Thursday 21 August 2014

Dan Hannan's dishonest spinning for the Tories

Dan Hannan: UKIP in his
heart, Tory in his pocket
It never ceases to amaze me how many UKIP supporters idolise Tory MEP, Dan Hannan. Yes, he writes good articles on the evils of the EU but they're nothing more than wordy recruitment posters. He makes the occasional speech having a pop at the EU but they're a pale imitation of the speeches made by Nigel Farage, Paul Nuttall, Roger Hemler and other UKIP MEPs.

What attracts eurosceptics to Dan Hannan isn't so much what he says or does, it's the false hope he represents that the eurosceptic core of the Conservative Party has any meaningful influence over the leadership. But then that's his job. That's why an outspoken critic of the EU and the party leadership's stance on the EU is even allowed on the shortlist to become an MEP, let alone given a platform. If he was an MP in a safe seat rather than an MEP he'd have been deselected and probably had the whip taken off him by now. He is a recruitment tool for the Tories, someone to hoover up eurosceptic votes that the openly pro-EU Conservative Party wouldn't normally get.

Dan Hannan wrote an article yesterday on his Telegraph blog on why he hasn't joined UKIP and why everyone should vote for the Conservatives next year. It is such a comprehensively dishonest piece of propaganda that it needs to be taken to pieces point by dishonest point.
For me, the main issue in politics is shuffling off the dead coil of EU membership.
For the voting public it isn't. If it was, UKIP would be in government now. From memory, the EU ranked seventh last year in the list of gripes in the annual British Social Attitudes survey and YouGov concluded that it was sixth in the list of priorities. "Banging on about the EU" doesn't win elections.
But now the party has adopted a spread of domestic policies aimed at picking up disillusioned voters. It has every right to campaign on whatever issues it wants, obviously. But it is no longer focused on getting out of the EU and, in consequence, is prepared to subordinate that goal to its wider electoral interests.
The SNP was formed as a political party in 1934 as a single issue campaign for Scottish independence. They campaigned for many years before that as a campaign group. It took them 11 years to get their first MP in a by-election which they lost 3 months later in the general election. It took until 1970 to break into Westminster proper and it was 73 years from the formation of the party until they managed to form a government in Scotland. It was the evolution of the SNP from a single issue campaign to a party with a full manifesto ready to run the country that won them the 2007 Scottish Parliament election. We need UKIP in government to get us out of the EU and UKIP will only get into government with a wide-ranging manifesto. This is exactly the same process that UKIP is going through but at an accelerated pace. Hannan can see echoes of the SNP in UKIP (albeit ideologically poles apart in most respects) and that's what frightens him.
This represents a shift. The Ukip of ten years ago, or five years ago, would gladly have thrown its weight behind whichever of the main parties offered an In/Out referendum.
The UKIP of five or ten years ago was little more than a single issue campaign group. Hell, when I joined the party I even said I wouldn't want a UKIP government but I did want them to have some success to force the other parties to do the right thing. That was how things were back then and that same political naivety persists today with a lot of people newly arriving in the party but they all come to realise that the old parties aren't going to change and that a UKIP government is the answer.
Now, though, they would rather maximise their vote than ensure a pro-referendum majority in the Commons.
Maximising the UKIP vote is the only way to ensure a pro-referendum majority in the Commons. Is there a pro-referendum majority amongst Tory MPs? Are they pro-referendum enough to defy the party whips when they're told to vote against it? They weren't pro-referendum enough to defy them last time and they won't defy them next time either.
To adopt one of their own favourite phrases, they are “putting party before country”.
Erm, no. That's what you're doing Dan by helping a pro-EU party stay in power and trying to stop a eurosceptic party from getting into power.
In fairness, the failure of the two Right-of-Centre parties to reach an accommodation is at least as much David Cameron’s responsibility as Nigel Farage’s.
What accommodation would this be? The one where UKIP agrees not to stand against some Tory candidates who profess to be eurosceptic but are helping the pro-EU Conservative Party to win the election and in return the Tories don't stand against some UKIP candidates, the idea being that the UKIP supporters vote Tory and vice versa where these deals are done? UKIP attracts Labour and Lib Dem votes as well as those who don't normally vote or vote for a minority party - those people made up 42% of the UKIP vote in 2010 and it's much higher now. Former Tory voters might make up the biggest minority of UKIP voters but it's certainly not worth alienating the majority of UKIP voters who don't and won't vote Tory for the unknown percentage of Tory voters who are likely to vote UKIP if there was no Conservative candidate.
I’m simply making the point that opposing the EU and supporting Ukip are not longer – if ever they were – the same thing.
Always has been, always will be. To suggest otherwise is just nonsense.
Now ask yourself the critical question. Is it possible to carry a referendum in favour of Brexit if all (or almost all) the “no” campaigners are in Ukip? The answer is surely obvious. The only way to win is with the support of some people who vote Conservative, some who vote Labour, some who vote Green and even a few who vote Liberal Democrat.
Yes, of course it's possible. In fact, it's the only way to get a referendum because UKIP is the only eurosceptic party. The Tories aren't going to get Labour, Greens and Lib Dems on side just because they're the Tories.
Ah, insist my regular critics, but “the Tories are a pro-EU party”. Actually, that’s not true. In a ConservativeHome survey, 78 per cent of party members supported a free-trade only relationship with the EU. More important, every poll shows that a majority of Conservative voters would leave tomorrow – which is now the default position for candidates at selection meetings. It’s true, of course, that the party leadership takes a different view. But why should the majority leave to accommodate the minority?
The fact that the vast majority of Conservative Party members are opposed to our membership of the EU but the leadership of the party ignore them speaks volumes. They ignore the majority of voters who also oppose our membership of the EU too. The party membership might be eurosceptic but the party itself is pro-EU because the extreme views of the minority who lead the party overrule the mainstream views of the majority. That's why the majority should leave.
If David Cameron had not offered an In/Out referendum, I would not have been able to fight the recent European election as a Conservative. But he did; and Ukip is in denial about it.
UKIP doesn't deny that David Cameron has promised an EU referendum, we just don't believe he will deliver it.
“You can’t believe a word Cameron says!” snarl my commenters, many of whom have convinced themselves, in a kind of false recovered memory syndrome, that he fought the last general election promising a referendum.
Well no, you can't believe a word he says because he's dishonest. He did fight the last election promising a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty - a Cast Iron Guarantee™ - but when push came to shove he backed down on the promise and the Tories put out the lie that he qualified his promise, saying that they would only hold a referendum if the Lisbon Treaty hadn't already been ratified. He didn't say this until after the election and the promise had already been broken. If anyone has false recovered memory syndrome it's Dan Hannan and the Tories who have repeated this lie so many times they believe it to be true.
As a matter of fact, I don’t think the PM has ever pretended to be anti-EU; I’d have less respect for him if he had.
Correct, he has always been openly pro-EU and yet the membership voted for him and people like Dan Hannan continue to pretend that the Conservative Party is eurosceptic despite having elected a committed europhile as their leader.
He made only two commitments when he ran for the leadership: that he’d pull his MEPs out of the European People’s Party; and that individual parliamentarians would be free to campaign against EU membership. He delivered on both.
The commitments he made when he ran for the leadership mean nothing to the electorate because we didn't vote for him as leader of the Conservative Party. It's interesting that he promised that individual MPs would be free to campaign against EU membership because that conflicts pretty fundamentally with Conservative MPs being whipped to vote against an EU referendum last year and the threat that any minister or their assistants who voted in favour of a referendum would be sacked (a threat he subsequently carried out with one MP who defied the whips).
Now he is delivering on the In/Out referendum, making clear that he will subject the legislation to the Parliament Act if necessary.
He's delivering nothing except an empty promise that nobody in their right mind believes he will follow through with. The idea of a Prime Minister having to pass a law to force himself to keep a promise is quite probably unique but it's an empty gesture because laws can be repealed.
If my Ukip friends are honest – if they “put country before party” – they will admit that there must be anti-EU Conservatives speaking to and for the 35 per cent of the country that habitually supports my party.
It doesn't matter if a handful of Tory MPs are opposing the EU from within their party, the party itself is pro-EU and they're just pissing in the wind. They would be infinitely more effective opposing the EU from within a party that supports and encourages them to do so openly.
Of course, the referendum is not yet in the bag. Parliament Act or no Parliament Act, if Ed Miliband becomes prime minister, he can repeal it. Which is why everyone who believes that Britain can prosper in the wider world should want to ensure that pro-referendum MPs form a majority in 2015.
David Cameron can repeal it as well and that's if it ever becomes law because it's been voted down by the House of Lords already. Cameron is as much a committed europhile as Miliband and Clegg and with no overall control being the most likely outcome of next year's general election, it will almost certainly be offered up as the first thing to go in any coalition agreement where Cameron can blame someone else to maintain the Tories' wafer thin eurosceptic veneer. The only way to ensure that pro-referendum MPs form a majority in 2015 is to vote UKIP.
I’ve almost given up arguing for a Tory-Ukip pact. Though the electoral logic is irresistible, there are evidently too many objections on both sides. It’ll happen eventually – the first-past-the-post system more or less demands it – but it may, as in Canada, take a decade. A decade of Ed Balls and Ed Miliband. A decade of Labour’s wastrel incontinence. A decade of deeper European integration. And, when it eventually happens, we’ll ask ruefully, as Canadian Conservatives do today, why we let it take so long.
Good, it's not going to happen. The Tories have continued the previous several decades of "wastrel incontinence" and deeper EU integration perpetrated by both the Tories and Labour and there's no reason to believe they won't continue to be incompetent, wasteful europhiles if they won the next election.