The Spectator's Notes

Charles Moore’s Notes: Now even the FT has joined in issuing threats to the Greek people

Plus: Golden Dawn, the IMF, and ‘erotic capital’

4 July 2015

9:00 AM

4 July 2015

9:00 AM

‘The Greek people,’ the Financial Times leading article said on Monday, ‘would be well advised to listen closely to the words of Ms Merkel. The plebiscite will be a vote for the euro or the drachma, no less.’ It is interesting how menacing powerful ‘moderate’ institutions can become when popular feeling challenges them. In the eurozone theology to which the FT subscribes, its statement above cannot be true. It is not possible (see last week’s Notes) for a member state to leave the euro, any more than it is for Wales to renounce sterling. Eurozone membership, once achieved, is a condition of EU membership. So the Greeks cannot vote to leave the euro, unless they vote to leave the EU — which even the FT is not claiming is happening. If the eurozone leaders say this will be the result of a No vote, they are either lying or proposing to break their own law. Mr Tsipras’s government must have a good legal case before the European Court of Justice that its country became the victim of an illegal act when the ECB cut off funding. No doubt it won’t win, because the ECJ always finds in favour of ‘Europe’ and because it probably won’t get to court anyway since the frightened Greek people are more likely to vote Yes than No on Sunday, and then the Greek government will change yet again. But it is not a clever idea for the eurozone to humiliate its weakest member; and it is not clever of Britain’s leading business newspaper to order poor little Greece to do what Germany wants.

If Greece does vote Yes, and Mr Tsipras has to go, who is left to run the country? The voters have tried all the main parties, only to find them broken by the demands of the eurozone. The only category left is the extreme right, so there would be a sort of desperate logic in electing the repulsive Golden Dawn party. Otherwise, there really doesn’t seem any point in having any more votes at all. Greek citizens — or rather subjects — might as well invite the satraps of the troika formally to take up the reins of power, sit back, and see how they manage. If they do not like what happens next, they can reserve the right to riot. It will be like being under the Ottomans all over again.

How much longer should the IMF be run by a European? The job of the fund is to assist any member country which is in trouble, not to advance the dream of European integration. So far, since it all began after the war, the IMF’s managing directors have been Europeans, most commonly French. The current one, Christine Lagarde, is a French former politician, as was her predecessor, the socialist sex-maniac Dominique Strauss-Kahn. In her opinion, the needs of the EU trump everything, but that is a political view, not a financial one. It must be annoying for the scores of poorer, non-European IMF members — e.g. the Philippines, Mexico, Jamaica — to be paying for this. When Britain had to call in the IMF in the 1970s, we felt ashamed, but we never doubted that the fund saw its task as putting our economy to rights. Imagine what we would have felt if we had thought it was working to help not us, but Brussels.

Shortly before the atrocity in Tunisia, David Cameron made an important speech in Bratislava. In it, he emphasised the relationship between non-violent and violent extremism — the way a ‘firebrand preacher’ who is not himself violent can stir up young people to violent acts. He challenges the idea that only specifically violent behaviour threatens national security. Mr Cameron first advanced these ideas in a speech in Munich in 2011, but the relevant agencies have been intensely resistant to them, preferring the idea of ‘engaging’ with extremists so long as they didn’t actually advocate blowing people up. Now that he has won the general election, Mr Cameron is returning stronger to the fray, quite rightly. Yet the institutional resistance continues. It still says on the MI5 website, as it has for years, that in the 20th century, ‘Subversion was a major concern for MI5. This threat diminished sharply following the end of the Cold War. We no longer undertake counter-subversion work.’ But subversion has risen hugely in the era of Islamism, and is far more extensive in British communities than it was with communism. The MI5 website adds, ‘we would only resume if our monitoring of emerging threats suggested an increase in the subversive threat’. The Tunisian killer seems to have picked up many of his ideas from a British-based preacher. How much ‘monitoring’ before we act on what is happening?

The Mail on Sunday website led, as did other papers, with the picture of a young woman in a bikini grieving, perhaps praying, on the beach at Sousse. On the right hand of the page, the celebrity column was carrying on as usual. If you moved your eye from the mourner, you found ‘Vivacious in violet! Jada Pinkett-Smith shows off her toned tummy in plum two-piece number.’ It can be hard to know how one is being invited to react to public events in the internet age.

You have heard of ‘social capital’: now get used to ‘erotic capital’. Some people have it, apparently, and need advice on how best to invest it. It is a depressing concept because, like most forms of capital nowadays, if you haven’t got it at birth, you are unlikely to acquire it later. It is a form of inherited wealth. I suggest it be taxed by government. This would be wildly popular: at last we poor ugly-wugglies would have something to console ourselves with.

I find it almost frightening to be stuck in London in a heatwave. It is not just the bad air. It is also the sense that this is something that does not suit the British. White northern people have never discovered an elegant means of wearing little in public. We look dreadful and behave as if this is an occasion for having fun, although we secretly know that it is just something unpleasant to be got through. Our street life becomes everything contained in that grim word ‘vibrant’. All cultures are precarious. That of London works only between 0 and 21 degrees centigrade.


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  • BillRees

    Wednesday’s heat wave felt to me like a sort of punishment, even though I’m not a god-fearing type.

    In so many aspects of our national life we seem to be on the slow train to hell.

    Yeats’ poem The Second Coming seems very appropriate.

    Turning and turning in the widening gyre
    The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
    Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
    Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
    The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
    The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
    The best lack all conviction, while the worst
    Are full of passionate intensity.

  • Purple Commoner

    I fail to understand how the Greek economy is not already bankrupt.
    Perhaps it is time to grade the level of evident global bankruptcy levels again, without the use of American-based rating agents.

  • Chamber Pot

    Jesus, these EU bureaucrats are monsters, and we all really do live in a dictatorship with people like Dave in place only to cop the flak, pretend he’s on our side and fighting for Britain, and lie to us to keep us quiescent because they know that if a German face was directly telling us how it really is people would be on the streets.

  • Gilbert White

    Tried to read the FT with regard to the grecian urn crisis. Gosh if this paper was free it would be expensive. Can understand why people do not like to pay for their own indoctrination.

    • Hugh Jeego

      What’s a Grecian urn? Whatever the ECB can cough up, I guess.

      • Gilbert White

        This is scary the Sutton Hoo Helmet is my talisman as well!

  • jeffersonian

    ‘All cultures are precarious. That of London works only between 0 and 21 degrees centigrade.’

    Truer words were never spoken.

  • 3x4_34

    The photo above tells it all. A sly Greek. A resolute German.
    Poverty and austerity seem to have a new look these days. Immigrants to Europe and Greeks appear to be well fed and well clothed in present day photographs. It was never thus in days gone by when poverty was starkly apparent in figures, faces and what people wore.

  • pobjoy

    ‘the socialist sex-maniac Dominique Strauss-Kahn’

    But at least he has not run a paederast farm. More to the point, he has been more effective in running capitalist economy than most people alive today.

    ‘It must be annoying for the scores of poorer, non-European IMF members — e.g. the Philippines, Mexico, Jamaica’

    ‘the Philippines’

    80% Catholic. 45% in poverty.


    83% Catholic. 46% in poverty.

  • pobjoy

    ‘I find it almost frightening to be stuck in London in a heatwave.’

    Or anywhere else that’s democratic.

  • WarriorPrincess111111

    Some interesting and intelligent points raised – well done, Charles – very refreshing, such a change from the usual toady reports.

  • WTF

    The manner in which the ruling elite treat the electorate is condescending and insulting to say the least and when that doesn’t work they resort to threats. The majority of people can work out for themselves what the options are in situations that Greece finds itself in providing the governments are honest in telling it as it is but there lies the real problem, how honest are governments today.

    That said, with the information they can glean they vote with their feet to the ballot box and make a decision. Democracy isn’t the sort of fascism we see from Brussels where they demand repeat referendums to get the result they want or an incessant barrage of know it all’s in the finance world. They didn’t exactly get it right in 2008 in fact they made the mother of all f*** ups that is still costing us dear. Greece will do what it has a mandate to do and the EU can **** off and pick up their broken pieces !