Poland and Germany agreeing is always a good thing, isn’t it?

The second leg of the post-Brexit stakes is taking place on the tank-friendly North German plain.

Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal has overruled some aspects of EU law that it deems incompatible with the country’s constitution.  This has brought down the execration of the EU establishment on the grounds that EU law has primacy over all national law.

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The Greens may never have a better opportunity to tackle climate change

In Germany that is.

Age before beauty they say.  But after last week’s inconclusive election in Germany it’s the forty-something leader of the Green party, Annalena Baerbock, and her generational compatriot, Christian Lindner of the market liberal Free Democrats (FDP), who are making the running in coalition negotiations, leaving the sexagenarians who head the Christian and Social Democrats out in the cold – for now.

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Correction: Britain’s gas crisis means Europe’s gas crisis

Remember the 1970s?  We were going to run out of oil and everything revolved around energy prices.

America got into wars because of it and built an enormous strategic stockpile; NZ had carless days and the hydrocarbon developments of Think Big, the last of the great state-directed development projects (well … until the renewables project, national fibre broadband and the distortions of the Resource Management Act that is).

Europe’s natural gas crisis has the potential to head in a similarly dominating direction.

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With MMP the politicians have to decide what Germany has decided

Voters in the German federal election on Sunday had the opportunity to sweep away the detritus of 16 years of compromises from retiring Chancellor Angela Merkel.  

The Green party led in the opinion polls by a good margin earlier in the year.  Only a few days ago, the Guardian dared to dream of a red-blooded left-wing coalition between Social Democrats, Greens and the former communist Left Party united by desire for higher taxes, more pernickety controls and a slug of anti-Americanism.

In the end, the German voters did what they have done for much of the post-war era, giving victory to the parties of the right (acknowledging that these labels seem to be less meaningful these days).

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Many Alexanders but only one Boris

The flaws of Boris Johnson, Britain’s jokey PM, have been highlighted through the Brexit saga, and he has many haters.  Fine material you might think for Tom Bower, the UK’s pre-eminent investigative muckraker, notorious for coruscating biographies of Richard Branson, Robert Maxwell and Jeremy Corbyn.

But funnily enough he hasn’t made that much of a splash with Boris Johnson The Gambler published in the midst of the UK’s Covid epidemic at the end of last year.

It’s not that Bower shuns the negative.  He scrupulously documents the driving ambition, rhetorical evasion, monumental self-centeredness, serial infidelity and inability to buy a round.

But these traits are not entirely absent from many leading politicians.  And Johnson managed to emerge through the pages as a ferociously intelligent and curiously likeable character, who pulls off these stunts more colourfully and successfully than most.

Indeed, Boris’s enemies tend to suffer in the comparison.  Former PM, Theresa May is portrayed as an over-promoted machiavel; while the head of the Foreign Office, Simon Macdonald, comes across as unctuous and incompetent. The next-door neighbours who snitched to the press on Boris’s domestic rows appear as uptight ideologues, determined to expose “the ugly edifice of capitalist heteropatriachy’”.

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A NZ-UK trade agreement will be another – albeit small – step in the re-ordering of global trade

There is increasing chatter in London that the NZ-UK trade deal will be announced in days, with invitations to briefings being diaried for Tuesday.

But it’s worth noting that the UK commentators seem to be excising the prefix ‘free’ from the ‘trade agreement’, perhaps reflecting better understanding that these days there is no free trade without a substantial regulatory component.

While NZ’s producers will no doubt be grateful if they get an Australian-style phased reduction of tariffs and quotas as has been briefed, the non-tariff/quota regulatory barriers will be just as important in the long run.

That at least would seem to be the view of the eminent organ, the Irish Farmers Journal, in its assessment of the currently-fraught implementation of free trade arrangements between the EU, Ireland, Northern Ireland and Great Britain (ie, the UK minus Northern Ireland).

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NZ public service reform for the UK?

It’s not unusual for governments to decide the solution to their frustrations is to tweak the machinery of government.  Nor for senior public servants to channel those ambitions to safety.

But things look more serious in the UK.  A sequence of reports from high-powered ‘independent’ commissions and well-connected think tanks are floating proposals which bear more than a resemblance to the state sector reforms implemented in New Zealand at the end of last century.

For one of the key players, the seeds of change were planted back in 2010. Back then, Michael Gove (now the Minister for the Cabinet Office) was put in charge of education.  He coined the term ‘the Blob’ to describe the coalition of resistant civil servants and external ideologists who opposed his proposals to change the school system.  And helping him on the Blob job was Dominic Cummings – PM Boris Johnson’s erstwhile chief strategist.

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Has ‘Johnsonism’ arrived?

Britain’s new health minister, Sajid Javid, says he will keep wearing a mask after formal restrictions are removed in the next fortnight.  It’s a more political than public health gesture.  Unless perhaps he’s meeting unvaccinated ministerial visitors from Australia or New Zealand.

Britain’s Covid debate is morphing faster than the virus.  Thanks to the fast spreading Delta variant and a super-charged vaccination programme it’s plausible that pretty much everyone bar Scottish lighthouse keepers will have had Covid antibodies delivered to them by the end of the year via neighbours or needle. 

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G7 – not so good in the margins

Some say it wouldn’t be a proper G7 summit without a row between the UK and France.  In this case, Boris Johnson taking the opportunity to ask France’s President Emmanuel Macron how he would feel if Toulousain could not sell their sausages in Paris.

The context for his remark is the negotiation between the UK and the EU over the application of the Brexit treaty to Northern Ireland.

Readers might recall our suggestion at the beginning of the year that the trade arrangements might prove a “charter for squabbling”. Perhaps that was too optimistic.

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