Saturday, 9 April 2016

Getting out of the burning building


There is an establishment in British politics. What I mean by this is that there is a political consensus, for I don’t want to personify the word ‘establishment’ in a way that is not true. It may be that at one time there was a group of powerful people sitting in a room somewhere that pulled the strings of whichever government was in power, but even that idea seems just a trifle paranoid. What there is however is the idea that certain things are done and certain things are just not done. Here are a few examples.

Whenever the Americans want to invade someone else’s country, it’s OK simply for the reason that they want to. Because it’s OK, the UK has to support them. If we didn’t we’d lose influence. For this reason the UK has to spend lots and lots of money on our armed forces, not so much so that we can defend our island, but so that we can do what American presidents tell us to do. Our armed forces in fact have not been used to defend our island since around 1941 and there has been no credible threat of a nation state invading us for decades. Nevertheless, we must describe our armed forces as defence event though they are never used to defend. The countries we attack however are no threat to us whatsoever. The idea of Afghanistan attempting to invade the UK with armed forces becomes faintly comical when we reflect that landlocked countries usually lack a navy.

But the threat, of course, is not from nation states, but from failed states that export terrorism. Here again we come up against the establishment. Whenever there are attempts to overthrow dictators, whenever there are people demonstrating in the street, whenever there is ‘spring’ in the air, we must support the revolutionaries. The Americans are convinced that all revolutions lead to peace, love and democracy and so they keep interfering in the world in order to make it better. But look at the results of their interference in the past decades. Libya is in a worse state than it was. Afghanistan is worse. Ukraine is worse. Syria is worse. Meanwhile the threat from terrorism has never been higher.

The establishment thinks that we can stop terrorism by attacking the countries where terrorists come from, while doing next to nothing to stop people from those countries traveling here. Ludicrously we are supposed to believe that Iraq or Afghanistan or whoever intend to wage war against our island, when in fact there is next to no terrorist threat at all from people living in any of these countries, but only from those living in ours. You actually have to be in the UK to carry out a terrorist attack, you can’t very easily do it from abroad.

The establishment pretends that the UK must live within its means, but always acts so that we spend more than we earn. We are promised that sometime in the future the UK will make a profit, but that future is like the end of the rainbow, as you approach it you find there’s no pot of gold just more debt. Meanwhile we borrow money to give to other countries. This act of 'generosity' both increases our own debt, while at the same time hindering those who we supposedly help by making them dependent on us, thus making them less self-reliant and ever more in need of our aid. This process makes the establishment feel virtuous, increases their influence in the world, while harming the prospects both of those at home and abroad.  If anyone questions this method of running our finances, they are told that there is nothing that can be done. We have to continually increase our spending here there and everywhere, for if the music stops and anyone ever realises that we all owe each other debts we can never pay back, then we'll have to go back to bartering with shells for no-one will trust money ever again. But according to the establishment this is the only way we can run our country’s finances. After all the USA has debts that it can never pay back, so has Japan. It's a select club for the elite. We would lose prestige if we ever attempted to earn more than we spend.  

We are lectured by the establishment that we must pay our taxes and that we must run our businesses honestly. But these rules don’t apply to them. If I have a business that makes a loss and has debts that are overwhelming, it will go bust and I’ll lose everything. If I do anything remotely crooked in a desperate attempt to save my business, I will go to jail. But if I am rich enough and part of the establishment, everything will be fine. The same rules don’t apply.

Big businesses being propped up and bailed out by governments is not how free markets are supposed to work. In that case they are neither free, nor are they even really markets. When the financial crisis struck, my first instinct was that the banks should be allowed to fail. Perhaps this was na├»ve of me. Maybe it was necessary to bail out banks that could have brought down our country. Opinion is divided on this issue. Still even if we did need to bail out some banks in the short term, it didn’t follow that we had to be quite so generous about it. Those people whose behaviour led to the economic crisis ought not to have profited by it. Some of those people ought to have gone to jail. We should have learned from our mistakes such that these banks could never hold our country to ransom again. Have any of these things happened? No, because the establishment looks after its own and the rules and disciple of the market only apply to people who can’t afford to have a bank accounts in Panama. It would be far too risky for members of the establishment to be involved in anything as vulgar as a market where you can win or lose. Better by far to rig it so that they can’t lose. Only we can lose.

The establishment tells us that we have the best health service in the world. It’s the UK’s national religion now that almost no-one believes in God. It equally depends on faith that contradicts the scientific evidence. It also depends on the fact that most Brits have never lived abroad. I've lived abroad. Let me tell you healthcare is better in Russia than in the UK. There, if I need to have my wisdom teeth out, I arrange an appointment for some time next week rather than next year. Treatment in Russia is not only a little better, it’s much better. This is despite the fact that Russia is vastly less wealthy than the UK. The treatment usually involves a detailed examination and seeing a specialist involves does not involve being put on a waiting list. The concept of a waiting list for health is met with bafflement. The reason for this is simple, Russians don’t spend all their time telling themselves that they have the best health service in the world.

Why do Russians receive better treatment than Brits? The reason for this is that doctors in Russia earn more than average, but not that much more. They’re well off, but they don’t expect to earn what oligarchs earn. In Britain, on the other hand, we decided because doctors were saints we’d pay them what merchant bankers earn. This means that they can afford their Porsche Cayenne even if they only work three days a week. It also means that we can’t afford to employ doctors and so we have to wait. This though can’t be changed because doctors are now rich enough to be part of the establishment and so we must continue to believe that they are saints while their assistants are angels. We must believe this because everyone in every political party tells us that it is so. 

The NHS sucks in ever more resources and uses those resources ever more inefficiently. Socialism doesn’t work and neither does a health system invented by socialists. But too many NHS salaries depend on keeping a shortage of doctors, rather than training more. Too many vested interests tell us that nothing can be done.  Instead of looking at examples from all around Europe where everyone gets free health care paid for in a variety of ways and thinking about what we could do better, we prefer the myth that our way is best. The establishment has told the British people that our NHS is perfect and so the people agree. ‘Mustn’t grumble’ they say as they are put on another waiting list.

The final establishment view that everyone must believe is that the UK must remain part of the EU. In Scotland this is so much the establishment view that there is hardly any dissent at all. Even many people who think of themselves as opposed to the SNP think the EU is far more important than the UK. They thus make their support of the UK conditional, which can barely be described as support at all. But then the Scottish establishment has always been soft on Scottish nationalism. They agree with the SNP that it's a problem if Scotland votes to stay in the EU while the UK doesn't. For years they have been making the SNP's argument for them. How awful that the UK votes for a Tory Government while virtuous Scotland votes for someone else. No wonder their supporters deserted them for the SNP. The Scottish establishment in effect told them to do so and thereby destroyed itself. From the ashes rose the yellow thistle of the SNP. Absurdly this new establishment wants Scotland to leave one union (the UK) but remain in another (the EU) which has the aim of creating a political union which will in time abolish this newly won Scottish independence. But at least we won't be ruled by Westminster.  

William Hague famously described the Euro as a burning building without any exits. But he was wrong. It’s the EU itself that’s the burning building. But even though it’s burning we must believe the establishment when they tell us that it is far too dangerous to go outside. But if it was so dangerous to go into this building, why did we do so all those years ago? If leaving the EU would be such a catastrophe why did they set up such a dangerous club in the first place? Shouldn’t we have been warned? What could have turned all those Eurosceptics like William Hague into Europhiles? It’s quite simple. Eventually when you are part of the establishment for long enough you just go native. Finally the civil service mandarins grind you down. The foreign office careerists continual worry about loss of influence becomes too much to bear. You begin to think what purpose would there be in life if there was a big European summit and I wasn’t there. At this point you realise that you’re in the building, it’s on fire, but that the most dangerous thing you could possibly do is to pick up the hatchet and chop your way out.

Politics for me is about the possibility of change. But in Britain there is a political establishment that says that nothing can be done. We want to deport some person who hates us. Sorry you can’t do that. We are told that the population of Britain will top seventy-five million, then eighty million. Sorry there’s nothing to be done to stop that happening. We’re told that you now will have to work until your something like eighty-five before getting your pension. That’s just the way the world works. After all someone’s got to pay back the debts and it sure won’t be members of the establishment.

The root of this idea that nothing can be done is always the EU. It’s being in the EU that means that we can’t control our own borders. It’s the EU that means that our laws and our politicians are subordinate to the will of unelected bureaucrats. It’s the EU that stops us doing what we need to do to make our country better. We won’t change the direction of our country with one vote. The political establishment will remain. But this is our one chance of telling them that we the people are really in charge and we want to get our country back. If you’re happy with the political establishment by all means vote to stay in the EU. That’s what they want too. They are so desperate that nothing will harm their power and their influence that they will say and do anything to make you vote to remain in the EU. The establishment can always come up with gruesome stories to prevent anyone doing what is contrary to their interests. How else could they have remained the establishment for so long? 

But if you want to make one small step that might bring a little bit of power back to us, then vote to leave. It won’t finish the journey of bringing democracy back to Britain, but it will be the first step in the right direction. We don’t get this sort of chance to vote for change often.  Indeed it may not come again. Make sure you grab it, or else regret it. Remember, if you vote to stay in the EU you will have forever lost your right to complain about both the EU and our political lords and masters. You will have chosen to remain in the burning building when you still had the chance to get out. 

4 comments:

  1. Interesting stuff as ever, Effie, and I particularly agree on the EU and NHS...the standards of Russian medicine do not surprise me at all. However, I do disagree on defence: in 1982, Nazi infested Argentina did attack "us", and imperilled UK security. Command of the Atlantic is vital to our survival- the most appalling danger the inhabitants of these islands ever faced was from German submarines in both world wars which had the potential to starve us into cannibalism...a greater and more real threat than the nebulous nuclear menace. It is no accident that both world wars began with naval engagements at the Falklands- 8th December 1914 and the better known Battle of the River Plate. By the 1970s the USA was feeling the real battle for the future could be at sea. The fact that the Falklands are no longer a coaling station does not change this...they will remain vital to British security until the crack of doom. How curious- and very British- that this vital fact is never mentioned. Also, from the late 60s Eire posed a territorial threat to the UK: the support the IRA received from the likes of Haughey meant they were not mere terrorists but in fact an enemy under arms. Again, only Britain could be so demure about this. Serious countries like USA, Russia or Israel would have been more robust in a similar situation. Our relationship with the US does not mean we overspend on defense- quite the opposite, we inderspend, and spend on the wrong stuff- we do not need an "army of the seas" which fights colonial wars in Asia...we need to be able to maintain absolute and sovereign security in our Atlantic home, which involves being able to win a decisive land victory in the next continental war.

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    1. Good points. For me the problem is that we keep fighting wars that we lose, with no real aims and objectives. We keep making bad situations worse. We need to choose battles we can win and fight in such a way that we do win.

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    2. In what sense are the Falkland Islands vital to the security of the UK exactly? I strongly defend the rights of the islanders to decide on their own government of course, but don't forget that the Argentinians would never have invaded the islands in the first place if Thatcher's government hadn't signalled their intention to basically throw the keepers to the wolves anyway and agree terms with the odious fascist junta for some for of condominium. If Galtieri and his mates hadn't jumped the gun and invaded, Thatcher's government would quite calmly have ceded sovereignty over the islands, just as they gave up Hong Kong to the Chinese.

      At least in the case of the latter they had the excuse that they couldn't reasonably have been expected to risk all out war with the People's Liberation Army; no such defence is available with respect to Argentina.

      If the UK was really serious about defence and security, it would abandon Trident replacement, and spend the £160 billion lifetime cost on conventional forces, anti-terrorism measures, and improving the pay and conditions of forces personnel.

      There's no urgent strategic necessity or indeed moral, political or social justification for spending more than 2% of GDP on defence in current conditions; indeed 1.5% is probably more than adequate.

      Britain's misguided attempt to be a world power and maintain a seat at the top table contribute hugely to our involvement in ill-judged fiascos like Iraq, whilst the situation in Syria has roots that go back to imperialist meddling post WW1. If we want a more secure UK, we need more co-operation with our close European neighbours, not less. We also need to regain the moral high ground we abandoned post 9/11 and promote liberal democracy globally, starting with ostensible allies like Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States and Turkey.

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  2. How do you fund the healthcare in Russia ? Certainly in Germnay and Belgium where I lived you needed insurance(either state or private).

    While sometimes you might need to wait a week for something the idea of waiting for months post a GP referral for an examination or treatment is as you said not really something that happens.

    You can also in many cases go direct to a specialist.

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