Thursday, 1 November 2012

So Labour wants to play games?

Yesterday's Commons debate on the future EU budget was laughable really.
I couldn't decide whether it was trick or treat when Labour got behind Tory rebels to defeat Cameron's proposals on a real time budget freeze:

Trick, because Labour know full well they can politically posture. Brussels would never accept a budget reduction, meaning they are more likely to push for Plan A landing British taxpayers with an INCREASE in EU costs.

Treat, because at least for once on the issue of Europe, the Government majority were actually on the side of the British general public.

But what Labour have essentially done is whip up a firestorm and sent Cameron off to the front line in Brussels where he will inevitably be defeated. Very clever.

But what was ludicrous bordering on lunacy was Ed Milliband's statement that

"He has thrown in the towel even before these negotiations have begun"

Excuse me Mr Milliband? Was it not your party that oversaw British ratification of the Lisbon Treaty, the largest consitutional change in Europe to date, handing over more of UK sovereignty than ever before, without any recourse to the 60 million Brits who deserved a referendum? Indeed Gordon Brown signed the Lisbon treaty in 2007 with charges of "gutlessness" ringing in his ears before he set off, only to suffer more indignity when a TV link crashed just as he was about to put his name on the document, squeezed alongside the signature of that other Miliband, then Foreign Secretary, who had acted as stand-in for the Premier during a glitzy signing ceremony with leaders of the other 26 EU member states.

And of course, at the time Cameron had scolded

"He said he would trust the British people and consult them more. He doesn't even have the guts to put it to the British people."

It was also under Labour's watch that half the UK rebate was given away, costing taxpayers billions of pounds a year.

This game of "You're weak over Europe" "No YOU are" is utterly vacuous.

Both parties can be held jointly culpable for selling Britain off to Brussels over the years. Our first past the post system means that since the European Union's origincal inception, one or the other has allowed British sovereignty to be traded for little gain.

So Europe instead is essentially used as a stick to hit eachother with, rather than being tackled as a problem in it's own right.

Friday, 26 October 2012

Is this what you call a democratic political system?

It is so disheartening to watch the government, supposedly representing its people, filibuster a Private Member's Bill, formed after a call from more than five thousand people, until it is presented before an almost empty house, when that bill relates to the structure via which 75% of UK law passes.

In the end, Douglas Carswell's attempt to get UK membership of the EU debated in the Commons resulted in being a damp squib with so few attendees it held the merit of a discussion down the local boozer. What were we to expect?

 In principle, private members' bills follow much the same parliamentary stages as any other bill but in practice, the procedural barriers are far greater. Such bills are only brought to the house13 Fridays a year. Considering most MPs return to their constituencies on Thursday evening, the meagre five hours of time available on selected each day to cater for several private members' bills make it easy for topics the Government wishes to be brushed under the carpet, to be, well, brushed under the carpet.

Unlike Government bills, these debates are not timetabled, meaning the Government can whip ministers into talking the bill, stopping further progress by preventing a vote.I think it's fair to assume that Jeremy Wright may have tried his hand somewhat at filibusterng today, with a rather circumlocutary soliloquy on Family Courts.

The bill's proponent can force a vote only with the support of at least one hundred members. With a headcount of mere tens, this had the practical effect of blocking Carswell's private members' bill from gathering anywhere near enough momentum to even grace the pages of the newspapers, one anticipates.

Another date for second reading will also be set for bills which have been talked out.We can look forward to part two sometime in March. This is a formality; so the bill will be placed to the bottom of the order paper, and will likely be objected to on each future occasion, leaving it no practical chance of success.

What's the point then? When thousands have pushed for something to reach Parliament and it can be extinguished like a flickering candle, there is something seriously wrong with the passage of a backbench bill through Parliament.

The Government are starting to dangle the carrot of a referendum on Europe in front of the voterate. Why when 16 year olds have been given the vote on Scotland's membership of the United Kingdom has nobody under the age of 55 been given the chance to vote on UK membership of Europe? Even those who have had the opportunity to make a choice would have voted for or against a much different political beast than we have today.

Almost 40 years ago to the day the European Communities Act was debated by the United Kingdom to allow succession to what was then the European Economic Community. We were told "Common Market or broke". What we have four decades later, with gross state intervention and an everly centrist and bureaucratic sclerotic beast in Brussels is the realisation that shackling ourselves to this undemocratic, hulking blackhole of a Union will lead us to be broke, like Spain, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Cyprus and so forth.

We live in a very differnet world today. A globalised marketplace. We should be trading with all corners of the world, not running at a trade deficit with our broken and clumsy near neighbours and allowing all our former bilateral deals to be subsumed within the quagmire of European legislative dross.

The same is true of immigration. With the UK only just recovering from a double dip recession, with the propensity to go back into economic contraction again more than just a creeping threat, how can we afford the 23,000 new babies born to Polish mothers alone in the UK in the last year? Our vital public services are already bursting at the seams with cuts needed to bring down the state deficit which structurally is one of the highest in the world.

And yet issues that affect our daily lives, underpin the very fabric of society, like police on the streets, nurses in hospitals, teachers in schools, pensions, social housing, energy bills, food on supermarket shelves, working hours...I could easily go on for days...are either governed by laws made in Brussels by faceless bureaucrats, subject to the red tape which costs our economy billions, or are being grossly underfunded because Britain continues to pay out £10 billion every year to Brussels which could be better directed towards things that really matter.

Our farming has been put into the red, our fisheries have been decimated and now we are looknig at having to pay those responsible even more money for the "privilege" of being a member of their club. Meanwhile that money is being poured into other European countries while their citizens are flocking over to the UK to benefit from our welfare systems (again something they are able to access under European law) spreading the burden onto the British taxpayer who meanwhile has absolutely no say whatsoever.

The great European Socialist project will collapse, like all socialist projects before it.

I truly hope we will not go down with it as it sinks.

Now, more than ever, we need a vote. In or out.

I'm afraid just over half an hour of Tory Party private infighting won't cut the mustard.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Nobel Peace Prize for EU not such a noble idea

The award of the Nobel Peace Prize to the EU last week sparked a lot of debate.
What qualifies the EU for this accolade? One argument is that it was established after World War II to ensure harmony by pooling resources between France and Germany. The EU began as the European Coal and Steel Community in 1951, largely at the behest of America, to enable massive rearmament at the start of the Cold War. The original objective was to prepare for war, not peace. Meanwhile NATO, established in 1949, was forged as a unified defence league for peacekeeping not only in Europe but internationally.
The European Coal and Steel Community developed into the European Economic Community and began foisting ideologies of federalism upon currently 500 million citizens who are subject to, but without democratic influence over, its laws. 

At present, after putting political will over common sense by creating a single currency, we are left with a crisis that the unelected European Commission is unashamedly using to push forward deeper integration. The relative peace we have enjoyed in Europe for the last ten years is beginning to unravel.
We are seeing the humanitarian fall out of the EU's failed fiscal policy, with thousands plunged into poverty: utterly despicable in 21st century Europe. Just last week the Spanish Red Cross announced that their winter appeal is to create food parcels for Spaniards, the first time the campaign has been focused domestically and not on developing countries in Africa and Asia.

 In Greece 25,000 people are dependent upon handouts from the Orthodox Church. Is it surprising 50,000 protestors turned out on the streets of Athens, some burning Swastikas, to express their anger at the visit of Angela Merkel, who they feel is responsible for the crippling austerity causing so much suffering? A steep increase in tensions is allowing the rise of extremism and inter-country distrust.

Under the current structure of the EU, with inter-reliant energy and agricultural policy, a burgeoning External Action Service and the call for Qualified Majority Voting on Foreign Affairs, what would happen if the international balance of peace tips? Do we want to be part of a giant multi-nation block with no say as a country? Many opposed the merger of EAD and BAE (including the Pentagon in America) on the grounds of undermining international security by creating an arms giant. Yet merging other forms of self sufficiency, from farming to trade, can be equally as dangerous. I do not oppose free trade with Europe, nor do I undervalue the importance of transcontinental cooperation in international security, but I fear the consequences of creating an unanswerable multi-national superpower. History has observed the knife edge upon which the world teetered during the Cold War. The constitution of the USSR and the EU post-Lisbon Treaty is staggeringly 98% similar.

I am rather cynical about the timing of this award. Tensions are running high and the EU desperately needs an image boost to quell growing discontent. Perhaps by posthumously awarding the EU the Peace Prize now, the Nobel Committee is trying to promote a sense of solidarity where nationalistic tendencies are simmering just below the surface of increasingly violent riots.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

The Catch 22 of Coverage

I read today in the Daily Mail that the BBC are planning to rethink their coverage of the EU after complaints that they are regularly one sided and too pro-EU.

At last a BBC I can get behind!

I have said on my blog before that I often feel that reportage of the EU is handled in a very one sided manner. Let me not even start on how I feel the BBC covers UKIP as a political party. When UKIP are polling just below, and sometimes just above the Liberal Democrats it's hard to understand why one party has every media resource thrown at coverage of the conference, from Live updates, multimedia reports, continuous streaming of interviews, speeches and so forth, while the other barely scrapes a mention. There is the argument that the Lib Dems are currently in power as part of the coalition. Of course this is undeniable and quite rightly the public would wish to know the policies and proposals being outlined by the Deputy Prime Minister. But even before the results of the 2010 general election, there has been a disproportionate amount of air time for the Lib Dems compared to UKIP in relation to where the parties regularly feature in opinion polls.

Of course, we are stuck between a rock and a hard place. Get bums on seats inside Westminster and surely our coverage would have to increase exponentially. But how does a party raise its profile when even supposedly unbiased public owned news organisations fail to treat the party with the same level of respect as is gifted to the "established" three? The BBC is an organisation that has for years strived, some may argue too hard, to be representative of the public. Whereas in countries such as France it is still shamefully rare to see black or asian television personalities, Harry Roselmack being, I believe, the first black news anchor on TF1, having debuted in 2006 (astonishingly late), in Britain the BBC, ITV and Channel Four have always fought to make sure the faces we see on the news are the faces we see on the street. Some might complain that perhaps the levels of "positive discrimination" have gone too far, but that is another matter.

Yet when it comes to Eurosceptics, as we are dubbed, and according to the majority of public opinion polls, accounting for around two thirds of the population, we are handled as if we are extremists and lunatics.
The BBC has at times come across as the mouthpiece for the EU. If not championing Brussels, then at the bare minimum the BBC seems to be resigned to the opinion that because the EU exists, what is the point of arguing against it.

There is seemingly a connection between the handling of anti-EU sentiment and the coverage of UKIP.
We are the second biggest party in Brussels, striving to become the largest after the next European elections and standing a good chance. Why then, when issues about the European Union are addressed, are we rarely given a platform other than on Question Time, which is essentially the televisual equivalent of sticking politicians in the stocks?

I also have direct experience of the attitudes of certain BBC staff I have encountered and others whom I have heard about. I was once informed how one member of the production team kept referring to UKIP as "BNP-lite", a vile and utterly disparaging comparison that bares no reflection to UKIP's libertarian views.

It is also increasingly common to label UKIP as "Right Wing" or even "Far right".

I myself am from a Labour background and do not associate myself with Conservative politics at all. UKIP serves largely as an umbrella organisation for people disenchanted with the fickle and unreliable policy making of the two main parties who are able to dominate politics and thus change direction and betray the voting public whenever they see fit as they are protected by the first past the post system.

I do not believe the terms right and left wing have any place in today's politics. A highly interesting article on the Libertarian Press website discusses how this linear description of politics is outdated and unhelpful to voters who deserve to be better informed. The article proposed replacing the left and right wing system with a more astute political compass with the four points differentiating between Socialist, Socially Liberal, Free Market and Authoritarian. On this political compass, Stalin and Hitler are found at exactly the same point, when history has them down at opposite ends of the spectrum.

While we cannot expect the newspapers (being partisan by nature and vessels for the privilege of opinion of a few wealthy magnates) to give us an unbiased report on politics, it is to the BBC as a publicly funded organisation we should be able to turn for a broad spectrum of opinion.

Yet from programming to news reportage the BBC increasingly occupies the same territory as the Guardian newspaper. (It has even been said by people within the BBC that all the young guns are observed in the cafeteria or walking into the newsroom with the Guardian tucked firmly under an arm).

The Guardian, which has carefully molded itself to occupy green and inoffensive territory of being seemingly inoccuous and friendly, is in fact possibly one of the most preaching and harshly critical, one-sided of broadsheets in the UK. Dressed up in hemp clothing, vegetarian recipes, folk festivals and a penchant for everything humanitarian, it is the one newspaper that will not only scathingly attack anything they deem as 'right wing' but also let it be known what you should be eating, watching, wearing and listeneing to.Whilst it is hard to protest against tips on allotment gardening as being culturally subversive, there is an increasingly accepted sense that there is a right and a wrong way to conduct your life, which is endorsed not just by the pitchfork waving Guardian, but also by the majority of BBC programming. The right way is eating only organic food, listening to PJ Harvey, growing a beard and wearing ethically sourced designer latex wide rimmed glasses. The wrong way is, amongst other things, disliking the EU and therefore voting UKIP.

Interestingly the biggest threat to purported freedoms and values, farming standards, animal welfare and ethically sourced latex wide rimmed glasses is probably Brussels. And the biggest champions of libertarianism, a reduction in bureaucracy,  real democracy and the welfare of fish, fishermen and farmers is UKIP. So while the Guardian waxes lyrical about buying local and eating in restaurants were the provenance of their ingredients and credentials of their suppliers is highlighted on their recycled environmentally friendly menus, the only way to really ensure local trade prospers and British farmers are able to turn out high quality, environmentally sound and economically viable produce, is by leaving the EU.

UKIP as a party struggles with image. This is without doubt a sorry truth. It is normal for a small, upcoming party, as a threat to the established powers, to be at the receiving end of mudslinging and dirty politics. But you don't expect the BBC to join in, albeit unwittingly.

Meanwhile the Green Party, with two MEPs and a coveted seat in the Commons, gets not only equal coverage to UKIP, with 13 seats and 3% of the vote in the General elections, but somehow manages to get the red carpet (or should I say biodegradable astro-turf) rolled out for free speech, despite only garnering less than one percent of the vote in 2010.

As I write this, yougov's daily poll reflecting voting intention shows the projected vote share as:

CON 34%, LAB 41%, LDEM 8%, UKIP 10%

Yes, that's right. We are a full 2 per cent clear of the Lib Dems.

That is without the fair share of coverage and in spite of the propogation of negative reportage by main media outlets.

Just imagine what that poll would look like if we were given the fair and balanced and accurate coverage we rightly deserve.

I welcome with open arms this review commissioned by the BBC to be published sadly not until 2013.
But while it may be a small step forward in our favour, it is a giant leap that is needed if UKIP are really going to get parity of coverage.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Is this what you call a Union?

Not since Captain Corelli's Mandolin have images of the Swastika in Greece been so prevalent on our TV screens.

Is this really the 21st century reality of the European Union?
Chillingly, yes.

Fifty thousand people took to the streets to protest against German Chancellor Angela Merkel's visit to Athens as she made her first visit to Greece in five years. Despite strict security measures and a ban on public gatherings, police still resorted to firing tear gas at protestors and arrested almost 200 people.

The Greek people blame Merkel for overseeing the strict programme of cuts that have been conditions of receiving financial help.

Greece is set to miss the fice year debt reduction target that was set when the country's €100 billion bail out was negotiated, that's despite the extraordinary measures taken by the Government that has seen thousands reduced to poverty and homelessness.

Across Europe the situation is deteriorating. In Spain the Red Cross has appealed to the public to supply food parcels for stricken countrymen and has launched a massive appeal for millions of Euros to help those most in need in the country. It is the first time such an appeal has been launched to help those in need domestically, with usual campaigns targeting the world's poorest in Africa and Asia. The charity say some 2.3 million Spaniards are now extremely vulnerable and in need of food aid.

Yesterday, Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaris pleaded with the German Chancellor that his country was "bleeding" from all the internationally imposed cuts, however she showed no sign of backing down on German sanctioning of the demands, instead choosing to compare the situation in Greece to that in her own East Germany after reunification with the West.

You would think with so many Nazi-themed insults being bandied about by the disgusted people of Greece,  she would avoid alluding to the war.

Yet what we got from the Greek Government was more of a tail between the legs grovelling about rectifying mistakes, perhaps in reference to the image being portrayed by German media as a nation of lazy and workshy complainers. Similarly Merkel has been tarnished with Nazi Overlord representations through out Greece. Yesterday's meeting was more a PR stunt to show solidarity between the two nations, rather than a meeting to discuss a productive settlement and reinforce both sides' commitment to maintaining Greece within the Eurozone.

Yet for many, the cards are still very much in German hands.

German-led conditions attached to emergency loans have made Merkel the face of austerity for Greeks. Merkel has been depicted in the Greek media wearing jackboots and an SS uniform.

Yet the austerity is not working. The Greek economy is set to contract for a sixth year in 2013 while the government continuously fails to meet deficit-reduction target. The economic downturn is the worst since World War II, post Nazi occupation. Which brings us onto the thorny matter of war reparations.

Under German occupation Greece was forced pay war loans to Hitler, leading to hyperinflation and a famine in which more than 500,000 Greeks, or 7 percent of the population, died between October 1940 and October 1944, a quarter of a million from hunger.

It is believed that under  occupation from 1941 to 1945, Greece paid Germany some £86 billion, which many believe the German's still owe. Despite Greece receiving reparations from Italy after World War II in recompense for Mussolini's occupation of the country, Germany never paid Greece. Fast forward the clock sixty years and the irony that the Greek people see the German Chancellor as transforming their country into a "German protectorate" is evident amidst calls for the occupation loan to be repaid, which would go a long way to securing Greece future financial security.

Is this what the European Union, set up in the wake of World War II, was supposed to lead to?

One country dominating the affairs of another, peoples at loggerheads over who is right, who is wrong, and who owes who what?

It amazes me that the international community has failed to speak up on the issue. When it is falling to charities in 21st century Europe to make appeals for food aid due to political measures being enforced by other countries or unelected organisations, it is staggering that nobody is speaking up.

The UN's Development Policy and Analysis Division (DPAD) notes that the debt crisis in the euro area, especially in Greece, remains the biggest threat to the world economy. An escalation could trigger severe turmoil in the financial markets and a sharp rise in global risk aversion, leading to a contraction of economic activity in developed countries. In their World Economic Situations and Prospects report, they advise

"Breaking out of the vicious cycle of continued deleveraging, rising unemployment, fiscal austerity and financial sector fragility requires more concerted and more coherent efforts on several fronts of national and international policy making.
On the fiscal front, it is essential to change course in fiscal policy in developed economies and shift the focus from short-term consolidation to robust economic growth with medium- to long-run fiscal sustainability. Premature fiscal austerity carry the risk of creating a vicious downward spiral, with enormous economic and social costs.
Fiscal austerity has already pushed many European countries further into recession. This is particularly relevant for the debt-ridden euro area economies. Euro area countries have fallen back into recession, following fiscal retrenchment over the past two years. Clearly, the efforts at regaining debt sustainability through fiscal austerity are backfiring in low growth and high unemployment."

What is so staggering is that Europe, and when I say Europe I mean a few figures from the European Commission in Brussels, the European Central Bank and leaders of the wealthiest Eurozone member states, are being allowed to dictate policy that is having a very human cost.

One wonders if a similar situation was being faced by ECOWAS or with the CFA Franc whether or not Europe would be muscling in to dictate what be done to rectify the situation.

Without a doubt.

Although Central African CFA francs and West African CFA francs have always had the same monetary value against other currencies, they are separate currencies. They could theoretically have different values from any moment if one of the two CFA monetary authorities, or France, decided it.

Why does the Euro not break up and follow the same agenda?

Answers on a postcard please.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

The moral implications of bail outs and austerity

Morally bankrupt.
How little we have seen of the human impact of the ongoing financial crisis in the Europe.
Of course we have seen reportage of the human reaction, be they stern faced Ministers assembling around large oak tables, shooing away the clucking throngs of news journalists awaiting any shred of carrion to be tossed from the wreckage, or the gathering crowds of unhappy protestors, waving banners before being strewn with rubber bullets by an equally unhappy, yet duty bound police.
And yet then, when we read on, we learn that Greece has asked for that, despite being reprehensible for having committed such and such an oversight, while doom laden Spain is sure to encounter this in their fate leaving it to Germany to propose that, and so forth.
As such the anthropomorphic labelling of whole countries is enabling both journalist and reader to be removed from what should be the real news story of the unfolding Eurozone disaster, the true cost to the everyday citizen. The people angle.
But it has suited the European Union to convey this image and the largely national-leaning print press to extenuate it. Define the problem as an entire country’s fiscal profligacy and then the only tool for debt solution is the EU's favoured austerity that must be shouldered by all. In Brussels it allows for a convenient bypass of democratic wont in order to transact further powers within their scope, while for national governments and newspapers, it conjures a sense of national unity  by lauding an "all-in-this-together" sermon that allows the weakest in society to be most heavily burdened, despite being the furthest removed from the causes of the crisis. What is so ironic is that while in Brussels, Barroso readily condemns the very notion of nationalistic, populist barriers to deepening European integration, he relies upon it implicitly to sell the Troika imposed programme of cuts to a nation. Everyone must do their bit.
Mr Barroso, it was your fiscal policy and foolhardy adherence to a single currency, placing political will before economic sense, that both caused the problem and continues to prolong it, so why must Senor Garcia be forced to work until his joints are ground to dust while his children will be taxed for the ills committed by their predecessors? I am sure when the concept of a single currency without unified fiscal policy was being drawn up he wasn't consulted.
Every country that found itself in the same position as the Eurozone after the credit crunch in 2008 was able to find a solution. In Iceland, the economy hit such a wall that the country defaulted and devalued the Krona. Iceland is now recovering very quickly and is borrowing again on the world markets as a creditworthy entity.
You see the debate that has raged in newspapers across Europe about what to do with a problem like Greece depends heavily on viewing each and every man, woman and child on an Athenian controlled island as both part of the problem and therefore responsible for its solution.
If a person borrows money, they receive the amount directly and must pay it back according to the terms and conditions. If a country borrows money, the citizens are unlikely to be informed of the loan, its purpose and certainly not its terms and conditions. How then does central government, let alone the government of a third country, morally justify imposed austerity?
Yet the personification of Greece as the naughty member of the Eurozone allows the EU to paint the picture of the reckless neighbour who, finding themselves unable to pay for their mortgage, appeals to the bank for help to keep their house. They are relucantly granted a reprieve on condition of some very stern, and of course wholly warranted, terms and conditions. Therefore if Greece gets a bail out at the cost of imposed spending cuts and strict austerity measures, then Spain would have to subscribe to the same punitive conditions if their economy is also to be rescued. Of course Senor Garcia cannot see why his benefits are being stripped when he has done nothing but work hard all his life. Meanwhile Germany, who does not find herself in such a financial mess, can bang the fist on the table and make demands which will affect the retirement age of Kirios Papadopoulos. Of course when I say Germany I mean Merkel and her cronies and their Brussels-based counterparts.
In 1995 Germany strongly opposed an IMF bail out of Mexico arguing moral hazard in giving a €17.8 billion loan as it essentially worked out as a rescue package for the American investors who had shored up so much Mexican short-term debt. Now the boot is on the other foot and it is German banks facing losses if Greece is allowed to go under, with as much as €22 billion of Greek public debt held by German investors. Suddenly Frau Merkel repeats the tune of solidarity for Greek and EU ears, but will happily pour scorn on Athens as and when it will placate her own people.
It may suit Brussels, political leaders, newspapers and ministers to talk about Greece, Spain, Germany, Portugal and Ireland as if they are characters in philosophical problem. But the real moral debate is not who should be paying the debt, but how.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012


Poor old Cyprus has the difficult job of being at the helm of the rotating Presidency of the EU Council while negotiations over budget for the next seven years take place.
Their valliant attempt to cap the budget at  €1,033 billion  was effectively thrown out after EU ministers failed to agree yesterday.
While those countries inevitably filling their pockets as net benficiaries decried such a limit on spending, member states such as the UK, who bankroll a lot of the EU waste, are fighting hard to encourage the Commission to live by their own rules of zealous austerity that have been so damagingly imposed on bailed out Eurozone countries.
No wonder then , considering how morally and financially bankrupt the EU is, that the Commission has once again put in a bid for their own tax raising powers through a direct levy on consumers and businesses across the Union. This would mean Governments themselves would pay lesser contributions, while the European Commission dipped their hands into the pockets of the 500 million EU poopulation.
The proposals cover a one per cent rise in VAT which Brussels would siphon off to spend how they see fit. On top of this, disguised 'green' policies would see tax on fuel and flying also be driven towards the unelected bureaucrats in Brussels.
Britian has also been threated with having to give up the rebate, which sees Britian receive cashback from Brussels to offset discrepancies between contribution and funding. Where as other net contributors such as France benefit greatly from Agricultural spending, Britain receives little in relation to the funds poured into Brussels and so is the only country to receive a refund, something which many other member states oppose.
However without the rebate, Britain would top the table of contributions to Brussels meaning a hugely distorted per capita burden on the UK taxpayer.
It is often said there should be no taxation without representation. By gearing up to arm themselves with full fiscal powers, Brussels would effectively have created a self-funding, unimpeachable centralised government with little democratic representation.
The Commissars of Brussels prefer working via protection rackets and loan sharks than attempting to function as a 21st century democratic institution. The sooner the world wakes up to this, the better.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Unscrupulous but not sexist!

Insurance Companies.
Custodians of morality.
Purveyors of good will and justice.
Never the sort of industry to make assumptions, jump to conclusions and forge the edifice of their profit upon the shifting sands of prejudice.
This is why the EU, as a bastion of equality and sense, will impose the new EU Gender Directive on car insurance this December.
How utterly despicable that in this day and age, insurance companies decide how much your premium is going to be based upon likelihood to crash your car!

It is only right, surely, that women drivers be forced to pay up to £2,000 MORE a year, despite, generally, being safer and more prudent drivers than their brothers, boyfriends and husbands.

Now traditionally, women pay less than men for car insurance because statistics show that they have fewer accidents and cause less damage when they are involved in a crash. But the good people of Brussels aren't fans of tradition. So they decided it was better to bar insurers from charging men more than women based on the expectation of higher and more frequent payouts.

It is estimated the average woman will end up paying an extra £362 a year, or around £30 a month. Yet for female teens, the price hike could be more like 94%, pushing the total cost to £2000, which, let's face it, most teenagers cannot afford.

Sorry Susan, we cannot afford your car insurance. Better you walk home by yourself at night or take a dodgy looking minicab. Or you could stay at home and put the supper on.

The money will essentially be used to subsidide the lower premiums male drivers of the same age will enioy - although the drop in their insurance is likely to be only 9%.

So all's fair once again. We have the safest drivers covering the costs of the accidents of the most reckless, insurance companies opportunising and harvesting huge profits and the EU smiling beatifically at the balance they are forging as the arbiters of equality in Europe.

Monday, 10 September 2012

All Eyes on Germany This Wednesday

Wednesday could be the most pivotal day yet in deciding the fate of the Eurozone.
Yes we’ve had critical summits and last minute emergency meetings. But September 12 is being hailed by some as the day that could make or break the common currency as Germany’s constitutional court will announce whether or not the European Stability Mechanism, or permanent bail out fund of €700 billion, is legal according to German law. So far 14 of the 17 Eurozone members have ratified the treaty, with Estonia, Italy and Germany yet to put pen to paper.

It is the reaction in Germany however that will pull the most influence. As the economic powerhouse of Europe, Germany has already been criticised by George Soros, one of the world’s leading financiers, for failing to face the brunt of the crisis and has been warned that the Eurozone would face a long depression unless Germany are prepared to take on some of her neighbour’s debts. “Stay and lead, or quit the Euro” has been the message from Soros.

As the clock runs down on a rescue mission, it is becoming increasingly apparent that time is no longer on the side of the Eurozone. With Spain sizing up the possibility of needing a full state bail out, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has been clear in his intent to review all the conditions of seeking financial aid from the European Central Bank before arriving cap in hand. Nothing will be clear about the ECB’s recently announced bond buying plan until a rescue is requested, and how much this would mean signing over sovereignty to faceless bureaucrats in Brussels and at the IMF. Even if this were to happen, the Bundestag would then have to approve the terms of the agreement, and with recent backlash against the German Government from the media about the ECB’s proposals to buy Eurozone government debt, it is clear public opinion does not support the idea of Germany effectively bankrolling and underwriting the financial problems in other single currency member states.

Whereas in America, the banking crisis was quickly resolved after the collapse of Lehamn Brothers in 2008, Europe, due to its lack of federal unity, has been unable to find a weighty enough solution. On the same day as Germany decides on the legality of the ESM, the European Commission will announce proposals for a new Eurozone supervisor, an offshoot of the ECB that will regulate some 6,000 banks. Yet once again Germany is no longer playing ball. Whereas many see the creation of a supervisory institution as a concession to Germany’s demands that a watertight structure be brought in if German euros are to be used to underwrite Eurozone debt, Germany has now cast doubt on whether one central supervisor is enough and whether the ECB can supervise so many banks at onece. There has even been murmurings that some Germans suspect the French of trying to shift so much responsibility onto the ECB so as to deliberately render it impracticable. Meanwhile Britian, which houses the majorty of the EU’s financial industry, is of course outside the single currency and sceptical about any legislation or supervision that would shift power away from the City towards Brussels.

Even if a resolution is found, many still believe it is too late to make a real difference. The Eurozone is back in recession and unemployment has reached recird highs.

Also on Wednesday theDutch will go to the polls to decide on their future Government, with more vocal opposition to the country’s role in single currency bail outs than ever before. While it seems likely a pragmatic centrist government will be elected, there is no doubt that the ongoing Euro crisis has played a key role in many of the election campaigns with increasing public discontent over the handling of the Eurozone crisis and calls for the Netherlands to become  more assertive and sceptical about demands made in Brussels and by other Eurozone members.

Meanwhile in Greece the three party government cannot agree on austerity measyres designed to save almost €12 billion and ensure the next tranche of bail out funding from the IMF and EU. It is estimated that Greek debt is still at a whopping 166% of GDP. If the next chunk fo bail out money is withheld in the wake of insufficient reform, it is likely Greece would default, catapaulting the single currency back into crisis as markets would once again rally at the threat to the single currency, rocketing the cost of borrowing sky high and serving a heavy blow for Spain who is already teetering on the edge of insolvency.

According to Der Spiegel today Merkel’s rhetoric has somewhat changed on a Greek exit. Whereas before her and finance secretary Wolfgang Schäuble may have viewed Greece as the runt of the litter, it is reported she has now spoken out about the suffering of the Greek people in the wake of the crisis and implored that everything must be done to prevent a 'Grexit.'

This may of course also have something to do with the fact that in the wake of an exit, the €62billion owed by Greece to Germany would effectively have to be written off.

It will be interesting to see on Wednesday what the German Constitutional Court rules.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Bovine EID - What's your view?

Parliament has reconvened with a session in Strasbourg next week to kick things off. On the agenda and on my remit is the proposition that cattle received electronic identification tags, EID, in the same way that movement monitoring was introduced for sheep in 2008.

The farming community seem to see more sense in tagging cattle than sheep. Stringent paper records are already a requirement of the industry, and quite a few farmers believe switching to digitised record keeping will save time and effort. But what about money?

There is no stipulation under the proposals on who pays for the equipment, whether Bovine EID will be compulsory and whether strict penalties will be levied against non-compliance.

Sheep EID has suffered a great many issues, costing farmers hundreds of thousands through equipment failure and fines. Are we likely to encounter the same littany of issues when the ear tags are attached to cows? Is this monitoring really necessary? Before the introduction of such legislation, was farming and meat more dangerous, say, 30 years ago?

I will be reading into these matters and addressing Parliament next week and would appreciate any feedback from farmers about their concerns and questions. Feel free to comment on the blogpost.

In the meantime, here's a rather pertinent joke I stumbled across the other day.

A farmer named Bill was overseeing his herd in a remote mountainous pasture in Wales when suddenly a brand-new BMW advanced toward him out of a cloud of dust.

The driver, a young man in a Brioni suit, Gucci shoes, RayBan sunglasses and YSL tie, leaned out the window and asked the farmer, "If I tell you exactly how many cows and calves you have in your herd, will you give me a calf?"

Bill looks at the man, obviously a yuppie, then looks at his peacefully grazing herd and calmly answers, "Sure, why not?"

The yuppie parks his car, whips out his Dell notebook computer, connects it to his Cingular RAZR V3 cell phone, and surfs to a NASA page on the Internet, where he calls up a GPS satellite to get an exact fix on his location which he then feeds to another NASA satellite that scans the area in an ultra-high-resolution photo.
The young man then opens the digital photo in Adobe Photoshop and exports it to an image processing facility in Hamburg.
Within seconds, he receives an email on his Palm Pilot that the image has been processed and the data stored. He then accesses an MS-SQL database through an ODBC connected Excel spreadsheet with email on his Blackberry and, after a few minutes, receives a response.
Finally, he prints out a full-colour, 150-page report on his hi-tech, miniaturized HP LaserJet printer, turns to the farmer and says, "You have exactly 1,586 cows and calves."

"That's right. Well, I guess you can take one of my calves," says Bill.
He watches the young man select one of the animals and looks on with amusement as the young man stuffs it into the boot of his car.

Then Bill says to the young man, "Hey, if I can tell you exactly what your business is, will you give me back my calf?"
The young man thinks about it for a second and then says, "Okay, why not?"

"You're a Member of the European Parliament", says Bill.
"Wow! That's correct," says the yuppie, "but how did you guess that?"
"No guessing required." answered the farmer. "You showed up here even though nobody called you; you want to get paid for an answer I already knew, to a question I never asked. You used millions of pounds worth of equipment trying to show me how much smarter than me you are; and you don't know a thing about how working people make a living - or about cows, for that matter. This is a flock of sheep...

.... now give me back my bloody dog.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

The Great Debate...?

Yesterday Radio 4 transmitted a programme they called The EU Debate

Sir Stephen Wall, the former diplomat and EU adviser to Tony Blair, argued his position against a panel who want Britain out, including UKIP's own Roger Helmer, Dr Helen Szamuely - Head of research for the Bruges Group and Conservative MP Mark Reckless.

The debate was held at The London School of Economics and Politics (LSE).
The audience was resoundingly pro-European Union.

Some would say this is no surprise. LSE boasts "a distinguished history" in EU Law. They readily point out that "The first major English language textbook on European Union law was published by an LSE academic...Members of the Department have gone on to be members of the Court and similarly the Court is represented in the Department.."

It is perhaps the foremost University in the UK for any graduand seeking a Commission or ECJ based career, so one would imagine the audience of the debate was largely made up of people either aspiring to work for the EU or a student body of a broadly similar mindset.

It is rather sorry that the BBC chose to stage the argument with a roll-call on voting intention at the start of the debate (the Yays have it) and then the same question posed at the end of the debate to demonstrate that the vast majority still applauded the EU. It certainly whiffed a bit of a set up, pitching not one, or two, but three Eurosceptics against one avid supporter to then fimd that their arguments had gained no purchase with the audience at all.

 It would be like having three Michelin starred chefs attempting to extol the virtues of Chateaubriand with a side of Fois-Gras to an audience of Vegans.

The final product was this semblance that one rather unpopular Europhile (just former association with T Blair often casts people into the instant role of pantomime villain) could be pitted against three articulate Eurosceptics, and guess what, the EU still comes out on top. Well there you have it. A foregone conclusion. The EU is the shiniest and best thing to e'er happen to Western Civilisation.

But listening to the arguments put forward by Mr Wall, there was also implication, the same one often used by the left-leaning press, that leaving the EU is the same as getting into a time machine and returning to a war-stricken divided Europe of workhouses, soot and poverty.

Oh and Britain will become as insignificant on the world stage as Micronesia.

It just doesn't make sense. Nobody is denying that the EU at some stage may have done some good stuff.
But the ever centrifugal pull of power into the midst of a democratic vacuum exhibited by Brussels as it clambers shambolically through the self-inflicted wastelands of economic misery is eerily reminiscent of the very Communism Mr Wall exhorted the pan-European bloc gallantly overcame.

I shuddered at his use of the words "For safety's sake" as if without the very Union that is pitting nation against nation in an epidemia of economic contagion, puttting people on streets and causing petrol bombs and smashed shop windows to become a regular sight once again in the Mediterranean, Europe would be thrown back into myre of multi-national conflict. What an utterly grotesque assertion, and how undermining to NATO, the UN and 21st century common sense.

And how undermining to the UK that without Europe we would no longer have any sort of influence where it counted.

It is as if there is a clear dichotomy. Either be in the EU or hate neighbouring European countries and become an isolated and impoverished little territory.

Why nobody seems to posit that cooperation, trade and solidarity may actually be enhanced by leaving the European Union, which as far as most can see is merely the architect of economic and political failure, is a mystery to me. All you have to do is open a newspaper to see the turmoils affecting Greece, Ireland, Spain, Portugal and so forth.

Of course Switzerland, who remains resolutely outside of the EU but fully cooperational in terms of free trade, is planning to use the Large Hadron Collider now Higgs-Boson has been found to forge a network of guerilla tunnels under continental Europe and take us all by force, all the while smirking as she benefits from selling Philip Patek's in return for civilisation-destroying arms. If that sounds ridiculous to you, then surely this proposition that the EU membership is essential for European peacekeeping also rings of utter codswallop.

Notice how the debate rarely even touched upon the catastrophic failure of the Euro, the self-defeating agricultural policy dessimating UK farming and neutering our ability to be self sufficient, let alone the Common Fisheries Policy which not only practically eradicates all ocean life from the waters of Europe, but destroys the coastlines and fishing communities of numerous third world countries.

I must admit I listened with pride at the arguments put forward by Helmer et al.
Yet a clever bit of editing and a sprinkle of production values and the BBC came across as the mouthpiece of Europe.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Passing the buck..or Euro

US President Harry Truman famously had a sign on his desk in the Oval Office that said "The Buck Stops Here".
The expression itself is thought to originate from poker, whereby a marker or counter indicates whose turn it is to deal. A player could pass the "buck" into the next player and thus buck his responsibilities.

In international relations the phrase has come to mean the tendency of nation-states to refuse to confront an escalating issue in the hope that another nation will step up to the mark. Perhaps a more fitting representation of playing hot potato with multi-national responsibilirt would be the phrase "The Euro Stops Here". But then, where does the Euro actually stop?

I don't just mean in terms of the currency itself. The very problem with the single currency was that it was created without any sense of centralised control. Instead a sort of Ashram-style communcal ownership of the currency was forged. But as the edifice began to crumble, all of a sudden shared responsibilities were denied and finger pointing, points-scoring and accusatory proclamations shattered the previously optimistic murmured assent of the great single currency project.

It is of course summer recess in Brussels. That means the big boys in the EU are essentially on their holibobs, leaving nobody to call their shots for a couple of weeks and essentially passing the onus onto the European Central Bank to calm the waters before everyone can return to the drawing board and bang their heads together once again.

Rather unhelpfully, the ECB President Mario Draghi has been left the usual script.
Phrases like "The single currency is not reversible" and "The ECB will do whatever it takes to save the Euro" are being jettisoned out at the world's media, who, of course, have heard it all before.

Then there was even the line “In the coming weeks we will design the appropriate modalities for such policy measures,” alongside the usual affirmation that eurozone countries "must use the time constructively to move towards closer integration in the eurozone".

The ECB's bond-buying programme had managed to actually bring down the costs of government borrowing in the Eurozone via the trade between banks and government institutions on the secondary market. However this was shut down in January and anyway, actual costs of government borrowing are largely determined at auctions in the primary market where bonds are sold directly to banks (bonds are essentially I.O.U.s which certain crafty financiers agree to "buy" ata rate of interest which they believe will land them a sizeable profit. Of course, the less desirable the I.O.U. the higher the rate of interest demanded by the potential purchaser). It is here that the ECB would need to bring down the costs in much the same way as the Bank of England has done in the UK, effectively spending 20% of UK national income on government debt.

The same sort of intervention by the ECB would be a bond purchase of around €1.6 trillion.

But the ECB's constitution prevents it from lending money to European governments, precluding it from buying bonds at government debt auctions in the primary market.

Instead, under the Eurogroup plan, the EFSF (European Financial Stability Facility, or to you and I, the bail-out fund) would do the buying...through the ECB.

The problem is however that the bail out fund which at one point had €440billion has already thrown €200billion at Greece, Ireland and Portugal and has recently committed another €100billion to Spanish banks.

Yet the ECB has also stated that "first of all governments need to go to the EFSF; the ECB cannot replace governments". But there's nothing really lefy in the EFSF, and what's more the statement made by the ECB was not really backed up by one vital player:  Jens Weidmann, head of Germany's influential Bundesbank, the ECB's biggest shareholder. The very fact that Draghi named the dissenter was clear intent that rather than buttering up Germany as potential paymaster, the institutions are tempted to round upon the economic powerhouse by portraying Germany as some kind of Judas.

He is without doubt fully aware that all this chit chat must get through Germany's Constitutional Courts in September. 

Draghi has also reaffirmed that national governmens had to do their bit and stick to, if not enhance, already devastating austerity measures and use their bail out funds before turning cap in hand to the Central Bank.

Essentially all we have heard from Draghi is the usual rhetoric designed to temporarily calm the storm while everyone enjoys their vacation. However, perhaps significantly, the German Government has backed the ECB's statement despite officials at the German central bank being openly critical of using ECB resources to buy the bonds of struggling countries such as Greece or Spain as against the spirit of the ECB’s statutes, which forbid it to finance states. The bank simply reiterated that “There haven’t been any changes” on this position.

The question over whether the ECB could grant the proposed €500billion rescue fund a banking license in order for it to borrow from the ECB has been shot down by Germany. Yet while the Bundesbank cannot veto ECB policy decisions, the very fact that Germany is the biggest shareholder in the ECB due to the size of her economy means it is vital that they are on board.

And so we have in practice what the EU was designed to prevent.

The question of on who's desk the sign "The Euro Stops Here" should sit is increasingly obvious to us all. Once again the future of Europe will likely be determined in the Bundestag unless all the other European states can combine forces to overcome her might.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

A knock on your door from Barosso can mean only one thing...

It's getting rather tiring talking about the same topics, week in week out.
But they simply cannot be ignored.
As soon as they disappear from newspapers, they are simply simmering under the surface of a fast-track primordial swamp waiting to evolve and re-emerge a more fearful beast.
More than £30billion of value of British companies was obliterated  by news that Spain, as predicted, will likely need a national, as well as the already agreed, banking bail out. And if the Eurozone's fourth largest economy is sucked into the mire, well, I've said it before and will say it again. The EU is screwed.
In fact the Global economy is going to be up the creek without a paddle. World stock markets fell by 2% in the wake of the news.
British banks with billions tied up in Spanish loans are now in a precarious position while the credit ratings of the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Germany are all set for a downgrade, which ultimately will compound the problem, making the powerhouse economies of the single currency face higher rates of borrowing.
Italy is also heading towards a bail out with public debt totalling almost £1trillion.Ten Italian cities are on the verge of bankruptcy.
Currently Spain has been granted a bail out of up to £80 billion to shore up its banks, which are sitting on £122 of dodgy loans. But the latest news that the state also need an urgent cash injection adds an eyewatering £250billion onto that amount. Throw Italy into the mix and in total the Eurozone looks like it may need the previously predicted €2 trillion to get through to the end of the year. The bail out fund that took months to agree has only €700billion to it's name.
Let's see what that looks like as a number...

Meanwhile the Troika, (IMF, ECB and EU) are about to arrive in Greece to turn the knife a little more and make sure their hugely unpopular and unsuccessful austerity measures are being obeyed to the letter.
Greece is likely to suffer much deeper recession that previously thought, with expectations that the economy will shrink by 7% ratehr than the forecast 5% demonstrating the swingeing cuts are driving the economy into the ground. But without progress, Greece is being threatened with not receiving the final part of its bail out of €31.5billion. Reports suggest the IMF will now refuse any further calls for aid.
I was surprised to learn that despite his pontificating from Brussels, Commission President Jose Manuel Barosso hasn't even set foot in Greece, the country he has overseen being brought to its knees, since 2009.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Commons census - The Dutch and The British

Figures released today from the latest conducted census have shown a population increase in at least 3.7 million in England and Wales.

Fifty five percent of that increase was fuelled by immigration between 2001 and 2011 - a jaw dropping 2.1 million.

The rest is due to rising birth rates and increasing life span. However, immigration has also played a part here, with higher average birth rates attributed to foreign born couples. One in four babies now born in the UK has a non-UK born Mum.

England is now the third most densely populated place in the EU, after Malta and the Netherlands. Well given that Malta is by nature a very small island, no bigger than the size of Bristol, I think we can discount that from the count. By virtue of its compact size, density is heightened. Even still, if you visit Gozo, you will see acres of unspoilt arable land.

England has around 402.1 people for every square kilometre of land, overtaking the figure of 398.5 in Holland and 355.2 in Belgium. The density of the population in England is almost more than four times that of France, which has 99.4 for each square kilometre.

So other than both having a Queen, a rocky history with the Habsburgs and a national zeal for football (they exhibit passionate opposition to the Germans even more than we do) we also find ourselves facing the same cultural questions.

The Netherlands is the 61st most populated country in the world with a population of 16,663,831. A mere drop in the ocean compared with the UK's burgeoning 56.1 million.

But like statistics often quoted for the UK, this marker relates to the Netherlands as a whole.

Britain is the 39th most crowded country in the world. But as 93% of immigrants go to England, it is England that matters in this context. Together with Holland, England is the sixth most crowded country in the world exlcuding islands and city states.

Between 1900 and 1950 the population of the Netherlands doubled from 5.1 to 10 million people, and then grew by another 50% thereafter. According to Eurostat, 2010 saw 1.8 million foreign-born Netherlands residents, 11.1% o the total population.

Such a dramatic change of cultural landscape has its repercussions. Apart from the fear of unsustainable pressures on housing, employment and public services comes the more tricky and sensitive issue of whether a country is the sum of its peoples, and that being the case, whether change is good.

Inevitably growing consertantion about immigration led to the rise of more immigration-centric policies. The Dutch Government's policy, overseen by Immigration Minister Laurens Rita Verdonk, paved the way for permits for "knowledge-migrants" who would earn a minimum gross income of €45,000 unless a doctoral student or postgraduate or university teacher younger than 30 years of age. The permit is granted for a maximum of five years, while foreign students get a residence permit of just one year, subject to renewal by the relevant educational instututions.

Newcomers to the country and those immigrants already settled are also subject to an integration exam, much like here in the UK. The Netherlands are the first country to insist permanent immigrants also complete the pre-integration course.

Many Dutch people however are also concerned about the scale of EU immigration. In reaction to European Commission proposals to enforce social security benefits to people working in a member state but living elsewhere, the Government has been denying this right, provoking the Commission to threaten the Dutch Social Affairs Minister Henk Kamp with legal action.

Which brings us on to the question of what EU member states can actually do to tackle the problems that a mass influx of immigration can potentially bring?

The difficulty with this subject is it falls victim too easily to protestations of xenophobia, despite simple mathematics and economics underscoring the sense of having a debate about the impact of a growing population.

Recent reports on Reuters suggest that as economic mire continues to trouble the Eurozone, so-called "Populist" concerns such as cultural ones have been usurped of their supremacy by valence issues such as fears about the economic crisis. Voters are apparently less bothered about immigration and are instead more worried about how the Euro crisis will affect the Netherlands.

But surely the two are intertwined?

Should we separate discussions about burgeoning populations and net immigration, or should they both be regarded under the same microscope? Is this not the safest way to tackle the tricky subject of immigration?

My tendency is to suggest the latter - certainly from a national point of view, though this is certainly not the vantage point of the Socialism-steered European Commission who wish to trample renewed calls for sovereignty in the light of ongoing economic crisis and iron out  any disjuncture between once allied member states. After all it is important for the very continuation of the EU for solidarity to supercede national interests - and how better to achieve this than create a single federal entity, both engineered and corroborated by the free movement of people?

The question now is what route the UK Government will take in light of these recent statistics.

Are we willing to burden share if economic migrants from, say, Greece, wish to come to the UK to seek employment or benefit from our social welfare system?

Since 1997 three quarters of employment created in the UK has been taken by immigrants.

The latest poll by YouGov shows that 70% of people want immigration reduced down to the level of emigration, effectively creating a one-in-one-out system of entry, surely reflecting an economic concern over and above a cultural one?

Are we even permitted to talk about the cultural ramifications of immigration? Is there a valid argument to be made?

It's a subject not often tackled here in the UK. Britishness has become almost such an abhorrent term that, other than during the Jubilee, it is by and lrge frowned upon (by nameless, faceless people) to raise the Union Jack outside your home as a perceived act of nationalistic hostility. (Who are these people that supposely think this, anyway? I've never met one, yet we are all aware of the connotations raising the British standard apparently engenders)

What level of insanity have we reached when flying our country's flag is perceived as racist?

In the UK we are not having the conversation in the open. Instead a perceived rot forcing us to shun patriotism is pervading common sense, meaning real discussion about immgiration is only taking place in sitting rooms and quiet corners of pubs, or by minority groups of society whom we would rather not voice their opinions at all.

Is that because the conversation is wrong in its very purpose?


It's actually because we are a very welcoming society and so concerned to appear as such that, in a typical British fashion, to be seen to openly complain is, well, tasteless. Only a tiny, insidious little percentage of a percentage actually hold the sort of views that we fear we may be perceived as having if we open up this particular dialogue.

When left unspoken however, the argument is up for grabs by whichever niche section of society wishes to adopt it. Sadly it has become an issue in the UK far too readily associated with the BNP. They then have the power to attract support by laying claim to concerns that  are not being addressed by Government.

This very dialogue has been tackled head on, for better or for worse, by the peroxide-topped infamous figure of Geert Wilders and the PVV party in the Netherlands, to a rather astonishing level of success given the party's size all but five years ago and its present sway in Parliament today.

Now there are gaping differences between what the PVV stand for and what many British people stand for, however there is one aspect of uniformity. A shared desire to actually bring this debate to the fore.

There is growing unrest both over there and over here surrounding what can be done in support of the preservation of one's perceived country, its peoples and its ideals.

History has taught us that when such issues are ignored, they are more likely to become inflamed and then become very difficult for the middle ground to reclaim.

I vouch for an open debate on this matter, where British people are not afraid to show their true colours.

And you know what? I think we would all be quite proud of how open we are as a people, and not only 'tolerant' but actively welcoming and celebratory of our multicultural present.

Yet it is exactly this temperament that is at stake if we cannot talk about immigration sensibly.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

UKIP Breakthrough in Wales

UKIP could make dramatic gains in forthcoming Welsh elections according to a YouGov poll commissioned by ITV Wales. The prediction that UKIP could gain 5 seats, putting the party on equal footing with the Conservatives, is based upon a dramatic shift in Regional List voting where UKIP ranks as the third party, on 12% of the vote.

The results of this poll are encouraging, but they tell us what we already know. As a party we are going from strength to strength. Voters are waking up to the fact that we are a credible alternative to the establishment parties who time and again let down the people.

For too long, too few parties have dominated politics. This enables them to drastically shift policy as they wish as they believe they are untouchable. This also means that worryingly, it is a select few people at the very top of these parties with power and influence, while voters and backbenchers are simply ignored.

This has become clear with the number of u-turns made by the Coalition Government in Westminster. Dismal policy making and broken promises are losing the establishment parties support.

UKIP’s recent success isn’t just about growing consternation with the EU. It’s about voters waking up to the fact that we offer a whole range of policies that represent what the people of Wales want.

UKIP is not just an alternative to a Tory vote. It’s an alternative vote to all the other parties that have failed, and will continue to fail, Welsh voters. These results show that people want UKIP as part of Wales’ political fabric to fight their corner on a range of issues.

Monday, 25 June 2012

Motorcycle Protest

This weekend I joined hundreds of bikers before they embarked on a protest cavalcade down the M4 - one of 12 major demonstrations up and down the UK, organised by the Motorcycle Action Group to protest against proposed EU legislation that will limit the right to modify new bikes and make on board diagnostics compulsory.

At 1300 the motorcyclists set off from the12 meeting points - representing the 12 EU Parliamentary Constituencies.

 In Wales, the protestors embarked upon their ride at Junction 49 of the M4 and were accompanied by police escort.

There is no evidence to support this notion that modifications are unsafe or environmentally unfriendly. Compulsory ABS and automatic headlights will render older models illegal and also shift more responsibility onto motorcyclists and away from dangerous road users.

 Similarly the proposed On Board Diagnostics are a breach of liberty and will force motorcyclists to take bikes into dealerships, preventing any mechanical work from being done at home.

The burden of the regulation far outweighs any sort of justification and will cost motorcyclists heavily. 

The turn out is incredible which just goes to demonstrate how passionate many motorcyclists are about their vehicles and the disgust that is felt about the EU interfering with probably the most liberating form of transport.

The message from Brussels demonises motorcyclists. 

Everyone I spoke to agreed that safety and respect are paramount in motorcycling, which is why they take such umbrage at being persecuted this way. 

It's simply another example of the EU churning out legislation simply because it thinks it can.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Teach Your Children Well

I once read an opinion piece in a newspaper which said that if the Tories wanted to turn back the clock twenty years, then UKIP wanted it turned back fifty. The comment was likely designed as a slur, a reference to some sort of idealistic nostalgic retrospect of the way things were. However, isn't this more and more society's inclination, and if it is, what is so bad about that?

From buying organic to local provenance and the sudden return to popularity of "old fashioned" cuts of meat and traditional British dishes, to the ever evolving cycles of fashion and music, remodelled classic cars and remakes of films, the presence of our past is pervasive throughout popular culture, and so it should be. It is our identity

But what about in politics?

We often hear the phrase "old fashioned values". You rarely hear the past being spoken about as something dire or squallid. Not in the UK anyway.

History has shown us that everything from the maxims that bind a society, to geo-political landscapes, to the earth's climate changes, are bound by varying concentric circles of change. Empires come and go. Benchmarks for prudency, decency and hedonism undulate. Some summers are good. Others are a washout.
When it comes to judging things from a latterday era, it is fair to say that nothing was perfect. Looking at the world through rose tinted glasses will not help push forward an ever changing global population. But learning from history will.
Forgive me if I have come across rather Keatsian in my introduction. I remember learning his works at school. Something which sadly, few peoples could lay claim to today. Which brings me on to the topic of this blog post. Education.
As an individual and as a party, UKIP and I resolutely support the announcement by Michael Gove of the restoration of the O Level. In our manifesto we champion the need to return to previous methods of teaching and examination.  

From effectively teaching the "three R's" and using phonics to teach reading, to reintroducing the traditional methods of arithmetic and basing targets around those expected in the 1950s, I strongly believe the school system needs a big shake up

We are falling behind, and nowhere more so than in Wales.
In recent PISA rankings Wales scored below average in reading, maths and science, putting it below a number of developing countries and former soviet satellite states in educational acheivement.
Yet the younger generation are our investment in the future. With an ever increasing global economy and access to education improving around the world, without inspired minds, our future is bleak.
When the GCSE was introduced in 1988, it was quickly extended to accommodate the full range of academic abilities. The result was inevitably one of "dumbing down". The system then extended upwards to A Levels, and with Government targets on getting more and more school leavers into University, the value of the degree began to plumment and students who otherwise may have excelled in vocational courses that would contribute invaluably to manufacturing and design in the UK found themselves with Mickey Mouse qualifications, little life experience, reduced job prospects and in debt up to their eyeballs.
There are two reasons why society however continues to champion this vain pursuit of pseudo-academia. First of all, it's the centrally imposed social status of those with a degree. We have been told repeatedly that you 'need' university to get on in life. That it would be ill perceived of to not have spent 3 years in full time education after leaving school. It is also a trick played by Governments to bring down youth unemployment statistics, yet what it creates is a bottle neck of jobless graduates who cannot contribute to the economy.
It also comes down to the very tetchy subject of ability. 

The differences in our capabilities must be papered over. Whilst we cannot deny that some people are naturally better at maths, others are proficient linguists and others are just generally good all rounders, we tend not to like to separate children on ability  too divisively for fear that it will harm those who, for want of a better expression, don't make the grade.
When it comes to sports, music and arts, these are often regarded as more inherent, and as such, less teachable skills, so promoting ability in these areas tends not to come under the same level of scrunity.
I am a firm believer that every child deserves the best possible education. 

Is selective education about separating the wheat from the chaff or about tailoring the classroom environment to the needs of the pupil to the closest possible degree?

One thing is for certain. Any selective education should be based purely upon how the child will perform in a set environment via empirical testing, not upon socio-economic background.
It's an emotive subject. However, in terms of segregating different groups of pupils, what is the difference between establishing grammar schools, and organising year groups into sets based upon ability within one school? 
I tend not to look at the debate from the angle of pushing on the brightest, although I do applaud the access a great grammar school can give to a pupil from a low income background with great potential. 
I look at it more from the perspective of what is most likely to demoralise the young, and through which structure we can best achieve creating an education system suitable for all.
The reintroduction of the O level will see better performing students siphoned off to sit a separate test. Is it therefore logical, if there is to be a two speed of teaching, to conduct this via separate educational establishments where each can focus upon its own needs and requirements and as a result, offer the best fit product for the greatest number of people?
Have we become far too sensitive about matters which, when I was growing up, were taken more as "facts of life"?

I believe social mobility and broad spectrum inclusion have certainly improved over the decades. There was a lot wrong with the incredibly schismatic wrenching apart of teenagers under the former system 

Some pupils were destined to only ever learn tertiary or blue collar skillsets while others were pushed towards white collar professions. Opportunities were denied and potentials abandoned in favour of a drachonian and cruel intellectual class system. This cannot be allowed to happen again.

But taking on board the positives that grammar schools have and still offer, is it not time we open our minds to their re-establishment?

It is a thorny debate often dependent upon your own life experiences and political persuasions and one perhaps with no right answer. However one thing is for sure.  

Our schools are simply not performing. I welcome a radical change with open arms.