Tuesday 29 April 2014

Dark Souls

Well that didn't take long... With the tragic murder of a teacher by a 15 year old schoolboy, it was always inevitable the legacy media would attempt to find a link with video games or films. And thus it has come to pass. Blimey a 15 year old boy plays violent video games "exclusive", which probably applies to the vast majority of teenage boys.

You would think after the moral outrage 30 years ago over so-called "video nasties" the press would have given up by now. But no.

As it happens I currently have a copy of Dark Souls in my PS3, so if any readers were to learn of a disillusioned blogger going on a manic rampage through the House of Commons very soon at least we will all know the reason why...

Monday 28 April 2014

The Budget And HMRC (2)

Following on from TBF senior's complaint to his MP regarding the proposals in the budget of giving HMRC the ability to take money directly from our bank accounts in the event of a tax dispute, he has had a reply from his MP Andrew Jones and from David Gauke - the current Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury.

Unsurprisingly the responses have not been reassuring. Andrew Jones' letter can be found below (click to enlarge all images throughout):

Andrew Jones acknowledges that the response from the Treasury does not address TBF senior's original concerns; "I recognise that you have made other points which may not be covered by Mr Gauke’s reply". However he reassures us that we can rest in comfort that he does “meet regularly with the Treasury Ministers and will ensure they are aware of the further comments you have made”. That's ok then...

Mr Gauke's response is quite frankly disturbing. What is obvious from the response is that the Tories believe that the money "is the government's" - we have to prove otherwise. And we have to prove it with very much lower funds backing us should we have a dispute.

Never mind that tax avoidance is perfectly legal, and in large part a consequence of the 'wonderful' Single Market. Never mind that the lower limit of £1,000 of tax owed is a limit which is miniscule – thus it is clearly not a measure that is aimed at those deliberately evading large amounts of tax but normal people and small businesses.

But as a 'solution' we instead get confirmation that the Tories are attempting to turn the entire tax system on its head - "we're guilty unless we can prove otherwise"
Anyone who believes that their tax avoidance scheme works will still be able to pursue their claim in the courts. And, if they win, HMRC will repay the tax with interest. However, HMRC’s success in avoidance litigation shows that only a small minority of avoidance schemes are upheld in the courts. This means that it is fair that tax should sit with the Exchequer rather than the taxpayer during a dispute into tax avoidance.
Gauke says: "it is fair...". Who says it's fair? Certainty not us the taxpayer. Has Gauke ever attempted to fight HMRC as a small business owner...? I guess not. And of course HMRC never makes mistakes.

Needless to say TBF senior is not letting this go - belligerent persistence runs in the family.

Friday 18 April 2014

"Boris Johnson Is A Massive Europhile!"

Thus reports the Telegraph with seemingly not a hint of irony, on a piece of why UKIP are "stealing" Conservative votes. (Note the words "stealing" - last time I looked votes belong to the electorate not to any political party).

Apparently former Tory MP Louise Mensch, who has buggered off from being a MP or something, comes to the conclusion that:
" BoJo is far more pro-European that many people realise…"
Ah..."BoJo" - what a lovely chap he is! Of course Louise - I can't be bothered to do my job properly - Mensch is telling us nothing new. "BoJo's" pro-EU stance comes as no surprise, the level of his support for the EU puts Cameron to shame, if that is possible.

It's worth noting that Boris Johnson's father, Stanley, was between 1973 and 1979 a senior official of the EU Commsision. In 1984 he resumed his career in the Commission becoming Director for Energy Policy in 1990.

During the early 1980's a greater desire for EU integration emerged via Altiero Spinelli who is regarded as “one of the founding fathers of the European federalist movement". Out of this ambition was born The Crocodile Club, a cross- party group open to all MEPs convinced ‘of the need for European political reform of great width’.

As a consequence The Crocodile Club resulted in an EU draft treaty so ambitious in its leap forward in political integration that it had to be spilt into two parts – The Single European Act 1986 and the Maastricht Treaty 1992 in order to be acceptable (forced through) to “EU citizens”.

A UK Conservative at the time enthusiastically supported Spinelli's move towards a European federalist movement…stand up one Stanley Johnson.

Thursday 17 April 2014

I Keep Six Honest Serving Men...

...(They taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who.
I send them over land and sea,
I send them east and west;
But after they have worked for me,
I give them all a rest.

Do Betfair Know Something We Don't?

This might be me but there seems to be a name missing from this list (click UK politics/ Next UK Prime Minister)...

Tuesday 15 April 2014

Brexit: Questions To Answer

We were aware that Richard North’s Flexcit submission probably wasn’t going to win. Reservations were evident from the start. Conclusions were drawn that the nature and arguments of the submission were at odds with the economic bias of the IEA. That we knew and anticipated.

But what we, (and nearly all the contestations who entered – just short of 150), expected was for it to be a fair competition. It’s not unreasonable to expect that everyone should have had a chance.

With the publication of the final six shortlisted (another rule change that was unexpectedly announced half way through the competition) it’s becoming clear that being fair the IEA prize most certainly was not. All of the final six papers breach the original competition rules, in some cases strongly. In addition Richard points out in a very revealing analytic piece there are also some other far more serious concerns.

There are in essence three widely publically acknowledged ways of leaving the EU, the pros and cons of which were addressed in the FleXit plan as per the competition requirements.

The first way of leaving are variations on the “Norway Option” (EFTA/EEA), the second is the Swiss bilateral agreements and the third is what I consider the “Life on Mars” option; we are all involved in a car crash, enter a coma and wake up in the early '70s. This is also known as the “just repeal the ECA and the WTO will just rescue us” option.

As Richard notes, the final six which were shortlisted all considered a completely different (but crucially the same) option – "EFTA only". The final six argue to pursue the Swiss arrangement via EFTA membership:
It should be noted that EFTA membership is not required to pursue the so-called "Swiss option", as the Association played no role in the bilateral agreements between Switzerland and the EU. This we know from René Schwok, writing in an official EFTA anniversary book. In other words, the "Swiss option" doesn't need EFTA membership.

In fact, the advantage of the bilateral route for Switzerland is that it allowed her to make her own agreements without being bound by the EFTA framework. Thus, the only advantage the UK would gain from the “EFTA-only” option would be the ability to tap into EFTA's existing trade deals. But if that was the sole motivation, it is unlikely that the UK would be accepted as a returning member.
It is an argument that is so rare, if not unique, that there are very few academic papers on it (if at all) and an argument that largely cannot be found expressed on the internet in any form whatsoever - until the conclusion of the Brexit prize (very likely because it's completely unworkable).

In the age of the internet, we would expect academic papers to rely heavily on it in terms of research. Indeed there are a number of passages in the final six – including the winning entry that are very familiar to this blogger. But that is to be expected. Any information posted on here is for free use.

What is unexpected to say the least is that all six have come up with the same argument which is not freely available on the internet nor indeed widely argued within eurosceptic circles - and hasn’t been as long as many of us have campaigned against EU membership.

One such paper showing such “original thought” is fair enough, two could be a coincidence. More than that and we’re suspicious. That six have entered, then have been shortlisted and they're the only ones…well we don’t need to make clear the statistic improbabilities of that.

We also note that Roger Bootle, one of the original judges, stepped down after complaints that he expressed himself in a way that was unfit to be a judge during an ongoing competition. Interestingly it is also understood that the judges only managed to see and evaluate the final six papers - they were vetted in advance. Odd then that the only reference to an "EFTA only" solution aka "EFTA + bilaterals" was made by Roger Bootle published while the IEA competition was ongoing.

For those whom wish EU exit, the IEA has serious questions to answer about the conduct of its competition and whether it invited participants to enter papers on a false premise. Thus I currently have an ongoing complaint with them requesting that they publish all of the original 17 shortlisted so we can come to our own conclusions.

I was born into the then EEC (the UK joined 18 months earlier) so I don't have direct experience of the lies that took us in - I can only observe it from a generation apart. However what is clear is that the lies continue; history is repeating itself.  For eurosceptics who genuinely want EU exit our furrow as a result is being ploughed a little lonelier.

If the IEA competition was a banana we wonder whether it would comply with Commission Regulation (EC) No 2257/94

Rats Leaving A Sinking Ship?

The Times behind a paywall but available elsewhere reports another Farage expenses scandal:
Nigel Farage faces an expenses investigation into almost £60,000 of “missing” European Union funds paid into his personal bank account.
Of course Farage, expenses scandals and his reluctance to publish detailed accounts are nothing new. What's becoming clear though is that there is an element of rats leaving sinking ships within UKIP - in this case information is being provided by "former party officials". Some are wanting to distance themselves...

Newspapers have a number of serious investigations ongoing and they are beginning to close in. Interestingly Farage has this to say:
"And what we are seeing here from The Times - I mean not that I'm surprised because we have been expecting this - we are seeing yet another politically motivated attack from what is the establishment newspaper."
I'm not surprised he's been expecting it...the Times is warming up for the "big one". The sharks are circling...

All of this deeply saddens me as a long time anti EU campaigner. After 20 years what a waste...

Thursday 10 April 2014

Press Complaints Commission Update

Readers may have noticed that I have removed an earlier post regarding my ongoing complaint with the PCC. I heeded the advice left in a comment by "Dave" (thank you) advising me "to tread carefully" noting that putting such a complaint into the public domain may compromise my position.

So while I'm currently formulating a response - which I anticipate will be sent in today or tomorrow at the very latest - all will remain quiet until (or if) the PCC come to a decision.

Wednesday 9 April 2014

Brexit: The Winning Entry?

Iain Mansfield will be a happy man this morning having won the Brexit prize and walked away with a sizable cheque. His winning submission can be found here.

We invite readers, before they continue to read the rest of this post, to first study both the winning entry and compare it with the one submitted by Richard North, with help from his blog readers, which didn’t even make the final six shortlist, and come to their own conclusions.

We do so to negate the charge of “sour grapes” which of course is an easy accusation to make. We also like to make it clear that there's no particular personal ill will towards Mr Mansfield – that he’s entered a competition and won is hardly his fault.

That said as the winning contestant of what should be considered an academic paper with “prestige” he should put himself in position to defend the arguments he makes. By deleting his blog this morning and also being hamstrung by being a member of the Civil Service he is compromised by failing to be able do so. As a consequence the paper cannot further the cause of UK exit.

Largely though our deep concerns are directed at the IEA and the potential severe damage this competition will do to the eurosceptic movement.

It’s worth noting that the competition wasn’t the idea of the IEA, it was instead the brain child of Lord Pearson, ex UKIP leader of course, and he raised the necessary funds. Pearson took the view that the IEA was a suitable organisation to run the competition.

What’s becoming apparent though is the competition wasn’t run with entirely honest intentions by the IEA, they have used the opportunity of Pearson’s 'naivety' - of not seeking a remit - to hijack it to impose their own free market ideology. That the IEA have attempted to hijack the prize is not just the opinion of Richard North but also some of the other contestants as well, who are equally unhappy.

It's also interesting to note that Mr Mansfield not only walks away with the main prize but also wins the prize for being "the best entry from an individual aged 30 or under”. How convenient.

Such concerns are reinforced by the continuing changes in the rules during the competition. Not only did the IEA arbitrarily impose upon contestants a further shortlist of six – which immediately announced that any submission failures were at least 7th best not 4th best - a decision which wasn’t stated from the start, but they then made public their clear expectations as demonstrated by the video above, contrary to the original competition requirements.

After the competition had closed the judges revealed that they wanted a "free trade" solution, something that was never specified throughout the competition. As an example below is the full guidance sent via email sent on 25th November 2013 where a free trade only solution was not specifically required:
Dear all,
The Brexit judges met again last week and discussed the development of the short-listed papers into full submissions. They asked me to send entrants on the short list some further guidance, which has been integrated into the original further guidance, in order to help you meet the objectives of the competition.
1.      The full paper should not concern itself with reasons as to why the UK might exit the EU or the advantages or disadvantages of such a step, nor should it spend time looking at how such a situation might arise. The starting point is that the decision to leave has already been taken and the paper should explore and set out a programme of policy steps to be followed by a UK government in that event.

2.      While, obviously, you need to consider the precise mechanism and procedure for exit, this should not be the main or primary focus of the final submission. Rather the full submission should look at the areas of government policy and overall political economy that would be affected by a UK exit and suggest a coherent and structured set of policy responses. The most obvious one is trade policy but there are many others, notably regulation in general (including financial regulation, environmental regulation, labour market regulation, immigration, and so on), foreign and fiscal policies and wider questions of economic policy.

3.     Wherever possible you should seek to provide costed and quantitative estimates and arguments. For example (and this only as an example, not a suggestion) there could be an analysis of trade flows over the last thirty years with estimates of where the greatest potential advantages from bilateral trade deals might lie; what trade policy options would confront the UK - from unilateral free trade through to joining particular free trade areas or remaining in the EEA; where the fastest benefits of lower trade barriers might be achieved and what impediments might stand in the way.
4.    However, when it comes to some of the more difficult issues, there will not be a hard and fast answer. Nevertheless, entrants should try to provide estimates and make judgments and these must be backed up with argument and evidence.
5.    Though the exit process should not be the primary focus of the papers, the successful entrant should include a clear sense of the practical steps that would need to be taken and the likely timetable in relation to them.
6.    As the context for point 2, above, there should be a clear picture of the various choices and options facing the UK upon exit with a discussion of the pros and cons and there should be a discussion of the pros and cons of various special arrangements which the UK might make with the EU after BREXIT.
7.    The entry should outline what the worst case for the UK might be after BREXIT and discuss ways of avoiding this and/or mitigating it if it transpires (for example, would the worst case be the EU refusing to negotiate any trade arrangements and refusing to make any agreements relating to the operation of UK companies throughout the EU and then imposing trade barriers and how might the UK respond?).
8.    Use of several tables and charts should be expected.
The fact that none of the EEA solutions - or variations of - did not make the unexpected announced six adds weight to our suspicions. If contestants had been informed from the start of the "free-trade" desires of the IEA, then EEA solutions would not have been put forward by entrants on the basis that they had no chance.

Those who have now read both papers linked above may feel a sense of being completely underwhelmed by the winning entry. The winning paper contains wishful thinking, superficiality, and is completely lightweight. It simply does not address the complexities of leaving. It also contains basic errors such as this on page 12:
The Single Market is far more than a customs union or a comprehensive free trade agreement. The treaty that instigated the Single Market was not the Treaty of Rome, but the Single European Act of 1987 [sic], which concerned much more in depth matters of economic integration.
I have to remind my readers that paragraph was part of a winning entry. Unbelievable. One wonders whether Dr David Starkey is keen, as a constitutional historian of note, to be associated with a paper that quite clearly falls below the accepted standard of an academic paper.

Another example is point 8 in the email above; “Use of several tables and charts should be expected."

Point 8 caused no end of consternation for us. Richard’s submission put forward the case rightly - a point acknowledged by more than one judge on the panel - that exit from the EU was a political argument not an economic one. Given that the IEA is obviously an economic think-tank we concluded that they were looking for a paper festooned with economic graphs.

Typical examples are this paper from Ruth Lea and this from Nexit. With this in mind and after long hours of cogitation and discussion we managed to include in Flexcit many original tables and charts that were relevant to our submission which also tried to confirm with possible expectations of an economic argument. Even so we still had concerns that the lack of economic graphs was a potentially obvious weakness, in the sense of Richard’s submission being looked upon kindly by economically biased judges.

But as it turns out we needn’t have bothered or been worried. Clearly by the winning submission this was never an issue. By way of example this is an original graph from the Flexcit submission (click to enlarge throughout):

And another regarding the Article 50 process:

In contrast this is one from the winning submission, picked at random on page 57:
or this on page 56:

The graphs used in the winning submission have obviously been copied and pasted; they are unoriginal and they are blurred - in the paper - to the exent they are unreadable. And this submission won? Even by comparision with the papers (linked to above) from Ruth Lea, Roger Bootle and again this from Ruth Lea all associated with the IEA this is a very poorly drafted paper.

And that is without noting it came up short in the word count - 10,000 to 20,000 words was the requirement - the winner came in at fewer than 9,500 words. As Richard notes, Mansfield's arguments are also incoherent:
Mansfield, however, rejects the idea of joining the EEA, although he does suggest we join EFTA. As an aside, does he explore the views of EFTA members, as to whether they would accept the UK? He doesn't, but we did.

I actually went to Norway, and to Iceland. The Norwegians and Icelanders both, wanted us in EFTA and the EEA, because we could help them renegotiate the deal. Would they want us in EFTA without the EEA? I very much doubt it – but this is something Mansfield doesn't even explore. And the judges let him get away with it.

Howsoever, what Mansfield advocates is a pick'n mix bilateral agreement, adopting a position "somewhere between that of Turkey's and Switzerland's membership of EFTA". This is not only politically unattainable in the timescale, it is incoherent.

Turkey's relationship with the EU is of membership of a Customs Union. Switzerland has bilateral free trade deals with the EU. The relationship with the Swiss deals and EFTA is complex. Some are via EFTA, some are outside. But the one thing absolutely certain is that there is no position at all between Turkey and Switzerland. Mansfield is comparing chalk and cheese.

And, having talked so some of the other competitors last night, I know that we were not the only entrants to point out the impossibility of attaining an ab initio bilateral deal within the two years.
The big danger now is that the eurosceptic movement will be hampered by this paper which now has "prestige" and is seen as best way forward. Europhiles will take great delight in taking it apart - it will be seen as the best eurosceptics can offer. It’s going to be akin to shooting fish in a barrel. Huge damage has been done.

I'll end this post with the now ironic words of one of the judges:
“In the past most politicians have focused on the economic rather than the political implications of the European Union. The debate about Europe‘s future is a battle of ideas and ideologies. The European Union has always been a deeply political project."
The IEA is simply another London based institution that will not understand how or why the EU exists. It's lost any credibility it had left whatsoever.

Saturday 5 April 2014

Comments Moderation

For the first time ever since this blog has gone live, I've managed to attract a troll prompted by my previous post about complaining to the PCC over Mats Persson. As such, despite being warned, the persistence of this blog's troll has meant that I have had to invoke comment moderation.

My policy on comments though remains the same; any criticism, however harsh of the post or me (as long as it's not of a racist or gratuitous nature) is welcome, but I won't accept my hospitality being abused with extensive use of capitals and repeated content.

Thus any genuine comments may incur a slight delay before being published. I thank my readers for their patience.

Wednesday 2 April 2014

Openly Lying Europe (2)

Being a polite gentleman of an English persuasion I would never dream of accusing Mats Persson from Open Europe of being an insidious, dishonest, and deceitful liar.

However, despite that Persson has been corrected many times over the issue that Norway does have a say -indeed more than the UK - over EU Single Market rules, Persson persists in the Daily Telegraph with his inaccuracies. With this in mind I complained to the Press Complaints Commission. Obviously I'm under no illusions that little will change but a marker has to be put down. I reproduce my complaint below in full:
Dear Sirs

I’m writing to you wishing to draw your attention to an article on the Daily Telegraph website by Mats Persson Director of the think tank Open Europe. He writes about the important issue of the UK’s membership of the European Union - more specifically in this case the possible method of leaving. The website URL in question is below:


My reason for contacting the Press Complaints Commission is that I have deep concerns that much of the article is incorrect and factually wrong. In particular I wish to highlight this paragraph regarding the debate about the UK’s role in the EU:
"If only it was that simple. There’s no good off-the-peg model that the UK can simply adopt should it leave the EU. The Norwegian (“regulation without representation)…"
Persson's dismissal of the Norway option (“regulation without representation”) has been repeated before despite being corrected personally to Persson himself and in the comments (url below)


Mats Persson's argument relies heavily on the false doctrine that Norway has "no influence" in making EU law. However this is simply factually untrue, Norway has more influence than the UK regarding Single Market rules as illustrated below:

A) Many of Single Market laws are made at an international level for example the WTO – Norway gets to represent itself while the UK has only 8% influence with the EU which represents us on our behalf.

B) Norway is also on over 200 EEA (Single Market) committees which influence EU law from the outset –Anne Tvinnereim, former State Secretary for the Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development in Norway for example said this: “we do get to influence the position".

C) Norway can then contest that laws don’t apply to their EEA agreement – currently they have over 1,200 in dispute.

D) Ultimately Norway can veto any EU legislation, as they did with the 3rd EU Postal Directive while the UK had no choice but to implement it by the 2011 Postal Services Act.

Another inaccurate assertion by Mats Persson in the same article is:
“Under Article 50 [of the Lisbon Treaty] and in continuity deals, France, the European Parliament and others could consistently block market access for the UK’s exporters of IT, insurance, banking and other services."
The Lisbon Treaty and Article 50 is covered by international law, notably by Article 54 of the Vienna Convention on the Law on Treaties, for the EU – an international organisation - to block market access would be in fundamental breach of international law. The EU would be obliged to adhere by its international Treaty agreements.

The UK’s membership of the EU is clearly a very important topic of debate and regardless of various views of our membership rigorous but accurate debate in our media is essential. The Press Complaints Commission confirms on its website it considers that accuracy of the press is of upmost importance:
1 Accuracy

i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information, including pictures.

ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion once recognised must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and - where appropriate - an apology published. In cases involving the Commission, prominence should be agreed with the PCC in advance.

iii) The Press, whilst free to be partisan, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.

iv) A publication must report fairly and accurately the outcome of an action for defamation to which it has been a party, unless an agreed settlement states otherwise, or an agreed statement is published.
The issue of the UK’s membership of the EU has clearly taken a more prominent role in UK politics, signified by David Cameron’s promise of a referendum in 2017 (if he were to win the 2015 election) and the current debates between Nigel Farage and Nick Clegg. Thus it’s imperative that the public are accurately informed. In this spirit we note the Press Complaint Commission’s conclusion with an untrue story about EU rules on eggs in 2010:


With this in mind I wish to formally complain that Mats Persson’s article breaches the code of conduct of accuracy – it is misleading and is an attempt to severely distract readers of a very popular newspaper from forming a proper and considered opinion.

Yours faithfully


Nigel Farage Not Up To The Job

Not my words but those of Godfrey Bloom. With Clegg vs Farage Round 2 about to commence we have Bloom coming out of the woodwork with an interview in the Telegraph. He makes some pretty disparaging comments about Farage:
[Bloom] said that although Mr Farage acted as a "charismatic" and "articulate" salesman for the Ukip brand he is not up to the role of "managing director or chairman of the board."

Asked if he believed Mr Farage was intelligent, Mr Bloom replied: "In what way?"

By contrast, Mr Bloom said there were many "bright young people" waiting in the wings of Ukip but that Mr Farage was blocking their chances of coming "to the surface" of the party. He added: "Nigel has been doing it for twenty years, I think perhaps one might argue that's too long.”
This is not the first time that Bloom has criticised Farage, and it is probably not lost on most that these comments have only happened after Bloom fell out with him. He was more than happy to be on the gravy train and keep quiet when it suited. Now he's seen which way the wind is blowing out he comes.

Nor are we sure Bloom is the right man to criticise others for “not being up to the job” given his ban from hotels after relieving himself in the corridors and being caught in public cavorting with prostitutes.

When we look at his interview in full (at the bottom of the Telegraph article) it's 46:30 minutes long yet nearly 42 minutes of that time is spent with Bloom defending his attitude to women. His comments about Farage don't come until near the end. How this is supposed to further the Eurosceptic cause boggles my mind.

That said the nature of the messenger doesn't always negate the message. With UKIP more prominent, more scrutiny comes with the territory. And under such intense scrutiny Bloom is right Farage is clearly coming up short. With Farage also currently under a very serious Police investigation we wonder how long he will be around as leader.

Tuesday 1 April 2014

Frankie Knuckles

I guess you start to become aware that time is marching on when those who were a source of memories and inspiration in ones youth begin to pass on. And so it is for me with the death of Frankie Knuckles.