Tuesday 31 March 2015

UKIP: Thanks For Nothing

We've noted before on this blog UKIP's increasingly toxic tendency to blame "everything on immigrants". Previously it was Farage's assertion that he was held up on the M4 motorway due to the fact that "open door immigration has meant that the M4 is not as navigable as it used to be'".

That he was traveling by car early evening on a Friday around a notorious bottleneck on the M4 wasn't taken into consideration. Thus "bloody immigrants" was dog whistle politics writ large.

With this in mind it therefore comes as no surprise to see that Farage believes that immigrants are to blame for children not playing in the streets:
Britons are so ill at ease with levels of immigration in their towns that their children do not play football with their neighbours in the streets, Nigel Farage has said.
The UK Independence Party leader said people in eastern England felt a “deep level of discomfort” about the millions of immigrants who have settled in the UK in the past decade.
He said: “I want to live in a community where our kids play football in the streets of an evening and live in a society that is at ease with itself.
And I sense over the last decade or more we are not at ease"
It's not unfair in our view to believe that Nick Griffin would have been proud of these sentiments. That children may not, or cannot, play in the streets is often down to a myriad of factors, not least its illegal, it's unsafe and that many roads simply have too many cars - ironically Farage's children couldn't play outside his own house, in the street, for this reason alone.

In trying to remove ourselves from the EU however Farage's language is toxic. With what began as a eurosceptic party, has been hijacked by a man who has turned it into a self-promotional vehicle and is prepared as a consequence to condemn the eurosceptic movement in terms which hinder significantly the argument of getting out. So much so that we are set to lose before we even start.

With such language and thus with effectively a self-imposed glass ceiling on support, no wonder the media have begun to catch up with bloggers by noticing belatedly that UKIP's trend is on a downward trajectory.

With so-called 'UKIP strategy' we get a measure of the man when we see this:
“If we went to every town up eastern England and spoke to people about how they felt, their town, their city had changed in the last 15 years, there is a deep level of discomfort, because if you have immigration at these sorts of levels integration doesn’t happen.” 
Note the words "eastern England". It's an odd statement to make for a leader of a party named the United Kingdom Independence Party. What about Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales where immigration is not necessarily such a vote winner - immigration has an uneven effect across the country.

But within "eastern England" is the constituency of Thanet South; where Farage is standing to be elected as an MP. It's also next door to where UKIP held its Spring Conference in Margate which had no mobile signal nor internet access.

A professional party with workable facilities at its conference less important than Farage's own campaign it seems. So no policies, no strategy, no exit plan just dog-whistle soundbites to get Farage elected.

Perhaps in this sense it will work and this will please the cult, but in getting us out of the EU no chance.

What a waste of 20 odd years...

Friday 27 March 2015

An Ending

The Lib Dems used, rather ironically, Brian Eno's 'An Ending' music in a party political broadcast five years ago.

I guess given the state of the party going into the 2015 election and the sacking of Jeremy Clarkson, now is as good as time as any to revisit a classic and now relevant Top Gear segment.

Wednesday 25 March 2015

Why A 2015 EU Referendum Cannot Happen (Update).

Following on from our previous post regarding the impossibility of a 2015 referendum, we contacted the Electoral Commission to try to clarify a number of further potential technical issues.

While, like most quangos, the Electoral Commission displayed a deep reluctance to commit themselves to answering certain questions posed, their first response confirmed our initial points that, contrary to Farage's assertion, a referendum cannot happen in a few weeks (quoted from the Electoral Commission's email):
Currently, we cannot say how the designation process will work at any future referendum until Parliament passes the legislation setting out the rules for that referendum. 

Our role is to regulate the referendum and designate campaigners under the rules for each referendum. The rules that applied at previous referendums required the Commission to designate campaigners that sufficiently represented those campaigning for the outcome they support, or, if more than one, represented those campaigning to the greatest extent.
This reiterates precisely our point that it means campaigning groups can't begin to officially campaign until they submit bids for the official "in" and "out" campaign and have been approved. With Scotland a campaign period of 16 weeks was the recommendation.

However the approval process is likely to take six months as also recommended by the Electoral Commission. This six month process cannot happen until after the referendum bill becomes law which in itself at best will take months.

Thus with the Electoral Commission's recommendations which considered the experience with Scotland (for recommendations, read demands) it becomes clear that a 2015 referendum is simply out of the question.

Saturday 21 March 2015

If You Want To Be Strictly Accurate...

An interesting phenomenon which becomes apparent when being an established blogger is the nature of the readership - it never fails to amaze who actually reads the bog. Despite being dismissed as "electronic version of pub gossip", bloggers can sometimes make a real difference.

With this in mind it's interesting that for the first time this blog has had readership from the European Parliament. Since my previous post was published yesterday on why a 2015 EU referendum cannot happen the hit rate from the EU Parliament has been very significant.

It's hard to pin down influence of course, but sometimes media reports which belatedly begin to write about very familiar themes in similar language can be difficult to explain away as mere coincidences.

An example would be in a piece in today's Telegraph; 11 things we've learned about Jeremy Clarkson. The piece relates to Top Gear's Stig delivering a petition to the BBC's London headquarters to call for the return of the show's host, Jeremy Clarkson, while being transported on this - pictured below:

The vehicle is virtually identical to the one which was used during a protest outside the UKIP Spring Conference in Margate back in February:

It was universally described as a tank, however as EUReferendum noted:
If one wonders just how naff the Daily Mail can become, one just needs to visit the headline of their piece on the Ukip spring conference in Margate. There, we are told, the Ukipites were "gatecrashed" by "NAZI dancing troupe goose-stepping through Margate in front of a Second World War tank".

Notwithstanding any other errors, the vehicle in question is not a tank – it is an Abbot FV433 self-propelled gun. And it is not of World War II vintage. It was actually introduced into British Army service in 1965. I remember it well as, about that time, I was nearly flattened by one when it came hurtling down a track on which we had pitched our tent (don't ask).
Therefore and rather interestingly half way down Telegraph piece today, we have this by the author of the piece Anita Singh, Arts and Entertainment Editor:
A man dressed as Top Gear's Stig has delivered the petition to the BBC's London headquarters in a tank (or self-propelled artillery, if you want to be strictly accurate).
This provokes two interesting observations. One that given the media as a whole have described it as tank, that Anita Singh acknowledges accurately it might be something else such as self-propelled artillery - of where there is only one source to report this - suggests strongly blogs are read.

The second is the dismissive tone of describing self-propelled artillery as "if you want to be strictly accurate". These are two completely different types of military vehicle.

To give an analogy, in the spirit of Clarkson and Top Gear, we could say that the car pictured below is obviously a Mercedes-AMG GT which has 4.0-litre V8 biturbo and produces 462hp. This allows it to achieve 0-60 mph in as little as 3.8 seconds.

But of course "if you want to be strictly accurate" we would note the picture is actually one of an Enzo Ferrari.

What a good example that is of a newspaper publicly acknowledging that "being strictly accurate" is an optional extra.

Friday 20 March 2015

Why A 2015 EU Referendum Cannot Happen.

As noted in the Independent last Sunday, Nigel Farage has indicated that he will support a minority Conservative Government if Prime Minster David Cameron promises a referendum in 2015:
"The terms of my deal with the Tories would be very precise and simple. I want a full and fair referendum to be held in 2015 to allow Britons to vote on being in or out of the European Union. There would be no wiggle room for 'renegotiation' somewhere down the line'.

"The EU is facing an existential crisis and, given that it only takes a few weeks to launch and organise a referendum, it should be held in 2015.”
Although we would largely agree with the sentiments of a "full and fair" referendum, we would take issue with the "very precise and simple" demand that a referendum should be held in 2015 and "given that it only takes a few weeks to launch." For the very precise and simple reason that it can't be done. Farage is offering impossible terms on the practicality of timescale.

To support Farage's demands comparisons are sometimes made with the 1975 referendum where it is claimed that it is possible to have a referendum in a few weeks, the timeline often quoted is as follows:
December 1974: Harold Wilson requests renegotiation of EEC membership terms.

European Council agreed to new terms for UK in Dublin by 11 March 1975 and renegotiation largely ended.

26 February 1975: White Paper announcing referendum to be held after result of renegotiation was known

26 March 1975: Referendum Bill published.

31 March 1975: White Paper setting out the results of the renegotiation of the UK membership of the EC.

9 April 1975: after a three-day debate on the Government’s recommendation to continue Britain’s EC membership, the Commons voted 396 to 170 to continue in Common Market on the new terms. At the same time Government drafts Referendum Bill, to be moved in case of a successful renegotiation.

On 22 April 1975 the House of Lords approved continued membership by 261 votes to 20.

Post-legislative referendum held 5 June 1975. Referendum not directly related to White Paper on renegotiation, but preamble referred to renegotiation. Question much broader: “Do you think the UK should stay in the European Community (Common Market)?” The result was 67 per cent in favour on a 65 per cent turnout.
As we can see in 1975 the passage through Parliament to holding a referendum took circa 10 weeks (26 March - 5 June) from publishing the Bill to holding the Referendum. The 1975 Referendum book though notes (p.66):
"But the real reason for the unexpectedly easy passage of the Bill was political: pro-Marketeers were in an overwhelming majority in the House of Commons and they had belatedly realised that the referendum would go their way."
Even with an easy passage it still took two and half months to have a referendum. The election in 2015 is in May, then there's a summer recess so we can expect it to take longer. Especially when we consider that due to the complexity of an EU that has significantly evolved in over 40 years of UK membership and the less certainty of a referendum result, that its passage through Parliament will be more turbulent and difficult.
We have noted before regarding trying to win a referendum, 1975 is not 2015. The country has moved on in forty years. Procedures are now different, for example in 1975 the campaign started in January 1975 long before the Referendum Bill had been passed - with self-appointed "umbrella" groups.

However unlike 1975 referendums are now the responsibility of the Electoral Commission, which was established under Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000. Thus on that alone the timescale in comparison to 1975 has changed.

With the establishment of the Electoral Commission it means that campaigning groups can't begin to officially campaign until they submit bids for the official "in" and "out" campaign and have been approved. This process cannot happen until after the referendum bill becomes law.

There has to be a reasonable period to allow the Electoral Commission to invite submissions and make the designation, and then the lead organisations must be given time to organise themselves.

As we can see from the Electoral Commission December 2014 report on the Scottish Independence Referendum held on 18 September 2014, it recommends (my emphasis):
... that in planning for any future referendums, not only in Scotland but also those held across or in other parts of the UK, governments should aim to ensure that legislation (including any secondary legislation) is clear at least six months before it is required to be implemented or complied with by campaigners, the Chief Counting Officer, Counting Officers or Electoral Registration Officers.
Thus "a reasonable period" according the Electoral Commission amounts to six months, as it argues to allow for (again my emphasis):
The benefit of this additional time was passed on to campaigners, EROs and COs in preparing for their respective roles at the referendum:
Campaigners were able to engage constructively with the legislative process and had time to develop an understanding of the relevant guidance and rules, before they came into force. EROs and COs benefitted from sufficient time to put robust plans in place for the delivery of their responsibilities under the legislation, from targeted public awareness activity to the booking of polling places and the training of staff.
In addition the Electoral Commission also recommends (again my emphasis):
2.39 Following the 2011 referendum on additional powers for the National Assembly for Wales and the Parliamentary Voting System for the House of Commons, we recommended that for future referendums the detailed rules should be clear at least 28 weeks in advance of polling day, based on a statutory regulated referendum campaign period of 16 weeks.
Although the Electoral Commission cannot demand, where it recommends will be taken into account should there be a challenge to the Bill and it goes to a Judicial Review as undoubtedly it would should there be any form of corner cutting or fast-tracking.

Yet even with a relatively smooth process by the Electoral Commission's recommendations there would be a ten month delay between an Act of Parliament and a vote: that obviously takes us well into 2016.

In addition Farage thinks he can determine the referendum question:
 "Do you wish to be a free, independent sovereign democracy?"
Despite the fact that the Electoral Commission has already put forward its proposals for the referendum question - its full report is here, Farage's suggestion wouldn't even pass the unambiguity test let alone the neutral one.

At this point I don't know what to conclude. Either Farage is very poorly briefed which is a reflection on a lack of a decent research department despite having (now) 22 very well paid MEPs or he knows this and is deliberately demanding conditions that Cameron (or indeed anyone else) cannot possibly meet.

The latter of course allows UKIP to put forward the criticism that Cameron cannot be trusted which conveniently helps prop up Farage's position. If one is to be cynical there's nothing better than having a perpetual enemy to oppose to justify your own existence, especially in the absence of any party polices.

Either way the eurosceptic movement is being very poorly served by UKIP.

Tuesday 17 March 2015

Captain Ranty

Going by twitter it appears that the blogger Captain Ranty has sadly passed away. Captain Ranty was a vigorous and very honest blogger and his blogging popularity was vividly highlighted to this blogger by the fact he was simply one of the biggest traffic sources to this blog via his blogroll. The hit rate was staggering.

Captain Ranty's philosophy and belligerence of "Freeman stuff, Lawful Rebellion stuff and Random stuff was always an inspiration. However it's been clear for some time that his recent posts have expressed a deep personal sadness. Perhaps in this context he's done something silly. I don't know.

Although I never had the pleasure in meeting him, he will be much missed in this corner of the internet. But we'll carry on the fight in his name.

Goodnight Captain...

Why The Pro-EU Telegraph Uses The Term 'Norway Model'

A recent Telegraph editorial, which is an unashamedly pro-EU paper, not unsurprisingly includes information from the recently outed pro-EU think tank Open Europe:
At first blush, then, today’s report by the think tank Open Europe on the costs of EU regulations to Britain should push the prime minister to head for the exit. The burden of the costliest 100 regulations to our economy is £33 billion, it says. And while the apparent benefits total more than £58 billion, some £46 billion of this derives from three items “which are vastly over-stated”. Financially, it seems, we are losing out.
By reducing the argument down to cost and economics means that it becomes divisive for the eurosceptic movement to its detriment as Richard North notes:
The trouble is that EU regulation, and how much money we may or may not save from leaving the EU, constitute the type of "biff-bam" arguments that the media love to report. But the two sides getting bogged down in such arcane details is precisely the wholesale turn-off for the general public that we need to avoid. If we are going to make any progress, the economic issues should be neutralised and "parked", not endlessly chewed over by a bunch of hyperactive think-tank wonks and ill-briefed politicians.

What we are seeing, therefore, is incompetent campaigning from both sides – although the need to overcome the status quo effect imposes greater demands on the "out" campaign. Equal incompetence means we lose. Either way, though, the anti-EU movement is being poorly served. And if we can't even trash the OE nonsense, we deserve everything we get.
Similarly arguing that the EU can be reformed has the same effect when trying to win a referendum. No wonder the pro-EU Telegraph is so enthusiastic in adopting such tactics.

Interestingly, and far more dangerously, Business for Britain whose Chief Executive is Mathew Elliot who is very keen to be the official out candidate for a referendum uses precisely the same arguments and terminology as pro-EU Open Europe and the Telegraph. Business for Britain's daily email briefings are virtually identical to Open Europe's.

No doubt Tory central office will be over the moon if Elliot would be the official candidate for the out campaign in a referendum.

Any genuine euroscepetic knows that the EU hides in plain sight that its raison d'etre is all about political union and has been from the outset. To ignore that as a eurosecptic movement could be described as dishonest. Thus by neutralising the economic arguments it allows us to concentrate on the fundamental principle that the EU is all about political union by its own admission.

Neutralising the economic arguments involves invoking the Norway Option, and more specifically Flexcit, by adopting the off the shelf EEA solution as a temporary measure allows us to negate the inevitable FUD threat in a referendum.

And it is a threat that the pro-EU press such as the Guardian and City AM fully recognise. If they didn't they wouldn't spend so much time in trying to undermine the argument.

With this mind, it is interesting that the Telegraph uses the phrase "Norway model" rather than the usual term "Norway Option";
The so-called “Norway” model – leave the EU but remain part of the European Economic Area.
A quick internet search suggests why; a search for the term 'Norway Model' is likely to result in links to copious pretty Norwegian women:

Conversely a search for the 'Norway Option' results in this and this:

This is cynicism by the Telegraph of the highest order, and this is an example of the dirty tricks we face. The eurosceptic movement as a whole needs to wise up...otherwise we will lose.

Sunday 15 March 2015

What Happened To British WW2 POW Camps?

As part of my history degree, which I completed some 20 years ago, I was tasked to write a 20,000 word dissertation during my final year on a subject of my choice.

I chose what was then a relatively little-studied subject of UK prisoner of war camps during the second World War. At the time the 50-year rule had just lapsed so many a happy hour was spent in Kew's National Archives studying and documenting WW2 official top secret documents which had just been released.

Although the history of the British in German POW camps is more familiar to us, not least through popular films such as The Great Escape and The Wooden Horse, less well known is the fate of the Germans and Italians, their treatment and the escape attempts in camps based in the UK.

Indeed the subject was so bereft at the time of books on the subject that much of my dissertation had to be derived from primary sources such as; official documents, site visits such as to Easton Grey Camp based at Malmesbury, Wiltshire and personal interviews across England, Jersey and France.

With this in mind I thought I would mention this piece on the BBC website which has an interesting, albeit rather brief article, on this very subject.

Saturday 14 March 2015

Shameless And Cynical?

The fine line between which areas are appropriate or not with which to criticise a politician is sometimes difficult to ascertain. For example are the family members of politicians off limits to criticism? It could be considered that politician family's privacy should largely be respected. Michael Portillo put this point rather forcefully earlier this week to Daily Mail columnist Sarah Vine over her vindictive criticism of Ed "two kitchens" Miliband.

But in contrast what happens when said "happy family" is used as electioneering material such as by Cecil Parkinson and Chris Huhne only then for us to later find out what a sham it all was? Does criticism then become justified?

Very obviously the bereavements suffered by both Gordon Brown and David Cameron over the loss of a child should be completely off limits. Yet while both men would understandably at times wish to be open about such a loss, there is always the difficulty of determining if such openness is being done for political reasons.

And this brings me onto Farage. I always remember that leading up to the 2010 election, Farage gave an interview to Camilla Long of the Sunday Times. What stuck in my mind was not that clearly the article in question had an agenda to undermine Farage but that it did so by openingly mocking the fact that he reportedly had testicular cancer in his youth.

In terms of the depths that the media can sometimes plummet to we can compare this to the media treatment of the great Victorian statesman, Gladstone. He was at times vitriolically disliked - Queen Victoria famously commented that "[Gladstone] speaks to me as if I were a public meeting". Yet despite the remorseless abuse from such satirical publications as Punch rarely, if ever, was Gladstone's disability mocked - that he lost fingers on one hand due to a shooting accident.

Interestingly where Farage is concerned we move on five years from 2010, where we see today in the Telegraph it has extracts from Farage's new book, where very 'candidly' he talks about his health:
Mr Farage, now 50, says the plane crash, combined with the effects of another car accident in his twenties, “has left me with a body 20 years older”.
It's worth noting that the car accident in question was the consequence of being too drunk and walking out in front of a moving vehicle. However:
The National Health Service “almost killed me”, Nigel Farage says today as he reveals that his body is now so frail that he could be registered disabled.
It is indeed curious that while UKIP still haven't publicly put forward any coherent polices in the lead up to a general election, despite a promise to have a manifesto published by their Spring Conference in Margate, Farage has managed to have another 'leader's book' published - essentially an updated version of 'Fighting Bull'. Maybe it's a coincidence but it conveniently ensures that the spotlight is largely on him running up to an election.

So we have to consider that with 'timing' being everything in politics whether the release of his new book, titled 'Purple Revolution' is candid or simply just shameless and cynical. A line seems to have been crossed over whether Farage and his health difficulties are now being exploited as an attempt at electoral gain. The title alone suggests an attempt to own the rise of UKIP and the eurosceptic movement.

It's also interesting that Farage has agreed to have the book be serialised for money in the Telegraph - a paper which is usually hostile to UKIP and nominally a Conservative supporting paper.

With this in mind it is indeed interesting that Farage has a great to say about his poor health, including revealing that his body is now so frail that he could be registered disabled. This rather contradicts his message at UKIP's Spring Conference at Margate recently:
There has been a lot of speculation about where have I been, why have not been on the television all the time. This has been led to my opponents to spread some speculation about my health that I am seriously ill and that is why I have not been seen.

I hate to disappoint my opponents but can I make it clear that rumours of my demise have been greatly exaggerated.” 
So not only is the timing curious but someone it appears is making things up as he goes along. Farage then continues:
An MRI scan followed at the private London Bridge Hospital, and I was referred to Mr Bhupal Chitnavis, a top-dollar consultant neurosurgeon. He said he was shocked by the damage to my neck and that, if I wanted, he would sign me off as being partially disabled for the rest of my life. I certainly did not want one of those blue badges — it would be conceding defeat — but it was a shocking moment.
Now there's no doubt Farage suffered injuries as a result of the plane crash:
Where the issue lies is his casual link deployed between being a Blue Badge holder and being registered partially or fully disabled.

Leaving aside the sentiment that apparently being a blue badge holder means conceding defeat - no doubt that 2.58 million blue badge holders would contest otherwise and would probably take offense at the term "those blue badges", being registered disabled is different and is a misleading term.

Under the Equality Act it has such a varied broad definition, that it could apply to anything, including those perceived to be disabled and those associated with a disabled person (e.g. a parent or partner). The principle of the Equality Act is that discrimination on grounds of disability happens in all sorts of ways to all sorts of people.

The real test in our view of being genuinely disabled is whether you qualify for a Blue Badge and or DLA/PIP benefits. Here the criteria is far more strict; as an example if you have a permanent or substantial disability which means you can’t walk or find walking very difficult you are still required to take further assessments before a blue badge is issued.

As is obvious by the above photograph with Farage walking away from a plane crash and his current twitter status - "back on the campaign trail" - he would have absolutely no chance of being eligible for a blue badge.

We only conclude then that what we have is a rather shameless and cynical appeal for the sympathy vote.

Thursday 12 March 2015

Snatching Defeat From The Jaws Of Victory

There's no question that an "out" campaign in any referendum faces a significant challenge when it is against a very powerful EU movement which has the means and money to outgun us. There is also no doubt that unfair tactics will be used in abundance. In addition we mustn't forget that the "in" campaign in terms of argument and narrative only has to draw (to maintain the status quo) while the "out" campaign has to make the case for winning.

In many ways therefore we are disadvantaged - we are fighting against formidable odds yet as I have noted previously we do have advantages on our side. However with a referendum it's actually our own side, perhaps surprisingly, which is more likely to contribute to our potential defeat.

Earlier this week I had a very fine lunch with passionate anti-EU campaigners White Wednesday and Jason Kent - who is a local Oxfordshire UKIP member and general election agent. Among the many issues discussed there was one which expressed a sense of frustration that the "out" side is less than unified in coming together to adopt a winning strategy to leave. It's a frustration I fully share.

An intriguing problem is that the "out" side has long consisted of strong-willed individuals. But while the individuality and diversity of the "out" camp in many ways should be celebrated - a trait which is the antithesis of the borg-like EU - it's that very trait which often means we are usually nothing more than an 'unorganised rabble' unable to unify behind a coherent positive message or campaign; each with their own egos, own agendas and petty squabbles. Thus when we face a very formidable enemy such diversity will count against us.

The very informative 1975 referendum book by Butler and Kitzinger documents a little nugget which neatly and vividly illustrates this 'herding cats' problem back in 1975:
The main elements in the National Referendum Campaign (the anti-marketeers) were the Common Market Safeguards Campaign and Get Britain Out (GBO)...

There was considerable hostility between these two bodies; following the failure of either the Anti-Common Market League or Safeguards to fulfill an alleged promise to contribute to the cost of a bookstall at Blackpool for the Conservative Conference in 1973.
[GBO's] Christopher Frere-Smith and Richard Body had withdrawn from Safeguards...and Ron Leighton was recruited as full-time Director bringing with him all his Safeguards experience and contacts...
The 1975 referendum campaign could claim to have excuses for such failings though; they had no experience to draw upon and they had little time to prepare. In contrast we have no such excuses yet in many ways we seem determined to repeat many of the same mistakes that were made in 1975.

The crucial aspect of any campaign is to appeal to the waverers - the 'soft middle' - which is mostly decidedly undecided. Thus any "out" campaign which tries to appeal to the likes of Nick Clegg is a waste of time as indeed it would be to the readers of this blog and others. A situation we could consider was aptly summed up by the actress Julia Roberts who played a prostitute in the film Pretty Woman:
I appreciate the whole seduction thing you've got going on here, but let me give you a tip: I'm a sure thing.
Yet we get the sense that the eurosceptic movement in general cannot move outside a comfort zone - failing to try to appeal to those who are not a 'sure thing'. Instead they continually try to seduce those who have already made up their minds.

And this is where Flexcit comes in; by removing the uncertainty of exit, by negating the status quo effect and by circumventing big business self-interest who believe that the EU and the Single Market are the same thing we have a genuine chance of appealing to the soft important middle and winning a referendum.

But sadly we still see that the diversity of the eurosceptic movement means that many arguments have not changed in many years - it is a reflection of the lack of ability to move on; in stark contrast to the EU which has done so with subsequent treaties. Lisbon being the obvious latest one.

Thus it leaves us with old tired canards such as how many laws are made by the EU. This has been an obsession within the eurosceptic movement for as long as it has been about. Does it really matter if 64.6% of laws are made in the EU? And if so is that better than 64.5% or 55.8%. Is 9.8% acceptable? More importantly does it appeal to the public. Since the banking collapse in 2008 and the likes of Starbucks aggressively avoiding tax, the public mood could be said to be in favour of more regulation.

All a 'Westminster village' type campaign to try to determine the percentage of EU laws amounts to, quite bluntly, is a penis measuring competition within the eurosceptic movement as to who can come up with the most 'accurate' figure. Naturally this then leads to arguments within the movement over the exact figure inhibiting us from turning our fire onto the opposition. No wonder that Europhile campaigners are willing to engage in such a discussion; it helps divide us.

Yet not only does an uncoordinated rabble make for a incoherent message but its inherent weakness means it essentially vacates the territory leaving it vulnerable to be infiltrated by someone else with less than honest intentions.

When a referendum campaign starts, there has to be an official bid to the Electoral Commission to represent the "out" campaign where a very substantial amount of funding will be available. We saw the process of this with Scotland; Better Together whose official Campaign Director was Blair McDougall and Yes Scotland whose chief executive was Blair Jenkins.

It's here the weakness of the diversity of the "out" campaign can be exploited by the pro-EU establishment which can install and control the opposition general. Already we can see indications of this happening with Business for Britain and in particular Matthew Elliott.

BfB gives a "voice" to Roger Bootle who stitched up the IEA prize, and a platform to other supporters such as Alan Halsall, Neville Baxter and Robert Hiscox to name but three who have supported the recently publicly outed pro-EU think tank Open Europe.

More than a few in the eurosceptic movement are unimpressed with Elliott's ill-disguised ambitions to further his own career, as a potential MP, on the back of a referendum campaign, nor are they impressed with his sycophantic nature towards Tory politicians...obviously with his career in mind.

With Cameron exerting undue influence over Elliott, his abysmal record with NOtoAV where he had to be bailed out by senior members of the Tory party such was the nature of the poor campaign, nothing should worry the eurosceptics more than for Elliott to win the bid for the official "out".

By 'deliberately' losing the referendum he can be assured of Tory gratitude with rewards to match. If Elliott takes control in an EU referendum we would have lost before we started.

Thus elements of the eurosceptic movement has to grow up, accept the Boolean nature of a referendum and start preparing for a dirty fight if we are to win.

Saturday 7 March 2015

The Telegraph's Race To The Bottom

For those unversed in motorsport, or more specifically Formula One, Spanish driver Alonso - one of its best drivers of the current generation - is at the centre of speculation concerning a head injury as a result of a high speed crash.

The Spaniard crashed his McLaren into the wall during pre-season testing at the Circuit de Catalunya on 22 February and reportedly was concussed. As a result he was airlifted to hospital where he spent three nights and has now been advised not to start the season opening in Melbourne. Clearly and rightly it is being treated seriously and McLaren's lack of openness regarding the situation suggests there maybe more to it than is being made public.

Certainly as any F1 fan acutely appreciates in recent years head injuries are not to be treated lightly; as evident on recent occasions with Michael Schumacher and Jules Bianchi last season. Such details are not for the Telegraph who via Judith Wood, under the section of F1 News informs us that Alonso is a lucky man because:,
...the Spaniard was so badly concussed he initially lost his memory and believed he was a boy again. Most striking was that his 13-year-old-self told doctors that his ambition was to be a Formula 1 driver. Twenty years on, he is living his (admittedly dangerous) dream. How many of us can say that?
I dimly recall that at 13 I wanted to be a nun. Weirdly, my husband entertained the idea of becoming a pillar hermit, à la Simeon Stylites – before and not after he married me, since you ask. We both drifted into journalism, about which I’m very pleased in particular, because it has meant I have been able to meet Donny Osmond.
There is much to be said for following your heart. But if you are happiest sailing or cooking or raising children, realising those ambitions might not be how you earn a living. What all 13-year-olds have in common is a sense of passion and endless possibility – and it’s holding on tight to those that counts, whether you drive a McLaren-Honda or take Holy Orders.
And there we have it, a head injury reduced down to the level of tittle tattle. We shouldn't be surprised, this is from the same journalist (I use the term loosely) who has a recent article about what happens to dogs when a couple breaks up.

No wonder that increasingly if we want proper news, and not just with sport, we have to go elsewhere.

Friday 6 March 2015

BBC License Tax Bullies

It is well documented that the state broadcaster known as the BBC has an institutional left wing bias, or more accurately perhaps we should describe it as has having a Guardian-based (London centric) bias - which is not necessarily the same thing.

More objectionable, from this blog's point of view, is BBC bias regarding membership of the EU - this becomes acutely apparent with its EU coverage. Leaving aside the techniques it used in the early '70s of removing "anti-marketeer" broadcasters at the behest of the then Tory Heath government, subsequent and various internal reports have detailed the fundamental lack of BBC impartiality.

The BBC's own internal reports acknowledges albeit very reluctantly the problem of EU coverage - this is evident in the infamous Wilson report for example. The BBC's "we've listened but we'll do nothing" response to the Wilson Report is very familiar to any of us who have complained - as taxpayers our impotency is laid bare by BBC's stock answers which amount to little.

The Wilson report is not the only accusation of BBC pro-EU bias - further independent analysis of BBC coverage of EU matters has delivered more damning evidence:
Consistent airtime imbalance between advocacy and presentation of the Europhile perspective and the Eurosceptic case in an overall ratio of 2:1.
Consistent presentational bias (in the limited time allocated) through treating Eurosceptic opinion as extreme rather than as an alternative policy approach ñ reflecting and supported by public opinion ñ to membership of the EU.
Poor journalistic standards, including inaccurate reporting of statistics and sources. For example, the BBC Programme Complaints Unit has acknowledged that figures on Irish inward investment were used misleadingly.

The wrong use of these figures influenced the coverage of the second Irish referendum on the Treaty of Nice in October 2002.
Of course it's not helpful trying to persuade us that the BBC is impartial when it receives millions from the EU itself; funding which it tries to hide. Those of us who have fought for many years know the BBC pro-EU bias, and certainly I experienced it directly as a Parliamentary candidate in the 2010 election on a number of occasions.

Further suspicion of its significant lack of impartiality comes when we consider that the BBC, being a state broadcaster, was immune from EU single market competition rules in 2002:
Finally, part 5 gives Ofcom tough competition powers to act concurrently with the Office of Fair Trading. Ofcom will be able to use general competition powers, but we are also retaining, very importantly, sector-specific competition rules for broadcasting—a vital part of protecting markets that do not deliver key policy objectives purely by leaving them to competition alone. Ofcom will have flexibility to use sector-specific powers, but it will not use them where it would be more appropriate for it to use general competition powers.
Of course we would argue that the BBC can be as bias as it like except for the simple fact that its funding in the main comes from threats to send UK citizens to jail on failure to pay its television tax. Thus it has an inherent principle that it should be bound to be impartial. Failure to do so makes it morally right to withdrawal our funding.

It then clearly fails, and with this in mind it's odd then to observe that a nation which comprehensively rejected a poll tax under Margaret Thatcher is largely willing to accept what is a poll tax on a widely used item which provides information. A poll tax which is regressive and so affecting the poorest the greatest.

Aside from being regressive it is a television poll tax which enables the BBC to essentially be immune from market forces - no-one has to take responsibility for institutional and systematic failings.

In addition to the lack of accountability, it also means that the BBC has the power to try to bully those who do not conform when it comes to paying the television tax. YouTube has a plethora of examples of bullying when it comes to collecting the television tax.

Nothing can demonstrate this culture better than the BBC's notorious and sinister 'Big Brother' type propaganda; "We know where you live". Oddly this particular BBC advert for its license fee, which was withdrawn after protests, has proved to be harder to find on the internet than we would reasonably assume for a relatively recent campaign,

And it is for these reasons I no longer pay my license fee and I haven't for around five years. Using a PlayStation 3 (PS3) or now a PS4 to view television programmes on demand removes me from the need to legally have a license. In addition I have withdrawn TVL's implied right of access to my property and that so far seems to have done the job in terms of being harassed. I rarely receive reminder notices nor have I ever had a "visit".

Yet just this week a young single mum, who has three children and lives not far from me, has been on my doorstop in tears. I have known her for over 10 years. Financially restricted she doesn't pay her tv license.  Yet while she was briefly visiting her neighbours, a TVL Visting Officer (VO) entered her property having been let in by her 11 year eldest child. There where no adults in the property at the time. As a consequence TVL are trying now to use evidence gained as a result against her.

This completely contrary to the guidelines which are perfectly clear:
Entry To Premises.
7.0 When there is admitted or suspected evasion, or where the interviewee claims that there is no television, the VO should ask permission to enter the premises in order to confirm this.

Premises must never be entered when the only person present is a child/minor.
We would view that entering a property with only minors present would not only be a legal problem but also one which a VO would consider puts them in a position of vulnerability regarding accusations of inappropriate behaviour. How revealing that didn't occur to him in his enthusiasm to fulfill a target.

The requirement to pay for a TV license comes under the Communications Act 2003 and Communications (Television Licensing) Regulations 2004 (as amended). A licence is not needed simply for holding a television set itself, but merely makes it an offence to watch or record television programmes as they are being broadcast including on other platforms such as; satellite and cable channels, mobile phones and the internet.

So how ironical that it's not the bullying nature of the license fee collectors that will undermine the BBC...but technology, which is embraced by the BBC itself.