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A Former UKIP Branch Chairman Backs REMAIN

Cards on the table. Many moons ago I was a member of Young Independence and established the

Bolton Branch of UKIP. I was a member when UKIP was in favour of a flat tax, slashing the size and

scope of government and was at least pretending to be libertarian. I left when I saw the writing on the

wall; that UKIP was turning in a 1960’s Labour tribute band of social conservatism and big

government paternalism (my two least favourite things).

I was and still am anti EU. I think it’s officious, bureaucratic, inefficient, meddlesome, nannying,

bloated and expensive. But guess what – so are all governments. Long before the EU we were bribed

and coerced by unelected faceless British civil servants, so I don’t buy the argument that Brexit would

result in some miraculous purging of pedantic officialdom.

But that’s not my main reason for opting

for Remain, rather history, the economy, and British values seem to point that way.

Brexit advocates seem to want to fight the tide of history. The story of humanity’s political entities has

been one, dare I say it, of ever closer union – groups of gathers came together to form small tribes,

which came together to form communities, which in turn grouped together to become towns, which

became cities, which united to become small kingdoms, which in finally came together to form the

nation states we know today. Europe is now trying to forge the next step – that of bringing nation

states into something larger. Being the first attempt it seems new and scary, just as there would have

been those in the kingdoms of Mercia and Wessex who resisted this new-fangled ‘England’, with its

distant rulers and burdensome taxes and laws. It’s going to happen, so we can try and influence that

as it’s evolves, or we can re-join in a few decades time as a junior member on much worse terms than

we have now.

By far my biggest concern is that of the economy. Markets can deal with democracies and dictators,

they can handle with Tories or Labour, but what they don’t like is instability and uncertainty, and Brexit

negotiations are uncertainty incarnate. Nobody knows how long negotiations will take. Nobody has

any idea as to what sort of deal we’ll get. Nobody knows what EU rules we’ll have to abide by and

which we’ll be able to ignore. Nobody knows if we’ll repeal existing EU legislation and if so how much.

All this is an anathema to business deciding where to sink investment. The best and brightest of the

world flock to Britain because their skills and talents have an unrivalled platform and outlets through

our links to Europe, the Commonwealth and North America. Brexit and the subsequent reservations

about visas and free movement would throw this into doubt.

“But it’s in the EU’s interests to give Britain a good deal, we do too much trade for them to jeopardise

it”. This message has been the crux of the Leave camps economic case, but it’s tragically naive for it

rests on the assumption that EU leaders act rationally. They don’t. The history of the EU is one of

making political decisions that go against economic sense. The Euro, the madness of monetary union

without fiscal union, was a political project, not economic. The CAP is a political settlement that runs

against all but the most projectionist economic rationale.

If Britain opted to leave left the EU Brussels

would have to make an example of us. Negotiations would be tortuous, dragged out for years with

every line of the settlement debated and revised and amended purely out of spite. Just look at

Greece. Every sensible economist pleaded for some form of debt write-off, but no. Greece had to be

made an example of, especially after the defiance of the anti-austerity referendum. The vanity and

pride of those behind ‘The Project’ cannot be over stated, and EU chiefs really will go out of their way

to cause an independent Britain as much trauma as possible if it meant deterring other would be

separatists.

This is partly why the EU needs Britain. An EU without Britain would mean all the worst aspects of the

bureaucracy would be let loose, with little or no restraint. Those members who tend to side with us,

like the Nordic nations, would find themselves without a large ally, and would be cowed and bullied

into meek compliance. A Britain-less EU would also be a more insular, inward looking beast.

During

the 1990s it was Britain that led to the push to see the ten Eastern European states of the former

Warsaw Pact brought into the EU, much to the annoyance of the French who argued attention should

be focused on deepening integration among the existing members. But Britain triumphed, correctly

insisting that without EU membership anchoring these new democracies to the West, they’d succumb

to a gradual economic, then political slide back into the Russian orbit. And this is the rule rather than

the exception – for Britain gets its way a lot in Europe, especially on the big issues. The very fact the

EU is a free trade area is largely down to us. The European Court of Human Rights, though not part

of the EU, was created almost at the British behest. That we don’t have an EU Army is down to Britain

thwarting the idea every time it rears its head.

 And it’s not just our friends and allies in Europe that want us to stay. The Commonwealth nations, to

whom Brexiteers point as an alternative trading bloc to the EU, want us to remain. Our closest ally,

the United States, wants us to stay. Both recognise that our membership of the EU is the unique

bridge that binds the Anglosphere and the continent of Europe together. Our place in the EU reminds

Brussels that there’s a world outside Fortress Europe and that globalisation is an opportunity, not a

threat.

It’s no coincidence that the only world leader who supports Brexit is Vladmir Putin, a man

itching to divide and weaken a united West that’s hemmed in and punished his geopolitical trolling.

I get the frustration with the EU, I really do. I too hear the siren song of Brexit, the temptation to stick

two fingers up at Brussels and reclaim sovereignty. But every year nation states get less and less

relevant. True sovereignty hasn’t existed for any state since the Second World War. If we took the

Norwegian option we’d still have to follow EU rules, but we’d have no say in how they’re made.

Leaving would be to ignore the pleads of our oldest friends. Brexit would be an economic roll of the

dice that really don’t need. Much like the Scottish Nationalists, the economic case for Brexit rests on

hopeful scenarios and keeping our fingers crossed – I’m sorry but the world’s sixth largest economy is

too important to gamble on a wing and a prayer.

The perfect is the enemy of the good. The EU machine is infuriating, but Britain, the West, and the

world is a better place through our membership.

A guest contribution by Lee T Jenkins

Prediction: A Week Out, And Thoughts on a Murder.

My track record is good: I nailed the Scottish referendum, and the 2015 General election. The polling average at time of writing is a 4-point lead for the leave campaign. I still think (70% confidence interval) Remain will win. Here’s why.

The polls suffer from a 6% response rate, and unlike the Scots Indy referendums, there’s very little to calibrate them against, as Leave/Remain cuts across party lines, and there have been no recent referendums on the subject. A lot of IPSOS MORI’s swing is methodology changes, reminiscent of the last election. The pollsters have been tweaking their methodologies to give similar results (so-called “herding”). There is a better than outside chance of another polling catastrophe.

Given the extraordinarily low response rate, there is a good chance the highly excited leave supporters in every demographic by which Pollsters weight their samples: age, education, socioeconomic class, party affiliation etc, are significantly more likely to respond. The Be.Leavers are enjoying this referendum. The Bremainers are thoroughly sick of the whole referendum and cannot wait until it’s over. I cannot see how this can be captured in their methodologies.

Basically, I think there’s a good chance the polls are at least as wrong as the General election, which would be nearly enough to get Remain over the winning post.

There are 13% undecided in the last Survation poll. These people will break for the status quo, as they have in most referendums in the past.

The ground game: where one side has access to all the party machines, and the other, leave has access to UKIP’s chaotic machine alone, and no national footprint or experience in national ‘Get Out The Vote’ operations.

This is all said with due respect to the view that shouting “The Polls are wrong” is the hallmark of the side that’s going to lose.

I was just about to hit publish.

And As I was writing this yesterday, an MP was murdered. A bleak day for her family, Labour, Parliament, and the country. She was apparently shot and stabbed by a man with mental health issues, and an association with the far-right, who may, or may not have shouted “put Britain first” as he committed his murder. Jo Cox was the MP for Batley & Spen who was first elected in 2015, and was holding a constituency surgery, as MPs up and down the land do weekly. They are unprotected, yet attract some of the worst and most disturbed people in the land. She leaves 2 young children and a devastated husband. We in the UK are lucky to have such dedicated, humble, honest and decent MPs, of whom Mrs Cox was not out of the ordinary. MPs aren’t “in it for themselves” nor are they part of “the elite”. They’re just like us, really.

Whether Thomas Mair, the chief suspect, was, or was not motivated in part by the Referendum campaign is not the issue, as an untruth can get halfway round the world before the truth has got its boots on. In this case, it’s a still-plausible, not-yet an untruth bit of speculation. A motivation from far-right beliefs and influenced by the referendum campaign remains the most likely explanation for Mair’s actions. And for the leave campaign who’re busy suggesting an EU army is likely, and Turkey’s about to join the EU, to complain about people suggesting this is so, is a bit rum, really. As ye sow, so shall ye reap.

I’m making a prediction, not arguing what should happen, and while I wish it were not so, this appalling event will affect the outcome.

What will people take from this senseless murder? That the referendum has poisoned politics? That perhaps we should pause for breath in this febrile atmosphere of anti-politics to reflect on the huge decision we’re about to make? That perhaps the anti-politics, anti-expert mood has gone a bit far? Perhaps the politicians, our allies, the economists and international organisations who say Brexit will make Britain poorer, weaker, less influential and will harm the western alliance all have a point? Anything that makes people stop and think isn’t going to be good for the ‘leave’ camp who for weeks have been doubling down on the sullen, nihilist anti-expert, anit-politics anti-immigrant hysteria sweeping western democracies. Events like this have a habit of being the moment the narrative changes.

Farage’s disgusting poster unveiled yesterday, with its clear echoes of Nazi propaganda will be received differently in the light of this tragedy.

The Madness Stalking Democracy will Pass.

“Has there been a general election, Mr Blackadder” asked Mrs Miggins, unaware, until Edmund points it out, as neither she nor Baldrick have a vote. “Hardly seems fair to me” she says.
“Of course it’s not fair — and a damn good thing too. Give the like of Baldrick the vote and we’ll be back to cavorting druids, death by stoning, and dung for dinner”

And that, in a nutshell is the problem with democracy. You simply cannot allow the enthusiasms of the noisier, politically enthused bit of the population to be indulged. The young prats currently cavorting after Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders seem blissfully unaware of the misery that socialism wrought even within their parents’ lifetimes. Nativist chauvinism, a yearning for the “strong leader”, the admiration of Vladimir Putin by the likes of Nigel Farage, Donald Trump or Marianne Le Pen: we’ve seen this before too.

This is why “elites”, in most of the world limit the choice available to electors to people within the bounds of reasonable discourse. It is possible to expand the bounds of reasonable discourse over time, to move the centre of politics around which that “overton window” opens. Clement Atlee did, Margaret Thatcher did. But what is happening right now, in response to a decade of stagnating living standards, is different.

One way of looking at it is a revolt of the left behind. That is behind the rise of UKIP, Le Front National and Donald Trump. After a hollowing out of the traditional working class, as the most able have moved on and up, and after generations of assortative mating, the shallow end of the British gene pool face competition from far more able and energetic immigrants and they don’t like it one bit. If you listen to a ‘KIPper, you’ll hear that they’re “fed up” about “not being listened to” by the “metropolitan elite”. Cameron offered these bloody people their referendum. They now hate him even more. This mood cannot be pandered to, because the policy solutions they demand don’t work. If your response to a few years of stagnant wages and a Polish couple moving in next door is to try to elect Nigel Farage, then you don’t deserve to be listened to. You deserve to be told to shut up and do your homework again. These people have captured the Republican party in the USA, and the party will not elect a president until the “elites” get control back.

And on the left, the highly educated marxists who once would have been guaranteed solid middle-class status as teachers, lecturers and officials, are now competing with self-employed tradesmen who often earn far more, for housing and schools. People, once solidly middle-class find themselves outcompeted by people they regard as inferior, and they don’t like it. The erosion of the status of the Nomenklatura vs. “trade” offends their sensibilities, and panders to an old snobbery against grubby money-making. The old socialism espoused by Corbyn plays to these prejudices, offering status at public expense. Thankfully most people going to University ignore the student politics of the hard-left, and seek a qualification to enable them to compete. And in competing they make themselves, and society richer. These student trots who never grew up are creatures of ridicule. They have however completely captured the Labour party, which is finished as an electoral force for at least a decade.

Morons, it seems favour either full socialism, or some form of fascism, because these ideas simple, easy to understand and wrong. It’s time for those of us who understand the world to stop imagining the grunting ignoramuses or starry-eyed ideologues have a point at all. They deserve ridicule. Point at the Corbynista or the ‘KIPper and laugh for having been taken in by nonsense.

Meanwhile, in the middle you have the broad mass of people doing OK. Unemployment is low. Most people are getting small annual pay rises. Price rises are low, and for capital goods, prices are falling. However people like nominal rises more than they like real rises. And the low-inflation, low interest rate reality means even as people’s real wages, even after housing costs (outside London and the south east anyway) are rising strongly. A lack of nominal increases makes people grumpier than they should be. There is sympathy for Farage and Corbyn shaking things up. Thankfully, the broad mass of the basically OK middle are sensible, and when push comes to shove, see the status-quo is far from intolerable. And those doing basically OK are far greater in number than the UKIPish left-behind and the Socialist-minded Corbynista class.Traditional politicians such as Cameron, who can reach out to this broad middle while keeping the coalitions of which their party is made together, will still win elections.

Assuming the Tory Party holds together after the referendum, and doesn’t go EuroBonkers, they will need to find another politician who can reach out to the broad centre. If they can, Labour, entirely captured by voter-repellent lunatics, will offer no resistance to another decade in power. Over the pond, Trump will attract a little more than a third of the vote. Everyone else will hold their nose and vote for Hilary Clinton however crap a candidate she may be. And in the rest of the Democratic world, people will flirt with lunatic populists along these lines, but will mostly vote for a steady-as-she-goes mainstream candidates.

Democracy – keeps testing these bad ideas, but mostly seems to work. This madness will pass.

Prime Minister’s Questions: Whither the Bear-Pit?

Jeremy Corbyn’s first outing in the bear pit of Prime Minister’s questions went better than either man could have hoped for. Corbyn, a lousy speaker and poor debater got off lightly, and the Prime Minister avoided the obvious banana-skin of publicly beating-up a careworn old geography teacher who accidentally found himself at the dispatch box while looking for some sandwiches.

There are few more tiresome tropes in politics that PMQs are a “national embarrassment”, with all the jeering and petty tribal point-scoring. But it is just about the only debate people can be bothered to watch. If you’re interested in an earnest debate about the issues, you can see everything live on the parliament channel, where the members who’ve taken the trouble to learn about a given issue turn up to craft and fine tune legislation. There are select committees where members scrutinise the business of Government, calling ministers and civil servants to account. Few bother.

PMQs however isn’t about the business of Government. It’s party-political. It’s designed to test the mettle of the Prime Minister under fire – tough forensic questions, not about the issue, but to play the man. Put the man under pressure, in public and see how he fares. It means the Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition learns to handle pressure, and crucially the voters can see how he fares in the bear-pit, often weekly, for years before a general election. He’s out there in the manner of a Medieval king in front of his troops, meeting his opponent with the armies arrayed behind them. You find out which tribe is stronger, which is more unified and where the cracks might be. It tests the man as a leader, as a debater. Good at PMQs? Better able to stand up to Vladimir Putin in the great councils of the world.

The idea this is where you can forensically examine the Government’s record earnestly is like complaining Rugby’s too rough as England play Australia in a world cup final, declaring chess a better sport in world where physical prowess is no longer needed. You’ll have missed the point. And get de-bagged by the Exeter Agrics 3rd 15 and have a pint poured down your crevice into the bargain. And quite right too.

Every politician comes to the dispatch-box for the first time promising “a new politics”. I’ve little doubt that Demosthenes promised a new style of politics in the Ecclesia two and a half thousand years ago. But what Corbyn will find is instead of testing Cameron’s mettle, and demonstrating his own, this Consensual PMQs will allow Cameron to calmly state the Government position in front of the largest political audience in the country; and neither man is tested. Far from being more democratic, the public have less information about the vital character of the people they are auditioning to lead the country. Corbyn is not doing his job either as a party political warrior, or leader of the opposition testing the Prime minister.

If you think this new style of politics, a consensual, nice, quiet PMQs is an improvement on the old one, you’re a po-faced, sanctimonious bore, who’s simply ignorant of what PMQs is for. The reason Corbyn sought to change the rules, is because he’d be demolished under the “old politics”. He’s going to get demolished anyway, but he’s just spiked his own guns too. As for a “national embarrassment”: nonsense. The commons bear pit is held up as an example of proper scrutiny not of legislation, but the man too. Our top politicians are held to account by the legislature in a way few outside the westminster system are, and many envy us that.

 


(Not PMQs, Not “England” either, but the point remains. The Bear Pit has its uses).

Dead Children in the Mediterranean

The independent leads today with harrowing photographs of a small boy, maybe two years old, face-down in the surf having drowned. You will see this image shared on social media, along with impassioned pleas to “do something”, as if opening Europe’s borders to the 10m Syrians who are currently displaced is a viable option.

You will hear it said that this is all because of the 2003 war in Iraq. Perhaps that is a part of it. But perhaps a premature withdrawal before Iraq was able to look after its own security is more to blame. But actually this is a small part of the problem. People are fleeing Syria, where the west didn’t intervene to topple a poison-gas using dictator (Assad, gassed people around Damascus in 2013) to one where we did (Saddam Hussein gassed Kurds in Halabja in 1988).

The origins of the Civil war in Syria are not due to the coalition invasion of Iraq in 2003, but more down to the self-immolation of a market trader called Mohamed Bouazizi in Tunisia in December 2010, an event credited with starting the “Arab spring” whereby the populations of several countries, including Syria rose up in an attempt to overthrow their dictatorial leaders. As ever, economics played a part. The rising oil price back then made fuel subsidies unaffordable to non-oil exporting leaders such as Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak and Syria’s Bashar Al Assad. Removing the fuel subsidies created an environment where the previously content middle classes of Damascus and Cairo decided to throw their lot in with the usual malcontents, the Muslim Brotherhoods and less savory organisations who saw their chance.

But you will see the lazy assertion that the Syrian civil war is “our fault” because of the 2003 invasion of Iraq. And certainly the rise of Al Qaeda in Iraq under Abu Musab al-Zarqawi later became ISIS/ISIL/IS under Abu Omar al-Baghdadi was facilitated by the lawlessness of post-US withdrawal Iraq and the incompetence of the Governments.

But ultimately, this is the long-running sore sectarian sore of the middle-east, that various dictators have sat upon, with varying degrees of success, with or without help from outside powers, since the 9th century.

The problem, those showing the photo of the dead child on the beach would have you believe, is that “we” caused the problem. “We” did not. The problem isn’t that Europe is too “callous”, and that the problem would go away if everyone was as achingly moral as they were. There are 10m people displaced around Syria’s borders. The brunt is Borne by Turkey Lebanon and Jordan. Iraq too is taking its share. It’s just in the UNHCR camps, well run, by the way, there’s no work. It’s a boring, depressing, but safe existence. There is food and water, from which shit is separated. It is quite understandable that people seek a better life in Europe.

Europe is spending billions, helping people in the camps. That people want to come is understandable. But the idea we’re doing nothing to help them, or have an obligation to let them in, is more about the virtue-signalling of the person saying it, that the real moral position. Worse than the vacuous moral posturing, is the complete lack of agency you give to the people in this situation. Millions are waiting patiently in the camps, or in Beirut or Amman to return to their homes should peace return to Syria. Yet some decide to put their children in the hands of people smugglers and unseaworthy vessels and unventilated trucks. These people bear the responsibility for the dead children far more than the “Cameron” whom countless memes exhort to “do more”.

 The very people most likely to share these self-aggrandising, shroud-waving memes on social media, are the same ones who’re ostentatiously anti-war. Perhaps if any politician in the west is responsible for the success of ISIS it’s Ed Miliband who successfully vetoed international military action in 2013, wholly for domestic political concerns in order to wrong-foot the Prime Minister. Perhaps if we’d started supporting reasonable groups in the Anti-Assad forces in 2013 (or earlier, my view it was already by then 18 months too late), IS may not have got such a foothold. Or maybe not. We will never know.

Not “our” fault, those dead kids. We do have an obligation to help Syrians and we are doing so through UNHCR, but that’s not the same as playing host to the entire population. The solution in Syria is military. If you want to blame a British politician, blame Ed Miliband. An American one? Barack Obama who brought the Troops home from Iraq prematurely, before Iraq could look after its own security. But ultimately blaming politicians in the west for the complete failure of the middle east is futile.

Jeremy Corbyn.

What fun!

First, I am not a neutral observer. I am a £3 Labour supporter and Voted for Corbyn. I have a £10 bet with betfair at 23:1 (and a few quid on the others to ensure I come out ahead, whoever wins). But it looks like the Labour party is going to do it. A man who’s barely spoken to most of the PLP in decades, preferring the company of like-minded trots.

And this is where it’s going to get interesting. The hard-left is clannish. They do not tend to mix much. They may have apolitical friends who share some interests, but no-one actively from the other viewpoint. They’d no more be friends with a Tory than with a botulinum bacillus. These people congregate in certain professions: academia (social science faculties), local government and trandes-unionism. And given their concentration, and total unwillingness to befriend people with heterodox views, they’re liable to underestimate the support for their opponents, and imagine themselves a majority.

Amongst these people, Corbynmania has taken hold. They flock to hear their man speak, repeating lefty shibboleths in the manner of a Strawbs tribute band. The tunes are the same ones the older ones in the crowd remember, but there’s something lost in the delivery. “You can’t get me, I’m part of the Union” somehow no longer fits the zeitgeist of this individualist age.



The problem the Corbynistas face is they are few in number, and strikingly poor at arguing. Jezbollah himself is rather thin-skinned, becoming angry when questioned forensically about supporting this terrorist group, or sharing platforms with that despicable anti-semite.

Now I am sure Corbynladen is a decent guy. It’s just he’s spent decades in politics agreeing with those around him about what must be done. Meanwhile his solutions were tried, not just in the UK, and were everywhere found to be disastrous. The world moved on. Politics in successful countries is about the management of liberal, free-market democracy. How much do you tax? what is the most efficient way to administer benefits? Who manages what? It’s clear that the state is not very good at managing stuff, even if it’s an excellent financer of services. But those who yearn for the state to reclaim the commanding heights of the economy are going to be disappointed, whether or not they get their way.

Tories are currently at 42%, Labour at 28% in the polls, for what they’re worth.

The electorate, when he’s elected, will look at him, give him the benefit of the doubt for a bit. I dare say Labour may enjoy a Corbyn bounce, as people remember what great tunes were played in the 1970s and 1980s. Then the reality- the months-long wait for a telephone or washing machine from state-run stores, British rail as a by-word for inefficiency and delay, waiting lists for cars, the rubbish piled in the street, the dead going unburied and an attempt by hard-core marxists to assert that a country should be run not from the ballot box, but at the point of production.

Corbyn will spend his time as leader answering questions about his relationship with, and comments about organisations most people in the country regard as our enemies. He will be torn to shreds. If you think the “Tory smear machine” is working him over now, they’ve barely started. As for the Tory party itself – it’s a studied example of masterful inactivity. Never interrupt your enemy when he’s making a mistake.

So what will Labour do? That depends whether Working Class Eyebrows, Mrs Balls, Liz Magnolia-Paint et al. can regain control of the party. But I suspect the rot has gone too deep. The influence of the unions in the constituency parties is too all-pervasive. The whole party has been attracting hard-leftists since Miliband won his leadership battle. These people are going to try to retain their grip the party. As the hard left see Labour as THEIR party, and they’re not going to give it up.

There’s going to be a battle, not for the soul of the Labour party, that’s always belonged to people who still describe themselves as “socialist”, but for the brand. Will the next electable centre-left politician to be put before the British people be under the Red Rose of Labour, or will Labour’s grown-ups split to form a Social Democratic party, perhaps a take-over of the Vacant Liberal Democrats? The question is who gets the Labour brand: the hard-left or the modernisers? Labour’s problem is the Germ of socialism in the party’s DNA leaves them vulnerable to exactly what has happened: a takeover by socialists who’ve kept the faith.

My guess is that this time, the Labour party will not be able to kick out the loonies. Parties are weaker, smaller and so more beholden to people with *ahem* excitable views. So there will probably be a split. The next non-Tory prime minister in about 2030 will likely not be from Labour.

Supporting Labour as Virtue Signalling.

Imagine you’re not very politically engaged. You’re reading this blog, which probably means you can name the whole cabinet. Most people could probably recognise the PM, Chancellor and Home Secretary, but only name two of the three confidently. This isn’t stupidity, it’s rational ignorance. The reading necessary to keep up with the day-to-day doings of politicians chases out other, potentially more worthwhile activities. Sport for example. Or spending time with the kids. Being knowledgeable about politics simply isn’t much use. We political animals find it very difficult to put ourselves in the minds of people who don’t immerse themselves in issues.

Right?

OK.

So imagine now the issue in question is “benefits”, specifically cuts to them. Do you wish to signal that you are a nice person? Then you loudly opine that “how could you increase poverty?” You’re against the benefit cuts because you care about people less well off than yourself. Therefore anyone who does support benefit cuts is a bad person. Stands to reason.

“But”, you might say, “there are incentive effects: look at the increase in low-waged unemployment. That is, in the long-run a much better route out of poverty than generous benefits which merely trap people into state dependency. Much better to give people the habit of work and the hope of long-term advancement it brings”.

Your non-engaged audience lost you at “incentive effects”, and their take home is you want to take money out of the pockets of poor people because “blah blah blah”. It is much easier and safer in an online world to say the easy, left wing thing. We live in an online world where your every utterance can be dug back up, taken out of context, extrapolated to the point of ridiculousness, more or less forever. Saying “benefit cuts are evil” isn’t going to lose you supporters. Saying “The Tories have a point, actually, perhaps tax-credits should be cut” will. Liberal economics is harder to express in a tweet than socialist economics. Liberty’s benefits are distributed and harder to point to. Socialism offers solutions that are easy, simple to understand, and wrong.

However out in the real world, people see benefits recipients, and resent paying for them. And down the pub, where conversations, rather than tweets happen, you don’t need to signal virtue by trite political opinion. You can do it by standing a round. People aren’t morons. They know how people work and with a bit of thought, the Tories make sense. Down the pub, cuts to benefits are popular.

Labour’s mistake is to take the lazy virtue-signalling on social media as what people actually think.

Budget 2015 – it’s as if Gordon Brown never left.

So, the laws of supply and demand have been suspended for a Tory chancellor? Because his “living wage” of £9 an hour by 2020 will (by his own admission) cost jobs. 60,000 of them, according to the OBR. Just as the minimum wage cost jobs for young people. (yes, it did – youth unemployment started its inexorable rise in 2000) so will Osborne’s living wage. But the people it hurts most will be the loudest to cheer it. Osborne isn’t even pretending this is anything more than a shameless political reach into Labour territory. It won’t make people much better off, because tax credit cuts (long overdue) mean the extra money is clawed back by the Government, and it means more tax revenue. Gordon Brown used this trick a couple of times.

Inheritance tax changes further privilege property. This is a policy I once endorsed. But it’s the privilege of property in the tax system which is, along with its shortage, responsible for Britons seeing their home as an investment, not consumption. I’ve no problem with raising the inheritance tax threshold, but make all capital equal.

Hypothecated taxation is the politics of the moron down the pub. We need roads. It doesn’t follow that Vehicle Excise Duty (a bad tax anyway -much better to get rid of it and raise more from fuel) should be spent on roads, so to put its proceeds into a “road fund” is idiocy. US roads are funded from petrol taxes, and petrol taxes are unpopular in the extreme. So politicians won’t raise them, so US roads don’t have enough money, and so bridges crumble. And that’s before the “you cyclists don’t pay road tax” nonsense. Words cannot describe how bad this policy is.

There were a number of measures I approve of – the changes to dividend taxation seem sensible and make ISAs valuable to basic rate tax-payers once more and the moves to build more homes. But this was a political budget. Osborne has got the big questions right over the past 5 years, and this budget was his reward: Its purpose wasn’t the good of the country, but to plunge a knife into the twitching corpse of Labour, by stealing their identity and parking Tory tanks on Labour’s working class lawn.

The difference between him and Gordon Brown? Osborne is a politician of Tony Blair’s class. It’s a privilege to watch such a master of the liars’ craft at work.

On bad Left-Wing Arguments

Elections are won by the side that can reach out beyond their core supporters and persuade a plurality of voters that theirs are the best policies. What is striking at the moment, is how completely the left have failed to understand their opponents’ beliefs and motivations. For this, I blame the echo-chamber of social media, and I think lefties are far, far more prone to this running down idealogical rabbit-holes than their opponents. Anyone debating lefties on Twitter will very quickly find utter incomprehension that anyone could think like that, and then get blocked. Labour is using social media to talk to itself, and therefore gets stuck with some really, really bad ideas.

I was arguing with a left-wing activist last night and I was put in mind of this great post from Fifty Shades of Dave. For her it was simply inconceivable that anyone could object to high marginal tax-rates on “the rich”, as soon as they had “enough”. “Enough” in this context was enough for a small flat. Taking more and objecting to paying eye-watering taxes in this world view was immoral, and utterly, incomprehensibly greedy. I tried to explain that someone on the higher rate tax was by no-means “rich”, that a 40% income paid at some point by nearly half of the population, and that going higher, on the additional rate tax-payers, didn’t raise much money. There was no acceptance that perhaps, if you’re going to levy a tax, the opinions of those who might actually have to pay it, are relevant. But to no avail. This moral view of taxation, and the view that the high-paid are simply immoral is deeply entrenched on the left.
The problem for the left create for themselves with this world-view is this: Poor people do not desire, or even expect to remain poor. For most “young families” “poverty” as defined in relative terms by the left is a phase. You’re poor when you’re setting up home and building a career. Poverty for me was a phase. It was for my parents, and indeed my Grandparents. Money was a struggle. And then for most, it ceases to be as debts are paid off, and income rises. By your middle age, you’re no-longer struggling for money. You’ve worked hard, and you can enjoy the fruits of your labours. If that’s a nice car, a bigger house or simply not worrying about having another pina colada on holiday, it’s no matter. Most people who’ve worked hard and paid their taxes, see these comforts as the just deserts of ‘knuckling down’.
Labour’s rhetoric during the election campaign instead thought of poverty as a Caste. Poor people who’re totally dependent upon the state for their very survival, who lack any agency to better their condition. And this world-view can only come from the Milibands of the world, who’re born into money, and for whom concern for the (abstract concept of) the poor is a form of value signalling. The only poor they’ve met are wheeled in by party activists for photo-ops. They are completely out of touch. in this they’re supported by professional farmers of the poor, whose interests are best served by keeping their flock servile and dependent.
But the poor, by and large, do not resent the successful middle aged plumber/businessman in a nice car. Especially if that person is a neighbour who represents a route by which the apprentice plumber can get to the comforts of a decent income, and the self-respect that comes from hard work. Labour was telling these people that they were too stupid to make it. That they were without hope without state help. And that if they did “make it” they were selfish and wicked, and would have it taxed off them. David Cameron is no less out of Touch of the poor than Miliband, but unlike Miliband Cameron is not pretending to be something he’s not, and much as Miliband would like it to be otherwise, the people don’t really hate and fear the Toffs as much as Labour think they ought. Indeed people often would quite like to BE a toff one day.
The left assume the poor will always remain poor and so would always support punitive taxation on “the rich” because only 20% of the population pay higher rate tax. But nearly 50% do AT SOME POINT IN THEIR LIVES” and even more aspire to. Fewer will get to the £100,000 62% marginal rate, but a good many would like to. Very, very few Tories utter the word “scrounger”, the Newspaper which uses that word most, is the Guardian, whose columnists put the word into Tories’ mouths, a comforting straw man, the right-wing ogre who hates poor people and wants to hurt them. And because they’re arguing, to applause from social media, against a figment of their own fevered imaginations, they’re ignored.
High marginal rates of taxation simply don’t raise much money. Yet this is now the moral shibboleth of the left, but this signals the hostility to “aspiration” that is crippling the labour party. No-one aspires to a better life on benefits, yet this appears to be the left’s offer to the poor. Tony Blair was relaxed about people getting filthy rich. Life on benefits is supposed to be a bit crap and limiting. If it wasn’t, there’d be little incentive to work. Now it is the Tories who’re saying “here’s the route out of poverty, we’ll smooth the road, and get out of your way”. Millions of new jobs, admittedly some crap, means millions of people, some of whom formerly existed on benefits, now have a wage. And that some of these wages are topped up by in-work benefits is a feature, not a bug of “making work pay” through the Universal Credit. There are no longer any people facing marginal tax/benefit withdrawal rates over 100%. There were in 2010. And wages rise through people’s lifetimes. People know this, it seems the Labour party don’t.
People didn’t vote Tories because they hated poor people, or the NHS, or were stupidly voting against their interests, as the great wail of pain and confusion from the left on Social media would have it, but because the Labour offer to people was utterly ghastly. Labour’s offer consisted of rich, Oxbridge people saying “Have some more benefits, you worthless pleb, you’ll never make it. And if you don’t like it, you’re evil, and we’ll tax you.” Is it any wonder Labour lost? David Cameron may not have successfully reached far beyond his base, but at least he’s trying. 
Just as Tony Blair had to smash it into Labour’s thick skull that nationalisation of the means of production was a bad idea to win an election, the next Labour Prime Minister will not come into office threatening anyone with a 50p tax. 

On First Past the Post

The purpose of democracy is not to conduct a tribal headcount, but to allow the people to chuck the rotters out from time to time. Does anyone think 1979 or 1997 didn’t accurately reflect the country’s desire for a change?

No electoral system is perfect. List PR gives parties an accurate number of seats to their vote share, but then forces them to govern according to the necessity of coalition-building, not their principles or manifestos. It also insulates those grandees who make it to the top of the list, ensuring no Portillo/Balls moments when a top flight MP feels the wrath of the electorate. It is important to decapitate a senior MP from time to time “pour encouager les autres”. Under proportional representation, patronage of party elites to put people in order on the list, distincentivises individual MPs from exercising their conscience in the legislature. We’d have fewer rebellions, and a stronger executive. List PR is what a political obsessive who identifies wholly and completely with his party thinks a “fair” system, but it has negative effects on the behaviour of MPs and concentrates power in a few hands who exist completely away from democratic oversight. I feel about list proportional representation the same way I think about the UK joining the Euro. I’d stop it, any way I can, for the  system is wholly toxic. I don’t want a PR Lords.

I want PR to go away, and never be spoken of again. Likewise “top-up” regional lists and so forth are fart-arsing about to please political wonks, to little benefit and create two classes of MPs.

On the other hand, First past the post gives a local MP a chance to build a personal following. His or Her standing may be enhanced by selective rebellions against the party whip on certain issues. MPs with a conscience and principles are respected by the electorate. An MP who is caught doing something the electorate don’t like, like Neil Hamilton in Tatton, will be out on their ear, safe seat or no. On the other hand, a diligent and thoughtful MP who works hard, like Nick Clegg can buck the trend of a national wipe-out for their party.

Under first past the post we vote for PEOPLE not PARTIES. It’s noticeable that the thoughtful, consistent, intellectual, honest and hard-working Douglas Carswell got re-elected relatively comfortably, but the opportunistic Judas, Mark Reckless was out on his ear. The voters of Rochester and Strood spoke. Likewise the voters of South Thanet decided that they’d rather not send Nigel Farage to represent them in parliament. This isn’t about UKIP, as Douglas Carswell showed, but about Nigel. I have voted Labour in the past. Yes, me, voting Labour, when I lived in Vauxhall, I was pleased to vote for Kate Hoey in 2001, as she’s anti-Euro and pro-Fox hunting (though definitely unsound on Cycling).  This is a strength of First Past the Post.

I’ll say it again: Voting isn’t a tribal headcount, because most people don’t think like we political obsessives. They think about the government they want, what’s happening in their constituency. You’re a socialist, but Labour can’t win here? Might as well vote Green to send a message, or Liberal Democrat to keep the Tories out. You’re a thick, bigoted Moron? You vote UKIP whether or not they can win, and you’re rightfully ignored. You don’t think the Labour leader is up to the Job? You vote for the candidate most likely to beat the Labour guy, whoever you notionally support. In an electorate of forty million or so these choices usually deliver a result that delivers an executive with a clear mandate. To imagine everyone would vote the same way under different systems is absurd.

The result is a system that sets the bar very high to secure representation. UKIP, mostly failed to meet the required standard, and suffered at the hands of tactical voting. Where it looked like they’d win, the people coalesced around the candidate most likely to beat them. That is a valid democratic choice – the electorate expressing its will clearly that while there are 4m people who like the Toxic yahoos. There are probably 8m people who’d move heaven and earth to keep UKIP away from power. Lots of people can like you. But you also have to have lots of people to not HATE you too. And where the candidate wasn’t obviously a bigoted git who looked like a shaved chimpanzee in a suit who’s just ranting Farage’s morning brain-fart, Clacton, UKIP won comfortably. There’s a lesson there.

Would the country really be better off with 83 grunting ignoramuses from UKIP in coalition, demanding David Cameron send the navy to Machine-gun migrants in the Mediterranean (which they’d in any case already demanded be sent to… um… Nepal) and the RAF to bomb the Strasbourg parliament? What purpose would a dozen hippies from the Green party, demanding the immediate closure of Nuclear power stations, and the shrinking of the UK economy serve apart from to make the business of Government more difficult.

There is a case for some electoral reform, but it’s not strong. Multi-member constituencies (I favour the counties sending 1 to 10 MPs to parliament depending upon population). AV or STV have their adherents, but these systems may serve to exacerbate the swings in a big move, and deliver even more overwhelming majorities to a single party or give overwhelming over-representation to everyone’s second choice. I’m not clear this is any better than the system we have now.

The First Past the Post system isn’t broken, and certainly no worse than any other. Landslides like 1983 and 1997 are rare. Yet the government changes when the mood of the country changes. The people aren’t clamouring for a change to the system, the losing parties are. But the rules are the same for everyone. The losers should just work harder in their target seats and shut up.