Once again, pollsters were wrong. And once again, conservatives benefitted.
The vote was supposed to be close. There was a lot of talk of a “hung” parliament, where there’s not enough seats to give any party a majority. This would have been the worst outcome. As it was, the Conservatives won, as they did in Australia earlier in the year; and in the 2016 US election when every prediction was that Hillary Clinton would be president.
It seems that people do not answer pollsters truthfully. Perhaps it’s because people are embarrassed to say they are Conservative, but vote with their wallets on election day. Margaret Thatcher won every time and that was the explanation. Well, whatever the reason, Boris Johnson won a landslide, the biggest vote for the Conservatives since Mrs. Thatcher in the 80s.
My home town of Grimsby, in the North of England, returned a Conservative MP for the first time in my lifetime. Others did the same. Partly, this was disillusionment with the Labor Party (socialists), who have promised much over the years, but delivered little. This time, according to analysis on Sky News, they promised 28 times as much as the Conservatives, an amount of money that would have been impossible to deliver.
But the main issue was Brexit. The Conservatives had a definite plan to get out of the European Union by January 31st. Labour’s plan was more negotiations with the EU, then a second referendum. There was a referendum in 2016 and those wanting to leave won. The experience of the last few years has been that many politicians refused to honor the referendum result. None of them were returned in last week’s election.
It’s the same with Scotland. A referendum there in 2014 showed the majority of Scots wanting to remain in the United Kingdom. But Mrs. Nicola Sturgeon refuses to accept that result and wants a second referendum. If successful, would she allow a third referendum seven years later when disillusionment with the reality of independence sets in? Doubtful. The Scottish people are subsidized by the English taxpayer to the tune of almost 2,000 pounds a year per person. Independence must mean a drop in living standards. Her hope is that Germany will help. But Germany is going to have to bail out everybody in Europe now that Britain is leaving.
However, the issue of Scottish independence is not going away. Boris Johnson has pledged to preserve the union, but even he is going to find that hard.
It’s not just Scotland, either. Northern Ireland presents another problem. For the first time ever, there are more Republican MPs from that region. The Unionists lost out for the first time. The Irish Republicans (who favor a united socialist Ireland) will be demanding independence at the same time as the Scots. If either breaks away, British security will be compromised. The UK’s nuclear base is in Clyde on the Scottish west coast. There’s also a big military presence in Northern Ireland.
But Brexit is first. Mr. Johnson has promised to deliver by the end of next month. There is no impediment in his way. There will follow eleven months of negotiations with the EU on a trade deal. The Europeans say that is impossible, it will take at least two years. With the election, power has shifted. The Europeans will have to deliver a trade deal by the end of 2020 if they want to keep British trade, and they will want to. The German car industry relies on Britain for 20% of its sales. They are not going to throw that away for the sake of teaching Britain a lesson.
The election result should benefit the US, too. Mr. Johnson has a personal friendship with Mr. Trump. Both were born in New York City. Both are known for their hair. And both are against globalism, preferring to put their country first.
The trend against pollsters may prove the same in 2020, when Donald Trump faces who knows who for the Democrats. In spite of impeachment (which isn’t going anywhere and seems solely to benefit hundreds of lawyers, all billing the taxpayer) and opinion polls that will show him losing to Elizabeth Buttagieg, or Bernie Biden, Donald Trump is most likely to win. The longer the impeachment process continues, the more support he has.
Could Scotland leave the UK . . . and stay in the EU? by Philip Sim, BBC Scotland political reporter, “Would Scots vote for independence?” 18 Dec 2019
This is the big question – after all Nicola Sturgeon doesn’t just want to hold a referendum, she wants to win one.
Polling data collected by What Scotland Thinks suggests an increase in support for independence – but it generally remains just short of a majority. Excluding “don’t knows,” the average of polls this year has been 51% No to 49% Yes. The average for 2018 was 55% to 45% – the same as the 2014 referendum.
Would an independent Scotland stay in the EU? In practice, Scotland would not become independent the day after a Yes vote – there would have to be a period of transition. In 2014, the pro-independence side said it would take 18 months to set up an independent Scottish state. Even if a referendum was held tomorrow, the transition would therefore run beyond the end of 2020 – when the UK is due to complete its exit from the EU. This means Scotland would leave the EU with the rest of the UK, and would need to apply to join again.
Scotland would have to jump through the same hoops as any state seeking to join the EU, although it would have the advantage of having recently been a member.
Sturgeon’s own party’s prospectus for independence suggests this could take several years, whereas she wants to rejoin the EU as quickly as possible. The first minister also wants to avoid a hard border between Scotland and England.
TRUMP AND NATO
The Senate foreign relations committee has voted unanimously in favor of a bipartisan bill that would prevent Trump from unilaterally withdrawing the US from Nato. The isolationist-inclined president is a noted sceptic of the transatlantic military alliance, and last week left the Nato summit in London early after the emergence of a hot mic video in which other world leaders appeared to be mocking him. The bill will now await a slot for a full vote in the Senate. (The Guardian, 12/12)
The largest arms producers in the USA and Western Europe, including German companies, have further increased their already predominant share of global arms production, as can be seen in the analysis published yesterday by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute SIPRI. SIPRI analyzed the sales of the world’s Top 100 arms-producers and concluded that 83 percent of their output comes from 70 companies headquartered in countries of the self-proclaimed community of western values. Whereas the combined sales of the Top 100 arms companies have increased by 4.6 percent, compared to the preceding year, those of the US and West European companies have increased by around 5.2 percent.
Currently the production of military hardware is also massively expanding in Germany. The armaments division of the Düsseldorf-based Rheinmetall Group was able to boost its sales by 11.8 percent in the first nine months of this year. The increase of defense budget is promising business in the billions. German arms exports are also rising dramatically. (German Foreign Policy, 12/11)
A 5,000-Year-Old Plan to Erase Debts Is Now a Hot Topic in America In ancient Babylon, a newly enthroned king would declare a jubilee, wiping out the population’s debts. In modern America, a faint echo of that idea call it jubilee-lite, is catching on. (Bloomberg, 10 Dec 2019)
Support for write-offs has been driven by Democratic presidential candidates. Elizabeth Warren says she’d cancel most of the $1.6 trillion in U.S. student loans. Bernie Sanders would go further -– erasing the whole lot, as well as $81 billion in medical debt. But it’s coming from other directions too. In October, one of the Trump administration’s senior student-loan officials resigned, calling for wholesale write-offs and describing the American way of paying for higher education as “nuts.’’ Real-estate firm Zillow cites medical and college liabilities as major hurdles for would-be renters and home buyers.
Moody’s Investors Service listed the headwinds from student debt -– less consumption and investment, more inequality — and said forgiveness would boost the economy like a tax cut. While the current debate centers on college costs, long-run numbers show how debt has spread through the economy. The U.S. relies on consumer spending for growth -– but it hasn’t been delivering significantly higher wages. Household borrowing has filled the gap, with low interest rates making it affordable. And that’s not unique to America. Steadily growing debts of one kind or another are weighing on economies all over the world.
The idea that debt can grow faster than the ability to repay, until it unbalances a society, was well understood thousands of years ago, according to Michael Hudson, an economist and historian. Last year Hudson published “And Forgive Them Their Debts,’’ a study of the ancient Near East where the tradition known as a “jubilee” — wiping the debt-slate clean — has its roots. He describes how the practice spread through civilizations including Sumer and Babylon, and came to play an important role in the Bible and Jewish law. Rulers weren’t motivated by charity, Hudson says. They were being pragmatic — trying to make sure that citizens could meet their own needs and contribute to public projects, instead of just laboring to pay creditors. And it worked, he says. “Societies that canceled the debts enjoyed stable growth for thousands of years.’’
Forgiveness was good for the economy, would be a modern way of putting it. In an October paper, Moody’s examined how that might apply if America writes off its student debts. (12/10/2019 (https://finance.yahoo.com/news/5-000-old-plan-erase-100000406.html)
NIGERIAN MONKEYPOX IN ENGLAND
A rare viral infection known as monkeypox has been diagnosed in England. The virus likely was contracted by a person in Nigeria.
Monkeypox could replace smallpox as a most dreaded disease. The related smallpox virus was eradicated in 1980, thanks to Western technology. (White people are often condemned for spreading smallpox, but seldom credited with destroying the virus worldwide.)
Open borders allow infected individuals from African nations to invade Western nations. (Daily Kenn, 12/14/2019)
A UNITED AFRICA
We Want A United States Of Africa — says Julius Malema
by SG Editor, 16 Dec 2019, iAfrica.com
JOHANNESBURG – Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema on Sunday spelled out the party’s ambitious vision to lead the entire African continent to economic freedom. Speaking at the party’s second national people’s assembly in Nasrec, south of Johannesburg, Malema explained that it was only natural that economic freedom came from the south. The gathering was expected to come to an end on Monday.
Governing South Africa may have appeared to be a tall order for the EFF, but this was just one dream that formed part of even bolder ambitions. Malema wants the six-year-old organisation to have a presence everywhere on the continent. “Our vision is not these small-minded things you’re thinking about; we want to lead Africa. We want a United States of Africa with one currency, economy, and judiciary,” Malema said.
The party’s vision appeared to be inspired by late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi who dreamt of a United States of Africa. This plan could well be underway with formations from Liberia, Malawi, and Namibia who were among the guests attending the second people’s assembly in Nasrec.
TO THE POINT
- Authorities in Australia warned that a “mega-blaze” was threatening the north-western suburbs of Sydney. Covering about 400,000 hectares, the bushfire has already destroyed over 20 homes and is moving into the Blue Mountains area, a popular tourist destination. A heatwave is not helping; the Bureau of Meteorology advised that the record for the highest-ever temperature could be broken this week. (The Economist, 12/17)
- America’s defence secretary said he needs to speak with his Turkish counterpart about remarks made by Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. On Sunday Mr. Erdogan issued a new threat: that it may shut down America’s Incirlik air base in eastern Anatolia. A worsening chill between the two NATO allies has made America jittery about the nuclear warheads it stores there. (The Economist, 12/17)
- Chief Advisor To Turkish President Erdoğan: ‘The Islamic World Should Prepare An Army For Palestine From Outside Palestine’ (MEMRI 12/2)
- A special court in Pakistan has sentenced former military leader Pervez Musharraf to death on charges of treason and subversion of the constitution. Mr. Musharraf seized power in a bloodless coup in 1999 and ruled until 2008. The sentence was largely seen as symbolic, as the former leader is currently in exile in Dubai. (The Economist, 12/17)
- Protests in India, against a citizenship law designed to exclude Muslims from naturalisation, escalated in their fifth day. In Delhi police clashed with protesters around a Muslim university; at least 100 were injured and buses were set on fire. Other campuses around the country erupted in anger. In India’s north-east, where immigration is generally opposed, six people have been killed. (The Economist, 12/16)
- Chief Advisor To Turkish President Erdoğan: ‘The Islamic World Should Prepare An Army For Palestine From Outside Palestine’ (MEMRI 12/2)
- 65 of Britain’s MPs returned to the House of Commons last week are minorities. That’s 10%. Take away the 59 Scots, and the percentage will increase to almost 20%. There were none a little over twenty years ago. This reflects Britain’s changing demographics, the result of massive immigration from the underdeveloped world since World War II.
- I watched the British election on Sky News, a British 24/7 news channel available on “Watch Free”, a US streaming service. A day or two later, I was surprised to read that only 46, 000 people watched the election on Sky. The news company spent a small fortune on John Bercow, controversial former Speaker of the House of Commons, a commentator for the evening, who seemed to spend most of his time justifying his performance as Speaker.