Thursday, 9 July 2015

Europe's Turkey

Let’s see if we can put this in a nutshell. In the late 90s, Greece, with a little help from their German friends, fudged their books to get the drachma operating within the rules and regulations of the ERM and threw their lot in to join the Euro. They continued fudging their books right up to a few years back. The Great Recession struck and someone asked for a little something from the reserves, only to be told…oops….ain’t none. A big stack of debts, yes. Cash reserves? Not so much. Not to worry. They kept on spending the welfare, dodging their taxes and dreaming the European dream.
And Greece and the EU fudged the books again, breaking all sorts of rules and regulations, splashing the cash to try and keep Greece’s head above water. Alas, the floatation aid stopped Greece from ever reaching dry land. And here we are today. The Greeks have debts they can never pay off. The Germans have credit notes they can’t forgive. Forgiveness is for wars. The truth is, the Greeks should never have been in the Eurozone. Trying to keep them in it was simply throwing good money after bad. It turned out that a half-baked single currency shared by a multitude of independent and competing economies wasn’t such a good idea. Who knew? I guess all the other countries who have ever tried to share a currency and seen it fail.
So here we are. Pick an option. It’s lose, lose all round. There can be no winners. The only question is, does Europe seek an idealogical solution based on faux European unity and give the Greek’s their financial haircut? Or do they seek a common sense solution and let Greece go? Time will tell. Either option is expensive. Either way, pro-Euro supporters like myself are watching, weeping, and losing faith. It’s become an uncontrollable monster. The Eurozone area needs to federalise. The European Union needs complete reform, or risk losing supporters like myself to the sceptic side.
Are there any possible winners at all? Well, possibly. If Greece becomes Europe’s turkey and is sent to the slaughter house, could Turkey become Europe’s next hot entry? Whether this would be a good thing for the Turks or a bad thing is debatable. But they have previously expressed a desire to join in the fun. The only thing stopping them? The Greeks, with their Cypriotic grudge*. Who might not be around to say ‘oxi’ for that much longer…
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  • Of course, the Greek part of Cyprus will remain to be convinced…
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Friday, 6 February 2015

General Election 2015

Once upon a time, the British general election was a matter of global importance. The results would potentially have an effect on hundreds of millions of people across the planet. From the landing of British ships on Newfoundland in 1497 to the handover of Hong Kong exactly five hundred years later in 1997, an empire was administered from London. Covering an area greater than one fifth of the land surface area of the planet, it peaked with a population of nearly 460 million people. No empire has ‘bettered’ those figures. Although as a percentage of the world’s population, the British Empire doesn’t even make it into the top dozen. Did ya know that? The First Persian Empire tops the list, consuming nearly 45% of the people of the planet alive at that time.
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But anyway, it’s been a few decades since a UK general election really, really mattered to the world at large. Sure, the country is still a major player in international affairs, but no longer a governor. So you are forgiven if you really have no interest in the upcoming election or who wins. Truth be told, new governments do not often attempt to change much. Elections anywhere really only have a great impact outside domestic borders when radicals take the reigns of key nations, particularly in times of economic turmoil. Germany in 1933 for example. Or Greece, potentially, in 2015. Sorry chaps, but Obama is not a radical in any way, shape of form.
This year, though, the UK election could have a wider impact. Certainly on the European stage. The rumble of feet heading towards the EU exit is growing louder. It might be a foolhardy direction to tread, but it has momentum. One fringe party in particular have lead the way, but it is the the current incumbents who are offering to open the door. The Conservative party have promised an ‘In / Out’ referendum in the next parliament. And frankly, a scarily large proportion of the country are stupid enough to vote based on wot they been readin’ in their tabloid poison of choice. It would be a close run affair, and even the bookies are not offering much difference between the two options.
I don’t read tabloids. I will browse through the online offerings of the Guardian and occasionally buy a copy of the Times. But even then, I take what I read with a pinch of salt. Or at least balance off one version of the ‘truth’ with the other. This election I will probably take more time than I’ve done before to read into the manifestos and promises of each of the main political players. I think you know which way I will likely cast my vote. But nothing is set in stone. That’s an important principal for me. Picking your colour and sticking to it through thick and thin is what you do when choosing a football team to support. The country changes, as does its priorities, its needs, its place in the world. Parties change, both in personnel and philosophy. And my vote changes accordingly. What matters to me are the policies and promises offered for the next four years, and by whom. Can they be trusted? Inevitably, no, they can’t. But which of the evils on the shelf is the least bitter to swallow?
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The first party to have stuffed literature through my letterbox are UKIP. The early bird catches the worm. Except, in this instance, UKIP is the worm. Having earlier stated that I have an open mind with my vote, that only stretches so far. Sure, I’ll read their document once I’ve fished it out of the scanner. But I wouldn’t even use this insidious document as toilet paper. Though it may well share the same eventual fate, flushed into oblivion. In a single A5 sheet, UKIP demonstrates what is wrong with many politicians, but something they particularly specialise in. Half truths that paint only half the picture. Insert ‘rich, old white’ between policies and people and the message is clearer.
And I strongly suspect that those raised hands belong to people who have the wrong skin colour or nationality, being herded on to transport trains headed for the other side of the channel tunnel, at the end of a shotgun toted by one of the aforementioned rich, old white people. Or maybe I’m letting my imagination run away with itself. Whatever, they’re a nasty lot. One would have to be Sherlock to see through all the half truths, false promises and rosy pictures that the political combatants are soon to bombard us with. Join me over the next few months as I try to do my best. The game is afoot.
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