by Peter Franklin
Thursday, 10
August 2023

Europe’s populist Right is far from united

Despite a polling surge, the group has major ideological differences

According to a Politico report, “Right-wing and Eurosceptic parties are set to surge in the next European election at the expense of centrist parties.”

Politico‘s polling analysis predicts that parties belonging to the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group could come third in next year’s European Parliamentary elections — they’re currently neck-and-neck with the liberal Renew Europe (RE) group, which is predicted to lose seats.

The European Parliament is presently controlled by a grand alliance of moderate pro-European conservatives, social democrats and the aforementioned liberals — which sounds like, and indeed is, an establishment stitch-up. ...  Continue reading

by Peter Franklin
Monday, 7
August 2023

Foreign investment plummets as the West snubs China

The post-Covid economic order has exposed Beijing's vulnerability

Deglobalisation is the idea that the integration of the world economy is going into reverse. But is it actually happening? After decades of globalisation, will the future be one of economic conflict between rival trade blocs?

The following chart appears to provide an omen. Shared on Twitter this weekend by the investor Jens Nordvig, it shows a steep decline in foreign direct investment (FDI) in China.

Credit: Jens Nordvig/Twitter

Nordvig adds that in the second quarter of 2023 foreign investors “only put about $5bn of fresh capital into China […] in 2021, we saw close to $100bn per quarter!”

There are many forms of foreign investment, but one of the most important is (or perhaps was) the wholesale offshoring of the West’s industrial capacity. This mega-trend has changed all of our lives by flooding consumer markets with cheap goods, while degrading the productive side of our economies — and in particular the availability of well-paid jobs in manufacturing. ...  Continue reading

by Peter Franklin
Friday, 4
August 2023

Is Ursula von der Leyen’s job under threat?

Challengers are already circling around the EU leader

Ursula von der Leyen, as President of the European Commission, is the nearest the EU has to a proper leader. At every G7 summit there she is, rubbing shoulders with presidents and prime ministers who were actually elected to their elevated position.

Of course, no one voted for von der Leyen’s presidency. She wasn’t even the choice of the spitzenkanditat system, which is the European Parliament’s better-than-nothing attempt to create a democratic mandate for the role. Nevertheless, in 2019 she still got the job — manoeuvred into place by Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron.

Four years later, von der Leyen is seeking a second term, but this time she doesn’t have Merkel around to fix it for her. Indeed, as explained in a report for Politico, she faces a possible challenge from Manfred Weber who leads the European People’s Party (EPP) — the largest grouping in the European Parliament. In 2019, he was the EPP’s pick for the presidency — and would have got it had he not been replaced with von der Leyen. Turning the tables in 2023 would be sweet revenge. ...  Continue reading

by Peter Franklin
Monday, 31
July 2023

Keir Starmer knows exactly what he’s doing

Several recent U-turns have raised questions about the Labour leader's vision

Has Sir Keir Starmer lost his bottle? Mail on Sunday columnist Dan Hodges thinks so, referring to the Labour leader as “gripped by fear”. How else can one explain the unforced retreats of recent weeks?

For instance, there was the U-turn on the two-child benefit cap — a Tory austerity measure that everyone thought Labour would scrap. We can’t afford to, concluded Starmer, thus earning himself a new soubriquet from the online Left: “Sir Kid Starver”. Then there’s his readiness to blame the Ulez expansion for Labour’s failure to win the Uxbridge by-election. The party leader can’t actually order Sadiq Khan to rethink this policy, but he’s putting him under intense pressure to do so. Most recently, the Shadow Cabinet has reversed its stance on transgender issues. We don’t yet know whether Starmer still believes in the male cervix, but at least Rosie Duffield has received an apology (albeit from Wes Streeting rather than Starmer himself). ...  Continue reading

by Peter Franklin
Wednesday, 26
July 2023

The Farage-Coutts affair is a lesson for liberals

The Left was all too ready to amplify false narratives

Dame Alison Rose was doomed from the moment that the NatWest Group board expressed “full confidence” in her as CEO. The context was her own admission that she’d “made a serious error of judgement” in talking to BBC journalist Simon Jack about Nigel Farage’s relationship with Coutts bank.

Sir Howard Davies, the NatWest Group chairman, agreed — adding that the “handling” of Farage’s abrupt cancellation as a Coutts customer “has been unsatisfactory, with serious consequences for the bank”. And yet despite these acknowledgements, he then said that the board “retains full confidence in Ms Rose as CEO of the bank”. ...  Continue reading

by Peter Franklin
Monday, 24
July 2023

Is Elon Musk about to turn Twitter into the god app?

There is a logic to the social network's controversial rebrand as X

It wasn’t a joke. Elon Musk really is rebranding Twitter. Just as he promised in a tweet on Sunday, the company will “bid adieu to the twitter brand and, gradually, all the birds”. A new X logo has already been unveiled and the domain name now redirects to the Twitter site.

But why is Musk doing this? Why acquire a social media company for $44 billion only to erase its corporate identity? Imagine Apple or Coca-Cola or Rolls-Royce rebranding as “E” or “J” or “Z”. It appears to make no sense.

Some commentators have noted Musk’s fixation with the 24th letter of the alphabet. It repeatedly appears in the names of his companies, such as SpaceX; his products, such as the Tesla Model X; and even his children. More broadly, X is a pluripotent symbol in Western culture. It variously signifies obscenity, anonymity, the alcoholic strength of beer, a kiss and Jesus Christ. In mathematics, it stands for an unknown quantity; in pirate cartography, a buried treasure. ...  Continue reading

by Peter Franklin
Thursday, 20
July 2023

The surprising answer to Nigel Farage’s Coutts problem

National digital currencies could bypass activist banks

Following reports that Nigel Farage was denied access to his Coutts account because of his political opinions, Britain’s poshest bank finds itself at the centre of an escalating row. Reportedly claiming that the politician didn’t “align with their values”, Coutts have decisively found themselves on the wrong side of public opinion. According to the latest YouGov polling, published on Wednesday, 62% of Britons believe that banks should not be allowed to “remove customers who have personal or political beliefs that don’t align with the bank’s values”. Only 15% felt that they should. ...  Continue reading

by Peter Franklin
Monday, 17
July 2023

RFK Jr and the slur of ‘red-brown’ politics

If Left and Right agree, it doesn't mean they are fascists

In the 20th century, the ultimate expression of red-brown politics — that is to say, the meeting point of far-Left and far-Right ideas — was the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of 1939, in which Stalin’s USSR and Hitler’s Germany carved up Eastern Europe between them. It came to an end when Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, but the Pact stands as proof that, when it suits them, the political extremes are capable of uniting against the centre.

Does this warning from history have any relevance to us today? In an essay published last week, the British writer and journalist Paul Mason argues that the contemporary Left is under threat from a form of red-brown politics, in which “the conspiracy theories and obsessions of the far left and far right are becoming merged” . ...  Continue reading

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