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59% of Britons have not heard of the Common Agricultural Policy

My jaw hit the floor at that one, but that is what Eurobarometer figures on knowledge of agriculture and so forth shows. Right there on page 17. Only the Gauls, the Hibernians and the Poles manage an awareness level of 60% or higher, with the French (fancy...) leading at 64%. The UK figures are quite near to the EU average of 43% awareness, while the Maltese live on in ignorance - 17% know of it.

Further nuggets from the survey later, but only after I have recovered from my current state of shock.

As ever, the Devil is in the detail of Eurobarometer surveys, and it is the responses to what the public judge should be the priorities of EU agricultural policies, opinions as to their success or otherwise that also risk robbing one of the will to live.

It is a maxim of basic economics that maximum prices lead to shortages, and minimum prices create gluts. Hardly an earth shattering insight. I think that we would all - including farmers - be better off if all forms of agricultural support were removed. This approach was a huge success in New Zealand . However, back on planet reality, there is too much mushy sentiment about noble tillers of fields and the like, and more to the point, too many votes in it to make the Year Zero approach a practical possibility.

So, what does Euroman and woman want the CAP to do? (UK figures in brackets):

41% (29%) - Ensure produce is healthy and safe
37% (33%) - Ensure a fair standard of living for farmers
35% (27%) - Ensure fair prices for consumers
33% (29%) - Promote respect for the environment
27% (30%) - Ensure farm animals are well treated

Other published responses include helping farmers adapt to meet consumer expectation, protecting family farms, boosting organic production etc etc. There is nothing along the lines of 'stop interfering / rigging the market', and even supposing that anyone had said that, the highest figure it could have been is the 3% for 'other' in the Netherlands. 'Fair' in these contexts always sets my teeth on edge, as 'fair' is beyond nebulous. Flipping this round, if Euroman and woman had been asked about a common banking or window cleaning policy, would the same proportions have been concerned about 'fair' wages or 'fair' prices? Incidentally, 27% of the UK respondents belong in the dunce's corner, as they answered 'dunno' to the priorities question. All Finns quizzed came up with answers of sorts, but maybe they are too embarrassed to admit ignorance and make something up when a clipboard is waved at them, or else are not in such a desperate hurry to end the questionnaire

Drilling down further, laurels for the Czechs, Danes, former East Germans and the Italians for sub 30% figures concerned about 'fair' standards of living for farmers. Finns, Romanians and Greeks all scored higher than 50%.

And it isn't just the public that send you hunting for the smelling salts, as the EC Joint Research Centre has just discovered the following:

"The DG Joint Research Centre's...map shows that an identical solar system will generate twice as much energy in sunny areas of Europe, such as Malta and Southern Spain, than in areas such as Scotland or Northern Scandinavia".

Next week I expect it to inform us that Elvis is dead and the Pope wears a funny hat.

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Blogger Newmania said... 12:06 pm

Thats tremendously interesting C and really shows the value of stealth to the ruling political class. In my discussions with AL on the subject of the EU i always come back to this point . The Party system you rail against is conspiring , you say, to not leave the EU and in that they reflect the broad indifference or attenuated grumbling in the country , you have to make this seems real . You have to lose the associations with illiberal Conservatism something analogous to what Alec Salmon has done for the SNP. My prescription is to engineer high profile clashes early on exactly as Margaret Thatcher with under acknowledged pre-cognition, did straight off the bat .

This titanic inertia is the enemy and making the case for trade certainty and markets outside the EU is vital. It has been suggested this AM that the EU nations who are a large amount of Iranian trade 40 % I think , should rattle a sabre at the least . They can do this because you can only trade with Iran with Government backed credits and were these withdrawn trade would disappear.

It will be an interesting test to see if they are able to act coherently on our behalf.

Are we taking bets ?  

Blogger dearieme said... 12:11 pm

Next time you're driving along with some tool following one foot behind your rear bumper, ask yourself whether it's likely that such a turd is aware of the CAP.  

Anonymous Anonymous said... 2:24 pm

Well, Dearie Me, Croydonian said that the French had the highest recognition of the CAP, and that is exactly how they drive. Although some of them are less conservative than maintaining an entire foot between their car and yours.

This is no exageration. I was driving from my village into the nearest town and a blonde woman followed me all the way so closely all the way that I could see her dark root growth. They sincerely don't seem to understand the principle behind maintaining a distance. Croydonian will, I am sure, back me up on this.  

Anonymous Anonymous said... 2:49 pm

C.A.P?? Ah, that would be in reference to the allotments on Mitcham and Streatham commons then, innit?  

Blogger Croydonian said... 5:34 pm

V is right on the money on French driving habits. They just love tailgating, and the death toll on French roads is (if memory serves) at least double what it is per head of 1000 population in the UK.  

Anonymous Anonymous said... 9:33 pm

Yes, Croydonian, their death rate on the roads is stunning, although they cannot get cause and effect into their heads, as you know. If you're driving with one of these nut jobs behind you, after a couple of minutes one of two things will happen. No matter how curvy the road, no matter how close the next curve beyond which it is impossible to see the road is, they will overtake you anyway. It's so insane that it takes the breath away.

The other is that they will tailgate, at 70 klicks, ever closer until they are practically locking bumpers with you.

Of course, for normal people, panic ensues as one thinks, "What if something around the next curve forces me to instinctively step on the brakes? I'll shoot right through the windscreen."

And before anyone asks, tapping the brakes as a signal that they may see it is in their interest to back off a bit provokes fury. They'll start sounding the horn at you, as though you had played a cruel trick on them. And this behaviour escalates if they are headed home for lunch.

It was only seven kilometres from my village to the town, and they were fraught.

And Croydonian is right. Their death rate on the road is probably twice what it is in Rio or other S American cities where one imagines everyone behaves impetuously.

Also, they have announcements on TV about driving too close, but for some reason, it doesn't register in their self-approving little têtes.

Yet they win the prize for being aware of the CAP. Go figure.  

Blogger Newmania said... 11:05 pm

I noticed that Verity and also their walking leaves a lot to be desired.Its as if everyday they empty Paris and fill it with new people from some one horse village. They walk into you they do not see you they barge on when they should not.
I remember trying to go into a surfing shop ,in Biarritz actually , I stood there while the door was blocked by two French men who were looking straight at me . I had to wag my hand after about twenty seconds and try an excusez moi and they looked at me in astonishment . It is as if noone had ever stod outside the open door of an open shop wishing to enter it .. their faces said

" Weeelll of course if we had known ...but you said nothing"

Thye are sans clue ..much as I love them  

Anonymous Anonymous said... 11:31 pm

Newmania is correct to point out that their walking also leaves much to be desired, and they walk on the same assumption that they drive: that they are the only people walking on the pavement. Therefore, if they are walking three abreast and chatting and looking at each other rather than at oncoming pedestrians, they will simply knock you off the kerb en passant. It is amazing. YOu stagger into the gutter and they don't even realise you ever shared a pavement with them.

In the supermarket in my nearest town, I was routinely knocked with vigour into the coffee shelves or into the bananas when I was reaching for an avocado. I have been knocked into a frozen foods deep freeze as I was bending in to pick up a pizza as a woman simply reached over my bent head for what she wanted, dropping, I may add, cigarette ash on the back of my neck and forcing an eye-to-eye confrontation with an unpleasant little poodle she was carrying in the other hand.

(To be fair, they haven't let them smoke in supermarkets since around two years ago, but you can still smoke - informally - in mini-marts and no one is going to tell you to stop. And even when I left France 2 1/2 years ago, although it had just been outlawed, you still saw dogs being transported in regal splendour around supermarkets in trolleys.)

While I'm on the French, another thing they have failed to come to grips with is the "Express Line - 10 items or less." Hello? Can you count up to 10?


In my shy and retiring way, I was once standing in an Express line with four or five items, obeying the rules, as we British do, when I realised that the woman ahead of me, seeing a short queue, had simply barrelled in with her shopping trolley laden to feed a family of four through the winter.

"Excusez-moi", I said with feigned courtesy pointing at the sign, "mais c'est dix choses ou moins." She shrugged and refused to budge,which infringed on my sense of fair play.

I pointed out to the poor girl on the checkout, that this lady was catering for the French Navy (tee hee) and this was the Express line. The shopper simply continued to unload her laden trolley.

The check-out girl had submitted either in pure fear or she just didn't see what was wrong, and there was nothing I could do but count loudly as each item was rung up. "Vingt-quatre!" ... "Vingt-cinque!" "Vingt-six!" Etc. I turned around hoping, in a despairing kind of way, that my fellow queuers would join in the counting and humiliate this ghastly creature, but they were all inspecting their fingergails.

Brits would have joined in; that's all I can say.  

Anonymous Anonymous said... 11:51 pm

And in a further endorsement of what Newmania said, I was at a DIY store with a fellow Brit who lived in the next close and could do home improvement. (Without VAT and without a receipt and therefore much, much cheaper.) And as we were walking across the vast parking lot with a trolley, another person with a trolley, oblivious to all the empty space around us, crashed into our trolley. My English neighbour, rubbing his bruised arm, shrugged and said, as you have, Newmania, "They walk like they drive."  

Anonymous Anonymous said... 6:10 am

As my nom de plume implies, I too have been around a bit. In fact I have driven in I forget how many countries. Despite the comments about the French I found them quite congenial and I lived in Paris for over 3 years and in that time drove all over France, and most of the rest of Europe, with no problems. That congeniality does not extend to Parisians who have a worldwide and thoroughly deserved reputation for cussedness. If you don't believe me, try sitting next to one on the Metro. The Lebanon of the early 1970s (pre the war) used to be top of my list of automotive maniacs, but subsequent experience indicates that you really have to go some to beat the Malaysians. Take a short drive around KL & environs and I guarantee that you will come across tailgating, overtaking on the inside, non-signalled sudden lane changing, stopping without warning for no apparent reason, jay-walking, double and illegal parking, motorcyclists and the occasional car going against the traffic flow, red light jumping and complete indifference to any pedestrian who may be tryng to cross the road. Zebra crossings are merely pretty lines on the road. Tailgating on the motorwaays at 70+ mph is very commmon, express buses and heavily overloaded lorries included. Driving in the middle lane is de rigeuer, effectively reducing the excellent motorways to 2 lanes. This obstinacy of course encourages illegal high-speed overtaking on the inside lane. Driving licences can be obtained by a spot of baksheesh or (in extremis)by a double who already knows how to drive taking the driving test for you. The predictable result is one of the highest accident and death rates, particularly among m/cyclists, in the world. Regular police campaigns catch a few, but otherwise seem to make not much difference. Thick heads and the ubiquitous "me first" culture pervades all. Half of them should not be let loose with a push chair (or supermarket trolly where rules of the road seem to apply too!)let alone a hot hatchback. The exasperated government summed it up correctly with their pithy "first world infrastructure; third world mentality". That apart, Malaysia is otherwise a reasonably pleasant place to hang a hat for a year or two, filthy public toilets and non-existent maintenance of buildings notwithstanding - but that is an altogether different story.  

Blogger James Higham said... 9:29 am

Doesn't surprise me in the elast, Croydonian. The majority have never heard of Thomas Hardy either, because he's not a rabid feminist authorette. America's worse, so that's a consolation.  

Anonymous Anonymous said... 2:38 pm

My God, Nomad, how long is it since you lived in Malaysia? Just after WWII?

I lived in KL and the driving was disciplined and courteous. I've never even seen a Malaysian driver doing an illegal U-turn. The traffic police are calm and courteous. Malaysians themselves are good-natured.

The public loos are clean. The buildings are sparkling and are as well-maintained as those in Singapore and it doesn't get any better than that. The people are all at least bi-lingual (Bahasa and English) with a large swathe of them tri-lingual (Bahasa, the mother tongue of their immigrant ancestors - Cantonese,Mandarin, Teow Chew or Hindi) and English.

I cannot relate to anything you wrote about this lovely country. The Malays are not aggressive people. Their instinct is to negotiate.  

Anonymous Anonymous said... 2:50 pm

What is more, the school children wear uniforms, and they study for the REAL CGEs. That's why they have no problems in getting into the top overseas universities.

And it is at least 10 years since they outlawed two-stroke motorcycles, so one doesn't even have to tolerate noise any more. They have yellow traffic boxes and everyone obeys the rules.

I don't mean to be offensive, but you really don't seem to e qualified to comment on Malaysian driving.  

Anonymous Anonymous said... 2:52 pm

Plus, I have driven on the north-south highway and it is disciplined. You could be driving on a highway in Britain or the US.  

Anonymous Anonymous said... 4:53 pm

Verity, with all due respect, I might return that question to you. How long is it since you were last in Malaysia? I have visited Malaysia regularly (at least once every year) for the past 20 years and have lived here for the past 5+ years - so I really DO know what I am talking about!! I quite agree with you that, say, 10 years ago the driving was civilised. The pace of life here was much slower and in those days many fewer cars were on the roads and most folks used motor cycles to get about, but in the past 7-8 years there has been an explosion of cars on the road, particularly since Dr Mahathir initiated the local car industry (a basic Proton goes for under £4000) and most Malaysians can afford a loan for one, even with a nine year repayment period. Believe me, the driving manners here nowadays are truly excruciating. Yellow boxes do exist, but usually as no more than pretty patterns on the road. The authorities had a crack down on that particular area last year and everyone obeyed the rules for about 5 weeks; after that, "me first" and devil take the hindmost was back in full swing. Illegal U-turns are 10 a penny these days, and traffic cameras dotted about at strategic locations seem to make no difference. As I said in my earlier post, I have driven all over the world - Europe, the middle east, Africa, Australia, NZ - you name it and NOTHING compares to what you will find if you come back today. I rarely drive into the mad house that is KL today; it is just too stressful with such careless and unpredicatable driving. Singapore is still severely disciplined and the drivers there obey the rules; they know they will clobbered if they don't...which is why large numbers of them are done here for speeding on a weekly basis. Clearly the wide open motorways of Malaysia are too tempting for them to say no to, especially after being cooped up in that small island. At the last count about 3 months ago, Singapore drivers owed over RM 300,000 (RM6.5 = £1) in unpaid traffic fines. The Malaysians have recently set up a payment counter at their High Commission in Singapore for offenders to pay up and a recently installed system now records offenders electronically and they are not allowed to cross back to Singapore without paying their fines first. Enforcement is the main difference between there and here and that is exactly what is missing here, except for when the police have one of the special operations and stick road blocks all over the place to check licences, insurance, urine, breath and what you might have in your boot or under the front seat. These exercises usually take place at or during the many national holidays here when everybody goes back to their villages - and all come back again three days later, so massive traffic jams on the motorways during these periods.

As for those magnificent buildings you recall from those days past, they have probably not been touched since you were last here. There are constant complaints in the newspapers about lack of maintenance etc and general unkemptness of the place - potholes in the roads, clogged drains, landslides from poor construction or hill-cutting, dodgy contracts issued to mates etc. Yet, along with unceasing and extensive illegal logging, new buildings are springing up apace with huge housing and high rise developments going at full speed, particularly in the KL, Johor and Penang areas. So the economy of the place seems to be ok. But they really will have to do something about the build-and-forget attitude.

As for the toilets, I think it was on Mr C's blog about 2-3 months ago he wrote an article about just that, but I do not recall where he got his inspiration from. The WCs in the main new shopping malls - ie where foreigners and tourists might go - are usually well maintained, but they are the exception. Indeed EVERY night on the main evening news, just as one is settling down for dinner, there is an item complete with disgusting photos/film about yet another such filthy toilet somewhere. The government are doing their best to get the message across but it really is an uphill struggle. The problem is that a large number of KL-ites are really still simple kampung (jungle village) folks at heart who have been transported to a modern metropolis to earn a living and do not know how to live in it.

As a general point I agree that most Malaysians are very pleasant and courteous - especially to foreigners. They all smile at me all the time (they think I am a rich foreigner!) But you should see how they treat each other when they think nobody is looking (or when they think you don't understand what thy are saying!) Shop assistants are famous for being discourteous, uninterested, and in many cases completely ignorant of what it is they are supposed to be selling. A recent survey (I think done by Readers Digest) covering several capitals in SE Asia put Malaysians way down in the courtesy stakes. This of course was given prominence in the local press - which was promptly deluged with letters from the public agreeing with every word!

As for education, over the past 10 years their system has been dreadfully dumbed down. Exams now consist largely of learning by rote and ticking the right boxes in multichoice questions. History and geography are unheard of. Last week, the annual exam results were announced and huge numbers of students got 10 or more Grade A1s. Now I do not know if my generation were exceptionally thick or what, but 6 or possibly 7 subjects were all we took at O level and not many of us got straight As. As you say, most people speak some English; these students come out of their English exam with an A1, but cannot write a simple sentence, let alone a simple composition and, much to the disgust of the older English teachers who wrote a scathing letter to one the English language dailies here, basic comprehension is no longer included in the exam - so what use is it actually? The obvious conclusion is that the standards these days are pretty low, roughly GCSE rather than the old GCE, and the universities have to provide remedial courses before they start teaching the uni syllabus. Thevast majority of these students get into overseas universities because they pay fees, which all such places, especially in the UK, are now quite desperate to get their hands on, not because they are all super brilliant!

In short, I think Malaysia has changed considerably since those heady days in Singapore. It is certainly very much changed since I first came here in the mid 1980s - and in many ways not necessarily for the better, but that said, it is still, overall, a pleasant place to pass some time. I know it is a long way from here to Mexico, but do drop in if you are ever in this part of the world again. Be prepared to be amazed by the sprawling development, but disapppointed by locals' attitudes - especially their driving habits!!

Apologies for the length of this, but you did raise quite a few points which need a response. I think I have covered them all.  

Anonymous Anonymous said... 5:07 pm

Nomad - Dr Mahathir initiated the Proton years and years ago (can't be bothered to look up the date) and I lived in Malaysia around five or six years ago, in Bangsar to be exact, with all the new condos and a squillion cars and the infuriating traffic jams, but people, by and large, behaved themselves.

Most people certainly did not get around by motorcycle six years ago. They were all in cars. In fact, if there's one infuriating thing about KL it is you can spend half your life driving around looking for a parking place.

Yes, there are some kampong people, but most people who live in KL are big city people.

I simply do not accept most of your points (although about some shop assistants, especially in the mall, yes. They have even institutionalised laziness by having little tiny pillows to put on the counter so they can sit on a stool and put their head down and have a nap.

I was going to return to Malaysia before I came to Mexico, but I was worried that Dr Mahathir had left the government and I did predict a general downturn in behaviour and attitudes. This, I can see, has come about. I feared that Malaysia might turn into a theocracy, and I still think that may happen. If it does, there will be a genuine lowering of standards because, in theocracies, everything's up to allah, so it's not their responsibility. Frankly, I don't think I would even fly Malaysian Airlines any more.  

Anonymous Anonymous said... 5:31 pm

Verity, Thanks for your response. I think we'll have to agree to differ, but you are right that things have gone downhill quite some way since Mahathir's retirement. (The headline in the papers yesterday was that the Chief of the Anti Coorruption Commission is under now police investigation for corruption!). Some of this change may be due to the feeling of relief after his somewhat authoritarian style. Abdullah Badawi is somewhat gentler in his approach. Yes, there is still the (slight)possibility of a theocracy developing especially if Anwar Ibrahim comes back into politics as he has said he might. If that should come to pass I will need to consider my next point of habitation! I now live about 10 minutes from Bangsar and the traffic has worsened considerably over the past 6 years. New shopping areas/malls have opened recently so Jalans Bangsar & Maaroof are nowadays little more than slowly moving car parks for much of the day!

I think we had better cease this exchange now or Mr C will be charging us rent!  

Anonymous Anonymous said... 6:32 pm

Agreed! We have trespassed long enough! But a very interesting exchange, if only to the two of us.  

Blogger Croydonian said... 8:12 am

A classic meander. I'm rather enjoying it.  

Anonymous Anonymous said... 2:22 pm

Well,Nomad, if you're still tuning in, I'm going to take that as a 'yes' from Croydonian and take advantage of the implied hospitality to ask a question.

I had considered returning to Malaysia because I really do like it very much, but, as I said, the fact that Mahathir was no longer PM held me back. Badawi himself seems OK - although nowhere near as sophisticated a thinker as Mahathir - but his cabinet seems to lean to the fundamental. I fear that the islamic hard liners are going to triumph in Malaysia, which would be tragic.

At first I thought that with 60% of the population from immigrant stock, Islamic fundamentalism wouldn't stand a chance, but then I read that a young Chinese couple walking through a park intertwined, as young couples are inclined to do, got arrested for "immorality" and I thought, "Ooops!"  

Anonymous Anonymous said... 2:23 pm

Oh, dan selamat pagi! (My time.)  

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