Wednesday, May 28, 2014

See, I told you

Did I not say we should have extended the voting last week by a day and, perhaps, give people a holiday? (No, wait, that is a bad idea as it would not encourage anyone to vote.) The Egyptians did it and what happened? Turn-out went up to 44.4 per cent and still former General, soon to be President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is dissatisfied. Apparently he wanted 80 per cent of the vote. Not 99.8 per cent, which would be the required minimum in some countries but what would he think about the turn-out in various EU member states? Pathetic, that is what he would think, I am sure.

Anyway, regardless of all that, soon to be President Sisi is heading for a landslide victory of either 91.8 per cent or 93.4 per cent.

Happy Tax Freedom Day!

Yes it is today and I shall be going to the Adam Smith Institute later to celebrate by drinking some heavily taxed alcoholic beverages. According to this article, this year's Tax Freedom Day is three days earlier than last year, which is not quite the progression we are used to but welcome nonetheless even if it is statistically not that significant.
This means that Britons work 148 days of the year solely to pay their taxes (including direct taxes like income tax and national insurance, and indirect taxes like VAT and corporation tax). This is three days earlier than 2013's Tax Freedom Day, which is not statistically significant.
For those who are interested in the background, here is Eamonn Butler's account of the history of Tax Freedom Day.

Perhaps we should have tried this

Daily e-mail brief from Foreign Policy informs me that:
Egypt's election commission extended voting into a third day as low voter turnout is preventing former General Abdullah Fattah al-Sisi, who is forecast to win the presidency, from attaining the broad mandate and legitimacy he is seeking. The commission said the extension was in response to a "large" number of citizens who weren't able to make it to polling stations due to a heat wave in Egypt. However, turnout remained low on Wednesday, suggesting a lower level of support for Sisi. The Democracy International observer mission said the extension raised questions about the credibility of the electoral process.
Of course, nobody, not even the Met Office, can pretend that we have been having a heat wave in the past week but it does seem that a large number of our citizens were unable to make it to polling stations for whatever reason.

Turn-out in the UK was 36 per cent for the local elections and 33.7 per cent for the European. To be fair, it appears to be even lower in Egypt:
Election officials also said they would enforce a fine of over 500 Egyptian pounds (£42; $72) for non-voting.

Egypt's election commission said the extra day of voting was to "allow citizens who could not cast their ballots because of residence restrictions" to participate in the elections.

An election official added that part of the reason for the low turnout was the unusually hot weather on Tuesday.

Observers from Mr Sabahi's campaign estimated that turnout on Monday was 10-15% and even less on Tuesday.
What, one wonders, will be Wednesday's turn-out like and should we not think about making election day a holiday. Oh wait. That means even fewer people will bother to vote.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Was it an earthquake or simply a shock?

Reading about all those earthquakes (the fully expected UKIP triumph in Britain and that of the Front National in France as well as a few London boroughs swinging back to Labour) I, naturally thought of the Cole Porter lyrics:

Is it an earthquake, or simply a shock?
Is it the good turtle soup, or merely the mock?
Is it a cocktail, this feeling of joy?
Or is what I feel the real McCoy?
Is it for all time, or simply a lark?
Is it Granada I see or only Asbury Park?
Is it a fancy not worth thinking of?
Or is it at long last love?

Who but Cole Porter would or, indeed, could put together a song whose lyrics were made up entirely of questions?

Anyway, back to politics or what passes for it in the European Union. So, was it an earthquake, a peasants' revolt, a "victory of European democracy" despite the low turn-out, a "warning to Europe" whatever that might mean or a fascist coup, it being axiomatic among some commentators that anything that is against the EU must be "fascist"? You, the reader, must decide. But, since like our masters in Brussels and Strasbourg, I do not think readers can be left to their own decisions, I shall be writing my own version though it might take a few hours and might appear somewhere else first. In the meantime, talk amongst yourselves.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Those results ....

1.23 Not sure I can be bothered to go on. Tomorrow or, rather later today, I shall do a kind of summing up but, on the whole, it would appear that the inevitable happened: as things started going wrong, people started to think that the EU is actively part of the problem. Well, some people. Not all and not even the majority, as it happens, either in the UK or across the EU. Even UKIP's success (if one can call it that, given that the overwhelming majority of the electorate stayed away) came after them ditching any talk about the EU and playing to general dissatisfaction. That is my final thought.

1.13 The BBC is recording 33.77% turn-out.

1.09 West Midlands MEPs: Philip Bradbourn (C), Anthea McIntyre (C), Neena Gill (Lab), Sion Simon (Lab), Jill Seymour (UKIP), James Carver (UKIP), Bill Etheridge (UKIP).

01.00 How are those votes stacking up? UKIP 3,988,791, Conservatives 3,300,166, Labour 3,244,352, Greens: 1,058,284, Lib-Dims 943,629, Plaid Cymru 111,864, SNP 386,193 though they have not yet got their MEPs sorted because of that peculiar Scottish problem of the Western Isles not declaring till tomorrow.

00.58 Best result for UKIP so far in the South-East, as expected:

UKIP - 32.3% (4) CON - 31.1% (3) LAB - 14.7% (1) GRN - 9.1% (1) LDEM - 7.6% (1) OTH - 5.2%.

Daniel Hannan (C), Nirj Deva (C), Richard Ashworth (C), Anneliese Dodds (Lab), Catherine Bearder (LD), Keith Taylor (Green), Nigel Farage (UKIP), Janice Atkinson (UKIP), Diane James (UKIP), Ray Finch (UKIP). I can see fireworks ahead.

00.55 Yes, it seems to be true: UKIP now has an MEP in Scotland. David Coburn is that historic personality. The calculations seems a little convoluted but it would appear that
After the first 31 declarations, the SNP had a 28.9% share of the vote, ahead of Labour with 25.9% and the Conservatives on 17.2%.

Ukip had 10.4%, ahead of the Greens on 8.1% and the LibDems on 7.1%.
00.52 UKIP now has 22 MEPs, Conservatives 16, Labour 14 (huh?), Greens 2, Lib-Dims and Plaid Cymru 1 each.

00.45 In Denmark: the EU-sceptic (used correctly by the Guardian) and thus described as far-Right Danish People's Party took the biggest share of the votes.
The DPP, which had campaigned to reclaim border controls and curb benefits to other EU citizens living in Denmark, won nearly 27% of the vote and doubled its number of MEPs from two to four.

00.39 In his Daily Telegraph column, Tim Stanley says that the UKIP revolution is broad, radical and worthy of respect. Even for an historian that is a bit steep. Exactly wherein lies the revolution and how broad is it, given that the majority of the country did not bother to vote?

00.37 West Midlands: UKIP 31%, Labour 27%, Conservatives 24%, Lib-Dems 6%, Greens 5%.

00.30 Additional news on Greece: Golden Dawn looks like winning 10% thus sending several members to the Toy Parliament. What fun it is all going to be.

00.28 North West: Labour 34%, UKIP 27%, Conservatives 20%, Greens 7%, Lib-Dims 6%.

00.25 According to the BBC, UKIP now has 15 MEPs with the Conservatives and Labour 11 each and Greens and Plaid Cymru 1 each. No Lib-Dims. Unfortunately, there seems to be no break-down by region.

00.18 I seem to have missed the South-West results earlier. ElectedAshley Fox (C), Julie Girling (C), Clare Moody (Lab), Molly Scott Cato (Green), William Dartmouth (UKIP), Julia Reid (UKIP).

Figures: UKIP 32.29% (484,184), Conservatives 28.89% (433,151), Labour 13.75% (206,124), Greens 11.10% (166,447).

00.12 Mind you, their neighbours and erstwhile union members didn't do much better with a turn-out of 18.2%.
The centrist ANO movement of Finance Minister Andrej Babis narrowly won European Parliament elections in the Czech Republic which was largely shunned by voters, final results showed on Sunday.

ANO won 16.13 percent of the vote, narrowly ahead of the opposition center-right TOP09 with 15.95 and Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka's center-left Social Democrats with 14.17 percent. All the three leading parties take largely pro-European stance on major policy issues.

Turnout dropped to a record low 18.2 percent, confirming polls that showed Czechs did not believe they could change much in Europe by taking part in the vote.

The Eurosceptic center-right Civic Democrats won 7.67 percent while the libertarian and anti- European Party of Free Citizens scored their first-ever election success with 5.24 percent of the vote, giving them one seat in European Parliament.

00.10 Slovakia beats all for low turn-out: 13%. We have some way to go. Prime Minister's centre-left Smer party won but it hardly matters.

00.01 In the Netherlands Geert Wilders's party did better than some many predicted. From Reuters
The pro-European Christian Democratic party topped the Dutch vote for the European Parliament in the Netherlands, with the far-right Freedom Party of Eurosceptic politician Geert Wilders in equal second place, news agency ANP reported.

According to a preliminary count, the Christian Democrats will have 5 of the 26 Dutch seats in the European Parliament, while Wilders' party and the centrist pro-European Democrats 66 party will each have four seats.

The electoral commission will not publish the definitive result until later this week.
23.59 From the BBC

Support for Eurosceptic parties must be heard "loud & clear" across EU, UK Foreign Secretary William Hague says.

I always said the man was a waste of space.

23.58 In Spain:
The centre-right People's Party narrowly beat the Socialists in Spain's European elections, writes Ashifa Kassam in Madrid, in a result Spanish media called a "punishment" for Spain's two dominant political parties. The two mainstream parties together lost more than 5m votes against the 2009 election results, with the governing People's Party winning 16 EP seats, eight fewer than 2009, and the Socialists 14, down nine.
Small parties appear to be doing very well.

23.54 Tim Montgomerie still dreaming on Twitter:

UKIP surge and resilience of Tory vote points to a good night for Eurosceptics. Now the small matter of uniting that vote for 2015...

Not to mention the small matter of understanding what he is talking about.  But, I suppose, now that UKIP has abandoned any talk of Brexit, there really is no difference between them and the Tories as far as the EU goes.

23.52 In Wales the seats remain the same: one each for Labour, UKIP, Conservatives and Plaid Cymru. Kay Swinburne (C), Derek Vaughan (Lab), Jill Evans (PC), Nathan Gill (UKIP)

23.46 In Hungary, the ruling Fidesz party wins again: 51.5% of the vote and 12 of the 21 seats. Jobbik stay at 14.8% with 3 seats. Not clear whether the remaining seats all go to the Socialists or not.

23.43  South West Result UKIP 484,184 Conservative 433,151 Lib Dem 160,376 so MEPs 2UKIP, 2 Conservative, 1 Green, 1 Labour. LibDem wipeout. They do seem to be doing worse in the euros than in the locals. Odd.

23.41 In Greece it's the radical left that seems to be doing well. That means not liking austerity measures, in Greek terms but, like everywhere else, the government party will live to fight another day.

23.39 Just saw on Twitter:

Spain COLLAPSE - in 2009 two main centre-right and left parties had 80% of vote, tonight after #EP2014 they have less than 50%

23.35 German results as projected by Deutsche Welle
German projections showed Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative CDU/CSU party leading in the European elections with 36.1 percent of the vote, ahead of their center-left junior coalition partners the SPD at 27.6 percent.

Germany elects 96 members of parliament.

The Green party was at 10.9 percent, the Left party at 7.8 percent and the euroskeptic AfD at 6.5 percent - giving the party seats in parliament for the first time. "The AfD has been put firmly on the political map here. Germany does have now a Euroskeptic party, but it should not be confused with a far right party," said DW's political analyst Melinda Crane.

"Exactly what direction they would like to change things, that is not quite clear. They have backed off some of their radical pronouncements. They are not saying that Germany should return to the Deutsche Mark, but clearly they want changes in the constellation of the Eurozone."

Martin Schulz, EU parliament president and Social Democrat top candidate, was triumphant in the face of his party's 7 percent increase.
23.28 This is what the Guardian said at 23.04 in answer to the question of what the European Parliament might look like:

As expected, the mainstream, pro-European Social Democrats and Christian Democrats maintain their comfortable majority – but the anti-federalists, Eurosceptics and far right have made major advances. 
At least, they have separated the anti-federalists, Eurosceptics and far right. For this we must be thankful.

23.20 Just seen that UKIP comes top and gets two seats in East Midlands, two seats for Tories and one for Labour. The Guardian says turn-out is 36%, higher than in previous euro-elections but they may be confusing matters with the local ones. Still well under 40%. They also continue predictions for FN victory on basis of exit polls in France. Roger Helmer and Margot Parker are in from UKIP and Bill Newton Dunn (Lib Dim) is out.

23.12 The first thing that strikes me is that the BBC website is very hard to get information from. I shall have to look to others as well. Then again, they are doing the right thing and looking at groups not parties.The turn-out for the euro vote was, according to the BBC, and I think they must have got that right, 33.81 per cent. The indifference party wins again.

As I mentioned before, I am having severe computer problems and may not be able to get very far in this posting. The Boss is following events, needless to say and so are various other bloggers such as Guido, all of whom have discovered that there are other member states in the EU and a number of them might elect MEPs from vaguely eurosceptic parties though the notion that this will change anything is slightly ridiculous. As the Boss said even if UKIP gets those 27 seats they will have 3.7% of the vote in the Toy Parliament.

I think I may be able to continue, having fiddled about with my internet connection and computer during which time we have had a few results so I have much to catch up on.

Clearing the ground - 2

Time to recall the somewhat obscure fact that there are other countries outside the European Union and that they have political events as well. First up, Ukraine, which held a presidential election today though in some parts voting was disrupted severely by pro-Russian separatists. Actually, it is hard to call them pro-Russian because they are not particularly in favour of things Russian, merely in favour (or so they think) of detaching whatever little bit of land they know and attaching it to Russia, whether anybody else likes the idea or not.

Based on exit polls, the Chocolate King, Petro Poroshenko has won an outright victory in the first round with 55.9 per cent of the vote. I have seen some rejoicing among people who still see the Ukrainian problem merely in EU terms as they consider Poroshenko to be pro-Western. This is simplifying the situation. Poroshenko is not exactly an outsider: he is an oligarch who did well under the previous regime (all the previous regimes) and was a Minister in Yanukovich's government. Not a leader of the opposition but a man who is seen as pragmatic and pro-western for good economic and political reasons.

In many ways he is but he is a wily fox and knows full well that he will have to do business with his neighbour in the east. It seems that Yulia Tymoshenko is a distant second, which should not surprise anyone who recalls her disastrous term of political power, regardless of what happened to her under Yanukovich's rule.

Was it really a good idea to take Crimea away and stir up trouble in other places?
No polling stations were open in Donetsk city, and across the region only seven out of 12 district electoral commissions were operating. The separatists are in control of large areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
Or, in other words, areas that might have voted for a more pro-Russian candidate were taken out of the equation. Yet another miscalculation on the part of the man a surprising number of people in the West consider to be a political genius. Yes, I am talking about President Putin, the hero of numerous eurosceptics. Though it is true, as the Financial Times points out that the absence of much of eastern Ukraine from the poll, may give the Russian President the excuse not to recognize the results and continue to subvert his neighbour to the west.

It also looks quite likely that the former heavyweight boxing champion and leader of opposition forces, Vitali Klitschko will be the new Mayor of Kyiv.

Let us also not forget that presidential elections are about to happen in Egypt though most of us can work out who is likely to win those. President Sissi may not the worst option for Egypt, Arab Spring or no Arab Spring.

Clearing the ground - 1

All things being equal and my computer behaving reasonably well, not, at present, a given, I intend to stay up tonight and keep the blog going as the Euro-results come in. Unlike many people who ought to know better and like the majority of this country's population I do not think who sits in the Toy Parliament is of any great importance. But we did have this election and we might as well look at the results. This is, after all, the last time for five years that anyone is going to care about the whole charade, unless there is some kind of a scandal that will be a nine days' wonder.

But first, here are the final local results, in case you missed them. No analysis, as I am not sure what conclusions can be drawn though I shall try to find out what the turn-out was in various places and how the popular vote panned out.

In England, as expected, Labour came top though not by as much as they would have liked, this being a local election a year away from the General. 82 councils of the ones who had elections are now controlled by Labour (including my own, Hammersmith and Fulham, which is very depressing) and of the seats up for grabs, they grabbed 2,101. The Conservatives retained control of 41 councils and have managed to win 1,359 seats. So you see what I mean when I say this was not the sort of overwhelming victory Labour would have liked. The Lib-Dims did not collapse (nor will they, I suspect, in the Euros) and they still control 6 councils, having lost control of 2 and have 427 seats. They lost quite a few but are a long way from the complete implosion predicted for them. It gives me no pleasure to have to say this but it is true.

UKIP, as we have been told by all and sundry, have done well though (and this we have not been told) not quite as well as they had hoped, staying well behind the Lib-Dims. No councils passed into their control, unlike last time with Lincoln, but they do have 163 councillors as well as those elected last time round who are still  in UKIP.

There 68 independent councillors, 53 Residents Association ones and only 36 Green. I have seen one prediction that places the Greens ahead of the Lib-Dims in every region of the Euros but I find that hard to credit. The real Liberal party retained 2 seats and the BNP 1, as did Independent Community Health Concern and Respect, I am delighted to say, lost the one seat they had, all of which reminds us that local elections are often decided on local issues and have little relevance to national politics, which is as it should be. 31 councils, 7 more than last time, now have no overall control, which is also a good thing, in my opinion.

Let us not forget that there were local elections in Northern Ireland as well and the results are helpfully published on the BBC website, though I must admit to a complete lack of understanding of the system. The DUP came top with Sinn Fein second, which is more or less what one expected but someone else has to analyse the results in any detail.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Are we there yet?

The day of the most hysterically hyped unimportant election in living memory has dawned. It is all nearly over. We shall have the local election results tonight or tomorrow morning and the Euro results on Sunday evening when this blog will be open for business (as will EURef be, I expect).

The Boss and I have spoken this morning and agreed on many things (which is not, by any means, a given in the history of our working relationship). Above all, we are both pleased that this frenetic farce is coming to an end and serious work can be resumed. We also agree, unsurprisingly for those who read both blogs even casually, that UKIP and the media have managed to set back the eurosceptic cause by several years.

After years of hard work we managed to bring the discussion to a serious political level to lose it all in the space of a couple of month - thanks to UKIP and its allies in the media we are back to euroscepticism being equated with anti-immigration, xenophobia and racism. All else has disappeared. How the europhiliacs and the higher echelon of the political establishment must be laughing.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Goodness me, how generous

Apparently, the EU is suffering from "democratic legitimacy shortcomings". Gosh. No-one tells me anything. There I was thinking that the election for the Toy Parliament tomorrow was the acme of democracy and democratic legitimacy. Well, apparently, it ain't so. Or not much.

Anyway, Eva Kjer Hansen, Chairman of the European Affairs Committee of the Danish Parliament and formerly agriculture minister and social affairs minister has noticed this and decided to do something about it. She has come up with a proposal that, in her own words, the EU "can't refuse". Well, they probably can or, even more probably, they can accept it and turn it to their own advantage but who are we to blight Ms Hansen's eagerness to "restore" democratic legitimacy to the European project?
Let’s imagine that Europe’s national parliaments all had the right of initiative. Each member of a national parliament could go to his or her constituency and invite citizens to bring forward good ideas that could, if they have local, regional, national and pan-European support, be turned into EU legislation.

Right now, national parliaments can only obstruct European legislation by handing the Commission a “yellow card”. But why not let the EU’s national parliaments participate in the legislative process by issuing political opinions that EU institutions are obliged to take into account. Why not let national parliaments propose new initiatives just as the Council and the European Parliament can already do today?
Well, I am overwhelmed. You mean having taken away the right to legislate the EU should now hand back to the national parliaments the right to make proposals all by themselves that could be turned into EU legislation? That will give the EU democratic legitimacy? My word, there is a bold proposal. The odd thing about this article is that, apparently, Ms Hansen thinks that it really is a bold and controversial idea that many will criticize and in the second part of the article she goes to great lengths to justify and defend it.

The Politkovskaya saga goes on

Five people, three of whom were found not guilty in 2009, have now been found guilty of the murder of the journalist Anna Politkovskaya. I have written about the case, most recently here about the arrest of Lt-Col. Pavlyuchenkov, here about the muddled developments and here about the sentencing of Dmitri Pavlyuchenkov to 11 years for his role in the assassination though, thanks to a plea bargaining he had not had to give evidence at his trial, thus leaving the question of who actually ordered the murder wide open.

So now we have the brothers Makhmudov, their uncle and another retired policeman guilty of the murder and waiting to be sentenced tomorrow. In 2009 the three brothers had been found innocent but the verdict was overturned by the supreme court and they were tried again. Presumably, had they not been found guilty this time they would have been tried again and again.

There are a few oddities in the case as anyone who has followed it even superficially can attest, not least the question as to who are these Chechnyans who assassinated the journalist who had written articles that were strongly critical of the Russian government and the Russian troops' behaviour in Chechnya and surrounding republics?

Nor has the vital question of who was behind the murder been solved.
A committee set up to investigate the shooting said it was still looking for the person who ordered the operation.
Naturally, nobody can think of a possible answer to that question.

Monday, May 19, 2014

As I was saying

Ever nearer draws that election day and as people around me, wherever I go in what is laughingly known as real life remain underwhelmed by its importance, the debate on various other fora hots up. If you read some blogs (guilty as charged) and follow discussions on such sites as Twitter or Facebook, you might be forgiven for thinking that what will happen this Thursday will be of the slightest importance. Not so but far otherwise, at least as far as the European elections are concerned.

This is what I said on yet another discussion on Facebook that was about UKIP leading in the ComRes Poll (though there appears to be some debate about the accuracy of that prediction):
Well, really, if UKIP, having come second last time, cannot come first in the euros this time, they can just pack up. Of course, it will make no difference to anything as very few people care one way or another about the Euro elections. Facebook discussions give a false impression of their importance. The great thing about the Euros is that nobody actually wins since that is not how the European Parliament is structured and its role in the EU is very different from what a parliament is supposed to be but, at the same time, everybody wins because of the list system. Well, almost everybody.
Given the probable turn-out and the lack of any achievement by UKIP or any other MEPs that is inevitable under the structure and position of the Toy Parliament and given the list system one can only compare the European elections to the prize giving after the Caucus Race in Alice in Wonderland.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Very disappointing

I was hoping that my previous posting on the electoral campaign in which I tried to attack every party would excite some angry comments and attacks here or on other forums through which I promoted it. Zilch so far. Rien. Nada. Zero. Nichts. And so on. Come on guys, there must be some readers out there who are interested enough to attack me.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

That campaign so far

Eight days to go to the European and local elections and I imagine that all readers of this blog have been overwhelmed by the glossy and meaningless literature that seems to be what election campaigns consist of these days. There is something to be said for abolishing that right to free postage so that parties start considering a little more carefully what they send out to stupefy the electorate. Of course, they can always hire cheap immigrant labour to deliver leaflets but they will not have that free post.

This year's crop has been outstandingly dire in both content and design. The first Labour leaflet I received had a big picture of Ed Miliband looking solemn and the message: "Only Labour will tackle the cost-of-living crisis". Reading this and glancing through the other items: NHS, "free" childcare, housing crisis and soaring energy bills, I could not help wondering whether the party in question had the first idea of which particular elections were coming up. For Mr Miliband's information, none of that can be solved in the European Parliament and very little at the local level.

Actually, tucked away in a corner there was a reference to MEPs who are fighting for jobs and growth (mostly their own jobs and the growth of their waistlines) because, forsooth, we would lose 3.5 million jobs if we left the EU. It seems quite extraordinary that anyone should come up with that particular chestnut still or to think that Britain's membership of the EU somehow depends on the MEPs.

Since then I have also received the Labour leaflet for the local election in which they promise to cut taxes (having clearly forgotten that when they controlled the council, our local tax rate was among the highest in London) and to protect the NHS or the local hospitals or something like that. Nobody, I may add, has been able to explain precisely what the plans are about local hospitals and what alternatives there might be to the projected rearrangements, known by some campaigners and the Labour party as cuts. Nevertheless, it is a bad sign for the Labour party that all they can campaign on is the NHS.

I was not altogether surprised to read that they are now behind the Conservatives in opinion polls, a most unusual situation at this stage of the electoral cycle. It made me recall the 1992 General Election, the first in which UKIP's predecessor, the Anti-Federalist League campaigned. (Yes, it has been around that long.) The day I realized that Labour would lose was when I was accosted by some supporter of theirs who solemnly argued that the real power in the land was the Monday Club. I put my money where my mouth was and eventually won £10 from a friend. Still, Labour can comfort themselves with the thought that opinion polls matter less than the actual election. At least, they might be able to comfort themselves with that thought until next Thursday.

Let's get the unimportant ones out of the way. I have not had any Lib-Dim literature but I gather that they are calling on all of us to re-elect the egregious Sarah Ludford, as ghastly a euro-weenie as I have ever come across and much given to hyperventilation. At one debate she became quite hysterical about people she described as climate deniers. I asked her whether these people actually denied that there was such a thing as a climate. She just gobbled.

The Greens are calling on me to re-elect Jean Lambert but for some reason all the policies are out and out socialist ones, thus proving that saying about watermelons.

Then there is something called the Communities United Party who desperately need a proof-reader to get rid of the inappropriate capitals in their leaflet though I hope they keep the fierce eagle. I am not altogether sure what they are campaigning about as they seem to think all sorts of issues can be solved in the European Parliament and I am not certain that their slogan, Strength in Unity, is entirely appropriate. Reminds me of all those fly-by-night parties that used to appear just before European elections with much fanfare, putting forward "real people" as candidates who invariably demonstrated their reality by knowing nothing about the European Parliament for which they were standing. Mind you, I think that the Communities United Party is against Britain's withdrawal from the European Union though I am not sure I can quite work out their argument.

So we come to the Conservatives, whose local election leaflet does not mention Charing Cross Hospital, possibly because that has more to do with the near-bankrupt Imperial College Healthcare than the local council or possibly because they have some guilty secrets there. They have a certain advantage over the Labour candidates in that they can actually point to a reduction in Council Tax and in debt plus a few achievements that are almost impossible to check. What does 25% reduction in crime mean? Are there really 44 extra police officers in the borough and what do they do? Still, I am reasonably pleased with the 6 new free schools, assuming they have actually opened and the 1,000 affordable homes to buy, assuming they do actually exist.

The more general communication that is aimed at the European Election proves without any doubt that the Conservatives are also using the campaign to fight next year's General Election. On the cover, a picture of their leader, our Prime Minister, the Boy-King himself, speaking rather than looking solemn. Well, looking solemn as he is speaking. What is he offering? A stronger economy at home, renewed respect abroad, real change in Europe. Two out of three are so vague as to be incomprehensible. How do you define renewed respect or real change. Experience with "Europe" tells us that the only real change we ever see is movement towards greater integration.

Moving on into the leaflet, I find out that these are the most important European Elections in a generation as for the "first time since the Eurozone crisis you get to have your say on Britain's relationship with Europe". I am not sure where to start in analyzing that particular piece of nonsense. We get our say on our relationship with Europe by voting for a certain party to send its members to the European Parliament, an institution of the European Union, of which we are a member? Just writing that sentence makes my head spin. Later on we are told that they are fighting to renegotiate Britain's relationship with the EU which makes about as much sense as people fighting to renegotiate Herefordshire's relationship with the United Kingdom.

Apparently, if we send in the Conservatives, fundamental changes will take place in the EU. Just to prove that we have a pretty picture of the London team with the Leader. Well, to be fair, the Conservatives are the only ones who have a picture of the whole team, regardless of whether they are likely to get in or not. (I doubt if numbers 6, Sheila Lawlor, or 7, Glyn Chambers, will.)

I left UKIP to last, partly because from the point of the view of this blog that could be said to be the most important party and the biggest missed opportunity and partly because it is still possible that they will come top. The great thing about the European Elections is that, because of the list system, nobody really wins but almost everybody does. So, UKIP coming top in the Euros will not produce a political revolution in this country any more than them coming second last time did. In fact, it will do very little unless they can parlay that into some seats in the General Election next year or one or two by-elections before that, of which there is no chance.

So, first things first, the news that Gerard Batten's home was attacked in the early hours of this morning is completely outrageous, regardless of what one thinks of the party. If, indeed, this is part of an organized campaign to intimidate UKIP (just as there was an organized campaign to intimidate the BNP) then it is also incredibly stupid. Do these people really not understand that this sort of violence merely gives their target group extra support? No, I don't suppose they do. At present, the police are investigating the attack so any other comments from me would be superfluous and quite probably factually wrong. (Here is another article that concentrates on Farage and his fears.)

Back to UKIP election literature of which there is more than from any other party. Either they have had another influx of money or what we are seeing is the well-known Farage strategy of throwing everything at one aim and to hell with the future.

To date, I have had two glossy and one newspaper-type leaflets. Mostly they say the same thing over and over again: there are people coming into this country to take away jobs, accommodation and the country in general. That is the main message with all other issues, including actual membership of the EU, becoming subordinate. That is something of a risky strategy: what if, despite being worried about mass immigration, the electorate of this country reacts badly to this kind of naked fear-mongering and hatred of the outsider?

One glossy leaflet had a big picture of the Great Leader on one side and a much smaller picture of Gerard Batten, the London MEP, on the other. It is, of course, important not to have a bigger picture of yourself than that of the Leader, not to have one above that of the Leader and not to look as if you were taller than the Leader.

On the Batten side (small photograph) we have a good deal about "4,000 people a week" coming to live in Britain from the EU and the cost in British jobs, pushed down wages and pressure on schools, health, welfare. I presume that means that people coming from outside the EU do not have that effect. What, I wonder, about the large number of French people who tend to get jobs in the higher ranks of the economy? Not all. Plenty of French work in catering as do plenty of Poles, Spanish (highly incompetent) and others. Also many Brits and Antipodeans. But, undoubtedly, there are pressures on school, health and welfare, all of which need root and branch reform, strongly opposed .... by .... yes, you guessed it, UKIP.

On the Farage side (big picture) we get a paragraph about immigration and then one that makes me think that UKIP could do with some editors:
We have no control over our borders, but we also have no control over who we trade with, how much we pay to heat our homes and feed our families or how we just get on with our lives. 
To think that Mr Farage attended Dulwich College, the alma mater of two of the best twentieth century stylists: P. G. Wodehouse and Raymond Chandler.

The other glossy leaflet concentrated on UKIP's image as the radical, non-political party (just as their Leader is a non-political politician who is really rather a good bloke). Another picture of Nigel Farage inviting us all to join his team and informing us that "we are all going UKIP this year" because of Labour failure on immigration, Tory failure on planning (not strict enough), Liberal (ahem!) sell out to the EU and Green energy price hikes. Note, please, that the EU as a whole comes in third and is attributed only to the Lib-Dims. At least, I assume they do not mean the Liberal Party that is still in existence and is furiously opposed to the European project.

Examples of the "all" are shown by 18 small photos on either side of the Leader, implying that these are people who have seen the light. A quick look through and I recognized about a third as members, activists, candidates and employees of UKIP of long standing, including Sanya-Jeet Thandi who has since left the party. Ah well. Can't win them all.

So, UKIP is not entirely honest in its election literature. So what? Is any party? No, of course not and I think I have made that reasonably clear above. The point is not that UKIP is no worse than anyone else, despite the prevalence of troglodytes among the members, but that their USP, apart from the fear of incomers, is that they are different: not political, not corrupt, not dishonest. Not like the other parties, in other words. That is why it is so damaging when they behave exactly like the other parties and politicians.

Similarly, it would not be a newsworthy item that UKIP employed Latvians at what one assumes were rock bottom wages to deliver their leaflets if their campaign had not concentrated on the subject of immigrant workers taking British jobs and depressing British wages.

Finally, there is the UKIP News, the newspaper-style leaflet, that covers a few issues, the biggest one of which, the one that has the huge main headline: Britain Faces Fresh Wave of Immigrants. Everything else, effect on the City, the European Arrest Warrant, scandalous waste of EU aid projects (as if foreign aid that we give directly was not scandalously wasted and misused), all pale into insignificance.

Do I think this is racist? No. Furthermore, the cries of racism help UKIP in that they can preen themselves as people who are unjustly attacked by demented lefties. As a consequence, they never really have to explain their policies or their statements or how has a party that is supposedly a free-market, vaguely libertarian entity become protectionist, big statist (just read what they say about planning) and backward looking to a rose-coloured view of that tiresome decade, the fifties.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Blowing one's own trumpet

Well sort of. This first link merely mentions me: the Boss remembered as I, shamefully, did not that EUReferendum is now 10 years old. Happy Birthday to you, EURef. He is also kind enough to mention that the blog, one of the more important political ones at the moment, was started by the two of us. Ah those halcyon days when blogging seemed such a good idea. The Boss, as he explains, has gone on to various other projects and has one or two in hand now. Meanwhile, I am still deliberating.

As my last posting indicated (a few days ago, ahem) I am reading, among other books, David Satter's It Was A Long Time Ago And It Never Happened Anyway, whose theme is the reluctance with which Russia, its state and its people, face up to the Soviet past. Those who try to break through the official and popular wall are accused of re-writing history and of besmirching the good and great name of the Russian people and of the heroes who died for the country and for the world in general. These heroes, obviously, do not include the millions murdered by the Soviet state or the Soviet soldiers who died from the hail of bullets from SMERSH agents as they tried to retreat or the Soviet POWs who, having suffered intense privations in German camps, survived to return (often very reluctantly under prodding from Western allies) and were promptly thrown into Soviet camps. Well, some people have to be left out.

The point here is that "re-writing history" is not only not a bad thing but is often a necessary thing. I raised this argument in a discussion on another forum (just get off those forums and get on with your own writing, OK) about yet another attempt to teach in an American educational district that the Holocaust was really a hoax. There is re-writing history, which is a necessary progression, and then there is blatant lying in order to avoid difficult arguments and to appease certain sections of society. In fact, the Holocaust is one of the best documented series of acts and events in modern history.

It did, however, remind me that some years ago I wrote two postings with which I was rather pleased, on the subject of Holocaust denial, freedom of speech, Communist crimes and anti-Semitism. Here is the first one that deals with David Irving, Professor Eric Hobsbawm and related matters.

Here is the second one, which deals with McCarthyism (accusations thereof) and the anti-Semitism that lurks behind a good deal of the Holocaust talk.

All in all, I'd say a nice and easy way of writing a blog and blowing one's own trumpet at the same time. Somehow I don't think I can keep doing this.