Will the new Hadrian’s Wall be a steel immigration barrier?


The Scottish Referendum for independence

On the eve of the Scottish referendum, which, I have to confess, has driven me mad because of the childish behaviour exhibited by both sides, it seems right to explore what might go wrong if Scotland does take the brave step to go it alone – well almost alone because they are still insisting that they are intend to use the pound as currency.

EU membership – renegotiate or re-apply?

The biggest stumbling block must be Scotland’s EU membership. First Minister, Alex Salmond, continues in the belief that Scotland will be able to retain existing membership of the EU by negotiating ‘tweaks’ to current treaties to, in effect, step sideways and remain in the EU once independent. Scotland would also keep the pound and wouldn’t enter into the Schengen Agreement. It seems highly unlikely that the member countries are going to allow this, although the ‘Yes’  camp have justified their position by saying …

“There is no way that the EU won’t want to keep oil-rich, fishing-rich, renewable energy-rich Scotland. And we will keep the pound, because joining the euro is entirely voluntary – as the example of Sweden shows. We have no intention of joining the euro, and don’t even qualify for membership even if we did.”

In the last couple of days there has been much debate among high-level politicians in Europe about Scotland’s position and it should be remembered that EU membership must be unanimously agreed by the very politicians who are now voicing doubts about Mr. Salmond’s claims.

Íñigo Méndez de Vigo is a Spanish politician and is also Spain’s Minister for European Affairs. This week he said: “It is crystal clear that any partner [of a] member-state that leaves the member state is out of the European Union. If they want to apply again, they would have to follow the procedure of article 49 of the treaties” noting that there were “more ifs than a poem by Kipling” as to the possibility and the terms on which Scotland would gain entry. Because of the need for unanimity amongst the member states he concluded that “it is a process that takes more or less five years”.

Sterlingisation – will the new state really abandon its debt to keep the pound?

Salmond appears to be under the illusion that independence will mean that he can almost do as he pleases. This is evidenced by his warning that an independent Scotland, failing an agreement with the remainder of the UK about currency sharing, can simply keep using the pound and walk away from their share of the UK national debt.

The National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) said in a damning report that action of this kind would see Scotland isolated from EU and international markets and would bring about “unprecedented austerity”. It noted that such a serious default on debt would mean that rating agencies would mark down Scotland’s current ‘Triple-A’ rating relegating it to below investment grade. The end result of this would mean that the newly independent Scottish government would be unable to raise new funds for up to a decade, according to the NIESR.

Mr Salmond’s explanation that Scotland could not be forced to use the Euro because it would not meet the economic conditions seems not to hold water. Mr Mendez de Vigo said: “There is an aim of all member states to share a common currency.” Sweden joined the European Union in 1995 and its accession treaty was signed in 1994. In the EU following the Euro crisis, it is highly unlikely that Scotland will be allowed to follow Sweden’s example. It would have to work towards ERM II, and this in itself would cause enormous difficulties to the Scottish economy.

The Scot’s Schengen problem

Finally, what of the Schengen agreement? Gianni Pitella, president of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats, warned the newly created state of Scotland wouldn’t enjoy the UK’s existing rights to the UK’s opt-outs when it negotiates to join the EU. He said: “An independent Scotland would have no automatic right to the various special treatments that the UK has been granted over the last few decades, from the budget rebate to having no obligation to join the euro or participate in the Schengen area of travel without frontier controls. No new member has been accorded such special treatment.”

From this statement it would seem clear that the Scottish state would have to sign up to Schengen and this could be a really serious matter for England and Wales as, should Scotland be in the Schengen Area, it could seriously weaken the ability of England and Wales to enforce current immigration. We could end up with a frontier barrier like the one erected along the land border between Morocco and Ceuta as the Calais migrant camp moves to Gretna Green!

Shetland’s oil for Shetland?

A further problem will be Islands such as the Shetlands. There has been more than a murmur of dissatisfaction from the leading voices of the 22,000 islanders, with many saying that the Shetlands should follow the Scottish mainland and claim its own independence following a successful ‘Yes’ campaign.

Shetland, with its vast oil reserves, may consider taking steps to become a self-governing territory, similar to the Isle of Man, in preference to remaining within an independent Scotland after a yes vote, the Scotland secretary, Alistair Carmichael, has said.

In an interview with the Guardian, Carmichael said if Shetland were to vote strongly against independence but the Scottish national vote was narrowly in favour, then a “conversation about Shetland’s position and the options that might be open to it” would begin.

Tactical errors of the ‘Yes’ Campaign

It seems sad that Mr. Salmond has set about the referendum without thin king much of this through more carefully. There is considerable concern in Scotland regarding Mr. Salmond’s integrity. Fiona Scott, whose father John Ferguson taught Mr Salmond mathematics at Linlithgow Academy, West Lothian wrote in a newspaper that  “Mr Salmond has succeeded in creating divisions across Scotland that were not there before and that will still exist after the referendum, no matter which way the vote goes. Stories of intimidation, violence and vandalism are rife. Freedom of speech is under threat. Relationships between neighbours are now threatened if you indicate which way you are voting.”

Mr. Salmond has an uphill battle, whether he wins or loses the referendum that he was so keen to see take place.

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The shame that will stain Russian nationalism for evermore


Russia cannot disguise nor rid itself of the shame that it brought on itself

“Russia will never disguise nor rid itself of the shame that this deed etched upon its face”

                                                                                                                (With grateful recognition to Nicky Anderson of the Houston Chronicle)

 

Over the last week I have read and analysed countless articles about the Pro-Russian attack on Flight MH17 and the stories behind the victims. Yet none have seemed so thought-provoking or poignant as this tribute left by a member of ground staff at Schiphol Airport . We hear reports that say there is no proven Russian connection with any of the MH17 atrocity while the pro-Russian rebels metaphorically scrub the evidence from the wreckage. This is NOT a crash site, it is a crime scene: If the Russians had no hand in this, why are they allowing the evidence to be airbrushed out? Equally, if Russia had no say or control over this, where did the rebels get a surface-to-air missile launcher mounted on a 38 tonne articulated lorry? Clearly the Russian government is no more honest than its filthy, thieving rebels in Eastern Ukraine. If this is what the Ukrainians have had to suffer, no wonder there has been such unrest, with a pro-Russian ex-President (Yanukovych) who lived in Donetsk being ousted by the Mayden Square protestors because of massive corruption.. No one should forget that the Yanukovych family fortune ballooned from £4bn to £40bn in the course of his presidency. Like his hero Putin, he clearly felt that the nation’s assets where rightfully his.

Reading so much of this caused me to make a comparison between the European view of respect for others and their lives and what seems to currently prevail among large swathes of the people in ‘The Republic of Donetsk’ and more wider, about Russia generally. I was particularly shocked to read that after the the plane was downed by the pro-Russian missile  on July 17, witnesses reported seeing separatist paramilitaries at the crime scene stealing,  pocketing  jewelry, money and electronic items that belonged to the people that were laying dead around them.

Shane Hattingh, whose brother-in-law of 43-year-old helicopter rescue pilot Cameron Dalzie said that his credit cards had been used after the time that that the airliner crashed to the ground. Hattingh made the claim to CNN after he and his relatives had watched the first first plane carrying coffins arriving in Eindhoven on a day of mourning yesterday. He said Reine, Dalziel’s widow had cancelled his credit cards and tried to busy herself but had been “destroyed” by the procession yesterday. Speaking of the pro-Russian rebels and their attempts to delay search efforts following the crash, Hattingh said: “They have no respect for each other, look what they’re doing […] It’s no surprise that they were treating the remains of people like that. It made me angry beyond words”.

On Monday, the Donetsk ‘Prime Minister’ Alexander Borodai, who is controlling the area of the crime scene, confirmed bodies and belongings had been looted. He said that looters “can be found everywhere,” while promising to punish any he found. More recently he has admited to informal linka with Russia – but not with the Russian government. It is clear that Borodai cannot be trusted any more than the Russian government. There are also unconfirmed reports that possessions of the deceased are being sold in local markets. Can you really see that happening in the EU zone?

To look at events through the perspective of a nation, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said in a press briefing that he is willing and ready to deploy Australian police to “help secure” the site of the crash, also saying that 50 officers are already in London waiting for the go-ahead. Mr Abbott said that we should all be aware that there had not been a “thorough professional search” of the site and neither can there be while armed rebels with a “vested interest” in the outcome of investigations are the calling the shots.

We may never see justice for the almost 300 deaths on that aircraft. When the dust settles it may be that we will never have definitive proof that the rebels, aided by the Russians, carried out this vile act. What we should reflect on is this: If the Russian character is so fatally flawed that it permits shooting passenger out of the sky and robbing the dead once they fallen to earth, then we can take a fresh look at our own society and realise that at least our country is not ruled by armed thugs, where consus is determined by violence. Their hero is Putin – a man that has stolen £40 billion from his people – where else would a lifelong government servant who now only earns around £125,000 a year get this kind of wealth from? I have lived in countries where the only thing that talks is money, but they were nothing like this. This is really sickening.

Let us always remind ourselves that the stench that comes from the murderous aggression and outright duplicity from Russian nationalists is a clear reason why they are way below us on the moral scale. Europe would really be better off without intimidation and threats of losing Russia’s gas supplies by simply seeking other options. Look where the profits go: look at the predator that is at the top of this unpalatable, bile-inducing food chain: Putin.

 

 

More Russian deceit as victory is claimed in self-rule referendum … none of which is true.


A polling booth in Donetsk region

A polling booth in Donetsk region

 

It is difficult to write a headline for an article that has so many falsehoods that are peddled as truth. It might be best to explain all of that as I write about this extraordinary bending of anything resembling normality. Thus I will break the matter down into three separate areas.

The referendum

The fact that the pro-Russian rebels held a ‘referendum’ in the first place is fatally flawed as they were arguing in March – along with ex-president Viktor Yanukovych – that the Ukrainian presidential election could not be held in a free and fair manner in such turmoil. Despite that it seems that the pro-Russian elements in eastern Ukraine feel that it is perfectly ‘free and fair’ to hold a state-splitting referendum whilst the region is ruled by gun-toting rebels.

Russian president, Vladimir Putin, urged the rebels not to hold the referendum. According to The Guardian newspaper, Russia‘s president, Vladimir Putin, said the referendum being staged by pro-Russia separatists in parts of eastern Ukraine on Sunday should be postponed. As usual though, his words did not match his deeds as a polling station was set up near the Kievsky railway station, in Moscow, where trains and buses leave for Ukraine. According to Reuters, “several thousand Ukrainians voted on Sunday at a makeshift Moscow polling station, joining a self-rule referendum by pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine who want the region to break away from Kiev“. How is it possible for the Russians to claim that they believe the referendum should be delayed whilst allowing polling facilities to be set up in Moscow?

The FT reported that the Ukrainian government called on its people to ignore the “illegal referendum”.

Self-proclaimed-govt-of-donetsk-self-proclaim-themselves-into-being

Self-proclaimed-govt-of-donetsk-self-proclaim-themselves-into-being

Self-rule

This plebiscite is intended to determine whether those participating feel that ‘The Republic of Donetsk’  – including Lugansk – should become a state independent of Kyev. This is another false premise as the first thing the rebels would do is to hold a second-round ballot to determine the wish of the people in the newly created republic to join Russia. So the matter is not about self-rule at all, but is being used as a tactic to deflect claims that Russia is annexing the territory. In the knowledge of the polling facility for the referendum in Moscow, it is quite clear what Putin’s position is regarding Donetsk seceding from Ukraine with the intention of joining Russia.

 

Masked democrats of Donetsk

Masked democrats of Donetsk

Pro-Russian ‘victory’ in the referendum

The fact that the poll was illegal – held in a state of armed conflict, with the rebels themselves arranging the plebiscite without any international observers, with death threats locally reported for those who stood in the way of the poll – it is difficult to see how the rebels can claim any victory at all. This was not a free and fair vote, it was held under extreme duress, and Russia’s complicity in allowing the rebels to set up a ‘polling station’ in Moscow for Ukrainian nationals makes it a complete farce.

The ponzi-scheme salesman fraudster-cum-governor-elect of Donetsk is the man in the centre, listening to the results of the referendum.

The ponzi-scheme salesman fraudster-cum-governor-elect of Donetsk is the man in the centre, listening to the results of the referendum.

Anecdotal evidence of possible election fraud

At the Primorsky polling station in Mariupol, a large crowd is gathered outside, waiting to vote. There is a crush of people inside.

Organisation is chaotic at best. There are no polling booths: people vote at the registration desks. People’s details are hastily scribbled on generic forms. There is also a collection for money towards funding the Donetsk People’s Republic.

The chairman of this polling station, Sergei Babin, said that people from other regions are permitted to vote here. He said their details would be taken down, and then, to ensure they haven’t voted elsewhere, “the lists from different polling stations would be checked against each other”.

Asked how long such a mammoth task would take, he replied “one day.”


Conclusion

Despite the claims by Putin and his spokesmen, that the Kyev government is a fascist cabal, quite to the contrary Russia itself seems to be the one destabilising the Ukrainian state, inciting considerable unrest and exploiting it viciously with the use of covert military forces because it feels, as Hitler did in the pre-war years, that it will get away with it.

In the run up to the Crimean referendum, Putin claimed that no Russian military were involved in the uprising. After the event he admitted that troops were indeed active during that time, meaning that he seemingly lied in the first instance.

If stronger action is not taken against Russsia we will see more than part of Ukraine being repossessed by the ‘New Russia’.

 

Hideous deceit from the pro-Russian rebels and hideous nightmares in ‘Russian’ Crimea


While the Crimean population now suffers all but a complete breakdown in its infrastructure, because of the speed of change of ‘sovereignty’, leading to chaos as the logistical nightmare of supplying around 2.5 million people with the necessities of life, the un-elected, self-imposed soap factory owner, acting as ‘mayor’ of the city of Slovyansk says “We don’t have any direct contact with the special services of the Russian Federation”

After a swift annexation comes the reality as hundreds, if not thousands, queue daily to try and obtain their new Russian passports and documentation.

In the queue for a passport

The queue inside the passport office in Simferopol

Virtually all government offices have largely stopped operating because of the impossibility of dealing with even simple detail, such as understanding newly accepted Russian law – following the abandonment of Ukrainian law – and the impact that it might have on the transaction being negotiated.

queues outside passport office Crimea

People in the street in Simferopol waiting for their new, Russian passports

Most banks have closed because of the legal complications and currency difficulties. Land registry offices remained shut because the transfer of property must now be conducted under Russian law. This also affected court cases, which have been delayed until clarity is issued over how they should conduct existing and then future cases. Food imports are hit-and-miss and causing shortages as a result. The local McDonald’s has shut down citing operational difficulties. It is currently impossible to import the products because of logistical problems. Metro, a German, multinational supermarket chain has also shut down. Most US/EU-based businesses want to avoid possible sanctions elsewhere for operating in Crimea. The situation in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions is not helping matters and further  sanctions because of this may well effect the businesses’ ability to operate at all.

No more Big Macs in Simferopol, Crimea

No more Big Macs in Crimea

Some people are finding life more difficult than others such as Ukrainian priests,  dissident political activists, even gay people, who are now coming under the scrutiny of the local militia, in the absence of a structured police service, and bolstered by the newly (and homophobic) Russian Orthodox Church. The illegal ‘swap’ in nationality is unlikely to see more tolerance from the mother state, as anyone with pro-European views, beliefs or even if they are simply gay may well find life distinctly uncomfortable. Switching countries has introduced chaos and confusion to any need that was once basically simple:  driver’s licenses and vehicle registration, insurances and even something as simple as school curriculums, which may be viewed as inappropriate in the new order, post-Ukraine. For the Crimean people, these are very uncertain days.

“In the mindset of Moscow, pro-Russians can seize power, but not Ukrainians in Kyev”

Denis Pushilin, center, head of the self-styled People’s Republic of Donetsk

Denis Pushilin, center, head of the self-styled People’s Republic of Donetsk

The ‘dignitary’ is a smooth-tongued former-croupier-come-former-salesman in a Ponzi scam run by Sergei Mavrodi, Moscow’s equivalent to Bernie Madoff. The only authority this band of ‘friends’ have being the Kalashnikov and the black balaclava, Denis Pushilin has now cast off his former covert identity and surfaced as the leader of the pro-Russian separatist movement in eastern Ukraine. Whilst many find him genuine, many others, including officials in the Donetsk region,who have negotiated with the pro-Russians, see him and his followers as opportunists, front men for the New Russia and the forces that try to bring about a greater Russia.

Pushilin, won 77 votes when he ran for parliament a few months ago, but he recently re-invented himself as the self-appointed leader of the so-called People’s Republic of Donetsk, occupying the regional governor’s office in eastern Ukraine. Conspicuous because of his suave, salesman-like spiel and by his dapper suits – all of which distinguish him from the dowdy, grubby men sporting mis-matched army surplus fatigues who man the barricades – Pushilin lends a reassuringly articulate, but suspiciously opportunist voice, detailing prevailing pro-Russian worries: They simply do not trust the interim leaders in Kyev who overthrew Viktor Yanukovych. It doesn’t help that Yanukovych was born in Donetsk.

Despite all the ‘we don’t want to be a part of Russia’ rhetoric, most are seeking a referendum based on joining Crimea by passing into Russian statehood. “There will be a referendum,” Pushilin said. It appears that this region has a de-facto Ponzi-scheme salesman president-elect, if the matter is ever put to a ballot, which is highly unlikely considering that the Russian ethnics are not in the majority in this industrial region, as can be seen here:

The Ukrainian National Census, 2001 (you will need to Google translate the page) detailed the following demography within the Donetsk Oblast: Ukrainians:  2,744,100 (56.9%), Russians:  1,844,400 (38.2%), Greeks:  77,500 (1.6%), Belarusians:  44,500 (0.9%), others (2.3%). However, the languages spoken within the region are: Russian:  74.9%, Ukrainian: 24.1% but it must be remembered that the region is on the border with Russia, where it would be expected to see such language transference, from a larger country with a much larger economy.

His ‘deputy’, Vyacheslav Ponomaryov, the ‘people’s mayor’ of Slovyansk, a two-hour drive north of Donetsk, is a completely different character. In his fifties, and much less brash, dealing with the media scrum is way out of his comfort zone. A much more rugged, hands-on man, is much more characterised by his gold teeth than his bold smile.

Ponomaryov vehemently denies taking orders from the Kremlin or liaising with Russian commandos. “There is not a single Russian soldier or an active member of Russian Armed Forces in the Slovyansk area, and no contact with Russian authorities, its state security services or military,” Ponomaryov said.

The fact remains that the well-rehearsed, military precision of the ‘men in green’ is totally uncharacteristic of the cobbled together militia that the public see through contact with the media. Any reasonable observer would surmise that the Russian special forces are responsible by virtue of the discipline displayed in some of the offensives – these tend to be the initial advances to attack in order to achieve a bloodless victory.

John R. Schindler, once a National Security Agency (NSA) counterintelligence officer, now an academic at the Naval War College, calls it “special war […] an amalgam of espionage, subversion, even forms of terrorism to attain political ends without actually going to war in any conventional sense.”  Schindler coined the term, particularly as Russia excels at special war, which was first used in the post-Soviet war in Chechnya back in 1994 to regain control of the state by sending in Russian soldiers who disguised themselves as pro-Moscow Chechens.

Hiding the identity of Russian forces with balaclava-style masks and no insignia inhibits the potential for discovery and denunciation, and has definitely become a key tactical element that has been used in wars and conflicts over the last two decades in the former Soviet sphere. Russia’s addiction to ‘maskirovka’, as it is called, has been used increasingly under the direction of Putin, whose central command is largely comprises his old colleagues from the KGB, the former Soviet intelligence agency.

In 2013, Schindler wrote in the journal ‘The National Interest’ (on page 177)  “NATO’s Baltic members are accustomed to regular harassment by Moscow, with aggressive espionage, subversion, and manipulation of local politics, business, and Russian minorities being part of daily life in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. Russian intelligence services are highly active in the Baltics and generally treat them as less than sovereign states, much less NATO member countries. But the return of a conventional military threat from Russia, coupled with press releases from Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin that seem nostalgic for the Soviet period, has led to a mounting sense of dread in the Baltics”.

If you look at the map shown hereunder and imagine all of the grey/blue areas as part of a ‘New Russia’, you can see the logic, and it is chilling. It would find Russia with a border touching Romania and would include the Russian-ethnic diaspora in the disputed area of Transnistria in Moldavia. All of that would keep NATO out of Russia’s home water, the Black Sea.

Ukraine % ethnic Russian population

A tale of two photos: ultranationalism v internationalism


In an unusual display of libertarianism, the Russian government allowed a peaceful protest by those criticising Russia’s involvement in Crimea which was followed by another group of pro-Russian annexation of Crimea supporters, characterised by quasi-militarised ultranationalists wearing what appeared to be clothing bordering on uniform.

spot-the-difference-text

It is increasingly looking as if a large swathe of the Russian population are locked in the cold war past, preferring to absorb neighbouring territory whilst strutting about in clothing that they feel befits their ultranationalsistic ethos.

What is of deep concern is the isolation that Russia seems content to wallow in, coupled with the fact that the richest 110 people in Russia hold 35% of the nation’s wealth. The West should be wary of any nation that is run by kleptocrats as they have too much personal financial interest at stake.

Crime and Crimea


A blood-spattered Putin

Casual observance of the news from Crimea is enough to evidence troubling signs of nationalism and thuggery aimed at yielding the peninsula to Russian control. For the second day running masked, hooded pro-Russian militia have prevented European monitors  from entering Crimea. Armed pro-Russian thugs in military-style combat fatigues have consistently repelled the monitors and stopped photo-journalists from taking photos or video footage. The capacity of a uniformed militia to intimidate has a troubling history in Europe.

Evidence of pro-Russian methods of sunjugating Ukrainians

Evidence of pro-Russian methods of sunjugating Ukrainians

Over forty military and civilian monitors from the Organization for the Security and Co-operation in Europe tried to enter Crimea, but left after several hours of negotiation, saying they would return to the Ukrainian town of Kherson to plan the way forward in terms of monitoring the control being exerted by the newly constituted Crimean parliament. The observers are seeking to conduct a monitoring mission with a strong emphasis on ensuring that the human rights of the various ethnic groups in Crimea are being respected. Sadly, the prima facie evidence indicates that the pro-Russian militia are using strong-arm tactics, including using whips, to scare anyone but Russian ethnics from making any public statement about their opinion of the future sovereignty of Crimea.

How Russian ethnics are able to show themselves in Crimea

The rights of Russian ethnics in Crimea, though, are respected

“We are just trying to go through here as guests of the Ukrainian government under an OSCE mandate,” an observer told Agence France-Presse. “We’re going to try and negotiate with these people here.” The last two days have shown that there is little hope of any independent evaluation of the mood of the people in Crimea and the Russian government has spent that time redoubling its military presence there.

Unidentified troop movements in Balaclava

Unidentifiable troop build-up in Balaclava. No insignia is evident.

Here is some anecdotal evidence of harassment and intimidation by pro-Russian militia from Amnesty International:

“On 5 March 2014, a group of about 40 women staged a peaceful protest in front of the Ukrainian Naval headquarter in Simferopol. They were holding handwritten placards calling for peace and denouncing Russia’s military intervention in Crimea. Within minutes, they were confronted by some 100 aggressive men who identified themselves as the Crimean Self Defence League and grabbed and tore to pieces their placards, and forced them to leave.”

“On 5 March, a group of human rights monitors from EuroMaydan-SOS travelling from Simferopol to Evpatoriya tried to follow a column of around 20 military vehicles that had no number plates and no markings that would indicate which forces they belonged to. Their car was stopped, and all those inside ordered to get out at gunpoint. The military personnel ordered the activists to stop following them and go back. They refused to explain who they were and what they were doing in Crimea. When the activists insisted on their right to travel freely in Ukraine and refused to drive away, the men punctured the tires of their car and left.”

Journalists stopped and searched in Crimea

Journalists stopped and searched in Crimea

“A journalist from the media outlet “Topics of the Week – Crimea” told Amnesty International how he was attacked by a group of men identifying themselves as the Crimean Defence League when he tried to film the demonstration by the group of women in Simferopol on 5 March. The men pushed him into the road and told him to go away or they would beat him. The Crimean police officers who were standing about 30 metres away did not react to the incident. A journalist from Kerch.fm was attacked at 1pm on 6 March when she and a colleague visited the border ferry crossing which they heard had been occupied by Russian forces. She was threatened by men wearing Russian Cossack uniforms and men from the Crimean Self Defence League who told her “Switch off your camera or we will kill you.”

Some of the journalists in Ukraine assaulted in the last month for doing their jobs.

Some of the journalists in Ukraine assaulted in the last month for doing their jobs.

 

What appears almost certain is that Russia will engineer support through a referendum to annex Crimea, whether that act is legal or not, whether that act is in the interests of the Ukrainians or not, or even without any attempt to protect the minority Ukrainian and Tatars that live in Crimea. The West must act swiftly with ever-increasing sanctions against those who are responsible for this situation. Exclusion from the EU, visa withdrawals and freezing traceable assets in the EU of identifiable targets would be a start while supporting the new Ukrainian government. Democracy comes at a price, and the cost of ignoring that is the brown shirt tactics you see above, dressed up as ‘nationalism’; you and I may call it repressive thuggery.

The flea is wagging the tail that’s wagging the dog …


20yr-Euro-Parliament-turnout-79-09You have probably heard of the expression ‘the tail wagging the dog’ but the current spasm that has gripped the Tory party is more like ‘the flea is wagging the tail that’s wagging the dog’. 

There are a number of opinion polls that show little support for a UK withdrawal from the EU. Certainly those that are interested in seeing Britain leave would likely have voted for UKIP in the mid-term elections, as there would have been no safer way of making your voice heard on this subject.

As with any poll, my logic over who might vote UKIP by way of protest must equally carry a margin of error, however, I would argue that the margin would be no more than 10% as most anti-Europe voters of whatever political persuasion would certainly make the ballot journey UKIP in the mid-term elections.

UKIP survives on low poll turnouts and the recent election saw a turnout of just 31%. To give you some idea of how accurate my analysis could be, UKIPs major success in its entire 20 year history has been the European elections that have seen it gain 13 of the 73 UK seats in the European Parliament. Thirteen MEPs may seem impressive, but this has been achieved on the back of proportional representation with extremely low voter turnouts over the 20 year period, as the graph above left demonstrates. Parties such as UKIP and the Green party fare reasonably well in this electoral environment.

Who can we blame? Well, strangely, Tony Blair. It was he that started the ‘Third Way’, the strategy of taking the centre political ground to woo both left and right. Consensus and not conviction politics. Cameron has followed along the same path, much to the annoyance of the hard right (the righties?). Now, fearful of the UKIP threat, the marginal and some not-so-marginal Conservative backbenches are panicking and are almost in open revolt. The upper echelons of Cameron’s cadre are ‘supremely relaxed’ whilst giving every indication that in fact they are not. UKIP’s Nigel Farage surfaces occasionally in the media, with pint in his hand, comparing Cameron’s lot to that of John Major when he was under siege in the early 90s, thus wagging the tail that wags the dog a little bit more.

In contrast, Labour are quite content to explain that they are not supporting a referendum because to do so in the midst of a recession would invite a mass exodus of businesses and jobs over the next four years in the run up to the referendum, causing disastrous uncertainty.  Ah, how the tables turn!