Saturday, 28 May 2016

Open Thread

Sorry, blogging is proving next to impossible at the moment for both me and Sue, and I will shortly be going away for two weeks.

(Even bloggers go on holiday, and I've found an amazing bargain online - an astonishingly cheap 5-star hotel in a trendy new Middle Eastern resort called Raqqa. Never heard of the place myself, but apparently lots of Brits have started holidaying there in recent years. It's 'up-and-coming', according to the both the website ( and the BBC's Lonely Planet guide.

I received a really lovely email a month or so back from the hotel's owner, a chap called Abu Kafirkiller al-Britani. He seems to be a fellow Brit, which is nice - especially as it means we might just get a full English breakfast every morning (fingers crossed!). He says he's looking forward to seeing us. I told him about the blog. Can't wait to try out the local wines!

So here's ITBB's first ever Open Thread. Please feel free to fill it.

For EU referendum-related matters, please also see News-watch, where David Keighley is continuing to provide almost daily detailed posts (and he's fully open to comments too).


  1. Al-Britani's a great guy! A real joker. You'll love him! But I would advise against the desert safari...they claim it's a once in a lifetime experience. Maybe, but is it really necessary to get into an ill-fitting orange jumpsuit? And we'd heard a couple of guys had died on previous trips, probably due to poor health and safety (seems very low in their priorities). My wife absolutely refused to get in the jeep. Al-Britani looked furious but there was nothing he could do as it wasn't included in the Thomas Cook package. Anyway, he was as nice as anything the next day, telling us he planned to come back to London soon with his friends. They were going to travel a complicated way, via Turkey, Greece, Macedonia, Serbia, Hungary, Austria, Germany, France and on to the UK. Bit of a palaver if you ask me but as far as he's concerned "It's the safest way. No fly direct. Dangerous. Too many Czechs." At least I think that's what he said. He promises that when he gets back, he will be so happy because it will be like 4th July and Guy Fawkes night rolled into one...He has a funny way with words!

  2. On Marr this morning, both paper review panelists were pro-Remain and insulted Leave over focusing on immigration. My man Varoufakis called it "a defeat", that they were retreating to the "grubby part of the Leave narrative", and Amanda Platell agreed with him (while paying lip service to the idea that many people have legitimate concerns about immigration, etc., I don't think they're racist although I would personally never, ever think that way). Although Varoufakis did correctly say that democracy/sovereignty is the strongest part of the Leave argument. Both stated that Leave has lost the economic argument.

    Never mind that the conventional pundit wisdom is that the referendum will be won by whichever the people think is most important: Immigration or the Economy.

    They both basically said that Leave's economic arguments were based on dodgy statistics, half truths, etc. After a bit more sniping at the economic case, he repeated the same line about democracy, and Platell sighed dreamily, "I think I just found an economist I trust." Vomit.

    I wish I could have been in the studio to see Blair's reaction when Varoufakis warned against letting Blair help out in the Remain campaign, saying that he'd be "poison to any campaign."

    Zero pro-Brexit views offered.

    Nice little promo spot at the end for the new Top Gear: The Next Grab For Cash. All were looking forward to it with baited breath.

    After spending a few minutes listening to the panel say how disgusting Brexiters were for talking about immigration, here's Liam Fox to talk about immigration. FFS. He's right and Leave is right to say that Cameron's immigration claims were outright lies, but this was a set-up, and Fox is a fool for going on. What's the point of rehashing the same old tired talking points? People have already made up their mind on that issue. Move on already.

    I'm not sticking around to watch Blair. I already know what he's going to say.

  3. Press Previews provide very powerful opportunities for opinion forming which is why the BBC draws almost exclusively on people who might be described as left-liberal...with the sole exception perhaps of the Muslim Clerics they like to have on.

    Personally, I think Leave should go on the BBC and denounce BBC bias. Really kick up a fuss about it. I know a lot of Leave campaigners think that looks bad. But I suspect a lot of potential Leave supporters sense the bias but need someone to be vociferous about it.

    While the BBC like to criticise people who are "obsessed" with immigration, they are in truth as much obsessed with it as anyone and further obsessed with plucking at our heartstrings and presenting a positive image of ALL (and I do mean all) forms of immigration. I heard a snippet of From Our Home Correspondent on Radio 4 - seemed to be usual pro-migration propaganda. I will check it out.

    Dan Read

  4. I've just posted on the Humphrys/Jackie Walker interview. (I had popped over here to see if you'd covered it.)

    1. Sarah,
      I hope you don't mind - I've stolen a chunk of your excellent piece. I should have asked first, so do contact me on link at the top if you have any objections.

    2. No problem - thank you!

  5. I'm watching Laura Kuenssberg's "Britain and Europe: For Richer or Poorer?" About 20 minutes in now, and it's been tediously predictable for at least 10 minutes. Oh, it's balanced, scrupulously assembled A/B vignettes. This farmer says he wants Britain to be your own country, not a puppet state of the EU, that cheese maker says France is a growing great market for British cheeses and leaving would cost him dearly. Repeat with vox pops in other fields.

    We were treated to Laura K challenging Boris Johnson on the £350 million/week fib, and challenging George Osborne on the £4300 "worse off" narrative. I'm describing each differently, and advisedly. This difference in quality of the arguments addressed foreshadows the entire hour.

    Christine LaGarde's doomsaying wasn't challenged at all, except for the obligatory "You guys were wrong before, why should we trust you now?" No challenge at all to her threat that any UK negotiations for new deals with Europe would take years and years. This was the second time we heard that argument, unchallenged.

    Yet Leave voices are challenged. Right after LaGarde, that pub chain owner who made a great showing on Question Time a few weeks ago made very good (IMHO) points about democracy, sovereignty, etc. Oh, but Laura didn't challenge him. That would be to cliché. So she sent a camera to one of his pubs to get vox pops instead.

    "Why couldn't we leave and be free? Reclaim some of our buccaneering traditions..."

    Nope. Once again the Leave side is given with a touch of sarcasm, in a way that Remain side isn't.

    Another example of the difference in the arguments offered came next. A guy from a big cane sugar firm spoke elegantly about how EU regulations squeeze his business, possibly to the point of breaking, while subsidizing beet sugar competitors in Europe (and Britain). Why should anyone care about your whining, Laura asked (in the "Some would say" manner we know so well). The man's reply was that the point wasn't just his firm, and these are the kind of stories people need to hear when they go to the ballot box.

    The rebuttal was from the former boss of Sainsbury's, who explains how many regulations are just necessary things to do pan-EU business smoothly and efficiently. That's not a rebuttal to the cane sugar guy's argument: it's a dismissal. Note also the imbalance in societal stature of the two voices.

    Doom and gloom from the boss of Airbus UK. Brexit will destroy British jobs, jobs will go elsewhere, etc. Is the rebuttal that a free Britain will be able to create plenty of British jobs for British workers (to coin a phrase)? Not even close. Was the Leave voice a captain of industry on the same level? Not even close. Again. It was Gerald Lyons, from 'Economists for Brexit'.

    Lyons said, yes, near-term uncertainty, downward trend initially. The economy will pick up "if" people regain confidence in Britain as things go along.

    "If". Anyone smell a narrative opportunity? Now here's Laura K casting doubt on the possibility of the rest of the world regaining confidence in Brtain. Hmm. The negative seems to be going on an awfully long time now.

    The topic shifts to jobs. A free Britain would be able to create plenty of jobs, Laura intones with a clearly sarcastic tone (words and inflection, so not only my biased inference). As I finish clearing up typos in the previous para, some immigrant worker just said he'd been in Britain 12 years, and is a British citizen. But he doesn't have a British passport yet and Brexit will make things difficult for him. What? No challenge, just left the idea that immigrant workers will all be sent home on June 24. No rebuttal.

    Click. Gonna go watch Pirates with a glass of this new bourbon I found this afternoon.