Ewan Morrison – YES: Why I Joined Yes and Why I Changed to No

Originally posted on wakeupscotland:

 Ewan Morrison is an award-winning Scottish author and screenwriter.

how one word silencedFour months ago I joined the Yes camp out of a desire to take part in the great debate that the Yes camp told me was taking place within their ranks. Being a doubter I thought maybe I’d failed to find this debate and that it was exclusive to the membership of the Yes camp, so I joined hoping I could locate it and take part. But even as I was accepted into the ranks – after my ‘Morrison votes Yes’ article in Bella Caledonia, I noted that 5 out of the meagre 20 comments I received berated me for either not having decided sooner or for having questioned Yes at all. Another said, and I paraphrase: ‘Well if he’s had to mull it over he could easily switch to the other side.’ That comment in Bella Caledonia worked away…

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New faces In Brussels But Same Old EU Commission

6543Well the May 2014 euro elections seem a long way away, only just now after long months of wrangling, intrigue, political bickering that the EU Commission officially declares its sorted out all the new EU Commissioners posts and ended the long drawn out convoluted musical chairs spectacle of the EU. Juncker is doing a meet and greet with all his new faces and got his PR flunkey to tweet all about it. New faces, new optimism, Mmm but wonder how long that will last before all the dire economic reality kicks in? I found it amusing that Draghi  of the ECB is keen to lecture to everyone about European economic’s while his own country of Italy’s economy is tanking downwards at a steady pace. Renzi is abit like Hollande in some respects, both are big talkers of reforms but there is little evidence that France and Italy are changing any of their bad old habits of spending money they don’t have on their bloated public sectors. When are European governments going to learn, you cannot spend your way out of a economic recession.

Mogherini is the new EU High Representative what ever that title actually means? but she cannot be any worse than Ashton. Ashton along with Barroso and Van Rompuy now sail off into the sunset with their extremely lavish EU pensions, generously paid for by European tax payers of course. Renzi pushed hard for Mogherini as it wins big points for him back in Italy with his own voters. Mogherini is a liberal leftie, so she will feel right at home in Brussels, its full of them, bursting at the steams. Donald Tusk is alittle more pro free market as the European Council President (I have given up trying to keep count of all the EU presidents). He is more pro free market but still as strong federalist EU instincts.

EU leaders Rompuy, Tusk and Mogherini

Why are they smiling so much, I think some one as just told them how much they will be getting paid in their new jobs, plus their generous expense accounts and perks. Mean while back in the UK Cameron is haemorrhaging Tory support to Ukip. He is a little like the story of the Dutch kid sticking his thumb in the leaking dam trying to stop the flooding, but British voters have grown restless and want action, not ever more political platitudes from Cameron, we have heard them all before.

The Juncker Bunker

Jean-Claude-Juncke_2927616bSo Juncker is deep in his own mental bunker, well you can hardly blame him as he claims he is being relentlessly hounded by the UK press and media. Juncker stakes his claim that the EPP got the biggest share of the euro EP2014 votes so is duly elected to the top position of EU Commission president as the Spitzenkandidaten, as expressed in the new vague treaty interpretation of euro elections and the relationship between the European Council and the European parliament. Er, well all is not as simple as Juncker would like us all to believe. Firstly, and embarrassingly many of his own EPP national party leaders are not openly supporting Juncker, another important fact that is over looked in all this heated debate is that the EPP caucus group in the EP as actually lost seats in the euro elections,  falling from 274 MEPs in 2009 euro elections to 221 in 2014, so its share of the vote as dropped from 36% to 29%. Now as only roughly only a 43.1% of voters turned out and voted in the EP2014 euro elections, and only 29% of those voters voted for the EPP which propose Juncker, its hardly a ringing endorsement of all Europeans. So all is not so cut and dry as Juncker likes to claim.

Cameron is trying to persuade Merkel not to back Juncker, but the German media, especially Der Spiegel seems to be up in arms defending Juncker, plus Merkel is getting pressure from her own party the Christian Democrats and coalition partners the Social Democrats to back Juncker. Problem is, and its a major problem, is many people do not think Juncker is the best man to face the big challenges and help reform the EU for the next five years? He is after all an old school EU technocat and openly very pro federalist in his thinking. This is what frightens Cameron as he declares  “Brussels has got too big, too bossy, too interfering” and that the EU will just carry on as before regardless of a big and growing eurosceptic feeling right across Europe, not to mention many in his own Conservative party back in the UK which could not stomach the thought of Juncker getting the top EU Commission job. There are many who speculate that Juncker will soon just throw in the towel anyway as political support for him slowly ebbs away.

Cameron will lobby Angela Merkel over the European commission presidency at a summit in Sweden.

Cameron is not alone in his opposition to Juncker, Swedish prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, Dutch PM Mark Rutte and Hungary’s Viktor Orbán are sympathetic to Cameron’s cause, as is Renzi of Italy. Cameron may be the most vocal critic of Juncker, and many are happy for him to be vocal as they sit on the fence, they may think it, put do not wish to speak it, they are politicians after all. Merkel is keen to keep the UK in Europe, she knows Europe desperately needs growth and jobs, and the UK is much more pro free trade, pro growth, much more than protectionist France is. Merkel realises growth and jobs is what the voters want right now, now more than ever, not just more euro treaty navel gazing and eurocrats bickering over technical treaty legal nuance’s, that will not go down well with Europeans. The voters of Europe are growing impatient and tired of EU failures and its aloofness and detachment from them from afar. Its made or break time for the EU, said so many times before, but this could really be it?

There are many jobs in the Commission to be filled and everyone is trying to get their place men in place. Rumours are Cameron wants his own éminence grise Robert Madelin to become the Commission Secretary General. Mid July is when the musical chairs begin. A major EU reform would be to scrap all the various and confusing presidencies and just have one, though pigs will fly before anyone agrees to that.7654 (2)

The Bland Juncker Schulz Debate

Bi1udkaIAAATTnLThe much anticipated #EP2014 euro elections are looming nearer, though I have to confess the election so far as been anything but exciting. The debate between the candidates for EU president as been about as thrilling as watching paint dry? The much anticipated duel debate between Juncker and Schulz was not so much a debate, as there was no audience to confront and to ask them some hard questions, but only two journalists to field questions.

Two journo’s and two politicians sitting in a semi circle. The debate was also in French, fine for French speakers in France, Belgium, Luxembourg, and part of Switzerland, but what about the rest of Europe. All in all it was a bit of a damp squib, hopefully the next debate will have a real audience, more candidates involved, and hopefully in English if they want to reach a much wider audience across Europe.The debate was posted on Youtube in French, no one bothered to add English subtitles or translate, either would have been helpful.

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Schulz is the socialist candidate PES, and as a socialist his idea’s and views are typically  higher taxes, state intervention, protectionist in trade, no real surprises there. Juncker is the centre right candidate EPP, but honestly centre right in Europe (Christian Democrat) is almost liberal from a UK perspective. Juncker is slightly more free trade, but a protectionist and believes in a federal Europe, so not very inspiring for many Conservative voters in the UK. The two of them almost seem to agree on many issues, its like watching two chums sitting side by side chatting on a plane. The Farage Clegg debate at least had vigour and confrontation, the Schulz Juncker debate was bland and monotonous by comparison. 

We can only hope future #EP2014 candidate debates with be much more inspiring? here are some vital ingredients, add a audience to field real questions from real voters? Hopefully next debate will be in English to reach more people on the net, and thirdly don’t have timid journalists that are too timid to ask hard and demanding questions to the candidates? The next #EP2014 debate will field six candidates and will take place on the 14th May and hopefully streamed live on the net as well as major euro TV channels.BiIfDmeCcAAw8JB

Additional update – A few days later after the Schulz Juncker debate in French, France 24 posted a short interview online between Schulz and Juncker in English, posted here to watch - Schulz Juncker Interview in English

Top BBC Fat Cats purr on £50 Million a year…. at Licence fee payers’ expense

Tom Carney:

The BBC gravy train just keeps on rolling, but someone should tell them they are running out of rail tracks, soon it will be the end of the line?

Originally posted on BanTheBBC Blog:

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Last week The Guardian published a story that the top 412 BBC managers were paid an astonishing £50.8 Million pounds last year. The litany of expense claims also outlined in the article truly beggars belief. Yet another outrageous and unedifying example of BBC largesse is on display for all to see.

To add insult to serious injury, the BBC recently commissioned a ‘comedy’ series titled “W1A”, which is an apparent reference to the postcode of the new £1 BILLION pound BBC Broadcasting House in Central London. This absurdly ridiculous series attempted to make light of the BBC’s own truly horrendous waste and mismanagement. The joke, if there is one, is firmly on the licence fee payer who is threatened with criminal prosecution for not paying for the whole sorry affair.

The cause of the excess is easy to understand. The BBC is the recipient of £3.6 Billion a year in TV…

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Let’s Abolish The House of Lords, It’s a Dinosaur Waiting To Die

Capture 748House-of-Lords_2253554bLet me start by saying I have never been a big supporter of the UK House of Lords, but something happened that swung my opinion very much away from it. There is this old archaic and well practised UK political game of ping pong between the House of Commons and the House of Lords in Westminster. The House of Lords is the 2nd chamber and is getting larger all the time,its the revising chamber for Bills passing through to hopefully be made into law. Oh! did I forget to mention the small fact that the House of Commons is elected and the House of Lords is unelected. The EU Referendum Bill was passed to the House of Lords from the House of Commons for debate and revision, but then was quite systematically and deviously put to death, in other words blocked, end of the political line, and never to see the light of day.

Now the House of Lords knew that the people of the UK wanted to have this EU referendum, but cared little what the voters wanted, they blocked it, mostly Labour and Liberal Democrat Peers are to blame. These people are unelected and rejected the popular will of the people of the UK? The old House of Lords patronage system is becoming a crowded house of political appointees, fixed term, limited, or life Peers was tolerated as a historical and eccentric quirky part of the UK Westminster political system, ermine robes, wigs and all, like a old uncle at Christmas, but now thats all over, people have finally woken up to an outdated political system, though apparently not this peer below.

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Time for this political cronyism to come to an end. It was recently well publicised in the media that half of all Lords clock in just to claim expenses for a £300 daily attendance allowance. It seems for many Lords, the House of Lords is just a cash cow for collecting money?The House of Lords ignore’s the will of the people at its own peril, this old dinosaur as out lived its existence. Lots of people are angry about the blocking of the EU referendum Bill which the country really wanted to have. So who killed the EU referendum Bill, here is the murder weapon with certain people’s fingerprints all over it? All hiding behind the long winded procedural and convoluted sittings of the House.

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No other western democracy as a unelected 2nd chamber of law making. All politicians have to live with the uncomfortable fact that every 4 to 5 years they have to go out and face the voters and get re-elected for their political office, not so the House of Lords. The House of Lords as always been the elephants graveyard for political careers. Departing and resident UK Prime Ministers shower peerages on loyal followers as reward for their service when in office. Well its time for the old farts in the House of Lords to face up to voter reality, temporal, spiritual or otherwise, If you want to sit on the red benches then I suggest you all get off your arse’s and get elected like everyone else as too.

Not saying this big change is going to happen overnight, but slowly there is a changing ground swell of UK public opinion that an un-elected 2nd chamber is no longer defensible in a modern democratic age. Watch out dinosaurs the ice age is coming? Meanwhile it seems the Peers are more interested in their stomachs than scrutinizing legislation? It seems seared scallops, foie gras and champagne is not quite what it used to be, oh dear., and the installation of a new coffee machine attracted a series of complaints, about the “inferior” cappuccino’s. Anyone would think they were there just to eat and drink all day, and do no actual work?

Meanwhile PM Cameron is strongly aware people are unhappy about the blocking of the EU Referendum Bill in the House of Lords, and so as promised to use the Parliament Act to push through the EU referendum Bill by totally by passing the House of Lords and its blocking tactics, but only if he is re-elected back into Downing Street. Its a sort of sly tactic of holding a gun to the head of the voters, if you don’t re-elect me you don’t get your EU Referendum? Mmm well we all  remember your “cast iron pledge” Mr. Cameron?

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Is The French Social Model Now Bust?

french-flagEurope is in crisis and with the looming euro elections #EP2014 political minds are being forced to confront ugly truths, no more than in France. Frances economy is stagnating at best, and declining at worst with an anemic growth rate and the stubborn unemployment figures that will not budge and with a ever growing public debt the size of a mountain which no one knows how to solve.

President Hollande is the man at the helm, and at times he seems to be a political contortionist. When he first come to power he lurch very much to the left blaming France’s problems on the Anglo Saxon capitalist model, he would go the 3rd way and adopted a sort of Tony Blair type of thinking. Well that was only going to take Hollande so far before he was rumbled and found out. The harsh truth is Hollande talked a great deal but did very little in the way of tackling France’s chronic lack of competitiveness and unhealthy state finances.

Any French politician left or right who really wants to reform France’s economic problems as to confront Frances powerful unions, and Hollande did what all French politicians have done before him, he backed down and ate a big plate of humble pie. To be fair Sarkozy was no better at tackling the thorny issue of the French unions. Compromising is a healthy thing but too much compromise gets you absolutely nothing in the end, and thats how the French economy as got itself in a deep hole, constantly backing down from hard decisions that no one wants to make. Hollande promised another 50bn-euros (£41.5bn; $68bn) of spending cuts, but always kicking the can a long way down the road?

The French have always done things the French way, but now with the euro crisis the game as changed, now even the Germans are beginning to question the French model of generous state pensions, jobs for life, and long holidays. French public spending is around 57 percent of national output – some 12 points more than in neighbouring Germany. Merkel wants some movement in reforming Frances bloated public sector, and recently Hollande promised more jobs but the extra jobs never appeared so he swung to the right alittle, declaring to be now more business friendly, cut state spending and simplify paperwork for companies? Problem is not many people believe him, making promises is the usual French trick, acting upon them comes the delay, excuses, and the political fudge the French have grown accustomed to.

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Its like a political game of musical chairs, France always managed to grab a big euro seat, but now may be caught standing with no where to sit. In many ways France as always been more in tune with the big state cultures of southern Europe, addiction to complexity and lots of government jobs with a struggling private sector. Then something happened, the euro crisis come along and as shone a light in all the dark corners of cosy government, the bad practises and all the hidden old habits. I believe France is going to have to face real hard choices, will the French model expand or contract, adapt or die. Is Hollande really ready to face these tough challenges? but them are the French themselves?

France desperately believes in the whole euro dream, but Germany cannot carry all the burden by itself, France must share its load, and that means economic reforms, taking on the unions and cutting the French public sector, some say even big drastic reforms to get France back in the competitive world. There are the all important #EP2014 euro elections in May, so its fast becoming a make or break time for the whole euro project dream. Question is will the cherished French model survive?  I very much doubt it.

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