Saturday, 29 August 2015

It couldn't last

I made a decision to retire this blog last week, in favour taking a more sanitised approach. But there is actually no good reason why I cannot do both. What I don't want to do is have my more immoderate posts distracting from the overall output on the new blog, and so here is as good a place as any to make the odd incidental point.

As to the subject of this post, though I said I would limit my attacks on Ukip, I think this is important to take note of. We are past the general election now. All efforts are geared to the referendum, crafting our message and public perceptions of those who represent the No campaign. Thus it must be pointed out when Ukip is failing.

I have warned of the dangers of foam flecked Kipper ranting about foreigners and Muslims, and that message is not getting through. We saw during the election that such material only drags the debate onto the racism battlefield, turning the debate away from the central matter. We can't afford this now.

We would expect Ukip to have learned some of the lessons and show some leadership in moderating their message. This is not happening. What we have seen instead is more of the same dog whistles that effectively give their followers permission to grunt about the same old things. I didn't pick it up at the time but here we find a speech made by Ukip MEP Gerald Batten last month, highlighted by an official Ukip Twitter account. It's entitled "Western civilisation has to stop kowtowing to a Dark Age ideology".

I know these arguments well, and not far behind it comes the usual clichés abut multiculturalism etc. There is some basis in truth that would be worth examining in more subtle terms, at a different time, but this really just qualifies as banging on about Muslims, using BNP rhetoric. This is absolutely the last thing we need from a party that will take a lead role in the referendum campaign.

It's one thing for the bottom-feeders on Twitter to be promoting this message in association with Ukip, but for Ukip MEP's to be choosing this of all messages, at this of all times is just inexcusable.

This is where Aaron Banks should take note. If the No campaign is built on a Ukip base than it is tainted from the outset. It's bad enough that their eurosceptic arguments are poor and their message uncoordinated, but these people have absolutely no self-discipline, no capacity for strategy and continue to make careless, unforced errors. They have learned nothing. The No campaign needs to put as much distance between itself and Ukip as humanly possible.

Monday, 24 August 2015

Complete Bastard est mort


That's the end of the Complete Bastard. Never let it be said I don't listen to criticism. I've heard all the asinine comments about the title of this blog and so to take that argument out of play I am migrating to a blog of a blander title over at peterjnorth.blogspot.com so people can make asinine comments about my name instead.

Responding to a second criticism, I am done attacking Ukip except for where it is pertinent to making a particular point. They are steadfastly determined to grunt about foreigners and complain about safety regulations and claim we will save millions and billions by leaving the EU - and there is nothing that can be done to dissuade them. It's a waste of my time. Congratulations. You win. Grunt away!

I am instead going to concentrate on building the alternative case for leaving the EU and writing posts on how to argue the respective points and how to argue effectively. This will undoubtedly open up a whole new raft of new complaints, probably about it being either too "high brow" or too complicated, or "off message" with the main No campaign. Nothing I do will ever satisfy those who are determined to pour scorn on our work. From the passive aggressive sniping to the downright nasty, they'll find something else to whinge about. They always do.

Buzzing around achieving nothing


I've been increasingly irritated by a housefly for the last couple of days. It's wasting it's energy and its short lifespan, buzzing around in every direction, accomplish nothing and generally causing a nuisance. Unlike a spider, you can't help it. With a spider you can put a glass over it and chuck it out the window in the hope that it might at least take a risk and live a useful life. And there is a perfect Ukip metaphor. Here we have an entity that largely feeds upon faeces and regurgitates it, buzzing around unproductively, annoying people, and using up energy without achieving anything.

You might want to help it but it never stays in one place long enough to capture it. You can open all the windows, causing yourself some discomfort, you can even waft it in the right direction, but it still won't go in the right direction. In the end you just have to resign yourself to the fact that it will just continue to cause an irritation, will continue consuming shit, and waste its energy producing nothing in a short and pointless life.

Brexit is the key to reforming Europe


The more you look at Brexit, the more inherent complications you find. The EU has been steaming ahead with various trade deals in recent years that we would have to work hard to replicate, tus any Brexit talks would require we negotiate the use of these deals by proxy until such a time as we can negotiate our own. That will necessarily require membership of the single market and consequently, we cannot make any promises about ending freedom of movement, assuming that were even desirable.

The fact is that the EU does have clout. It's no use arguing the toss over whether it is in decline or not. It is still a large market we cannot afford to lose, nor can be cut ourselves off from the extended benefits of single market membership.

Thus, as we look to the referendum, it becomes more a question of defining what kind of relationship we want with it. Even with our independence we would have to work pretty hard and pretty fast to open up new trading avenues just to compensate for the mid term losses should we completely reject European co-operation. In fact, we will have to work hard and fast in any eventuality.

With that in mind, when a new treaty offering us something close to associate membership is announced, it will look superficially attractive. It saves us the hassle and expense of having to replace trade deals and to an extent excludes us from ever closer union. What it probably won't offer is an independent vote at the top tables or trade exclusivity, which in most respects merely formalises the stagnation we're presently stuck in while the eurozone group does what it needs to do.

Since we are not in the Euro and never will be we are never going to be in the mainstream EU, which is a good thing, but we will be relegated to a formalised slow lane where we find ourselves following the rules but having no say at the top international tables where trade rules, including those of the single market, are made. As we continue to point out, the EU merely rubber stamps regulation. It is a redundant middleman.

With that in mind, independence will always be the best option for Britain, and by defining the terms of our relationship with the EU, using an interim stage such as the Norway Option, we can set about creating a benchmark for interfacing with the single market so that anyone may join it, thus reducing the EU to an actor within it rather than the master of it.

Anyone who knows anything about the intricacies of the EU knows that it has overreached in so many ways and while there is notionally a single standard throughout it does not manifest in reality. The hypocrisies are there for to see for anyone who looks for them. By leaving and regaining trade autonomy can we set a baseline for what a genuine single market looks like, recognising that it is the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe that has the greater influence in regulatory convergence. In that regard, UNECE is the single market, not the EU. Regulatory convergence is more pertinent to modern trade diplomacy than border tariffs.

The problem with the EU is that it seeks deep and comprehensive trade agreements that require unrealisable social changes, which the EU is not equipped to ram through, and so in many respects we have a European Union in name only. In terms of trade we have multiple tiers of treaties making up various zones within, with members in various stages of economic and social development. In that regard the EU is overextended having made demands of members that it can never bring to fruition - not least it's overambitious cultural reforms to the East and in the Balkans. As we have discussed previously, these have the capacity to do more harm than good.

The EU is as much about cultural hegemony as it is trade, and in its hubris creates as many problems as it notionally solves. The reality is that Western European social values cannot be imposed on a society and such changes have to come from below through popular struggle. It is only through becoming wealthier do societies become more liberal and progressive - so we are better off aiming for a single market of mutual trading standards that create wealth. Prioritising that means the social reforms will take care of themselves. They will then be lasting and genuine rather than at the barrel of a gun.

That is how we reform both the EU and Europe while at the same time breaking out of the euro-centric mentality toward a global single market, where all voices matter. Put simply, the EU as an entity cannot be reformed in this way. Supposing we could change treaties, we cannot change the essence of what it is built upon.

The reason for opposing the EU is that it is inward-looking, anti-trade (or at least open trade), protectionist, unaccountable and at times ineffectual. The 'sovereignty' question is misplaced for the reasons most often stated - global markets mean global rules. The message is that we can do better, but to do this we have to break the EU and remould it as something different from the post-war/cold war 'hug your enemy close' viewpoint. Britain leaving allows all this to happen. Without that existential threat to the EU nothing changes and we carry on limping along - with nobody ever satisfied and the EU continuing to stamp out brushfires with diminishing resources and a shrinking mandate.

It should be clear to all that we need a new settlement for Europe and the superstate idea of the last century is a failed idea that will never reach completion. Brexit is the first step to designing that new Europe. For Europe to regain its vitality it must clear away the old and make way for the new. In this Britain can show leadership and once again be asserting its global values. What's not to like?

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Countdown to a gold-plated extinction

One thing the kippers consistently point out is that it's young white girls falling prey to exploitative gangs. They might put the emphasis on the fact the culprits are predominantly Muslim, but I would turn the emphasis around and as why it is we who cannot protect our own?

Personally, I'm not in the least bit surprised that we can't when we abdicate far too much to the state with far too many expectations of what it can do with any competence. It is ultimately that which spells our cultural demise.

It's not just the "dole scroungers" who are state dependants. It is now most of us. Somewhere in the corners of our minds, we have certain assumptions about the future because of the welfare state and that unconsciously weighs on our personal decision making.

As a nation we are fiscally illiterate, not least because we have certain expectations of the state as to who will look after us in our old age - so we don't prepare or save for it. We are therefore largely ignorant of financial mechanisms. And there is no longer the familial obligation there once was to look after each other. That's the council's job innit? We have no "patriarchy" as we find in the Muslim world, all are equal in their rights, but no so equal in their responsibilities. The state has shattered the family.

When we look at our own society, atomised by social media, we have no community to speak of except the virtual one at our finger tips. Meanwhile, when we think of northern poverty, we imagine segregated hovels like Bradford, as festering incubators of Jihad, but the reality is something different. In most respects it has never been richer - and it's getting better. For sure the city centre is a shadow of what it once was, but that is more through the ineptitude of council regeneration than actual poverty.

There are two reasons for this. Our Muslims tend to be entrepreneurs and businessmen, and businessmen with a keen interest in avoiding as much tax as possible. One thing you notice on the drive into Bradford is that there is no shortage of accountancy firms.

Then there is booze. We Brits do have an unhealthy relationship with it. Our Muslims do not. That's why they are becoming richer. Booze is a wallet killer. I more or less quit drinking backing March and since then I'm thinner, sleeping better and while earning less since leaving my last job, I am not noticeably worse off for it. We complain about the work life balance but I would argue that most Brits have more time than they know what to usefully do with and booze fills the void.

Also Muslim families refuse to join in the borrowing bonanza, instead opting for family banking while we're the "must have it now" society. It's little wonder than the once poor Muslim immigrants of Bradford now hire Lamborghinis for graduation parties. Just recently I found myself in Bradford interchange and looking at the Asian youths, for the first time in my life it's me who's the scruffy, shabby mess on the platform. In the social order in Bradford, we're the niggers now.

There is an enviable energy in Bradford's Muslim society with a real sense of ambition while Brits have become slovenly, alcohol dependent, state dependent and bovine. We whine about tax evasion when we should be celebrating anyone who manages to get away with it.

Even in our attitudes to politics there is a sense of delegation. I can't tell you how many times I hear "I don't do politics, that's what I pay politicians for". My own view is that politics is far too important to be left to politicians and participation is an absolutely essential civic obligation. And I don't mean just participation in the occasional voting ritual.

But it's not just our citizens who have delegated to the government. Even the government has outsourced the difficult stuff to the European Commission. We don't do things like trade and foreign policy anymore and our aid programme is merely wristband foreign policy designed to make us feel morally superior.

Frankly, the complaint that Muslims don't integrate is a little puzzling. Firstly what is there to integrate with, and why would they want to. In what way is our work-a-day drudgery and state dependence superior to what the Muslims are building? In what way is spending your last days on state handouts in a council home waiting for death superior?

Curiously, we might note that thirty years ago, mosques in Bradford were 90's built huts with cheap green domes. As those communities have become fabulously wealthier since, the domes have been replaced with more ornate and permanent structures, more in keeping with their surroundings, and the areas we used to think were Muslims slums are now transformed. They're getting richer, the white working classes are stagnating. What has our post-faith, socialist society done for us?

If you wanted to find examples of what we remember Britishness to be about; social conservatism, frugality, entrepreneurship, family and self-reliance, you'd find in the Muslim areas first and foremost. It's hardly surprising that young white Brits cast adrift would look upon their community and think that perhaps what they have is better. And in that, we might find some clues as to why so many young find their way into the hands of ISIS - which some view as the resistance to the West imposing its broken ideals on the Middle East.

When Jack Straw concluded "The English are not worth saving as a race”, I'm almost inclined to agree. We are most certainly a culture in decline and I can't help wondering if this is just part of he natural reinvention of our species - as the older societies make way for the up and coming. It's less a question of whether we can be saved as whether we should be saved. To all things there is a time.

In that respect maybe Ukip represents the swansong of the white working class - they who could not adapt to survive. It's a little useless instituting border controls now. It's shutting he stable door after the horse has bolted. If you really wanted to re-energise our own working class, you would start by stripping away the pillars of the state that have paved the way for such spiritual decay.

But taking benefits and entitlements from a Brits is like taking a dummy away from a toddler. It's why I can't help seeing leftists as spoiled children. The sum total of their ambition is to be dependent on the state from cradle to grave. The poverty we have in this country is a poverty of ambition, and starvation of the soul.

Course, this hear above couldn't be any more white middle class navel gazing, leaden with hypocrisy an nihilism, but you have to admit, the assumption that our own ways are necessarily superior must be challenged. Nobody is risking their life to cross the Mediterranean for £36 a week and a stay in a Lancashire B&B. They don't want to be like us. They want to be better than us. For whatever measly sum it costs us in welfare, it will be repaid in a generation when their input generates far more for the economy than any Ukip voting grunter.

Some would blame mass immigration for the state some of our cities are in, but when I look at Liverpool, Newcastle and Bradford, I see great cities stripped of their vitality because any young spirited youth with something to offer the world would rightly bugger off to London. That is what gives London its energy. I don't see how any of these cities would fare worse for having more entrepreneurs and self starters - and with London being prohibitively expensive now, people approaching their forties and going back to the regions should be viewed as a good thing.

As to whether white Brits can adapt to survive is really entirely dependent on us. We can either dismantle the state and all those pillars of dependency or we can just pamper ourselves into extinction. While the Tories are eating way at the NHS (or so the narrative goes) and we see some marginal tinkering with a small part of the welfare budget, it's still universal benefits for pensioners that go untouched - and it is that which underpins our mental dependence on the state, assuming that whatever we do in the prime of our lives, there will be base standard of living for us at the end. It is that which nurtures and underpins our fiscal illiteracy and familial disintegration.

Unless we are prepared to start ruthlessly slaughtering our sacred cows then our society will continue to decline. This is why I support the removal of certain welfare entitlements from the young. I can't imagine anything worse than kids learning the ropes of a system by which they can avoid self-improvement, development and self-reliance. But so long as there is that golden goose if you cross the finish line, there is no incentive to accumulate wealth - only to spend it, and waste it on drugs and alcohol.

Moreover, if we're not prepared to start up businesses and we're not prepared to save and we're not prepared to work overtime - and in some cases, my generation opting out of breeding, we will need immigrants to pay for our gold plated extinction. Ultimately, we are the architects of our own demise and there's no use blaming immigrants. We have no choice now. Ironically, more people means fewer entitlements as local authorities must concentrate on managing the basics (as it is supposed to do), and more people along with a bit more austerity might well be our salvation. By that measure, slamming the doors shut as Ukip proposes, or regressing to more welfarist socialism as Corbyn proposes, is not only economic suicide, it is also our cultural suicide note.

Saturday, 22 August 2015

I will change the record when you do


I was contacted this evening by Kate Hoey MP, sniping at me for my persistent criticism of Ukip and their "four million votes". She is not the first this week and I really do find it tiresome. You see, I actually don't want to be making enemies like this. I don't want the nasty invective of kippers directed at me either. I would rather be doing something more productive, but if we expect to win a referendum we are going to have to reach at least five million swing voters who would never vote Ukip in a billion years. Consequently the very last thing our side needs to do is pitch our message at people who are already going to vote to leave the EU.

This is not rocket science and it distresses me that I have to point this out. How many times does it have to be said?

From Ukip we have see everything from a generic hatred of foreigners through to crass misinterpretation of what is actually happening with migrants - and what effect Brexit will have, through to the weak and hackneyed arguments of the long standing eurosceptic inner circle. We're not reaching any new people with this stuff and as we saw in the election, the more Farage spoke the more the polls indicated people would vote to stay in. His personal approval ratings are minuscule outside of the Ukip cult.

We simply cannot spend the whole campaign talking about immigration. It drags our side onto the racism battlefield where we stand no chance of winning. Mrs Hoey remarked that immigration is a huge issue, and indeed it is, I don't deny it, but while it is a primary concern there is no common agreement on what to do about it - and Ukip dogwhistles are not only wrong, but a dangerous liability.

As wearisome as the immigration debate is, the regulation argument is not a winner either. The free market libertarians of Ukip are spouting total crap about regulation almost to an unhinged degree, when most moderate people recognise the social function of it - and are not nearly as hostile to regulation as Ukip believes. There is a good reason why libertarianism is a niche of a niche in British politics. Ukip MEP's bitching about helicopter safety regulation really is risible.

Similarly, we have also  seen the Guardian exalting the virtues of beach hygiene regulations. As it happens, they are WHO and UNEF global standards but very few are making that case and instead, prefer to talk up a bonfire of regulation which is not going to happen under any circumstances. There are better ways to argue this point.

Mrs Hoey states "I personally put the democratic accountability argument very high on my reasons to leave but for The Labour left it is privatisation TTIP etc, and for Conservatives it is free market. We will need everyone with a reason to want out to be part of the big tent and that means lots of people we don't like but will have to work with!"

Sounds good in theory but look who's in that tent and listen to the noises coming from it. The domestic accountability argument is the more sensible approach as far as it goes, but it's still not a very inspiring message. And while there are many good reasons to oppose TTIP, the left will not put those arguments forward and will instead will bleat about the NHS and pesticides. This marks the subject as a cause célèbre of the (far) left and won't go over too well with the swing vote.

We have to look at the last general election to see where the public mood lies. They voted Tory. There's a clue there. The swing voters were not sold on Miliband, and the zeitgeist is centrist conservatism. What have we got that speaks to that?

Looking at it as it stands we are back in 1975 territory as per the illustration above, with no apparent moderate voices talking up a progressive message. Far from it in fact. What we see from Ukippers is venomous and unbridled hatred of the EU. They don't just want to leave the EU, they hate it with every fibre of their being and would like nothing more than to see it fail. This is toxic.

Whether we leave or not, the EU exists and is not going away, so this referendum is a question of what sort of relationship we want with the EU. Do we want ever closer union, associate membership or completely out? We know our preference, but Cameron will attempt to sell us a third way. While you or I won't be convinced, the same people who believed Cameron had used the veto will believe the fudge on offer is an attractive proposition.

We have to prepare for that and build up a viable and realistic alternative that is more attractive to the swing vote than whatever apparently convincing offer Mr Cameron makes. But we're not doing that. That "big tent" Mrs Hoey speaks of is not a tent I would want to walk into.

Of course, I do not expect any sense from the left - and the influence of the RMT, (they who regularly grind London to a halt for their cosseted train drivers) does not really improve our chances. Moreover, I don't really see Corbyn as an asset should he move his tribe into alignment with our cause. Then, on the right, many of the Tories have opted to sit on their hands and wait. If Better Off Out are anything to go by, we cannot rely on the London set for any inspiration either. It's looking pretty shambolic. Meanwhile, the Ukip cannon fodder will soil the bedsheets at every opportunity.

Being that No is ten points behind in real terms, we have a massive gap to close. We cannot spend the entire campaign running damage control because of the nihilistic wreckers and cyberkippers. The imperative is on their leadership to up their game.

It is therefore tiresome and more than a little bit offensive that people bring their complaints to me when as far as I can see, our little outfit is the only one giving more than a nanosecond's thought as to how we actually win this. This is cause and effect here. If I complain at Ukip's inadequacy, the way to stop that is for Ukip to pause and address it's own shortcomings.

If eurosceptics would rather I shut up and not point out the flaws in strategy and the wilful factual errors promoted by Ukip then I am afraid I can't accommodate them. Public and media scrutiny of us will be more intense than even in a general election, and now is the time for this rabble to spend a little less time banging on about immigration and more time building a case that reaches new ears. One that is pertinent to the question Cameron will present. Until it does, Ukip cannot expect an easy ride from me. The short of it is, I will change the record when you do.

We can be more agile outside the EU

Why we need to leave the EU can be expressed very simply: Imagine we want a free trade deal with Country X because it has industries that supply us with parts for our vehicle assembly lines. It should be as simple as having a summit and hammering out an agreement. But we have no independent authority to act on trade. So we ask the EU to arrange it.

But the EU says it wants a deep and comprehensive agreement covering multiple industries. Denmark doesn't have a mass automotive industry but they must be consulted on that trade agreement because it makes cheese. Country X doesn't want Danish cheese for some reason, so it proposes a compromise that then has to be referred to all 28 member states. Denmark then doesn't agree, but is overruled. But then Italy wants concessions from Country X because the compromise hurts its cheese industry - so there are further negotiations.

In round two everyone is agreed, but late lobbying means that because the Polish sausage industry suffers from a labelling issue and has successfully lobbied to vote down the package.

It goes back to square one and we spend a few more years negotiating - when all we actually wanted was an agreement that Country X would comply with an international standard in the production of wheel bolts so we could allow imports.

The bottom line is that unbundled "trade deals" - or mutual recognition agreements (ie agreeing to accept that Country X's regulatory standards are as good as our own) happen a lot faster and can be enacted sooner than the EU's insistence on domineering trade deal that often include cultural and political reforms as part of the EU's own quasi-imperialist agenda.

What could have been done and dusted inside a year ends up taking a decade - and we are powerless to speed that up. Leaving the EU would mean we could open up new markets by a process of unbundling, without insisting on more sweeping and invasive reforms.

The EU does it because it wants everyone to think as the EU does - with it's quasi-progressive social agenda. The fact is, Western liberal values cannot be imposed on Africa. We arrived at those values by way of being a first world wealthy country. So if we want liberal progressivism in Africa then we do it by way of making them richer - which independent trade will do far sooner and it will be lasting and genuine.

That is real global participation. The EU is just playing at it and it puts it's own cultural agenda above the needs of our domestic trade. We can be more agile and do more outside the EU and we can show them how it is done. If we want to advance the ideals of liberal progressivism and thus solve the immigration crisis, then we will do more by exchanging goods and dredging shipping channels than waiting around for the EU to modernise. The EU is locked into 1970's thinking and simply isn't fit for the modern globalised, internet connected world.

Innocent, but proven guilty


Richard Reed, founder of Innocent Smoothies, has been on the telly exalting the virtues of the EU regulations he must comply with, also saying such standards should be extended to other countries so he can trade with them. So I just reminded him on Twitter that those regulations are not made by the EU and are in fact made by Codex Alimentarius Commission on trading quality foods - which is a global organisation and many non-EU states are members and comply with these global agreements. I was also keen to point out that the EU is not the single market. But he knows all this cos he's a right clever corporate CEO innit??

Course, those of you who read this blog and actually pay attention to it already know this, but that's not the point of this post. This rather reinforces the point that bleating about costly red tape is not a winning argument. After all, this guy, while intensely irritating, has made a billion quid from scratch and it hasn't stopped him. Moreover, he has the very reasonable view that regulation is in the common good and this successful chap, being the sort of wafty know-nothing that he is, is quite similar to the sort of people we will have to convince to win a referendum. To the uninitiated, his message is far more appealing than a Ukip grunt-a-thon.

The way to win is to take the high ground from him by knowing more than he does. We don't need to get involved in bickering about whether regulation is a bad thing or not. We can walk right around that argument and slap them with the cold truth that they simply do no know the first thing about it.

On those ground the man is a sitting duck. The EU is not the single market. We don't need to be in a political union to trade with the EU and the EU is not the top table either. The EU is a redundant middleman. Reed is also unaware that free movement is EEA, not EU too. There is no reason why Brexit means an end to free movement - and most Brexit solutions acknowledge this.

Expanding the harmonisation globally as a he advocates just means persuading other nations to sign up to UNECE and Codex - and they don't need to be in the EU to obtain a mutual recognition agreement. Australia has that. We're better placed to achieve this by having an independent trade policy because the EU is slow to reach agreements. The EU is obsessed with deep and comprehensive agreements rather than more pragmatic unbundling, which is faster and easier to achieve.

In short, this man knows absolutely nothing about what the EU is, where regulation starts life or what facilitates trade. An embarrassing parade of ignorance - and it does show why we shouldn't pay any attention to these know-nothing CEO's mouthing off about the EU.

The point, however, is for Eurosceptics to up their game. We don't need to bicker about volumes of trade or the cost of regulation. If we do, people will tune it out, as they have with the climate change debate. It's a debate we can't win. We can instead show our vision of an independent Britain, deploying more modern trade practices, and being more agile on the global stage instead of waiting for the lumbering old EU. We can open up markets faster than they can.

Moreover, if Codex rules that Reed's products cannot be classified as smoothies (for such has been known to happen), Mr Reed can lobby Westminster to say no (instead of wasting our time). That is a clear indication of increased influence, where the result is better regulation - and in the face of that, Mr Reed then looks like the clueless luddite that he is. His smoothies may be innocent, be he himself is naive. 

Let's do the timewarp again!!


It's not just Ukip who test my patience. I've been looking at all the eurosceptic groups on Facebook and Twitter and frankly, these people are off their trolley. We see the sort of nonsense illustrated quite regularly, but the groups who should know better clearly don't. The Freedom Association and Better Off Out bunch are every bit as bad. And we need to sort this out. Let's take a look at their campaign message:

1. Freedom to make stronger trade deals with other nations.

Ok, super. What do those trade deals look like? What use is a trade deal with a dilapidated Commonwealth state that hasn't dredged it's ports for fifteen years? That hasn't got any refrigerated storage and has collapsing roads? That's going to take a lot of international development aid. Are we alone going to pay for this?

2. Freedom to spend UK resources presently through EU membership in the UK to the advantage of our citizens.

This is the membership fee riff isn't it? So we're going to quit the EU and end all intergovernmental programmes and not participate in Horizon 2020, Erasmus nor contribute to the ESA or the Single European Sky? The UK may actually want to participate in interregional programmes under the EU's Regional Policy and take part in the activities of EU agencies. The aim of the 'no' campaign is to detach the UK from EU political integration - not to isolate us from the economic and social life of the continent. The savings might well be small. This lot haven't thought about it.

3. Freedom to control our national borders.


On your bike sunshine. Not gonna happen. Free movement will always be conditional of single market access - and eurosceptics have been making promises that such will remain. Business wants it, it's good for the economy and it isn't the cause of our immigration woes. The problem with with our asylum laws - of which the EU is very little to do with it. As to non-Eu immigration - we already have complete control.

4. Freedom to restore Britain’s special legal system.

Restore it you say? I missed the time when it was good. But yes, let's talk about habeas corpus and all the other guff because the public knows what that means. Not.

5. Freedom to deregulate the EU’s costly mass of laws.

Silly kipperish drivel. This is the libertarian influence. There is a circle of hell reserved especially for these people because they really should know better. Regulation is what makes the world turn. Markets would not function without it. The clue is in the word - keeping things regular. And when you have a continent wide market of goods and services (a good thing) it really helps to have standardisation, commonality and compatibility of systems.

When negotiating such packages it naturally means that to reach agreements there must be compromises in the common good. Some nations won't have to do very much to meet standards (which tends to be us since we are a first world economy) but others will have to invest to raise standards. And yes that costs money.

To take the position of "costly red tape" is absurd. The reason being that irregular supply chains within compatible systems and different inspection regimes are massively more expensive. This is why we have mutual recognition of common standards.

If you think regulatory compliance is expensive, see how expensive it is when you ship a container load of perishable goods to a country that doesn't have the same inspection regime or different regulatory frameworks.

Moreover, when it comes to standards of goods, these are essential. We have agreements with China for production of electrical goods. It serves a function to ensure goods are produced to a particular standard so they are not dumped by the UK market. Why do we want to import food blenders that will catch fire?

Additionally, libertarians talk about capitalism driving innovation. Very often it doesn't. If a producer can continue producing the same thing for years without having to upgrade or invest then they will. Regulatory constraints however can drive investment and innovation. For instance energy consumption in appliances. It is ONLY because of global agreements that new washing machines are required to use less energy. Is this Malthusian eco-madness? No. It means customers pay less for their energy and we need to build fewer power stations. Ok so you might pay a little bit more for it but you save over time on your energy bills.

But this is a bone of contention for certain libertarians. How dare they meddle with our hoovers and washing machines and lightbulbs? WE DEMAND THE FREEDOM TO HAVE INEFFICIENT ELECTRICAL APPLIANCES!!!

Sounds silly doesn't it? That's because it is silly and crass. Have these people heard themselves? Most normal people don't particularly have an opinion on such things but most are reasonable about it. The only people who shriek about it are the Daily Express and The Daily Mail. But they are the people who will vote to leave the EU anyway, So where is the value in pitching the message at them? Is anyone really going to go to the barricades over the energy efficiency rating of their hoover or the diameter of manholes or the VHF frequency of maritime rescue equipment? Good god, get a grip!!!

Course, because I point out that regulation is part and parcel of modernity, makes me public enemy number one. If we leave the EU there will be no bonfire of regulation and we wouldn't want to. But eurosceptics tell me this is all too complicated and voters only respond to simple messages. This is missing the point.

Voters are only exposed to short and simple messages, but they themselves are not entirely stupid. In the end they will vote on instinct as to who has the more credible message. Obsessing over regulation and complaining about food standards might be a preoccupation of dingbat libertarians, but mostly, people could not give a tinkers damn. I sure as hell don't.

Moreover, the Yes campaign will see us coming if we take that line. This is a thirty year old argument they are prepared for and know how to argue. They can make eurosceptics look ridiculous for arguing against things like clean air regulation - and really I won't lift a finger to dig them out of that hole because they ARE in fact ridiculous.

6. Freedom to make major savings for British consumers.

By revoking those pesky global agreements on washing machine efficiency, consumers save £10 on their next washing machine. Be still my beating heart. MAN THE BARRICADES!!! BREXIT NOW!!!

7. Freedom to improve the British economy and generate more jobs.

Shake the magic money tree and wave that magic wand.

8. Freedom to regenerate Britain’s fisheries.

Yes, let's make a big deal of that. Let's jump into our time machines back to 1989 when people gave a shit about fishing.

9. Freedom to save the NHS from EU threats to undermine it by harmonising healthcare across the EU, and to reduce welfare payments to non-UK EU citizens.


Harmonising healthcare would be just awful wouldn't it? Can you imagine the horrors being able to transfer medical records at the click of a button to a foreign hospital in an emergency? Can you imagine the confusion it would sow by having a standard continental agreement on the labelling of medicines? The bastards. Oh, and we already solved that benefits problem by getting rid of most of them. You have a problem with that? I don't.

10. Freedom to restore British customs and traditions.

Because fish and chips and morris dancing are banned by the EU? I don't even know what this means. And nor do the moderate swing voters. When the swing vote for this referendum tends to be the moderate middle, and a lot younger than the eurosceptic demographic, why would you bleat on about imperial weights and measures to people who have only ever used metric and can't see the value in it. Pensioners wiffling on about how they used to pay two shillings and sixpence for a pound of stoats ears is really not an inspiring message.

Conclusion:

All the leading eurosceptic groups are trapped in a timewarp - caught up in 30 year old arguments weaved into a long established narrative. Kids, it's boring. I'm bored of it - the public is well versed in these arguments and they don't just don't inspire - and that's why people won't touch the EU issue with a barge pole. It's a stagnant debate and these talking points have been around for as long as I can remember. The Yes campaign knows them as well as we do, the world has moved on, the issues have changed, and the challenges are different.

What we see above is an isolationist message, not all that far removed from Ukip's and it's largely predicated on wishful thinking and turning the clock back. It's also infused with a dash of the dogmatic and obsolete libertarian tract - fantastical nonsense that assumes we can just pick and choose which global standards we comply with. I can drive a horse and cart through every single argument the No campaign has and if I can, the Yes campaign will make mincemeat out of them. If this is what we're going to war with, we might as well run straight into the machine guns.

Oh sorry, is this me not building bridges and co-operating? Am I not building a consensus? I am such a meanie aren't I?

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Simplifying the message


I've decided to back down and do as I'm told. Clearly writing about barriers to trade and technical options for leaving the EU is wasted effort - and according to people what knows better than me, I should be pitching the message at people who already want to leave the EU, because that's how we win the referendum. That's also how I'll get millions and billions of hits and a job at Breitbart. So here goes... 

Those filthy foreigners with aids are terrible aren't they? Blagging their way through the channel tunnel for expensive treatment. They could at least come in banana boats like the last lot. After all there's more room on them now bananas are straight thanks to EU meddling. And have you seen those new EU helicopter safety regulations? Meddling Brussels bureaucrats telling OUR helicopter pilots to use engine monitoring equipment to prevent fires. This is how the West dies.

Not only that they want to put warning labels on household chemicals. Can you imagine it? I mean, who actually dreams this stuff up? Have they nothing better to do?

Those meddling bureaucrats sitting in Brussels, collecting their fat paychecks never meet real people so they just sit around thinking of ways to boss the plebs around. We can't afford this anymore. Those stupid regulations hurt small businesses. I mean why would you want to test your fire alarms for goodness sake? It's not like court settlements cost anything if you kill someone in the work place. It's just a few quid innit?

If we left the EU we could scrap the requirement to test electrical goods. Sure, it would mean we have to buy more fire engines and employ more firefighters, but they would be British jobs for British workers and we could have nice shiny red British fire engines - none of that foreign muck.

We could also create lots and lots of jobs by controlling our borders. We'd create thousands of jobs in the Home Office, processing applications for Airbus workers who go on engineering secondments. It would be a big boost to the airline industry too, running daily flights deporting all those asylum seekers. That creates more demand for Airbus.

Course if we left the EU, we could start up our own airline industry and tell those French traitors at Airbus to sling their hook. We could also get rid of human rights and bring back the death penalty for those LibLabCon quislings and the war criminal Tony Blair.

After that we wouldn't be spending money on expenses for those greedy MEPs and instead we could hire a million new nurses and a million new teachers and cut taxes by fifty per cent. We could open up new trade with Commonwealth countries too. Not the ones with darkies obviously. We'll make sure we get immigrants of the right quality from the USA, Canada, New Zealand and Australia. Good wholesome English speaking white people. We might take a few Huns and Frogs too. Diversity is good.

As to foreign aid, we don't need to be fixing ports and roads for the spear chuckers. What good is that? Let them fix their own stuff. We can use the money on a sovereign wealth fund and buy a thousand new Tornados to bomb ISIS with. We need to spend billions and billions more on defence and close all the mosques so we can keep our British bacon sandwiches. We'll be overtaken by Muslims if we don't leave the EU. Only Prime Minister Farage can stop them.

We don't need to pander to these latte sipping establishment types and we don't need the liberal intelligentsia telling us what to do. We don't need them to win a referendum either. No siree. Nigel proved it by winning millions and millions of votes in the election and keeping Carswell in a job.

Nevermind them North boys either. We could leave the EU tomorrow if we wanted. We can just rip up all the treaties and brick up the channel tunnel - and by this time next year we will be the richest nation on earth - especially after we scrap all the regulations. The Norths are just making it complicated because they are secretly EU quisling fifth-columnist stooges paid for by the Tories. It's time to say no to the Muslimists, the bureaucrats and the frogs.

The survival of the West depends on leaving the EU and if you don't vote No, you hate Britain, you're a traitor, and you deserve to be living under Sharia law.


Can we discuss rates now Mr Kassam? 

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

A word about websites


The Tory group "Conservatives For Britain" have just launched their website. I hate it. When I have a day job, I'm a web developer. I am solely responsible for www.eureferendum.com. It is an engine of my own creation developed over a few years. Now anyone who's good at it will poke massive holes in some of the coding (hey, I didn't say I was good at it) and the bits that are supposed to make it work on a mobile phone don't quite work as they should. That said, it's still better in most respects.

If you look at a single blog post on that Tory website, you'll see that no attention has been given to how the reader receives it. The long stringy sentences stretch across the screen with no regard to paragraphs. What it actually tells us about them is that do don't really care about how it is received or whether anybody will read it. It exists not as a tool of communication but to serve the vanity and egos of the people it promotes. The Business for Britain website is similarly awful, perhaps using the same engine. Scrolling headlines is soooo 1996 for goodness sake.

Similarly, you could take a look at The Know website, which from a web technology perspective is absolutely phenomenal. Whoever dveloped that is a master and I would kill to have those skill. But it is still a really shitty website as far as the actual user is concerned. This is really typical of my industry in that websites serve to wow the people who commission them rather than to do an actual job.

Straight off the bat, none of these websites tell me anything I want to know and the navigation is incomprehensible. I have long argued that the straight up blog format is the way to go for any political website. It shows up straight away that there is new content, that it's regularly updated and there is a reason for a repeat visit.

This is something even Ukip managed to get right. Ok, fine, so it took ten years of shouting at them before they finally arrived at the right format, and they still populate it with mindwarping drivel due to the lack of a communications strategy, but it still does a better job in engaging the reader.

Ultimately this referendum will be a battle fought on the web. We will see a number of vanity groups with start up websites - all of which may have an initial wow factor that might impress donors and perhaps the electoral commission, but lack any kind of authenticity and pay no thought to adding value to the debate and have no strategy behind them. Seriously, what does it matter if the website works on all the latest handheld gadgets if there's nothing on them worth reading? Moreover, does Conservatives For Britain really think genuine eurosceptics give a tinkers damn what Boris Johnson thinks? Does anybody?

The opposition is just as as bad in this regard - but we cannot afford to be. In this campaign, it is our side that has the upper hand on the web as we have grassroots authenticity. Consequently any web resources must be geared for the reader, and not the vanity of the owner. Thus far, I haven't seen any eurosceptic organisations who have their act together in this regard. A website without a strategy is a waste of money and a website that doesn't speak to the reader, speaks to nobody.

It comes as no surprise that the Tory outfits care nothing for those who would visit their websites, but for the rest of us, we have a job to do.

About that EU budget contribution...

Since the message isn't sinking in, I'll make this a short post. Looking at Twitter, Brexiteers are making some stupid unforced errors. Some in the No campaign keep making fantastical claims as to what we could spend our EU budget contributions on. Ukip thinks we can spend it on schools and hospitals. Business for Britain asserts that the cost of Britain’s membership could provide every UK household with an extra £933 a year. This is absurd.

There is a logical inconsistency here. One recurring argument the Yes campaign makes is that Brexit leads to the disintegration of academic co-operation. We know this isn't true because Norway etc are participants in Erasmus and Horizon 2020. But that does not come without making some contribution to the EU budget. Similarly we are promising no disruption to trade by way of single market access. Be it the Norway option or the Swiss option, we still end up participating in EU programmes, and we still are still involved in the creation of single market rules - which is not an inexpensive activity.

Additionally, there will be many areas of administrative and technical cooperation which all parties will want to continue. Some of the more high profile ones include Europol and Eurocontrol, the latter taking in the development of the Single European Sky.

There is also the question of continued membership of intergovernmental bodies such as the European Space Agency, and whether the UK will want to run with projects such as the Galileo global positioning system, in which it has a heavy financial investment. The UK may also want to participate in interregional programmes under the EU's Regional Policy and take part in the activities of EU agencies.

More than this, as members we have made future commitments and we have signed contracts and leases going into well beyond 2025. We have yet to define the terms of withdrawal, but there is no possibility of it being free of cost - and we have yet to decide the programmes in which we will continue participation. 

In short, we cannot on the one hand be making reassurances of continuity of market access and at the same time say we're going to spend the money in other ways. Do we expect all future co-operation to come for free? That is the subtext of our message presently. If we want to win we are going to need grown up and rational arguments and if our side lacks economic credibility then there is no chance of leaving the EU. 

It's not about cost either. If Brexit turned out to be a bit more expensive or the about same, would we still want to leave? Of course we would, because it's not wholly an economic argument. It's about our place in the world and it's about democracy. If it's about the price of bread then we might as well pack up now. It's not a credible argument and in reality we can't say how much it would save. Moreover, some of our contributions are worth the money and not everything about the EU is bad. Blind and irrational loathing of the EU gets us nowhere. It's time to get a grip. Now.

Trees that don't bend with the wind, won't last the storm


One thing we have seen in preliminary skirmishes on social media is that a lot of energy can be wasted on futile and often unwinnable arguments. At best you can win a debate hands down to zero effect or you can argue to a stalemate where it becomes just a battle of egos competing to have the last word - by which time nobody is paying attention. That's largely how social media works.

Here we reach something of a paradox in that we have long said the details are important, but in arguing for Brexit we should not get bogged down in details. All clear? No. Not really. The point is that we need to be aware of the details so as to be able to see the traps as they are set for us and not walk right into them. Instead we have multiple fallback positions whereby we are not forced to throw our entire resources defending any single case. The only battle we need win is the reassurance that trade will continue unaffected in the event of Brexit and that single market access is assured.

There are many means at our disposal, including the Norway option (EEA/Efta), the Swiss option or the more risky WTO option. All of them have respective merits but none represent a wholly satisfactory solution.

The Yes campaign will spend some considerable effort poking holes in such options. There is nothing to be gained by expending energy arguing the toss. Anyone who wants to have the argument with you has probably made up their own minds and are not likely to be persuaded. There is no value in wasting your own time in this way. It's easier to acknowledge that each of the options does have inherent flaws. We only advocate one or other solution as an interim off the shelf solution in order to retain single market access. Again we underscore the point that Brexit is a process, not an event and there is a long road to travel before we arrive at the destination of full Independence. There are stops along the way and any one option is largely the path of least resistance.

Our own view is that the Norway Option is the mode most likely to succeed in preliminary negotiations but it is unlikely the No campaign will ever reach full agreement in this regard. But then it doesn't matter. It really doesn't matter. From such a position we can then begin to design our path to full Independence. We fully admit that budget contributions will not be significantly reduced, nor do we see any immediate change in immigration policy. It does solve the immediate problem of leaving the EU. As a first step, that is significant in and of itself.

That said, as much as a energy draining debate around the respective merits of each option, it's important not to be too invested in any single option because we do not know, and won't know until the very last phase of the referendum campaign what Cameron's "renegotiation" will look like.

By reading the runes, it is more likely that a new treaty will be put forward in place of treaty revisions which will be sold as a new settlement for Britain. Effectively it will formalise the "two speed Europe". We expect that it will include some concessions to both Norway and Switzerland bringing them and us into a form of associate membership and may well abolish the EEA, rendering the Efta solution redundant. Should the No campaign be over invested in any single solution, the entire case we make folds and the rug is pulled from under us.

In this eventuality we could adopt the processes and strategies used by the Australian government in securing its trade relations with the EU. Taken from 1997, it signed a joint declaration on EU-Australian relations which was followed two years later by a Mutual Recognition Agreement (MRA). Thus, an informal, unilateral declaration was anchored by the MRA, as a formal treaty.

The scope exists for the UK to do likewise, making a commitment to match EU trade harmonisation laws by way of a unilateral declaration, based on the current EEA acquis. This would not require the approval of EU member states. The UK would then be in a very strong position then to insist in access to Single Market, invoking WTO non-discrimination rules, as it would be maintaining regulatory convergence.

Completing the process, the UK would then negotiate an MRA. To this could then be appended an agreement on tariffs plus a bilateral agreement on programme participation, and there is an almost exact equivalence with EEA Agreement. Carried out under the aegis of Article 50, the negotiations would be given a formal framework. As long as the UK did not seek access to the Market on better terms than were available to a full member, there would seem to be no serious obstacles to concluding a full agreement.

It must still be reiterated than even this in itself is not the final destination. All this means is that trade need not be affected while giving us the freedom to pursue other trade avenues.If we hold fast that any one single solution is the destination then we are pitching half measures against the full formalised EU settlement which is not an argument we can win. The emphasis must be made that from such a position we are better able to influence not only single market rules but global trade rules by way of having independent powers of veto and be more agile by taking a more modern and pragmatic approach to trade agreements.

In this respect we can formulate proposals well outside the the stagnate debates surrounding the options set out in the narrow parameters of the Brexit debate - which the Yes campaign will not be intellectually equipped to argue against. The strategy must be to bypass the arguments they are prepared for. Whichever option we choose, by admitting the flaws and that there are further avenues available to us, we can skirt around the pointless and boring arguments that don't get us anywhere. The bottom line is that each option ensures continuity of trade and irrespective of the nitty gritty, the Yes campaign cannot deny that. The pitfalls are compensated for by the increased global influence and the new markets we open up. More work needs to be done to identify what those are and how we do that, but that is our starting point, rather than learning the talking points off by heart.

If we can do this and avoid the obvious traps, the Yes campaign arguments will crumble. They have stock answers to predictable engagements. So let's not give them what they are expecting.

Brexit: The task ahead


Returning to the subject of the EU referendum, there is a certain dishonesty in the Yes campaign's efforts thus far in attempting to frame the referendum as a liberals vs Ukip battle. That's actually quite astute politics because it's a battle Ukip would lose every single time. But it need not be this way. If at any point the No campaign gets it's act together, it should be easy to demonstrate that the EU, by way of it's very broken asylum policy, is not some liberal paradise but is in fact an extension of the Ukip protectionist fortress mentality - writ large for the whole continent. But we'll have to go one further than that if we want to win.

The Yes campaign seeks to sow confusion in terms of what Brexit actually looks like. Their aim is to present Brexit as a leap into the dark where nobody knows what will happen, thus summoning the status quo effect in the final vote. Because no mainstream sceptic organisation has yet endorsed a Brexit plan, it is easy for them to deny the existence of one. That is our Achilles heel.

Of course readers of this blog will know we have put some considerable effort into producing such a plan but have yet to cut through the noise of the self-serving egos presently jockeying for position at the head of the table. We expect this to be resolved in due course one way or another. We believe the message is getting through. There are games at play already.

First and foremost the Yes campaign intends to spread doubt and confusion about the possible alternatives. We have seen this in action already. We were in early after the general election in promoting the Norway option as one option among many - but even we acknowledged it is no silver bullet. Central to our message is that the options on offer are only the foundation of a process.

The critical part of our message being that whichever option we suggest, be it Norway, Switzerland or the WTO option, is far from ideal - but none are proposed as the final destination. We insist that Brexit is a process, of which leaving the EU, the political entity, is only really the start.

We face something of an uphill battle in that the Yes campaign need only assert the usual FUD, however we have to communicate some fairly complex ideas in a campaign environment where attention spans are short. Just lodging the Norway option, and the notion that the EU is not the single market in the eurosceptic consciousness is something of a coup on our part. It's progress at least. It means that the more rational among us know that we're not going to be slamming any borders shut any time soon.

In establishing that Brexit is a process - and the alternatives are interim solutions, we can leave the Yes campaign to bicker about these options and we can admit to their shortcomings without hesitation. Defending one option against the EU as an idea is a debate we don't need to have and probably cannot win.

We believe - largely as a result of promises made during the referendum campaign - there will be an absolute requirement to continue participation in the EU's Single Market for the short to medium term. The risks of leaving the EU largely pertain to single market access and without it the case for Brexit is a non-starter for British business.

Our side is also making arguments that participation in academic and research programmes will also continue along with continued involvement in other EU cooperative activities. That means we must avoid any spurious assumptions about our budget contributions. Vast savings are by no means guaranteed and there will be no shopping spree with any Brexit dividend. The Yes campaign can quite easily demonstrate that our budget contribution is not as large as it is perceived.

We also need to show that we will not undergo a huge political and diplomatic undertaking to be marginally worse off than before. Initially, as a means of ending our full membership of the EU, we see value in rejoining the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and trading with the remaining EU member states through the European Economic Area (EEA). In what is a multi-layer fallback strategy, alternatives are available if this option does not prove viable. The situation is fluid and much depends on what Cameron presents at the last minute. It will shape many of the arguments we make - thus we must prepare for any eventuality.

As the adage goes, no plan of battle ever survives first contact with the enemy - and we should prepare for the possibility that we will lose some arguments and be ready to follow a different path where that be so. As Sun Tzu has it "As Military tactics are like unto water; for water in its natural course runs away from high places and hastens downwards... Water shapes its course according to the nature of the ground over which it flows; the soldier works out his victory in relation to the foe whom he is facing. Therefore, just as water retains no constant shape, so in warfare there are no constant conditions. He who can modify his tactics in relation to his opponent and thereby succeed in winning, may be called a heaven-born captain."

That is the mentality we must adopt - with credible, rational and pragmatic answers. If we make grand promises built on intellectual sand, without the capacity to adapt, we will be shot down in flames. Ukip's lacklustre election campaign showed us just how dangerous it is not to have policies and answers in advance of the battle. Ultimately we're not going to win this by playing Top Trumps with facts and figures, and political realities dampen many eurosceptic assumptions about what Brexit can achieve. The actual leaving of the EU is only stage one in a long programme of democratic reforms. That is what we must sell.

To my mind we need to show that the EU is a stunted, obsolete vision and that we can achieve better by being more nimble and more responsive on the global stage without being held back by procrastination and delay. Co-operation is good but compromise too often means everybody loses.

We'll more likely win this with a metropolitan liberal vision than the grumpy old man act that we get from Ukip. We will need to inspire and offer an incentive, but also a roadmap. That is not going to be easy to communicate, but that is the task in front of us.

We must be prepared to surprise and wrongfoot the opposition at every turn and let them waste their resources rebutting arguments we're not actually making. Let them be the ones to look irrelevant. This is of course going to require some considerable soul searching from certain actors in the No camp. It will require a sea change in eurosceptic attitudes to more or less everything. We can take the high ground from them and make the opposition look like the dinosaurs but only if we take the initiative now.

Central to this strategy, we must now lobby hard for those who have influence to up their game, change the old eurosceptic record, and push for certain outfits to stop banging on about immigration. It's a pity that we must fight our own side first, but we must if we expect to win this. It's the mushy middle we need to win over - and we need to persuade people who would never vote Ukip in a billion years. This is not going to be easy.

Monday, 17 August 2015

The Middle East conflict has jumped the shark and the left needs to move on

I've just seen a clip of Jeremy Dustbin defending his his questionable associations. I believe he has no direct associations with such people - but when you're a moonbat leftist, obsessed with the Israeli-Palestine issue, you will find yourself sharing platforms with foaming anti-semites and holocaust deniers. It has long been a cause célèbre of the left and they have never shown good judgement in this regard, often toadying up to some really quite repulsive individuals.

The matter is so long established as a flashpoint for virtue signalling that it is no longer about the original conflict of 67. It's about maintaining a victim group as political football on the world stage for their own selfish ends. I don't honestly think your average leftist gives a single shit about Palestinains. It's just one of those causes a good little leftist subscribes to in order to receive a free Che Guevara t-shirt.

There was a time when I took more than a passing interest in the issue in that understanding the conflict is central to understanding some of our own domestic political divisions, but eventually you work out that this issue is kept alive as a political figleaf for Islamism and the continued demonisation of Jews. And I can sort of see why the left hate Jews. They're a bunch of people who rejected victimhood and built something worth preserving.

Asked if I give a tinkers damn now, I'd say no. I think the fastest resolution to it is for Western hacks and moralists to butt out of it. At this point, I genuinely couldn't care less. In the final analysis, Israel is going to have to open the borders to Gaza eventually. It probably will mean the end of Israel as a solely Jewish state - and it probably won't survive because a people who are culturally trained from birth to be victims are never going to be able to build or maintain. It will just be another in a long list of Middle East failed states - and when it's gone, the despotic Arab nations won't have anything to blame for their own pisspoor governance.

I don't see the Israelis giving up without a fight though. They will carry on until it reaches critical mass. As to whether I have any sympathy left for anybody is more complex. Israel has been accused of everything under the sun for so long that they probably figure there is nothing left to lose but to do that which it is accused. Operation Protective Edge was the last drop of my patience. Making thousands homeless and lobbing artillery to take out $40 rocket site not even in range of residential areas is where I seriously stop giving a monkeys, and perhaps think it's just another shithole middle eastern dump run by religious zealots. Nothing out of the ordinary.

From here on in I just refuse to have an opinion on it and think everyone else should perhaps follow suit. Let them get on with it. By climbing aboard the Palestine bandwagon for what is a dismal ethno-nationalist spat long past its sell by date, politicians are telling me that their political agenda is trapped in the past - obsessed with the oldest of hatreds, and geared toward an issue that is largely irrelevant to much more deserving and urgent humanitarian questions. That makes me question their intelligence and integrity. But then to be a leftist you have to have neither to begin with.

How national narratives ensure our loyalty to the bitter end

Article submission for Socialist Factor.

The editor of this vessel asked me to dwell on the subject of propaganda and creation of false heroes for this month’s issue, perhaps illustrating how some underrated figures in British political history worthy of office were buried under a blitzkrieg of propaganda. Now that’s a tough one. It hinges on the notion of “worthy of office”. I can't say any leap to mind.

For sure we’ve had our share of celebrities and demagogues and figures posing as men of the people, but such men, while noteworthy, could not be said to be worthy of office. For starters, one does not make an impression on the British public without first casting oneself as the crusading outsider. Such an underdog position attracts a certain political romanticism that mainstream politicians try to mimic but could never take as their own.

Such men (and women) tend to be populists from outside the political orthodoxy and depend upon coalitions of the disenfranchised, the left behind and the ignored. To harness that as a movement depends upon there being sufficiently large enough numbers to threaten the establishment. In a first world country like Britain, an establishment regime must be particularly odious for the public to overthrow the deeply entrenched ruling class. It has happened before with the rise of the Chartists, but as a rule, we Brits are allergic to radical change and it is we who bury the demagogues, not the state.

The British system tends to be hugely resilient to demagoguery. The system has inherent safeguards to marginalise them. There have been some colourful licensed dissidents over the years, ie Powell, Galloway, Farage and Corbyn, but none whom you would ever consider fit for office. Our First Past The Post voting system ensures that surge politics has no power without a sustained grievance and a genuine majority. That's why British politics is so inherently stable.

There are however occasions when the establishment finds cause to worry. We are presently looking at a fragmentation across the country with the post-industrial north becoming ever more alienated from London culture, and the same dynamic manifests in the Scottish independence movement. A settlement that that has existed for hundreds of years is creaking and facing probing attacks from all quarters. There is a genuine fear that any significant change would be the catalyst for a more radical break-up of the nation as we know it. This prompts the full weight of the establishment to be thrown at preserving the status quo – seeing off demands for Scottish independence and calls to leave the European Union.

Thus it is not people who get buried by propaganda, but ideas. People tend to be flawed and become their own undoing. Rather than suppressing individuals, we tend to give them enough rope to hang themselves. What better way to take down a galactic ego such as Nigel Farage, leader of the UK Independence Party (UKIP), than to give him all the air time he could possibly want? The more he speaks, the more the polls indicate that Brits would vote to stay in the EU. If you wanted to design a false flag operation it would look a lot like Ukip, whose campaigning drifts into Monty Python territory at times.

This is how Ukip was neutralised in the general elections – and we will see the same game in play when it comes to the EU referendum. The BBC, our state broadcaster, will choose all of the very worst spokesmen for the Brexit cause, including Mr Farage. It’s the oldest trick in the book. It’s how the establishment managed to win the 1975 referendum.

In this respect the BBC is not the mouthpiece of the government as many other state broadcasters are. It is the guardian of the status quo. And it’s very good at it. It expertly utilises selection bias and bias by omission. Noam Chomsky described it best when he said “The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum”.

So often we find public discourse depressingly cornered into a very narrow set of talking points where the media will deliberately exclude any factors which cannot easily be expressed by way of a soundbite - and certainly not if an argument opens up a new spectrum of debate they are not equipped to quash.

It is the mechanisms of state that primarily serve to fend off political change and ultimately enslave us. It’s not just the state broadcaster either. We have a National Health Service where securing the health of the nation is actually its secondary purpose. Its primary purpose is to maintain the illusion that the people need their government more than their government needs them. It is often said that the NHS is our national religion - the sacred cow that is above all criticism. Nothing has people more willing to pay extraordinary taxes like the notion that we would be reduced to Dickensian poverty and sickness were it not for the munificence of the state.

The great genius of the British system is to engineer dependency - and it’s been that way for all of time. Legend has it that the upperclassmen with their Oxford cut accents came to the rescue of the masses by leaping into their Spitfires and fending off the evil Hun invaders. Churchill called them “The Few” – a myth that lives on even today. Go to any air show or commemorative event in the UK and you will see a Lancaster bomber with accompanying WW2 fighters of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight. There are no better cared for or worshipped aircraft on the planet. But at the time of the Battle of Britain, plans to invade England existed only in the imagination of propagandists.

There were no German factories mass producing landing craft and amphibious tanks, nor were there any large scale beach landing exercises. Operation Sealion was a political construct promoted by the Nazis, but also by Churchill who needed to manufacture an existential threat, not only to send a message to America, but to galvanise domestic support for the war. Tony Blair isn’t the only British Prime Minister to talk up threats for political gain.

Rightly, the public remembered well the horrors of the Somme and the great sacrifices asked of them in the First World War. The public mood was very much “what’s in it for us to go through all this again?”

It is here in history that we saw the first drafts of political promises such as a National Health Service and homes fit for heroes. The aristocratic elite were living on borrowed time unless they could come up with come incentives. After all, it is they who had the most to lose: - power. The notion that we fought that war for freedom of speech and a noble crusade against fascism is something of a romantic fantasy. Free speech was only notional and our media was tightly controlled even before the war. It was largely self-censorship by media barons close to the government.

This was the great British propaganda victory. The result of the war defined the popular perception of who we are and what we stand for - and cemented the idea that in times of peril, we could depend on our betters for our salvation - both in deadly combat in the skies above London - and for shelter and sustenance in the years that followed. This is the power of narrative.

Fast forward to today and the NHS, social housing and the BBC are almost a holy trinity of our national faith - and despite the public saying they want change; they will always rally around the establishment narrative if anything comes along that really threatens the status quo. Even populist demagogues dare not speak of NHS privatisation.

In most respects, Brits are the people most resistant to political change anywhere. We flirt with change but never really follow through. It is we who will slavishly do the work of the establishment in burying any movement that looks like it will succeed. The British herd will rally around the state. The state is mother; the state is father, from cradle to grave.

Times are changing though. The state will see off the next few political insurgencies with ease, but as we become wealthier, less dependent on the state and more questioning of orthodoxies we will be less bovine. For whatever the BBC can offer us, it’s nothing we can’t get for £5 a month from Netflix, and won’t have to pay a tax to watch it. We’ll also learn in time that private healthcare is not just for the one per cent - and that technology makes it affordable and available to more people than most realise.

The gradual erosion of traditional modes of employment will see a more flexible and self-reliant workforce. Open borders will see the end of universal entitlements as governments struggle to meet their existing commitments. The grip of the holy trinity of state will loosen as people demand better and faster services. The state will no longer be able to offer anything that competes with what we can get elsewhere.

This is globalisation at work. It is like no other force on Earth and not even the British state can stand in its way. Unless it learns that we are the source of its power there will be increasingly few defenders of the status quo in the years to come - and the next competent insurgency at the ballot box may well succeed.