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 UKIP: blind, unquestioning loyalty

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I was wondering what Paul Sykes might have been thinking about the latest UKIP publicity, only to have The Times oblige.

In today's piece, they have him say: "I'm sorry if there's some ambiguities about the odd bits of money - I'm sure there is in every political party - but there's only one political party giving the British people their rights in an immediate referendum if they win the European elections and that's what I’m fighting for".

"Some ambiguities?" "Odd bits of money?" You just have to walk away from that sort of thing, shaking your head in wonderment. But you also have to puzzle over the political acuity of a man who apparently believes that UKIP is "giving the British people their rights in an immediate referendum if they win the European elections" or, for that matter, that we could win a referendum if we actually got one in the near future.

This also harks back to my research into The Harrogate Agenda, where I have looked hard at different revolutionary movements, and what made them successful. In this context, most often people don't count the rise of the Nazi Party as a revolution, but that is exactly how it was seen at the time.

Looking back at that period of the early '30s, we ask ourselves how it came to be that the German people could give their blind, unquestioning loyalty to a leader who was so evidently flawed. And then you look at what is happening around us today, and the comments of Mr Sykes. The behaviour of the German people begins to look more understandable. 

And no, I'm not suggesting that Farage is in any way like the German leader - the irony of the juxtaposition with the previous piece hasn't escaped me. But I do see similarities in the behaviour of his supporters, a suspension of judgement and some of the other characteristics that seem familiar. These characteristics, one could hazard, allowed the situation to develop as it did, way back in those dark days. 

There is something not right, not quite "British" about the way things are developing. We don't do our politics this way. Then - and now - this does not end well.


Richard North 19/04/2014

 Brex-kip: the issues combine

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Over on Autonomous Mind is an update to the William Dartmouth "wind turbine" story, which leads us to the conclusion that UKIP MEP is concealing ownership behind layers of obscurity, all to prevent people seeing where the controlling interests lie.

How ironic it is, therefore, that the self-same William Dartmouth is the UKIP spokesman shrieking for openness in the IEA "Brexit" competition, reacting "furiously" to the news that Iain Mansfield, winner of the prize, "has been silenced by the Foreign Office".

Never mind that Mansfield hasn't been silenced – we wouldn't expect a UKIP spokesman to get such a detail right. He has simply been held to his standard contract which prohibits him from speaking to the press without permission from his superiors – something which we would expect of a supposedly neutral civil services.

But Dartmouth is nothing if not determined to parade his ignorance. "It is ludicrous that William Hague and the Foreign Office are hounding this man and censoring his voice simply because he put forward a case for Britain to leave the EU", the man says, oblivious to the fact that Mansfield has written a blueprint on how we leave the EU, once the decision to leave has been made.

As he was careful to explain when he received his prize, he had no view on whether we should leave the EU, and certainly did not "put forward a case for Britain to leave the EU".

One might have, though, that a man so dedicated to openness might be keener to declare his real interest in the wind farm development with which he is being linked. He might also have a view on why the IEA apparently rigged the "Brexit" competition, and seem set on suppressing any options other than that one preferred by IEA former judge and advisor Roger Bootle.

As explained by The Boiling Frog in some detail, the IEA opted for a flawed and relatively rare combination of EFTA membership and exclusion of participation in the EEA in favour of bilateral negotiations with the EU.

By coincidence, it seems, that was precisely the option adopted by Bootle's own firm, Capital Economics, reportedly up for sale for as much as £50 million, set to make Mr Bootle a very wealthy man. The last thing Bootle would have wanted, however, was IEA Brexit prize winners to offer contradictory solutions. That cannot have enhanced his firm's reputation, with possibly adverse financial effects.

How relieved Bootle must have been when all six finalists came up with the same solution, identical to that proposed in his "Nexit" plan, endorsed by a judging panel of which he had been part, and continued to advise despite complaints about his lack of impartiality.

One might have thought that such shenanigans might be just the sort of thing to come to the notice of a UKIP MEP, as the party has a strong interest in seeing a workable exit plan being promoted. But then, William Dartmouth seems to be so wrapped up in his own shenanigans that this one seems to have passed him by.

Thus it is that, when you vote UKIP, a party opposed to both wind farms and the EU, you get wind farms and a rigged EU exit plan, all without a murmur of protest.  It thus seems we must vote EX-KIP. You know it makes sense.


Richard North 18/04/2014

 UKIP: a sterile campaign

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Lord Tebbit, the former chairman of the Conservative party, has said that Mr Farage must learn to expect greater scrutiny over his finances after joining the "big league" of British politics.

To which Farage might have rejoined, "Not as long as Carter Fuck is around to stop it happening". Even the oaf Bloom is turning on his former drinking pal, though, but if that is all The Times has to offer for today's piece, then its is scraping the bottom of the barrel to such an extent that the splinters are a serious hazard.

The interesting thing is that, while The Times will focus on his character flaws, not a single journalist will ever comment on Farage's political incompetence. The fact that he is useless at the very thing he is paid to do is of no interest to the legacy media. And that's why, ultimately, this campaign will be sterile.

We are doubly doomed, however, if the fluff-head Isabel Hardman is any guide, offering a response to the Times campaign in the Barclay Beano. If this is the best the metro-centric media can offer than we really have been wasting our efforts.

Almost ignoring the issues - these are, effectively, noises off - la Hardman indulges her girlie preoccupation with personality politics, preferring the gossip-led approach to writing about issues of substance.

Never mind that donations to UKIP in the order of £400,000 have gone missing, with suggestions that TGL has developed a chronic case of digitos lentescit, all the girlie is concerned with is that, this week, Farage "has been showing us his grumpy side", after being challenged on Sky News about his office's £3,000-a-year electricity bills.

Being "Mr Angry", is seems, is UKIP "taking yet another leaf from the playbook of its apparent rivals", the LiB-Dems, leading Hardman to the conclusion that Farage will need to "discard the very useful persecution complex he's copied".

Otherwise, says Hardman, "his party will continue to walk along, muttering to itself about its enemies, when it’s simply experiencing the highs and lows of being under the spotlight".

As this excruciating drivel of jaw-dropping banality continues, the girlie girds her loins, or whatever it is girlies do, and delivers unto us her peroration. "The exact timing", she intones, "will be a matter of fine judgement for those running UKIP's spin machine". Then from this girlie of all girlies, we are told that, for the time being, we should not expect "difficult stories" about Mr Farage's expenses to dampen his activists' enthusiasm.

So that is what it's all about: "difficult stories". This is from Hardman of Spectator fame, a supposedly leading political journal. If that is the measure of her penetrating political analysis, then the local playgroup beckons. It is the destination of choice in the future.

Richard North 18/04/2014

 UKIP: Times attack day number three

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On the third day of the assault on the Farage Party by The Times, we are witnessing an interesting media phenomenon. Single-handedly, a national newspaper is setting out to destroy – or at least gravely damage – a prominent political party.

For the moment, it seems the rest of the legacy media is content to sit on its hands and watch The Times and UKIP slug it out, the idleness in part enforced by wholesale threats of intervention by Carter Fuck, and the inherent caution of post-Leveson editorial policy.

There is a sense that the beast is not yet mortally wounded, so the hyenas are circling the prey, not sufficiently emboldened to move in for the kill. The effect, though, has been drastically to reduce the volume of stories featuring UKIP, and to cut off the supply of Farage puffs.

That said, the hostile publicity is doubtless having an effect, with the latest offering headed: "What happened to the £287,000 donated to Farage’s local branch?".

The question is genuine. The newspaper has been made aware of almost £300,000 in UKIP party donations having been paid in to Nigel Farage's local branch and withdrawn as unspecified "other costs". There could, of course, be perfectly innocent explanations for this and, to the brainwashed cultists (#cultofFarage), the mere assurances of TGL are sufficient to support a belief of rectitude.

The more cynical and world-weary, however, are less easily convinced. UKIP insiders, for instance, have repeatedly raised concerns over £287,734 spent by the party's southeast branch in 2004 and 2005 – a fortune compared with the funds in other branches which struggle to meet even basic expenses in the hundreds.

In detail, The Times is looking at a company called Ashford Employment Ltd, a company owned by Mr Bown, UKIP's biggest donor, and run by UKIP. It  was set up in October 2003 to pay for call centre workers collecting donations from UKIP supporters, spending £158,582 in 2004 and £89,456 in 2005 in operating costs.

Once staff and the running costs had been met from donations, the surplus from Ashford was transferred to the Farage's southeast branch, according to Terry Quarterman, the centre's former manager and a director of the company. The branch received £291,931 in donations in 2004, the year of the European elections, and £114,967 in 2005, although it is unclear how much was from Ashford.

Former UKIP members have raised concerns about the two large sums that were paid out of the branch in the same two years. In 2004, the branch recorded a £211,267 withdrawal as "other" running costs. In 2005, £89,996 was spent in the same way. Late in 2005, the call centre's financial affairs were transferred to UKIP's head office.

What is especially suspicious is that the money was transferred to Farage's branch – over which he had complete control, and not to head office for distribution to the national branch network. And, in the hands of Farage, it was not used for campaigning, communications, property rental, utilities or auditing. In the accounts filed with the Electoral Commission, the spending is described only as "other running costs". Even though the accounts itemised payments for as little as £496 on communications, they offered no explanation of how these much larger sums were spent.

In the years after this suspicious spike in expenditure, total branch running costs amounted to no more than £8,200, clearly indicating the exceptional nature of the costs. 

If in any commercial business, unusually large sums started flowing through the accounts, without any information on where the money was going or what it was being spent on, suspicions would quite reasonably raised – especially as the money, collected from members nationally, should have been distributed nationally.

In a political party, and especially one supposedly committed to openness, full details of expenditure should have been given and, in the absence of such detail, it is not at all unreasonable that questions should be asked. When those questions were met with a wall of silence, and persistence was then greeted by sustained aggression, the very obvious and reasonable question was: "What have you got to hide?". Furthermore, Farage and his supporters can hardly complain if people try to fill the gaps with speculation. 

What we do know then takes on greater significance, and through The Times the wider pubic (or some of it) is told that these unexplained withdrawals came as UKIP was channelling national donations generated by the "controversial" call centre in Ashford, Kent, directly into the southeast branch.

This had started off as a fundraising operation, set up in mid-2003 in an office provided free by Alan Bown. Farage himself is on the record as claiming that it raised at least £400,000 and boosted the membership of the fledgeling party.

Understandably, UKIP officials who started seeing this flow of money started asking questions. Martin Haslam, the treasurer at UKIP's southeast branch in 2005, described the call centre as an operation "where money went in and no one quite knew what happened to it".

Such was the concern about the call centre's finances that in 2006, a group of UKIP members in the south east commissioned a corporate due diligence company to examine the centre's business structure. A partial copy of the initial report, obtained by The Times, indicates that concerns were raised about "a lack of transparency regarding the set-up and continuing operation of Ashford Employment Ltd".

There were also questions raised about he company history of John Moran, one of the centre's founders, the outcome being that the report called for an independent auditor to perform a full audit. This was never done, further strengthening suspicions that things were amiss.

To this day, there have been no satisfactory (or any) explanations of what happened to the money and now it is known that very large sums were passed to a branch under the total control of Farage, for which there are no details as to the eventual destination of the money.

It would have been very easy for Farage to have provided independently audited accounts, certifying where and how the money had been spent. His refusal to do so, combined with his aggression against anyone who asks perfectly reasonable questions, tells its own story.

For my part, on this blog, I really have better things to do with my time than chart these apparent misdeeds, but I – like many others concerned with the conduct and performance of UKIP – cannot stand idly by as the party seems to become more and more the private fiefdom of Mr Farage and, it would appear, his personal piggy bank.

Still to come are some very strange tales of offshore bank accounts in the Caymans, Farage's unexplained disappearances when he was supposed to be in Strasbourg but had in fact hopped over the border, to spend days at a time on "private" business in Geneva, relying on free passage with his MEP's diplomatic passport.

Thus, those who believe that this is merely a "plot" organised by Conservative HQ could not be more wrong. If that was the case, we would be dealing with the same sort of low calibre of people who were involved in rigging the IEA "Brexit" competition. If they were behind this, you would see their clumsy bootprints all over the terrain.

What we have here is altogether far more considered, amounting to a search for what is looking like fraud on an industrial scale. And until Farage comes clean, instead of unleashing the attack dogs on his critics, the questions are not going to go away.


Richard North 17/04/2014

 UKIP: The Times's Ode to Farage

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Totally unmoved by the squealing of the Farage Party in response to yesterday's attack, The Times was back in action again earlier today, with yet another front page attack piece on the nation's favourite protest party.

Before getting stuck into the details (which we will have to, because the paywall precludes most people seeing the detail for themselves), one has to look at the bigger picture. And here, one must observe that what goes on the front page as the lead story is a top-line editorial decision. For this to happen twice in succession is a studied decision. Such things do not happen by accident.

When, as we saw with yesterday's story (although less so today) content was thin, and the target a minor political figure, leader of a "populist" political party, this is not normal news reporting. There is an agenda at play. And it was to that which I was alluding yesterday, a point lost on some of my regular ex-readers, who see any reference to Farage on this blog as yet more evidence of North's rabid hatred of him, for grounds which are quite irrational.

Part of what is happening here, it seems, is a determination to bring Farage down. And, little do UKIP members know it (or begin to agree), but the best thing that could happen to their party is for the paper to succeed.  It it doesn't, then Farage will bring the Party down.

To an extent, the piece of the day does make it clear, that the paper in gunning for Farage, headed as it was, "UKIP blocked questions over party's EU funding". In so doing, it tells a familiar (to us) tale of how "members were silenced, ignored or forced out of the party after questioning its use of EU allowances and donations". Farage and other senior UKIP officials, it appears, "traduced colleagues who raised concerns about how the party handled millions of pounds in funds".

This, of course, we didn't need The Times to tell us. Again and again, we've been pointing out all manner of things amiss in UKIP but, in the manner of people who simply don't want to know, the members attack the messenger rather than the message. Even my repeating charges made by others is treated as evidence of my "rabid hatred". 

Nevertheless, for those who will allow themselves to be informed, we hear that Mr Farage called a senior female UKIP official a "stupid woman" and told her to "shut up" when she asked for an independent audit into party finances. This was according to Delroy Young, once UKIP's only black executive. However, he is not the most sympathetic of persons, which has allowed UKIP official to trash his character, as indeed they have attempted to do with mine.

We also learn that another member was "allegedly physically threatened", which is entirely in character for Farage. Those who have been close to him know full well that he is a vicious, vindictive bully, who will stop at nothing to get his way.

But now we have still more that UKIP members can ignore, and put down to "smears", as they close their minds to the true nature of their leader, preferring instead the image he presents to the world.

Never mind that six former party officials have alleged that Mr Farage presided over a party that reacted furiously to any questioning of its financial affairs. After leaving UKIP in 2008, Delroy Young claimed that he received a telephone death threat, allegedly on the orders of a senior UKIP party executive. At the time, UKIP denied that anyone in the party ordered the threat – as indeed you would expect.

Young has told The Times that Mr Farage had a habit of going "berserk" whenever anyone asks questions about money. And that he goes "berserk" I know to be true. I've seen this with my own eyes, and it is not a pretty sight. But that is the dark side of Farage that he keeps well-hidden from the public and gushing girlie reporters.

Says Young, in 2006 he joined five other UKIP national executive committee (NEC) members to call for "an immediate internal audit of the party finances by members of the NEC with full disclosure".The NEC members were reacting to concerns over the use of MEP allowances as well as to questions about donations raised through a UKIP call centre in Kent. Mr Farage has said that the Ashford call centre raised at least £400,000 over three years.

That money subsequently went "missing" and despite strenuous attempts to trace its whereabouts, the fate of the Ashford money remains a mystery - and any inquiries about it are met with hostility and the most violent of reactions.

At a UKIP meeting in Bromley, a female committee member attempted to ask Mr Farage about the Ashford and MEPs' expenses. It was then that Farage is said to have shouted at her, "Shut up you stupid woman". Young, who was at the meeting, said. "He went berserk".

Ian Gillman, a former member of UKIP's NEC, said that he had also raised questions about what happened to the Ashford money, as well as about funds raised through the sale of lottery tickets. Gillman described a meeting of the party's East Midlands committee in March 2008 at which he highlighted his concerns. for his trouble, he was "physically threatened" by a party official in the presence of Derek Clark MEP.

"I never raised my voice, I just persisted with question after question about where our money had gone", says Gillman. "The official made threats to take me outside the room and beat me up. He darted a ballpoint pen at my eye [and] said how dare you ask these questions". Gillman says that he was asked to leave the meeting and thrown off the committee. And in what is an entirely typical response, he was subsequently targeted with a spam email attack by the same party official.

Needless to say, a UKIP official disputes Gillman's account. On behalf of their master, currently employed UKIP officials always do – until they too sicken and, weary of the lies, break away to join the growing ranks of the "whistleblowers". Then the UKIP spin machine moves into action, dripping its vitriol, lies and smears.

Yet Tony Ellwood, who worked as Clark's political researcher for several years, was also present at the meeting and corroborates Gillman's account. Ellwood said that in 2006 he was asked to reconcile the national party's accounts and found that 95 percent of its funds were being withdrawn as cash for unknown purposes.

He said that he had "kept quiet" in order to keep his job, but after witnessing the way Gillman had been treated, he confronted Mr Clark about alleged financial irregularities. Ellwood said the MEP "lost his temper" and told him to resign.

And that's the way UKIP works. You either close ranks and worship the leader, or you're out. There's no messing, and no halfway house. And once you have been removed, by whatever means,  the "briefings" start. And there are plenty of the faithful prepared to believe the slanderous murmurings, repeating them uncritically at every opportunity. I should know - I've been on the receiving end of this treatment for over a decade.

The Times, though, is immune to the blandishment of the UKIP faithful. Their journalists have seen a letter from Bruce Lawson, a former national treasurer, to Farage in 2008 urging him to resign as UKIP's leader. Lawson, who suggested that Farage remain as the party's top MEP in Brussels, said he was "wholly uncomfortable" with how UKIP MEPs received allowances and "where those monies go".

Lawson sent Farage an attached document called: "MEPs' Pay and Expenses — Who wants to be a Millionaire", noting that, "MEPs [get] an office allowance of about £30,000. No receipts are required".

In this document, he added: "Some MEPs use it to pay an extra £660 a month into their pension plans from their office expenses money. In theory they are then supposed to reimburse this money from their salaries, but everyone relies on the MEPs' honesty. There are no checks that any of them actually do repay this money".

As is customary in newspaper pieces, a UKIP spokesman was asked for a comment, and responded: "These historic allegations come from a few very unimpressive people that UKIP attracted years ago and who were gradually weeded out".

That is both characteristic and indicative of a UKIP response, attacking the accusers rather than dealing with what they have to say. But amongst those "historic allegations" is the charge that over £400,000 of members' money went missing and, to this day, has not been properly (or at all) accounted for.

But, if you are on the inside, you complain about its activities, and of Farage, at your peril. And, from the outside, you become one of those "unimpressive people that UKIP attracted years ago and who were gradually weeded out".

This "unimpressive person", however, is unimpressed. And so is The Times, read by hundreds of thousands of people. The faithful may stick their fingers in their ears and close their eyes, singing "Ode to Farage" at the tops of their voices, but the fact is that TGL's days are numbered. This is only the start.


Richard North 16/04/2014

 UKIP: flawed Farage finally fights ferocious former fan

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Quick out of the gate today is Farage, defending himself against charges claimed to be levied by former senior UKIP officials. These involve pocketing cash paid by the European Parliament for office expenses, set against inflated costs of a building he was given, and occupies free of charge.

This was in The Times earlier today, which ran as its front page lead story, "Farage faces investigation into 'missing' EU expenses", declaring that he faces an expenses investigation into almost £60,000 of "missing" European Union funds paid into his personal bank account.

Once again, we really don't want to know the details. But if it turns out that Farage has been lining his pockets with EU funds, this would not be a surprise. He wouldn't be the first UKIP MEP to have done so, and it is unlikely that he will be the last.

Furthermore, if Farage is now being investigated for this, it isn't the only ongoing investigation, and nor is he the only UKIP MEP being investigated. There are so many going on, as well as other criminal matters under investigation, that one assumes it is only a matter of time before the UKIP leader gets his collar felt.

What is interesting politically though is that The Times felt confident enough to commit this story to its front-page lead, given the Farage propensity to employ the services of Carter Fuck and its clones, and the shadow of Leveson and looming government-inspired press controls. One assumes the paper would not have run the story unless it had been pretty confident about its sources.

However, while the source of the information is former office manager David Samuel-Camps, who worked for Farage until 2010, he now seems to have contradicted the paper's version of his claims, arguing that there is very little difference between his actual figures and those claimed by Farage.

Nevertheless, there is enough here to illustrate that, once again, someone close to Farage, formerly a loyal "fan", has turned against him in a very public way, being willing to talk to the newspaper in the first place. It happens to us all eventually, Samuel-Camps simply being one of a long and growing list of people who have seen the light. Sadly, there is no shortage of deluded replacements, each one thinking that, somehow, they are different.

This event nevertheless gives us an entertaining headline (do you think I should apply for a job as a real hack?), and also gives The Times an editorial opportunity. Under the heading, "Political Class" – with the text sent to me by a wellwisher – it tells us that, "Nigel Farage's appeal rests on him being the anti-politician in a time of political disillusion, but the truth is emerging".

Not least of that "truth" is the number of people lining up, ready and willing to dob him in, just waiting in the queue for the attention of senior plods who are working on career-change ideas for Mr Farage.

The Times, however, is simply using this current story as a platform to assert that the appeal of Nigel Farage is based on a trick. That trick, it says, is:
…to appear as the politician who is not a politician. Mr Farage's most common and most effective shtick is to parade himself as the representative of the ordinary person against the gilded establishment from which the political class draws its recruits. It is a fraudulent prospectus and the sleight of hand is starting to show.
Noting that "a former senior UKIP official has filed a formal complaint about Mr Farage's conduct to OLAF, the body which investigates European Union fraud", it then observes how UKIP has made a great deal of the mess that the three main political parties got into over their expenses.

Mr Farage's comment in the wake of Maria Miller's resignation was typical of his attitude, it recalls: "Yet again, this is the political class looking after its own and letting down the electorate".

Yet this is the same Mr Farage who established the Farage Family Educational Trust on the Isle of Man to allow him to mitigate his tax liability, and who is now himself being accused of enjoying the fruits of a taxpayer-funded expenses system.

Cutting to the chase, the paper's message is that TGL's actions are not becoming of a politician who has styled himself as the anti-politics candidate, somehow above and beyond the allegedly low standards of the political class. Effectively, he is as we have been saying, just like the rest.

But, if UKIP's supporters will be quick to dismiss this as "smears" – and doubtless they have some justification - the Independent is recording a ComRes poll that has 51 percent of voters not believing that the Nigel Farage party offers a "realistic political vision", while 54 percent say they are not attracted by UKIP's "plain-speaking style".

In a way, this is possibly indicative of greater hurdles facing UKIP than is The Times, although the sum of these stories, and other recent attack stories, also suggests that UKIP is being deliberately targeted. But then, that is only to be expected, although going to war against The Times is probably not a good idea for a political party.

That, in itself, is no big deal. Any grown-up political party should expect some hostile publicity, and such attack pieces may simply indicate that the party is coming of age. On the other hand, the "one trick pony" aspect of the party makes it vulnerable. The attacks are mainly focused on the leader and damage to Farage is most likely to have a disproportionate effect on the party as a whole.

In this event, as long as there are disgruntled "fans", ferocious or otherwise, ready to come out of the woodwork, there will always be difficulty in controlling the agenda.


Richard North 15/04/2014

 UKIP: is the noose tightening?

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While UKIP supporters have been celebrating what appear to them to be meaningful poll results, for the second time in a week, we see a story in the legacy media about the woman accused of being Nigel Farage's mistress – Annabelle Fuller.

Earlier stories on this affair have been shrugged off, and even used to reinforce Farage's "Jack-the-Lad" image, but the story last week had an edge to it. This will not be quite so easy to shrug off, as this week points to an altogether much nastier outcome.

The first of the current tranche appeared in the Sunday Times yesterday, and the story has since appeared in the Mail. And, while it is not our intention to rehearse the details here - to be honest, I'm not at all interested - there are a few salient points that emerge.

Firstly, although the initial activities which led to the current reports were relatively trivial, they have since escalated. We are now seeing criminal investigations undertaken by the Police, not so much into those activities as to the attempts to cover them up. There is now the possibility of conspiracy charges and prison sentences.

The relevance of this has not escaped UKIP-watchers, as this is by no means the only incident which is being re-investigated by the Police, where conspiracy charges are being considered. Furthermore, some are about as close to Farage as Miss Fuller is claimed to have got.

Up to press, the UKIP leader had enjoyed a charmed life, seemingly invulnerable to investigation, despite proliferating accusations of an increasingly serious nature. But, with a number of serious journalists designated to unearthing details of Mr Farage's "colourful" past, and the number of investigations in progress, led by senior Police officers, you get the sense that something out of the ordinary is set to happen.

That said, since the Farage Party (#cultofFarage) is now enjoying greater prominence, it was always going to be the case that its leader was going to come under more scrutiny. The thing we might observe, though, is that Farage didn't need to make it so easy for them. And once the dam bursts, we could well be seeing a torrent of adverse publicity. 

Other sources have suggested that this may break before the European elections, but I am not convinced that this timescale will hold. On the other hand, neither am I prepared to bet that the Teflon will stay intact. We're beginning to see some fairly substantial flakes, and once it starts wearing off, it rarely takes long before things start to stick.

And this alone suggests that the current poll ratings may not be quite as significant as some think, particularly in terms of predicting performance.


Richard North 14/04/2014

 Brexit: the IEA's confusion over the Single Market

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We're picking up a lot of personal reaction from last night's Brexit prize, although relatively little internet traffic, perhaps indicating that the prize-giving has not exactly set the world on fire. Even lil 'ol UKIP didn't notice. But with such a dull line-up, this is hardly surprising, although I suspect many have run for cover from the controversy.

However, Witterings from Witney has made his views known, in brief, before dashing off to Durham. There will be more to follow but, hopefully, not too many like Allister Heath. He prattles about "grown-up debates", while his minions mercilessly exterminate any comments which indulge in, er … a grown-up debate.

This, though, is not the end of the battle. It is the start (or the continuation) of the debate, and the publication of the low-grade Mansfield paper does at least provide a baseline, against which we can compare our work, in order to highlight the salient issues, and bring them more into focus.

With that in mind, resume from where we left off, whence we had determined that FCO civil servant Mr Mansfield didn't want full access to the Single Market, and he certainly did not want the UK to join the EEA. On the other hand, we have argued that within the time constraints of the Article 50 negotiations, there is very little option. To get inside the two-year limit, we are virtually obliged to go for a ready-made package such as the EEA.

But, as we point out in our submission, there is another important reason why we would need to stay in the Single Market. This is one which would be well-known to regular ex-readers of this blog but not necessarily to an FCO civil servant based in Manila.

The essence of this is FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt), the torrent of Europhile scare stories that have proliferated in the media since Mr Cameron gave his EU speech in January year-last. And, to judge from the latest opinion polls on EU sentiment, the FUD is working.

During any referendum campaign which might lead to our exit, I wrote in our submission, supporters of continued EU membership will most likely have fought a negative referendum campaign, relying heavily on their FUD - virtually the only weapon they have. In fact, we can expect the "in-yes" campaign to go into high gear, saturating every possible media source with scare material.

More specifically, the campaign will be exploiting the status quo effect and the perceived importance to British economy of the totemic Single Market. In this context, the "out" campaign will only succeed in a referendum if it is able to neutralise the FUD. This, as they say, is a sine qua non.

In our considered view, that will only be achieved by the "out" campaign giving absolute, unbreakable assurances of a commitment to continued membership of the Single Market. That is the political reality of any referendum campaign.

Assurances of that nature will, of course, have to be honoured, thus dominating the Article 50 negotiations. Without them, it may even be the case that a referendum on the Art 50 settlement could not be won. Thus, the need to keep the Single Market intact does, in our view add an insurmountable obstacles to settling for a bilateral agreement (and, for that matter, the WTO option).

Now, it is entirely up to Mr Mansfield to argue that we should not continue membership of the Single Market but, our view is that the negotiators would not have a free hand. Unless there was already a commitment in place to continue with the Single Market, the referendum would not have been won, and there would not have been any Article 50 negotiations to consider.

Clearly, Mr Mansfield was not aware of this argument or, if he was, he did not consider it important enough to mention it. The judges must have been aware of it, as we put it too them. And, I gather, we were not the only ones to do so. If they weren't, they should have been and weren't paying enough attention.

The question is, therefore, whether you, the regular ex-readers, consider that the judges were entitled to ignore our arguments in assessing Mr Mansfield's work, and whether in the absence of Mr Mansfield even considering these arguments, the judges were entitled to claim that his work was better than ours.  You might be surprised to learn that I think that we might have offered a better pitch.

As to what Lord Lawson, father of Nigella, was even thinking, though, this is very difficult to work out. In today's Times, he writes a column about the Brexit award, which is headlined, "The UK will continue to enjoy access to the single market even after 'Brexit'" (above). Yet, if Mr Mansfield has his way, we will not enjoy access to the Single Market. He specifically writes (p.9) that "full membership of the Single Market should not be sought".

And Lord Lawson and his judging panel gave this man the IEA "Brexit" first prize. Did he actually read the submission and, if he did, did he understand it?

Richard North 09/04/2014

 UKIP: questions on wind

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Autonomous Mind is asking questions about whether UKIP's MEP William Dartmouth is using an offshore company to conceal his interest in a wind farm development.

The development is on Slaithwaite Moor (pronounced Slough-wit) on land he previously owned (and some say he still does) but which he says he gave away (free of charge) to the offshore company which is named in the planning application (alongside William Dartmouth) as owners of the land, from which they stand to gain possibly £60,000 a year from ground rent.

All of this is doubtless perfectly innocent. No UKIP MEP would possibly think of setting up an offshore company, or using proxies to conceal their involvement in activities totally opposed by their party. So William Dartmouth probably has an entirely acceptable explanation – the only problem is that he hasn't given it yet.

Meanwhile, I was sent this quote by TGL, lifted from his Wiki entry: On Any Questions, Nigel Farage described plans to increase the use of wind energy as "loopy" and said it would lead to Britain being covered "in ugly disgusting ghastly windmills" that would not satisfactorily provide for Britain's energy needs. So there you are.

The picture, incidentally shows wind turbines on close-by Ovenden Moor, taken week before last. They provide a perfect illustration of what the proposed development would look like, except that the new turbines, on the land William Dartmouth says he doesn't own but has given away free to a offshore company, would be more than twice the height and visible for miles around.


Richard North 07/04/2014

 EU politics: developing a winning strategy

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Despite the headline on the screen-grab, this is not about Farage. Rather, it is about one of my favourite subjects, stupidity - my own and, in this case the extrusions of Mr Andrew Rawnsley in this weekend's Observer.

Cutting to the chase, he is analysing the Clegg-Farage debates, and their implications for "pro-Europeans". The central conclusion he draws is that it is "hard to defend the status quo in the current climate and it is an unwise politician who tries to do so when elements of the status quo are anyway pretty indefensible".

Mr Clegg's worst mistake in the first debate, Mr Rawnsley tells us, was to answer a question about what the European Union would look like in 10 years' time by saying he thought it would be "pretty much the same" as now.

That, he says, may be an honest answer. It might even turn out to be an accurate prediction. But it came over as insouciance that was dismissive of public concerns. To win this great argument, we are told, "pro-Europeans will have to demonstrate a much better grasp of what makes people angry and a convincing commitment to reform".

It would be silly, Rawnsley concludes, "to read too much into the Clegg-Farage debates, but it would be equally foolish to ignore their lessons. Pro-Europeans should give up making excuses and start working on their arguments. It may be later than they think".

And it was worth spelling all that out just to be able to demonstrate how wrong Mr Rawnsley really is. Like Clegg, he doesn't even understand the battle he is fighting (and winning).

The point, of course, is that no one needs to defend the status quo. It has a habit of looking after itself. Those who challenge, those who are seeking change – they have to do the heavy lifting. Otherwise the status quo just goes rolling along, unchanged.

In the hands of the enemy, the most powerful weapon is the "elephant in the room" – the fact that so few people are aware of how much the European Union affects their daily lives. And in this, the pro-Europeans have the willing compliance of the legacy media and the establishment politicians. All they have to do is say nothing, and they win.

But the other weapon they have is FUD. Virtually, since Mr Cameron's January 2013 speech, the FUD has been pouring into the media, and it works – not that Rawnsley has begun to appreciate it.

Rawnsley's problem here is that he is just another metro-muppet. Like so many of his ilk, he's trapped in the Westminster village bubble, and actually thinks the Clegg-Farage debates were important. He's taken his eye off the ball.

The ball, in this case, is the EU "in-out" referendum polls. If Rawnsley really understood what was happening, he would have realised that his "pro -Europeans" were winning hands down.

With the leader of the ostensibly anti-EU UKIP having reinvented his party as the all-purpose "dustbin" for protest votes, having focused on Hoovering up anti-immigration BNP votes, the biggest player in the game is in the process of vacating the battlefield, one where the remaining forces are ill-equipped and unable pick up the slack – as yet.

Thus, would that he knew it, when Mr Clegg said that the European Union would look "pretty much the same" in 10 years' time, he wasn't very wrong. Ten years brings us to 2024. By then, a new treaty will have been in force, to replace Lisbon, for only a couple of years.

Only by some miracle will the UK anti-EU forces have built up enough momentum to have fought the referendum of 2018-19, and won the "no-out" vote. More probably, at the rate we are going, the UK will have fiudged the issue and we will be looking down the nose of another 50 years of EU membership.

And that really is the irony of people like Rawnsley. They are too stupid to even realise that they have won. All the have to do is keep pumping out the FUD, and the so-called "eurosceptics" will do the rest, failing through decade after decade to dent the opposition, or even understand why they are failing to dent the monster.

In ten year's time, therefore, they'll still be splatting "vote UKIP!" on Telegraph comment threads and not reading EU Referendum. We'll still be be writing "I told you so", as we celebrate our 20th anniversary, preparing to write yet another analysis of the latest treaty, and waiting for another referendum that will never come.

On the other hand, we could actually exploiting the stupidity of people like Rawnsley, develop our own winning strategy and then start rolling it out. Breaking habits of a lifetime and starting to win could prove addictive.


Richard North 07/04/2014

 Euro-elections: polls all over the place

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In a small way, I'm rather grateful to the New Statesman for discussing the "Nigel Farage paradox", noting that, the more that UKIP's media profile, poll rating and party membership had grown over the last two years, the more that support for the party's core mission – that Britain should leave the EU – seems to have shrunk.

Without that, I might be joining the hoards of my "ex-readers" in questioning my own sanity, being the only commentator to remark on what seems to be an alarming decline in the numbers prepared to vote for leaving the EU in a referendum.

But with three consecutive results in the bag, all showing that the "outers" are now in the minority, we now have an additional poll – another from YouGov - this one putting the "inners" at 42 percent (unchanged), and the "outers" at 37 percent, up one since the last poll on 27-28 March.

This compares with the 35-32 split of the Populus poll carried out at the same time, and goes to show that if there is any measurable effect on EU sentiment from Farage "victory" in last week's debate (and the one the week before), it is to motivate more people to stay in the European Union.

Such is the effect of the prevailing narrative, though, that when we see Peter Kellner write a scrappy piece for the Sunday Times, he doesn't even mention is own poll, instead focusing on a European election poll which has UKIP climbing from 23 to 28 percent, rising from third to a strong second place.

There is no doubt in Kellner's mind: Farage's two debating victories over Nick Clegg, he says, have put his party on course to win next month's elections, although he notes that there is no corresponding rise in Westminster voting intentions.

On the other hand, we have a Survation poll which also gives UKIP a hike in European election sentiment, but then it also gives the party a hike in the Westminster poll, up four points to 20 percent, compared with a drop of five points for the Conservatives, who slide to 29 percent.

Here, the catastrophic decline in the Conservative vote, in the Survation poll is put down to the Maria Miller, and the hostile public reaction to Cameron's failure to fire her after she had over-claimed on her expenses. And, from the review of the figures, it is quite clear that UKIP is performing its now-traditional function of being a repository for the protest vote.

It is not too much of a leap then to suppose that the European Parliament poll, attached to the Westminster poll, also reflected the Miller effect. So, while the Survation poll offers one possible explanation, Kellner gives it a completely different spin.

That brings us to the third European election poll reported today, from ComRes. The unfiltered results also show the Conservatives dropping three points – to 18 percent – while Labour picks up the slack, gaining three to bring it to 25 percent, while UKIP remains unchanged on 18 percent, putting it is joint second, exactly where it was – with much the same percentage vote – in 2009.

Clearly though, with a spread of ten points between the UKIP figures, the polls are all over the place, unable to agree on where the party stands. There is probably far too much "noise" at the moment to say with any certainty what the position is.

The one thing that does emerge with some constancy, though, is that when it comes to the bigger picture – of national sentiment of the EU – we are losing the game.

In March 2009 we had 55-41 percent in our favour and in September 2010, we had 47-33 percent in favour of leaving. Now, after five years of UKIP representation in the current EU parliament, with two years of exceptionally high-profile for the party and Farage's debating triumphs, "outer"sentiment is at a record low. As Churchill might have said, "some victory".


Richard North 06/04/2014

 Media: warming up for the big one?

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I wonder how many UKIP supporters have been writing to The Times accusing the paper of harbouring a grudge against Mr Farage, declaring that it will no longer read it. But, to judge from this coverage (pictured above), they had better get busy.

In fact, they might have good cause for complaining, as Mr Murdoch's comic has been at the forefront in publishing attack pieces, of which this is a good example. It retails the rather tawdry story that "police are investigating claims that the alleged former mistress of Nigel Farage falsely accused a Tory MP of sexual assault".

This is Annabelle Fuller again. Until recently, she was "a Ukip spin doctor", who, according to the rather decorous description in The Times, "had previously accused Andrew Bridgen of inappropriately touching her at his Westminster flat in 2011".

At the time, however, Ms Fuller - even then a lady with a colourful past - had given a rather more lurid description and although Mr Bridgen was arrested, he denied wrongdoing and no charges were brought.

The incident centred on a meeting in June 2011 between Ms Fuller and Mr Bridgen, MP for North West Leicestershire, in a Westminster pub. They then retired to his flat with a mutual acquaintance whence, according to an account she gave at the time, the MP reached up her skirt and touched her in places allegedly reserved for Mr Farage.

A week later Ms Fuller withdrew her allegations, conceding that her behaviour could have been construed as flirting. Later that month she waived her right to anonymity to tell a newspaper that her life had "been destroyed" after Mr Bridgen threatened to sue her for "ludicrous and false" allegations.

She said she had gashed her head fleeing from Mr Bridgen’s apartment barefoot after taking his Westminster pass and BlackBerry phone. When a security guard asked if she wanted to call the police, she said she replied: "I just want to get the hell out of here".

Then, says The Times, the case went quiet until Monday, when Scotland Yard officers spoke to Mr Bridgen for 50 minutes about allegations that Ms Fuller had fabricated the claims against him. Police officers are also looking at whether Ms Fuller stole Mr Bridgen's BlackBerry and pass. At the time, Ms Fuller said she had taken them "to prove where she had been" – as one does.

Of particular interest to the outside observer, though, is that this current account has been furnished by Jasna Badzak, a former UKIP press officer and parliamentary candidate. This is the same Ms Badzak who was convicted in October, under rather dubious circumstances, of defrauding Gerard Batten out of £3,000. She received a 12-month suspended sentence but is appealing.

However, it would seem that Hell hath no fury like a UKIP press officer scorned (unless you include research directors). Ms Badzak is also accusing UKIP of "financial irregularities", claims which are under investigation by the police and, I understand, by the EU fraud office.

But why The Times should be so keen to give putative jailbird Ms Badzak a hearing is a story in itself. There were, it appears, some "irregularities" in the way Ms Badzak was brought to court. They might reflect rather badly on some important personages close to her, the details of which are being prepared for publication by the newspaper.

This particular article, therefore, is seen simply as a warm-up, with others to come. When certain other investigations have been concluded, even those stories will be seen as just a prelude to "the big one". If that one comes off, it is expected to have certain senior UKIP figures in jail.

Those readers of mine, therefore, who complain so stridently about my less than complimentary pieces about UKIP, might soon be wondering themselves about whether they really want to be associated with the party. As details of some of the less salubrious goings-on come to light, they too might want to maintain some distance.

Certainly, as we have indicated before, there are a number of serious journalists working on bringing these details to light. Should even a fraction of them emerge, there may be little expectation of UKIP winning any elections. The more urgent issues may then be how much of the anti-EU cause can be salvaged, and whether the damage done is irrevocable.


Richard North 05/04/2014

 EU referendum: winning the battle, losing the war

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While Farage pontificates about drug policy in Portugal, tuition fees and sundry matters that have nothing to do with the EU – with "hard" EU issues carefully excluded - the media claque continues to prattle on about TGL's great victory. Meanwhile, we are slowly losing the war.

Slid out by the BBC yesterday was news of an opinion poll from Populus on EU sentiment. It had some 35 percent of those surveyed voting to remain in the EU if there were an immediate referendum today, with only 32 percent would voting to leave (27 percent undecided and six percent saying they would not vote).

The poll was taken on 2 and 3 April, partly in the aftermath of Clegg-Farage debate, and is now the third consecutive poll which has the "inners" in the majority".

In the YouGov poll for 9-10 March, we saw the writing on the wall, with the "inners" claiming a 41-39 percent majority and then, on 26 March we get reported (again from YouGov) a strengthening lead of 42-36 percent.

Now we get the Populus poll – a different polling company – and it confirms the lead, unequivocally indicating that, if there was an immediate referendum, we would lose, before even the status quo effect was taken into account.

Last year, Peter Kellner was remarking on the closing of the gap, publishing a graph (below) showing us delivering "outer" majorities in excess of 20 points through 2011 and 2012. The turning point came with David Cameron's speech in January last year, and the "out" campaign has since failed to recover its momentum. 

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The remarkable thing about the current poll though is that, apart from the BBC, none of the legacy media seem to have published it. With chatter about the "UKIP surge" having become the narrative, the fact that the anti-EU movement is losing the war seems to have passed them by.

The one exception to this is the New Statesman, which was recently asking whether Nigel Farage was hurting the eurosceptic cause.

Remarking on what it called the "Nigel Farage paradox", it noted that, the more that UKIP's media profile, poll rating and party membership had grown over the last two years, the more that support for the party's core mission – that Britain should leave the EU – seems to have shrunk.

Here, I would be by no means the only one to have observed that, in its bid to become more electable, UKIP is gradually sliding away from its anti-EU agenda, seeking to demonstrate that it is no longer a single-issue party.

But even that is not working. The latest long-range projection gives UKIP no seats at the next general election and a mere ten percent of the vote. Thus, the electoral model carved out by Farage is set for failure once more. There is simply no realistic prospect that UKIP will ever be able to force a decision through the Westminster ballot box.  

Meanwhile, the core mission has been neglected to such an extent that the party has failed to deliver a credible EU exit plan. That leaves us with a legacy of declining popular support for leaving the EU, with those who want to stay in the EU currently forming the majority of those who declare a preference.

The one possible saving grace is that 27 percent of the electorate is in the "undecided" camp, so there is everything to play for. However, in chasing after unattainable victory in the general election, UKIP is not even in the game. And as long as Farage pursues his failed (and failing) electoral model, we can have little confidence that anything is going to change in a hurry. 

With UKIP thus vacating the battlefield, its members impotent spectators in the continuing battle, many of us are asking whether we are going to have to carry on the fight without it.


Richard North 05/04/2014

 Bexit: a "dystopian vision"

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The Independent today offers a "dystopian vision of Britain under the rule of Nigel Farage". That includes a perverse, distorted "Brexit" scenario, which goes like this:
The changes had begun in 2018 …

A minority Labour government had narrowly lost the vote on EU membership in 2017, with 48.2 per cent in favour of staying in, but 51.8 for the "Brexit". The result unleashed a wave of euphoria. It split both the main old parties and simply drowned the long-forgotten third. DemLibs, were they called? A tipsy exhilaration had gripped the land. As Tories and Labour fragmented, so the Patriots carved a substantial slice from each and won a fresh election with a landslide.

Gruelling months of negotiation in Brussels followed, with the British side much enfeebled by the mass resignation of senior civil servants. From farming and fishing to airlines and taxes, hundreds of discrete deals had to be struck at speed to replace the Single Market. At last, formal separation from the EU had come into effect on 1 July 2019.

The PU [Patriotic Union] had refused to join the wider European Economic Area, as membership would mean Norwegian-style subjection to every EU norm without a seat at the table. So, piecemeal, trade and co-operation pacts were hammered out on every front with EU mandarins who – in spite of their public commitment to neutrality – could not resist the odd twist of the fiscal knife in revenge.
And there we have the "no influence" - "fax democracy" meme writ large, the very same that Mr Clegg used in that debate, which Farage had every opportunity to demolish but didn't. But we will continue to get this sort of thing until we come up with an exit plan of our own. We have one here, served up on a plate, free. If UKIP wants help, here it is. It will struggle to find better.

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With that, it really is about time certain people realised that we are not playing games. Europhiles are rigging the debate and fighting dirty. FUD is and has been their most effective weapon, and they are using it to effect. Now, quite rightly (for them), they have homed in on the tactic painting a picture of the disaster they believe will happen if we leave the EU. If they paint that picture long enough and often enough, and inb enough graphic detail, it will have an effect. "Mud", as they say, "sticks".

It is, therefore, time that UKIP pulled its finger out. To help it on its way, we've set up a policy development pack for it (pictured top). And that, of course, is one of those low jibes which is calculated to irritate and offend. But those who are capable of thinking this through need to acknowledge that there is a limit to patience, and to tolerance. Can they say that the jibe is not deserved? Can UKIP actually move out of the kindergarten and deliver the goods?   

For a party which has as its objective (supposedly) the UK's withdrawal from the EU, it is utterly bizarre that they have not produced a settled plan to achieve that end. In fact, it is much, much more than bizarre. It is totally unacceptable. 

Here he have a situation where the Independent has actually crafted a longer, more detailed version of an exit plan than, so far, UKIP has produced. Criticising the critics for pointing this out will only go so far, and it will not work on this site. A better solution is for the party to pull its finger out and deliver a credible plan. Without it, UKIP has no claim even to be in the fight. And as long as it fails to deliver, I will be here reminding people of its failures.

The real issue, though, is whether UKIP can rise to the challenge or whether, faced with something more demanding than splatting "vote UKIP!" on a Telegraph comment thread, the hierarchy simply runs for cover. 


Richard North 05/04/2014

 The Harrogate Agenda: communicating the message

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A post published on Autonomous Mind yesterday has so far attracted four comments. But then, it didn't criticise UKIP. Had it done so, it might have seen responses in the high double figures, exceptionally high for a relatively low-circulation blog.

Similarly, my critical "take" on that debate was a record high for the newly installed Disqus system, with 82 posts (some of them mine), comparing with the five comments on my analysis of the impact of the WTO's Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade, a ground-breaking piece of work introducing issues which are rarely discussed in anti-EU circles, coupled with constructive criticism of Farage, of the type we are told is wanted.

The truth is that there is a strong element of hypocrisy here. The party isn't really interested in constructive criticism.  Its main concern is to suppress criticism altogether, the commentariat ganging up on the threads to howl down anything it doesn't like.

And such is the rout of the independent blogs that the vacuous Hannan piece on the debate gets an unreadable volume of over 3,000 comments, this site having become the playground for the commentariat following Dellingpole's departure from the Telegraph, most of the comments - as always - having nothing to do with the subject of the post.

The mistake made by the AM piece is to take a constructive look at the future of the anti-EU movement, and how we need to progress the campaign. My piece makes a similar mistake.  It actually addresses real isues: the WTO agreement and how it could facilitate our early exit from the EU, and provide us with a battle-winning argument.

On the blogosphere, if an issue takes off, hits on even an obscure blog can lift from a few hundred a day, to hundreds of thousands. We had this happen on this blog over "Qanagate", when we did more than a million hits in one week. So hit rate is a good measure of interest, from which the comments then flow.

We can deduce from all this that, whatever else excites it, the commentariat is not actually interested in nuts and bolts issues to do with the EU. It will rise up to defend its champion and it loves discussing itself. But, with only a few exceptions, there is no serious concern about the arguments needed to defeat the enemy. Give it a serious issue to debate and it will run a mile.

This, of course, has always been the case. For the footsoldiers, messages have to be simplified and popularised to be accessible, then turned into slogans which can be chanted at the barricades and splatted on comment threads.  Polysyllabic words need to be avoided: even "vote UKIP!" is probably stretching the literacy skills of some posters.

So it is that we have to suffer the condescension of earnest posters, who advise us with all the gravitas of those who believe that they have just discovered the wheel, that our posts are too complex for ordinary people and that we must focus on projecting simple messages for the [simple] masses.

What our advisors neglect, however, is that there are no short cuts to developing the popular message. Behind the apparently simple slogans must lie fundamental truths, ferreted out with blood, sweat and tears, synthesised, refined and then crafted into their final form that is accessible to everyone.

Thus, the election-winning slogan "Labour isn't working" did not succeed just because it was a clever play on words. It spoke a fundamental truth, based on the distillation of thousands of statistics, gathered by hundreds of people over time, and distilled down into that single phrase, to form a succinct, coherent message.

The trouble with the anti-EU movement, though, is that it doesn't really have a coherent message, In its absence, we build a lexicon of slogans that mean different things to different people. Even the title "eurosceptic" - which we no longer use, preferring "anti-EU movement" - has wildly different meanings.

As to slogans, take the one I coined: "We want our country back!" As a slogan, that is fine - as far as it goes. But what country is it that we want? Is it the imagined perfect England of maidens on bicycles, passing the cricket on the village green on their way to church? Or is it some Brave New Britain, yet to be imagined? Or is it just a return to the status quo, whatever that might be?

When it then comes to leaving the EU, what exactly does that mean? Does it mean that we stand alone, relying on the WTO and on expanding world trade, turning our back on the EU? Does it mean the Norway option, or bilateral agreements on Swiss lines? And if not any of those, what does it entail? The anti-EU movement does not have a single answer, and the biggest single player, UKIP, doesn't have a coherent answer at all. 

With twenty-plus years of existence behind it, we can deduce that if UKIP members were passionately (or at all) interested in an exit plan, it would have one by now. But rather than there being any great pressure for one, the greatest disturb comes when [now] external critics point out its absence. Then, the pressure is directed at the critics, aimed at shutting them up.  In UKIP, the answer to criticism is to stop the criticism.

So we return to Autonomous Mind, one haven of reflective calm amid the baying mob, who has concluded that The Harrogate Agenda cannot stand aloof from the anti-EU movement, and wait until it has achieved it aim, in order that we should be able to progress ours.

Further, having developed what a group of us feel is the definitive exit plan, it has become very clear that it is not going to be discussed and promoted unless we do it ourselves. With UKIP especially, not only has it not developed its own exit plan, it has no real interest in any others from outside the fold.

Following the euro-elections, therefore, when we will be better informed of the state of play by the election results, a small group of us are to meet to discuss integrating the anti-EU agenda with The Harrogate Agenda.

Nothing is cast in stone yet, but the likely outcome is that our workshop sessions will be changed to include a full exposition of our EU exit plan, the one we have come to call "Flexcit".

There are those who then come to us to sneer and jeer, telling us that The Harrogate Agenda is almost completely unknown, as if that is news to us. Yet we intend it to be that way. We have quite deliberately set our face against a high-profile launch and rapid development, in favour of slow, cautious growth on the back of a well-prepared and coherent message.

The irony of all this though, however slight the knowledge is of The Harrogate Agenda, if you want something that is completely unknown to the public, it is the UKIP EU exit plan. And, when it comes to a message, we have the head start, as THA actually exists, unlike the UKIP exit plan.

At least we actually have something to communicate (and can do so, unlike in the pic, where there is no communication because the string is not taut, symbolising UKIP perhaps, which is all dressed up with nowhere to go, speaking to itself).


Richard North 04/04/2014

 That debate: "I see no quips"

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I had a look round the media coverage of the EU debate and was singularly unimpressed. The wooden spoon though must go to Rod Liddle in the Spectator.

Noting that, between Farage and Clegg, the UKIP leader won by 69 to 31 percent, he ventured that this might be the top line of the story. But the BBC thought otherwise: the corporation showed Nick Clegg winning four-nil and the spoken introduction, at the top of the programme, simply stated that the debate had taken place.

Liddle then goes on to say that there are plenty of reasons for him not to vote UKIP but then adds that "Nigel Farage is genuinely seen, and perhaps rightfully seen, by the vast majority of British people beyond W12 (and N1) as being 'in touch' and speaking their language".

This is supposed to be not just regarding Europe, but also, he suspects, immigration and even the events in Ukraine. The BBC, Liddle concludes, "no more understands this than do the major parties".

But while Farage seems to have been adopted as the Westminster village pet, the chatterati no more understand what is happening outside their bubble than does the BBC.

In this context, what is beginning to intrigue is the lack of audience figures for the first debate. Normally, when you get audience peaks, broadcast companies rush out figures. Thus, when a particular episode of Coronation Street brought a major uplift in January, two days later the Mail was recording an increase from 8.6 million the previous week to 10.6 million for that episode.

Here we are though, well over a week after the first debate and information is very hard to find. I have one unofficial estimate of 1.75 million, which would be less than four percent of the electorate, while Nick Ferrari suggested 15 million, a number so ludicrously high that it would top the entire charts - for a channel that normally struggles to pull in 150,000 viewers for any one programme.

The point here is that probably only a tiny fraction of the electorate watched the debates, with even Peter Kelner estimating an audience of less than ten percent of the electorate. Thus, while the plaudits go to Farage, they come from only a very small proportion of the electorate which, even under normal conditions (according to YouGov), has not topped 13 percent for nearly a year.

That hardly accords with Liddle's idea of Farage being "in touch" with "the vast majority of British people beyond W12 (and N1)". Should he be right, more people would surely have been watching him on the TV, and far more would be rooting for him in the polls.

There again we might be being too hard on Liddle, when we should actually award the wooden spoon to his boss, Fraser Nelson. This stunningly perceptive commentator (known affectionately not as the "pet" but the Westminster Village Idiot), remarked at the close of Wednesday's debate:
So it's over – another hour of trading numbers, insults and stretching the truth until the elastic snaps. This reinforces my overall suspicion that these two are as unconvincing as each other. The represent incredible extremes – and the truth lies somewhere in the middle. The EU is neither a Giant Satan with blood on its hands, or a panacea that doesn't need to be reformed at all. The average voter will have tonight seen clown to the left of the screen, and a joker to the right. They will find themselves stuck in the middle with the Conservatives, who want reform and then propose an in-or-out referendum.
For sucking up to the lovely Mr Cameron, of course, Nelson gets full marks but, unlike his namesake who had a patch over one eye, this version seems to have covered both eyes and blocked his ears. Having seen a clown to the left and a joker to the right, though, perhaps what he really wanted to say was, "I see no quips".


Richard North 04/04/2014

 UKIP: on not reading this blog

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I was going to write something about The Great Leader (#cultofFarage), but then I recalled that I'm barred from writing anything critical about him, or even relaying criticism from other sources. This is on the grounds that I am: holding a grudge; consumed with hatred; mentally deranged/ unbalanced; in a jealous rage; carrying out a vendetta; a closet europhile; a Tory troll and/or mentally deranged.*

My punishment for not confining my writing to approved subjects, I am thus told, is that instead of the blog being ignored (because no sensible person reads EU Referendum anyway), people will come flocking to the comments to tell me that they don't read the blog any more. 

Furthermore, they tell me, they will continue not reading it until I stop writing nasty things about The Great Leader, even though they will not actually know when I stop, because they are no longer reading it, and never actually did. No doubt a non non-reader will tell them. 

Even in the event that I do stop writing rude things about The Great Leader, however, most will continue not reading the blog, just as they didn't do before. This time, though, they will not not be reading it because I'm writing rude things about The Great Leader, but because they never did it before and had no intention of starting.

In other words, much of this is a crude attempt at censorship by people who don't read the blog anyway, using moral blackmail, presaged on the idea that people who come over to read this blog are somehow doing me a favour. I am supposed to be the loser, they imply, if they do not visit my blog and read my words (not that they would necessarily understand them).

Much as I enjoy the exchanges with my readers, however, I think I ought to let these non-readers into a secret – not that they will read it, unless I am also rude about The Great Leader, in which case some will read it in order to tell me they haven't read it, and won't ever read my blog again. So we will offer some unkind words on TGL shortly.

As to the blog, genuine readers will know that my "day job" – such that it is – is that of a political researcher and analyst. In pursuit of that occupation, I post my research and analysis on the blog, for my clients to read. They prefer the accessibility and the anonymity of the blog, and it is very convenient for them. That thus has become the primary function of the blog.

Secondly, I do research for Booker, which I also post on the blog, in the certain knowledge that the best way of keeping something from the legacy media is to post it on the blog. We know that many journalists read the blog, but most never use the material directly because they are terrified they might have to admit they got it from here.

Thus, anything that goes on the blog can be used as an "exclusive" by Booker, because none of the legacy media (with certain notable and honourable exceptions) will have used it by the time it is published on the Sunday. Some (but not many) legacy journalists may then use the material after it has been sanitised. Mostly, though, they prefer to wait weeks or months later when they can attribute it to a safer source, or have "discovered" it themselves, when it then becomes "real" news.

That apart, this blog is also used for my own research – to fuel publications and to further my own political ends. It also acts as a shop window for my work and attracts very welcome and much appreciated donations.

That actually gives me a target readership of a few hundred, including myself (as I am constantly using the archived material). The thousands of others are a bonus, but very welcome nonetheless. The deal is they get a service free of charge - to take or leave as they see fit - and I get a quiet satisfaction out of people being able to use my research.

But get this right. Other than those who are actually giving me money, or are contributing actively and positively to the forum or comments (or corresponding by e-mail), no one is doing me a favour. For those who who choose deliberately not to read this blog because they are offended by it, it is their loss, not mine. And, to those who come here to jeer and smear, we certainly don't want you or need you, and never have. We have standards, and you don't meet them.

So, what about The Great Leader (#cultofFarage)? Well, what started my train of thought before I was so rudely interrupted was this in the Evening Standard, which has Clegg believing he "unsettled" Farage last week by bombarding him with statistical claims about Europe.

Clegg said that Farage "is touchy and unable to cope with the pressure of real political debate". "The more I set out the facts, the more Nigel Farage became agitated and unsettled", he said. "He clearly is not accustomed to having people point out that a lot of his assertions are not grounded in fact".

Clegg added: "He likes to cast himself as some plucky outsider. He is not able to deal with the facts so he resorts to bluster". I could have written that, but I didn't, but was this really Clegg claiming to have set out the "facts"? Was this for real?

Anyhow, that's as rude as it gets in this piece about TGL (#cultofFarage), and I didn't even originate it. I'll have a proper go later, after the debate, so non-readers can not read that as well.

* choose any two


Richard North 02/04/2014

 UK politics: no "bounce" for UKIP (revised & updated)

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UKIP supporters were quick to accept the YouGov verdict on the debate last week, when 57 percent voted in favour of Farage, as opposed to 36 percent for Clegg. More usually, though, they refer to the identity of Peter Kellner's wife as proof of bias, thereby enabling them to discount any adverse findings.

No doubt they will say that Baroness Ashton has influenced the latest YouGov voting intentions poll, done for the Sunday Times. It records 40 percent for Labour, 33 percent for the Conservatives, 9 percent for the Lib-Dems and 11 percent for UKIP.

For those whom YouGov really is the Devil's spawn, though, we have yesterday's Populus poll which gives Labour lead of three points, on 37 percent, the Conservatives 34 percent, the Lib-Dems on 10 percent (+2) and UKIP with 11 percent (-1). One guesses that Baroness Ashton must have been there as well.

We can also reply on the Opinium poll in the Observer (see chart below) on Sunday. It puts Labour on 33 percent (down two points on a fortnight ago), the Conservatives on 32 percent (up two), the Lib-Dems unchanged on 10 percent and UKIP 15 percent (down one). This poll tends to give UKIP a higher score than many others but is now putting the party at its lowest point for a year, with a drop of one percent over the period in which the debate was held.

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The particular significance of these polls is that they come after the great debate, and show no "bounce" for UKIP. The victory claimed in the snap poll does not appear to have influenced national sentiment or bled through into voting intentions. The anti-EU party continues to flatline, or decline. The Lib-Dems, on the other hand, have (according to Populus) picked up two points.

But then, up pops the YouGov results for 31 March. That puts Labour on 37 percent, Conservatives on 34 percent, Lib-Dems on 11 percent and UKIP on 13 percent, a two-point hike for the anti-EU party. This could be called a delayed action improvement in approval rating, or it could just be a reflection of the normal variation in this poll.

So we turn to the Independent's latest "poll of polls", offering a monthly weighted average of surveys by ComRes, ICM, Ipsos MORI and YouGov. It puts Labour on 36 percent, having dropped three points during March, while the Conservatives rise one point to 33 percent. The Lib-Dems are up one point on 11 percent while UKIP is unchanged on 11 percent.

We can now also use as a baseline the Populus/FT poll (top pic) which samples 16,000 voters over the month. This cannot measure the debate effect, but its results give us a more stable comparator. It puts Labour on 36.6 per cent, down 0.5 on the previous month; the Conservatives on 34 percent, up 1.5, the Lib-Dems on 9.4 per cent, down 0.2, and UKIP 12.2 percent, down 1.4.

If we had them, a better test might be Euro election polls, but data here continue to remain thin. What we have is not recent and the latest survey puts UKIP in third position, with 20 percent of the vote. Nevertheless, contradicting the evidence of his own polls, Joe Twyman, director of political research for YouGov believes the Farage party will top the May election.

On what evidence we have, though - and relying strictly on evidence rather than sentiment or extrapolation - at best UKIP is flatlining. A more realistic view is that electoral support for the party is on the decline. There is certainly no evidence that it has gained anything from last week's debate. 

For Farage and UKIP, therefore, there is everything to play for in tomorrow's debate, although anyone expecting a bleed-through into national polls may be disappointed.

Richard North 01/04/2014

 UKIP: a gift that keeps on giving

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Nick Clegg must be thinking Christmas has come early as Nigel Farage continues with his destructive spree, determined to leave nothing behind him of his party but smouldering wreckage.

His latest gift comes via the Telegraph which reports Farage speaking at Chatham House, where he declared his pride at having "taken a third of the BNP's support". Farage is thus quoted as saying that his party actively targeted BNP voters who were "frustrated" and "upset" by their changing communities.

That Farage was after the BNP vote has been evident for some time, and he has admitted it before. But when I remarked on it recently, suggesting that UKIP had been refashioned as BNP-lite, I was accused of "a disingenuous attempt at a smear" of the sort normally the province of the legacy media.

The behaviour of the UKIP leader, however, has been subject to further analysis, discussed by Peter on his blog, where he suggests that Farage has become a tool of the establishment, playing with "safety valve politics" in order to undermine BNP.

The conclusions are more than a little disturbing, suggesting that Farage has nearly completed his appointed task. Once he departs, as he inevitably will, he will leave a hollowed out shell of a party, in a bloody civil war, with no foundation to steer its recovery - and it will be lucky to survive the skeletons that fall from the Farage closet.

Having cleared out any natural successors, Peter concludes, the party will be left with talentless yes-men and it is difficult to see how it can survive at all.

With Farage's scorched earth policy – the only policy in evidence from UKIP – it is very hard to disagree with this conclusion. Twenty years of UKIP have brought us nowhere near exiting the EU, and Farage does seem intent on making that a distant and unrealisable dream.

*Note: we are not deleting comments.  There appears to be a bug in Disqus. They usually reappear later.

Richard North 01/04/2014

 Ukraine: stoking the fires?

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If it is possible to be more insulting to a Russian president than comparing him with Hitler, then I would like to know it. But that is just what Germany's Mr. Euro, Wolfgang Schäuble has done.

And, says Spiegel, he is one of the country's best-known politicians abroad. When the finance minister speaks, people generally tend to listen.

Schäuble says that Russia's actions in Ukraine remind him of the expansionism of Nazi Germany. "Hitler already adopted such methods in Sudetenland," he said at a public event at the Finance Ministry in Berlin on Monday morning. "That's something that we all know from history".

Given "stewing tensions" (a native English writer would have written "simmering") between Russia and the West, and the finance minister's political prominence in Europe, Spiegel suggests that his comments "could further intensify discord".

This, in my personal view, is unwise. I really do not see that there is to be gained by ramping up the tension – or, as the Ukrainians are doing, exaggerating the threat of invasion.

That apart, Schäuble's intervention does indicate how high the passions are running over Putin, which might suggest the politicians such as Farage should exercise just a little caution when discussing the Russian president. Clearly, though, this is not Farage's style, only to have James Kirkup indulging in his brand of political assassination, with the expected doses of misquoting.

The UKIP leader, for instance, did not say Putin was "brilliant", merely that his handling of the Syrian crisis was brilliant. For some, the difference has a significance, even if most journalists would not draw a distinction.

However, this and other slights, real and imagined, have the love-struck acolytes squeaking with rage in the comments section, defending The Great Leader's honour.

Not once does it seem to occur to Mr Farage's ardent supporters that, if their leader indulges in this sort of comment, then he lays himself wide open to attack from political journalists and his many political enemies.

Therefore, it is not unreasonable to assert that some blame might attach to Mr Farage for his reckless behaviour, and the way to protect himself from attack is to be more considered in his comments. In other words, this was a self-inflicted wound on the part of Mr Farage.

Richard North 01/04/2014