Wednesday 28 May 2014

Cameron Tries To Block UKIP Funding

Mary Ellon Synon reports that "Cameron is trying to sabotage UKIP’s influence at the European Parliament, just days after trying to appear sympathetic to euroscepticism by telling the British people that their message at the polls was “received and understood.”
Instead of accepting UKIP's victory, Cameron has started a drive to cut off the legs of “the people’s army” in Brussels and Strasbourg. He has assigned Conservative Party fixers to do deals with hard-right and populist parties which, until now, the Conservatives claimed were “unacceptable.”
Conservative moves which have the full support of 'Judas Goat' Hannan:
Last week Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan was in Denmark telling Copenhagen television that the Danish People’s Party (DPP), which sat with UKIP’s group in the outgoing parliament, would now be welcome to join in the Tories’ Europe group at the European parliament.
But in 2009, Conservatives rejected an approach from the DPP to join their group, “because of their unacceptable views in a number of areas.” Thus far from listening to the British people we have yet another example - which undoubtedly comes as a large shock to everyone - of the complete contempt held by those in Westminster have of UK voters. Farage has it right when he says:
There is a big dissident voice now in this parliament. And yet, I just sat in a meeting where you wouldn’t think that anything happened at all.
It does though neatly illustrate a number of intriguing observations. That the EU Parliament is used by UK parties (and other countries) to try to manipulate domestic audiences politically. Cameron is willing to align himself with "undesirables" in order to try to shore up his election chances at home - by depriving UKIP of money - regardless of reputations. He accurately calculates that most in the UK couldn't care less about the EU Parliament and how it works.

It also demonstrates that the very understandable desire to give the main three parties a "kicking" in the Euro elections by UK voters is one that has been shown to be largely impotent, a sentiment that is echoed by Farage himself.

The EU Parliament via groupings and the use of money ensures that it is just another EU institution whose primary function is to facilitate the further progress of the supranational project rather than be an independent "check and balance" on the executive or other bodies:
For example, in the 2012 budget, UKIP and the MEPs from ten other countries in the Europe of Freedom and Democracy group, had an allocation of more than €2.5m, with €881,000 still in the bank carried over from the previous year’s grant. This was on top of all the expenses individual MEPs were given to run their offices, research and travel.

By contrast, the giant pro-EU powers European People’s Party (EPP)...was allocated €21m.
Is it little wonder that the EU are so lax about expenses allowances; there is nothing better than easy money to turn people "native". Then there's the European Court of Justice, who rather than be an independent judiciary has instead the primary role of extending and reinforcing the supranational authority of the EU Commission, its "coup d'etat" was this judgement from 1964 :
It follows from all these observations that the law stemming from the treaty, an independent source of law, could not, because of its special and original nature, be overridden by domestic legal provisions, however framed, without being deprived of its character as community law and without the legal basis of the community itself being called into question.

The transfer by the States from their domestic legal system to the Community ... Treaty carries with it a permanent limitation of their sovereign rights, against which a subsequent unilateral act incompatible with the concept of the Community cannot prevail.
Obviously it's clear that UK exit is not going to materialise from Brussels or MEPs contained within nor indeed many members of Westminster. Our exit is likely to come via a referendum and to win that requires negating many of the lies, deception and FUD that has characterised over 40 years of membership. To do that requires a proper, well thought-out exit plan:

It's interesting that despite Cameron's continuing deception on the EU, in terms of how it works regarding treaties he appears to be pretty naive - in fact he's made a substantial strategical cock-up.

Cameron gave a promise of a referendum in 2017 after claiming that he would negotiate reforms with the EU. As has been well noted on many occasions such reforms cannot be done without approval of other member states nor without Treaty change nor within the time frame.

Cameron then said on Andrew Marr that a referendum would be held anyway in 2017:

Essentially this means that any referendum in 2017 won't be based on a fudged reform (because there isn't time) but instead it will be a straight in/out. Here we have a fighting chance. But it is only one chance and one chance only. To win needs co-operation and planning among eurosceptic groups to ensure victory. Without that we lose.

Rather like Neil Armstrong et al going to the moon, they either got it right or they died. There were no second chances.

Monday 26 May 2014

My Party Won The Euro Elections

By a complete landslide the party which I was part of but for whom I did not vote won the Euro elections. I was a member of the 65.8% of voters who declined to participate to send any more MEPs to what is a very lucrative (for those elected) but largely pointless Parliament.

Much though instead is being made of the party which came a very distant second - UKIP. It does demonstrate the utter pointlessness the Euro elections have for UK voters, and contempt for domestic parties in general, that not only did most not bother to vote, but of those who did many were prepared to vote for a party which has no all.

By dismissing the 2010 manifesto as "drivel", yet failing to produce a new manifesto in its place and to have no EU exit plan, UKIP officially has no policies by its own admission. Voters' are effectively dismissing the Euros as irrelevant by lending their votes to UKIP safe in the knowledge it won't actually change anything.

Therefore the Euros are rarely a guide to how parties will fare in general elections. UKIP won 4,352,051 votes, nearly 4½ times its 2010 general election vote. Experience shows that when it comes to the more serious business of general elections the UKIP vote will undoubtedly be squeezed hard. For example in 2009 it won 2,498,226 votes in the Euros which then dropped to 919,546 in 2010.

But while being the Official Monster Non-Policy Policy Party will have little effect on its performance in the Euros it will pose a very significant and potentially damaging problem for UKIP in 2015.
Leading up to the Euros UKIP came under a great deal of inevitable smearing regarding alleged racism, homophobia and anything else the papers could conjure up (or received as briefing from the Tories forensically searching social media sites). Clearly though the tactic didn't work and it's rather nauseating to see the rapid about turn in newspaper editorials as a result, particularly this from the Mail:
Instead of addressing voters’ genuine concerns on mass immigration and the corrupt, power-hungry EU machine, the big three parties believed they could defeat Nigel Farage with smears and lazy accusations of ‘racism’.

The Mail – while, we repeat, carrying no torch for Ukip – warned that such arrogant, cack-handed tactics would backfire, and so it proved.
The smears though did have some effect, albeit one that is probably marginal according to UK Polling Report:
Together those two [polls] make it look pretty conclusive that the attacks on UKIP did damage perceptions of the party. More people think the party and Farage are racist. However, it does NOT necessarily follow that it damaged their vote – it could just have served to further entrench negative views amongst people who didn’t like UKIP anyway.
As a consequence of the limited damage done, we can now anticipate that there will be a change of tactics, assessing instead the performances of newly elected UKIP councillors and highlighting the lack of substance within UKIP policy.

Here the real danger lies - a party of no substance will be quickly exposed and will be damaging. We have already seen the consequences of this with Suzanne Evans' recent incoherent interview over UKIP policy (or lack of) on UK exit. We suspect that a number of newly elected councillors, representing a party without policies, will fare little better under more intense scrutiny either.

Meanwhile as Richard North notes despite what the "citizens of the EU" say the march of integration continues. Nothing amply demonstrates this better than the Lib Dem Andrew Duff losing his seat. Duff was the co-author of the Fundamental Law of the EU - the next step forward in EU political integration via a new Treaty. Losing his seat will have no bearing on the progress of this. Barroso says as the results were being declared:
"It is now of the essence to have a clear understanding on political priorities for the next political cycle, so that a proper institutional transition according to the treaty rules demonstrates the Union's capacity to act".
In other words it's business as usual for the EU. As Complete Bastard observes: 
The people are no closer to the levers of power, and we are no closer to leaving the EU. 
UKIP's lack of policies will ensure this will remain the case.

Friday 23 May 2014

Glass Half Full

My only response to this is...why?

Let's admit it; no one likes to order a half. The tiny glass it comes in seems unimpressive and it feels like it's gone within seconds. However, understandably, some of us do not hold the capacity to drink such large quantities at once so we must give in to the faux pas that is the pint glass's less impressive sibling.
But wait, it doesn't have to be like this! This amazing new invention changes the stigma that surrounds the pint glass's inferior sibling and transforms its look completely...
Introducing the Half A Pint glass. How does it differ? I hear you ask. Simply put, the glass is the usual half pint size, but is split length ways instead, so from an angle it will look as if you are drinking from a normal pint glass!
Say goodbye to the dissatisfying feeling that clutching a half  brings and feel like one-of-the-gang every time you sip a frosty one.
A great gift idea for the dad who is struggling to keep up these days or your pint-sized drinking buddy.

Thursday 22 May 2014

Not Voting

For some today there are local council elections but in the words of the 'unbiased' BBC the "big one" across the country is the EU elections:
"There are local council elections in England and Northern Ireland - but the big one this year is the European election on the same day."
I've noted before that I have always been a reluctant participant in any EU elections. To do so is to legitimise a system I completely and fundamentally disagree with. The EU would actually rather have copious numbers of UKIP MEPs in the EU Parliament on the back of high participation than a low turnout altogether. A high turnout would act as a comforting safety valve for the EU - it means citizens are participating. A sentiment which can be seen by the reaction from 2004 after a low turnout (my emphasis):
"A wake-up call" is the way the current President of the European Parliament Pat Cox described this week's [EU Parliament] election results; the Dutch used the word "disaster".

But working out what went wrong is now crucial to working out how to put it right.

Officials labelled the turnout "pathetically low" in the new states, as ministers warned the political credibility of the whole EU was now at stake.

The election simply left most voters cold from Portugal to Poland. Where they did vote, most people chose to punish their governments or to promote Eurosceptic parties.

Certainly the elections were a shock for the political elite across Europe in the wake of the recent enlargement which they thought would provide renewed vitality for the European project.
With this in mind I have decided not to vote today. Previously I have done in Euro elections for UKIP and I did so through very gritted teeth (no reflection on UKIP at the time) for pragmatic reasons. I took the view that in order for UKIP to break through into the UK Parliamentary system the EU elections gave an opportunity for much publicity and funding to make a difference domestically against an unfair system.

As a result, despite UKIP's many failings, its current position in terms of dominating the media is somewhat of an achievement. It's worth noting that hardly any party in UK history has managed to break through the stranglehold that a two party system entails. One rare but obvious example is the rise of Labour in the late 19th Century.

However I've come to the conclusion that UKIP's rise is less a reflection of the party's competence more of an example of a 'canary down the mine' regarding our electoral system. Less of a solution and more of a warning of what's to come. A warning that came via the paper in 1971 named FCO 30/1048:
...the transfer of major executive responsibilities to the bureaucratic Commission in Brussels will exacerbate popular feeling of alienation from government.
Despite EU funds, the potential opportunity of UKIP finally "breaking through" properly has been squandered and it has been squandered for years. The significant funding has not resulted in a UKIP research department, a decent UKIP website and a coherent unified policy on how to exit.

Such a vacuous intellectual void leads to confusion and argument among UKIP supporters, acutely demonstrated by Suzanne Evans when interviewed by Andrew Neil. As Complete Bastard notes one UKIP activist even argued:
"Personally, I think it would be an alienating and self-indulgent mistake for UKIP to waste its limited resources on the withdrawal mechanism at this time."
Limited resources? I'm not sure Farage struggles with 'limited' resources that prevent a policy on how to exit. And of course seventeen unpaid volunteers (helped by many others) produced exit plans within four months for the IEA prize - UKIP has been going for twenty years and has still failed to produce one. What a pathetic excuse.

Given then UKIP are failing to provide policy on exiting the EU, we have to consider then what is the point of voting in Euro elections. "People died for your right to vote" is sometimes the cry. Yet the right to vote and democracy are not the same thing. It's not a right to mark a piece of paper that counts but what that mark can achieve. The crucial question is always can we throw out the executive?

In terms of the Euro elections we can't  - the executive is with the EU Commission whose Presidential elections are being held with no real reference to the "citizens" of Europe. As an example of ballot paper impotency, the people of North Korea have the right to vote via a piece of paper regarding elections to the People's Supreme Assembly, but no-one in their right mind would argue that makes FatBoy-Kim democratically accountable.

As Richard North observes regarding the Euro elections:
Certainly, there is nothing "democratic" about Mr Cameron's "top table", the Council of Ministers. There, when a vote is called, qualified majority voting (QMV) applies. Britain has 29 votes out of 352, representing eight percent of the vote. A qualified majority is 252 votes (73.9 percent), leaving Britain with a structural deficit of 223 votes.

However, in the European Parliament, the situation is little better. There are 73 UK MEPs, and these represent a mere 9.7 percent of the 751 elected MEPs (post-2014 election). Given the party splits, this level of representation is notional. UK MEPs rarely vote together as a single bloc. Even if they did, they could never muster the 376 votes needed for a majority.

Furthermore, the powers of the Parliament and the Council are limited in important but poorly recognised ways. As an increasing number of laws come into being via international standards, these are most often implemented by the EU as delegated legislation (Commission Regulations) using the comitology procedure.

Every year, more than 2,500 measures are processed via this route, passing through one or more of the 200-300 committees set up for the purpose. That is approximately 30 times more measures than are processed via the mainstream ordinary legislative procedure.
The impotence of the EU Parliament could not be better expressed than by the fact that if every one of the 73 MEPs elected from the UK were UKIP candidates, they simply could not execute their manifesto on behalf of their voters and remove the UK from the EU.

That point brings me neatly on UKIP's exit policy. Aside from having no plan, we see from Autonomous Mind that UKIP intends to remain de facto members of the EU:
...An article today in the Financial News (£) might just explain why there is no exit plan for leaving the EU… UKIP is apparently developing a carefully crafted secret weapon that would see the UK stay inside the Customs Union!  Not inside the internal market, but inside the Customs Union and negotiating its own trade agreements:
As can be clearly seen from this Wikipedia page Turkey's 'customs union' is EU membership by default. I have tweeted and emailed Tim Aker (supposedly head of UKIP's policy) to clarify the party's position to as yet no response.

With UKIP failing to exploit their position as EU MEPs for domestic reasons - instead for personal gain - it's very difficult to not conclude that to vote UKIP today merely puts more of Farage's 'mates' on the gravy train thus shoring up his position. The EU quite deliberately makes expenses, or should I say allowances, easy to claim - it encourages people to go "native". And that is what exactly happens.

UKIP may win the Euro elections, but it will have no bearing on our exit, it will be irrelevant and nothing will change. But I guess it will give a few more MEPs a comfortable salary and pension.

Tuesday 20 May 2014

Nick Clegg In Oxford Review

Witterings from Witney and I attended Nick Clegg's debate today in Oxford having unexpectedly been allocated tickets in a ballot. We did wonder whether our allocation had occurred due to a lack of popularity for the event. Having attended this lunchtime our suspicions were confirmed, though there was a reasonable attendance, the hall clearly wasn't full or packed.

Indeed as we entered we were asked to fill in empty seats near the front - no doubt to make it look good for Clegg on television. Needless to say WfW and I ignored such requests and sat where we liked.

The 'comforting' title of "Meet Nick in Oxford" Lib Dem website had noted before the event:
If you are successful [in the ballot for tickets] you will need to arrive at 12.30pm as seats will be limited. The hour-long event is free and you will have to bring photo ID to gain access to the event.
What it didn't state was what time it would start, and nor could anyone at the event give any confirmation. But as it turned out it was 13:00 and even then Clegg was late (an old trick). Then the "hour-long event" suddenly was announced as a 45 minute one. In addition the requested photo ID wasn't asked for on entry (though we suspect that was requested in anticipation of disruption, which indeed happened at the end which we will return to later in the post).

So all in all not a good start. But then we were under no illusions that this would be a proper "robust Q&A" session. We also expected Clegg to insult those who wish to leave the failed anti-democractic project that is the EU, which he duly did on many occasions. However we anticipated that at least there would an opportunity to take Clegg to task during the Q&A session if selected, via a show of hands, to ask a question.

What became quickly apparent was that this was most certainly not going to be a "Meet Nick in Oxford". Despite the Oxford Mail hosting the event and introducing Clegg, the decision to select which members of the audience would ask questions was left to Clegg himself. A situation very different to hustings meeting attended where a Chairman adopts that role to ensure fairness in question selection. Why did the Oxford Mail not adopt this role as it was the host?

It subsequently became rather revealing who was being selected. Despite WfW putting his hand up every time - and myself on a couple of occasions - neither of us were nominated. WfW in particular was quite obviously being ignored. Clegg noticeably avoiding eye contact at every opportunity perhaps sensing that WfW by clearly being a gentleman of much more experience might give Clegg a somewhat difficult time (and he was right).

Instead virtually every audience member chosen to ask was under 30 and mainly they were in their early 20s. They are likely to ask the easiest questions - as an example one question was whether an England World Cup win was more likely than a Liberal Democrat electoral success. This from a hall that had a fair number of Oxford University students in the audience. Is this really the level of our political debate?

Only three men in total were selected, the rest were women. And only one person was selected who was over the age of 30; a lady who turned out to be a local Lib Dem Councillor - to feigned surprise by Clegg. What a coincidence!

After every question Clegg then proceed to waffle on extensively, adopting the technique of filibustering to drag out the 45 minutes - it was like a glorified extended version of "Just A Minute".

Despite the billing that this debate was about Clegg's views on UK in the EU and the opening remarks by himself concentrating on the EU and the forthcoming Euro elections there were no specific questions on the subject. The closest we had was the last question about gay rights which was linked rather tenuously with our membership of the EU.

Largely we felt the whole experience was a waste of time, but as a consolation it did give an acute lesson in the art of stage management and audience manipulation. We were reminded of stage artists such as Sally Morgan who claim they have psychic powers. They don't of course, instead it's a combination of cold reading, educated guesses based on statistics and the use of information provided before the show. With this in mind it's worth noting that the application form to enter the ballot was headed with:
Your question to Nick
Thus giving Clegg advanced warning of questions to come. Doris Stokes would be proud.

On a final point, Clegg made great play about the Liberals historically being a party of democracy, liberty and freedom, but after the session ended a gentleman was rather roughly and physically bundled out of the building after he attempted to present Clegg with what was clearly Lib Dem literature (we're guessing as a protest against broken Lib Dem promises). This we suspect is why the photo ID request was made. And there goes the party of liberty...

In conclusion it was a stark reminder of what we already knew - those in favour of EU membership simply cannot be honest about it and lack the backbone to justify their position.

This piece has been cross-posted with WfW.

Monday 19 May 2014

Nick Clegg In Oxford

Tomorrow (Tuesday) Nick Clegg will be hosting a debate on ‘Britain’s Place in the EU' in Oxford, as Witterings from Witney noted on his blog on the 12th:
Digressing slightly, Clegg is to hold what is being termed a ‘no holds barred’ Q&A session about ‘matters EU’ in Oxford on Tuesday 20th May. I have applied for a ticket, only to find that being granted one will involve a ‘ballot’ – consequently I am not holding my breath).
To try to increase WfW's chances of winning in the ballot I also applied for tickets via three different names including my own. Well as it happens and rather unexpectedly we've been notified today via email that every application has been approved - so we wonder how popular it will be. Given I've been accepted as well I intend to join WfW tomorrow attending the Q&A with a view to taking Clegg to task over lies regarding the EU in a public meeting.

And we won't be the only ones seeking to hold Clegg to account, the Oxford Activist Network intend to hold a protest against Clegg's presence in Oxford.

Any suggestions from readers on questions to ask Mr Clegg will be very welcome in the comments...

Sunday 18 May 2014

Losing The EU Referendum

Let's not beat around the bush, without a fully worked-out policy and strategy on how to leave the EU any referendum on EU exit will be lost for those who wish out. It's as simple as that. And should the "outers" lose it's game over for at least a generation, probably more. We won't have another chance - it won't be a "best of three".

We don't actually need to have a referendum - there was no referendum to enter the EEC (EU) - and there needs to be no referendum to leave. Yet we must acknowledge that the reality of current political momentum which suggests strongly that our exit will hinge very decisively on one being called.

So should a referendum be called, we face an extremely unfair fight against a pro-EU and ignorant media (including the Express and the state broadcaster), an unfair fight against all of the main political parties, an unfair and dishonest fight against FUD and the need to overcome the "status quo" effect which has an inbuilt advantage of around 20%.

It's imperative therefore that there should be a reassuring policy on EU exit which attempts to alleviate any concerns. This involves invoking Article 50, parking the economic issue temporarily via EFTA/EEA membership, and campaigning on the political (democracy) issue alone giving us a fighting chance.

On Article 50 at least we thought that the UKIP's position was settled when Farage confirmed at least twice that the Article would have to be invoked. But despite being a one man party he clearly isn't in total command when UKIP literature is being distributed contradicting him in the run up to the Euro elections.

Such confusion and a lack of available policy on UKIP's website means the "Life on Mars" option is still alive and kicking as Witterings from Witney notes:
Yesterday evening The Boiling Frog and I spent some time on twitter trying to convince three Ukip supporters that that which they were tweeting was pure fantasy. We were presented with statements such as the old canard that repeal of ECA 1972 meant the UK was free of EU membership; that abrogation of ECHR would mean the EU would promptly rescind the UK’s membership of the EU; and that a new trade agreement could be placed on the table within 24 hours for signature. In our attempted ‘debate’ matters are not helped when it is suggested that I should Go and smoke another spliff – leave it for the rest of us to sort out the mess; neither when I am called a supercilious tit in the comments to this post. Such ignorance is indeed a tad terrifying. 
That somehow 40 years of integration and hugely complex international agreements can just be undone in 24 hours really does defy belief.

More crucially failure to confront the nature of our exit by UKIP inevitably leads to split messages. And split messages don't win referendum campaigns, in the same way split parties don't win elections as per the 1906 General Election when the Conservatives lost by a landslide which was largely attributed to a party split over free trade.

The lack of a policy by UKIP leads this rather incoherent interview with UKIP councillor - who defected to UKIP from the Tories - Suzanne Evans. She was asked by Andrew Neil on the BBC's Sunday Politics if UKIP had published a "roadmap" if the vote was a yes to leave.

Suzanne Evans response was; "wouldn't that be great?" Well yes it would actually, which begs the question why has it not been done?

Some argue that UKIP is an "amateur party" with limited funds in contrast to others, but that of course is no excuse. Seventeen shortlisted entrants to the Brexit prize produced papers on precisely that issue within four months including one from a 15 year old boy. A damning indictment on UKIP's failure to produce one in twenty years with well-paid MEPs.

As Christopher Booker observes in the Sunday Telegraph:
It is equally disturbing that a party founded on a desire to extricate us from the EU should have no properly worked-out policy for how this could be done. Ask Ukip what are the practical steps whereby we could achieve a successful exit from the EU, and the answer is little more than a blank stare and empty platitudes. 
Andrew Neil pressed Suzanne Evans further on whether UKIP had a "roadmap". Her answers remained very unconvincing stating that she's "not a legal expert on this" and that "we could come out quickly or there's a longer route as well". Then the question put to Suzanne was "but have [UKIP] published any of that detail". The response being;
"well...not, not that I have read but there are ways to do it..."
Then Suzanne continues that UKIP want to revert back to 1975 to "what people voted for". This despite the EEC was never an economic project nor a common market. The Treaty of Rome makes this perfectly clear:
"Determined to lay the foundations of an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe"
With Suzanne's statement to effectively revert back to a "golden age" that never existed she then gets caught out...Andrew Neil rightly asks her that the vote in 1975 involved the "free movement of people" which goes against a party which is now chasing the BNP vote on immigration. What a mess...

No doubt some will see this as another gratuitous anti-UKIP piece. My philosophy though was always been clear right from the outset when I joined the party - "my loyalty is to the cause not to any party". In its present guise UKIP are damaging the cause and for that reason I can no longer support them.

UKIP's current stance will lose us the referendum, the choice is increasingly becoming clear; it's either the party or EU exit. The two are no longer compatible.

Saturday 17 May 2014

"Be Thankful I Don't Take It All"

"Prime Minister, the Treasury does not work out what it needs and then think how to raise the money. It pitches for as much as it can get away with and then thinks how to spend it." 
Sir Humphrey, Yes Prime Minister.
That the government views the private purse as a magic money tree is an old age problem - one aptly illustrated by the rather bitter but not inaccurate Beatles' song, Taxman.

And it's a problem that becomes ever acute when under planned new measures in the latest budget. HMRC will have an automatic power to take money from a bank account when the holder has failed to act on four formal warnings requiring payment. Currently such actions can only be done with the permission of a magistrate or judge.

TBF senior still has an ongoing complaint with his local MP on this matter. With this in mind we note that the Telegraph today on its front page has another example of HMRC mistakes that expose deep flaws behind this proposal:
The number of people being investigated by the taxman has doubled in one year, raising concerns that people who have made innocent mistakes are being targeted by the Government.

HM Revenue & Customs made inquiries about the tax affairs of 237,215 people last year, compared with about 119,000 in 2011-12, figures obtained by The Daily Telegraph show.

The number of self-employed people investigated has quadrupled in that time while annual prosecutions have risen sevenfold in three years.
The figures are evidence of the attempts HMRC is taking to minimise the estimated £35 billion of tax lost every year.

Experts have warned that people who have made simple errors when filling out self-assessment tax returns are “an easy target” for HMRC.
Not unsurprisingly HMRC will go after the "low hanging fruit". They are more unlikely to resist and lack the means of fighting back successfully:
Mark Giddens, a partner at the accountancy firm UHY Hacker Young, said HMRC was focused on collecting tax from “soft targets” such as “teachers, doctors..." These taxpayers were more likely to settle without dispute, he said.
As Bill Cosby noted "the government comes for the regular people first".

Other mistakes are not uncommon and HMRC even loses our data. Naturally despite overwhelming objections, we still get the "reassuring" dulcet tones of the Treasury on transmit only:
"Although the vast majority do this, there is still a minority that chooses not to pay, despite being able. The proposed powers will give HMRC another tool to collect tax debt owed. The current consultation includes a range of safeguards to ensure the power is tightly targeted.”
"A range of safeguards". Not that would amount to a tin of beans of course. Who decides how to implement the safeguards? Well HMRC... However those in government tend to enthusiastically support such measures as they rarely experience the downsides of their actions because they have the money and the means to immune themselves from the consequences at the coalface that the rest of us have to endure.

And as the experiences of Complete Bastard fighting with South Gloucestershire Council over council tax very clearly shows not even the law is a defence - especially when it consists of willful corruption by the Police, Councils and Bailiffs in the cause of forcing people to hand over money which the state believes is theirs regardless. He quite rightly notes in conclusion:
Put simply, this is a government at war with its people.
Of course we as a people can rebel...and demand a better way of running our own country.

Tuesday 13 May 2014

It's Only Comment...?

Lord Leveson once remarked that there was an important difference between mainstream journalists with "a powerful reputation for accuracy" and bloggers and tweeters who were "no more than electronic versions of pub gossip". This from the same man who produced a report, following a public inquiry, on newspaper standards by copying and pasting inaccurate information from Wikipedia.

With this in mind I can reveal I have now received a decision regarding my ongoing complaint with the Press Complaints Commission over an article in the Telegraph by Mats Persson regarding Norway's relationship with the EU.

As I noted at the time I was under no illusions of a positive outcome, largely because I suspected that the PCC would be acutely aware that to uphold my complaint would go against the position of every newspaper, all three main parties and the Prime Minister. This despite that even Norway itself acknowledges its influence and representation as a member of the EEA. I was more intrigued on how the PCC would attempt to wriggle out of upholding it.

Thus it comes as no surprise that the PCC found no breach - I reproduce the judgement in full below (my emphasis throughout):
The complainant raised concerns about an article discussing the potential difficulties should the UK leave the European Union. He said that the newspaper had breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice. The complainant stated that it was inaccurate to refer to Norway’s relationship with the EU as “regulation without representation” and subsequently to draw the conclusion that there was “no good off-the-peg model”. He also said that it was misleading for the article to suggest that, under Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, EU member states and institutions would be able to block the UK’s market access, as this would contravene international law.
The Commission wished first to note that the article in question was clearly signposted as a comment piece. Clause 1 (i) of the Editors’ Code of Practice states that “the press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information, including pictures.” Clause 1 (iii) makes clear however, that the press are free to report comment and conjecture, provided that it is clearly distinguished from fact. The Commission first considered the complainant’s objection to the description of Norway’s model of European involvement as “regulation without representation”. The complainant acknowledged that this term had been used to characterise the situation in 2012, by Norwegian Foreign Minister Espen Eide. The Commission noted that the complainant did not agree with this assessment and considered that it did not address the complexity of the Norwegian model. However, the article was representative of the columnist’s views on how the UK could maintain a relationship with Europe after leaving the Union.  The reference to the lack of a good “off-the-peg” model was clearly the journalist’s own personal opinion.  Readers would not have been led to believe that the article presented an in depth factual analysis of post-EU options for the UK, or of Norway’s relationship with the EU. As such, the Commission did not consider the use of this quotation to be inaccurate under the terms of Clause 1.
The complainant was further concerned by the article’s suggestion that if  Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty were to be invoked to facilitate Britain’s exit from the EU, other member states and institutions “could block market access” for the UK. The Commission noted the complainant’s position that such a course of action would not be compatible with international law. In this case, the statement was clearly a matter of conjecture on the part of the journalist, which, under the terms of Clause 1 (iii), newspapers are free to publish, as long as it is clearly distinguished from fact. The article made clear that the effects of Article 50 were “so far untested”, and the Commission was satisfied that any discussion of them was clearly speculation. As such, there was no breach of the Code.
I do like the term "as long as it is clearly distinguished from fact" - I'm not quite sure if that's a Freudian slip.

What's interesting is the PCC has not attempted to dispute my points and indeed has ignored some of them from my subsequent clarification email which it requested. One such point was regarding Persson's argument that:
“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." 
Yet if the UK invoked Article 50 it still remains a fully fledged European Union member state until either exit negotiations have been concluded or after two years when the EU treaties cease to take effect automatically. Therefore while negotiations are ongoing with regard to a UK exit, for the EU to take such an action against an EU member state would be in fundamental breach of its own treaties and the basic four freedoms of the Single Market. Mats Persson's assertion is just plain wrong - and the PCC ignored it.

And the PCC ignored it by hiding behind the "comment" clause highlighted in bold above. Clearly in their conclusion any lies can be written in a newspaper as long as it is defined as comment.

Strangely then we learn that this principle doesn't always seem to apply to others. Christopher Booker's article in the Sunday Telegraph is listed under comment. This can been seen quite clearly in the screen grab below (and even just by the URL itself):

Yet Mr Booker who has written extensively about the EU, climate change and family courts has long been subjected to PCC complaints and rulings. To give but two random examples:
Mr Bob Ward of the LSE's Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment complained to the Press Complaints Commission that an article headlined "Rise of sea levels is ‘the greatest lie ever told'" published in The Sunday Telegraph on 29 March 2009 was inaccurate and misleading in breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors' Code of Practice.
The PCC's adjuication began:
Newspapers are obliged, under the terms of Clause 1, to take care not to publish inaccurate information, and this applies as much to scientific matters as any other. Indeed, the PCC often considers, resolves and adjudicates on complaints about science reporting.
Yet this clause below quoted to me is nowhere to be seen in Booker's adjudication, despite his column clearly listed as comment:
Clause 1 (iii) makes clear however, that the press are free to report comment and conjecture, provided that it is clearly distinguished from fact. 
Another example:
Sir Nicolas Bratza, a former President of the European Court of Human Rights, complained to the Press Complaints Commission that a column by Christopher Booker had inaccurately reported details of his involvement with a conference at the Council of Europe, in breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors' Code of Practice.
And a PCC resolution despite it being "comment":
The complaint was resolved after the PCC negotiated the following correction and apology, published in Mr Booker's column:
Although my complaint wasn't upheld at least we have further confirmation of another "above the line" organisation eager to maintain the establishment status quo regardless of the facts. The PCC's reluctance to dispute the detail of my complaint however does mean we may have potential should a newspaper attempt to report Norway's "democracy by fax" in an article that is not comment...

But then what do I know? I'm only an electronic version of pub gossip.

Thursday 8 May 2014

Lib Dems: Liars And Cowards

I suspect to no-one's great surprise the Liberal Democrats reveal that they don't have a principled bone in their body.

As an example, above is a picture illustrated by Clegg of their pledge on students fees which they then heavily reneged on and then, despite a promise to have a referendum on UK membership of the EU, they reversed so quickly the tyre marks are still visible on the tarmac six years later.

Thus, as noted by EUReferendum and Autonomous Mind, in 2003 Clegg revealed that "Probably half of all new legislation now enacted in the UK begins in Brussels". This in complete contrast to his debate with Nigel Farage where he stated that (rounding up from 6.8%) that 7% of laws were made in Brussels.

A complete contradiction for sure on Clegg's behalf, which brings us neatly onto Dan Hodges who resides on the Telegraph. Let's remind ourselves of this article by Dan Hodges, who was hugely critical of Miliband's actions over Syria and as a consequence left the Labour party on 'principle':
I still have no idea whether he really supported or opposed military action against Syria, and now I never will. What I do know is that at every step of the way Ed Miliband’s actions were governed by what was in his own narrow political interests, rather than the national interest. As for the children of Syria, they didn’t even get a look in.

This week I’ve seen the true face of Ed Miliband. And I suspect that the country has too.
Then we are also reminded of this article (as an example):
Lord Rennard sex scandal: Nick Clegg reminds us once again what an idiot he is 
So it is with some astonishment (or maybe not) that we see this today from Dan Hodges...
So that’s why I’ve decided to vote for Nick Clegg. The Lib Dem leader is the only one to have the courage to take a stand against Ukip from the beginning. Yes, there’s obviously an element of political calculation behind his decision.
He knows it’s good for the Lib Dem base – what’s left of it – to see him taking the fight to the anti-European Right. But moments when doing what’s right and what’s politically expedient at the same time don’t come along that often in politics. And when they do they do, those that engineered them deserve to be rewarded.
Which he confirms via his twitter account:

It's not unreasonable to conclude therefore that Dan Hodges has decided to go from one unprincipled leader to another. With this in mind I attempted to take Dan Hodges to task on Twitter over his conflicting views. I didn't expect to receive a response from the chap himself and nor have I as yet.

However my tweet of calling Clegg a liar to Hodges unexpectedly prompted a twitter debate with the Lib Dem MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale and President of the Liberal Democrats, Tim Farron.

Mr Farron I strongly suspect was clearly irritated by my accusation of calling his boss a liar (an accusation I fully stand by) but revealingly he sought not to engage with me on those terms, instead we had wonderful straw man tweets, the exchange can be found here.

However as an example when tweeting by myself that Norway has more say over EU law than the UK does, the response received was as follows:

I duly sent such links (via six tweets), many of the themes familiar with readers of this blog - and I was only just warming up as well - I had many more to go. Despite that the response in return was:

One notes during the exchange that I didn't mention "gold plating" once, then after asking for links which detailed my arguments, the Lib Dem President signs off with the following tweet:

Has to go to an event? Says the man who carries on tweeting not long after... Clearly when faced with the facts he can't defend his support for the "project". Which says it all...

All of this begs the question that if the EU project is so wonderful why do those in favour have to be so deceptive about it?

Monday 5 May 2014

The "Life On Mars" Option Lives On In UKIP...

Not unreasonably we assumed that the question of how we exit from the EU had been resolved by UKIP. Farage made clear that we would need to invoke Article 50 and rightly so for reasons that have been well rehearsed here and elsewhere.

However as can be seen in the image above policy consistency within UKIP on how to exit is still frustratingly elusive. The image has been scanned in from a UKIP newspaper from an article titled "We Expose The Top 10 Myths About The EU".

The paper was delivered to me today along with an election leaflet as part of a campaign for the upcoming Euro elections. Given that the newspaper has not been "localised" in any way we can only assume this newspaper has been sent to households across the country as part of a nation-wide campaign.

We are initially perplexed why a UKIP newspaper directly contradicts Farage himself on major party policy? In addition it is an idea that prompts a "head in the hands" moment that we can undo 40 years of integration, trade agreements and regulation in one single day and carry on as normal. It is simply beyond a joke.

To give an example of the complexity of international relations, the UK's entry into the then EEC took 11 years - we first began negotiations in 1961 and didn't sign a formal agreement until 1972.

Another example is Greenland, a vastly smaller country than ourselves who voted to leave the then EEC in a referendum in 1981. But it wasn't until 1985 that a Treaty was formalised. It was hugely complex and even now it still has a special relationship with the EU as part of its overseas countries and territories.

Switzerland demonstrates other complexities with its bilateral agreements which are now falling apart; bilateral agreements which are still ongoing 22 years after rejecting the EEA agreement in 1992.

Thus should we have an "in-out" referendum the europhiles and the pro-EU media would rip the "Life On Mars" option to pieces, liberally sprinkled with FUD on top. Any referendum would certainly be lost.

I guess though on a very slightly upbeat note if nothing else at least the UKIP paper resolves one long running dilemma for me. I have always been a very reluctant participant in Euro elections. If I voted at all, it was always done through very gritted teeth. To vote in the Euro elections is, for me, to legitimise a system I fundamentally disagree with.

However I understood the pragmatic point that the Euro elections provided a political platform - and money - to help UKIP grow in the face of a hostile domestic political system which inherently is heavily weighed against the rise of new parties.

Yet despite 15 years of MEPs, and all the money that goes with that, UKIP has still failed to provide any coherent strategy or plan to leave. A failure compounded by the fact that very workable and coherent strategies are freely available on the internet, not least by Richard North.

This then leads to two conclusions; that a vote for UKIP is to put more people on the MEP gravy train for no obvious benefit to the eurosceptic cause, and even worse that a vote for UKIP would actually mean we remain in the EU for generations to come by virtue of losing any forthcoming referendum due to a complete lack of a feasible workable exit plan.

The question is often asked when critising UKIP, if not them then who? The answer is now simple - no-one. A vote for UKIP is no different than a vote for the Tories, Labour and the Lib Dems: The outcome will be precisely the same - we remain EU members.

After 20 years what a waste...

Sunday 4 May 2014

Judas Express

Despite the above front page, the Daily Express's stance of UK exit has always been dubious. It has been little different to other papers in its coverage of EU matters making many of the same basic errors and assumptions. It ignored for example the EU's hidden hand behind many of the changes to the Royal Mail.

Today's Express editorial confirms our suspicions. It could be suggested that it has performed a U-turn but that would have required the paper to have been genuinely eurosceptic in the first place. Straight out of Cameron's handbook we get this:
[Ukip] is defined by what it is against: it wants to withdraw from the EU, retreat into a UK that no longer exists, hoist the drawbridge and turn its back on the people who are our allies and largest trading partners.

In an increasingly fractious world, with the Russian bear growling ominously in the east and conflict in the Middle East, would it not be better to stay among the people who are essentially our friends?
And we know what's coming, yup... reform:
Of course the EU is riddled with problems.

There is waste and corruption on an industrial scale, a bloated bureaucracy, unelected officials with a sense of entitlement and grotesque expense accounts, and a tendency to meddle in the affairs of member countries.

Surely it would be better to try to make reforms within the EU rather than just throwing it all away?
Should we not return to the very fundamentals of what the EU should be and work to build an institution of which we can be proud?
Despite that the EU is exactly what it set out to be; that it is designed to be unelected, designed to meddle in the affairs of member states and reform to make it different to how it was designed is a complete and utter non-starter. It is sometimes a wonder how British national newspapers can write such unmitigated crap with a straight face.

What it confirms though, as if we didn't already know, that in any referendum campaign the out side will have no friends in the media, not even the Express. One possible antidote to this of course would be to have a half-decent website...