The serious point made yesterday
about UKIP's lack of policy coherence on immigration rears its head again, with a blogpost
from the Financial Times
on "posted workers" (free registration required).
Actually, the issue was picked up on Saturday by Reuters which told us of the antagonism caused by the use of posted workers in France. These, we are told are workers employed in one EU Member State but sent by his employer on a temporary basis to carry out his work in another Member State.
For example, a service provider may win a contract in another country and send his employees there to carry out the contract. This trans-national provision of services, where employees are sent to work in a Member State other than the one they usually work in, gives rise to a distinctive category, namely that of "posted workers". This category does not include migrant workers to go to another Member State to seek work and are employed there.
Although "posted workers" must be paid at least the minimum wage of the country in which they work, social payments (National Insurance, etc) are made in the country of origin, which can be considerable less than in the posted country. And that allows contractors to undercut local labour.
Now cut to David Cameron, who has been loudly campaigning for a crackdown on EU migration in an effort to curb the influx of workers from poorer member states to Britain. But, this week, his government tried to block key amendments to the Posted Workers Directive that seeks to reduce the inflow of workers from central and eastern Europe to wealthier member states.
The directive was actually agreed by member states in 1996 to make it easier for EU workers to carry out work outside of their home country for a limited period of time but a number of countries led by France, Germany and Belgium have over the years complained that the directive was being used to undercut local labour rules in more prosperous countries. Essentially, workers from poorer countries offered their services at below market prices without asking for any social security contributions.
So it was that, after the Commission produced its proposals in March last year (COM(2012) 131 final), EU member state employment ministers agreed on Monday to change the directive by introducing a number of safeguards against what is described in Brussels as "social dumping" – using cheap labour from poorer countries at the expense of local workers in richer nations.
This means, for instance, that posted workers from Poland working for a Polish subcontractor in France will have to be paid as much a French worker. Such change should make it less attractive for German or French companies to hire workers from poorer countries as they will not be able to pay them less than a local worker.
However, the British government has opposed amendments "because it would add to the burdens on businesses that want to trade and take advantage of the single market". EU officials respond by saying that this attempt to block rules against social dumping contradicted the Tory leader's view that the right to free movement of EU citizens cannot be a completely unqualified. The Council thus failed to reach a common position.
Bizarrely though, Poland, traditionally a close ally of the Brits on a number of EU matters, unexpectedly decided to vote in favour of the anti-social dumping amendments, breaking away from its previous position.
This puts the UK on the "naughty step", isolated from its potential ally and antagonising the likes of France and Germany on which it must rely for support across the board on a wide range of matters. Had Mr Cameron set out to damage his own position, he could not have done better.
Once again, that gives UKIP an open goal and, once again, we get silence from that quarter. The party is out to lunch (or down at the boozer).
"Infamy, infamy, they’ve all got it in for me", goes the famous line from Kenneth Williams in Carry On Cleo. And now, as Oscar Wilde would have it, life follows art: Nigel Farage is telling his troops: "the establishment and media are out to get us".
Actually, this invites another saying, something along the lines of the great detective Mr Holmes afflicted by a bout of constipation. The idea that the media will do anything other than indulge in mischief belongs in the land of the fayries.
Nonetheless, Farage has warned UKIP activists to be "extra vigilant" about any attempts to paint them in a "nasty light" after a video emerged showing councillor Victoria Ayling saying, of immigrants, she would like to "send the lot back".
Not for UKIP though is the point made in my last piece that the antidote to this "nastiness" is a properly crafted policy on immigration. With Mr Cameron so clearly out of his depth, UKIP are staring down the mouth of an open goal. Yet, as so often, instead of propelling the ball into the net, the party goes out to lunch.
There in the latest part of the Government's "Balance of Competences study" – to which UKIP has made no contribution – has been a perfect opportunity to shine. Looking specifically at freedom of movement, it had been due to be released yesterday. But, according to reports, it has now been shelved until next year because Theresa May takes issues with its findings.
Specifically, so much of the evidence submitted has been "broadly positive about current rules for freedom of movement" that the Government's rhetoric about cracking down on migrants has been left in tatters.
Filling the political vacuum by putting together ideas which will serve to manage the immigration problem would not only be a public service. It would alsoshow up the embarrassing inadequacies of our policy-makers and serve to establish UKIP as a responsible political party.
It is in the absence of that comprehensive, workable policy that UKIP is prey to accusations of bad faith. It really is as simple as that. But the style of The Great Leader always has been more rhetoric than substance, the "man-in-pub" of British politics.
However, he plumbs new depths of absurdity when he urges supporters to remember that it is "not always clear who we can trust". There are, says Farage, "many opportunists trying to undermine the party". And with that, we wonder whether one of them, perchance, is called Nigel Farage.
COMMENT: "UKIP" THREAD
As an indication of the hazards facing Britain's alternative party, the Mail on Sunday dedicates its front page today to an exposé of UKIP councillor Victoria Ayling saying of immigrants: "I just want to send the lot back".
The comment comes in an aside between "takes" for a self-promotional film, where she has just said: "We must control immigration. We cannot sustain the numbers coming in; the strains on our infrastructure are enormous. Control should be done fairly and the points system like they have in Australia and all those coming here should be encouraged to speak English so they can integrate".
Only then does she add, in a remark clearly not intended for use: "I just want to send the lot back but I can't say that".
Ironically, Ayling made the video in 2008 – five years ago - to promote her bid to become a Tory MEP. And, according to the Mail, it was provided to them by her then husband – from whom she has since split. It was he who had been operating the camera.
Ayling has declined to apologise for the comment, saying she was only referring to illegal immigrants. And Nigel Farage has taken a fairly laid-back view, saying: "I had no reason to believe she held views that were extreme or inconsistent with ours. While this comment looks odd and unpleasant there may be a context here that is slightly different to the way it appears".
Irrespective of how this episode is finessed, though, Farage's problem is that Ayling's comment is indeed entirely consistent with the general thrust of UKIP's stance on immigration. No one watching UKIP closely can escape the view that that party's mood music is close to the BNP and there are many in the party who would support wholesale repatriation.
In the absence of any coherent policy, or sensible analysis, the party was already vulnerable to the charge of harbouring a racially-driven policy. And, after the overt support of the oaf Bloom from many members, there can be few doubts that the party is pitching to hoover up BNP refugees after the collapse of their party.
Therein, in my view, lies one of UKIP's more serious problems. It is not so much the unguarded comment of a single ex-Tory councillor that is doing such damage as is there to be done, but the indications that she does indeed represent the bulk of the party membership. Only if UKIP had been a serious player, offering sensible and well-founded analysis and policy, would it be harder for the charge to stick.
On the face of it, UKIP should be benefiting hugely from the immigration issue, and recently that appeared to be the case, with an Opinium poll giving the party 19 percent of the vote. But, over the last three days the YouGov tracker poll has given it ten, fourteen and then eleven points. It should be doing better.
But the fact that a five-year-old comment by a former Conservative supporter can be resurrected and used to damage UKIP tells its own story. And, if my analysis is anything like correct, the antidote is well-founded and imaginative policy, sensitively crafted so as to slay the racism dragon.
There, the difficulty is that of all the many issues needing to be addressed, immigration is one of the most complex, involving many different areas of public policy. Nothing we have seen in recent times (or at all) gives any sign that UKIP is capable of producing (much less delivering) worthwhile policy in this or related areas.
Unless UKIP decides to deal with policy at a higher level, my guess is that it will always be prone to attacks such as the Mail has chosen to mount. And, since
this current attack is from a paper that is supposed to be (but isn't) "eurosceptic", the party has a bigger problem than it thinks.
"Achtung! EU plan to replace British roadsigns with ones that 'talk' in Euro-speak", proclaimed the Mail on Sunday last weekend, in a classic "little Englander" piece that gives so much succour to our enemies.
This, in usual style, was picked up by the Telegraph, which had one of their little girlies tell us that: "Britain's road signs could disappear under EU plans", the sub-heading informing readers that, "Standard road signs could be introduced across the EU to enable a new 'intelligent' form of car to read signs and help cut deaths".
Needless to say, both pieces are extremely short on detail as to what exactly is being proposed. The Mail referrs to a "Euro road group", while the Telegraph talks of changes "proposed to the European Commission" which "could also involve introducing standard road markings".
Thus, all that can be deduced is that we are nowhere near a legislative proposal. Nor does the EU website reveal anything particularly recent that would invite such media fury. If anything, we are spoilt for choice , with any number of research initiatives and projects in place.
This, however, has not stopped UKIP sounding the alarm over "plans to replace some British road signs with standardised European ones. These, says deputy leader Paul Nuttall, are "more sinister, controlling EU moves". "They want to control and nanny our every movement and employ armies of pen pushers – at our expense – to come up with more and more restrictive ideas", he adds.
Characterised by UKIP as "new European Commission plans", clearly there are no such plans formally in place. But even that does not begin to illustrates quite far off the wall Mr Nuttall – and the media coverage – really is.
The best we can find is a paper by the European Road Assessment Programme which suggests that" manufacturers and policy makers should settle on a design goal that, by 2020, vehicles should be able to read the road for a limited network of national and busy main regional roads comprising 10 percent of Europe's roads".
Digging a little deeper, though, we find that the EU is by no means the only player in the field, nor even the main player. Road signing is, in fact subject to a complex network of global treaties and agreements, including the Conventions on Road Traffic, of 19 September 1949 and 8 November 1968 (The Vienna Convention), the Protocol on Road Signs and Signals, of 19 September 1949, the Convention on Road Signs and Signals, of 8 November 1968.
At regional level we have the European Agreement supplementing the 1949 Convention on Road Traffic and the 1949 Protocol on Road Signs and Signals, of 16 September 1950, the European Agreement on Road Markings of 13 December 1957, the European Agreement supplementing the Convention on Road Traffic (1968), of 1 May 1971 and the Protocol and Road Markings, Additional to the European Agreement supplementing the Convention on Road Signs and Signals, of 1 March 1973.
These are all instruments administered at a European level by our old friend UNECE, and only some of the 57 transport agreements and conventions which are negotiated by government representatives and become legally binding for countries which ratify or accede to them.
The UNECE drew up the worldwide Conventions on Road Traffic and on Road Signs and Signals of 1968 and the European Agreements supplementing them, so the role of UNECE is pivotal. In the Directive 2008/96/EC on road infrastructure safety management, therefore, the law specifies that road signs "shall comply with the provisions of the Vienna Convention on Road Signs and Signals of 1968".
Thus, in the report to the European Commission of the EU-funded IMPROVER unit on the harmonisation of road signs and road markings, it recommended that "UNECE would be suitable to take the lead". In an alternative setup, it said, the Commission could also lead this initiative but, it conceded: "Given the EU subsidiarity principle though, the UNECE is probably better
In this context, it argues that work should commence "under the leadership and initiative of the UNECE" and that new standards should be integrated "with existing conventions on road signing, in order to have a coherent set of instruction regarding road signing specifications".
After the drafting of the document, it is then recommended that it "should be given a specific legal form", with the option of a "multilateral treaty as a protocol or agreement to the Vienna Convention". Only secondarily is the status of a European Directive suggested.
As to the general idea of harmonising road signs across Europe – the whole of the continent and not just the EU – this is certainly to be encouraged, especially on motorways and main routes. Anyone who has tried to navigate the roads of Europe could only agree.
But if it is to be done, then clearly the intergovernmental route is to be preferred, which allows the fullest participation of all the countries of Europe, and the facility for members states to opt-out of provisions which are not to their liking. And it is precisely that which the EU is recommending.
Rather than foaming at the mouth at "more sinister, controlling EU moves", therefore, UKIP's Mr Nuttall perhaps ought to have welcomed the role of UNECE in this programme, and applauded the EU's willingness to work alongside this organisation.
As it stands, though, UKIP ends up sounding and behaving like the pathetic "little Englander" party that it is so often accused of being, necessitating the more rational part of the anti-EU movement to distance itself from an organization which seems only too keen to fall into the trap of parroting media reports, without checking the facts.
YouGov is telling us that 53 percent of British adults think the government should go ahead with the "new" rules on immigration, even at the expense of Britain's position in the EU.
The detail comes from a poll conducted for the Sunday Times which also has 33 percent saying the rules should be implemented only after the courts find them compatible with EU law. This was after EU officials warned Cameron that freedom of movement was "non-negotiable", a "fundamental principle that must be upheld".
On specifics, there is huge support (89 percent) for barring out-of-work benefits to migrants in their first three months; 83 percent support stopping jobseekers allowance payments after six months unless they will find a job and 80 percent support sending begging or homeless migrants back to their own country.
But there are 56 percent who say that the rules are not "harsh" enough, a number which probably represents some of those who are entirely unimpressed with Mr Cameron's actions.
Those actions (or their lack of credibility) are probably responsible for another UKIP surge, with Nigel Farage's party adding three points to its Opinium poll score, bringing it to 19 percent. Labour, incidentally, is down two points at 35 percent, while the Tories are unchanged on 28 percent, while the Lib-Dems are down one point on eight percent.
The UKIP result looks real, as the YouGov daily tracker has crawled up from twelve percent mid-week to its current high of fifteen. Immigration has been good for the party, and the lacklustre way Cameron has handled the issue could not help but give it a further boost.
Things are not going so well in Scotland though, with the Herald reporting the sacking of the Scottish party leader, Christopher Monckton. With a delicious sense of déjà vu one learns that, on Farage sacking him, Monckton said: "I'm not happy he didn't telephone me before he sacked me. I thought Nigel would have had the common sense to ring me".
That certainly brings back the memories, as does the charge from Monckton: "In Ukip, there is an absence of professionalism". Where have we heard that before? But Monckton says recent changes have left the party without any structure or purpose, adding: "There isn't any UKIP in Scotland. It's gone. It's been wiped out".
Autonomous Mind notes that "time spent on this UKIP infighting is time not spent fighting for UK independence". But the polls are rising and there's an election in the offing. What else matters?
One of the absolutes in the minds of many who call themselves "eurosceptics" is the belief that the EU will go to any lengths to keep the UK in the Union, to the extent that they have even convinced themselves that Article 50 is a "trap" designed to prevent us from ever leaving.
However, a new poll, published in the Observer today (with more details here) indicates a certain lack of enthusiasm for Britain's continued membership, so much so that they may even be glad to see the back of us.
This comes from a "landmark survey" of more than 5,000 voters in the UK, Germany, France and Poland, carried out by Opinium for the Observer newspaper.
Amongst other things, the polling company finds that just 26 percent of British voters regard the EU as, overall, a "good thing" compared with 42 percent who say it is a "bad thing". In Poland 62 percent approve of the EU, and only 13 percent think it bad. Germany scores 55 percent good and 17 percent bad, and in France 36 percent go for good and 34 percent bad.
Significantly, though, when voters of the three mainland countries are asked about the UK's contribution to the EU, there is little enthusiasm for us, and little to suggest they will go out of their way to keep us in. Just nine percent of Germans and fifteen percent of French people think the UK is a positive influence on the EU. Even further east, the Poles can only muster 33 percent in support of the UK.
By contrast, when it comes to accommodating Mr Cameron's pretensions about renegotiating the treaties, only 16 percent of German and 26 percent of French respondents back the idea of a special deal being struck for the UK.
This brings us to the idea of Britain leaving the EU, a prospect that does not appear to worry our "partners" very much. Just 24 percent of French voters said a UK exit would have a negative effect, compared with 36 percent of Germans. Only the Poles could manage a small majority of 51 percent to say that we might be missed.
The findings lead the likes of former Tory foreign secretary Malcolm Rifkind and deputy prime minister Nick Clegg to call for an "urgent fightback" against spiralling "anti-European" sentiment, with Rifkind suggesting that there needed " … to be a serious debate about the real benefits of – as well as the real problems about – British membership of the EU". Without that, he reckons, "we could do serious damage to Britain's interests".
Clegg, on the other hand, declares that next year's euro-elections represent a key test and attacks "those intent on taking Britain out of the EU". He thus says, "Everybody knows the EU needs reform. But simply carping from the sidelines and flirting with exit undermines British leadership in the EU, fails to deliver reform and leaves Britain increasingly isolated".
Bizarrely, the man holds that the debate about Europe is no longer about who is for or against reform. "Everybody agrees on that", he says. "It is between those who believe we can lead in the EU and those who want to head for the exit". The Lib-Dems, he declares, will be the leading party of "in".
Obviously feeling the pressure, Clegg wants to challenge UKIP and large swaths of the Conservative party "who want to betray Britain's vital national interest by pulling us out of the world's largest borderless single market, on which millions of jobs depend".
As always, therefore, there is the attempt to elide EU membership with participation in the Single Market, with the usual dose of FUD about jobs. This is mirrored by Labour MP and former Europe minister Peter Hain. Predictably, he urges "pro-Europeans" to stand up and fight.
"This is a wake-up call for British pro-Europeans that Britain", says Hain, "especially if the Tories win the next election – is heading for an exit from the EU which would be an utter disaster for British jobs, prosperity and influence in the world". But, he then says, "it is equally a wake-up call for the Brussels Bubble, which is totally out of touch with Europe's citizens".
John Major has praised his successor for his current handling of the EU, but then tells him he must be "smart enough" not to make impossible demands in his renegotiation of Britain's EU membership terms following a Conservative general election victory. He should instead negotiate "with the grain of evolving views" in Europe.
This is according to the Guardian, reporting on him speaking at the Institute of Directors. But he goes on to say that "... the British position is far stronger than many believe – not least due to the significant personal alliances the prime minister has formed with his European counterparts – though the manner of our negotiation will be key".
Major also issued a stark warning of the dangers of leaving the EU. "The EU would be diminished. The UK would be isolated. I am no starry-eyed Europhile but it would be a lose/lose scenario: a truly dreadful outcome for everyone".
"Of course, we would survive, but there would be a severe price to pay in economic well-being, in jobs and in international prestige", he added, telling us that: "In a world of seven billion people, our island would be moving further apart from our closest and largest trading partners, at the very time when they, themselves, are drawing closer together. This makes no sense at all".
Britain would have to negotiate its exit which could cost billions, and then could find itself still having to pay for access to the single market.
Then we get to the FUD on Norway. As a non member, Major says, it pays 80 percent per capita of what the UK pays as a full member. "It would still be obliged to implement EU regulations but would be unable to defend the City, or any other sector, from harmful new legislation, while inward investment to the UK would fall away".
This pig ignorance is from the man who brought us Maastricht and, in forcing it through the Commons, all but wrecked the Conservative Party. And it is from that debacle that UKIP emerged, now to trouble his successor so grievously.
Thus to have praise from Mr Major, or even advice, is not necessarily a blessing. But the man, it seems, has some ambitions in taking a more role of making interventions that help Downing Street. If that intervention is "helpful", one can only assume the meaning of the word has been redefined.
There must have been treble gins all round in Downing Street this morning after these headlines (above). For all the rhetoric, for all the analysis and for all the posturing, it boils down to the message millions of voters will receive: the government is doing something about migrants.
What started as an article in the Financial Times has blossomed into the front pages of the two "middle England" tabloids and dominated the media agenda for over twenty-four hours. Rarely can such a modest investment have yielded such huge dividends.
The odd thing is that David Cameron's piece did not even enjoy the status of an official announcement. Go to the Government website or No 10 Dowing Street and you will see nothing on migrant policy. And neither, apart from an exchange in PMQs, will you see anything announced in the Commons. Parliament, it seems, is too unimportant to be kept in the loop.
Thus, we have "government by Financial Times", thereby ensuring that most people will not have read the statement or have had access to the semi-firewalled article. They will be relying for their "take" on what the popular papers (and the BBC) tell them. And the message conveyed is as much as David Cameron could have hoped for.
Even as Euractiv smouldered about Mr Cameron being isolated, the Financial Times again rushed to his rescue, telling us that not only Germany but France "have joined David Cameron in announcing new curbs on EU migrants, fuelling tensions ahead of a summit on eastern European issues in Lithuania on Thursday".
Thus, we are told: "The issue of migration will hang over an EU meeting in Vilnius, at which Mr Cameron will explain his plan for a comprehensive overhaul of migration policy - first set out in an article for the Financial Times on Wednesday".
There is, of course, nothing at all "comprehensive" about Mr Cameron's "overhaul". It is, as we have already pointed out, content-free rhetoric (CFR). And, if there was any sense in the media, we would see the news of a "shock rise in net immigration" elevated to the front pages.
Nothing Mr Cameron has done has had the slightest impact on these figures, and nothing he is going to do will impact on levels in the short- or medium-term. But that doesn't matter. That is sufficient unto the day, and it will be enough to put UKIP back in its box for a week or so.
What matters is the perception. So far, Mr Cameron is on a roll. The papers are buying the spin, the readers are being well and truly conned and all is well with the world.
COMMENT: "MIND GAMES" THREAD
"Britain is not acting alone in taking these steps", David Cameron was keen to assure us in his Financial Times extravaganza on restricting migration (not). But, as with everything else the Prime Minister does, smoke billows thickly over the mirrors.
Far from having any serious support, says Euractiv, Mr Cameron is in a small minority, so much so that interior ministers meeting in Brussels next week (5 December) will not form a united front with him against free movement of workers. They are too divided on the issue.
Apparently, only three others, Germany, Austria and Holland, can be relied upon even to show any enthusiasm for restricting welfare benefits in general. Apart from that, there is no emerging group of member states resisting the lifting of restrictions on Bulgaria and Romania.
Furthermore, even amongst the "gang of four", there is no commonality of view. Each of the countries has different issues. In Germany, the fear is of a marked rise in the numbers of Roma who might migrate to the large German cities next year. The Dutch are concerned about illegal employment contracts being handed to migrants who do not honour EU rules, and the UK has its problem with so-called "benefits tourism".
On the other hand, the European Commission is not sitting back and letting the opposition making the running. It has issued a robust statement arguing strongly in support of the right to free movement, taking the stance that it is "helping Member States to reap the positive benefits it brings".
Meanwhile, EU employment commissioner László Andor has been very much in evidence as the Commission's attack dog. "We're not speaking about immigration here, we're speaking about the free movement of workers", he declared angrily on Radio 4's Today programme, dismissing Cameron's "benefit curbs" as an "unfortunate overreaction".
This and other interventions have been picked up by the legacy media and especially the Mail which has Andor condemning Cameron for making Britain the "nasty country of Europe".
But one wonders why Andor bothers. When Cameron's input is carefully analysed, it is shown to be – as the Guardian puts it - "fact-free political rhetoric". In fact, it is almost entirely content-free rhetoric. The man is playing mind games.
When one looks, for instance, at Cameron's plans to prevent problems arising in the future, we find him telling us that Britain, as part of the Conservative plan "to reform the EU", will now work with others "to return the concept of free movement to a more sensible basis".
But, in substantive terms, that only means pre-empting the next round of enlargement and putting in place new arrangements "that will slow full access to each other’s labour markets until we can be sure the next new entrants (which may include Turkey) will not cause vast migrations".
Here, the only idea on offer is to require a new accession country – but not the existing Member States - to reach a certain income or economic output per head before full free movement was allowed. Then, and one assumes this is linked - it is not entirely clear - individual member states could be freed to impose a cap if their inflow from the EU reached a certain number in a single year.
If entirely confined to new accession states, that could be done via an accession treaty, so Mr Cameron is not even going for a treaty change, and is not proposing any modifications to the right of freedom of movement. When he tells us that he looks forward to working with other countries who also want reform – and to putting the choice about our future in Europe in a referendum – freedom of movement won't be among those "reforms".
Predictably, the lack of content gives Nigel Farage a free run at the issue, only to have him fall before the finishing post when he asserts that, "only UKIP's stance of leaving the EU, restoring full border controls and choosing who enters the UK before they get here is the sensible way forward".
Never mind the fact that two-thirds of our immigration comes from outside the EU and that non-EU family migration, mandated by Council of Europe convention, amounts to 17 percent of all non-EU immigration.
It may appear to be clever politics to offer a "snake oil" cure, and with Mr Cameron offering such a limp hand, Farage may get away with it for a while. But he does it by completely misrepresenting the nature of the problem and then by offering false solutions that will not address complex and long-standing problems.
Thus, with neither "leader" playing serious politics, the public are being badly served. We are not so such the "nasty country" of Europe, so much as the stupid country, to judge from the way our politicians and media treat us. Collectively, we are being taken for fools.
As Autonomous Mind
remarks, we need to rally around this issue, own it, hammer home the reality continuously to expose and deconstruct the lies of the CBI, Open Europe
and the other proxies for the EUphile side, and make "Who should run Britain" the defining issue of the campaign.
Only then, with an idea of where the tendrils of power reach, will we be any nearer defining a solution that is, at the moment, nowhere near definition. Currently between Cameron and Farage, our choice, such as it is, is one of mind games or snake oil. They are no use to man nor beast.
With over ten thousand words written for the IEA "Brexit" competition, the very last thing I needed was some "advice" from the judging panel which effectively change the rules of the competition, and makes it virtually impossible for me to meet the demands of the judges.
Effectively, I am now torn between writing what I believe to be an honest, well-founded appraisal and giving them the chance to blow me out of the water, or to give judges what they want to see, thereby maximising the chances of winning the prize.
Advice so far is to stick to a credible scenario, but build into the narrative an explanation of why the judge's "advice" cannot be met. But doing that and, effectively rewriting several thousand words (yet again) has taken me out of the game for the last two days, and especially yesterday.
I had nevertheless noted several pieces on the general theme of the moment, covering various aspects of the immigration debate, not least from Autonomous Mind who is very critical of UKIP's misplaced emphasis on the EU as the cause of our problems.
Backing up my piece, AM observes – both in his piece and in a comment – that leaving the EU will not resolve our problems, not least because there are overlapping provisions from the Council of Europe and the ILO, which would take effect if we were not bound by EU law.
The other problem is that, should we elect to continue within the EEA as a way of securing an interim "Brexit" solution, then we would still be bound by the "four freedoms", including freedom of movement and freedom of establishment, and would be required to permit Bulgarian and Romanian workers to take up residence here.
In any event, says Benedict Brogan we could hardly stop them, as the restrictions in place have never actually worked – hence there are more than 225,000 Roma already in the UK.
This actually hides a greater truth, that the flow of migrants depends intrinsically on what are known as "push" and "pull" factors, which have far greater impact than mere border controls. Fail to address these and seek to prohibit immigration and you simply turn the problem into one of illegal immigration, which presents its own difficulties.
But, as Brogan points out this doesn't really arise. As Dominic Grieve told him last Saturday , the EU is above all a legal construct, and like it or not we are party to the rules. The rule of law is what defines us as a nation, he says.
This refers back to a speech Grieve delivered on 14 October at the City of London Guildhall, entitled: "The value of the rule of law to international trade and finance".
Stressing the importance of abiding by the rules, Grieve then tells is that "this Government is not about negotiation or international discussions for their own sake". He thus adds, "When we see institutions that are ineffective, obsolete or wasteful, we are willing to withdraw – as we did in 2011 in pulling out of the International Labour Organisation and the UN Industrial Development Organisation". He continues:
So, it is therefore entirely right that, when we have tried reform and it does not work, or it does not go far enough, we consider whether the UK should remain part of a particular organisation – and, as the Prime Minister has said, this is the case even for hugely significant institutions like the European Union or for that matter Council of Minister or the European Convention on Human Rights. As a matter of law and of Parliamentary sovereignty, it is perfectly possible for the UK as a sovereign state to remove itself from treaty-based international obligations, regardless of how important some may think they may be.
This gave me something of a jolt as I had in my earlier piece referred to Britain's ratification of an ILO Convention and here, apparently, Grieve is telling us that we've pulled out. But, in fact, as the ILO confirms, we are still very much a member. All that has happened is, as this report and this affirm, we have withdrawn funding for ILO projects in the developing world.
Whether Grieve knew he was wrong, and thus misleading his audience, is not known. But the facts mock him. "When we see institutions that are ineffective, obsolete or wasteful, we are willing to withdraw", and it is "perfectly possible for the UK as a sovereign state to remove itself from treaty-based international obligations", he says – only for the UK to remain embedded in the ILO, despite it being "ineffective, obsolete and wasteful".
One has to wonder what chance we have of coming to grips with the complexities of our international obligations, when even the "punctilious" Attorney General gets it wrong, so perhaps it is not surprising that the self-anointed "amateurs" of UKIP really don't have a clue.
For me personally, though, the IEA Brexit judges are asking for details of the impact of EU withdrawal on our immigration problem and here as well, I'm probably going to disappoint. In truth, leaving will have relatively little impact.
And that possibly is going to be the greatest impact of all. To a very great extent, Ministers and policy-makers have been able to hide behind the EU and its compulsions, using membership as an excuse for failure to act, or to conceal other areas of policy failure.
So it looks to be the case with immigration. We are thus going to have to leave the EU, not so that this solves the problem, but so that we will at least realise that much of the solution lies in the hands of our own politicians, as it has all this time.
As the immigration issue grips British politics, we are seeing several interesting phenomena, not least the intervention of Romania's Foreign Minister, Titus Corlatean.
He does not expect a "flood" of migrants from his country to come to Britain after 1 January and attacked the way the immigration debate had been conducted in the UK. He has thus called on Mr Cameron to reject "the xenophobic and populistic and once again sometimes racist attitudes which are promoted by some other British politicians".
Meanwhile, Downing Street has said the Government is still looking at what more action could be taken on benefits for immigrants. The Prime Minister's Official Spokesman says: "The Government is taking action. Of course we are looking at what more can be done".
Asked when the Prime Minister's thinking in this area would become clearer, he declined to provide any timescales. The spokesman was also asked what the Government's stance would be if the next steps contravened EU law. He would only say: "The Government acts within the law".
That is going to be the crunch issue. Within the framework of EU law as it stands, the Government has no scope for manoeuvre in tackling its own defined target issue of cutting benefit opportunities for migrants.
Thus, Mr Cameron can either reject EU law, and take the consequences – which would probably give him a short-term poll boost, or he can try a fudge, only to be ripped apart by the commentariat, probably taking a hit in the polls and possibly giving UKIP a boost.
There again, Mr Cameron could perhaps have a secret weapon up his sleeve, ready to unleash on the unsuspecting migrant population, solving for once and for all what has hitherto seemed an intractable problem.
Up to press though, we have had no news of Mr Cameron's consultation with the tooth fairy, but it is going to take something of that nature to pull this particular rabbit out of the hat. We wait in awe for the magic trick, to end all tricks. This is going to have to be pretty spectacular.
I don't think this blog can be accused of being slack when it comes to criticising UKIP, but I'm not going to fall into the trap of buying into all and any hostile comment about the party. Thus, I would suggest that the story in The Times today needs to be taken with a pinch of salt. It has Nigel Farage as a "bully" and "manipulator" who "sold the party" to the wealthy businessman and donor Paul Sykes in 2001.
This comes from Nikki Sinclaire, now an independent MEP for the West Midlands, hoping to be re-elected after detaching herself from UKIP, under which banner she gained her success in 2009. She would have it that Farage "forced UKIP to abandon its campaign for Britain to leave the EU", the founding tenet of the party, "and instead call for a referendum on the bidding of Mr Sykes", who offered a £1 million donation in return.
Actually, I would agree that Farage is a bully and is highly manipulative, the latter being one of his greatest skills. By this means does he attract his personal support, and rid himself of those many UKIP members whom he sees as a threat. But as to Farage selling the party in 2001, that's not how I remember it, and I was a lot closer to Farage at that time than Sinclaire ever was. Furthermore, the record would not bear out Sinclaire's assertion.
This BBC report had it that the theme of the then campaign, as funded by Sykes with a series of newspapers adverts, was: "Who governs Britain?"
This was straight down the line as far as anti-EU rhetoric went, and no one could possibly accuse the party, as it was then, of holding back. Even the BBC acknowledged that our main aim was to "ditch Europe", with Farage predicting that we had "a very strong chance in four to five seats" in Westminster.
At the point, we were even putting up candidates against "eurosceptic" Tories. Sykes was asked about this, whence he insisted that the candidates in question could neutralise UKIP by saying "never" to the euro and by calling for a referendum on withdrawal from the EU.
As for the referendum, this was a period when there was still a possibility of a poll on the euro, and in 2002 Sykes was prepared to put up £5 million to "Save our pound". But this was to be entirely separate from UKIP and, if it had been successful, there was the possibility of launching another campaign for UK's withdrawal from the EU.
It's a bit rich now for Sinclaire to make accusations about referendums all those years ago and especially now when she is fronting her own campaign for an immediate "in-out" referendum, heedless of the probability that we would lose. Her input is not at all helpful to the cause.
An extraordinary front page from the Daily Mail has the paper stealing the clothes from the Express as it highlights public concern over the tide of immigration that we are supposedly about to receive.
"Enough is enough Mr Cameron", the front page blares, as details of a Harris opinion poll record that 82 percent of respondents said "no" to a new influx from Bulgaria and Romania, 85 percent think migration was putting huge pressure on schools and hospitals and only five percent think "Brussels" should be in charge of policies.
To stoke up concern, we are told that the think tank Migrationwatch believes 70,000 migrants will arrive in January, although the text of the article is actually couched in terms of the figure put "as high as 70,000 a year".
Playing the jobs card, the paper then offers an editorial headed: "A million of our young out of work, dictatorship by Brussels and why Mr Cameron can no longer ignore the people on immigration".
In less than six weeks, unless there is a decisive Government U-turn, the editorial says, "Britain, as required by the European Union, will throw open its jobs market to the 29 million citizens of Romania and Bulgaria. It's a development which could have the most considerable implications for the Prime Minister, British society and, most importantly, this country's one million unemployed young people".
Yet, we are told, "David Cameron and his ministers are approaching 1 January with a head-in-the-sand insouciance which is so sadly typical of a political class that is increasingly remote from the lives and concerns of ordinary voters".
That latter reference is to a recent statement from immigration minister Mark Harper who, on the one hand, said it would not be "legally possible" to extend the ban on incomers from Romania and Bulgaria – as he is being asked to do – and then denied that there will be a flood of migrants in the New Year.
What is fascinating from an electoral point of view is that the opinion poll asks respondents which party they trust most of immigration. Here, UKIP scores relatively well, with a rating of 22 percent, close to double its normal poll support. This compares with 17 percent for Labour and 11 percent for the Conservatives, with four percent for the Lib-Dems.
There is surely a tribal element in the response here, but the greater confidence in UKIP would seem to endorse the party's recent obsession on the issue. However, as the Mail remarks, a massive 44 percent do not trust any party on immigration, clearly failing to see UKIP as part of the solution.
One could aver on the basis of this poll that the way is open for UKIP to come up with a coherent and workable policy, spreading the word with Sykes' money and thence pulling in more support and converting it into actual votes.
As it stands, if UKIP can only muster 22 percent support on its headline issue, when it needs 27 percent to come top of the poll in the euro elections, this does not auger well for success in the euro-elections. So often, politics – and especially electoral politics – is about managing expectations. With the hype over Sykes, if UKIP does not come out on top in the euro elections, it will be seen to have failed.
That said, the implications of this poll are hard to read. No less than 64 percent believe that the British government should ignore the threat of EU legal action and fines if immigration is restricted, while 80 percent believe that the UK rather than the EU should have the final say over who is allowed into Britain.
You would have thought that this would translate into hostility to the EU in general, and increased support for withdrawal, combined with higher poll ratings for UKIP. But, as we have recently seen, this is not the case. Those wishing to leave the EU are declining in numbers while poll support for UKIP is flat-lining.
Clearly, there is much more going on than the polls themselves would indicate, and – as always – whatever the polls tell us must be taken with a pinch of salt. Furthermore, these single issue polls are notoriously unreliable, with the context and the phrasing of the questions having a significant effect on the responses.
Here, it would be interesting to see the results of a poll that put to respondents that, "free movement in the EU has been beneficial to the UK economy, it enables us to live in sun-soaked EU countries if we wish, and the Government says it is vital for our success in exploiting valuable export markets", with the question then: "do you think free movement within the EU should be restricted?".
The point, of course, is that it is relatively easy to get the answer you want in a commissioned opinion poll. What is less easy is to see how the results relate back to other findings, where there are apparent contradictions or inconsistencies – or maybe not.
Perhaps, despite the hype, the majority of people do not see immigration as quite the make-or-break issue that some newspapers (and political parties) would have it to be. Indisputably, it scores high on issues of concern, only second after the economy, but when the question is rephrased, the score plummets.
Asked about important issues facing the country and immigration gets a 54 percent concern ranking, yet when respondents are asked about issues facing "you and your family", the concern drops to 16 percent. Essentially, if people are voting for their country, immigration is important. If they are voting for themselves and their families, it is less so.
Further, a report in June had it that "people are far more positive about some types of immigration that you would think". And that might better represent the settled opinion, as opposed to the concern inflated by recent, lurid headlines.
Clues on this had already been in place in January. Then, a poll suggested that when people thought about their local areas, there was less concern. While 30 percent placed immigration first when thinking about tensions facing British society as a whole, only 19 percent chose it as the most divisive issue in their own area.
There was also very little correlation between the geographical distribution of immigrants and the levels of concern. Immigration was regarded as the most divisive issue for 19 percent of people in north-east England and 20 percent in Wales – where the 2011 census showed five percent of people were born abroad – and for 20 percent of Londoners, where immigrants make up thirty percent of the population.
The issue here is that the public response to immigration is far more nuanced that the headlines allow for, opening the way for a more sophisticated policy response. Certainly, concern about Bulgarians and Romanians is not translating into more general opposition to immigration – and is unlikely to do so. That means that stoking up this issue is not necessarily a vote winner.
The great mistake, therefore, would be to assume that, because the Mail is doing a number on this issue, "banging on" in like manner is necessarily going to yield electoral dividends. In fact, unfocused stridency risks bumping up against settled views, antagonising voters rather than attracting support. And this may be why UKIP is not getting the support it thinks it deserves.
I've been taking the opportunity, while in the mood, to continue working on the IEA "Brexit" submission. It's beginning to take shape and, with a fair wind and a few more days hard work, I hope to have carved out the basic outline.
This partially explains the light blogging, but I have to admit also to sense of weariness, or perhaps frustration - the feeling one gets from trying to argue a case to an audience that is largely unreceptive and simply does not want to hear an alternative view.
The issue, of course, is immigration, and the forthcoming UKIP campaign in the euros. Personally, I think the party's tactics are wrong, specifically in stoking up concern without making an honest analysis of the problem or offering credible solutions. As Autonomous Mind observes, it does not play well with the majority of eligible voters who find the current UKIP approach of scaremongering without a solution distasteful.
Now we have Dan Hodges intervening in the Telegraph, asserting that "UKIP is planning to run one of the most dangerous campaigns in British political history". Much of what he writes has to be in the category of hyperbole, and I would not begin to accept his analysis. What is interesting, though, is this passage:
Paul Sykes, Nigel Farage and their fellow travellers are preparing to run one of the most dangerous and divisive campaigns in British political history. Drunk on their new-found celebrity, and their wealth, they plan to target immigrants to secure their own narrow political objectives.
I would not have written this in precisely those terms, but I do see UKIP as playing to the BNP/EDL tendency and worry that it will do the anti-EU cause great harm. By going for the voters who are prepared to make immigration their main electoral issue, there is a distinct possibility that UKIP has cut itself off from the centre, and has thereby imposed a limit on its own growth.
They are quite open about this. UKIP will attack those who see to come to this country legally, in pursuit of work and the opportunity to provide for their families; some of these people will find themselves portrayed as criminals or scroungers.
The collapse of the BNP and the EDL will see many of their supporters switching en masse to Nigel Farage's party, whether he likes it or not. UKIP is famously disorganised; how can we be sure that extremists have not made it through the screening process and on to the candidates' list?
Those of us who have been advocating pragmatism around the issue of immigration have to recognise the limits of what pragmatism can achieve. It isn't possible to reach a compromise with zealots or political exhibitionists.
So we will all have to choose. We can stand back as Nigel Farage and UKIP attempt to drive a wedge between the people of Britain and the new arrivals from eastern Europe. Or we can challenge them.
What makes the piece of such interest though is the number of comments – nearly 3,000 at the time of writing. Not even climate change has been able to provoke such a response.
From a scan through several hundred, I would guess that the majority are hostile to Hodges – and therein lies the danger. Not a few people believe that the ability to muster large numbers on a newspaper comment threat actually means anything – that it even represents the majority view.
But, as we recorded yesterday
, while 70 percent of voters express concern about the immigration problem highlighted by UKIP, only 12 percent actually support the party. Clearly, they share with UKIP the concern, but are not in agreement with the solution, such that it is.
And there lies another danger. When UKIP fails to attract a landslide vote at the euros – and even loses ground because so many feel uncomfortable with the party's stridency - our enemies will cite the lack of support as evidence of diminishing support for the anti-EU cause.
Thus, to an extent, the Hodges headline is right. UKIP is
planning to run one of the most dangerous campaigns in British political history. For short-term party political gain, it is putting at risk the entire anti-EU movement. And the long-term repercussions of that could be profound.
Nick Clegg may have thought he was being helpful to his own cause yesterday, when he branded people who want Britain to leave the EU as "unpatriotic".
The Deputy Prime Minister apparently "tore into the Conservatives and UKIP", claiming it would leave many people "poorer" and the country as a whole "weaker". In a co-ordinated Lib Dem strike, Treasury minister Danny Alexander then claimed, "if you are anti-Europe, you are anti-business, anti-growth".
Personally, I find the "unpatriotic" slur deeply offensive, and to brand me thus is obviously counter-productive. But then, I am a committed opponent of UK membership of the EU, so you would expect me to be unmoved by Mr Clegg's claim.
Equally, having done more work than most on the subject, I would vehemently dispute claims that an EU exit would leave many people "poorer" and the country as a whole "weaker", or that to be anti-EU (as opposed to anti-Europe, which is an absurd position), is anti-business or anti-growth.
But then, I am not part of the target audience to which either Mr Clegg or Mr Alexander will have been delivering their messages. They are going for the uncommitted – the "swamp" as Spinelli used to call it. And, to judge by the opinion polls, the message could be working. Considerably less people are prepared to commit to leaving the EU now than they were one and two years ago.
Looking at the Telegraph comments though, we see an aggressive majority dispute that finding, determined to assert that their personal beliefs are representative of the whole. There, it seems to me, we have a group which is falling into the trap of discounting intelligence because it doesn't like the message it is conveying.
This is a potentially dangerous situation where important signals are being ignored, the situation overtaken by a strident complacency which refuses to believe that there is anything amiss.
The reality though, is that people like Danny Alexander are getting a free run in the media with their claims of economic gloom and doom, while the anti-EU movement as a whole is doing very little to counter it. For instance, from the Bruges Group, we have the superb package of a video and a pamphlet on the "Norway Option", yet I have seem very little support for the initiative outside a few sympathetic bloggers.
The interesting thing is that every so often, and as recently as today, I get e-mails or other contacts asking for and sometime demanding my support for UKIP, and a cessation of my criticisms of the party. Yet few seem to see this as a two-way process. I have seen nothing from UKIP in support of our recent work. As far as members are concerned, it might as well not exist.
Yet, the actual achievement has been quite substantial. Google "Norway Option" and what was once exclusively enemy territory is now dominated by references to our work. For a fraction of the budget available to UKIP, we have changed the landscape, yet the party does not have the grace to acknowledge our work.
Thus, when we see Mr Sykes intervene, in what seems a tired re-run of his previous interventions, spouting superficial truisms which take no account of our better understand of the arguments, there should be surprise that we take a jaundiced view.
Both Witterings from Witney and Autonomous Mind are thus singularly unimpressed and, while it is entirely up to Mr Sykes how he spends his own money, it still saddens us to see it wasted.
Boiling Frog, on the other hand, takes apart Mr Clegg and his latest excrescences, compared with UKIP which takes the opportunity to tell us that: "Only UKIP stands up for Britain".
Actually, though, UKIP does not stand alone, but it is in danger of being on its own. Convinced that it is making headway, the indications are now that it is not winning the argument. And, by claiming the territory as it own, ignoring others in the field, it risks dragging us down and losing the campaign for all of us – unless we distance ourselves from its inept rhetoric.
Would that they realise it, but UKIP's best friends are its critics, but as long as they are intent on ignoring the messenger, they will never know.
The last week or so, I've been getting stuck into writing our "Brexit" submission for the IEA. It is really hard going but, because it is a competition, and I'm determined to put up a good show, it would be unwise of me to reveal too much of our hand just yet.
The emphasis on writing, though, did not stop me picking up on last week's YouGov poll which put sentiment on leaving the EU on a par with staying in, representing the end point in a continuous, year-long decline in support for leaving.
Despite the importance of the news, it has been largely ignored by the legacy media and only now, five days after the event, does the Telegraph get round to publishing an analysis on the poll result – also published on the YouGov website.
Needless to say, Kellner, husband of Baroness Ashton, puts on his own spin, with his piece headlined in the Telegraph: "Britain is learning to put up with Europe". The hard reality of life on the outside is weakening the eurosceptic case, goes the sub-head. Britain doesn't like the European Union, but it's prepared to go along with it.
However, while that top-line spin may be highly debatable, that does not make either the poll or Kellner's more general conclusions wrong. The latest findings, he says, reflect a gradual shift in underlying sentiment (see graph below).
Last year, YouGov conducted twelve surveys in which it asked people whether they would vote to leave or stay in the EU. The gap between the two sides never dropped below ten points; on average, 48 percent said they wanted to leave the EU while 32 percent said they wanted to stay in.
The pattern this year has been different. Leaving aside the blip in opinion around the time of the Prime Minister's January speech, most of the YouGov surveys since February – and all since mid-August – have reported leads of less than ten points. Much of the shift has taken place among Conservative supporters. Most of them still want to leave the EU, but not by such massive margins as a few months ago.
Kellner reminds us that, since the beginning of this year, his polling company has regularly asked people about the consequences of leaving the EU. The results have shown no clear trend. Voters have been evenly divided on the economy, jobs and prosperity; few think Britain's influence in the world would increase if we left the EU. There, he avers. nothing in these figures to explain the narrowing of the gap since the summer.
On the other hand, if the hype on immigration
is to be taken at face value, we might expect opposition to the EU to be hardening around now, says Kellner.
We have found repeatedly, he says, that a huge source of resentment towards the EU is Britain's inability to keep out immigrants from other member states. The final, transitional, curbs on people settling her from Romania and Bulgaria end in January. This prospect has prompted many news stories and much debate in recent weeks.
The latest YouGov poll
for the Sunday Times
shows how much Britons dislike this state of affairs, with 70 percent wanting to end the right of EU citizens to come to Britain.
Only 31 percent of respondents accepted the argument put forward by some economists and business leaders that immigration in recent years has been good for Britain's prosperity; 57 percent think our economy, and not just social harmony, has suffered.
However, when YouGov
asked people what should be done about immigration from the EU, something curious happened. Says Kellner, we gave people three options – support continued free movement because there is nothing wrong with it; put up with it because we need to obey EU laws even though we don't like it; restrict the right of EU citizens to settle in Britain, even if this means breaking EU laws.
By far the biggest group, 42 percent, wanted Britian to break EU laws and change the rules; 22 percent were happy with the present system, while 20 percent thought we should put up with them even though we don't like them. So, while the present system was disliked by three-to-one, voters were evenly divided (42 percent each) on whether Britain should defy the EU or not.
Kellner thinks these findings provide a clue to the gradual shift in attitudes to EU membership. It has nothing to do, he asserts, with positive enthusiasm for the EU. This remains in short supply.
Today, he says, the question that the referendum debate implicitly poses is, not "do we love the EU? " but "should we put up with it?" He suspects the public mood has shifted not because the positive case for British membership has gained in appeal, but because, as the prospect grows of a referendum in the not-to-distant future, the dangers of departure loom larger in people's minds.
That would be the status quo
effect kicking in, and it's a bit early for that. Nevertheless. Kellner says it's not that more people than before think departure would, say, be bad for jobs, but that this issue influences voters more than it did when a referendum was a more distant prospect. The prose of economic calculation is beginning to count for more than the poetry of sovereign pride.
As a result, the man asserts that more of us think we must put up with the EU, despite its faults, rather than take the risks of leaving the club. Indeed, this is roughly the signal that Cameron and William Hague have been sending, as they make clearer than they have in the past that they want Britain to stay in the EU.
Kellner then at least has sufficient humility to qualify his findings with the phrase, "if this analysis is right, then both sides have clear challenges".
Opponents of the EU need to persuade people that (for example) the Confederation of British Industry is wrong, and that leaving the EU would actually be good for jobs and investment. Supporters of the EU need to persuade voters that there is a positive case for the benefits of membership, not merely a negative case for grudging acceptance that it is the less dangerous of two unattractive options.
The man is surely right when he says that "both sides have clear challenges", but his analysis is perhaps not as complete as it could be. Returning to the immigration issue, clearly a lot of people agree with the UKIP diagnosis – which the party mistakes for support – but they do not agree with its solutions, such that they are.
Tactically, I think Farage has got it wrong – badly wrong. People share common cause with UKIP about the effects of mass migration, but it is not the vote-winner he thinks it is.
As to the anti-EU sentiment, it may be that the result is a statistical blip, but it does follow the trend and accords with other polls. And that means UKIP is losing the argument. If anything, there is an inverse correlation between the support for UKIP and support for leaving the EU. With the modest increase in support for UKIP, we have seen a decline in the enthusiasm for leaving the EU.
Now, Kellner might interpret the slippage as meaning that more of us think we must put up with the EU, despite its faults. But there are plenty of other interpretations. Not least, as UKIP has reinvented itself as an all-purpose political party, it is gradually vacated the field when it comes to arguing the case for leaving the EU.
Moreover, it has consistently refused to offer a credible (or any) exit plan and it has been way behind the curve on the Article 50 debate. It press effort is abysmal, and it is not making any serious attempt to counter the FUD generated by the other side.
Contrary to Kellner's assertions, therefore, we could simply be seeing a reflection of the inadequacy of UKIP as a campaigning force. Having usurped the position as representing the anti-EU movement, it has actually walked away from the battle and is now losing the argument.
With Farage deciding to take time out for a bit of spinal reinforcement, he may not wish it to be generally known that the surgeon giving him a bit more backbone is of Indian immigrant stock.
But giving backbone to his party is Yorkshireman Paul Sykes who is under the impression that giving UKIP a shed-load of money to help it top the polls in May is somehow going to help us get out of the European Union.
His latest investment in the party is expected to run into several millions, as he declares: "It is time to tell the truth and let the people decide … I want this country to get back to becoming a self-governing nation", adding that, "That is what I am in it for. I am not going to sit here and do nothing. It’s my final thing this, it’s my Waterloo".
UKIP needs to poll 27 percent in the euro elections if it is to overtake the Conservatives as the largest UK party in the European Parliament. With Syke's money, that is possibly more likely, although money alone has never been particularly effective in buying votes. Jimmy Goldsmith and his Referendum Party proved that.
However, the money does get Sykes space in the Telegraph to air his views, on the back of commissioning a poll showing that 74 percent of the public are opposed to the free movement of labour from Romania and Bulgaria. Just 15 percent said they were in favour.
"As a nation state, Britain is drinking in the last chance saloon", says Mr Sykes. "Our failure to exert any control over our border with the 27 other members of the EU means that we are on the brink of abolishing ourselves as an independent country and consigning 1,000 years of nationhood to the dustbin of history".
He goes on to say that, "I have nothing against people from Romania and Bulgaria, but given the four million immigrants we have absorbed since 1997, and given the prospect that the end of transitional controls on two of the poorest countries on the continent will trigger another wave of mass immigration … you have to drawn the line somewhere".
Sykes says he is not a UKUP member and had no party political motivation behind his decision to provide the party with funds. "I am in this to give people a say about their future", he says. "We are going to roll some guns out … every person in Britain will get to know a lot more from our campaign than they have ever got to know from all the other campaigns put together".
Meanwhile, in Scotland, the UKIP campaign has already degenerated into a shambolic farce, with six of the candidates standing down as ballot papers were about to be sent out.
Amid recriminations over infighting and a civil war between the UK party and its Scottish branch, Farage stands accused once again of parachuting in one of his cronies, and giving him an unfair advantage in the selection polls.
No amount of Sykes money will protect the party from this type of dirty dealing, which has characterised the party selection process and led to some distinctly low-grade candidates representing the party. And in this case, one of the casualties is Lord Monckton, who withdrew in disgust from the list in September.
Perhaps, though, it is best if Farage is off-line for a month or so, although even fortified with a little more backbone, it is unlikely he will improve the standing of those who would represent the party in the European elections. That would take more than even a surgeon of immigrant stock could manage.
Wherever they go they are trouble but, by and large, mainland Europe has had to deal with them. Hitler had a solution and not a few contemporary politicians, like this one, think he didn't go far enough.
Now, for the media, this week seems to have been open season on the Roma. The Express is full of it and the Sunday Telegraph is telling us we're on the brink of a race war, with Pakistani immigrants and Roma battling it out on the streets of Sheffield.
While this story attracts more than 3,000 comments – the vast majority hostile to the Roma and immigrants in general - The Observer struggles to reach 200, with its "real story" of Britain's Roma: the poor souls are "excluded, ignored and neglected".
The thing is that, even if that is true – which it probably is – the question is, why is that our problem? And the simple answer is very simple: because we are members of the European Union.
A more complex answer, however, is one to which the European Commission has drawn attention in a number of detailed reports. In April 2011, it offered an "EU Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies up to 2020", basically telling member state governments that many of the estimated 10-12 million Roma in Europe faced prejudice, intolerance, discrimination and social exclusion in their daily lives.
They are, said the Commission, marginalised and live in very poor socio-economic conditions, adding that, "this is not acceptable in the European Union (EU) at the beginning of the 21st Century".
Member States were thus instructed to ensure that Roma were not discriminated against but "treated like any other EU citizens with equal access to all fundamental rights as enshrined in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights". In addition, action was needed "to break the vicious cycle of poverty moving from one generation to the next".
A year later, the Commission was reminding Member States that they had the primary responsibility and the competences to change the situation of marginalised populations, so action to support Roma lay "first and foremost in their hands".
In order to make "a tangible difference to Roma people's lives", Member States needed "to develop and implement an integrated and sustainable approach that combines efforts across different areas, including education, employment, health and housing".
By June this year though, the Commission was complaining that Member State strategies were inadequate, failing fully to assess the needs of Europe's largest minority, with the UK failing on many counts.
This goes to the heart of the issue. To deal with the Roma requires considerable resources, a strategic plan and strong political commitment. But, while the government has accepted responsibility for Roma immigrants, and the need to deal with their problems – by virtue of our membership of the EU which it enthusiastically supports – when it comes to making the resources available, it is nowhere to be seen.
Given that there are well over 200,000 Roma migrants in the UK, and many more expected, serious money is required – probably several hundred million, if not billions. But, in a period of tightening up public expenditure, it would be political suicide for the British government to allocate that amount of cash to an unpopular minority.
Thus, what the government has done is dump the problem in the lap of local authorities, with no significant extra resources being found, requiring harassed local taxpayers to foot the bill. This is especially troublesome for authorities in the Gateway Protection Programme, which accept immigrants dispersed from their points of entry.
Essentially, what we have got here is a classic study in hypocrisy. On the one hand, we have a government extolling the virtues and benefits of EU membership, heedless of the fact that membership brings with it responsibilities and commitments. Thus, when a problem such as the Roma rears its ugly head, the government goes missing, and ducks the responsibilities it, itself, had assumed.
As a result, we get communications from our local authorities telling us that the strain on public services is increasing to such an extent that the Council Tax must go up. Little research is needed to discover that the extra strain arises almost entirely from inwards immigration of problem communities.
And so it is that UKIP is mounting its high-profile campaign directed at blocking further Roma immigration. But then it is possibly unaware of the ultimate irony. Whatever responsibilities this government might have accepted via the European Union, many of them have been duplicated via the Council of Europe Strasbourg Declaration on Roma, agreed by the Coalition Government in October 2010.
The essence of our problem, therefore, goes far wider than the EU, resting with a government that is taking on commitments without seeking democratic legitimacy, grandstanding on the international stages and expecting us the people to pick up the bill and suffer the consequences.
Then, when we the people have the temerity to complain, we become rascists, bigots and all the other pejoratives that the establishment deem fit to throw at us. But this is not a problem of our making, and we have not been asked whether we are willing to contribute to its solution.
The fact that, if asked., we would probably have said "no" tells us all we need to know about the way we are governed.
Of all the millions of words uttered in the past year on the possibility of the British being given a referendum on whether or not to remain in the European Union, scarcely any have had the faintest connection to reality, writes Christopher Booker.
This unreal debate was triggered, of course, by David Cameron's pledge that, if re-elected in 2015, he would negotiate with Brussels for the return of unspecified powers of government and then, in 2017, would lead the "yes" campaign in a referendum, arguing that Britain should stay a member of the EU on the basis of the new relationship with it that he had so brilliantly negotiated.
His proposal last January – only made to buy off the fear of so many of his backbenchers that UKIP might cost them their seats in 2015 – was no more than an empty political gesture. As many in Brussels have scornfully made clear, there is no way that Britain could be given back any powers, because this would breach the most sacred principle on which the EU is founded, that once powers have been handed over they can never be returned.
At least Mr Cameron has brought out a consensus of the great and the good – from politicians of all parties to the CBI and most of the press – that above all, while the dysfunctional EU is indeed in need of "reform", for Britain to leave it would be a disaster – because this would exclude us from the Single Market which accounts for nearly half our trade. As recent polls have confirmed, even if there was a referendum tomorrow, it is this more than anything that would terrify the British public into voting to stay in.
But there are two issues in this debate which the supporters of the consensus are determined must never be raised. The first is that there is only one way in which Brussels could be made to negotiate the new relationship with the EU that the Cameronites say they are after – by invoking Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. This would compel the EU by law to negotiate with us. But that, as we know, can only be triggered by a country that first says it wishes to leave the EU.
The second fact the Cameronites are absolutely determined we shouldn't discuss is that there are many countries, such as Norway, which trade as freely with the Single Market as we do, without having to be members of the EU.
What do Mr Cameron and his supporters tell us they want? To negotiate a new relationship between Britain and the EU and for Britain to enjoy continued free access to the Single Market. There is only one legal and practical way in which they can have everything they want, but that depends on invoking Article 50. So they slam the door on it before they've even started, by insisting that there is no way they could allow Britain to leave the EU.
Thus they continue to dream their dreams, prattling about negotiations which can never happen, the return of powers they never name and meaningless referendums sometime in the indefinite future.
They doom Britain to drift on into the twilight of a nation, impotently complaining at how we are shackled to this increasingly dysfunctional form of government, which next year will have its mind only on yet another centralising new treaty designed to rescue it from the insoluble mess of the euro.
But we cannot be allowed to know that it doesn't have to be like this. Locked in the mind prison of "Europe", the political class that rules us won't have it any other way.
Talking on ITN yesterday, we see that Farage is continuing his emphasis on immigration. Interestingly, he then concludes the clip by saying: "I want a quick, amicable divorce from the EU", his classic payoff line.
The inference of his pitch is obvious – we need to get out of the EU to stop further immigration. But the implication that a "quick divorce" is possible is misleading. If Farage really subscribes to Article 50, as he says he does, then he must know that "quick" is not an option. We would be struggling to get an exit agreement inside two years, and there would probably be lengthy preliminaries before we even lodged the notification.
Thus, by reverting to his previous rhetoric, the UKIP leader is showing that, while he can be prevailed upon to support Article 50, his heart isn't really in it.
As revealing, Farage also talks of having "eclipsed the BNP" on immigration, effectively an admission that his party is taking the place of its rival and soaking up its support. This may explain the hostile response
to UKIP in the recent YouGov
poll, giving a core of 43 percent who would never vote for the party.
That, we are also told
is very similar to what Ipsos-MORI found in August which, with poll support stalled at around 10-13 percent, means that UKIP may be bumping up against an electoral glass ceiling.
By obsessing on immigration, it would seem, Farage has gone for the easy vote – the BNP sympathisers looking for a new home. The down side is that he has alienated the uncommitted centre, which is turned off by the anti-immigration rhetoric. That leaves UKIP having gained
only about two percent on the year, or even less. The party was scoring twelve percent last December.
Of course, most pundits are expecting a surge for the euro-elections, but on most recent performance, I would not guarantee a clean sweep for UKIP. Farage has had a free pass from the media, talking up the Roma threat, yet the intense hype has not delivered any measurable polling gains.
That UKIP is getting good press
is indisputable, citations climbing from a previous high in 2010 of around six thousand, to over 23,000 in 2013, more than double the year previously.
What the polls are showing, though, is that this higher profile is not translating into public support. Rather, it may reflect Farage's utility as a highly accessible source for an easy balancing quote, which is so much part of what passes for journalism these days. And he is a useful stick with which to beat Cameron and his Conservatives.
suggests that the polls have thus shown that UKIP does not have the capacity for a parliamentary breakthrough and, on balance, I think he is right. The publicity hype has brought to party to the attention of a much wider constituency but, having looked at it, many people do not like what they see. Others are not convinced that UKIP offers any credible solutions, even (or especially) on immigration.
Given how much UKIP has invested in immigration, it is probably unlikely to change. Nevertheless, those of Farage's inner circle who have any pretensions of being political strategists should be wondering whether the party has taken a wrong turn. Even then, they may find that the damage is done, and the position is irrecoverable.