EU vote: Blowing hot and cold on Europe

Why should we be dragged through the lengthy, costly, difficult and ultimately destructive process of parting company with the EU, just to keep one slightly deranged businessman happy that he’s making a shedload of money?

By: Sterling Pound – Business Editor (© 2016)

It hasn’t come as a shock, to be honest, that Sir James Dyson, the ludicrously overdesigned vacuum-cleaner salesman whose personal fortune has been estimated at some £3 billion, has made a lapidary statement about Britain leaving the EU, coming down firmly on the side of the Brexit campaign.

Of course we can trade with other countries when we leave the EU! he declares. The man who exported, what was it, six hundred British jobs to Malaysia? He ought to know.

And I’m not sure who it was who told us we couldn’t trade with other countries AND remain a member of the EU? The obvious fact is, we do! It seems to me like another one of those many Europhobic lies we have been bombarded with for decades in the rightwing press, whose overmighty barons would like to increase their monopoly hold over UK media, but whose plots are continually foiled by inconvenient diktats emanating from Brussels – where, of course, Britain and British interests and the finest traditions of British democracy, like illegal rendition and torture, have not been represented for the past forty years since we blundered into the trap set for us by garlic-chewing bureaucrats.

Dyson has been curiously inconsistent with his theme over the years, depending, it seems, on the economic weather.

From his Wikipedia entry:

Claiming that the strength of the pound was affecting his company’s profits on exports to France and Germany, in February 2000 Dyson threatened to shift focus from his Malmesbury plant to a new plant set up in Malaysia because the government would not join the euro.  … “We do around £40 million worth of export business with France and Germany each year but we aren’t making any money. If we joined the euro we would be on an even footing with our biggest trading partners.”

In 2014, Dyson said he would now be voting to leave the European Union to avoid being “dominated and bullied by the Germans”.

Who is to say next year it might not be in Dyson’s interest to rejoin the Union? Which, of course, we shan’t be able to do. Who will trust our word ever again? And has it not occurred to him, or indeed anyone, that by leaving the EU, we shall be leaving the field clear for the total domination of Europe by, er, the dominating and bullying Germans? So is he going to stop trading with Europe now?

There is of course no suggestion that the famously mercurial and much-lauded entrepreneur disapproves of attempts by Brussels to reinforce its Europe-wide carbon-emissions targets by setting caps on the maximum power ratings of domestic appliances. Or that the thinking of British businessmen who like to ‘engineer’ the perfect conditions for their companies that enable them to buy chateaux in France and superyachts (his is only the 36th biggest in the world) can sometimes be somewhat ahistorical: narrowly focussed and short-term. Or, selfish, as we might say.

The question I have to ask is, why should we be dragged through the lengthy, costly, difficult and ultimately destructive process of parting company with the EU, just to keep one slightly deranged businessman happy that he’s making a shedload of money? In all of these declarations in favour of Brexit, it’s like opening the fridge door and thinking something at the back’s gone off: they reek of self-interest.

So, have all those honours gone to his head? As part of his praiseworthy attempts to promote engineering in schools, the Wiki informs us, the Dyson company has produced a teaching aid that can be loaned free of charge (for a month) to pupils at Key Stage 4:

The Education Box enables students to take apart and examine a Dyson DC22 Telescope vacuum cleaner. In addition, a school is allowed to retain a James Dyson Foundation teacher pack, and a copy of Genius Of Britain, a Channel 4 TV series featuring Dyson, and design engineering posters. Other resources are also available.

At my posh public-school, we had an old Riley car we could take to bits and examine. No-one ever tried to sell me one….

Expert opinion

Speaking of the euro, the currency our media tells us is continuously ‘in crisis’ hit a new high yesterday against the pound, of 1.262 (80 pence), on news in two polls of an unexpected surge in favour of Brexit, which almost everyone other than Sir James and Michael Gove thinks will be a disaster. Knowledgeably perusing some highly technical jargon, I understand 1.26 is somewhat outside the range that should trigger Central Bank intervention.

The financial website for exchange traders,, predicts the Bank of England will have to raise interest rates against further economic uncertainty if the slide continues next week. They point out that while a lower pound favours exports to Europe (!) it will push up the price of imported goods, widening the already alarming trade gap; and the types of goods that we can export more profitably to the rest of the world because of the lower pound tend to be those that generally encounter existing trade barriers in non-EU countries.

Shall I say it, Brexit spokes, or will you?

All together now…

“Rubbish! What do they know, wankers? They’re only financial experts!”


With a gong in my heart

So, hail then, and arise, Sir Rod Stewart.

Happily, you are not among this year’s sad crop of dead 1970s celebrities, but have instead received the highest honour in the land; a knighthood in the Queen’s 90th birthday honours list. I expect you’ll be jetting in from your agreeable home in Los Angeles to receive it.

Strangely, only a few days ago while watching a late-night BBC compilation of your many TV concert appearances over the years (your career began in 1961, before colour revealed your strangely orange hair), when there wasn’t much on, I mused aloud to myself that you were one act about overdue for a top Brit rocker gong, up there with Sir Cliff and Sir Tom, Sir Elt, Sir Mick and Sir Macca.* I don’t appear to be the only prescient former editor on the scene, as flipping to your Wikipedia entry to find out more about you I find you are already listed there as Sir Roderick David Stewart, less than 24 hours after it was announced. Someone is clearly on the ball; and now booking a table has got easier.

I also discover that you have an enormous… er, model railway at your home, and have featured on the cover of Model Railroader magazine. We have a slightly more pejorative meaning of ‘railroad’ in UK English, but we get the drift, no need to assume you’ve been railroading models, haha. I always hankered after a model railway as a boy, and indeed still do;  only when I finally got one it was about two minutes before I became excessively bored watching the little train going round and round.

And of course your collection of Ferraris should have put you in contention for a presenter’s role on the new Top Gear, but alas. You’re better off out of it, mate, is my view after two haunting episodes.

As it happens, we hear that Her Majesty is more a fan of George Formby, the cheeky Lancastrian ukelele-strumming comic whose smutty songs and double-entendres were considered hilarious in the 1940s and 50s. Apparently she ‘knows all the lyrics’ to songs such as ‘My Little Stick of Blackpool Rock’, and ‘When I’m Cleaning Windows’, and can do a great impression.

I was more impressed to learn that, years before Mandela, Formby and his missus toured South Africa. Horrified by what he found there, he refused to perform in front of all-white segregated audiences, and instead went off to play in the townships. Shame you can’t give posthumous knighthoods.

Still, ‘You wear it well.’

*Why don’t Lady Brit rockers ever get gongs too? Dame Annie Lennox, possibly next?**

**BTW, how many leading British authors ever get ennobled? ‘Sir Professor Doktor’ sounds good, nein? (Enough plugs. Ed. Even if you are the boss.)


Drafting Uncle Nigel

Right when we’re about to sever our links with Europe, it’s reported, Marvel comics are planning to revive Captain Britain. I’m sure there can be no connection. We shall, of course, be needing a superhero to save us from the perils of rougher international waters: criminal masterminds, property speculators, ultraviolent Russian football hooligans, the evil supremo Trumpster and his trusty sidekick,  Boris.

As Batman has his butler, so I thought Captain Britain could have a supportive older uncle; a rich man, he lives in a castle but hangs out in the village pub, enjoying a warm beer and complaining endlessly in an adopted Essex twang about foreigners, political correctness, foreigners, the smoking ban, foreigners and the untrustworthiness of European institutions. Maybe he morphs at night back into the body of a Cane Toad, which he more than slightly resembles.

I see this quintessentially English widemouth character as being a bit dodgy; always dressed in a camel-coloured Crombie coat with a velvet tab collar and a copy of Sporting Life in the pocket, he reminds us perhaps of ‘Arthur Daley’, the comical if ever-so slightly sinister secondhand rustbucket car-dealing hero and backstreet entrepreneur of the hit 1970s TV series, ‘Minder’. A cashiered ex-Army stores adjutant and sometime ‘commodities broker’ (he’ll do you a nice line in knockoff TVs), Uncle Nigel (we’ll call him) always has a couple of cases of imitation Bulgarian champagne in the boot of his 1968 Mark-11 Jaguar and the phone number of a cute bit of totty lipsticked on the front of the glovebox.

Every so often, he might mysteriously disappear across the Channel, only to re-surface days later with a briefcase bulging with Euros, which when questioned he puts down to: ‘Expenses, mate. Now piss off or I’ll call my solicitor!’ He is a popular guest on panel shows; indeed, his colourful antics and questionable assertions about modern life, delivered with bulging-eyed conviction, ensure he is seldom out of the limelight.

Just an idea. Perhaps a bit far-fetched.


Breaking bad (habits)

One of those reports you read on public blogs with off-the-wall references to better-known and more trustworthy names in the world of journalism (I include The Boglington Post among them) claims that Boko Haram, the al-Qaeda-linked Islamist extremist group proposing to create a caliphate in northern Nigeria, has executed two village policemen for smoking on duty.

It does seem somewhat perverse to outlaw a particular habit as a health hazard, only to prescribe an even greater health hazard as the punishment for failing to break the habit. There are gentler ways of encouraging people to stop smoking, but I suppose a dramatic demonstration of what can happen if you don’t is as good as a health warning on the pack, or banning advertising.

But why? Well, according to the article, certain dimly educated village mullahs have ruled that smoking is un-Islamic, because the Qu’ran frowns both on self-harming, and on wasting money.

Now, forgive me, but where does this fatwa leave a) suicide bombers, and b) the hopped-up young jihadis who like to shoot thousands of bullets playfully in the air at a dollar a time, to impress foreign journalists? Or does simultaneously shouting Allahu akbar! in lieu of more coherent rationalisations absolve them of guilt?

It’s a somewhat quixotic gesture to enforce a fatwa on smokers in the Developing World (now there’s an oxymoron), where approximately 96 per cent of men are hooked on the habit by the age of seven – women probably find it harder to smoke with their faces covered. So my guess is that Boko Haram see tobacco as a capitalist Crusader conspiracy, rather as in the nineteenth century we Brits forced the Chinese at gunpoint to take opium to protect the tea trade.

They might not be far wrong.

One of my wives had a cousin who married an Italian who (over 30 years ago) supplemented a precarious living as a fisherman by running American cigarettes to Albania, returning with human contraband – political refugees.

Now and then, his fast powerboats would be shot-up by police operating from helicopters, and need replacing with faster ones. My Italian and his English met less than halfway, but from what he was saying, I gathered that, in his opinion (not the author’s, I’m having nothing to do with it) the boats were ultimately paid for by a grant from the US tobacco company, the money being channeled via some deeply reputable business associates in Palermo.

It was an extreme, but no-doubt effective, form of product promotion.

As I should know, because, while working in an advertising agency, I was once briefed to find a way of getting more smokers in Scotland hooked on a certain brand of cigarette made, as far as I could tell, from whatever was left on the factory floor after the previous shift had gone home. Research suggested that if you could get someone to smoke a brand for seven weeks, that was it, loyal for life. I’m ashamed to admit, my campaign was hugely successful*.

So now, twenty-five years on, the world is a very different place. And getting more different by the day. How many socially aggravating habits might the Mayor of London, Mr Boris Johnson, in his eagerness to overcome Islamist militancy, not eradicate by the simple expedient of putting a bullet through the back of a few miscreants’ fuzzy heads? Is wine banned in Islam? In that case, I’m a dead man drinking.

And what about drivers of diesel cars? People who watch (a pointless TV quiz-show called) Pointless? Householders who deliberately try to sneak out the odd empty fishpaste-jar with their recycling, knowing that glass is an officially banned substance? Apostates!

Still, it’s good to know Boko Haram are taking the health of the nation to heart. Gives us all hope.


*Fans of the Mel Brooks’ film, The Producers, will be familiar with the plot wherein our eponymous heroes set out to fail, and collect the insurance money, only for their terrible show ‘Springtime for Hitler’ to succeed beyond their wildest nightmares. Disliking smoking, I intentionally created an advertising campaign of such desperate banality that no-one could possibly have been taken-in by it, only to obtain an unheard-of 16 per cent positive response. I may thus have killed more Scotsmen than the Duke of Cumberland. I’m very, truly, sorry.

Hating the British

I’ve probably said this already, but I hate the British. I think being technically British myself qualifies me to say that, since I helpfully also hate myself. But not for the reasons that I hate the other British. I just hear them on the radio all the time, hating everybody else.

My surname dates me back to the Vikings, so I’m only 60 generations beyond being an immigrant. It makes me pretty close to being an Englishman, perhaps with a bit of Saxon, Norman French and Irish mixed in; only for my little old Greek granny, whom my grandfather met and married while serving King and Country through two world wars. I don’t really mind the English, a bunch of silly, stuck-up, selfish baboons; the Scots are lovable, drunken half-savages at the best of times, but then so am I.

And I’ve lived in Wales for the past twelve years. The Welsh are the last remnants of the original British, the blue-bottomed Brythons, the most famous of whom was, of course, Monty Brython, who goose-stepped into the ocean to avoid capture by the Romans after the battle of Ynys Môn. He had reached the end of the woad. The Welsh are not the British I excoriate either, touchy though some of them can be (Rhod Gilbert, he’s really funny!). It’s the British British I can’t stand.

It’s the ones who want to throw everyone else out and close the Channel Tunnel I would like to wall up in the cellar and feed on pickled spiders’ eggs and boiling beer.

I often wonder what the European Union would look like, better probably, if the British hadn’t spent the last forty years being easily convinced by the endless barrage of propaganda paid for by the global corporatist conglomerate, that Europe is some sort of evil conspiracy of inefficient garlic growers, best kept at arm’s length; when, in fact, the English Channel is but a shallow, water-filled depression formed only a few thousand years ago as a result of melting Norwegian ice, and you can walk across at low tide. A few minutes in the air over France, gazing down at the obsessively neat rectilinearity of the farms, gives the lie to the belief that French farmers still need our taxes to feed their stumbling plough oxen. How efficient would British farmers be, if they had to cope with the volume of unexploded ordnance and well rotted corpses on their land? Time Team is hardly the same thing.

No sooner had they voted themselves in, than the British put on their High & Mighty Gannex coats and began jumping up and down on the touchline of Europe in the rain, yelling like demented dads at a schools soccer tournament: ‘Up yours, Delors!’, and similar technical terms unrelated to the peaceful transition from perpetual warfare to universal cooperation between nations that everyone else was expecting. It never seemed to occur to the British that the point of a Union is to join in; only that they don’t like it whatever it is, and demand to change the rules with every game to suit themselves. As a result, we shall never know if British membership of the club might have made a difference. We’re still too busy taking a preliminary piss in the foyer.

Thanks to the corporatist proxies, the media owners Murdoch, Northcliffe and the sinister Barclay twins, Lords of Sark (where?), the British have finally spawned UKIP, a party of pub bores, taxi drivers and in some cases seriously swivel-eyed power-seekers, led by a perpetually grinning salesman (but with an underlying air of tragedy), a spaniel-eyed Pagliacci who is seldom seen without a pint of beer in his hand and a fag in his mouth, although he is not really Andy Capp. He is merely posing, as Harold Wilson did, as a Man o’ the People. The People, by whom I mean the British, fall for this schtick in droves, so desperate are they to be led into the wilderness by a real British man and not some traitor called Cameron, who will let foreigners in. At such times we lose the capacity to recognise that the cheery chappy on the doorstep is busy nicking granny’s wallet.

This party miraculously secured the same percentage of the vote in recent local elections as the party of the rancorous TV comedian, Pepe Grillo, did at the last Italian general election: 25%. Not that spaghetti-chewing Italians can hold proper elections, like the British. Foreigners don’t get democracy, a British invention. The result extrapolates to an awful lot of people who think, on the basis of the complete ignorance of the issues in which they have been kept by the dreadful British press for 40 years, that we should ‘get out’ of the EU, before British culture is ‘swamped’ by Eastern and possibly even Southern European migrants intent on straightening our bananas.

I am imagining the reaction of Tory MPs’ wives, when they wake up on the morning after the referendum, only to find they are no longer automatically entitled to own their agreeable third home (converted from a shepherd’s hut, how killing!) in Tuscany, having swept royally through the Green channel at Pisa airport; where instead, they will be forced henceforth to queue for five hours at the Aliens desk behind several boatloads of tired and hungry Somali asylum seekers before being put on a plane back to Luton.

How, I wonder, will Kentish publicans, or the less well-off fathers of brides-to-be, react when they can no longer hop on a cross-channel ferry to Boulogne and haul back crateloads of duty-free Cava and several thousand counterfeit fags, and find instead some officious bastard from HM Revenue and Customs poking suspiciously through their people-carriers demanding payment of 150 quid duty?

And will it be Auf Wiedersehen, Pet for the thousands of British workers entitled to travel freely and seek employment elsewhere in the Union, whose frontiers will clang shut behind them as they are promptly expelled, enabling the same Bulgarians and Romanians whom the British don’t want to fill British jobs in Britain to sweep instead into Germany and France, Spain and Italy, Belgium and Luxembourg, taking the British jobs British workers will have been compelled to leave behind?

Well, maybe. But at least loyal British employers will be at liberty once again to kill and maim hardworking British workers; corporation tax will be cut to 10%, we’ll all be allowed to inhale other people’s cigarette smoke and let’s have no more of that dangerous foreign nonsense about human rights, gay marriage and gender equality. We can subsidise our own, highly efficient farmers, thank you… oh, sorry, they’ve all gone bust. Never mind, thanks to HS2 we can create a land fit for stockbrokers, bankers and global commodity traders – plus, of course, those lovely corporations, that have all our interests at heart.

Envious, curtain-twitching, dog-in-the-manger, dismally ignorant, insular, xenophobic, gullible British, with their grotesquely inflated view of themselves, their overweening sense of entitlement, their baseless air of superiority, their bombastic yearning for the return of a vanished global empire that never really existed (that our American ‘allies’ have taken away from them), crawling about in the gutter having fumbling sex in puddles of puke, constantly complaining about everything, hating anyone marginally more successful or less privileged than themselves, hating everyone who isn’t themselves, are welcome to live in their own little bubble in their tiny corner of the globe, on the rest of which seven billion inferior foreigners are happily getting on with ignoring their existence and learning Chinese.

As you drift rudderless out into the Atlantic towards the growling icebergs, Hardworking British Families, goodbye and thanks for all the Difficult Decisions. I’m off to live in civilization while there still is one.