Wednesday 29 January 2014

Carswell Goes Native

On 17th April 2012 Douglas Carswell was interviewed by the BBC regarding his criticism of the government's decision to tax charitable donations. At around 01:19mins in Mr Carswell was asked the following question by a BBC presenter:
"But this is your Government, would you vote against it, if you had a chance?"
Carswell in reply says:
I point out that I'm not a member of this Government...I sit on the backbenches, I'm a member of the Legislature, my job is to hold this Government to account.
We are tempted to be stirred by such sentiments especially as Mr Carswell's commitment to reform and holding the government to account is so 'genuine' he co-wrote with Dan Hannan The Plan: Twelve months to renew Britain which proposed electoral reforms arguing:
I want the voters to have the ability to sack lazy, self-serving MPs by triggering by-elections. I want the people to help set the Commons agenda, and veto politicians and their endless folly. But I still think you need a legislature.
Once you’ve made the Commons properly accountable to the voter - and government properly answerable to the Commons – good luck to any MP who ignored what their local voters thought.
So an impression is made of a man committed not only to EU exit but also significant political reform. Yet fast forward on nearly 2 years (as we get ever nearer to an election) and what a difference. In an interview with the Spectator he has this to say in contrast:
“What is it we now want, guys? We’re going to face a reckoning with the electorate in just over a year’s time. We’re two points behind the Labour Party. We can do this – we really can do this. If we lack discipline, we’re going to have five or six appalling years in opposition to dwell on it”
The Spectator concludes as a result of the interview:
Here’s a sneak preview of what was supposed to be a debate about the wisdom of rebelling – but ended up being Carswell explaining why he believes his colleagues should now stop defying the government, and support the PM.
Thus it becomes clear that when faced with the prospect of the Conservative party losing the next election, Mr Carswell reverts back to type and becomes a loyal party member worried about losing his seat, losing power and the Tories not being in government. "Holding this Government to account" on behalf of his constituents - which he admits is his job - now becomes a 'luxury' he cannot afford. He complains of our "rotten political system" but then as his interview illustrates neatly he has become part of it.

I guess we shouldn't be too surprised, after all this was the same man who stated in 2012 (my emphasis):
One of the reasons I backed David Cameron to be party leader early on in his leadership campaign was because I wanted to see a different kind of Conservatism. I still do – and I’d vote for him to deliver it if there was a leadership contest tomorrow.
The same man who signed a letter proposing for a national veto on EU laws despite that such an idea is a complete non-starter, the same man Witterings from Witney identified as a hypocrite in 2011 and the same man in the Spectator's podcast (6 mins in) who argues that Cameron will give us a referendum in 2017, despite that the timetable is completely impossible to meet.

So rather than being "a member of the Legislature, [whose] job is to hold this Government to account", Carswell merely demonstrates clearly the lack of separation of powers within Parliament, whereby loyalty to a party overrides proper scrutiny of a government.

We need the Six Demands:
3. Separation of powers: the executive shall be separated from the legislature. To that effect, prime ministers shall be elected by popular vote; they shall appoint their own ministers, with the approval of parliament, to assist in the exercise of such powers as may be granted to them by the sovereign people of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland; no prime ministers or their ministers shall be members of parliament or any legislative assembly.

Saturday 25 January 2014

It's A Trap!

As noted before in the draft the Spinelli Group entitled “A Fundamental Law of the European Union” there is a form of a new construct 'Associate Membership' (page 284 - Protocol No 9 Associate Membership of the Union).

This is proposed as a solution for countries, such as the UK, which cannot go along with the further drive for political integration, but which still wants to remain members of the EU. It is also suggested that it could be suitable for non-members such as Norway and Switzerland. This though would be unlikely as the main sticking point for Norway and Switzerland to join the EU was they did not want to be ruled by a foreign court i.e. the ECJ. The 'Associate' option would require adherence to the ECJ.

The trade-off with the 'Associate’ option means limited participation with EU institutions and the deal itself can also be limited in duration. Therefore what it would clearly mean is the UK would be down-graded to that of a second-class member. Some are calling this option a trap:
I continue to be puzzled why you (and Richard) dismiss the Spinelli Associate Membership proposition as not to be taken seriously. On the contrary it is a huge trap...If you look at the proposed draft treaty, AM can be negotiated behind closed doors to be any type of relationship. This is the perfect way to stitch up a deal in which we basically still have a supranational government, but is then sold to the British public (like Wilson) as the beginnings of a wonderful new relationship – in the EU but not run by it.
A trap or not the first thing to note is the UK won’t have any choice; unless the UK joins the Euro (a very unlikely prospect), if it wants to remain EU members then the Associate Membership is the only option available unless we decide to leave.

But in many ways he’s right, the option is a trap…a trap for Cameron, Clegg and Miliband. All three, who are committed to remaining members, would be reduced to campaigning in a referendum on the new treaty arguing that Britain should become just a second-class member of the EU, excluded from its central counsels (And it's probably unlikely the treaty will even be ratified if it is subjected to a referendum, triggered by the 2011 European Union Act).

At a stroke it would shatter the illusion that we are fully paid up members, that we are at “the EU top table”, that "we’re in Europe, not ruled by it". 40 years of momentum of hanging onto the coat tails of EU integration, albeit reluctantly, will be brought to shuddering halt at ironically the EU's behest. We can imagine a scene of Cameron et al standing on quayside waving hopelessly as the EU integration ship sails off without us.

Concerns that such a membership will be a stitch-up are understandable, but regardless there can be no disguising the UK's downgrade - even the name gives it away; 'Associate'. Our country’s bluff will be called.

The EU is clearly comfortable with being open about the notion of a two-tier EU. This is a sign of confidence even arrogance in their own project. Such flexibility in the past has always been resisted on the basis that it creates a dangerous precedent where other member states start asking for a change in terms and conditions such that the entire project comes crashing down.

What gives the EU confidence is the belief that most members won’t adopt this option - thus leading to the unravelling of the single market - because it has devised the 'Associate' option as the worst of all worlds. As has been alluded to in the above comment, it is a terrible option; neither completely in nor completely out. And deliberately so as to make it a very unattractive option. One is reminded of the principles of the Workhouses in 19th Century:
Life in a workhouse was intended to be harsh, to deter the able-bodied poor and to ensure that only the truly destitute would apply.
However the unattractive nature of the Associate Membership option has the side effect of making leaving for the UK more attractive. Unable to join the Euro and so be an 'intimate' member of the club it reverses momentum away from the EU and instead towards exit, by virute of the option being an EU marker that says either you're with us or you might as well leave. Our country is about to come against, in a transparent way, the true nature of the EU project.

We are about to be dumped in the departure lounge and no amount of protestations and deception by our political class is going to be able to cover that up.

Sunday 19 January 2014

Scientology And Other Matters

Tim Stanley from the Telegraph makes an interesting case about the cult-like behaviour of a seemingly substantial number of UKIP members. He doesn't say the words "cult-like" of course but that's what it is - that some in the party and/or UKIP voters are unable to cope with any criticism no matter how slight or well-intentioned it is:
The trouble is, [UKIP] needs more than just leaders. Slowly, it draws to itself activists who are essentially refugees from mainstream politics. Most of them are reasonable people. Many are not. For example, when Mr Farage made the humane case for accepting refugees from Syria, the Ukip Facebook page came alight with angry commentary. “Have you been smoking crack with Toronto’s mayor?” asked one. Another: “Sorry nigel dont agree. This country is full now but with more scum headed our way in a few days.” And another: “keep out of UK its full up ENGLISH are the ethnic minority now.” Someone even asked whether Nigel was being bankrolled by “the Muslims”.

I’ve experienced this unpleasantness at first hand. I have been making a series of tongue-in-cheek online videos for the Telegraph that offer “five top tips” for the party leaders on how not to mess things up in 2014. The one I filmed for Ukip was intended to be as light-hearted as Mr Farage himself: keep Godfrey Bloom under lock and key, avoid Scotland, read your own manifesto. The emails and thousands of comments that followed contained personal vitriol of the sort you rarely get from any other party supporter — and that would probably horrify reasonable Ukip sympathisers. Common themes were my ugliness, youth, class and sexuality. [We moderate comments, but you'll find plenty of belters on YouTube].
...why should any reporter write nicely about a party whose supporters throw homophobic insults at them? Especially when “Ukippers” effectively write their own negative headlines. It wasn’t journalists who made Godfrey Bloom refer to women as “sluts”. It wasn’t the media that made Lord Pearson forget the contents of Ukip’s own manifesto. And it is far too easy to find one of the party’s activists willing to say something derogatory about a minority.
Given that UKIP is a threat to the established order, and that the media in general see UKIP as a problem to be eradicated, it is tempting to dismiss Tim Stanley's comments as part of an establishment which aim to belittle the party. Yet looking through the comments below Tim's piece they largely make the point for him. They illustrate quite clearly that anything mildly critical is tantamount to heresy.

Sadly this is also personal experience, and experience of fellow bloggers, which suggest that Tim's comments are uncomfortably accurate.

For example to merely venture on this blog the (not unreasonable) point that UKIP has failed in the 20 years of its existence to offer a coherent exit plan brings out rapid condemnation, despite the obvious fact UKIP has many well paid MEPs yet there is no real policy on the matter. This is a point that has been made elsewhere

Revealingly only by the phenomenal hard work of Richard North (unpaid) has there been an attempt to answer the longstanding question about Brexit and how it can be done. And he has done it by putting forward a very coherent and detailed argument in terms of the "Norway" option which has been shortlisted for the IEA Brexit prize. To point out the lack of such a policy where UKIP is concerned though is heresy.

Autonomous Mind has had similiar problems when he makes the following justifiable points:
For as long as I choose to blog (which may not be much longer given the way I am feeling), shutting up about it isn’t an option for the simple reason that, rightly or wrongly, Farage is seen by many as the head of the Eurosceptic movement by virtue of his position as UKIP leader.  If he fails, the Eurosceptic cause will fail.  Hoping no one will notice the failings by keeping quiet about them is not the way to get the problems addressed.  In speaking out I am not trying to ‘do down’ or undermine UKIP.  I am trying to draw attention to what needs to be improved in the hope more people will apply pressure for change.
And Witterings From Witney too:
To turn to the Guardian article, this is a damning view of Nigel Farage, albeit one that is undoubtedly a dish of revenge served cold. If Farage is someone who does not do policy and is not interested in running his party, why on earth would any sane person elect him to run the country? With regard to Bloom’s assertion that the party is without brains, that has become apparent when one considers the number of open goals that have been missed.

I am often taken to task by commenters on this blog for my condemnation of Ukip – aka Farage – and admonished for criticising the ‘only alternative’, come the next General Election. To which I can only reply with one question:

Just why would anyone vote for another political party headed by yet another politician who, it seems, does not do detail or policy; who would appear to care not one jot for his country or those to whom he appeals for support, but would appear to be interested in only one thing, namely – and would seem not to care by which avenue that he achieves it – power?
But it was just as badly "fixed" in 2004 and then again in 2009, when Nattrass was a beneficiary of the system that made him an MEP. Only now, though, when he has fallen out with The Great Leader, and become a victim of a rigged system that also brought in Farage's drinking mate, Godfrey Bloom, does Nattrass go public and complain.

This desperately weakens the power of Nattrass's complaint, and the UKIP cult members have been quick to point this out. But this is the standard fare of the cult, which specialises in blackening the names of detractors. They will do anything but concede the truth and admit that, even though Nattrass is not the most sympathetic of characters, he is not necessarily wrong.

In fact, we don't really need to rehearse the issues, once more. Most recently, it was Will Gilpin and before him many more, all saying roughly the same thing. Again and again, we see the same charge: Nigel Farage "only wants people in the party who agree with him". More particularly, he surrounds himself with sycophants and, from Sked onward, levers out those who present a challenge to him.

That is probably the way it is going to be for as long as Farage has a grip on the reins of power within the tiny pond that is UKIP, but it also typifies small party politics, which get caught up in the grip of a single individual – as with the BNP and Nick Griffin. The test will be whether UKIP can survive the demise of Farage, and rebuild itself without falling prey to the cult of The Great Leader.
And we come back to Tim Stanley who believes the party needs a "chill pill" (an ungainly phrase):
Believe it or not, Ukip needs to lighten up
It's not a "chill pill" UKIP needs, instead it's grown up policies, detail, strategy and above all maturity - the recognition that politics is a very rough game where criticism comes with the territory, and not all of it is unfriendly or malicious. However in the absence of this we see a cult in the form of Nigel Farage's UKIP, not too disimilar to the 'cult' of some in the media who have a "love affair" with Cameron:
In a very unhealthy way, party politics in the UK is beginning to develop a feel not dissimilar to that of North Korea where, amongst the faithful, only expressions of the most abject adoration are permitted.

Sadly, though, with the cult of the leader also comes the cult of the follower. The lumpen masses, mindless and inert, demand leadership before they can begin to exert themselves. Gone is the initiative, independence and assertiveness that once made our nation great. We whinge and whine that we have no leaders, and then demand absolute fealty to our anointed ones, whom we are expected to follow over the edge of a cliff if demanded.
Thus those not in awe of the "Great Leader" become a 'Suppressive Person'. This is no way to exit the EU.

Monday 13 January 2014

"It Ain't Likely"

Words written by Benedict Brogan in the Telegraph on the prospects of EU renegotiation, an article which reflects on the constant turmoil within the Tory party regarding the issue. The consequence of decades of continuous pretending the EU is something which it isn't...and it's coming home to roost in a big way (my emphasis throughout):
The Foreign Secretary's point, and Mr Cameron's, is the obvious one: the EU is a club with a set of rules that the United Kingdom has signed up to. Indeed, most of the big structural rules, notably the Single European Act, were agreed by Mrs T. If we want to stay in the club we can't reasonably expect to be exempt from the rules we don't like, which is most of them. And that bring us straight to the political problem. Many Tory MPs, and most of those who signed the letter, and certainly those who organised it, don't want to be part of the club.
No 10 even sees the Boris one, as in his column today, as unhelpful, because all it does is build up the prospect of a major renegotiation when everyone knows that in reality, it ain't likely.
The anti-EU ultras are clever [sic], and are holding Dave's feet to the fire. At some point he will have to call them out. That point has got a whole lot closer.
Are those at the Telegraph starting to wake up and smell the proverbial coffee?

Sunday 12 January 2014

EU's New Treaty - A Great Leap Forward

Christopher Booker writes in his Sunday Telegraph column today:
As our “Little England” politicians continue to squabble over David Cameron’s pie-in-the-sky talk about holding a referendum in 2017 on a new treaty relationship with the EU, the real puzzle is why no one in Britain is talking about the rapidly advancing plans of the EU establishment for another much more important treaty of their own, designed to take the EU a huge step further forward to becoming a fully fledged “Government of Europe”.
And to make the point for him, today we have in the same paper, Chirs Grayling arguing that "Britain needs a completely new relationship with the EU", Tory MPs demanding a veto on EU laws, then Iain Duncan Smith in the Times saying "he wants to change EU law over benefits and migrants, and the Guardian reporting that "President of European parliament says UK has 'no chance of curbing basic principle of free movement'".

No doubt this kind of nonsense about "repatriating powers" will intensify until May in anticipation of UKIP's predicted success in the Euro-elections at the cost of Tory votes.

Yet the real story of the 2014 elections won't be UKIP but instead it will be used as justification for a major treaty which has designs for the next great leap forward in EU integration. EU Commission President Barrosso has called for an EU-wide debate on proposals to deepen Economic and Monetary Union, and to create a legitimate political union. Conveniently 2014 is also the 100 year anniversary of the First World War which the EU will undoubtedly use as justification:
Barroso says next year will be the 100-year anniversary of the First World War, which affected Belgium greatly. The war, however, began in the Balkans – and Barroso believes this underlines the fact you cannot turn inwards and ignore the world around you.
And as with all things EU its desire for further integration is no big secret. The 300 page draft of the new treaty can be found here. Angela Merkel's first speech to Germany’s parliament when she was re-elected made clear the need for a new Treaty:
In the first speech of her third term, German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged European partners to tackle flaws in their currency union by ceding control over economic policy and making politically sensitive changes to the bloc's treaty.
"I know that pushing through treaty changes in the member states can be difficult, but if you want more Europe, you have to be prepared to develop it further. In a world that is constantly changing, we can't stand there and say that at some point we agreed the Lisbon Treaty and there's no need to change it again. This won't work."
With the release in October of the draft we are given a very clear picture of what this treaty might look like. A 300-page draft of the treaty by the Spinelli Group entitled “A Fundamental Law of the European Union” sets out in detail just how the EU can take another huge step towards political integration.

Interestingly at its core it revives former EU Commission’s President Jacques Delors's vision in 1990, when he proposed that the Commission should become the “executive”, the Council of Ministers the “Senate” and the Parliament, given new powers, elected by the people. A plan that was dismissed by Margaret Thatcher's famous “no, no, no” speech which triggered her downfall:

Within the draft are also proposals for much closer integration of foreign, defence and energy policies, more control by Brussels over national finances and budgets, particularly in the eurozone, more power to impose measures “to combat climate change”.

In short, this new treaty –  backed behind the scenes by Delors himself - is designed to complete the task which so humiliatingly fell short when that earlier planned EU “Constitution” was rejected by the voters of France and Holland in 2005, only to be smuggled in again three years later as the Treaty of Lisbon.

The draft even wants to reinstate the European anthem and the EU flag (page 19):
The Fundamental Law brings back the symbols of the Union (the flag and the anthem) which were jettisoned from the Treaty of Lisbon
So while our "Little Englander" media and politicians squabble about reforming little bits of the EU, the EU itself is concerned with getting on with major reforms that have complete different objectives and outcomes. Mr Cameron’s bluff on negotiating a “new settlement” for Britain is about to be called out.

Aside from the fact that a fundamental principle of the EU is powers once given up are never returned, even if they could be, as Richard North consistently notes, Cameron hasn’t got the faintest chance of meeting his 2017 deadline for a referendum anyway:
...if there are changes to the treaty, we have to go through four stages.

First, we have to secure a simple majority. That means that we need to find 14 member state governments who agree with us. We have not started that task and it looks as though we are not going to start it until after the election. Secondly, we have to get a consensus in the necessary convention. The last convention took 18 months. The third stage is that we have to get unanimity in the intergovernmental conference - Maastricht took a year - and the final stage is ratification.

Actually, the last (and only) convention process started with the Laeken declaration in December 2001 and effectively ended the start of the IGC in October 2003 – just two months short of the two years. The IGC then finished in June 2004 – the door-to-door treaty process taking two-and a half years.

Transpose that onto the current situation and assume that David Cameron gets re-elected in May 2015, that brings us to November 2017 on the same timescale. But then there has to be a referendum campaign, bringing us well into 2018.
The EU instead will be entirely focussed on their own, more important treaty, while Cameron dances about on the touchline waving his arms frantically trying to gain attention. Ignoring him the EU will get on playing their much more important game. The UK will be sidelined whether we like it or not.

And this process of sidelining the UK will be given official status under the new Treaty in the form of a new construct “Associate Membership” (page 284 - Protocol No 9 Associate Membership of the Union). Clearly this is offered as a solution for countries which cannot go along with the further drive to create “a country called Europe”, but which still want full trading access to their Single Market; countries like (obviously) the UK but also Ireland and Denmark and also for non-members Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and possibly even Turkey.

What is interesting is such flexibility in the past has always been resisted on the basis that it creates a dangerous precedent where other member states start asking for a change in terms and conditions such that the entire project comes crashing down. Thus the EU must now be very confident that it is now not possible for most member states to take the 'Associate’ option.

However the trade-off with the 'Associate’ option means limited participation with EU institutions and the deal itself can also be limited in duration, for example under Protocol No 9:
Article 1
The agreement will set out the terms, conditions, scope and limits of associate membership and the adjustments to the law of the Union which such association entails. The agreement may be of limited duration.
Article 3.1
The agreement shall specify in which of the Union’s policies and functions the Associate State is to participate, and the terms and conditions, financial and institutional, which shall apply to that participation.
Article 6
An associate membership agreement may be suspended, in whole or in part, in accordance with the procedures laid down in Article 133. 
EU membership with limited participation - a new twist on their favourite phrase "government by fax". Thus what it offers Cameron, and indeed Clegg and Miliband is poisonous; a chance to remain part of the EU – which they say they never wish to leave – but only on its outer ring. We would in effect just be a second-class member.

Cameron, and the rest of our political class who are equally adamant that they could not allow Britain to leave the EU, would be reduced to campaigning in a referendum arguing that Britain should become just a second-class member of the EU, excluded from its central counsels. They will be horribly caught out.

Such a confrontation was always inevitable, the UK's 'sort of in, sort of out' position - topped off with lies and deception - was always incompatible with EU membership when it continued to do what it does best - politically integrate. For many decades the UK establishment has embraced the idea of European economic and political co-operation, but has never been able to persuade the UK people about the idea of political integration.

Instead of indulging in empty political gestures and wishful thinking, we are going to be brought sharply down to earth - to decide whether we really wish to become second-class citizens of the EU, or to find a wholly different way forward.

Whether Cameron likes it or not the EU is going to take the next big leap foward in integration with a new Treaty and leave us behind, effectively placing us firmly in the lounge marked "departure." Perhaps we might then have a proper grown-up discussion over the best way forward.

Thursday 9 January 2014

Have Your Say On The EU?

Further to my previous post I learn from Witterings From Witney:
 ...we are to be blessed by Viviane Reding's presence in London on 10th February. When one views the three main themes on which her intended remarks will be based, one cannot but notice how each one is designed to promote the European Union:
  • After the eurozone crisis;
  • Our rights as a EU citizen; and,
  • The future of ‘Europe’.
How jolly nice of her.
This will be an opportunity for people to articulate their hopes for and concerns about the EU directly to one of its senior officials.
Well that’s one way of putting it. One wonders how many robust questions will be asked? But naturally it is nothing more than a consultation exercise that is along the lines of ‘thank you for your feedback, it was most constructive, but we’ll just carry on as normal' justifying their actions by arguing the people were consulted.

Interestingly the meeting is February 10th, just before the "Blueprint for Britain outside the EU" has to be submitted for the Brexit prize.

Wednesday 8 January 2014

A United States of Europe

Above is the cover sheet of a pamphlet from 1923 arguing for political union within Europe written (ironically) by an English civil servant called Sir Arthur Salter. As is readily obvious by the title it proposed a plan of a “United States of Europe” - a plan which Jean Monnet was able to execute into what is now known as the European Union.

Political union has always been its goal and as the copious quotes on the right side of my blog make very clear the EU has never hidden this from view. Thus one reads with a wry smile Bruno Waterfield's article - 90 years later - in the Telegragh which states:
Voters must decide for or against a United States of Europe during EU elections this spring, says vice president of the European Commission

The article continues to quote Viviane Reding:
[she] has called for "a true political union" to be put on the agenda for EU elections this spring.
"We need to build a United States of Europe with the Commission as government and two chambers – the European Parliament and a "Senate" of Member States," she said last night.

"This debate is moving into the decisive phase now. In a little more than four months' time, citizens across Europe will be able to choose the Europe they want to live in," she said.
"There is a lot at stake. The outcome of these elections will shape Europe for the years to come. That is why voting at these elections is crucial.
While it's easy to mock Viviane Reding's comments, and they are not new, they make sense when we consider that a new EU treaty is on its way, a point Waterfield fails to make.

As Richard North has consistently noted the signs are very much that the next big leap for integration has already been started begining with the federalist Spinelli Group and German think-tank Bertelsmann Stiftung publishing a draft treaty called "A Fundamental Law of the European Union". This is in preparation for a treaty Convention, in line with Article 48 of Lisbon, which is likely to start in the spring of 2015. If so this will blow Cameron's EU "renegotiation" strategy for the UK General Election out of the water.

Spring 2015 allows for the Euro elections process to be completed - after the elections the 2014 European Parliament will have to “elect” the next Commission President. and for the first time, the main European parties are planning to propose candidates for the job.

Here then we see Reding's comments in context. Reding and by extension the EU, are trying to use 2014 to give legitimacy to the next big leap forward in integration by announcing the elections as a chance for citizens to express "a Europe we want to live in". This is democracy EU style.

Our politicians, and certainly our media, have not yet woken to the prospect of the impending EU Treaty, though I guess when they eventually do they will trot out the old line again that we need a "frank, honest and open discussion that we've never really had".

Wednesday 1 January 2014