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A Very Good Description of UKIP

From the Australian magazine Inside Story:

What is UKIP? A short answer is that it is a right-wing British nationalist party, promoting a tale of national decline and elite betrayal, dedicated to exit from the European Union and minimum immigration, more traditionalist than libertarian, and formally non-racist, though in practice inescapably colluding in racist prejudices and tropes

Too long for twitter, so I’ll share it here.

The Rise of UKIP Heralds a Return to Two Party Politics.

The Liberal Democrats have based their political offer on a number of things. First a certain honesty about policy. Remember “1p on income tax to fund education” for example, and a general willingness to “think the unthinkable”. Clegg coming out as an Atheist or, senior people openly thinking about the legalisation of Drugs. They hope with a child-like naivety, that being right will somehow get them elected. It didn’t, at least in the Euros. Their councillors think that being the best at getting potholes filled in and dealing with dog-shit, will somehow go noticed by their electorate. That too is naive. They lost hundreds of councillors in the Local elections. The tragedy of the Liberal Democrats is they’re an honest party with dishonest voters.

Liberal Democrat voters wanted to be able to say smugly “don’t blame me, I voted Liberal Democrat” when the talk turned political at dinner parties. The hard-working, realistic, decent centrists of the Liberal Democrat parliamentary party took to Government rather well. It’s the voters who couldn’t handle the compromises of Government. Not being in a position to deliver all your promises is not the same as “lying”.

And it seems Clegg, by obtaining power will destroy his party.

Which brings us to UKIP. UKIP’s proposition isn’t couched in policy terms. They have one confirmed policy: to get out of the EU. How exactly that would be achieved, is open to doubt. Some of the more intelligent ‘KIPpers (a low bar, admittedly) might say “repeal the European Communities act 1972” and hang the consequences. Of course this isn’t simple. We’d then have to negotiate trade terms with the EU from outside, and I doubt this would be as favourable as negotiated withdrawal. But these niceties are not important the offer from UKIP is deliberately vague. This enables their supporters to think the UKIP policy is the same as whatever they think, which on immigration might range from “send them all back” to “open door to the commonwealth“. Elected ‘KIPpers have said both over the last few weeks.

Why do politicians lie? Well they don’t. They’re reacting to changing circumstances and they’re not always in the position to deliver. Why do politicians not answer the question? Well they’re absolutely terrified of making a promise they can’t keep, and so need to dissemble because the media is unable and unwilling to distinguish between “what I think” and “this is policy”.

So they’re all the same, right? Well no. The Public seems unwilling to understand just how unresponsive the economy is to the levers a politician might pull. While I think the Coalition is doing a good job, I certainly don’t credit them with the recovery, thought the fall in the deficit is welcome. “Nothing ever changes” the electorate say. Well not quickly no. But over 13 years, Labour massively increased the size cost and reach of the state. In four years since, the Coalition has shrunk the state headcount back again and undone about half of the damage done by Labour to the public finances. So things DO change. But most people are still in the same job they were in 2009, living in the same house, going to the same super-market, where things may or may not have risen in price faster than wages. That change is not noticeable day to day.

Politics matters. But it requires an electorate prepared to listen to arguments. Perhaps it’s not the politicians who’ve become dishonest, it’s the electorate? But this great yawp of dissatisfaction will pass. In many ways, the electorate have been reasonable. The Euro elections are pointless elections to a pointless chamber without power or influence. Sending a bunch of ignorant, clock-punching neanderthals to Strasbourg is a sensible response to a body formed as a democratic fig-leaf to cover “ever closer union” driven by the EU commission.

Perhaps the Eurocrats will finally get the message. ENOUGH! and David Cameron may find his renegotiation a little easier as a result of the parade of fascists, loons, time-wasters and bigots the European electorate have sent as representatives. It’s probable therefore that UKIP will be surprised by the General election when their “surge” falters. Do they really think UKIP are a party with actual governing ambitions, rather than just some suits sent to wave two fingers at Herman Van Rumpuy?

Turnout in the 2014 EU elections was 34.19%.  In the 2010 General election. which is the one that matters, it was 65%. I suspect 2015 will be higher still. Even if everyone who voted for UKIP did so in the General election, it’s still only about 14% of the vote. But they won’t. Many people return to their normal parties for an election that matters and this is probably around half of UKIP’s vote. Despite securing 16.5% of the vote in 2009 European elections, they got 2.5% in the 2010 General election. UKIP have indeed surged, but I think it unlikely they’ll get more than 8%, a level at which they will win no seats.

The Liberal Democrats will, of course be decimated. This isn’t the beginning of four party politics, it’s a return to Two party politics. And if you think Miliband’s going to improve his polling from here, I’ve a bridge to sell you. Many UKIPpers will drift back to their habitual parties, but which is going to have the stronger pull? The evidence suggests UKIP’s  initial surge, coinciding with the Gay Marriage debate, came mainly from the Tories. But the most recent surge in the run up to the Euro Elections came mainly from Labour. And I’ve a sneaking (possibly wishful) suspicion, the ex-Labour vote may stick around for the General Election, but more of the Ex Tory vote will head back to the blues, lest Miliband gets in.

It’s difficult to think of a better election strategy for Cameron than saying “we delivered a recovery, they’re led by Ed Miliband”. Apparently no leader has shown worse in focus groups, not even Gordon Brown. The more enthusiastic UKIP voters don’t want the grubby compromises of Government to dilute the simple appeal of the message. In this, they’re very similar to Liberal Democrat voters. Most of the rest know, deep down, however much they like having their prejudices stroked by Nigel Farage, UKIP are not a potential party of Government. It’s either Miliband or Cameron for about half of the 4.5 million people who voted UKIP, and I suspect the majority of those will choose the latter.

Every single pollster over-estimated Labour and underestimated the Tories in the run-up to the Euro poll, which means far from being neck and neck, I suspect the real GE 2015 polling position now is a small Tory lead. Governments enjoy swing back in the final year of Government, especially when there’s an economic recovery. And the UK is the fastest-growing major economy in the world at the moment. Napoleon once asked of a General, “I don’t care how good he is, IS HE LUCKY?“. Cameron appears to be.

Cameron, Farage and the Referendum

In 2007, when Cameron made his “Cast-Iron” guarantee about a referendum on the Lisbon treaty, it was made in the context of an election which was anticipated in 2008. This was probably his greatest political mistake. In not making this abundantly clear that there would be no post-ratification referendum, he opened the door for hysterical Euro obsessives to rant about it ever since.

The fact is the Lib Dems campaigned on an in/out referendum in the election and have blocked one in this parliament. Labour promised a referendum on Lisbon, and then scuttled away, and signed it anyway while he thought no-one was looking. The Tories did everything in their power to stop Lisbon, but once ratified accepted a done deal. None of the parties have a great record on offering a referendum, but only one has not actually gone back on a direct promise. The Tories.

When he finally became Prime Minister in 2010, I think given the state of the country, he can be forgiven for having other priorities than what would be a divisive, time consuming and problematic campaign – ones on which In think the Government has done a good job. The deficit has been cut, the coalition has got out of the way of job creation, and shrunk the state headcount faster than any Government not actively demobilising an army. Discretionary spending has fallen faster than under any Government in peace-time. Basically the coalition is cutting state spending faster than Thatcher did. Free schools are upsetting the teaching unions (a reliable indicator of good policy), private sector involvement in the NHS is a roaring success. This is a very effective government which has performed remarkably well despite a toxic legacy, as usual from an outgoing Labour government.
In doing so, the bubbling Tory discontent on Europe was kept from boiling over. Part of this is due to the fact that, at some considerable political cost, a referendum has been promised should Cameron be PM, and has been legislated for in this parliament. Cameron has said this would be a red-line for Tory involvement in a coalition. There is simply no way Cameron could stay leader of the party and renege on this promise. Even if you think Cameron a dishonest Europhile (and if you think the most Eurosceptic PM this country has ever had is a Europhile, you’re a nincompoop) you must see the weight of opinion in the Tory party will ensure a he sticks to his promise.
The Labour party and Liberal Democrats are NOT offering a referendum. Ultimately, if you want out of the EU, there is only one referendum you will be offered, and that’s by voting Tory in 2015.
Of course ‘KIPpers will say “I don’t believe Cameron’s promise”. If you think this, frankly I don’t care. Your nihilistic stupidity is utterly beyond reach. The real reason for (effectively) opposing a referendum in 2017, is that ‘KIPpers have been pretty effective at polarising opinion on the EU. While there are a lot of people who HATE the EU and want out, yesterday if possible and by next-Thursday at the latest, they’re already voting UKIP. The polls are clear. If the Prime Minister repatriates some powers, and Merkel has indicated she’s happy to go along with some limited renegotiation, the British public will overwhelmingly, if grumpily vote to stay ‘in’. 
Incidentally, the other politician to renege on a promise is Nigel Farage, who promised that he would work with any party to offer an unambiguous referendum promise, probably because he’s rather enjoying riding the Brussels gravy train. UKIP is a major obstacle to its own stated goals, having become much more about race, sex and a general Kulturkapmf by people who feel left behind by the world. UKIP is the party, not for those who really want a referendum: the Tories are for them; UKIP is for people who hanker after 1959, and who REALLY don’t like what the poofters get up to in bed.
So prediction: UKIP will come first tomorrow in the Euros with around mid to high-20’s vote share, Labour second and Tories third. Enjoy crowing. In 2009, UKIP got 16.5% beat Labour into third place, and got less than 3% a year later. Peak UKIP is nigh. The Tories have long expected and planned for this final mid-term kicking and will be delighted it’s not coming from Labour.

Oderint Dum Metuant

UKIP is based on the idea that the educated and intelligent, who have a certain set of views, should kowtow to the brute and unexamined opinions of the uneducated by sheer dint of the latter’s numbers. “The liberal metropolitan elite” don’t know how to respond because they’ve delivered a society since the war that has prioritised butter over guns to a greater degree than any in history. And yet now the uneducated are having the political equivalent of a hissy-fit by voting UKIP at the first sign of a couple of years’ falling living standards.

Having delivered the ill-educated all the material possessions they could want in the decades since the war, these people actually want listening to as well! Actually listening to the stupid is the real decadence of the west. Actually believing the poor are better than the rich, or somehow more “authentic”, taking our stylistic, and cultural norms from those who’ve utterly failed is the suicide note of our society.

The right to be listened to has to be earned, and UKIPpers in any decent society would be told to go do their homework again. Ultimately, the beliefs that underpin UKIPpery are all entirely wrong or based on flawed premises, and they need to be told, loudly, repeatedly and often.

1) Immigration is not a bad thing.

The economic benefits of immigration are obvious, and overwhelming for those prepared to look. However uneducated people tend to draw their venn diagram of “them” and “us” a little tighter than the educated. The belief that the uneducated alone suffer from immigration is also demonstrably false. Immigration brings as much work as it takes. They aren’t taking “your” jobs, you just don’t like “them” but know just enough to express your prejudice in economic terms. UKIPpers are mainly uneducated, old, and though most UKIPpers try to hide it, xenophobic.

Because the UK’s immigration policy isn’t “go away you dirty foreigner”, UKIPpers aren’t listening.

2) The EU…

Almost everything UKIPpers fervently believe about the EU is wrong. The EU doesn’t write “most of our law”. Depending on how broad to view it, between 7% and 50% originates in Brussels, most of it high volume, low impact trade regulation. Most important stuff comes from Westminster. The EU is not taking our sovereignty. The EU isn’t getting in the way of international trade (quite the opposite, thanks largely to the UK’s influence, the EU is the most ardent supporter of free trade in world bodies) and the UK isn’t utterly powerless. Enlargement for example is a huge British triumph. The EU has cemented democracy in South Eastern Europe pretty effectively. Of course there are problems, bureaucracy, the CAP, the Fisheries policy and so forth. But the UK has been pretty effective in achieving its goals.

UKIPpers only goal is to leave the EU, and any goal that isn’t that, will be ignored. They’ve entirely stopped listening.

3) Russia isn’t a very nice place.

UKIPpers firmly believe the UK is utterly impotent in world affairs, and admire the freedom of action of a Dictator, mistaking Putin’s megalomania for strength. This is because stupid, ignorant people read the Sun, not ‘Foreign Affairs’ and ‘the economist’, so they’re entirely unaware of what’s going on, why and what we’re doing about it. The UK has the 4-6th (depending on who’s counting) largest defence budget on earth, is one of the 3 countries (the other two are both Allies and one of them is France) who can deploy and sustain forces on expeditionary operations. The UK’s membership of the EU, NATO, G7, UNSC and so forth means the UK can protect its interests better than almost any member of the EU.

UKIPpers have actually persuaded themselves that Ukrainians are mostly thanking Putin for saving them from the EU. This is insane.

But as UK foreign policy cannot be tweeted as “fuck the EU”, and Ukraine actually has little to do with the EU, UKIPpers aren’t listening.

4) LibLabCon

The Liberal Democrats, Labour and the Conservative party are all led by white men in suits, whereas UKIP is led by a white man in yellow chords and a loud tweed sports coat. That doesn’t make UKIP different, or the others all the same. The reason UKIPpers think they’re  all the same is because study of politics is hard, and the ship of state takes a long time to turn round. The levers our leaders pull are inexact and our constitution is deliberately designed to prevent rash action and impose checks and balances. Of course you don’t notice a change immediately a new Government takes power. “LibLabCon” is simply an expression of wilful ignorance of this simple fact. Stupid people can’t be bothered to find out about other parties policies. They just notice UKIP is stroking their stupid prejudices and that the others aren’t. The difference is UKIPs policies will never be implemented and so can be as un-realistic as the pie-in-the-sky crap that Nigel Farage pulls out of his arse on BBCQT every week.

I could go on. UKIPpers views on crime and punishment, law and order, education, the welfare state and so forth are distinctly red-top, and entirely uninformed by any study, research or theory. Mostly they’re just hankering after an imagined better yesterday. It’s just a grouping of the prejudices of people born around WW2, unleavened by any coherent philosophy or evidence.

And these stupid, unformed, ignorant opinions are being given the respect they do not deserve by those who should know better.

The reason is simple. Our political leaders have stopped demanding deference and respect, and instead genuflect before Daytime TV presenters, grovel to members of the public, and so are not being given any platform to explain themselves. A desire to be liked has replaced Maggie’s oderint dum metuant attitude. I long for a politician to tell John Humphries to shut up and listen. I long for someone to ram Paxman’s smug aggression down his disrespectful throat. I long for Politicians to say “not my fucking problem” to whining constituents bitching about something trivial. Westminster isn’t about blocked drains or benefits complaints, it’s about scrutinising legislation and protecting freedoms.

When politicians stop trying to meddle in the minutiae of people’s lives and do their job protecting our freedom, they may get the respect they (should actually, really) deserve.

The mainstream parties need to sing the praises of immigration, and try to inform the electorate, rather than run scared by pretending one thing and doing another. They need to explain how cutting job protection increases jobs available. They need to explain the supply-side advantages of benefit cuts. And they need to tell journalists asking stupid questions, that quite often, (how much people smoke for eg) it’s none of politics’ business rather than rolling over for every pressure group that gets its propaganda dressed as research under their nose. Politicians need to stop campaigning on “issues” and start saying “no”.

A bit of self-confidence from the political class: leadership, rather than pandering to UKIP’s ignorant bastards. Be PROUD you know more than Steve, 54, an unemployed bricklayer from Basildon who will “definitely be voting UKIP” mainly because he doesn’t like the Latvians.

In-Group Preference and Jeremy Clarkson

The Daily Mirror has “outed” Jeremy Clarkson (a long-term opponent of the Mirror’s former editor, and most unpopular man on earth, Piers Morgan) as a “racist” because he might have used what is always euphemistically described as the ‘n-word’. For those who don’t know, this relates to an out-take in Top-Gear in which Clarkson, to choose between two otherwise identical cars mumbles “eenie meenie miney mo, catch a…”

The joke here is that Clarkson’s schtick is anti-PC. Everyone knows the rhyme used to contain the ‘n-word’, though I learned it with the word “tinker” instead. In the broadcast version Clarkson says “teacher”. He claims to have requested that the take in question be not used in case anyone thought he said “n-word”, which he claims never to have said or intended to say.
And a Mass-Market, national newspaper is calling for his head. Here’s his statement: Judge for yourself.
Which brings me to UKIP. Some of their candidates have fruity views. And the Media has had a great deal of fun “exposing” them. And as this is happening to people with whom I disagree on more or less everything, I’m content for this often dishonest process to continue – UKIP want to play with the big boys, they will have to learn Big Boy’s rules. But when the media scrapes the bottom of the barrel by suggesting “likes” on a facebook page or re-tweeting something are evidence of racism, then “the people” will feel something’s up. And it is the vague sense that “something’s not quite right” that UKIP is feeding on, leading to UKIPpers plausibly claiming that every time you brand a UKIPper a racist, you add a couple of votes to the party.
Just like Clarkson, many UKIP candidates are under scrutiny and subject to faux outrage for their views, many of which would not be questioned had they come out of the mouth of a Labour candidate. For example suggesting the murder of Stephen Lawrence received “disproportionate” media attention. I happen to disagree, as its an event which exposed enormous corruption and endemic racism in the police, and entirely warranted its prominence. However, feeling the murders of two young women deserved more prominence than they got, and contrasting it with a murder which still dominates the news decades on, is not an extreme or racist view. Another is branded racist for suggesting “multi racial schools” have poor results. Given that “multi racial” schools are often in disproportionately in poor areas, he’s probably right. Another said of the English Defence League it was disaffected working-class groups: “Like all groups you get some good and some non-good people.” yet was accused of being a racist for not condemning the group outright.
There is little credible evidence that immigration drives down wages or costs jobs. The British Isles have enjoyed net immigration since the Ice-Age. There have been rises and falls. This is isn’t about whether UKIP’s anti-immigration campaign is dishonest; it is. But it has to be.

There IS a culture in which people feel they cannot express how they feel. When the white, working class feel a black teenager gets better justice because he’s black, or that immigrants are getting special treatment, and they cannot express these views, these views cannot be challenged. What you’re left with is a simmering resentment of the political system which isn’t addressing genuine, if misguided concerns. If any attempt to express these concerns will end up with him being “exposed” as a racist, then he’s likely to seek out places where he CAN express himself.

When you get lots of people expressing the same resentments in the same place, that place becomes an echo-chamber where blaming ‘the other’ becomes amplified, and you end up with a UKIP meeting delivering all the juicy quotes which are catnip to the exquisitely liberal media.

When immigrants move into an area, usually the cheapest, least desirable areas, “the indiginous population” tend to move out. The richer you are, the more likely you are to live in an ethnically homogeneous area. This is true even of well-integrated and economically successful groups: North London’s Jewish community for example. There are many good reasons why people  congregate in communities. Access to a synagogue or mosque for example, which isn’t a consideration an Anglican would have to make – there’s always a church nearby. But there’s also a desire shared by the vast majority of the human race to live with people like oneself.

And here’s the rub. The Working class – low waged people are competing with and living in close proximity to people who aren’t like them. Immigrants may speak a different language, and will have different cultural assumptions. Shop window signs will appear in a foreign tongue. Unfamiliar brands appear in the local off-license. It’s uncomfortable. People, usually, prefer to live among people like themselves. These working class people are inarticulate, and may express their feelings inelegantly, and they’re being excoriated for doing so most often by people who have the luxury of living in more expensive, ethnically less diverse areas.

There’s other effects: one of the benefits of education is an extension of your “in-group”. Basically, the less educated you are, the more, on average you fear those not personally known to you. More educated people are more likely to mentally include visibly different strangers in their in-group, basing their priors less on visible difference and more on subtle cues, like education and white-collar professions. Middle class people feel less stress around people generally: The wealthier you get, the greater are the returns to trust. So wealthy, educated people are more likely to trust strangers than are working class people further increasing the wealthy’s misunderstanding of the motives of the working class’s motives for saying and thinking they things which are appearing in these UKIP “exposed” stories.

So the key to defeating UKIP is keeping the debate rational. (Pot, Kettle yes, yes, I know…). They are a protest movement, not a coherent political party and the ‘tsunami of twattishness’ as I’ve been calling it, will recede as people realise UKIP have no real answers to people’s actual ‘amenable-to-politics’ problems. The problems of immigration will not be solved by simplistic proposals like strengthening border controls, but by ultimately by reforming the welfare state (and many of the coalition’s reforms seem along the right lines to me). The problem is not that the immigrants are coming here to steal our benefits, they’re not; but that the availability of benefits prevents indigenous working class from seeking the kind of low-paid jobs that the immigrants are now doing. Increase the propensity to take on low-paid jobs by the British, and at the margin, the returns to immigrants by moving here are reduced.

So by all means brand genuine racists, as some of these UKIP nutters are, as racists. But when you scrape the barrel, and suggest, using tenuous evidence that someone’s a racist, for just saying something we all feel but expressing it inelegantly, then you will drive people to UKIP and re-enforce the echo-chamber effect at party meetings and online. At least UKIP are giving previously ignored people a chance to say what they genuinely think. What mainstream politicians must do is show people what they genuinely believe is often wrong, without shouting them down. Unfortunately UKIPpers have stopped listening just as the mainstream of politics has started shouting.

As for me, While I can understand their appeal to marginalised people, I cannot stand UKIP, their views and find them a risible bunch of tosspots, who’re dishonestly fuelling an entirely unnecessary panic about immigration, the benefits of which far outweigh the costs, and proposing simplistic, unpleasant solutions to a problem which doesn’t exist, causing damaging side-effects they’d no-doubt blame on the EU. In doing so, they’re reinforcing the prejudices and biases in a vulnerable audience. I have no particular need to drive UKIPers back to the Tory fold. Every frothing, immigration-obsessed UKIPper lost to the Tories may mean one or two ex Lib-Dems who find the Tories much more appealing as a result. The decent people of UKIP will flood back to the Tories (and Labour and Lib Dems, but a plurality of Tories) when they’ve had their fun kicking “mainstream parties” at the utterly irrelevant Euro elections. This is why I don’t share the panic of UKIP winning the Euro Elections.

Elections are won in the middle ground, not shouting like a goggle-eyed brownshirt, from the right flank, blaming everything on the dirty foreigner. I accept showering UKIP with invective is possibly counterproductive, but it’s also fun, and I’m not a professional politician. I just wish I could have put my views as beautifully as the Flying Rodent has here.

“I hope Putin wins”

I know it’s cheap and tawdry to base an essay on a comment on the Daily Mail website but bear with me OK?

The Mail pointed out that the Ukraine crisis might just be the start of WW3. Personally, I think this unlikely. I doubt Russia will even Annex Kiev, but will take eastern Ukraine back into its fold. Next up is Moldova, with Russian bases in Transnitria, already swirling down the plughole of Russian annexation. Further conflict with Georgia beckons as does closer ties with Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Belarus. None of this will be fought over by anyone in the West. Meanwhile the damage this will do to the Russian economy, will be immense.

By far the most entertaining comment to this story, and there are many such on the Daily Mail website, reads

I hope you are RIGHT! the west has started this, with its Liberal ways, forcing our ways on to the rest of the world whilst our own communities suffer and fail… I hope Putin wins.

By someone calling themselves TheTruthHurts. However lumpen and stupid wishing a war over our “liberal ways” or thinking “our communities”, which are amongst the richest and most free on earth, will “suffer and fail” might be, he has stumbled onto a Truth. Putin’s Russia IS seeking leadership of socially conservative countries that reject gay rights, women’s equality and all that messy democracy stuff. And there will always be a market for people like our friend above who admire a dictator’s “strength” over what he perceives as a democrat’s weakness.

It is precisely this Fuhrerprinzip that led Farage to suggest he admired Putin “as an operator”. And there are no shortage of CyberKIPpers ranting about how the Ukrainian crisis isn’t a failing former superpower meddling in its former empire, but actually the EU’s fault for daring to enter trade deals with sovereign countries on its borders. Of course UKIPpers blame the EU for the rain, but Putin knows free market, liberal democracy works. He, as a former KGB operative, just doesn’t know why.

the world’s queer-basher in-chief.

But for now, Putin, and his pathetic little Lord Haw Haw, Nigel Farage, have a ready audience of people whom the world has passed by. People who reject Gay rights, ethnic diversity, immigration, women’s equality and who yearn for strong rulers from an imagined past. In Britain’s case, Churchill and Thatcher, and in Russia’s case Peter the Great and Stalin, who’re associated with the pomp and power of empire.

Of course democracies aren’t weak. We are quite capable of expending enormous amounts of blood and treasure, if we can persuade the people our cause is just. Which is why free men from around the world stormed ashore in Normandy, to defeat the most odious tyranny, and why we maintain expeditionary forces round the world to this day. Indeed, we’re stronger now than then and can win wars without making the Guns/butter trade-off. The US defence budget is just 4% of GDP, yet it dwarfs the next dozen or so. All but 2 of the 10 largest defence budgets on earth are NATO democracies.

It’s economies that win wars. Putin’s isolation from the rich, free and extremely powerful west will eventually cost the people (and more importantly, the oligarchs) money. In the short term, the Russian regime will absorb more economic pain than can the administrations in the west, but in the longer run, Putin needs German money, even more than Germany needs Russian gas. Already the isolation is hurting Russian growth, which far from the days of the BRIC boom, is forecast to grow a measly 1.3% this year. And if the Oil price falls, Putin will struggle to pay his over-manned and decrepit army.

The Annexation of Eastern Ukraine will isolate Russia, and even potential allies like China are keeping their distance, fearful over their own shared and disputed borders. This is not the Beginning of WW3. Putin’s isolation and Russia’s economic weakness will see to that. The friends Putin can reliably call on, fellow gay-bashers like Iran, have no power or pull. There’s no alliance of powers capable of posing a threat to NATO, so long as our political will remains. The risk to the west comes with Estonia, an article 5 NATO country and member of the EU. Will we fight for a few Eastern Counties of Estonia? If we do not, NATO which has guaranteed security in Europe for so long will be finished. But there is a lot of water to cross before we get there, and I’m not sure Russia has the appetite, or even the economic and military capacity for the journey.

The Borders of Europe will be redrawn, and not for the last time. If you want historical parallels, this is probably the Galtieri Gambit, not the march into the Sudetenland. Like the Argentine general, Putin’s military adventures were popular. For a while, until the cost of taking on a democracy, and rousing it to anger became apparent.

Prediction: a Year Out

The Tories are going to win the General Election next year, there’s an outside chance of the Lib-Dems securing enough to be worth hanging onto as coalition partners.

Everything is in place for a Tory victory in 2015. Don’t believe me?
  1. Even Gordon Brown secured “swingback” in the last year of his Government: in his case at least 8 points. The Coalition, Tories especially will enjoy the same effect. Given the Tories are 4% behind (polls currently running 6%-1% labour leads), this alone will give them a small lead at the poll.
  2. The trend is already in the Tories’ favour, though this alone will not extend Cameron’s lease on Number 10. 
  3. UKIP, currently polling 13-20%, are most likely to be disaffected Tories. (50% of their current polling are ex-Tories). It’s obvious a fair number of these are ‘lent’ votes for the Euros. UKIP are not going to poll 18% in General election. You can give at least a third of the UKIP vote to the Tories for the GE. And there you have it. Enough for a Tory government. But that’s not all.
  4. Labour is led by Miliband for whom voters will not turn out. Cameron at least isn’t repellent.
  5. New incumbent effect generally helps Tories.
  6. The return of the shy Tory?
  7. Lib-dems are harder to shift than herpes. (This hurts Tories at least as much as Labour)
  8. The UK is the fastest-growing major developed economy in the world. The cost of living crisis is over, and the public may well be feeling a bit more optimistic come May 2015.
  9. The Tory election narrative will be a combination of “look, things are going well, don’t let Labour ruin it” combined with “look at Ed Miliband, what a wally”. This is powerful.
So, if you think it’s inconceivable that the Tories will win a GE out right, the chances are you’re talking your own book.

Hankering after a Better Yesterday

When I was 19, getting pissed and partying, with school receding into distant memory, and university finals  still a long way away, hangovers were something that happened to other people, and I was made of rubber and kevlar. I could run the 2.4km of the British Army’s basic fitness test in a little under 9 minutes. I had enough money from loans, parental indulgence, holiday jobs and the TA to do more or less whatever I wanted. I had no responsibilities and the body as one ex-girlfriend said “of a Greek God”. Skiing seemed to be free – often provided by the Army, when it wasn’t by parents, and when you’re a 19 year-old officer cadet, chalet girls throw themselves at you in Dick’s T Bar. life couldn’t get any better.

Couldn’t and didn’t.

Life is a little more complicated now. Money vanishes, however quickly I earn it. I have little free time, and when I do, I am tired. I cannot party till 4 am, then go play rugby, which when I get trampled by a 20-stone prop, hurts more than I seem to remember. I no longer bounce. Shoulders have been dislocated many times. Knees ache. I wheeze round that same fitness test in around 12 minutes (which is a big, fat, freddy FAIL, even if I can do more press-ups than back then). People rely on me. I do have enough money, now, but it’s taken a decade to get there. If I look like a God, it’s Buddah. Or maybe one of the bad ones from the Disc World.

The fact is, for most people, the best time of your life is 15-25.

The reason most people think “life was better back in the day” is because for them, (and me and everyone else over 35) it was. People fondly imagine a better world, but its just that you felt less pain and responsibility as a teenager. No-one sets off brightly into the world wanting to sit at a desk and talk to people on the phone all day. No-one tells you the pressure of the mortgage, bills, the tax return and all the shit you deal with as an adult. The ability to have a fucking Mars bar at the supermarket checkout whenever you want is scant consolation for all the rest of the crap. Not only are people reliant on you, the fact you’re not PM, decorated war hero, racing driver, star of stage and screen, or billionaire entrepreneur you set out to be, is a itch at the back of your mind. Why didn’t I get there?

Yet, on any measurable metric, the world is better than it was in the 70’s and 80’s. People live longer, there’s less racsim, the world is not threatened by global thermonuclear war, crime is down, cars are better. People who wear flares or Euro-Fluro weightlifting pants are rightly laughed at. Yet people still hanker after that better yesterday they remembered. Because they were young and confident. And now they’re (we’re) washed up failures.

This is why I despise UKIP. This hankering for a better yesterday is futile. Bringing back grammar schools won’t make the baby-boomer’s lives pan out any better than it did. UKIP is about fetishising a few tokenistic policies, and blaming Eurocrats and immigrants for the fact that John from Solihull is now a small-town accountant, not a premiership footballer. It’s not David Cameron’s fault you’re no longer banging 19 year-old lovelies, any more than Gerhardt Shroeder is responsible for your pay-packet.

The UK isn’t “full”
The EU isn’t “ripping us off”
“LibLabCon” aren’t “all the same”
It doesn’t cost £50m per day. That’s a GROSS figure you dribbling morons.
There is no “political elite”, though there are professional politicians, this isn’t the same thing.
David Cameron isn’t “a closet Europhile”
There’s no conspiracy.

You’re just an angry twat who’s stopped listening because he doesn’t like the answer, and can’t tell the difference between personal and national decline. “Common sense” you say? That’s just what stupid people do instead of thinking.

It’s just Ano-Domini. We all grew up. All except UKIPpers who’re still stamping their feet, blaming whoever’s nearest for their own inadequacies. And boy, are there a lot of those.

UKIP: A contemptible party of by and for stupid, angry people.

2014 is going to be the best year in human history.

This time last year, I made some predictions: 2013 is going to be the best year in human history. It was, for most of the world at least. And 2014 is going to be even better, for all the same reasons.

How did I do with my prognostication?

The scourge of war is receding from human experience. Though they are still going on, they involve fewer combatants and kill fewer people. As people get richer, and pass through the dangerous middle-income phase, they have too much to lose by fighting.

Alas Mali and the Central African Republic saw crises rise to the level of war in 2013. The civil war in Syria the ongoing wars in Afghanistan continue to claim lives. There have, however been no big, new wars involving western forces. We missed the window of opportunity in 2012 to prevent the disaster in Syria, and it is now too late. I suspect letting Bashar al Assad win is now the least bad option.

Several states in the US have signalled the abandonment of the war on Drugs (well Marijuana at least)

One country, Uruguay, has fully legalised it. The logic of the War on Drugs is waning. Several successful politicians in North America have been caught using Crack and Cocaine, none of whom look like junkies. Dozens of people who clearly aren’t drug-addled derelicts, self-arguing in underpasses, but who maintain busy and high-profile lives have “come out” as having taken Marijuana or Cocaine. It won’t be long before such people no-longer have to pretend to have hated it, or for it to have been a response to an emotional trauma.

In 1963, “some time between the end of the Chatterley Ban and the Beatles’ first LP” people started to admit they like to have sex, and not just for procreation. Rock & Roll became acceptable when in 1976, Glen Matlock of the Sex Pistols said “fuck” on live TV, at a stroke rendering that nice young Mr (now Sir) Michael Jagger, respectable. Perhaps a TV cook with ample curves might be the person whom we can thank for ending the hypocrisy of the drug war. Unlikely. But someone’s going to provide the moment. And soon. A wise man once said….

The world is still getting richer, even if the squeezed middle in the west isn’t.

The giant emerging economies are creating wealth at a rate unprecedented in human history, by the simple expedient of abandoning the socialist choke-hold on creative economic endeavour.

India and China may have slowed, India especially so, but the truth holds. Their Governments have seen the fruits of economic liberalism and seen it work. India may regret electing someone who seems to be an unrepentant Hindu nationalist, Narendra Modi of the BJP in 2014, but it won’t be for his economic policies which are far more business-friendly than the rather corporatist Congress party.

 The poorest parts of the world are the fastest growing. Even if inequality in the west is rising a bit, and that’s debatable, global inequality is falling. 

This is still true, but less so.

So, to carry the game forward, here are some concrete predictions for this time next year.

Money & Business
The FTSE100 will reach an all-time high, for the first time since 1999, and will continue the bull-run. 7,000 will be left behind.
Thanks to tightening money, The Oil Price will fall below $100 and stay there. The Brent/WTI spread will narrow from 99/111.

UK Politics
The Labour lead will fall from 6-8%. UKIP will win popular vote in the European parliament elections, then their support will drift back to the Tories thanks to a strengthening recovery. Scotland will vote ‘No’ to independence. Ed Miliband will remain a worthless union stooge. The voter-repelling and emetic Ed Balls will remain shadow Chancellor, because his boss is a spineless dweeb, with shit for brains and “Red” Len McClusky’s hand up his bum. Tories will post a lead, but I doubt it will be done consistently.

International
The Syrian civil war will not end, but Assad will regain control of much of the country, leaving an islamist insurgency. The world will continue to look the other way.
China’s growth will slow. The rumblings of dissent new riches have smothered will start to grow louder. The Communist Party may seek to use Sabre-Rattling with Japan to detract domestic opinion from the looming economic crisis.
Something dramatic will happen on the Korean Peninsula.

Happy New Year

There you go. My posts have been sporadic in 2013 as I have less new to say. But I still enjoy writing from time to time, and it’s nice to know my readers, both of you, are still out there somewhere and I hope, whether you come in from RSS or by a random websearch for stewardesses boobs (I still get a lot of hits that way, for reasons that are beyond me) you still think what I say is interesting, provocative, informative or entertaining.

Have a happy new year. And remember risk is to reward as hangover is to party.

State-Funded Political Parties?

No Thanks! And here’s why.

At present, British political parties operate on shoe-strings. They have to scrabble round for money. Which means they can’t lose touch with people. In Labour’s case, they can’t get too far from the Unions and their membership. And the Tories rely on their membership and business. This need for money keeps them honest, so long as these donations are in the open, declared and public (which I accept they sometimes aren’t.)

Imagine a world where politicians could vote for political staffers to be paid by the state. Anyone think this bill would ever go down? Anyone think it would rise alongside wages? No. It will go from a few million to a hundred million very quickly. A billion would become “the price of democracy”.

All state funding would do is support the incumbents against the likes of UKIP (with whom I disagree, but who’s right to fight in the arena on a level playing field I will defend to the death). UKIP are building a movement on private donations, and they’re able to do so BECAUSE THE ESTABLISHED PARTIES HAVE LOST TOUCH with much of their base. State funding would hamstring UKIP who’re successfully stepping into the void left by parties squabbling over a managerialist middle, while preventing the Tories and Labour ever having to engage with their people ever again.

State funding is a solution to a problem that exists only in the minds of people who can only see corruption in a business-owner supporting a party. It says more about the cynicism of the people who support it than about the problems politicians face now.

State funding is anti-democratic, foolish and will more profoundly corrupt the British body politic than any rich man ever could.

Why? Because the state is richer than any man.