The EU helps get rid of two more governments


The EU is a destructive force in European politics. I have lost count of how many governments have been toppled by the economic policies the Euro demands. The French government is the latest casualty, with President Hollande dismissing his Ministers following the opposition of some of them to the austerity policies they are forced to follow to comply with EU and Euro requirements.

If a policy of business  tax cuts and spending cuts is to work in France, as it could, it has to be accompanied by an easy money policy from the Central bank and banking system. If you are going to reduce the public sector you need to help augment the private sector.  In the Euro area they have decided instead to run a tight money policy by demanding ever more cash and capital from commercial banks to support their lending, and declining to take any offsetting special monetary measures as the US, UK and Japan have done. Ministers complaining about the policy have been dismissed so the President can find more compliant pro Euro Ministers.

Meanwhile, a different kind of EU policy has helped destabilise the government of Ukraine by heightening the disagreements between the pro EU and pro Russia factions within the country. The overthrow of the previous elected President helped trigger a chain of bad events. Now the most recently elected new President has his way and is going to require early elections to a new Parliament. He says he cannot work with the current representatives from the Donbass region who are too pro Russian for his liking.

The Presidential election was brought forward by almost a year, and the new President was elected without any votes being cast in the Crimea, and with most of the polling stations in the Donbass region unavailable. His intention to hold Parliamentary elections on October 26th 2014, three years before the end of the current Parliament’s full term, will also presumably lead to an election in which the most  pro Russian parts of the country will be unable to vote. Clearly the Crimea is now under Russian control and will not participate at all.  How many of the people in the Donbass region will this time have peaceful access to a polling station? If the pro Russian part of the population does not feel they can have a proper influence on the election it does not augur well for the restoration of Ukrainian unity and peace.

These are yet more reasons why the EU should do less and be more mindful of national and local democracy. Democratic government only works if the consent of all the people to the method of government is maintained. This has been broken in the Ukraine, and is being strained in parts of the Eurozone whose economic performance is poor.

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Students and migration – Evan Davis asks good questions


Mr Davis asked a couple of good questions yesterday on the Today programme. Faced with Michael Heseltine saying student numbers should be left out of the net migration statistics, he asked him how this would make any difference, as in a steady state the same number leave their courses at their end as start courses at the beginning. It should on this basis make no difference to the net figure.

Lord Heseltine said this was a good point which he then proceeded to ignore, as he was clearly unable to answer it. What he should have said was there had been great growth in student numbers coming to the UK under Labour. Many of these came to institutions other than universities, including a large number of bogus colleges which gave cover to young people to enter the country and then to find work without the correct permits.

The Coalition government has taken tough action to close down a large number of these bogus colleges. In the year to June 2010 the then UK government granted 320,000 student visas. In the year to December 2013 this had dropped to 219,000. The fall occurred in the non university numbers. The government saw that it could not control the overall totals of new migrants without controlling student visa numbers, because this system had been so abused. It made sure that all students properly qualified to come to a UK university are able to do so, and are welcome.

Mr Davis then asked Lord Heseltine to discuss the wisdom of having a net migration target, suggesting it was something sketched on the back of an envelope. His guest took the easy option, talking about the lack of envelopes in use in framing policy, and praising civil servants for the work they do to flesh out Ministerial policies. He once again ducked the interesting question of whether we need a gross or net target.

What he could have said was a net target matters because public service provision is most sensitive to the total number of people in the country needing public  service. Controlling net migration offers some control over the amount of extra roadspace, new trains, and extra health and educational capacity we need as we respond to the changing population. If one extra person enters the country at the same time as one person emigrates there is not the same increase in demand as if an extra one person enters.

I think we need to look at both net and gross migration. You could have  a situation where the public spending consequences of no net migration need managing, depending on who leaves and who arrives and their requirements for public spending support.  You need to look at the impact of large amounts of change in the population either way. Big change in population can also have large geographical impacts, if many arriving choose to settle in the faster growing more populated areas, whilst those leaving come from a wider geographical base.

In the year to September 2013 the net migration figure was still at 212,000 for the most recent year. The gross inward migration figures was 532,000, with 320,000 leaving. Under Labour gross inward migration reached 600,000. Within this inward  migration from non EU countries was well down on the Labour years,  but EU migration was increasing.  We need to be concerned about gross as well as net.

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Is the Islamic state of Iraq and the Levant our only enemy now?


There is huge danger in the west’s rush to oversimplify the complex civil wars in the Middle East. I share the western revulsion at the way an American journalist was murdered by a representative of ISIL. Like others I am appalled to see reports of people killed or removed from their homes by ISIL fighters. We should not let these particularly evil acts blind us to the many murders and atrocities committed by a range of other groups and armies in this war torn part of the world as well, nor to the difficulty of achieving better government through another set of military battles.

There is no nice way to kill someone. To the dying there is no nice killer. People are just as dead in the Middle East if they have faced a bomb from Assad’s airforce, or a shell from the Iraqi democratic government’s army , or a bullet from one of the Libyan militia groups, or fire from freedom fighters in various provinces  as those are who have suffered from the atrocities visited by IS forces.

We should not suppose that western military involvement will allow the surgical removal of ISIL fighters with no damage to anyone else. Sunni populations angered by the conduct of the Baghdad government have sometimes  given their support to ISIL forces as they embed in civilian areas. More moderate opposition groups have co-operated with ISIL in Syria to try to get rid of Assad.  We also need to ask what will replace ISIL  when the forces against it are successful , and how would we assist in the construction of stable government in place of ISIL  imposed rule?

Today many in the media and some armchair generals wish us to believe there is a single group of particularly evil insurgents called ISIL. If we just help other forces to defeat them all will be better  and the Middle East can look forward to a more peaceful  future. Will it? Doesn’t it require huge political efforts from the governments of Iraq and Syria to win over their people and establish a new state politics which all the people can buy into? Or does it require new states with new borders reflecting the allegiances of the populations?

Yesterday came news that a different militia has seized control of Tripoli airport. This grouping we read may well contain Islamists within it. They do not claim to be ISIL forces. Following western military intervention in Libya the dictator was killed. Instead of the country making good  progress to a proper democracy, the Parliament cowers in part of the country and has little or no control over Tripoli, Benghazi and other important centres of population in its own lands. Huge damage is being done to the country’s infrastructure as warring bands fight over once important facilities which can no longer function properly. People are dying or suffering from the break down of law and order and the lack of civil power to control the streets and disarm the armed bands. The more the economy suffers, the more young men despair of having a decent job and a future by staying law abiding and peace loving. This should remind us how important the politics is after military intervention. Many Libyans do not see it as progress to be living in such a dysfunctional state.

In Syria some now think we should back Assad as he fights against his own people, carrying on with his bombing and shelling civilians. Others have wanted  to co-operate with a Syrian opposition to get rid of him which includes a range of Islamic extremist organisations as well as some more moderate opposition forces. Our indecision should give us pause for reflection. Maybe the west cannot settle the future of Syria? Maybe only Syrian politicians and the people living there can settle their future.

The list of banned terrorist organisations drawn up by the UK is long, and includes many different Islamic extremist movements in the Middle East. Are we now saying only one of these, ISIL, matters?  Ansar al Sunna, Asbat al Ansar and the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, for example, are on the UK banned list.  The Syrian opposition includes  Al Nusra, the Syrian Islamic Front, the Syrian Islam Liberation Front and the Islamic Front, as well as the Muslim Brotherhood  which has recently been thrown out of elected office in Egypt for its conduct. What do we think of these organisations today?

The modern Middle East is a far more complex place than the present analysis of ISIL against the rest would suggest. Law and order and the operation of state civil power has broken down in many parts of Syria, Iraq, Libya and elsewhere. The states respond by  firing  on their own citizens, which intensifies the civil wars and often makes things worse. These countries are subject to marauding bands, making a way of life out of terrorising people, robbing, looting and raising money for their own purposes. The group called IS  currently seem to be the most threatening  at this destructive and violent way of life, but they are by no means the only ones. People draw huge areas on maps claiming them as IS territory, but in practice IS only controls those places where it has enough loyal and co-ordinated fighters. Much of it is probably local gang warfare, with fluctuating control  by people with weapons.

I do not see how further western  military engagement can settle these war torn countries. It requires high political skills to design a system of states for the Middle East that their peoples can accept, and to draw the loyalty of all the different groups into a fair system for governing them. If it is to be done on current borders, then it requires the governments of Iraq, Libya and Syria to behave in very different ways to the way they are doing, and to show they do have the political ability to disarm the warring factions, disband the gangs and give them all something more worthwhile to live for. It is easy to see how western power can help remove nasty men from office, but more difficult to see how western power can help secure good men - let alone women –  to rule who can recreate sensible civil government. It also requires the main Shia and Sunni powers who are involved in these various civil wars to come to an understanding between themselves about their own spheres of influence.

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Why does the EU like new products to perform worse than older ones?


Whilst most of the media and many people are worried and thinking about war and peace in the Middle East and Ukraine, up pops the EU with its latest idea. It has banned powerful vacuum cleaners.

Why? If people want to buy them and manufacturers wish to make them, why shouldn’t they? Has the regulator thought about the possibility that a less powerful vacuum cleaner might not pull up all the dirt in a timely way? Might it not need more passes of the carpet to get them clean? This could use more energy than having a more powerful machine in the first place.

This change follows on from others which mean that  we have a generation of products that often work less well than the older ones they replaced. New light bulbs offer less light than the older banned ones. As a result, far from saving energy, people are driven to go and buy extra reading lights and lamps to boost the light available. Newer toilet flushes flush less water. As a result you often have to flush them two or three times to clean sufficiently, delaying you and wasting more water and effort than the older better ones.

Some of the changes for the worse are home made, like the BBC going digital. Their digital switch meant I lost two older tvs completely that were working fine before the switch. The new digital one I bought gave me several months of appalling pictures with frozen frames and lost pictures during the transition. Sometimes the machine has  a hissy fit and you have to sit down and re programme it before it will function again. Now it seems the BBC have either worsened their normal radio signals or have some problems with them, so presumably more people will  be tempted to buy the unloved digital radios in the hope they  might work.

Most modern technology is great. Most things about the private sector world of products and services is greatly improved on the offers of the last century. Yet when government gets involved in setting too many standards, banning things and changing the delivery mechanisms we can end up with worse and dearer. Just leave us alone.

Posted in Uncategorized | 132 Comments

Different moralities for different countries and different times?


I am finding it difficult to keep up with the West’s shifting moral compass under Obama and the EU.

Take the issue of whether the west supports separatists in any given country. In Syria the West did support the forces opposed to Assad who wanted to break the country up. Now the West is arming the Kurds, who want to create a separate Kurdish state from a part of Iraq. Yet in the Ukraine the West is against the rebels who wish to create a separate Eastern Ukraine. It  is also, of course, against IS forces who want a separate Sunni regime in parts of Iraq and Syria.

Or take the issue of whether the West supports incumbent governments because they have attained power through the correct  means in their system. The West supports the governments of Saudi Arabia and Iran, but did not support the government of Syria or Libya. The West asked for a change in the elected government of Iraq which it helped secure. It helped remove an elected President in the Ukraine, but now supports another elected government there. It did not support the elected government of Egypt when there was a military takeover.

Take the issue of who is the enemy?  Last year number one Middle East enemy was President Assad of Syria. Today number one enemy is the IS, Assad’s prime enemy. Some now think the West should change from  being anti Assad to being in alliance with him against IS.

Doubtless the strategists of the USA and the EU can make a case for each of these positions, and for the changes to them. It is difficult, however, to find a single strand of resolute support for democracy, or continuous support for the free determination of self government by peoples in these shifting sands of soundbites, military interventions and diplomatic pressures. Does it matter that the West’s voices are so  inconsistent? Can those who took us to war in Iraq, in Afghanistan and in Libya, and urged us to war in Syria, claim that the Middle East is a better place or more settled for our military activities?

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General Dannatt presses for the Commons to be recalled on a date when it will be in session!


The BBC’s expert today, urging us to go and fight in Iraq, also urged the government to recall Parliament next week or the week after.

Shouldn’t he have studied the Commons timetable before speaking? My diary has recorded  Parliament returning on  1 September for a long time. Didn’t the BBC’s Today programme also know that Parliament returns at the beginning of September?

If they can be so wrong on such a simple issue of UK politics, should we trust them on the politics of Syria and Iraq?

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Is no-one else appalled by the violence in the Ukraine?

We do not hear much about it, but the occasional media reports confirm that people are being killed and  buildings are being shelled and blown up.The Ukrainian government  forces are laying siege to parts of their own country. We sometimes see pictures of Ukrainian tanks deployed and warplanes flying low. We are told the rebels are violent and being gradually defeated by the state.

Let me begin by making it clear I do not support Russian military involvement in the Ukraine, nor do I support the use of violence by the rebels. I am, however, worried that a pro western democracy  , encouraged and supported by the EU, is busy firing on its own towns  and destroying its own properties in a damaging civil war. Isn’t it time the  EU spoke out against the violence? Shouldn’t the UK dissociate itself from EU policy?

I want the UK to be an advocate and practitioner of democracy. That means we look for peaceful solutions to political problems. Disputes need to be settled through argument, through decision and votes in Parliaments, and through elections, not through the use of the bomb, bullet and shell. If a state lacks legitimacy with an important minority or even majority  of its citizens, that state needs to persuade them of its legitimacy by governing in their interests, or needs to allow them a peaceful way out. Trying to bludgeon people into submission to the authority of a state can work all the time great force is used, but it creates a false unity based on fear, not a true unity based on common acceptance of the state’s legitimacy.

The UK is showing the world how to deal with the potent issue of belonging and the question of the legitimacy of governments by the way it is handling the forces of Scottish separatism. Those who want an independent Scotland formed a party, started winning elections, made their case, and now have the opportunity to persuade the majority in just Scotland alone  in a free referendum that their country should be split from the UK. No-one in the rest of the UK thinks our response to Scottish separatism should be shelling Edinburgh or sending armed jets  flying low over Glasgow to terrify people into accepting the power of the UK. We accept there needs to be a good political debate followed by free votes to decide the matter.

So why when it comes to the Ukraine do we go along with the EU idea that the official government of the once whole  Ukraine has every right to use military force to put down separatist feeling? Some will point out correctly that the  rebels are using force whereas Scottish nationalists always have used peaceful democratic means to further their aims. That is true. We need to ask why the rebels in Ukraine thought they could not make progress politically through elections and arguments? We need to ask why can’t the central government in Kiev find the words and actions to get the sensible majority to lay down their arms and start talking? Why can’t Kiev engage with most of the rebels and isolate the violent leaders from their civilian supporters?

The Ukrainian government needs to seek ways to get the large majority of pro Russian Ukrainians to believe talking and voting represents the best way forward for them. That is a central task of democratic government, to gain and retain agreement over how we settle our differences peacefully. The government also needs to find better ways to disarm the rebels and to bring murderers to justice. Using more weapons against them is unlikely to restore the peace in a way which  creates a harmonious democracy. If the Ukrainian government succeeds in its war it will preside by force over a very split country, with one part only under control through fear. Surely that is not what the west stands for?

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Does high public spending make a place rich or poor?


It is still fashionable in leftward circles to think that the only answer to poverty is more public spending. They wish the UK state to offer more public sector jobs, and to offer more transfer payments to more people  so they too become dependents of the government.

The latest ONS figures throw some light on levels of spending  and income  in the 3 countries of Britain. If we take the three countries of Great Britain (Northern Ireland reinforces the case) we see the following pattern of gross disposable income per head:

England    £17066

Scotland   £16267

Wales       £14623

Scotland is 5% down on England, and Wales 14% lower.

If we now compare the proportion of public sector workers to the total in each country we find exactly the reverse order:

England     17.4%

Scotland    22.1%

Wales         24.0%

If we look at public spending  per head, England has the lowest at £8529, compared to £9709 for Wales and £10,952 for Scotland. This means England enjoys 16% less public spending than Scotland per head.

It is impossible to look at these figures and continue to argue that more public spending per head produces more prosperity, or to argue that a higher proportion of public sector jobs produces a better result.  What matters most is the success and vibrancy of the private sector economy, and its capacity to generate enough well paid jobs. All three parts of the UK need sufficient public spending per head to enjoy good health, education and other important public services. They also each need a successful enterprise economy to generate most of the jobs and create those better paid jobs that so many families need and want.




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The EU’s energy policy is destroying our manufacturing jobs


I have before explained how, far from saving or creating 3 million jobs, EU policies are destroying jobs we have and stopping new ones we might get. I have just received a copy of an excellent document from Business for Britain which catalogues one of the main job destroyers from the EU, its energy policy.

In “Energy Policy and the EU” they estimate that “high EU energy costs threaten up to 1.5 million jobs in the energy intensive sector alone, with 336,000 of these jobs being at high risk.” They calculate that EU energy regulations have so far burdened  the UK economy with around £90 billion of extra cost.

They accept that some home grown policies have also made energy dearer, but they attribute substantial extra costs  on prices to EU policies. Medium sized industrial consumers in the EU pay about 20% more for electricity than competitors in China, 65% more than India, and more than twice as much as companies in the USA and Russia. The EU also makes it more difficult for us to exploit home reserves of shale which has done so much to cheapen energy in the USA.  This means we have less industry, and have witnessed substantial closures of energy intensive businesses in recent years.

Amongst the casualties so far we can mention the aluminium smelter at Lynemouth, various steel plants and blast furnaces, 22 chemical plants, (since 2009), along with paper, ceramics, glass  and other high energy using facilities. The booklet also lists the 9 power stations forced to close by an EU Directive, giving us dearer electricity and taking us closer to having insufficient capacity for our needs.

Those who like our current membership of the EU tell us the UK has influence and that the EU can help win us more jobs. Why then can’t they get the EU to stop its dangerous job destroying energy policies? Will they accept that there are many industrial jobs at risk? The irony is that the EU is neither cutting its carbon output overall nor promoting industry.

It looks like a other example of an important policy area where the UK would be better off making our own decisions, putting jobs before EU iedology.

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The BBC and Professor Bogdanor misrepresent Churchill’s views on the UK and Europe


I recently heard a Radio 4 talk by Professor Bogdanor about the UK and the EU over the years. In it he quoted  from Churchill’s Zurich speech in which he recommended a United States of Europe. He did go  on to admit that Churchill “was ambiguous” about whether the UK would be in the United States of Europe or not , but he and the BBC clearly wished to leave the impression that the great man both wanted a United States of Europe and at least did not rule out the UK joining. He never mentioned Churchill’s clearly stated view that there needed to be a  union of the English speaking peoples for the USA, the UK and the rest of the Anglosphere which would be nothing to do with Europe.

How can a Professor who claims to be independent of party politics and an expert on UK constitutional history believe Churchill was ambiguous about this most central of issues?  Indeed, if he read on in the Zurich speech he would see its conclusion said ” Great Britain, the British Commonwealth, mighty America and I trust Soviet Russia…must be friends and sponsors of the new Europe. Nothing there then about the UK being in it!

I see nothing ambiguous about Churchill’s stance, as any reader of his Fulton speech (The Sinews of peace) and his History of the English Speaking Peoples would know.

Churchill unambiguously did not want the UK to be any part of a United States of Europe, which he saw as the answer to continental wars and divisions. Churchill wanted a union of the English speaking peoples to create  the overarching superpower to keep the world’s peace with the UN.

That is why he wrote a History of the English Speaking Peoples, in four volumes, not a History of the European peoples. As he said at the end of his long work “Here is set out the long story of the English speaking peoples. They are now to become allies in terrible but victorious wars (in Europe). And that is not the end. Another phase looms before us……Nor should we now seek to define precisely the exact terms of ultimate union”.

If he had wanted the UK to be in  a European union he would have written a history of Europe explaining and stressing our past links and entanglements with the continent and ending with a forecast of European union, not  our commitment to Commonwealth and empire.

If the history  book is too Delphic for the Professor, then how about Churchill’s  clear statements at Fulton in one of his most famous  speeches?

“This means a special relationship between the British Commonwealth and Empire and the United States “of America..(Not between the United States of Europe and the USA)  He goes on to describe ever closer defence collaboration between the USA and the UK.  “Eventually there may come – I feel eventually there will come – the principle of common citizenship (between the UK and USA)…If the population of the English speaking Commonwealths be added to that of the US…there will be an overwhelming assurance of security”

So will the BBC now apologise and publish a correction to Professor Bogdanor’s misleading statements about  Churchill and the UK possibly joining a United States of Europe?  Churchill saw Britain and her Commonwealth and Empire as an entirely separate force from a  United States of continental Europe. He wanted an ultimate  merger for the UK with the USA  not with Europe. He wanted an immediate defence merger which led to NATO instead.

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  • About John Redwood

    John Redwood has been the Member of Parliament for Wokingham since 1987. First attending Kent College, Canterbury, he graduated from Magdalen College, and has a DPhil from All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has been a director of NM Rothschild merchant bank and chairman of a quoted industrial PLC.
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