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Today, UKIP leader Nigel Farage delivered a letter to Downing Street addressed to the Prime Minister. He re-iterated in writing his challenge for a full, frank and honest debate with the PM about the UK’s relationship with the EU and the necessity of a referendum on the subject. His letter is reproduced below:

Dear Prime Minister,

As you are well aware, the last time the people of this country were given a say on membership of the European Union was back in 1975.  This must have been a factor in your thinking when, in 2007, you gave a “cast-iron guarantee” to hold a referendum if you became Prime Minister. Since that promise, however, your message on the issue has been confusing and misleading.

You say the time is not right but refuse to clarify when the time will be right. You believe that leaving would not be in our best interests and an in/out referendum is flawed because it offers a “single choice”.  In last week’s Sun poll, almost 70 per cent of voters said they would like a referendum. In the same poll, a clear majority said they would like to leave the EU and yet your plans would deny them that opportunity.

I believe the British people, along with many of your own backbench MPs, want and deserve a straight in/out choice in a referendum.  I propose a public debate between us where we can put our respective cases forward.

My challenge to you is an open and honest one and I hope you will afford me, and the people of this country, a proper say on the matter.

Yours sincerely

Nigel Farage MEP

Leader, UK Independence Party

Notes

  • ‘Alea iacta est’ translates from the Latin as ‘The die is cast’. The phrase is attributed by Suetonius to Julius Caesar as he led his army across the River Rubicon in Northern Italy.
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Mr Cameron has suggested ‘We need to be clear about the best way of getting what is best for Britain’ [1] only to write an article that is neither clear nor makes a convincing case for what is best for Britain. ‘False face must hide what the false heart doth know’ [2].

Mr Cameron is trying to work out how he and the interests of the political class can maintain their vested interests whilst offering the electorate an EU referendum, one that smacks of tokenism and empty gesture. Equivocation is the means by which he negotiates the lie of his Eurosceptic credentials.

Mr Cameron’s disingenuous article concerning the possibility of an EU referendum amounts to the vague suggestion that ‘we may do something at some point’In doing so he underscores that it is not that he does not understand the strength of feeling for an in/out referendum, but that he does not want to understand that feeling.

Certainly, Mr Cameron is not to be trusted on this matter (or, really, any others). There will be little doubt that he and fellow europhiles will enmesh a clear in/out vote in caveats and get-out clauses to ensure the British public do not get what they vote for  – unless it is a ‘in” vote.

If he offers a referendum to coincide with the next General Election, then, if the Conservatives lose the vote and a Labour government accedes, the referendum will not likely be binding since a new government may not recognize the policy of the Conservatives.

Time and again, despite great quantities of false sincerity, Mr Cameron has shown that he does not wish to understand the people of the UK, nakedly putting his own political interests before serving the people he claims to represent.  He is neither the first, nor the last liar to occupy the position of PM, but it is a quality that marks his leadership with unusual vigour.

© thepanopticonblog, 2012.

Notes

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‘To make anything very terrible, obscurity seems in general to be necessary’ – Edmund Burke’s description of the Romantic sublime has never been more pertinent as this article suggests parallels between both this and the EU. 

One of the Romantic period’s greatest philosophers, Edmund Burke, in his celebrated discourse A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful, attempted to articulate the nature of the sublime. This sensation, which today we take to describe a state of almost transcendental perfection, held a different meaning for Burke and his contemporaries and is encoded in much of the great poetry and writing of the period.

In essence, the Romantic sublime is at once the combination of fear and awe. In our own time, we might suggest that some of the natural disasters we see on television, like those powerful images of the tsunami in Japan in 2011, provoke in us a feeling of awe at the power of nature and fear of that very power. More specifically, the Romantic sublime suggests that it is to be within the proximity of like danger (real or imagined) but to be just safe from harm that we recognise the unquantifiable and the reconciliation of the individual self to it. In this spirit, Wordsworth wrote that in his youth he was ‘Foster’d alike by beauty and by fear;’ and ‘sanctifying by such discipline | Both pain and fear until we recognise | A grandeur in the beatings of the heart.’ [1]

The sensation of the sublime is not restricted to encounters with the natural word. Indeed, Edmund Burke notes that the sublime can be used to political ends and that obscurity is key to power:

To make anything very terrible, obscurity seems in general to be necessary. When we know the full extent of any danger, when we can accustom our eyes to it, a great deal of the apprehension vanishes. Every one will be sensible of this, who considers how greatly night adds to our dread, in all cases of danger, and how much the notions of ghosts and goblins, of which none can form clear ideas, affect minds which give credit to the popular tales concerning such sorts of beings. Those despotic governments, which are founded on the passions of men, and principally upon the passion of fear, keep their chief as much as may be from the public eye. [2]

To offer a more recent frame of reference, one need only consider the figure of Big Brother in Orwell’s great novel; whether he is real or not is immaterial, because he is unseen (obscured) save for propaganda, he can be both everywhere and nowhere, obliging the citizens of that dystopia to normalize and regulate their behaviour in the most oppressive fashion. Thus the figure or idea of Big Brother elicits both awe and fear alike.

Away from literature, this idea of the sublime conveniently translates into both the perception and the reality of the EU. Its governance operates remotely (literally in another country) and its politicians and bureaucrats are, too, remote. They are unknown, indeed, obscure quantities ruling from afar; because they have not been voted in, they cannot be voted out and so they are utterly unaccountable.

Generally, those in awe of the EU are not experiencing a pleasant sensation, rather they are struck by the self perpetuating bureaucracy, the job justification and the disparate often vested interests at work within this institution. So, too, one has a legitimate right to experience fear; those making laws, those passing legislation or enacting are doing so without the mandate of the people, let alone their consultation. Indeed, professional obscurity is no bar to occupying professional office: look at the example of the European Court of Justice. As Daniel Hannan remarks ‘it doesn’t require its members to have served on the bench in their home countries. Many of them are academics, politicians and human rights activists who happen to have law degrees. And some are quite blatant about using the institution to advance an agenda that would be rejected at the ballot box.’ [3]

Time and again, when those such as Mr Farage remind the likes of Mr Barosso, Mr Van Rompuy or Mr Schulz that they have not been elected by the people to hold the offices they hold, they respond that they were voted for by colleagues and peers within the EU as if this equates to the same thing. At the most fundamental level, therefore, democracy is replaced by obscurity, since there is no correlation between the electorate and the people who claim to rule in their name.

The fear of the EU is not just in its meddling and efforts to standardize and legislate, it is, most obviously, to be see on the world stage where the effort to salvage the credibility of it economic prowess have floundered. Yet, day in, day out, it issues face-saving propaganda to claim success – but success for whom? Generations have been saddled with insurmountable debt to prop up countries that should have never joined this ill-conceived economic project. The EU’s own ideology has, therefore, become obscure, yet it still wields ‘fearful’ power over the nations and peoples it claims to serve (cf. ‘Weltanschauung: The Destructive Nature of the EU’s Ideology’). It is, in the Romantic sense, sublime.

The list of likenesses between the EU and Burke’s understanding of the sublime are many and varied. Perhaps the most potent sensation is the fact that in giving away practical powers to an unknown quantity, the UK has lost something far more worrying: its own symbolic value. Just as the idea of Big Brother or omnipotence  is powerful enough to regulate and normalise the actions of citizens, so we forget that the idea of the UK, with its independent, individual, pioneering and innovative spirit is more powerful than the sum of its policies. The economic or political ends of a nation state are never as valuable nor as powerful as its symbolic value. When one talks of the UK government failing to stop its ceding of powers to the EU, we cast our politicians as the victims of some obscure plot – but make no mistake – these are powers that have been given away with alacrity to serve an ideology conceived of by the passions of men.

What the obscure EU has to fear is exposure. It is sensitive at precisely the point where normal democracy should be strong – it is neither open, nor democratic, nor accountable –  which is why it is necessary to cast a floodlight over the shadowy machinations of this institution and its politicians, the men and women who keep themselves as much as may be from the public eye.

© thepanopticonblog, 2012.

Notes

Like Alice, many will have had to believe the impossible before breakfast when it was announced that Mr Miliband might be conceding that Labour’s policy of open door immigration was a mistake and that their efforts to stifle discussion on the subject, by casting it as racist or xenophobic, was in error. But they can only offer an apology on immigration if they realise why emigration to the UK was so attractive an offer.

Mr Miliband’s apology for Labour’s dismal track record on immigration and for cultivating fear and paranoia when it came to speaking about this subject comes as  a welcome admission, at least superficially. Indeed, superficially, Mr Miliband presents himself an earnest and listening politician who prefers straight talking to rhetoric and consideration before action. The trouble is that this is just it: superficiality is all Mr Miliband is capable of (see my earlier post ‘Ed Miliband: Comprehensively Without Substance‘).

It is in the spirit of superficiality that Mr Miliband suggests he will implement the following policies if his party were to get into power: transitional controls on migration from new EU member countries; a crackdown on recruitment agencies that advertise solely for immigrant workers; an early warning system if some companies are employing a disproportionate number of foreign workers and heavier fines for employers paying beneath the minimum wage.

An ‘early warning system’? Will this take the form of flashing lights and a klaxon sounding in Whitehall? [1] No, that would be far too useful. Mr Miliband may be penitent, but whilst he looks to the past (which it is easy to apologise for), his policies offer no credible plans for the future. True to form, his speech was laced with emotion and soft pedalling, not substance. There are no absolutes, no guarantees, and there is no direction. And, please, let us remember, that whilst the UK is signed up to the EU, it has almost no say on who can or cannot stay in the UK.

One of Mr Miliband’s gurning lieutenants, the shadow immigration minister Chris Bryant (who claimed over £92,000 in expenses over the five years leading up to the 2009 expenses scandal. He flipped his second-home expenses twice, claimed mortgage interest expenses that started at £7,800 per year before rising (after flipping) to £12,000 per year. He also claimed £6,400 in stamp duty and other fees on his most recent purchase, and £6,000 per year in service charges [2]), stated that ‘too many people came [into the UK] when we were in power’ [3]. He suggested, also, that the argument about immigration is bound up with other issues, some of which are worth considering:

  • Labour’s acceleration of a dependency culture and their engorgement of the permissive society has created a generation of feckless, selfish slackers, an underclass of ‘can’t work, won’t work’ benefits addicts who, financially or otherwise, offer the impression that they are somehow owed by the society that has furnished them hitherto. When they are afforded the opportunity to work, they suggest it is beneath their dignity. It is no wonder, then, that immigrants are willing to take the jobs cast off by these layabouts.
  • Similarly, were it not that New Labour had abandoned the working class and their vote and tried to substitute them with an immigrant alternative, there might have been a chance to engage and employ the disaffected. It is usually this underclass who are among the first to complain that there are no jobs for them, that vacant positions are occupied by foreigners – yet business after business, employer after employer seems to suggest the same thing: that immigrant workers are just that: workers, doing jobs they may not like or care for, but know the importance of earning money and the value of work.

Labour did not just open the UK’s borders, they created a situation which would obviously attract the poor or dispossessed from other countries, by almost completely removing the incentive for people on low incomes in the UK to work. The culture of dependency is one issue that is bound up with the question of immigration. This blog cannot adequately express nor comprehend the nexus that is the destructive legacy of Labour. Next to the space shuttle or the Large Hadron Collider, the most complicated machines ever built, Labour stands tall as social engineers of nobel-prize winning incompetence.

Even then, the remarks made above miss the point. Mr Miliband may have apologised for errors past and he may be suggesting future Labour policy will be more robust, but there has been no effort to understand immigration. How is he going to patch up the social fabric that his party destroyed? How can he talk about defending jobs for low paid, unskilled UK workers when, by the same token, he opposes almost every cut in state benefits? How can he talk about limiting immigration when he is signed up to the EU?

Questions such as these reveal what is hidden in plain sight. Mr Miliband has no intention of bringing immigration down to sensible levels any more than he intends to undo the socially destructive policies his party enacted. There will be absolutely no change. With his rhetoric, he simply aims to split the Tory vote. Regrettably, given the ConDems pathetic efforts, he cannot lose. Disaffected Tories will go to UKIP [4] and he will steal those to the left of the Tory party (people not unlike David Cameron) for himself. We are through the looking-glass – the Conservatives have become Labour, whilst Labour affects the posture of Conservatism.

© thepanopticonblog, 2012

Notes


The armies separated; and, it is said, Pyrrhus replied to one that gave him joy of his victory that one more such victory would utterly undo him. For he had lost a great part of the forces he brought with him, and almost all his particular friends and principal commanders; there were no others there to make recruits, and he found the confederates in Italy backward. On the other hand, as from a fountain continually flowing out of the city, the Roman camp was quickly and plentifully filled up with fresh men, not at all abating in courage for the loss they sustained, but even from their very anger gaining new force and resolution to go on with the war. [1]

By a narrow margin the Greeks have voted for the New Democracy (ND) party, whose pro-austerity, pro-euro policies will bind them to years of hardship and ruin. It is a Pyrrhic victory, since what has been voted for is undeliverable and will undo this country, the cradle of democracy.

There is no doubt that the EU and europhiles will exclaim that the vote for ND is an affirmation of the EU’s viability, a ringing endorsement of the destructive ideology which cannot be plugged by the trillions euros invested in shoring it up.  Rather than acknowledge a way other than their own, the EU will stick firm with their rhetoric, with overtures of unity and cooperative strength, with the dreadful propaganda which the peoples of Europe (using their eyes, their ears, their sense) will know to be false.

If  Greece and the EU cast off their blinkers and look towards other countries in the Anglosphere or the Far East, for instance, who are showing growth, or within their own line of sight to Iceland which is making a remarkable recovery from bankruptcy, they will see countries gaining new force and resolution whilst their own union, mortally wounded, flounders like a man in fire and lime.

© thepanopticonblog, 2012

Notes