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The real victories of last night’s by-elections belonged to UKIP. But what might this signal and how will  Mr Cameron, Mr Miliband and Mr Clegg translate the messages?

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

 – ‘The Second Coming,’ W.B. Yeats

After last night’s by-elections, the only party that has cause to celebrate is UKIP. Coming second place in both Rotherham and Middlesbrough, and third in Croydon, is no small achievement for a party that has worked tirelessly along the tributaries of British politics into the mainstream in only a matter of years.

That Labour won in all three seats is no surprise, but as Daniel Hannan has remarked with regards to Rotherham in particuar, ‘I don’t want to hear any Rotherham Labour voters moaning about the arrogance of the political class’, since it was under the governance of that party that Denis MacShane resigned after criminally obtaining public money by deceit, and it was also the party that saw inactivity over child grooming cases and the removal of foster children from UKIP-voting parents [1]. Tribal voting is the stuff of primitive thinking, so of the 9,866 voters in Rotherham who voted Labour, it is probably fair to claim that some did so with only half their wits.

It is also no surprise that the Conservatives should made no progress in these areas. That the Liberal Democrats lost their deposits in Rotherham and Croydon proves beyond doubt that they are the party of insignificance and that they can no longer be used to amplify the voices of discontented voters. Expect them to be annihilated at the next General Election.

What of this? In a previous article, this blog suggested that UKIP’s ascent in Corby was not the result of a mid-term blues protest suggested by the Conservatives, it was the result of long-term disenchantment with useless politicians and their discredited parties. UKIP’s showing in Rotherham and elsewhere would seem to underscore this notion.

Mr Miliband need not break the habit of his leadership; he need do nothing, nor come up with credible policies – the coalition are perfectly adept at blustering incoherence and unravelling without the aid of parliament’s odious Chief Scout. Heaven help the UK when Prime Minister Miliband has to actually make the ‘tough decisions’ he bleats on about. Yet what the Rotherham vote has shown is that UKIP are not just a party of and for the right, they are increasingly a party of and for all political colours. If they can succeed in Labour ‘safe’ seats at the same level as they have in Rotherham, Corby and Middlesbrough, then Mr Miliband may actually have to call an inquiry into thinking about the direction in which he is heading.

And what of Mr Cameron? He is the best publicist of his own stupidity. He continues to alienate the sort of Conservative voters his party has haemorrhaged to UKIP under his leadership, not only because of his dogged determination to make social democrats out of the Tories, but also by refusing to  retract his typically immature remarks that UKIP members are mostly ‘closet racists’. The truth is that ‘centre ground’ politics is not only unpopular, it is inherently damaging to democracy. Yet it is clear that Mr Cameron is just a less uncomfortable looking version of the unhinged Gordon Brown: he is intractably stubborn, to the extent that an easy victory in the 2015 General Election will not be his for the taking. He will sooner listen to the likes of Matthew D’Ancona, who wrote in a wildly inaccurate and faintly bizarre recent article:

…the very worst thing Cameron could do now is to rip up his centre-ground strategy and hurtle off to the Right in search of these voters. Not many of them would come back. And many more centrist waverers would be lost in the process. [2]

Though this is precisely what Mr Cameron would want to hear – and certainly the only advice he is likely to listen to – it is at the cost of his own party and democracy. So Mr Cameron’s likeness to Mr Brown is evidenced once again: when a person (let alone a politician) cannot be seen to fight for their own survival, then it rings as defective. By heading off in the right direction, Mr Cameron could outflank UKIP’s ever growing number and bring under his wing the working class vote that UKIP appeals to: immigration, crime, withdrawal from the EU. Since the moribund Lib Dems have had their life support terminated, what consideration need Mr Cameron give to them? Yet he persists in targeting none of these matters, which appeal to all voters. The consequence is a further disenfranchised electorate and the collapse of his vote. As Yeats wrote:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

UKIP may yet have to win parliamentary seats, but it signals the direction in which any successful party or thinking person should be heading: a politics of consent, of decisiveness, of the nation state. Under their current leaders, Labour, the Lib Dems and the Conservatives are interested in ideology, not practicality. Ideology is cheap and easy, since it exists in the mind. Practicality and workable policies are much more credible victories, but intellectually beyond the reach of those on parliament’s front benches today.

© thepanopticonblog, 2012

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When it comes to the EU, one should trust Mr Cameron as they would adders fang’d…

Does any serious person think that EU reform will see them include ceding powers or the acceptance of a decrease in funding?

In spite of overwhelming historical and contemporary evidence to the contrary, Mr Cameron seems to think so, as do Messrs Miliband and Clegg. Having returned from irresolute discussions in Brussels, Mr Cameron is walking tall after not capitulating to the EU Commission’s unreasonable demands for a substantial increase to their budget. Bravo Mr Cameron – except, that is, for your track record on Europe.

His policy of ‘Practical Euroscepticism’ has time and again proven to be neither practical nor Eurosceptic. His modus operandi observes the following pattern:

  • Express exasperation and concern about EU policy
  • Adopt a ‘no nonsense approach’ to look strong
  • Capitulate and beg for mercy from his EU master

It follows, therefore, that having appeared strong on Europe at these recent talks, that at the next round of negotiations he will not hesitate to genuflect to the Commission, then claim to the British public that a satisfactory deal has been reached on their behalf. But who is he trying to fool?

At no point has Mr Cameron called for cuts to the EU budget, and his ‘real terms freeze’ will still see the UK debited for even more than the £53 million a day it currently pays. Worse still, Mr Cameron and friends are still willing to sign the UK up to a political ideology that has not had its accounts signed off by auditors for some fifteen years. The EU is a one-armed bandit against which the UK will only lose.

The only person aside from Mr Cameron who feels that the Conservatives will win the next election is Conservative Home’s Tim Montgomerie. Both characters have devised elaborate strategies to see the Tories regain power, peppered with newspeak and initiatives to ‘re-connect’ with voters – but they all choose to miss the essential point: that if Mr Cameron were to offer an EU referendum, with a positive vision of how the UK would manage (quite easily) without the EU, he would secure a second term and a majority.

This will not be done, however, because Mr Cameron is no more a Eurosceptic than the recently discredited Labour criminal Denis MacShane. In terms of difference and monetary returns, expect no change.

© thepanopticonblog, 2012

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The result of the Corby by-election has wider implications beyond the borders of this disputed constituency…

That the Conservatives lost their Corby seat in today’s by-election came as a surprise to no one, least of all the Conservatives. Their majority was always precarious, but not unmanageable. Their mistake was to ever think that the lobotomized Louise Mensch was ever a credible MP, let alone one strong enough to hold on to such a narrow margin, especially when the potent forces of her own ego would always come before public service.

Whilst the odious Edward Miliband paraded the victory of his candidate, the Liberal Democrats were not only beaten into fourth place by UKIP, they lost their deposit after receiving a woeful 1,770 votes.  The Conservatives only beat UKIP by a mere 4368 votes, a statistic that should have them very afraid, especially in a seat seen as a litmus paper for the views of middle England.

At this point one might suggest that Mr Cameron has some thinking to do – he could lurch to the right and cast off his social democrat colours in favour for radical Tory reform – but as has been implied, this would mean Mr Cameron has to not only think, but think strategically and perform acts of self-evaluation and intellect that he is woefully incapable of commanding.

Instead, what do Mr Cameron and his cronies say? They spin the result as simply the mid-term blues that all incumbent governments undergo as voters register their discontent with the direction of the ruling party.

It is a line that typifies the disconcertingly patronising tone of politicians from all the main parties. It suggests that to them it is almost a badge of honour, a virtuous failure, to be mauled by the electorate halfway through a parliament, as if governing in the interests of the electorate and securing or sustaining a popular mandate are laughable impossibilities. They chose to ignore what is in front of them – whether it is the striking election results by UKIP or by the success of independent candidates as Police Commissioners – this is not a mid-term blues protest: it is the result of long-term disenchantment with the useless politicians and the discredited parties they serve.

By voting Labour, Conservative or Lib Dem, the electorate are merely changing the guard, all of whom protect the same thing: their interests, which are dependent upon their mutual survival as political parties. Today’s results are a victory for independent candidates away from Westminster, and it is a story of success for UKIP, whose ascent is damaging the three party system, and above all, Mr Cameron, who had better watch his back from his own party members before anyone else.

Mid-term blues? Hardly! Things have rarely looked better…

© thepanopticonblog, 2012

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Gareth Shanks (Yorkshire Young Independence Regional Secretary) presents his take on the forthcoming Police Crime Commissioner Elections.

I’m no fan of how the Government is running the Police and Crime Commissioner Elections: high deposits which lock out smaller parties, an expensive not to mention at times wasteful campaign, and a projected turnout of just 18.5% – to put that into context, my local ward election attracted 29.05% turnout. This does not bode well for the Conservative Party which has traditionally been seen as ‘tough on crime’.

However, the idea of electing my Police Commissioner is an interesting one and a notion I support. Policing is a pressing issue in every community; regardless of how poorly organized the elections are, they present a chance for some unique changes in policing in the UK.

One of the benefits of the PCC elections is that one can pick which types of crimes are prioritised by their local force, no longer (I add a very generous ‘hopefully’ in here) will crime targets be dictated by Whitehall. The post also adds a slightly increased sense of localism: different areas, rural or urban, will have very different policing needs, so it is a chance to elect someone who understands one’s local area. Worried about anti-social behaviour? Vote for a candidate tough on anti-social behaviour – if you like to keep cannabis for personal use, vote for the ‘soft on drugs’ candidate.

It is likely only a small percentage of people are able to name who is in charge of their Local Education Authority, or their local NHS health board. The PCC elections present a public face to policing in your area, instead of being run by anonymous and arguably unaccountable police force chiefs.

With the advent of this election I believe it will bring more scrutiny to the top job.  Other parties and journalists looking to smear their opponents will hopefully allow for a more transparent police force, something I believe has been needed for a long time. The actions of a very small number of police officers  has led to a skewed perception of policeman as being needlessly aggressive against protesters, for instance (that the protesters normally throw bricks and abuse at the police first is often omitted). Nevertheless, anything that improves the transparency of the police force is surely a good thing.

The single most important matter heralded by these PCC elections is that elected PCCs are just that: elected. They are accountable to the electorate; if crime goes up, don’t re-elect them, if they backtrack on promises, don’t re-elect them, if they are found dressed in a Nazi uniform in a compromising position with some livestock, don’t re-elect them – although that may increase popularity in some areas.

Gareth Shanks

  • Young Independence Yorkshire Secretary
  • @garethshanks

Remember that The Panopticon is always happy to consider publishing articles written by its readers. Email: thepanopticonblog@gmail.com

Pat Condell once again illustrates the miry corruption of the EU by using the example of Ireland’s vote(s) on the Lisbon Treaty as his locus. A salient reminder of why the EU should be resisted rather than embraced, as the UK political class continue to have us do.

Every five years the UK’s political parties affect listening attentively and talking with the electorate in order to secure their vote. But if you want your say during the intervening period, forget about it. 

Examine this list of referendums held in the UK since 1973 [1]. What do you notice?

  • Northern Ireland sovereignty referendum, 1973, on whether Northern Ireland should remain part of the United Kingdom or join the Republic of Ireland (UK)
  • United Kingdom European Communities membership referendum, 1975, on whether the UK should remain part of the European Economic Community (yes)
  • Scottish devolution referendum, 1979, on whether there should be a Scottish Assembly (small majority voted yes, but fell short of the 40% threshold required to enact devolution)
  • Welsh devolution referendum, 1979, on whether there should be a Welsh Assembly (no)
  • Scottish devolution referendum, 1997, Two questions: On whether there should be a Scottish Parliament (yes); On whether a Scottish Parliament should have tax varying powers (yes)
  • Welsh devolution referendum, 1997, on whether there should be a National Assembly for Wales (yes)
  • Greater London Authority referendum, 1998, on whether there should be a Mayor of London and Greater London Authority (yes)
  • Northern Ireland Belfast Agreement referendum, 1998, on the Good Friday Agreement (yes)
  • North East England devolution referendum, 2004, on an elected regional assembly (no)
  • Welsh devolution referendum, 2011 (yes)
  • United Kingdom Alternative Vote referendum, 2011, 5 May 2011. (no)

In reading this list you may noticed that nearly every region of the country seems to have been given the chance to better determine its own governance, whilst there has not been a referendum concerning how the country as a whole wishes to determine how it is organized and by whom. The 1975 European Communities membership referendum comes close, but only because this was sold to the public on the false premise that it was a trade agreement, not a means of facilitating political union.

This is a situation unlikely to change given the mendacious David Cameron’s latest remarks on the chances of an EU referendum:

I think it would be bad for Britain […] When I look at what is in our national interest, we are not some country that looks in on ourself or retreats from the world. Britain’s interest – trading a vast share of our GDP – is to be in those markets. Not just buying, selling, investing, receiving investment but also helping to write the rules. If we were outside, we wouldn’t be able to do that. It comes back to this, who are going to be the winning nations for the 21st century? If your vision of Britain was that we should just withdraw and become a sort of greater Switzerland, I think that would be a complete denial of our national interests. [2]

Leaving aside Mr Cameron’s nakedly patronising assertions – and omitting the point that given a string of u-turns, serious errors, impotence and incompetence, he evidently has no idea about anything, let alone what is best for Britain – he brings to one’s attention Switzerland, derisively suggesting that Britain would be foolish to follow its record of political, economic and social competence. Indeed, given the antipathy shown towards referenda by all three main political parties, one can see why they may fear the democratic model of Switzerland.

It is a country in which binding referenda can be called by citizens at federal, cantonal and municipal level. The government is obliged to meet this demand and has no power to determine if it should be held, nor when. The procedure is enshrined in Switzerland’s constitution and is at the heart of its political life. Two types of referendum exist:

  • Facultative referendum: Any federal law, certain other federal resolutions, and international treaties that are ongoing in nature, or any change to Swiss law may be subject to referendum if at least 50,000 people or eight cantons have petitioned to do so within 100 days. Within cantons and municipalities, the required number of people is smaller, and there may be additional causes for a facultative referendum, e.g., expenditures that exceed a certain amount of money. The facultative referendum is the most common type of referendum, and it is mostly carried out by political parties or by interest groups.
  • Obligatory referendum: There must be a referendum on any amendments to the constitution and on any joining of a multinational community or organization for collective security. In many municipalities, expenditures that exceed a certain amount of money also are subject to the obligatory referendum. Constitutional amendments are proposed by the parliament or by the cantons or by citizens’ initiatives. Citizen’s initiatives at the federal level need to collect 100,000 valid signatures within 18 months, and must not contradict international laws or treaties. Often, parliament elaborates a counter-proposal to an initiative, leading to a multiple-choice referendum. Very few such initiatives pass the vote, but more often, the parliamentary counter proposal is approved. [3]

Facultative referendums force parliament to search for a compromise between major interest groups and, in many cases, the threat of a facultative referendum is sufficient to make the parliament adjust a law.

It is a modus operandi that puts British democracy to shame. It would ensure that government follows the essential mandate immortally phrased by Abraham Lincoln in his Gettysburg address, that government should be ‘of the people, by the people [and] for the people’ [4]. It would mean that the electoral carnival held every five years would oblige politicians to mean what they say and do what they claim during their term in office. There are those such as Will Hutton who claim they are ‘very suspicious of referenda’, adding ‘I don’t like them and I’m not certain they are a democratic instrument […] I believe in representative democracy, that we vote for our MPs and they take decisions in the House of Commons on our behalf.’ [5] Mr Hutton fails to acknowledge that one reason why faith in the democratic process is so lacklustre, is precisely because of the unaccountability of politicians once their seat is secured and the bald truth that many MPs are prepared to serve their party before they serve their constituents.

Referendums in the UK have also been discredited precisely because they are used as democratic tokenism, consulting the public on issues that are relatively unimportant to anyone other than those in Westminster (see the list at the top of this post). If the Mother of Parliaments is to nurture democracy, it must allow freedom to grow by letting the people it claims to represent take responsibility for their affairs at a local and a national level.

Consider present elector-a-phobia against UKIP who aim to:

  • introduce ‘Direct Democracy’ whereby 5% of the national or local electorate can demand a binding referendum on any issue. At national level, people will have to sign up for the referendum within six months, at local level, within three months
  • offer an in/out referendum on the UK’s relationship with the EU
  • allow binding national referenda on controversial public law and order issues that are outside party politics. The public must have the final say
  • allow county-based referenda on fox hunting within county boundaries on the basis of a simple majority. Where hunts cross county boundaries, co-terminus referenda could be promoted.
  • Introduce binding local referenda for major local schemes such as the building of new supermarkets. Remote planning appeals will not be able to override the local vote
  • allow parents to trigger a government inspection of a school if 10% of the parents at that school initiate this in a referendum [6]

The three main parties are content to treat the electorate like children who know no better. They have deliberately fostered widespread deference to politics and to democracy so that they can take decisions that are in the interests of party politics before the electorate. Lies are the language of the Conservatives, the Labour party and the Lib Dems; they have spread the disease of indifference in politics, they are the wet rot crumbling the wall of democracy.

© thepanopticonblog, 2012

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