Pity the Nation(s)

I haven't been on this site for a long time. And what a mess we have made of our country, our continent, our connections. And, by the way, just because the USA has made - and is continuing to make -  a worse mess is no excuse. 

There are those of us who understand that what is so wrong with the Brexit vote is not so much to do with trade as a failure to grasp what the EU was, and is, for. We have historically been a tightly packed, irritable continent that has resorted to war so frequently over the centuries that the 70 odd years of peace we have managed as a union (of sorts) are remarkable. So remarkable, it seems, that people are prepared to throw it away, or they somehow think that because we are in the 21st century we wouldn't do all that again, or they dont think at all.

The People Have Spoken is the refrain. But of course the people did no such thing. 37% of the electorate voted to leave. Large numbers were disenfranchised for reasons of age or that they were living in the Europe they so wish to remain in. Of those that voted, only just over half voted to leave and many because (as in the US) their lives had been overlooked, downplayed and ignored. In many cases their reasons for wanting to leave had nothing to do with the EU, even if some of them thought and still think the EU was the problem.

Immigration, we have been told, is the main worry. We apparently need less of it. But we will not get less of it, so what will those who so wanted out do then? They will have been betrayed. How disaffected will they then become?

Posted on Sunday, April 16, 2017 at 02:16PM by Registered CommenterZina Rohan | CommentsPost a Comment

Alas Foolish Britain (I fear, I think)

If you live in the UK/Britain - and yes, I know these are not the same, you will by now be wishing June 23rd had been and gone. It isn't possible to turn on the radio (other than music stations) or open a newspaper (other than celebrity rags) without being assaulted by a rising screech of lies/partially unreliable assertions/wishful thinking/personal insults and anything else you might care to add.

How, in the end, is anyone to choose how to vote if they had not already made up their minds before the nonsense began?

I know, and knew, that I will vote to remain. My reasons are firstly that Europe in the 21st Century is no better intrinsically than it was in the 20th and could easily go to war with itself again but for the union that keeps peoples bound together, bound to talk, bound to argue, to negotiate, to lose their tempers (sure), to be irritated - but not to kill one another. (This is not to say that we don't cheerfully kill other people.)

Other than that I see no truth in the claims made by the Leave campaign that we are such a large and important economy, such a significant island(s) that we can manage very well on our own. No, we can't.

But of course I could be wrong. I would rather be wrong this way than that way.

Posted on Monday, June 6, 2016 at 10:07AM by Registered CommenterZina Rohan | CommentsPost a Comment | References2 References

Putting the Boot in Putin

I have just read Karen Dawisha's book 'Putin's Kleptocracy: Who Owns Russia?' To get hold of it I had to ask a friend who was in the USA to buy it for me because it has not been, and may not be, published in the UK. And why? Because my country is known to be the defamation capital of the world.  Lawyers of course love this, as do those who win, to such an extent that our publishing industry has taken fright, and so far no one in the UK has dared bring this book out.

Wealthy Russians, of whom Putin is undoubtedly very much one, love London for its libel courts - see Abramovich vs Berezovsky, and many others. All a plaintiff needs to prove is that statements made/broadcast/printed would result in financial loss or loss of reputation. The defendant needs to prove that what was said was fair comment, true and in the public interest.

Now where this book is concerned, Karen Dawisha seems to have done her stuff. Her research has been meticulous - there are many footnotes quoting interviews, blogs, articles, other books, secret recordings...But also here and there, unfortunately, those awkward phrases like 'X was said to be' or 'widely supposed to have done' and so on. Not many, but possibly enough to make a barrister plan a long summer holiday. There is also the problem that Putin, and his henchpersons aren't especially concerned with the truth. And their pockets are very deep.

The fundamental argument Dawisha makes is that from his earliest days in St Petersburg as Mayor Sobchak's right hand man, Putin was mixing contacts with organised crime, diverted city money and a band of cronies who would accompany him later to Moscow and the top posts in government. And once there he would proceed as before but on a much larger scale, hand in glove with the FSB who were to be the ultimate money-launderers, just as the KGB had been before them.

At the Public Inquiry into the death of former FSB agent Alexander Litvinenko, the academic Robert Service (adviser to the Inquiry on all things Russian) cited Putin's Kleptocracy and its author as being on the anti-Putin end of the scale. (He put himself somewhere in the middle - no admiration for the President but not quite as excoriating as Dawisha is.) At the same time he acknowledged that she had surely done her research. 

I found it gripping even though at times I felt the author was going further than she needed to in pursuit of her quarry. She'd caught him already.

 (By the way If you have difficulty with Russian names, don't read it: they come so thick and fast that anyone who struggles with, say, the characters in War and Peace will be plunged into existential gloom. )

 

Posted on Saturday, May 2, 2015 at 03:32PM by Registered CommenterZina Rohan | CommentsPost a Comment | References1 Reference

Scotland, England, Splits and Elections

In Septmber this year the Scots will have a referendum to decide whether or not they want to get out of the UK and above all be free of Westminster.

If they say Yes, they won't actually leave till 2017.

In May 2015 the UK will have a general election whose date was fixed back in 2010.

Currently there is only one Conservative MP in Scotland. The others (at present) are largely Labour and then Scottish Nationalist. Without the Scottish Labour MPs the Labour Party in the rest of the UK could only hope to win a General Election should there (unaccountably) be a landslide, as there was in 1997. In other circumstances the Conservatives might be guaranteed to win outright more regularly, and conceivably could get away in the future without having to form coalitions with any other party.

Now: Let's assume the Scots vote Yes, and yes I know at the moment the No vote is somewhat stronger, but that could still change, and anyway wait - it's not my point. If they vote Yes, the current system will persist beyond the next General Election. If there are still a considerable number of Labour MPs returned in Scotland in the General Elecion of 2015, before the Independence thing actually comes through, what will happen in 2017? 

Imagine. The Scots become Independent on January 1st 2017 (or whichever date in that year has been nominated as Independence Day); will the Scottish Labour MPs, who will on that date be representing a foreign country, have to vacate their seats in Westminster? In other words, will the rest of the UK have to have another General Election? Or do we simply wait for the Prime Minister at the time to lose a vote of confidence in the House?

Please...should any constitutional historian by chance read this, will you tell me?

Posted on Wednesday, July 9, 2014 at 04:24PM by Registered CommenterZina Rohan | CommentsPost a Comment | References3 References

Assumptions

Every morning at around 9.15 there's a young(ish) man in a cycling helmet and, indeed, on a bicycle who pauses on his journey to wherever in the alleyway near my house.

He's forty or so. He is slim. He always has iPod headphones; he is always texting someone; he has always just lit up a cigarette. One foot on a pedal, one on the ground - I must look next time to see if he wears cycling clips.

I assume he is not allowed/will not allow himself to smoke at home; he is contacting someone he does not wish those at home to know he is contacting; he is a creature of habit.

What is he listening to? Does the person at the other end of his texts know he is always in the same place every morning? Would they be put off by that regularity?  I think my non-cycling man imagines he is somehow breaking away. I think he is entirely trapped.

Posted on Saturday, June 7, 2014 at 03:54PM by Registered CommenterZina Rohan | Comments1 Comment | References3 References
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