Booker: united to keep us in the EU


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In this week's column, Booker picks up on CBI president Mike Rake, and this thoroughly disreputable bank, Barclays, the very firm of which Rake is deputy chairman. It is, is facing a record-breaking fine of £1.5 billion for its fiddling of exchange rates, yet Rake feels he is entitled to tell us how we should be governed.

Booker notes that the CBI and the BBC have been shamelessly in cahoots over their support for Britain's membership of the EU ever since the days when they were propagandising together for Britain to join the euro.

Almost daily they told us how, unless we joined the single currency, we were doomed. Foreign firms would pull out of Britain en masse. And of course they are both playing exactly the same game today, as David Cameron launches his campaign to negotiate for Britain a "new relationship" with the EU.

The one thing the Europhiles are absolutely desperate to keep out of the debate is the possibility that, even if we did leave the EU, we could continue trading with the single market just as we do now by remaining within the European Economic Area (as was superbly illustrated by the way Jim Naughtie impatiently tried to stop Owen Paterson making precisely this point yesterday morning).

The only argument we ever hear is that, if we left the EU, our trade with Europe would collapse: much as we shall hear from Mr Cameron when he returns from his "negotiations" with no more than a few little fig-leaves, to persuade us all to vote "yes" for staying in.

One considerable danger, however, is that the dressing-up of these "fig-leaves" will be so intense that a gullible media will fall for it, and present the Cameron deal as if it was something substantial, just like the treaty that he supposedly vetoed.

But the chief reason why this shabbily deceitful argument is being allowed to dominate the debate, says Booker, is the Eurosceptics' inability to unite in explaining that there is only one possible route whereby the EU can be made to give Britain that "new relationship" Mr Cameron talks of.

Certainly, the likes of Rake are making a big thing about us not having a "credible alternative future to EU membership", only to have Ruth Lea pop up with her utterly mad idea that the post-exit UK could rely on WTO rules, by which – she says - many countries, "including China, very successfully conduct much of their trade".

I wouldn't mind so much if this arrogant woman took the time out to keep herself informed but, as we pointed out, China has a substantial number of agreements with the EU, which transcend WTO rules and are vital for the conduct of trade. Not least is the raft of Mutual Recognition Agreements on conformity assessment, without which the flow of goods would be seriously hampered.

Fortunately – for the moment – many of the "inners" seem as ignorant as to the realities of international trade as is Ruth Lea, but if any of them had to wit to call her out, Mike Rake's claim about the absence of a "credible alternative future to EU membership" would certainly stand if all we had to rely on was this woman's dogma.

For us, though, this is a real problem, where our supposed allies are all over the place, doing – as Autonomous Mind asserts, more harm than good. Nevertheless, Booker wants Cameron to do the one thing he says he cannot agree to: by using Article 50 of the treaty to say that we wish to join Norway and others outside the EU, but still in the Single Market.

Booker also asserts that his bluff is finally being called, although that is not always the case. What we are getting is the likes of Prof Mark Taylor, of Warwick University Business School – who was on the Today programme yesterday, just before Owen Paterson. He told us: "We would be worse off outside the EU because we wouldn't have access to the Single Market".

This, bluntly, is an outright lie, but then Taylor probably feels he has to protect his income stream. In 2013, Warwick University took €7,462,052 in EU funding (and a share in a further €54,330,432-worth of projects, amounting to €8,030,622). Thus, in that one year (the latest figures available), their coffers were swollen by over €15 million from the EU.

However, money-grubbing euroids are only part of the problem. With Ruth Lea and many others who regard themselves as the Eurosceptic "aristocracy", strutting their stuff, we stand at risk of remaining firmly shackled to all the superstructure of this failing political project.

As we point out elsewhere, those who are serious about winning this referendum are having to fight on three fronts. We have to deal with the underhanded lies of the pro-EU camp and also the brain-capsizing ineptitude of the Ukip. But there is also the selfish, self-absorbed right-wing think tank "aristocracy" who are neither use nor ornament.

We can only win if the anti-EU movement ups its game and starts doing its homework. But there is also the danger of the campaign being hijacked by Westminster careerist campaigners who get paid either way. Against that, we will have our "credible alternative future to EU membership", but it is pointless doing all that work if it is lost in the noise created by our own side.

Richard North 24/05/2015 link

EU Referendum: the theatre continues


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We could go to sleep for the next two years and wake up in May 2017, just in time for the start of the referendum campaign. And we'll be hearing exactly the same things then as we're hearing now. The Prime Minister is simply ramping up the theatre, all in preparation for his "Heston moment" when he can grandly declare, "I have in my hand a piece of paper", as he brings home his treaty from Brussels.

The man is playing us, and he is so confident in his "play" that he is even telling us the script, as he arrives at Riga, for the start of informal negotiations.

There, he tells us: "All I'd say is that there will be ups and downs, you'll hear one day this is possible and the next day something else is impossible". He then goes on to declare:
But one thing throughout all of this that will be constant, is my determination to deliver for the British people, reform of the EU, so they get a proper choice in the referendum that we'll hold, an in out referendum, before the end of 2017, that will be constant. But there will be lots of noise, lots of ups and downs, along the way.
One wonders whether the media even realise they are being played – or, indeed, whether they even care. After all, they are in the entertainment business, and not one of the hack-pack has shown any sign of being able to understand the issues – much less report them intelligently.

Certainly, Farage is being "played", walking "eyes wide shut" into an elephant trap so wide and deep that even a blind man in a coma could see it. Suckered in on immigration, Farage will find his legs cut off at the knees, as Cameron brings home his treaty to limit migration (or so it will be presented), leaving the Ukip leader with only bleeding stumps to stand on. 

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Those of us who know the history of the EU recall the great "reconciliation" between Pompidou and Heath – another event that was outrageously stage-managed, with the communiqué written before the meeting was even agreed.

And there is the point. All of this talk of reform is carefully staged theatre, designed to distract the gullible media from the central point that nothing very much is on offer, and nothing of any substance can be delivered.

The one thing we are seeing, though, is a gradual recognition that there is not going to be a referendum next year. There never was going to be one – because the procedural steps can't be completed in time. But that didn't stop the ignorant hacks speculating – it gives them something to occupy their dim little minds with.

But now it comes clear that Mr Cameron is going to let the play run its full course, the media are rowing back.

This, though, is the level at which the coming "renegotiations" are going to be reported – with the media claque lining up to report events as if they were serious matters, dealing with anything of substance. And when we do get that "Heston moment", they'll be all over Cameron, applauding his persistence and skill, as he takes them for the fools that they really are.

The sad thing about all this, though, is that too many of our fellow citizens will be taken in by it as well. Mr Cameron is staging this charade because, by and large, this sort of thing works.

Richard North 22/05/2015 link

EU Referendum: progress at the coalface


I was in London yesterday, on meetings relating to the referendum. It is too early yet to give details but we expect to have some formal announcements by next month. Nothing is firm at this stage and there are many developments, some of which could have interesting consequences.

In the meantime, I would refer you to John Redwood who has written an open letter to Ukip members. Before I respond, I would very must like to know what you think of it.

More in the morning, when I've had some sleep.

Richard North 20/05/2015 link

EU Referendum: Queen's speech announcement for the Bill


We are now being told that David Cameron intends to put the EU Referendum Bill at the top of the Queen's Speech, with some sources saying that the draft Bill will be published the next day.

This doesn't stop the idle hacks telling us that "ministers will be able to force through the law by summer next year even if it is blocked in the House of Lords this year", thus "fuelling speculation the poll could be held in 2016".

However, since the Electoral Commission recommends that there is a nine-month gap between the legislation being implemented and the poll, the completion of the Bill by summer of next year inevitably means that the voting has to take place in 2017.

I suppose those burbling that there will be an early poll are on a par who earnestly told me that Mr Cameron would not call a referendum, although we still have some of those, who haven't changed their position. They will, no doubt, still be denying the obvious as we are ticking our ballot papers.

The denial brigade, however – aligned with those who failed to see a Conservative victory at the general election – have contributed to our almost total lack of preparedness, but that still doesn't stop Farage calling for a 2016 poll.

With Ukip still in disarray (having only staged round one of its ritual blood-letting) – and having sat on its hands for over a decade, without preparing an exit plan – the party is in no position to fight a referendum campaign. This makes Farage's enthusiasm for an early poll particularly otiose.

But then, if you are used to going into battle completely unprepared, and without an effective plan – then to be defeated – it might be as well to go early as late, and get the humiliation over with.

Nevertheless, according to The Times, there is growing scepticism across the Conservative party at suggestions that the referendum might take place a year earlier than the 2017 deadline promised by Mr Cameron.

That puts Farage on the back foot once again, picking the wrong horse. Yet, if he had been better prepared – and taken my advice tendered over a decade ago – this would not be the case. Not least, we would have had a unit in place to counter the Europhile Open Europe, which has the Guardian waxing lyrical over the prospects of reform.

Instead, the party seems reluctant even to recognise that there is a referendum in the offing, its website whinging about the electoral system and the perceived need for reform. That gives an indication of where its priorities lie.

Perhaps, though, given the effect of the party on the majority of the electorate, its silence on the issue is just as well. Better it stays out of the fray than poisons the well even further, making it harder to get an effective message to voters.

In fact, Farage promises not to seek to monopolise the EU "out" campaign, claiming that fears among Tory MPs about Ukip dominating everything were entirely false. "We will be an important voice", he says, "but there will be a lot of voices there". He thinks that a broader, "let's have a different relationship with the EU" campaign is needed.

Since Mr Farage has yet to define with any clarity what that relationship should be, and how we would get to where he wants to go without wrecking the economy, he really does need to keep quiet.

Richard North 19/05/2015 link

EU Referendum: softened up for reform?


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The year 1992 was an interesting one, the year that Alan Sked set up the anti-federalist league, which subsequently became Ukip. But, as the Finanical Times reminds us, it was the year when Denmark had rejected the Maastricht treaty and a second EU referendum was looming.

I not only remember that, Booker and I wrote about it in The Great Deception (TGD). There was no chance of changing the treaty and scant time to negotiate a side-deal, and we were all anticipating a total impasse which could bring the edifice down.

But that was to reckon without the perseverance of the "colleagues" who stitched up a package which became known as the "Danish solution", agreed at a late-night meeting of the European Council at Edinburgh Castle, under the chairmanship of John Major.

The FT raises this because it believes the solution is emerging as an important crib sheet and guide to dealing with Mr Cameron's "renegotiations".

Uffe Ellemann-Jensen, Denmark's foreign minister at the time says, "it would be a good idea to dust off those files and look at how we solved the situation then". It worked, he says and when Jean-Claude Juncker speaks of a "fair deal", we are told that it is the Danish solution he has in mind.

This solution was a "multi-part package", which included specific opt-outs through a binding accord, signed by all member states and deposited in the UN registry for international agreements. It was a treaty, says the FT, just not an EU treaty. It gave the Danish government enough to campaign on, yet did not contradict Maastricht or require revision.

The pact was further strengthened by political declarations, acknowledged by other EU leaders, which clarified the application of future integration in areas such as defence, the euro or home affairs, requiring a referendum before any changes could be made.

The FT posits that the UK will not be able to secure a treaty change, but says domestic legislation could be used to reinforce a deal and counter eurosceptic concerns over the lack of treaty change.

Personally, I don't think the pundits have yet properly (or at all) understood the potential of the "simplified procedure", giving Mr Cameron the additional boost of a treaty to add to the package.

But that could prove to be just a bonus. The FT argues that, with hindsight the Danish accord acted like a promissory note from EU leaders, a form of post-dated treaty change.

Philip Hammond, Mr Cameron's newly re-appointed foreign secretary, notes the deal "delivered in the end", with the Danish opt-outs incorporated into later treaties. He sees the terms "as a demonstration of just how creative and flexible the EU in practice is able to be".

In fact, as we recorded in TGD, when the second Danish referendum, on 18 May, just two days before the third reading of the Maastricht Bill in Westminster. The result was a "yes", delivering 57 percent to 43 percent against.

But the event was marked by the worst riots Copenhagen had seen since the war. Protesters smashed shop windows, burnt cars and barricaded part of the city. Eleven demonstrators and 26 police were injured.

How well the voters understood the arguments was questionable. In one post-referendum poll, only 17 percent knew of the Edinburgh "concessions". Others complained that their constitution prohibited holding two votes on the same issue. "We gave our decision last year", said cabinetmaker Steen Majlund. "I thought this was a democracy".

Nevertheless, the FT narrative probably has some force. What Mr Cameron will be offering will doubtless be a complex "multi-part package”, which will have considerable power to shape the debate and persuade the uncommitted.

Anyone who thinks this could not be decisive is delusional. All you need to do is look at the current editorial in the Times. "Seize the Moment", it says, arguing for Mr Cameron to bring forward the EU referendum.

Typically of the incompetent journalists of the legacy media, they haven't done their homework, but the sentiments expressed in the piece are an ominous harbinger.

"Achieving real reform in Europe is clearly more important than meeting an arbitrary deadline", it says, but it goes on to say that Mr Cameron's position is far stronger than a month ago, and that treaty change is not needed to achieve many of his goals.

Reform should be a natural and permanent process for the EU as for its members, it adds, then picking up on Denmark, also noting that a side-deal was reached to keep it in Europe on its own terms.

Britain is a more important member of the union, says the Times, and deserves at least as much consideration. "Mr Cameron should seize this chance to win important powers back from Brussels, and then get on with running Britain", the paper concludes.

In this, I see the newspaper preparing the ground for an acceptance of the Cameron "package" that will eventually be on offer, whence it will be recommending the public to vote to remain in the EU. It will be joined by the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph, and virtually the whole of the legacy media.

We are, I am convinced, being softened up to accept that reform is attainable, so that we will vote for what we are given. It is going to take a powerful campaign to overcome that and a realisation that we are up against forces of enormous power and determination.

What I see from our "side", though, does not fill me with enormous confidence, especially as most of us seem to have become invisible.

Perhaps, though, that is our greatest strength. They didn't see us coming in the general election and they are still so blindly cocksure that they might not see us coming in the referendum. Every monster has its blind spot, and we know where it is.

Richard North 19/05/2015 link

EU referendum: a train-wreck in the making


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Where we lead, others follow, not that any of them have the balls to admit it. It's even got to the state where Booker has been instructed not to mention me in his column, and if he does put my name in, or mention EU Referendum, the references are removed.

We are, of course, used to this treatment. An earlier practitioner was Tim Montgomerie, who ruthlessly purged any reference to us from Conservative Home and banned me from the comments – even though he's been all over us when he wanted us to write for his news enterprise (for free), which he started up with Iain Dale (another one who has "unpersoned" me).

These people who now complain that we're so howwid to them, writing nasty things about them, forget their own history and their own actions. But, in boycotting us, they are making themselves look absurd to a growing number of people. All they are doing is excluding some of the best and most perceptive analysis on the EU and related matters.

Then we end up with Andrew Marr wittering in the New Statesman about how the pundits got it wrong – a man who would have benefited hugely from reading this blog. Then perhaps, he might have learned what questions to ask.

Courtesy of Scribblings from Seaham, though, we find that this overpaid pundit is now getting paid even more for telling us that he and the rest of his little claque got it wrong. He confides that he has been "sleeping and worrying" about how he does his job. But, despite that, he's still getting it wrong.

What the likes of Marr are going to have to do is be more discerning, and more challenging, instead of imbibing everything a politician says. There should be no place on the BBC website, for instance, for Farage's lies, as he asserts that: "I've put 20 years of my life into trying to get a referendum and now is not the time to walk away".

I sat across a desk from that man over a period of four years. He never then mentioned the possibility of a referendum, and has barely mentioned it in public until fairly recently, only agreeing to sign Nikki Sinclair's petition for a referendum when he was bounced into it.

Farage's game plan has always – since the very beginning – been the electoral route, initially trying to pressure the Conservatives into taking us out of the EU by damaging them in general elections. Then he had fantasies about holding the balance of power, and thus forcing a Conservative minority government into action, as a condition for his support.

Having recently spent most of his time and effort trying to prevent Mr Cameron getting a majority, and thereby honouring his referendum pledge, it ill-behoves Farage to claim he has been working for a referendum. He hasn't, he never has and, as a result, he and his party are totally unprepared to fight one.

For that reason, as well as others, Carswell is right. Farage is putting the anti-EU campaign at risk. And not only would he would alienate voters and condemn Eurosceptics to defeat, as Carswell avers, the man is a loose cannon who has even less idea of how to run a referendum campaign than he does a successful general election fight.

But just because Farage is the wrong man for the job, doesn't mean that Carswell's other ideas are any better. He argues that it would be better for the referendum "out" campaign to be run by a prominent business leader – which is precisely what we don't want. This is a very bad idea, at several levels.

First, we don't want a "leader" at all – whether a business person, a politician or even a sleb. We should not personalise this campaign – otherwise it becomes a biff-bam contest between our man and Cameron, the newly-successful Prime Minister. When it comes to reassuring the public, Mr Cameron will have enormous weight and authority – and "prestige". Our man (or woman) won't stand a chance.

Carswell himself talks about the campaign requiring, inter alia a "more collegiate style", and he needs to think this through, and get his brain properly wired. The term "collegiate" means what it says, and implies that we break away from the personality politics that the media so loves, and have multiple heads. Not least, this neutralises any decapitation tactics that might be tried.

But then the idea of a business leader is especially bad. This locks the campaign into an economic framework, which is the very last thing we want to do. That is partly why the 1975 campaign failed, as it got bogged down in discussions about the price of butter, and other petty details.

Blitzkrieg-style, we need to by-pass and neutralise the economic arguments, and take the high ground. Leaving the EU is about correcting a historic mistake, where we have vested power in a supranational authority, which is incompatible with our status as a democratic status. It is about how - and by whom  - we are governed. That is not the business of business.

This apart, there is a significant lacuna in the Carswell rhetoric – a failure to acknowledge that the designation of the "out" campaign does not rest with him or anyone else, but rests with the Electoral Commission, which will select the lead campaigner from the applications submitted.

In what is most likely to be a competition, with a number of bids for the lead, all Carswell (or anyone else, for that matter) can do is seek to form a coalition (or umbrella group), in the hope of winning the bid. Incidentally, I would most certainly seek to oppose an application that fronted a business leader at its head, on the grounds that it did not adequately represent those campaigning for the "out" proposition.

This, though, points to a greater flaw. All sorts – Carswell included – are coming out of the woodwork with their views of who is to lead the "out" campaign, yet I'm hearing very little discussion on how we should win it.

Watching all this happen the pundits are allowing themselves to be sidetracked by the biff-bam theatre, and thus falling into yet another trap of their own making. They also are failing to think about what it takes to win, and who has the best ideas in that department. As always, they go for the cheap and easy story.

But there is also a generic failure, here, one which afflicts the eurosceptic movement as a whole. Devoted mainly to talking to each other, and telling themselves how awful the EU is, not a fraction of the effort is being directed at the main task which, as Boiling Frog points out, is fighting the FUD.

Instead, we're getting another episode of "The Egos have Landed", as Farage slurps up the love from his cult, and gears up to lose us the referendum.

We're already in a position to declare "we told you so", when what looks like being a train-wreck campaign fails to deliver. But, at this stage, that is a cop-out. We'll have to fight this battle through to the bitter end, before we can set out exactly why the campaign failed, in the hope that we don't repeat the same mistakes, yet again, next time round.

I am, though, getting sick to the teeth of the Kasserine Pass syndrome, where we have to fight through our "friends" to get at the enemy. Overall, I am reminded of the tugboat captain who, on the fall of France in 1940, was heard to remark: "Thank god for that - no more allies. Now, we only have to fight the enemy."

If it was only the enemy we had to fight, we could be sure of winning.

Richard North 18/05/2015 link

Booker and others: the referendum debate


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Booker writes some prophetic words this week, telling us that, at the moment, the prospect of us holding any proper debate on the EU referendum "seems vanishingly small".

"So few people", he says, "are willing intelligently to discuss the possibility that we could only get all that most people say they want, not by staying in the EU, but by leaving it". Unless we start to get serious about all this, Mr Cameron's little charade will merely consign us to remain locked into the EU until it falls apart: grizzling like mad but powerless to do anything more about it.

But then, as I was pointing out earlier, the politico-media nexus doesn't want an open debate. The denizens simply want to control it, in order to pursue their own agendas.

Add to that the antics of the Ukip leadership, which even the likes of Iain Martin have noticed: "are discrediting Euroscepticism and making a difficult-to-win referendum even more challenging for those who think Britain would be better off out of the EU", and we begin to have the makings of a very sick charade.

In this, though, the observations of Conservative election guru, Lynton Crosby – in yesterday's Telegraph - are also highly relevant. Referring to the treatment of the general election, he says that the political class badly misjudged the result. It was their "judgement day and they lost".

Political commentators - most of whom live inside the M25 - Crosby averred, just wanted "entertainment" from politics. The "last time they met a punter was when they picked up their dry cleaning", he says.

But, he goes on: "Politics is not entertainment. That's a mistake of people who are acute followers of politics as commentators or people from within the Westminster village. For the voters it's not entertainment, it's a serious issue, it's a serious thing that means a great deal to their lives. It is their future".

"It wasn't just Ed Miliband’s Labour Party that revealed itself as out of touch and remote from the people who are the backbone of Britain", he adds. "It was a failure for the Westminster-centric 'Eddie the Expert' and 'Clarrie the Commentator' who were tested and found wanting".

Interestingly, Crosby singles out Tim Mongomerie, observing that, "They say about teachers - those who can do, those who can't teach". That, he thinks, is "very unfair". His wife was a teacher. But he did think it fair to say in politics: "those who can do, and those who can't commentate".

The trouble is that this very same claque of "Westminster village" commentators, who got it so egregiously wrong on the general election, are now focusing on the coming EU referendum. And having devoted nanoseconds to studying the problems, they are now set to instruct us mere provincial plebs on how the campaign should be run.

These are people who, at best, have a tenuous grasp of the workings of the EU, poor research skills and an endless propensity for getting it wrong.

By contrast, within our group that are currently working on the referendum, the very first thing we did was acquire multiple copies of the Butler & Kitzinger book on the 1975 referendum. All of us have read it several times, and I have acquired and read virtually every book written on the subject.

Recently, over the weeks, I have also being working through newspaper archives, reading up on the contemporary reports and analyses, all better to equip me to understand the issues and avoid making the same mistakes.

And while we, ourselves, actually called the general election right – and forecast the failure of Ukip - none of this cuts any ice with the Westminster Eddies and Clarries. Tapped into the village gossip, fortified by their nanoseconds of "research", they believe they know everything there is to know.

With their sublime certainties about their own superiority, they have sneered at and snubbed us for decades. And when we dare to return the contempt they show for us, they airily declare that they couldn't possibly work with us grubbly little oiks, because we are so howwid. Instead, we must subordinate ourselves to their greater wisdom, learn to be deferential as befits our standing, and remain totally invisible.

The irony is that these geniuses think it's sensible to snub the author and owner of the website named "EU Referendum", which will be first port of call in the coming campaign. Already, it is consistently number one in the Google rankings, taking 10,000 hits a day and rising steadily.

Contrary to claims made by some fragile little flowers who have had their egos bruised by our directness, we will (and do) work with anybody who regards themselves as a fellow toiler in the vineyard, on a cooperative basis. But we are not prepared to accept the assumptions of superiority from the Westminster claque and take directions from them simply because they assume they know better than everybody else.

If we are going to have the debate that Booker complains is missing, that is how it must be. And while the Westminster village may regard the referendum as another entertainment, Crosby has it banged to rights when he says it's not entertainment for us. It is a deadly serious issue, and I haven't spent the last twenty years working on this to have the Hooray Henries waltz in and treat the campaign as their personal plaything.

We've earned the right to be taken seriously - the right to be heard. And we are not in a mood to be messed about by people who were staring in the face of a Conservative election victory and didn't even see it coming.

Richard North 17/05/2015 link

EU Referendum: the "wait and see" strategy


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Matthew Parris in The Times is coming out into the open, suggesting his own fudge on the EU referendum. He argues that both the "yes" and "no" camps (or "in-out") should get behind Mr Cameron's "renegotiation" and then, only in the event that the outcome is unsatisfactory should the "no campaign" pitch in and argue the case for leaving the EU.

This, in fact, is a meme which is being floated quite widely within the Conservative "eurosceptic" caucus, where it is argued that it is tactically vital to give Cameron full support for his attempted re-negotiation.

Politically, Tory MPs feel they cannot afford to be seen to be rocking the boat at the moment. They are right behind the idea of a referendum but they don't want publicly to make too many sceptical noises about Cameron's prospects.

Privately, however, they tell us that they all know that Mr Cameron will not come back with anything worth a row of beans. So, when they see nothing but cosmetic concessions, that will be the time for them to come out in the open. Then they will be free to point out how pitiful it looks when measured against all that fluffy talk of negotiating a "new relationship for Britain with the EU".

In the interim, these Conservatives say, activity should be confined to planning and setting up a grand "rainbow alliance", ready for action when the time comes.

In reviewing this strategy, however, one has to observe that, if it is supported by Matthew Parris – an ardent Europhile - there has to be something wrong with it. As such, we could hardly be expected to take strategy advice from the opposition, without thinking it over very carefully beforehand.

In this case, one can readily see that there is a huge trap awaiting the "wait and see" brigade. The self-denying ordinance, clearly, will only apply to them. While they sit on their hands, the "inners" will be rampant, stoking up the FUD, as they have been doing for many months. What Parris is suggesting gives a massive advantage to the "inners".

Even without that, though, the "Parris" strategy is still one that is guaranteed to ensure that we not only lose, but lose badly - for reasons which include the following:
1. It concedes the high ground, tacitly accepting that there are circumstances in which continued membership of the EU would be acceptable. It thus throws away our strongest suit - that there is a fundamental mismatch between the UK and the EU and that subordination to a supranational authority is not acceptable as a matter of principle.

2. It would fracture the anti-EU movement, creating even more of a schism than already exists. Those of us who are opposed to the EU on principle could not possibly endorse this strategy, which means that there would inevitably be divisions in the "out" camp. Not least, it is hard to believe that any Ukip supporter could get behind this strategy – yet the people who are proposing it are those calling for a "big tent" approach.

3. It hands the initiative to Cameron. If, like Wilson, Cameron finalises his deal late into the campaign, the "no" campaign will be on the back foot, having had to hold its fire until it has seen the details of the deal. That means that there will be insufficient time to argue the case, which in any case will be dangerously weak (see 1 above).

4. It turns the campaign into an argument about the finer details of our "relationship". This is exactly the way the Climate Change argument has gone, creating an exclusive, self referential clique, rehearsing arguments which have no traction with the general public. This is an argument we cannot possibly win - it will rely on prestige, and is one where the government can always trump anything and anyone we put into the fray.

5. It lacks vision. We would be arguing on Cameron's turf, for a very small and limited number of changes which, even if attained in their entirely, would not amount to very much. They would not constitute the "sunlit uplands" vision necessary to overcome the status quo effect, and thus accord with the Stokes precept. A more expansive vision would have no credibility, as the campaign would already have signified that it would accept a mess of potage.
Furthermore, it is unwise to assume that Mr Cameron will necessarily come back from Brussels with empty hands - or lacks the ability to talk up what he does achieve, and make it look more than it is.

In terms of the renegotiation, all but a very few seem unaware of the options open to Cameron, and his ability to present a plausible package. Using the Article 48 "simplified procedure", he is able to negotiate a new treaty within the timeframe afforded. If this is padded out with political declarations and then augmented by documented Commission Proposals and supported by the European Council, Mr Cameron will be able to present a very credible "deal" which will look very convincing.

To that effect, I fully expect most of the media - and especially the Telegraph and Times - as well as the Daily Mail to support the package and to advise its readers to vote for continued membership. Backed by the likes of Boris Johnson and most of the Tory "big beasts", the "outers" would be on the back foot, fighting to make up lost ground.

Thus, the best way of countering Mr Cameron's tactics – as I see it - is to get in early, warning people what to expect, in an attempt to pre-empt the propaganda and diminish it. To wait until he delivers his package, and only then to attack it, is leaving it far too late. It is a disastrously weak strategy.

With that, there is also another crucial element here. Despite some individuals assuming that they have a God-given right to nominate themselves as leaders of the "out" campaign, the designation of the "lead campaigner" for each of the propositions rests with the Electoral Commission.

Yet, as we have already pointed out, one (of two) of the qualifying requirements is that the putative leader of the "out" campaign must "adequately represent those campaigning for that outcome".

Here, though, Parris is recommending that the "outers" should only be committed to the fight if and when the renegotiations fail to deliver an acceptable outcome. Any organisation representing such a position can hardly pass the hurdle set by the Electoral Commission. Against a competitive bid, representing mainstream euroscepticism, it will be out on its own.

If therefore, the Conservatives feel the need to adopt the "wait and see" approach, they are best off forming their own party organisation, separate from the main "out" campaign. There can be no "big tent" as long as there is such a wide divergence of views - not that such an idea was ever a practical proposition.

Richard North 16/05/2015 link

UKIP: our worst nightmare


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From the mouth of our enemy, Jonathan Freedland, comes a devastating analysis which is all too accurate – far too accurate for comfort. He writes:
At present, plenty of people in the out camp reckon that if Farage is their leading voice, they will lose. They point to the Farage paradox: that as Ukip's poll rating has risen in recent years, support for a British exit from the EU has diminished. Back in 2012, when Ukip commanded just 3 percent of public support, more people wanted to leave the EU than to stay in. Today, in a year when Ukip has won 13 percent of the votes in a general election, "in" can lead "out" by as much as 20 points. It seems Farage does well galvanising the convinced, but repels everyone else.

This is what worries outers, especially those in the Conservative party. With David Cameron now lionised by his party as an election-winning hero, he probably won't have to extract too much from EU negotiations to win support for an "in" vote from all but the most diehard Tory Eurosceptics. So long as Cameron can point to a couple of token victories over Brussels, the likes of Michael Gove and Philip Hammond – who once threatened to vote for out – are likely to campaign to stay in. That would leave a dearth of big beasts on the "out" side – with Farage as the most visible face. And that could sink the anti-EU cause.
The point is well-made about Farage: "It seems Farage does well galvanising the convinced, but repels everyone else". And that's the point. People either love him or hate him – the trouble is most hate him, and to win the referendum we need 51 percent of the voters.

The next point is well-made as well: David Cameron probably won't have to extract too much from EU negotiations to win support for an "in" vote.

Too many people are being far too complacent about the deal Mr Cameron can bring back from Brussels. This is the man who "vetoed" a treaty and was applauded by the media and his party. Even to this day, the legend survives.

All the signs are that the newly-anointed Prime Minister, in cahoots with the "colleagues" is capable of pulling off a theatrical "spectacular" – more than enough to unite the majority of his party, and to bring the media on-side.

This indeed will leave Farage as the lead political figure in the campaign. The few Tory "big beasts" who are still prepared to back the outers will then be linked with Farage and their continued campaigning will be political suicide – they will be isolated and marginalised – the rump of the Tory "right wing". Very few others will want to take the risk.

Freedland's analysis, therefore, points to failure – he paints a scenario that really is all too real. Farage taking a prominent part in the campaign will guarantee we lose. As Complete Bastard points out, he is a disaster - the one man who, single-handedly can lose us the referendum.

But winning the referendum must come first. Farage should stand down and we should make this a people's campaign, capitalising on the anti-politics mood. A vote for "out" then becomes a vote against all politicians – Farage included. Tragically, it was never meant to be like this. But Farage has toxified the eurosceptic brand and this is the result. Even the Guardian can see it – our enemies understand us better than we do ourselves.

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On the bright side, though, we have a late intervention from Douglas Carswell, who is telling Farage to take a break from Ukip. Politics is about persuasion, he says:
And getting noticed isn't enough to win over people. You need the right tone. At times, Ukip has failed to strike the right tone. By all means we should highlight the problem of health tourism. But we need to admit that using the example of HIV patients to make the point was ill-advised.
Ukip, Carswell observes, has been at its most persuasive when we have been most optimistic. Anger is never a great way to motivate people — at least not for very long.

"The party", he notes, "was founded to oppose Britain's membership of the European Union. Getting us out is one of the reasons for our existence. For the first time in a generation, we now have a majority of MPs in the House of Commons in favour of a referendum on our membership. Instead of sniping at the government as they prepare the legislation for the referendum, we should take heart".

Sternly, he tells his readers that, rather than automatically dismissing every idea for EU reform as necessarily bad, we should explain why we think we could do even better outside the EU.

Instead of feeding the idea that EU membership is synonymous with immigration, Ukip should help draw attention to the myriad of ways in which being run by Brussels makes us worse off. As a vital part of the coalition campaigning for "out", Ukip needs to strike the right tone. We must be part of a movement, but not seek to dominate it, he says.

Rather than focusing on the 13 percent of people who voted Ukip at the last election, the "out" campaign needs to find ways of winning the argument among the 87 percent of people who did not. Strident euroscepticism won't do it, he says. The clue is in the name. Ukip was founded to make the UK independent of the EU. That's what brought us into politics. We mustn't get distracted. We mustn't confuse ends and means. We should be prepared to work with people across the spectrum who want ultimate power to reside with people answerable to the rest of us rather than Eurocrats.

"There are many decent Green, SNP, Labour, Lib Dem and Conservative voters who share this aim. Are we going to work with them or talk over them?" Asks Carswell, "Are we going to play our part in a positive coalition, making the case for a better future or are we going to drown out messages other than our own?"

The case is there to be made: a global Britain, trading with friends and allies on every continent including Europe. A democratic Britain, able to hire and fire its lawmakers. A free Britain, living under its own institutions. Every action we take over the next 12 months should be to promote that goal.

Concludes the one and only Ukip MP: "All of us Ukip supporters should ask one question. Is what I'm doing at this moment making an 'out' vote more likely? If it isn't, stop it and do something else".

If Ukip can take on board that message, then there is some hope and some room for accommodation. But it has to be a Ukip without Farage.

Richard North 16/05/2015 link

EU referendum: the fallacy of the "big tent"


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Yesterday, when the main focus was on Farage's Ukip train-wreck, the Guardian ran a long piece under the title: "Brexit – what would happen if Britain left the EU?"

The paper then goes on to tell us that its writers "have drawn on the best available expertise to assess what Brexit would mean for growth, jobs, trade, immigration and Britain's position in the world", setting out the case in those terms.

In this, though, there is a central and devastatingly effective lie – the paper's claim that it has drawn on "the best available expertise", a lie that then underpins the whole of its narrative.

What the paper has done, of course, is select those parts of the argument from the pro-EU side that best suits it case, and then contrast it with the weakest and least convincing elements of the eurosceptic case, drawing them together in the framework of what is presented as a neutral assessment.

This works in the context of defining the framework – or "framing the argument" as it is known, setting the parameters of the debate and rigorously excluding those issues which do not support the paper's narrative.

A singular feature of this particular piece, though, is the way it has exploited the disarray and lack of coherence in the putative "out" campaign, so obvious that even Matts Persson has noticed that it is "all over the place at the moment".

To that effect, Nigel Farage is freely quoted, as is the winning entry from the IEA's shambolic "Brexit" competition, together with Roger Bootle and Tim Congdon. Yet, the interesting thing is that, if one googles "EU referendum", the very first unsponsored entry is this blog – followed two entries later by the blogspot version – which we are reactivating.

No fair-minded person, looking for a balanced argument, could be unaware of the points such as we raise. The fact that they are omitted from the Guardian piece is because the newspaper doesn't want anything which will contradict it. It wants to frame the argument, and thereby distort it, in order to declare victory on its own terms.

To counter this, the "out" campaign needs to rally round a single message and impose rigorous message discipline. That way, when the campaign proper starts, and the likes of the Guardian play their baleful games - or there are interventions by any of the boundless egos who want to have their say - we have the option of declaring that their views do not represent the official "out" position.

In a campaign where we are challenging the status quo, the only chance of success rests with reassuring voters that withdrawal from the EU is a safe option. And that comes with a carefully thought-through and coherent exit plan.

But therein lies a dispute which is developing at the heart of the plans to set up the campaign. There are those who argue that we should not rally round a single plan, but instead should seek a "big tent" grouping.

The "big tent" advocates argue that we should form the group first, and then agree a common plan. In the event that there is no agreement on what the plan should be, each component group should be free to represent their own arguments as to why we should leave, and how we should go about leaving.

Such an inclusive campaign does, of course, bring in the maximum number of players. But, in my view, that way lies chaos and certain defeat. The chances of agreement on a common plan are, as we are finding, next to nil. Thus, the "big tenters" are setting us up to go into battle with each division working to its own plan - or none at all.

This is to abandon any chance of success. As we see with the Guardian, the opposition will simply cherry-pick the weakest arguments and the most divisive players, and highlight the inconsistencies and contradictions in the "out" positions. This will make it certain that we lose.

But then it seems to me that most of the players aren't even focused on winning, and what is needed to make that happen. For them, playing the game is all that matters. And to perpetuate their "big tent" fallacy, we are required to lose the referendum.

Richard North 15/05/2015 link

UKIP: it comes to us all


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Now it's Patrick O'Flynn' s turn to denounce The Great Leader, claiming that Nigel Farage has become a "snarling, thin-skinned, aggressive" man who is making Ukip look like a "personality cult".

O'Flynn is wrong only in one respect. Farage has not suddenly become a "snarling, thin-skinned, aggressive" man. He has always been like that. It's just taken O'Flynn a little time to realise it, before coming to same conclusion that so many have reached before him.

One may recall Will Gilpin back in August 2013, who observed that Ukip was a chaotic and disorganised party built around Mr Farage's personality and whims. "The thing I am most shocked by is that Nigel does his own thing without the party knowing where he is or what he is doing", he said at the time. 

Many before and since have made critical observations, not least former researcher John Petley who I found writing in 2009 of Farage's propensity to "rant" at staff. Then he was saying that, "Farage's dealings with me bear the marks of a tyrant". Said Petley: "… he tries to destroy anyone who opposes him. The party is now in the grip of man who I can only describe as evil".

Driven to resign the party in 2011, he wrote a personal letter to Farage, telling him that he was "more of a liability to Ukip than an asset, and today you are a hindrance", referring to him having "driven many talented people away from Ukip".

In the list Petley offered, I am named, and I have shared Petley's criticisms. But then what do I know? I just sat across a desk from him over a period of four years, poured him into taxis when he was so drunk he could hardly stand, stayed at his family home, and worked with him on running and expanding the party's effort.

Then, according to my critics,  what I say doesn't count. I am motivated entirely by a "grudge" against Farage, they say – except to be smeared in this way is the fate of anyone who dares criticise The Great Leader and his cult.

"He tries to destroy anyone who opposes him", says Petley. At the very least, you are subject to a barrage of smear, innuendo and denigration, which the cult members gleefully take up and repeat at every opportunity. So it has been for me for over a decade, while Farage has progressively built the party up as a platform for his own ego, only now to be instrumental in destroying it.

Along the way, he has fooled a lot of people who should have known better, taken in by his "boyish charm" and his apparent openness. Only now we have O'Flynn saying that Farage has in recent months moved away from being a "cheerful, ebullient, cheeky, daring" politician, blaming his team of "aggressive" and "inexperienced" aides.

But then, that has always been the case. It is only in public that Farage is the "cheeky chappie" politician, and to those who he favours or wants to influence. Now O'Flynn - like so many before him - has seen the dark side. And as for the "aides", it has always been Farage's style to surround himself with sycophants and to get rid of anyone who he thinks might represent a challenge to him.

So, Ukip has come out of a bruising election, where under the "tyrannical" leadership of Farage it has managed to halve its parliamentary representation from two to one. Now we confront the prospect of a referendum – whence the party is embroiled in a civil war, taking itself out of the game. The Guardian, amongst others, is revelling in the dispute, and it now seems open season for Ukip-baiting.

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The thing is that, despite the legacy media falling for the hype - with that fool Matt Goodwin leading the charge, claiming in March that Ukip had four seats "already in the bag" – all of this was predicable and predicted. Anyone who knew from the inside how rotten and corrupt Ukip really was, and how devoid of substance and depth Farage was, also knew that this had to end in tears. 

The terrible thing here is that the members who joined Ukip as a means of getting us out of the EU have been betrayed. The good news is that, before the referendum campaign has started in earnest, Ukip is being so discredited that it will have a minimal voice in the campaign. Its ability to to damage the cause will thereby be limited. 

But had people actually listened to me and the growing army of critics - who have been pointing out for so long that things are not well in Ukip - this current train-wreck could perhaps have been avoided. We actually wanted Ukip to succeed, but knew it could not do so with Farage at the helm.

Now it has come to pass and, as the song goes, it can only get worse. Not until Ukip is rid of Farage can things perhaps start to get better, just supposing the party is not beyond reform.

Richard North 15/05/2015 link

EU referendum: Guardian peddling lies


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The Guardian is peddling lies - transparent and unequivocal. Its narrative is one of disaster for the academic community. Even the possibility that we'll vote to leave the EU would be a disaster for British science. The EU, it says, directly pays for much UK research and innovation, the paper tells us, and if we leave the EU we lose all that money (which we put in, in the first place).

Not to be swayed by tiny details such as these, the paper asserts that: "Given our public sector funding difficulties, and the understandably low priority research has in the political arena, we simply cannot afford to lose out on such a successful and empowering pot of EU money".

"Scientists love evidence, and the evidence is clear", the paper then asserts - thereby ignoring the evidence to the contrary. "Bluntly, if the UK were to leave the EU, we would massively and irreversibly damage an enterprise on which our future depends", it claims.

And so the inference goes that, if we leave the EU, the EU research funds dry up. But this is a lie - and totally contrary to the evidence. There is no requirement for a country to be a member of the EU for it to be part of its research programme. For heaven's sake, even Israel is part of the programme.

Those of you who have read Flexcit, will have picked up details on the Seventh Framework Programme and EEA members. It tells you that more than 2,350 Icelandic and Norwegian participants, including many small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), were involved. Icelandic researchers contributed to 217 projects, receiving funding of nearly €70 million. The Norwegians took part in more than 1,400 projects, receiving €712 million.

If the UK leaves the EU and rejoins the EEA, it can continue participation in the research programme (currently Horizon 2020) without interruption. Even without EEA membership, it can participate – as does Switzerland. The Guardian is telling lies, indulging in outrageous FUD.

But this calumny goes beyond the Guardian and extends to a campaign website called Scientists for EU, where these propagandists can spread their lies.

This brings me to the broader issue that this piece illustrates. Talking yesterday to a senior politician, he observed that the "out" campaign should already have a rapid rebuttal unit up and running, to deal with this sort of thing. To my mind, it is an indictment of Ukip, which should already be equipped to handle false claims.

Perhaps that's the sort of thing that Carswell's short money could handle, but for the fact that it would doubtless be wasted.

It is this sort of thing, though, that leads me to believe that we will lose the referendum. I don't see that we have any real chance of winning - for many different reasons, but all boiling down to the fact that the "eurosceptic" movement is too fragmented, has no coherent vision and – with particular relevance here - has left preparations too late. The Norway "no" campaign had five years to prepare for their 1994 victory.

I think the best (and only) thing we can achieve is damage limitation - doing what we can to avoid losing too badly. If the gap is narrow, then at least we can claim some legitimacy in continuing the fight.

There should also, in my view, be a secondary objective. We should use the campaign to build a standing, non-party-political organisation on the lines of the Norwegian "no" campaign, better to equip us to fight a "treaty lock" referendum should it come.

That would be our real opportunity to force EU withdrawal. In the interim, though, we need to claw back the anti-EU movement from Ukip, and to organise it on a non-partisan basis, ready and capable to deal with the sort of lies the Guardian is trotting out.

That, maybe, is for the future, but what is so disturbing is that a newspaper can so easily trot out lies, without feeling any need to check the veracity of what it is saying. And if this illustrates how the referendum campaign is going to go, we're in for a long, hard couple of years.

Richard North 14/05/2015 link

UKIP: return of the unresigned


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On reporting that Nigel Farage is to stay on as leader, the Telegraph suggested that the news risked "turning Ukip into a laughing stock". And a lot of people think the same way.

This was after the party NEC had rejected Farage's resignation, and also concluded that "Ukip's general election campaign had been a great success", then adding that it "recognised that the referendum campaign has already begun this week and we need our best team to fight that campaign led by Nigel".

And so the unresigned has risen, ready to repeat his "great success" in the general election, which saw its representation in the Westminster Parliament halved, from two to one.

Interestingly, the one remaining MP, Douglas Carswell, was clearly not in the loop, having that morning written on his own blog that, "Ukip's next leader needs to be someone that recognises our party exists first and foremost to get Britain out of the European Union". "Everything that our new leader does over the coming months", he added, "needs to be directed at securing a majority in favour of leaving the EU". Then, for the "money quote", he reminded his readers that:
Given than 87 percent of people did not vote Ukip at the last general election, Ukip needs to campaign in the coming referendum as part of a wider movement. Yes, we might be passionate about the need to leave the EU. We should recognise that we might not always be the best people to make the case to undecided voters.
"The case against our continued EU membership is not simply a matter of immigration, but of a better kind of Britain for the future", the MP continued:
Ukip must not make the mistake made by the SNP in their recent referendum. We should not equate support for leaving the EU with support for our own party. Do that, and the European Commission in Brussels would be delighted.
From a man who, in my view, has not always distinguished himself, this is a fair and balanced appraisal. There is an inherent recognition that Ukip has built for itself a "glass ceiling". It has only been able to attract the support of about eight percent of the electorate and polls as the party which has the highest proportion of respondents who say they will never vote for it under any circumstances.

In the referendum campaign, even if the majority of Ukip supporters  vote for "out", that will only give us the eight percent. We need in excess of forty percent of the total electorate. The question to which Carswell is alluding is that, given the antipathy so many people have to Ukip, is whether it playing a prominent part in the campaign will cost more votes than it gains, losing us the majority we need.

But what applies to Ukip applies in spades to Farage. As the recent experience in Thanet has shown, he is a divisive figure. As a Salmond-equivalent, dominating the referendum campaign, he would do much to ensure that we lost the contest. Brussels would indeed be delighted

However, this is not just an issue for Ukip and Farage. What applies to them should also apply to the other political parties. For instance, if the campaign is "owned" by the Tory right, then that could be just as damaging - as dangerous as in 1975, when the "no" campaign was associated with the trade unions.

In my view, the "out" campaign needs to distance itself from ALL political parties. It must capitalise on the anti-politics vote and become the people's campaign. We should welcome party activists, but as individuals. They will need to leave their party affiliations at the door.

But that said, the role of political parties may be more limited than in Scotland. There, the conduct of the campaign was governed by the Scottish Independence Referendum Act 2013. This referendum will be governed by its own Act, which may not permit politicians to take the same dominant roles.

If the "unresigned" is allowed take over, though, it could become a referendum on him and not the EU. Then we lose.

Ukip should listen to its own MP.

Richard North 12/05/2015 link

EU referendum: defining the battlefield


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One grows to love the overweening arrogance of the London-based politico-media claque who, because they were blind-sided by the developments outside their foetid bubble, grandly assert that "no one" predicted the Cameron victory.

This total lack of self-awareness almost defines the bubble, and it is that as much as anything ensures that its denizens not only get it wrong, but will continue to get it wrong.

That much is going to be the case, in spades, during the EU referendum campaign. Not least, most of the pundits have a very slender idea of how the EU actually works, or of its politics, and they have next to no understanding or appreciation of the global trading system, and how it relates to the EU.

As the referendum campaign develops, therefore – and we see the torrent of words published by the self-same claque which predicted there would be a hung parliament – the only thing of which we can be totally sure is that the comment will be driven by the most profound ignorance. Most of it will be wrong.

It is in the nature of the self-referential claque, however, that it is an exclusive club. Its coprophagia ensures that no new idea will ever sully their stagnant minds as they recycle the same limited input and excrete it for others to consume. And that knowledge is one of ten points we need to build in to our referendum campaign, if we are going to win.

Again and again and again I hear people tell me they never believe anything that read in the papers (or hear/see on the broadcast media), only for them to regurgitate in various forms, with different levels of belief, exactly what they have seen and heard. Campaigners must be on guard against this. The media (even those apparently on-side) are not our friends, and nothing they say can be relied on.

The next point of which we need to take account is this. From their pedestals of profound ignorance, the claque will try to take possession of the debate. They will want to own it, to use it as their plaything, with no commitment as to the result, and no concern that they may adversely affect an outcome that they may profess to support.

As with the general election, we will find the London-based media and the politicians trying to assert – and certainly implying – that they are the debate, that they are its sole custodians. This we cannot allow, and have some powerful weapons at our disposal.

Here, not only do we have the internet, with the social media and all that goes with it, but we have the local media, including the letters columns, which are much easier to access than the nationals. But we also have many other options which we must develop and explore. Communication is not the monopoly of the claque and we must make use of the resources available to us.

Particularly important in this context is a third point – the way the campaign will be fought. What we will be seeing is an attempt to define the contest in economic terms. We already see this with the pro-EU CER, which has been quick to re-launch its 2014 pamphlet on "the economic consequences of leaving the EU".

The media will follow this lead. Some journalists (and politicians) will do so because they believe the EU is an economic construct, and do not understand that it always has been (and still is) a failed experiment in political integration.

Others, and especially those in the business sections, will run this theme, not only because most of them know nothing of the EU as a political entity, but it keeps them within their comfort zone. They stick to what they think they know.

We also expect the London-based think-tanks to pile into the fray, even though most have very little to offer. The pro-EU bodies such as Open Europe will readily push the economic arguments, as this distracts from the political nature of the EU, and legitimises the call for reform. They will be bolstered by any number "useful fools" who fall into the trap of joining in the economic and business argument. 

Unless we take steps to prevent it, the debate will go the same way as climate change, to become the plaything of a narrowly-focused claque, arguing increasingly arcane points. The discussion will get mired in "angels on pins" detail, driving the general public away.

Here lies great danger. We cannot win the argument by discussing economics (and nor do we want to). For every claim that we will save money, there will be counter-claims about how much withdrawal will cost. Eventually, if that is all that is on offer, the public – unable to judge the merits between the cases, and utterly bored and confused – will vote to stay in.

Therefore, we must shape the debate and focus attention where it matters - on the important issues. We must sideline the economic issue, and marginalise those who argue either way, for added costs or for extravagant cost-savings.

This is where Flexcit comes in. It sets out an exit plan which is economically neutral. Economics, therefore, not relevant to the debate. Leaving is about the politics – this is a political issue, not an economic one. It is about how we are governed. Withdrawal becomes a celebration of nationalism and a reversion to intergovernmental relations, with a rejection of supranationalism. How we dress our concepts up for popular view has yet to be decided, but these are the issues – not a sterile debate about pounds and euros.

Fourthly, we are going to have to address the Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD), which is going to be the lynchpin of the pro-EU campaign. To counter the FUD, it has already been suggested that we have our own acronym, based on Hope Assurance Confidence and Knowledge, allowing us to HACK IT. Such simple devices will be of inestimable value.

The crucial issue here is that most of the FUD will be based on the deliberate (and sometimes unknowing) elision of the Single Market and membership of the EU. We have to convey to a wide audience that the two are not the same.

In fact, the Single Market isn't even the EU. The area defined by the territories of the 28 Member States is the "internal market", the customs union. The Single Market defines the 31-member EEA. In our Flexcit plan, we aim to continue our membership of it. And with that, most of the FUD ceases to have any relevance.

That brings us to point five – we need to banish the false prophets. We are not going to succeed in countering the FUD if our supposed allies are offering their own nostrums which contradict what we are offering. Classic here is the Ukip exit scenario which eschews continued membership of the Single Market on the grounds that it requires acceptance of freedom of movement.

Again, this is where Flexcit comes in, pointing out that it is perfectly possible to control immigration (and asylum seekers) which permitting the free movement of workers within the EEA. But there needs to be more. A successful campaign cannot afford to adopt a "big tent" approach with an alliance of players that has each doing their own thing. 

There needs to be a unified approach and strict message discipline, otherwise the likes of the BBC will pick those with the weakest arguments and promote them mercilessly, destroying the "out" campaign in the process. The "inners" have the status quo. The don't need to win - all they have to do is avoid losing.  It is for us to make the winning case - their role is to pick holes in it.

On that basis, we cannot take a passive view of weak plans. They are as dangerous to the campaign as the opposition's propaganda. They must be dissected, attacked and disowned. And, to that effect, we are going to have to be careful with our choices of allies. In terms of a formal organisation, a small unified group will be better than a larger group of discordant voices, insistent on promoting their own ideas.

A small formal organisation, however, does not mean that the campaign should be small. Point six tells us that we should never forget that a referendum is a decision of the people, not the politicians. The campaign, therefore, must be a people's campaign - not a toy for the posh people in London. Primarily, the formal organisation should be an enabler – helping the people fight, pointing them to the tools they need and guiding them on how to use them to best effect.

That point cannot be emphasised enough. This must not be a top-down campaign, feeding the egos of high profile leaders and celebrities, providing career platforms for ambitious wannabes. The people need direction – not leadership. The campaign must be facilitated, not possessed. 

This brings us to point seven, in which we must be clear about what we are fighting for – and remove the baggage. This is a campaign to secure our withdrawal from the EU. We should not allow it to be hijacked by other interest groups, whether it is libertarian idealists, free traders, anti-regulation zealots or climate change "deniers". Primarily, we are looking to free ourselves from the embrace of the EU. Everything else takes second place.

Point eight requires of us that we should complete the intellectual portfolio. We are well advanced with preparing the exit plan, but we are going to have to think through certain aspects to conform with point six. Then there are two other elements. We need a "vision statement" – a short but well-crafted word picture, setting out the outcome for which we are aiming for in leaving the EU. This is the "sunlit uplands" that satisfy the Stokes precept, giving an idea of what the UK would look like, five, ten and twenty years after withdrawal.

The other element of the trinity is the negative case – coherent and comprehensive arguments as to why the EU is not for us. But it is important for the case to co-ordinate with the exit plan. We cannot, for instance, argue for leaving the EU because of the "huge burden" of regulation that comes with membership, if we are then to tell people that withdrawal will not bring relief from that burden.

For our ninth point, we must develop a first-class intelligence capability in order to determine and pre-empt the opposition's moves. We also need a rapid response capability, to disseminate our findings and give timely warnings.

Most importantly, we must be able to monitor closely and report on Mr Cameron's "renegotiations", analyse them and neutralise the propaganda. For instance, while we know he cannot achieve a full-blown treaty change, but he can fudge it, using the "simplified procedure" under Article 48. Combined with political declarations and bundled with Commission proposals, he can deliver what appears to be – to the uninitiated and the media – a substantial package.

Only by re-empting this ploy, and then spreading information about it, can we show the public that they are being misled.

Finally, much of this will depend on point ten. The campaign will be led by two designated "lead campaigners", one for each of the propositions - "out" and "in". These are designated by the Electoral Commission, and have special status, privileges and public funding. If we are to be able to run an effective campaign, we must gain the official "out" campaign designation. That we are working on – of which more later.

In effect, though, this defines the battlefield. The referendum, I believe, is winnable but only if we refuse to allow others to dictate our tactics and define the battlefield for us. We the people, must choose the ground on which we fight. We must take control of our own destiny. But that also means getting involved, and not waiting to be spoon-fed by an ignorant, politico-media claque.

Richard North 10/05/2015 link

EU referendum: public enemy number one


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It is for the pollsters to sort out their own grief, and for the respective political parties to do their own post mortems to find out (if they can), why they failed. That, of course, will not happen with Ukip, whose activists are already doing what they always do – blame everyone else for their own inadequacies.

Furthermore, Farage has injected his own poison pill into the party, from which he has supposedly relinquished leadership. By standing down yet leaving it open as to whether he stands for the leadership election in September, he has paved the way of a civil war within the party.

When the contenders have fought themselves to a standstill, he will then offer himself as the saviour, ready to rebuild the wreckage of what is left of the party.

This is a classic Farage "play", and will demonstrate just how far detached the man is from the task Ukip was set up to achieve – leaving the EU. This is all about "me-me-me" and, as with his faux valedictory speech, fails to take any account of the trivial issue of an EU referendum.

Only thus could the leader of a supposed anti-EU party afford to take four months off to consider his future, when starting gun has been fired on a referendum, and it should be all hands to the pump.

In a way, though, Farage is doing us a favour, keeping his party preoccupied and less able to interfere while we get on with planning a campaign – and that is where our focus must be.

What an odd situation that puts us in. No sooner than we applaud the "victory" of the man who is committed to giving us a referendum (and has re-affirmed his intent) than we have to mark him down as our enemy, the man slated as the only one who can keep us in the European Union – the man we have to beat if we are to win the "out" campaign.

Make no bones about it, we are going to be hard put to win the battle, but it is now no secret that we have been working with the Campaign for an Independent Britain and the Bruges Group, with The Harrogate Agenda and EU Referendum, with others, to create an alliance which could form the nucleus of a campaigning group.

For much of the initial work we are indebted to Peter Troy, whose gift for organisation had been put to good effect. Sadly, Monday evening, week last, Peter suffered a massive heart attack and has been unconscious ever since. While he is currently in intensive care in the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle, I was told Friday morning that he is not expected to recover.

I am sure Peter would want us to continue with the work, and we have another meeting planned on 19 May, to progress the campaign, which will go ahead – unfortunately without him. But I intend to dedicate the Flexcit plan to his memory.

That sombre note reinforces our commitment to the task ahead. This is not a game, and no one should under-estimate our resolve. Mr Cameron, public enemy number one - has made his move. Now it's our turn to win. Peter Troy and many others would expect no less of us.

Richard North 09/05/2015 link

Election coverage: running blog


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And with the BBC prattling on in the background, we'll leave you with this thought ... or even this. We'll do a "wash-up" post later today.

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UPDATE: 10:40 Hrs:
Thanet South declares: Farage fails to win ... a margin of nearly 3,000 - not even close. Now we see whether he resigns. "An enormous weight has been lifted from my shoulders - I've never felt happier", he says.

UPDATE: 10:26 Hrs: The Mail says Ukip has secured 3.5million votes but only one MP. So far, in Scotland the SNP grabbed 56 seats with 1.5million votes. Outside his election count in Thanet South (result due shortly), Mr Farage says: "The system is bust. It's strange that a party (the SNP) can get a minority of the vote but get almost 100 per cent of the seats … You've got a first past the post system where we clearly become the third party in Britain but get hardly any seats'".

This is classic Farage, blaming anything but his own incompetence. Now it is "the system", with the focus on first past the post. He still doesn't get it.

UPDATE: 10:02 Hrs: Back in harness - sort of - whence I discover Reckless has lost his seat. Short of an (unlikely) miracle, that leaves Ukip with one MP, and a strong deterrent against any other MPs defecting. This signal is now lodged that moving to Ukip is not a career-enhancing move. I don't think we'll see any more Tory MPs defecting in this Parliament, and certainly not with the increasing likelihood of a referendum.

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The news also percolates a soggy brain - Ed Balls is out.  This is the seat that Ukip gave to Labour in 2010 - one of the "Ukip effect" seats, where the Ukip vote was greater than the difference between the winner and the Conservatives.

UPDATE: 05:04 Hrs:Tories certain to be the biggest party and could even win a majority as Miliband and Clegg face political extinction, says the Mail.

Apart from the Labour and the Lib-Dems, this represents a crushing defeat for the pollsters, and most of the political pundits - and especially the likes of Matthew Goodwin and Rob Ford, who were so taken in by the hype over Ukip. On the broader political picture, all of them have got it wrong, yet in the nature of things, they will carry on as before, without so much as a blush. For those of us with a better grasp of the issues and closer links with the real world, the result comes as absolutely no surprise.

We predicted it, on the basis of experience and careful analysis of the political runes. And we got it right, because that was the sense of things that was coming back to us. 

As to Ukip, I've long said that a political party without ideology, without substance, and with incompetent leadership, was never going to achieve a breakthrough. That was the opinion of a seasoned political analyst, who had the additional benefit of working closely with Farage for four years. Yet the fruits of that experience have been dismissed by so many as a "grudge", and ignored by the media who prefer airheads like Goodwin.

Well, the die is cast.  Those who thought Ukip was going to achieve anything of substance got it wrong, and they are going to have to live with their broken fantasies. Now I need to go to bed. I'll resume when I've has some sleep, whence we may well be considering how we are going to win that referendum.

UPDATE: 04:47 Hrs: Simon Hughes loses to Labour - 17,657 to 22,146. Lynne Featherstone also loses. Aker has failed to win Thurrock. He gained 15,718 votes, Labour 16,156 and the Conservatives 16,692. Eastleigh goes to the Conservatives with 23,464 votes, beating the Lib-Dems on 14,317 votes. UKIP comes third with 8,783 votes, Labour get 7,181 and the Greens 1,513.

Carswell keeps Clacton for Ukip with 19,642 votes, down from 21,113. He was fighting the Conservative who pulled 16,205, against 8,709 votes in the 2014 by-election. Reckless, however, is said to be at risk and if Farage, as expected, fails in Thanet South, Ukip could well end up (as we predicted) with just one MP. An online poll for the Daily Telegraph had seven percent of respondents opting for one Ukip MP (now increased to 16 percent), with 47 percent predicting between two and ten.

Boris Johnson is now an MP. Vince Cable is defeated in Twickenham. Conservatives take Eastbourne from the Lib-Dems. Bath regained by the Conservatives, wresting it from the Lib-Dems.

UPDATE: 03:42 Hrs: Galloway is out at West Bradford, or so it is claimed - a rare Labour gain, if true - but the talk is now of a Labour leadership contest. Miliband may be toast.

UPDATE: 03:05 Hrs: Castle Point, slated as number three on Ukip's list of winnable seats – and the place picked by Farage to launch the Ukip manifesto – has been retained by the Conservatives. Rebecca Harris actually increases her vote to 23,112 (up from 19,806 in 2010), on a reduced turnout, down to 66 percent – a drop of 0.9 percent.

In 2010, Bob Spink stood as an independent, taking 12,174 votes. Add 2,205 votes to BNP and, arguable, that is the transfer to Ukip's Jamie Huntman, who polls 14,178. Labour more or less holds up its vote, with 6,283 (6,609), while the Lib-Dems are massacred, plummeting from 4,232 to a pathetic 80 … yes, 80 votes.

In February, Ukip was said to be within striking distance of taking the seat, with the Conservatives ahead by just a point, according to an Ashcroft poll. This is also a seat that great sage, Iain Dale, thought might go to Ukip. Responding to the news of a Tory "hold", Diane James, Ukip MEP, says this is "disappointing".

UPDATE: 02:28 Hrs: Douglas Alexander loses Paisley and Renfrewshire to the SNP and Marie Black, a 20-year-old student - the youngest MP since forever. The swing is 34 percent. In Falkirk, the swing is 24 percent. SNP is on track to become the UK's third biggest party.

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Strong and persistent rumours (and claims) that Farage is running behind the Conservatives at Thanet South. He shows his mettle in a bad-tempered interview with ITN. Meanwhile, as the results trickle in, the exit poll looks more and more secure, while we remind ourselves of Farage and last November ...
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UPDATE: 01:09 Hrs:North Swindon has given us the fourth result, and a Conservative win in a fairly safe seat, with a seven thousand majority last time. But here again, we see the same pattern that was established in the Sunderland seats where the incumbent increases the vote. Thus, we see Justin Tomlinson increasing his vote to 26,295 (from 22,408).

Labour, as second runner drops to 14,509 votes (from 15,348) and the Lib-Dems collapse, pulling in a mere 1,704 votes (from 8,668). Ukip pulls in 8,011 votes, up from 1,842 (or a combined Ukip-BNP total of 3,384). Once again, turnout barely moves, standing at 64.5 percent from 64.2. Again, if the People's Army is on the move, there is no sign of it in North Swindon.

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UPDATE 23:58 Hrs: We're getting exactly the same picture with Washington and Sunderland West. Once again, Labour increases its vote to 20,478 (from 19,615), Ukip takes 7,321 (1,267), the Conservatives are down to 7,033 (1,267) and the Lib-Dems collapse to 993 (7,191). Turnout here is also low. Only 54.6 percent of the electorate votes, up marginally from 53.2. This means that 70 percent of the electorate did not vote for the winning candidate.

UPDATE 23:38 Hrs: The two Sunderland results are interesting. In Houghton & Sunderland South, Labour won the seat with 21,218, up from 19,137 in 2010. The Conservative candidate lost some ground, taking 7,105 votes – down from 8,147 in 2010. Ukip is way up, increasing from 1,022 to 8,280. But this does not look quite so dramatic if we add last election's BNP vote, which brought the combined total to just short of 3,000.

The news of the moment, though, is the collapse of the Lib-Dem vote. This time, they have taken a mere 791 votes, losing their deposit. Last time, they got 5,292 votes.

In Sunderland Central, again Labour gets more votes - 20,959 as against 19,495 votes in 2010. The Conservatives lose nearly three thousand votes, down from 12,770 to 9,780. Ukip again is up, soaring to 7,997 from 1,094 in 2010. And again, the combined BNP-Ukip vote was about 3,000. The Lib-Dems collapse, getting 1,105 as against 7,191 in 2010.

The turnouts  are relatively low (against reports of high turnovers elsewhere). In Houghton & Sunderland South, it stands at 56.3 percent compared with 55.3 percent in 2010. In Sunderland Central, the turnout is static, as 57 percent. There is no indication that either campaign has enthused any great tranche of new voters, and no evidence to indicate that Ukip is pulling votes away from Labour.

UPDATE 23:01 Hrs: "It's fair to say no one was expecting that", says Jonathan Freedland in the Guardian, "not the political parties, not the punditocracy and – least of all – the pollsters".

And there is the typical arrogance of the legacy media. On 21 March, we said: "My 'gut feeling' is that the 'Miliband effect' will create a last minute surge towards the Conservatives, with the two-party squeeze pushing Ukip out of the picture, leaving Cameron with a small but workable majority".

Of course, to the legacy media, we don't exist. We're "no one" – we don't count. But, checking up on our own posts, we've been talking about the possibility of a two-party squeeze since forever, writing in September 2012 that, "The next election is shaping up to be a Tory-Labour contest and, if the result looks close, the other parties won't get a look in".

The thing is, political dynamics tend to be unchanging – more biology than politics. If things look close, the "squeeze" takes effect. That's the way things work.

UPDATE 22:08 Hrs: Exit poll gives us the following projected seats - Conservatives 316; Labour 239; SNP 58; Lib-Dem 10; PC 4; Green 2; Ukip 2; Other 19. The exit poll last year was stunningly accurate, so it looks as if the pundits might have got it wrong. The "gut feeling" has it so far  - we might be on our way to a referendum.

Gloat mode - on (partial). Kellner, one should be reminded, suggested that the Conservatives would get 284 seats.

UPDATE 19:43 Hrs: a final Populus poll (via Reuters) has Conservatives and Labour tied on 33 percent. Lib-Dems get 10 percent, Ukip 14 and the Greens five. The pundits are reporting a modest swing to Labour, with it edging ahead in the very latest polls. 

Last election -  the BBC/ITN exit poll from NOP/Mori suggested a hung parliament. Cons 307 (short 19 of a majority), Lab 255, Lib-Dems 59 (down 3) and others on 29. Kellner's prediction, therefore (see previous post) would have it that the Conservatives are doing worse this time round - they actually took 306 seats.

And just a reminder: more than 9,000 council seats (9,243 to be exact) are being contested in 279 English local authorities. There are also mayoral elections in Bedford, Copeland, Leicester, Mansfield, Middlesbrough and Torbay. in the nationals, we have 650 seats contested: 533 in England; 59 in Scotland; 40 in Wales and 18 in Northern Ireland

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The latest Guardian/ICM poll (graphic above) also effectively has Labour and the Conservatives neck-and-neck. Ukip makes third place with 11 percent. That, then, is the prediction to beat (for the moment), the narrative firmly fixed on a hung parliament.

On his own blog, Complete Bastard is favouring a Conservative majority, and he's not on his own. White Wednesday reminds us of a piece from the Mail on 2 May, which also has the Tories ahead on 291 seats to Labour's 265.

Picking up from what Complete Bastard has written, though – whether Mr Cameron is able to form a majority government or not, we should make this election the turning point for Euroscepticism. The movement has stalled intellectually, and we're hearing the some of the same arguments that were being trotted out in 1975 – and they're about as unconvincing now as they were then.

Richard North 08/05/2015 link

Election: the moment of truth


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After what feels like an eternity, we are finally there. Kellner gives a narrow lead to the Conservatives, 48 seats to the SNP, 31 to the Lib-Dems and a mere two for Ukip.

So much for Matt Goodwin who in March was happily predicting that Ukip already had "four seats in the bag". His view was that Ukip was likely to win six seats. "They have pretty much got three or four seats now in the bag unless there is a monumental mistake and a car crash before May 7", he said.

Well, there wasn't so much a single car crash as a series of train wrecks – the inevitable result of an incompetent party with no ideological base and leadership that is not up to the job.

For what it is worth, I think Ukip will struggle to make one seat, but elections being what they are, there is a margin for error. We could see three, although I doubt it. Of more interest, I still expect the Conservatives to do better than the pundits are predicting, and would not be surprised if they come away with an overall majority. And that will give us a referendum.

Win or lose, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard reckons we'll have a referendum anyway, within the next ten years. That's almost a racing certainty, as the "colleagues" will be looking for a new treaty within that timescale, and that will bring us into referendum lock territory. In that case, it won't be an "in-out", but a "yes-no", although the one could lead to another.

That would make the outcome of today's election less important, although I would still expect an "in-out" referendum, at some time in the future, even if we get Mr Cameron's 2017 referendum and fail to win. Thus, I stick to my view that we could use this event as our dress rehearsal.

Until we have the results of the election, though, all this is academic. Hence, the stocks of popcorn have been made ready, the keyboard had been sharpened and the coffee percolator is on standby. All we have to do is sit back and watch the fun. But it's going to be a long night.

Richard North 07/05/2015 link

UKIP: grudges galore


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Considering how prominent Ukip has been in the run-up to this election, and its potentially pivotal role in determining which of the major parties takes office, I actually write relatively few pieces specifically about the party – and far less than the legacy media. Some newspapers run several Ukip-related stories each day.

Nevertheless, there is a tedious constancy about the occasional visitors to this site, who pop up whenever I do write a Ukip-related story, asserting that my hostile tone is motivated entirely by a "grudge" against Farage.

These are the sort of people who by their breadth of ignorance demonstrate that they rarely visit EU Referendum, yet seem to believe that by attacking me they can somehow exonerate their leader from his own incompetence, a man who still thinks we can have a referendum this year.

Farage has already tried that one and one might have supposed that he would have learned a lesson from the reactions. But that has never been his style – learning from experience. For Farage, Proverb 26-11 is an article of faith.

As to that grudge of mine, one should take it that Hamish Macdonell of The Times is similarly afflicted, having written of Ukip's Scottish launch on Monday, that:
One of Ukip's core arguments is that it is made up of real people, not the professional politicians who run the mainstream parties. That is certainly true: there was precious little professionalism on display in Falkirk. It was, quite frankly, one of the most botched and bungled events of recent political history …
At least the Times reporter found the event entertaining, but the entertainment value runs thin when one sees the studied incompetence of the party seriously threatening any progress towards a successful referendum campaign.

But then, when Iain Duncan-Smith writes that : "Voting for Ukip and Nigel Farage is like writing Britain's 'suicide note'", no doubt he is in the thrall of a grudge as well, as indeed must the Telegraph, for publishing his words on the front page (pictured top).

Nevertheless, the Work and Pensions Secretary says voting Ukip in the general election is "unfathomable" and people "will not be forgiven" for ruining the chances of holding an in-out referendum on Britain's membership of the EU.

And that latter part is true. One is reminded of Carswell, before he switched sides, telling us that that only the Conservative would guarantee us an "in-out" referendum, which would "only happen" if Mr Cameron was prime minister. No doubt, Mr Carswell had a grudge as well.

The fact is, though, that under the tenure of Mr Farage, the net effect of Mr Carswell's new party is to make an EU referendum less winnable, with YouGov now reporting a 12-point lead for the "inners", up two points since April.

No doubt, even to remark on that must be considered evidence of a grudge, because in Ukip-land, Farage still thinks he can take the country by storm in a 2015 referendum, and win the contest without even bothering to work up a credible exit plan.

Fortunately, the losers are losing, which means that, when this election is over, we can get back to addressing the problem of how to win a referendum without the distraction of Ukip and its train-wreck policies and its incompetence.

But once again, that has to be a grudge speaking. After all, if it wasn't for The Great Leader, we might already have a credible exit plan, Mr Cameron might be heading for an easier victory, and we might be ahead in the EU referendum polls. And that would never do.

Richard North 06/05/2015 link

UK politics: whinging in the wind


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On the brink of electoral defeat, it seems Farage is aiming to get his excuses in early, complaining to LBC about the "cult of celebrity" which, he claims, "is affecting the election and detracting from the serious issues facing the electorate".

This adds to his condemnation of the BBC, which has now grown to a wish to see curbs on entertainment programmes such as Dr Who. And not content with that, he's also having a go at the pollsters who, in the litany of Faragian woes, seem to have it in for him.

Nothing from The Great Leader, however, admits to any great error on his part, except perhaps to a minor misjudgement over Miliband's intentions on the referendum. Yet, despite some wishing to see what impact Farage might have on our sadly diminished House of Commons, we already know the answer to that from his performance in Strasbourg. Even on the key issue of asylum policy, all he could do was deliver a pub-bore rant.

Interestingly the Sunday Times had Dominic Lawson commenting on the general theme of immigration, remarking that Farage is either deluded or trying to fool the public when he continually trots out his mantra that Ukip — in a UK outside the EU — would be able to control the figures by introducing "an Australian-style points system".

Lawson recalls that Owen Paterson pointed out recently that the Australian points system has let in a greater proportion of immigrants relative to the existing population than we have done as signatories of EU freedom of movement treaties.

The point is that there are almost uncountable numbers of aspiring immigrants to developed countries who have the skills that any points system demands. And as Paterson also noted: "As long as there are significant incentives to move, people will cross borders … When controls are imposed, people find a way round them . . . In the UK there are over 30 million visitors each year and attempts to pull up the drawbridge would simply lead to a massive surge in illegal immigration".

The criticism here, though, is not confined to Ukip. All the parties pretend this is a force they can control as if it were a bathroom tap. Lawson asserts. Miliband has even commissioned the printing of Labour campaign mugs covered with the words "Controls on immigration". The real mug, Lawson says would be the voter who bought that — at least in the sense of believing it.

The sad thing is that there are real world problems, for which no parties are currently offering sensible (or any) solutions. Over the weekend, for instance, rescue operations recovered more than 3,400 people off the coast of Libya on Saturday, as potential asylum seekers took advantage of the calm weather to renew their assault on fortress Europe.

The Mediterranean may, for the moment, seem a long way away, but with record number of migrants already in reception camps in EU Member States, it is only a matter of time before some of these reach Calais with a view to crossing the Channel and claiming refuge in this country.

Since no party has the answer to this problem – not even (and especially) Ukip - it is not surprising that the election campaign reverts to trivia and celebrity politics. Rather than whinging, though, Farage might reflect that if his party had come up with some credible policy ideas on key issues, voters might be more inclined to support him.

But there's the rub. For Farage's complaints about the dumbing down of the election process to be justified, he and his supporters need to do more than contribute simplistic nostrums which are no better that the other parties' offerings.

As it is, they are not anything like enough to convince voters that Ukip is a party to be taken seriously, which is why they have failed to register and will not make their breakthrough on Thursday.

Richard North 04/05/2015 link

EU Referendum: confronting a Tory victory


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It was in April that I expressed my "gut feeling" that the "Miliband effect" would create a last minute surge towards the Conservatives, with the two-party squeeze pushing Ukip out of the picture, leaving Cameron with a small but workable majority.

Certainly, despite the wild optimism of the pundits – the Matt Goodwins of this world - Ukip was never going to make the grade. Empty of substance, boasting a leader with no more depth than the classic pub bore, it only needed sufficient public exposure for the shine to wear off.

Now, snapping at the party's heels is Dan Hodges, who remarks: "Just look at Nigel Farage. He is losing in Thanet. But on Tuesday he was in Hartlepool. Yesterday he was in Strasbourg. Today he was on LBC attacking the BBC coverage of the campaign".

This, says Hodges, "is not a man on the brink of electoral glory. This is a man who has basically given up, and is now embarking on a national farewell tour. It's clear that Ukip will poll below, (possibly well below), double figures next week".

With that, we are now confronting the very real possibility that Mr Cameron will lead a majority government, and that will bring us to the threshold of a referendum campaign, where we will be fighting against all the odds.

Sadly, though, Farage's vacuity – the same that has made him no more use as an MP than he has been as an MEP - has left a legacy of an entirely inadequate exit plan, the limitations of which are already beginning to be explored.

In the Europhile online magazine, The Conversation, it is being picked apart by Trevor Salmon, Emeritus Professor of Politics and International Relations at University of Aberdeen. On trade, he says, Ukip simply assumes that the UK will be able to negotiate a free trade agreement, make its own trade deals on its own terms, and retake its seat in the World Trade Organisation.

Getting right to the point, Salmon concedes that some of this may be possible but, he says, "it could take a long time, and be contingent on securing the agreement of all the other EU states – some of which may not be amenable". He adds:
We know from past experience that trade negotiations between EU states can take a long time. For example, it took years to negotiate the entry of Spain and Portugal to the European Economic Community. In 1974, Portugal's dictatorship ended – the same happened in Spain's in 1975. Both applied to join the EEC shortly after, but neither were acceded until 1986. This was not because the EEC was hostile, but because it had other issues in play, as well as niggles over special interests such as wine.
It is precisely issues such as these that we deal with in Flexcit and if Farage had any sense at all, he would have realised that his scenario was never going to fly and devoted some energy to preparing something better.

Another thing he needed to do was address the Europhile meme that leaving the EU would be an economic disaster. Latest to try this on is France's UK ambassador, Sylvie Bermann. A British exit, she says, would be a "lose-lose" situation for the rest of the EU as well as Britain itself.

As the Europhiles so often do, Bermann confuses participation in the Single Market with membership of the EU. Our response is simple: we can take part in the one without needing the political baggage that goes with EU membership.

For Ukip, however, a deplorable lack of tactical acumen has ruled out continued participation in the Single Market. Instead, Farage has tied himself and his party to an unrealistic immigration policy, which keeps him locked into an unworkable exit plan.

Fortunately, from the reaction we had to the Flexcit seminar last Wednesday, we can take some encouragement. The idea of an incremental approach to withdrawal, and continued participation in the Single Market via the EEA, does have some traction.

Using the Flexcit scenario, we can distance ourselves from Farage's short-sightedness. Then at least we will have a chance of undoing the damage he has done, neutralising the propaganda from the likes of Prof Salmon and Sylvie Bermann.

Additionally, there is the good sense of the voters of Thanet South, who seem set to keep Farage out of the Westminster Parliament, recognising a loser when they see one. And deprived of that platform, a failed party leader will have his ideas consigned to the dustbin where they belong.

All we have to do then is win the referendum. That's the hard bit.

Richard North 02/05/2015 link

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