Fox, in saying that he wants to speed up the withdrawal of British troops from Afghanistan, is only articulating the common objective. The question really is the terms – whether we accept humiliating defeat barely dressed up as victory, as we did in Iraq, or whether we hold out and engineer a more plausible fig-leaf to cover our humiliating defeat.

When one looks at today's newspapers, however – and follows through with the TV news if one is mad enough to do so – the over-riding impression is that no-one really gives a damn. We go though the ritual wailing and rending of clothes as body parts are returned in flag-bedecked coffins borne by highly polished limousines but you can see that the real interest is in the "poofters in power" soap opera. If we declared "victory" tomorrow and walked out the next day, few would even notice and fewer still would argue the toss.

Coughlin says we are giving "the unfortunate impression that the West is rapidly losing its stomach for the fight." In fact we lost it years ago and all we are doing is going through the motions.

Tragically, we will have to go through those motions for a while longer, pretending we are serious about fighting this war. That will last for as long as it takes for "Call me Dave" to get round to making some meaningless but profound statements, all to save some notional "face" and make it look as if he is in charge - although in actuality, he will be doing whatever Mr Obama tells him to do.

It is interesting how wars are often much easier to start than they are to stop, and this one is no different. The "blood sacrifice" will have to continue because no one knows how to stop it more quickly, or cares enough to try. But then, in the grander scheme of things, a few more body parts in a few more coffins won't make any difference and it is clearly not worth any great effort trying to safe a few lives. The show must go on, doncha know.


The woolly world of Huhne

Dellers has produced a stonking piece on climate change in general, followed by one on the Royal Society.

In that second piece, he tells us that he recently had the great pleasure of dinner with Bob Carter who in turn told him that when he goes on speaking tours, there's only one question he ever gets asked to which he is unable to provide a satisfactory answer.

That question goes something like this: "Thank you Professor Carter, that was all very interesting. But please can you tell me why you expect us to take your opinion seriously when it is contradicted by most of the world's leading scientific organisations, including the National Academy of Sciences and the Royal Society?"

Gerald Warner picks up on the Royal Society theme and thus, between the pair of them – Delingpole and Warner – they home in nicely on an important corner of the battle.

But, as both would entirely agree, the fight against the global warming obsession is as much – if not more – a political issue than one of science. And it is here that Booker takes up the cudgels in his column today.

The problem here is energy and climate change secretary, Chris Huhne, with Booker musing about the links between this dinosaur and the extinction of the woolly mammoth.

Where there is actually a link – in an intellectual sense – is between the fatuity of the latest theory which attributes the disappearance of the mammoth with the re-glaciation period known as the Younger Dryas and Huhne's plans for cutting CO2 emissions. They are both just as batty.

Unfortunately for us, Huhne, unlike the woolly mammoth, is not extinct and neither – like David Laws – has he resigned. All we can hope for is that, if the extinction of the mammoths played a part in climate change, the political extinction of our woolly-minded energy minister might also have a cataclysmic if different effect - before he closes down our economy.

And that raises an interesting question. If – as Booker and I would certainly assert – this is primarily a political battle, will we achieve success when we have defeated the political supporters of the global warming obsession? Or, will we overcome it by undermining the pseudo science that underwrites the cult, following which the politicians will slough away and find something else to obsess about?

In other words, whom should we endeavour to make extinct first – the climate "scientists" or the politicians?


Saturday, May 29, 2010

He's resigned

So says the BBC - "his decision alone". Replaced by euroslime Danny Alexander.


Well qualified for government

It is rather ironic that millionaire David Laws, chief secretary to the Treasury, and therefore one of those who decides how much to abstract from our pockets, should have his own fingers in the till, having paid his "secret lover" tens of thousands of pounds, in contravention of the rules.

As a general observation, it is quite strange how these rich men in government, who are never short of a bob or two and get quite comfortable salaries, thank you very much, still feel the need to rob us blind. And they do so not only officially but for their own personal enrichment – no doubt claiming that they have made such great sacrifices that they're worth it. But it all supports the impression that "them up there" believe that rules only apply to the little people.

In this politically correct world, one must pass over the fact that the man is a homosexual and thus avoid wondering whether this condition is becoming semi-compulsory for preferment.

But what is interesting is the braying from the clever-dicks who have made such a point about the lack of military experience amongst Labour defence ministers. Yet these same people seem to have been quite content (or, at least, silent) when Laws was appointed his party's schools and children spokesman.

However, all was made good when Laws was appointed to the Treasury. If the man turns out to be a thief, he is quite obviously well qualified for government - and especially his current post, and more so as he has not made any offer to resign. When scum gets to the top, it is in good company, and rarely feels the need to change its position.


Double standards

Professor John Beddington, still the government's chief scientific adviser – despite the change of government – is back in the news. He has, we are told, "hit out" at climate sceptics who attack global warming science on spurious grounds.

That, at least, is the "take" from The Guardian, which has the statements – from the great man's first interview since the election - framed as a "veiled attack" on the former Tory chancellor and arch climate sceptic Nigel Lawson. Beddington says that he had met Lord Lawson to brief him about the science of global warming.

Beddington agrees that true scientific scepticism was healthy and must be encouraged but he criticised individuals and organisations that "cherry picked" data for political ends. "There is no doubt that there are organisations and individuals who will choose to characterise the science as being nonsensical on the basis of what are not reasonable criticisms," he says.

To support his argument, the then highlights the spurious argument that because the UK winter had been so cold, climate change science must be wrong. There was a difference between weather and climate, he says.

"The fact that we have had a very cold winter in Britain does not mean that the climate is not getting warmer," he said, adding that rejecting global warming on those grounds was wrong. "This is just not science. This is commentary," he said.

And so goes the drivel. You do have to hand it to these warmists. While every possible climatic anomaly has been harnessed to the cause of global warming, Beddington has been silent. Get a sceptic playing the same trick and he is right in there, complaining.

Silent also when his colleagues cherry-pick data and run a political show for entirely political ends, Beddington then complains when he sees a political response. And then, the science can be entirely unreasonable, but the criticism must be "reasonable" – by his definition.

What he can't seem to understand is that his own double standards are themselves unreasonable, and entirely negate his arguments. When he applies the same standards to the warmistas as he does to their critics, then he will be worth listening to.


Friday, May 28, 2010

Another clunk ...

Reports The Times, the euro plunged and US stock markets dived tonight after Spain was stripped of its top-level credit rating by a leading rating agency over concerns about its economic growth.

In the latest blow to the eurozone, Fitch Ratings downgraded Spain's sovereign credit rating by a notch from the top AAA rating to AA+. Standard & Poor's downgraded Spain's rating for the second time to AA last month but Moody's has maintained the rating at AAA.

This may be survivable, but even those with short memories will recall that this is how the Greek crisis started. And Spain is a much bigger economy ...


So where are they?

A coroner has said there has been an "unacceptable level of mortality" among bomb disposal experts working in Afghanistan.

Coroner Stuart Fisher made the comments as he returned a verdict of unlawful killing at an inquest in Lincoln into the death of Captain Daniel Shepherd. Capt Shepherd was killed as he defused an improvised explosive device by hand in Helmand province in July 2009. The coroner said it was critical that remote devices were used on bombs.

Well, blow me down with a feather! That's exactly what I said in July 2009, just after Capt Sheherd's death was reported. And if I can see it, from my desk in Bradford, and a Coroner – on hearing expert evidence – can see it (and recommend it), where are all these military experts and on-the-spot defence correspondents? Why couldn't they see it?

Further, I very much doubt whether the Coroner had the Buffalo in mind, as a local coroner would know nothing of this equipment unless he had been told about it. And the one thing the Army seems to be extremely good at during inquests is keeping quiet about the availability of life-saving equipment, and the lethal inadequacies of its current systems and procedures.

There is also always going to be the smart-alec who will say that the Buffalo cannot solve every problem. In fact, there seems to be a remarkable sub-strain of military stupidity which asserts that, because one piece of equipment cannot resolve all problems, it should be used for none at all.

But the fact is that the Buffalo has a proven record in saving lives – it is ideal for investigating suspect IEDs which might otherwise kill bomb disposal operators. We should have ordered them in 2005 (or earlier). The Army didn't, and it wasn't until November 2008 that an order was finally placed.

But that was 18 months ago. In the interim, we have heard nothing, and there is little indication of when these life-saving machines are going to go into service. Where are they, and how long is it going to take to get them into action?

And why aren't all these clever, knowledgeable defence correspondents agitating for their introduction, or are they still waiting for their Army minders to tell them what to think? This kit has been around, in US hands, since 2003 ... for SEVEN years. How long is it going to take before some bright journo actually notices that we are still using men with metal detectors to do the job that should be done with machines?


Dog should eat dog

Rather amusingly, The Guardian is letting Monbiot off his leash to have a go at The Times, telling the world that its "exclusive" tale on EU climate targets is "gibberish".

Although Moonbat is largely a free agent, there must be an element of policy involved here, as most newspaper editors are reluctant to allow attacks on other journals. The view is taken that "dog shall not eat dog" in an informal arrangement that binds together the media as a self-serving (and mutually supporting) club.

In that sense, it is good to see Moonbat break ranks – even if one cannot agree with all he writes. Climate change aside, another good place to start would be the defence coverage, breaking into the low-grade and ill-informed coverage that we see all too often. And, once again, The Times would be a suitable target, with a story that could easily qualify as "gibberish".

The headline claim of this story – which sounds so terribly plausible – is that the MoD "has spent £207 million on an armoured vehicle that has yet to leave the drawing board, despite seven years of development." This, it tells us, is the Future Rapid Effects System (FRES) which "was supposed to provide soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan with better protection against roadside bombs but its development has dragged on and costs have continued to rise."


Thursday, May 27, 2010

Are we children?

I would hate to have to inhabit the intellectual construct that forms the world of Herman Van Rompuy. According to this dire little man, us poor simple "ordinary people" were "misled over [the] impact of the euro".

Europe's "man in the street", he says, was misled for years over the vast political and economic implications of the creation of "Euroland". "Nobody ever told the proverbial man in the street that sharing a single currency was not just about making peoples' lives easier when doing business or travelling abroad, but also about being directly affected by economic developments in the neighbouring countries."

This is what is known technically as "bollocks". Whatever else, the issues relating to the euro have been well rehearsed and, in two instances – Sweden and Denmark – when the public were given a fair crack of the whip in deciding whether to go for it, they rejected the idea of a common currency.

This issue throughout has been the refusal of the euroslime to put the issue properly to the vote – the betting is that if Germany had put the matter to a referendum, the Volks would have given the same answer as the Danes and Swedes. We are not little children who needed "daddy" to tell us what to think and understand.

One is, therefore, a little puzzled by Vincenzo Scarpetta, an analyst for Open Europe who asserts that: "The euro zone crisis is not simply about economic failure but also a breakdown in trust between the political class and European citizens. The EU elite simply got it wrong on the euro."

That's not exactly how I and many others see it. The euro was always an attempt to impose a political agenda on the peoples of Europe – the elite didn't get it wrong, in any normal sense. It was a power grab ... and it's coming unstuck. Furthermore, we don't need Herman Van Rompuy to tell us that – or who we should blame.


The great deluded

Billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money is being "wasted" in fighting climate change as other nations are hell-bent on development, a new book claims today – says The Daily Express.

This is "Climate: The Great Delusion", written by Frenchman Christian Gerondeau. He tells us that which we already know, but cannot be repeated often enough, that cutting carbon dioxide emissions in the West will not reduce them globally because of the expansion of China, India and Africa. Thus, the money being spent by our governments to reduce our emissions is being wasted.

Gerondeau concludes in his book that we have to stop wasting public and private money in the illusion that it will "save the planet". Huge savings are at hand, he writes.

The tragedy of this is that it is all true, and easily verified. Yet, despite the economies of Europe falling apart as we speak, the likes of "Call me Dave" Cameron are still locked into their mindless profligacy. And to this day, they cannot see the absurdity of calling for better control of public expenditure while, at the same time condoning the stupidity of wasting billions on their global warming obsession.

Thus, we need a book to go with this one. To "Climate: the great delusion", should be added: "Politicians: the great deluded". Of the two problems, the latter is probably the more formidable.


A period of silence?

To the surprise of none, we learn from 13th Century Fox that there is to be no fundamental change in the policy underwriting the prosecution of the war in Afghanistan.

We assume that the policy – or the current version of it – has the support of the military High Command but, whether that is the case or not, there can be little complaint. The military have had every opportunity to make its views known to the incoming government. And if they don't like what they are getting, a certain French General set out their options – no less than Napoleon Bonaparte:
A commander in chief cannot take as an excuse for his mistakes in warfare an order given by his sovereign or minister, when the person giving the order is absent from the field of operations and is imperfectly aware or wholly unaware of the latest state of affairs. It follows that any commander in chief who undertakes to carry out a plan which he considers defective is at fault; he must put forward his reasons, insist on the plan being changed, and finally tender his resignation rather than be the instrument of his army's downfall.
This, I picked up as an epigraph in a book I am reading on the battle of Dien Bien Phu. In my contacts with the previous government, I argued – especially towards the end – that, if there was a model from which we could learn a great deal (and more so than some of the other campaigns fought), it was the French prosecution of the war in IndoChina.

Not least, one sees in both campaigns many elements of a timeless military mindset. This combines self-delusion with ignorance and stupidity, all hedged with the arrogant confidence of men dressed up in their uniforms and baubles, who can rely on the support of those who are so easily gulled by such trappings, and confuse "prestige" with competence and capability.

To a certain extent, it is understandable that one should be impressed by uniforms, medals and badges, and confronted by bemedalled Brass, the natural tendency is to believe these holders of high office know what they are talking about. Perversely, however, the converse is more often than not the truth. The greater the trimmings and the higher the titles, the less reliable they are.

But, since at the watershed point of a new government in office, we have all those office-holders expressing by their silence their approval of current policy, no doubt we can be confident of a similar silence from our brave military when, as is almost certain, the vacuity, inadequacy and ultimately the failure of the policy becomes apparent.

But how interesting it is that this government, comprising members of the opposition who were so critical of Labour's Afghan policy, seem to have adopted it lock, stock and barrel, with not even the slightest change of emphasis.


You think?

" ... what jaded eyes find incredible seems perfectly natural to those outside Westminster who, having voted to put no one in sole charge, want to see politicians take up the challenge and co-operate in the national interest."

So writes the ultimate denizen of the bubble, Benedict Brogan, who has honed and perfected the Westminster narrative, to explain and justify the Cleggeron coalition.

"It is therefore not enough for those of us involved in the daily conversation of politics to dismiss as naive the enthusiasm of a majority who have discovered a taste for something other than brutal partisanship," he thus prattles. "We can argue about precisely how things have changed, but we must accept that they have."

The point which escapes the egregious Brogan is that, where we are not entirely indifferent to them, we continue to hold our politicians in profound contempt. Fundamentally, nothing has changed, and it is only fools like Brogan, in the bubble, who believe that it has.


Fears in the night

Respica te, hominem te memento. So reputedly spoke the slave into the ear of the great leader, upon his triumphal entry into Rome - loosely translated as "Remember Caesar, thou art mortal."

If we have a role, on this blog, then it must surely be that – a lowly voice whispering in the ear of the powerful and famous, reminding them of their origins.

And this is fanciful, so what! That's the point about blogging – the electronic equivalent of "the cat can look at the King". Its authors can invent any reason they like for going public, and if they chose lofty ideals, that is entirely their own affair. Readers can read, agree or disagree, or simply not read and move on.

The one thing we don't need to do is change our opinions just because many or even some disagree with what we say (although neither does that preclude change if criticism is right or well-merited). We can stick to a line, through thick or thin, even if it costs readers and popularity.

That may well be the case with my current stance on the euro, where for reasons which I believe to be good, I regard the possible collapse of single currency as potential disaster, with huge and malign ramifications for the British and global economies.

This is a line, in common with many, where we have taken some flak from our readers, and although our current hit rate is standing up, undoubtedly our overall rate of growth is affected by this blog's often perverse lines. Had I, in particular, been more amenable to the wants and prejudices of potential readers, our hit rate could be in the stratosphere, alongside Guido, Mrs Dale and the other blogger stars.

And, do you know? I don't give a shit.

I decided that, amongst other things, last night, in the wee small hours - that's now yesterday, as this post goes up with a Thursday dateline. Then, for the umpteenth time, I had been looking at the internet screen, wondering whether the particular set of symptoms I was experiencing – or thought I was experiencing – was close enough to the heart attack I thought it was to warrant calling the emergency services.

In the end, I compromised. I woke Mrs EU Referendum and asked her to drive me into casualty. Hence yesterday, there was a slight gap in the rate of blogging as I gave myself over to the ministrations of the NHS, who may not have been terribly kindly disposed to my bringing my laptop with me in order to continue blogging (and, believe me, I thought about it!).

As it turned out, it was the right thing to do. A battery of tests have found something which, if not currently serious, could well have become so if neglected. To the chagrin of some, therefore, the time spent in the care of Bradford General yesterday may eventually prolong my life – provided, of course, I do as I am told, not least by Mrs EU Referendum.

The experience teaches two things – firstly a lesson for any and every one of my readers. If you think you are having a heart attack, dial 999. It doesn't matter if you got it completely wrong, and it is a totally false alarm. They would rather you did that, than die ... or end up needlessly damaged.

Secondly, in the grander scheme of things, it doesn't really matter what I blog ... or what anyone blogs for that matter. Soon enough, I'm going to end up dead – we all are. So, if I am going to blog, it might as well be about things I believe in, keeping true to my principles – such as they are.

Then, at least, when they finally cart me off, prising my stiff, cold fingers from the keyboard - frozen on the "return" key as I posted yet another attack on ... – at least I will have the consolation that I have kept true to myself. And, just to add further to the piss-off factor, thanks to the ministrations of the NHS and Mrs EU Referendum, that may not be for some time.

Now I'm going to bed. I haven't slept properly for well over 30 hours. Abnormal service (the only type on offer) continues in the morning.


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Being reasonable

By permission of the Boss and, indeed, with his encouragement, I am putting up a link to a posting I did over on Your Freedom and Ours about those great friends of ours, Open Europe and their very reasonable attitude, which is not appreciated by anyone on either side of the debate. Well, maybe by Tweedledum and Tweedledee who are leading this government.

A scary silence

Well, "Call me Dave" Cameron got his moment in the limelight yesterday, accusing his predecessors of leaving "an economy that's nearly bankrupt, a society that's broken and a political system that is bust".

Strangely, for such a devastating condemnation, The Boy's remedial programme, offered during the Queen's Speech, was remarkably slender. For sure, it included as its first priority a commitment "to reduce the deficit and restore economic growth," with a promise "to accelerate the reduction of the structural budget deficit."

But, even when you look carefully, it is hard to see in the 22 Bills and one draft Bill anything that addresses the problems of a "near bankrupt" economy, much less one exposed to a global economy on the brink of collapse. To be fair, the real beef is promised for the emergency budget on 22 June. It is then, we are told, that we will learn what little Georgie has in mind to reduce the deficit, now standing at £156.1 billion.

What does not compute is the "little Englander" feel to the whole affair. The Cameron experience seems quintessentially English, with no apparent recognition that we are part of a big, brutal world – which is unravelling with frightening speed. Given a broader, more cosmopolitan perspective, the issue for the front pages yesterday would have been the report in The Daily Mail recording that the foreign liabilities racked up by Spain, Greece and Portugal now exceeded €2 trillion.

The precise figure, as far as can be ascertained, is €2.16 trillion (£1.9 trillion), which the three stricken eurozone countries have issued as public and private debt. That is something like 22 percent of the region's gross domestic product, now held by foreign banks, pension funds and insurers, with some €1.49 trillion of that being accounted for by Spain.

So huge is this figure – which is far more than previous estimates, somewhat dwarfing the UK deficit – that the prospect of defaults or restructuring in any of the three nations could trigger sub prime-style shockwaves, another bank crisis and the mother of all currency crises.

It was undoubtedly that which spooked the market yesterday, and it is also that which points to structural issues which are not amenable to a "quick fix" or confidence-building gestures. The whole of the regional economy is poised on the edge, with pundits talking seriously of a second recession and worse.

What is so very odd is that the domestic political agenda is dominating the media, when the looming financial crisis is of such potentially devastating significance that it should have swept all other matters from the headlines.

If the turmoil continues to develop the way we saw yesterday, the emergency budget on 22 June to deal with the economy will be of very little interest. By then, there may well be no economy left. Yet, from the British media, you would scarcely get any sense of the building crisis, or the cataclysmic effects that await us. It is almost as if, 70 years ago when Hitler's Armies had invaded France, the newspapers had chosen not to report it.

And that is scary.


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

It's started ...

UPDATED 14:00 Hrs - if you feel inclined to panic, now would be a good time.

Above: the headlines from The Times and The Daily Telegraph today (online).

My morning post yesterday: European stock markets, for the moment, are paying the price ... which means individual savers, pension funds and the rest. They saw London lose 0.2 percent, Paris slid 0.7, Frankfurt 1.3 and Madrid 1.8 by mid-morning, on fears about the health of Spanish banks and the eurozone economy. The "age of rage" comes later. This is only just starting (my emphasis).

Above pic: Spain's Economy Minister Elena Salgado arrives at the Brussels Economic Forum conference today.

Meanwhile, the euro, core European bond yields and oil prices all tumbled, while stock-index futures suggested further sharp losses on Wall Street today. The three-month U.S. dollar London interbank offered rate rose to 0.53625 percent from 0.50969 on Monday, its highest level since July 2009.

"With the euro under pressure, Libor pushing higher and geopolitical tensions raised, investors have few reasons to try and call a bottom to this," said David Morrison at GFT. "For now, it's all about deleveraging and unwinding anything even remotely risky, and equities are top of the list," he added.

Says Jeremy Warner in his Telegraph blog:
Just as everyone thought the banking crisis largely over, it threatens to begin anew. The banking crisis helped prompt a sovereign debt crisis, which now threatens to re-infect the banking sector with a secondary bad debt experience. Markets are beginning to believe there is no way out. More worrying still, few if any can afford another round of bank bailouts.
There's still room for confidence to revive and the problem to go away, at least for the time being, he says. But it's not looking good, not good at all.

The only consolation - and it's a very small one - is that ... reality bites! Ain't life a bitch!


Go away and die

Dr Molnar, Professor Andrew Derocher and colleagues from the University of Alberta and York University, Toronto focused on the physiology, behaviour and ecology of polar bears, and how these might change as temperatures increase. "We developed a model for the mating ecology of polar bears ... ," he says.

So, we have another fracking computer model from another bunch of over-paid academics, predicting Armageddon. If you can't do something useful, will you please just go away and die?


A fool and his money

I suppose there is no fool like a rich fool, a description which surely must apply to Californian billionaire Vinod Khosla. He has just employed ex-prime minister Tony Blair to give strategic advice to Khosla Ventures, a venture capital firm that invests in companies pursuing green technologies.

On two counts (at least) Khosla is wasting his money: firstly, Blair's star is very much on the wane; secondly, the greenie bubble is about to burst (and, in fact, is already bursting). But there is no better indication of Khosla's incipient madness than in his statement concerning the employment of Blair.

"With Tony's advice and influence, we will create opportunities for entrepreneurs and innovators to devise practical solutions that can solve today's most pressing problems," says the man. Fer Chrissakes! Blair couldn't even do that when he was prime minister. Why should he be any better at it now?


They don't always listen to logic

Picked up by BBC Scotland lat week, after being aired by the farming press and the trade, it appears that there is a proposal going through the EU parliament to ban certain rat poisons.

In the frame are anticoagulant rodenticides – the most widely used group of rat poisons – and in this case the problem stems from an update to the EU's Biocides Directive, legislation introduced more than a decade ago to control the use of chemicals used to kill living organisms.

What has happened is that Christa Klass, a German MEP from the EPP group, has inserted a clause into the update to remove rodenticides from the market. Under her proposal, they would fail safety cut-off criteria because they are "toxic to human reproduction" and they would fail a derogation clause to keep chemicals deemed too important to lose.

According to Tory MEP Struan Stevenson, the proposal – crazy though it is – is already "well on its way" through the regulatory system. He is urging the agricultural industry and fellow politicians to step up their game to stop it in its tracks. "This is not scaremongering," he says. "There is a real possibility that we could see a ban."

If it does go through, farmers, public health professionals and householders will be left without a decent tool to tackle rodents. The result could be massive and dangerous levels of infestation, with very real risks of disease – just at a moment when local authorities here want to move to universal two-weekly refuse collection.

The matter goes before the EU parliament's environment committee in early June and then before the full parliament in July. Hazel Doonan, from the Agricultural Industries Confederation, is saying that there is "no logical reason why the legislation should go ahead". But she warns: "MEPs don't always listen to logic."



Monday, May 24, 2010

And for my next trick

As little Georgie outlines his £6.2 billion cuts, we are reminded that our net contribution to the European Union will rise this year by 60 percent, from £4.2 billion to £6.4 billion. One presumes that Georgie could cut that back a little? Er ... I forgot ... we are in Europe and not ruled by Europe.


A question of defence

Finally available, YouTube videos of North et al on defence. Quality (of reproduction) not brilliant, but there you go.


Thirteenth Century Fox

Politically, for the period that British troops remain in Afghanistan, it is going to be an interesting time. We are going to see a Conservative defence team, which in opposition specialised in low-grade sniping, now exposed to its own medicine, as unhappy events unfold.

What would have been a classic example of this is the resignation today of Colonel Bob Seddon, the principal ammunition technical officer of the Royal Logistics Corps. He has decided to call it a day over his concerns that cuts have left his team - which deals with the threat of IEDs in Afghanistan – "overstretched and undermanned".

Pre-election, then shadow defence secretary Liam Fox would have had a field day, condemning the inadequacies of the government. Now he represents the government, however, Fox is having to promise to remedy the inadequacies of his predecessors. He is now, effectively, on notice, and further problems with ATO shortages will, in due course, be laid at his door.

This, of course, is a game Fox cannot win. There will always be deficiencies emerging somewhere in the order of battle as our forces continue to engage with a relentless enemy. Of those deficiencies, Fox will have little direct knowledge – until they are brought to his attention – but, having been so keen to hold his predecessor responsible for every defect, will now find himself similarly in the hot seat.

So far, Fox has not made a good start of it, having incurred the wrath of the Afghan government during a weekend visit, after describing Afghanistan as a "broken 13th-century country". A senior Afghan government source said: "His view appears to be that Afghanistan has not changed since the 13th century and it implies that Afghanistan is a tribal and medieval society."

If that is indeed Fox's view, it says little for his broader understanding of the politics of the region, but this should come as no surprise. On this and many other things, he shows every indication of having learned absolutely nothing during his period in waiting.

From his privileged position as defence shadow, Fox has had every opportunity to explore the Afghan crisis at length and, had his understanding developed at all, he would undoubtedly be thinking along the lines of Denis MacShane, one of the few to understand the malign role of India in the conflict.

"We cannot keep on sending British soldiers to die in the will-'o-the-wisp search for an ultimate military victory," says MacShane. "Instead of warcraft we need statecraft and that must involve a stronger relationship with Pakistan. There has been much talk about Pakistan and the solution to Afghanistan. But there will be no solution in Pakistan until India changes its strategic approach in the area."

Alongside foreign secretary William Hague, however, the Conservative leadership – MacShane asserts – is totally India-obsessed, which leaves Fox's thinking undeveloped and superficial.

And, if his strategic thinking is lacking, so too is his response to local issues such as perceived shortages. Tonight's Panorama documentary may be a case in point, where Christina Schmid, widow of Staff Sergeant Olaf Schmid, complains that her husband, who was killed by an IED in Sangin, was "flaking" with exhaustion on the day he died because of demands being made on him and his elite team due to staff shortages.

Taking them at face value, Fox has no choice but to respond to such complaints by promising to make good the shortages. But, had he been more conscientious in his research, he might have learned that there were alternative and less labour-intensive way of doing things, than currently undertaken by the military, which could square the circle – providing better military effect at less cost and loss of life.

Crucially though, where over the weekend there emerged what appeared to be a split between Fox and development secretary Andrew Mitchell, a more rational approach by Fox could have had the two ministers singing from the same hymn sheet.

The essential issue here is that, for many of the intractable military problems in the British area of operations, there are no pure military solutions. With such solutions are being sought, in vain, this gave Fox the opening to offer alternatives, such as the tried and tested engineering solutions which have served others so well.

Such an approach would have put Fox on the same wavelength as Mitchell, but instead has him creating his own hostages to fortune, with his current promise that the new government will "do everything we can to ensure that, whatever you are asked to do, you are properly, fully equipped to do so, to maximise your chance of success and minimise the risk to you."

That is a promise which Fox cannot keep – it will always be the case that there could have been something more which could have been done while, on the other hand, nothing Fox has in mind by way of strategy would offer any chance of success. He has already squandered multiple opportunities, to the extent that history has perhaps already marked Thirteenth Century Fox down for failure, before he has even got properly into gear.


The age of rage

The euro is becoming an engine of intra-European tribal hatred, writes Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, who is exploring the political fallout from the euro crisis. As the world "teeters on the brink of a new age of rage" and we face a "tinderbox moment", he sees the Left as a possible beneficiary of the crisis.

In fact, it is far too early to say where the current crisis will lead us. The "play" is still on and the extent of the damage is not yet apparent. Even today, the reports the collapse of the Spanish, Cordoba-based Cajasur Bank is sending shock-waves through the market, pointing to the underlying weakness of Spanish economy.

The one thing for sure is that the pundits' forecasts must be taken with a pinch of salt. One is cruelly reminded of this by a piece just over a year ago from Anatole Kaletsky, who confidently predicted that: "an existential crisis of the eurozone remains unlikely".

Today's Times offers us a background piece from Antwerp, where we are told that ordinary people are dimly aware that another economic meltdown may be brewing but, by and large, they choose to ignore it. "People don't quite catch the whole depth of the crisis. It happens above their heads ... They are quite complacent," says Geert Noels, the chief economist of a Belgian think-tank called Econopolis.

Those that aren't complacent, it seems, are all-knowing, and we are seeing a progression of the likes of Gavin Hewitt giving us the benefit of their wisdom. What is notably absent, though, is anything from Tony Blair, Michael Heseltine and Kenneth Clarke, reminding us of how necessary it is for the UK to join the euro.

European stock markets, for the moment, are paying the price ... which means individual savers, pension funds and the rest. They saw London lose 0.2 percent, Paris slid 0.7, Frankfurt 1.3 and Madrid 1.8 by mid-morning, on fears about the health of Spanish banks and the eurozone economy. The "age of rage" comes later. This is only just starting.


Fading away

It is rather ironic that, following a weekend when it has really been too hot to blog and the nation swarms to the seaside, we see in The Guardian news of a poll recording a major decline in concern over climate change.

No one with their finger on the pulse needed a survey to tell them that – the heat, so to speak, went out of the issue some time ago. But, for the record, YouGov has only 62 percent of Britons interested in subject, down from 80 percent in 2006. Those unsure of whether human activity is warming the planet has risen from 25 percent in 2007 to 33 percent now.

However, the casework was done in the week after the general election, when the public was focusing on the shenanigans over the new government, so it is unsurprising that climate change was low down the pecking order.

Nevertheless, there is a sense that the warmists have shot their bolt. After the hype over Copenhagen, "Climategate" and related issues, followed by the freezing winter, the Armageddon scenarios no longer have the same traction. The "shock-horror" has lost its power to shock, and is simply another issue queuing for attention.

It is a little worrying though that the survey, commissioned by the energy company EDF, also sought views on electricity generation and found a certain amount of complacency. Only 80 percent say they are interested in where electrical power is made, down from 82 percent the previous year.

This, though, is only a slight change and within that we see an increase in the "favourability rating" for nuclear power stations, rising from +4 to +16 between 2007 and this year. Even amongst Lib-Dims, 58 percent believe nuclear energy has to be "part of the energy balance". Overall, 47 percent favour of the construction of new nuclear power stations. Only 32 percent are opposed.

Basically, the issues that have dominated the last three decades are beginning to fade. Even the Greenies seem to be giving up, their next big preoccupation – or so we are told - being biodiversity. The economic case for global action to stop the destruction of the natural world is even more powerful than the argument for tackling climate change, they are saying.

One cannot imagine that this will have quite the same grip on the public imagination, especially if we are seeing serious currency crises in the wake of the collapse of the euro. Faced with real problems, green issues generally could be on the wane, even to the point where before too long the only people who actually believe in man-made global warming will be the politicians.


Sunday, May 23, 2010

I don't think we anticipated ...

Britain must act now to bring down its record budget deficit because of the scale of the fiscal crisis in Europe, little Nicky Clegg told BBC television today. "I don't think we anticipated ... quite how sharply the economic conditions in the euro zone would have deteriorated and the need to show that we need to get to grips with this suddenly became much greater," he said.

Strewth! "I don't think we anticipated ...". Which planet has this man been on for the last few weeks? I know our politicians are out of touch, but this one is really pushing his luck. Then again, they really are like that. We delude ourselves if we think our politicians are well-informed. Often, they are the last to know what is happening, and the least equipped to understand it.


We really do have a problem

One was a little taken aback yesterday by The Times which chose to compliment David Cameron on his "rational euroscepticism". This is ... a moment for Mr Cameron's sensible approach to Europe: a firm, hard-headed europragmatism, says that paper: "The policy of being in Europe but not run by Europe is right. Quite suddenly, it is also timely."

It is fair to say, though, that Booker, in his column, does not exhibit quite the same degree of approval in his romp through the current euro crisis.

In fact, as alarming as anything in this crisis, he decides, has been the sight of our new leaders preening themselves with their list of irrelevant little "coalition policies" and babyish boasts about the "greatest democratic shake-up since the 1832 Reform Act", as if none of this was happening.

One analyst puts it that: "They are like children let loose in the sweet shop, seemingly oblivious to the horrendous reality unfolding before us," while a well-known economist (exceedingly well known) told Booker: "Bring back the days of Alistair Darling and Gordon Brown. At least they had some grasp of what is going on. This lot are just totally out of their depth."

As to the euro crisis itself, Booker notes that we are witnessing a judgment on the entire deceitful and self-deceiving way in which the "European project" has been assembled over the past 53 years. One of the most important things to understand about it, he says, is that it has only ever had one real agenda. Everything it has done has been directed to one ultimate goal, full political and economic integration.

The headline labels put on the various stages of that process may have changed over the years, such as building first a "common market", then a "single market", finally a "constitution". But by far the most important step of all was locking the member states into a single currency.

That, of course, was always a political project, yet as early as 1978, the British economist Sir Donald MacDougall reported to Brussels that it could only work if, following the US model, between 20 and 25 percent of Europe's GDP was available to enable a huge transfer of wealth from richer countries such as Germany to the poorer, more backward countries of southern Europe.

It is the absence of any mechanisms for making those transfers, of any political legitimacy which would permit them to be made, which is at the heart of this crisis. But, as Booker points out, Britain is just as seriously affected as everyone else. A system failure on this scale would make the 1930s pale into insignificance.

That is a theme picked up by Bruno Waterfield and Angela Monaghan in The Sunday Telegraph, but it is also one rehearsed by The Sunday Times - not the first paper to write of the "Great Depression Mark II".

Following a complete collapse of the euro, the world's second largest currency, Europe would fracture, we are told. Countries would adopt protectionist measures and unemployment would soar to levels not seen since the pre-war years, causing mass social unrest. It would take years to emerge from the crisis, says this paper.

This is where Booker came in with his piece, noting that easily the most telling statement by any politician last week was that from an anguished Angela Merkel. But not only did she pronounce that "the current crisis facing the euro is the biggest test Europe has faced for decades, even since the Treaty of Rome was signed in 1957", she went on: "If the euro fails, Europe fails."

Merkel thus warned that the consequences for the whole of Europe would be "incalculable", which is what Booker and a whole lot of others are doing as well. I guess we really do have a problem.


Saturday, May 22, 2010

The undead

Much tutting and knowing discussion attended the comparison between the fictional television character DCI Gene Hunt and David Cameron (above), during the election campaign. Widely regarded as an "own goal" for Labour, in drawing parallels between The Boy and a popular TV detective, it now seems that the comparison might have been far more apt than could possibly have been realised – and entirely unfavourable.

In the fictional series Ashes to Ashes, Gene Hunt – the Guv – is now revealed to be a ghost – the troubled spirit of a young rookie PC, shot dead on Coronation Day in 1953. The unusual twist to the story is that Gene Hunt and his colleagues do not know they are ghosts.

Had the poster-designers known, they could perhaps have drawn attention to the other uncanny parallel ... that Cameron too is one of the undead. Certainly, David Cameron might no longer love the comparison he traded on. He is a ghost and so are all his colleagues. They just do not realise it ... yet.


Dave "talks tough" on Europe

No doubt stung by the charge that he has rolled over once again on EU policy, "call me Dave" Cameron has used the opportunity of his first official visit to Berlin to talk tough on "Europe", telling Merkel that he would not support any new treaty which transferred more powers from Westminster to Brussels.

The suggestion that a new treaty might be needed, specifically to deal with the euro crisis, has emerged over the last few days, for instance in The Guardian. That paper reports seeing a German finance ministry document, setting out a series of demands which, it says, presents Cameron "with a dilemma over whether this would trigger an EU referendum in Britain."

This gave Cameron the cue to do his tough talking, faithfully recorded by The Daily Telegraph, which has him signalling that he would be "ready to veto any attempt to create a new EU treaty to shore up the ailing eurozone."

Despite Dave's determination to give it star billing, however, Merkel was at pains to play down the idea of a new treaty, stressing that it was "early days" as yet, to be considering such changes. This low-key approach was echoed by yesterday's meeting of a "taskforce" of EU finance ministers under the chairmanship of EU council president Herman Van Rompuy.

French finance minister Christine Lagarde suggested forgetting about the treaty and concentrating on the "deliverables", while her German counterpart, Wolfgang Schaeuble, advised his colleagues to do what could be done without treaty changes and then to examine the options. Nobody was proposing any treaty changes in the short-term, said Van Rompuy.

The focus on treaty change, therefore, looks very much a preoccupation of the British media, and then one which The Boy is highlighting – for the very obvious reasons. But, apart from the need to play to his domestic audience, manning the ramparts of the Alamo is a tad premature, not least as any necessary changes might be achieved through enhanced cooperation, as modified by the Lisbon Treaty, which would rather make the histrionics redundant.

That didn't stop little Georgie Osborne laying down the law to the colleagues about disclosure of "national budget plans" and the need for elected members of the House of Commons to be told about them first. Given that budgets are now routinely cleared with the Commission before they are publically announced, this reinforced the growing conviction that little Georgie really is as stupid as he looks.

For the time being, though, the "tough talking" is playing well enough to the gallery, sufficient at any rate to blur the details of last Wednesday's humiliation, when Osborne was obliged to accept the new rules on hedge funds, without even the opportunity to address the council meeting.

It certainly allows "Call me Dave" to tell his faithful that he is protecting the national interest, and some of them are still gullible enough to believe him ... the great "eurosceptic" who is really "engaging" with Europe and telling them what's what.