Monday, November 29, 2004
Should we gloat when we see Denis MacShane moan that vested interests within the European Union wish to impose further burdens on the British Labour market and undermine its flexibility?

There is a concerted effort by key players in Brussels on the European Commission, in the Council of Ministers and the European parliament to take Britain in the direction of rigid labour markets,” he said.

“Some want a made-in-Brussels straitjacket, by imposing bureaucratic inflexibility on the ability of workers and employers to shape working hours that suit individual needs of employees.”

Mr MacShane urged the ambassadors to convey to their governments the need to “say goodbye to out-of-date thinking from the 1980s about how work time should be organised”.

Given the efforts of Brown to crush the benefits of supply side reform and mire our economy in Wilsonian mediocrity, it ill behoves any Labour minister to blame others for their own mistakes. Perhaps some of the brothers are waking up to the cold dawn when their economic luck runs out and they realise they burned all the fat on quangos and jobs for the enemy class.

The news about Mandelson's alleged links to the Equatorial Guinea plot hit the front pages and will probably slink away just as fast. There does not appear to be any substance to this story, unless picked up by African authorities looking for public scalps. This whole episode demonstrates the lack of gravitas in "international law".

The Observer said that, despite clear obligations under international law, the British Government failed to warn the government of President Teodoro Obiang Nguema.
The Foreign Secretary Jack Straw told the House of Commons this month that his department had received "confidential information" about the plot in January, but could not verify it independently, and so did not pass it on.

On this basis, we would notify any sovereign government of possible threats against their positions. Let us make this clear: international law would appear to demand that we notify a sovereign government of an impending coup attempt, no matter how odious the regime.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has discontinued its mandate for investigating human rights abuses in Equatorial Guinea since 2002. In the same year, according to Amnesty,

...more than 60 people were convicted of "attacking state security" and attempting to overthrow the government, on the basis of confessions extracted under torture after an unfair trial.

International law in action!

(23.08, 29th November 2004)
Saturday, November 27, 2004
Despite his encounter with a thesaurus, Oborne provides an insight into Jack Straw's recent admission that the UK was aware of the plot to over Equatorial Guinea's kleptocrats since last January.

Even so, it is unlikely that the British government, as Zimbabwe’s President Mugabe has mischievously claimed, was behind the coup attempt. On the other hand, there is little doubt that HMG could have intervened to prevent it had it really wanted to. That is why Jack Straw’s startling admission that there was foreknowledge of the attempted coup is by no means without its consequences for Sir Mark Thatcher, who is at present languishing under house arrest in Cape Town. Till now, Sir Mark has looked a lonely figure. Jack Straw has granted him the opportunity to use what might be termed the Matrix Churchill defence. He can claim that his actions, however illegal, were nevertheless carried out with the tacit approval of the Foreign Office.

No doubt, FO inaction will be publicised in the forthcoming extradition hearing. Don't forget that under EU common foreign policy, HMG would be in the wrong, since we should endeavour to support international law, even when it acts as a defence for dictators.

There is also a Mandelson connection: he borrowed a house from one of those accused of plotting the coup. This may show a poor judgement in friendships but Churchill and Blair are not immune to this accusation. One wonders if this quiet admission was to provide a backstop in case it came up in the European Parliament. Not enough meat on the bone for the Farage sliderule, I suspect.

Friday, November 26, 2004

Who's the moneybags?

Just as I said that there was nothing worth saying about the Ukranian election - here is something, a Guardian report on the opposition's American links. In case your wondering the the Guardian approves of this, even if their reporter is not so sure.

The fact that the exit polls were financed by the same people who financed the opposition campaign is notable. Even I was not cynical enough to assume that. Exit Pollsters for Kerry wouldn't have been taken seriously.

One thing I would say is that although the figures don't sound much in impoverished Eastern Europe a dollar goes a great deal further than here.

The last line is memorable:

The places to watch are Moldova and the authoritarian countries of central Asia.

We will with the same amused detachment.

So will it be Civil War?

I'm not really inclined to report much on Ukraine, despite my great interest in it, because what is often not said about these things is so obvious that even the media are noticing it. This is more than just an election it is a geopolitical struggle.

It should be noted that Russia being worried about Ukraine is much more justified than Russia being worried about East Germany. Firstly there's a shared border, secondly there's a large minority of nominally Orthodox Russian speakers within the state. The election results (and support) if anything does not seem to be about economic liberty, corruption or civil rights but about culture and so Yanukovich's supporters are not going to go away.

Before we start cheering the pro-Polish candidate we should think very carefully - do we really want another shared border with Russia under EU and NATO obligations?

NB Thanks to Bob Briant for highlighting an intriguing past link between Blunkett and the Russophiles.
Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Link #2

The War Nerd writes that we should bring Saddam back to get out of Iraq quick. While I see a certain elegance in the plan, I think that we have another easier to implement plan also on offer.

Step 1. Talk to Sistani and promise him Iraq if he let's us get out
Step 2. Hold elections and allow Shiite theocrat thugs to rig them (we're going to allow Allawi's sub-Baathist lot to do that any way)
Step 3. Act surprised when Shiite theocrat thugs "win"
Step 4. Let Shiite theocrat thugs take over
Step 5. Withdraw as quickly as decently possible
Step 6. Express usual formulations of regret as Shiite theocrat thugs knock ten bells out of the Sunnis
Step 7. Pretend that a strategic realignment vis-a-vis Iraq and Iran is just not happening

Well its better than fighting Falluja again and again. And the beauty of this is that we can either do this with the Americans, or (with a bit of nastiness from the Bushies) we can do it without them.

Link #1

Srdja Trifkovic has written a piece in Chronicles on THE FACTS ON THE UKRAINIAN MELODRAMA. I can't help but share his scepticism about the black and white presentation of the two candidates.
Tuesday, November 23, 2004
Another Rapid Reaction Force

Every so often, we hear that Europe has decided to start up another amalgamation that can be sent off to sunnier climes in order to bear the French man's burden. This is three and counting.

Last month, NATO's Response Force -- a 17,000 strong elite corps capable of intervening anywhere in the world within five days -- was declared operational. Then on Monday, EU defense ministers meeting in Brussels announced the decision to create 13 battle groups of 1,500 troops apiece ready to step in to conflict areas within 5-10 days.

As if this was not enough, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain agreed to establish a European Gendarmerie Force capable of policing trouble-spots earlier this year. The armed forces of Germany, France, Belgium, Spain and Luxembourg are also pooled together in Eurocorps, the Strasbourg-based body that currently runs the international peacekeeping effort in Afghanistan.

Blair, polishing his European crdentials, has already picked out the soldiers who will participate in this joint venture. As the continental pygmies do not have the capability to provide troops (before 2007), the 'battlegroups' sent out for peacekeeping and humanitarian duties will be provided by Britain and France. This is an additional commitment to the other EU 'rapid reaction force'.

Since 'battlegroups' will deal with crisis situations when NATO has declined to take any action. One can view this additional policy as a subtle tag from Chirac to prey upon that buffoon Blair and include the overstretched British army in France's next attempt to shore up its informal empire in Africa.

(23.20, 23rd November 2004)

The Commission Latest Score

Devout Christians: 0

Convicted Fraudsters: 1

And that's before anyone looks at our Mandy. Can someone remind me, just what is Reinaldo's immigration status?

Little Russia's Geopolitical Spasm

If you thought that the Ukranian election was between a doughty democrat and a foreign backed demogogue you'd be half right. Both sides of the Ukranian election were backed by foreign powers, but what makes it interesting is that they were both backed by foreign powers, its just that they used different tools.

The East of the country stuffed ballot boxes. But who were the International Republican Institute or the National Democratic Institute For International Affairs supporting? The reason why they are important is hat these two bodies channel American taxpayers money into poorer countries political systems through supposedly partisan channels (the Republican and Democtat monikers do this). And the money goes a long way in post communist countries. The Foreign Office and the British political parties do the same in case you were wondering.

They were supporting the good guy by the way.

There's nothing actually wrong with that. I can't think of any compelling national interest in Ukraine, but if there was then subsidising friendly politicos would have to be done some how, we might as well feel virtuous about it. And I would probably have suported the free marketeer Viktor Yushchenko if I were Ukranian (with the important proviso that I'm not). However these two caveats aside it is important to remember that this is less a battle about democracy and more about Ukraine's alignment.

The West (that's both the EU and America) want Ukraine in their camp, and the Russian's don't. Thus lots of money and other help from both sides poured in. That's life.

As some perspective Kerry won on the exit polls and Bush got a margin of victory of less than three per cent, if that brings any perspective. And Kerry was backed by self-righteous foreigners.

(Although it is a fair bet that pro Yushchenko local governments (including Kiev) did try to match the ballot stuffing antics of Viktor Yanukovych and that more pro-fascist nostalgics in the Western third (this is Eastern Europe here) backed Yushchenko over Yanukovych don't believe some of the stuff that will come out about Yanukovych being the real democrat. It's about as believable as the pro-Mugabe guff that we sometimes come across.)
Monday, November 22, 2004
The Tools of Realism, The Goals of 2008

By the next European championship or Beckham's last hurrah, the Bush administration hopes to have established democracies in Afghanistan, Palestine and Iraq. Perhaps some will even be campaigning for their second elections. Whatever the future holds, the objectives are clear and the replacement of Colin Powell by Condoleezza Rice heralds a cautious and steely realism.

The Spectator article by Bruce Anderson, linked to above, speculates that Washington, preoccupied by its economic ties with China, will gradually marginalise the European Union. Germany, France and Spain are viewed as an 'axis of evil', although declining powers are still mischief-makers as Chirac has proved. Through geopolitical concerns and personal antipathy, the Bush administration strikes a stance critical of European integration, a chord in tune with the concerns of Eurosceptics.

There has also been a profound change. For years, British Europhiles were able to insist to the Eurosceps, with some justice, that whatever the state of the special relationship, our influence in Washington depended on our influence on the Continent. If we were marginalised in Europe, no one in Washington would take us seriously. That is no longer the case. If he were a Brit, President Bush would be a Eurosceptic. Though some State Department officials still dream about European unity, they can expect no support from their political masters.

If this aversion to European integration develops in Washington, it undermines a central premise of Blair's foreign policy, a stalking horse without a challenge. However, there is dissent and division in the sceptic camp on the home front. Some Eurosceptics are Atlanticists, opposing Europe because of their preference for an alliance with the United States. Others have adopted opposition to the war and may find, like the Daily Mail, that a vociferous campaign runs the danger of promoting Europe as a viable alternative (or underweight, as Chirac proposes).

Whilst the war has proved disastrous for Blair's reputation, it has also succeeded in demonstrating the divisions that now extend fissures from the libertarians and conservatives into the Eurosceptic camp.

(23.25, 22nd November 2004)
New Links

Pretty much what it says on the tin, a whole load of new links headed by the wonderful EU Referendum blog (not that anyone else with the sense and discernment to link here is not also wonderful). Some of them are rather late.

If you already link to me then please email me and I will do it - on present form in six to eight months. But it will be done.
More Recognition

I like labouring away under the feeling that the uncommon good sense on here is unappreciated by the unwashed masses within the political classes, but we got on radio last night. There I was in the car listening to the radio and I almost swerved when I heard Airstrip One mentioned by Kevin Maguire. It's all here (needs some audio player):

Of course he doesn't actually mention our ground breaking analysis, or cumudgeonly isolationist selfishness, take your pick but Airstrip One is mentioned twice. Next stop Hadrian Wise on Newsnight and Philip Chaston in the Spectator.
Wednesday, November 17, 2004
Mondo Chirac

Jacques Chirac, President of France (for those who don't know their foreign policy), has given an interview on Newsnight to celebrate his visit to Britain on the centenary of the entente cordiale. If you wish to watch the whole interview, go to

There were a couple of points that surprised me, as Chirac emphasized unity and downplayed differences over Iraq. One of the first was his description of a multipolar world. Many pundits have often accused France of attempting to undermine the United States with its ad hoc alliances and friendly relationships with other Great Powers, noticeably Russia, Germany and China. There is, no doubt, an element of opportunism in France's diplomacy, but Chirac views the development of a multipolar world as an inevitability, and anticipates the relative decline of the hegemonic power. The United States can also recognise the transatlantic community of values which Chirac endorsed: Europe and America acting in concert due to shared values.

With the next breath, the President undermined this vision and demonstrated the European components of Blair's foreign policy. This multipolar world, which France endorses, would act under set roles through a reinvigorated and reformed United Nations, established as a guardian for peace and democracy.

Honeyed words, but one asks, would France surrender its permanent seat on the Security Council to the European Union? One more reason for Britain to withdraw from all acronyms.

(23.15, 17th November 2004)
Monday, November 15, 2004
Blair Recognises Airstrip One

Tonight, Blair made his Mansion House speech, and the strongest, impassioned plea yet for squaring the circle between the United States and Europe, as if these are two poles that Britain bridges. The whole of the set-piece was a mishmash of false positives and preparation for the forthcoming referendum.

The strategic role of Britain (copyright: T. Blair) was unrivalled and these strengths were in danger of being undermined by anti-Americanism and Euroscepticism. Even this blog gets an unspoken reference.

Nowhere is this clearer than in evaluating Britain's place in the world. There is only one superpower in the world today and we are its strong ally. The most powerful political grouping that has created the largest economic market in the world is the European Union - and we are a leading member. It's a great position. We should celebrate it.

However, one part of opinion wants to cool the American alliance. Another part wants us out or semi-out of Europe. In fact, some parts of opinion are now both anti-America and anti-Europe.

Blair argues that he (=Britain) can continue to maintain both diplomatic relationships, since they share common objectives in fighting terrorism and promoting democratic regimes across the globe. He stated that although there are different values between Europe and America (cue death penalty), these are not sufficient to drive a wedge between the alliance.

Should one admire a politician who continues to promote the metaphor of the Atlantic Bridge even as it weakens in power, both at home and abroad? Blair is attempting to shore up a damaged alliance that is undermined by the actions of France and Germany: his twin strategy, further integration in Europe and greater support for the United States. The subject of his speech and the need to articulate this programme for a wider audience proves that Blair's hand has weakened over the last few months. The Iraq war has cast a pall over the transatlantic community and, despite the rhetoric of success, even Blair is aware that he has not persuaded the European Union to follow his diplomatic path.

Blair, persuaded by the righteousness of his arguments, says that he can fight for the European Constitution and win. He will certainly campaign as hard as possible for this writ of sovereignty.

We have just had a debate in Europe about the new rules governing the new union of 25 and more. It is generally heralded everywhere (but Britain) as a triumph of British diplomacy. It is, overtly, an expression of Europe as a union of nation states. It is, implicitly, the rejection of Europe as a federal superstate.

So Europe matters profoundly. There is an argument raging as to its future direction. The argument can be won. And what am I advised to do? At the very moment of maximum importance, of acute urgency of decision-making, when all is in the balance and to play for, I am told to leave our allies in the lurch, walk away from the argument, retreat into a eurosceptic sulk and call it "standing up for Britain".

The preparatory arguments of the campaign, the smearing of Eurosceptics as isolationists and traitors to their allies, have been sounded out in this speech. Yet, how can we support a Prime Minister, who adopts one path and railroads his country into the chosen future, a destiny increasing at odds with the desires of his own party and, in thoughtful reflection, of teh majority of the electorate.

(23.12, 15th November 2004)
Saturday, November 13, 2004
The Palestinian Pole Vault

When Blair and Bush held their joint press conference on Friday, most of the questions concerned their proposals for resuscitating the Middle East Peace process. After one has read the transcript, it is clear that the two leaders knew their objectives and deliberately ensured that they avoided concrete measures which would achieve them.

Whilst avoiding the description of their shared strategic perspective as neo-conservative, both agreed that Palestine could only enter final status talks for a two state solution to peace, if the Palestinians had constructed a viable and liberal democratic state. Both cited the insight that Fukuyama built into a thesis twelve years ago: liberal democracies do not go to war, and have applied this to the problems of the Middle East. As Bush stated:

And the reason why I'm so strong on democracy is democracies don't go to war with each other. And the reason why is the people of most societies don't like war, and they understand what war means.

I've got great faith in democracies to promote peace. And that's why I'm such a strong believer that the way forward in the Middle East, the broader Middle East, is to promote democracy. I readily concede there are skeptics, people who say democracy is not possible in certain societies. But, remember, that was said right after World War II with Japan.

The opportunity for establishing democracy in Palestine following Arafat's death is low. These territories are riven by corruption, terrorism and a culture that has promoted violence on Israel as the solution to all problems. The hurdles put in place to kickstart the peace process support Israel's practical course of action: disengage, build a big wall and concentrate on withdrawing from territories that are impossible to defend. (Note that Bush purposefully called for withdrawal from parts of Gaza and the West Bank).

When asked about the payback that Britain could reap from the support provided to the United States, Bush did not answer the question. His reply praised the man, the leader, not the country. Blair noted that the alliance was based upon values and shared interests between Great Britain and the United States, rendering that line of questioning void.

PRESIDENT BUSH: The Prime Minister made the decision he did because he wanted to do his duty to secure the people of Great Britain. That's why he made the decision. Plenty capable of making his own mind. He's a strong, capable man. I admire him a lot. You know why? When he tells you something, he means it. You spend much time with politics, you'll know there's some people around this part of the -- this kind of line of work where they tell you something, they don't mean it. When he says something, he means it. He's a big thinker. He's got a clear vision. And when times get tough, he doesn't wilt. When they -- when the criticism starts to come his way -- I suspect that might be happening on occasion -- he stands what he believes in. That's the kind of person I like to deal with. He is a -- I'm a lucky person, a lucky President, to be holding office at the same time this man holds the Prime Ministership.

These are troubled times. It's a tough world. What this world needs is steady, rock-solid leaders who stand on principle. And that's what the Prime Minister means to me.

PRIME MINISTER BLAIR: I just want to add one thing, which is that, well, this -- this concept of payback -- we are -- we're not fighting the war against terrorism because we are an ally of the United States. We are an ally of the United States because we believe in fighting this war against terrorism. We share the same objectives; we share the same values. And if we look back over our own history in the last half-century or more, we, both of us, in different ways, the United States and Britain, have a cause to be thankful for this alliance and this partnership. And I should we -- I believe we should be thankful that it is as strong as it is today. And as long as I remain Prime Minister of our country, it will carry on being strong -- not because that's in the interests of America, simply, or in the interests of the international community, but because I believe passionately it is in the interests of Britain.

PRESIDENT BUSH: Good job. Thank you, sir.

As we have seen before, Blair supports a 'war on terror' and assumes that British interests are served by his own need to counter the perceived threats to our security; interests that also serve the United States and the international community, indeed the planet.

Blair's steady, rock-solid and does not bend - even when he is wrong and fits the facts to his "clear vision". Palestine, Israel and Iraq will prove to be unyielding obstacles to his big picture.

(23.24, 13th November 2004)
Wednesday, November 10, 2004
The Ties That Bind

Without descending into the conspiracy theories that dog Usenet or other commentaries, we can note the importance of networks in maintaining ties between the British and American elites. A good example of this organisation is the British-American Project for a Successor Generation that runs annual conferences and played a role in cementing ties between socialist moderates and the Beltway. Conservative (with a small c) members of this outfit include Stephen Dorrell, Alan Sked and David Willetts.

Whilst such ties were important for maintaining and reinforcing the Atlanticist perspectives in the Labour Party, they are countered by the traditions of anti-Americanism that have now allied with European ideologies for ballast. One recent example of this was the John Steele article in the Guardian, calling for the disbanding of NATO and European independence.

This article provides another example of the abandonment of British interests on the part of the Left. For 'independence' from the United States, they demand a united foreign and security policy, based upon the European Union. With their revisionist view of the twentieth century portraying the United States as a bullying threat and the Soviet Union as a weakling bestowed with military muscle by propaganda, the moral relativism of Communist apologists is revisited:

In contrast, a few members of the European Union who chose to take the considerable risk of staying neutral during the cold war - such as Austria, Finland, Ireland and Sweden - see no need to join Nato in the much safer world we live in today.

Do we really need American nuclear weapons to protect us against terrorists or so-called rogue states? The last time Europe was in dire straits, as Nazi tanks swept across the continent in 1939 and 1940, the US stayed on the sidelines until Pearl Harbor.

Glibly eliding the self-inflicted wounds of appeasement, Steele writes in a realist idiom that has proved more attractive to the Left since the Iraqi war. Moral and ideological arguments have proved wanting, so this emerging discourse marries the values of a 'European civilisation', proudly carried by the European Union, with the self-appointed task of providing a counterweight to the United States.

Ending Nato would not mean that Europe rejects good relations with the US. Nor does it rule out police and intelligence collaboration on issues of concern, such as the way to protect our countries against terrorism. Europe could still join the US in war, if there was an international consensus and the electorates of individual countries supported it.

But Europeans must reach their decisions from a position of genuine independence. The US has always based its approach to Europe on a calculation of interest rather than from sentimental motives. Europe should do no less. We can and, for the most part, should be America's friends. Allies, no longer.

This realist language, encouraged by the recent actions of the European Union, is arguably more dangerous in the long-term than our alliance with the United States. No-one ever argues that British interests are incorporated into United States foreign policy, since we are recognised as a separate sovereignty, despite an unspoken fealty to the daughter republic. The European ideology, on the other hand, speaks with its own voice, and subsumes British interests within the needs of the continental union.

As stated before, an Atlanticist tie remains a necessary counterbalance to the European Union, especially as the political classes of the latter express their 'interest' in terms of multipolar alliances, wooing China and Russia from a position of worsening decline.

(23.05, 10th November 2004)

A Europe of Democracies

So the doughty Belgian government acts with resolve to shut down the largest opposition party, shame they could find no evidence of conspiracy with Marc Dutroux. I wonder why that was?
Go Rocco Go

I don't know what it is, but I like Rocco Buttiglione. Well I do know, he gets up the noses of all the right people (but then again so does George Bush and I don't like him). He's also honest about his personal views which for a politician, especially a Cisalpine politician, is good. Of course the left seem to wish to gut society so that they can rebuild it - and attacking religion is probably the closest thing one can get to social cancer short of passing out crack free to school children. I digress.

Here's another reason to like Buttiglione, he was against the war, and this was while serving in a pro war administration. Not just a make belief Michael Gove style conservative, but a real Conservative. Truly too good for the European Commission.
Tuesday, November 09, 2004
Quagmire Antennae

Most politicians would appear humbled after the setbacks that they have encountered in Iraq following their own wilful manipulation of intelligence. Such politicians would not be Blair.

Where Blair always set himself apart from Bush was his belief, encouraged by the Arabists of the Foreign Office and the anti-Zionist sympathies of his own left-wing, that the problems of the Middle East would be cured by the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This has proved a foundation stone for his championing of the peace plan and road map: two metaphors that have almost been abandoned as the intifada has strengthened apace.

Now that Bush has been re-elected, he is a president more welcome than his irresolute rival for defending sovereignty and undermining international institutions (like the French). Blair, as his closest ally, intends to use some of the capital provided by the American people, to bring peace to the Middle East. As always, Blair's vaunted efforts are constrained by the policies set out by the White House. On Breakfast with Frost, Bush Senior set out the groundrules:

I think there is an opportunity and I think Tony Blair was heard loud and clear in Washington about what he was calling for," the elder Bush told the British Broadcasting Corporation's "Breakfast with Frost" program. "There is a real opportunity. People forget that this president is the first president to call for a Palestinian state."Blair is correct, 100 percent correct. And I think he will find the president a willing and able partner, particularly if there is a change in leadership in the PLO that we can deal with more openly and with more confidence," said Bush.

If the Palestinians can organise themselves, abandon terrorism and coalesce around a leadership prepared to negotiate a peace settlement with the Israelis, then they will get the backing of the US government. Watch three fat pigs fly over Jerusalem.

If Blair thinks that his latest wheeze is better than a short term press release to shore up his image on Labour's left, ("Look at me!, I care about the Palestinians! Let's make noise and show my independence from Bush"), I'd be surprised. If he does indulge in the fantasy that he could make a difference, then this si more evidence that he loves quagmires: political, military and diplomatic.

Bottom line: this is none of Britain's business. The Arabs wish to throw the Israelis into the Sea and the Israelis don't wish to go. Throw in the history of a few wars and I can see how Jews coudl become paranoid and feel "under siege" from a world that would weep crocodile tears over a second Holocaust. Perhaps Blair could emote on their behalf.

(23.05, 9th November 2004)

Monday, November 08, 2004
Geordies fight for us

The relative paucity of analysis on the North East Referendum is a bit of a shock.

Let's go through the facts:

1. It was a constitutional change.
2. Labour and the Lib Dems were on one side - the Tories and UKIP were on another.
3. The No Campaign was both split and (at least in the official camp) shambolic.
4. The BBC were on the Yes side.

Remind you of anything? Furthermore the ground had been chosen carefully - there is a genuine sense of regional identity in the North East, it is very loyal to Labour and Tories are loathed almost as much as in Scotland. Just look at the Hartlepool election for the latter two points.

The margin of the defeat in a carefully chosen referendum is a massive setback for the Yes side on a Euro constitution referendum. How are they going to pull this one back?

Note. Posting has been interrupted on the blog for some time - apologies.
Tuesday, November 02, 2004
Sheikh Zayeed Dead. Long live John Peel.

Who? Only the leader of the United Arab Emirates!

Still don't care? Well isn't it nice. It should be this way with all foreign leaders and the press instead of this obsessive coverage of the American Elections.

John Peel should mean far more to me than George Bush or John Kerry.
Monday, November 01, 2004
Not even worth it for the Oil

Britain 'is insulated from oil price rises' according to Roger Bootle. I'd rather think that we were over in Iraq because of a faulty understanding of economics rather than a foolhardy belief in Arabia's readiness for democracy and America's capacity for gratitude, sadly that's not true.

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