Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Owen Jones is right. Vote Leave is reprehensible


Don't get me wrong, I think Owen Jones is a political and intellectual lightweight with a very shallow command of the issues, but he is absolutely right to say that the Vote Leave "list of EU criminals" is reprehensible.

It is barely removed from the sort of trash Breitbart and white supremacist sites would happily publish. This sort of campaigning is precisely why nobody who wants to win the referendum wanted Farage at the head of the Leave campaign. Had we known Vote Leave would be just as repellent we might as well have just let him do his thing.

Jones says "Park the fact that Vote Leave’s argument makes no sense: Britain does have control of its borders, is not part of the Schengen area, can prevent suspects from entering the country, and has used the European arrest warrant to deport thousands of suspects. This is grim scaremongering that debases British political debate. What is Vote Leave seriously arguing? That membership of the EU opens the door to raping and murdering foreigners? Here is an unapologetic attempt to tap into some of the basest prejudices imaginable. This is ugly stuff that other Brexit supporters should denounce."

I quite agree. And it's pointless too. In every measured analysis, Brexit sees us maintaining our membership of the single market for the foreseeable future, and consequently freedom of movement and so there is no value in talking up these issues even if they were true. This is not a referendum on immigration.

More to the point, as much as freedom of movement is not open borders, ending freedom of movement does not address the core immigration concerns, and if it does succeed in reducing immigration then it will only go back to the levels they were at when Ukip first started moaning about foreigners.

Not forgetting that these criminals are, well, criminals - and if they don't respect the basic law of "don't rape people", they're not going to let a little thing like immigration laws stand in their way. It's entirely this sort of quasi-racist crap that has soured the debate and made this battle an uphill climb from the beginning. You can thank Farage for that.

Jones says "I agree with those Eurosceptics above who have warned against the use of fear in the EU referendum. I await – with bated breath – their own condemnation of this tawdry attempt by Vote Leave to spread fear".

Well my little commie muttonchops, hold your breath no longer. I am described by senior figures within Stronger In as a "leading Brexit blogger" - and so for what that is worth, I utterly condemn Vote Leave, their entire message - and the people who run it. They are contemptible.

Monday, 28 March 2016

Anna Soubry: poisonous liar


Anna Soubry is the Minister for Small Business, Industry and Enterprise. She is also a liar. In a Telegraph article yesterday she does halfway decent job of demolishing some of the Brexit myths. This is not to say she has a strong case for remaining in the EU. All she is saying that the arguments put forth by Vote Leave, Boris Johnson and the likes are extremely weak and lack any credibility. That's nothing I have not said myself and I am steadfastly pro-Brexit. The inherent lies within are the repeated assertions that David Cameron has secured EU reform.

I was going to fisk the article but it's a tiresome and labour intensive form or writing and sadly it doesn't attract many readers - so I will just address one or two basic, but significant points that relate to the path we will probably follow. She says:
Myth four: we could leave the EU and retain full access to the Single Market without paying into the budget or accepting free movement of people. The evidence shows that this is not possible. As the German finance minister made clear recently, if you want to access the Single Market, you must pay into the EU and accept complete free movement of people. Just ask Norway. They pay into the EU and accept double the number of EU migrants per head than us. At the same time, they still have to put up with some tariffs on their goods and have no say over Single Market rules. That’s the worst of both worlds.
For sure, freedom of movement is a given, but Norway has a genuine emergency brake as encoded into the EEA agreement. Norway is also in Schengen. We are not and never will be. That however is not the theme of this post. Soubry has it that "Norway still has to put up with some tariffs on their goods and have no say over Single Market rules. That’s the worst of both worlds".

Actually it's the best of both worlds. Norway, by way of being an EEA member is a part of the single market, but has the right to refuse regulations and has right of reservation. That is why tariffs apply on certain goods. Namely fisheries and food.

Norway an independent member of Codex - the global food standards setting body. Norway even hosts the all-important Fish and Fisheries Products Committee. Thus, it is the lead nation globally in an area of significant economic importance to itself.

When it comes to trade in fish and fishery product, Norway is able to guide, if not control, the agenda on standards and other matters. The EU then reacts, turning the Codex standards into Community law, which then applies to EEA countries, including Norway. But it is Norway, not the EU, which calls the shots.

In some areas, Norway is able to opt out of applying certain standards thus exempting certain sectors from external competition. Their own parliament gets to decide whether the trade off of tariffs is worth protecting their strategic national assets. In this it is a widely held view that Norway would have no agricultural sector at all were it open to the full forces of competition. And that's self-evidently a bad thing.

Agriculture is central to food security, defence, tourism, land management and flood prevention. Livestock rearing and crop production is part of the economics of such land husbandry. As essential as that is, it is also suicidal to open it up to the the full forces of competition and remote management via the Common Agricultural Policy.

Coming back to Fisheries, Norway has the richest cod fishery in the world with an estimated catch value of €2 billion and a huge amount of added value from processing. The also have a growing aquaculture sector producing Salmon for Japanese markets - a trade deal they were able to negotiate independently of the EU. The decision is entirely theirs as to whether they expose it to EU competition. That sovereignty thing.

Now some are aghast at the very idea of protectionism. It is an article of faith among the Tory right that protectionism is baaad m'kay! I wholly disagree.

While I am from a largely libertarian conservative background, I have since learned to dispense with dogma and absolutes. Unilateral free trade works when you're rich and service driven ie the south east. Every other part of the UK has been devastated as we refuse countermeasures to blatant state subsidy of industry abroad. Italy makes double the steel we do, with massive state support.

We could have protected our own steel, not through any dogmatic socialist tendency but in order to retain some of the knowledge and production ability of what should be classified as a strategic national asset. Every government does it - even the good old US of A.

You may have seen M1 Abrams tanks on the news just recently. Tanks gifted by the US to the Iraqi Army. America has a massive surprise of them and is still building them. It is far cheaper to maintain a production line than it is to let it be cannibalised and then retool and re-staff when you need to build more of them. So for the time being, the US will be handing out monkey models of their main battle tank for thruppence ha'penny a dozen. Sometimes pragmatism defies apparent good sense. For them it is a strategic national asset.

And so too is our agriculture. Having opened up our markets to to full force of competition we are seeing the dairy industry collapsing - and that is a travesty. We should be able to protect that industry and we do need to retain the ability to raise livestock. Moreover, we do not want our countryside plastered with solar panels as farmers struggle to make a living off the land.

We need our own sovereignty over matters we consider vital to tourism, defence and food security and flood prevention. If deviating from the EU standard means we incur tariffs then so be it if the cost benefit analysis suggests it's worth taking the hit. Without such protections, everything is up for sale, everything is open to job killing competition and that does not necessarily mean cheaper goods. There are always externalities.

The dogmatic insistence on free trade at any costs is a, dare I say, "neoliberal" ideology that utterly destroys industries in lesser developed countries. Time and again we have seen superpowers exerting their influence to bring down tariff barriers in Africa meaning that domestic tax revenue collapses, making governments more dependent on corporate bribes for income that genuine revenue from trade and industrial activity.

It is why so much of Africa remains utterly corrupt and is unable to establish functioning democracy. People show no loyalty or obligation to a state they do not pay for and have no control over. Moreover without some protections there is no hope of stimulating a skilled workforce if every industry is exposed to cheaper foreign competition with an unfair advantage.

We all want the benefits of globalisation and we all want free and fair trade but some things are sacrosanct, some things require protection and some things do not benefit from a one-size-fits- all policy. There is no room for dogmatic ideology - especially the supranationalism of the EU that removes choice over every area of trade - often with depressing results.

Leaving the EU means we can maintain the single market, we can veto regulations and though there may be tariff penalties where we choose to protect ourselves from the onslaught of hyper globalisation. The basic right to decide for ourselves.

That may be at odds with the dogmatic free market ideology of the EU but the facts on the ground show that the EU is not a genuine single market. Other member states do not play by the rules and the main reason we suffer as much as we do is because we believe in the rule of law and contract in ways that France, Italy and Greece does not.

We are shooting ourselves in the foot at the cost of our agriculture sector, when we could be protecting ourselves from direct EU competition while seeking new markets elsewhere. And why can't we? Norway does.

As it happens, Britain does believe in free markets and is not so keen on protectionism - and since it is a leader in producing standards and regulations it is unlikely that we would opt out very often, but the point is that Brexit gives us that choice when we need to.

We can have our own fishing and agriculture back under local control, we can safeguard jobs and skills we value and not everything has to have a price tag on it. Protectionism is not a dirty word and safeguarding those industries that have shaped our island for a thousand years is not "socialism" - it's just good government.

In an era of hyper globalisation where we will see ever more globalisation of regulation we need a line of defence now more than ever. The EU is incapable of being that line of defence. The EU is never going to put British concerns first. British jobs and British agriculture should never be a bartering chip for some Portuguese official. Any hit we take from EU negotiations to them is just a cost of doing business. To us, it's our lives they are playing with.

Nobody is every going to care about North Yorkshire coastline like the people of North Yorkshire same as nobody is going to care for the Somerset Levels as the people of Somerset would if only they could. It's our country, our assets, our livelihoods and our democracy. Why should we not get a say in what we allow?

It's not a left/right question. It's about our right to say no when we need to. The dogmatic supranationalism of the EU will never allow for that. It goes against the DNA of the EU - and despite what liars like Anna Soubry say - the EU has not been reformed and never will be.

Post-democracy politics


In my most humble opinion, this referendum really has shown up Tories for what they are: Duplicitous, unprincipled, gutless liars. It has also revealed Ukip as a dustbin for haters. That completes my UK political education in that I have always known Labour were a bunch of incompetent, squandering crooks and Lib Dems are are entirely without a core. 

In light of this, I am entirely without a choice at the ballot box. Worse still, if we end up staying in the EU, electing MPs will matter less than it ever has. It will be safe to say that democracy in any real sense is dead.

I don't think I'm alone in thinking this and I have seen plenty of former Ukip voters, burned by Ukip's incompetence, simply giving up on party politics altogether. For those who believe in genuine democracy, localism, good governance, accountability, low taxes and civil liberties, there is nothing left to do but watch and weep.

That has some pondering what lies in store for a post-referendum Ukip. Matthew Goodwin has it that Ukip may well rebrand as new party hoping to emulate the SNP success.
As one of Britain’s most senior Euroskeptics told me: “UKIP needs to rebrand itself and change after the referendum. There is a huge opportunity coming. You could have that SNP effect where you lose the battle but win the war. I am keen to look at how we can reposition UKIP to take full advantage of that.”
This isn't going to happen. The SNP has three distinct qualities. A coherent philosophy, well rooted local branches and ruthless discipline. Ukip cannot replicate that.

At the heart of Ukip there is little more than a generic whinge. It is the manifestation of a sentiment with no intellectual core. All it knows it what it doesn't want. While it notionally has branches, most are dysfunctional, lacking organisational skills with no real back up from the central operation. Without an army to command and no well defined mission there is no hope of of them mobilising in a disciplined way.

In my experience of Ukippers, they tend to be universally nasty online, breathtakingly ignorant and wholly immune to reason. Most decent, switched on people have now peeled away from Ukip and written it off. Farage has destroyed it beyond redemption. The raw material simply isn't there. Goodwin thinks it is:  
Some point to the sheer quantity of data that Brexiteers will hold after the referendum — detailed information on hundreds of thousands of voters who have either registered their support for Euroskeptic platforms or voted for UKIP during a succession of national election campaigns. Leave.EU, an organization with close ties to UKIP, now has 600,000 fans on Facebook, more than the Conservative Party, Labour, Liberal Democrats and UKIP. It is also revealing that they are now employing the same social media analytical teams that are scraping data for Ted Cruz and others in the United States.
There is a problem here straight away in that Leave.EU is being very liberal in what it calls registered support. Their "fans" on Facebook are one click likes, largely purchased, and no meaningful affiliations can be divined from this dataset.

The generic scattergun approach of Leave.EU, having got progressively worse over time means that even their real support will have tanked. People hide them from their Facebook timeliness without unliking.

Meanwhile we don't know for a fact that Leave.EU is using advanced data-scraping. Rumour has it that no contract was ever signed with Goddard Gunster - and they have simply lied about their activities. That has a real ring of truth in that Arron Banks is a man for promising all things to all people and then getting distracted by the next fad. There is no evidence that Leave.EU is using any data driven conclusions. Andy Wigmore says they do, but Andy Wigmore is a pathological liar.

In any case, a party tailored to appeal to a subset will never expand beyond the confines of that which it was designed for. The only logical way to win by that methodology is to design a party to fit the largest identifiable cohort - and there is no guarantee people would vote for it even if you can reach them. Chances are, it would look nothing at all like Ukip.

And this really underscores the inherent flaw in contemporary Western politics in general; the warped idea that if you tailor a message to reach a particular audience that you can count on their vote - as though people were not living, breathing, thinking entities with moral agency. No movement can ever succeed unless it has an idea of what it wants and how to get it - and then goes out and sells it. You don't bend to the message, you set out your stall and persuade.

It is movements that gather momentum. Protest is one thing but turning a protest into political momentum is a wholly different skillset. A concept that escapes Ukip entirely. And Goodwin for that matter. The answers are not to be found by poking around in the numbers.

It is an energetic sense of purpose that inspires people. And that can only happen if you have purpose. A real agenda for change. Then there is the inherent suspicion and cynicism of Brits to get around. We dislike popular movements and we don't trust them. Most likely in the cultural psyche after watching the rise of Nazi Germany. There is a steep hill to climb for any revolutionary movement and Ukip doesn't have what it takes. It knows it wants out of the EU, but has largely forgotten why.

Goodwin has it that "There is also no doubt that Britain’s current political climate would be receptive to a broader movement anchored in cultural conservatism, even if the country votes to remain in the EU. Beneath the specific referendum question lies deeper currents that have been eroding loyalty to the main parties. Over the past 50 years the proportion of voters who feel only weakly attached or not attached at all to Labour and the Conservatives has surged from one in five to more than one in two. Britain has become less welcoming to the old parties and more open to new ones."

This is very much an establishment narrative, of which Goodwin is one of the authors. Again he reads the runes wrong. He sees this as fertile ground for a new party - and because such ground exists that one necessarily will appear and will succeed. The general election has taught him nothing. As ever he has failed to look up from his spreadsheets and take a serious look at what is there for all to see.

Ukip is already undergoing a serious internal feud. There is no guarantee that Farage will let go. I find it wise never to underestimate his egotism. We cannot take it for granted that he will resign and he does have a cult following that can take much of the intellectual property (stop laughing at the back) with him. Only one faction can win, and since they are are all losers, whatever comes out the other side will be as repellent a Ukip if not more so.

The civil war will largely shine a torch on just how intellectually debased Ukip is and without the anchor of Farage they will fight like rats in a sack, unable to produce a single presentable replacement. It could be that Suzanne Evans and Douglas Carswell pull off a coup but they are not popular among the Faragistas. The way I see it is that Farage and his worshippers are the poison in Ukip, but if they succeed in cleansing Ukip of the poison, there isn't actually very much left. At best they are left starting from scratch.

In this, the public will conclude that it is a party of losers, tainted by electoral failure at every test. That cultural conservatism Goodwin speaks of will look elsewhere. It will go three ways. There will be a leadership contest within the Tories resulting in either a Boris Johnson party or someone anodyne figure from the right of the party. Many kippers will drift back. Others will back Corbyn. Though most won't forgive and will simply bow out.

They will count themselves among the voiceless disaffected and go into a dormant state waiting for the next glimmer of a credible insurrection. They will be waiting thirty years at least. What we are likely to see is a reversion to norm, not least with the EU issue being buried. The public will be sick of it and won't wish to entertain further debate.

Goodwin says "it could be only a matter of time until the secretive plans to build a new populist army translate into a far more impressive breakthrough". Given that he said Ukip had at least four seats "in the bag" I'm now using Goodwin as my wrong-o-meter. If Goodwin thinks we will see a surge from the remnants of Ukip then he has failed utterly to examine the constituent parts, doesn't understand the nature of political movements and cannot see past the numbers. He has no instinct for British politics and a false reading of Ukip's abilities.

Should the UK vote to remain in the EU we will see a period of unsettled politics but having resolved nothing by having a referendum, the clock will reset back to zero and we go through the whole cycle again. If there is a place for Ukip it will be a sanitised replacement for the BNP to fill that space in the political void. It can expect no political earthquakes.

What remains to be seen is whether what is left of Ukip can maintain its presence in the European parliament. We are to some extent in uncharted waters. I expect we will see even lower turnouts. Ukip MEPs were elected on the basis that there was political momentum and hope of leaving the EU. In June, that hope likely dies for a generation. We might see more independents elected but on the whole I see an overall decrease in political engagement.

While on the surface it would appear that the question has been settled, seeing a reversion to tribal norms, the era of mass party membership will be well and truly over, and though it may seem like business as usual, I can imagine the ever more venal and disconnected political elites becoming even more deeply despised. If Boris Johnson, after a long career of lying, fraud and bullying can become Prime Minister, then the corrosion is complete.

I then see politics becoming more toxic not least as it becomes increasingly apparent just how much Westminster has neutered itself. After a ten year debate on immigration, nothing will be solved and the numbers coming in will travel upward. The effects will not be masked by economic prosperity as per 2007.

And though public sentiment to politicians will be more hostile, it will be business as usual for the establishment and the media - who will play their shrivelled little games - and Matthew Goodwin will pen yet more drivel for the Times despite being proved wrong time after time, republishing more or less the same article each and every time.

We will then see more forelock tugging from various think tanks who have focus groups about "democratic reform" hoping to bridge the gap, proposing yet more tinkering with the house of lords, people's panels, random selection, open primaries, proportional representation and the likes. All missing the point that voting rituals and democratic street furniture does not equate with actual democracy.

They will tinker but they won't solve anything. They will scrabble around for answers but nothing will be solved until they understand what democracy is and why we need it.

Ultimately the entire establishment needs uprooting and shaking up. Every corner of UK governance needs a gale of fresh air blowing down the corridors. There needs to be a rocket up the backside of of creaking Whitehall departments and we need a total rethink of parliament and the function of MPs. Only Brexit will do that.

Only Brexit will remove the thorn from the paw and only Brexit will answer that long time question... why does everything in British politics suck so much? Only then will politics start to be responsive and only then will people be moved to apply themselves to politics. They will not engage if the levers of power are not attached to anything.

Until we have that catalyst event that says we are changing direction we will be caught in this corrosive death spiral of politics - and the more the establishment fights to prevent that happening, the more despised it will be. If that change doesn't happen, I expect we will know an unpleasant Britain where few politicians dare venture out at night unescorted. Should they come to harm, I expect few will shed a tear.

Sunday, 27 March 2016

Vote Leave should not take voters for stupid


Vote Leave don't do me any favours. Claiming that we'll be £10bn better off overnight and that we can spend it all on the NHS is risible in itself, but coming from a bunch of Tories who would privatise the last of it tomorrow if they could is just beyond satire.

Even if it were true, the left would rather claw their own eyes out than vote for an outfit represented by Chris Grayling, Iain Duncan Smith and Michael Gove. And then Boris Johnson? Seriously? And that's before we even get to Dominic Cummings's "Project Suicide" - which is pretty much a unilateral declaration of hostility. Cummings even manages to make Boris look sane.

We know the ridiculous exit strategy is largely down to Cummings's galactic ego. He'd rather the he's own special brand of wrong than admit someone might know more than he does. In normal circles that kind of behaviour doesn't fly, but against a backdrop of near universal ignorance of everything (Westminster) the man is perceived to be a genius. The one eyed king in the land of the blind. The NHS nonsense however is the received wisdom of the Westminster bubble.

It says a lot about how they think that they would run with this as a campaign message. Their estimation is that if they whinge long and hard enough about the EU and promise more spending on the NHS people will come flocking. It says that they take the average voter for a fool. That has never been wise.

For starters it true. If we had an extra ten billion a year (which in government spending terms is chump change) it would be going on closing the deficit if we had anything approaching a Conservative government. Labour would find new and interesting ways to fritter it away. What we can be certain of is that the NHS will inhale ten billion without it making the slightest impact on care quality.

And then there's the fact that we have treaty commitments we cannot unilaterally withdraw from, agricultural subsidies to replace and a number of cooperation agreements with the EU in which we would continue to participation. We are not going to save ten billion and not any time soon will we save a penny.

On both counts, Vote Leave is asking campaigners to promote a weak message that is demonstrably untrue - and has already been credibly dismantled in the media. This certainly rules me out of participating in the main campaign effort. The reason I detest politics and politicians in general is their bovine adherence to narratives and their persistent lies. Why should I wish to join in?

More to the point, while voters can be fairly unsophisticated in their understanding, they know bullshit when they hear it. If something sounds too good to be true then there is either a catch or they're being fed a load of baloney. They will be listening out for an opposing view. And there are plenty of them kicking around. Even the most cursory attack on Vote Leave's bogus assertions sees them crumble.

Then when you look at the Remain campaign message, there is enough breadth to make some wonder if actually something that relates to them is threatened by Brexit. I have had lorry drivers asking me if they will have to drive through different customs channels when going to Ireland. It's little seeds of doubt across the many sectors that cause people to vote for the status quo.

The difficulty we have is that the answer to these concerns is always "it depends". A great many of these scares are largely contingent on how we leave the EU. If we leave the EU but remain in the single market, there are a great many scares that simply evaporate - which is why you'd want a well publicised exit plan in place. Ordinary people do have genuine concerns that do need comprehensive and credible answers.

Our side cannot say that academic cooperation agreements will be protected if all the while we are planning to channel the money into the NHS instead of paying for them. We can't say we will work out a trade deal in two years if we're planning on scrapping tranches of regulation.

Know-it-all campaign wonks don't think it matters and that people won't notice, but the port inspectors will and so will customs officials and lorry drivers. And they vote. It's the little inconsistencies here and there that sow doubt and eat into our credibility. Any fair minded appraisal of Vote Leave's arguments will find them wanting.

Thus far Vote Leave is doing nothing to reassure voters. The inconsistencies alone are a source of worry. If we don't know what Brexit looks like, why should they take a gamble? That is the Remain campaign message and it's a totally fair question. Dominic Cummings is practically declaring a total end to European cooperation and the rest of his outfit is saying it's worth it so we can fire-hose the NHS with a bit more money. Would you risk your job on a case that flimsy? No. Me neither.

You would think with such a mammoth task ahead with such a short time to pull it off, Robert Oxley, Head of Media for Vote Leave, would use any opportunity to publicise a credible and comprehensive Brexit plan that reassures voters. But I is just a pleb blogger from outside the M25. I'm not the one with the finger on the pulse of Britain. Oxley reckons victory is there for the taking if the public get the message that Easter eggs will be cheaper if Britain leaves the EU. For real. That's why they get paid the big bucks.  

Will Brexit make us safer?


I don't know about you but I feel the forces of change are gathering. I think the despotic regimes of the middle east are dying. I think we are about to see change that will shock the world and disturb our parochial little debates about Europe. Just look at the scale of protests in Yemen.

Come to think of it, both sides of this whole Brexit debate couldn't be more inward-looking if they tried. The defence pages I read are less concerned with Russia than what happens in Yemen and between China and India. We Europeans are seriously overestimating our importance to the world. A hubris embodied by the EU. We are taking our eyes off the ball.

Between a global slowdown in trade, an oil crisis and a Chinese economy in trouble, I think we are going to see major shifts in the global order that we have known in our lifetimes. As to what that looks like, my guess is as good as yours. The only safe bet is that trouble is coming our way.

We are going to see more terrorism in Europe. We are going to see more refugees and we are going to see more political unease on the continent. Never in my life have I seen Europe so ill at ease with itself.

When it comes to the crunch, when the EU fails to take swift and meaningful action we will see a return to unilateralism and national self-interest. It's already happening. I don't see the EU moving to stop it all disintegrating and will gloss over it as usual. Little by little we will see the institutional paralysis exposed and we will see the hypocrisy of the EU as it tramples on its own values for short term fixes.

What we can say is that the EU will do too little, too late. If ever we needed the EU to be proactive, agile and useful it is now. In that we should not hold our breath. What we can expect is a dysfunctional Europol doing what it can as best it can, but still failing under the weight of the task - which to some extent is forgiveable. Everybody wants effective security, few are willing to pay for it. Similarly nobody wants a concentration of stranded refugees, but nobody is willing to house them.

This is going to present more of a problem for mainland Europe than it does Britain. Ultimately we have the English Channel as a defence. But that does not mean it is in our interests to disengage from European affairs. If we leave the EU there is zero reason to believe we will discontinue our security cooperation and participation in Europol, nor will we see and end to our aid contribution.

Some may prefer that we would but no UK government for the foreseeable future will be in any rush to terminate our existing arrangements any more than the EU would wish to lose access to everything we have to offer - which is substantial where security and intelligence is concerned.

Suffice to say I can see no reason why Brexit makes any real difference to European security. Those who say otherwise will have to state why it is they think ending such cooperation is on the cards. It won't be at the behest of the UK government.

If they are saying that the EU will use such cooperation to leverage a Brexit deal then this really is an arrangement we want no part of. Norway has cooperation agreements with Europol that amount to near full participation and there is no credible reason to believe we would not secure similar. So as much as I am saying Brexit does not make us less safe, I don't think it makes us any safer either. Procedurally we will see little difference either way.

In any case, the challenges of domestic terrorism are distinct and thus our solutions must be home grown. Such security policy is always best integrated with wider social policy and must never be the province of a supranational entity like the EU. Brexit at least ensures it stays that way.

I can't imagine anything worse than a system devised by Brussels to tackle the acute economic and social problems of West Yorkshire with a view to tackling terrorism wholly unrelated to that suffered by Paris. Prevention starts at the community level.

The question is not whether Brexit will make us safer but whether the EU and its various security instruments is going to keep us safe and whether it can keep the peace in the future when faced with entirely new challenges. I very much doubt it.

Without timely and effective responses to unfolding events, if nation states do not act according to their own immediate needs then on past form nothing at all will be done. When the problems come thick and fast we will see just how empty the rhetoric of European unity really is. It has not done enough to help Greece with the influx of refugees and has done precisely nothing for Ukraine.

In the longer term the EU would like nothing more than to have its own CIA with sweeping powers as the answer to its problems. The answer is always "more Europe". Thankfully, I doubt even our bovine MEPs would let that one past. Such a thing would amount to the death of meaningful civil liberties. But what we won't see is any meaningful reform either. In place of reformed EU security institutions we will simply muddle on with what we have.

In the end I think the change coming is change that will sweep old institutions off the board. The inherent weaknesses of having centralised institutions acting as a hub will demonstrate the need for more multi-lateral peer to peer cooperation acting outside the neat frameworks of treaty organisations. Procedure will give way to pragmatism and urgency.

My own view is that it is better to be ahead of the curve than to be a passenger of events. Security is not something we can or should share responsibility for. Only British security services will put Britain first. We should delegate to nobody in that regard. RAF Waddington does more to keep us safe than a legion of europlod.

Some questions for the Remain campaign


So, remainers, let's get down to brass tacks. You want us in the EU at any cost. It doesn't bother you at all that MEPs have no real power to hold the EU executive to account. It doesn't bother you at all that Britain is virtually defenceless against laws it does not want. It doesn't bother you that we are being gradually erased from all the global top tables and subordinate to the EU.

It doesn't bother you that the unresponsive CFP is totally impervious to reform. It doesn't bother you that the Prime minister has lied about his bogus reforms. For you, it's all in the greater good and you will tell any lie in support of that. For you the ends justify the means. Ok then.

It's great for you that the odds are in your favour. You will probably get what you want. And we know what is coming next. We know that the civic administration of Spain and Italy is held together by string and glue and eventually what happened to Greece will happen to one or more Euro states.

The EU will again need to assume administration in order to keep the Euro from folding and it will become apparent that the EU will need to introduce more direct governance measures. In effect we will see the final pieces put into place to make the EU the one true supreme government for Europe.

What we do know is that Britain will not submit under any circumstances to that level of control and will be exempted, thus creating that two speed Europe, if not actually by name then through divergence. From that day forward there will be an inherent internal bias within the EU that eurozone member states come first. That's not unreasonable in their position, not least when EU governance is a such a mess.

In order to shore up those economies, quite obviously the agenda for trade will put their needs first. They will have to. The future of the Euro depends on it. So the questions you really have to answer is how Britain is served by not being able to initiate its own trade agreements with other countries, and why it is good for Britain to have to wait its turn in a queue for EU diplomatic resources when other countries deal direct at the global top tables?

In effect you will have given us the worst of all worlds where we are not "leading in Europe" because we're not in the Euro. We certainly won't be a priority concern, and if the Euro is at any point in immediate peril, we can be sure our objections to new legislation will be ignored. Again, in their position I wouldn't blame them.

Worse still, we will not be able to act independently and will only benefit from future EU trade deals if we share those industrial concerns under negotiation. Britain being a diverse and modern economy means we will have distinctive needs that we cannot address. We get neither the benefits of independence or the benefit of being at "the heart of Europe".

And in this, we still haven't solved any of the fundamental problems of the EU. You say we should stay in so we can reform the EU, but when has that ever happened in any meaningful sense, and when can we expect to see that yawning democratic deficit plugged? Where is your plan for reform? Where is your timetable? How can Britain stay afloat without the ability to take up its concerns at the top tables?

Britain has strong historical and cultural ties with India and we could be gradually dismantling barriers to trade, but the way the EU approaches trade, we will be waiting years for that to happen. Today we note that once again talks have stalled in accomplishing a comprehensive deal. Why should we be locked into this obsolete way of doing things? Why should we have to wait our turn? How long must we wait? Why is it better to be on the fringes of Europe without the same level of global participation and agility as Norway?

Meanwhile, as the EU progresses, there is no way it is going to exempt us from every measure it takes to bring Eurozone stability. We are told we will be left out of ever closer union but that's not actually true is it? There next time we adopt a single strand of EU law we are defacto breaking that agreement. We have no veto in the same way Norway does. Why is EU membership better?

Norway has a tangible veto by way of shaping the rules the EU adopts and it has the leverage of joining other ad-hoc alliances against the EU. It has a real emergency brake on immigration. It has the power to initiate trade talks with whomever it so chooses and enjoys more or less full access to the single market on the same terms.

Norway still cooperates fully with Interpol and participate in many of the academic cooperation agreements. They can have their cake and eat it. They can have multilateral cooperation as well as close ties with the EU without being subordinate in every single way.

For sure they still pay into the budget and still accept some of the laws but the have the right to say no. So really my question is why it is better for us to be a fringe concern of the EU, locked into their agenda, when reality already tells us we are going a different way to the rest of the EU? Why should we be on the fringes of the EU with no real say in core EU activities and even less say at the top tables? Why put us between a rock and a hard place?

Brexit does not mean leaving the single market, nor does it mean the end of cooperation with the EU, nor does it mean giving up on any of the rights we enjoy as citizens of the free West. We can be partners with the EU but not subordinate to it. We can be allies and not slaves. We can end a forty year old schism in domestic politics and move on from a dispute that will not go away. We can remove the thorn from the paw without causing major disruption.

In the face of this, when we lose so very little by leaving the EU, why should we maintain this political deadlock? Why should we perpetuate this row that won't go away? This referendum will not settle the issue. When the gains for remaining a member of the EU are so marginal given the direction it will take, we need to know why it is that Remainers think it is worth the sacrifice. For the life of me, I can't see it.

In the end, only about half the population wants to stay in the EU- and many of them only because of the fear you have spread through dishonest means. Does that not suggest to you that we need a different relationship? We need to find another way so we can settle this.

Nothing is settled if we stay in the EU. Chances are domestic politics will become even more fractious and toxic as nobody is happy with the status quo. Those who say we should remain in the EU need to tell us what they think a vote to Remain will actually solve. If you think this puts an end to the EU question you are very, very mistaken.

An emergency for the Leave campaign


As things stand, it is widely assumed that Vote Leave Ltd will win the lead campaign designation on account of it having the physical infrastructure to mount a campaign. On face value that would appear to be the most obvious choice. From what I hear, Grassroots Out lacks any organisational ability and many of their local events have been flops.

There is also reason to doubt they have the backing they claim. They repeatedly claim "We have 750k registered (name and address) supporters, 10k members who have paid £30 and 600k followers on social media. 7 political parties, 3 of the largest unions, over 3000 councillors from all parties - 1500 businesses and counting."

The problem the Electoral Commission will have is establishing whether or not this is a true representation of support given their known propensity to lie, often claiming the support of organisations without their consent. We also know that much of their social media support is bogus having paid substantial sums to massage the numbers upwards.

Andy Wigmore of Leave.EU says "if we don't get designation then we will instantly proceed with a judicial review - if the EC are objective then we will win hands down, if they are subjective then we won't and a judicial review is the only option."

This could prove damaging for all concerned should certain parties come forth with evidence that they are faking their support. Given how many bridges they have burned I see that as entirely likely which will prove an embarrassment for them and the Leave cause in general. Legal challenges are always ill-advised and will come over as petulance from a sore loser in this case.

It's not an enviable deliberation for the Electoral Commission in that it is unlikely Vote Leave will enjoy the backing of Ukip. Any organisation that does not have their backing may be perceived as lacking legitimacy. But then Grassroots Out is widely perceived to be Ukip by another name. The only reason it enjoys the support of various MPs is because of the toxic inner politics of Vote Leave, headed by the odious Dominic Cummings and Matthew Elliott, both of whom are entirely exclusive and dictatorial in their approach.

And so it's a lose-lose proposition for Leavers. On the one hand we have a kipperish organisation in bed with Breitbart - which is barley managing to conceal its unhinged hatred of Muslims, and on the other hand we have Vote Leave who propose unilateral withdrawal from both the EU and the single market under the assumption a bespoke trade deal can be knocked up without reference to the EU's own needs and demands. In diplomatic terms that amounts to a hostile act.

Worse still their campaign strategy is to bleat about saving the NHS, claiming we can spend what we save on the NHS. As if that were no bad enough, their efforts will be fronted by Boris Johnson - a disreputable, discredited flip-flopper whose own arguments vary from day to day - and not even consistent with official Vote Leave material.

All the while, neither operation presents a coherent and credible Brexit plan and thus we will still be seeing broad speculation as to what out looks like the night before the vote. We are told by Andy Wigmore of Leave.EU (Grassroots Out) that they have employed some "serious economists and business people and Deloittes" to create one of their own. "it's a market solution - not something we will publish this side of designation."

This is in the same breath as claiming they have been denied permission to use Flexcit, which is an outright lie given that they were sent a tailored edition on request, even carrying the Leave.EU logo on the understanding that it would be adopted. As to whether they will produce a plan of their own, I have had sufficient dealings with Wigmore to know when he is lying. ie all the time.

In any case, presenting a credible plan before designation could well be their ace in the hole given how demonstrably suicidal the Vote Leave proposition is, but then since Wigmore is pushing the Commonwealth as an option, that suggests they are nowhere close to having a plan or understanding the necessity for having one.

As usual we've seen the usual euphonics designed to appease critics - but spoken with forked tongue. At every test of sincerity, that outfit retreats to the comfort zone of kipperism.

And so in any estimation we are going to be lumbered with a cringeworthy campaign. We basically have a re-branded Ukip or a Tory splinter operation pegging their fortunes on false flag advice from Lynton Crosby, who for some reason think that posting pictures of spotty interns from CCHQ in red t-shirts constitutes an effective social media campaign.

Meanwhile the entire campaign has fallen flat on both sides, with each side having fired most of their ammunition to no real effect, failing to energise a campaign broadly perceived to be the fallout of a civil war on the right. The fight has gone into sleep mode.

In the final stretch it will be akin with a D-Day landing with no fire support or air cover, sending the troops straight into the guns with only peashooters - believing that having a widespread generic moan about the EU is key to victory. It's not looking good. If we win, it will be entirely through the actions of independent campaigners, rather than the monolithic dodos applying for designation.

Saturday, 26 March 2016

Simon Heffer, what are you smoking?

"The referendum isn’t about politicians, it’s about people, and about people who want out of Europe but would never vote Tory in their lives. If the Commission wants to do its job beyond criticism, it must designate Grassroots Out." says Simon Heffer.

Erm...


Boris Johnson is a mendacious shit - and we need to say so


We have never wanted a leader for the leave campaign. If we have a leader then the media retreats to their comfort zone and makes it a contest of personalities over issues. If that happens, this referendum becomes a referendum on whether Boris Johnson is an affable fool or a mendacious shit. In any such estimation, a careful look at the facts demonstrates the latter. The man is a self-serving parasite.

If leavers adopt Boris Johnson as their figurehead they are putting themselves n the position of defending a man with bad, contradictory arguments, a track record of being pro-EU and no redeeming personal qualities. The man is widely regarded as a tosser even by those who don't find him immediately repellent. After a thorough airing of all his flaws in the run up to the referendum, more people will wake up to the fact he is an empty shell of a human with nothing to offer politics at all.

The Remain campaign sees this as a huge advantage. And it is. Having our campaign fronted by a discredited and risible narcissist is Christmas come early for them. The only way to come back from that is for leavers to join in the chorus and let's get this out of the way. Let's have it settled, before the campaign gets serious, that everybody thinks Boris Johnson is a mendacious shit and nobody wants him.

That is the only way to take the wind out of the Remain camp sails, otherwise we are left defending the indefensible - intellectually and morally. Any campaign that holds Boris Johnson aloft and says "this is our man" is one that deserves to lose.

In this I have had a trickle of complaints from Leavers saying I should "show unity" as if blindly following this clown were somehow conducive to winning. I will "show unity" with anyone serious about making a credible case for leaving the EU, who wants to argue on the issues and disregard the sideshow of self-serving and venal politicians. That is what this referendum is all about. That however, is entirely incompatible with supporting Boris Johnson.

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

A matter of democracy

Over the coming days you are going to see some pretty foul specimens saying that the Brussels attack is a reason to leave the EU. I want you to vote to leave but this isn't a reason. For nobody's sake will I lie and pretend otherwise. For the most part nothing the leave campaign says is credible. Leaving the EU doesn't end freedom of movement and it won't significantly reduce immigration for a very long time, and only after a second round of major negotiations. In any case it would have zero bearing on our vulnerability to terrorism.

Keeping a criminal conspiracy secret is not that difficult even with extensive surveillance. They start with open conversations and nobody bats an eyelid. It starts with a decision to do harm. It lives as an obsession thereafter. And there is nothing quite so careful and calculated as a human bewitched by a single track mind, bent on carrying out carrying out their goals. Often hiding in plain sight.

Once the decision is made, without intervention there is not turning back, no hesitation. A human who has decided the ends justify the means will permit themselves to do virtually anything while entirely convinced of their own righteousness and decency. It's unstoppable. In a hundred years time when every phone call and data transaction is recorded we will still be wondering how it still happens. And it will with the same regularity.

While people can be quite stupid I believe they can be driven by what some call the lizard brain; a high functioning intelligence for self-preservation. Like a computer programme. It does not stop unless interrupted. The ones who get caught are the ones who make mistakes.

Eventually big data will get good enough to contrast profiles with transactions and create watch lists of high probability, and one day our political ethics will wrestle with notions similar to pre-crime.

And that's where it has to be people making the decisions locally, with the people having ultimate authority. Even if we leave the EU we will still cooperate fully with Europol and may even keep the European Arrest Warrant. I don't have a problem with that from outside the EU where we can petition our own government to veto any such moves.

What worries me is no such veto or power will exist while the EU is the supreme government - and that is why we should leave the EU. A government we cannot say no to scares me more than any terrorist. Not least because a society where people are stripped of their power, driven to expressions of impotent rage, will only create more terrorism. This has always been a matter of democracy. Whatever the threat may be, the power must always rest with the people.

A plague on both your houses


For every one of these attacks we see coming to fruition, many will have been thwarted. Some will just slip the net. You cannot put CCTV cameras inside the human mind.

In place of this we have a sophisticated intelligence service, fed by informants, and civil and military surveillance technology, from wiretaps to RC135 aircraft. We cast a net over Nigeria, Mali, Libya, Iraq and Syria. Our watch list has proven to be accurate a number of times. We are looking in all the right places. Sometimes it doesn't work.

In this there is a balance to be struck between surveillance and civil liberties and much of our politics is defining the line between security, privacy and liberty. As much as we would like to define hard and fast rules, there are none. Only dogmatists can provide unequivocal replies - but not all replies are answers. Where that line begins and ends is contingent on politics and the level of public participation.

The fact of the matter is that open and liberal societies will always be vulnerable to terrorist attacks. We could shut the borders and monitor every phone call and check every incoming lorry, but the economic and social costs would be huge. More to the point, we would be no safer. Chances are, a more illiberal society in this regard would make us more prone to terrorist attack.

That today's attack happened at an airport is something of a surprise given that is where the focus of anti-terror measures are. If there have been procedural failings, we will find out and there will be questions to answer. I suspect any enquiry will prove what we already know. Extra security may make us feel safer, but there is no stopping this.

And so what does this have to do with Brexit? The answer... absolutely nothing. Leaving the EU will not make us less vulnerable. Leaving the EU will not make us more vulnerable. Both Hugo Dixon and James Delingpole pontificating over it while the bodies are still warm is sickening. We don't even have all the facts yet.

What we do know is that should we leave the EU we will maintain full cooperation with Europol and Interpol on more or less the same basis. We will share intelligence on more or less the same basis. We will cooperate and coordinate at every level from NATO down to the district police station.

The one time we do not have to doubt the sincerity of our politicians is when they say everything will be done within the realms of the possible to detect and prevent this kind of attack. We just shouldn't be surprised when they fail. It will happen.

It may be that Europol needs a change of approach and this is an institutional failing - but nobody is interested in ending such cooperation. All I would say is that EU membership is not contingent on making international organisations work. It is neither here nor there.

What we can say is that the enemy does not care for governments or political structures. It is who and what we are they want to destroy. If they are of a mind to let bombs go off in London, a thing like border controls isn't going to stop them. EU membership will not be a factor either way.

Some might note that the terrorists we see are homegrown. The answer is to engineer a more inclusive, more prosperous society - but even then, evil always finds an excuse.

Some say it's because Muslims are not integrating. I don't think that's true. Go stand on the rail platform in Bradford Interchange on a Saturday lunchtime and watch the kids going about their day, out on shopping trips to Leeds. If anything, they are more integrated than white working class kids who are consigned to a life of welfare, drugs, alcohol and zero social mobility. If joining them on the dole queue is integrating then let us be glad they they don't.

What we need right now is a close and careful analysis of the data. We need to examine the facts. It is not a time for scapegoating the EU or pointing the finger at foreigners. Nor is it a springboard to say that a European Utopian ideal is the answer. Neither is true.

The fact is, we have a number of small wars on Europe's doorstep. Terrorism is always a byproduct. It is difficult to detect, difficult to prevent and only a resolution to those wars will reduce the threats. In this there are questions to ask about Western foreign policy and our feeble response in assisting our allies and neighbours with the fallout.

We can slam the EU for its glacial response and its propensity for sticking plasters in place of policy reform. We can even show that it is unlikely to ever be reformed. But what we cannot say is Brexit is a silver bullet, nor can we say the problems of our neighbours are not our concern.

Yes, we need to have a serious debate about this, and it is an ongoing debate. But to make this a feature of the Brexit debate on this of all days, without the slightest regard to the details - before we even have an idea what really happened, is a new low for all concerned. A plague on both your houses. You couldn't even wait a day could you? Good going, dickheads.

Monday, 21 March 2016

Give the Brexit bullshit a rest!

By trade, I am a database developer who dabbles in web technologies. I have in the past made a respectable living out of it and I've done it on and off for the better part of fifteen years. 

So if I offered an opinion on computers and computing you would believe me. You shouldn't. As much as I hate the things, I couldn't tell you what goes into them, I have only a distant memory of how they actually work and for the most part I couldn't care less so long as they do work. 

As someone who largely tinkers with software, on software developed by massive teams of serious developers I am a nothing in the IT world. Even if I could say I was an expert in my field, I still wouldn't be an expert in the dark art of networking and hardware which is a whole other discipline. But that is still considered as IT. 

The point being that it is a vast field and no one person has a full understanding of all of it. There will be realms of the IT world extending into robotics and AI that I'm barely even aware of. Were I to offer an opinion on the state of IT and where it's going in the future it would be little more qualified than yours. I am but a technician. And the same dynamic applies to Brexit. 

One of the most irritating facets of this debate is the europhile instance that the word of economists and "business leaders" have the first clue what they are talking about. There are economists of all types each with specialists according to their own sector. 

An economist for a shipping or energy company would be looking at entirely different things to an economist working for a foreign exchange company. Their job is to take the pulse of particular sectors to gain insights into the future based on knowledge in their narrow fields. They are not treaty law experts, nor are they especially informed about the technicalities of trade.

Taking two noted economists on my side of the debate, Ruth Lea and Patrick Minford, their arguments are easily taken apart because they speak on the subject of Brexit without reference to international law and without reference to non tariff barriers. There is no reason to put any stock in anything they say. Economists are glorified accountants with a side hobby in politics. That's it.

The subject of Brexit is multifaceted and not something you can waft into without looking at every single strata of EU integration. It is a specialism in its own right. It also depends entirely on how we leave the EU as to what the possible outcomes may be. So for an economist to stand up and say that Brexit will make people three thousand pounds worse off is, to put it bluntly, complete bollocks. It is an appeal to authority.

But these people are not authorities. Their view lacks any nuance or sophistication and depends entirely on assumptions about the future without accounting for what Britain may do to mitigate any of the possible drawbacks of leaving the EU. They don't know. They can't even offer vaguely accurate guesses.

More to the point, this is not a question for economists. This is a question for the people; to decide what their basic preference is. Do they want Britain to be subordinate to a supreme government of Europe or do they want Britain to be an independent state that speaks for itself with full rights of veto?

No doubt there are economic consequences to either outcome, most of which are unknowable - except that we know that there will be on some level a continuity of single market access which has consequences good and bad. 

Without being mindful of the distinctions and circumstances and the projected pace of withdrawal, anyone feeding you certainties about what will happen is feeding you pure propaganda. This also goes for the Leave campaign with their risible fag packet calculations that Brexit will save the average household £933 a year. 

What we do know is that trade is not contingent on political subordination under the EU. There are real world examples of non-EU states having privileged access to the EU market while also retaining a level of independence we do not presently enjoy.

In the end it comes down to your own personal estimation of whether you think Britain needs to be told what to do, and whether or not we can fight for our own rights. It is an estimation as to whether you think the world's fifth largest economy and world leader in soft power can make its own way in the world. The Europhile case is that we can't do any of those things and that democracy is too much of a risk. That to me is the biggest Brexit bullshit of all.

We won't get democracy until we learn what it is

If this is your revolution, you can keep it.

There are days when it all seems entirely futile, not least when I have a constant nag of critics who want me to be nice about people just because they say they want to leave the EU. Taken to the logical conclusion I should reserve criticism of George Galloway, a man who cosied up to Saddam Hussein.

Apparently I should not speak out against Nigel Farage who has persistently conflated Brexit with immigration, making it all the harder to win. Similarly I am supposed to support oafish bores like Boris Johnson regardless of how malign and repellent they are.

My work is described by critics as "constant stream of bile and vitriol towards fellow Brexiters". Except none of these people have actually spared a moment's thought as to what it takes to win. I am not in this to follow the Brexit tribe. I detest political tribalism. That is why I am fighting for Brexit.

Politics in recent years has reached an impasse. What we have is a political party system entrenched by various dogmas, but none are political movements with a list of objectives. They are mere tribes seeking power, largely for its own sake so they can tinker with the mechanisms of state to favour their own powerbase. And since there parties are no longer sustained by their members, their power base is increasing not the people. Even Ukip doesn't survive without donor bailouts and lashings of EU cash.

There was a time when the Labour party was described as the Labour movement - because it was a movement - with a distinct agenda and a list of demands that have shaped a century of politics. What is it now apart from a shell with a corporate brand, hijacked by a cabal of hardcore leftists with no real ideas and nothing of value to say?

Even the row over disability benefits is not a row over the nature of the system. We're just bickering over the variables this way or that. Nobody is seriously talking about reshaping and modernising our welfare system in any meaningful way.

On this, the Tories have not been reformers. They have been wreckers. For sure, the system needed a wrecking ball taking to it, but what we have in place of what came before is an equally dysfunctional system that fails the needy and humiliates those who have fallen on hard times.

This is entirely our own fault. We have collectively disengaged from politics and expected these lame-brains to come up with the ideas and the solutions to the the problems that they themselves create. In reality, if we want things fixed, it is up to us to design the solutions, organise, mobilise, snatch the power away from the Wesminster wastrels, and fix things ourselves. That is what a real political movement does.

And that is why euroscepticism isn't a movement. It's a generic gripe largely personified by Ukip. A party that wanted to uproot the establishment but couldn't even summon a credible manifesto in time to fight a campaign. The sad part is that the Ukip sentiment is a popular one and people are genuinely sympathetic, but in they end they took a long look at Ukip and rightly concluded they were a bunch of wankers with no real answers. Just a litany of complaints about foreigners, using populism to exploit the vagaries of proportional representation.

Had Ukip been a force with a serious agenda for change, with a coherent, structured idea of what they wanted and how to get it, they might well have own their forty MPs and I might even have voted for them myself.

And now that we have a referendum on our hands, which is nothing short of a revolution in governance, we once again see those making the demands abdicating the details and the outcomes to those already in power. The Leave campaign is demanding a revolution, but doesn't want to specify what it really wants in place of the status quo. It even adopts politicians from the existing orthodoxy to lead the charge. Where are the new faces in all this? Where are the leaders coming out of nowhere?

This isn't a revolutionary movement. It isn't even a movement. It is merely a nationwide gripe about the EU represented by some of the most lazy, venal and stupid politicians we have. While I still hope we win and we do leave the EU, the absence of a real movement means that the powers that be are still very much the powers that be. Having not specified a Brexit plan, they are free to do as they please and the campaign is in no position to be making demands thereafter. It will simply fold and vanish into thin air.

And so, yes, I think I am wholly justified in my "constant stream of bile and vitriol towards fellow Brexiters" - because they are losers, they are going to lose and they deserve to lose. If we do win it will be entirely by an accident of numbers and events working in our favour - but we will not have influenced the outcome, and the fallout will be left to the Westminster wastrels to manage - in which case we are only marginally better off than we were. It will not be our victory.

In that regard, I'm drifting toward the idea that I really don't care either way. We have discussed the EU as though it were an economic decision to end a treaty arrangement - just another managerial decision for the tribes. It should be about democracy and it should be about the people taking back control for themselves - snatching the power not just away from Brussels but also the likes of the Bullingdon club and the Corbynite commies.

The reason it isn't about that when it really should be is that people have really forgotten how to do politics. The Leave campaign shows us that we have lost the art of organising and mobilising. It is for the most part a shell campaign with regional sock puppets to be manned by interns with career aspirations in inside the Tory party (see picture). The closest thing there was to a bottom-up branch based organisation was Ukip - but in recent years hollowed out by Farage. Most branches have been abandoned and and left to fester.

We have also forgotten what democracy is. Most people think it's just about the voting rituals we have where we reluctantly vote for the least worst dictators for the next five years. They no longer understand the relationship between democracy and the exercise of power.

And so in the final analysis, I think it will take a referendum loss to get the changes we really want. We will have to experience first hand what it is like to not have democracy when it really matters. For the most part the absence of democracy is largely unnoted in that the lights are still on, clean water runs from the taps and and torrent on mindless pap on the television keeps the plebs entertained. Only when that is disturbed and they realise the power to fix it is no longer theirs will people really see the necessity for democracy.

For the time being we will just do as we Brits do and tolerate life becoming gradually more unpleasant - with legalised corporate predators eroding our wealth and freedoms. Somewhere along the line we will keep weapons close to the door - not in case of burglars, but in case the government - or a private agent of it comes knocking. Those who resist will be picked off one by one by a government that knows there will be no real backlash.

We will just have to tolerate being run by a bunch of venal, shallow manipulators for as long as the public are willing to abdicate governance to them. And so what if some of them also want to leave the EU? These people are not my allies - they do not speak for me and if at the end of this these same people are still dictating to us, what was the actual point? If the only reason you are campaigning is just to be rid of the EU for its own sake then you're not actually going to achieve anything even if we win.    

I'm voting to leave because I want both sides to lose


I detest absolutely every single one of the people running the Remain campaign. They are uniformly patronising ideologue zealots. They are also lying bastards. I want them to lose.

But then my own side of this debate are mostly awful. Most eurosceptics are dogmatic, pig ignorant and superior. A great many of them are also racists. Ukip repulses me. I find them deeply unpleasant. I want them to lose as well. I want all of these people to lose. I nether want the depressing stagnation of EU subordination nor do I want to see Britain as an isolated, insular protectionist state. Thankfully, I can have my cake and eat it.

Y'see, by now the message is sinking in that Brexit isn't as simple as just knocking up a free trade agreement then hey presto we can slam the borders shut and burn all the EU rules. What Brexit means is the beginning of a long process of uncoupling. In this, we make strategic compromises and pragmatic shortcuts in order to put us on the path to where we want to be.

We'll most likely be joining Efta along with several ad-hoc trade alliances - and even if we did end freedom of movement, we would have a very liberal visa agreement with the EU. Britain has never been closed off, it has never had full border controls as some imagine and the ones who want that, when confronted with reality, are in the extreme minority. How they have held such sway over the debate for so long actually beats the hell out of me.

And though some expect that we will be having a purge of EU laws, we won't. At least not for a decade. It will be a gradual evolution where the worst is removed first and the common sense rules will stay in place. We will stick to existing arrangements for a long time to come until we design new and local means of administering agriculture, energy and fishing. That won't be happening in a hurry.

The Remain campaign are using the idea that Brexit will take years as a means of deterring people from voting out. That's their first major unforced error. By saying this they are effectively agreeing with us that Brexit is a process, it will take time, thus there is little uncertainty and no big shocks created by cliff edges.

What it is going to require is long and careful deliberations by the body politic. It is going to take rational, intelligent and disciplined minds going over the details with a fine tooth comb. As far as our politicians go, we will soon separate the wheat form the chaff. We will see who is capable and who is not. Very quickly it will become apparent that the Stella Creasys, Chuka Umunnas, the Andy Burnhams and the Tory blowhards are not up to the job.

Many of the trivial displacement obsessions of our media and politicians will have to go on the backburner, if not the scrap heap - and the dangerous, childlike fantasies that have become serious policy will have to go on the bonfire as the adults take control again. The bi-product of this can only be a revitalised media as it exposes the gossip columnists who regard themselves as gods gift to journalism. They will find they have to work for a living rather than churning out the same received wisdom and passing it off as expertise.

I may be being a little over optimistic, but I honestly don't see the likes of Karren Brady and the pseudo-celebs holding sway over politics as they have in recent years. People will be demanding answers from people who do know how things work. I see Brexit as a renaissance of politics. A gale of fresh air blowing through the corridors of Whitehall, ending a forty year orthodoxy where everything must be checked against the EU ledger to see if what the people demand is legal.

We will prune away the wastrels and start demanding local control of those things that have been confiscated by Westminster over the years. In turn we will see local politics taking on substantive issues once more - and maybe a light will be shone on the dismal corrupt corporate ineptitude of councils. It will be an amazing shake up that will focus minds and re-energise politics at every level. And in this there will be not time for petty squabbling because we will be fighting for our place in the world.

In this, parliament will be tasked with much of what the EU parliament is supposed to do in scrutinising the laws we will adopt, examining their potential impact, consulting the people who will be affected. While we can never say we will make all our own laws, we will have checks and balances that the EU cannot offer and we can decide who such rules reasonably apply to. In doing so, we then rediscover what our representatives are for: our line of defence rather than people we appoint to tell us what to do and how to live.

Both sides of this debate are offering up extremist ideas. At the Ukip ends we see a shrivelled, shrinking closed off view of Britain. On the other end we see a cynical bunch of authoritarians who believe that democracy is a regressive force and that people cannot be trusted with power over their own lives. They all need to be purged - and they will be when we leave the EU. It's going to be a challenge - and it will have risks, but the rewards are too great to pass up the opportunity. Should we squander this chance, this referendum will be the last time in a long time where your vote actually matters.

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Start fighting like you mean it


Part of The Leave Alliance strategy is to debunk the opposition. This is a difficult task in that the real enemy is ignorance. Our MEPs and MPs to put it politely are woefully under informed, europhiles have a very two dimensional understanding of the EU, how it works and what it is - and eurosceptics are similarly in a world of their own.

If I do a fisk job of InFacts, the leading europhile propaganda outfit, I should be able to come to the defence of leading voices within the Leave campaign but I can't in that Infacts are saying much the same things I am - that eurosceptics don't know what they are talking about.

That is not to say that the Hugo Dixon, Sam Ashworth Hayes and the rest of that malign bunch aren't lying bastards - but the scale of the task is massive when there is no support coming from the Leave campaign - a campaign that undermines just about everything we do - and frankly even our own readers have started to piss me off.

I have people asking me technical questions from GMO's, phosphates in food right through to standards on electrical equipment. All of which misses the point. The fact is that most technical standards are not made by the EU and the EU increasingly adopts regulations from elsewhere - often from institutions that very much are the law by way of being embodied in various WTO agreements.

In this I am no expert but if you are even aware that such exists then you are in the 0.25% of the electorate who have a clue how any of it works. Understanding the rest is between you and Google. Flexcit is your starting point, the rest is really up to you. And none of this is the real point either. It's not about how things are, it's about where they are going.

We get europhiles blethering on about EU free trade deals creating a fast free trade area - but this isn't true. EU bloc deals are less about creating a global free trade region as preventing one. By extending its non tariff barriers to encompass Canada, New Zealand, Vietnam and the likes they are further garden-walling trade to the exclusion of all others, while in truth the substance of these trade agreements are nothing even approaching free trade.

What we should have is a global treaty on standards whereby compliance to standards, along with a network of independent, mutual inspection systems means that any body can opt in if they so chose without having to enter long and protracted talks with the EU. The EU system is one whereby nations effectively must seek permission to export to anywhere within its sphere of control.

What we have seen from trends in global trade is that global alliances and institutions are the driver of regulatory convergence through a profit motive where the EU's influence is broadly viewed as malign. Europhiles are entirely oblivious to this realm of trade and persist in pushing the notion that the EU alpha and omega of regulation and free trade. They're wrong. It is the living opposite.

In short nobody's vote will be shifted on the basis of whether marketing standards for cabbages are made in Brussels or Geneva. Yes it's interesting, and were we not up against a deadline we could have fun with such investigations - and we will have all the time in the world to thoroughly explore such issues after the referendum but for now it comes down to one basic point.

As much as big bloc deals are becoming redundant and secondary in importance, deals between massive corporate non-state actors are the real engine of convergence, far beyond the reach of anybody who holds elected office.

The fact is that nowhere in this do we, the British people, have the right to say no. As much as the EU is forced by circumstances to drop some of its own standards, most of what MEPs end up voting on is already decided and their amendments are wholesale rejected. The people of Europe have no real say. We are all passengers.

The europhile argument is that it is the EU that gives us clout, but everything is lost the morass of bureaucracy and nobody really knows how it all works and who is responsible for what. By the time we have identified the problem, the obstacles to a solution are too many - not least when we must go via the EU middleman to sort it out. What we need is multilateralism and an independent emergency brake on laws and standards we don't want - and the EU will never allow that.

We can't afford to turn into regulation trainspotters, as enthralling though that may be. Ultimately we have a crisis of democracy on our hands in that the juggernaut of globalisation is eradicating any kind of democracy and the EU is a wholly useless defence mechanisms because of its scale, remoteness and glacial response time.

This whole notion that it gives the EU gives us clout is laughable. What more clout do you want than sovereign people saying no? For sure opting out has consequences and always a price tag - but it should be up to us to decide if the trade off is worth it - not some faceless functionary in the EU commission - or Westminster for that matter.

I write from the perspective that elected representatives should be our line of defence between us and government but we are in a perverse situation where our MPs and MEPs think they are government and it is their role to tell us what to do - even though they are not even close to being in charge. And like children we roll over and acquiesce to their idiotic agendas.

Somewhere along the line we have distorted the relationship whereby we look to such people as leaders rather than servants. That is why this referendum is so perverse in that for reasons that escape me, people put stock in the words of these dickheads who know fuck all about nine tenths of anything.

We have people on our own side sucking up to the likes of Boris Johnson and Douglas Carswell when by all rights we should despise these people for being part of the problem. They are no better than the scumbag europhile politicians. The whole point of Brexit is not just to ditch the wastrels in the European Parliament but also to snatch the power back off the Westminster vermin as well.

This is also, as Eureferendum points out, the reason we shouldn't be nice to these people. They are the enemy and these are the people pissing away a real chance of democracy. 

We should be ripping holes in their worthless ideas rather than rolling out the red carpet for them. We don't want Boris Johnson, Duncan Smith, Grayling or Gove. We don't want Galloway or Farage either. We want rid of the whole lot of them and Brexit is our catalyst to do exactly that. So start fighting like you mean it. And no, I won't prepare a factsheet on Norway payments to the EU. You know where the data is. Do it your fucking self. 

I don't care about IDS's resignation


For what it's worth, I think I have a well honed nose for disingenuous bullshit and having watched an IDS interview what I'm hearing is little linguistic flourishes learned from the PM that have become fashionable in Westminster speak - designed to make said individual sound more genuine - when in fact from the lips of the PM have the precise opposite effect - and I believe IDS is much the same.

What I really think this resignation is about is his agenda being overruled in cabinet once too often. This is a man who has had his brief snatched away from him and he is no longer listened to. It will be the treasury office that has done it to him on the instructions of Osborne - in that oh-so Westminster way of knifing people in the back and going round the houses rather than just directly telling someone what you're doing to them.

Knowing that a resignation would damage Osborne, this is what IDS has done as an act of revenge - and were I in his shoes I would done the same. But this isn't a principled move - not least when IDS would not hesitate to shaft his own people in exactly the same way.

I think he does care about welfare reforms, probably for the same reasons I do, but what we are seeing here is the result of a power struggle that IDS lost and was faced with spending the rest of his term in position being told what to do by the treasury and taking the fall for it. Very few would put up with that unless they were only really in it for the title and the fame.

The media is now asking whether this hurts Osborne's leadership bid. I don't honestly know and I seriously don't care. What I do detest is the inherent presumption that chancellors are entitled to a crack of the whip following a lead run.

Along with Cameron's announcement to stand down before the next general election I very much get the feeling that the office of Prime Minister is not the top job and is in fact a gateway job to an elite world of money and considerably more power - which is why they line their friends up for the job - and yes I do think Boris Johnson wants in every bit as much as Osborne. It's the only reason any of that little club entered politics at all.

Boris Johnson thinks coming out for Brexit is his best ticket and IDS's resignation is very much window of opportunity. I do not for a moment think that Boris Johnson is in any way sincere about leaving the EU and that his only real concern is making it through the door of Number Ten.

What this categorically isn't is a principled stand on the EU because if it was he would have said so. If any of these Tories were in any way serious about leaving they would be damaging the prime minister on his bogus reforms and his lies to parliament. Not one single minister has done this. That would be the only principled course of action and the only possible action that would demonstrate a sincere desire to leave the EU that puts the issue before the fate of the Conservative Party.

This, Duncan-Smith's resignation matters not one jot to me because I couldn't give a tinker's damn who the next leader of the Tory party is or indeed who the next prime minister is - because if we don't end up leaving the EU then it seriously doesn't matter at all. We'll still be stuck in the same dismal, corrosive deadlock where the levers of power inside the high offices of state are not actually attached to anything.

Friday, 18 March 2016

Brexit is the only path to meaningful change


"A British exit from the European Union could be seized upon by ministers as a liberating moment which would trigger a revolutionary shake-up of public policy, senior officials believe. Mandarins are preparing for every corner of Whitehall to be uprooted in what is likely to be one of the most radical revisions of the British state since the Second World War".

"According to one analysis, developing a Britain-specific deal is likely to take five years, running way beyond the two-year period between a country triggering the Article 50 exit clause and it being released from the European treaties. As such, it is likely the UK would adopt a model similar to Norway’s as holding position, before gravitating to a more bespoke arrangement, according to one scenario under discussion."

In other words - Brexit is a total revolution of governance in the UK that puts virtually everything up for debate and everything under the microscope of public scrutiny. Exactly what we need. Our own civil servants have come to the same conclusion we have that we would use the EEA as a departure lounge and consequently Brexit is largely a risk free proposition.

Over the last few years we have seen a major disillusionment with politics where people generally believe that it doesn't matter who you vote fore because nothing really changes. That is because the constructs of Whitehall while have a certain amount of subsidiarity are working within various parameters and constraints meaning that radical policy shifts on the domestic from are seldom possible without bumping up against EU diktats and quotas.

While some of that disillusionment manifests as Ukip, there is considerably more voter fragmentation with many more deciding that voting just isn't worth the bother. Certainly if we stay in the EU I will likely go with that view.

What we can say is that as things stagnate and government becomes more immovable and less responsive, that growing political toxicity that sees both major parties at war - and the SNP straining to break the Union, eventually there will have to be a domestic political backlash that may well see a more pernicious but more competent version of Ukip. It will come out of nowhere, doing serious damage in the process - possibly leading to a messier Brexit than anybody ever anticipated.

Instead of that future, in this referendum we have an opportunity to take much of the power back and start making genuine reforms not only to how government works but also our democracy.

We have seen various think tanks proposing sticking plasters to "re-engage voters". They suggest "people's panels" instead of the Lords, an elected upper chamber and proportional representation - but tinkering with the voting mechanisms won't matter a fig is the instruments of government are in a state of euro-deadlock.

It may be that all of those suggestions may prove to be welcome additions to our processes after Brexit but alone they do not present a solution. Brexit does. And that is why you should vote to leave. It isn't about closing the borders, saving a few quid or cutting regulations. It's about democracy; the freedom to choose.

Brexit is exactly what our own civil service says it is. A revolution - one that sees these plastic, sterile middle of the road phoney politicians cast aside in favour letting the people make the real decisions. And in this, it's not like our civil servants are foaming right wingers. They are just functionaries and people like you and me who know what we know - something needs to change.

They themselves make it quite clear that it is no small undertaking and for a time may lead to and expansion of the civil service in order to handle the transition  - and little will immediately change, but when there is so much to gain from doing this, and so little to lose, why wouldn't you vote to leave?

Our own civil service says that Brexit will be a gradual, managed, amicable exit over time, minimising the risks, maintaining cooperation through the EEA. Boeing's decision to move their European headquarters here, regardless of the outcome tells you they are not worried.

Meanwhile all we get from the usual suspects - the immovable politicians, the bankers and the bosses is the same gloomy prognostications, idle threats and lies. Their entire case for remaining is "Staying in is safer because change is bad and even though the EU is crap, it is the kind of crap we know and understand." Is that the sum total of their ideas?

Brexit doesn't mean an end to cooperation. It doesn't even mean major divergence or a souring of relations. It just means there is a choice. The only real way to secure a different relationship with the EU is through a negotiated exit so we can be partners, not subordinates. It means we get a real say in how we are governed. Seriously, what's not to like? All the Remain camp offer is more of the same - with a price to pay later when the people decide that enough is enough.