Sunday, 3 February 2013

Dr. Cameron, I Presume?

As Cameron toddled around Africa in his search for the source of the budget deficit he pitched up shaking hands with President Hollande of France, The Mullah of Mali, also searching for something for French troops to do to justify the defence budget.

While Cameron has sworn to go to some expense and trouble to assist France in Africa, back at the EU apparently there has been a new agricultural fix.  This will incur major increased costs for the contributing states and particularly benefiting French famers who grow tobacco.

Back at home in the UK those fussy health people are trying harder and ever harder to prevent people smoking tobacco.  One way is using taxes as a disincentive.  The trouble is if effective then the tax take will decline.

At this point the logic begins to escape me.  The question must arise, who is going to smoke all that state subsidised tobacco grown in France?  Perhaps they may be all those Brit’s who have fled the UK to become refugees in a land where smoke is good. 

More likely it will be to supply all those smokers in far flung countries where such rules do not exist or are safely ignored.  This may have a marginal effect on the balance of trade in France and by extension Europe.  It will not do much for us unless we abandon the new wind and solar panel farms for tobacco.

The 19th Century was a time when France and Britain vied for territories and influence in Africa.  They were tempted by its riches, the scope for relocating surplus populations and their desire to be full or even dominant world powers.

There was supposed to be an agreed truce and share out amongst the European nations in the mid 1880’s after the Conference of Berlin.  This did rein in some of the greater extremes but the ambitions still existed.

This culminated in 1898 in The Fashoda Incident (see Wikipedia) after a French expedition started from Brazzaville in the Congo and after an epic journey arrived at Fashoda on the Upper Nile to raise the French flag in territory the British thought they had the rights.

The media and political fuss in both Paris and London meant that war was close and only averted by strenuous diplomatic dealing.  In some ways it was a pity that it did not happen.  Conceivably, if it had the Entente Cordiale a few years later would not have happened, maybe not The Boer War and perhaps not the First World War.

If the Kaiser had seized the opportunity and supported his British cousins, the Germans could have remained our best friends in Europe, both determined to hold the French in check.  Jointly, we could have done something about the imperial ambitions of the USA as well.

One of the famous stories of the British Empire in Africa is that of Dr, Livingstone the medical missionary who both explored and attempted to reach out to the Africans.  He went so deep into Africa that communications ceased and there was a great deal of media excitement about his whereabouts.

So much so that a large sum of money was raised for an expedition led by an American, Henry Morton Stanley, to seek to find him.  He wasn’t actually lost, just alone and ill in the interior and struggling to survive and work.  It all made a good media tale with hoorah’s all round for the various heroes.

But the way Cameron is cavorting around the world suggests that unlike Livingstone he may have lost his bearings and does not quite know what to do or where to go next.  The pound is down against the Euro, there is talk of a triple dip recession and the UK credit ratings are in peril.

The options are running out.  He must be a worried man.

It is enough to drive a man to start smoking.

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