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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

Notes

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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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As if proof were needed that the British Government is incapable of looking after its people, the case of  Abu Qatada serves to underline this bitter truth.

Next year a limitation on the number of immigrants allowed from Eastern Europe into the UK will no longer be viable, just in time for immigrants from the new EU nations of Romania and Bulgaria to travel to arrive and claim the benefits and jobs that any rational country would issue to its own populace as a priority. This is on top of the immigrants from across the EU and the world who recognise that the UK is a soft touch, with its skewed cultural values and its prolongation of a damaging permissive society. Among these people will be a serious criminals including the possibility of terrorists who could quite easily exploit the weaknesses of the UK’s borders to their own nefarious ends.

Is anything done about this? Of course not. EU law binds the UK to an open borders policy which means that the most one can hope for is containment of the problem, certainly not resolving it. As was alluded to in the previous post, some 320,000 immigrants are likely to be granted an amnesty to stay in the UK because the Border Agency have (no thanks to political parties of all persuasions) not been provided with the adequate resources to stop this from spiralling out of control. And to emphasise, the Government is not serious about patrolling the UK’s borders because their loyalty is to the EU and its ideology before their own territories.

Not only is the problem coming from without, the problem is also from within. When an alleged Al-Qaeda affiliate like Abu Qatada, the ‘the spiritual leader” of this rat-bag organisation in Europe, who has been connected to several terrorist plots and attacks is kept in the UK on account of his human rights, then it is clear something is fundamentally wrong with the system of justice, which is meant to protect the people of the UK. And, of course, it indicates how seriously defective the government is for having the UK signed up to a charter that allows the ECHR to supersede the decisions made my British courts.

The real threats to the UK do not come from without, they come from the government and their inability and unwillingness to assert the rights of its people and its principles from within. So the government sends troops out to die in the  futile and regressive conflict in Afghanistan under the auspices of keeping the streets of Britain safe, but fails at every turn to address the real threats to jobs, welfare, social cohesion and benefits posed by uncontrolled immigration. Furthermore, it fails to  act decisively against known criminal threats like Abu Qatada because it prizes the sovereignty of the EU as a political project before the rights, liberties, freedoms and democracies of its people every time.

Do not think for a second that the government has yet to decide on its relationship with the EU, that decision has long since been made and so long as it lines the pockets and furthers the careers of the political class, so the people of the UK – soldiers and citizens – will pay for it.

© thepanopticonblog, 2012

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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.

What might be taught in the classroom where politicians go to ‘learn lessons’ from poor judgement or mistakes?

In the classroom, the most important skills acquired by any student are reading, writing and arithmetic. To attack the three ‘R’s as conservative or traditional usually belies the accusers depth of understanding. These are matters that open up the possibilities of learning and opportunity rather than close them down. The essential ability to be able to master the pleasures of and/or analytical skills inherently involved in reading, to express oneself clearly and eloquently in a variety of written styles and modes and to be able to command an understanding of basic mathematical principles remain constant if not neglected parts of the national curriculum.

It is to Education Secretary Michael Gove’s credit that he is pursuing a hard-line in addressing a restoration of the importance of these subjects as well as other areas of education. According to Conservative Home [1]:

  • The current curriculum states that pupils should be taught, by the end of Year 2, to write each letter of the alphabet, use simple spelling patterns, and spell common words. In the new curriculum, by the end of Year 2, children will be taught contractions, homophones and possessive apostrophes, and the spelling of more complex words.
  • With grammar, the current curriculum says that pupils need, by the end of primary school, to know such things as the “purposes and organisational features of paragraphs and how ideas can be linked”. The Department for Education says the new curriculum will be far more demanding.
  • The new curriculum will seek to place a stronger emphasis on the enjoyment of reading. At present, pupils at the end of Year 6 should be able to “express preferences and support their views by reference to texts; read stories, poems and plays aloud”. Under the new curriculum, pupils at the end of Year 4 will have similar skills.

If education is not demanding, if it does not insist upon challenging the intellectual capacity of those it is meant to enrich, then something is very wrong indeed.

Yet, whilst students enjoy the summer break, perhaps now is a good time for our own politicians to reflect upon their political education. Quite often when mistakes are made, politicians report that they will ‘learn lessons’ from the experience and resolve to do better or else not let it happen again. There is a ring of cliché to this claim not lost on the electorate; indeed, if a politician went back to school every time they claimed they would be learning lessons, classroom overcrowding would indeed be a very great problem.

However, if politicians were to return to the classroom, schooling them in what may be termed ‘The Three “L”s’ would be a strong place to start. In this adaptation of what is contained in the American Declaration of Independence [2], one may suggest that government has a duty to maintain the following: Life, Law and Liberty:

  • Government should determine to protect the lives and the ways of life of the people under its care
  • Government should continue to legislate or repeal laws that serve this first cause
  • In enacting these laws, government must do so without undue exertion of influence over the law-abiding and should diffuse centralised power, deregulating where prosperity is stifled and protecting the rights of the individual, without compromising the will of the many.

These are broad strokes that (like the three ‘R’s that offer a point of entry into learning rather than an end in themselves) may remind politicians of the nature of the democracy they claim to represent, that their responsibility is to those they serve rather than the parties to which they are attached, that, ultimately, big government is incompatible with democracy and prosperity.

Indeed, in their lessons, politicians may learn from other tripartite mottos including “liberté, égalité, fraternité” (liberty, equality, fraternity) in France; “Einigkeit und Recht und Freiheit” (unity, justice and freedom) in Germany’ “life, liberty, and prosperity” in Australia; “peace, order and good government” in Canada. [3]

If the three ‘R’s enhance the ability of the individual to express themselves, so variations upon the three ‘L’s may aid politicians, enabling them to ameliorate the UK’s expression of identity and that of the people within its territory.

© thepanopticonblog, 2012

Notes

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

Notes

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