Category: Uncategorized

Orwell “The Lion and the Unicorn”

Kevin Marks tweets:

The Brexit camp love to incoherently invoke World War 2 and the Blitz. The counterpoint to that is Orwell, writing while being bombed of how to build a better country after the war: Do read it

“An army of unemployed led by millionaires quoting the Sermon on the Mount – that is our danger. But it cannot arise when we have once introduced a reasonable degree of social justice.”

“England has got to be true to herself. She is not being true to herself while the refugees who have sought our shores are penned up in concentration camps, and company directors work out subtle schemes to dodge their Excess Profits Tax.”

Re-reading this, it is striking how much of contemporary rhetoric still draws from it. “But it is precisely the idea of human equality – the “Jewish” or “Judæo-Christian” idea of equality – that Hitler came into the world to destroy.”

“The thought of a world in which black men would be as good as white men and Jews treated as human beings brings him the same horror and despair as the thought of endless slavery brings to us.”



Brexit And Trade: An Interviewer’s Guide To Exposing Nonsense

Trade Explained:

Journalists conducting interviews on the trade side of Brexit face a huge challenge. The field is packed with confident but utterly clueless chancers who prey on the technical nature of the subject to spout nonsense laden with enough impressive sounding terminology to appear credible.

The interviewer rarely feels confident enough with trade policy’s intricacies to really challenge the verbal onslaught they’re experiencing and thus inadvertently add credibility to what is objectively nonsense. Inspired by a twitter exchange, I wanted to create an evolving guide to help.

For example:


“In a No-Deal, Article XXIV of the WTO would allow us to ‘freeze tariffs’ with the EU and keep things the way they are for two to ten years.”

Suggested follow ups:

  • “Invoking Article XXIV requires the EU’s consent, which it has explicitly ruled out. Are they lying or bluffing?”
  • “Are you aware elimination of tariffs under Article XXIV would actually raise the paperwork requirements on British exporters beyond even just trading on WTO terms alone?”
  • “What would eliminating tariffs via Article XXIV instead of a transition period do for UK services firms?”

Recommended reading for all, but especially BBC, journalists.



Andrea Jenkyns on the WTO

Dmitry Grozoubinski tweets:

1/ This is obviously awful, but I’m not sure everyone realizes why. She asks: “Why is everyone focused on the EU, why not the rest of the world?” I think she thinks a WORLD Trade Organisation Brexit makes exporting to the rest of the WORLD easier. In 2019. Fuck.

2/ Let me be absolutely unequivocal: a WTO Brexit itself does NOTHING for the UK’s ability to export anything to anyone (except temporarily tank the pound).


Not. One. Thing.

3/ A WTO Brexit pulls the UK out of the most advanced trade agreement in history and dozens of other trade agreements.

The UK was trading with the EU and others on one set of rules, it will now be trading on another, far shittier set. That is fact. Not in dispute.

4/ In exchange (on trade), the UK gets the promise of unspecified improvements in unspecified conditions under which it trades unspecified wares with unspecified ‘world’ partners which it will achieve in unspecified trade negotiations in exchange for unspecified concessions.

5/ As soon as you push any of these ‘World Trade’ proponents to get specific you discover their ideas are:

  1. a) Daydreams (services access to the US)
  2. b) Unpopular (let US health providers sell into the NHS)
  3. c) Unpopular Daydreams (full bilateral tariff elimination with China)

6/ People keep asking, “does anyone trade with the EU on WTO terms?” which is a bit like asking the woman smashing her Ferrari with a sledgehammer if she knows of anyone who walks to work.

Who cares if someone trades with the EU on WTO terms alone?

The UK sure doesn’t.

7/ These people are able to consistently bamboozle the public by juxtaposing trade with the EU with the new and exciting prospect of trading with the world as if:

  1. a) Brexit does anything for the latter;
  2. b) The UK isn’t trading globally now;
  3. c) One can compensate for the other.

8/ If anything, a WTO Brexit degrades the UK’s competitiveness globally by making it harder and more expensive for UK businesses to:

  1. a) Source parts from the EU;
  2. b) Attract EU human resources;
  3. c) Serve as a beachhead into the EU for 3rd countries.

9/ It’s almost June 2019.

The country has been discussing these issues for almost two years.

How is the conversation so fundamentally lacking in seriousness?

I’m just really tired you guys.


Guests on BBC Politics Live


Carole Cadwalladr tweets:

Polite request to . Is this fair? To allow people I’ve been investigating like Banks & Phillips, below, a platform to slag me off on air? Without revealing she worked for Cambridge Analytica – who I exposed. Or asking her anything about it?

New York city taxi medallions

Via Benedict Evans’s newsletter:

Long NewYork Times investigation into the bubble and then crash in the value of NY city taxi medallions. The price went from $200k to over a million in the last decade before crashing, and this was (guess what) mostly a consequence of manipulation by industry insiders, predatory loans targeting immigrant drivers, and city regulators and politicians that were complicit at best.


The truth about David Cameron and the ‘mad, swivel-eyed loons’

The Spectator:

Later this year, it seems likely that those same Conservative members will choose Theresa May’s successor. The perceived need to appeal to their preferences on Brexit has persuaded several otherwise sensible MPs to claim that they do not fear and even embrace the prospect of leaving the EU without an exit agreement in place.

In short, the Conservative members fixated on Europe above all else have won. They got their referendum, got their Brexit and soon they’ll quite likely get their prime minister.

In that sense then, the person who called at our table in the Blue Boar was quite right. But that’s not the whole story, of course. Because nothing about that tale was inevitable; it didn’t have to go that way. Having identified the fact that Conservative activists were pushing the party and its MPs towards misguided and destructive positions, the Cameron team, like their successors, could have acted. They could have attempted to broaden the membership, to infuse new blood and new opinions into a small and shrinking membership.

This isn’t impossible. Tony Blair did it, and so did Jeremy Corbyn. ‘Change to win,’ the Cameroons used to say, but they never really tried to change their own party. Under Cameron and the person who called at our table, Conservative membership numbers more than halved, handing ever more power to a smaller group of people whose interests and priorities are extremely hard to reconcile with those of the country as a whole.

Did Cameron and his friends mind about that, or about the consequences of their failure? No doubt the man himself will answer that question expensively in his book this autumn, though not in a way that will change the country’s scornful view of him.

As for that person at our table that night six years ago, I have only this to say: he said it and he was right. The mad, swivel-eyed loons were calling the shots then and have done so ever since, taking the country right to the brink today. But since he and his friend David Cameron knew it then, why didn’t they try to stop it?  Was it because they didn’t know how, or because in the end, they didn’t really care?

My emphasis.  Aside from the question why (to which the answer’s in the last sentence – they didn’t care) allowing party members such a significant role in the direction of both the Labour and Conservative parties has had significant consequences.  The whole topic and possible alternatives should be explored.