Obsession with “private” involvement in Health is hypocritical nonsense

The equipment used by the Health Service is privately produced. The medicines are privately provided. The hospitals are privately built.

That alone – in addition to the fact school materials are privately published, roads are privately constructed, key public sector recruitment is privately delivered – should tell us what an absolute nonsense our politicians’ obsession with ‘privatisation’ of our Health Service is.

Politicians, particularly in Northern Ireland (but also notably in Scotland and Sweden currently), are experts at trying to pull the wool over our eyes by taking a stand on something they can’t deliver or focusing on something they know to be irrelevant to draw our attention away from the issues they could affect but aren’t competent enough to deal with. Yet again we see them failing completely to capture the key issues around Health (and indeed Welfare) Reform, while at the same time frothing at the mouth about “privatisation” in health care.

This would indeed be a scandal if it turned out that contracted private provision were actually costing more than public provision would. Self-evidently, however, it is costing less – otherwise it wouldn’t be contracted. The public sector doesn’t produce health equipment, or provide (and research) medicines, or build hospitals (or for that matter schools or roads etc) precisely because it would be more expensive and less efficient (generally – there are exceptions, particularly the dreadful PFIs). The reason is that the private sector can research and thus deliver specific, advanced, innovative expertise well beyond that provided by the public sector because the private sector can take risks while developing and researching this expertise that the public sector can’t. There is no particular reason that health care provision would be any different. That is why many countries have it – including right-wing hotbeds like Sweden and Denmark (where even the ambulances are private).

It is noteworthy also that the concern in this “debate” is not the patient (for not once has anyone suggested patients are receiving inferior care or placed in greater danger by private provision) and far less the taxpayer (who is receiving greater value). Oh no, we hear nonsense about “the private sector is only in it for the profit” – ignoring of course the point that public sector workers receive higher salaries and pensions, one of the likely reasons that private sector provision is better value and more efficient for the taxpayer. (One correspondent even condemned the notion of trying to provide services “on the cheap” – as if that’s a bad thing!)

What is happening here is a nonsensical and hypocritical “sector wars” approach which attempts to pull the wool over our eyes to protect a system which is bureaucratic, inefficient and expensive. Laughably, this is presented as “protecting the NHS”!

In fact, to “protect the NHS” (i.e. a Health and Social Care Service free at point of access which provides quality provision without an unbearable burden on the taxpayer) it will become increasingly important to shift to less bureaucratic, more efficient, more cost-effective means of service delivery. Unlike politicians who are actually endangering the Service with their hypocritical bluster, I don’t care which sector provides that as long as it is ultimately accountable – and, if you really care about the principles of the NHS, nor should you.

Fetishisation of spending the root of all our ills

This is, perhaps, the single greatest article I’ve ever read about sport, or perhaps even anything!

Nominally, the article notes that “Transfer Deadline Day” has become a huge footballing event in its own right (rivalling Cup Finals and such like), even though actually all it is is the day which determines how much money various teams have spent. Supporters watch events unfold as if merely buying a player whose wages would pay for 140 nurses is the cure of all their ills. It is ludicrous. In fact it’s a moral crime, and not a victimless crime at that.

The article nailed my discomfort at “Transfer Deadline Day” perfectly. It was a discomfort I had never previously been able to nail (and thus never previously been able to put into writing). Yet I cannot help but feel it is the same discomfort I feel at Christmas.

For, when you think about it, Christmas is an awful lot like “Transfer Deadline Day”. Ultimately the objective is for people, predominantly children, to compare notes on how much their parents have spent, not unlike supporters comparing notes on how much their clubs have spent. Crudely, it is as if by buying loads of “stuff” we can deliver stability, love and affection; the same way that buying a £50 million player is supposed to guarantee trophies. In the same way managers don’t want to let supporters down by buying no one (even if there’s no one worth buying really), parents don’t like to let children down by not spending hundreds of pounds on a raft of Christmas presents (even if the child already has every X-box, iPhone and lego set going). The very term used in the article, the “fetishisation of spending”, sums it all up. It’s morally corrupt and it is the fundamental cause of all our economic (and arguably social) ills.

Again, the article on “Transfer Deadline Day” makes the point that clubs are recklessly spending our money – the money we spend at the turnstiles, on the shirts, or on the TV subscriptions (at least I have abandoned the latter in disgust, though not yet the first two I confess); and the money we lavish on the advertisers who keep it all going (not least at Christmas). Likewise at Christmas, the billions spent are mostly wasted – a huge proportion on “stuff” children never needed and never subsequently touch – when they could be put to far better use in our health service, in our schools or in assisting job creation. But let’s be clear: we choose this madness!

It is a madness which is grossly unfair too, of course. Clubs such as Leeds have gone bust trying to keep up with Manchester United despite lacking its resources; much more seriously, thousands of families across the British Isles go bust every year buying “stuff” for Christmas trying to keep up with people who earn considerably more than they do. Yet again, those at the poorer end of the spectrum suffer most.

It would be interesting to set up a movement, as happens in one edition of Family Guy of all things, to buy just one Christmas present per person. This would have the benefit of limiting peer pressure and ensuring people could remain within their means without feeling that they are somehow letting their children down. Who knows, it may even lead us recognise that there is more to Christmas, and indeed life, than “getting stuff”!

What we do about football is where I have no ideas – but it is a somewhat lesser concern, and we could start by remembering that too!

Guide to watching Scottish referendum

Coverage of the Scottish referendum on Thursday evening/Friday morning will be widespread of course, so a quick note on what we are looking for through the night (all times UK):

2200: Polls close (although those still queuing may still vote). The broadcast networks are not conducting an Exit Poll, so in fact we will know little at this stage.

Votes will be counted by each of the 32 local authorities

Votes will be counted by each of the 32 local authorities


0200: Key declaration: North Lanarkshire.

With over 6% of the electorate, it is important for “Yes” to win North Lanarkshire (albeit it will likely be fairly narrowly) if it is to win overall. Smaller declarations (in descending order of likely yes” vote) will also come over the hour from Clackmannanshire, Perth/Kinross and Moray with a likely majority for “Yes”; and East Lothian, Inverclyde and Orkney for “No”.

0300: Key declarations: South Lanarkshire and Aberdeenshire.

Similar to the above, South Lanarkshire should be a win (perhaps a more comfortable one) for “Yes” it is to win overall. The same applies to the slightly smaller Aberdeenshire, although watch also for regional discrepancies. Smaller declarations over this hour likely from Angus, Dundee, Falkirk, Stirling and East Ayrshire for “Yes”; Renfrewshire which is a toss-up if it’s close; and East Renfrewshire for “No”.

0330: Another raft of smaller declarations from Midlothian and West Lothian for “Yes”; and Argyll/Bute, South Ayrshire, East Dunbartonshire and Shetland for “No”.

0400: Key declaration: Fife.

Fife at over 7% of the electorate is really a toss-up – “No” could do with winning it if it’s close. Highland is also a large declaration at this time for “No”, and North Ayrshire should follow soon after as a toss-up (really “Yes” would want to win it if it’s close).

“Yes” should be ahead at this stage if it is to win.

0500: Key declarations: Glasgow and Edinburgh.

With nearly 12% and 9% of the electorate respectively, Scotland’s two largest cities and their margins could be critical if it is still close. For “No” to win, it will need to win Edinburgh relatively comfortably. For obvious reasons, both sides need to be at least close in Glasgow. Scottish Borders should also declare for “No” around this time.

0600: Key declaration: Aberdeen.

Aberdeen with over 4% of the population could decide it right at the end if it is a cliffhanger! It should narrowly favour “No” all other things being equal – but remember the rules are very simple, all that matters is the overall score across Scotland, so if it is close “No” may need to win by a particular margin.

Frustratingly, I have work meetings the next morning…

Thanks to BBC Scotland and Credit Suisse for estimates.

“Scandinavian” Scotland is total fantasy

I have seen much to admire about the case being made by “Yes Scotland” for standing on your own feet; but I have been equally frustrated by some of the notions it puts forward which are, frankly, utter fantasy. Most obvious among those is that Scotland, with its geographic location and oil, could turn itself magically into a wealthy Nordic country like Norway.

There are two prime reasons. First, as I have written many times before on this blog, the “left” has funny ideas about Scandinavia, with its huge private-sector public service provision (even the ambulances are privatised in Denmark), negotiated wage settlements (with no minimum wage) and utterly different housing system (often more cramped in practice).

Second, Scotland just isn’t Nordic – culturally, politically or financially. It doesn’t have the basic Lutheran ethos which underpins the Nordic social settlement; it doesn’t have the consensus politics; and it has vastly lower taxes and thus lower public spending.

The last of these is the most relevant. For three years if not seven, the SNP has had the ability to put up income tax by three points, at least to nudge in closer to Norway’s taxation levels (currently close to double Scotland’s). Has it done so? On the contrary, it intends to reduce taxes after independence – a tax race to the bottom much more American than Scandinavian!

In fact, an “independent” Scotland dominated by the Finance and Oil Sectors with its monetary policy set in London would inevitably shift away from the Nordic Model.

This is another example of the stark lack of honesty in the debate (not that that dishonesty is all one-sided to be clear). Somehow, Scotland is to reduce taxes to become more like countries with vastly higher taxes? It’s a fantasy, pure and simple.

Miliband’s ignorant tactlessness sums it all up

Reports Miliband's crazed warningI’m not prone to taking serious note of anything written in the Mail, but the above is an exception worth publicising. It sums up all that is wrong with UK politics.

Ed Miliband is a millionaire with no real-life experience. He has no ideas of his own. He offers no serious solutions to inequality, educational under-achievement or dealing with a strained Health Service. He has no apparent notion of how to play the UK’s hand in the EU, or in NATO, or in anything really. There is no evidence of original thoughts on anything from global insecurity to local immigration. How have we possibly reached the stage that someone like this is the Leader of the Labour Party and a likely Prime Minister?

This is not meant as a partisan point, but is Ed Miliband seriously the best the British Left could come up with? Someone with no notion of reform, who turns up at Trade Union rallies and looks like a schoolboy, and who buys into Conservative spending and welfare plans seemingly because he can’t be bothered to work out anything different?

Worst of all, who the heck is advising him? Perhaps I am being harsh, but someone who has just come straight out of University – even if (arguably especially if) it is Oxbridge – lacks fundamentally the life experience to advise even a potential Junior Minister, never mind a potential Prime Minister. Once you have run a business/charity/agency; once you have managed a home with the chaos of children and elderly relatives; once you have seen a bit of the world – then, maybe, you can begin advising people how to govern and lead in an in-touch, meaningful, beneficial way. But of course, once you have lived you probably won’t want anything to do with out-of-touch schoolboys like Ed Miliband.

Then of course there is the hypocrisy of a millionaire whose only idea is to condemn the current cabinet for being elite even when his own Shadow Cabinet consists of 33% Oxbridge graduates and almost no one who has ever lived on less than double the average worker’s wage. He is out-of-touch and knows no one who can even explain this to him.

His incompetence knowing no bounds, Mr Miliband then comes up with the cunning plan to tell the Mail – of all papers – that the biggest issue facing Scots at the forthcoming referendum is a potential border patrol. Firstly, communicatively, it is the worst possible form of intervention – an Englishman appearing to make threats to bully Scots and just the moment the Scots have demonstrated (and quite rightly) that this is their decision and they are in no mood to be bullied by a poncy English millionaire. Secondly, it is stupid because it shows no sense that the trend towards “Yes” is a coral movement not a political one – it is not as much about Scotland’s relationship with its neighbours about the type of society Scots want to live in (and it is not one where they want to listen to nonsense from outside the jurisdiction). Thirdly, it is just plain wrong – there is no reason to believe the Common Travel Area would be affected (meaning the border would be open and flights would be treated as domestic – just as within/between the UK and Ireland currently). Of course, to cap it all, Mr Miliband had obviously forgotten the UK already has a land border – it is one thing to be out-of-touch, but to be plain ignorant takes the biscuit.

My point is not about Scotland (though it explains much of the momentum towards “Yes”), nor even about Mr Miliband – who was, after all, elected both by his party and his constituents. It is about how ludicrous British politics has becomes – headed across all parties by out-of-touch incompetents surrounded by inexperienced “advisers”. It is something of a death spiral too – elderly statesmen like Ken Clarke are leaving the game, while already nine of the Conservatives’ 2010 intake have announced an intention to stand down. The ‘most highly talented Parliamentary intake for a generation’ has come, seen, and decided politics isn’t for them.

This is a structural problem. More and more, politics in the UK has just descended into soap opera. From the battle of the Brothers on one side to the battle of the Bullingdon Club on the other, it’s all vaguely entertaining but none of it is vaguely relevant to the person on the street. A “Yes” vote won’t solve it, sadly, but it’s almost what the whole daft charade deserves. And it is not just David Cameron who should consider his position afterwards.

Out-of-touch Whitehall sends Scots scurrying for the lifeboats

I turned on the news the other day (which I don’t often) and instantly, had I lived in Scotland, would have been back considering a “yes” vote.

Yet Scotland was scarcely covered at all. What I saw was a main headline about the Prime Minister’s cunning plan to stop thousands of people being butchered and beheaded by, er, removing a few passports. At some stage. If it’s legal.

Here is a man – supposedly the Prime Minister of my country – whose concerns are utterly and bizarrely different from mine, and who is not even competent at addressing those concerns. That is not to say I am unconcerned about “Islamic State” and such like, but it is instantly obvious that it will take rather more to tackle these crazed merciless bigots than taking away the passports of the few who happen to originate in the UK. It is also instantly obvious that the Prime Minister is (or at least thinks he is) responding to a political challenge from UKIP, rather than to the real social challenge of a deeply segregated society which leads people in England to grow up full of destructive bigotry and resentment.

Of course, it has not occurred to the Prime Minister that the real issue – the segregation issue – is also the one which enabled the unleashing of a horrendous conflict in Northern Ireland within the past half-century. After all, David Cameron has no concept of Northern Ireland really. I would imagine, despite his heritage, that most Scots would take him to have no concept of Scotland either. It’s not just David Cameron either – would anyone seriously argue millionaire Ed Miliband is a true “man of the people”?!

Put simply, it looks like the leading politicians of my country have more interest in the theoretical consequences of the Clacton by-election than the practical consequences of the Scottish referendum. It’s bizarre.

That is the point. The news was not only not about Northern Ireland or Scotland, but it was utterly distant and frankly odd. Were I presented with a ballot paper asking if I wished to remain related to something so distant and odd, I would at least have to think about it. That is the scale of the challenge ahead, even if the Scots just about vote “no” as (still just about) expected.

It was the first time I had turned on the news for a while because the previous time had involved me looking on in disbelief as the main headline (despite all that is going on in the world) focused on Boris Johnson’s decision to stand for a Westminster seat. I just don’t care! The Boris-Dave thing is a bizarre soap opera of interest only to a narrow English elite. For those of us in Northern Ireland, no doubt Scotland, and probably frankly the north of England, it’s meaningless and irrelevant. Indeed, it’s almost foreign…

Frampton a real role model

FramptonWhat a magnificent image… a world champion and family man. And he’s from inner-city Belfast.

I must say I prefer my boxing amateur, but nothing takes away from this fabulous story of a local fighter from a tough background who earned – and earned is the word – support from the entire community.

It is yet further proof that we can be the best when we put our mind to it. That includes people from the inner city, who are no worse than the rest of us. They all now have a contemporary role model to prove it. They have a hard-working family man of immense dignity, immense civility, and immense humility. He just happens to be the best in the world at what he does.

Best of all was the fact Carl Frampton’s daughter was at the fight because they “couldn’t find a baby sitter”! What could be more fabulously, positively, hilariously Belfast than that?!

Myths about Scottish independence

There are some unbelievable myths being peddled about “Scottish independence”. It is worth nailing a few of them – if only so that those repeating them can be placed on the list of “those too lazy to do their own research who should probably never be paid as commentators”…

1. England would always elect Conservative governments.

The Labour Party “would die” according to one Sky News commentator. Utter codswallop! In England alone (even excluding Wales), Tony Blair would have headed a Labour-led administration for each of the three elections from 1997 just as he did; just as David Cameron would be Prime Minister now. Yes, Mr Blair would have needed a coalition in 2005 (though including Wales even then he had a majority) and David Cameron would not need one now, but it would still have been the same party’s Prime Minister in Number 10. Some “death”!

In any case, Labour would merely move slightly to the right to re-align politics marginally – just as it had to after the “Longest suicide note in history” election of 1983.

2. Scots would be “foreigners”.

This is lovely and emotive and maybe strictly true, but are the Irish “foreigners”? Actually current UK citizenship law views Irish nationals as having the same rights and responsibilities as UK nationals within the UK almost without exception; and it is already the case that any EU national can use consular services of any EU member state. Thus, with the safe assumption that UK citizenship law treats Scots the same way and the fairly safe assumption that Scotland becomes an EU member state, it would be much the same. Unless the Continuing UK is idiotic enough to leave the EU, of course…

This is also not unlike arrangements between the Nordic Countries or between the Czech Republic and Slovakia or Australia and New Zealand. In each case, people from the other state are not really “foreign”, as they possess all the same rights and responsibilities.

3. Scotland would move to a Scandinavian model.

I’ll return to this, but in fact there is no evidence it would. All proponents of a “yes” vote talk of reducing taxes, not increasing them; the SNP in office has centralised power and engaged in middle-class giveaways; and an iScotland would be dominated by oil, finance and drinks sectors none of whom would allow such a dramatic change of economic and social model. If anything, the evidence is an iScotland would be more Liberal in many ways, including economically.

4. Scotland could not use the pound.

Of course Scotland could use the pound. Actually no one with any authority has said otherwise.

What it could not do is retain influence on the pound – including on interest rates, revaluations or whatever. There may also be some difficulty with joining the EU; although this could probably be solved by setting up Scotland’s own currency which happened, initially, to be pegged to the pound.

5. Independence is the only way to save the NHS in Scotland.

On the contrary, independence is the only thing which puts it in any danger.

The difficulty here is that increasing moves towards private care provision are being referred to as “privatisation” by some – an utterly misleading term as that provision is still funded from the public purse.

Thus, the retention of public funding for all aspects of the Health Service means there is and remains exactly the same amount available for Health in Scotland (actually more per person, as Scotland’s public spending per head is higher within the UK). In fact, interestingly, the SNP has chosen to take money away from the NHS for other departments. Health accounts for 22% of public spending in England but just 20% in Scotland – a differential which has opened up under the SNP administration.

With the trend already being towards comparatively lower Health spending by advocates of independence themselves, and uncertainty over future oil revenues (plus inevitable costs of setting up a new military, a new diplomatic service and so on), it is clear objectively that the strain on the NHS would come with independence, not without it.

6. Scotland would remain in the EU.

This isn’t the worst myth but it is not straightforward and we should be clear about that. To be in the EU, you have to be a member state. An independent Scotland would have opted to leave a member state, and thus to leave the EU. It may of course then apply to become a member state and I would hope everyone would see the sense in fast-tracking the process prior to the date of independence – but it may not be possible to conclude this by March 2016.

This is similar to the nonsense that the pound is “also Scotland’s currency”. No it isn’t – it is the currency of the UK governed by the UK’s Central Bank. Scotland would leave the UK and thus no longer have that Central Bank, nor therefore its currency. As noted above, it could peg its own currency to Sterling or try to negotiate a Sterling Zone similar to the Eurozone – but as of March 2016 it would, failing the latter, cease to have the UK currency as its currency for the simple reason that it would have left the UK.

It is somewhat bizarre that those in favour of “independence” are so wary of being clear about what leaving the UK means!

7. Alex Salmond is a Social Democrat.

Just because you don’t like Margaret Thatcher doesn’t make you a Social Democrat!

Which is the crux of the issue, really, isn’t it?!

Is Scotland really more “left wing”?

The underlying basis of the “Yes Scotland” campaign, arguably, is the notion that Scotland should become a country independent from England (ahem, the “Continuing UK”) because it is fundamentally more “left-wing”. Prime evidence for this is the old line that there are more pandas in Scotland than Conservative MPs.

In fact, however, there is little real evidence for this. By “England”, too often there is the lazy assumption that this means the Home Counties. However, this should be put the other way around: does, say, Liverpool have significantly more in common with the Home Counties than Glasgow has? Put that way around, it seems ludicrous that post-industrial heavily Irish-influenced Liverpool could soon be in a different country from Glasgow but the same one as Oxford or Haywards Heath.

Even historically, there appear few grounds for this contention. Is Scotland more progressive? The only part of Great Britain which refuses to count votes on a Sunday is in Scotland, not England. Is Scotland less capitalist than England? Where was Adam Smith from again?! It is true that there was never a truly Conservative (as opposed to right-leaning Liberal or Unionist) tradition in Scotland, but neither was there in parts of England and, in any case, Conservatism is not the only (or even predominant) centre-right political philosophy. A century ago Scots accounted for a twelfth of the UK population yet a third of all British Imperial Governors and Governors General – hardly renowned for their left-wing sympathies!

Even in terms of contemporary social make-up, if anything it is England which looks more progressive. 13% of England’s population is non-white compared to 4% of Scotland’s – where, therefore, are the more progressive and liberal attitudes to immigration based on those numbers?

This is devil’s advocate stuff of course – there is of course competing evidence which does suggest Scots are broadly marginally to the “left” of the English. However, perhaps the main argument for suggesting Scots are just as individualistic, selfish and, well, right-wing as the English is the fact that this referendum is happening at all. After all, Scotland gained hugely from the UK at its height – as its living standards grew to match England’s and its people gained unimaginable influence over world affairs through their hugely disproportionate role in the military, administrative, political, industrial and economic affairs of the Empire. Yet as soon as the decline set in, far from working together with their compatriots in Liverpool, Newcastle or Sheffield to overcome the blight of deindustrialisation, many Scots seem content to take their oil money and run. Where’s the social conscience in that?!

UK will have to stay in EU, and push for more integration

“What are we going to do to save the European project?” asked one correspondent recently. Having pondered this, I think the first step is to set out why we should seek to save it, and indeed advance it. On the 75th anniversary of the outbreak of the last World War, I have come to the conclusion that the answer to why is one word – security.

BritInfluence

Crudely, we are now at the point where global conflict has already started. We can kid ourselves all we like that the vicious religious wars of Iraq/Syria, Israel’s and Hamas’ brutality in the Holy Land, the takeover of Libya by Islamists and other purges are confined to the Middle East; and that the Crimean/Ukrainian conflict is down to one man’s posturing in Moscow; and that sectarian violence across the Sahara from South Sudan to Nigeria is just down to localised power struggles. In fact, they are a series of inter-connected religious and economic wars. When we add to them the near certainty of conflict in the Far East as China flexes its muscles and Japan weakens in economic (and thus political) influence, the ever-present risk of turmoil in the Americas, and even on-going civil and economic strife within the Eurozone and the United States, we need to be brutally realistic – the upturn in strife, conflict and war is an inevitability made so by a shift in economic balance and the (not coincidental) unwillingness and inability of the United States to play the role of sole global superpower and thus sole global policeman.

The UK also needs to be brutally realistic. It has endured a period of harsh economic decline and, again not coincidentally, has cut back its defence spending. Until recently the second largest spender on defence in the world, the UK will soon slip out of the top ten. This means its role as supporter to the world’s sole superpower is no longer viable, even if the United States were willing to play that role – which it isn’t. The UK’s influence now will depend more than ever on diplomatic weight – a weight it can carry uniquely as the bridge between North America and Europe.

Here is the point, however – it can only play that role by retaining its strong intelligence links with the United States while at the same time remaining firmly within the EU. What the UK is grappling with is a harsh realisation that its influence depends on remaining within an ever-integrating EU – and indeed on being a core part of that EU. In the ideal world it would not be faced with this conundrum – but then, in the ideal world Russia would not have a President playing war games, moderate Israelis would negotiate a two-state solution with a dominant Fatah, the United States would be able to afford to remain in Iraq to build democracy as it did in Germany and Korea, the EU would be able to retain some degree of law and order along the Sahara, and the West’s economy would be in much better shape. We should probably have worked out by now that this is no “ideal world”!

Let us deal again with brutal reality in this new, non-ideal, turbulent world. There are two outcomes – one is World War Three; the other is a new multi-power world where the United States begins to share its role as global policeman with other powers (just as it once did with the Soviet Union), delivering security through a series of compromises and deals around global security and trade. One of those other powers will surely be China (with Japan increasingly irrelevant); another will probably be India (although Pakistan and others will need some role); another may be Latin America (headed by Brazil); and, here is the thing, another will be Europe. That latter will in fact be the United States’ most trusted ally among the new Great Powers; as this happens, Henry Kissinger’s old question will apply – what is Europe’s phone number? The UK has a straight choice – it can either join the likes of Japan on the sidelines (costing it influence on security but also on trade, with real social and economic consequences) and leave Germany unquestionably the main player in that Europe; or it can seek to position itself as a main player in Europe and thus retain relevance as the focal point of a Transatlantic Alliance which it can use for its own security (as well as trade).

The biggest problem we have with the European debate in the UK at the moment is that it is appallingly parochial, and proceeds as if the world has stopped waiting for the UK to make its decision. On the contrary, the world is becoming a more polarised and more dangerous place in which the last thing we should want to do is retreat into insularity and irrelevance. Most of all, we all – each and every one of us – need to grasp and grasp quickly that this isn’t the ideal world, any more than it was this day 75 or 100 years ago!

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