The End of Free Movement . . .

Ian Dunt

When I started this blog, some years ago, it was not my intention to populate it with cut and paste jobs from other sources. But I have been overtaken by events,and these events need recording. I am no archivist, but I hope other people are doing similar things because future historians will need all the sources and resources that they can find.

The Government, having let slip rather awkwardly the information that eugenics (the bad sort of eugenics) is on their agenda, now give us their ideology about immigrants and immigrant labour. Ian Dunt has written about it, and I can do no more than to repeat what he has said here in the hope that the few people who read this thing might in turn pass the parcel around their friends and contacts and get it more widely known. So, here goes . . .

The end of free movement: Brexit’s single achievement
By Ian Dunt
Wednesday, 19 February 2020 8:42 AM

So after four years, we finally get sight of it. The great points-based system, designed to replace free movement. No-one coming in under £25,600, unless there’s a special shortage. No-one without good English. No-one who’s self-employed. No-one without a job offer, unless they’re very highly skilled.

No more bright young people, arriving in London with dreams of making it and seeing what they can do. No more musicians getting their big break and heading out the next morning. No more care workers looking after ageing Brits. No more construction workers from Poland, out in all weather, getting the job done. No more freedom. Just the relentless, black-and-white, ham-fisted drudgery of bureaucratic requirements.

This is what it’s all been about, ultimately. We forget now. They barely bother mentioning it. But free movement was everything in the referendum. This was why the Brexit campaign skyrocketed. It is why it won. It’s why we’re leaving the EU. It’s why we’re leaving the single market. It’s why we divided the country against itself. It’s why we’re detonating our trading networks. It’s why we’ve rubbished our international reputation. All so we could do this. What is happening today is the single accomplishment of the Brexit era.

And it’s a disaster. No matter which sector you talk to – from video games to abattoirs, broadcasters to supermarket delivery, financial services to care – they all say the same thing: We need access to people.

It’s nearly always the second thing industry bodies say in connection with Brexit. There’s typically one item which is their main regulatory problem. And then immigration is number two. For pretty much everyone. But those views don’t matter anymore. They are the people who understand their sector, so they are considered experts and can be safely dismissed in favour of the great galaxy brains in Downing Street.

The anti-immigrant lobby insists this is because British employers have become hooked on cheap labour as a way to avoid investing in Brits.

They’ve never been able to provide decent evidence for this. There’s a couple of reports which suggest a very small impact on the bottom ten per cent of workers in certain sectors. One showed a 1.88% reduction in pay rises over ten years for those in the sectors with a ten percentage point increase in migrant labour, for instance. But even in these rare cases, the impact of migration pay reduction is vastly overshadowed by the impact of the financial crash. Immigration was not the cause of low wages. The 2008 recession was. Immigrants were just a useful group to blame.

Most studies show negligible or zero wage decline, at any level, in any region. Immigrants don’t just take jobs – they create them, boosting demand and pushing firms towards taking on more workers. Immigrant workers are often more entrepreneurial, more likely to increase productivity, more likely to start up a business, more likely to contribute to innovation and boost long-run UK competitiveness, more likely to open up new customer bases or overseas trade links for a company.

European immigrants are disproportionately young and highly educated. Almost twice as many of them have some form of higher education and only 15% left school at 16. Britain gains from that two times over. It doesn’t pay for the education, but it does gain from tax money they pay as workers. EU immigrants are net contributors to the public finances, unlike British citizens who are not. The Office for Budget Responsibility estimates that the lower the immigration level, the higher the national debt will be. The higher immigration is, the lower the debt becomes.

It’s as simple as that. Fewer immigrants means worse public services and more austerity. The government, not satisfied with slicing up our trading networks, is now breaking up the internal economic performance of the UK. And all this with no plan whatsoever for how it is going to improve things – no plans for improving productivity, no plans for retraining, no plans for communities outside of the south-east and London except for a railway line in a few decades’ times which half the government anyway doesn’t want to build.

The Migration Advisory Committee estimates that 70% of Europeans who arrived since 2004 would be ineligible under this system. That’s what the Home Office is aiming for. A 70% reduction in Europeans coming to Britain. And let’s not pretend they’re so keen to replace that flow with people elsewhere. All that talk of how Boris Johnson would be a secretly liberal prime is abject nonsense. The plan is consciously and explicitly to reduce immigration. To make this country more ‘British’, whatever the hell that means. To imagine that Brits will now do the jobs they refused to do before. The entire country is being reformatted to make Nigel Farage more comfortable about hearing foreign languages on a train.

What we are losing is about so much more than money. It is about being open. It is about being a place that is confident enough to take in new arrivals. Being a place new arrivals might wish to come to. We’ve lost that confidence. We’ve lost the sense that difference is beautiful, both for what it accomplishes and in its own right. And we’re replacing it with nationalism. That’s what it is. Don’t beat around the bush, or pretend it’s anything other than it is. It is nationalism. The grimy pit representing all that’s worst in political thought, the worship of uniformity, the desire to replace warm welcomes with borders and inspections.

We imagine we are restricting others, but in reality we are imprisoning ourselves. And not just because we are sabotaging our own economy. We are losing one of the greatest freedoms achieved in the history of humankind: the freedom to move. The freedom to decide that we will live somewhere else, without any bureaucrat or state official to get in our way. The freedom of the individual in space – one of the greatest accomplishments of the European project – is now barred for those of us on this island.

The loss is beyond comprehension. It is the loss of our future, the loss of our rights, and the loss of the highest aspirations of human self-development.

And all so we can fix a problem which does not exist with a solution which will make us poorer. It is a bitterly stupid and small-hearted thing to do. And we have done it to ourselves.

Ian Dunt is editor of His new book, How To Be A Liberal, is out in spring 2020.

The opinions in’s Comment and Analysis section are those of the author and are no reflection of the views of the website or its owners.

Note that the original has hyperlinks to other web sites which have been stripped out here. To see the whole thing follow the link in my preamble or use this . . .

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The Galloway Motor Car

The “Galloway”

The header photo is that of a Galloway motor car made either at their Tongland or Dumfries works, and the lady standing by it is Miss Dorothée Pullinger who was an engineer and was instrumental in designing the car and running the factory. The Tongland factory survives, but I do not know what it actually makes now, while the Dumfries factory, which also survives and is visible for miles, is a sad wreck. Old mills and factories elsewhere have been re purposed in various ways and it is a shame that nothing has been done about this piece of Dumfries’ history.

Entrance to Arrol Johnstone factory 1914-18
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Ursula von der Leyen sets it all out . . .

Ursula von der Layen
Ursula von der Layen

Speech : 11 February 2020, Strasbourg
Speech by President von der Leyen in the Plenary of the European Parliament at the debate on the Commission’s proposal for a mandate for the negotiation of a new partnership with the United Kingdom

Thank you, Mr President,

Honourable Members,

It is just two weeks ago that we bid farewell to our British friends by singing ‘Auld Lang Syne’. And I think it was the most emotional, a very powerful moment in this Parliament. A moment to celebrate the good old times and I thank you very much for the grace and the kindness of this gesture, this was extraordinary.

Since then, we set our sights on the future of our relations with the United Kingdom. And we will enter these negotiations with the highest ambition. Because good old friends like the UK and us should not settle for anything less than this. Prime Minister Johnson said in Greenwich, earlier this month, that the United Kingdom will be ‘a global champion of free trade’. Frankly, this is music to our ears. Because in a moment when the rules-based trade system is so challenged, we need our partners to join us in making the system fairer and stronger.

And this is what we Europeans have always fought for over the years. A trade system that is open on one side and that is fair on the other side. Because what do free trade agreements do? Free trade agreements must replace uncertainty with a sound set of rules. They create new markets for small and medium enterprises. Free trade agreements must benefit the people. And this is the rationale that is behind our trade agreements, for instance with Canada and Japan.

They are not just increasing our bilateral exchanges of goods, services, people and ideas. They do that too, but not only. They also raise standards on a broad range of issues, from labour rights to the environment. This is what makes us proud of them. Ask our Japanese friends or ask our Canadian friends. They are glad that we have joined forces to put fairness into our globalised economic system. They are glad that they could join forces with the European Union because frankly, in today’s world, size does matter. And we have a Single Market of 440 million people! What I just described, this is the ambition we have for our free trade agreement with the United Kingdom.

And when we agreed the Political Declaration with the United Kingdom, we ambitioned a zero tariffs and a zero quotas trade relation for all goods. Something we have never ever before offered to anybody else. A new model of trade, a unique ambition in terms of access to the Single Market. But of course, this would require corresponding guarantees on fair competition and the protection of social, environmental and consumer standards. In short: This is plain and simply the level playing field.

We are ready to discuss on all different models of trade agreement. But all these models, whatever you chose, have one thing in common: They all come not only with rights but also with obligations for both sides. For example, if we take the Canada model – and this is a model the Prime Minister Johnson referred to – of course, our deal with Canada eliminates tariffs on a wide set of goods, but not on all. And of course, our deal with Canada eliminates most quotas, but certainly not all. For instance, there are still quotas on beef and sweetcorn. And of course: We still have our standards that have to be respected.

And honestly, I was a little bit surprised to hear the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom speak about the Australian model. Australia, without any doubt, is a strong and a like-minded partner. But the European Union does not have a trade agreement with Australia. We are currently trading on WTO terms. And if this is the British choice, we are fine with that – without any question. But in fact, we are just in the moment where we are agreeing with Australia that we must end this situation, and we work on a trade deal with them. Of course, the UK can decide to settle for less. But I personally believe that we should be way more ambitious. And the Prime Minister’s speech in Greenwich is an encouraging starting point.

He recalled everything the UK has achieved in terms of social protection, climate action and competition rules. And I commend the UK for all of that. Indeed, it is not the time to lower social protection or to be lukewarm on climate action. And it is not the time to decrease in terms of competition rules. I have heard ambition in Boris Johnson’s speech. Ambition on minimum wages and parental payments. And he has an ally in me, what that is concerned. I have heard ambition on cutting carbon emissions. Ambition on guaranteeing that our firms are competing in full fairness. This is what we also want. Let us formally agree on these objectives.

We can trigger an upward dynamic competition that would benefit both the United Kingdom and the European Union. To our British friends I say: It is in our mutual interest. And most importantly – it would be consistent with the values we share. Values of openness, values of fairness and values of social justice and free enterprise. These are not only values for good old times. These are values to stay.

Thank you very much for your attention. I just wanted to inform you that the Task Force is ready to start the negotiations. We are all set.

Thanks a lot.

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To the Church at Philippi . . . but of universal application . . .

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“Get Brexit done”, the mind-clouding magic dust which has blinded reason and diminished our children’s prospects . . .

Apologies for another copy and paste job, but some of the writing inspired by Brexit is worth saving, I think. This by Ian McEwan from “The Guardian” – 1 February 2020.

Brexit, the most pointless, masochistic ambition in our country’s history, is done
Ian McEwan
The magic dust of populism has blinded reason, and damage and diminishment lie ahead

It’s done. A triumph of dogged negotiation by May then, briefly, Johnson, has fulfilled the most pointless, masochistic ambition ever dreamed of in the history of these islands. The rest of the world, presidents Putin and Trump excepted, have watched on in astonishment and dismay. A majority voted in December for parties which supported a second referendum. But those parties failed lamentably to make common cause. We must pack up our tents, perhaps to the sound of church bells, and hope to begin the 15-year trudge, back towards some semblance of where we were yesterday with our multiple trade deals, security, health and scientific co-operation and a thousand other useful arrangements.

The only certainty is that we’ll be asking ourselves questions for a very long time. Set aside for a moment Vote Leave’s lies, dodgy funding, Russian involvement or the toothless Electoral Commission. Consider instead the magic dust. How did a matter of such momentous constitutional, economic and cultural consequence come to be settled by a first-past-the-post vote and not by a super-majority? A parliamentary paper (see Briefing 07212) at the time of the 2015 Referendum Act hinted at the reason: because the referendum was merely advisory. It “enables the electorate to voice an opinion”. How did “advisory” morph into “binding”? By that blinding dust thrown in our eyes from right and left by populist hands.

We endured a numbing complicity between government and opposition. The door out of Europe was held open by Corbyn for Johnson to walk through. In this case, if you travelled far enough to the left, you met and embraced the right coming the other way.

What did we learn in our blindness? That those not flourishing within the status quo had no good reason to vote for it; that our prolonged parliamentary chaos derived from an ill-posed yes-no question to which there were a score of answers; that the long-evolved ecology of the EU has profoundly shaped the flora of our nation’s landscape and to rip these plants out will be brutal; that what was once called a hard Brexit became soft by contrast with the threatened no-deal that even now persists; that any mode of departure, by the government’s own estimate, will shrink the economy; that we have a gift for multiple and bitter division – young against old, cities against the country, graduates against early school-leavers, Scotland and Northern Ireland against England and Wales; that all past, present and future international trade deals or treaties are a compromise with sovereignty, as is our signature on the Paris accords, or our membership of Nato, and that therefore “Take Back Control” was the emptiest, most cynical promise of this sorry season.

We surprised ourselves. Only a few years ago, asked to list the nation’s ills – wealth gap, ailing NHS, north-south imbalance, crime, terrorism, austerity, housing crisis etc – most of us would not have thought to include our membership of the EU. How happy we were in 2012, in the afterglow of our successful Olympics. We weren’t thinking then of Brussels. It was, in Guy Verhofstadt’s famous term, a “cat-fight” within the Tory party that got us going. Those cats had been fighting each other for decades. When they dragged us in and urged us to take sides, we had a collective nervous breakdown; then sufficient numbers wanted the distress to go away and “get Brexit done”. Repeated ad nauseam by the prime minister it almost seemed impolite to ask why.

In the early days of the referendum campaign we learned that “on the doorstep” it was all about migration; but we also learned that it was the UK’s decision, not the EU’s, to allow unlimited migration from the accession countries before the permitted seven years were up; it was the UK’s choice to allow EU migrants to stay more than six months without a job; it was the UK that successfully campaigned to enlarge the EU eastwards; it is the UK, not the EU, that lets non-EU migration continue (and why not?) as EU migration declines. We also learned that the UK, not the EU, opted for our maroon rather than patriotic blue passports. Though, as I look, my old passports seem almost black.

There is much that is historically unjust about the British state, but very little of that injustice derives from the EU. Brussels didn’t insist that we neglect the post-industrial towns of the Midlands and the north; or demand that we let wages stagnate, or permit multimillion handouts to the CEOs of failing companies, or prefer shareholder value over the social good, or run our health service, social care and Sure Start into the ground, close 600 police stations and let the fabric of our state schools decay.

It was the task of the Brexit campaign to persuade the electorate otherwise. In the referendum they succeeded with 37%, enough to transform our collective fate for a generation at least. To cause sufficient numbers to believe that the source of all their grievances is some hostile outside element is the oldest trick in the populist handbook. As Trotsky was for Stalin, as the USA is for the mullahs of Iran and Gülen is for Erdoğan, so Brussels has served its turn.

Hedge fund owners, plutocrat donors to the cause, Etonians and newspaper proprietors cast themselves as enemies of the elite. More magic dust. The claim that the Northern Ireland issue has been settled is a dangerous pretence. We have witnessed reasoned argument’s fall from grace. The Brexit impulse had strong elements of blood-and-soil, with hints of Empire nostalgia. Such spooky longings floated high above mere facts.

We acquired an argot. “Article 50”, “frictionless trade”, “just in time”, “the backstop” – how they tripped off the tongue. We learned to respect an “invisible border”. Before it all began, only a very few knew the difference between the customs union and the single market. Three years on, not much has changed. A survey last year showed that quite a lot of us thought that “crashing out” was the same as remaining. If only.

The Brexit leadership and the leader of the opposition were always in a hurry to start article 50’s two-year stopwatch. They feared that leave voters might change their minds, that those who didn’t vote last time were 2:1 for remaining, and that young voters coming on to the rolls would be mostly pro-EU. The Brexiter generals reasonably feared a second referendum.

At least, we can all agree that we will be a bit poorer. As one of my school teachers used to say, if a thing is really worth doing, it’s worth doing badly. Theresa May could never bring herself to say that Brexit would make us better off. She wouldn’t even tell us if she would vote to leave in a second referendum. We should credit her honesty. By contrast, Boris Johnson, laying his post-Brexit vision before parliament, promised he would narrow the UK’s wealth and opportunity gap between north and south, and make it the home of cutting-edge battery technology. He forgot to mention that the EU never stood in the way of either project.

Redefining our new trade relations with the EU will preoccupy us for years. As for the US position, take a long walk in the American midwest and you’ll go a month across a monoculture desert and not see a wildflower. To compete, our own agriculture would have to welcome the hormone hypodermic. Our farmers will need to divest of inefficient hedgerows, boundary trees and three-metre field margins – museum pieces all. When it was in trade talks with the EU, the US wouldn’t contemplate higher standards of husbandry, food standards and environmental protection, even though they would have granted access to half a billion consumers. American farming corporations will not be changing their ways for a nation of a mere 65 million. If we want a deal, it is we who must downgrade.

We sense damage and diminishment ahead. In a dangerous world crowded with loud-mouthed “strongmen”, the EU was our best hope for an open, tolerant, free and peaceful community of nations. Those hopes are already threatened as populist movements have swept across Europe. Our withdrawal will weaken resistance to the xenophobic tendency. The lesson of our nation’s history these past centuries is plain: turmoil in continental Europe will draw us into bloody conflicts. Nationalism is rarely a project for peace. Nor does it care to counter climate change. It prefers to let tropical forests and the Australian bush burn.

Take a road trip from Greece to Sweden, from Portugal to Hungary. Leave your passport behind. What a rich, teeming bundle of civilisations – in food, manners, architecture, language, and each nation state profoundly and proudly different from its neighbours. No evidence of being under the boot-heel of Brussels. Nothing here of continental USA’s dreary commercial sameness. Summon everything you’ve learned of the ruinous, desperate state of Europe in 1945, then contemplate a stupendous economic, political and cultural achievement: peace, open borders, relative prosperity, and the encouragement of individual rights, tolerance and freedom of expression. Until Friday this was where our grown-up children went at will to live and work.

That’s over, and for now the force is with English nationalism. Its champion is Johnson’s Vote Leave cabinet whose monument will forever be a special kind of smirk, perfected back in the days of the old Soviet Union. I’m lying, you know I’m lying and I know that you know and I don’t give a damn. As in, “The five-week prorogation of parliament has nothing to do with Brexit.” Michael Gove and Jacob Rees-Mogg were masters of the mocking grin. The supreme court’s inconvenient judgment that this prorogation was illegal clearly still rankles. Recently, the ex-home secretary Michael Howard was set on to murmur against the judges. Extending political control over an independent judiciary would be consonant with the Johnson-Cummings project. Victor Orbán of Hungary lights the way.

The remainers held out for a kinder sort of world, but we were always the herbivores in this debate, with our enormous, good-natured and derided marches – “a hate-filled crowd”, the Sun; “an elite”, the Daily Telegraph. If 16 million remainers are an elite, then we may rejoice that the UK is a model of meritocracy.

We were, in truth, the left-behinds. By the grace of Corbyn and his grim lieutenants, we had no effective voice in parliament. On her first day as prime minister, Theresa May promised outside No 10 that she would govern for us all. Instead, she threw half the country to the dogs to appease her party’s right wing. Initially, Boris Johnson’s elevation was decided by a tiny, ageing constituency, the majority of whose members told pollsters that they wished Donald Trump ruled Britain and that they longed for the return of hanging. In similar spirit, Johnson found fresh depths of populist vulgarity when he spoke last June of pitchforking the EU incubus off the nation’s back. He has realised his dream.

As for the outer extremes, the occasional milkshake aside, we never violently assaulted a Brexiter in the street; we only rarely inclined to sending anonymous death and rape threats such as came so abundantly the way of Gina Miller, Anna Soubry and many female MPs. However, the antisemitic emails from within the Labour party were a disgrace. So too was the bullying mob jeering outside the Rees-Mogg home. But we remainers did not slyly exhort our compatriots to riot in the event of a second referendum going against us. Nearly two-thirds of the electorate did not vote to leave; most of business and the trade unions, agriculture, science, finance and the arts were against the Brexit project; three-quarters of MPs voted to remain. But our representatives ignored the evident public interest and shrank behind party cabals and “the people have spoken” – that bleak Soviet locution – followed by “get Brexit done”, the mind-clouding magic dust which has blinded reason and diminished our children’s prospects.

© 2020 Guardian News & Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.

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An Open Letter from the Council of the European Union . . .

The logo of the Council of the European Union

An open letter from the Council of the European Union, which I thought worth preserving. Our Eurosceptic press and TV will not publish it or refer to it, thus once again denying to the public information expressly intended for its use. This is what “control” actually looks like in practice . . .

European Council Press release 31 January 2020 08:00
“A new dawn for Europe” – Op-ed article by Presidents Charles Michel, David Sassoli and Ursula von der Leyen

As the night draws in this evening, the sun will set on more than 45 years of the United Kingdom’s membership of the European Union. For us, as Presidents of the three main EU institutions, today will inevitably be a day of reflection and mixed emotions – as it will for so many people.

Our thoughts are with all of those who have helped to make the European Union what it is today. Those who are concerned about their future or disappointed to see the UK leave. Those British members of our institutions who helped shape policies that made lives better for millions of Europeans. We will think of the UK and its people, their creativity, ingenuity, culture, and traditions, that have been a vital part of our Union’s tapestry.

These emotions reflect our fondness for the United Kingdom – something which goes far beyond membership of our Union. We have always deeply regretted the UK’s decision to leave but we have always fully respected it, too. The agreement we reached is fair for both sides and ensures that millions of EU and UK citizens will continue to have their rights protected in the place they call home.

At the same time, we need to look to the future and build a new partnership between enduring friends. Together, our three institutions will do everything in their power to make it a success. We are ready to be ambitious.

How close that partnership will be depends on decisions that are still to be taken. Because every choice has a consequence. Without the free movement of people, there can be no free movement of capital, goods and services. Without a level playing field on environment, labour, taxation and state aid, there cannot be the highest quality access to the single market. Without being a member, you cannot retain the benefits of membership.

Over the next weeks, months and years we will have to loosen some of the threads carefully stitched together between the EU and the UK over five decades. And as we do so, we will have to work hard to weave together a new way forward as allies, partners and friends.

Whilst the UK will cease to be an EU member, it will remain part of Europe. Our shared geography, history and ties in so many areas inevitably bind us and make us natural allies. We will continue to work together on foreign affairs, security and defence with a common purpose and shared mutual interests. But we will do it in different ways.

We do not underestimate the task that lies before us but we are confident that with goodwill and determination we can build a lasting, positive and meaningful partnership.

But tomorrow will also mark a new dawn for Europe.

The last few years have brought us closer together – as nations, as institutions and as people. They have reminded us all that the European Union is more than a market or economic power but stands for values that we all share and defend. How much stronger we are when we are together.

This is why the Member States of Europe will continue to join forces and build a common future. In an age of great power competition and turbulent geopolitics, size matters. No country alone can hold back the tide of climate change, find the solutions to the digital future or have a strong voice in the ever-louder cacophony of the world.

But together, the European Union can.

We can because we have the largest internal market in the world. We can because we are the top trading partner for 80 countries. We can because we are a Union of vibrant democracies. We can because our peoples are determined to promote European interests and values on the world stage. We can because EU member states will leverage their considerable, collective economic power in discussions with allies and partners – the United States, Africa, China or India.

All of this gives us a renewed sense of shared purpose. We have a common vision of where we want to go and a commitment to be ambitious on the defining issues of our times. As set out in the European Green Deal, we want to be the first climate neutral continent by 2050, creating new jobs and opportunities for people in the process. We want to take the lead on the next generation of digital technologies and we want a just transition so that we can support the people most affected by change.

We believe only the European Union can do this. But we know we can only do it together: people, nations, institutions. And we, as Presidents of the three institutions, are committed to playing our part.

That work continues as soon as the sun rises tomorrow.

Published in several European media

Open Letter text here . . .

The sentence about which I have grave doubts is this . . .

The agreement we reached is fair for both sides and ensures that millions of EU and UK citizens will continue to have their rights protected in the place they call home.

I think the Johnsonian Government sits very lightly to agreements in to which it has allegedly entered. It is as we were as children when if you were made to promise something you crossed your fingers behind your back. Well nowadays there is no need for the Government to cross its fingers because it must be taken as read that there is no necessary connection between anything they say, and their subsequent actions. The saying is for their target audience. The doing is the expression of their actual policies and beliefs – realpolitik. The notion that they might stick with the terms of this withdrawal agreement is naive in the extreme, and this is where the battles will occur in the coming months as the EU negotiators try to deal with their chicanery. They may conclude that the negotiations are not worth pursuing – which may be indeed the Government’s real intention – or perhaps the intention of Mr. Dominic (Rasputin) Cummings ?

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Amazon – the Great Prime Scandal

After a Titanic – spoiler alert : this could be a slight exaggeration – struggle with from whom we were trying to order some items I was sufficiently cross as to post the following on Facebook, and to send an annotated copy of it to the Computeractive Magazine. I really do feel very strongly that this is a cleverly presented piece of sheer deception and effrontery by Amazon and that there needs to be a united global campaign against it . . .

End of rant – read on . . .

We just placed an order with Amazon. Error. We both sat and went through the payment process page by page and studiously avoided (as we thought – simpletons !) any possibility of falling into the Prime quicksand. We got to a point where we were evidently – and entirely against our will – entangled in a free trial of Prime, so we started all over again and thought once again we had avoided the wretched thing. Wrong ! It became evident that we were ensnared willy nilly. But by sheer dogged bloody mindedness we found out how to cancel the Prime Free Trial (which we never knowingly signed up for). We are apparently stuck in it until 28 February when it will allegedly terminate itself. I think this Prime business of Amazon’s is sneaky, thoroughly immoral, and ought to be stopped.

This is the second time I have been trapped by Prime despite knowing its dangers, and trying to avoid it – and then again finding out how to wriggle out of it, and I’m sick of it. The problem is that for certain things it is difficult to find an alternative supplier because Amazon have effectively established a monopoly. We avoid them like the plague as far as we can, but sometimes we have to venture into their store and hope to get out alive. It’s a bit like the adventures of some Greek hero or heroine in the Greek myths.

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Holocaust Memorial Day . . .


I see a great deal in the media and on Facebook about Auschwitz, not just today, but all year round. School parties and groups visit and are suitably impressed and their comments reveal that they have been shocked to learn what went on and they say things such as, “It must never happen, or be allowed to happen again”. This is all good. But I never see anything to convey any other impression than that it all happened at Auschwitz. The necessary information that Auschwitz and camps like it were only a few of the camps where such things happened, and that the total number of concentration camps runs into many thousands seldom appears. Nor that the whole process did not just happen in the Second World War but started when the Nazi Party came to power in 1933.

I have never seen any mention, for example, of the programme to eliminate what the Party considered to be defective children which continued despite protests by German citizens and promises to stop by their Government.

It was all much bigger and more extensive, more comprehensive, than is usually mentioned. History does not so much get rewritten, parts of it just quietly drop off the agenda until some brave soul writes a book, or makes a film about it, whereupon it is hailed as a great “discovery” and there are implications that it has all been kept secret for some nefarious reason.


Some years ago, my wife and I visited eastern Germany, almost on the Czech border to see the remains of the camp at Flossenberg. This is where Dietrich Bonhoeffer was hanged in April 1945 for his complicity in the plot to kill Hitler. He was not the only one, but he is the one best known because of his books which are still valued today. The town is in an area where granite is to be found and a granite quarry was part of the reason for ita existence. Having acquired your occupants, Flossenberg had many who were alleged to be homosexuals, but their was a mixture of other prisoners there too. One such was Payne Best who became known because of the Venlo Incident of November 1939, and the idea was to make use of them while you could, so they were worked in the quarry, which was hard physical work, whilst being fed on rations suitable for a sedentary occupation at best. Thus they died without actually needing to be executed a such, but they were cremated as elsewhere and there remains (or did at the time of our visit) a great mound of ashes covered in turf and grassed over. I visited the crematorium and listened to a guide explaining to a group how the gold was extracted from the teeth of the corpses and along with any other gold possessions all collected up, melted down, and then sent across the border to Switzerland to be sold in the world’s gold markets. Which makes you realise that we are all drawn into complicity by our liking for gold for our wedding rings and other articles.

In the museum there were some of the plans drawn up for the builders and others in the consrtuction of the camp which showed the neat rows of wooden huts, lablled on the plans as “Stables”. They also showed us that the camp was originally much bigger than that which is left and we could see that already nice new houses were being built on that part, and I wondered whether their new occupants knew about the history of their plots and their gardens. The main office block of the camp was still standing, a solid stone construction exctly like that we we constantly see repeated of the entrance to Auschwitz and I found it both upsetting and unnerving.

The place where Bonhoeffer and the others were hung was preserved and there was an inscription bearing all their names. I hope it is still there.

I mention all this in an attempt to show that this one, comparatively small camp, was just one of the many built and what a great deal of economic effort was expended by Germany in those years from 1933 onwards in the pursuit of an improved Aryan race.

(I now see that the preservation of the camp as a memory and history has gone ahead a great deal since we were there in the late 1990s – they now have their own website here.)

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Go fly a kite . . .

Masonic Arms, Gatehouse of Fleet, The Bar
Masonic Arms, Gatehouse of Fleet
Cheery and warming stove in the bar.

On the way home from a trip to the Podiatrist in Gatehouse of Fleet, followed by an excellent lunch in the “Masonic Arms” we sat and watched three red kites working the ridge of a field two or three miles north of Ringford. They worked along the ridge going upwind and riding the updraughts, then when they got to the end of heir patrol line they did a turn and skilfully allowed the wind to take them downwind as the turn continued to bring them upwind over the ridge again. In our time of watching each bird made at least one or two swoops down and landed on the grass, but we could not see them once they had done this (just the tops of their heads) so we could not see if they were actually eating anything. The sun was bright behind us, so that their colouring showed up well against the blue sky. A very pleasant five or ten minutes of observation. The photo below is, alas, not one of ours, but comes by courtesy of Google Images.

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One Picture is worth . . .

From “The Economist” by KAL

A very good summary of the last three years – and we haven’t yet hit the ground.

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