...a blog by Richard Flowers

Friday, February 26, 2016

Day 5535: Show A Little ReSPECTRE


So, Spectre. Not SpECTRE, apparently. Which is a shame. Love a good acronym, we do.

Released on the daddies' wedding anniversary, we saw it in the cinema, in IMAX in fact as a special indulgence. Yet this review's haunted us until the DVD release. There might be a clue there*…

The opening extended tracking shot following a Faction Paradox-attired Bond through Mexico City's Day of the Dead has been rightly praised. Not just an extraordinary visual achievement, it sets up the film's themes of Bond as a living dead man, haunted by his ghosts: Vesper, M, and ultimately… spoilers – Blofeld.

(Yes, I'm going to use the name. We all knew who Christoph Waltz was playing; and it's liberally sprayed over the end titles. So we might as well get used to it.)

In fact the whole pre-title sequence is amazing. Bond's shooting the terrorists' explosive – is it deliberately? – and bringing the house down on himself reminds us of the Venice conclusion of Casino Royale even as it introduces the plot point of using terrorism not the old fashioned way to threaten and bully, but more subtly to panic governments into jumping the wrong way, into bed with "C" and his (i.e. Blofeld's) global intelligence network.

The fight in the helicopter is a particularly visceral stunt that outshines the helicopter stunt in "For Your Eyes Only" that it is clearly referencing (for obvious cat-lover related reasons). It's especially bold that the death of the assassin Sciarra (and of his pilot) is essentially off-screen as Bond just unceremoniously boots them out of the chopper and they are gone, as forgotten by the film as they are by our emotionally closed-down hero.

After the deliciously skull-topus-y title sequence, we cut to a grey London and the corpse of Bond-world's MI5 headquarters at Vauxhall. And thence to a funeral in Rome, that has the eternal city looking like one vast marble tomb – and of all the churches in Rome, they pick the one that looks most… Stalinist. With Monica Bellucci's glamourous widow, who does not expect her life-after-death to last long; along with the ghoulishly almost-undead appearance of Mr White, clinging to life through his thallium poisoning; and above all a message from M from beyond the grave this serves to reinforce the motif of the dead being with us.
That the person pulling the strings is the ghost of Judi Dench's M, drawing the threads of Daniel Craig's previous Bond films together in order to uncover the Spectre, makes for a satisfying answer to the questions left open that had made "Quantum of Solace" and even "Skyfall" feel like they were only an opening chapter, almost unfinished.

But we are also setting ourselves up for where the film starts to go wrong.

Before that, Bond's encounter with Mr White leads him to Madeleine Swann, White's estranged daughter who is currently working at a suspiciously Piz Gloria-a-like clinic on top of a mountain. There follows a kidnapping and a gloriously retro car versus plane chase sequence, as magnificent as something out of the Roger Moore era, with the added bonus of seeing Ben Wishaw's Q get to do "in the field" the way dear Desmond Llewellyn used to. And smartly hiding in a cupboard to escape the baddies shows his brains can be as good as Bond's brawn.

Mind you, I'm pretty sure that DNA on the Spectre ring really doesn't work like that. Somehow connecting everyone in the plot and revealing that Oberhauser is still alive. I mean it's Sciarra's ring, not Blofeld's, so you can't even make it a kiss-the-papal-ring pass your DNA along that way thing.

And now of course we arrive at the fatal flaw. The film itself insists that all the clues lead us here.

And the problem is this. The head of the organisation and apparently ultimate author of all that has happened to Craggles over the course of four movies turns out to be someone from his childhood who he thought was dead.

And is also Ernst Stavro Blofeld.

So why all the coy messing with the name? In context of the Bond films, of course we in the audience all know what Blofeld means. But it means nothing to this Bond.

The "(adopted) brother we never knew he had" is such a daytime TV cliché, but it is the real thrust of this film, that knife to the heart of Bond from the moment in Rome when he recognises the erstwhile Franz Oberhauser.

Blofeld? It means nothing here. It's just a throwaway about being "my mother's line", and Bond makes a half-hearted witticism (he doesn't even manage a "What, your mum was called Ernst Stavro?").

The name Blofeld ought to have been haunting at least this if not all four recent Bond films. The reveal that Oberhauser is Blofeld ought to come as the conclusion.

Blofeld brings up the very unpleasant and not-very-Bond-toned eye-gouging scene from the earlier Rome meeting. Yet, when he talks about Mr Guerra (the victim) as "not being there any more"… well, that moment just wasn’t there in the first place. Plus Blofeld was about half a mile away at the other end of that really long table. And that indeed is the problem with this movie – it needs to make references to moments that aren't there.

(Or maybe Blofeld just routinely gets Hinx to gouge people's eyes out; after all he does have his own skull-drilling suite in his own secret base.)

So we get to the secret base in the middle of the desert. Possibly the crater is supposed to remind us of the spectacular hollow volcano of "You Only Live Twice", but how does it fit with our themes of the dead alive? The meteor is sort of impressive, maybe, but doesn't appear to mean or connect to anything.

And we get to the political crux of the movie: information is power. And Blofeld has a lot of it (somehow) so he's very powerful. Here's a video of Mr White shooting himself to show I can see and know everything.

The problem with "knowledge is power is bad" is that we really don't see the application of that power. "Extortion is my business" said Donald Pleasance's incarnation of Blofeld. The "E" in Spectre might no longer stand for "Extortion" but we really do need to see that the ability to pry into people's privacy can be monstrously abused – we need to see those government officials being blackmailed into allowing arms sales and people smuggling. "C" for example could have been being forced to work for Spectre, rather than just Andrew Scott doing his Moriarty thing. Again. We need to see identities being stolen and lives being broken. The invisible tentacles are all too invisible, here. As in "Quantum of Solace", the threat becomes so large and nebulous it ceases to be dramatic.

The one instance of Spectre using this power to know it all – at least we presume this is how they know where Bond is – is that they must, as Ralph Fiennes' M guesses, use MI6's own knowledge of where Bond is (by way of the "smart blood" with which Q has injected him). And yet, that's left as an exercise for the viewer to work out. Mr Hinx just turns up on the train… and that's the sort of thing that Bond villains just do. It's too easy to miss that it's a clue to Spectre's power, because the baddies don't usually need to show how they find Bond when it's time for the next attempt to kill him.

Also, did Spectre buy their HQ from the same people who supplied Quantum with the exploding hotel two movies ago?

What's missing, ultimately, is the twist.

Alex pointed out to me how the film is full of the noir trope of mirroring: Bond and Madeline on the train mirroring Bond and Vesper on the train; Mr White's hidden room at l'Americaine mirroring his (literally behind the mirror) room in Austria; the helicopter stunt at the start mirroring the helicopter at the end.

Madeline is coded as a noir femme fatale… but without ever achieving fatale status. Not that Lea Seydoux is bad, but you've got Monica bleedin' Bellucci in the film (wasted in what amounts to an extended cameo).

(Just as Fiennes' M has all the coding of being the double-agent, too good to be true and perfectly placed to take over as M after "good" M is killed in "Skyfall". But no, there's no twist; he too is just another goody.)

So, I would have made one tiny, tiny change. The end of the movie. Bond has been diverted from the mission to prevent "C" from turning on Spectre's private panopticon into the ruin of the MI5 headquarters – I love the spiderweb of bomb fuses, though it is a switch of metaphor from octopodes to arachnids – and Chuckles has given him three minutes to escape and/or rescue the dame. He ends up in the shell of M's office.

Way Out?

Here's the change: instead of Christoph Waltz watching in a helicopter… it's Madeline. And she is finally revealed as Blofeld. A black Swann not a white one. The real cause of her split with her father.

Then Franz Oberhauser is just Franz Oberhauser. Instead of a coincidence too far, actually it was an ingenious double bluff. His jealous obsession with Bond another tool that the real Blofeld has used as a blind and a cover. And she gets clean away. Leaving her catspaw to face the music and whether or not Bond decides to shoot him.

(Even that – Alex used the term "peremptory" – exploding secret base becomes redressed as another bluff.)

And a movie that was running out of adrenaline after the Austria chase gets a much needed final surprise, a shock ending to leave you leaving the cinema with a surge, not a slow coming off the boil.

Watching it again I think it's not a bad flick. The good bits are really good: the opening Day of the Dead; the sinister menace – de trop eye-gouging aside – of the Spectre meeting; the chase through Rome, particularly the way Q has gaffer-tapped his improvements to the dash of the three-million pound DB10; the old-fashioned-and-revelling-in-it mountain-top chase. Craig continues to be excellent. And he gets to be funny, in moments, in his quiet understated way; often unexpected physical comedy, as when he manages to survive a building collapsing by landing on a convenient sofa. Naomie Harris is terrific as Moneypenny, even though she has less to do than in "Skyfall" and deserves more (at least she gets to mirror the "partner in bed" gag that "Casino Royal" did with M back in the day). Whishaw is, of course, wonderful in everything he does. Fiennes brings gravitas and, appropriately, ennui to M, and is clearly channelling his inner Bernard Lee. Though you do slightly wish he could have dropped "C" off his tower with an, "Avada ke-bloody-davra".

But still the ending is disappointing. Loaded with expectations that just don't deliver. In a way, I think, they are hamstrung by the possibility that this is Daniel Craig's last Bond outing, and the need to give him an ending that is both resolution and upbeat, meaning he gets the girl, and throws away the gun.

I think, perhaps, we'll have a better feel for this film when we can see what happens when it's not the end.

James Bond, after all, will return.

[*sinister chords by Thomas Newman, shadow of tentacles at the end of the mirrored paragraph]

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Day 5533: 1% - A Decade of Millennium


T'was ten years ago, I first opened my VERY FLUFFY DIARY and shared my GENIUS with the World.

How many things have changed in that time!

There have been three* James Bond films; four** Doctor Whos; and for five years the Liberals ran the country. A bit.

And I used to think that IMPORTANT things needed to be EMPAHASISED and so I used a lot of ALL-CAPS!

Nowadays I realise that in the Internets this is considered VERY FUNNY and should be ENCOURAGED!

So if you think YOU feel old remember… next year THE FLUFFY ELEPHANT GETS THE VOTE!

Daddy's Little Spectre

*also "Quantum of Sausage".

**Dr Dave, Dr Mat, Dr Hurt and Dr PeterC (Dr Chris just missed).

We've see the Rise and Fall of Prime Monster, Mr Frown...

From the resignation of phoney Tony... and the Government of All the Goats... to the election that never was.

From Stalin to Mr Bean. From economic crisis to 10p tax debacle to the Expenses Scandal.

Through the plottings of Milipede Snr to the Coup that Collapsed.

To I Agree With Nick.

We've lived through The Coalition...

From the decision to go into government

to the first 100 days that no commentator would have predicted the government would survive…

…through the difficult middle years

…to the last Coalition budget (where I spot that Milipede Jnr has spotted his forthcoming defeat).

We've discovered it really IS the economy, stupid


We've seen what happened to Northern Rock and the fall of Bear Sterns (who even remembers them!).

We've seen why Ed Miliband was wrong about the "myth" of Labour overspending …and fisked of a Labour Troll who tried baiting me!

And recently we've asked what does a Cobynite Labour economic policy actually MEAN?

and what should a Liberal Economic Policy Look like?

We've watched a LOT of movies…

Some old favourites GLORIOUSLY reinvented...

...and some that would have been better left alone!

Some Harry Potter and some Pirates and some More Pirates

Superman and Batman (good) and Batman (not so much)

Star Wars (cartoon version) and Star Trek (likewise)

Narnia and His Dark Materials


…and we've watched some REALLY bad television


Robbing Hoodie...

and, Crotchwoot

With special mention for The Amazingly Awful Mrs Pritchard (hang on, that's Daddy Alex's!)

We've had a few Christmases...

Jingle Bells

Jingle Bells

Fluffy All the Way

Oh What Fun

It Is to Ride


Open Aston Martin...

And we may even have touched upon religion

When I may have occasionally disagreed with The Beardy-Weirdy of Canterbury. Once or twice.

Not to mention the Cardinal arch-bigot of Westminster

or Ruth Kelly and the Elder God Delusion!

But here are my absolute top ten favourite things about my diary for the first ten years…

#10 Mr Balloon Cartoon

OK, the silly names.

Over the years, I've had my little, er, misunderstandings about people's names, whether it was calling the leaders of my own Party Captain Clegg (as in the notorious Pirate Clegg) or Sir Mr the Merciless (as in the notorious Emperor Ming) or those of the (Hard) Labour Party Lord Blarimort, Mr Frown or Mr Milipede.

…or there are the ever changing adjectives to describe the perma-tanned pestilence that is Mr Peter Vain, er Hain. He been:

An Orange-hued apostate

A Tangerine-toned Turncoat

A Satsuma-skinned surrender monkey

A Clementine-Coloured Catspaw

A Peach-painted preener

A Sepia-stained stool-pigeon

A Fuchsia-finished old fraud

A Beige-Basted Bumbler

A Ridiculous russet rogue

A Terracotta-tinted twit

and a Heliotrope-hued hole in the head not to mention firebrick-brushed fraud!

…but from very early on – okay, in fact from my VERY FIRST diary – I have called the then leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition and now (as absurd as it may seem, and with whatever culpability for it that the Liberal Democrats may have) Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland Rt Hon David William Donald Cameron… Mr Balloon.

He just LOOKS like a Balloon. An empty pink bladder with a smile painted on it.

So OBVIOUSLY I was delighted when a national newspaper cartoonist came to the same conclusion!

see also my favourite "interview" with the Rt Hon Dave Balloon.

#9 Coining the term "Unpology"

The era of New Labour came and went like a bout of gastric flu, but it left behind a legacy of political spin doctoring – ironically usually reduced to just "spin", when the whole point of Labour's news management strategy as run by Mr Alistair Henchman was to counter the "spin" that the (mostly right-wing) press were already putting on their stories about the non-Tory Party.

Terms like "remaining on message", sticking to "the grid" and "burying bad news" have all added to the public feeling that politicians – ALL politicians – are manipulative, deceptive even downright deceitful.

But the apogee (or nadir) of this technique comes with the dark art of appearing to deliver an apology while actually not doing so, and often managing to blame the person to whom you should be apologising for their misinterpretation of your perfectly acceptable behaviour being the only reason for taking offence.

Mr Frown's Hope Secretary Jacqui Smith delivered a particularly fine (by which I mean un-fine) example.

#8 Millennium on the Moon

Labour under Lord Blairimort quite quickly gave up any pretense of Civil Libertiies and started playing the SECURITY card left, right, and centre… tell more like right and far-right and even further right.

Quite early on, I had to go ON THE RUN from the Stormtroopers of the Labour Government after they mistook my SINCERE ADMIRATION for JAMES BOND for GLORIFICATION of TERRORISM. Fortunately, I was able to apply for political asylum on the Moon. Here's the full saga…

In hiding!

In Space!

I was NOT driving!


In the Soup!

Nose Trouble!

Escape… to Danger!

(In tribute to our dear friend Dr Nick, every title ends in a !)

#7 Defeating Mr Frank Luntz

Another early victory was the time we had a run-in with Republican Push-Poller and semi-resident "expert" on Newsnight, Mr Frank Luntz.

He had presented what he called a focus group on the telly. Clearly a sensitive soul, he posted comments on a lot of Lib Dem blogs… but obviously it was MY piece, suggesting how a STAGE MAGICIAN could have arrived at a VERY SIMILAR outcome that most troubled him.

Here's how he might have done it

and here's me replying to him replying to me!

He tried his hand at "predicting" again, with the thankless task of suggesting someone other than Mr Frown might succeed Lord Blairimort (and how did THAT work out, again?)…

…then made an appearance on the Comic Relief Apprentice

…before buttering up our own Capitan Clegg.

Pleasingly, Newsnight stopped billing him as "pollster" and started crediting him as a Republican. Full disclosure is good.

#6 Defeating the "Liberal" Conspiracy

I never REALLY took to the project launched by Mr Sunny Hundal and dubbed (not JUST by me) as "Labour Conspiracy", seeing it as at best a well-meaning BLACK HOLE that would suck in and swallow up non-Labour blogs into supporting that tired old Party, and at worst a front organisation.

But then Mr Sunny Delight's munchkin Aaron Murin-Heath went a little bit, er, over-defensive in response to this little piece putting a sore Green loser in his place

For once read the comments, and Mr God Bless the Liberal Blogosphere for riding to the rescue of a soft toy under fire!

Of course, once Hard Labour went back into opposition, it was safe for Mr Sunny to have his moral high ground cake and eat it, so he slunk back into the party and his fabulous media career™ was quietly wound up.

Meaning my Diary has outlived his PROJECT. So yay!

#5 Defeating the Mr Master

Then there was that time when Doctor Who's the Master would have taken over the Fluffy Diary (and the World) but for one elementary error

#4 Nick Clegg, his hand on my bottom

It remains a source of GREAT PRIDE in this LIBERAL Liberal Democrat Party that no matter how silly or bizarre it might have seemed to have a soft toy in their midst passing satirical comment on their goings on, at every level up and down the Party from grassroots to grandees they have been so willing to talk and listen and take part in bloggers' conversations.

And no one moreso than the Party Leader, Nick Clegg, who really took to the bloggers interviewers and talked to us on many occasions.

Here are two of my favourite, first from early on when he'd just been elected leader and made time for us and our doughnuts between the "serious" press

and second just a few years later from inside the Cabinet Office as Deputy Prime Minister.

I'm particularly grateful to Ming Cambell who, when HE was leader, was the first to talk to the bloggers, and to Chris Huhne who, during that leadership contest, was so easy to persuade to talk, perhaps because he as the insurgent was as much the outsider as we were. They got us going, and thanks to them Nick saw how important it was to open up a channel to talk to friends inside the Party. And Danny and Vice and Ed and others all followed.

#3 The Day of Meeting the Doctor (and all his chums)

But it's not ALL been about the politics. In fact there's been quite a bit of Doctor Who over the years, what with the telly series actually coming back to the telly pretty much in sync with my Diary. Obviously.

The highpoint for many a fan was the fiftieth anniversary and the Day of the Doctor, which we celebrated – of course – but by remembering ALL the eras of Dr Woo and all the many starts big and small who have given us so much to enjoy and think about over the first fifty years.

Some of whom even got the pleasure of meeting ME!

#2 I am Blogger of the Year. Oh yeah!

And so, obviously, the first thing the Liberal Democrats did on getting into government for the first time in EIGHTY years was to give a prize to a stuffed elephant. I was, I have to say, taken somewhat by surprise.

Of course, it didn't QUITE work out first time around… or second… or third or fourth… but, as the saying goes, if at first you don't succeed… throw a TANTRUM!

So this is ME winning Blogger of the Year in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, (FINALLY!) 2010!

#1 Daddies Get Married

Because THIS is why I write my Very Fluffy Diary. This is why I keep telling you all this Liberal stuff.

Big Gay Wedding

Because The Liberal Democrats changed the World. For the better.

Remember that. Always.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Day 5531: Brexit is for the Faeries


Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice

Once Upon A Time…

"I assume also that no great power would shrink from its responsibilities ... if that country from a perverse interpretation of its insular geographical position, turns an indifferent ear to the feelings and fortunes of continental Europe, such a course would, I believe, only end in it becoming an object of general plunder.

"So long as the power and advice of England are felt in the Councils of Europe, peace I believe will be maintained, and maintained for a long period."

Margaret Thatcher, quoting Disraeli, last time we had a referendum on Britain in Europe.

Britain + Europe

The Brexit Brigade LURVE their FAERY Stories.

They are already pushing three MYTHS about what this referendum is about.

MYTH #1: "Who runs Britain"

(And I am already sick to the top of my trunk of Conservatory MPs who voted AGAINST fairer votes and voted AGAINST reforming the unelected House of Lords sitting pretty in their SAFE SEATS and having the GALL to tell us that the problem with Europe is "we cannot kick them out"!)

MYTH #2: "We would have freedom to trade"

(The leave campaign say that they want Britain to be free to make trade treaties with whoever we like… and they want to begin by pulling out of the largest free-trade area on the planet. Does this make ANY sense WHATSOEVER?)

MYTH #3: "Remain are SCAREMONGERING (nudge nudge, fear the immigrants)"

(Mr Farrago cannot open his mouth without scaremongering about Turkey, or about "500 million people with the right to come to live in Britain" – clue: 70 million of them are ALREADY HERE: they're called "the British"; Michael Gove – Mr Balloon's Smeagol – raises the spectre of razor wire across Europe as though that's a product of working together and not a symptom of the very nationalism with which he's flirting; and how many times do we hear the pitiful excuse from a country that is 92% undeveloped country "we're too crowded, we can't take any more"? Scare, scare and more scare.)

Pied Parper

So since they are all so KEEN on FABLES and PARABLES, let me tell you a story too. Spoilers: it has a HAPPY ENDING.

Long ago, but not that long, there was a WAR and EVERYONE LOST. And in the ruins that remained, friends and enemies alike came together and decided to try something, a very – I might say – British idea of making it easier to trade together.

Because, quite a lot of the time, people who trade with each other don't fight with each other. Trade brings prosperity to both sides and with prosperity comes peace. Business is good for peace and peace is good for business.

I say that's a very British idea because Free Trade was sort of at the heart of the dispute between the Liberals and the Conservatories i.e. between Mr Gladstone and Disraeli over the Corn Laws; and was sort of at the heart of the conflict between the British Empire and Napoleon (grossly to oversimplify four-hundred years of history).

And because protectionism and nationalism and the MYTH of "destiny" had done so EXTREMELY very badly in the years of the Great Depression that led to the War.

So the idea was actually a very simple one. It started with COAL and STEEL and the idea was that customers for coal and for steel should be able to pay the same price for the same stuff wherever they were.

That meant getting rid of trade barriers between countries.

But also, making sure that people on both sides played by the same rules, rules like how long it was safe for people to work so you couldn't undercut your competitors by paying slave wages or working dangerously long hours; or rules saying what the measurements should be measured in, so you couldn't short change the customer by having a slightly shorter "inch" or a slightly lighter "pound".

There have been "weights and measures" rules since the time of Bad King John. In fact, one of the reasons he got CALLED "Bad" King John by the barons is that the barons didn't like him going about the place stopping the business of putting a thumb on the weighing scales and shaving the gold off the coins.

So Europe's rules are about FAIRNESS to CUSTOMERS.

Now, it's a bureaucracy and bureaucracies grow rules like topsey, and not all of them always make sense, even more so when you take them out of context.

And sometimes – quite a LOT of times in fact – a "rule" from Europe is more of a GUIDELINE in Brussels but becomes gold-plated, copper-bottomed, red-taped LEGISLATION as it passes through the British Civil Service and the Houses of Parliament, but they still blame all the finicketty details because "Europe".

And sometimes people just MAKE THINGS UP (like the infamous MYTH of the STRAIGHT BANANA – but there ARE rules to protect banana buyers from ROTTEN bananas, but that sounds too much like GOOD news).

We PERPLEX our friends in Europe with our attitude to the rules. We make them EXTRA HARD, and then COMPLAIN about them. But STICK to them like glue. We need to RELAX, UNCLENCH a bit. Be a bit more, well, EUROPEAN.

Missing Out

Let us take an example: the Tampon Tax. It is said that we cannot remove the VAT from ladies' tampons because "Europe".

Well, the short answer is of course we can. No other country would be so RIGID.

Things get redesignated all the time. If Marks & Spencer can get a teacake redesignated as a cake, it is not beyond the wit of a Minister of the Crown to redesignate a tampon as an essential. And obviously we should do so.

But more broadly, it comes back to that business of FAIRNESS for the CUSTOMER. You want your customers to be able to compare prices wherever they go in Europe. So you want (roughly) the price of things that are basically the same to BE basically the same. So if there's a sales tax that is part of the price, you want that to be basically the same too.

Now good old Blighty didn't HAVE a general sales tax when we joined the (then) EEC (although there was a purchase tax on certain "luxury" goods). So a part of our negotiated conditions for entry was that we would introduce the broad-based Value Added Tax or VAT.

BUT, we negotiated a GOOD deal – VAT rates across Europe tend towards the 20%-25% rate, and Britain was allowed not only a LOWER rate (10% when we started, but of course it's gotten up to 20% now) but also some substantial exemptions, in particular for FOOD. Other countries have LOWER rates of sales tax on food, but no other European country has ZERO tax on food.

The Quid Pro Quo for this deal was that we would only ever move our VAT rates TOWARDS the European average. So the VAT rate only goes UP and not down (except in emergencies like when the economy went through the floor at the end of the last Labour government's time).

So we could not GENERALLY lower the VAT rate, or create broad new exemptions, but ONLY because we AGREED (and signed a TREATY to say so) that it was FAIRER to CUSTOMERS if the sales tax rates across all of Europe generally converged to the same level, so that everyone knew they were getting the same deal.

Gove takes the VAT rule out of context to make out it's some matter of HIGH PRINCIPLE that we have lost POWER over our taxes. When in truth we made a CHOICE that more fairness to customers was worth a bit less power over taxes. In other words we USED that tax power, rather than HOARDED and WASTED it, the way Smeagol horded and wasted the precious ring.

Let's take another example: Google's Tax Bill. Everyone seems to think that Google's tax bill is not terribly fair. But the REASON that they are able to shuffle their taxes around – do the so-called "Double Irish" – is because the Republic of Ireland chooses (and is able) to set it's Corporation Tax rate at 3%, so large companies are tempted to relocate their European offices and (theoretically) the profits they make to Dublin.

That unfairness is a consequence of NOT setting an agreement among the members of Europe that we will keep Corporation Taxes (broadly) in line. That is the sort of UNFAIRNESS that Brexit will ENCOURAGE. It is the "race to the fluffy bottom". And the only winners are the BIG COMPANIES, not individuals, not small or even middle-sized companies, but only the giants that can easily move countries. And of course the sorts of people who end up on the BOARDS of those companies. (Not looking at ex-ministers. No wait, that's EXACTLY who we should be looking at.)

Now we COULD pull out of Europe and try to compete with Ireland on Corporation Tax… so long as you don't mind cutting a further THIRTY-THREE BILLION out of the budget, pretty much the ENTIRE spend on EDUCATION, say, or two-thirds of the DEFENCE BUDGET. The sort of cuts that would make even Master Gideon wince. A little.

Or we could stay IN Europe and work together to make corporates like Google pay their taxes more fairly, and get Ireland to play nice too.

Is Europe UNDEMOCRATIC? Yes, but less so than BRITAIN – the Commission are appointed by elected governments (unlike the British secret Civil Service); the Council of Ministers are the representatives of those elected governments (unlike the British Cabinet, who are mostly old Etonian chums of the Prime Monster); the Parliament of Europe is elected by a proportional system (unlike the British Parliament at Westminster where the Conservatories have an illegitimate majority of 12 with 37% of the vote and Mr Farrago has no representation at all – given that his one MP cannot hardly bear to even talk to him, let alone be in the same leave campaign.)

Could Europe be MORE democratic? Yes, we could have more powers for the Parliament to approve commissioners and initiate legislation but only if the Kippers and Conservatories stop BLOCKING it. But equally, our MEDIA could stop being so PAROCHIAL and give the European Parliament the SAME coverage as the Westminster one – that's the KEY way to make people feel more informed and involved. Mr Farrago only gets away with NOT DOING HIS DAY JOB because no one sees that he's NEVER THERE!

We need to be IN to fight for MORE democracy. OUT just leaves us at the mercy of an UNDEMOCRATIC Westminster controlled by the Conservatories and the SPECIAL INTERESTS that back them.

Who are the unelected "elite"? The council and parliament of all of Europe or the Conservatory party with a tiny majority trying to shore up a system that gives them, a minority, absolute power, while they are using (abusing) that power to cut off the Opposition and the charities and the Lords who try to stand up to them?

So who rules Britain? The people who vote? Or the rigged system that gives all power to a Westminster controlled by a Conservatory elite and their secret big-money backers?

GREAT FLUFFY GRIEF there are four months of this to go!

Here's the HAPPY ENDING: on June 23rd we CAN vote to stay part of something Greater than just Little England; we CAN break the hold of the Conservatory elite. This DOESN'T just have to be about Boris's career plan; it can be about hope and a better future.

Fairytale Ending

Good luck!

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Day 5530: Happy National Sticky Bun Day


A correspondent informs us that today is National Sticky Bun Day.

This is OBVIOUSLY nonsense. EVERY Day is sticky bun day! 

However... who am I to stand in the way of newly invented marketing opportunities, er, traditions...

...and so, in honour of all things EUROPEAN, today's buns are Belgian Buns. Yum yum.

Saturday, February 06, 2016

Day 5514: A Great Deal of Europe but not Mr Balloon's Dreadful Deal


In this week's the Evening Standard, Mr Matthew "Gideon's Voice on Earth" Anaconda wrote that the EU referendum could: "turn Mr Balloon from a good PM to one of the greats".

This is utter bunkum.

For starters, he ain't no bleedin' good to begin with!

And, for seconders, at best this wretched referendum will decide between whether Mr Balloon has wasted all our time (and money!) to keep the Status Quo or if he's going to be the first Prime Monster since Mr Pitt to have to explain to a reigning monarch how they managed to LOSE A CONTINENT!

So, as the Conservatories perform their farcical DANCE OF DEATH between their loathsome Europhobic back benches and their cowardly-but-pragmatic cabinet ministers, it is increasingly clear that the case for Europe must rest on its own merits.

Do we REALLY have to do this PANTOMIME? All of the Papers have thrown up their hands and said how DREADFUL a deal Mr B has got, so he will troop off back to Europe and return with an "even better" deal ("even better" – i.e. more foul) JUST so he can wave it in the face of his backbench and keep Teresa Nuts-in-May and Bojo the Clown onside.

What has he actually achieved? Let's play the Once-in-a-Generation Game and ask: "What's on the Euro-Conveyor Belt tonight, Brucie?"
  • An "emergency brake" on benefits – being publicised as stopping people taking out before they've paid in, but sold under the counter as stopping those entirely-imaginary "pull factors" that mean bunches of migrants fleeing a massive war (that's our fault) are "pulled" to come to a cold, wet island full of xenophobes.

  • A "red card" to stop European legislation and protect British sovereignty – how EXACTLY would Mr Balloon feel about giving the power to any 15 counties "red carding" HIS legislation? Sovereignty is a funny old thing, though. You actually get MORE by sharing. Europe may seem very distant, but at least at the moment you HAVE a say when you vote for the Parliament. The Europhobes talk BIG about "sovereignty" but actually they want you to have LESS voice, less voting power.

  • A guaranteed "opt-out" from "Ever Closer Union" – Here's the thing about "ever closer union": it doesn't JUST mean Britain becoming more like France, Germany or Italy… it means France, Germany and Italy becoming MORE LIKE US too. And it's a BIT bleedin' rich to opt out of it, when "ever closer union" was ACTUALLY the compromise Britain demanded because all of our little-englander politicians got huffy about "towards a federal Europe". A FEDERAL Europe of CO-EQUAL states would actually SOLVE a lot of those problems about Sovereignty. But it would also mean finally accepting that Britain IS equal and not top of the heap (an attitude that can only lead to us ending up top of the RUBBISH heap!).

  • And "protection" from the policies of the Eurozone – which means freedom from responsibilities for the BANKERS of the City of London (like THAT never got us into FINANCIAL ARMAGEDDON!) and, essentially, the right to make SWEETHEART Google-tax deals (did you know TART was originally a short form for SWEETHEART – so Master Gideon is Google's… well, you can work it out).

  • And thankfully NOT a Cuddly Toy, because I am SO not on board with this pandering.

Europe has brought us PEACE and PROSPERITY – and both in levels UNDREAMED OF in a THOUSAND YEARS.

Europe has given us freedom to travel, and in safety, and to retire to warm climes while still claiming our British pensions. It has enshrined our Human Rights – the Human Rights that Churchill espoused after the Second World War so that the Holocaust would never happen again. It has championed our workers and our free trade. It has brought us continent-wide health protection, and joint action on the things that threaten us: crime, terrorism and climate change.

Europe has brought us FRIENDSHIP.

The OUT campaign cannot even be friends with EACH OTHER!

Or rather OUT campaign S – plural, multiple, or paranoid schizo – since they cannot even agree to BE one campaign. They literally cannot organise a piss-up in THREE brewery. Nigel Farrago cannot even manage to get to Question Time by car – do you REALLY believe he could make the trains run on time?

And what EXACTLY to the OUTERS want to DO with the Country once they've achieved their dream? (A dream to some; a NIGHTMARE to others!) Some of them want to trade – don't we do that in Europe? Some of them want us to "stand tall" (whatever that means) – do we not take a leading place in Europe? Some of them want to go back to an imaginary Nineteen Fifties – I've SEEN Dr Woo; it's MAKE BELIEVE! If you want to experience the Nineteen Fifties, try the former Communist states… in Europe! Some of them, even – whisper it – want to pull up the drawbridge and keep the migrants out – do we not migrate TO Europe? Are we to bar from returning all of those MILLIONS of BRITISH people who've gone work or retire in Europe? Because their England-for-the-English phobias (trading Polish plumbers and Hungarian handymen for grumpy geriatrics) would actually make our migration figures CALAMATOUSELY WORSE?

The way to make this country GREAT again is NOT to run away from our responsibilities, is not to deny that we have a DUTY to the rest of the World, but instead to stop SKULKING at the BACK and TAKE OUR GODDAMED PLACE in the fellowship of nations, and for GOD, HARRY and SAINT BLEEDIN' GEORGE DO our BIT to LEAD IN Europe.


Also, what Andrew says about Britain Stronger In.