Tag Archives: Scottish National Party

GERMANY UPS FIGHT AGAINST ANTI-SEMITISM

HALLE, Germany (AP) — A heavily armed assailant ranting about Jews tried to force his way into a synagogue in Germany on Yom Kippur, Judaism’s holiest day, then shot two people to death nearby in an attack Wednesday that was livestreamed on a popular gaming site.

BERLIN (AP) — Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Cabinet passed new measures Wednesday aimed at helping fight far-right extremism and anti-Semitism following an attack on a synagogue earlier this month.

The proposals include tightening gun laws, stepping up prosecution of online hate, and boosting financial support for projects fighting anti-Semitism and far-right extremism.

“The horrible attack on the Jewish community in Halle showed again what the unleashing of hatred online can lead to,” Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht said at a news conference in Berlin when she introduced the bundle of measures alongside Germany’s interior and family ministers.

“We will fight far-right terrorism and anti-Semitism with all the power of the law,” Lambrecht added.

Germany is still reeling from the attempted attack on a synagogue by a 27-year-old German in the eastern city of Halle on Oct. 9, who later killed two passers-by before being arrested.   The man posted an anti-Semitic screed before the attack and broadcast the shooting live on a popular video game streaming site.   (Kirsten Grieshaber, US News & World Report, 10/30)

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The Far Right Is Taking On Cultural Institutions

Theaters, museums, and other venues in Germany are facing pressure from the AfD, raising questions about the extent of artistic freedoms.

ELIZA APPERLY, OCT 28, 2019, The Atlantic

BERLIN – Protests against public artworks in Dresden and Kassel.    A ban on political discussions at the city theater in Freiberg.            And a criminal investigation against a performance art collective.

Germany’s far right is fighting a culture war—and at the forefront is the country’s largest opposition party, the Alternative for Germany (AfD).   Founded only six years ago, the group has transitioned from a platform of opposing the euro to far-right nationalism.   Fierce anti-immigrant rhetoric has helped the group gain sizable sway in regional parliaments, with significant victories in three regional elections this fall.

Yet beyond its focus on immigration, the issue for which it is best known, the AfD has another important target – culture.   At both the federal and the regional level, the party devotes significant attention to cultural matters:   Its main manifesto includes more pages on culture, language, and identity than on employment, national security and justice, and foreign policy.   In Dresden, the AfD municipal program extends to suggested background music for a specific tram line.

“Culture is integral to the AfD’s strategy and ideology,” Julian Göpffarth, a researcher on the far right at the London School of Economics, told me.   “The party is using its powers to curb cultural productions and spaces that ‘undermine national pride,’ and to impose instead a dominant German culture that celebrates, rather than critically engages with, German identity.”          (https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2019/10/germany-far-right-culture-war/598978/)

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FAR RIGHT AFD BEATS MERKEL IN GERMAN ELECTION

Voters in the eastern German state of Thuringia boosted the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) in regional elections on Sunday, according to preliminary results, but the Left party will remain the dominant political force in the state.

With all districts reporting, results showed the Left party winning 31% of votes in the state that was once part of the communist former East Germany.   (DW, 10/28)

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GERMAN INTERVENTION IN LIBYA

Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas is intervening in Libya, calling for an “end to foreign intervention.”   On the occasion of his trip to Turkey and North Africa he arrived last Sunday for a brief visit in the country, to prepare an international conference on Libya, which the German government intends to convene soon.   With this conference the German government seeks to possibly pacify the country and distinguish itself as a “regulatory force” in North Africa. Maas then traveled on to Egypt, which also is involved in the Libyan war.   While the German minister is declaring that the Egyptians should be able “to breathe the air of liberty,” Cairo is continuing its brutal repression.   Since the military coup in July 2013, more than 1,500 people have disappeared from state custody.   While seeking to pacify Libya, Berlin is increasing its “regulatory” activities in an “arch of crisis” extending from North Africa and the Middle East to Central Asia.   However, until now, without success.   (German Foreign Policy, 10/30)

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VISEGRAD COUNTRIES GROWING

“Fifteen years after they joined the EU, the four “Visegrad” states of central Europe (the V4) can be prouder of their economic achievements than of their patchy record on political reform.   The Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia have increased their levels of GDP per head dramatically, and are converging with their mighty neighbor Germany.   The Czechs are the richest, with a GDP per head that is 73% of Germany’s, followed by Slovakia with 63% and Hungary and Poland with around 57% each – and the gap continues to close, as their growth outpaces that of the behemoth.” (The Economist, 10/26)

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UK BECOMING MORE EUROPEAN

“Before the referendum in 2016 European Union flags were as rare as golden eagles in Britain.   Today they are as common as sparrows.   Parliament Square is permanently festooned with them.   Activist Remainers flaunt flag-themed berets and T-shirts.   On October 19th a million-strong army of People’s Vote supporters marched on Westminster beneath a sea of gold and blue standards . . .

“This is part of a bigger paradox:   the more Britain struggles to leave the EU, the more it embraces European style politics.   Since the dawn of the democratic era Britain has practiced two or two and a bit party politics compared with the continent’s multiparty system.   That is changing, accelerated by Brexit.

The Scottish National Party controls Scotland.   The ruling Conservative Party is 45 MPs short of a majority.   The European Research Group of hard-line Brexiteers acts as a party within the Tory party.   The Liberal Democrats could make big gains in the forthcoming general election, especially if Brexit seems reversible.” (The Economist, 10/26)

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CATHOLIC SYNOD IN ROME RECOGNIZES DIVIDED CHURCH

“The synod represents the biggest step yet towards recognizing something many Catholics in the West, especially church leaders, have been reluctant to acknowledge:   Just as economic and Diplomatic power in the secular world is sleeping away from the North Atlantic region, a similar process is taking place in Catholicism.   In the secular world, the shift is to Asia.   Within the Catholic church it is towards not only Asia, but Africa and Latin America, too.   That is forcing the church to consider how far it is willing to adapt to the practices and beliefs of cultures with their own spiritual traditions.   The synod has added to fears of a new schism within the church.”   (The Economist, 10/26)

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TO THE POINT

  • Warren not a socialist:  “Some Republicans and Wall Street critics claim that Ms. Warren is a socialist. She is not.   She does not support the public ownership of firms or political control of the flow of credit.   Instead she favors regulations that force the private sector to pass her test of what it is to be fair.”   (“A plan for American capitalism,” The Economist, 10/26)
  • Russia in Africa “… over the past decade, and especially after America and the EU imposed sanctions on Russia related to its annexation of Crimea in 2014, the Kremlin has viewed Africa as an increasingly important arena.   Since 2015 a dozen African leaders have visited Russia.   From 2006 to 2018 Russia’s total trade with sub-Saharan Africa increased by 336%.   It is the largest arms exporter to the continent, accounting for 39% of deliveries in 2013-17 (many from Russia to Algeria”. (The Economist, 10/26)
  • Farage’s gamble  — EU ministers are taking a breather from Brexit as the action moves firmly back to London, where MPs are preparing for a general election. In a possible game-changer for Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage’s Brexit party is considering whether to pull out of hundreds of seats.   This would be a major boost to the UK prime minister, given the risks that the Brexit party could split the vote among leavers. (FT)   As James Blitz writes, the prime minister is taking a massive gamble by engineering the vote before the UK is out of the EU.   Farage’s Brexit party poses one possible risk.   Another is that Labour will hammer home the message that a victorious Tory party would use Brexit as an opportunity to pursue a hard-right social and economic agenda.    (Financial Times 10/31)
  • Refreshing view on Israel:   Egyptian Coptic patriarch Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria said in an October 14, 2019 interview on France 24 Arabic TV that he encourages Copts to visit Jerusalem because getting closer to others increases mutual understanding.   He said that Israel is a country like any other country and expressed support for an agreement that would make Jerusalem an international capital, though he said that this is not possible given the current reality.   Pope Tawadros II expressed concern for Christian holy places in Jerusalem and said that many parties are collectively responsible for the complexity of the current realities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.   He praised efforts to resolve the conflict.   (MEMRI, 10/30)
  • The worst patients in the world:   “Americans are hypochondriacs, yet we skip our checkups.   We demand drugs we don’t need, and fail to take the ones we do.   No wonder the US leads the world in health spending.”   (David H. Freedman, The Atlantic, July 2019).

 

 

 

 

 

 

GERMANY BACKS BREAK-UP OF UNITED KINGDOM

BERLIN/LONDON/EDINBURGH – Berlin’s foreign policy is in support of Scottish nationalists, preparing to hold a second referendum to secede from the United Kingdom.   Last week, Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of the Scottish regional government and chairperson of the Scottish National Party (SNP), was received in the German capital for confidential talks with representatives of the German foreign policy establishment, including with Michael Roth (SPD), Minister of State in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.   Officially, the meetings were focused on the Brexit, bitterly opposed by Sturgeon and the Scottish nationalists.   However, Sturgeon was, in fact, also pleading for support for her secessionist project and to bring Scotland, as an independent country into the EU.

About three years ago, German government representatives had already been in support of this plan.

However, a reliable Scottish majority, needed for this project, is nowhere in sight.

A Second Secession Referendum

Scotland’s regional government under First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is relentlessly pursuing its campaign for a second secession referendum.   Prior to the referendum on September 18, 2014, Scottish nationalists, including Sturgeon, had repeatedly that the population’s decision at the ballot box should be valid for one generation.   However, when a clear majority of 55.3 percent voted in favor of remaining in the UK, Sturgeon immediately declared that, by no means, would she content herself with that outcome, and would eventually seek a new vote.   The occasion presented itself with the Brexit referendum on June 23, 2016, when a majority of 51.9 percent in the UK voted to leave the EU, while a clear majority of 62 percent in Scotland voted to remain.   This discrepancy was an opportunity for Sturgeon – whose regional government has so far only rudimentarily implemented its election promises concerning the social and health sectors – to not only reiterate her idea of a second referendum, but to directly link the perspective of Scotland’s secession with that of remaining in the EU.

Inducement Applause

Representatives of Germany’s governing parties and ministries took this occasion to openly applaud the Scottish nationalists’ secessionist efforts and thus promote the disintegration of an officially allied country.   Already on June 26, 2016, Gunther Krichbaum (CDU), Chairman of the Bundestag’s Committee for the Affairs of the European Union declared that he expected that a new referendum on Scotland’s secession would be “successful” and that the country would remain within the EU.   (German Foreign Policy, 9/23)

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GERMANY SUPPORTS MORE INTERVENTIONS

The German government seeks to expand civilian-military interventions abroad, to obtain a more favorable position in the global struggle for spheres of influence.   To meet the challenge in the context of the “great-power rivalry between the United States, Russia and China,” the EU military missions must be combined with “civilian assistance,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (SPD) declared recently.   This “networked approach” should become “a hub” for EU-policy and lead to the creation of a “crisis prevention center” in Berlin.   The plan is particularly to train police officers and other “rule-of-law experts” to be deployed in countries, where “German interests” appear threatened by “outside influence.” “Legitimate partners,” such as the governments of Mali or Afghanistan or opposition forces, as in Syria, could be “strengthened,” explains the German Foreign Ministry.  (German Foreign Policy, 9/21)

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GERMANY LEADS MULTINATIONAL NAVAL EXERCISE

ROSTOCK/COPENHAGEN – Under German command, numerous NATO member countries and close allies are participating in a naval exercise – that ends on Thursday – for the control of Baltic maritime routes.

The Bundeswehr provides, by far, the largest contingent in this year’s “Northern Coasts” naval exercise (September 3 to 19), taking place in the context of the escalating conflict between western countries and Russia.   Due to this conflict, not only Eastern Europe, but the Baltic Sea, as well, has been gaining strategic importance. This is comparable to the Baltic Sea’s importance during the Cold War.   Germany is participating in NATO’s remilitarization of the Baltic Sea, seeking to assume a regional leadership role and enhance its standing within NATO.   The new Maritime Forces Staff, DEU MARFOR, based in the naval headquarters being set up in Rostock, also serves this purpose. In the future, it will be able to provide command for NATO, as well as EU wars.

Northern Coasts 2019

Around 3,000 troops from 18 nations are currently participating in the “Northern Coasts 2019” naval exercise lasting more than two weeks and extending from the straits connecting the Baltic Sea to the North Sea between the Danish and Swedish coasts up to the Bornholm island.   It, thus, includes the narrowest and shallowest sections of the Baltic Sea’s maritime routes.  It is already a challenge for larger ships to maneuver in the Baltic Sea.   In this environment, the multinational forces are training joint operations with 47 vessels, a submarine, seven aircraft and five helicopters.   With 1,300 troops, the Bundeswehr, alone, accounts for nearly half of the soldiers and thus the largest proportion of personnel in the exercise. German forces provide seven ships, the submarine and one of the seven aircraft.   In addition, mine clearance divers from the Naval Force Protection Battalion in Eckernförde are deployed and play a leading role in mine-warfare.   Ashore, German soldiers are active in the logistics command and provide specialists for electronic warfare operations.    This year, the multinational personnel and equipment are under the command of German Rear Admiral Stephan Haisch.(German Foreign Policy, 9/16)

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BANKING AFTER BREXIT

Brexit will reduce by one third the EU’s share of global capital markets and will shift relations within the EU in France’s favor, as was revealed in a recent study on the impact the UK’s departure will have on the Union’s financial sector.   Brexit will therefore reduce the EU’s share of global capital market activities to 14 percent – around one third the size of the US and roughly the same as China. France will become number one among the EU-27 – a bit ahead of Germany.   The shrinkage can also be attributed to the fact that the EU was unable to induce major banks and other financial institutions, on a large scale, to relocate from London onto the continent. Brussels has tried to use strict regulations, stipulating that financial transactions within the EU may only be conducted by legally independent entities within an EU country. However, the financial sector has limited its relocation onto the continent to only the bare essentials. The anticipated banking boom, for example, in Frankfurt, is not materializing.  (German Foreign Policy, 9/19)

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MIDEAST SLIDING INTO MAJOR WAR

The Middle East appears to be sliding into a war and it may even have already started. It is a new kind of war, a 21st century conflict for which there is no formal declaration of war, no clear fronts and a wide variety of battlefields.   There are attacks the provenance of which may never be known, and while some of the fighting is conventional in nature, much of it is not and involves drones in the air and viruses in cyberspace.

More than anything, it is a confusing war, in which nobody really has control, not even those who are ostensibly leading it .

(https://www.spiegel.de/international/world/usa-saudia-arabia-iran-a-new-conflict-in-the-middle-east-a-1287811.html)

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AMERICA WILL NEVER TOLERATE IRAN’S ANTI-SEMITIC HATE – TRUMP

At UN, Trump calls on Mideast nations to fully normalize ties with Israel.  Addressing world leaders, US president says sanctions against Iran will be tightened, not lifted, until it changes behavior and ends ‘fanatical quest’ for nukes.

Speaking before the United Nations General Assembly, the US president accused Tehran of trafficking in “monstrous anti-Semitism” and engaging in a “fanatical quest” to obtain nuclear weapons.   Trump said the rogue regime’s aggression had created newfound regional alliances to counter the Iranian threat. “Thankfully, there is a growing recognition in the wider Middle East that the countries of the region share common interest in battling extremism and unleashing economic opportunity,” Trump said.   “That is why it’s so important to have full normalized relations between Israel and its neighbors.”

In a highly anticipated address before the international community — as tensions with Iran intensified after it allegedly attacked two Saudi oil facilities — Trump insisted that he would maintain his “maximum pressure campaign” against Tehran.    . . . Iran, he said, was on a “fanatical quest for nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them.”   The world, Trump continued, “must never allow this to happen.”

. . . “For 40 years, the world has listened to Iran’s rulers as they lash out on everyone else for the problems they alone have created,” he said.   (https://www.timesofisrael.com/at-un-trump-calls-on-mideast-nations-to-fully-normalize-ties-with-)

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HOW HAMAS LEADERS FOOL PALESTINIANS

“Frustrated Palestinian youths are committing suicide because of poverty, while the sons of the leaders are holding birthday parties!” — Hussein Qatoush, on Facebook

The problem . . . is when your father is a senior terrorist leader who devotes himself to inciting against Israel and Jews and encouraging other young Palestinians to sacrifice their lives in the war against Israel.   Hamad, like the rest of the Hamas leaders, would never send his own son to attack soldiers at the border with Israel.

It is time for the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip to revolt against the leaders who are keeping them chained in poverty and sending them to their deaths.

It is also time for the international community to wake up to the fact that it is wealthy Hamas leaders, and not Israel, who are responsible for the humanitarian and economic disaster that is known as the Gaza Strip.   (Bassam Tawil, Gatestone, 9/25)

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THE GREAT WAR OF OUR TIME

“So how did our initial victory in Afghanistan – in only months – turn into the longest war in American history?   It happened because at some point our goal shifted from ensuring that al Qai’da would not again be able to use Afghanistan as a launching pad for attacks against the homeland to something else.   The mission changed to trying to permanently alter Afghan politics and society.   It was an impossible task to turn Afghanistan’s tribal society and culture into a liberal democracy.   It was an impossible task to convince the Taliban that it should operate inside the Afghan political system rather than outside of it.   Perhaps we should have walked away from Afghanistan after forcing al-Qa’ida from the country, and we would have told all Afghans, including the Taliban, ‘If you let al-Qa’ida return, so will we.”   (“The Great War of our time”, by Michael Morell, former Deputy CIA Director, 2015, page 74).

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TO THE POINT

  • If you’re tired of the usual entertainment provided by TV and even streaming, check out the continuing saga of Brexit, courtesy of Sky News (on “Watch Free” or on the web).  The parliamentary debates are entertaining, to say the least.
  • Surely, the investigation of Donald Trump over his Ukrainian call should be focused on Joe Biden.   His son is now being paid $50,000 a MONTH by a Ukrainian gas company in a job for which he’s not qualified.   When an investigation began looking into this by a Ukrainian prosecutor Biden brought pressure to bear to stop it, threatening an end to US aid.   Corruption, anyone?   (It’s even worse when you consider that the Democrats are supposed to be the party of the working man.)
  • Former French President Jacques Chirac died today.   He was the French leader who finally admitted French complicity in the Holocaust, that the French themselves put French Jews on trains taking them to concentration camps.
  • New South Wales has become the latest Australian state to liberalize abortion laws.   It doesn’t make any sense.   Australia needs more people.   Refugees and other immigrants threaten the Australian way of life.   Australians need to reproduce more.
  • Somebody has stolen the “Amigo” from our local Aldi.   An amigo is a self-driving vehicle with a shopping cart attached.   They can hardly drive it down the street.   What possible use can the thief have for this?   Meanwhile, customers with disabilities are struggling to get around as best they can.   Apparently, a replacement amigo costs about $2,000.

 

 

“BEWARE THE IDES OF MARCH”

One hundred years ago, on this day, March 15th, the “ides of March,” Czar Nicholas II of Russia, under pressure, abdicated, ending the dynasty that had ruled Russia since 1613.   The end result was not the liberal democracy that many hoped for, but, rather, seventy years of communism, a period far worse than anything under the czars. When the czar abdicated, nobody could have foreseen the ultimate outcome. The czar himself brought attention to the fact that the day was the “ides of March,” the day Julius Caesar was assassinated, changing the course of Roman history, ending the Roman Republic, replacing it with the Roman Empire.   The term became popular through Shakespeare’s famous play, “Julius Cesar.”

Today, March 15th, The Netherlands is voting for a new government. It’s the first time ever that Holland has received this much media attention.   Once again, an uncertain future awaits the country and the European Union; that is, if Geert Wilder’s ‘Party for Freedom’ makes significant gains and goes on to form a government.   Mr. Wilders has been labeled Holland’s Donald Trump.   He’s a populist, who wants to restore his country to what it was, ending the multiculturalism that has fundamentally changed the country.   In addition, he wants to leave the EU.   He also wants to ban the Koran and Islamic schools and has called for the closure of all mosques; and end the wearing of burqas and hijabs, requiring people to wear western style clothing.

The election result is likely to have a profound effect on France and Germany who hold elections later this year.   If a populist government comes to power in the Netherlands, then, maybe populism will see gains in the two biggest European countries, France and Germany.   This could make 2017 as significant a year as 1989 and 1848 in European history.   Change is in the air.   But, as with Russia a century ago, the future of change is unpredictable.   Sweeping populism may sweep away the European Union, but what will replace it?   Will liberal social democracy be replaced by more nationalistic forms of government?   Could a swing to the right in the Netherlands lead to similar swings elsewhere on the continent?   The European Union, which turns 60 in ten days, may have to go back to the drawing board.

It’s not just the election that is making news in Holland.   For over four centuries the Dutch, once a great maritime power, have had a peace treaty with Turkey.   But now, the two NATO members are going through a verbal conflict that could easily get out of hand.   The basic problem is immigration.   Millions of Turks live in Holland, Germany and other EU countries.   The Turkish president wants to send members of his government to speak to these Turkish citizens, so that they will vote for Mr, Erdogan in a referendum that will grant the president more powers.   Naturally, Holland does not want the Turkish election to be conducted in Holland.   Allowing Ankara to do so would expose the lie that Muslims are assimilated and are, in fact, Dutch.   They are not, identifying primarily with their own religion and culture, not with that of the host country.

A Turkish government minister was not allowed to address a rally in Holland.   Consequently, relations have been negatively affected.

The Netherlands isn’t the only European country that’s hitting the headlines internationally.   The United Kingdom is also in the news.

It’s taken nine months for the groundwork to be laid for Britain to activate Article 50 and apply to leave the European Union.   It’s been a rocky road, with members of Britain’s ruling elite doing everything possible to undermine the will of the people, expressed in June’s Brexit vote.    The unelected House of Lords was the final hurdle.

As if invoking Article 50 is not difficult enough, Nicola Sturgeon, leader of the Scottish National Party picked the same time to demand another referendum.

This time, she believes the Scots will vote to leave the United Kingdom as the majority of Scots voted to remain in the European Union.

In effect, what Ms. Sturgeon wants is to replace English domination with German domination.   Ignorant of history (except possibly watching “Braveheart” over and over again!), Ms. Sturgeon has no problem replacing London with Berlin.

When the UK completes its negotiations with the EU settling Brexit terms, Ms. Sturgeon’s Scotland will have to act quickly and apply to use the euro.  It will also need massive amounts of aid as Scotland has needed English financial support ever since it voted to join the union with England, over three centuries ago.

Scottish loyalists will have to get used to shopping with a new currency  – and won’t even be able to stay home and watch the BBC!

 

 

AFTER THE VOTE

election-tele_3296186b

The pollsters, the pundits and the commentators all got it wrong!

The British election was not a close call.

All the experts predicted the need for a coalition government, that neither the Conservatives nor Labour would get enough seats in parliament to form a government without the help of at least one other party.   There were warnings of a “hung parliament” and a “constitutional crisis.”   Even the Queen left town, advised that her services would not be needed for a few days, that nobody would be ready to accept her appointment as prime minister.

But the Conservatives easily won.

Consequently, three rival party leaders all resigned within the same hour, an historic first.

While David Cameron is pleased with the result, Nicola Sturgeon is likely more pleased.   Her Scottish National Party won 56 of Scotland’s 59 seats.   Independence for Scotland is back on the table.   56 out of 59 does not mean that the majority of Scots want independence.   What it means is that the SNP candidate in each constituency got more votes than anybody else.   This will not, however, deter the SNP from taking the opportunity to bolt as soon as it presents itself.

Labour was the big loser, losing big in Scotland, where it previously held most seats.   Ed Miliband, Labour leader, said his party faced “a surge of nationalism.”

One newspaper described it as “an electoral tsunami” (Independent).   Of note, Mhairi Black defeated a Labour heavyweight and became, at age 20, the youngest Member of Parliament since 1667.

In fact, the single most significant development in the election was Scottish nationalism.

English nationalism was also evident.   Although the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) only won one seat in the new parliament, they received 13% of the popular vote.   That means that more than one in eight voters wants the UK to leave the European Union.   That’s not all – the Conservatives are promising a referendum on the issue.   Many of their supporters also want to exit the Union.

Nick Clegg, outgoing leader of the Liberal Democrats, summed up this rising tide of nationalism by saying, “Fear and grievance have won.”

The Stock Market soared at the news that the Conservatives are back in power and, this time, without the need of support from the Liberal Democrats.   The Conservative – Lib Dem Coalition of the last five years took a near bankrupt economy, turned it around and made it the fastest growing major western economy.   The surge in support for David Cameron’s Conservative Party likely came from voters who didn’t want to risk a return to the economic disaster of the post-2008 crash.

HISTORIC ELECTION IN UK

British elections

Growing up, I always knew exactly when World War 2 ended.   It ended on my mother’s birthday, the 8th May.   On that day in 1945, she turned 19.   She was 13 when the war in Europe began. Her teenage years were lost to war!

If she had not said anything, I would still have a rough idea of when the war was fought and when it ended.   During my childhood, I played with friends on bomb- sites.   It took England some years to rebuild.

World War 2 wasn’t the only conflict I heard about.   My grandfather (my father’s stepfather) had been wounded in World War I and would show us the bullet wounds in his lower arm and wrist.

At least we knew that England had won both wars and that we were now safe from the threat of German conquest.

Friday marks the 70th anniversary of the end of the war in Europe.   It ended with Germany’s surrender.

Seventy years later, Britain’s relationship with Europe is once again center stage in the UK General Election taking place today, May 7th.

There is more choice in this election than there has ever been.   There is also more uncertainty – nobody is willing to stick their neck out and predict the outcome.

What is clear is that there will have to be another coalition government, as neither of the two main parties will have enough seats in parliament to form a government.   The two main party leaders will spend Friday and maybe a few more days (or even weeks) haggling, while trying to put together a majority to form the next government.   (British politicians take note – it’s just taken seven weeks for Benyamin Netanyahu to put together a coalition government!)

The uncertainty of a hung parliament is one problem with this election.   There are two others that have graver implications.

One is that the unity of the kingdom is at stake.   Although the majority of Scots rejected independence in a referendum just a few months ago, the pro-independence Scottish National Party may hold the balance of power in a coalition government, thereby boosting their cause.

The other monumental matter is a possible referendum on leaving the European Union.   The Conservatives have promised this for 2017, but UKIP (the United Kingdom Independence Party) wants it sooner.   If they enter a coalition with David Cameron’s Conservatives, the price they will demand will be a referendum by the end of the year.   This will make a “No” vote more likely as hundreds of thousands of immigrants from Eastern Europe keep arriving and every one of them can vote.   By 2017 their votes would likely result in “yes.”

If England votes to leave the EU and the majority of Scots don’t, there will be a major constitutional crisis.   It’s likely such a scenario will cause the United Kingdom to fall apart.   The end result would be an independent England surrounded by not-so-friendly powers, all a part of a German dominated European superpower.   How ironic just seventy years after Great Britain and its allies defeated the Third Reich!

So, it’s an above average interest election this year, with repercussions beyond the UK’s borders.

 

UK ELECTION – SECOND TV DEBATE

Grimsby Dock Tower, Lincolnshire
     Grimsby Dock Tower, Lincs – Grimsby fishing port at the height of its glory

I first saw BBC World in Uganda back in 1993.   I remember then expressing the hope that we would soon have it in Michigan.   I did not expect it to take 22 years, but we do finally have it, thanks to AT&T.   However, I’m not sure it’s worth over $100 per month.   This includes a zillion other channels I have no desire to watch.   CNN International is also good and comes with the package.

However, thanks to BBC World I’ve been able to keep up on the British election, which takes place on May 7th.

The first live televised debate was between seven leaders of seven political parties, including Prime Minister David Cameron and his coalition partner, Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrats.   The debate was very interesting.

It was followed by a second debate last week, this time without the prime minister and his coalition ally.

Again, I found it very interesting but, at the same time, quite disturbing.

Each party leader was making promises.   The four left-of-center party leaders were all promising more and more, competing with each other on how they would improve this or that service, spending more millions (or was it billions?) on this, that or the other.   Only the leader of UKIP (the United Kingdom Independence Party) seemed to have any sense of the need to balance the nation’s accounts.

The Coalition has been trying to do that since austerity measures were introduced almost five years ago.   Their policies stabilized the country while some continental nations were in a rapid downward spiral.   Now, the other leaders feel it’s time to ditch austerity and throw a big, no-expense-spared party!

Two members of my family in England sent me a rather long article in the London Review of Books about the election in my hometown of Grimsby, on the east coast of England.   Once the world’s premiere fishing port, the town fell on hard times after the country joined the European Common Market (now the EU).   It’s revived somewhat, but is still way behind when it comes to economic development.   It has been a Labour Party stronghold since 1945. There is a connection!   No matter who wins, the next representative for Grimsby will be the first woman, as both leading candidates are women.

The Conservatives never stood a chance of winning the seat for parliament.   David Cameron’s posh accent did him in!   But a new party may actually take the electoral cup from Labour.   That party is UKIP.

Resentment against the EU is so great that working class voters seem just as inclined to vote UKIP as they are to vote Labour.

It’s not just the EU, which is the problem.   Immigration is another concern – and the perception that, in an area of 10% unemployment, jobs are being lost to immigrants, both legal and illegal.   UKIP is promising to pull Britain out of the EU and to do something about immigration.

Unlike the other left-of-center parties, UKIP does not look upon the English tax-payer as a cash cow, or a bottomless pit, whichever metaphor you prefer.   I think you get the picture.

The leader of the Scottish National Party, Nicola Sturgeon, makes Ed Miliband, leader of the Labour Party, seem positively restrained, in her enthusiasm for spending other peoples’ money.   In her case, although she would never use the terms, all the money she is demanding for Scotland and Scottish development would come from the English taxpayer.   None of the others participating in the debate commented on this, perhaps because they all (except for UKIP) were looking to get more from the English taxpayer themselves.

The British (read, the English) are upset because they subsidize much of Europe through the EU.   How long is it going to be before there is a tax-payers revolt against all the subsidies to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, none of which pay their own way?

Ms. Sturgeon is also enthusiastic in her desire to see Britain scrap its nuclear weapons in order to partially pay for all this largesse.

Of greater concern is her insistence that, if David Cameron’s Conservative coalition is returned to power, and the promised referendum on EU membership is held, Scotland must have the right to remain in the EU, if England votes to depart.   This would automatically give Scotland independence, even though voters rejected independence in a referendum last September. Independence is what she and her party are committed to.

But how would they pay for it?   Scotland depends for roughly 10% of its expenditure on the English taxpayer.   This will only increase if the SNP joins the Labour Party in a left-wing coalition.

If Scotland remains within the EU and England withdraws, Scotland will need all the help it can get . . . from Germany, Europe’s other cash cow!

PS:  I thought you would all appreciate the following letter which appeared in the conservative Daily Telegraph of London. It’s a very astute observation on the British election campaign:

British election question

UK ELECTION SET FOR MAY 7th

Signpost, political parties

A turbulent six weeks lies ahead as Britain prepares to vote on May 7th.

Americans are already in the midst of electioneering, for an election that’s still 22 months away.  They can be forgiven a case of envy when they learn that the United Kingdom’s election period will only last 38 days.

Elections used to be fairly routine, with either the Conservative or the Labour party winning.

In 2010, that changed.  Neither party won a majority. David Cameron, the leader of the Conservative Party and Nick Clegg, the leader of the Liberal Democrat Party agreed to form a Coalition government.   Later, the two had to agree on austerity measures to get Britain out of the international financial crisis.

Today, the country has the fastest growing economy out of all the major western democracies.   Austerity seems to have worked better in Britain than elsewhere in Europe.

This time, there are a number of parties campaigning to win seats in Britain’s “first past the post” system.

The country has 635 constituencies.   Whoever gets the biggest number of votes in each of these, is elected to parliament.   The leader of the majority faction then becomes prime minister.

This time, however, there are more than three parties.

The Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat parties will all be putting up candidates.   In addition, there’s a fairly new party called UKIP (United Kingdom Independence Party), which is campaigning for Britain to withdraw from the EU and to do something about immigration, which many see as out of control.

Their leader, Nigel Farage, has already said that if David Cameron, the current prime minister, needs UKIP’s help to form a right-wing coalition government, he will insist on a referendum on Britain’s continued membership of the EU by the end of this year.   Mr. Cameron wants to delay it until 2017 when more Europeans will have moved into Britain, making it more likely that a “yes” vote would be returned.   Anybody from the EU can vote in referenda, though not in general elections. That requires full citizenship.

On the left of the political spectrum, for Labour’s Ed Miliband to form a government, he will likely need support from the SNP (Scottish National Party), Plaid Cymru (Welsh nationalists) and even the Greens (environmental party).   All of these parties will want government spending to increase, thereby jeopardizing the recovery the present coalition has engineered.

There are also smaller parties representing Northern Ireland, which may be needed to form a coalition.

It’s all suddenly become very complicated, but the old days of two-party politics seem to be over for good.

The next occupant of 10 Downing Street will be the man who can successfully haggle with other party leaders to reach the magic number of 318 – that’s just over 50% of all the seats in parliament, without which governing would be almost impossible.