What Price Freedom? Iceland and the Euro
Iceland is a country split down the middle on whether to join the Euro or not. There are huge merits to joining and having access to an enormous economic market. This is not the best route to go down though. Iceland is a nation with self-sufficiency in energy, abundant natural beauty, an incredible folk and literary tradition and a people used to living on the edge, both physically and metaphorically. They have a social security system that is the envy of much of the World. In short, this is civilised country that has survived terrible times recently and at once stage looked as though it was going down the tubes. But this is a state that can prosper within the freedom of having their own currency. They would be ill-advised to go down the Euro application route; once in, you can never leave. The European single currency had great long term potential but has been a disaster for the peripheral smaller nations; it has acted as a break on economic growth and a totem for austerity. Iceland should avoid the siren calls from Brussels and the Bankers. Better to have ultimate control of your own destiny than be a tiny, irrelevant region in an economic megalith. There’s no shame in being a small nation; Iceland should hold onto her independence, her fishing rights and her own fiscal independence. In finance and international assistance, the cure can often be worse than the disease. The Euro can cause more damage than it will fix; Iceland should stay out.
US Acting Tough on Crimea as Europe Fails the Test
Yet more sanctions have been announced by the US and the EU in an attempt to punish Vladamir Putin’s transgressions in he Crimea. While the EU and the UK have been dragging their feet, the US has come out strong. The Obama administration has taken a tough line; the US knows it can’t go to war on the issue and WWIII is still unlikely but they can inflict real pain on Putin’s cronies. Travel bans and financial controls on individuals may sound like small beer but chosen smartly, they can be very effective. By targeting the oligarch’s directly, the US is putting direct pressure on Putin’s friends and supporter; these are the men who like to travel the World in Executive Class and enjoy the fruits of their gains. Some will be extremely annoyed with Putin for having brought this down upon them. They will see the Crimea as ludicrous and dangerous adventure that is costing them the benefits of their riches. Putin may be popular at home, but if the Americans can turn enough of his inner circle against him, there may, emphasis on the word may, be real change at the top of the Kremlin. This is probably the limit of what the US can do overtly; no doubt there is covert support being given to Ukranian democrats and this is carries its own risks for the White House. The truth is that Putin is there until his henchmen turn against him and start to move on his position; the old phrase about Samoza becomes more relevant, ‘he may be a sonofabitch but at least he’s our sonofabitch’. The Russian President may be bucking the political truism that all political careers end in failure; that doesn’t mean the West should sit back and do nothing. There is reluctance is Europe to hit the Russians hard but the Americans are leading the way on this one. Putin is a bully; sometimes bullies get away with it but there’s always the chance they’ll be found out. Obama and Putin’s political relationship is at an all time low; a great foreign policy legacy for the US President would be to get the Russians out of Crimea or at the very least, have Putin not do the same thing again in other neighboring states.
UKIP Growth – Reflection of Alienation?
The Local and European elections are invariably a referendum on the Government of the day. The upcoming vote in Britain will be one to watch for several reasons. Will the Liberal Democrats suffer the usual fate of minor coalition parties worldwide, i.e. becoming a scapegoat for voter discontent? Nick Clegg will need all his considerable ability to soak up flak once the ballots have been counted. For Labour, this is a real opportunity for Ed Miliband; will he win enough seats to show that a left-ward tilt won’t hurt the party? If he doesn’t do as well as expected, the last of the Blairites will be out in force, briefing anonymously that the electorate isn’t ready for all that lefty policy stuff; in fact they want a party that tilts to the Centre with some slight nods to the Left, but no real radical reform. They’ll also be saying – again – that the wrong Miliband won the leadership election; as though we haven’t heard that one before. Labour can spin whatever result they get as a good one. Ed Balls has said ‘most people haven’t seen any recovery at all’; if there’s still a ‘feel bad’ factor abroad, Labour should be able to capitalise on it. Not so easy for David Cameron and the Tories. This election could confirm how an overall majority is a really difficult ask for the former Bullingdon Boy. The Boris must run bandwagon will start hurtling down the hill if the Conservatives disappoint. Cameron support could be quite shallow if his MPs think they’re going to lose seats at the next general election or even hold the line seat-wise; however, he will more than likely lead them into the 2015 General Election. The real winners, and it’ll be hard for opponents to spin against them, look like being Nigel Farage and UKIP. Farage and his ‘Little England’ views chime with an electorate frustrated and disillusioned with the professional political class and the EU. UKIP could well beat Labour in terms of popular votes in the European elections. There’s no chance of Farage going away quietly; how the Big Two-and-One Half Parties treat with UKIP will shape a lot of the ground for the 2015 campaign