Monday 29 July 2013

Chair and Vice Chair of Crawley Conservatives defects to UKIP

The Chairman and Deputy Chairman of Crawley Conservatives and a Conservative Councillor's wife have defected to UKIP today.

Lee Gilroy and Cllr Karl Williamson have both been under fire within their association culminating in a vote of no confidence at a meeting a week and a half ago.  Both refused to bow to pressure over what they maintain are false claims of bullying but on reflection decided they had both had enough of the Tories and resigned.

Another former Conservative councillor, Ali Burke, has also joined UKIP.  Burke is married to Conservative councillor, Lee Burke.

Sunday 28 July 2013

Report calls for change in EU voting system to benefit Tories

A report by the London School of Economics and the Electoral Reform Society says that the Tories' best hope of beating UKIP in the EU elections next year is to change the voting system so that the electorate votes for people rather than parties.

Although people generally vote for parties rather than the person in local and Westminster elections, the vote is actually for the person.  In EU elections you vote for a party and the candidates are chosen by the party.

The Electoral Reform Society want to change the EU election voting system so that the electorate votes for a person rather than a party.  They argue that it's more democratic choosing the person you want rather than the having to vote for someone you don't want to be able to vote for someone you do.

They have a point and it probably would go in the Tories' favour because it means that plastic eurosceptics like Dan Hannan will be able to attract votes based on (for want of a better word) their own merit without being put at risk by the pro-EU stance of their party.

Voting for a person instead of a party would leave Cameron with a bit of a dilemma though.  It would be necessary for MEPs to promote themselves more as personalities like MPs do which will bring more attention to the number of europhile MEPs the Tories have.  Cameron is absolutely adamant that he doesn't want us to leave the EU but most voters don't share that opinion.  There will always be people who vote for the Tories just because they're Tories but those Tories that behave like eurosceptics will rise to the top and that will bring with it unwanted pressure to take a more eurosceptic stance.

This report will bring a glimmer of hope for ordinary Tories but a big dilemma for Cameron who will have to choose between changing the voting system to give the Tories more chance of beating UKIP or keeping the pro-EU bias in his party.

Saturday 27 July 2013

UKIP receives fifth highest donations in 2012

UKIP received the fifth highest amount of donations to a political party in 2012 according to the Electoral Commission.

Labour received and spent the most by quite a margin even without adding in donations laundered through the Co-operative Party.  The Tories were the second highest funded party followed by the Lib Dems and the SNP.  UKIP narrowly beat the Co-operative Party and Sinn Féin to receive the fifth highest level of donations.

The Lib Dems, SNP, Sinn Féin and SDLP all spent more money than they received - over £300k more in the case of the Lib Dems and SNP.

Lib Dems£6,023,543
Co-operative Party£1,180,584
Sinn Féin£1,090,792
Green Party£781,478
Plaid Cymru£683,284

Wednesday 17 July 2013

Eurozone bailout fund downgraded

The €urozone bailout fund has been downgraded by the rating agency, Fitch, from AAA to AA+.

It isn't much of a drop but it's a sign of an increasing lack of confidence in the €urozone and the ability of the Germans to bail out most of the continent.  Standard & Poors downgraded the bailout fund in January and France was downgraded earlier this year from AAA to AA+ which Fitch have cited this as one of the reasons for the €urozone bailout fund downgrade.

Fascist union leader calls UKIP "pre-fascist"

A leaked report by Unite (the union currently being investigated for fraudulently signing up its members to the Labour Party to rig election candidate selections and the Labour Party's biggest donor) describes UKIP as "pre-fascist" and "xenophobic".
The Ukip vote represents a dangerous, populist right-wing vote which is swayed by anti-immigrant and anti-European rhetoric – and nostalgia for a comfortable world that never really existed.

These are all the hallmarks of pre-fascist movements – which is not to say that Ukip is fascist, because it isn't, but to point to the dangers of ignoring them and the issues or attempting to chase them.

The threat of xenophobic UKIP remains very real – in common with right-wing populism and indeed fascism, which is growing dangerously across Europe.
This is nothing more than left wing extremist nonsense from a trade union that has absolutely no respect for the democratic process and thinks that the country should be run by trade unions.  The unions choose the Labour leader, the unions dictate Labour policy, the unions buy Labour MPs and councils and under a Labour government, the unions call the shots.

The leader of Unite, Len McCluskey, is the head of a marxist putsch comprised of militant trade unions and other left wing pressure groups determined to oust the Tories and reinstate their Labour sockpuppet government.  They know that UKIP is a threat to Labour as much as it is to the Tories, hence these ridiculous comments.

If and when Labour get back into power and the unelected union leaders that appointed the Milibeast as leader are running the country, then we can start talking about fascism.

Saturday 13 July 2013

30,000 UKIP Members Is A Great Achievement, But To Really Grow We Need To Become A Social Network

Political party organisation has been much in the news this last few days, with the Falkirk debacle leading Ed Milliband  to make radical changes to the Labour Party's relationship with the unions. However, Labour are not the only party with management issues:  we have had the news that around half of Tory activists feel undervalued and demoralised, and have given up campaigning for the party. More ominously, we have seen the resurrection of suggestions for state funding off political parties as a solution for their ever more precarious financial condition. Lastly, we have had the wonderful announcement that UKIP has reached a record high of 30,000 members. Given a fair wind, it is likely that we could overtake the LibDems (2012 membership 42,501 - and falling) by the next election.

30,000 members is a great achievement, and speaks volumes for the sheer tenacity of UKIP members, and it's energetic leader, in building the party from scratch against all the odds. Given the free fall of other party memberships and the lack of morale in the Tory party in particular, it is likely that in 2015 UKIP can launch a ground campaign that will match each wing of the LibLabCon in our target seats.

But it is not enough. The fact is that UKIP has very significantly smaller funds than the other three major parties. Granted, some City donors, disillusioned with the Conservatives, have expressed interest in funding UKIP, but we do not want to be reliant on a small number  of big donors who could pull the plug at any time: at the very least, this could lead to accusations that we are just another insiders party, our strings being pulled by City moneymen.

Realistically, in order to really challenge the other parties, UKIP must look to boost growth in a way that   would put even our recent meteoric rise in the shade,  and for that we need to embrace the concept of the diffuse network.

Diffuse Networks are neither new nor the latest irritating organisational fad. Since the advent of the internet and in particular social networking, they have become commonplace throughout industry and commerce. The central concept is that, rather than being rigid, the boundaries to organisations are essentially blurred, with many individuals having a very close, symbiotic relationship with an entity without formally belonging to it. For instance, in addition to having fully permanent staff for it's baseload functions, a large corporation may embed contractors within it, who may be easily fired or hired as circumstances arise. Many contractors will retain long term relationships with the company and come and go several times during their career. This gives the corporation both flexibility and access to a reservoir of talent who, crucially, can still give an outsider's perspective to challenges and opportunities.

Political parties are still more or less organised in a very rigid way: you are a member or you're not. Even worse, in recent years most parties have been internally restructured to become increasingly top-down organisations: ordinary members have been reduced to the status of mere envelope stuffers, while a closed elite decide everything that matters and take all the prizes. No wonder parties organised on that model are dying.

Strangely, even though politicians now heavily engage in the diffuse networks of social media, few really seem to understand why the old model is broken. One who really does is Douglas Carswell, who has long argued that membership of the Conservative Party should be spotified. This post is an absolute must read for anyone interested in the subject and UKIP should seriously study his suggestions with a view to shamelessly stealing some of them.

Organisations must not become too diffuse, of course, because that would risk undermining their core identity. For that reason, personally I am strongly against Carswell's idea of open primaries, where a party's candidate selection is thrown open to the electorate as a whole. At the end of the day, institutions need committed members who can act as the custodians of its culture and memory: the kind of candidate that is selected by the party to represent it must reflect it's values, not the values of the whole local electorate, which maybe very different and can ebb and flow with the times.

But nonetheless diffusion is the way to go, and will come sooner or later. Here, UKIP have one enormous advantage over the LibLabCon political class parties in making this significant cultural change: we actually trust and respect the electorate, rather than viewing them as a threat to our glittering careers. The political class and the metropolitan elite it is part of have prospered by silo-ing themselves away from the country as as whole, and it is very noticeable that their instinctive response to problems of funding and declining membership is to circle the wagons still closer by advocating state funding for political parties. Leaving aside it's obvious immorality, that kind of rigidity will, in time, lead to certain extinction, and UKIP should have absolutely no part of it.

Instead, let us look and see how we can embrace diffusion.

How Can UKIP Easily Embrace Diffusive Networking? By Crowd Sourcing Policy Formation

One of the most interesting areas where diffuse networking can be explored is in policy formation. Here, we could create an online dialogue with individuals who may be passionate about individual causes but not that keen on joining a political party.

Some suggestions:

  • Each policy area would have it's own dedicated online forum, memberships of which would be free and fully accessible to paid up UKIP members. However, the general public would be able to read all posts and non party members could sign up and subscribe a flexible amount to the forum via Paypal, which would give them the right to contribute to the forum discussions. At each post their subscription credit would be deducted by a set amount, and once their credit reached zero posting to the forum would be denied, whereupon they would be invited to resubscribe. To attract people to become full members, we could have a process that if someone made more forum subscription payments than the value of the annual membership fee within a 12 month period, they were invited to join the party free of charge for the rest of that 12 month period.
  • Members of the UKIP policy group (restricted, of course, to select party members only, as it is today) would be expected to engage with the forum on a regular basis, and have a summary of the forum posts read out to them at policy meetings and the substance of them discussed. Representatives of the policy group would then relay, at their discretion, some of the substance of their deliberations back to the forums.

The beauty of this is that it is a positive feedback model. In order to attract paid subscribers to the forums, there would be a real incentive for policy group members to meaningfully engage with their discussions and where appropriate allow them to influence their decisions: failing to do so would mean that subscriptions dry up. Subscribers, even if they opposed UKIP generally, would feel engaged with the political process, and really committed forum contributors would have an economic incentive to become full members. In return UKIP get significant subscription revenues, a potentially huge reservoir of future members and not least the crowd sourcing of suggested policy directions, long before those policies were set in stone or formally adopted. As well as avoiding institutional myopia, crowd sourcing would negate the need for expensive polling and would be vastly superior to the ghastly focus group driven politics adopted by the political class parties as a way of testing out new policy ideas.

There would be risks, of course. Enemies of UKIP may subscribe and post inflammatory material in order to discredit the party, so all forums would have to be strongly policed. To reduce the risks of this, obnoxious postings or spamming would lead to an instant ban and in extreme cases forfeiture of any remaining subscription. Nonetheless, certain sensitive subjects, such as immigration policy, may be deemed unsuitable for the crowd sourcing model for that reason. Also, single issue fanatics hostile to UKIP policy direction may attempt to swamp forums in order to skew the perception of a policy's likely popularity or workability - but at least they would be paying for the privilege of doing so!  However, on the whole the risks are worth it: if we really do trust the electorate and do not believe them to be the apathetic bunch they are often purported to be, then this model makes perfect sense.

So, those are just the suggestions. In the great tradition of crowd sourcing, the discussion is now thrown over to others!


Thursday 11 July 2013

Victory for small fry

In today's Daily Express, Victory for small fry as fishermen win ruling to increase their annual catches:

"At London's High Court yesterday Mr Justice Cranston rules however that "no one can own the fish of the sea".

Very sensible ruling on allocation of part of the EU fishing quota for England and Wales.

However, it does raise an interesting question - if it applies to fish, then why should the Crown Estates benefit from a medieval privilege, at a time when it was impossible to "farm" the seabed, to levy charges now on off-shore wind farms simply for standing on the seabed?

It's estimated this levy will soon yield £35 million per year, which should by rights go into general taxation collected by the Government by HMRC for public use.

Instead, a large percentage of this levy will become additional income for the Monarch - replacing the Civil List which was quietly changed  to Crown Estates just over a year ago - a measure never raised, or debated, with the public.

No wonder Prince Charles is seen smiling broadly these days!

One of the other so-called Royal Privileges made all catches of Sturgeon (together with caviar) in England and Wales became the property of the Monarch.

So, Mr Justice Cranston's ruling could inadvertently have significant implications.

Steve Grindey


Why Open Primaries Are A Dumb Idea

An undeniable attribute of the modern Conservative Party is that it has a large number of radical thinkers amongst it's number, mainly sitting on the backbenchers of the House of Commons: Steve Baker, Priti Patel, Dominic Raab and Andrew Tyrie to name but a few. It's great crime is that it largely ignores them. Instead, it's leaders are cynical, visionless blue-bloods who regard government as little more than reactive management of change in the sorry Tory tradition. One of the huge benefits of the rise of UKIP will be the emancipation of such original thinkers from the dead hand of Toryism in future.

Two of the Conservative Party's greatest thinkers are Douglas Carswell and Dan Hannan, co-authors of The Plan and in Carswell's case, The End Of Politics and the Birth of iDemocracy. Many and perhaps most 'Kippers will be familiar with these books and the ideas they contain but, if you are not, there is much to recommend them and much that the average UKIP activist would probably agree with.

After the recent furore over candidate selection and the activities of UNITE in the Falkirk constituency, both Carswell and Hannan have once again been touting their idea of Open Primaries for candidate selection, the central idea being that the candidate for a given party should be selected by the electorate of that constituency rather than just the party concerned.

However, open primaries are not one of their better ideas.

The main weakness of open primaries is that it seems to suggest that the only point of a political party is to win elections in the short term. In fact, like any institution, a primary responsibility is to be the custodian of the beliefs and ideals that formed it, even if these are currently deeply unpopular. Of course, over time the party would naturally wish to convince the electorate that it's beliefs are right, but it is not technically necessary for it to actually win a constituency in order to do so. For instance the Greens, and latterly UKIP, enormously changed the terms of the political debate prior to having any parliamentary representation.

The great risk of open primaries is that it would render the cultural memory and capital of a party redundant. Imagine, for example, the case of a strongly libertarian party within a deeply socialist constituency. Your ideas are currently profoundly unpopular with the electorate but you hope with hard work, debate  and tenacity that with time you will start to convince them otherwise. However, your parliamentary candidate is selected by an open primary. Naturally, the candidate from your party who would be most likely to win would the one who was the least in tune with your party's ideas but most in tune with the current thinking of the electorate. Thus your candidate is highly likely to be a bland centrist rather than a fire-breathing radical. The former stands a much better chance of being elected, but the latter has a much better chance of igniting and shifting the terms of debate. Furthermore, parties would be prey, even more so than they are today, to falling victim to careerist shysters who would use a party machine solely for the purpose of their own ambitions. There is also the further issue of the expense involved, which may favour wealthy candidates over poorer ones.

This, from afar, seems exactly what happens in the United States of America, where open primaries are commonplace. Politicians are mostly exceedingly rich people, seem virtually interchangeable between Republican and Democrat, and seem to practise "exquisite followship": every issue is polled to death before the candidate will make up their mind.

Many would say that is precisely the issue we have now in the UK, and they would be right, but that is because of the ruthless centralised control modern party hierarchies exercise over local constituencies. A much more ideal situation than open primaries is to leave a local party in power of candidate selection, with the central party authority only stepping in and overruling selection in extreme circumstances.

That said, Douglas Carswell still has some interesting ideas on party organisation that UKIP should look at stealing, before his own dozy party finally wakes up (and they will have to sooner or later, given how membership is in free fall). His central idea is to spotify party membership, where individuals sign up to all sorts of membership packages based on the policy portfolios they support. Here, he really is onto something - sooner or later parties will have to adapt to the internet age and social media and the concept of the diffuse network. Like all political parties, UKIP are currently wedded to the old model, something we should look at changing as a matter of urgency.

Wednesday 10 July 2013

UNITE is not Labour's only problem

This week Joe Dromey, son of Harriet Harman MP and Jack Dromey MY, was selected as a Labour PPC for 2015. As the niece of a Countess, no doubt Harriet is fully in favour of the hereditary process.

Did they say the party of One Nation or One Family?

Look at how the scions of Labour grandees - Blair, Prescott, Straw, Benn, Mandelson  etc - easily find safe seats in Parliament.

UNITE has not only rigged selection of PPCs in Falkirk and elsewhere in favour of its own candidates, but has also forced out a number of existing ethnic minority candidates in the process.

In some places a strong male PPC has suddenly found the seat became a women-only shortlist.

Liberal Democrats and Conservatives are just as corrupt. There are no females in the Liberal Democrat's shadow cabinet. The Conservatives have their 'A List' of wealthy upper class candidates eg Zack Goldsmith.

Before our free press is neutered, post-Leveson and Hacked Off, it should investigate the levels of patronage and sinecure (- the BBC is a classic example of the latter for former Ministers) used by Government and compare it with the excesses prevalent in the Walpole era, which many believe was the most corrupt government of all time. At this rate, today's MPs would make Walpole look miserly.

Tuesday 9 July 2013

UKIP Reveals Westminster Spy Ring

Forget the notorious "Cambridge Ring": Blunt, Philby, Burgess and Maclean had nothing on these guys.

I am talking, of course, about UKIP's own "Westminster Ring" of secret agents, all operating under deep cover at the highest levels of our rival political parties.

Yes, today I can exclusively reveal what many have suspected for a long time: Nick Clegg, Ed Miliband and David Cameron are all UKIP agent provocateurs, carefully embedded to cause maximum mayhem, confusion and dismay to our rivals.

First to be activated was Special Agent Clegg, who brilliantly decimated his own party's support over night when he reneged on his daft tuition fees pledge. Who could doubt that this wasn't a deliberate act of sabotage - no one could be that incompetent or contemptuous of the electorate!

More recently, Special Agent Miliband was activated: after Tony Blair and Peter Mandelson spent over a decade buildng the New Labour brand, Miliband has singlehandedly resurrected from nowhere the old Trade Union demons that kept Labour out of power for almost a generation. Not content with that, he has just announced proposals that could decimate Labour party funding.

In normal circumstances, Miliband's masterstroke of resurrecting the bogey of union power may concern UKIP, as it may have the effect of driving scared voters back to the Tory party.

But that is to reckon without UKIP's highest placed agent of all: Special Agent David Cameron.

Cameron's service in the UKIP cause has been exemplary. Not only has he driven away so many Tory activists that membership has fallen from 250,000 to an estimated 100,000 on his watch, but he has managed to alienate them to such a degree that many actually joined UKIP, giving the party much needed experience and driving membership towards 30,000.

Moreover, of those activists that remain:

  • One in five ready to switch to UKIP.
  • Almost half have given up campaigning for the Conservative Party.
  • Over half stated they felt they were not properly respected by the Tory Party leadership.

This means that despite UKIP's smaller size (at the moment) we can expect to have parity of numbers on the ground in many areas at election time.

It is often said that Cameron is a talentless, empty suit who would never have got so far in life had it not been for his privileged background. That is deeply unfair: it takes real talent  and nerves of steel to operate at such tremendous pressure under deep cover, and maintain the pretence that he is simply an arrogant snob and atrocious party manager rather than a UKIP plant.

If one criticism can be levied at Agent Cameron, it is that he has raised the bar impossibly high for the rest of us: all UKIP activists are forever in his shadow. We can not hope to recruit others to our cause on the scale that he has done.

Agent Cameron, we salute you.

After he comes in from the cold having throughly wrecked Conservative chances at the next election, Nigel should award him the Grand Order of the Gadfly.

Monday 8 July 2013

IPPR: UKIP is the party of the English

Left wing think tank, IPPR, has produced a follow-up to the one released in January 2012 which documented the rise in English identity and warned that ignoring the disadvantages that England faces as a result of asymmetric devolution would threaten the union.

This time, though, they have included questions on the EU and the correlation between euroscepticism and the English identity and made a surprising (for them) discovery: the party that most people believe will stand up for England's interests is UKIP.

The latest report finds that the rise in English identity at the expense of British has held up against the onslaught of state-sponsored British nationalism during the Olympics and the royal wedding.  English remains the dominant national identity in England.

The correlation between euroscepticism and national identity is very interesting - over half of people who identify as English more than British are in favour of leaving the EU but only a third of those who identify as more British than English are similarly minded.

There is also a direct link between euroscepticism and dissatisfaction with England's treatment in the British union post-devolution.  A massive 91% of people who think we should leave the EU think that MPs elected in Scotland shouldn't be allowed to vote on English matters and 71% think that the British government can't be trusted to look after England's interests.  21% of English people think that UKIP is the party that can be most trusted to stand up for England's interests - the first time none of the above hasn't topped the poll.

Only 1 in 5 English people support the current form of government and 78% of English people (eurosceptic or not) think that Scotland should pay for services out of their own taxes.

More UKIP supporters identify themselves as English more than British than any other party - 55% of those polled.  They are also the most dissatisfied with the status quo with 49% supporting English independence.  Surprisingly, only 90% of UKIP supporters want to leave the EU.

Given the choice of local government, Westminster and the EU, 31% of English people think the EU has the most influence over the way England is run.  This is by far the highest percentage anywhere in the EU - Brittany, Upper Austria and Galicia are joint second with only 9%.  England , as opposed to the UK, is without doubt the most eurosceptic country in the EU.

It's time for UKIP to accept that the majority - in fact, almost all - of the party's support is in England.  Almost every elected representative the party has was elected in England.  The Scots aren't eurosceptic -only a third of all Scots are in favour of leaving the EU and some of those are pro-independence so would never vote UKIP.  We are the party most trusted by the English to represent English interests.

You don't have to be a genius to realise that UKIP's future is in England and leading the call for fairness and equality for the English.  The first step should be to finally draw a line under the ridiculous anti-devolution policy that has been losing us votes for years and start promoting an English Parliament.

Sunday 7 July 2013

Telegraph says rapists are a "hidden danger" of UKIP

An article published on the Telegraph website this morning warns that UKIP is a party of rapists following an unsubstantiated, unreported and apparently unreliable allegation of rape at a party following the UKIP conference in Birmingham.

According to the article, a young party activists claims her drink was spiked at a post-conference reception and that she was subsequently raped.  She reported the alleged rape to the party but not the police, Michael Greaves, who is a former Crown Prosecutor and member of the International Criminal Court, investigated the allegations and found that she was unreliable.  The alleged victim didn't report it to the police.

If the allegations are true then the person making the claim needs to report it to the police because it's an extremely serious crime and nobody wants a rapist on the loose.  But it isn't for the party to report to the police if there is no evidence of it happening - it clearly isn't what the alleged victim wants for a start.

Even if the allegations are true, the Telegraph's suggestion that rapists are a "hidden danger" of UKIP is absolutely unjustified and I am deeply offended and disgusted at the implication that I, as a UKIP member and councillor, am a dangerous person because of this unsubstantiated accusation.  The warning (which has since been removed after I phoned the journalist to complain) was placed below a cropped picture of Nigel Farage and said:
You have been warned: the hidden danger of Ukip is waiting in the wings
I have contacted the Press Complaints Commission with a view to making an official complaint about this defamatory statement.  The journalist says that he wasn't responsible for the picture or the caption.

Saturday 6 July 2013

UKIP candidate forced to withdraw after union threatens his wife

A UKIP candidate in Swansea was forced to withdraw his nomination for a by-election held on Thursday after his wife was threatened by a union rep in her office.

The unnamed (for obvious reasons) candidate's agent posted the following comment on the English Elections website:
The reason that there is no UKIP candidate in the Llansamlet election is because the intended candidate pulled out the day before nominations closed after claiming that after his wife mentioned in work (a university library I'm told) that her husband was thinking of standing for UKIP.

She claims that she was visited by the workplace Unison rep who advised her that it would be the end of her career enhancement prospects if he stood.
The unions are getting more and more out of control as the disastrous ConDem coalition clings on for dear life and their attempts to return their Labour Party puppet back to power are frustrated.  The Labour Party have reported their biggest donor, the trade union Unite, to the police for (allegedly) fraudulently signing up their members to the Labour Party's Falkirk branch so they can get their chosen candidate selected for an upcoming by-election.

All over the country the unions are trying to agitate their members into taking industrial action for more money and less work.  They have become further detached from reality than they have been for a long time and if we're not carefully we'll see a return to the bad old days before Maggie broke the unions where the country ground to a halt every few weeks, electricity was rationed, the streets were full of uncollected rubbish and workers crossing picket lines being physically attacked and on at least one occasion, killed.

The unions think they should run the country as the self-appointed representatives of the working man.  They don't believe in democracy, their only interest in voting is to validate what they have already decided should happen.  Ed Miliband won't rein in the unions because they installed him as leader of the Labour Party - he lost the popular vote of the Labour Party membership to his brother but won the contest with the massive and anti-democratic union block vote.

He who pays the piper calls the tune and Ed Miliband will dance to Len McCluskey's song of choice for as long as he keeps laundering millions of pounds of taxpayers' money through his union to the Labour Party.

Friday 5 July 2013

Nikki Sinclaire's political partner shows herself to be an insufferable snob

The insufferably irritating Apprentice reject, Katie Hopkins, has shown herself to also be insufferably snobbish and judgemental.

Hopkins, who set up the We Want a Referendum vote-splitting vanity project with ex-UKIP MEP Nikki Sinclaire, went on ITV's This Morning show to explain how she judges children by the names their parents have given them and refuses to allow her own children (who have names that she judges in other children to be a sign of their unsuitability) to associate with children who have certain "working class" names.

What a truly awful person Hopkins is, no wonder she gravitated to Nikki Sinclaire!

Will UKIP Overtake The Tories?

Today, a poll by Survation put us within 1% of the Tories, with UKIP holding steady in the support it has picked up recently on 22%, and the Tories falling to a record low with the organisation of 23%.

Yes, we all know not to get too down or excited by individual polls: Survation is kind to UKIP and YouGov is cruel, the latter having us only level pegging with the Liberal Democrats in one poll recently and well behind both Labour and Conservatives.

Nonetheless, is overtaking the Tories before the next election a realistic goal?

From UKIP's point of view, the advent of the summer months and the silly season means there is a frustrating hiatus to our momentum, as people forget about politics and enjoy the sun for a time. That said, it may give our activists a chance to recharge our batteries after all the hard work in recent months. After that, the latter part of this year and next year give substantial reasons for optimism, with the lifting of immigration restrictions on Bulgarian and Romania nationals playing to the party's core issue. This should give the party renewed momentum in the run-up to the European elections in 2014, which UKIP have a great chance of winning. To actually win an important election, of course, makes an immense psychological difference to the series of impressive seconds we have already notched up. Indeed one may feel it is now necessary for us to do so at this juncture - we don't want to get a reputation as a 'nearly but not quite' party - always the bridesmaid but never the bride!

In comparison, Tory hopes are strongly reliant on a recovering economy and the travails of a Labour opposition which has said almost nothing since the last election and still refuses to take any responsibility for the disastrous financial and economic issues it left behind it. However, as John Major found out, economic recovery can be a very double edged sword: during the recovery from the 1990s recession, it took a full four years before median real incomes recovered for many demographics, even as Gross Domestic Product showed strong growth. Paradoxically, the recovery actually fuelled public anger, because the wealth that was being created at the time was being concentrated in the hands of a few. Human nature being what it is, people find it much more difficult to cope with hard times if others appear to be doing better than you. Then, as now, there was huge anger at "fat cat" salaries for greedy bosses. Median incomes only started to rise strongly after the 1997 election, with Tony Blair and New Labour reaping the benefits.

Indeed, the Cameroon's disastrous error of judgement was their typically complacent assumption that by now economic recovery would be far enough advanced that most people would be feeling better off: instead the early "green shoots" we are experiencing arguably could not come at a worse time for them. (This incidentally, is the real reason behind Osborne's wholly cynical and idiotic "help to buy" ponzi scheme.  It is designed not so much to help the young to afford a house but to increase property values in the run up to the next election: as house prices improve, it gives the perception of rising wealth across the board even if the reality is very different.)

Personally, I do not think that an improving economy will help the Tory cause that much, whatever George Osborne's scheming shenanigans: people sense that we have undergone a epochal shift in our society which neither the governing parties or the opposition have had the courage to address. However, despite the reticence of the cowardly political class, the British people are eager to have that very conversation. In a recent excellent column, Charles Moore of the Telegraph captured the mood of frustration the electorate feel with politicians who instead seem to be spending their time "polishing their CV's and keeping an eye on the exits". In contrast, if UKIP keep showing the courage to address the British people as adults, then that will stand us in good stead to carry on our momentum after the 2014 European elections towards the 2015 general election.

All that said, it would not be at all surprising if by 2015 our support had begun to come of it's high. John Major's experience notwithstanding, there is usually some kind of swing back to the governing party, and this time around Labour are not lead by a charismatic and plausible Tony Blair. In time-honoured tribal tradition, many may migrate back to the Tories or Labour party from UKIP out of fear of the "Auld Enemy". Added to that is the undeniable  fact that we as a party we have some way to go to look like a team of competent people able to hold ministerial office rather than a one man band.   It would therefore not surprise me if our support came in around 15% when the general election votes were finally counted, with us in third place behind the Conservative and Labour parties.

If that sounds pessimistic it isn't meant to be. We have come very, very far in a short space of time. After years in the wilderness, UKIP are undeniably part of the mainstream, and will remain so. Before the 1979 election, Jim Callaghan famously remarked that every now and again there was a big sea change in politics. The advent of UKIP as a reaction against the sclerotic and rotten machine politics of the LibLabCon is one such change, and UKIP will be in government well within most of our lifetimes.

Three by-election wins for UKIP

UKIP had some great results in by-elections yesterday, winning three and coming second place in a fourth.

Lynda HoggerUKIP44257.85%
Nathan EnglandLabour32242.15%

Ryan LaingUKIP33161.4%
Grant FoxonIndependent*20638.6%
* Tory in disguise

UKIP also had a win in the Isle of Wight which we are waiting for details of and a second place in Newcastle-under-Lyme.

Amelia RoutLabour38754%
Elaine BlakeUKIP25436%
James VernonCon588%
Richard SteeleTUSC142%

Thursday 4 July 2013

Is HS2 Finally Dead? Instead Let's Look At HS3.

In the futuristic comic 2000AD's most famous strip "Judge Dredd", a post apocalyptic America's population was concentrated into three Mega Cities, surrounded by a nuclear wasteland called "The Cursed Earth".

Sometimes, it feels that we are ruled by people with a similar perception of our country: we have one Mega City - London - with nothing but a barren post-industrial wasteland North of Watford.

The dominance of London is not new, but it has rarely been quite so dominant as it is today. As one American put it unkindly, London is a first rate city in a second rate country. The ever growing asymmetry in both economic and cultural terms between London and the rest of the country is now becoming profoundly damaging. Powered by the seemingly limitless ability of London to suck in the best national and international talent, the city continues to grow in both population and total wealth while the rest of the country continues to languish in recession. As a result our policies and priorities have become hideously London-skewed.

This is true in rail transport as it is in most other areas: in recent years London has seen the High Speed 1 line to Paris and the continent, the extension of the Docklands Light Railway, Thameslink, the completion of the London Overground orbital and, of course, Crossrail. Not content with all that, the route for a  proposed Crossrail 2 line has recently been put out for public consultation. Of course there are regional schemes, but the investment disparities are still huge. For instance, it was recently revealed that more was being spent on a single Crossrail station than on an entire electrification scheme from London to South Wales!

Part of the business case for the ruinously expensive "High Speed 2" (HS2) rail project was that it would help lessen the North-South divide by reducing journey times between the Midlands, the North and London. However, cynics noted that in practice it was just as likely to suck in yet more business activity into the capital, which is exactly what happened when the French built the TGV from Paris to outlying French regions.

There are practical reasons why this should be so. Imagine you are a young professional living in high wage, high cost London, and a job opportunity comes up in relatively lower wage, lower cost Manchester. It makes absolutely no financial sense for you to continue pay high property prices in London plus the astronomical commuting costs of a regular journey North. Instead, you may consider relocation, but in practice this does not happen because London and South East based professionals know that, once out of that property market, they are very unlikely to be able to get back into it. The perception is that a move North is a one way ticket that  many are consequently reluctant to make (note the enormous resistance of BBC staff to move from London to Salford). This has the counter-intuitive result that companies which rely on high-end professional talent often relocate to the high cost South away from the North because of the need to attract staff.

It is not the same the other way around. A professional in Manchester can stay domiciled there and take a higher paid job in London, knowing that their lower housing costs will offset at least some of the cost of commuting. The result is a sucking into London of talent and business. The risk is that HS2, which will at least reduce the amount of time spent commuting, will tend to exacerbate this phenomenon, leaving Northern cities as ever more hollowed out dormitory towns.

Yesterday, Peter Mandelson really put the cat among the pigeons in his article in the Financial Times (£) stating he no longer believed in HS2. Good. Mandelson admitted the business case was not far short of drawn on the back of a fag packet in any case. Once again, UKIP have proved brave and prescient  in standing out against this absurd scheme.

However, that doesn't mean there isn't a case for looking at high speed rail as an answer to some of our economic problems and the North-South divide in particular. Instead let us look at the case for a series of high speed regional lines connecting major cities in the North and Midlands.

Apart from the issue of house price disparities already described, one of the major problems British cities other than London have in attracting professional talent is the lack of a critical mass in terms of the positions and opportunities available in any one location: a highly specialised professional may find themselves limited to a handful of opportunities compared to what London has to offer, meaning being located in the regions brings with it substantial risk. If they find themselves having to leave their job, then the choice may well be between unemployment, moving home, or finding a job and commuting long distances on slowish trains or roads between, say, Manchester and Sheffield. Thus, the professional employment market in a great many fields essentially lacks liquidity.

Instead of blowing upwards of £42bn on HS2, why not look instead at creating ultra-fast rail services between Leeds, Sheffield, Manchester and Liverpool? Or between Birmingham, Nottingham and Leicester? Or Bristol, Cardiff and Swansea? These could be tightly integrated with local mini "Crossrail" type schemes such as the one already proposed for Cardiff, substantially reducing total commuting times and helping to create much better "market liquidity" in matching skills and people. Thus, other areas of the country would be much better to compete with London for talent.

Yes, many people have questioned whether new communications technology will vastly reduce the need to travel to work in any case, making such schemes as much a white elephant as HS2. However, this argument would have considerably more credibility if people hadn't been suggesting this for several decades now. Because 70% of communication is non-verbal, in practise nothing beats the nuances of face to face communication. Short of being able to project a 3D hologram of yourself next to your colleague, that is very unlikely to change.

All this still leaves the considerable issue of financing. Well, as far as schemes linking Northern cities are concerned,  giving local authorities control over taxation of shale gas exploration and production may be at least part of the answer. Indeed, a Northern "HS3" network could well be justifiable on the back of an economic renaissance powered by shale.

Of course, such thinking is unlikely to resonate with our cowardly, myopic and London-centric Political Class. Sadly HS2 will probably still go ahead, in the process amplifying London's dominance still further. All the more reason for UKIP - which is clearly emerging as a party of the regions - to continue to resist HS2, instead championing such "HS3" schemes and in so doing make ever greater inroads into the support for the clapped out LibLabCon.

Wednesday 3 July 2013

Energy: The Wonders Of Thorium

In otherwise dark times - and they may turn out to be literally dark thanks to the Coalition Government's insane energy policies - one shining light is the raft of new technologies coming on-stream that despite the cynicism, timidity and mediocrity of our visionless Political Class do promise a bright economic future for our children one day.

Apart from the wonders of Shale Gas, about which I blogged yesterday, there is renewed interest in perhaps even greater wonders of Thorium nuclear technology. Recently, Thor energy in Norway fired up their Thorium reactor for a trial run.

Anyone interested should look at this short video for a concise technical summary, but the main benefits of this technology are described below.

Unlike Uranium-based Nuclear fission, Thorium is much safer because there is no need to use water as a coolant, and a loss of reactor power will just mean the reactor safely shuts down. Moreover, unlike Uranium, it is very plentiful in nature, with an almost literally limitless supply. As Ambrose Evans-Pritchard said earlier this year in the Telegraph, "it could do for nuclear power what shale fracking has done for natural gas -- but on a bigger scale, for much longer, perhaps more cheaply, and with near zero CO2 emissions."

The idea of using Thorium is not new, but it was brushed aside in favour of Uranium in the 1960s, partly because the Uranium by-product Plutonium can be used to make nuclear bombs, whereas Thorium is not so easily weaponized. Apart from the Norwegians, the Chinese are now seriously looking in Thorium power generation, as are many other nations.

So why are we not following?

You guessed it, because our beloved European Union has quietly shelved it's interest in it. It would, of course, be an outrageous libel to suggest that this has anything at all to do with powerful vested interests, not least France's investment in outmoded Uranium technology.

Even if shale gas is exploited and proves as big a bonanza as we hope it is, you plainly need a mix of fuels in any energy policy. UKIP's far-sighted and practical energy policy, which you can read here, already mentions the potential  of Thorium to fill part of our needs. The party should go further and commit to significant funding of research projects in this immensely exciting technology.

Tuesday 2 July 2013

Shale Gas: Northern Renaissance or "Resource Curse"?

Amazing news on shale gas this week, with figures released by the British Geological Survey estimating that Britain may have between 822 to 2281 trillion cubic feet of shale gas, enough for at least several decades supply. Fraser Nelson wrote excitedly in The Spectator, asking whether Britain could become the "Saudi Arabia" of shale.

Oh dear, I do hope not.

Nelson's remark is far, far more telling in political terms than he intended. His article focuses with understandable frustration on the political obstacles, vested interests and stupidities of the green lobby that are delaying our exploitation of this wonderful resource. All these are worth excoriating, certainly, but behind them lurks a much bigger concern: the "Resource Curse".

Because, without wishing to make Roger Helmer spontaneously combust in indignation, if badly handled shale gas could turn out to be an utter, total disaster.

For a long time it was assumed, logically enough, that a country blessed in natural resources would become prosperous in time, leaving those that  were resource poor permanently languishing in their wake. Instead, in many cases a bounty of natural resources can just as often act as a excuse for a corrupt and cynical polity to delay much needed social and political reform. Being able to distribute wealth to sectional interests (as well as create nice sinecures for themselves) puts off the evil day that politicians have to take tough decisions, perhaps even until the resource itself runs out. By then, is it too late.

Saudi Arabia is the prime example of this "Resource Curse": a materially vastly wealthy but socially medieval society that surely would have reformed itself - and not exported it's ultra-extreme Wahhabi Islam - had it not been cursed with a huge fraction of the world's oil reserves. After the wells run dry, it is difficult to see what the Saudi's will be left with.

Although it would be going too far to compare Britain with Saudi Arabia, many people argue that we squandered the proceeds of North Sea oil in similar fashion.

It doesn't have to be this way, of course, and people point with justification to the example of Norway, which set up a sovereign wealth fund that will help secure the lifestyles of it's people for generations to come. Having learned our lesson from North Sea oil, many now say this is precisely what we should do with the proceeds of shale gas.

To which the correct response is: just look at what happened to private pensions.

The fact of the matter is that our corrupt political class have proved that they simply can not be trusted to act so responsibly. Britain private pension system was once analogous in some ways to a sovereign wealth fund: we had put more private savings aside for our future old age than the rest of Europe put together. Then along came Gordon Brown and New Labour who cynically ruined them in order to fund a vast state expansion that would benefit the Labour party's client interests. Whereas Norway benefits from being a highly cohesive monocultural society that can trust it's politicians to plan for the long term in a serious matter, our political culture plainly lacks those attributes. Instead, we are governed by an elite who regard politics as either an amusing tribal game or simply a career to gain entry into the international elite: neither type has much thought for the long term good of society as whole. We should also not forget the potential sinister manoeuvrings of the European Union in all of this, who have already intimated that they would like our shale gas reserves to become a common EU resource. Who can doubt that an ambitious British politician, perhaps with an eye to a future EU position, won't be willing to grant them those rights?

Moreover, however painful the current downturn may be, it has of necessity forced people to look seriously at what has gone wrong in our society and the need to both cut state spending and, in the long term, to reform the weaknesses in our own culture. No one wants to continue wearing a hair shirt unnecessarily, but we must look and see how we can best exploit this wonderful resource in order to build a sustainable economic and social model, and that certainly will not happen if it involves central government collecting the revenues and bunging them out to favourite client groups.

The answer must be to devolve the shale bounty as locally as possible. Granted, George Osborne made some encouraging noises in this direction, but his proposals don't go far enough, and the suspicion must be that the Treasury will conspire to grab the lion's share of the tax revenues.   Instead we must be much more ambitious and use this opportunity to both reignite a culture of enterprise and put rocket boosters under the localist agenda.

Firstly, regarding enterprise, a major factor in the rapid exploitation of shale gas in the United States is that individuals, rather than the State (or "Crown" in our case) own the mineral rights beneath the land. Let us change that and really incentivise exploration. (Of course we can not have a total free for all, and relevant authorities would still need the power to reject planning permission for fracking where it  wasn't suitable.)

Secondly, regarding localism, local governments could also be allowed to tax shale exploration and, in areas where shale deposits lay off shore, to grant and charge for exploration rights. Yes, that may result in a localised version of a "Resource Curse" where local councils cynically line their pockets and bloat their workforce on the proceeds, but localised competition between authorities wanting to develop exploration would help keep such larceny to a minimum in a way that centralised revenue collection would not. Furthermore, localised revenue collection would incentivise local government in partnership with local institutions to develop the necessary infrastructure, both in physical and in terms of human capital and skills, in order to allow the necessary industries to grow. The model for local authorities must be Aberdeen, which despite centralised Treasury revenue collection still managed to turn itself as the local centre for North Sea oil related industries: it's university, for example, runs specialised courses in petroleum geology and other oil and gas related subjects.

Finally, properly localised exploitation of shale gas would allow Northern England to undertake a major, long term and very necessary cultural shift. As it so happens, many of the poorest post-industrial areas of the country lie on or near major shale deposits. By allowing local control of exploration and collection of revenue (in return, of course, for a winding down of central subsidies) many areas of the North would not only de facto be but perceive themselves to be self-sufficient, wealth-creating areas for the first time in a generation, restoring much needed local pride and self-respect. In contrast, centralised revenue collection from shale gas proceeds and churning of the money out as subsidy back to local councils will not have this cultural effect. If you doubt that: look at the sorry cultural state of Scotland today: bitter and more prone than ever to blame English exploitation for it's problems and poverty. In large part this is because it was denied precisely this opportunity during the North Sea oil boom.

The possibility of a cultural and industrial renaissance for the North - a renaissance as great good luck would have it very much in keeping with it's culture and traditions - is perhaps the greatest long term prize of all that shale gas may afford us. Sadly, though, it is not a possibility that our Southern-dominated, Metropolitan political class understands: very tellingly George Osborne, an arch short-termist and political schemer to his core,  concentrated in his recent BBC interview on the benefits of shale gas being primarily one of lower gas bills. An important issue, certainly, but it betrays a pathetic lack of ambition all too common in the Political Class.

Herein lies yet another massive opportunity for UKIP: we have always championed shale gas exploration, but combining shale gas with distribution of mineral rights and a serious, daring localism would prove a massive vote winner in industrial heartlands of the North, where Labour's grip is demonstrably already weakening.  Furthermore, we can present these ideas as a substantial solution to the ever more serious asymmetry in our society between a wealthy London City-state and the rest of the country, an issue which people outside of the South East are ever more increasingly aware of, and ever more profoundly resent.