Despite the EU role in the Somerset flooding, the debacle over Ukraine, the corporate tax avoidance arising from EU's "free movement of capital and payments" provisions, the horsemeat scandal, the silicon breast implants scandal, and sundry other EU-inspired disasters, the latest poll on leaving the EU gives the "outers" 39 percent and the "inners" 41 percent.
With a two percent lead to those who want to stay in the European Union, you might ask what it takes actually to get people to leave the evil empire.
But then, most people haven't been told about the EU role in the Somerset flooding, Ukraine, tax avoidance, horsemeat, breast implants, etc., etc. In the main, all they get from the media is the low drone of assorted FUD, with very little counterbalancing intelligence on how the UK could remain in the Single Market once it had left the EU.
Alongside the FUD, we've also been getting a steady drip-drip of publicity hostile to UKIP, in the Times and then the latest offering from the Daily Mail. This projects the party's London HQ as a bizarre freakshow. It paints a picture that would have most normal people crossing the road to avoid contact with the party, driving out any thought of voting for Mr Farage.
That certainly seems to be the case with at least 80 percent of the population, as the latest ICM poll on European election voting intentions indicates (below). This has 20 percent opting for UKIP, 35 percent for Labour, 25 percent for the Tories and the Lib-Dems on 9 percent.
Against historical performances, 20 percent is an encouraging figure, although it now puts UKIP in third place, and a very long way from the "political earthquake" promised by Mr Farage. If all he is able to deliver is third place, his credibility is on the line.
On general voting intentions
, though, the news is even glummer. Labour stands at 38 percent, and the Conservatives creep in with 35 percent. But UKIP drops back to just nine percent in fourth place, while the Lib-Dems claw back third position with 12 percent of the poll.
This is against a background of UKIP flatlining in the polls. Ever since the May "surge", YouGov
has had the party oscillating between 11-14 percent, with very little movement out of that range for more than six months.
All of that renders rather irrelevant booksellers
Robert Ford and Matthew Goodwin. As some time political analysts, they are trying to sell the message that UKIP has greater potential than its poll results indicate. That may be true, but it also illustrates that they are out of their depth.
In terms of "potential", a political party dedicated to leaving the EU (supposedly) should be able to pull in the bulk of the 39 percent who say they want to leave the EU. They should be, potentially at least, UKIP voters. But, as we saw last year
, the party also invites some pretty sharp reaction, making it the least liked of all parties. There were then 43 percent who would never vote for it under any circumstances.
As stories abound of bizarre happenings in the party, only so much can be put down to "smears". As they continue, the percentage of "never" voters can only increase. But, even if the "smears" are discounted, there is something which Ford and Goodwin clearly do not understand. That "something" explains what is happening, it explains the poll results.
Essentially, UKIP is empty, devoid of any substance. If it had substance, a solid core, it could ride the smears. But the closer people get to the party and the more exposure it gets, the more apparent the emptiness becomes. Unable to counter the FUD, and lacking ability to put the EU on the spot, it is losing us the battle.
Inertia may get it some sort of victory in the euros, but the chances of it "winning" are now receding. That much we do know, now we know the direction of travel.
It is highly ironic that, in the same edition of the paper that has Booker remarking on the inability of politicians to come to terms with the fatuity of Cameron's EU renegotiation/reform fantasy, we have Liam Fox demonstrating that he is not of this planet.
"Only a Conservative majority", he tells is, "will guarantee a referendum on the European Union, which so many of us want. Only a Conservative majority has any intention of forging a renegotiation of Britain's fundamental relationship with the EU".
There seems no end to this madness, the "reform psychosis
" that is corroding our body politic – and some of our media
. But, on the other hand, even the failing Observer
, with its contemptible resort to injecting the epithet "europhobes" into the debate, is seeing the light.
David Cameron's fundamental problem, says Andrew Rawnsley, "is the vast gulf between what other EU states might be prepared to sign up to and what a large segment of the Conservative party are demanding. Even if she wanted to, Angela Merkel cannot bridge that great divide for him. No power on earth can".
Gradually, though, in some quarters the disease is being recognised. Even Conservative Home
and the New Statesman
are singing from the same hymn sheet.
It takes the New York Times
to show its usual feeble grasp of EU/UK affairs, commenting on the recent Merkel visit.
Starting well enough, it notes that Mrs Merkel is only one voice among 28 European Union leaders, albeit the most powerful, and that every nation has to agree on treaty changes. This means, it says, "that trying to revamp the treaties to suit the desires of British euro-skeptics has zero chance of success".
The paper goes on: "If the treaties are reopened, of course, Britain should have its wish list. But, at most, it will be able to secure changes such as giving national parliaments a greater say in Europe-wide legislation. Mr. Cameron will waste his political capital if he makes this his priority".
But then it descends to the absurd, telling us, "a better approach would be to work with Ms. Merkel and other leaders to set a clear agenda for what they want the Union to achieve over the next five years, as the German leader proposed".
This is "reform from within", which is all that seems to have emerged from the Merkel/Cameron press conference
. All the pair can offer is "ideas like how to cut the excessive interference and meddling by European institutions in our national life", and the "need to guarantee the interests of those in the single market, but not in the euro".
This is so far from the fundamental reform that Cameron proposed last year as to leave only the remnants of his "vision" that is so shallow as to be laughable. "I want Britain to be a positive player in a reformed European Union, and I know that Angela wants a strong Britain in that reformed European Union", he tells us.
And if Mr Cameron thinks that is going to buy him any credit with eurosceptics, then he is more delusional that we could possibly imagine. And that leaves him no place to go. Welcome to planet Cameron.
An excellent piece languishes on Autonomous Mind, attended so far by a single comment, written by this author. But then, Saturday is the quietest day for blogging, so if you want a piece to be more unread than usual, today is the day to do it – and more so since the faithful are at play in Torquay.
AM's theme is a familiar one – the manifest inadequacies of UKIP. Such criticism as is on offer though is kindly meant. He like most of us, wishes UKIP well. We want to see it succeed in its declared goal of leading us out of the EU. We just wish it would do the job better and, unlike the faithful, will continue to criticise it until it does.
On the more substantive point, the essence of the criticism is over the handling of the Somerset floods (and the floods in general), which afforded the anti-EU movement an excellent opportunity to point out the malign influence of EU laws and policy-making, all within the context of a major and long-running disaster for those involved, and for the taxpayer who is going to have to pick up the pieces.
The particular insult for the taxpayers is that they will find themselves paying twice – one for the formulation and implementation of policies which were a major causal factor in the flooding, and then again to clean up the mess left by these failed policies.
At the very least, those in office owe to the hard-pressed people to pay the bills to diagnose the causes of the problems properly, and then institute the correct remedies. And, if they fail to do so, that is where political parties come in – identifying and then highlighting the failures and then offering effective remedies.
Even the kindest of UKIP's critics, however, will admit that the party's response has been lacklustre, and it is of little use now bringing the issue up now at the Spring Conference, when he failed to do so earlier, when the media circus was in town.
Even then, Farage has learned nothing from his experience, telling the faithful that we need a public inquiry into the handling of the floods by the Environment Agency.
"We have handed over the day-to-day management of many important aspects of our lives to quangos like - yes, you've guessed it - the Environment Agency," he says, then displaying the shallowness of his appreciation of the issues by continuing:
... whose priorities appear to be more concerned on the preservation of molluscs, beetles and water voles than our farmer and our householders; compliance with EU directives being more important than flood prevention. If I lived in Somerset, I would be very angry at the lack of dredging, which this time last year, people cried out for.
This post is not the place to take apart these "man-in-pub" nostrums, or do much more than utter a weary groan of dismay when all the man can tell us is that: "A full public inquiry is needed to establish the basis upon which this quango operates". AM has already taken his scalpel to the fatuity of the inquiry idea, which has even now narrowed just to an examination of the Environment Agency.
A brief glance at the pages of this blog, however, would very quickly tell acquaint even a casual reader with the complexity of this issue, in which the Environment Agency is but one player and, as a contributor to the events which led up to the flooding, probably only a minor one.
Basically, we are dealing with ten layers of government here, starting with the global dimension and the 1992 Rio Convention on Biodiversity, which has then been hard-wired into UNECE agreements and then into EU directives, in particular the Habitats and Birds Directives, the Water Framework Directive and the Floods Directive.
Already there we have three layers of governance – global, regional and sub-regional, and then we have national government, represented by Defra (but also with the malign presence of DECC in the wings), plus the Non Departmental Executive Agencies (not quangos), in the form of the Environment Agency and also Natural England.
At a local level of governance, we have the two-tier system of local government, which means that we have Somerset County Council, and then the local authorities, such a Sedgemoor District Council, all of which have been active players.
With that, because of the peculiarities of the ancient system of water management on the Levels and Moors, we have the Internal Drainage Boards, and more recently the Somerset Internal Drainage Board Consortium, which has had its own separate part to play at the intermediate level.
Then, as we are discovering, there is the shadowy role of NGOs, such as the RSBP, the WWF and the Wildlife Trust, plus many others. Unlike the other actors, these range freely through all levels of governance, from global to local, often publicly-funded but with not the slightest degree of accountability or responsibility.
Yet, of all the actors, it is these NGOs which have probably been the most influential in shaping policies which led to the Somerset disaster. The organisations have been so fully integrated into the mechanics of policy-making and implementation that they have become part of our government.
Even at this superficial level of analysis, however, one can readily see that an inquiry into the role of the Environment Agency, could only scratch the surface. The call to look at one actor of many, in ten layers of governance, is shallow, fatuous and ultimately self-defeating.
Yet, if UKIP is ever to be taken seriously as a party, it must start exploring fundamental issues such as "who rules Britain". In the context of the Somerset floods, the answer is as much likely to be the RSPB as it is the EU and its directives. Locally, Tory MPs are doing a far better job of explaining the problem, and are avoiding the mistake of focusing on the Environment Agency.
Unfortunately, what typifies Farage and more than adequately marks out many of the people who join UKIP, is that "man-in-pub" superficiality. That is why the party and its leader can never be taken seriously and why – as long as they fail to progress – the party will never be much more than a dustbin for the protest vote.
I'm taking a look at this nonsense today. It makes a change from the Somerset floods, although it takes a little time to change gear after such an intensive period of study that I've just undergone.
When I wrote the holding piece last night, I observed that we would have to take a gloves-off approach. People gripped by this wilful determination to pursue the idea of reform of the EU, in the face of all the evidence that it simply cannot happen, are clearly suffering from a mental illness. I decided to call it "reform psychosis".
Where this puts newspapers such as the Express which slavishly follow the Business for Britain dump, I don't rightly know, other than to demonstrate that there is a ready market for this particular brand of "red tape porn".
Earlier on, I've been handicapped in responding to such pieces, not wishing to give ideas away in the "Brexit" competition, as it is an article of faith amongst many writers that one of the great benefits of leaving the EU is the enormous amount of money we can save by scrapping all this burdensome EU red tape.
In fact, though, the actual amount we would save, at least in the short to medium term, is vanishingly small, not least because much of the legislation highlighted in these exercises tends to originate elsewhere than from the EU. In or out of the EU, we would still have to (or need to) implement the rules, so there would be very little change.
I've pointed this out before when Matthew Elliott first tried out the list he produces today, but while I note that even Nigel Farage is beginning to notice the impact of international regulation, Elliott is either too thick or arrogant to take the point. Thus, there is no point in repeating the details. Like the Open Europe Muppets with whom Elliott seems closely associated, he seems incapable of learning.
Mind you, Elliott and his fellow "reform psychotics" are of the belief that, if they bring to the attention of the wider public the supposed cost of EU regulation, this will strengthen their hands in their forlorn quest for reforming the EU.
The likes of the Express though, along with UKIP which its supports, believe that such information will convince people that they should up sticks and leave the EU. Rarely has the same information been used for such widely different purposes.
While one can see how the psychotic mind can easily fall into the delusion of reform, it is less clear why the "outers" are so keen to fall into the same trap. After all, it is written into the DNA of UKIP that we should rejoin the wider world, and expand our trade internationally.
If we are to be international traders, however, that means accepting the expanding corpus of international regulation, the accumulation of which will, in the end, make the narrow entity of the EU's Single Market completely obsolete.
Counter-intuitively, therefore, a vital part of our "Brexit" strategy should be, in our view, to embrace international regulation, and to take an active part in its formation. Its very existence, handled correctly, wipes out any appeal the EU might have to the trading community.
Perhaps, though, that is why the likes of Elliott are so reluctant to acknowledge the existence of international regulation. They, after all, do not want to leave the EU. Therefore, they must maintain the fiction that the EU is responsible for most of our trading law.
After all, if it became more widely known that the larger part of the regulation on which our trade depends is made elsewhere than Brussels, and that there is no point in seeking "reform" in that quarter, as they have no power to make the necessary changes, then the case for reform – already so weak as to be on its death bed – takes a one-way trip to the crematorium.
Meanwhile, the "red tape porn" merchants continue to ply their trade, oblivious to the nuances, much less the reality of regulatory issues. Their task is not to explain, but to titillate its enfeebled audience. And, as long as no explanation is properly forthcoming, this is a game they can keep on playing for ever more.
Although it may be drifting out of the front page headlines, the flooding issue is very far from over. In fact, politically, it is just getting interesting. Typically, though, it is precisely at that stage that the legacy media gets bored with it, and the caravan moves on.
They are simply not capable of any detailed, or sensible analysis, as evidenced by this frankly silly piece from Daniel Hannan
It's thus left to Peter to do a careful analytical piece
. "What is wrong with the Environment Agency", he concludes, "is the same thing that is wrong with every other ministry or quango; government operating to a foreign agenda without transparency, accountability or democratic consent".
"THAT is your culprit", he writes, "and if we don't get serious about that, then everything else is just waffle".
Talking of a "foreign agenda", it is precisely that tune to which the Environment Agency is dancing and, as we see from this
, it is even earning a little pocket money for so doing. It is lead agency in the EU-funded RESTORE project, with a total budget of €1,794,567 and an EU contribution of €872,753.
This is about restoring rivers
and deals with such issues as ensuring that "water levels are managed carefully to maintain, protect, and if possible, enhance natural habitats".
The Environment Agency was chosen because it is the largest environmental regulator in Europe and is responsible for the protection of the freshwater and marine environment.
It also leads on flood risk and management of water resources in England and Wales and is the UK competent authority for the implementation of the EU Water Framework Directive and is responsible for the delivery of river basin management plans.
The aim of river restoration, says the EU blurb, is to re-establish self-sustaining environments and to restore complete ecosystems. Furthermore, applying sustainable river restoration serves both the Habitats Directive and the Water Framework Directive at several levels.
Not least, we are told, it plays "a crucial role in developing best practice approaches for flood risk management, especially through flood storage, serving the interests of the EU Floods Risks Directive".
Once again, Barroso is called out as a liar
, denying that floods had "anything to do with European regulations or responsibilities at all", this time by an EU website.
The overall river restoration effort is hindered, however, "not by a lack of expertise at the local level but by a lack of opportunities for sharing best practice and knowledge. Addressing this gap in knowledge transfer is the main aim of the RESTORE project". Thus do we see the Environment Agency as a paid propagandist for the EU.
Furthermore, this is not the only organisation taking the EU shilling. Up to its eyebrows in EU money is Somerset County Council, part of the €11 million WAVE project
(Water Adaptation is Valuable for Everybody), part of the Interreg IVB programme.
Tying Somerset County into the EU propaganda machine
, it has Stephen Dury, project co-ordinator applauding the contribution
"to a new way of thinking about how we can make catchment areas in Somerset more climate adaptable".
The whole thing is about is to creating conditions "for a sustainable, regional development in which the different (land use) functions are approached in an integrated manner and opportunities are used in such a way that the region is equipped to set off the consequences of climate change".
Look now to the previous government's water strategy for England
, published in February 2008, through which the EU is writ large, specifically the Water Framework Directive.
With the government in its pocket, the Environment Agency and Somerset County Council, all it needed, after the UKIP denials
, was for the good and faithful servant Hannan also to turn a blind eye. With him on-side, and the legacy media drifting away, EU propagandists never had it so easy.
Finally, I have to thank the anonymous donor who has sent me a copy of "Soil structural degradation in SW England and its impact on surface-water runoff generation", the paper on which George Monbiot relies for his recent claims. I will be reviewing it in more detail later today.
Via Autonomous Mind comments, we get a short extract from last night's BBC Any questions, where UKIP's Lisa Duffy was challenged by Keith Vaz, who stated: "I'm astonished, actually, that Lisa hasn't blamed Brussels for the floods".
From Lisa Duffy, who was styled as Director of UKIP and head of campaigning, we had already had the UKIP "line" of cutting foreign aid and setting up a new civil defence corps. But, in response to Vaz, we then got the immortal line: "Well it's not Brussels fault is it".
How Mr Borroso's heart must have soared, at such a spirited defence of his line, denying that floods had "anything to do with European regulations or responsibilities at all".
Meanwhile, from the Farming Forum, we see a "before and after" set of pictures take by James Winslade's family of the River Parrett at Burrowbridge. (James was one the farmers who had to evacuate his cattle from the Levels.)
The narrative sent to me suggests that this shows the problem exactly. All the anti-dredging propaganda the Environment Agency (described as the "Environmental Agency" by UKIP's Janice Atkinson), has been persuading various academics to churn out to get it off the hook – including their bloody Janet and John diagrams – have only talked about depth of rivers.
The problem on the Levels is the amount of volume that has been lost by banks encroaching, again through lack of dredging, with the margins being colonised by reeds and other vegetation (for some reason the EA has even planted Miscanthus in some places) and even trees which, of course, is a self-perpetuating process.
All of this, of course, passes by the egregious Lisa Duffy, who fails even to read her own party's website
, which has, at last, grudgingly acknowledged the role of Brussels in the floods. But then, with a leader
who seems to have odd lapses of memory, it is perhaps unsurprising that the egregious Duffy has trouble working out what UKIP stands for.
We evidently touched a nerve with our work on the EU's responsibility for the Somerset floods.
Ten days following publication, after Booker has spread the message in his column and then in the Spectator, it having already raced around the internet, European President Barroso picked it up in a speech to the LSE yesterday, denying responsibility for the floods.
Referring to the "persistence of some of the doomsayers within Europe", he complained that, "just last week Brussels was blamed for the devastating floods here in the south of England".
This, Barroso said, "was an interesting caricature. But it is just that – a caricature", then denying that floods had "anything to do with European regulations or responsibilities at all".
Having missed the story completely, the Press Association then issued a report, picked up by multiple local newspapers, Huff Post and ITV News, linking Barroso's intervention with Farage's belated comments when he visited Somerset. The Daily Mail also runs the story, but omitting the link with Barroso.
What is remarkable though is the facility with which Barroso so easily denies any EU involvement, despite a whole raft of laws affecting the water environment, including the Floods Directive.
Elsewhere in his speech, he complains about still seeing "the temptation to Europeanise failure and nationalise successes" yet here he is, driving an EU failure and dumping the responsibility for the outcome on the member state. He is doing exactly the same thing, of which he accuses the members.
But the very fact that no less a person than the European Commission president feels it necessary to issue a rebuttal suggests that they are worried. And they have every reason to be. When even Fraser Nelson in the Telegraph gets the message, the case is far too strong for it to be dismissed so easily.
Comment on Disqus or the forum ... links below
Michael Muldowney interviews North on the policy background to the floods. I'm rambling a bit, but the ground is covered, so to speak.
We note, incidentally, that the Great Bishop Hill has finally discovered
that floods "policies are set - or effectively set - in Brussels" (to say nothing of Geneva and beyond). Needless to say, rather like UKIP, GBH has gone to great lengths to avoid citing my work, or even Booker's
. I don't know what Booker has done to offend Montford, to deserve being cast into outer darkness - but the absence of any references on the GBH blog tells its own story.
Booker and I have both noticed the almost comedic lengths some writers will go to to avoid acknowledging sources, when the information quite obviously comes from either of us - directly or directly - compared to the gushing approval of other writers, some of which verges on fawning adulation. We are used to this with the legacy media but, clearly, even in the self-referential world of the GBH blog, who you are matters more than what you have to say.
Comments on Disqus.
So, the moment of reckoning beckons for the candidates and their parties, following the death of well-loved MP Paul Goggins.
In alphabetical order, we have: John Bickley (UK Independence Party); the Rev Daniel Critchlow (Conservative); Capt Chaplington-Smythe (Monster Raving Loony Party); Mary Di Mauro (Liberal Democrat); Michael Kane (Labour); Eddy O'Sullivan (British National Party); and Nigel Woodcock (Green Party).
Polls last week were showing Labour well in the lead with 61 percent of the vote. UKIP and the Conservatives were scrapping for second place on 15 and 14 percent, respectively. The Lib-Dems lagged at around five percent.
Rumours shortly after the close of the polls, from the Manchester Evening News
, had it that the turnout was very low, with suggestions that it might not reach 20 percent of the 75,602 voters.
That would be a game-changer, putting it at less than half the 54.3 percent turnout in the 2010 election. Possibly, this favours UKIP, whose supporters tend to be more motivated than the average. But with BNP also fielding a candidate, that might erode their vote.
Thus, it appeared that Farage was going to find it difficult
to back up his claim of coming second in the election. Nevertheless, we still expected Labour to win easily and early indication suggested it was picking up 60 percent of the postal vote, reflecting a tactical reliance on this UKIP-proof source.
But the pundits were still arguing
that Labour winning was only the setting for the contest between UKIP and the Tories. However, the mood music by just gone midnight was indicating that the UKIP challenge might be in trouble. Farage was said to be making himself scarce, and there was some mirth as it was learned that the UKIP battle bus had been given a parking ticket.
A clearer indication of turnout came through close to one am, putting it at 28.24 percent. Some 10,141 votes had been cast by post, accounting for 40 percent of the total, with the ballot box delivering a mere 13,883 votes. Only 24,024 people had bothered to vote, bringing the usual cries of "apathy". Others suggest it is "pathetic".
The message changed subtly when Farage told Sky News he thought it would be a Labour win. He added, "We started from a low base ... We'll probably come second". Graham Brady countered that it was close for the Conservatives. "Too close to call".
At 1:15 am, Farage had made an appearance, with a cheerful message. He was telling reporters, "This will represent for us a constituency in which we came 5th last time to 2nd in short space of time".
Lucy Powell, Manchester Central's Labour MP, said: "We see a move towards Labour", then saying: "We're fairly happy our vote turned out and turned out well". Results, though, still had to be declared. Farage, on the other hand, was angry at being outflanked on the postal votes.
As 2:00 am beckoned, Labour was offering an unofficial breakdown of the vote: Lab 55 percent, UKIP 20, Tory 13, Lib-Dem five. And still there were no official results, with rumours that the Lib-Dems were demanding a recount to save their deposit. Another estimate had UKIP on 17.5 and the Tories on 14.5 percent.
Although the result looked good for UKIP, it was in fact only around five percent of the electorate. One commentator remarked that 17.5 percent of the vote (flattered by the low turnout) in a Labour stronghold, where the Lib-Dems and Tories had no hope, would suggest nil seats for the General election. With a higher turnout, the voting share will most likely shrink.
The Greens were claiming 3.1 percent, beating the BNP, with the Lib-Dems losing their deposit. With talk that Labour had increased its majority on 2010 with an 11 percent swing in its favour, the official results came through: UKIP 4,301; Loony 288; Cons 3,479; Lib-Dem 1,176; Lab 13,261; BNP 708 and Green 748.
No doubt, the pundits can play with this but the end of the line is that Labour won with an increased majority and the other parties were not even in the race, but on a pathetic mandate from 17.5 percent of the electorate. Fewer than one in five of the voters sent Michael Kane to Parliament.
As for UKIP, it can glory in its second place, but it is has attracted only 5.7 percent of the electorate, possibly on the back of hoovering up the BNP vote. In the 2010 election, the combined vote of the two parties was 2,977, so and it is currently just over 5,000. The anti-immigration vote, therefore, has managed to add 2,000 votes to its score.
The poor second for UKIP, and its low overall vote, means that the result simply underlines their weakness as an electoral force. What little consolation there is for the Conservatives lies in the simple fact
that UKIP did not make a breakthrough. Nor is there any evidence that the anti-immigration party garnered any significant Labour votes.
The winner here is the "none of the above". More that 70 percent of the electorate walked away from the process, ignoring the posturings of the politicians - all of them. Party politics has become a minority sport, irrelevant to the bulk of the population. There are no "mainstream" parties - just a collection of minorities.
What is most interesting of all though is the absolute determination of most of the political pundits to ignore the implications of the low turnout. The electoral process is dead in the water. Wythenshawe merely provided more evidence of that sobering fact.
No more can the pundits deal with the fact that their toys are broken, than can the politicians, as the voters consign them to the junk box. Autonomous Mind puts it in perspective
Gradually, the message on the EU's involvement in the flood debacle is leaking out via the internet. But even if the EU-supporting Mail can't avoid talking about the role of the EU, pride of place now goes to the Spectator, which gives over its lead to Booker, who explains what has been going on.
It has taken six long weeks, Booker writes, to uncover the real hidden reasons why, from the West Country to the Thames Valley, the flooding caused by the wettest January on record has led to such an immense national disaster.
Only now have the two "smoking guns" finally come to light which show just how and why all this chaos and misery has resulted directly from a massive system failure in the curious way our country is governed.
Because he lives in Somerset, Booker first became aware that something very disturbing was going on back around the new year. As it became clear that the flood waters on the Somerset Levels were beginning to rise dangerously high for the third year running, he set out to find technical experts who could explain just what had gone wrong.
He discovered what I was looking for in the members of a small task force set up by the Royal Bath and West agricultural society, which from the mid-18th century had organised the effective draining of the Levels, after they were first reclaimed from a marshy wilderness by Dutch engineers in the reign of Charles I.
These farmers, with long practical experience of working with the local drainage boards, along with an eminent engineer who chairs the Wessex flood defence committee, were in no doubt as to why in recent years the Levels have become subject to abnormally prolonged and destructive flooding.
The problem began, they said, in 1996 when the new Environment Agency took overall responsibility for managing Britain's rivers. These men had been alarmed to see a sharp decline in regular dredging. The rivers have always been crucial to keeping the Levels drained, because they provide the only way to allow flood waters to escape to the sea.
Equally worrying was how scores of pumping stations which carry water to the rivers were being neglected. And although the drainage boards were still allowed to operate, their work was now being seriously hampered by a thicket of new EU waste regulations, zealously enforced by the EA.
These made it almost impossible to dispose sensibly of any silt removed from the maze of drainage ditches which are such a prominent feature of the Levels, something which British Waterways was finding as well.
But all this got markedly worse after 2002 when the Baroness Young of Old Scone, a Labour peeress, became the agency's new chief executive. Dredging virtually ceased altogether. Although not immediately apparent, the rivers began dangerously to silt up.
The Baroness, who had previously run the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and Natural England, and was still a vice-president of the RSPB (a conflict of interest is ever there was one), talked obsessively about the need to promote the interests of wildlife. She was famously heard to say that she wanted to see "a limpet mine put on every pumping station".
The experts Booker was talking to had no doubt that this apparent wish to put the cause of nature over that of keeping the Levels properly drained was eventually going to create precisely the kind of disaster we are seeing today. Their message as to what needs to be done couldn't have been clearer.
First, they wanted to see a resumption of dredging those choked rivers. Second, they wanted responsibility for managing the Levels to be handed back to those local bodies, such as the Internal Drainage Boards, which kept them effectively drained for generations, without having the EA constantly on their backs.
So compelling was their message that we conveyed to our Environment Secretary, Owen Paterson, that he should visit Somerset to get a first-hand picture of what was to be done.
Paterson, probably the only politician to date who has spent serious, quality time with local experts, listening and planning. He was as impressed by what these practical experts had to tell him as they were by how quickly he got the message.
After speaking to other local representatives the next morning, he gave them six weeks to come up with a workable action plan. And if only he hadn't then been snared into a media disaster, when unexpectedly confronted by a mob of shouting protesters crowding so densely around him that he couldn't even get to the back of his car to don his wellies, he could have quietly returned to London having pulled off by far the most effective practical initiative yet to have emerged from this appalling mess.
Already, however, so much damage had been done by the excessive flooding, for which there could be no quick fix, that, as ever more farms and villages had to be abandoned, the man-made disaster escalated into a full-blown political crisis - taking on a further dramatic dimension as similarly catastrophic flooding began to threaten the Thames Valley.
We had the great and the good converging on those flooded Somerset villages from all directions: a visit from the fatuous Prince Charles, carried along the flood waters on an improvised throne; the hapless Lord Smith of the Environment Agency being yelled at by irate flood victims; and David Cameron flying in by helicopter to grandstand along with the best of them.
Then we had Nigel Farage turning up in his fishing waders, to be regaled by residents in a local pub, only then to admit his ignorance of all things EU and call for a public inquiry, a diversion of foreign aid to the sodden lands of Somerset and a new Civil Defence force to clean up the mess his paymasters has helped create.
Nick Clegg waffled as ineffectually as ever and Ed Milliband turned up to get his shiny new wellies full of water, while the arse Boris rushed down to Kenley to find a bit of water to pose in front of, thus completing the parade of the gormless political rubberneckers.
Owen Paterson, meanwhile, had been rushed off to hospital for a serious eye operation, subsequently having to lie on his back for days, unable to read, while a badly briefed Fatty Pickles pitched in, trying to give the impression that he was now in charge, lashing out at Lord Smith.
But while this media circus and the growing crisis along the Thames have been occupying the headlines, "assiduous researchers" have finally been uncovering those "smoking guns" which explain how this disaster has come about.
The first tranche was revealed on this blog, written by "a real EU expert" who, combing through scores of official documents, unravelled the story of just how Baroness Young had been able to get her way in shifting her agency's priorities towards promoting the interests of "nature" over those of farming and people.
A key part in this had been played by those EU directives which govern almost everything the Environment Agency gets up to - including two with which Baroness Young was already familiar when she presided over the RSPB - setting out the EU's policy on "habitats" and "birds".
But just as important was the 2007 floods directive on the "management of flood risks", which required "flood plains", in the name of "biodiversity", to be made subject to increased flooding.
This was just what Lady Young was looking for. She had already been giving lectures and evidence to a House of Lords committee on the EU's earlier Water Framework directive, proclaiming that one of her agency's top priorities should be to create more "habitats" for wildlife by allowing wetlands to revert to nature.
As she explained in an interview in 2008, creating new nature reserves can be very expensive. By far the cheapest way was simply to allow nature to take its course, by halting the drainage of wetlands such as the Somerset Levels. The recipe she proudly gave in her lectures, repeated to that Lords committee, was: for "instant wildlife, just add water".
In time, the only "wild" life were to be angry residents, fed up with the incompetence of the EA. But, back in 2008, Young's agency was producing a 275-page document categorising areas at risk of flooding under six policy options.
These ranged from Policy 1, covering areas where flood defences should be improved, down to 6, where, in the name of "biodiversity", the policy should be to "take action to increase the frequency of flooding". The paper placed the Somerset Levels firmly under Policy 6, where the intention was quite deliberately to allow more flooding. The direct consequences of that we are now seeing round the clock on our television screens.
The second smoking gun, which explains the other half of the story, and why we are seeing a flooding disaster not just in Somerset but also on the Thames and elsewhere, has now come to light thanks to the Whatdotheyknow website which specialises in publishing the results of Freedom of Information requests.
From the Environment Agency's response to an enquiry: "Why was routine dredging abandoned?", we thus learned:
Due to changes in waste management legislation, the ability to dispose of dredged material has become more constrained over recent years. Although this is a factor that we consider when undertaking dredging operations, it does not prevent us from carrying out essential works where these are necessary. In making these decisions, we consider the environmental,
operational, financial and sustainability issues before undertaking any works.
And then, when the EA was asked: "When was the decision made about abandoning routine dredging?", we were told: "Since the inception of the Environment Agency in 1996, the Upper Thames has been routinely dredged for navigational purposes only - this is done on a reactive basis".
So, at last laid bare, has been the hidden background to our floods disaster. Aided by that wettest ever January, it has been brought about by a synergy between "green" ideologues here in Britain and an array of legislation from Brussels which has to guide policy in every EU member state.
Even in Holland there have been fierce rows over proposals to dismantle some of the dykes which protect the 29 percent of that country below sea level. But in no nation has this "green" ideology found such a sympathetic response as in Britain, where the senior officials of the EA - 14 of them earning more than £100,000 a year - have long been more swayed by those Agenda 21 doctrines of "sustainability" and "biodiversity" than by any practical concern for the needs of people, homes, businesses and farmland.
The overwhelming lesson emerging from this disaster is that it has been made far worse than it needed to be by a catastrophic policy failure.
When Lord Smith weakly tries to complain that this was only because rules set by the Treasury wouldn't allow his organisation to spend £4 million on dredging the river Parrett, which flows through the Levels, the victims of the policy point to the Environment Agency's willingness to see £31 million spent on allowing the sea to flood hundreds of acres of prime farmland on the nearby Somerset coast, to create another habitat for birds.
In Somerset alone, quite apart from the Thames Valley, the eventual cost of this disaster is already estimated at well over £100 million. If this cost also includes the drowning of countless ground-nesting birds, hedgehogs, water voles and badgers which the policies of Brussels and Baroness Young have made inevitable, then, even on their own terms, the case for root-and-branch reversal of such a crazily self-deluding policy becomes overwhelming.
But how to disentangle ourselves from this mess, when we are committed by law to obey those EU rules, is another problem altogether. One thing for sure though, there is not a lot of point going to UKIP's Mr Farage for the answer. He doesn't even know what laws apply. The Mirror
thinks he's already left
With the Wythenshawe by-election today, we are in interesting electoral territory - dirty tricks vs high expectations under less than careful management.
The junior league in the Telegraph reckon that Farage has already blown it, having failed to impress down in Somerset, and other points watery, where there is a generic aversion to grandstanding politicians. Farage has nothing to offer, so the legend goes, which may reflect in today's result.
Some of what happens will depend on where the BNP vote goes, with Griffin's party pulling in 1,572 votes in 2010, compared with 1,405 gained by UKIP. If the BNP vote collapses, then some of those will drift to UKIP. One marker of progress, therefore, will be whether today's UKIP vote can beat the combined total.
The feeling, though, seems to be that UKIP is not going to do as well as it hoped, with Labour easily seeing off the challenge. As so often though, turnout will play a significant part in the contest. But, with the postal vote already in, there is little scope left for vote-grabbing.
Whether the chequered history of the UKIP candidate has any impact on the vote is also something to ponder, but all the pundits are putting in their ha'porth. A Tory disaster, it is said, will have a galvanic effect on the party.
Generally, though, where a seat comes vacant as a result of the death of the incumbent, as has happened here with the premature demise of Paul Goggins, the sympathy vote goes to the replacement. The result, therefore, may be a foregone conclusion, with few lessons to learn.
In this event, over-analysis may be the biggest danger, trying to divine too much from very limited information. But the fascinating thing is that, in politics, there is always room for surprises.
There are so many things I would like to be commenting on, not least this, by Boiling Frog on UKIP. However, duty calls. I'm going to try and finish by tonight, to leave tomorrow for checking and final formatting.
I'll also have to do this
at some time. With Reding telling us that we are "too ignorant" to make an informed decision in an EU referendum, and the village idiot
doing his best to keep us that way, we seem to be in something of a mess.
Meanwhile,. it seems
, the coffee harvest in Brazil is threatened by drought. Just add water?
I have less than three working days to complete my IEA "Brexit" submission, with still a massive amount of work to do, not least to deal with the recent Nexit report, which impinges directly on my arguments. I am having to write from scratch a new appendix, taking apart some of the arguments raised.
In the meantime, on one of the major stories of the day, the political fallout from the floods, Autonomous Mind is doing the heavy lifting, pointing out that the response by UKIP's leader, Nigel Farage, marks a new low, the point at which the party walked away from its anti-EU role.
After months of intensive work on "Brexit", however, I must concentrate on what for me is the main event, with the midnight Wednesday deadline looming. Inevitably, therefore, blogging is going to be a little light, but not before a quick guest post on AM's site.
UPDATE: And then we have Muppet's half hour, courtesy of Autonomous Mind:
I don't know the truth to the extent the Environment Agency is now bound by European Union rules and laws, I just don't know, which is why we need to have a public inquiry.
So says Nigel Farage - not an ordinary member of the public, but an MEP since 1999 and the leader of the supposedly anti-EU UKIP.
Says one AM commenter: "UKIP don't know about the extent to which UK government is bound by EU rules and laws? Incredible. I thought one of their main reasons for being was to find out such things and point them out, as part of the wider argument for leaving the EU".
I took advice before even thinking about blogging this one. It came up last night on Newsnight and, predictably, the BBC made a meal of. it.
With the story on the stocks, there are several ways of playing it. One twitter report had it that this was another media "smear". And, although that is a defensive reaction, we note that Mujeeb Bhutto joined the Conservatives after completing his prison sentence, before ending up in UKIP. The Tories, therefore, let a kidnapper into their ranks.
However, the Tories didn't make the man a party spokesman, and there's the rub. For such a sensitive post – where the man was representing the party on immigration and allied issues – you would have expected them to take a little more care.
Actually, this is not the first time the party has been represented by Asian Moslems. We took on two candidates for the 2001 general election. But, before making a move, we talked to the Mullah and the elders. We asked around and ended up with two men who were absolutely clean. It can be done and should be done.
Had Mr Bhutto been the only indiscretion of the day, though, we might have let it past. But then there was the Batten problem. The man is straying into dangerous areas, talking in a way that a political party cannot afford to do.
is already having a field day, and it hasn't even got to the Batten issue yet. Yet there is more to come, particularly relating to the UKIP candidate
at Wythenshawe and Sale East, with hostile media definitely gunning for him
Earlier, I recall Mr Farage saying
that he wanted UKIP to remain "a bunch of amateurs". So far, he's getting his wish. This is amateurs' night out, in spades.
Despite that, I am not going to be rash enough to make predictions. I just wonder how the party is going to manage next week's by-election and the euro-elections. But this is also going to be a test of the voters. Will they react to the growing tide of unfavourable publicity, or will the protest vote hold?
We shall see.
Returning to British politics, it was inevitable that Booker should note the passing of a year since David Cameron made his infamous "Europe" speech.
Booker calls it, "one of the oddest statements ever made by a British prime minister – his claim that, if re-elected in 2015, he would negotiate with the EU for a return of powers to Britain and then put the result to a referendum in 2017".
Since then, as we all know, "there has been no end of EU dignitaries pointing out that this is pie in the sky, not least that wholly unrealisable 2017 deadline". However, no one spelled this out more clearly than Lord Kerr, the chief draughtsman of the EU's "Constitution" (aka the Lisbon Treaty), who on 10 January explained that it was "impossible".
But, if Mr Cameron's statement was one of the "oddest" made by a politician, his media groupie Matthew d'Ancona is vying for the accolade of author of the most bizarre statement ever made by a legacy media columnist. He writes:
When David Cameron addresses his plans for a referendum on EU membership, he does so with a confidence that increasingly commands respect and attention. Last week, the Lords scuppered James Wharton's private member's Bill to ensure that the question is put to the British people before the end of 2017. No matter, replied the Prime Minister. He is, he said, prepared to invoke the Parliament Act to force the Bill on to the statute books, a constitutionally eccentric but politically audacious means of keeping the issue in the headlines. The lead of Europe is starting to glitter.
To invoke the Parliament Act is a complex procedure, but is largely irrelevant. Increasingly, despite the neglect of the media, it will become apparent that Lord Kerr's warning is the real thing. Mr Cameron's "play" is bankrupt – it has nowhere to go.
As much on trial as Cameron, though, is the media, which is distinguishing itself by its inept handling of this issue. Says the Observer, for instance,
Cameron's difficulties over Europe mounted last week when the French President François Hollande made clear that he would not agree to major changes to the EU treaties, as the prime minister wants, in time for an in/out referendum by the end of 2017.
This we dealt with earlier and it is only the manifest ignorance of lazy journalists which allows such facile reports to exist, long after they should have been written off as fluff.
Hollande's resistance to the idea of re-opening the EU rulebook underlines the scale of the difficulty Cameron faces in persuading other EU nations to commit time and energy to satisfying UK demands.
The only doubt now is when – not whether – the "colleagues" commit to a new treaty. It is only a matter of months before we get from Barroso the next clue as to where we are going, and by the end of the year, we should have some good idea as to whether a convention is on the cards.
Interestingly, Hollande is still being equivocal. During the recent UK-France summit, he concurred that the UK was entitled to hold a referendum about "its place in Europe" but that treaty changes, requiring the approval of other member states, were not "urgent" and the focus must be on Europe's economic challenges.
"We feel revising the treaties is not a priority for the time being," he is reported to have said. "We can't expect to follow the example of one country in Europe to determine the rest".
The BBC report has it that Mr Cameron said Europe must become more "competitive" and "better address" public concerns, adding, "We want to see those changes. We want to see that re-negotiation and that re-negotiation will involve elements of treaty change".
But Cameron cannot force the pace on treaty change, any more than Hollande can stop it. And, if Merkel does put her hat in the ring with the blessing of the Commission – which looks assured – France will fall into line and back a new treaty.
What also looks assured is that Mr Cameron cannot have his renegotiation and conclude an agreement which will "involve elements of treaty change", and still have his referendum by the end of 2017.
That the legacy media (with the exception of Booker) is failing to point this out simply rams home how unreliable the fourth estate have become, while the idiot d'Ancona makes a bigger fool of himself by the week.
His one use, though, is to demonstrate how completely out of touch the bubble-dwellers have become. If he is accurately reflecting the profound ignorance of the breed, then they have a serious shock coming, leaving us to wonder only how they have managed to get it so completely wrong for so long.
Their shock, to use Booker's work: "will only confirm that all those millions of words expended here in Britain in the past year on Mr Cameron's little pipe dream have been of no more substance than dandelion fluff blown away on the wind".
A little while back, we equated a group of political scientists with the climate "scientists" who modelled the Amazon basin without including the Andes. And now, from the same school, we now have a group earnestly discussing the rise of UKIP without once exploring the effect of the demise of BNP.
But, with the Conservatives under Mr Cameron having sought to occupy the mushy centre, and with immigration having become such a major electoral issue, we started to see a move to the BNP, and particularly from Labour voters who, in Thatcher 's day might have gravitated to the Tories.
Then, with the collapse of BNP and UKP's quite deliberate focus on immigration, we have seen a relationship between the fall in the BNP vote and the UKIP "surge". Yet, to my knowledge, we have not yet seen the legacy media pundits (including Lord Ashcroft) remark on this phenomenon.
It thus seems that these political scientists are about as reliable as their equivalents on the climate game and, for that matter, the legacy media who today are falling over themselves to discuss UKIP's "Walter Mitty" tendency.
Unbelievably, we have the Mail reporting that "Mr Farage said he 'wanted to 'professionalise’ UKIP ahead of the European elections in May", despite the chance of this happening being about the same as the moon turning into green cheese.
But then the Independent is reporting: "UKIP has much chance of winning European elections as finding alien life on Mars, say British public".
This is based on an Ipsos MORI poll on what the British public think is likely to happen in 2014 compared with the odds offered by Ladbrokes. Only thirty percent think it is likely that UKIP will be the largest party, the same as think the NASA Mars Rover will find evidence of life on Mars.
With UKIP flat-lining on the polls, this sentiment may be a more accurate reflection of the state of the art than anything the "expert" pundits have to offer. They have consistently misread UKIP in the past and look as if they will continue to do so now and into the future.
No wonder Farage considers the 2010 manifesto is "drivel" and its author an "idiot". It was fronted by his old mucker, Campbell Bannerman, the very same "deputy leader" who he brought into the party, whence he jumped ship for the same old reasons and is now a Tory MEP.
However, said Bannerman at the time, "We've had 17 policy groups working on this for three years", which means that Farage has cast in a rather unfavourable light those of his members who contributed to the manifesto.
He was later to complain of spending "four years of hard work creating 18 policy groups to produce a comprehensive set of domestic policies that UKIP could campaign on". But then Farage intervened, arbitrarily jettisoning all his domestic policy papers, ordering them off the national website. Bannerman regarded this as, "an act of sheer political vandalism".
That said, during the 2010 launch, Bannerman was followed by Farage who had put his name to the foreword of the manifesto, without a hint of his inner feelings or any attempt to criticise the content. That would only come later, with the remarkable sight of a party leader condemning the very policy he had fought a general election on.
This is now giving legs to yesterday's story, with the Guardian pitching in, and Iain Martin asking whether Farage is losing the plot. And that attracted over a thousand comments on the Telegraph website within hours, soon to make over 3,500, many from the usual suspects. Content managers must be delighted with the traffic.
North Jr, however, offers his views on his blog, and so far gets no comments – demonstrating one again that it is the platform, more than anything, which attracts the traffic. But his views make an uncomfortable read for any UKIP supporters – not that many will bother to read it.
On the other hand, Conservative Home - ever in the forefront - speculates on whether Patrick O'Flynn, "iconoclastic journalist turned political spinner", could be UKIP's next leader. Bless.
What I find particularly entertaining, though, is the claim by Farage that he didn't read the manifesto, which was posted on the party website.
"But, if the party leader is not familiar with the content of his own website, observes North Jr, what then can be said of his competence?" "Here we have a leader who doesn't even know what his own party stands for. Hardly surprising then that his followers don't either".
Then, Farage was the man who used to have his e-mails printed for him so that he could read them. He would then respond to them in long-hand, for some hapless assistant to type the replies into the office machine. In truth, Farage is not really of this world. No wonder he is so easily caught out.
COMMENT: "FAINT PRAISE" THREAD
In a way, the legacy media are paying UKIP a very real compliment. Not so very long ago, it wouldn't have mattered one iota what the party put in its manifesto. They simply didn't want to know.
Thus, to have the Guardian reporting that Nigel Farage has disowned his party's entire 2010 election manifesto is a measure of how far the party has come. When it is followed by the Mail, the Financial Times, the Telegraph and the Spectator and even The Times, UKIP should have every reason for feeling that it has arrived.
Nevertheless, Farage has not come out well from this "classic dismantling" by Andrew Neil on The Daily Politics. The Conservatives have pounced on the YouTube clip as evidence that the UKIP leader is "simply not credible".
But perhaps the cruellest comment of all comes from the New Statesman, which thinks it doubtful that such incidents damage him.
It is precisely Farage's flippancy and his lack of formality ("when it comes to websites, I'm not the expert") that voters find endearing, the NS says:
All that the public, who pay far less attention to policy than most imagine, need to know is that UKIP stands against the Westminster establishment, against immigration, against "human rights", against overseas aid and against the EU. With no expectation that it will hold any significant power after 2015, voters have little interest in its stance on fiscal policy or defence.
"If Farage wants UKIP to eventually become something bigger than a protest party, he will not be able to afford such gaffes", the NS concludes. "But for now, they merely add to his lustre".
Damned with faint praise, that says so much. UKIP, it is saying, is a joke party with joke policies. But the most telling point is that Farage informs Andrew Neil that he will not commit to a new manifesto until after the European elections. What sort of political party goes into a supposedly make-or-break election without a manifesto?
Then, what sort of people vote for such a party?
Last week, we had the Sunday Telegraph highlight on its front page what turned out to be a non-existent letter, supposedly from 95 Conservative MPs. In fact, it was supported by an unknown number less than that, with some MPs denying that they were on the list.
The non-letter, we were told, purported to ask Mr Cameron for a national parliamentary veto on EU law, an idea so manifestly off the wall that it was quickly dismissed as totally "unrealistic".
However, it is a measure perhaps of the febrile nature of Westminster bubble-politics - and the legacy media reportage - however, that this has now morphed into a full-scale rebellion by Tory MPs who, we are told, have given David Cameron a six-week deadline to publish a clear plan for clawing back power from Brussels.
The trouble is that we have no way of knowing whether this "rebellion" is any more real that the non-letter which preceded it. The source of the intelligence is the self-same Sunday Telegraph which is still claiming that 95 backbench Tories were supporting a rebel demand for Parliament be given a new power to veto EU laws.
We can, however, take this dubious bit of journalism as a sign that there is unease in the ranks of the parliamentary Conservative Party, who fear that the Tories will be "hammered" in May's European Parliament elections.
That is so much of a non-story though, with the prospect of a UKIP victory already discounted, that the newspaper has to spice it up with a suggestion that "a disastrous result could prompt an attempt to oust Mr Cameron as party leader".
A leadership challenge on the back of the euro-elections is never going to happen so, in an attempt to add even more life to the non-letter story, the ST is trying to sell us the idea that a "significant number" of additional MPs have come forward in recent days to add to those who didn't join the Bernard Jenkin campaign for a national veto on EU laws.
Meanwhile, the story has been gathering a head of steam all week, with the BBC asking, "Why are 95 Conservative MPs backing calls for EU veto?", even though it has long been known that 95 MPs are not backing such calls.
Nevertheless, deputy political editor James Landale splits the sub-95 into five categories. These are:
1. The malicious - those Conservative MPs who are just bent on giving David Cameron grief, come what may.
2. The withdrawalists - those MPs who privately want to take Britain out of the EU and are adopting a position like this because they know it is ultimately incompatible with EU membership.
3. The worriers - those Tory MPs who know this policy is unworkable but feel they have to sign letters like this to try to keep UKIP at bay in their constituencies ahead of the European elections in May.
4. The pushers - those Tory MPs who know that when pushed, Mr Cameron changes his mind on Europe and want to push him again. They accept they won't get a national parliamentary veto but they might pressurise No 10 into doing more, say, on benefit curbs for immigrants.
5. The thick - those Tory MPs too stupid to understand the implications of a unilateral parliamentary veto, thinking it might be just a tougher version of the "red card" system being considered by the government whereby a group of national parliaments could block European commission proposals.
It is novel here to have the august BBC descend into EURef territory to admit that there are Tory MPs "too stupid to understand the implications of a unilateral parliamentary veto", but when it gets so obvious that even the BBC notices, we have come to a dire state of affairs.
Evidently one of the "thickos" though is John Redwood who last November was lauding the idea of such a veto, apparently without any reservations.
But his and the action of others has brought Simon Heffer into the fray with his own "cunning plan", based on his view that the the sub-95 are being "deliberately provocative" — proof they are fed up with the Tory leadership’s attempts to soft-pedal on our continued membership of the EU.
Heffer reminds us that Mr Cameron has promised to renegotiate the terms of Britain's EU membership before putting the new deal to the electorate in an "in/out" referendum in 2017, if the Tories win next year's general election.
We are then told that, despite his vow to renegotiate Britain’s membership terms, David Cameron is encountering one sizeable obstacle: other EU countries' determination not to renegotiate.
Furthermore, according to the Heffer scenario, his restless MPs are well aware of this. They also watch in despair as increasing numbers of party activists — and traditional Tory voters — defect to UKIP, whose policy is for an immediate referendum.
All this and more has Mr Heffer's brain working overtime, thus to produce his "cunning plan": if Mr Cameron wants to stay in power, he should bring forward the referendum to, at the latest, the day of the next General Election — May 7, 2015. He should also hound the Labour Party for their denial of voters’ democratic rights. This certainly ought to win him extra votes.
Sadly, says Mr Heffer, Mr Cameron won't do this. Instead, he seems hell-bent on sacrificing the Tory Party - and, more importantly, Britain - because of a misguided desire to keep his own seat at the top table of the European club.
More worryingly, this blindness may lead to the election of a profoundly destructive Labour government with a toxic and unprincipled mania for a European superstate, concludes Heffer.
Even more worryingly, though, Mr Heffer's "cunning plan" is about as unrealistic as the sub-95 MPs' veto. And that rather puts Mr Cameron up the creek without a paddle.
But what is really is quite remarkable is how all these people keep circling the wagons, yet avoiding the obvious. Article 50 gives them everything they need – the "get out of jail free" card. Yet the one thing that really will solve all their problems, they won't even talk about.
John Rentoul in the Independent trails a ComRes opinion poll exclusive to the Independent on Sunday and the Sunday Mirror. Measured by the poll are the responses to each of the party leaders and their parties, in terms of whether they are regarded as "favourable" and "unfavourable".
What we have done, which the newspapers don't seem to have done this time, is deduct one from the other (ignoring the "neithers" and "don't knows") to give an aggregate score (see chart above). In all cases, the exercise produces negative values.
Interestingly, in terms of ranking, UKIP scores least unfavourably, on -11. Labour comes next on -19, the Conservatives come third at -25 and the Lib-Dems pull in last at -35.
As to the party leaders, Farage comes first on -17, but ranking less than his party. Cameron comes second on -21, but less unfavourably regarded than his party. He is way ahead of Miliband on -31, who is dramatically more unpopular than his party. He squeezes ahead of Clegg who comes in on -39, also more unpopular than his party.
Interpretation of such figures is always fraught, but one can conclude that all politicians are, on balance, unpopular – just some are less so than others. Three out of the four leaders are more unpopular than their parties.
What is rather touching is that Rentoul frames the poll in terms of UKIP being the most popular party. The IOS characterises UKIP as the "nation's favourite party". The actuality, however, is that the party is the least unpopular of the four.
How this translates into voting intentions is less than clear, as the least unpopular does not take the top score. On the straight poll, Labour cones first with 35 percent, the Conservatives are second, getting 30 percent, UKIP picks up the third slot with 19 percent. The Lib-Dems come last, pulling eight percent and the "others" also get eight percent.
Oddly enough, we've seen this all before
in June last, when the same measurements
were used. Again Mr Cameron polled better than his party, while Mr Miliband scored worse, the respective scores being 18/22 and 10/30.
That really is the fascinating aspect of this coming general election. If the scores hold up, we are looking at a fight between a two parties, one more popular than the other, with their respective leaders polling the opposite in the popularity stakes. Thus, will the unpopular leader (Miliband) drag down his party, or will the less unpopular leader (Cameron) lift his?
As of last June, the general poll delivered 37 percent for Labour, 27 percent Conservative, 15 percent to UKIP and 9 percent Lib-Dem. Not a lot has changed in terms of overall ranking, but there is time yet.