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Dominic Cummings: the Brexit Connexion

With Britain obsessed with Brexit, and the USA obsessed with the failure of Russiagate to pin anything on Trump, I sometimes find it surprising that anyone is still interested in climate change. Haven’t you got anything better to argue about at your dinner parties?

The three subjects have in common the absence of intelligent debate and the hysterical and authoritarian attitudes of those defending the “establishment” view. “Trump is guilty, we’re just not sure yet what of;” “a no-deal Brexit is an assault on democracy;” “climate denial is a psychological defect /thought crime.”etc.

We’ve all known crucial political issues in which we were opposed to the majority view, or the establishment view, but surely never three such issues, arising at once, where the prevalent view was so weird, so illogical, so lacking in evidence, and expressed with such dogmatic anger. What’s the connection? Is it something about the times we live in, the media we use, the social habits we develop to defend our psychological wellbeing?  Or am I just beginning to realise in my old age that most people are terminally thick?

It’s surely significant that we at Cliscep appear to agree largely on all three subjects. We haven’t done any internal polling, we don’t know each other, and we differ in political outlook. I think that at least three of us are definitely “on the right” and that several of us are “on the left” – at least two on the far left. Obviously, we agree in being opposed to the prevalent establishment view on climate change, but there’s no obvious reason why we should also be as sceptical of the prevalent establishment views about the evil nature of Trump and Brexit, except for the fact that, as climate sceptics, we are already defined as exceptions, freaks, oddballs and pariahs in polite society.

In searching for a common factor I decided to find out more about Brexit, about which I know little (I’ve lived out of the country for 37 years and I keep meaning to take French nationality.) Everywhere I looked on the subject I found the name of Dominic Cummings. I’m probably the only Brit who has never heard of him, but just in case:- he was special advisor to Education Secretary Michael Gove, responsible for the Vote Leave Campaign, and is now Special Advisor to Boris Johnson, where he’s usually described as a kind of Rasputin figure behind the throne. He’s mainly known to the general public because of a TV film about him on Channel 4 (which I haven’t seen), and is frequently the subject of articles in the serious press like this one in the Independent yesterday under the headline; “Some loud bloke who stunk of booze yelling at us”:

Dominic Cummings is facing a growing backlash from all sides… “He despises politicians, presumably despises the process of democratic politics,” one of the rebels said of the adviser.

There follow more insulting quotes, plus the outright lie that he refused to testify before a Select Committee (he agreed to testify, provided that everyone, including the MPs on the Committee, should be under oath) plus the headline anecdote, based on three tweets (one of them deleted.)

Mr Cummings approached Jeremy Corbyn late on Tuesday night and issued a bellowing challenge to accept a general election… “I just bumped into Dominic Cummings, who was clutching a glass of red wine and wandering along the parliamentary press corridor, lost… said a political correspondent for the Guardian on Twitter… “Come on Jeremy, let’s do this election, don’t be scared” the 47-year-old shouted, according to a tweet posted by the political editor of the Sunday Times. The journalist has since deleted his tweet… “As one of several shadow cabinet members stood right next to Jeremy I just thought there was some loud bloke who stunk of booze yelling at us,” said Cat Smith, the Labour MP, on Twitter.

The Guardian, in an article on him two weeks ago, quoted Cummings’ opinion of politicians and journalists:

The MPs and pundits get up, read each other, tweet at each other, give speeches, send press releases, have dinner, attack, fuck or fight each other, do the same tomorrow and think ‘this is reality’.”

which pretty much sums up the content of the Independent article.

The Guardian article is about his blog. It describes him as colourful oddball, full of self-contradictions:

Cummings studied history at Oxford but writes knowingly about subjects from bio-engineering to space exploration. His style oscillates between the academic and the hard-boiled.

and ends up admitting grudgingly that:

To his detractors, Cummings is a monster. To his fans, he is a guru. On the evidence of the blog, he is neither. He is an extreme rationalist, who is prepared to share his ideas in the form of this sprawling work-in-progress. He yearns for a world beyond politics – but does not explain how to square this with the fact that people disagree about things, and that these disagreements are based on different world views, of which his is only one. Nonetheless, his boldness is invigorating. Political thinkers on both sides may reject his conclusions, but they should engage with his thinking.

His blog is more interesting than that. It’s a mess, more disorganised even than Cliscep. And it attracts less comments, which is not surprising, given that his articles are infrequent, long (even longer than mine) rambling and repetitive. On the evidence of his blog, Cummings is the most interesting thinker I’ve come across in years, or at least since Ian Woolley introduced us to Jordan Peterson on this blog.

I said interesting, not necessarily original. He discusses the history and philosophy of science, the origins of computing, game theory, quantum mathematics and the Apollo programme, and quotes Feynman, von Neumann, Gödel and Turing far more often than Michael Gove and Boris Johnson. He is a brilliant populariser of serious ideas, or he would be, if he’d organise his rambling essays and replace links with old fashioned footnotes. I intend to spend the next few weeks exploring his blog, learning about things I never knew I was interested in – and stuff Sky News and the downfall of parliamentary democracy.

Here, he sums up the problem with the educated élite which Ben and I and others have been rabbiting on about for years:

I’ve learned over the years that ‘rational discussion’ accomplishes almost nothing in politics, particularly with people better educated than average. Most educated people are not set up to listen or change their minds about politics, however sensible they are in other fields… Why is almost all political analysis and discussion so depressing and fruitless? I think much has to do with the delusions of better educated people. It is easier to spread memes in SW1, N1, and among Guardian readers than in Easington Colliery.

Generally the better educated are more prone to irrational political opinions and political hysteria than the worse educated far from power. Why? In the field of political opinion they are more driven by fashion, a gang mentality, and the desire to pose about moral and political questions all of which exacerbate cognitive biases, encourage groupthink, and reduce accuracy…We all fool ourselves but the more educated are particularly overconfident that they are not fooling themselves. They back their gang then fool themselves that they have reached their views by sensible, intelligent, reasoning.

Here he discusses von Neumann’s contribution to economics, quoting his criticism of Kant’s assertion that the human sciences can never have a mathematical base, due to the complexity of human society. He quotes von Neumann:

The reason why mathematics has not been more successful in economics must be found elsewhere… To begin with, the economic problems were not formulated clearly and are often stated in such vague terms as to make mathematical treatment a priori appear hopeless because it is quite uncertain what the problems really are. There is no point using exact methods where there is no clarity in the concepts and issues to which they are applied. [Emphasis added] Consequently the initial task is to clarify the knowledge of the matter by further careful descriptive work. But even in those parts of economics where the descriptive problem has been handled more satisfactorily, mathematical tools have seldom been used appropriately. They were either inadequately handled … or they led to mere translations from a literary form of expression into symbols…

Next, the empirical background of economic science is definitely inadequate. Our knowledge of the relevant facts of economics is incomparably smaller than that commanded in physics at the time when mathematisation of that subject was achieved. Indeed, the decisive break which came in physics in the seventeenth century … was possible only because of previous developments in astronomy. It was backed by several millennia of systematic, scientific, astronomical observation… Nothing of this sort has occurred in economics.

And from the same article: 

In 1987, the Santa Fe Institute … organised a ten day meeting to discuss economics. On one side, they invited leading economists… on the other side, they invited physicists, biologists, and computer scientists, such as Nobel-winning Philip Anderson… When the economists explained their assumptions, Phil Anderson said to them, ‘You guys really believe that?

One physicist later described the meeting as like visiting Cuba – the cars are all from the 1950’s so on one hand you admire them for keeping them going, but on the other hand they are old technology; similarly the economists were ingeniously using 19thCentury maths and physics on very out-of-date models. The physicists were shocked at how the economists were content with simplifying assumptions that were obviously contradicted by reality, and they were surprised at the way the economists seemed unconcerned about how poor their predictions were.

Ouch. Remind you of anything?

Wandering through his rambling articles, I’ve seen nothing directly concerning climate science so far, although weather forecasting is mentioned with respect to chaos theory, and, in a discussion of management strategies, today’s NASA is severely criticised in comparison to the NASA of the Apollo programme. (Graham Stringer also gets a mention as one of the few MPs who aided the Leave Campaign, whereas other more prominent parliamentary Brexiteers were unwilling to forego their skiing holidays…) But everything he says about the nature of scientific enquiry, the psychology of group behaviour and the problems at the heart of our establishments seems relevant to the discussions we have daily here.

Just dipping into these blog articles, it’s easy to see why he’s hated. The stupid people in politics, the media and the civil service whom he castigates will fight to the death someone who won’t suffer fools gladly. And those who are as intelligent as he is can’t compete with him, because they haven’t read what he’s read, thought about what he’s thought about, worked as hard as he has at finding answers. They lack the wide ranging curiosity, the bloody-minded desire to find out what works, the courage to swim against the tide. And of course, most of them have academic tenure, or guaranteed jobs with the government or large media groups, or maybe a bit of one and then the other, and are not going to listen to some upstart outsider who happens to know what he’s talking about.

I urge you to take a wander through the jungle of his blog and come back here with any insights. Whether your thing is risk analysis, cognitive technology, systems management, or the military strategies of Bismarck and Sun Tze, you won’t be disappointed.

OK, I haven’t really established a connection between Brexit and climate scepticism – rather a parallel movement. The day we find our Cummings, we might start to get somewhere.

168 thoughts on “Dominic Cummings: the Brexit Connexion

  1. “We’ve all known crucial political issues in which we were opposed to the majority view, or the establishment view, but surely never three such issues, arising at once, where the prevalent view was so weird, so illogical, so lacking in evidence, and expressed with such dogmatic anger. What’s the connection? Is it something about the times we live in, the media we use, the social habits we develop to defend our psychological wellbeing? Or am I just beginning to realise in my old age that most people are terminally thick?”

    hmmm… I’m not sure whether you’re tongue in cheek about the connection and the ‘thickness’ here. At any rate, one of the endlessly recycled memes throughout history is that ‘our times are special’, whether special good, special bad, special weird, special urgent, special critical, whatever. But it’s not true, no times are special, and the kinds of characteristics you note above also occur endlessly, but depending on the era and geography you often have to look underground for them, not in the official records of history. In such cases, read the graffiti instead. Folk in many ancient cultures complained their times had gone mad. The connection is over-culturalisation, where cultures become too dominant and take too many liberties (they are not under anyone’s control), causing an extreme disconnect between their narratives and reality, especially for elites or for those supporting / imitating them. BUT ALSO regarding those public masses who oppose instinctively (over-culturalisation causes a reactive response) and not via reasoning. Cultural alliances can link several dominance trends at once, though usually loosely, and maybe entangling what would normally be the organs of reason like science or the law; so for instance the alliance of fascism, anti-semitism, and Eugenics within the early twentieth century. Nor is the global population any thicker than they ever were (in fact far more people are more educated, although to a first approximation not biologically more, or less, capable than centuries ago); this doesn’t seem to have changed the equation much, although according to Kahan more domain knowledge and cognitive skill will increase cultural polarisations. Look on the bright side, such major disconnects have frequently been reset via wars of renewal in the past – revolutions or civil wars or heretical schism conflicts, or concerted neighbour defence against sudden cultural expansion or ethnic cleansing in its name. So far, all sides on all your named issues seem very far from that point still, and while bitter and confused political and policy battles abound, IF all these eventually result in some return of relative stability before the psuedo-cyclic patterns build up an excess of cultural beliefs / oppositions over a few decades again, then this will be a huge improvement on resolution through main violence.

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  2. Here is a nice musical interlude to inspire skeptics and infuriate true believers:
    Bulletin as performed by the Canadian Historical Climate Chorus….

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  3. ANDY WEST
    Best to assume I’m being tongue-in-cheek when I say something silly – tongue-in-cheek, but never gratuitous. My wondering if people are becoming thicker is simply an example of Chambers’ Second Law of History. Everyone thinks the world’s going to pot, but sometimes it is, and so sometimes they’re right. (Chambers’ First Law is that by the time you’re old enough to have acquired some wisdom from observing the Moving Finger of Time in action, you’re a boring old fart whose opinions are of no interest to anyone.)

    As always with your observations, enlightening as they are, I want to move a step or two down from your level of generalisation and look at the specifics of here and now. An obvious possible cause about whatever is specific to our times is the media and information explosion. It allows you and I to chat like a couple of learned Oxford professors, with the whole internet as our filing cabinet, but it doesn’t alter the fact that we’re not. Much of the apparently revolutionary effect of the information revolution will no doubt turn out to be a mirage.

    By the way, one who is a learned (ex-)Oxford professor, Niall Ferguson, has an excellent article at the Boston Globe
    https://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/2019/09/02/ignore-greta-thunberg-science-fiction-end-world-not-nigh/ercNfQ9axB3g10MODcCmbJ/story.html
    A cultural pushback may have started among the intellectual nobs who actually have some influence.

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  4. Economics is obviously of greater interest to Cummings than climate science, which is a pity, because his observations about the former can be applied, virtually word for word, to the latter:

    “Next, the empirical background of climate science is definitely inadequate. Our knowledge of the relevant facts of anthropogenic climate change is incomparably smaller than that commanded in physics at the time when mathematisation of that subject was achieved. Indeed, the decisive break which came in physics in the seventeenth century … was possible only because of previous developments in astronomy. It was backed by several millennia of systematic, scientific, astronomical observation… Nothing of this sort has occurred in the science of [man-made] climate change.”

    The die-hards will argue that Tyndall, Arrhenius etc. laid the foundations for the Science in the 19th century but they were mainly concerned with CO2’s effect on the cycle of the ice ages, which are now more generally accepted to be driven by orbital insolation changes. Then Callendar in the 30s noticed that atmospheric CO2 appeared to be increasing, along with global temperature and he proposed his atmospheric ‘Callendar Effect’ of modest warming which he considered would be beneficial to earth. The scientific community didn’t take much notice of him at the time and ‘catastrophic global cooling’ became all the rage in the early 70s when it was noted that the planet had been cooling quite alarmingly following 30s warming. The science of catastrophic global warming didn’t take off really until the planet was evidently warming in the early 80s; then came the models, then came the ‘experts’ forecasting Thermageddon, then came the politicians, the ‘sustainability’ gurus, the eco-fanatics, the neo Malthusians and Marxist professors and then – Greta. Hardly a convincing scientific pedigree, I would say.

    “One physicist later described the meeting as like visiting Cuba – the cars are all from the 1950’s so on one hand you admire them for keeping them going, but on the other hand they are old technology; similarly the climate change scientists were ingeniously using 19th Century maths and physics on very out-of-date [substitute ‘recently developed but somewhat questionable’] models. The physicists were shocked at how the climate scientists were content with simplifying assumptions that were obviously contradicted by reality, and they were surprised at the way the climate scientists seemed unconcerned about how poor their predictions were.”

    Rather spot on I would say.

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  5. Don’t be fooled – Cummings is clearly a smart cookie but his blog abundantly demonstrates that his intellectual depth is unimpressive. His writings about science and economics (something I have some knowledge of) are wide ranging but superficial and tend to give one the impression that he has narcissist tendencies with a strong need to show people how clever he is (quoting Kant & Von Neumann etc). I’m sure he would benefit from a few hours on Peterson’s couch.

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  6. I use to say that one of the best book about global warming is “Demons” (sometimes also called The Possessed or The Devils), a novel by Fyodor Dostoevsky. It is a story about “revolutionaries” entrenched in their certitudes and ready to destroy the world to reach their ideological objectives.

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  7. Geoff,
    Thank you for the introduction to Cummings.
    Andy West,
    Your insights on this amazing essay have reminded me of this song. Was Jethro Tull a prophet?

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  8. Geoff:
    ‘An obvious possible cause about whatever is specific to our times is the media and information explosion.’

    …before which we had similar (relative to the times) communication expansion with the TV, before that radio (they are to some extent 2 way also because of forum programs, call-ins, feedback from real-life programs etc), before that the telegraph, before that the massive one of publishing (in iterative stages) and before that the one of the written word (also in stages, and with mass copying operations as far back as classical times), and before that the ginormous one of sophisticated language able to carry abstract concepts. I don’t think there’s strong evidence that any of these waves back any particular cultural (or cultural resistance) sides more than any other, in the long term. In the short term however, they ought in principle to back establishment sides more strongly as the necessary equipment / skills are initially weighted towards those. But as the technology wave passes outwards, with it instability, everyone else catches up. It isn’t typically long before establishment printing is challenged by mass pamphleting of the revolution, or establishment radio by pirate stations etc (notwithstanding odd survivals from an older time, like the BBC). For sure I’d agree that the instability of the latest wave is still with us, though even within this some of the cross-currents appear to reflect past times (the rise of biased media giants seems an echo of past newspaper barons). And it is always productive to contemplate what, specifically, has lined up to produce the events of our times rather than relying only on generic guides that are never going to produce enough detail. But throwing away the guides is not good too – a leap to ‘our times are special’, and ‘…am I just beginning to realise in my old age that most people are terminally thick?’, essentially does this by contradicting the main lessons of those guides. And bear in mind also that these two false memes, cycling endlessly throughout history in different guises, are indeed major planks supporting the culture of global climate catastrophe, e.g. ‘our times are special’ (and its cousin ‘we are special’) because, paraphrased: ‘we are the first generation to suffer from catastrophic climate change, and the last able to do anything about it’. Plus: ‘those who oppose action on climate change are either ignorant (aka ‘thick’), or duplicitous (aka evil alternate agenda such as big oil)’. Both of these memes are just emotive hooks that are untrue. The gorgeous (from a memetic propagation perspective) applicability of ‘denier’, is that it can encompass either or both of the implications within the latter one, and indeed other ‘explanations’ too (e.g. mentally ill).

    Hunter: big admirer of Mr Anderson. ‘Wise men’ have indeed oft thought the masses as thick as a brick, and in addition cannot perceive their experience; very true. But to some extent this is mutual, plus in the larger cultural conflicts those wise men and women usually have significant grass-roots support on their side too, yet no side is any ‘thicker’ than any other. As even Mr Delingpole eventually appreciated after his ‘undercover’ mission at Gladstonbury, we can also rule out liars or evil or deranged, as well as thick, as main causal components of sides in conflict: “…even the really radical ones who support Extinction Rebellion, are mostly just as nice and normal and reasonable and decent and intelligent as you and me”.

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  9. Geoff:

    Thanks for the article link. Well hopefully the push-back will grow, there are some more critical sources in the link below. As the article hints regarding millenarianism, there is plenty of historic precedent regarding the prophet role of Greta in cultural waves, as noted by John Shade at this blog a while back, even to the extent of similarly aged girls similarly urging that society ditches what has been its main means of growth and sustenance for centuries. See: https://judithcurry.com/2019/07/29/child-prophets-and-proselytizers-of-climate-catastrophe/

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  10. The connection to Brexit may be in the class conflict between the entrenched global elite and the feckless majority tired of the PC imposed from above. Christopher Caldwell wrote recently:

    “But the reasons for the chaos of the past winter—and for the fact that Brexit has still not happened—lie elsewhere. Brexit is an epochal struggle for power, and an exemplary one. It pits a savvy elite against a feckless majority. There have been scares before for those who run the institutions of global “governance”—the rise of Syriza in Greece, with its attack on the common European currency, the election of Donald Trump, the nation-based immigration restrictions put forward by Italian interior minister Matteo Salvini and Hungarian president Viktor Orbán. But it is Brexit that has hit bedrock. If Brexit happens, our future will look one way. If not, it will look another. Those people who warn, as Zakaria does, that voting for Brexit has decreased Britain’s importance in the world—are they joking?”

    His article is: https://www.claremont.org/crb/article/why-hasnt-brexit-happened-yet/

    My synopsis is: https://rclutz.wordpress.com/2019/09/05/update-eu-deep-state-vs-brexit/

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  11. Re: Thick as a Brick

    It is perhaps enlightening to appreciate the broader context within which the remark, “You guys really believe that?” was made.

    The occasion was back in September 1987 during a workshop organised by the recently established Santa Fe Institute. In keeping with the institute’s espoused multi-disciplinary approach when studying complexity and chaos theory, a group of eminent physicists and economists had been invited to exchange insights arising from their respective orthodoxies. The sticking point, and point of departure between the two groups, was the approach taken toward mathematical modelling. As one of the physicists observed, regarding the economists’ methods:

    “It seemed as though they were dazzling themselves with fancy mathematics, until they really couldn’t see the forest from the trees. So much time was being spent on trying to absorb the mathematics that I thought they often weren’t looking at what the models were for, and what they did, and whether any of the underlying assumptions were any good. In a lot of cases, what was required was just some common sense. Maybe if they all had lower IQs, they’d have been making some better models.”

    So it wasn’t intelligence that was the issue, so much as a lack of intuition and reality checking, and the extent to which they had been replaced by an over-compensating rigour and complexity. As one of the economists present put it:

    “The physicists were shocked at the assumptions the economists were making – that the test was not a match against reality, but whether the assumptions were the common currency of the field.”

    One of those assumptions that had troubled the physicists so much had been the essential rationality of economic agents. Unrealistic though this assumption may have been, it was the only thing that rendered the economic analyses tractable and gave the economic models any predictive power. Indeed, this was the assumption that had prompted one of the physicists present to remark, “You guys really believe that?”

    I think, if this anecdote has any bearing upon the climate modelling debate, it would be to ask whether there exist pressures that are ensuring that all assumptions made are the common currency of the field, and whether such pressures are getting in the way of the match against reality.

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  12. ANDY WEST
    I agree that in the long term a massive technological change is going to spread, favouring neither one side/culture nor the other. But in the meantime stuff happens, e.g. Luther and the Protestant revolution. While German peasants were reading the Bible in the vernacular, the Italian printers were turning out elegant Latin translations of the Greek classics for the amusement of cardinals. Result: ordinary Germans were literate three centuries before ordinary Italians. That printing would change society would have been obvious from the start: the specific ways were unpredictable, but when you look at what was being printed in hindsight, you see how Germany rose to being the industrial and cultural centre of the word circa 1880-1930, while Italy declined to an elegant civilised backwater. Will China use the internet to forge a patriotic cultural bastion behind the impregnable barrier of their language, while we use it to exchange videos of pets doing funny things? Seems likely.

    However useful your evolutionary (?) approach to understanding large scale societal change, it doesn’t eliminate our need to make judgements and choices about the here and now on the micro level. Something that seems to have motivated Cummings is the well-known statement from 60+ years ago by Dean Acheson that “Britain has lost and empire and not found a role.” Cummings sees that role as being to establish the nation as a centre of educational and scientific excellence. Stated by any politician this could be a banality to win votes in university constituencies. Embedded in one of Cummings’ complex rambling monologues it took on a new sense for me. A normal politician would take on an idea like that and appoint a committee of civil servants (possibly headed by his own brother) to put it into practice. Cummings sees Brexit as the first stage to something much bigger. Possibly he sees further than others by trampling on the heads of dwarfs.

    Of course thickness is not an explanatory factor. But the particular obtuseness of the well educated identified by Cummings takes on a new sense in an age of mass tertiary education. When the educated élite was 5% of the population, they sat at the summits of their particular professional, social or political groupings, eyeing each other warily, well aware of their differing opinions and economic interests. At 30% of the population, they form, not a series of well differentiated minorities, but a specific social class, a mass, with a mass psychology. What differentiates them from the majority is their higher vision, their outward-lookingness, which makes them care about immigrants, our European neighbours, the planet. It gives them a comforting feeling of solidarity, which is disturbed by the idea that anyone of their own class might disagree with them.

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  13. JOHN RIDGWAY

    if this anecdote [about the blind faith of economists in their models] has any bearing upon the climate modelling debate, it would be to ask whether there exist pressures that are ensuring that all assumptions made are the common currency of the field, and whether such pressures are getting in the way of the match against reality.

    To which the answer is surely Yes and Yes. The obvious pressure is surely groupthink, due to the economists’ satisfaction at having a field of interest amenable to numerical treatment (and what’s more numerical than money?) and the maths to do it with.

    Cummings quotes von Neumann and others at much greater length than I did. His point is partly that he was one of the greatest minds of the century, and you need people like that overseeing any intellectual project with vast implications for society (he quotes Dyson a lot too, who has put his finger into the climate pie quite often.)

    The question about the assumption about the essential rationality of economic agents needs careful handling, because economists (even those who criticise the assumption) are using “rationality” in a very restricted and peculiar sense. In this sense it is “rational” for a professional woman to go back to work as soon as possible after childbirth and leave the baby to be brought up by a childminder who addresses it in Albanian. Is it therefore irrational to do otherwise? I suppose it depends what the baby’s for, what purpose it serves – a question to which the economist has no answer.

    I suppose the equivalent to the rational economic agent in climate science would be the predictable weather pattern – the climate which varies in a regular way season by season. This too is a necessary fiction.

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  14. Geoff:
    ‘But in the meantime stuff happens…”

    Of course, as I noted regarding the ‘instability’ surrounding the spread of such changes.

    ‘However useful your evolutionary (?) approach to understanding large scale societal change, it doesn’t eliminate our need to make judgements and choices about the here and now on the micro level.’

    As I also acknowledged. But if the basis upon which we want to stand such micro judgements, flies full in the face of the guidance from the generic understanding (and indeed is highly coupled to false emotive memes that have been used by all sides in such conflicts throughout history), this either means it’s highly likely to be wrong, or that at the very least, we should be able to express everything about why that basis is a valid exception to history, and so is true this time around.

    ‘Of course thickness is not an explanatory factor.’

    I’m glad you agree. Yet your mode of expression above can easily lead to general audiences perceiving that this is a conclusion you are now tending towards, or one which is at least pretty plausible.

    ‘At 30% of the population…’ ‘…with a mass psychology…’

    We’ve been through this loop before and missed each other; maybe that will still be the case. In many countries the level of degree or similar achievement is still trending up and likely some will pass the point where >50% of the population have such in the not too distant future. At that point they essentially are the people. If you count halfway house qualifications such as college diploma as well as degrees, Canada passed the majority point for the whole population in 2016 census (54%). Are the diploma educated in or out of the mass psychology? And do the huge / growing numbers now getting a Phd share the same psychology too, or do they look down upon the folks with mere degrees? And of course high school equivalent education is now just about universal in most developed countries, but in living memory this was very far from the case (e.g. way less than half in the US before WW2). So do this ~90% of the pop share a mass psychology that was not present say in 1900, when the great majority of the population didn’t have this educational benefit? Anyhow, even here and now, if you are proposing that there is a ‘mass psychology’ that *closely* binds degree achievers to particular social narratives (in short, they form a well-defined culture of their own), then you’d need to demonstrate this. And that their behaviours in so conforming are significantly different to those seen in prior cultural waves, which you also imply. For sure such higher educated folks exhibit statistical leanings towards particular sides in some of the cultural conflicts of our era, as do old versus young (i.e. regardless of education), and male versus female, etc. This falls far short of a strong culture, such as say Catholicism or Fascism or indeed the catastrophic climate culture. But if you are proposing a looser association of values (we last time fell into the problem of what the definition of a ‘class’ is), then this is a much more plausible. But stratas of classes have existed long before modern degrees (the classical world had such, although I’m not very familiar), and they tend to be leveraged by cultures rather than be causal (in the way that communism leveraged the ‘working class’, but the great majority of that class world-wide were nevertheless not communist). Of course all loose groups in society form a target for cultural exploitation along the lines of their interests, and nothing I’m saying above negates the observation of leanings to particular causes (and indeed as already noted we do need to navigate, if we can, the specifics of what is happening now). What I’m saying is that if you’re largely seeking to pin why there are current cultural dominances (and so reactions against them too) on higher education, then I have to disagree. If you’re saying that much of the particular flavours / details of those current cultures are sourced from those who consider themselves elite by virtue of higher education, then this is plausible. But even then it is worth noting that practically any characteristic can be moulded into a badge for elite status, including would you believe ridiculous things like skin colour or belief in fairy stories, so educative status is no way unique in this respect albeit it may indeed be a current badge.

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  15. Geoff,

    I should have mentioned another important difference existing between physical models and economic models. The former involve agents that are the subject of universal laws – ultimately, it boils down to particles responding blindly to forces that they cannot anticipate. Consequently, strategy and foresight play no role in the modelling of such agents. To put it in the words of one of the Santa Fe Institute workshop’s participants, “Elementary particles have no past, no experience, no goals, no hopes and fears about the future.” In contrast, economic agents are all about anticipation, strategy and the indulgence of behaviour modified by learning and experience. It is this behaviour that makes economic agents so much more difficult to model. In both the physical and economic cases there is non-linearity and feedback to take into account, but it is only in economic modelling that the agents subjected to the rules of behaviour can, and do, seek to modify those rules — irrationally or otherwise. This is what makes economic modelling so fiendishly difficult. It is not just a case of propagating uncertainty within a given context, it is a case of propagating uncertainty within a context that can change in an uncertain fashion. This is the very definition of a wicked problem. It is also the principle that ultimately undermines the utility of RCPs.

    Liked by 3 people

  16. ANDY WEST (6 Sep 2019 5.49pm)
    I know we’ve been through this loop before, and I don’t understand why we keep missing each other. The point about a “mass élite” – a class of people who believe themselves superior to others, not because of birth or race or wealth but because of their education seems to me a pretty well established one. I took it from some remarks by Emmanuel Todd, who based it partly on observations of the Parisian élite of left-voting “Bo-bos” (bourgeois bohemians) and partly from the observations of Anglo Saxon social scientists like Christopher Lasch (“the Culture of Narcissism”) and Michael Young (“Rise of the Meritocracy.”) Thomas Sewell has written about the “opinocracy” – the fast growing body of people in the media, advertising and related activities whose sole talent is conveying and interpreting information. Their existence is acknowledged in a dozen terms we use like “Guardianistas,” “the chattering classes” etc. Cummings calls them “SW1” (for the conservative faction) and “N1” for the left.

    Todd’s analysis points out that whereas the slow acquisition of literacy acts as an egalitarian “leveller” between classes (and according to Todd, leads directly to political revolution – a claim for which he adduces impressive empirical evidence) tertiary education (which must always remain the preserve of a minority) has the opposite effect, leading a sizeable minority of the population to feel unconsciously superior to the majority, not on the classic grounds of birth, achievement or status but on grounds of education, which implies superior intelligence.

    I don’t see how any of this is in conflict with your cultural analysis. It may well be that it forms a “loose group” destined to melt away like a fashion fad rather than a stable social class destined to last. But in the meantime it has a peculiarly strong hold on a large group of highly educated but deluded people – people who find it normal to treat people less privileged than themselves as “deplorables,” or people like the Guardian journalist who on Brexit night let his unconscious hatred for his fellow Brits hang out in an astonishing flow of tweets on the lines of “it’s a victory of Last Night of the Proms over Glastonbury.” What was he thinking of? Certainly not of social class in the Marxist sense. He could have said “It’s the victory of the Grimsby fisherman over the London journalist” but he couldn’t have said that with a sneer. He chose to define the key political division in British society in terms of musical taste, and in such a way that pop folk for stoned hippies trumps middlebrow classical music for the middle class masses. Isn’t that weird?

    Of course, none of this is quantifiable, but I don’t see that it’s particularly controversial. Whether it’s a passing fad or something more lasting – I don’t see how we can tell in advance.

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  17. Does Boris have a cunning plan to get himself out of the ditch he’s in? I’ve been looking at the Hilary Benn Withdrawal Method (No 6) Bill and I’m wondering.
    https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/bills/lbill/2017-2019/0202/18202.pdf

    Clause 1(4) requires the Prime Minister to “seek to obtain from the European Council an extension of the period under Article 50(3) of the Treaty on European Union ending at 11.00pm on 31 October 2019 by sending to the President of the European Council a letter in the form set out in the Schedule to this Act requesting an extension of that period to 11.00pm on 31 January 2020…”

    Can you do that? Order a Prime Minister (or anyone else) to do something he promised the people he wouldn’t do? Prime Ministers are frequently forced to break their promises, by the Stock Market, the Bank of England, or whatever. But not by law. What does the constitution say? How long would it take the Supreme Court to find out?

    But it gets better. Clause 3(1) says:
    “If the European Council decides to agree an extension .., the Prime Minister must, immediately after such a decision is made, notify the President of the European 5 Council that the United Kingdom agrees to the proposed extension.”

    And Clause 3(2):
    “If the European Council decides to agree an extension… but to a date other than 11.00pm on 31 January 2020, the Prime Minister must … notify the President of the European Council that the United Kingdom agrees to the proposed extension.”

    Get that? Parliament is telling the PM he must do whatever the President of the European Council says. How does that work, constitutionally? It’s one thing to say the PM must obey parliament, but obey the unelected head of an organisation we’re trying to get out of?

    Is anyone discussing this?

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  18. Geoff:

    “I don’t see how any of this is in conflict with your cultural analysis.”

    Depending [per your last] upon quite what you imply re the education thing, it may indeed not be. But inadvertently giving the impression that ‘thickness’ is causal (okay, you agree it is not), or swerving towards that other meme ubiquitous throughout all history that ‘our times are special / different’ (or by virtue of this ‘we are special’), is where I started above. All times and all cultures and all cultural conflicts are unique in detail. But if we are to say regarding the cultural conflicts playing out in our time, that they are doing so in some fundamentally different way to an endless sequence of such conflicts (which would also imply a sudden jump away from evolutionary entrenched behaviours that have driven them in the past), we’d need an awful lot of evidence to make such a case, and separate it from yet another repeat of the meme echoed by populations down the ages who believed their times were special / different. While it is valuable and necessary to pursue specifics of present day conflicts, agreed, it is also right to pause for thought if the basis for making those micro judgements appears to fly in the face of what the generic understanding suggests.

    “…a class of people who believe themselves superior to others, not because of birth or race or wealth but because of their education seems to me a pretty well established one…”

    That it can indeed be one such status badge in a list that includes birth or race or wealth or skin colour or flavour of religious fairy tale or flavour of political fairy tale or various other tokens, is indeed uncontroversial. But some badges are stronger than others and for instance you need the Protestant one if they’re burning Catholics, or vice versa. The educative one is not that kind of badge. The thing about some of the lesser badges is that they are not in themselves part of the cause of the existing conflicts, they merely reflect ad-hoc and loose alignments, whereas for the stronger ones, they are very much part and parcel of the conflict in the first place. Typically a religious badge (for full belief) is synonymous with cultural membership, same for a badge of extreme politics, say communism or fascism. Whereas this is not the case for higher education, either now or in the past. It does not foster *independent* existential emotive narratives that are specifically associated with education itself. Despite statistical leanings to some causes, which vary even within country and much more across countries, the badge provides very limited predictive power about what the badge-holders even in aggregate are likely to believe in or how they will behave in certain cultural conflicts. Whereas for the fascist badge or the highly religious badge, behaviours are far more predictable for relevant conflicts (and much more constant across countries). In short, education at any level does not mean membership of a culture or its behaviours, unless it is a narrow education provided strictly within a specific cultural context (e.g. a Madrasa). None of this means academics can’t end up getting burnt sometimes, but this is because some culture found it useful to define them as bad for a while, not that they formed a strong culture of themselves which then lost a cultural civil war (e.g. in the manner of Sunni versus Shia’ or whatever). The context of a *supposedly* general education can be (and often is) hi-jacked by cultural interests to become a propaganda training ground; The good Bishop and John Shade of this parish have pointed out precisely how this is happening regarding catastrophic climate culture, and indeed it has historically happened for various extremist political regimes even in developed countries let alone elsewhere. But of course, this is not in any way the fault of (any level of) education; the culprit is the hi-jacking culture.

    An issue with your Todd example on ‘levelling’ is that there have essentially been political revolutions forever, and certainly in populations that have no literacy at all, or only some very limited literacy of say a priestly elite etc. And per above, notwithstanding some badge value and statistical leaning to (different in different places) establishment causes, (tertiary) education in isolation of those causes is still considered largely cultural value neutral and a great thing for all to achieve (which is why there are more and more and more people achieving higher education). Getting an education that actually *is* cultural value neutral, is more of a problem in some eras and geographies. But per above that is a fault of the cultural pollution not the generic process and results of education. Nor is it likely that tertiary education ‘must’ remain the preserve of a minority (which one presumes means a small enough minority to meaningfully feel superior to ‘the masses’). While figures like 30 or 35% already are technically still a minority, they are hardly elite, and they are still rising. Per above in Canada 2016 saw 54% (I think of all 25 to 60 year olds) with either college diplomas or degrees. Agreed as technologies (and likewise achievement levels), spread, then the ripple of this itself can provide impetus for cultural changes and can temporarily favour one side over another. But this merely reinforces the case that we have to take care not to pin blame (even if inadvertently) on education itself.

    I guess what I’m concerned with here is indeed inadvertent stigmatisation of something that is very unlikely to be causal. When Dan Kahan got his results showing that more cognitively capable and domain literate people were *more* polarised not less, he advertised a slide-show on same as ‘Are smart people ruining democracy?’. I pointed out that his results showed nothing of the sort, and also it could well be the case that democracy wouldn’t function at all without the *net* contributions of all the smart people (and perhaps most of our amazingly beneficial civilisation too). Notwithstanding it was phrased as a question, this meme could very easily escape his context and end up as ‘we need to burn all the smart people to save democracy’ (he eventually agreed that his title while catchy, was not good). As noted above, neutralising the educated has on occasion happened in reality due to cultural excess, and generally has made everything far worse. I know of course you are not advocating anything like this, but pointing at mild statistical leanings which are not in themselves causal (what is leaned to, more usually is), and implying that having lots of folks with degrees has been a bad thing, or even that they mostly adhere to a strong cultural narrative of any kind, could well escape your control too unless it is very heavily contexted, and I think that’s what I feel is a bit lacking.

    “Of course, none of this is quantifiable…”

    One can make some progress via public and academic surveys and studies, generally easier if focusing on a particular cultural conflict to limit the scope. But it’s a vast task admittedly and not one I’ve made too much of a dint in even for the climate domain. The advantage of this domain is that it is decades old now and notwithstanding bias in the studies themselves (which to some extent can be navigated, and doesn’t always effect raw data), has large amounts of useful stuff.

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  19. Geoff, people are discussing the constitutional absurdity of the Benn Bill. Constitutionally, it required Queen’s Consent because it impinged upon the Royal Prerogative. That being the case, the government could have legitimately refused to enact the bill at at the final stage after it passed the Lords. The poison dwarf unconstitutionally ruled that it did NOT require Queen’s Consent when it transparently did, hence the bill goes straight to the Queen for Royal Assent. The government allowed the bill to pass straight through the Lords without debate. The government could still advise the Queen not to grant Royal Assent given the extremely irregular way it has been passed, but it looks like this may not happen, for whatever reason. Boris insists he will not abide by Benn, so if he has a Plan, I don’t know what it is, nor does anyone else, except maybe Cummings.

    On the thickness (or not) of Greens, I give you exhibit A (video):

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  20. Exhibit B – The educated elite:

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  21. If that law is what was passed in Parliament, and it is constitutional, then your Parliament has pretty much just surrendered the United Kingdom’s sovereignty to the EU.
    That is Parliament telling Churchill to surrender to Germany.
    And you are not even being allowed a national vote.
    Good luck with working this out and preserving a civil society.

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  22. “Is anyone discussing this?”

    Melanie Phillips view here: https://www.melaniephillips.com/prime-minister-hostage-brexit-civil-war/
    Decent layout of events from Vox: https://www.vox.com/2019/9/6/20851302/brexit-boris-johnson-parliament-elections-corbyn-explained
    Some sources are suggesting Boris will not give the Benn bill royal assent.
    Can find very little on the constitutional soundness (or otherwise) of the bill, but the speaker skipped royal consent, which is apparently considered shaky for this type of bill.

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  23. The Benn bill, like May’s WA, cannot be allowed to pass into law. They are both treasonous documents, drawn up by traitors/fifth columnists in Parliament in cahoots with an aggressive foreign power (the EU). They both dissolve British sovereignty and hand executive powers to an unelected foreign body. It really is as simple as that. Royal Assent should be denied.

    “When you read the four pages of this ransom demand, you can see that the EU is given the executive power over the UK to tell it to accept any terms and obligations it decides. Power runs from Brussels to the UK with the PM as a mere go-between, not the elected bearer of executive power of a sovereign nation state. Whatever Brussels decides ‘must’ be accepted by the UK – see section 3.1 and 3.2. There is a foretaste of this rule by a foreign power over the UK with no veto in the Barnier/May WA/PD and its Joint Committee – see Caroline Bell’s ‘The Seven Deadly Sins’ in Briefings for Brexit.

    This unique constitutional crisis is a threat to our democratic future, to our national independence, to our national security. This is literally true as demonstrated and evidence by Rear Admiral Roger Lane-Knott in TCW.

    The rogue Surrender Act is so open-ended that our PM might be commanded to accept EU control of our military, our spy network and international security, and our police as a condition for an endless killing off of Brexit by extension. Why not?

    I hope that the Government will see this seditious Act, equivalent to a ticking bomb under Parliament being kept in place by rogue MPs, for what it is and convene COBRA to discuss how best to avert it. Its illegality of process is clear, and its handover, without limits, of executive decision-making power to Brussels as hostile negotiating ‘partner’ is simply a danger to the state in all aspects of its functioning and future. This rogue and unprecedented abuse of Parliament by ideologically obsessed MPs cannot be implemented and there must be entirely lawful ways of removing these barrels of gunpowder from under the House of Commons. The national security route is surely the obvious one.”

    https://www.conservativewoman.co.uk/this-rogue-surrender-act-must-be-thrown-out/

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  24. A conservative woman losing it big time.
    How dare elected MPs put Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson in a box.

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  25. So with one cast of the “pen” almost half the 2016 voting population are damned as having no fair play or moral integrity. And more than half the elected MPs (from most parties) are identified as “traitors/fifth columnists in Parliament in cahoots with an aggressive foreign power”. Wow!!

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  26. ‘Remoaners’, not Remainers. Please visit Specsavers. I have respect for any person who voted Remain as long as they have respect for the result of the referendum. I won’t be goaded into an argument about this Alan because I’m quite frankly sick of ‘debating’ this subject. Remoaners are now in the same category of tolerance I have with regard to doomsday climate crisis eco-fanatics and animal abusers, i.e. zero. However, perhaps, just for the record, you will be so kind as to clarify whether you agree or disagree with the drawing up and implementation of the Benn bill and whether you consider it to be a democratic, fair and legitimate piece of legislation. I’m saying no more because I probably will ‘lose it big time’.

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  27. Alan, I have no problem with people referring to Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, as a reminder of his privileged background, but for the sake of consistency, Emily Thornberry should be referred to by her correct title, namely Lady Nugee, and Rory Stewart should at all times be referred to as Roderick James Nugent Stewart.

    Liked by 1 person

  28. So if you take a look at Ron Clutz’s latest post which discusses the EU, sovereignty and Brexit, it appears that the best and brightest were mediocre and dull. And that the UK is facing a more subtle and difficult challenge than simply elites too arrogant to honor the voters.
    https://rclutz.wordpress.com/2019/09/05/update-eu-deep-state-vs-brexit/
    In effect, the UK no longer exists as an independent nation, and has not for many years. Wowzers.

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  29. Thanks JAIME and ANDY for the links, but I haven’t seen anything yet which discusses the specific point I was making, which is about the legality / constitutionality (two different things?) of the Benn law. There’s a lot of expostulating about surrender to foreigners in the articles, but I haven’t seen anything on the constitutional point about who can dictate what to who.

    To put the problem another way: parliament has presumably instructed the government to negotiate with the EU in one or other of the various laws; they are now instructing the government to obey the EU on a crucial point in those negotiations. Surely a judge would knock that one down in five minutes?

    This has got us far from the point of the article, which was to elicit comments on Dominic Cummings’ blog which were relevant to the climate debate. Jaime made an excellent start. I fear many may, like me, find his articles fascinating but indigestible. I’m going to have another go soon, if I can tear myself away from Skynews.

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  30. Geoff

    You’ve hit the nail on the head. Given that the week seems to have gone badly for BoJo, I can’t help wondering if there is a master plan beyond the obvious.

    The most logical (though high-risk) possibility is that Boris refuses to serve the notice required by the Bill (when it has become an Act), leaving aggrieved remainer Parliamentarians to take him to Court for his failure to comply with the law. Time would then be very short until 31st October, and no doubt the Court would expedite the case(compare and contrast with the WASPI women waiting on a judgment since their case concluded early in July, but I digress). The Government would presumably argue that the law purports to interfere with the Royal Prerogative (and incidentally, that it doesn’t just interfere with the Royal Prerogative, but subordinates it to the unelected European Council) and is thus non-binding on the PM. I have no idea how the Courts would respond to such an argument, but they might conceivably agree.

    The most bizarre plan I can think of (and I haven’t checked the EU laws to see if such a madcap scheme would work) is for the PM to serve the notice as required, and then, acting as the PM of a still-member state, to veto the request. I don’t know whether ANY member state can veto a request to extend Article 50, or whether the state making the request is barred from such behaviour. However, if it worked, it would be rather amusing, and presumably there wouldn’t then be time for Parliament to do anything about it.

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  31. Getting back to Cummings and, in a round about way, the now very dysfunctional climate science institution (see Judith Curry’s latest post), Cummings has a very insightful essay on science funding, team work and team size and decreasing productivity as a function of funding. Well worth a read. He says:

    “One of the reasons is the usual problem of bad incentives reinforcing a dysfunctional equilibrium: successful scientists have a lot of power and have a strong personal interest in preserving current funding systems that let them build empires. These empires include often bad treatment of young postdocs who are abused as cheap labour. This is connected to the point above about the average age of Nobel-winners growing. Much of the 1930s quantum revolution was done by people aged ~20-35 and so was the internet/PC revolution in the 1960s/1970s. The latter was deliberate: Licklider et al deliberately funded not short-term projects but creating whole new departments and institutions for young people. They funded a healthy ecosystem: people not projects was one of the core principles. People in their twenties now have very little power or money in the research ecosystem. Further, they have to operate in an appalling time-wasting-grant-writing bureaucracy that Heisenberg, Dirac et al did not face in the 1920s/30s. The politicians and officials don’t care so there is no force to push sensible experiments with new ideas. Almost all ‘reform’ from the central bureaucracy pushes in the direction of more power for the central bureaucracy, not fixing problems.”

    These problems are amplified in the field of climate science, where novel research is actively discouraged and funding is heavily dependent upon toeing the consensus line.

    https://dominiccummings.com/2019/03/11/on-the-referendum-32-science-productivity-a-small-teams-are-more-disruptive-b-science-is-becoming-far-less-efficient/

    Liked by 2 people

  32. Mark. The next time I have cause to refer to the two MPs you mention, I will be sure to use their appropriate names/titles. Thank you for reminding me to be consistent. I was merely following in the eminent footsteps of Richard North who, each day, reminds himself of Alexander’s privileged upbringing. I have a tendency to follow my betters.

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  33. MARK HODGSON
    Your bizarre plan is a beauty. How to convey it to number ten?

    JAIME JESSOP
    Yes, I read that one. It’s the last but two of his articles, dating from March, but his numbering system can lead you astray.

    I’m so lazy and he’s so longwinded that I didn’t even get to halfway through his latest one where there’s a whole section called “[Bret] Victor’s essay on climate change.”
    https://dominiccummings.com/2019/06/26/on-the-referendum-33-high-performance-government-cognitive-technologies-michael-nielsen-bret-victor-seeing-rooms/
    But that comes after a stunning critique of the scientific press and some wonderful graphs including the world’s first data graphic (Balance of Trade between Britain and Norway, 1700 – 1780) so you end up getting sidetracked by his links and forget where you started…

    Here’s my conclusion so far (nothing to do with the content of his articles):
    There’s a consensus around that Cummings is the most important / influential / dangerous person in the country, yet not a single journalist shows an interest in what he’s thinking and saying, which, as he himself admits, is not original.
    I’ve a hunch that it’s not like that in Russia and China. (Cummings notes somewhere how China is experimenting with modern management theory.) An ignorant uncurious, lazy media constructs the virtual world on which our elected leaders think they’re acting. We should be worried.

    Liked by 1 person

  34. Geoff, my cunning plan might not work. Article 50, para 4:

    “For the purposes of paragraphs 2 and 3, the member of the European Council or of the Council representing the withdrawing Member State shall not participate in the discussions of the European Council or Council or in decisions concerning it.”

    A simpler option might be to send the letter seeking an Article 50 extension, as required by the Bill (soon to be an Act), then immediately withdraw it. That would comply with the letter of the Act, followed by an exercise by the Government of the Royal Prerogative. I can see nothing in the Bill/Act preventing the PM from withdrawing the notice once he has complied by sending it.

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  35. MARK HODGSON
    Excellent. Until I saw that the Benn Withdrawal Method requires the PM to act before the 19th, my Cunning Plan consisted of Boris sitting negotiating in Brussels with some EU underling right up to 11.59 pm on the 31st, and then being taken with a sudden coughing fit. Yours is better.

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  36. Jaime. Looking at the input into Bishop Hill, WUWT and to lesser extent here, there are common patterns. Most commentators are right of centre, anti-EU (or UN) and naturally sceptical (to say the least) about current climate “science”. I differ. I lean politically sinister (but nowhere near Corbyn), have always believed Britain would do better as part of a European superpower, and occasionally have suffered doubts about the correctness of my stance upon climate science and its implications/demands.
    I usually enjoy and greatly profit from your writings, we don’t always agree and have clashed in the past on topics numerous. But this time I read your offering and thought Brexit has, like many others, disturbed your normal balance. You were IMHO using (or quoting) words and phrases like “traitors/fifth columnists in Parliament in cahoots with an aggressive foreign power” and “rogue MPs” inappropriately. I fail to see how laws passed by Parliament can be unconstitional since the authority of Parliament is (or used to be) paramount. The fact that you, personally may not like them is not relevant, it’s no reason to drop your usual careful reasoning and go for what I personally considered the full rant mode. You are so, so worth much more than this.
    To answer your questions: I voted to remain, in the past three years through my reading, I have come to better understand some of the leave arguments (some of which I even agree with) but on balance, I still believe the benefits of belonging just outweigh isolation. I don’t now usually comment on matters political (i get ganged up upon), but your post hit a nerve.
    With regard to remoaners vs remainers. My observations suggest that for a “remainer” to say/write anything in support of having stayed in the EU converts them automatically into a “remoaner”, just as expressing any concern for the future gets transmogrified into pushing “Project Fear”. You may have been writing “remoaner”, but in my judgement and in context, you were branding all MPs that didn’t vote the way you would have wanted with this highly abusive term.

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  37. Alan, thanks for the clarification and we will just have to agree to profoundly disagree about our politics and the way we see the last three years three months of Brexit chaos in the UK. I think our opinions are fundamentally irreconcilable, as I think is the wider schism between disaffected remainers and leavers in British society. A huge rift (more fundamental even than Left vs. Right, working class vs. upper classes) has torn the country in two, which will not heal for generations). If remainers get their way (against the wishes of the electoral majority) the UK will cease to exist as a sovereign, independent, self governing nation. I believe also that democracy will have died in the nation that set such a glowing example of democracy to the world at large. If Leavers get their way, the UK will be free of supra-national control in Brussels. I know which I prefer.

    The Supreme Court will test the validity or otherwise of the Benn law (which Act, unprecedented in British law, delegates executive powers to Brussels, ignores constitutional norms relating to royal prerogative and effectively constrains Britain to either accepting perpetual vassalage or revoking article 50 – an actual remain coup). The government intends to subject it to legal scrutiny. So you see it’s not just me ‘who doesn’t like it’, technically ‘constitutional’ as it supposedly is.

    I freely admit that this whole tortuous Brexit process has ‘disturbed my normal balance’. I am human after all. Over three years of listening to remainers (subsequently described as ‘remoaners’) rage and whinge at losing a vote, three years of being patronised, labeled xenophobic, racist, far right, a ‘Little Englander’ nostalgic for empire etc., accused of being ignorant and of being fooled by a big red bus takes its emotional toll. I voted to Leave and was elated that leave won the referendum, despite a concerted government and establishment (mis)information campaign to swing the vote for remain. I looked forward to living in a free, independent, sovereign country, not controlled by bureaucrats in Brussels. May’s government eroded that hope over a tortuous three years of dither, delay, lies, broken promises and collusion. A Parliament packed with remain MPs has almost extinguished that hope and I am angry, very angry and hugely indignant that my democratically cast vote has been ignored. I have an acute sense of injustice which obviously often conflicts with actual supposed justice and, being unique to me, is not guaranteed to be reflected in society as a whole. However, in this particular case, I am not alone, not by a long chalk. Personally, I think remainers seriously (perhaps catastrophically) underestimate the knock-on effects of ignoring the referendum vote to keep the UK under the jurisdiction of Brussels.

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  38. Jaime:
    “Then Callendar in the 30s noticed that atmospheric CO2 appeared to be increasing, along with global temperature and he proposed his atmospheric ‘Callendar Effect’ of modest warming which he considered would be beneficial to earth.”

    Callendar is now quoted as part of the “science is settled” trope. Zbigniew Jaworowski critiqued Callendar and his CO2 analyses in a Statement written for the US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation March 2004:

    “Climate Change: Incorrect information on pre-industrial CO2”,
    Statement of Prof. Zbigniew Jaworowski, Chairman, Scientific Council of Central Laboratory for Radiological Protection, Warsaw, Poland. https://www.john-daly.com/zjiceco2.htm

    A fuller examination of the claims regarding pre-industrial CO2 levels can be found here: http://folk.uio.no/tomvs/esef/Jaworowski%20CO2%20EIR%202007.pdf

    “…the founders of the anthropogenic global warming hypothesis (Callendar 1949, Callendar 1958, and Keeling 1986) selected only a tiny fraction of the data and doctored it, to select out the low concentrations and reject the high values—all in order to set a falsely low pre-industrial average CO2 concentration of 280 ppmv as the basis for all further climatic speculations. This manipulation has been discussed several times since the 1950s (Fonselius et al. 1956, Jaworowski et al. 1992b, and Slocum 1955)

    The Fonselius paper can be found here:
    https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1111/j.2153-3490.1956.tb01208.x
    It discusses Callendar, who ignored a whole raft of measurements that didn’t fit his theory:

    This 1956 paper also shows that CO2 is not the same everywhere at all times. “During 1955 Finland had a much higher CO2 mean value than the other countries” (Scandinavia). Finland showed levels of 350 ppm, a figure not arrived at in the Mauna Loa figures until 1988. This fits with the temperature manipulations, which need earlier periods to be cooled to show warming. Earlier CO2 figures needed to be toned down to link increases with fossil fuel consumption.

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  39. There you go Jaime, a reasonable, well constructed and definitely non-ranting argument for your point of view, a view that I really cannot disagree entirely. A world away from that which I commented upon earlier.

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  40. One of the things clearly going on is a concerted effort to break the nation states of the West.
    The EU is part of that. According to Ron’s link in the post about the time of actual loss of sovereignty, the real problems started at the original start of EU membership.
    Add to that the evolution of the EU: imperial, using so called NGOs, getting big tech and media to censor opposition, and the conversion of the intellectual and political class into useful Sapoys.
    But this process is also far along in the USA.
    With cold war opponents and WW2 opponents it was clear who wanted what and who was behind what was happening.
    With this dismantling of the West much is not clear at all.
    Images of American Indians who had time to reconsider the actual value if the beads and trinkets they received for the lands they had come to mind.
    And an idea that Satan’s biggest trick is to get people to believe that he doesn’t exist.
    My heart breaks for the West.

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  41. Jaime, Alan:

    On the poliitcs…..The current situation is summed up for me by this statement from Plaid Cymru:
    “Boris is broken. We have an opportunity to bring down Boris, to break Boris, and to bring down Brexit – and we must take that”.

    The Parliamentarians currently in collusion to bring down a sitting Prime Minister have become a mob. They are pushing through hasty legislation, (it has been said, in consultation with Commission lawyers), without debate or thought for the consequences for the future of the country. (Parliament as a whole has done that with energy and climate legislation).

    Plaid Cymru and the Liberal-Democrats, (they are neither of those things), profess to be defending democracy whilst blatantly stating they wish to cancel Brexit, the result of a democratic vote, which in Wales produced a larger majority against the EU than elsewhere.

    The devolved administrations believe that they can continue to receive regional development money via Brussels, (not really from Brussels, our own money re-cycled). However, that particular fountain will likely dry up as more needy cases exist, with recipients from poorer countries, due to EU enlargement, getting to the head of the queue.

    The Welsh population in particular has not welcomed the posh buildings, vanity projects, unused cycle lanes and “pavements to nowhere” in the countryside, resulting from EU “make work” grants and these gifts were rejected in the Referendum.

    Meanwhile the EU is preparing for “No Deal”, according to Politico, 3rd Sept.:

    “No deal is becoming the EU’s default expectation. Or in diplomatic language, “continued uncertainty” in the U.K. regarding the ratification of the Withdrawal Agreement makes a no-deal scenario on November 1st a possible, although undesirable, outcome,” the official said.

    What to expect Wednesday: The Commission will publish a checklist to help companies make final preparations. Plus, it will propose using two instruments of the EU budget — the European Solidarity Fund and the European Globalization Adjustment Fund — to mitigate the impact of no deal, to support companies and their employees most affected.

    Budgetary risks: The Commission will also propose mirroring “for the year 2020 the existing 2019 contingency arrangements for the fisheries sector and with regard to the potential participation of the United Kingdom in the EU budget for 2020.” Translation: Brussels is preparing for cuts to the 2020 EU budget and extra contributions by EU countries.

    What does that mean? Budget Commissioner Günther Oettinger has said in the past that half of the missing U.K. contributions to the EU budget will be absorbed by cuts and the other half by additional contributions from the 27 other countries’ purses — the latter amounting to almost €11 billion for next year.”

    Now, I think that puts a different perspective on the “Red Bus” claim. Even Dominic Cummings thinks the £350M was gross rather than net, a figure which amounts to £18.2 billion a year, not quite as much as the amount that the EU is budgeting to lose from the UK.

    If it were £22 billion, (almost) on the basis of the Politico report, then we get a weekly figure of £423M a week, a totally different kettle of fish. For that sort of money they should at least be our own fish.

    Liked by 1 person

  42. Alan, you castigated Jaime for calling the MPs who voted to break the law and refuse to carry out the Brexit vote, names.
    I may have missed it, but did you also castigate those who delegitimized the majority of British people who voted to exit the EU by calling them racists, ignorant, etc.?
    There is similar experience in the US, where those who feel free to call names, and even violence, against the President and his supporters are often the first to cry foul if those they are attacking, or silently supporting attacks on, dare to complain much less return the favor.

    Liked by 1 person

  43. Whatever is the motivation of those leading and supporting the rebellion, they shouldn’t be allowed to get away with claiming that they are “supporting democracy”, much less Britain.
    They are effectively Sepoys tripping over themselves to silence the pesky locals and support the Imperialists.

    Liked by 1 person

  44. Back to Climate and CO2 and Brexit.

    The climate issue is a part of the Brexit jigsaw, because one of the reasons for opposition to Brexit, is the possibility that, at some time in the future, in a galaxy far away, common sense may prevail and we would walk away from energy self-flagellation and return to a more pragmatic and realistic energy policy.

    That can obviously not happen whilst we are caught in the entrails of the EU/UN wealth re-distribution sustainability agenda via climate change/global warming/climate weirding/global heating or whatever the phrase du jour happens to be. Hunterston7, I share your concerns.

    We must remain and continue our long running, well developed and critical contributions to the end result of global environmental governance via the UN, with the imposition of global “carbon” taxation consequent upon a ratification of the Paris Agreement.

    Kyoto was an “Accord” when approved in 1997, it didn’t become a legally binding Protocol until 2005, when Russia was bribed to sign up, with WTO blandishments from the EU. Russia now gets to count its massive forests as “carbon credits”, their emissions continue to increase. Paris is currently an “Agreement”, the UN seeks a Paris “Protocol”, hence XR, Greta, SR15 etc, etc. I can’t wait for the 2020 COP to be held by the UK jointly with Italy, no doubt the Pope will get involved, to provide suitable moral authority..

    I digress. I have just stumbled on a paper by Charles Keeling from 1995, seeking to explain why the rate of CO2 increase declined after 1988, just when the aforementioned global warming etc was supposed to have gone into overdrive because of said increasing levels of CO2. It’s pay-walled so I quote from the abstract. https://www.nature.com/articles/375666a0

    “OBSERVATIONS of atmospheric CO2 concentrations at Mauna Loa, Hawaii, and at the South Pole over the past four decades show an approximate proportionality between the rising atmospheric concentrations and industrial CO2 emissions.”

    Approximate is correct, they are not in lockstep. See Munshi: DECADAL FOSSIL FUEL EMISSIONS
    AND DECADAL WARMING: JAMAL MUNSHI

    ABSTRACT: “Detrended correlation analysis of mean decadal fossil fuel emissions and mean decadal warming rates in the sample period 1850-2014 at lags of 0, 5, 10, and 15 years shows no evidence that the two series are causally related at a decadal frequency. Further tests at different lengths of the moving window also failed to detect a correlation between the two detrended time series. These findings are inconsistent with the claim that changes in fossil fuel emissions have a measurable effect on warming at a frequency response in the range of one or two decades.”

    Charles Keeling again: “This proportionality, which is most apparent during the first 20 years of the records, was disturbed in the 1980s by a disproportionately high rate of rise of atmospheric CO2, followed after 1988 by a pronounced slowing down of the growth rate.”

    I remember a TV programme from a while back called Bang Goes the Theory, I think the title applies here. However, worry not, the apparent contradictions can be explained:

    Keeling: “We propose that the recent disproportionate rise and fall in CO2 growth rate were caused mainly by interannual variations in global air temperature (which altered both the terrestrial biospheric and the oceanic carbon sinks), and possibly also by precipitation.

    We suggest that the anomalous climate-induced rise in CO2 was partially masked by a slowing down in the growth rate of fossil-fuel combustion, and that the latter then exaggerated the subsequent climate-induced fall.”

    “interannual variations in global air temperature”? Subsequent climate-induced fall? How can that be? We know that all temperature rise is solely due to anthropogenic CO2, the science is settled. A better example of circular reasoning would be hard to find.

    As it happened, annual rate of increase at Mauna Loa accelerated again from 2012 to 2017, with a big jump in 2016, an El Nino year, at a time of static if not falling temperatures, The Pause and all that. Last year, the increase was back down to almost half of 2016. There would appear to be a casual but not causal relationship between CO2 and temperature, but hey, Zero Carbon by 2050, bring it on!

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  45. Hunterson7.
    “Alan, you castigated Jaime for calling the MPs who voted to break the law and refuse to carry out the Brexit vote, names.”

    I don’t think I did. I found it incongruous that Jamie was calling out more than half of UK MPs as being traitors and the like, when they constitute the majority in Parliament. I also find it incongruous that my critics here are perfectly willing to accept a majority in a referendum vote and push it foreword regardless of any damage it might cause, but are seemingly unwilling to accept majorities determined by parliamentary votes, that might mitigate such damage. Such attempts are howled down as “going against the will of the people” (or more accurately “against the will of the majority (in 2016)”) and any projected damage is dismissed and put down to Project Fearmongering.

    As to whether I “castigated” others for calling Leavers names, I don’t believe I (nor Jaime) were discussing them. Have I ever supported those people? I cannot recall ever doing so.

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  46. Dennisambler whenever I read about human CO2 emissions and temperature trends, I am reminded of that other great linkage aerosols and global dimming. So full of promise but ultimately abandoned as not causing sufficient alarm.

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  47. Alan, you are no fool and you must surely realise that the Benn bill is not about mitigating the effects of a no deal Brexit. It is about stopping Brexit, because what it does is tie the government’s hands by removing the threat of the UK being able to walk away from the negotiating table – an absolute necessity in any negotiations. It therefore removes any incentive for the EU to offer any improvement on the truly, shockingly awful Withdrawal Agreement, aka Surrender Treaty (crushingly rejected by Parliament on three occasions), thereby effectively ensuring that the only possible way forward out of the current paralysis is to revoke Article 50 and for the UK to remain as a member of the EU – which is what the majority of MPs have wanted all along, in defiance of the wishes of the electorate. A much better deal could have been negotiated by a competent leave supporting PM from the word go, and we’d have probably left by now, but we got lumbered with remain supporting May and this is the result – wholly intentional and planned I believe. The British people have been betrayed and cheated by their own elected MPs and by May’s government (in collaboration with the EU I might add) who have shown ruthless determination to overturn the result of the biggest democratic vote this country has ever had. Yet they have the gall to turn around and say they are standing up for democracy against ‘dictator Boris’ and are only acting in the national interest. A majority of voters are seething at this betrayal, seething at the blocking by MPs (who were all for a ‘people’s vote’ when that meant telling the electorate to vote in a second referendum) of a general election where THEY can decide whether they wish to risk no deal, which is now realistically the only option left to honour the result of the EU ref.

    Liked by 1 person

  48. Alan, my response came across more personal than intended and possibly distracted from the point I am hoping to have addressed:
    That Brexit was a national binding referendum and was to be an executed law.
    That if the tables had been reversed, that Brexit had failed but Parliament was openly flouting the outcome to force through a Brexit, that the same people supporting the outright dismissal of the reality would be in Court, the streets and on air calling out the Parliament and their supporters for dereliction, rebellion and treason.
    All in all, I think the Brexit majority has so far tolerated the abuse, insults and arrogant disregard rather well.
    Just because the UK Parliament is acting like Vichy France doesn’t mean that the British people should not be a bit unhappy and shrug it off since it is a Parliamentary law..

    Liked by 1 person

  49. Dennis Ambler, thank you for today’s comments (especially with regard to Brexit), with which I wholeheartedly agree.

    Alan/Jaime/Hunterson 7, these are strange times, but I think Jaime has it right that Brexit is now the great divide – it will take decades to heal the rift, at best, IMO. It is also my belief that the remainer establishment has made the divide worse than it needed to be, by berating leavers as racist/xenophobe/ignorant/duped by a slogan on a bus/not understanding what they were voting for (delete – or not – as appropriate), then concluding that the vote can therefore be ignored.

    I have no doubt that remainer politicians are keener on a second referendum than on a general election for the simple reason that if a second referendum (rigged though it would be in terms of the question it asks) went against them, they could and would ignore that result as well – the Illiberal Undemocrat leader Jo Swinson (and others) have already said as much. A general election result, on the other hand, can’t be ignored, and could well produce a massively Brexit House of Commons (given that over 60% of the constituencies in the UK voted for Brexit, while remain votes piled up in a smaller number of constituencies).

    Like Alan, I regard myself as on the left of politics, and am puzzled that two issues I care strongly about (Brexit and climate alarmism) are issues that see me metaphorically in bed with people from the other side of the age-old political divide. I am equally puzzled, however, at the likes of the Guardian, once my daily newspaper, but which I now barely recognise, given the unthinking and unreasoning screaming anti-Brexit, climate alarmist agenda that spews from it every day. The Labour Party, for which I campaigned and worked for years as a ward secretary, is now anathema to me, under its current leadership (and the three leaders before that, now I stop to think about it). There is a respectable left-wing case (with which I agree) for Brexit, and I can’t understand why the left has now largely given up that argument and joined hands with the global capitalists.

    Politics has changed as society is changing, and the divisions are, as Jaime astutely observed, now in a different place. Those divisions see me waving goodbye to my old comrades in arms, and shaking hands with people to whom I used to be in political opposition (badly constructed sentence, but I trust you know what I mean). I’m still struggling to get used to it all, but at least sites like this feel like home.

    Liked by 4 people

  50. I think another source of annoyance that only reminds people of bad faith and cowardice was the refusal to allow a general election.
    If the remainders who have the run of Parliament had the guts to stand up and make their case to the voters, then there might be more respect for their efforts. Instead they hope to in effect use a Parliament that has rejected it’s Brexit legal obligation and use contrived powers to once again poke the majority of the British people in the eye, while in effect laughing at them for being upset.

    Liked by 1 person

  51. This is the sort of thing I should have pulled out from the blog if I’d taken the time to do a proper article. It’s on p113 of:
    https://dominiccummings.files.wordpress.com/2013/11/20130825-some-thoughts-on-education-and-political-priorities-version-2-final.pdf

    I will not go into any details of the ‘global warming’ debate. There has undoubtedly been hype and dishonesty from many people exaggerating the precision of our knowledge and distorting science for various purposes (anti-market political motives, funding and so on). Obviously, detailed predictions of the same kind as particle physics are impossible. Many policies implemented, and spending decisions taken,‘because of global warming’ (or for cynical PR reasons) are stupid, counterproductive, and a waste of money. However, this does not mean that the overall scientific consensus can or should be ignored as many argue.

    The basic physics of ‘greenhouse gases’ is not controversial among physicists… There is a widespread consensus among scientists that the planet is warming, that human activity which increases greenhouse gases is the main reason, and that a ‘business as usual’ approach would mean rises in CO2 levels that would bring temperature rises of a scale that may have significant effects – some good but mainly damaging. How bad those effects may be and the probability of very bad case scenarios are impossible to answer with precision and model predictions regularly change (cf. the interesting chapter on climate modelling in Nate Silver’s ‘The Signal and The Noise’).What we do about it is very controversial and is not something that science alone can answer but given the scale of possible problems the issue obviously cannot be ignored. Unfortunately, many on the Left want to use the issue to attack markets, many on the Right indulge an anti-scientific attitude (the fact the BBC exaggerates / distorts does not mean the issue can be ignored), many on all sides of politics use the issue to signal ‘values’, and some scientists have unwisely sacrificed long-term credibility for short-term impact.

    Professor Robert Muller (Berkeley), an expert on climate change and main author of one of the recent studies of global temperatures, concludes:
    ‘Virtually none of the publicly proposed solutions to the danger of increased carbon dioxide, if implemented, have any realistic chance of working. “Setting an example” fails if the example is one that the developing world can’t afford to follow. Perhaps the only workable solution is to encourage coal-to-shale-gas conversion in the developing world by vigorous sharing of US know-how.’

    [emphasis in the original]

    It shows an acceptance of the “consensus” but a keen awareness of the problems of understanding, interpretation and application.

    Liked by 2 people

  52. …Still, I can’t resist sticking milking the Brexit story with the rest of you. Here’s what Wiki has to say about one of those decent, hardworking, loyal Tories sacked, crushed and destroyed by the fanatical Johnson under orders from the sinister Cummings:

    Before he entered parliament he was Equerry to his Highness the Prince of Wales. When Diana first accused the Prince of Wales of  adultery, Soames told the BBC that the accusation stemmed merely from Diana’s mental illness, and “the advanced stages of paranoia.” He denied threatening Diana, and warning her “accidents happen” in the months before she died. Soames was opposed to Brexit and compared Brexiteers to ‘a growling Alsatian that must be kicked really hard in the balls.’

    Soames has been named as the ‘most sexist’ MP, with several female MPs stating that he has made vulgar comments to them. In other accusations of sexual harassment, it has been alleged that Soames makes repeated cupping gestures with his hands, suggestive of female breasts, when women are trying to speak in parliament, in order to distract them. On 31 January 2017, Soames made ‘woofing’ noises at Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh when she was asking the foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, a question in the House of Commons.

    Gosh. He’ll be missed.

    Liked by 2 people

  53. Good God, Soames sounds positively odious, the very epitome of English upper crust privileged obnoxious oaf, with all the negative impressions that conjures up and a complete absence of the stiff upper lip type straightforward decency of his illustrious grandfather, Winston Churchill, who it is alleged told the 5 year old Soames to “bugger off” when he inquired at his bedside whether he was indeed the greatest man in the world – after first having affirmed that this was true. Now Boris has told him to bugger off too. Also, what is it about Europhile No Nation Tories and Alsations? Soames wants to kick them in the balls and Michael ‘Tarzan’ Heseltine apparently went further and strangled his mother’s German Shepherd to death with its lead because it growled at him. Would love to introduce him to Mason, a Romanian immigrant who has no balls but who sure makes up for that deficit with a fine set of big teeth and an attitude to men he doesn’t like.

    Liked by 1 person

  54. Jaime
    “the Benn bill is ….about stopping Brexit, because what it does is tie the government’s hands by removing the threat of the UK being able to walk away from the negotiating table – an absolute necessity in any negotiations.”
    The problem with that spin is that there are no negotiations.

    The distinction between negotiations and discussions is ably discussed by Richard North today at http://www.eureferendum.com.

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  55. Yes Alan, I used the word ill-advisedly in its more informal, rather than literal sense. I think everybody is aware that no formal round of re-negotiations of the WA has been opened up with the EU and in that sense Rudd’s assertion that there is ‘no evidence of a deal’ and that ‘no formal negotiations are taking place’ is a statement of the bleeding obvious. She seems rather good at that, telling the media that she requested of Downing St a summary of what was being done to get a deal then complained when she was given a one page summary! The absence of formal negotiations does not mean that, on October 17th the EU, faced with the prospect of no deal, would not suddenly offer the UK considerably better terms of departure than it has so far. Who knows, Barnier’s Canada +++ might suddenly be pulled from the back drawer and dusted off. Taking the threat of no deal off the table stymies any incentive for the EU to offer anything better than May’s odious WA. Benn’s bill does not facilitate us leaving on better terms, it facilitates the stopping of leaving on any terms.

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  56. Jaime I am not really concerned if you used the term incorrectly. What concerns me is the misleading bluster that our prime minister constantly utters claiming that we will Brexit with a favourable deal when no moves are being made to that end.
    If you believe an acceptable deal will be offered by the EU (acceptable to the current parliament or to France) at the last possible moment, I have a bridge going cheap to sell to you.

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  57. Mark Hodgson, thank you.

    As it happens, I also come from a “left wing” background. My father was a Labour councillor and we were brought up with the Daily Worker and the Daily Herald, which sadly disappeared into the Sun.. He would be desperately unhappy with the state of the Labour Party today, brought about by the Blair Years.

    I equally find allegiance with people I never thought I would. Alan, I read Richard North on a daily basis. For chapter and verse on the EU he has no equal, but I think we have gone beyond the fine print, we now need leave to be enacted and negotiations will follow as they must. My earlier comment on their budget preparations shows how much of an impact our leaving will have, which has been greatly played down to date. We have so far been negotiating as supplicants rather than equals, almost apologetic for wishing to leave.

    The cracks within the EU are being papered over and the recent handing out of the plum jobs has been an exercise in factionist wheeling and dealing. UK citizens have no inkling of what goes on because it isn’t reported. They also have no say in any of these appointments. This is why I also visit Politico EU Playbook on a daily basis. It is quite illuminating.

    I also visit John Redwood’s blog. http://johnredwoodsdiary.com. He is asking today for Remainers to tell him why they think it is of benefit to us to stay in the EU:

    “For those passionate Remainers who write in here I am offering them a chance today to write about their favourite subject, why we should stay in the EU. Here are some possible futures of the EU. Which did they have in mind when they voted to keep the UK in membership?”

    So far he has no respondents. Perhaps Alan, you could be the first.

    Liked by 1 person

  58. This is four days old. I’m surprised we haven’t seen it discussed anywhere
    https://ukconstitutionallaw.org/2019/09/05/michael-detmold-the-proper-denial-of-royal-assent/
    It’s complicated, but the conclusion is clear:

    A distinctive aspect of the Queen’s constitutional duty is for her to act only on advice.  In that way she avoids compromising her constitutional status by the possession of a personal opinion.  There is no sense ever in which the legislature advises the Queen. The advice of the executive is the foundation of her constitutional status.

    Will the Queen (can she) follow the Prime Ministerial advice and refuse assent to the Brexit repeal statute?  It is said […] that the principle of Parliamentary democracy (in its legislative mode) should prevail over her prerogative power to act on the advice of her Government.  But this is wrong on two grounds.  First, it is a democratic Government (as democratic as the legislature) that is offering the advice.[…]

    Suppose the Queen does refuse assent to a Brexit repeal or extension.  Pre-2011, her clear course would have been to require an election – shifting the issue to the people.  She would accept the Prime Minister’s advice and refuse assent to the bill on condition that he takes the issue to an election.  Simple?  No.  Under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 that solution is not available; neither she nor the Prime Minister has the power to bring an election about.  So she must act, and this can only be on advice.

    She is a constitutional monarch with no opinion of her own on Brexit, and if advised by her Prime Minister to refuse assent, she must do so.   She also has advice to the same effect from the people.[…] as advice from her people to their fiduciary Queen, the referendum was unambiguous.  It didn’t change the law in any legislative sense; but it did give a definite content to the sovereign Parliament’s duty to its people – and in particular to the acting part of the sovereignty, the executive power.

    A Prime Minister advising the Queen to refuse assent to a bill is acting in a way appropriate to his office in the sovereign Parliament – acting legitimately no less than the legislators of the two Houses are doing.  Such a thing is rare, but proper.  Only the fallacious idea that the legislature is itself the Parliament, gives pause here.

    Liked by 1 person

  59. Here is one of the money quotes from Ron Clutz’s post:
    ” Brexit was not an “outburst” or a cry of despair or a message to the European Commission. It was an eviction notice. It was an explicit withdrawal of the legal sanction under which Brussels had governed Europe’s most important country. If it is really Britain’s wish to see its old constitutional arrangements restored, then this notice is open to emendation and reconsideration. But as things stand now, the Leave vote made E.U. rule over the U.K. illegitimate. Not illegitimate only when Brussels has been given one last chance to talk Britain out of it, but illegitimate now. What Britons voted for in 2016 was to leave the European Union—not to ask permission to leave the European Union. ”
    https://rclutz.wordpress.com/2019/09/05/update-eu-deep-state-vs-brexit/

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  60. One of the questions about that seem never to be asked about Brexit is “Why now?”

    No one seems to be able to give a plausible answer to this, but here is a remarkable coincidence which may help to explain it:

    Why would this be important? well to put it simply, most of the world’s tax havens are run from the City of London. Since the City, and the politico’s within its orbit, are almost completely self-serving organising a Putsch to remove the country from an institution which seems bent on curtailing its power to fleece the world would be entirely logical.

    As for democracy, I think I’m with Gandhi on this; when asked by a reporter what he thought of British democracy, he replied “Altogether, I think it would be good thing”

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  61. Dennisambler. Thanks for the suggestion to immolate myself in the Redwood furnace and be swamped by rabid brexiteers (I have more than sufficient for my foreseeable needs at Bishop Hill and here). I have, over the past three years, explained why I voted as I did, and patiently explained how I have come to terms with the result. If we ever have another referendum (which I very much doubt) I’ll get my fire poker out, but until then I’ll restrict myself to criticizing the empty boasts and outright lies of our unelected prime minister and the perilous state of our body politic. I cannot vote for Corbyn or Bojo on principle, I believe the result of the referendum should be honoured (excepting another) so cannot now vote for the LibDems. Greens and the Brexit Party are beyond the Pale, which I suppose leaves the Raving Monster Loony Party. They are looking better each day.

    Liked by 1 person

  62. On Dominic Cummings: This is a couple of years old, but very interesting I thought. A tad self-serving perhaps, but he doesn’t come over as the monster that most media sources make him out to be:

    On a PM advising a sovereign not to give royal assent:

    https://ukconstitutionallaw.org/2019/09/05/michael-detmold-the-proper-denial-of-royal-assent/

    QUOTE: “A Prime Minister advising the Queen to refuse assent to a bill is acting in a way appropriate to his office in the sovereign Parliament – acting legitimately no less than the legislators of the two Houses are doing. Such a thing is rare, but proper. Only the fallacious idea that the legislature is itself the Parliament, gives pause here.”

    I have read or heard recently that several modern PMs have done this (including Tony Blair), but I cannot now find an online confirmation of this.

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  63. > …the empty boasts and outright lies of our unelected prime minister…

    Alan, you seem confused. We don’t vote for PMs in the UK.

    How anyone can approve of the present actions within parliament
    is beyond me. It seems totally absurd that a bill can be passed into
    law which ties the hands of the prime minister and gives the EU carte
    blanche in setting any withdrawal date.

    I’m also sick to death of hearing the argument that we’re a representative
    democracy. Ordinarily I’d fully support Burke’s view that MPs are entitled
    to act according to their own conscience. However, they abdicated this
    responsibility when they voted to pass the bill which referred the question
    to the people – and then voted again to pass the necessary legislation
    to enable Brexit. The whole thing is an embarrassing farce.

    And this is from a remainer…

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  64. Jona. Sorry but it is you that are confused. What was confusing about my comment concerning the unelected status of our current poor excuse for a prime minister? He wasn’t really elected prime minister was he ? By a few thousand with vested interests perhaps. Not very democratic though? Yet our systeem allows such a liar and self promoter to plough through one of our main political parties, creating mayhem.
    Our prime ministers weld significant power over us and the government (but not, as we have discovered, always over parliament), yet as Jona reminds us, they are not elected by the people. Boris, himself has no people’s mandate, nor does his government. Yet in his hands resides one of the most important decisions in more than a half century and he has callously cleared out his Tory opposition, in the process weakening his government even further. Oh Brexit, what a destructive path you leave.

    Yet brexiteers en-mass scream and shout about non-democratic EU officials not being elected as if they differ from unelected prime ministers and the similarly unelected ministers put in place by the unelected. . I will never understand the rational of democratic politics this side of the pond. And as for inherited voting seats in the House of Lords!! We should have been perfectly in tune with EU practices.

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  65. Alan, after chastising me for ranting, I think you are doing the same now and not making that much sense in the process.

    “He wasn’t really elected prime minister was he ? By a few thousand with vested interests perhaps. Not very democratic though? Yet our systeem allows such a liar and self promoter to plough through one of our main political parties, creating mayhem.”

    Neither was Mrs May in the first instance and when she was re-elected as PM it was with a catastrophically reduced majority and she went on to ignore the Brexit mandate on which she was elected, lying hundreds of times in the process to parliament, her own cabinet and the people of the UK. Boris was elected leader by a comfortable majority of his own MPs and a large majority of party members. And if you’re talking about mayhem, it’s Theresa former PM’s second name: Theresa Mayhem she’s called, so named for the insufferable mess she has left the country in!

    “Boris, himself has no people’s mandate, nor does his government.”

    Oh, but he does. He has the mandate of 17.4 million people who voted Leave in the EU referendum. He has the mandate of the people who voted Conservative in the 2017 GE, who were promised that the UK would be leaving the Customs Union and Single Market and that leaving the EU without a deal is better than a bad deal and he also has the mandate of parliament who voted overwhelmingly to let the people decide whether to Leave or Remain, who overwhelmingly voted to trigger Article 50 and who voted initially AGAINST a meaningful vote on the final Brexit deal in order to pass the original EU Withdrawal Act into law, only later quickly ramming another two laws through the House when they realised that their plans to obstruct Brexit were not working out too well. Boris and his government have stated they intend to take the UK out of the EU on 31st October without further delay, with or without an agreement. He could hardly have a stronger, more overwhelmingly democratic mandate to do what he has promised. It’s absurd to argue otherwise. He is also absolutely correct to expel those MPs who have voted with the opposition to bring his government down and stop Brexit.

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  66. Alan, we (the general public) do not vote for, thus do not elect,
    prime minsters. I thought that was fairly uncontroversial.

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  67. Odd how people can convince themselves that black is white in British politics, but I know I’m pushing against the stream, with little hope of convincing anyone here, to my opinion. So why bother? “But whether or not it is clear to us, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.”

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  68. Irreconcilable views Alan. Perhaps we should all go placidly amid the noise and haste,
    and remember what peace there may be in silence on this infernal Brexit business. Even with all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.

    Liked by 2 people

  69. billambler,
    What a strange Putsch
    -it won in a popular heavily contested referendum to be the law
    -it is only now because remainders have moved to block the exit at every opportunity to date
    -the remainder minority refuses to abide by the law and insists on breaking their word to accept the election.
    If there is a Putsch, it will be the first where the lawful majority is the perpetrator.

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  70. Wow the remained are pushing for civil war.
    The mask slips and it ain’t pretty.

    Like

  71. @Hunterson& said:
    “Here is one of the money quotes from Ron Clutz’s post:
    ” Brexit was not an “outburst” or a cry of despair or a message to the European Commission. It was an eviction notice. ”

    What a load of dingos kidneys.

    If anything it was a sign of disgust at an incompetent government that had cost everyone in Britain around £10,000 in lost opportunities since they were elected. And the sad irony of it all is that governments since the referendum have proved themselves even more incompetent than the ones before.

    Like

  72. @Hunterson7 said:
    >What a strange Putsch
    >-it won in a popular heavily contested referendum to be the law

    Wrong
    Referendums are only ever advisory. Also, it was set up by an incompetent PM, who didn’t bother to define what “Brexit” was supposed to mean.

    >-it is only now because remainders have moved to block the exit at every opportunity to date

    Wrong again

    It has been the Brexiteers who have consistently voted against the exit agreement without showing the slightest clue that they knew what to put in its place. Even now, six weeks before we are supposed to leave, the PM doesn’t act as if he knows what the question is, never mind the answers.

    >-the remainder minority refuses to abide by the law and insists on breaking their word to accept the election.

    Given that all trade with the Continent is due to stop at midnight on October 31st, that the country is not self-sufficient in food or medicines, and that the police and army are understrength, bending the law to try to prevent a possible catastrophe seems the least any politician could do.

    Like

  73. @Hunterson7 said:
    “Wow the remained are pushing for civil war.”

    I’ll give it 6-12 months after the customs posts go up in Northern Ireland before the shooting starts. And remember it is the Brexiteers who think we can live without the Good Friday Agreement.

    Like

  74. billbedford, to put it politely you are not well informed.
    The referendum was designed to be binding and anyone who has actually bothered to read the legislation would know it.
    The backers of Brexit, for anyone who is being honest, is clearly not the monied elites.
    Your ignoring/dismissal if the vote and ignoring the seditious campaign to detail Brexit, sort of says it all.

    Like

  75. billbedford and hunterson7

    The referendum was advisory only – that is a large part of the problem. It was drafted by remainers who didn’t think we’d vote to leave (especially as they rigged it by asking a question which said leave or remain – with remain carrying connotations of things staying the same, which they never would, as the EU is a continuing project; had taxes spent on a Government leaflet telling us why we should “remain”, so that leave was allowed to spend a lot less than remain; and had the great and the good queueing up to tell us why we would be mad to leave). Despite all that, they still hedged their bets by ensuring the referendum result was not mandatory (though I think we all know it would have been declared the final word on the subject had “remain” won).

    So, billbedford is right about the nature of the referendum. As for this, however:

    “Given that all trade with the Continent is due to stop at midnight on October 31st”

    Absolute tosh! There might be new customs controls and some new duties in place (or there might not) but trade will go on as before – not least since the EU has a massive trade surplus with the UK, and it doesn’t want to lose out financially any more than it has to.

    What is this? Project Fear 4.0?

    Like

  76. Mark are you sure that referenda are only advisory? I thought that it was agreed that one of them, on changing the electoral system to an alternative vote system, was to become binding on the government had the vote been to change the law. Was there no legal obligation on our current government re Brexit?

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  77. Alan, it depends on the individual referendum, since we don’t have an all-embracing Referendums Act to set the ground rules.

    In this case, the EU referendum took place under the auspices of the European Union Referendum Act 2015, which can be found here:

    https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2015/36/contents/enacted

    There is nothing in the 2015 Act that makes the result of the referendum binding on Parliament, so Parliament is entitled to ignore the result.

    I think the mistrust of Parliament isn’t because MPs broke the law (as set out in the 2015 Act – they didn’t – but rather more because a number of senior politicians (on all sides) told us at the time of the referendum that its result would be implemented, and at the last election both Labour and Conservative candidates stood on a manifesto of promising to honour and implement the result. A manifesto pledge which many of them now seem to feel free to ignore.

    Like

  78. In purely legal terms, the referendum was techically advisory. There’s no next in the EU Ref Act which stipulates that the result of the vote should be legally binding. In terms of politics, however, it is very difficult to argue that the result of the referendum should not have been implemented. Parliament voted by a huge majority to give the people the choice of whether to Leave or Remain, Cameron and his government promised that the result would be implemented. For the people’s elected government and their elected representatives in Parliament to then turn round and say ‘Ha ha, we fooled you, we were just kidding, we’re not going to implement the result because you voted the wrong way’ is to invite anarchy and chaos. But all this is rather beside the point I feel because the result of the referendum was accepted by the government and Parliament who passed laws enabling it to be implemented. Only now, at the 59th minute of the 11th hour, they have blatantly decided to try and reverse the result, no longer afraid of what the people might think of them, but afraid enough not to vote for a general election until their dirty deed is done.

    And finally, if there was any doubt that May is a Westminster swamp denizen, one need only look at her honours list. A knighthood FFS for Oily Robbins, the chief British architect of her despised and failed WA, who is now going to improve on his ill-gotten gains with a cushy job at Goldman-Sachs as Sir Oily Robbins. Also, a crossbench peerage for Sir Kim Darroch, former US ambassador who resigned over his publicised insults of the incumbent US president. Parliament and the Lords are rotten to the core.

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-49639222

    Liked by 2 people

  79. Mark
    “The wise man can change his mind; the stubborn one, never.”
    Immanuel Kant

    I would wish to be represented in Parliament by a wise man (or woman) rather than a stubborn one. All too often, however, there is no real choice. When someone like Johnson is parachuted into power and empowered to decide whether my Parliament sits or not, I feel particularly aggrieved.

    Like

  80. I think generally the government’s position is that the difference between referendums
    which are explicitly legally binding and those which are consultative is not very
    important – it’s a distinction without a difference. It’s difficult to envisage a government
    ignoring the result of a referendum – especially when the executive explicitly stated that
    the result would be implemented.

    As a remainer, I just want this to end. However, I’m appalled by what’s happened to
    the country over the last three and half years. For any democracy to work there has
    to be losers’s consent. Even prominent people (e.g. LD MPs) campaigning for a
    second referendum (or ‘People’s Vote’ for the simple minded) state categorically
    that they would not accept the result if it was Leave again. Democracy cannot
    function under those circumstances.

    All these predictions of mass starvation etc. very much remind me of Y2K. We should
    all remember that predicting things is hard, especially the future.

    Liked by 1 person

  81. Brexit is a virulent disease
    It infected Tories
    for decades
    While others feigned immunity
    Now contagion has spread
    Affecting all, far and wide
    Temperatures soar
    Reason departs
    Already the susceptible
    speak of civil unrest
    The EU waits to administer the killing blow
    To prevent infection spreading?
    Is their no antidote?

    Like

  82. Many thanks @MANICBEANCOUNTER for the info re: Tony Blair having advised the queen not to give royal assent to at least one bill. Well, the context for my having raised the issue has now changed of course. Boris did not advise the queen to refuse assent, and so assent was given, and here we are.

    In passing, I stayed up to watch all the debates on the Parliament channel on Monday night/Tuesday morning, and then watched the Proroguing, something I’d never seen before. Fascinating stuff, whatever one’s view of Brexit. And this was a very un-normal Proroguing, as most of the opposition staged a protest by refusing to go into the Lords, when summoned by Black Rod. Some of them even tried to prevent The Speaker, from getting out of his chair to leave the Commons chamber. Of course, Bercow was on their side really, but he did eventually go, with an obvious ill-will.

    It wasn’t shown on the Parliament channel (but has been seen on Twitter, and perhaps the BBC News channel), but the Opposition MPs in the Commons had a sing-song, with Labour singing “Jerusalem” and “The Red Flag” (wonder how many knew the words of that?), SNP singing “Scot’s Wha Hae”, and Plaid Cymru singing “Calon Lan” and “Cwm Rhondda”. I don’t agree with their viewpoint, but it does sound like fun.

    I’m not sure what the Lib Dems sang (any suggestions?).

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  83. Geoff, thanks, fascinating post. Yes of course there’s a close correlation between the three Derangement Syndromes – Trump, Brexit and Climate.

    I wasn’t aware of his blog. For someone who is allegedly a master manipulator of opinion, his social media presence seems to be very low-key, and, as you suggest, rather shambolic.

    The bit about the groupthink and inability of the supposedly intellectual chattering classes to engage in rational discussion and reasoning is spot-on.

    BBC politics have just published a very brief attempt to interview him.

    “What’s your next move?”

    “You guys should get out of London, go and talk to people who are not rich remainers.”

    Liked by 2 people

  84. Alan:

    “I would wish to be represented in Parliament by a wise man (or woman) rather than a stubborn one.”

    Absolutely – of course. How many of the 65M+ people in the UK are represented by a wise man or woman? Precious few, I suspect. I don’t believe that I am – my MP is Shadow Environment Secretary, and she seems to have no idea whether her constituency ever received the much-vaunted EU emergency funds we were promised after the last floods, nor does she seem to care. I’ve asked her twice if she can find out. On the first occasion she said she would look into it. On the second occasion she said she would chase it up. That was months ago, and I’ve heard nothing further.

    Translation – despite being Shadow Environment Secretary, pro-remain, and MP for a town that flooded, she was not sufficiently interested to know whether or not EU monies that had been promised to help the town back on its feet had been received. Second translation – my research assistant hasn’t done what I asked them to do, so I’ll give them a prod. Don’t ask me to do it, I’m too busy keeping the UK in the EU, and stopping a general election that I’ve spent the last 2 years demanding.

    Like

  85. I’m seeking enlightenment, not to argue or quarrel. In fact I promise to keep quiet for a decent amount of time. I believe any rational person could draw up two lists, one in favour of staying within the EU, the other of reasons to leave. For each person their ultimate vote in the referendum must have been based on the length of those lists and/or the relative importance of some of their contained items – self governance, immigration, economics and the like.
    What intrigues me is why the UK is different from other parts of the EU (or is it?). Why are we discontented with our lot within a much larger whole? Why are other countries – The Netherlands, Denmark, even Ireland – seemingly content with their lot and willing to be further absorbed? Those I know from those other countries (admittedly from a specific scientific elite) were little different from me and my kin.

    I’m not looking for jingoistic explanations (I already get enough of those) but for considered explanations. It might be our political history, but I doubt it (we really have been truly democratic for only a century), our geographic isolation as islands (but then how to explain Ireland, Malta or Spain – isolated by the Pyrenees?).
    What do you think? Why are we alone in trying to extract ourselves from a system that has clear undemocratic components? Do the benefits outweigh those negatives?

    Like

  86. Alan, thank you for a reasoned and measured post (I would expect no less!). You’re quite right that any reasonable person could draw up two lists of for and against both in respect of Brexit and of “remain”. I like to think that’s what I did, in my mind at least, before deciding that the pros in favour of Brexit outnumbered the antis, and vice versa for “remain”. I accept that reasonable people could quite easily preform the same task and come to the opposite conclusion.

    Like you, I have wondered why the UK, almost (but not entirely) uniquely, finds itself out of sorts with EU membership while, by and large the other members are more or less happy (to greater or lesser extents) to carry on. I think there are two main explanations.

    The first is cultural and based on experience. Our common law tradition is separate from the way in which the EU’s laws operate, and the EU’s laws and ways of legislating and adjudicating are different from ours (though Scotland’s legal system is not the same as the English one, and has more in common with the European model – that might explain in part why the Scots see things differently over the EU to the way the English & Welsh see things). A related point, inasmuch as it reflects culture/experience, is that mainland Europe was twice ravaged by war in the 20th century, occupied under the German jackboot, and peace at any price may seem more important to them. European co-operation, which is always a laudable aim, may be uppermost in European minds and less so in ours, especially as we have always looked over the oceans to the wider world more than to Europe.

    The second reason, I suspect, is down to hard financial issues. Pretty much every country in the EU enjoys financial benefits, other than the UK (and, to a lesser extent, France). The main contributors to EU budgets by and large enjoy massive trade surpluses with the rest of the EU – especially Germany and the Netherlands. Some countries have modest trade deficits with the rest of the EU, but benefit substantially from EU funds for infrastructure projects etc. Some lucky few enjoy both trade benefits and net EU funds. France is a major contributor to EU funds, while also having a substantial trade deficit with the rest of the EU. However, its deficit is not so large as ours (and it enjoys a big trade surplus with the UK), while its net contribution to EU budgets is smaller than the UK’s. From a financial point of view the UK’s financial position vis-a-vis the EU is truly awful – second largest net contributor to EU funds; biggest trade deficit by a country mile with the rest of the EU. Of course there are soft benefits from EU membership, and these must not be forgotten, but form a financial point of view, almost uniquely, the UK’s membership of the EU makes no sense at all. The same isn’t true for any other EU member, other than France. France has a large Euro-sceptic minority, seeking Frexit, which is perhaps reflective of that, but then France has been integral to the EU from the start, and despite its financial dis-benefits, the French are bound up with the EU in a way that the UK isn’t.

    That’s my take on it, for what it’s worth.

    Liked by 1 person

  87. Alan, to pick up your point on “our geographic isolation as islands (but then how to explain Ireland, Malta or Spain – isolated by the Pyrenees?).”

    Consider the 20thc history of Spain and Portugal, ruled by dictators, dirt poor and shunned by the international community. Getting accepted into the EEC meant lot for them and also enabled a massive bout of infrastructure spend. The Spain I journeyed around in the late 1970s and 80s, particularly inland, bears no resemblance to the present day even after the desperate hardships of the last 10 years.

    Ireland is a similar story – joining the EEC enabled them to throw off the yoke of the Catholic church and the total dependence upon a hated former invader.

    The Eastern bloc countries such as East Germany, Poland, Baltic States, Hungary, Czech Rep and Slovakia emerged from the Warsaw Pact era with wrecked economies, massive poverty and isolation from the world outside the USSR. In a way, it prefigures their current existence in the EU, which is why there are stirrings of unrest in places such as Poland and Hungary. They didn’t receive such a massive infrastructure benefit as Spain and Portugal but instead got swallowed up in the immense maw of Western Germany. Under the USSR, industry was focused upon particular countries – so Lithuania provided dairy produce for the USSR, Latvia made the fridges and washing machines etc etc These items were not quite as good as the stuff made in the EU and, in the case of Lithuania, there was already enough dairy to create massive butter “mountains” etc. So the road for them has been tougher. They have been turning into the cheap labour resource of the EU, which is not a pleasant place to be, and effectively stops them from growing independent economies, which is already tough when you exist in the shadow of Germany. Tensions are building.

    Even in core countries such as Netherlands, there is a rumble of dissatisfaction about the monetary policy behind the Euro. They hark back to the days of the nice stable guilder, when they were a proud independent trading nation.

    In “deep” France this summer, I was surprised how many people would gather I was British and make cracks about “le Brexit” only to change their tune when I enquired about Macron and why they voted for him. Most of them agreed that it was only dislike of le Pen that motivated them and that they would like to escape the tentacles of Paris. If only….. They wished me well for the future rather than ridiculing me – which is contrary to the reported experiences of people who work for the Guardian and the BBC.

    Not that you get any of this in the British media nor in many British tracts about the EU

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  88. I tend to shy away from debates on the pros and cons of Brexit, largely because I was unable to resolve the issues at the time of the referendum, and I still cannot. Instead, I voted to remain for what I believed to be purely pragmatic reasons, i.e. I could not convince myself that there was a collective competence within parliament to execute an attempted departure without either failing completely or causing immeasurable damage in the process.

    Let me put it another way: During the EU referendum, in recognition of the popular importance attributed to sovereignty, Cummings came up with the slogan, “Let’s take back control”. After all, the mother of parliaments would do a much better job of representing the views and best interests of the great British people than would those faceless, unelected EU bureaucrats.

    Is there anyone else out there starting to see a flaw in that argument?

    Liked by 1 person

  89. @MAN IN A BARREL:

    I think you are right about Ireland and the EEC. However, their big mistake (perhaps difficult to foresee at the time) was joining the Eurozone. It’s possible that as a small country, they weren’t given the option, once the movement to the Euro got under way. The UK, being larger and more powerful (and with plenty of sceptics) could not be pushed around by what was then the EU, quite so much.

    I think Ireland didn’t think it through, and/or, were badly advised.

    They might have been ok had it not been for the Global Financial Crash. No one could see that coming….well, actually, wiser heads could see that, or something like that, coming. The lesson is never, ever, ever, give up your own currency, and certainly not to a more powerful body, or group.
    Currency union could probably work between two (or a very small number) of countries of similar power and resources. But still a terrific gamble. The Eurozone should have been confined to France, Germany, and the Benelux countries (who traditionally always worked close together, and closely with Germany).

    Like

  90. @John

    “Is there anyone else out there starting to see a flaw in that argument?”

    Yes. No doubt about that. I voted to leave, but soon became disillusioned by the antics in the Commons. It seemed that we do not deserve to “take back control”, & in fact if parliament was erased the instant the referendum result was announced, leaving us to be managed remotely by our European friends, the country would probably have got on a lot better over the past 3 and a third years. Put simply we have proven that we do not deserve independence.

    @Alan

    I think that we should have been “all in” or “all out” of the EU. As things stood at the time of the referendum, we were crossing a river with our feet on 2 different horses. I would have been happy with “all in” with e.g. greater democracy, massive cutbacks to EU empire building/bureacracy & a parliament that toured from country to country rather than bouncing between Brussels and Strasbourg. I saw only a growing monster, & naively thought perhaps we would be the first country of many to abandon the project, with maybe eventually a Europe of friendly cooperation between nations instead.

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  91. Jit,

    Yes, it seems ironic that the best chance of the British public getting what they voted for is for the EU to ‘take back control’ and call time on the whole fiasco. However, I fear the damage has already been done and, no matter what the final outcome, the UK will end up much worse off than it would have been had the referendum never taken place. And I say that as someone who has profound misgivings regarding the ‘European project’.

    Oh how I pine for the days when politicians only cared about their expenses account.

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  92. I think you have to consider that parliament has been a placeholder for many years now. They’re an atrophied muscle that’s suddenly being asked to take on some some serious actual work and the responsibility of carrying the rest of the body. Naturally, it will gripe, complain, and make its disagreement known. The prospect of being held directly accountable is probably terrifying to the current batch of complacent nitwits, it’s a responsibility most of them likely do not want to face, but with some exercise, there is no reason why it couldn’t become useful again.

    Like

  93. The merits and demerits of any stable long term governance could make long competing lists, and weighing them simply could be the equivalent of untying a Gordian knot.
    For some reason at this time I recalling some of Churchill’s insights.
    In particular how he cherished Britain.
    How he refused to compromise sovereignty no matter how bleak.
    And how he observed that democracy is the worst form of governance except for all the others.
    I am confident Churchill would include the EU Technocratic Imperium as part of “the others”.

    Like

  94. Man in a Barrel: ‘[Lithuanians] have been turning into the cheap labour resource of the EU’.

    Or one of them.

    And Lithuania’s population has been declining since the end of the Soviet Union.

    But yes, emigration is a problem for Lithuania. The proposed European Commissioner for Environment and Oceans, Virgis Sinkevicius, is currently an MP for the Lithuanian anti-emigration LVZS party. He’s quoted on emigration in this article from 2016, when his party was still known as the LGPU:

    https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/10/24/anti-emigration-party-storms-to-victory-in-lithuania/

    Population down 800k since 1990, 370k since 2004.

    *

    Sinkevicius is only 28 yet is a government minister – and soon he’ll probably be the youngest ever European Commissioner.

    Well done him.

    But what can such a young man with no obvious expertise in the environment or fisheries – or even any obvious interest in them – bring to his new role as head of DG ENV?

    Doesn’t matter. It’s all horse-trading. And the Commissioners are just faces. Their apparatchiks determine policy and propose all the legislation.

    *

    Speaking of random appointments to lead European Commission Directorates-General, we’re seeing the last days of Violeta Bulc’s reign as European Commissioner for Transport. Despite having no political experience whatsoever and being a believer in perpetual motion, astrology and (according to Wiki) necromancy, she was appointed to the role because Guy Verhofstadt backed her. Why? Horse-trading.

    *

    Mark Hodgson, I totally agree with your 1.53 pm comment. I’d have Liked it but I haven’t got a WordPress login and can’t find me Google.

    Liked by 2 people

  95. Thanks Vinny for that anecdotal titbit. Because the “fringe” continental nations – Baltics, Greece, Eastern bloc, Iberian peninsula – have suffered massively since 2008, youth unemployment is very high, and emigration is high. I understand that the “Polish plumbers” have been going home, but they are being replaced by Macedonian plumbers. They are even moving into Spain.

    So we have mega wealthy Germany, with its satellite nations cycling their youth around whichever economy looks like being solid enough to provide work.

    What’s the grand EU plan? Abolish borders. Let people work where the jobs are. This seems like a return to hunter – gatherer societies

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  96. The economist in me says, why worry? People are working.

    The inner anthropologist /(sociologist) wonders how that affects local cultures and mores. How well do honour- culture Latins and fear -culture Slavs mix, especially when mixed with guilt culture Brits?

    Even in a place as small as Malta, the cultural fractures are evident. How will Guy Verhofstadt constrain them?

    Liked by 1 person

  97. QUOTE:JOHN RIDGWAY says:
    10 Sep 19 at 6:12 pm

    […]

    Oh how I pine for the days when politicians only cared about their expenses account.
    End of Quote.————————————————————————————————

    LOL! Yes, indeed. They were just good old-fashioned honest crooks in those days, not like now.

    Like

  98. John, your referendum voting experience sounds very similar
    to mine (having zero confidence in any government being
    able to manage a vote to leave). I’ve been proven right
    beyond my wildest dreams!

    Like

  99. Parliament is unfit to govern. It is unfit to represent the electorate, most obviously. It serves mainly itself and the wider interests of the EU. Most MPs are not even aware of how to run a free, independent country where laws are made by Parliament, not in Brussels. They have become lazy, indulgent, arrogant and immature. This does not mean that they cannot be replaced and that we cannot once again have a representative Parliament and government in this country of which the people can be proud, running this country for the good of its people, not as puppets for unelected, undemocratic officials in Brussels. This is what many MPs in this country have become:

    This is what a British MP should be like:

    There are still a few left. Even they could do better and must, if the UK is once again to make a success of being an independent country. I’m optimistic that it can. There’s new blood out there, just waiting for the opportunity to rebuild this nation from the bottom up. The old guard who still remember what it was like to be independent can help them do just that.

    Liked by 1 person

  100. On Geoff Chambers’ question “Does Boris have a cunning plan to get himself out of the ditch he’s in?” (Sept 6th 9:19 pm) in regard to Parliament passing a law which requires him to request a further extension from the EU to avoid a no-deal exit, my guess at his cunning plan is that he won’t carry out the request and will attempt to use a ‘lawful excuse defence’.

    In the UK you haven’t broken a law until a jury says you have, and you are allowed to provide a noble higher purpose-type excuse for not complying with a law. Green activists (usually from Greenpeace) and also peace activists have successfully used this tactic in the past. An example would be the ‘Kingsnorth Six trial’ of six Greenpeace activists in 2008:

    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2008/sep/11/activists.kingsnorthclimatecamp

    In this incident Greenpeace attempted to carry out a stunt at the Kingsnorth coal-fired power station where they broke into the site and then climbed up a chimney to write a message presumably intended for the PM of the time, Gordon Brown. They only got as far as writing the word ‘Gordon’ on the chimney before they were arrested. At the subsequent trial they argued that they did not have to pay the £30K property damage incurred in the stunt because they were warning the world about climate change, and a jury acquitted them. The trial involved James Hansen, Zac Goldsmith (the Conservative party’s environmental adviser at the time) and an Inuit leader from Greenland being brought in as ‘expert witnesses’. The Guardian article gives a few further examples of acquittals of activists using the ‘lawful excuse defence’ at the bottom of the article.

    The excuses Boris would probably put forward for not complying with the law, that Parliament should not be trying to take over from the Government in international relations and that Parliament is trying to thwart the Referendum result, sound like better excuses to me than the ones Greenpeace have been getting away with for years.

    Liked by 2 people

  101. JAIME JESSOP says:
    10 Sep 19 at 8:38 am

    “Parliament voted by a huge majority to give the people the choice of whether to Leave or Remain, Cameron and his government promised that the result would be implemented. For the people’s elected government and their elected representatives in Parliament to then turn round and say ‘Ha ha, we fooled you, we were just kidding, we’re not going to implement the result because you voted the wrong way’ is to invite anarchy and chaos.”

    That is a fanciful description of what has happened. What actually happened, and you can check the MP’s voting lists if you like, is that after May produced her Final Agreement, Parlement split into three, more or less equally sized, factions ie:

    The Remainers

    Those that accepted Brexit, but understood that the Final Agreement was the start of negotiations.

    The Ultras who rejected the Final Agreement for not going far enough.

    Since the split was not even close to being along party lines we ended up with the first and third of the factions voted against the second, leading to the classic stalemate where a two-party system splits into three groups.

    Most of the commentaries I have read have blamed the present situation on ignorant bloody-minded recalcitrance on the part of the Ultras, but the more I read of Dominic Cummings’ blog the more I get the feeling that everything is going to plan, and that Brexit is not really the point of the exercise.

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  102. MiaB, my guilt-driven wallet and taste buds have been benefiting from fear-driven pickled gherkins since the mid-noughties, which was when local supermarkets introduced special Polish food sections to satisfy the cravings of our share of the 13,000 East European migrants (actually 750,000? a million?) that Tony Blair’s govt said would move to Britain in the first few years after the 2004 EU enlargement. Poles do love their pickled gherkins, which are tastier and a lot cheaper than ours – although initially the labels were wholly in Polish, so it was hard to tell whether your gherkins were going to be brine-pickled (fuj!) or vinegar-pickled (przepyszny!).

    In recent years, our Poles have been joined by Romanians and Lithuanians, so perhaps I can look forward to some cheap and tasty… [Googles] …pork and cabbage rolls and spicy potato dumplings.

    All the manual car washes hereabouts are apparently staffed by (illegal) Albanians but there aren’t very many of them – probably not enough for shame-driven spinach pies to start appearing on the shelves, anyway. Can’t say I’m very sorry.

    Liked by 2 people

  103. Mark thank you for your response. I do question if some of the reasons you suggested to explain why the UK demanded a referendum, why millions voted to leave by a narrow but definitive margin and why the issue continues to divide. Why are we in the UK so individual? Why, if conditions are so bad to drive us to Brexit, are other parts of the EU not up in arms?

    You suggest its could be our common law tradition being separate from the way in which the EU’s laws operate. Perhaps a partial answer, but is it sufficient to explain why more than 50% of the UK voting population voted the way they did? If I asked 100 people at random but who voted to leave why they did so, how many would know how our laws differed, let alone be excised enough to give this as a reason? I venture to suggest very few.

    Your second explanation was that for the rest of the EU prevention of war is more important because they had first-hand experience of a major, all consuming war and we didn’t. However, I don’t buy into this difference. Only 53 hamlets across the entire UK went through WWI without losing a man, and there are only 13 “Thankful Villages” that survived both world wars without loss. With the Blitz civilians in the UK did not escape . My grandparents lost a third of their children this way, the survivors never forgot it, and nor did we. When my son was a teenager and still living in Canada he visited the Canadian war cemetery in Normandy and became quite emotional upon seeing grave after grave of Canadian soldiers who had been the same age as he was when they died. He told me this influenced how he voted in the referendum. I don’t think he was atypical.

    You suggested that ” we have always looked over the oceans to the wider world more than to Europe”. But this ignores the fact that other countries also had major interests across the world, also building empires – France, Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, Spain. We are not so different.

    I do so hope your last reason is not correct – hard financial issues. Do we resent spreading some of our wealth with our fellow Europeans to bring all up to a common standard. Once again we deny our European-ness for isolationism.
    But I am still unsatisfied that we fully understand what drove us to attempt to “escape” our links to Europe. Major decisions like Brexit usually are difficult – people are wary of and fear change.

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  104. Alan, thank you for your response to my suggestions.

    You argue so plausibly that I find it difficult to rebut your rebuttal, except to say that whilst people may not be aware of differences at the conscious level (I’m sure you’re right that most people don’t have a clue regarding the detail of the differing legal systems), I think at a subconscious level there may well be a feeling of difference, of “otherness”, of not really feeling as though we’re part of their club. The political nature of the European Court of Justice was and is alien to our traditions. Maybe today’s decision in the Scottish Court of Session (which differs from last week’s English High Court decision and which interferes in politics where the High Court declined to do so) offers some support for my thesis, especially when I suggested that it might explain why the Scots are more pro-EU (overall) than are the English and Welsh (overall).

    Of course this country suffered greatly through two world wars, but we weren’t occupied. All sane people want to do everything reasonably possible to avoid war, and to my knowledge, many UK citizens voted in 1975 to stay in the EEC because the argument that it would help to make European war less likely, was an argument that resonated with them. More than 40 years on I suspect that a lot of British people don’t buy that argument any more (whether they are right or wrong in that I express no firm opinion).

    I think money does matter in terms of explaining the desire to leave the EU. You and I have debated this a while ago at Bishop Hill. Your belief in the great European project and the raising of standards, especially in the countries in the Med and in the former Communist bloc, at a general level of course has merit. However, many people in this country remain poor, dirt poor, unable to obtain social housing, having to visit food banks, etc. Telling them that the UK’s resources are better spent improving the lives of Bulgarian peasants than in making their own lives better, probably won’t go down too well.

    Yes, other EU member states have looked abroad (France, Spain and Portugal with their large worldwide empires especially), but I think their fortunes have always been more closely linked to Europe than have ours (though see Norman Davies’ books “Europe” and “The Isles” for a strong counter-argument).

    In today’s money, during the period of the UK’s membership of the EU, we have probably gifted a net sum, in membership contributions of something like £0.5trn. Our balance of trade deficit in today’s money, over the period of our membership, has probably been of the order of £2-3trn. Large sums leach abroad every year in the form of remittances, sent by eastern European workers who come here to make money and help their families at home. Add in the multiplier effect (every £ spent in the UK would in a declining proportion, be re-spent, and re-spent again, etc, whereas every £ leaving the country damages the country’s economy by more than the simple value of that £). Taken in the round, the net effect, in today’s money, of our membership of the EU, over a period of 45+ years, has probably been to depress our economy by around £10trn (I stress these are broad-brush numbers, and I haven’t made detailed or specifically accurate calculations). Even if I’m out by a factor of 2 or 3 (and I don’t think I am), the damage to our economy has been immense. It dwarfs anything that remainers can say about the economic damage of leaving, even of leaving without a deal. I can’t help feeling that at a subliminal level, many UK citizens are aware of that and, consciously or subconsciously, it motivated them to vote to leave. The soft benefits of membership have to go some to outweigh those financial costs.

    Still, I’m not satisfied that I’ve answered your question properly – beyond what I’ve written (here and earlier), I just don’t know the answer.

    Liked by 2 people

  105. @MIKE ELLWOOD said:
    11 Sep 19 at 1:27 pm

    “Do you mean: https://dominiccummings.com ?”

    Yes

    “What is the point of the exercise, do you think?”

    Someone on a completely different blog described him as an accelerationist, and I can see that he has the willingness to push the government to the stage where it could collapse under the weight of its own incompetence. Whether he has any real idea of how to rebuild a new more competent government from the ashes I can’t really tell.

    This is the last paragraph of his June 2019 blog, which I hope will give a sense of what he is about:

    “If one were setting up a new party in Britain, one could incorporate some of these ideas. This would of course also require recruiting very different types of people to the norm in politics. The closed nature of Westminster/Whitehall combined with first-past-the-post means it is very hard to solve the coordination problem of how to break into this system with a new way of doing things. Even those interested in principle don’t want to commit to a 10-year (?) project that might get them blasted on the front pages. Vote Leave hacked the referendum but such opportunities are much rarer than VC-funded ‘unicorns’. On the other hand, arguably what is happening now is a once in 50 or 100 year crisis and such crises also are the waves that can be ridden to change things normally unchangeable. A second referendum in 2020 is quite possible (or two referendums under PM Corbyn, propped up by the SNP?) and might be the ideal launchpad for a completely new sort of entity, not least because if it happens the Conservative Party may well not exist in any meaningful sense (whether there is or isn’t another referendum). It’s very hard to create a wave and it’s much easier to ride one. It’s more likely in a few years you will see some of the above ideas in novels or movies or video games than in government — their pickup in places like hedge funds and intelligence services will be discrete — but you never know…”

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  106. Thanks @BILLBEDFORD.

    Since posting earlier, I’ve now read a fair few of his blog articles. Fascinating stuff actually. e.g. this one

    https://dominiccummings.com/2017/01/09/on-the-referendum-21-branching-histories-of-the-2016-referendum-and-the-frogs-before-the-storm-2/

    which is a pretty full account of how the Vote Leave campaign was run, written about 6-7 months after the event. (I’ve also seen on YT a talk he gave about it, at a similar time).

    I found that pretty fascinating, but also his frustration with how the government and civil service work. We’ve all seen the fictional Sir Humphrey, but it seems that the real ones are just as bad, and the real Jim Hackers just as incompetent. I think he actually has come constructive ideas as to how to make things better, although it takes a lot of reading (and I’ve only covered a fraction). He’s certainly a prolific writer, but I would say quite a good one.

    I probably wouldn’t agree with him on a lot his ideas about education “reform”, but I found him to be a compelling writer, nevertheless.

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  107. There is a sense running through various comments that Brexit is a new thing and the popular meme amongst the antis of course, is that of “old white men” being the demographic that voted for it. I was at one time, a “young white man” and still voted against it in 1975, having first being taken in without a vote, by executive fiat. I have just re-visited Tony Benn’s book, “Arguments For Democracy”.

    He comments:
    “The deep-seated and ineradicable hostility to the Common Market stems from a realisation that we are now governed by those we do not elect and cannot remove.”

    He speaks of the power of the Executive: “No treaty entered into by a British Government, not even the Treaty joining us to the Common Market, is submitted to the elected Commons for formal ratification”

    This was in 1981, 38 years ago. The feelings have come through at least one generation and now the elected Commons want to keep us in a system which was never democratically approved by the Commons.

    Since then the EU project has advanced politically and we had Maastricht accepted by John Major by executive fiat, with no mandate and no public vote. He now has the chutzpah to talk about democracy and oppose Brexit. Following from that we had the Lisbon Treaty, further entrenching us within the EU, signed by Gordon Brown running in and out of the back door to try and avoid the media. No UK vote on it, those countries who did get a vote on either, had to vote again until they got it right.

    It is anathema to me that decisions can be taken in Brussels that directly apply on my own doorstep and I can do nothing about it. We lost aluminium smelting on Anglesey because of EU rules, our fishing industry has been decimated because of the EU CFP, rich landowners have become richer because of the CAP and now by renewables policy, which I accept is as much due to our own governments as the EU, but the initiative is driven from Brussels and is set to intensify with the new Commission. If we stay in, we are bound by them. If we get out, there is a chance we can alter course at some point.

    Bringing the rest of Europe up to the same economic standards is a political objective by the EU, as a bulwark against the putative “Russian threat” and also empire building as “Eurasia”. Political Union has always been the goal. Seventeen EU countries are net recipients from the EU budget, I suspect that if they become net contributors, their public attitudes towards EU membership may shift a little. Human nature is what it is.

    Liked by 4 people

  108. Dennis Ambler at 11.47 – thank you.

    I wish I wrote that. Unfortunately I didn’t, but it expresses perfectly what I think.

    Like

  109. Pingback: Cummings, Brexit and von Neumann | ManicBeancounter

  110. DENNISAMBLER at 11:47 am
    I sat through a lecture on Tony Benn’s “Arguments For Democracy” in early 1983, just before the General Election. In the lecture, it all seemed very beguiling. Had a discussion with a left-wing friend afterwards. I learnt the crucial flaw. All the “democracy” was within a fixed structure, with no chance of democratically voting to change that structure. Very much like the approach of the EU. If you disagree with the mindset, or the practical applications of the mindset, you must be uninformed, lacking in mental capacities or deliberately lying.

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  111. Mark Hodgson (11 Sep 2019 6.10pm) makes at least three good points: that the English sense of “otherness” probably exists at a subconscious level; that European legal system is alien to our traditions; and that the fact that Scots tend to be “remainers” may explain the different decision taken by the Scottish High Court. All very good points, and all in accord with the analysis made by French historian Emmanuel Todd in his latest book “Où en Sommes-Nous? (“Where are we at?”)

    He roughs out a Freudian model of social structures; with family structure, educational attainment and the traces of religious belief being subconscious social “facts” that influence us without our knowledge. The English extreme nuclear family, indifferent to equality but insistent on personal freedom, is a rare form globally, found elsewhere on the coasts of Holland and Denmark, and among Siberian and Canadian native populations – a sure sign that it’s a primitive form, pushed to the geographical outer fringes. The Parisian basin contains a similar system, equally keen on liberty, but with the addition of equality. The American and French Revolutions introduced the taste for liberty into Europe, but in the form of Napoleonic reforms, with their belief in state power and codification of laws.

    Though England and France propelled Europe towards democracy, the majority family structure (60% of the population of the EU) icorresponds neither to the English nor the French model, but to the German one, with its tradition of primogeniture inheritance. (Think the Grimm fairy tales, with the three brothers setting out to make their fortune..) This system is inherently inegalitarian, and results in strong, immobile structures to stop society from falling apart. (Think German political parties and trade unions, or the EU itself.) The structure is general in Germany, Austria, Scandinavia, Scotland and Ireland, and also in large parts of France, Spain, and Italy. While other European commenters sneer at the anarchic state of British politics, Todd sees it as a sign that Britain (or maybe England) is the only country actively pursuing democratic change.

    Todd’s conclusion is that the EU cannot survive as a democratic organisation, though it may do so as a German Empire. He tends to spice his rare media appearances with comments like: “European politicians are instituting fascism without realising it” or “Macron can’t be a fascist. Mussolini had an economic policy.”

    Which brings us to Dennis Ambler’s comments on Benn senior (12 Sep 19 11.47am.)

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  112. MANICBEANCOUNTER has written the article I wanted to write, but couldn’t because I lack the knowledge or energy to inform myself.
    https://manicbeancounter.com/2019/09/12/cummings-brexit-and-von-neumann/
    though he limits himself to applying game theory to predictions of the results of the next election. I think one needs to read much more widely on his blog to get an ida of what motivates Cummings. It’s certainly not winning elections for the Tories.

    Liked by 1 person

  113. Since I discovered it (thanks to this blog) I have read Cummings’ blog fairly extensively, and confess that I am quite impressed. He is definitely not the person that the mainstream media make him out to be (but when did the MSM get anything right?). Although I had already got some intimation of that when I discovered this lecture on video some weeks ago:

    (Cummings without the dark glasses…not quite so scary.).

    Having said that, on the subject of chess, this letter appeared in the Remainiacs Journal (aka, The Grauniad):

    https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/sep/12/dominic-cummings-private-texts-and-the-public-interest

    QUOTE:

    ” A simpler explanation for Cummings might be that he’s not very bright. While he has often referred to chess in his blog, one rather imagines he’s rubbish at the game. I – an averagely strong club player – played him in the Durham club championship in 1988. He fell for a very elementary trap and lost horribly, but not before expressing to a spectator incredulity as to how my play could be so stupid!
    Michael Ayton
    Durham”

    Yes well, he would have been 17 in 1988, so I would put down his mistake to youthful hubris rather than not being very bright. You don’t get a First from Oxford by not being very bright.

    Liked by 2 people

  114. The best introduction to what Cummings is about is probably his 237-page essay
    https://dominiccummings.files.wordpress.com/2013/11/20130825-some-thoughts-on-education-and-political-priorities-version-2-final.pdf
    This is where he quotes Dean Acheson’s quip about Britain having lost an empire and not found a role, and suggests what that role might be:

    It is suggested here that this role should focus on making ourselves the leading country for education and science: Pericles described Athens as ‘the school of Greece’, we could be the school of the world. Who knows what would happen to a political culture if a party embraced education and science as its defining mission and therefore changed the nature of the people running it and the way they make decisions and priorities. We already have a head start; we lack focus. Large improvements in education and training are easier to achieve than solving many other big problems and will contribute to their solution.

    Now isn’t this just the kind of Big Idea that should appeal to our educated élite? It certainly appeals to me. The UK has the immense advantages of some the world’s best universities, a culture that has an influence out of proportion to our GNP, (look at the music the kids all over the world listen to, the novels read in Europe, the influence of the BBC) and above all the English language.

    And what’s our intellectual élite doing? Everything to eliminate Cummings from politics. The hysterical law demanding the publication of private emails between government advisers was clearly aimed at finding some rude comments from Cummings to hound him out of number 10. The very idea of a law applying specifically to a dozen or so people is so quintessentially fascist that only a remainer could have formulated it.

    I haven’t read the article right to the end, and I’m afraid that it’s possible that nobody has. Cummings is incapable of summarising his thoughts. All his articles (all the ones I’ve read) start with intriguing insights and continue with fascinating excursions into areas you’ve always meant to explore but have never got round to. If you click on a link, you’re lost, because you realise you’ve got to read Thucydides or von Neumann on Game Theory before you go any further, and you will never finish the article.

    This is the first page of the summary:

    Although we understand some systems well enough to make precise or statistical predictions, most interesting systems – whether physical, mental, cultural, or virtual – are complex, nonlinear, and have properties that emerge from feedback between many interactions. Exhaustive searches of all possibilities are impossible. Unfathomable and unintended consequences dominate. Problems cascade. Complex systems are hard to understand, predict and control.
    A growing fraction of the world has made a partial transition from a) small, relatively simple, hierarchical, primitive, zero-sum hunter-gatherer tribes based on superstition (almost total ignorance of complex systems), shared aims, personal exchange and widespread violence, to b) large, relatively complex, decentralised, technological, nonzero-sum market-based cultures based on science (increasingly accurate predictions and control in some fields), diverse aims, impersonal exchange, trade, private property, and (roughly) equal protection under the law. Humans have made transitions from numerology to mathematics, from astrology to astronomy, from alchemy to chemistry, from witchcraft to neuroscience, from tallies to quantum computation. However, while our ancestor chiefs understood bows, horses, and agriculture, our contemporary chiefs (and those in the media responsible for scrutiny of decisions) generally do not understand their equivalents, and are often less experienced in managing complex organisations than their predecessors.

    The education of the majority even in rich countries is between awful and mediocre. In England, few are well-trained in the basics of extended writing or mathematical and scientific modelling and problem-solving. Less than 10 percent per year leave school with formal training in basics such as exponential functions,‘normal distributions’ (‘the bell curve’), and conditional probability. Less than one percent are well educated in the basics of how the ‘unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics’ provides the language of nature and a foundation for our scientific civilisation. Only a small subset of that <1% then study trans-disciplinary issues concerning complex systems.This number has approximately zero overlap with powerful decision-makers. Generally, they are badly (or narrowly) educated and trained (even elite universities offer courses that are thought to prepare future political decision-makers but are clearly inadequate and in some ways damaging).They also usually operate in institutions that have vastly more ambitious formal goals than the dysfunctional management could possibly achieve, and which generally select for the worst aspects of chimp politics and against those skills seen in rare successful organisations (e.g the ability to simplify, focus, and admit errors). Most politicians, officials, and advisers operate with fragments of philosophy, little knowledge of maths or science (few MPs can answer even simple probability questions yet most are confident in their judgement), and little experience in well-managed complex organisations.The skills, and approach to problems, of our best mathematicians, scientists, and entrepreneurs are almost totally shut out of vital decisions. We do not have a problem with ‘too much cynicism’ – we have a problem with too much trust in people and institutions that are not fit to control so much.

    The consequences are increasingly dangerous as markets, science and technology disrupt all existing institutions and traditions, and enhance the dangerous potential of our evolved nature to inflict huge physical destruction and to manipulate the feelings and ideas of many people (including, sometimes particularly, the best educated) through ‘information operations’. Our fragile civilisation is vulnerable to large shocks and a continuation of traditional human politics as it was during 6 million years of hominid evolution – an attempt to secure in-group cohesion, prosperity and strength in order to dominate or destroy nearby out-groups in competition for scarce resources – could kill billions. We need big changes to schools, universities, and political and other institutions for their own sake and to help us limit harm done by those who, entangled with trends described below, pursue dreams of military glory, ‘that attractive rainbow that rises in showers of blood.’

    Got it? We must educate, educate, educate to avoid war and other shocks to our fragile civilisation. The Summary continues in the same vein, citing Murray Gell Mann, Timothy Gowers, Thucydides, Dostoevsky, Kipling, Tetlock, and Nielsen, before coming to the key Dean Acheson quote and his cunning plan for saving Britain from irrelevance.

    You can see all the strength and the weakness of Cummings here. So much of what he says is obviously true, but what are Murray Gell Mann and Tetlock doing in a summary of a major policy document? I have no idea who they are. Have you?

    I’m impressed by Cummings because I’m impressed by his range of references, and his evident intelligence and commitment to doing good. But twenty years ago I was impressed by George Monbiot for much the same reasons.

    One of his early references is to the biologist E.O. Wilson. Him I’ve heard of. Every time some professorial twat with a chair in ever so complicated systems bleats at the Conversation or the Guardian that species are disappearing at a thousand times the normal rate, the trail leads back to E.O. Wilson. Not a scientific paper, but some off hand remark in a book fifty years ago, based on nothing at all. The one attempt to verify E.O.’s hunch I checked out was based on comparing loss of genera of molluscs 60 million years ago with loss of species now. It’s rubbish all the way down. How many of Cummings’ cited experts are similarly scientifically challenged? Who knows? Does Cummings?

    In a normal world, Remainers would have their own Cummings busy challenging Dominic’s facts on every Question Time. But this is not a normal world. Who has the time to read all that stuff?

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  115. Well, the MSM have got Cummings wrong, and therefore so has the general public, and certainly the Guardianistas have because they suffer from confirmation bias.

    I could read or listen to him for hours, whereas a few minutes of Alastair Cambell, for example, who might be considered the NuLabour equivalent just makes me want to throw up. (Not a full equivalent really because Cambell was a press and comms guy who became a svengali.Cummings is not a communications guy at all (he writes about this in some of his essays), he’s more of a backroom nerd, and is not that great a speaker, but I can listen to him because he obviously knows what he’s talking about, and unlike most people in the political sphere, it’s not bullsh*t.

    I don’t agree with everything he says (I’m not keen on Free Schools, for example), but his analysis of our political system (including our civil service) seems on the nail.

    Liked by 2 people

  116. Geoff,
    And instead of becoming the Athens of enlightenment to the world, the West in general including Britain have squandered vast amounts of intellectual and financial capital on climate myths, identitarian ghettoization, self loathing and historical amnesia.

    Liked by 1 person

  117. bit o/t – posted this at bias bbc but maybe relevant on this thread –

    i’m in the middle of reading “the great deception” by brooker & north 2005 (many pages, so 6mths to go I think).
    my take from memory (16yrs old in 1973) & the book so far is we the public were told/sold were joining a common market which was a good/desirable thing.
    don’t think we had a vote on this(Heath gov)? but at the time I thought it sounded ok ish.

    but as the years have gone on the “common market” has expanded to become the EU with powers over almost every aspect of UK & other member countries laws etc.

    some may be happy to let non elected EU technocrats decide our laws & where a large chuck of our tax & vat moneys goes but I now at 62 want it spent wisely looking after our own people.

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  118. @Jona – for me your concise statement – “For any democracy to work there has
    to be losers’s consent” sums our problems up (for UK &USA)

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  119. I’ve just commented at Dominic’s latest article, (comment awaiting moderation) pointing out the interest his blog has elicited here. I still haven’t explored thoroughly a single thread of his thought. He does insist here and there that he is not an original thinker, but that doesn’t detract from his importance. He’s a compiler, an encyclopaedist, and those talents are sorely lacking in our culture.

    BUT there is no evidence that his approach has the slightest chance of success. His claim to originality is based on his knowledge of cutting edge thinking in the fields of maths and information science, and his assertion that such thinking is readily adopted by hedge fund managers, video game creators and suchlike, so why not by politicians?

    Because society is not like that, that’s why not.The stupidity and maladapted education of our governing élite is not a sufficient explanation for our problems. Dominic’s intellectual references, when they’re not to our “deep culture” (Thucydides, Sun Tzu..) are to arcane experts in subjects that don’t yet exist. Dominic suggests that his success so far is due to his application of the ideas of these gurus.

    Maybe, but tipping the balance in a couple of binary choice situations is nothing like governing a country.

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  120. Geoff – 13 Sep 19 at 8:23 pm
    I pick up on one of the key features of Von Neumann’s game theory that Dominic Cummings explains in detail. That is the concept of the minimax: choose a strategy that minimises the possible maximum loss. I do not try to explain Dominic Cummining’s motives or strategies. I think he believes passionately in Brexit, is highly competitive and is not afraid to tread on toes to reach that objective. He is also a strategic thinker, who will draw on theories or other tools to drive through to his objectives. Boris Johnson has achieved his ambition in becoming Prime Minister, is also highly competitive, and wants to deliver Brexit as a means of becoming a great person in history. Neither man lets setbacks get them down. They will keep on going until the job is done, so the fight to deliver Brexit on 31st October is far from over. Both are in stark contrast to Theresa May, who I believe was a consensus politician up against an EU that does not compromise, and wants for Britain to be seen as making a big mistake.
    I have concentrated on the political parties in the Brexit “game”, as this is most interesting for if Brexit is delivered and the future course of the country. It became evident right after the Referendum and Corbyn became leader that there was a split in the Labour Party between the opinions in the Northern Heartlands and the metropolitans that dominate the leadership. Hence the fudge on Brexit until now. The Lib Dems have got their support back by adopting an extreme remainer position. Ironic for a party traditionally of the centre.
    The Cummings / Johnson strategy appears to have been
    – to drive the EU to either compromising or being responsible for a No-deal Brexit
    – drive Labour to come off the fence on Brexit
    There will be a General Election (when the Queen’s Speech is voted down), and I expect the Cummings / Johnson team to get even more aggressive in their attack mode. They are unlikely to have run out of strategies.

    Liked by 1 person

  121. Geoff,

    Having been too lazy to accept your challenge to become acquainted with the works of Dominic Cummings, I am quite aware that I am ill-positioned to comment upon his world view. However, the insights you have provided within your comments have inspired me to give it a go, nonetheless.

    It appears to me that Cummings is a strategist who, quite laudably, believes that it behooves the decision-maker to become fully conversant with the various disciplines that a strategist should (but often fails to) understand. To that end, there are a number of mathematical and scientific subject-areas that will have piqued his interest, e.g. game theory, complexity theory and various aspects of uncertainty analysis, etc. This sentiment is familiar to me. In my erstwhile professional capacity I too campaigned tirelessly, but ultimately forlornly, to encourage my colleagues to acquaint themselves with the scientific basis for decision-making. Sadly, I was swimming against the tide because most of my colleagues understood that the easiest route to success was not to become a good decision-maker but to persuade others that they are. With such an approach, it was not in their best interests for it to become common knowledge that good decision-making was a science based upon important principles that need to be understood. Much better that it was simply the voodoo they claimed to do so well.

    Cummings may passionately believe that technology and scientific enlightenment can tame the complexity and unpredictability of modern living but, in truth, the knack may really lie in the power of superstition and persuasion. It is an interesting observation that primitive societies do not have moralizing deities to ensure that people abide by the rules of society, since these can be adequately policed by the tribe members themselves. It is only with larger, more complex societies that deities take on the role of third party, moralizing observers (as a passing stranger, you may do the dirty on me, but God is watching you and he will get you in the end). Once again, an enlightened and sophisticated world view was not required to handle the challenge posed by complexity. Instead, all that was needed was a simple superstition and the power to persuade others that truth lies in such simplicity.

    So, it does not surprise me that Cummings is fascinated by the work of Von Neumann, Murray Gell-Mann and Tetlock, but if he thinks that through their work there is a revolution of enlightenment in the offing, I fear he may be sadly mistaken.

    Liked by 1 person

  122. I forced myself last night to watch “Brexit: The Uncivil War”, the dramatised version of the Brexit campaign featuring Dominic Cummings. (It’s still available on “All 4”). I’d studiously avoided it when it came out, largely because of all the hype, and I assumed it would be a travesty.

    And in a way it is, although it is a hugely entertaining one. I’d say that basically the only character who is taken seriously is in fact Dominic Cummings. I think they have gone to some trouble to get inside his head, and try to make it understandable to the broad mass of people. Which is just as well because almost everyone else in the drama is a comic pastiche.

    Arron Banks and Farage are by turns monsters or buffoons. Douglas Carswell is a swivel-eyed loon (so not too inaccurate then). Boris is, well, Boris, and Gove is a pale imitation of the real Gove. Interestingly, they play a fairly minor part, and the drama portrays (probably quite accurately) that they were quite ambivalent about the project at the beginning, and didn’t expect to win. Boris is shown hesitating to get on the famous bus, although in the end seems to enthuse about it. Probably quite accurately, Cummings is shown having contempt for most MPs, including the ERG-ers (who he says have done nothing to advance the cause for 40 years or so), although I think he genuinely does have some respect for Boris and Gove (whom he worked for at the DfE for quite some time). He’s quite glad to have them on board, but only, as it were, to give the project their blessing. They didn’t plan any of it.

    I hadn’t looked at any of the reviews, but this morning I found this from the Grauniad’s Lucy Mangan:
    https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2019/jan/07/brexit-the-uncivil-war-review-superficial-irresponsible-tv-cumberbatch

    TLDR; she didn’t like it. Probably because it portrayed Cummings too sympathetically.

    Ironically, I’ll bet Cumberbatch is a Remainer (I’ve not gone to any trouble to find out, but although he’s never seemed to be to be a Guardian-reading leftie (It takes one to know one), he is a luvvie, and well, Remain goes with the territory doesn’t it). Anyway, you can see why he was cast for the role, and it was a good idea. He is channelling a lot of his “Sherlock” character when you see him going deep inside his head to forge another master plan. I think this was inevitable. I notice that they give him a north-eastern accent – Cummings comes from Durham – but to my ears, the real Cummings does not have such an accent. He speaks normal, modern, slightly sloppy, RP. By contrast, they gave Michael Gove an RP accent, whereas in real life he has a gentle Scottish accent.

    Liked by 1 person

  123. QUOTE:

    “GEOFF CHAMBERS says:
    13 Sep 19 at 8:16 pm
    Mark Hodgson (11 Sep 2019 6.10pm) makes at least three good points: that the English sense of “otherness” probably exists at a subconscious level; that European legal system is alien to our traditions; and that the fact that Scots tend to be “remainers” may explain the different decision taken by the Scottish High Court.”

    I cannot claim to know much about the law, but read recently that another factor may be that Scots Law was originally derived from Roman Law, whereas English Law is based on Common Law.

    And although it does not talk about Scottish Law per se, this article touches on similar points (among much else):

    https://rclutz.wordpress.com/2019/09/05/update-eu-deep-state-vs-brexit/

    QUOTE:

    “And there was an even larger problem than the loss of national sovereignty, Bogdanor shows. The E.U. destroyed the system of parliamentary sovereignty at the heart of Britain’s constitution. For all its royalist trappings, Britain has traditionally been a much purer representative democracy than the United States, because it excludes courts from reviewing legislation on any grounds.”

    And although that started to change after our accession to the EEC, and even more so as the EEC morphed into the EU, it might explain why the English High Court threw out the case that the Scottish High Court accepted, on the grounds that political matters were outside its remit.

    Like

  124. Mike @ 8.23amThe accuracy with which Cumberbatch’s portrayal is partly down to Cumberbatch going round to the Cummings’ house for a meal. The portrayal captures the essence of Cummings, or at least as he portrays it in the essay #4a: ‘Expertise’ from fighting and physics to economics, politics and government (22 May 2018)
    Sure Cummings has learned from others in disparate areas, like von Neumann (Game Theory) or Warren Buffet (investing). But it is in the application of those ideas that the Brexit Film tries to capture – for dramatic effect making the likes of Boris, Gove, and Carswell seem like simpletons. A few quotes illustrate the point.
    Two contrasting types of expertise.

    …..the differences between fields dominated by real expertise (like fighting and physics) and fields dominated by bogus expertise (like macroeconomic forecasting, politics/punditry, active fund management).
    Fundamental to real expertise is 1) whether the informational structure of the environment is sufficiently regular that it’s possible to make good predictions and 2) does it allow high quality feedback and therefore error-correction. Physics and fighting: Yes. Predicting recessions, forex trading and politics: not so much. I’ll look at studies comparing expert performance in different fields and the superior performance of relatively very simple models over human experts in many fields.

    This sounds like branching into intellectual sophistry, until you read where Cummings finds examples of real expertise – Extreme sports: fast feedback = real expertise . This includes snow-boarding down near vertical mountains; one of the greatest ever surf rides; Floyd Mayweather’s defensive moves in boxing; and “‘free soloing’ — climbing mountains without ropes where one mistake means instant death.” 

    What [extreme snowboarder] Jones calls ‘the zone’ is also known as ‘flow‘ — a particular mental state, triggered by environmental cues, that brings greatly enhanced performance. It is the object of study in extreme sports and by the military and intelligence services: for example DARPA is researching whether stimulating the brain can trigger ‘flow’ in snipers.  
    The faster the feedback cycle, the more likely you are to develop a qualitative improvement in speed that destroys an opponent’s decision-making cycle. If you can reorient yourself faster to the ever-changing environment than your opponent, then you operate inside their ‘OODA loop’ (Observe-Orient-Decide-Act) and the opponent’s performance can quickly degrade and collapse.
    This lesson is vital in politics. You can read it in Sun Tzu and see it with Alexander the Great. Everybody can read such lessons and most people will nod along. But it is very hard to apply because most political/government organisations are programmed by their incentives to prioritize seniority, process, and prestige over high performance and this slows and degrades decisions. Most organisations don’t do it. Further, political organisations tend to make too slowly those decisions that should be fast and too quickly those decisions that should be slow — they are simultaneously both too sluggish and too impetuous, which closes off favorable branching histories of the future.

    My take on this is that Cummings believes in what he is doing, has gained the experience from a number of other campaigns, is continually developing new strategies. But most importantly he loves the game and believes he will win through. The bigger the barriers, the greater the exhilaration in overcoming them. When Boris (who is the most competitive and one of the most intelligent politicians in the country) employed Cummings he knew the exhilarating ride that he was undertaking, having seen the results of the Vote Leave Campaign. 
    Although it might appear that Boris is engaging in a fantasy world by still proclaiming Brexit will still happen on 31st October, I would suggest that Cummings and team have more original plays to invoke. Cummings will be aiming for moves every bit as brilliant as Laird Hamilton achieved in surfing.

    Liked by 1 person

  125. @MANICBEANCOUNTER
    14 Sep 19 at 10:26 pm:

    Many thanks for that. Very very interesting. And presumably that means that Cummings gave his blessing to the TV drama/doc. And perhaps that the one tender moment in it, where we see Cummings cuddling his heavily pregnant wife, may also be based in reality. (I wonder if he really did go for a drink with his Remain opposite number though?).

    I think you are right: Cummings really does believe in what he is doing. However, there is more than a big question about whether Boris does. Although I have no time for Cameron, I notice that one of the things he accuses Boris of (in his heavily publicised new book) is for campaigning for something he doesn’t believe in for political advantage. I think we have all thought that about Boris at one time or another, but to have this come from someone who was once very close to him must mean something.

    Very interesting about “the zone”, “the flow” etc. I have some personal experience of this in very minor ways, so I believe it is a real thing, although it’s hard to see how it can really work in everyday politics, for the reasons he himself gives, “they [political organisations] are simultaneously both too sluggish and too impetuous”. I also like his analysis of the general public that he gives in that video lecture, that people are both more left-wing (pro public spending on the NHS for example) and more right-wing (pro defence and hard-line on crime and terrorism) than most politicians, meaning that most politicians just don’t “get” the general public and are (as we all know) very out of touch with them (us).

    Like

  126. John:
    “…but if he thinks that through their work there is a revolution of enlightenment in the offing, I fear he may be sadly mistaken.”

    I agree. But you may be comforted to know that this isn’t merely because folks eschew theoretical understanding in order to increase their popular standing (albeit this happens). But because no primary theoretical understanding we have yet, or are likely to have in the foreseeable future, can usefully predict (and therefore act as a reasonable policy guide) how the societies might best develop (it’s essentially a wicked system). This is why highly / genuinely motivated attempts to run society upon theoretical lines typically end up merely inviting cultural dogma to the table, which will often then come to dominate. From this I guess we can at least conclude that theoretical touches should be very light and aim at the nearer-term, with reliance upon observations / feedback and constant adjustment as things unfold, being the big mainstay. In theory, democracy leans to this type of approach (or at least more so than prior systems), which is presumably why it has (in a two steps forward one step back sort of way) emerged to become so widespread. And yes we have to live with some cultural influence too, because we do not yet know how to live without it.

    “It is an interesting observation that primitive societies do not have moralizing deities to ensure that people abide by the rules of society, since these can be adequately policed by the tribe members themselves.”

    But unfortunately via any modern understanding of ‘adequate’, this is not so. Primitive societies generally, whether historic or surviving into modern times, have typically appalling records of social equity and associated well-being compared to later societies, even those later societies whose horrendous engagements one would think would dwarf the former’s unacceptable tendencies. It’s an issue of scale and visibility. Civil violence including casual murder plus war are both good examples. So for instance despite Germany losing two mechanised world wars in quick succession, the annual warfare death rate in that country from 1900 to 1990 (so covering those wars) was only 0.16% (slightly ahead of Russia / the Soviet Union for the same period). Whereas the rate for the Mae Enga tribe (New Guinea, 1900 to 1950) was double that, and various other primitive tribes around the world score triple and even quadruple that rate. It is the enhanced social systems including more sophisticated and moralizing religions which cut down both the casual and the formal violence to levels in our own societies, which nevertheless still have much sharpened visibility of same compared to times past. This doesn’t mean that religions (even of the contemporary mainstream kind) or secular cultures too, are necessarily all good (as suicide bombers very obviously show at a shallow level). They have upsides and downsides, but cultural adherence has provided major *net* advantage for a very long time, which is why we are so easily subject to it.

    Like

  127. Andy,

    “This is why highly / genuinely motivated attempts to run society upon theoretical lines typically end up merely inviting cultural dogma to the table, which will often then come to dominate.”

    My wry observation regarding the prospects of a scientific enlightenment does not result from any particular insight into the mechanics of societal development. Rather, I was ruefully reflecting upon my personal experience regarding efforts to educate a management team who had no appetite for education. I think the problem I encountered was more of a psychological one rather than a social one. Those who benefit from a level of seniority that already puts them in the position of strategic leadership, usually consider themselves to be the local expert on such matters. How else can they explain their success? Surely, it can only be because they are better at what they do! Maybe my experiences were unusual, but I never found the workplace to be a particularly meritocratic environment as far as managerial advancement was concerned. Self-belief and Machiavellian tactics seemed to have a lot more to do with success rates than any particular acumen concerning strategic analysis or decision theory – and then, of course, there was a lot of pure dumb luck and determination. I imagine the world of politicians wouldn’t be that different. A suitably educated individual like Cummings may be able to out-think the average politician and thereby enjoy some personal success when moving amongst them, but if he thinks that the ruling class are ripe for taking on board his insights (OODA Loops and all) he will first have to overcome a mountain of misplaced hubris. In the meantime, his unnerving ability to outmanoeuvre homo politicus will have to be put down to his ‘obvious’ moral defects.

    “But unfortunately via any modern understanding of ‘adequate’, this is not so.”

    My initial education on the subject of primitive societies and violence came from reading Steven Pinker’s, ‘The Better Angels of Our Nature’. At that point I would have been in agreement with everything you say. Since then I have read quite a lot of criticism of Pinker’s thesis, enough for me now to reserve judgement. For that reason, I will refrain from getting any further involved in that particular debate. I’m simply not in a position to agree or disagree with you.

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  128. John: Well I wouldn’t be at all surprised if your experience is applicable to politics, and I have come across the same, although periods / enclaves of more meritocratic values as well. Much so often seems to depend so critically in business upon the attitudes of a few key people near the top, or at least near the top of each functional unit, who are in a position to encourage the right atmosphere. I wonder if that translates in any degree to politics too.

    I don’t much like some of Pinker’s stuff I’ve come across, but I wouldn’t by any means disagree with him on everything. Over the years I’ve read various material on the state of primitive societies; the figures on warfare rates for these versus modern societies come from ‘Darwin and International Relations’ by Bradley A Thayer (subtitled ‘on the evolutionary origins of war and ethnic conflict’). I read an interesting passage in one work (for the life of me I can’t recall which one) about a researcher who lived with the Eskimos for quite a time (as far as I recall it was in the the mid twentieth century maybe). At one point on a hunting expedition he was quietly told to duck down in the boat, and a guy at the back got up and threw a spear which killed the guy standing at the front. This allowed everyone to go back and say ‘he got in the way of the spear, very unfortunate accident’. What actually happened is that he’d been annoying and bullying people for a while, so they just decided there and then to kill him. While such stories are anecdotal and no replacement for proper studies on murder rates etc, they are legion, and give a feel for what the figures of decreasing civil violence (as well as war) as societies develop, actually means on the ground for those societies that haven’t yet so developed.

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  129. Andy,

    “What actually happened is that he’d been annoying and bullying people for a while, so they just decided there and then to kill him.”

    Well, I guess I never said that tribal moralizing was non-violent. Still, the point is that they didn’t leave the retribution to an all-seeing god. More sophisticated societies may seem less violent, but they can afford to be when they outsource their retributive violence to a supernatural guardian.

    Like

  130. When I say, ‘sophisticated societies’, I mean to say larger and more complex ones. After all, there is nothing very sophisticated about the rule of a disapproving god.

    Like

  131. MANICBEANCOUNTER 13 Sep 19 11.50pm
    Certainly Cummings is a strategic thinker. The mystery is why such people are so rare. Cummings’ explanation is that our rulers (MPs, academics, journalists) are too busy being and so don’t have time for doing. After all, it’s being who you are that gets you on TV, while actually doing something is hard work. The question then becomes: why are our leaders like that? Have they no interest beyond their careers? Don’t they care that they will be forgotten the moment they fade from public view? I’m sure that Putin and Xi aren’t like that.

    Of course, there are good historical reasons why a leader of Russia or China would see politics as a serious matter. Like millions of deaths in living memory. What would we have to do to make our leaders take their roles seriously?

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  132. MIKE ELLWOOD
    I read the Guardian review of Cumberbatch/Cummings.
    https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2019/jan/07/brexit-the-uncivil-war-review-superficial-irresponsible-tv-cumberbatch

    It’s one of at least three at the Graun. Under a heading “Superficial, irresponsible, TV” Mangan describes Cummings as a “self-aggrandising pillock who should confine himself to the 8,000-word blogposts about how thick everyone else is he likes to churn out, instead of insinuating himself into British politics.”

    Interesting that a humorous opinion writer considers writing long articles a moral failing that makes one unfit for politics. The link at the above quote goes, not to the blogposts in question, but to another Guardian opinion piece on the TV programme
    https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2019/jan/06/brexit-uncivil-war-reviews-andrew-rawnsley-gina-miller-gloria-de-piero-shahmir-sanni
    in which four “political insiders” give their views. There’s an anti-Brexit journalist, an anti-Brexit campaigner (Gina Miller) an anti-Brexit MP and the “whistleblower” whose claims of illegal activity by Vote Leave were written up by Guardian journalist Cadwalladr and refuted by Cummings; and who describes Cummings as “a man who liked to write 8,000-word blogs about how stupid everyone else is.”
    The Guardian is treating Cummings just as they used to treat climate sceptics, refusing to describe their arguments, but linking to other Guardian articles repeating the same trash.

    The Guardian/Observer has published twenty articles on Cummings in the past week. The last act of the majority in the last parliament was to pass a bill demanding to see Cummings’ emails. This is a quite extraordinary witch hunt.

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  133. Geoff,

    “Certainly Cummings is a strategic thinker. The mystery is why such people are so rare.”

    The day it becomes easier to succeed through strategic thinking than to succeed through bullshitting, we will see more strategic thinkers.

    “The Guardian/Observer has published twenty articles on Cummings in the past week.”

    That sounds about right. For every strategic thinker there are about twenty bullshitters.

    Liked by 3 people

  134. JOHN RIDGWAY
    Well said. The thing is, there are already places, times, and situations where strategic thinking seem to trump bullshitting. Manicbeancounter quotes Cummings mentioning Alexander the Great, extreme surf riding and snowboarding. I mentioned China and Russia. Putin, I would guess, is a chess player. Boris probably does the odd hand of Super Mario with his kids, if he ever happens to bump into them.

    Cummings wants to make our civil servants more like snowboarders, so that Boris can be more like Alexander the Great. Good luck with that. As a modest beginning, he wants to make the UK like Periclean Athens. We have a head start with our language and our universities, which can be compared to Athens’ religious sites and festivals I suppose (Andy should appreciate the comparison.)

    Cummings’ blind spot seems to me to be social science, and in particular sociology. Even if he could set out a blueprint for achieving educational excellence (and his rambling 237 page paper isn’t that) and get our modern von Neumanns on board, how would he implement it? How would Cummings meet ANDY WEST’s knockout argument that “no primary theoretical understanding we have yet, or are likely to have in the foreseeable future, can usefully predict (and therefore act as a reasonable policy guide) how the societies might best develop”?

    I do appreciate an argument that is implicit in Cummings’ ramblings, but which I haven’t seen developed explicitly yet: that quite minor changes in social behaviour may have profound and unpredictable effects. I’m obsessed with the image of chess-player Putin carefully massing his pawns while Cameron loses his kids in pubs and Boris can’t remember how many he has. Might not doubling the number of chess players in a society from 1 to 2%, (and reducing the number of Game of Throne fans from 99 to 98%) change the way society works? Just as getting a few hundred or thousand bods to ruminate at this blog might be the butterfly’s wing that breaks the camel’s back?

    Liked by 1 person

  135. Just found this quite interesting article:

    https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/bad-spad-and-dangerous-to-know-how-dominic-cummings-could-shape-both-brexit-and-the-snap-election_uk_5d7e25fce4b077dcbd5fd529

    (If that link does not work, search for “Bad Spad And Dangerous To Know: How Dominic Cummings Could Shape Both Brexit And The Snap Election” )

    @GEOFF CHAMBERS
    15 Sep 19 at 8:09 pm

    Thanks for your comments and link Geoff. I suspect I won’t go and read that and any other similar Guardian articles, unless I come across them by chance. I know their bias, so I will continue to form my own opinion of him. Although actually, the more he is obviously annoying them, the more I like it. 🙂

    As for “a man who liked to write 8,000-word blogs about how stupid everyone else is.” – well, those of us who have read some of his articles know full well that he is full of admiration for people he truly admires; the people he calls stupid probably really are. 🙂 (And I fear his assessment of David Davis is all to accurate; I’m sure May gave him the job she did confident in the knowledge that he’d balls it up).

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  136. John: ‘After all, there is nothing very sophisticated about the rule of a disapproving god.’

    Well everything’s relative as they say. The modern religions are indeed sophisticated compared to the vast majority of the 100,000 or so that it’s estimated have come and gone in the past. Most are lost of course, but primitive survivors and roots of others give an idea of what was. A disapproving god is still better than mad witch-doctor spirits or the insatiable eater of hearts war-god. It’s admittedly hard to argue that the disapproving god who is apparently a cloud of civilisation’s CO2, is an improvement over Jesus and his dad. But it was ever a two steps forward one step back process, so maybe we took one step back. And I’d argue that the unseeable (excepting Greta-vision) CO2 deity is (thus far) still better than the worship of anti-capital per Marxism, say. It would be great for us to grow out of needing such deities, but we appear not to be ready for that yet (and indeed the mechanisms of belief run very deep).

    ‘More sophisticated societies may seem less violent, but they can afford to be when they outsource their retributive violence to a supernatural guardian.’

    Maybe I haven’t understood that sentence. It is still the case that the actual violence (deaths, injuries) however carried out, e.g. whether carried out in the name of some deity or merely via a bully, has gone down and down as societies have got bigger and more complex. So they don’t just seem less violent, they are less violent. And indeed within-group altruism has risen generally, so societies are more benign; although there’s a theoretical limit to this process (which may or may not have some relevance to Brexit).

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  137. Geoff: I do appreciate the comparison. Regarding how he’d meet my argument, I’ve no idea. But if he’s aiming to emulate Athens he’s not so much using fundamental theory as borrowing a tried and tested (and successful) prior model, which itself was arrived at via inspiration plus observation / experience, rather than theory. I guess a potential snag with this plan is that the model is about 2.5 millennia old. And notwithstanding being very advanced and enlightened for the time, Athens was an acquisitive empire and a slave state. Direct instead of representative democracy is however possible once more despite our hugely bigger populations, due to technology. One has to wonder whether in these days of polarized / grid-locked senates and parliaments, whether this would be an improvement. I think it would make society far more engaged in the process. But I’m naturally wary of those who look generically to classical times for social models. Such folks often get carried away and take it too literally, and / or too shallowly. Greek columns and a scattering of Greek-style philosopher geniuses, are not our ticket forward.

    Liked by 1 person

  138. Andy,

    “Maybe I haven’t understood that sentence.”

    As I’ve said, I’m trying to avoid the debate regarding the history of human violence, so my sentence was an attempt at being non-committal. However, what I am saying is this: When societies are small enough for everyone to know each other, tit-for-tat gameplay can be easily monitored. Consequently, the threat of ‘unfortunate’ hunting accidents can keep group members in check, and there is less need for the threat of a violently unpleasant afterlife. Conversely, if societies are so large that the monitoring of tit-for-tat becomes problematic, there needs to be a moralizing god lurking in the background to deal with stranger danger. In such circumstances, one might expect hunting ‘accidents’ to be less of a feature. However, what this does to overall levels of violence is a much bigger question. After all, even a moralizing god needs human intervention to do his work.

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  139. John: “When societies are small enough…”

    Agreed at the minimal end of the scale direct kin-bonds / personal knowledge will trump cultural links, and this might put the more general trend into reverse. But this size is likely very small indeed. I recall studies showing that we know only about 150 people well, and this correlates to the numbers for various primates regarding brain and group size linkages. Plus, kin-bonds include kin-feuds as well as mutual kin support. Groups this small can’t support any of the other benefits that come with scale (such as buffering against calamity), so one issue may be traded for another.

    “However, what this does to overall levels of violence is a much bigger question.”

    Yep. But I think as the rose-tinted glasses about idealistic notions of native societies are falling away, this is becoming clear, and especially regarding formal violence (war) for which there is some reasonable data that goes back into the nineteenth century. Plus more archaeological evidence too e.g. neolithic massacres and frequent individual injuries clearly from weapons. But admittedly also, primitive societies in modern times (which may have had some ‘contamination’, so to speak), and the true situation in historic isolation, are not one and the same. Quantitative evidence is much harder to obtain for the latter, especially as smaller group sizes don’t typically result in much robust evidence of their lives lying around in the first place.

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  140. Re so-called unelected prime ministers… There have been 28 prime ministers since Lord Salisbury stepped down in 1902. Ten of them became PM by leading the largest party at a General Election. Another was the leader of the party who came second – Ramsay Macdonald in 1924.
    This leaves 17 who did not become PM as a result of an election. They include Lloyd George in 1916 and Churchill in 1940. 17 “unelected” PMs out of 28. Please spare me any more of this historical ignorance

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  141. This thread got me back into Cliscep after some gap as a non-reader. Thanks to Boris and Geoff for putting Cummings in focus. Happily, our subject has a sense of humour, as evidenced by Cumberbatch in the excellent Spectator piece by Dom’s wife in December (which I’d missed and would recommend to Remainer and Leaver alike – thanks Mike.) Then there’s his retweet of this witty sending up of his boss’s rhetoric this morning:

    Thanks to Alan, Mike, Mark, John, Manic and others for some worthwhile commentary. The Private Eye Lookalike entry I found intact over a week after Mike first saw it so here it is for posterity:

    Superb likeness, not just of Cummings as is but of the Guardianistas’ frenetic, rather desperate picture of him.

    Private Eye reminds us of dear old Booker and his close friend Richard North, who has revealed in the last few days what Cummings said to them prior to the referendum: you don’t understand politics. Or words to that effect. That still rankles I gather. That subplot might well be worth coming back to.

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  142. @RICHARD DRAKE 17 Sep 19 at 3:14 pm

    Hi Richard, thanks for all that, especially preserving the Eye Lookalike. 🙂

    Just to be clear, did you mean that Dominic Cummings was re-tweeting the Hulk quip?
    I ask because when I went seaching for his Twitter account just now, I saw various references to his having deleted his Twitter account, which apparently used to be @odysseanproject .
    Could he have revived his account?

    ….oh oh oh, looks like he has:

    “odysseanproject
    @odysseanprojec2
    Your worst nightmare is back
    Joined July 2019”

    Cheers,
    Mike

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  143. hmm…I’m slightly confused. That account seems quite quiet. This one though, seems busier:

    Are all his old Tweets there? (Am not normally a Twitter user or follower, so haven’t been keeping up).

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  144. Thanks Richard. Yes, that seems a bit more active, although as I wasn’t following it before, I could not immediately tell for myself if it was the real thing.

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  145. Mike: “Are all his old Tweets there?”

    Nope. He joined Twitter (as @OdysseanProject) in October 2017 (two currrent screenshots coming up, of the start and end of his Twitter page, which won’t click thru to Twitter itself):

    But he (or some aides) cleaned out all tweets and retweets prior to May 11th 2018:

    Don’t ask me why that was the cutoff point. 😉

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  146. David Starkey had some trenchant things to say about Brexit to Brendan O’Neill on the latter’s podcast a couple of days ago. He’s angry – but few people provide as much historical background to the current constitutional controversies. (I also heard Starkey on Brexit in the light of Henry VIII last October at a secondary school that some friends have kids at. He was absolutely brilliant with that younger audience, not forgetting the parents.) And Starkey mentions in passing that Cummings has a first in history under the tutelage of his old friend Norman Stone – so the young gun might just get it right.

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  147. Thank you again Richard. Fascinating stuff.

    Looking back at the old tweets that are there, I was reminded of this blog article, which I’d read, but well worth re-reading:

    https://dominiccummings.com/2018/05/23/on-the-referendum-25-a-letter-to-tory-mps-donors-on-the-brexit-shambles

    One wonders what might have happened if the Gove-Johnson relationship hadn’t imploded in the immediate post-Cameron period, and Dom hadn’t had to go off on parental leave at that time.

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  148. It’s interesting to note, as of our incomplete knowledge in September 2019, that Gove showed the same weakness in decision-making over Cameron sacking him as Education Secretary in July 2014 as over whether to stand for Tory leader after Leave’s referendum win, followed by Cameron’s resignation, in June 2016, as many like Rees-Mogg were urging him to. According to Cameron’s autobiography Gove at first accepted the demotion to Chief Whip from his ‘best friend’, then a short while later refused to go, so was humiliatingly forced out. Likewise, he went with Boris on 24th June 2016, was badly put off by something (he has never been fully forthcoming on what) and in effect shot both of them in the foot. Though it also took the idiocy of the ERG types going for the wholly untested Leadsom, who duly imploded in her first serious interview, to pave the way for May. As Cummings memorably commented on hearing the rumour that, as Gove’s other, rather different best friend, he had been the Machiavelli behind the knifing of Boris, “I wasn’t behind that, because I’m not a moron.”

    Some people will be less interested than I am in the personal side of all this but I think Gove’s wife Sarah has just written an amazingly gracious piece about the Camerons in the Daily Mail, after Dave’s recent broadsides. Christian forgiveness in action? My hunch is we’re going to need more of that before this shitshow is over.

    Meanwhile, this was I thought an interesting interaction on Twitter earlier:

    So much unresolved, especially if one reads Pete’s dad, as I still tend to do. Referenda are never perfect, not least where the EU is concerned, but the flexibility of Cummings, that Geoff, Manic and others have alluded to, with Boris and Gove close at hand (and that combo is also, for me, grace at work), I think remains an asset. However, back to the personal, Cummings needs to have an operation of some sort and has only committed to be around till 31st October. Has anyone else read that? I’m sure I did. So nothing in the bag.

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  149. However, back to the personal, Cummings needs to have an operation of some sort and has only committed to be around till 31st October. Has anyone else read that? I’m sure I did. So nothing in the bag.

    Yes, I’ve read or heard that somewhere, although I’m afraid I can’t remember where.
    Someone else commented that he was looking ill.

    I hope it’s nothing too serious.

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  150. https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/brexit-boris-johnson-dominic-cummings-backstop-parliament-politics-a9029251.html

    Among the many appointments to Boris Johnson’s government, few generated more intrigue than that of Dominic Cummings. The former Michael Gove staffer and Vote Leave director reportedly only accepted the adviser role at No 10 after deciding to postpone an operation until after Brexit day, further buttressing his self-made reputation for single-minded commitment to his causes.

    The article as a whole is fairly antipathetic to Cummings.

    I found several other references to the postponed operation, but if you followed the links, you either had to register or subscribe to read the text. One of these was the Spectator, and they should know, given that Dom’s wife, Mary Wakefield, is their commissioning editor.

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  151. That’s a great analogy Beth. (Wish I had thought of it! 🙂 ). Looking deeper into this (which I had never done until now, I must admit), there is an interesting thread on Quora…

    https://www.quora.com/What-does-the-sentence-I-can-check-out-anytime-you-like-but-I-can-never-leave-mean

    …which explains it’s not about a real hotel, but is an image of California at that time. It’s a perfect metaphor for the UK’s situation within the EU. We sleepwalked our way into the EU without most of us being aware of the deeper implications. We allowed ourselves to be “drugged” by our apparent prosperity. Trade deals? Nah, let the EU worry about that. Workers rights? Oh, the EU’s got it covered. We were either coddled by the nanny superstate, or bullied by Big Brother (whichever way you look at it), but either way, we became slowly depoliticised. UK politics was less and less important because all the important decisions were made in Brussels. Democracy? Well of course, I have an MEP even if I’m not sure of his or her name, and actually, when I think about it, I have about half a dozen of them covering a massive region.Oh and actually when I check, it’s 10 not half a dozen, (and one of them is Nigel Farage…). Anyway, the idea that there can be any kind of realistic representation in such a system is ludicrous. Westminster is bad enough.

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  152. I think Kristian’s got this right. Cameron is trolling now.

    Gove, Boris and May should not have been in the frame; a Norway-model Brexit should.

    Cummings should have been taking care of his wife and new baby without the drama.

    The bad loser meme and the betrayal-of-Brexit one began right here.

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