Friday, 9 August 2013

 Portugal: regulation olive oil 

 Friday 9 August 2013
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little while ago we were commenting on European Commission plans to ban self-fill aceitera in restaurants, thus reducing the chances of adulterated olive oil being served.

When the Commission was forced to climb down, this was hailed by the British press as a great victory, although it had failed to note that Italy had recently passed a law requiring non-refillable bottles to be used and that Portugal had been using such bottles since 2005 with "positive results".

And just to demonstrate that not all restrictive law is regarded as an imposition, we saw the Spanish Association of Bars, Cafes and Restaurants supported the Commission proposal. "Now we will be able to guarantee the quality of extra virgin olive oil on the table," said a spokesman.

At the time, though, I recall a noted resident of Portugal railing against the banning across Europe of small glass jugs filled with green or gold coloured extra virgin olive oil – the sage not realising that they were already banned in Portugal.

But, here we are now in Lisbon (pictured) and, very evident in the café culture are the brandedaceitera sets on the tables, the olive oil in non-refillable bottles. A quick chat with our particular patron quickly confirmed that it was "law" to use such bottles, and the EU wasn't even mentioned.

This is quite a serious issue. Olive oil is big business and, annually, perhaps hundreds of thousands of diner were being cheated by being presented with a cheaper substitute when extra virgin olive oil was supposed to be on offer.

Now, there is a greater chance that you get what is on the label, not least because there is a label. Everybody is happier, including the restauranters who are saved the job of refilling bottles.

It was thus a great victory when the evil Commission was robbed of the chance of preventing diners from being cheated – all of which suggests that there is far more to this regulation business than meets the eye. Perhaps it is not a question of regulation, per se, but of who makes it and under what circumstances.


Richard North 09/08/2013

 UKIP: measuring the Bloom effect 

 Friday 9 August 2013
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The "bongo bongo" jibe was offensive and wrong, says Cameron in the Daily Mail, the paper recording how the prime minister is weighing into the row about Bloom's foreign aid comments.

Attempting to defend the indefensible, Mr Cameron asserts that Britain is a "very open, international country" and says Bloom's "stop the world I want to get off approach just doesn't work". Aid, Cameron claims, helps stop overseas problems arriving in Britain.

Mr Cameron's intervention, of course, does not rule out all parties being wrong. Bloom is wrong for the oafish way in which he has raised the matter and Cameron is making a weak case.

Supporters will no doubt argue that if the UKIP MEP had not raised the issue in such an inflammatory way, it would not be on the front page of the Mail today, with the paper pointing out that £1billion of our cash is being used to help Nigeria join the space race, despite 70 percent of the country living below the poverty line of £1.29 a day,

But, if there is a "bongo-bongo land", it is the Congo – not Nigeria. There, we are seeing a very different aid picture as regional conflict erupts yet again and aid has been frozen to neighbouring Rwanda.

The point here is that, long after this fuss has died down, parts of Africa will still be a mess, the UK will still be giving aid to African states, the case for large-scale foreign aid will be just as poor, and Geoffrey Bloom will still be a racist oaf.

In terms of the fight to extract the UK from the European Union, it may be the latter factoid that really matters. In the event that we do finally get a referendum on the EU, we have to ask what is more likely to influence people to vote "out": whether the UK gives foreign aid to Nigeria or because UKIP is a racist organisation.

Basically, a central part of the Europhile weaponary is the claim that the anti-EU cause is "xenophobic". This is one that has had sufficient traction for UKIP to take it very seriously and, certainly, in my day, we made extraordinary efforts to neutralise the slur.

Now, up pops oaf Bloom, offering the naysayers a gift on a platter – easy evidence that UKIP is indeed a racist party, undoing much of the work we and others had done.

In the final analysis, though, we can't actually measure the Bloom effect. We don't have the resources. But it is common cause that Bloom is a loose cannon, which means that every time he opens his mouth he is gambling with the fate of euroscepticism.

And, as we pointed out in our previous piece, he has no right to do that. UKIP has no right to let him. Euroscepticism is far bigger than UKIP and far more important. As each day passes and this controversy intensifies, the party should remember that. It actions (and inactions) affect us all.


Richard North 09/08/2013