Monday, 26 September 2016

The millionaire who made a fortune out of Brexit



Just watched BBC-2’s Brexit; A Very British Coup. The duplicity of the Brexiters is clear to see.

The Tories, like Gove, Johnson and Fox, are under orders to have nothing to do with what their party supposedly sees as Nigel Farage’s irresponsible and incendiary campaign. But in fact, they are in touch with him the whole time, and when a story starts running that if Boris gets to be PM, he’ll offer the UKIP leader a seat in his cabinet, the blonde bombshell does nothing to deny it.

As for Labour Brexiter Gisela Stuart, she says she considers Farage so loathsome, she will never share a platform with him. But when it becomes clear that his anti-immigrant approach can save the Leave campaign, she, er, shares a platform with him.

Another Brexit campaigner is the hedge fund boss, Crispin Odey. The Leave vote sent the pound plummeting – bad news for the rest of us because it cut the value of our homes, savings, pensions, wages etc by 10 per cent or more. But it was good news for Mr Odey. He made £200 million out of sterling’s collapse. Another example of how Brexit was a blow for the rich elite against ordinary people.

But perhaps the most revealing moment in the programme was when disgraced former defence secretary, now leading Brexiter, Liam Fox was asked what would happen after a Leave vote. It was plain he neither knew nor cared. And doesn’t it show?


Sunday, 18 September 2016

Brexit: a lesson from literature



Another book I read on my holidays was Snow by the Turkish Nobel prize winning novelist, Orhan Pamuk. 

Published in 2004, it tells the story of a coup in the city of Kars, mounted by a demagogic but rather past-it actor. Pamuk writes about how local people support him because they believe he will stop immigrants coming in, working for low wages and stealing their jobs.

A lot of folk in Kars are disappointed with life, and different people have different views of the land of milk and honey that will follow the coup. Some think it will end immigration, others that the unlicensed slaughter of animals will be stopped; others still that corrupt politicians and business people will be called to account.

They do not understand that those mounting the coup do not have the slightest interest in these things, and just want to stop political parties they dislike from winning an upcoming election. In the end, the coup fails.

* Fact. Leading Brexiter Boris Johnson used to campaign unsuccessfully for Turkey to be admitted to the EU. Then he discovered he was anti-EU, and started to say it would be a very bad thing for Turkey to be let in, claiming this was about to happen, even though he knew it wasn't.

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Brexitwatch: Hinkley Point: 'take control' means lose control cont'd



I forecast a month ago (http://disasterhistorian.blogspot.co.uk/2016/08/brexitwatch-take-control-means-lose.html) that post-Brexit, Thresea May would find she had no option but to continue with Hinkley Point in spite of fears about national security and the colossal electricity price it will bring:


'Another foreign-owned enterprise is Hinkley Point nuclear power station. It looks as though Theresa May would dearly love to cancel it because of the eye-watering price for electricity it commits us to paying, but, the Chinese are major investors, and they have made it clear that if it does not go ahead, they will be severely displeased.

As the Brexiters’ ‘plan’ involves us cosying up to people like the Chinese to replace the trading partners in Europe we are turning our back on, it will be interesting to see how much ‘control’ they dare exercise over Hinkley Point.' 

And now that we have spat in the face of our European allies, Ms May did indeed decide we dare not upset the Chinese. Here's the story:


http://www.heraldscotland.com/opinion/14746666.Tweaks_are_not_enough_to_convince_doubters_over_Hinkley_Point_C/


* A review of my book Flood: Nature and Culture that I have just found - http://geographical.co.uk/reviews/books/item/310-flood-nature-and-culture-by-john-withington


Friday, 16 September 2016

Tristan da Cunha - the volcano that emptied an island



On holiday, I read HervĂ© Bazin’s Les bienheureux de la desolation (which appeared in English as Tristan) – his novel about the volcanic eruption on the island of Tristan da Cunha, a remote British overseas territory in the South Atlantic, in 1961 and its aftermath.

It tells of how a violent eruption of Queen Mary’s Peak at the centre of the island forced the entire population of 264 to flee to the UK.

There was a strong collective spirit on Tristan, with a belief that no one should raise himself up above anyone else, but life was hard, and the British authorities thought that once the islanders experienced the greater comforts of life in England, they would want to stay.

In fact, many rejected what they saw as the materialism and emptiness of modern British life, and when the government held a ballot a couple of years later, the islanders voted 148 to 5 to return. Most of them did.

They adopted some of the new things they had seen in England, but live television did not arrive until 2001, and there is still no mobile phone coverage. Tristan’s population has barely grown, now standing at 266.


Bazin’s book appeared in 1970, and is seen by some as a comment on the misgivings about ‘progress’ which had helped to foment the French riots of 1968.

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Brexitwatch: 'take control' means lose control



‘Take control’ was always a bit of an odd slogan for the Brexiters – dominated as they are by laissez faire right wingers who have happily watched the commanding heights of our economy – the car industry, the railways, etc – sold off to foreign companies. Indeed, apparently two-thirds of our major manufacturing companies are now in overseas hands.

Since Brexit, we have lost even more control. The fall in the pound and slump in shares it caused meant our businesses could be snapped up at knock-down prices. So, for example, Pinewood Studios has gone to the Americans, hi-tech trailblazer ARM was bought by the Japanese, and Qatar has increased its share in the company that owns British Airways.

Another foreign-owned enterprise is Hinkley Point nuclear power station. It looks as though Theresa May would dearly love to cancel it because of the eye-watering price for electricity it commits us to paying, but, the Chinese are major investors, and they have made it clear that if it does not go ahead, they will be severely displeased.


As the Brexiters’ ‘plan’ involves us cosying up to people like the Chinese to replace the trading partners in Europe we are turning our back on, it will be interesting to see how much ‘control’ they dare exercise over Hinkley Point. 

Monday, 8 August 2016

Brexitwatch: turkeys vote for Christmas - 2



In spite of receiving £60m worth of subsidies from the EU every year, the people of Cornwall voted 57-43 to leave. Europe contributed to a whole swathe of things – such as the Eden Project, education, broadband, and other infrastructure in the county.

To considerable derision from those had voted to stay, within hours of the referendum result, Cornwall’s representatives were rattling the begging bowl demanding that they should not lose the EU subsidies they had just voted to get rid of.

Apparently they were relying on assurances from leading Brexiters that they would not lose out if they opted to kill the golden goose. It is not clear on what authority Boris, Fox, Leadsom and co gave these promises.


Perhaps the Cornish should now ask them to have a whip round. After all, however the rest of us may have suffered, they have done very nicely out of Brexit. It might also be worth approaching the 5 local MPs who campaigned to leave.

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Brexitwatch: turkeys vote for Christmas - 1



About 60 per cent of Britain's old age pensioners voted for Brexit. But in many ways they have the most to lose from leaving the EU.  About 75,000 of the people working in adult care, such as old people’s homes, come from the EU.

This work is notoriously poorly paid, and replacing them could prove very difficult. Already the sector has 70,000 unfilled vacancies. As the population ages, an independent report by two NGOs reckons that by 2020, it will be short of 200,000 workers.

It is a similar story in the NHS. One doctor in every ten, and one nurse in every 25 comes from Europe.


The Express, one of the most virulently anti-EU propaganda sheets, is now panicking about the effects of Brexit, warning pensioners: ‘your retirement funds are set to shrink’ because of falling interest rates and rising inflation. Not to mention the fall of the pound. Should have thought of that before you urged people to vote Leave.