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'A gaping silken dragon,/Puffed by the wind, suffices us for God./We, not the City, are the Empire's soul:/A rotten tree lives only in its rind.'

Tuesday, 1 July 2014


... Australia fair.

I spent most of this evening with colleagues from an Australian university. The chap I was sitting next to talked of decent things - like cider apples - and his changing perceptions of England and the UK. We got to talking about origins and histories, and it turned out that his family went back some way as an Australian family (i.e., not one of the original, Aboriginal, inhabitants). In fact, he is a sixth generation Australian. Of course, we talked of wars, and such things. He noted how when he first came to the UK as a student in the 1960s, he hadn't even needed a passport. His father had flown Lancaster bombers from English airfields - and survived. In his old age, he had returned for a last visit to England, only to find that he had to queue in the 'aliens' line on entry to the UK. To make matters worse, UK customs searched his baggage. Why ? Why this 'thanks' ? Because of the self-serving swine that have 'led' my country throughout my adult life, and because of the subservience of the UK Parliament to the European Union. This isn't the first time I have heard such a tale from an Australian. It makes me feel embarrassed, ashamed.

Here's an Australian recruiting poster from the Great War:

Printed image of a soldier on horseback, holding a sword in his right hand and a Union Jack flag in his left. 'Come on boys / Follow the flag' is printed on the poster.

We haven't all forgotten.


  1. Interesting thoughts. Would you be happy to have all Australian passport holders be able to enter the UK through a fast-track, nothing to declare, non-foreign channel?

    Note that a UK passport holder still needs a visa to enter Oz, and doesn't get special treatment going through customs. We're foreigners.

  2. Yes, I know the same applies to UK passport holders when entering Australia. I'm also aware that the various agreements that the UK and Australia and the UK and New Zealand had in terms of work permits, and numbers of people working in each country, have also changed considerably in recent years. My point was that I'm not comfortable with the changes that have come about during my lifetime in these respects. That may be because I'm a middle-aged bloke.

    My further feelings are, as you may have guessed, that the European Union is a fundamentally undemocratic structure, and that the model it follows is most closely associated to the technocratic model that emerged in the French Third and Fourth Republics. That model arose because the French parliamentary system was almost permanently hamstrung. As a result, civil servants had executive power. That contrasts with the UK model where civil servants are just that - servants - and the electorate can pass judgement on its elected representatives.

    Yes, I would be happy to see Australian passport holders being subject to no more delay than EU passport holders.

  3. "That may be because I'm a middle-aged bloke."

    So am I, although I'm in denial.

    If all goes well I'll have an Aussie passport by the end of the year, to go with my UK one. Then there'll be no stopping me :)

    1. Arf! One of the compensations, though, is that when prospects for the future really annoy one, it's possible to comfort oneself with the happy thought that 'I'll be dead by then'. Good luck on the Australian-British globe trotting!

  4. In some ways I wish that it had been possible to give all Commonwealth citizens the right to enter the UK without the need for visas etc., but now that the UK is part of the EU (and I won't comment about that conundrum here!) we have signed away that option. I suspect that it is now impossible to reverse the situation ... which is a great pity.

    1. Yes, Bob. I suspect that your suspicions are probably correct. Even if the UK (or what's left of it, possibly) gets an 'In-Out' referendum, I don't think 'Out' would win now.

  5. Although things have changed, it is still easier for an Aussie to enter the UK than it is for a Brit to enter Oz. There is also the difference in the 'world', back in the '60s terrorists no doubt had that under the 'occupation' bit of their passports.

    Yes indeed Europe isn't perfect, but for the bulk of UK travellers abroad, things are generally far easier within the EU Zone than they were before it. Spain was particularly arduous, depending on how Franco viewed the UK in any given week.

    I'm not so sure that our civil servants are justifiably called 'servants' either. We may change our politicians every four years or so, but the civil service is eternal. 'Ministers' may have some degree of say, but they can only act on what information the 'servants' supply them with.

    Within our lifetimes it has been suggested that the CS actively worked against the Wilson Government, which did not meet its criteria as a 'suitable government' for the UK and of course it's only in recent years that the SIS and SS have been 'reined-in' under the umbrella of parliamentary oversight. Previously they pretty much did as they pleased with only minimal interaction with the democratic process.

    Even the rose-coloured spectacles we use to look at the past need a wipe occasionally so we can see clearly. ;-)

  6. Indeed, you are correct re the 'terrorist' bit. Sadly. On the civil servants front, yes, I can well remember Tony Benn going on about the problem, and, of course, we have the example of 'Yes, Minister'. However, there is a fundamental difference between the legal and constitutional position of UK civil servants, and that of the EU Commission. The latter is actually charged with pushing forward the ever greater union of the EU. Commissioners have the legal powers in the EU that only Ministers, acting through Parliament, have in the UK. That is a major difference. We can, via the mechanism of the popular vote (putting on one side the imperfections of the electoral system for Westminster, and the issue of Prime Ministerial power) remove those Ministers. We cannot remove Commissioners, neither do we vote for them. That is undemocratic, not to say anti-democratic. Short (and long) sighted as I am, I do not wear rose tinted specs, but I would prefer not to be led into the future by undemocratic means. Interestingly, as a sort of aside, I see Len McCluskey has said today that he (and, undoubtedly, the rest of UNITE shortly) want to see Miliband and Labour also promise an 'In-Out' referendum.

    1. Without a doubt I do think the in-out question needs putting to a referendum and soon. Clearly the whole EU has changed completely since the '70s and it is a far cry from what it began as. It would indeed be undemocratic not to do so.

      I'm not familiar enough with the political scene to comment authoritatively on the commissioner question, but as I understand it (which may be itself at fault), commissioners are appointed/elected by Euro MPs themselves, which is at source little different to appointing ministers in our own government... we have no say on who should be Minister for Education for example.

      We assume that our democratically elected representatives act in our best interests (although the evidence does not appear to support this) and while the process in question is undemocratic in and of itself, those selecting the commissioners are elected by popular vote.

      You might argue that our own election system is undemocratic in any case, given that our current government was elected as a coalition with only 50% of the total electorate supporting it... some of whom may or may not have changed their vote had they been aware of the coalition that was to result from it (I imagine William Beveridge to be spinning in his grave).

      As it is our own leader relies on only 23% of the total electorate as the basis for his authority (36% of those who actually bothered to cast their vote), so he's hardly the figurehead to be pushing for more democracy.

      To me it's one just one imperfect system within a collection with many.

    2. Hi Jim,
      I agree with you on the referendum question, though, as a 'Eurosceptic' (I don't like that term), I actually think that it would be a hard slog to get an 'out' vote.

      On the Commission - no, the Commission is appointed by the Council. It is not appointed or elected by the Parliament. There is no direct link between the voters and the members of the Commission. Worse, only the Commission has the power of legislative initiative. Only the Commission can push forward change (within very broad parameters set by the Council - with one member per member state). Yet we, the electorate, have no control over it all. Further, Commissioners can (and are) be like Baroness Ashton, who is, effectively, the EU's foreign minister. She has never, in her whole political career, been elected to anything. Her position is a result of power-brokering and secretive deals and agreements.

      I absolutely agree with you on all your comments re the electoral system. When allied to voter apathy and disenchantment, we get major decisions on key issues being decided by tiny numbers. Rotten. But that doesn't mean we should have to put up with yet another layer of undemocratic rule (the EU).