By Michael Shrimpton
The near-hysterical propaganda war currently being waged against the UK population in the run-up to the “Independence Day” referendum on June 23rd has had no parallel since the pathetic attempt to frighten us out of going to war with Nazi Germany in 1939.
In the run-up to Germany’s decision on September 1st 1939 to start the Second World War by invading Poland the British people were subjected to lurid propaganda, mostly about the effects of strategic bombing. Ghastly-looking gas marks for babies were issued to mothers, in the hope that their morale would buckle and that women would apply pressure not to abandon Neville Chamberlain’s shameful policy of appeasement.
German assets in Whitehall, co-ordinated by Sir Edward Bridges, the notorious pro-Axis Cabinet Secretary, pushed out ridiculous official estimates of bombing casualties. Timid officials made sure that air raid sirens were sounded over wide areas on the first sight of a Luftwaffe plane, bomber, reconnaissance or seaplane. Much credence was given to the absurd claim by pompous German asset Stanley Baldwin, when Prime Minister, that the “bomber would always get through.”
Baldwin didn’t know one end of an airplane from another. What he meant was that he hoped that enemy bombers, i.e. his side, would always get through. To help make it happen he starved the RAF of funds and tried desperately to block the development of modern monoplane fighters like the Hawker Hurricane and Supermarine Spitfire, and cannon-armed fighters like the Westland Whirlwind. The prospect of facing the Spitfire in particular scared the pants off the Luftwaffe, since it was better than anything they had. (The Peregrine-engined Whirlwind, which had huge potential as a bomber-destroyer and long-range fighter, was held back).
What none of these scaremongering idiots was prepared to admit was that the Luftwaffe was a tactical air force. In 1939 it did not possess a single strategic bomber, indeed the first modern German strategic bomber, the seriously flawed He 177 Greif, did not enter service until 1942, when it gave its unfortunate crews a lot of grief. When the French surrender brought southern England within range of the Luftwaffe’s small, twin-engined light and medium bombers the “bomber would always get through” theory was shown for the nonsense it always was.
The green fields of Kent were soon littered with the wrecks of downed German bombers. Baldwin wasn’t completely stupid, even though he was Prime Minister, and probably knew that what he was telling the House of Commons was complete and utter gibberish. Whether he was a liar or just an idiot, developments in sensor technology, in particular ground-based radar, radios, in particular VHF, fuels (permitting more highly supercharged and higher compression ratio advanced piston engines like the Rolls-Royce Merlin) and fighter technology were making a mockery of his words even as he spoke them.
Prime Minister Cameron, who is so historically illiterate that he thought that the US Air Force participated in the Battle of Britain, which ended over 14 months before America entered the war and just over 7 years before the National Security Act of 1947 created the USAF, seems to have ignored the lessons of the last attempt to scare the British public on the scale now being attempted in “Project Fear.” In 1939 the great British public gave a collective ‘up yours’ to German-controlled Whitehall and our community partners Adolf Hitler and Herman Goering. They were confident that the boys in blue would soon have terrified Heinkel pilots weaving all over the sky in desperate efforts to avoid hot streams of British lead. So it proved.
As we approach another great decision point in our national story the slide in the polls for the pro-German or ‘Stay’ side continues unabated, and that’s just the published polls, all of which are underestimating the ‘Go’ vote. Indeed not all the people they are polling may actually be British – none of the main polling organisations seems to correlate the people they are polling with the published electoral registers. With over 3 million European citizens working in the UK, around 10% of the working population, that could make an appreciable difference.
The much hoped-for ‘Barack Bounce’ in the polls bounced about as high as an Edsel dropped off the side of the Empire State Building, i.e. it was more of a splat than a bounce. As I predicted in last week’s column there was strong resentment of ‘von’ Obama’s blatant interference in our internal politics, not least since he was trying to ram a treaty down our throats his Administration wouldn’t dare try to sell to Congress. If America isn’t opening her border to Mexico why should we continue to keep open our borders to Spain, Portugal and Poland, never mind Turkey? (I am not saying that you guys should open your border to Mexico, or, more accurately, open it further – I’m with Trumpy on the Mexican thing).
As its contribution to Project Fear HM Treasury trotted out a 200 page piece of propaganda nonsense entitled “HM Treasury analysis: the long-term economic impact of EU membership and the alternatives” (Cm 9250). Even by the standards of Whitehall this is an hysterical document. As a paper it’s up there with the Defence White Paper of 1957, which solemnly asserted that manned combat aircraft were obsolete and the notorious Beeching Reports, which asserted that the best way to make the railways profitable was to shut them down.
The paper is gibberish from beginning to end. It recycles the government’s propaganda claim that “44% of UK exports go to the EU” without mentioning the Rotterdam-Antwerp Effect (i.e. it counts exports to South Korea as exports to the EU), mentioning the Republic of Ireland or acknowledging that exports to the EU are counted on a different basis. It repeats the government’s mendacious claim that the UK now has a ‘special status’ in the EU and states that the Brussels Agreement is binding, without explaining how.
It goes on to assert that the UK has significant influence in decision-making in Brussels when we are constantly outvoted and haven’t been able to get a single EU regulation lifted in 42 disastrous, wasted years of membership. It even claims that withdrawal would be bad for the UK automotive sector. In a particularly egregious piece of official deceit it concentrates on potential loss of exports due to tariffs without once mentioning that there is a massive trade deficit in vehicles with the EU in all categories. There isn’t a single reference to import substitution, i.e. the extra home sales which would be generated by the reduced competitiveness of European imports.
It confuses access to EU markets with tariff-free access and seems to imply that you have to be in the EU to trade with it, then contradicts itself by referring to Canada. It assumes continued mass immigration and treats that as an effective way to build GDP, without calculating the long-term costs, impact on public services and the countryside, and effect on GDP per capita.
It introduces a new and unnecessary concept, of GDP per household, without explaining why this is a better measure than GDP per capita. It barely refers to the manufacturing sector, concentrating on services as though manufacturing didn’t matter. It makes no attempt to quantify the massive cost of complying with burdensome EU regulations and seems to assume that EU workers currently exercising EU Treaty rights in the UK will continue to enjoy them even after UK withdrawal (huh?).
Its calculation of the effect on tax revenues in the event of trading with the EU under WTO rules doesn’t include the additional income tariffs would generate. To whom does HM Treasury think that EU importers would be paying tariffs? The Church Commissioners? Dover District Council perhaps?
In a betrayal of classic Treasury thinking on tax, if thinking is not too strong a word, it actually asserts (please read it if you don’t believe me) that if you want to increase the tax take you have to increase taxes. No, dummies. If you want to raise more tax you cut the tax rate and grow the economy – it’s called the Laffer Curve, after the great economist Arthur Laffer, and it was proved in practice by another great man, President Ronald Reagan.
Punishment of the Civil Service
The Treasury paper is so bad it seriously calls the Treasury’s economic competence into question. One thing is clear – after withdrawal the new government cannot rely on the Treasury for economic advice. It is simply incapable of giving it, just as the government’s Chief Scientific Adviser is incapable of giving serious scientific advice he actually believes in man-made global warming – I don’t mean that he just spouts it as the official line, the rumor is that the poor man actually believes in the drivel he is uttering, no offense intended.
When a democracy is as poorly served by its central bureaucracy as the United Kingdom is served by the Home Civil Service it becomes legitimate for those concerned about the governance of a country to think in terms of legitimate means of inflicting collective punishment. As with all methods of collective punishment this can be hard on the innocent as well the guilty, but as dear old Bomber Harris used to say, you cannot make an omelette without breaking eggs (his bombers got through, by the way).
Many, albeit a minority, of civil servants, particularly in the IT field, are honest, hard-working and sober. They actually perform a public service, unlike the overpaid, underworked, intellectually lazy bureaucrats in Whitehall (the civil servants who wrote the Treasury paper on the EU must have been drunk).
The easiest way to make the Civil Service more economically efficient is to hit them through their pensions. Instead of being index-linked, civil service pensions should be uprated in line with benefits, at the same rate.
It will be many decades before the Civil Service can make up for the disastrous mistake of joining the EEC, a policy it pushed for and has sustained with dishonest advice and bent statistics, like those phoney EU export figures.
The Shindler Case
A few months ago a strange case called Shindler entered the list, no pun intended. Plaintiffs wished to challenge the decision of the British Parliament to limit the electorate for the referendum to those entitled to vote in General Elections, which was a pretty fair decision, you might think.
What plaintiffs wanted the Administrative Court to do was to set itself up as a court of appeal from Parliament and revoke the Act of Parliament setting up the referendum, using EU law as pretext. Both nominal plaintiffs emigrated to Europe more than 15 years ago, outside the time limit for voting rights established by Parliament.
Quite how the great British public would have reacted to a tight ‘Stay’ result vote dependent on foreign-based voters is unclear. Fortunately, for only the third time since we applied to join the EEC by my count, the courts actually got it right (the first time was a VAT case in the 1980s called Smedley, argued by my good friend the late Leo Price QC, and the second was a similar case in the Court of Appeal establishing the precedent that the courts should not interfered with the 15 year limit, a precedent which bound the court in this case). Plaintiffs intend to appeal, but should not get leave, even though Mr Justice Blake was one of the judges (no offense intended, Nick!).
This week’s review: The Americans
The Americans is an outstanding television spy drama, now in its fourth season. Going out in the States on the FX cable network it stands comparison to any drama produced by the more established networks like CBS. For those who are not fans, it is set in the 1980s and centers on two KGB illegals, using the aliases Elizabeth and Philip Jennings (Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys).
The ‘heroes’, who have to do some pretty villainous things, are ably supported by a strong cast, led by Noah Emmerich as unsuspecting FBI agent neighbour Stan Beeman, Richard (‘John-Boy’ Walton) Thomas as his boss and the excellent Frank Langella, as the Jennings’s KGB handler.
It is a gripping human as well as a spy drama, as the couple have two kids, only one of whom knows that their parents happen to be KGB officers. As part of their intelligence duties the Jennings have to seduce and recruit US citizens, hilariously including Richard Thomas’s unsuspecting secretary.
Production values are generally very high, although the writing team, led by former CIA officer Joe Weisberg, and cast deserve a higher budget per episode. Even I know that some of the ‘Washington’ scenes have been shot mostly in New York and some of the green screen work is obvious on the rare occasion it has been used. Maybe the excellence of the series as a whole makes the one or two errors across all three and a bit seasons stand out more – I find them jarring, which I probably wouldn’t with a series which engaged me less.
It’s one of the highlights of my viewing week. If it’s not on your viewing schedule I strongly suggest you find the time. It’s good.
Michael Shrimpton was a barrister from his call to the Bar in London in 1983 until being disbarred in 2019 over a fraudulently obtained conviction. He is a specialist in National Security and Constitutional Law, Strategic Intelligence and Counter-terrorism. He is a former Adjunct Professor of Intelligence Studies at the American Military University.