Tiger of the Stripe Blog

TIGER OF THE STRIPE

Tiger of the Stripe Blog

Forget Fake News, Worry About Fantasy Politics

I thought Nicola Sturgeon was bad enough pressing for a new referendum on Scottish independence when Scotland is even less able to support itself than it has been for much of the last 300 years. Now Gordon Brown is proposing even greater devolution for Scotland. This would include setting VAT rates and the power to conclude international treaties. Fine, let Scotland set its own VAT rates, but why should England continue to subsidise Scottish extravagance? This is particularly obnoxious because every penny of subsidy helps the SNP look good to the Scottish electorate. As for the ability to conclude international treaties, this is pure nonsense. Only a sovereign state can do so.

Scottish independence would be extremely bad for the rest of the UK but it would be catastrophic for Scotland whose budget deficit is twice that of the rest of the UK. If Gordon Brown and the Labour Party in Scotland want to head off a vote for Scottish independence, they should come up with some sensible ideas not this game of Fantasy Politics.

Do We Need Polystyrene? Whether Incinerated or Buried, it is an Environmental Hazard

Expanded polystyrene container for bedding plants

My wife keeps bring back bedding plants from the garden centre. They are invariably in expanded polystyrene containers and I was getting very concerned about the environmental implications. There are articles on the internet that suggest that it is recyclable but I know that Richmond upon Thames council doesn't recycle it. I contacted my ever-helpful councillor, Pamela Fleming, who told me that there didn't seem to be any London boroughs which recycled it. On further investigation, she told me that the root problem was that there is no identified demand for the recycled product. WRAP, the Waste and Recycling Action Programme, advises 'Avoid the use of expanded polystyrene (EPS), oxo-degradable or bio-degradable polymers as they are not currently compatible within existing household plastic sorting or reprocessing systems.' In the meantime, councils are planning to move from landfill to incineration. Given that this has been shown to produce soot and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in varying quantities according to the method of combustion, and since PAHs are toxic and carcinogenic, this doesn't seem a very acceptable solution.

Expanded polystyrene is also widely used in packaging for electrical goods. It seems to me that there is absolutely no excuse for using it. Most of this can be replaced with cardboard. Some years ago there were even computer manufacturers using popcorn instead of expanded plastic. Its use in garden centres seems so at odds with the idea of nurturing a little bit of nature near your home that I am surprised that it has been so widely accepted. On obvious (if possibly more expensive) substitute would be containers made from coir or some other natural fibre.

Scottish National Party and Nicola Sturgeon must be Delusional

If Nicola Sturgeon and the Scottish National Party are serious about another independence referendum (which I very much doubt), they must be delusional. While Scotland's exports to the rest of the UK were £49.8 bn in 2015, its exports to the rest of the EU were just 12.3bn. If Scotland left the UK, either before or after the UK leaves the EU, it would be outside both the UK and the EU. It would then take years for it to rejoin the EU. The worst of all possible worlds.

Worse than that, the UK’s budget deficit was a worryingly high 4% in 2015–16 but Scotland’s was a disastrous 9.5%. Scotland could only afford this because the English taxpayer picked up the tab.

Clean Brexit

On 17 January, Liam Halligan and Gerard Lyons published Clean Brexit, an exceptionally clear-sighted analysis of what need to be done to get the best possible deal from Brexit. The main point, and one which the Government seem to agree with, is that we need to be outside both the Single Market and the the Customs Union. Download it her: https://policyexchange.org.uk/publication/clean-br...

Carney Rubbishes UK Economic Prospects

Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England, issued dire warnings about Brexit before the EU Referendum. Now he has repeated his doom-mongering. He is very much Osborne's creature and his analysis is tainted. To deliberately talk down the economy after the referendum is. at best, irresponsible and, in my opinion, he must go (as should Osborne whose two Treasury reports were completely demolished by David Blake of the Cass Business School). Savvas Savouri of Tosca Fund Asset Management was entirely dismissive of Carney's comments on the Today programme this morning, saying that he was completely ignorant of macro-economics.

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Microsoft Buys LinkedIn

Microsoft has bought aother dud, LinkedIn, for $26 billion cash. LinkedIn has a platform which doesn’t work and a business model which doesn’t work. Microsoft has written off its disastrous investment in Nokia and I suspect it’ll have to do the same with LinkedIn, but it can’t keep making such stupid mistakes. On the other hand, who cares?

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Lies, Damn Lies and the EU Referendum

I originally posted this on Facebook but I thought is was worth repeating here:


Can we please have an end to this pretence that the EU Referendum is a left/right issue? The only reason that Labour is campaigning to stay in is because it thought it could exploit the split in the Conservatives to its advantage. The remain campaign lied through its teeth, telling us that the European Community was just a common market. In the 1975 referendum, who wanted to leave? Michael Foot, Tony Benn, Peter Shore, Eric Varley and Barbara Castle. The Labour Party conference of 1975 voted nearly 2:1 to leave. Who wanted to remain?The right of the Labour Party, Margaret Thatcher and most of the rest of the Conservative Party. It was official Conservative policy to remain, partly because the Tories saw it as a good way to split Labour! Sound familiar? It worked and Labour lost the election, we had years of Thatcherism and we stayed in what is now the EU. There is a principled case to be made for either staying or leaving the EU but it has been drowned out by dishonest arguments on both sides.

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Remain MPs Plot to Keep UK in EU

It appears that a number of MPs who favour the UK remaining in the EU are planning to ensure that this happens even if there is a majority vote to leave in the forthcoming referendum. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-eu-referendu...

So what is the point of having a referendum? It is worth remembering that the Scottish Nationalist Party would have a vote out of all proportion to its share of the vote at the last general election – they won more than 8.6% of the seats with about 4.7% of the vote at the last general election. Perhaps these MPs are so contemptuous of the public that they will decide that they can ignore general election results, too.



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Democracy in the EU: The Council of the European Union

The Council of the EU and the European Parliament constitute the legislature of the European Union. Sometimes referred to as the Council of Ministers, the Council of the EU exists in 10 different configurations depending on the subject to be discussed. These are: agriculture and fisheries; competitiveness; economic and financial affairs; education, youth, culture and sport; employment, social policy, health and consumer affairs; environment; foreign affairs; general affairs; justice and home affairs; and transport, telecommunications and energy. http://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/council-eu/configurations/

Each configuration consists of a relevant minister from each country. As a result, each country, however large or small its population, has one vote. However, there are some safeguards. A simple majority vote is allowed for non-legislative matters, such as votes on the Council’s own procedures. For most legislative matters, a qualified majority is required, meaning that not only must 55% of member states vote in favour but states representing 65% of the total EU population must vote in favour. Until 31 March 2017, the previous form of qualified majority voting can be requested by the member states. Since this will cease to be an option soon, there is no point in going into details.http://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/council-eu/voting-system/qualified-majority/

Certain decisions, such as the following, are considered too sensitive for qualified majority voting and require unanimity:

  • common foreign and security policy (with the exception of certain clearly defined cases which require qualified majority, e.g. appointment of a special representative)
  • citizenship (the granting of new rights to EU citizens)
  • EU membership
  • harmonisation of national legislation on indirect taxation
  • EU finances (own resources, the multiannual financial framework)
  • certain provisions in the field of justice and home affairs (the European prosecutor, family law, operational police cooperation, etc.)
  • harmonisation of national legislation in the field of social security and social protection.

http://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/council-eu/voting-system/unanimity/


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Democracy in the EU: The European Parliament

There are three main decision-making bodies in the European Union: the European Parliament; the Council of the European Union; and the European Commission.


The European Parliament


From the point of view of the correspondence between the percentage of votes cast for a party and the number of seats gained, the UK election to the European Parliament, which uses proportional representation, is an improvement on our general elections. For instance, in the 2014 European Parliament elections, the Labour party (24.43% of votes) received 27.4% of the seats; the Conservatives (23.05% of votes) received 26.03% of the seats and the SNP (2.73% of the votes) received 2.74% of the seats. UKIP did rather better than it should have done with 32.88% of the seats for 26.6% of the votes, while the LibDems did a lot worse than they should have, receiving a single seat (1.37% of the seats) for 6.61% of the votes. Clearly, no form of voting is perfect. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Parliament_election,_2014_(United_Kingdom)

However, we have to ask how this related to the vote:seat ratio in other EU countries.

Country

Valid Votes

Seats

Votes per Seat

Source

United Kingdom

16,454,950

73

225,410

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Parliament_election,_2014_(United_Kingdom)

Ireland

1,656,518

11

150,593

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Parliament_election,_2014_(Ireland)

Slovakia

560,603

13

43,123

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Parliament_election,_2014_(Slovakia)

Malta

251,851

6

41,975

http://www.europarlmt.eu/en/your_meps/european_ele...

We can see that each vote in Slovakia and Malta is worth more than five times as much as a UK vote. While this is not as bad as the discrepancy between the SNP and UKIP in the general election, it is still very far from being a fair system. It has to be said that Germany gets an even worse deal with 96 seats for 29,340,700 valid votes. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Parliament_election,_2014_(Germany)

There is an argument that small countries need to be over-represented to protect them from larger countries. Having seen the way that the Scottish Nationalist Party behaves with such a small proportion of the total UK vote in the last general election and a disproportionally large number of seats, I cannot subscribe to this idea; it is fundamentally undemocratic.

The European Parliament’s roles (was laid out on the EU’s own website) are defined as follows:

Legislative

Passing EU laws, together with the Council of the EU, based on European Commission proposals

Deciding on international agreements

Deciding on enlargements

Reviewing the Commission's work programme and asking it to propose legislation

Supervisory

Democratic scrutiny of all EU institutions

Electing the Commission President and approving the Commission as a body. Possibility of voting a motion of censure, obliging the Commission to resign

Granting discharge, i.e. approving the way EU budgets have been spent

Examining citizens' petitions and setting up inquiries

Discussing monetary policy with the European Central Bank

Questioning Commission and Council

Election observations

Budgetary

Establishing the EU budget, together with the Council

Approving the EU's long-term budget, the ‘Multiannual Financial Framework’


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