The Futility Monster

He'll pointlessly derive more enjoyment out of your resources than you

Posts Tagged ‘EU’

12 For 2012

Posted by The Futility Monster on January 2, 2012 @ 20:23

Continuing a fine annual tradition, it’s time to lay down a few markers for the coming year. It’s going to be a busy one, methinks…

  1. Starting at home, with yet another boring prediction, the Coalition will last the whole year. Get used to it, Labourites. It ain’t going anywhere.
  2. The Lib Dems will take a pounding in the local elections, especially in Scottish councils, where they will be wiped only for the saving grace that is a truly proportional electoral system. Predictably, it will all be dismissed, and the Lib Dems will accept it and carry on.
  3. David Cameron will finally conduct a proper reshuffle, though it still won’t be particularly far reaching. Osborne isn’t going anywhere and neither is Michael Gove. Lansley may be moved if the NHS reforms pass successfully to give someone else a chance. He will definitely be removed if they fail. The Lib Dems have such a paucity of front bench talent that there is very little room for manouevre… but maybe Nick Clegg will at least get a real portfolio at last, now the “political reform” agenda has vanished.
  4. Ed Miliband will remain Labour leader, in spite of generally underwhelming election results and another defeat to Boris in the London mayoral election.
  5. In Europe, the Euro crisis will be resolved with a “treaty”. The treaty will not get the UK’s blessing, and the EU will proceed into a closer union without the UK, creating overwhelming calls for an in-out referendum. If it starts looking tempting, expect Labour to back the idea.
  6. France will get a “Socialist” President as Sarkozy plunges to inevitable defeat.
  7. Rick Santorum will win the Iowa caucuses, but Mitt Romney will be the Republicans nominee for President.
  8. Barack Obama will squeak a narrow re-election against Mitt Romney.
  9. The Democrats will either lose control of the Senate or it will be an exact 50-50 tie, with Joe Biden, VP, suddenly finding a reason to exist. The Democrats will not re-take the House, but it will be close. This disastrous deadlock will result in two more years of pathetic governance in the States.
  10. Syria will continue to make a mockery of the West – and the uprising will eventually be brutally suppressed. Meanwhile, the rest of the Arab Spring becomes stillborn, and the tendency towards strong, authoritarian governments in the region will persist.
  11. Iran will successfully navigate the year without there being any progress on disarmament, and there will be no military activity of any sort. However, the West will begin sounding the war-drums, and the useless public will buy it.
  12. And all the while the schizophrenic public will continue to ignore the fact that Afghanistan has been, and will continue to be, a catastrophic failure. More lives will continue to be lost, though Obama will, mercifully, confirm a long, slow, drawdown over the next few years.

And the usual bonus prediction… Manchester City will win this year’s Premier League.

See you at the end of the year!

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The Eurosceptic Dilemma

Posted by The Futility Monster on August 9, 2010 @ 16:37

Of course, supranationalism is also responsible for exciting tomes like this one...

Naturally, any dyed in the wool Eurosceptic will be opposed to this:

The European Commission wants EU member states to consider allowing it to levy direct taxes – a move that could ease the burden on national budgets.

The EU’s Budget Commissioner, Janusz Lewandowski, said he would present some options next month for direct EU taxes.

After all, giving more power to the elites in Brussels continues to undermine our own national sovereignty, and will in turn enhance the formative makings of the EU superstate. Taxation power should never be ceded.

Except when it should.

At the moment, France, Germany and the UK are all working on their very own versions of a banking levy. Whether they are successful or not all depends on whether the banks who will be subject to them calculate the cost of upping sticks and moving offshore is less than the tax itself. A simple cost-benefit analysis.

In the global economy, though, it’s not hard to see some banks indeed deciding the cost is not worth it, and move to a lower-tax country. Net result: jobs lost, no corporation taxes, no income taxes, no sales taxes as a result of that income, and so on. So maybe we shouldn’t bother with the taxes at all. Taxes which, let’s face it, ought to be levied in the first place because of how well the non-nationalised banks have done out of us.

Then there is the question of complexity and confusion. What if Germany had a transaction tax, while France had a tax on overall profits, and the UK decided to tax a bank’s asset base? All a bit messy for the poor corporations, but certainly difficult to understand the implications of where the money goes.

In other words, it could end up either a mess, or becoming self-defeating. More probably both.

Unless there was some way in which you could guarantee that every country raised the exact same levy, in the exact same way…

Some things make far more sense when done as part of a co-ordinated global effort. Environmental issues don’t stop at the border, and neither does capitalism.

To those who support the common market, there follows a relentless logic that only makes sense when taken to its conclusion. Common markets require common regulations. Common regulations require a common regulator. A common regulator requires common governance; an acceptance from all parties, in advance, for the rules of the game.

Step forward, for us Europeans, the EU.

If the EU had not already been invented, it would have been again and again in the decades that followed its creation. The role it plays, and could play in the future, is too important for the collection of nations within it.

The trends towards supranationalism will always continue, and the more we deny it, the more we put ourselves in danger of becoming irrelevant. The dilemma for Eurosceptics is either to deny it and bury their heads in the sand, or engage with it and see just how much we can shape it the way we want.

Oh, EU. Why are you so boring?

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The World Economy Stares Into The Abyss. Again.

Posted by The Futility Monster on February 13, 2010 @ 09:46

Not quite sure how much more we can put onto these...

It’s a shame to once again be talking about the dangers facing the economic future of the planet again, but there is something extremely unsettling about what’s going on at the moment.

Recession has ended across the planet, thanks largely to unprecedented fiscal expansions across the globe. Deficit spending has saved us from serious meltdown; but it was combined with extraordinary levels of intervention to nationalise vast waves of the banking sector, which are now entirely dependent on the government.

The problem is that, in the background, the private sector is still terribly nervous about prospects. They’re starting to realise that governments – while they may be the lender of last resort, and will do all they can to ensure their own economies avoid the worst – do not have infinite reserves of cash.

And so attention has turned to Europe, particularly Greece, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, Italy and, yes, the UK.

Our levels of debt are already high, and the projected borrowing into future years just keeps on going. In many countries, it will be ages before budgets are balanced again.

The banks, already being propped up by vast levels of government support, are starting to worry about the solvency of the very governments that have got them through these perilous times. They’re beginning to panic: if the governments default, are we not all back in the shitter again?

The answer is obvious.

The more realistic question though is will it happen?

It seems extraordinarily unlikely that a sovereign nation would be allowed to default these days. Certainly not within the EU, when the treaties suggest that fellow member states have an obligation to help them out. But we all know these treaties can be ignored. And, let’s face it, if 26 member states decide to leave the other one out in the cold, there’s going to be little the isolated member can do.

But therein lies the problem. It’s not just one state. It’s six. You could conceive of a situation where the EU lets one of its members default on its debt, particularly a smaller one. But when there are six, one default will spook the markets to such an extent that the other five will become toxic, and Britain would get junk status quicker than you can say Morgan Stanley Dean Witter card.

This is yet another defining moment in the history of the world economy. If the EU bails out Greece, the begging bowl will soon get passed around, and years of “moral hazard” preaching go down the toilet. If the EU doesn’t bail out Greece, the repercussions will be just as severe.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, this really isn’t a good election to win…

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Newsfelch: 20/11/09 – The Divergence of Consociationalism

Posted by The Futility Monster on November 20, 2009 @ 09:29

Mr van Rompuy and Ms Ashton may soon be needing books like this little gem...

It appears to be one of those days: the media have all got different bits between their teeth this morning. So let’s take a quick peek:

  • The Telegraph, in their never ending attempt to keep stories about someone’s expenses the number one topic for discussion, decide today it’s the BBC’s turn, as Mark Thompson, the director general, has vetoed a review of top salaries. Fascinating news, I’m sure you’ll agree.
  • Amazingly, that story comes ahead of the one about David Curry, Tory MP, resigning as chair of the committee that allegedly polices Commons expenses. And despite this being a Telegraph exclusive, i.e. their dodgy dossier of info – that they paid huge amounts for – has been mined for yet another story. One would have thought they would have led on this story instead, what with it being yet another alleged case of snout-troughery, and massive hypocrisy to boot.
  • Over in the Guardian, they appear a little confused. Despite headlining the article “The great EU stitch up” in the print edition, the associated article online appears to be not much more than a description of the events of last night, which led to the appointment of Herman van Rompuy and Catherine Ashton to the top two EU posts. Yes, it is a stitch up, but that is what most of the EU is. Some people, like me, would democratise the whole thing. Elected President, elected Commission, a government formed in parliamentary fashion by the largest parties in the Parliament… but I understand no one else wants that…
  • The Times leads by stealing the Telegraph’s “exclusive” about David Curry. And then a lot of other tittle tattle about Gordon Brown’s reforms, David Cameron’s Mumsnet interview, and Harriet Harman’s run in with the law. I’ve gotta say, the more I visit the Times’ political sections, the more I find them incredibly dull. And Murdoch wants people to pay for this stuff? Good luck to him…
  • BBC News has a story no one else seems to have about the police being up in arms about Cameron’s plan (oh look, a policy!) to put police forces under local control, whatever that means. It’s not a very exciting story, but I suspect it’s one we’re all going to have to find more interesting if the Tories really are serious about having direct elections for police chiefs. It’s a policy I don’t understand, in the same way I don’t know why Americans elect judges and district attorneys. These jobs are supposed to be merely implementing/executing legislation. Why would we want to politicise them?
  • Professor David Nutt just won’t go away. What’s the betting he ends up entering the political fray properly by being elevated to the House of Lords after the next election? Go on Nick Clegg, I dare you to nominate him…
  • And meanwhile, when will politicians learn to stop dictating to schools?

And yes, the title of this post is meaningless. But it reminds me of various tedious academic lectures and essays about the EU we used to suffer in university. I thought it would be an appropriate title in honour of our new EU leaders…

Here’s to Victory. I’m listening to Beethoven’s Ode to Joy as I type.

Well, it is our new Supranational Anthem!

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Is Cameron Brave/Stupid Enough?

Posted by The Futility Monster on October 5, 2009 @ 08:11

The steely glare of Britain's future PM. The last part of that makes sense, but the first part doesn't.

The steely glare of Britain's future PM. The last part of that makes sense, but the first part doesn't.

Everyone likes to talk in terms of what will Cameron’s “Clause IV” moment be. (For the uninitiated, “Clause IV” is a reference to Tony Blair’s removal of clause 4 of the Labour constitution, which committed the party to nationalised industry)

Of course, there is no reason why Cameron has to have such a moment at all. A moment when he takes on his own party and wins in a symbolic demonstration of his leadership.

I mean, why should he? He is, after all, extremely solid in his position. His party are happy with him. He has stonking great opinion poll leads. Why rock the boat?

But most people seem to think the Clause IV moment will come via taking on his party over Europe. By finally demonstrating to those eurosceptic dinosaurs that they are not going to split the party asunder any more.

There’s only one problem with this analysis: there are no Europhiles left in the Tory party. I know a couple who defected to the Lib Dems. Others have softened their stance for the sake of convenience. While others have learned to accept that they are in the minority, have learned the lesson of the Major years, and are going to leave well alone.

So if there are no Europhiles, the party cannot be split. And even if there are enough to cause some noise, their rump-like status is not going to be a problem. At all. They are easily dismissed.

Cameron is a staunch Eurosceptic. That much we know. It was his only policy during the Conservative leadership campaign… one that he even carried out eventually by pulling out of the major party grouping in the European Parliament. Quite a principled stance too, as it has doubtless severely reduced their influence in the EU.

But not only that, Cameron is surrounded by a team of strident Europhobes too. William Hague, Liam Fox, Oliver Letwin, Nick Herbert, Mark Francois, Grant Shapps… the list goes on. Indeed, it’s about as Eurosceptic now as it was when Iain Duncan Smith appointed his shadow cabinet stuffed to the brim with ’em.

In other words, there is no danger of there being a high-level, high-profile split within the shadow Cabinet over Europe. Nevertheless, there remains the thorny issue of what to do over the Lisbon Treaty.

Just like children, political parties like to test their betters. They will push the line as hard as they can to see what they can get away with. They will test, prod and poke… even a little movement in their direction is good…

And that’s what we’re seeing this week: an attempt to get Cameron to commit to a referendum under any circumstances.

I’m certain Cameron wants to agree with them. Such a move would be in tune with his beliefs, and would resonate extremely well with the public.

But at the same time, he would be stupid to cultivate an impression of giving and giving to the Eurosceptics, who have, unfortunately, been allowed to set the media agenda on this issue. It doesn’t have the look of a leader. It undermines his authority to keep allowing himself to be distracted from much more pressing issues. You know, like winning an election, and then governing the country.

So is he brave enough instead to re-seize the media narrative?

Yes he is.

And he will do it in a way that shows his party are not going to be allowed to dictate to him – to demonstrate that he is in control and will do things his way, on his terms.

That’s what’s worked up till now. He would be foolish to abandon it.

And this is how. Same subject: different, stronger, emphasis. A stamp of authority. And just as Eurosceptic as ever.

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Newsfelch: 02/10/09 – The Wheel of Life

Posted by The Futility Monster on October 2, 2009 @ 06:43

A translation of this image would be very much appreciated.

A translation of this image would be very much appreciated.

It’s one of those mornings where time is tight… and, in any case, I haven’t wrote much about what’s going on in the world lately, so this seems an opportune moment for some Newsfelch!

  • Could I be wrong? Could my bold prediction that President Blair would not happen be yet another miserable failure? The Times certainly seems to think so. I still find the notion outrageous, that a man that caused such damage to the European relations in the Iraq war could be seen as a credible candidate for the post. But politics is weird…
  • The Tories are going all Obama on us, apparently. Their new organisational tool – MyConservatives.com – will help rally and organise the grassroots activists in an attempt to form small campaigns with greater involvement from local armchair supporters. It will be interesting to see how they get on. Political activity is seen as somewhat lame in this country; will an increasingly apathetic electorate learn to get involved?
  • Brown suddenly loves the alternative vote. Shame about the fact that AV can, in many cases, be less proportional than the current system. I haven’t decided yet, but I think this is one Lib Dem that will be opposed to Brown’s sudden new-found love.
  • The EU treaty rumbles on in the background. How will Ireland vote? In favour, I fully expect. Good. I’ll be glad when this tedious nonsense gets buried and we can move on to more substantive EU questions. Like a common asylum policy. Now that would be an extremely good thing for the EU to sort out: and it would reduce the number of asylum seekers/refugees that we take. How could any UKIPer be opposed to that?!
  • And so they should. Blair blocked any chances of a prosecution of BAE last time. There’s something very fishy about their operations, for sure. Let’s root it out.
  • Latest polling is showing, apparently, how fickle the electorate is. A speech here and there and the polls move violently. And I can’t really imagine that tens of millions of people are interested in party conferences anyway, but nothing else can be moving the polls so much. But this is why I haven’t covered the Lib Dems high percentages in the polls earlier in the week. Stick to the Monster’s Poll, that’s what I say. Solid and dependable!
  • Finally, it’s beginning to look more and more like the NHS is going to have to be the front-line in spending cuts. Cameron’s pledge to ring-fence the NHS budget always did seem a little hasty, but was obviously motivated by media image. As usual…

And that’s quite enough for now. Time for a 2.5 hour train journey to Rochdale. Which, bizarrely, is longer than it would take to get to London from where I am. But maybe that’s intentional…

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President Blair?

Posted by The Futility Monster on July 16, 2009 @ 01:52

As pictures go, this one from the BBC News article is stunning in its malevolence. Do you think the BBC are trying to tell us something?

As pictures go, this one from the BBC News article is stunning in its malevolence. Do you think they're trying to tell us something?

Not on your nelly.

Yes. I know we’re all getting excited about the news.

But it’s not going to happen. No matter how much Glenys Kinnock – yet another Labour crony ditched into the Lords forever without the British public having any say on the matter – wants it to happen, it won’t.

How can I be so sure? Well – it’s fairly simple.

We’re talking about the EU here. The EU is not a place for divisive figures. Getting 27 countries to agree on the figurehead that will represent them is bad enough for the European Commission. That’s why whenever there is a vacancy (and fortunately there isn’t), the whole of the EU grinds to a halt while the necessary horses are traded.

The end result is always the most inoffensive, middle-of-the-road candidate possible. One who isn’t going to rock the boat or cause too much controversy. A technocrat as much as it possible within the EU.

Do you think Tony Blair fits that bill?

Of course he doesn’t. No candidate with a track record of warmongering is going to make it across the first hurdle. These things have to be decided unanimously. Any one country could easily gatecrash the party by saying they will not support him. They don’t even have to propose an alternative. They just have to say no, and the search begins again.

In some respects, though I despise Blair for the lies he told when he took this country into war, it would almost make the EU interesting if he did get the job though. It would give the EU a very strong figurehead who, if he stayed on his brief, could make a very persuasive case for forging ahead with economic and political union.

It might also generate the chance of some real reform. Because, like I said, nothing will ever change in the EU because of its necessarily consensual nature. The only consensus appears to be on what is already in place: which is what makes even minor tinkering so difficult.

No. We’re doomed to a boring EU forever.

No wonder everyone hates it.

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