Tuesday 29 September 2015

EU Referendum: Enriching Matthew Elliott and Friends...?

When we look back at the AV referendum in 2011 with Matthew Elliot who became the officially designated campaigner, the publicity antics of the "No2AV" campaign had a lot to be desired. It was a referendum which was basically un-loseable. No-one had asked for the referendum, and certainly with the option of PR removed, it was clearly only a 'little offer' by the Conservatives as a concession to coalition Deputy Leader Nick Clegg who had personally dismissed AV as a "miserable little compromise"

Thus being a referendum no-one wanted and weren't convinced completely by the alternative it had a very significant in-built status quo effect. First Past the Post is easy to explain, AV was less so.

No wonder then the "Yes! To Fairer Votes" campaign lost. Yet despite these inherent advantages the No2AV brand chose to adopt what some might call dubious tactics to try to win an un-loseable referendum, tactics which encountered much criticism:
Unsurprisingly as a consequence Elliott did not emerge at the time with much credit. Campaign posters were understandably dismissed as scaremongering, lies and inaccurate. Indeed a number of complaints were made to the Advertising Standards Authority regarding a number of No2AV adverts.

Observing the poster above, as an example, it's not difficult to understand why the complaints were made. The distinct impression put forward by the No2AV campaign was that either we vote against AV or the "baby gets it". In addition to the somewhat crass imagery on the poster, further concerns were expressed that the costs highlighted was less than accurate.

Blogger Sunny Hundal not unreasonably noted that the £250 million figure used was "deeply dishonest". The figure was not AV as a system but calculated "from the £150m price of electronic machines to count votes cast under the AV system, plus the £82m cost of holding the referendum and a further £20m-plus expense of publicity campaigns to explain AV if the voting system is changed". It misrepresented the cost of AV as a system once implemented.

Elliott seemingly made such a shambles of the campaign he had to essentially be bailed out by senior Conservatives in order to rescue the campaign.

But astonishingly in contrast to historical analysis he has subsequently been described as a “campaigning genius”, and by himself as the "best campaigner in a generation" a reflection possibly on his ability to play the "Westminster bubble game" rather effectively.

What's interesting is the AV referendum showed up a lack of regulatory oversight regarding referendum campaigns. Complaints over political adverts to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) are dismissed as a matter for the Electoral Commission, But the Electoral Commission considers any referendum advertising complaints as a matter for the ASA as it only deals with political parties.

This allows an unregulated grey area when it comes to online referendum advertisements, which can be exploited by any group which can refuse to reveal who is backing it and by how much.

And it's with this in mind regarding an EU referendum we note more serious concerns with Elliott who has demonstrated such overt moves to try to be designated as the official "Leave" campaigner by the Electoral Commission .

Aside from the previous sheer incompetence of his AV campaign we also note that the AV referendum campaign gives us a vivid indication of how an Elliott campaign could turn out where the result appears less than important. We worry that via close relationships between companies Elliott could use an EU referendum campaign to try to benefit himself and his friends financially.

When Elliott was designated by the Electoral Commission for the No2AV campaign, with apparently little competition for the bid from other campaigners, it becomes very interesting that Jag Singh, a shareholder in WESS Digital was appointed Director of Digital Communications of the No2AV campaign.

This would be the same Jag Singh who is the sole director of Strateusis Limited which is registered in Hong Kong and was a shareholder in WESS Digital via Strateusis Limited.

We also see that MessageSpace, co-founded by Guido Fawkes aka Paul Staines was awarded a contract by being a so-called "Digital Agency" in the 2011 AV referendum:

And interestingly Singh tweeted during the AV campaign

How strange that the biggest one day blitz regarding online advertising happened to involve MessageSpace which is a company where Singh is an investor...a man who happened to be the Digital Director of the No2AV campaign.

These have been concerns which have been expressed before. With Jag Singh a self professed digital expert the EU referendum if nothing else will allow him to establish an enormous client database which could be useful to the Conservative party who may able to use such data for political advantages reasons in the 2020 general election. A large database clearly has potential financial benefits as well as political ones:
“There is a lot of opportunity to be increasingly clever,” says Andrew Whitehurst [sole Director] of WESS, a London-based firm that runs digital campaigns for all three major UK parties. The election’s outcome could result in even more data mining. The Conservatives have promised a referendum on whether the UK should stay in the European Union – a nationwide, binary choice much closer to a presidential election, which should make US techniques easier to import. "Winning elections nowadays is not really about convincing people, it’s about mobilising people,” says Whitehurst.
Having accurate records makes campaigning three times more efficient, says Thomas Borwick, founder of Kanto Systems. “In a perfect system you have the right person knock on the right door, who has something in common with the voter, can engage them in a conversation and make sure they go to the polling station.”
Thus do we see self interest in terms of party politics at work at the expense of trying to honestly win a referendum?

Deeper concerns come about when we scrutinise the accounts submitted to the Electoral Commission regarding the AV referendum in 2011.

More to follow...

Saturday 26 September 2015

EU Referendum: WESS Digital, Guido And Matthew Elliott

It's interesting that when we began with a simple observation about WESS Digital's potential conflict of interest regarding Matthew Elliott's involvement in applying to the Electoral Commission in anticipation of the upcoming EU Referendum, it leads to further developments upon investigation.

We note that Guido asserted in my comments in an earlier blog that he had no involvement in WESS Digital Limited since 2013, a website which has now been deleted, despite apparently going "dark" two years ago. With this in mind we quote him here:
I have had no involvement in WESS since 2013, am not a shareholder and was never a director.
In addition Robert Oxley who also commented on my blog noted:
For the record, Matthew Elliott left Wess in 2013 following the launch of Business for Britain 
Companies House, however, records something quite different and via their records we see in the WESS Digital's Annual Return of 2014 that the shareholders were apparently made up to the 26th June 2014, not 2013 as claimed.  The details are as follows (click to enlarge):
It also seems rather odd for a company which promoted its data services for the 2015 election "disabands" well before 2015 without any kind of significant turnover which we might expect from an active company - its accounts recording shareholders' funds of being just only £3,977.

It gives an indication that our earlier assertion that it was being used as a company to become part of an anticipated early EU referendum and using its funding was not without merit. In addition we can see by Companies House records that the latest Company Accounts and the Annual Return are now overdue.

We also see by the Annual Return that until very recently its address was registered at 14 Bowling Green Lane, London EC1R 0BD. This is the address which coincidentally happens to be the same address MessageSpace is registered with - a company well known as co-founded by Guido. WESS Digital's registered address of Bowling Green has been used since the establishment of WESS. It certainly puts a different perspective on Guido's comments of; "I have had no involvement in WESS since 2013".

And by the recent Annual Returns we can see that two of the shareholders in WESS are companies. One such company shareholder was Strateusis Ltd the other being Guido Fawkes' Global and General Nominees Limited (GGN) which is an offshore company based in St Kitts and Nevis which publishes Guido Fawkes' blog.

Guido Fawkes aka Paul Staines has previously described himself as only an "adviser" to GGN despite that GGN publishes his blog and that he is a director of a very similar named company Global and General Nominees (Hong Kong) Limited, registered unsurprisingly in Hong Kong.

Strateusis Limited is also registered in Hong Kong and this certainly proves to be interesting. Jag Singh describes himself as the senior partner in Strateusis and it's revealing that a majority of so-called success stories listed on his website are companies he is involved with or has invested in with connections to Guido Fawkes.

To give one such example is Youfundme Limited, listed on the website. This is a company with two directors. One director is Andrew Whitehurst who is currently (and always has been) the sole director of WESS Digital. What a surprising coincidence.

The other director of Youfundme Limited is Voter Consultancy Limited. And Voter Consultancy Ltd has only one director, Thomas Borwick. Borwick also founded "Kanto Systems", which apparently is "a political data profiling company attempting to bring UK campaigning into the 21st century". Not unlike the raison d'etre of WESS Digital.

Kanto Systems is a company where Borwick is co-director with his brother. But then we discover Borwick is also the registered owner of the website URL "campaigntoleave.com" domain with his address on whoislookup being given as as 55 Tufton Street, London SW1P 3QL.

As Richard North, of EUReferendum.com notes 55 Tufton Street is the home of Business for Britain limited, a company which is currently listed with Companies House as "dormant". Of course any dormant company which carries on trading has the potential of attracting the interest of HMRC.

Interestingly Borwick gives his e-mail as Thomas.borwick@nocampaign.org. The URL "no.campaign" domain, listed here, is a domain which is registered to one Matthew Elliott. It has an address given as Albert Embankment SE1 7XQ, which funnily enough is now WESS Digital's new registered address since the 15th September 2015 as per recent documents listed with Companies House.

With this we can see clearly links between Jag Singh, Paul Staines, Matthew Elliott, Andrew Whitehurst and Thomas Borwick.

Should Elliott win the Electoral Commission's official designation, one wonders where the service contracts will be going...

More to follow...

Wednesday 23 September 2015

EU Referendum And Bamboo Shoots

"The crowd are on their feet, they're trying to roar him home..."
The above quote is taken from the increasingly enthusiastic BBC's commentary during Mo Farah's final lap when winning the men's 5,000m in 2012 London Olympics. It illustrates neatly the importance of the impact of momentum. Athletics, like all sports, deploys tactics where often patience is a virtue and how to win depends on an acute awareness of when to strike for maximum effectiveness. Farah has shown himself to be a master of this, as we can see here:
Farah was content to sit at the back, going wide to pick up a drink of water from the feeding stations on the back straight early on and dump it over his head.
Only with seven laps to go did he move up through the field, cruising into second behind Ethiopia's Imane Merga before easing to the front with 1,600 metres to go.
With this in mind, a recent campaigner I'm in touch with noted a similar observations regarding Brexit:
The referendum has not even been called and by ...closing ears to other arguments at this early stage can [we] establish sufficient momentum to win?
This in a sense means a referendum is rather like sport; the cruel clarity means we either win or we don't. There's no middle way. But in another sense we also have to have momentum the closer we get to the poll.

I'm minded to reflect on the words of Frank Dick, who describes himself as an inspiring motivational speaker and has been the President of the European Athletics Coaches Association, Member of the IAAF Coaches Commission, as well as Chair (and architect) of the IAAF Academy. He observed:
Progress, however, requires a high level of patience. When I became Director of Coaching in 1979 my objective was to develop a team to challenge for the European Cup. When Great Britain won that trophy in 1989, several journalists asked what had made the difference that year - as if the achievement was just some thing that had suddenly happened. I suggested that it was something like growing Chinese bamboo.
You plant the bamboo and make sure it has all the right nutrients, water and amount of sunlight.  Nothing happens in the first year, nor in the second year, nor the third. In fact, you do not even get a single green shoot in the fourth year.  In the fifth, over a period of six weeks, it grows 30 metres! I do not think that my knowledge of Chinese horticulture impressed the journalists, but the point was made.
Success is not achieved by chance; it is necessary to work hard and allow time for development.  With a refined style of leadership which relies on constant evaluation and support, athletics will continue to grow and prosper.
In essence he asked the question did the bamboo grow 30 metres in six weeks or did it grow 30 metres in five years.

Hurrying off the starting blocks with no sense of strategy and momentum will get us nowhere.

Tuesday 22 September 2015

Cameron's Only EU Option? The Doggy Bag.

Cameron has clearly misjudged the consequences of his EU referendum promise to the extent he has now changed strategy at least three times, largely on the whim of the EU telling him what to do. Thus we do wonder whether he knows what he's let himself in for.

Cameron simply cannot negotiate and agree a new EU treaty by his own deadline - by 2017. The EU works by its own timetable. All Cameron can do is to promise "jam tomorrow". It will be a promise based on so-called trust - and with "cast iron" - we are fully aware of how that works out.

His only option is to attempt to pass off Associate Membership as a new relationship, one which is suggested in a forthcoming EU treaty - embedded in the Fundamental Law draft treaty since at least 2013 - as a "new relationship for the UK". But that is only a doggy bag rather than the full menu which is available via presiding on international bodies as an independent country.
International bodies which largely determine Single Market rules.

Associate Membership then does nothing more than put countries in a position to argue they are reluctant to accept "ever closer union" while pretending they don't. The EU to its credit has never made the concept of "ever closer union" clearer.

And like 1975 we will have an attempt at the "reform nonsense" in direct contradiction of EU international treaties. Thus Cameron will leave us in "doggy bag" territory. Unable to deliver proper reforms the UK will merely pick up the leftovers at the behest of our EU masters. Cameron's constantly changing strategy in the face of EU objections makes it perfectly clear where the real power lies.

Here we can see that during a referendum campaign while Cameron will try to promise a better relationship with the EU, the Eurosceptics have a much better offer.

Unlike 1975 we have a substantially better vision of a new relationship with the EU, which will be outside "ever closer union". The mechanism with which we achieve that is to leave with Article 50.

Sunday 20 September 2015

Birmingham New Street

In the spirit of the revamp of King's Cross station in London two years ago where the ghastly, dreary and unwelcoming 1970's frontage was removed, we see that Birmingham New Street has had a significant redevelopment.

It appears we see some resemblance of a resurgence of the spirit of the Victorians where stations were seen as temples. Here with Birmingham New Street being opened today we now see natural light allowed into the interior for the first time since the city centre station was redeveloped in the 1960s.

If nothing else it has to be better than the horrible, disastrous, dark and unwelcoming station that was the 1960s abomination...

Hopefully this is another example of some mistakes of history trying to be rectified.

Friday 18 September 2015

Guido Fawkes And Matthew Elliott: Curiouser and Curiouser

The above screenshot is from the site WESS Digital from 2013 (via WayBack Machine) - a website which has now been taken down - which clearly has Matthew Elliott describing himself as a non-Executive Director of WESS Digital Ltd.

Elliott's profile on WESS notes:
As well as being a non-executive director of Wess, Matthew is currently setting up a new campaign group which will launch in Spring 2013.
Elsewhere he has been described as being on the board of WESS.

It becomes interesting therefore that Companies House appears not to have any record of Elliott's capacity as a non-Executive Director from any of the six documents listed on the site since the company's incorporation on 22nd of October 2012. According to their records he has never been a non-executive director.

Both executive and non-executive directors are subject to the same responsibilities’ and liabilities and such a position of non-executive director has to be notified to Companies House via an AP01 form:
This Companies House form AP01 – Appointment of Director should be used to register the appointment of either a non-executive director or an alternate director with Companies House. Where an alternate is treated as a director for the purposes of the Companies Act 2006, Companies House requires form AP01 to be completed and returned to them. Form AP01 is the form used to appoint a director generally.

A non-executive director, like any other director of a company will require his/her appointment and details notified to Companies House.
We have to wonder therefore whether this is an oversight on WESS' website behalf or Companies House. It begs the question, assuming that Companies House records regarding WESS have been correct over a number of years, whether Elliott has acted as a non-executive Director without notifying Companies House, or has he been advertising himself publicly as being in a position without official merit?

With this in mind we note Robert Oakly's comment on our previous post:
For the record, Matthew Elliott left Wess in 2013 following the launch of Business for Britain and he does not hold any shares in the company nor have any legal relationship with it. Clearly, there was a mistake that Matthew's name remained on the website.
Yet not only has Elliott never had a legal relationship according to Company House records, it's interesting that even after the launch of Business for Britain, the WESS was edited to record Elliot's BfB's position without removing the "mistake" in Oakly's words, an alleged "mistake" which remained until at least 17th August 2015 and then the WESS website was subsequently pulled very recently with the same wording intact:
As well as being a non-executive director of Wess, Matthew is the current Chief Executive of Business for Britain.
So the website was amended to include the fact that Elliott had become CEO of BfB but claims of an apparent legal relationship, seemingly unknown to Companies House, remained on the website right up to 15 September 2015. This from a man who wishes to run an EU referendum campaign?

More to follow...

Thursday 17 September 2015

Guido Fawkes And Matthew Elliott: WESS Digital Website Removed.

How interesting that not long after our blog piece yesterday and a couple of Twitter exchanges WESS Digital has deleted completely its website. It's not unreasonable therefore to conclude that deletion of the website is confirmation that our criticisms of it were correct, despite Guido's poor attempt at a rebuttal. Why delete a website rather than debate?

This a website which apparently describes WESS as specialising "in building digital solutions for political parties, think tanks, campaigns and candidates." Digital solutions mean deleting websites? Which are then cached? As much a lack of understanding, we guess, of the internet as the dynamics of a EU referendum.

Yet encouragingly the deletion of a website merely enhances our observations that Guido Fawkes and Matthew Elliott have a conflict of interest and are attempting to hijack the EU referendum campaign for personal financial gain.

And of course deleting websites never removes the digital footprint - the internet doesn't work like that. There are, for example, Google "cached" options.

If ever confirmation could be made of Guido and Elliott's financial intentions, deletion of WESS's website is surely it.EU Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum  

Wednesday 16 September 2015

Guido Fawkes And Matthew Elliott: Referendum Sharp Practices?

On the 23th anniversary of Black Wednesday, or in the terms of Brexiteers, more accurately described as White Wednesday we can see people personally committed to trying to exit the UK out of the EU in preparation for the upcoming referendum.

However with the Electoral Commission (EC) designating official "remain and leave" campaigns, there comes substantial funding - in copious millions. Here then as a consequence we get an indication that some who wish to be nominated are less interested in getting the UK out of the EU and more interested in enriching themselves.

Pictured above are Andrew Whitehurst, Matthew Elliott, Jag Singh and Paul Staines, co-founders of WESS Digital, the name being made up from the initial letters of their surnames. WESS Digital apparently specialises in:
...building digital solutions for political parties, think tanks, campaigns and candidates
With one of WESS' co-founders being Elliott this leads us neatly onto Business for Britain which in its own words is led by its Chief Executive...one Matthew Elliott. BfB has long ill-disguised ambitions to apply to the EC for official designation of the leave campaign. Naturally there are concerns that if successful in its EC bid, it will lead to contracts being awarded to companies where Elliott is the founder such as WESS. Elliot could end up negotiating external contracts with himself with taxpayers' money being his reward. A situation which would be a clear and unethical conflict of interest - fingers would essentially be in the till.

We are not comforted therefore to see previous where Staines and Elliott are concerned, who have an established relationship:
Regardless of his rather unorthodox past, Mr Staines has proved himself a force to be reckoned with. Matthew Elliott, founder of the TaxPayers' Alliance and a friend of Mr Staines, said: "If the Conservatives get into power at the next election they will owe as much to Guido as anyone in Conservative Central Office. But once they are in power, they'd better expect to get just as rough a ride from him as their predecessors."
For example MessageSpace is an enterprise where Paul Staines has a stake, and it is one where questions have been asked over the possible misuse of personal data. And by sheer coincidence during the AV referendum campaign spearheaded by Matthew Elliott we see this:
MessageSpace is drafted in by the NO to AV campaign to manage and run the digital side. Our co-founder, Jag Singh, is named Director of Digital Communications and Engagement for the campaign. We assisted him in drafting the digital strategy, and with the media buying and planning. It all culminates in the biggest one-day online ad buy blitz in UK political history. The NO to AV campaign garnered over 13 million votes to win the referendum.
We also see how WESS provides other services to Elliot based campaigns such as Taxpayer's Alliance. A very cosy deal indeed.

No wonder then Paul Staines aka Guido Fawkes is increasingly becoming keen to disparage other potential rivals for the "leave" bid, (using similar tactics to Damien McBride who he derided viciously - but wasn't brave enough to publish the emails on his own blog) particularly Arron Banks and recently Pete North. Essentially attacking the author of EUReferendum.com via his own son.

It's perfectly clear that Guido has no idea how the EU works, as is evident by his restoration of hanging campaign without acknowledging the Europe dimension and that anyone who questioned Cameron's fake veto was dismissed as a muppet.

But then it's not principle, it's money. The issue of how our country is run is far too important to let it be hijacked by Elliott and his money grabbing friends.EU Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum 

Monday 14 September 2015

EU Referendum: A Slight Sabbatical

Tomorrow (Tuesday) I'm off to the smoke - London. Blogging therefore will resume when I return.

Sunday 13 September 2015

Corbyn: Losing Is A Comforting Game

"I miss the comfort in being sad" Kurt Cobain
Still seemingly unable to come to terms with the 2015 general election defeat the Labour party, instead of learning the brutal lessons of defeat, unashamedly have retreated into a left wing comfort zone. Comfort zones are normally the natural retreat in response to losing.

With this in mind we see the Labour party elect as its leader Corbyn who is clearly unelectable with the country at large - by his, his own party and by everyone else's admission. They seem not to care, indeed Labour supporters revel in his lack of appeal to electorate:
Electing Jeremy Corbyn would prove that the party is no longer interested in winning or governing.
Labour no longer wishes to win but instead wants to feel good about itself internally. It wants to confine itself to talking to already converted fellow travellers rather than appeal to the soft middle of voters in marginal seats which would help them win. When the headlines talk about a "huge majority" for Corbyn they are actually referring to only 251,417 votes whereas the Tories at the general election in May won 11,334,576 votes. Some 'poor' people's movement. 

Labour clearly can't come to terms with the fact that Tony Blair was Labour's most successful leader and Prime Minister - he won three elections. Blair and New Labour fully understood the methods necessary to win, and without winning power any desirable outcome is fruitless. Thus Labour was ruthless in 1997, particularly with the Excalibur computer system which sat at the heart of Labour's rebuttal strategy:
Question time in the second week of January 1997 provided a perfect illustration of the speed with which Labour could now hit back. On the Tuesday of that week the Deputy Primre Minister, Heseltine, stood in for Major at the despatch box. In reply to a question about the shortage of hospital beds, he said there were now '55,000 more qualified nurses and midwives than there were when the Labour party was last responsible for the health service. At 3.59pm precisely, within half an hour of questions finishing at 3.30pm., fax machines in the BBC newsroom at Millbank were receiving copies of Labour's rebuttal, headed 'Heseltine caught red-handed'.
Yet Labour seems to be unlearning their previous experience of winning thus confirming that education is easier than re-education. And here we can see parallels with the eurosceptic movement, as noted by White Wednesday. Comfort zones and a lack of desire to win. It's all eerily familiar...dum EU Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum 

Friday 11 September 2015

A Brief Interlude

We're off on Saturday to attend an all day conference in Royal Leamington Spa regarding referendum planning. Normal blogging will resume shortly.

EU Referendum: Corbyn's Not Our Friend

It's depressingly familiar that the British media and Westminster cannot debate the EU without communicating it through the prism of a domestic London bubble.

A clear example was neatly illustrated recently by European Commission President Juncker's State of the Union speech earlier this week, a speech which was reduced down to reporting it as an announcement on migrants. The term State of the Union, if it was used at all, was done so in UK media with inverted commas. That the real point of the speech was to fire the starting gun for a new EU treaty which has been signalled well in advance was largely overlooked.

Westminster media though has more 'pressing concerns', mainly that of the ongoing contest over the summer within Labour of candidates jostling for leadership of the party. All indications suggest that it will be Jeremy Corbyn who wins, against his Parliamentary party's wishes and indeed, by his admission, his own.

Within such tittle tattle, we see the question being asked of Corbyn, with an impending EU referendum, how he voted in the EEC referendum in 1975:
The man expected to win control of Britain's opposition Labour Party said on Thursday that he voted 'No' to Britain's membership of the forerunner to the European Union in a 1975 referendum.
And with that admission he's being seen as a eurosceptic. Yet by his own recent interviews that's not what he is at all (my emphasis):
Labour should set out its own clear position to influence negotiations, working with our European allies to set out a reform agenda to benefit ordinary Europeans across the continent. We cannot be content with the state of the EU as it stands. But that does not mean walking away, but staying to fight together for a better Europe.”
Veterans of trying to remove ourselves from a uniquely supranational organisation will not be fooled by Corbyn's comments; they are straight out of the Tory handbook on how to use "reform" as a means to remain in the EU. Cameron would be proud.

Whereas Margaret Thatcher campaigned and voted yes in 1975 and then changed her mind, albeit too late, Corbyn has changed his mind for opposite intentions.

Thus it's worth noting Corbyn has based his vote on being an anti-establishment candidate, but in reality part of the establishment he will become. His supporters will be let down as were Lib Dem ones were in 2010. Probably with no surprise we suspect he will support Associate Membership, or the renamed equivalent, but complain the Tories haven't done enough about reform  - about insignificant detail.

With this in mind it's disappointing then to see Farage endorsing Corbyn:
Ukip leader Nigel Farage has backed Jeremy Corbyn to be the next leader of the Labour party.
An interesting comment from 1975, in the first Parliamentary debate after the referendum, Harold Wilson (Labour leader) noted this:
"Never out on principle; never in on principle [regarding EEC membership]. It depends on the terms and whether it is best for Britain. The country has now decided that it is best for Britain, the Commonwealth, Europe and the wider world."
An illustration on how the establishment never does anything on principle, including Corbyn. We, as a people, have to force them to listen to us.

Wednesday 9 September 2015

EU Referendum: Cameron's "Reforms" In Tatters

It's interesting that on the day the European Commission President, Juncker, delivers his grand State of the European Union speech we see a headline in the Times (£) which states; "Blow dealt to British hopes of winning Brussels reforms". 

The Times reports that Cameron's well publicised desire to try to attempt to reform the EU to fit in with UK requirements has fundamentally come undone, as told to a House of Lords committee by Chancellor George Osborne. It's worth reproducing the Times' article in full here (my emphasis throughout):
Eurozone countries will gang up on Britain as they did over the Greek bailout unless major changes can be won during renegotiations with the EU, George Osborne claimed yesterday.

However, the prime minister and chancellor have been warned that they could struggle to win such reforms in a report published today by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR), which says that they have yet to win round key allies.

Mr Osborne told a House of Lords committee yesterday that the 19 eurozone countries decided in a meeting in July — to which the UK was not invited — that Britain should pay a share of the Greek bailout.
Eurozone ministers reactivated a bailout fund known as the European financial stability mechanism (EFSM) to make an emergency €7 billion loan to Greece. Britain thought that this fund had been wound down and the decision put about £850 million of UK taxpayers’ money at risk.

“When the EFSM was decided on there were no non-euro members in the room,” Mr Osborne told peers. “When we first raised this issue, the European Commission said to us in a written document we have a QMV [qualified majority vote] now, so we don’t need to pay any attention to you. Lots of member states disavowed that. But it’s just a straw in the wind of what’s coming our way.”
Although eurozone countries used the fund, Britain struck a deal that meant UK taxpayers would be protected in the event of losses. “The treaties of the EU did not envisage a large number of member states in a single currency and a large number of states who are never likely to join,” Mr Osborne added. “The treaties do not really accommodate that situation. Any person looking rationally at that decision can see something needs to be done.”
In its report, the ECFR presents a bleak outlook for Mr Cameron’s renegotiations, declaring that the prime minister still has to convince partners that Britain “will not seek to destroy the DNA of the European Union”.

The ECFR has spoken to 100 leading politicians and thinkers in ten key European capitals about Britain’s plans. It has concluded that Mr Cameron has support for barely a third of his objectives, with his high-profile initiatives to slow the flow of European migrants to Britain among the most difficult to achieve, with none of the ten countries yet won round.

The report says that plans to block welfare handouts for new EU migrants for four years is still opposed in France, the Netherlands and Poland and agreement on the issue is “absolutely not doable” with Germany.

German opposition is so entrenched, the report says, because “the largest political parties oppose the idea of limiting social benefits for migrants because this is against the principle of free movement”.

Another objective for Mr Cameron is to opt-out on “ever closer union” and forge clear boundaries between eurozone members and the rest of the EU that would prevent a repeat of the Greek bailout surprise.

Only two countries — Bulgaria and Denmark — were deemed by the think tank to be “convinced”, with France, Germany, Italy and Sweden labelled “unconvinced”.
By Osborne's own words it's clear that Cameron has failed in his objective to try to 'reform' the EU and certainly before the UK referendum. None of this comes as a surprise but it's encouraging that we have further confirmation, as we noted before, that Cameron has as a consequence had to change strategy three times. The Minister for Europe said back in July:
"The key principle is that the reforms need to be legally binding and not reversible at the drop of a hat … it is not at all likely that by the end of 2017 one could have completed national ratifications of changes to the treaties, but part of any treaty process has to be agreement on the substance and then on the process of ratification … So we say that there would need to be absolutely clear agreement by all 27 countries where they have solemnly committed themselves to deliver on that package. That would be a unanimous decision of the European Council."
All of this leaves now Cameron vulnerable to the timings of the European Union over a new treaty which provides the Associate Membership option - his only get out. We are now beginning to get a firming up of Cameron's strategy.

And here Juncker's speech today takes on a new significance. While Farage concentrates his response to Juncker on his comments on migrants, ranting about "closing borders", aided and abetted by the myopic nature of the UK media, the real agenda of the speech has clearly passed him by. For example a key passage, of many is:
"I want to ensure we preserve the integrity of all four freedoms of the Single Market and at the same time find ways to allow the further integration of the Eurozone to strengthen the Economic and Monetary Union."
We can see clearly then Juncker has fired the starting gun for a new EU treaty; the asylum seeker crisis rather like Greece is being used as a "beneficial crisis" to facilitate a new treaty and so more EU integration.

Throughout the speech Juncker regularly refers to needing "more union", he's being clear about the need for further integration while also having a "fair deal" for Britain with the opportunity for us to participate in further integration should we wish. It looks all a bit familiar - it's the associate membership option we'll be fighting in the referendum.endum EU Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum 

Tuesday 8 September 2015

EU Referendum: Bloggers 1 Cameron 0

Despite the BBC trying to report last night's vote, yet again, through the prism of Tory splits (contrary to the criticisms of the Wilson report of 10 years ago) what we actually saw was a cross party consensus of Parliament holding the executive to account over purdah. In other words Parliament doing its job. EUReferendum.com notes:
It is a measure of how much the Government had misjudged the House that its removal of purdah was opposed by MPs who supported membership of the EU and wanted to see the UK remain. But they were insistent that the referendum should be fair, and seen to be fair, otherwise it would lack legitimacy.

Sadly, this victory can't ensure that the referendum will be fair, but at least after the joint efforts on many MPs, we can say that, after last night's "spectacular victory", it will be a little less unfair.
Naturally many will try to take the credit, but in truth the dispute over purdah originated from a comment on EUReferendum by Tony_E reproduced below:
A brief look at the Bill reveals this little gem in the schedules:

25 (1) Section 125 of the 2000 Act (restriction on publication etc of promotional material by central and local government etc) does not apply in relation to the referendum.
The 2000 Act, the Political Parties, Elections and referendums Act states in 125/2
(2)Subject to subsection (3), no material to which this section applies shall be published during the relevant period by or on behalf of—
(a)any Minister of the Crown, government department or local authority; or
(b)any other person or body whose expenses are defrayed wholly or mainly out of public funds or by any local authority.
Now of course, as both sides of the campaign will be in receipt of public money, naturally 125/2/b would have to be addressed. But the addition of section (a) into the new bill suggests that the full weight of the civil service and local government will be at the disposal of the YES campaign, and during the declared campaign period.

If I'm reading this correctly, as predicted, the government is stacking the deck in favour of it's own chosen course.

Free and fair referendum?
It's interesting and encouraging that a comment on a blog then became information which then found its way to Owen Paterson, who via the Times and the Daily Mail alerted other MPs to Cameron's deception. And as a consquence with cross party consensus we saw a 37 Tory rebellion and a defeat for the government.

As we've seen before blogging and the internet works, and Cameron shows no signs of fully understanding it.

Monday 7 September 2015

EU Referendum: How Cameron Can Circumvent Purdah

Today is the report stage of the EU Referendum Bill. As Eureferendum.com notes there are 38 pages of amendments tabled, with some crucial amendments including one which seeks to prevent campaigners from taking part if they get money from the EU.

Cameron has signaled in advance that the government is willing apparently to concede ground on purdah - the period where taxpayer's money cannot be used by the government to publicly campaign in a referendum:
David Cameron is backing down on his refusal to impose a period of “purdah” in the runup to the EU referendum in a concession to his Eurosceptic backbenchers.
One of the reasons is Cameron is no longer pursuing purdah so vigorously is he has changed his strategy. Instead of going for "Article 48" reform, mainly because the EU has told him no, he's adopting the Associate Membership option available in a future EU treaty - a treaty which can only happen after the UK's referendum. Purdah, or its removal, thus becomes less important to him.

In addition he has the use of statutory instruments. After the Referendum Bill has passed, statutory instruments can be used to amend the Act at a later date to "water down" purdah restrictions under the radar of media coverage. He may seem to give in now but statutory instruments allows the government to achieve its aims with less media attention at a later date.

In effect it would be the use of salami tactics to nullify purdah and it would be a tactic taken straight out the EU guide book, which they call engrangé (gearing). Engrangé is where Monnet initiated the drip-by-drip process of integration by pushing a series of harmonising regulations to bring the economic activities of the member states closer together. So regulation is not the consequence of the process of integration - it is the means by which it is achieved.

In other words "engrangé, engrangé, engrangé, onwards" (with apologies to Tennyson). Monnet would be proud of Cameron...

Sunday 6 September 2015

EU Referendum: £55 Million A Day?

It's disappointing to say the least to see consistently that the majority of eurosceptic arguments largely hasn't moved on in decades. The above picture is from "The_Know" - above is a screen grab from their Twitter account - a campaign which has failed to anticipate a change in the EU referendum question, despite significant financial resources.

To illustrate further of The Know's failure to move on by misunderstanding the 21st century we can see neatly by the satire in the 1980's in the BBC programme Yes Minister, titled Eurosausage:

To argue over EU membership costs invites not only the implication that membership would be ok if only it cost something like £22:50 a day but also that the cost comprehensively encourages europhiles to negate the "leavers" campaign by arguing about detail. We've seen exactly the same problem with the argument over the percentage of EU laws. All of which begs the question is 65.4% better than 66.9% of laws made etc etc?

This ensures that arguments are conducted on europhile territory thus negating our own position. There is nothing better for the europhile camp, who have the "status quo" effect in their favour to bog us down in detail, particularly when such detail is wrong:
It’s reasonable to describe £55 million as our “membership fee”, but it ignores the fact that we get money back as well. In other words, £55 million a day represents the UK’s ‘gross contributions’ to EU institutions. Our net contributions are the equivalent of £33 million per day on these terms.
This is precisely why Nick Clegg uses the £3million "job loss" line should we leave. He is not concerned if his facts are wrong, instead he knows full well that when one is voting in the ballot booth - a significant number will decide at the last minute; "I understand the £3 million figures are wrong but...but jobs are at risk, let's vote to "remain".

The EU is so much more than the economy, it's about democracy. We need to negate the economic argument to win, the issue is not about cost but about freedom and the right to decide who governs us.Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum 

Saturday 5 September 2015

Is Darts A Game Or A Sport?

Ironically when the popularity of darts has suffered from the decline in the numbers of pubs with a changing culture, the above question still resonates within pub conversation.

So is darts a game or a sport? This blog generally concludes that for something to be considered a sport it has to fulfill the following two crtiera:
  • Is the result subject to boolean outcomes, i.e. either win or lose.
  • Does it require physical activity and does such continued physical activity improve the potential of winning boolean outcomes.
Clearly examples such as football, rugby, cricket and athletics meet this criteria of being a sport. Regarding darts though "physical activity" is not a requirement, so it only fulfills the boolean outcomes option making it come into the same category as snooker, billiards, bowls, chess, backgammon and Subbuteo. This makes it simply only a game. The physical activity in addition is necessary to elevate it to a sport.

Conversely robust physical activity without boolean outcomes but instead subjective marking such as ice skating and synchronised swimming can only be considered an activity, not a sport. Subjective marking is notoriously subject to bias and corruption.

Boolean outcomes and physical activity combined is something to consider given the challenges ahead in 2017...We either win or we don't.

Friday 4 September 2015

EU Referendum: The Concise Exit Plan

"A few [participants] noted that the word ‘leave’ had potentially negative connotations. Some felt that this could encourage people to vote for the UK to remain a member of the EU, especially if they feared the unknown or changing the status quo."  
Assessment of the Electoral Commission on the proposed referendum question, September 2015

As Alex Salmond in the Scottish Independence referendum found out to his cost the lack of a credible exit plan is a sure way to losing. This is a mistake we seek not to repeat in the EU referendum. In Flexcit we have a plan albeit one which runs to 419 pages, not unsurprising given the complexity of the subject.

However there is now a less daunting concise edition at a mere 44 pages - a Flexcit lite. Here's how we can leave.Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum 

Thursday 3 September 2015

EU Referendum: BBC Speculate On An April 2016 Poll

Allegra Stratton, Political Editor reported on BBC Newsnight on the 1st September that an early referendum might be possible in April 2016. She begins:
[The] Conservative Party look like they're in a bit of a hurry. I am told that some of David Cameron's advisers are looking at the idea of an early Europe referendum, possibly as early as next April [2016].
Apparently, according to Stratton, the Tories are in a hurry as to try to outmaneuver Corbyn should he win the Labour leadership. Here we can clearly see the BBC is unable to escape from the confines of UK domestic "biff-bam" personality politics over what is the most important and powerful vote the UK public have in their lifetime - membership of a supranational organisation.

Not that we would know it from the BBC but it's a decision that will have enormous ramifications on the UK's economic and political relationships with the rest of the world.

Stratton then continues to justify her 'insider knowledge':
For the government to have a referendum in the middle of April the following elements have to fall into place like absolute clockwork. They have to kickstart the campaign in early February; that allows for the legal minimum of 10 weeks that they have to have for any campaign...That means that this legislation is receiving Royal Assent in early January or mid January... Government insiders believe this very tight schedule is possible but difficult.
We wouldn't dispute the implication that the EU Referendum Bill is unlikely to receive Royal Assent before Christmas. Yet the assertion of allowing for "the legal minimum of 10 weeks that they have to have for any campaign." clearly overlooks the recommendations of the Electoral Commission (EC).

Here we have to look at the EC's report on the Scottish Referendum which we previously noted (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.
Stratton fails to take into account the EC's recommendations that six months is required for the designation process - to nominate the official "remains" and "leavers" campaign.

Thus a April 2016 poll is now impossible on the current timescale. It's disappointing to say the least when a highly paid BBC journalist doesn't know the basics and doesn't inform us. Then again this is exactly why the legacy media were caught out when the EC recommended changing the question, despite the EC's reservations being made public in advance.

Thankfully we have the internet...EU Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum 

Wednesday 2 September 2015

EU Referendum: The Cameron Ploy

We have noted before the advantages the leavers have over the 1975 referendum campaign. One of course is the internet, another is the Electoral Commission, which has gone some way to ensure that the ballot paper and the question will be relatively neutral which is in contrast to 1975. 

Crucially another advantage we have is a weak opposition general in the form of Cameron. It's clear he did not want a referendum nor does he want to leave the EU. That he has offered a referendum against his wishes was more a reflection of his political weakness at the time not his view that he thinks he's confident that he can win it.

We know this because he has made a serious of political mistakes. His referendum offer was made due to pressure from backbenchers in the belief that such a promise would win help him the 2015 election - and it was an offer made regardless of what concessions Cameron thought he could agree from Brussels. It is very likely he chose 2017 as the UK takes over the Presidency of the Council of the EU rather than any other consideration.

Cameron's fundamentally weak position is exposed by his change of strategy three times since promising a referendum, changes made necessary by the EU not wishing to bend over backwards to accommodate UK demands:

Initially Cameron attempted to hijack a new EU treaty - Fundamental Law - a treaty which was, and still is, necessary to try to resolve the Eurozone crisis. Confident in 2013 that a new treaty was imminently forthcoming, and all the indications at the time suggested it was, Cameron attempted to hijack it with the threat of a UK veto unless demands for reform and repatriation of powers were met. His Bloomberg speech in 2013 made this clear. In response the EU 'parked' the treaty temporarily to nullify the threat.

Rebuffed by the EU on this Cameron had to change tack and attempted to try somewhat limited reform via Article 48. Here he narrowed down "reform" to cover one subject, and one subject only – immigration. The idea being that against all the odds Cameron could pull off a quick treaty and come home in triumph, waving a piece of paper while at the same time shooting UKIP's immigrant fox.

Yet realistically all he could achieve would be minor treaty changes, he knew though that upon bringing his "deal" back from Brussels, we would be waiting to dissect it and tell everyone that it doesn't match his "promise".  Thus the need to remove the purdah period which would give Cameron the opportunity to spring the so-called "deal" on us at the last minute, leaving us little time to scrutinise it.

It's interesting therefore to note the eagerness in recent days with which Cameron has conceded the Electoral Commission's advice on the question and particularly on purdah. This suggests strongly that any kind of Article 48 renegotiation, or indeed any other, before a referendum is no longer a central part of Mr Cameron's strategy. The outcome has become irrelevant:
David Cameron is backing down on his refusal to impose a period of “purdah” in the runup to the EU referendum in a concession to his Eurosceptic backbenchers. It is understood the changes will impose purdah with a few exceptions to allow ministers to carry on with essential business.
This then leaves only Associate Membership, via a new Treaty, which amounts to nothing more than a re-branding of what we already have. Here we have clear indication from Cameron that it will be sold to us as a "looser" relationship:
"I want the European Union to be a success. And I want a relationship between Britain and the EU that keeps us in it"
A "looser relationship" that would mean a two tier arrangement as noted by the Times without the term Associate Membership being used:
[David] Owen [author of Europe Restructured] argues — surely correctly — that David Cameron’s idea of removing ourselves from a commitment to “ever closer union” should be a much more ambitious proposal. The prime minister should argue for a community restructured into two parts: the eurozone and the single market. Or to put it another way, the Union and the Community.

The eurozone — the Union — would acquire, in addition to the powers the EU already has, much greater fiscal control. And it would gradually develop the democratic institutions necessary to exercise that control with consent.

Owen’s idea of a Community would bring together EU members outside the eurozone, including the UK, with countries such as Norway, Iceland and, he argues, Turkey, in a looser free trade area clearly based on independent nation states.
The ground is being laid therefore for Cameron to pass off Associate Membership as his own idea despite that it's been part of a draft EU Treaty since October 2013. And within in this looser relationship - which would seek to bring in Norway, Iceland and Switzerland thus abolishing EFTA and the EEA - the UK will be seen as a leader in the outer ring, while the inner ring, or inner core, form the eurozone.

In reality this new arrangement will be the B-road rather than the Autobahn to "ever closer union". Yet despite that the journey maybe slower the destination is still the same. And it will be a reality Cameron seeks to hide behind curtains, rather like the Wizard of Oz, pictured above. It may seek to be impressive but Cameron has an extremely weak hand. Pull back the curtains and we're left seeing clearly a little man pretending.

All we need to do is pull back the curtains.
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Tuesday 1 September 2015

EU Referendum Question Is Set To Change

Following on from concerns by the Electoral Commission this morning over the wording of the current yes/no question, Cameron has announced that he is prepared to change the question in line with the advice:
[The EC] said that the question should set out the alternative option of Britain "leaving the European Union", while giving people the option of choosing whether they "leave" or "remain" rather than a simple "Yes/ No".

Within half an hour of the announcement a Downing Street spokesman confirmed that the government will table an amendment changing the question in line with the commission's proposals.
The Electoral Commission has always been consistent, since 2013, on the question it prefers:
Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?'

The responses would be ‘Remain a member of the European Union’ / ‘Leave the European Union’.

Research participants found this the most neutral of all the versions tested.
Given the report stage of the Referendum Bill comes up next week where further amendments can be made, the EC's timing also seems perfectly reasonable. 
Interestingly this leaves Arron Banks's pet project, TheKnow.EU, in a rather awkward position. This blog has yet to be impressed with "The Know". Their Twitter account contains misleading and selective quoting of newspaper articles, jingoistic rhetoric, and as Autonomous Mind says: "completely inaccurate assertions about the additional EU budgetary contribution demanded of the UK".

Despite the name it's clear Banks knows nothing about the EU and now it seems he knows nothing about getting the name right for a referendum either. It's entirely his fault - the consequence of being presumptuous by jumping in before the Referendum Bill has even been passed. If they can't get their own name right then there's not much hope for anything else from them.

The jostling for position by Farage, Banks and Mathew Elliot for leading the campaign to leave has only revealed what a low grade position we are currently in. Everything from Farage announcing the launch of a "no" campaign on the day the EC releases its advice to fundamentally misunderstanding the terms of being designated the official campaign to leave shows a complete lack of understanding of even the basics of what a referendum campaign will look like.

The location of amateursville is being determined by a triangulation of egos; Farage, Elliot and Banks. They want it about them not us and if it continues we will lose.
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