Wednesday, 19 October 2016

A Local Shop For Local People

I must thank Tris from Munguins New Republic for pointing me to a fascinating article that  eloquently sets out yet another dilemma facing the government. This time the dilemma is that there are two contradictory versions of Brexit yet only one can ever be delivered.  The first version of Brexit is one where Britain's ability to trade with Europe is left largely unaffected.  Middle class voters, who typically perceive a benefit from global trade and immigration, want to maintain their annual iPhone upgrade without scimping on their weekly shop at Waitrose.  Membership of the EEA or something very close to that is a goal for them, even if they have creeping suspicions about tyrannical bureaucrats stalking the corridors of Brussels.  I  would imagine this demographic is currently experiencing a nasty bout of Brexit vertigo brought on by the currency storm. The second version of Brexit is one which satisfies voters fears about immigration.  I don't have statistics to hand but I would imagine support for these two versions can be strictly delineated along class lines.  One or other of these groups is going to be left sorely disappointed by Brexit.  Welcome to the United Kingdom in 2016.

It occured to me that the dilemma set out by Richard Corbett can be slightly rephrased as a battle between globalisation and protectionism.  For some voters the choice to leave the EU was an almighty blow against globalisation.  I'm quite convinced that those most concerned about immigration are also those who feel the least benefit from free trade with the EEA.  It follows that a vote to stop immigration comes with a mindset that wants "British jobs for British workers".  There is certainly an expectation that British jobs will be protected by the UK government, and that Brexit will mean an end to the stiff competition from international workers, goods and services.  Is there a single Minister propagating that viewpoint? No, there most certainly is not.   The battle in government right now is about free trade priorities: trade with the EEA or with everyone outside the EEA.  Nobody is talking about raising tariffs or subsidising industries or nationalising anything in any form whatsoever.  None of that is going to happen under Conservative rule.  Recent Labour governments don't exactly point us in that direction, either.

There seems to be an ongoing ding-dong between Philip Hammond and Liam Fox.  In the red corner is the Chanellor, who wants to maintain strong links with the EEA.  Jumping up and down excitedly in the blue corner is Liam Fox, who is desperate to stick two fingers up to the EEA so he can get on with signing all his international trade deals.  I've blogged a lot about Liam Fox and how his understanding of international trade has never risen above woeful.  For Leave voters who struck a blow against globalisation, however, the competency of the Secretary of State for International Trade is no more than an academic detail.  The truth is that nobody in government is battling against globalisation;  the argument is about the direction of its vector, not its magnitude.

Today's fun maths fact: a unitary transform preserves the magnitude of a vector.  
Joseph Stalin was the last global leader who successfully managed to erect a shield against capitalist forces.  He did this through decades of repression and tyranny, removing the freedom to travel, controlling the flow of information, enveloping the Soviet Union in a culture of fear and reprisal.  In contrast, closing the borders to a few thousand multi-lingual workers from the EU is not an effective measure.  Capitalism is notoriously wily and cunning - it will always find the path of least resistance faster than any government or economic instrument. If you voted against globalisation you are simply not going to get what you want because the government have no intention of implementing protectionist policies.  Sure, they can make it hard to get a work visa after Brexit but it won't raise the hourly rate of factory workers, improve their working conditions or add to the stock of social housing. Isn't that what people really want or are they truly furious about the availability of Żywiec and pierogi?  On reflection, my question isn't entirely rhetorical.  I've started to wonder if there isn't a good proportion of the population that really do want to bring back the local shopppe for local people, even if it means there's nothing affordable on sale.

I wonder who will get the blame when Brexit is delivered but simply replaces one model of globalisation with another?   Farage?  Fox?  Johnson?  The Daily Express?  Whingers and traitors? Who was it that took the blame before the Poles and Romanians?  My guess is they will just carry on blaming the EU.

Over and out,


PS I'm not advocating Stalinism as a route to prosperity but I would say it was quite effective at keeping out Western capitalism. Stalin probably comforted himself with that exact thought as he spent his final days wheezing on the floor for help that was too timid to intervene and doctors who were locked up in the Lyubyanka.

PPS Think of a number between 1 and 1000.  If you get it wrong I win the right to parade around in a giant hat labelled "winner" for all time, constantly humiliating everyone I beat at this simple game.  Congratulations, you have just cast your vote in the EU referendum.


  1. Cameron called this referendum to spike UKIP guns in the 2015 elections, and to save his party (and himself) from yet another coalition, or back to opposition without ever having been a proper prime minister of a proper Conservative government.

    Vote UKIP in big numbers and you'll get a few UKIP MPs who will sit on the opposition benches and largely make spectacles of themselves. Vote Conservative and you will get a referendum on EU membership.

    It was never thought through becasue people like Cameron and his top honchos aren't in the habit of loosing anything, ever. They were born with silver if not gold spoons stuck somewhere about their persons. They have gone on in life to reach the top of the greasy pole. Being related to royalty has helped, but automatic entry into anything is guaranteed if you went to the right school, and were at the right colleges in Oxford, and had/have pots of money (albeit in the Virgin Islands and Guernsey). In any case, hadn't they won the last two referenda?

    I suspect they didn't count on Boris, similarly blessed with class/money/contacts, switching sides in an opportunistic move and making it a dead certainly that one of the privileged teams was going to lose.

    I reckon the result was down to the masses of largely uneducated Sun, Express, Star and Mail readers accepting the horrors that filled their front pages as the truth. EU rules on everything poking their foreign noses in good English laws; foreigners over here working for next to nothing, sending our good British money home to god knows where and keeping little Tyrone or Dwayne or (and this is a true one, Pocahontas, yes honest) out of a job, taking all the university places, stopping decent British families (hard working, of course, up and down the country) from getting houses, school places, apprenticeships, whatever.

  2. These papers make a habit of this sort of thing. They enjoyed government support when they were demonising the unemployed, the sick, the disabled and of course when they gladly blamed the EU for errors that were all too often the fault of the British government.

    The popular press doesn't sell in bigger quantities than the once "quality" press on their reputation for deep, intellectual analysis. It doesn't sell on it's propensity for telling the truth, come to that.

    Nope. Have a go at foreigners, the lazy skiving unemployed, the sick, the disabled, gays, folk with 15 kids who have to have three council houses... better still if they tick a few boxes...

    Cameron seemed unable to get them to reign in their rhetoric for the duration of the campaign. He could have done with a few on his side. But he'd riled the Dirty Digger over the phone hacking and Dirty Desmond had been won over by UKIP. I'm not sure what he had done to Viscount Rothermere, but it must have been something.

    And so people voted in poorer areas all over the country. They hadn't a clue what they had voted for, but the Sun had told them. They hadn't weighed anything up at all. They believed the front page of their chosen rag. They thought they had voted to get rid of foreigners, and some of the terminally stupid had a notion that the day after the referendum foreigners of all types would disappear like a puff of smoke.

    It hasn't taken long for them to find out that they were deceived. The foreigners won't all go home. Most of them anyway are here from the days of Empire and the chronic shortage of labour after the Second World War. Sun readers are slowly discovering that India wasn't ever in the EU.

    Imagine their horror when they book next year's fortnight in some Mediterranean resort to find out that it costs more, the pound in their pocket won't buy them a Euro, the health insurance is sky high (and if they don't buy it and little Johnny gets a touch of Benidorm belly, they can look forward to massive bills) and their mobile roaming charge has just gone back through the roof.

    The guy who used to come and fix their boiler has gone back to Poland and the family of Hungarians who lived across the road has been replaced by two OAPs from the Costa del Sol, who spend their entire days moaning about the weather and the queue at the local hospital.

    Nope. Not thought through, and it was all to save the scrawny backside of one of the worst prime ministers ever whose legacy will be the final break up of his beloved Britain.

    That's the trouble with letting the privileged run the country because they went to the right school. We should be more concerned to see if they learned anything while they were there.

    Sorry... bit of a rant there...

  3. I think you should take over this blog. Your posts here always dive straight to the heart of the problem - the press, the government, the corridors of power and their toxic relationship.

    Do you think that the public are waking up to the hazards of Brexit? I am rather pessimistic on this point but I'm far removed from the UK right now so can't claim to be an expert. My only evidence is that Sun and Daily Express readers are still reading the same torrent of lies and falsehoods. If they believed them pre-Brexit won't they just carry on believing them? The economy has a built-in latency between market reaction and the local shop and workplace. This means the shift in the UK economy will be slow. The government have some simple economic tools they can employ to further slow this down to a degree. It's like boiling a frog - the myth that the frog doesn't notice the slow heating until it is too late. I just hope you're right about the public. It is probably the only hope to put the brakes on the unfolding disaster.

  4. Erm... I rather thought you should take over mine.

    Ah well...

    Yes, a lot of folk will go on believing them. The Daily Diana becomes ever more outrageous in its claims. As BJS Alba pointed out on Munguin, the difference between what happened at the LSE and what was reported in the Diana, is mind boggling. Still no one who reads the Diana is ever going to attempt a more learned journal, so they will never know.

    The myth will live on for a while.

    But already inflation is up. You get 0.25% interest on your money in the bank and inflation is officially 1%. And it is expected to rise, according to the BoE.

    The poor will be hurt most, because although the banks may put up their interest rates a tiny bit to help out the old with their savings, unless the government improves the minimum wage and various benefits, poor people will worse off.

    Next year's holidays will be more expensive, becasue no one knows what will happen to the pound. Of course the holiday insurances, the Visas, etc won't come into play yet.

    But I bet already there are people in Spain and Portugal thinking that they should sell their houses, and finding that no one wants to buy them. And that there aren't any houses here, and if there are they are 6 or 7 times as expensive as the one they are selling in Spain...

    But by bit it will dawn on some of them that they have been sold a bucket of Peepee, when they thought they were buying vintage champagne.

    Of course the Diana has piles of mileage yet, blaming the EU for being horrid to poor little Britain in negotiations, giving them the worst possible deal and generally screwing them over, over everything.

    That's those nasty uneducated foreigners putting one over on the very superior Great Britain. Who'd have thunk it?

    Ho hum.

    1. Yesterdays' failed Parliamentary motion to guarantee the rights of EU citizens in the UK was rather chilling. The EU haven't really reacted to anything yet but I'd imagine Spain is at the very least considering the cost of hosting UK pensioners and wondering how to pass that on. It certainly looks like the UK is taking the lead on this one.

      Some kind of real madness has taken root. Great for historians in 2084 but not so great for those living through it.


Bark, lark or snark