24 April 2017

On the Record | Primrose Day

Please see my latest post for The Quarterly Review, ‘Primrose Day’:

Pity. If Theresa May had any historical nous, she would have postponed divulging her polling intentions by one day and announced her plans the following morning, Primrose Day — once a high holiday in Conservative circles.

For April 19th is the anniversary of the death in 1881 of Benjamin Disraeli, the Victorian premier who in many ways wrote the manual for successful Tory leaders. Rumoured to be Disraeli’s favourite flower, a primrose wreath was sent to his funeral by a mourning Queen Victoria. Lord Randolph Churchill — Sir Winston’s father — never one to let an occasion pass him by, coined the phrase Primrose League to take advantage of the deceased leader’s popular appeal. For decades, Conservative party ranks were filled with thousands of loyal members from Primrose Leagues across the United Kingdom.

But Dizzy would have admired Mrs May’s electoral gambit. ‘In recent weeks Labour has threatened to vote against the final agreement we reach with the European Union. The Liberal Democrats have said they want to grind the business of government to a standstill,’ she explained to the press. ‘The Scottish National Party say they will vote against the legislation that formally repeals Britain’s membership of the European Union. And unelected members of the House of Lords have vowed to fight us every step of the way.’ ‘The country is coming together, but Westminster is not,’ she lamented.

So, the Prime Minister reasons, ‘we need a general election and we need one now, because we have at this moment a one-off chance to get this done while the European Union agrees its negotiating position and before the detailed talks begin.’ Disraeli, a wily tactician himself, relished thwarting his political adversaries by ‘dishing the Whigs.’

Read more . . .


My thanks to editor Dr Leslie Jones of The Quarterly Review.

13 February 2017

On the Record | Brexit’s Progress

Please see my latest post for The Quarterly Review, ‘Brexit’s Progress’:

‘MPs hand Theresa May the starting gun on Brexit’. That is how the Independent recorded last Wednesday’s ‘second reading’ in the UK House of Commons [1st February] to permit the Conservative government to begin exiting the European Union. And what a process it has been.

Many will argue that Brexit has been in the works since September 1988, when then prime minister Margaret Thatcher argued that ‘We have not successfully rolled back the frontiers of the state in Britain, only to see them re-imposed at a European level with a European super-state exercising a new dominance from Brussels.’

This became known as her ‘Bruges speech’, and inspired countless Britons to struggle for UK sovereignty against Continental encroachments. An eponymous ‘Bruges Group’, with Lady Thatcher as its founding president, was formed the next year to continue the fight.

Unrest smoldered under successive Labour governments, culminating in widespread disgust at the passing of the Lisbon Treaty — the compromise alternative when a formal agreement failed to receive sufficient votes from member states to pass, and for critics a ‘constitution’ in all-but-name for a federal Europe.

Attempting to quell dissent among his Eurosceptic MPs, coalition prime minister David Cameron promised an ‘in/out referendum’ early in 2013 and, in February last year, called for a June 23rd vote — which ‘Leave’ campaigner Boris Johnson called Britain’s own ‘Independence Day’.

Mr. Cameron, who resigned after leading the unsuccessful Remain camp, was succeeded by Theresa May, who vowed to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty and initiate talks to pull Britain out of the EU.

But not so fast. Or ‘festina lente’, as the Romans used to say.

Read more . . .


My thanks to editor Dr Leslie Jones of The Quarterly Review.

02 February 2017

On the Record | Making a Case for Trump’s Entrepreneurial Inaugural Address

Please see my latest wire for The American Spectator, ‘Making a Case for Trump’s Entrepreneurial Inaugural Address’:


Hell’s Justice Department issues forth this “Devil’s Advocate” brief…

We are compelled to respond to the Institute of Economic Affairs’ policy head Ryan Bourne’s excellent analysis of President Donald Trump’s paean to protectionism in his first Inaugural Address. (See how we devils like to taunt our colleagues in the #NeverTrump department?) In response to the President’s admonition to “Buy American and Hire American,” Bourne replies that “If Trump goes down the protectionist route, he’ll be hurting American consumers and the growth potential of the US economy.”

In general, we agree with Bourne on the benefits of free trade: lower prices, greater and more diverse availability of goods and services, specialization as a facet of the division of labor, greater productivity, and overall more wealth for all. Yet it also behooves us to mention drawbacks to free trade, for those who lose their jobs to foreign competition and who must either take up new employment with lower emoluments, re-train, or relocate to more financially promising communities. Some, sadly, will find all these alternatives unpalatable or impossible to fulfill. In the larger scheme of things, these are short-term drawbacks, but for the individuals and families involved, they are no small matter and the negative impact can be great.

Nevertheless, we Devil’s Advocates can point to two elements of President Trump’s Inaugural that may give free traders consolation.

Read more . . .


My thanks to editor Wlady Pleszczynski of The American Spectator.

25 January 2017

On the Record | Supreme Court of Britain Insists That Brexit Vote Goes Through Parliament

Please see my latest wire for The New York Sun, ‘Supreme Court of Britain Insists that Brexit Vote Goes Through Parliament’:

Americans tired of presidential end runs around Congress will sympathize with the Supreme Court ruling out of London that Her Majesty’s Government cannot act alone but must pass legislation in Parliament before triggering Brexit negotiations to leave the European Union.

Following this summer’s referendum vote, Prime Minister May promised to initiate Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty and begin procedural talks for EU withdrawal. Opponents challenged the government before the High Court in early November, arguing that the executive, by acting unilaterally, was usurping parliamentary sovereignty.

The Government countered that, through executive power based on the royal prerogative and buttressed by the majority vote, its Brexit plans were constitutional. The High Court thought otherwise and ruled against the Government, which in turn appealed to the Supreme Court.

Complications ensued when the constituent countries of the United Kingdom joined in the mid-December hearings, contending that Whitehall diktat threatened the equal prerogatives of Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, which should have the right to consult on and veto future Brexit developments.

Read more . . .


My thanks to editor Seth Lipsky of The New York Sun.

19 January 2017

On the Record | May Takes a Step Forward to British Independence with an Eye Out for Trump

Please see my latest wire for The New York Sun, ‘May Takes a Step Forward to British Independence with an Eye Out for Trump’:

Prime Minister May’s Lancaster House speech outlining the British government’s Brexit agenda takes an impressive step forward in Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union — and keeps a weather eye out for the man who is about to become President Trump. Brexit was “a vote to restore . . . our parliamentary democracy, national self-determination, and to become even more global and internationalist in action and in spirit.”

The Prime Minister opened with an apologia, setting out the reasons for Britons’ June decision to leave the EU and set out once more on their historic path of international engagement. “The decision to leave the EU represents no desire to become more distant to you, our friends and neighbours,” Mrs. May assured. “It was no attempt to do harm to the EU itself or to any of its remaining member states.” The lovelorn will recognize the “it’s not you, it’s us.”

Mrs. May detailed a dozen markers that will guide her Brexit strategy, from negotiating a new free trade agreement with the Union (maintaining and revising those current provisions that work for both parties) to normalizing relations for EU citizens living and working in the UK (and vice-versa), while assuring member countries of Britain’s continuing commitment to mutually beneficial co-operation in matters of continental security, defence, and cultural engagement.

Europe was not Mrs. May’s only audience. While England is the dominant “kingdom” in the Union, the Prime Minister assured the administrations of Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland that their concerns and suggestions will be heard at Westminster. Strengthening “the precious union between the four nations of the United Kingdom” is also part of the Brexit framework, as the referendum vote demonstrated the urban-rural divide and the tensions between England and the periphery regions.

Read more . . .

One point raised in the wire, to counter both prime minister Theresa May’s ‘modern industrial strategy’ and President-elect Donald Trump’s ‘America First’ protectionist policy, I believe needs to be especially emphasised: ‘Far better to look to future prospects than past accomplishment and base economic policy on the pillars of property, competition, innovation, and entrepreneurship.’ It is the basis of classical liberal economics and, as the French say, la théorie des débouchés (‘law of markets’).


My thanks to editor Seth Lipsky of The New York Sun.