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Keeping it in the family, Dartmouth style

The curious case of the wind farm planning application at Slaithwaite Moor, that named one of the landowners as wind-farm opposing UKIP MEP, William Dartmouth (aka The Rt Hon William Tenth Earl of Dartmouth, aka William Legge), which we have written about here and here, has taken a new twist today.

This blog’s enquiries and questions about William Dartmouth being named as an owner of the land in question has prompted further enquiries by others, which have resulted in the following statement by Lord Dartmouth. issued by the UKIP Press Office this afternoon and reported by the Huffington Post:

Statement from William Dartmouth MEP re wind turbines in Kirklees

08 April 2014

I am issuing this statement in response to [social] media interest in a planning application to Kirklees Council in West Yorkshire for three wind turbines to be built on Slaithwaite Moor.

I am not the applicant.

I do not own the land in question.

The land which is the subject of the planning application is owned by a relative.

I derive no benefit, financial or otherwise, from the land as it stands, nor would I if the planning application were successful.

An adjacent piece of land, which is owned by me, was erroneously included in the application. This strip of land would not be involved in the wind turbine application in any shape or form.

As a UK Independence Party MEP I fully endorse the party policy to oppose onshore wind turbine development.

The reason that the name Rosscroft Ltd appears on the above planning application, as well as in relation to land which I do own, is that they represent the entire extended Dartmouth family as well as many other clients.

Lord Dartmouth is clearly hoping this draws a line under the matter.  But, while there is no suggestion of any illegality, Dartmouth’s statement raises further questions given his party political policies and the information he has released:

  • This appears to be the first time that William Dartmouth has mentioned that the land in question is actually owned by a member of the Dartmouth family.  Did he not think it relevant to mention this when UKIP asked him about the matter following complaints from residents in the area?
  • The transfer of the land from William Dartmouth was to Rosscroft Limited as shown on form TP1.  Yet Dartmouth says the land is owned by a relative.  Does this  mean therefore that the offshore-run company, Rosscroft Limited, is actually a Dartmouth family-owned business?
  • Although William Dartmouth explains he will derive no benefit, financial or otherwise from the land now or if the planning application were successful, does he accept that a member(s) of the Dartmouth family would derive financial benefit if the wind farm planning application is successful?
  • As Lord Dartmouth says that land which is owned by him was erroneously included in the application, when did he (or his agents Carter Jonas) raise this serious error with Kirklees Council, as no correction has been made in the five and a half months since it was submitted?
  • Valley Wind Co-operative say on their website that after many years of searching for the best site for a wind farm in the Huddersfield area, they found a suitable location at Slaithwaite Moor, above Slaithwaite & Marsden. They say that Valley Wind Co-operative was formally created in 2009, to take the idea forward.  This was while William Dartmouth was still the owner of the land in question. Did Valley Wind and William Dartmouth therefore discuss the proposals for a wind farm while he was the land owner?
  • Is it a mere coincidence that the land transferred to William Dartmouth’s ‘relative’/Rosscroft Limited in 2011 just happened to be the parcel of land Valley Wind had identified as the best site for their wind farm, while adjacent land remained under his ownership?
  • Was Valley Wind’s interest in the land for the wind farm a consideration in the land being transferred to William Dartmouth’s ‘relative’/Rosscroft Limited?
  • Was there any political motivation on the part of William Dartmouth to distance himself from involvement with a wind farm by transferring the land to a ‘relative’/Rosscroft Limited, thus ensuring a Dartmouth family member would still stand to gain financially from a successful application?
  • Is it a mere coincidence that all the directors of Rosscroft Limited were replaced by offshore individuals and companies shortly after Valley Wind’s pre-application enquiry about the wind farm and before the formal application was made?
  • Will William Dartmouth, having influenced his ‘relative’/Rosscroft Limited over the plans for Cupwith Reservoir, now seek to influence their acceptance or rejection of a wind farm on Dartmouth family-owned land, or will he oppose the wind farm application as an adjacent land owner even though his ‘relative’ stands to benefit from financially if it was approved?

In the absence of clear responses, the public will draw their own conclusions about this matter, which seems to be far from over.

Is UKIP’s William Dartmouth MEP using an offshore company to conceal involvement in a wind turbine development?

Following on from yesterday’s post, the curious story surrounding UKIP MEP William Dartmouth and allegations that his land is the site of a proposed wind farm development – in direct contradiction with UKIP policy – has become even more interesting.  This is a detailed post.

We have managed to obtain a letter that was sent by Lord Dartmouth’s solicitor to UKIP chairman, Steve Crowther (below).

It states that William Dartmouth does not have any interest in the land where the wind turbines will be sited, rather the land’s ‘proprietor’ is Rosscroft Limited.  However Mr Tim Haggie, solicitor at Latimer Hinks, does say that Dartmouth owns land adjacent to the site and that is perhaps why a ‘third party notice’ was served on him.   It is interesting to note the address of the local office that Rosscroft Limited uses in the area…

By coincidence it just so happens that another local firm is based at that address…

Backing up Mr Haggie’s assertion about Rosscroft is a document that shows Dartmouth transferred land on Slaithwaite Moor to Rosscroft Limited on 10th February 2011.

However, Lord Dartmouth must be a very generous fellow because he transferred the land for zero consideration.  In other words he gave it away to Rosscroft for nothing.  And we are not talking about a plot the size of a domestic garden here, the land in question is shown edged in red and the Cupwith Reservoir is surrounded by a blue box…

But the situation becomes more confused thanks to a letter from Carter Jonas, Lord Dartmouth’s land agent, in April 2013 to campaigners who were seeking to prevent plans to drain Cupwith Reservoir.   As you can see in the circled section, Carter Jonas have been instructed to explain to the recipient of the letter that his comments and remarks in a previous letter regarding the ownership of Slaithwaite Moor by Dartmouth are ‘misconceived’.

Yet in the same letter, two years after Dartmouth transferred ownership of Slaithwaite to Rosscroft Limited, Carter Jonas make this astonishing comment…

If William Dartmouth had transferred ownership of Slaithwaite Moor two years earlier, and had no direct or indirect interest in the land, why on earth are his land agents saying that Dartmouth is sensitive to the concerns of people who did not want the reservoir drained and has given considerable thought as to ‘how he could best accommodate what you are seeking to achieve’?  How can a man with no interest or ownership over the land in question accommodate anything to do with its use or ownership?

We have seen above on the TP1 form that William Dartmouth transferred ownership of Slaithwaite Moor including Cupwith Reservoir in February 2011.  The documentary evidence is clear.

As such we have to pose the following question… if Rosscroft Limited became the owner of the land in February 2011, why is it that in August 2011, a memorandum written by consultancy Mott MacDonald asserts the following?

If this is incorrect why was it not corrected either by William Dartmouth or Rosscroft Limited?

Indeed, this takes us back to yesterday’s post and that wind farm planning application.  The applicants, Valley Wind Co-operative were duty bound to inform owners of the land on which they wished to develop a wind farm that they were putting in an application.  Owners and tenants have to be listed on a form in the application known as an Article 12 Certificate.  There are four types, A, B, C and D, neatly explained here.

A Certificate B is completed and submitted when the planning applicant (in this case Valley Wind) know the names of all the owners of the land upon which a planning application is being made.  On the wind farm planning application, there is a Certificate B which clearly names Rosscroft Limited and William Dartmouth, both care of Carter Jonas in York, as an owners (or tenants) of the land concerned.

dartmouth_owner

Despite Carter Jonas evidently being made aware that Valley Wind understand William Dartmouth to be an owner of this land, the planning application has not been corrected or amended.  Given that such incorrect information is valid reason for a planning application to be rejected, it seems very curious that no correction has been made to what William Dartmouth has said is an error and what his solicitor has said is a third party notice.

We have not yet been able to check with the Huddersfield Daily Examiner if William Dartmouth had requested a correction to their December 2012 story that identifies him as the owner of Cupwith Reservoir, nearly two years after the transfer to Rosscroft Limited.  But the stories still make the assertion.

So the question is, why have Carter Jonas and William Dartmouth apparently made no efforts to correct the record which has seen the media and even their paid consultants identify Dartmouth as the land owner at Cupwith Reservoir?  It’s an odd one.

We invited UKIP to comment on our story but have not yet received a response.

We also contacted William Dartmouth and invited him to comment on the ownerships and relationships concerning the land in question. He did not want to answer any questions from an anonymous blogger hiding behind a pseudonym and was more concerned in getting a name, however in the end he did email us the following:

But – to be crystal clear  – I do not own the land .

So, we know Rosscroft Limited owns the land.  But who owns Rosscroft?  It seems the directors of the company have been all or mainly ‘paid for’ names on paper only who have directorships in a large number of companies in different fields.  But there was a sudden and dramatic change of ownership last year that fitted into an interesting timeline of events.

In February 2013, pre-application advice was sought from Kirkless Council to discuss its views on the proposed wind farm development and whether it would have a possibility of being approved.

Shortly after that process, without explanation, the long standing directors of Rosscroft Limited were suddenly replaced by a professional director based in Monaco called Ian Frederick Ledger and a company based in the Bahamas called Ambassador Directors Limited.  This change means that Rosscroft’s human owners on the other side of the Atlantic cannot be easily identified.

With Rosscroft now enjoying the benefits of offshore privacy, the formal planning application for the wind farm was submitted by Valley Wind.

It’s a happy set of coincidences that just by chance seems to have seen Rosscroft adopt a very deep interest in privacy for its beneficial owners – just before it was to become involved in plans for wind turbines on land that we are told was formerly owned by a UKIP MEP, whose party opposes them.

Rosscroft was remarkably fortunate to have been gifted land that within a couple of years would be considered ripe for lavishly rewarding wind turbines; while William Dartmouth seems to have been remarkably fortunate to no longer own land on which an application for wind turbines – against UKIP party policy – was soon to be submitted.  And of course there is also the incredible coincidence that both Rosscroft and Dartmouth share the same solicitors and agents!  It’s a small world.

Curious people will no doubt be asking questions about all this.  Here are some that need to be answered:

  • Given these series of events, do William Dartmouth or the Dartmouth family have any financial interest or share ownership in Rosscroft Limited?
  • Has William Dartmouth ever created a bare or discretionary trust where the trust property includes all or part of Rosscroft Limited, or any of the land transferred to Rosscroft Limited?
  • Why have neither Carter Jonas nor William Dartmouth immediately corrected what must be an inaccurate planning application, especially when his solicitor said as long ago as January that the Dartmouth has no interest in the land he is listed on Certificate B as owning?
  • Why did neither Carter Jonas nor William Dartmouth immediately correct the Mott MacDonald memo and report stating the Earl of Dartmouth is the owner of the land well after the transfer date?
  • Why have local media stories citing William Dartmouth as the owner of land he transferred to Rosscroft not been corrected?
  • If William Dartmouth, despite not being the owner of Cupwith Reservior and having no direct or indirect interest in it, was influential enough to bring about an offer by its owner to give away the reservoir to campaigners who did not want it drained, does he not have the same influence to prevent the wind turbines being constructed on the same land?
  • As a UKIP MEP and stated adjacent land owner, with apparent influence and concern in the local neighbourhood, will William Dartmouth be submitting a formal objection to the wind farm planning application?
  • Will William Dartmouth or his solicitor make available the ‘third party notice’ he is said to have received in respect of being an adjacent land owner to the application site?
  • Does William Dartmouth or his family have any direct or indirect interest or share ownership in Ambassador Directors Ltd?
  • Is UKIP’s William Dartmouth MEP using an offshore company to conceal involvement in a wind turbine development?

The UKIP MEP, family land, a windfarm application, a party denial and EU money

UPDATED BELOW:  An interesting story has been submitted by a reader, concerning a controversial planned wind farm development in Yorkshire that could call into question the position one of UKIP’s highest profile MEPs who is also a candidate in next year’s General Election.

slaithwaite

The name of UKIP’s William Dartmouth MEP appears as an owner or tenant of land on a planning application that was submitted to Kirklees Council last year, to build three 100m wind turbines on unspoilt countryside next to Cupwith Reservior (location shown above) near Huddersfield, where the scheme applicant, Valley Wind Co-operative, is receiving funding for the project from the EU’s European Regional Development Fund.

What makes this matter curious is that William Dartmouth’s office has denied that he is directly or indirectly linked to the application site.

All of the the information about the proposed windfarm development was sent to Nigel Farage, and a member of Farage’s staff eventually responded stating that Dartmouth’s office had replied claiming he wasn’t linked directly or indirectly.  This is curious given this screenshot of the land ownership section of the planning application:

dartmouth_owner
What also appears to put a question mark against Dartmouth’s denial, while giving the accuracy of the information above further weight, is a story from 2012 that demonstrates land ownership and three-way linkage between Dartmouth, Carter Jonas and Rosscroft Ltd (whose name appears at the top of the screenshot). The story concerned a planning application to drain Cupwith Reservior.  The applicant was Rosscroft Ltd, the agent was Carter Jonas LLP, and the owner of the reservoir is the Dartmouth Estate of one Earl of Dartmouth (aka William Dartmouth) – an assertion reported  by the Huddersfield Daily Examiner when reporting that Dartmouth’s appeal against the rejection of the application had also been lost.  There is no evidence the media have been asked to correct their assertion.

As if further evidence is required that where there is Rosscroft / Carter Jonas there seems to be Dartmouth, there is an entirely unrelated planning matter, where William Dartmouth was the named applicant for planning permission, with his chosen agent was Carter Jonas LLP.  The links are clear.

dartmouth_jonas

Given all this information, it seems that UKIP has accepted Dartmouth’s denial without checking the facts for themselves, calling into question yet again the party’s internal processes for dealing with complaints or reports of conflict of interest among its elected officials.

UPDATE:  We have been sent a copy of a letter that was sent to Nigel Farage personally, just after one of the recent debates with Nick Clegg, from an opponent of the wind farm.  It includes the following paragraph which suggests that William Legge (Legge being the family name of the Earl of Dartmouth) stands to gain in the region of £60,000 per annum if three wind turbines are erected on his land…

So I was delighted on your stance against wind turbines but have to point out the total hypocrisy of your MEP William Legge who is touting his land out for a wind farm as one of the above applications. This land is protected moorland and 300 meters away from a National Trust Bird sanctuary. It is estimated he will receive £20k ground rent per 100m turbine (there are 3 currently planned) – i.e. £60k per year. This is in total opposition to UKIP’s manifesto.  I cannot see how he can be a UKIP MEP and at the same time pursue this course of action in his private life.

It is worth noting that David Cameron’s father-in-law, Sir Reginald Sheffield is often referred to as an example of a land owning rent seeker, trousering an reported £350,000 a year for turbines on his land.  Is the only difference between the Sheffields and the Dartmouths a mere matter of scale?

In addition to wanting the UK to leave the EU, UKIP has a policy against onshore wind turbines.  So, having one of its senior MEPs set to benefit financially from money given in grants by the EU, for the installation on his land of three giant turbines – that the party’s policy formally opposes – would be a serious conflict of interest and a likely resigning matter.  Further, that UKIP does not seem to have diligently investigated the reports sent to them by concerned residents in the area of the planned windfarm that one of their senior MEPs had this conflict of interest, seems to be another failure of internal process. UKIP has questions to answer about that.

But for now, William Dartmouth has questions to answer.

Why is it that he appears to have been untruthful about his interest in the land where the turbines are planned?

As a clearly stated  owner or tenant of the land, as shown on the official planning applications, what does he stand to gain if the application is approved and Valley Wind Co-operative build the turbines?

I think we should be told.

UKIP have been contacted and asked if they wish to respond to this story.

Power running amok as voters can only look on

The latest nauseating case of that curious species, the Westminster troughing hog, has seen Maria Miller ordered to repay we taxpayers £5,800 she wrongly claimed.

The story had me primed to write a post demanding that taxpayers must get back the other £38,000 that the Standards Commissioner said Miller should repay.  But then yesterday the Chair of the Standards Committee of MPs, which voted to ensure Miller got to keep the rest of the money, and the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards who originally said Miller should repay £44,000, issued a joint statement which had the effect of circling the wagons.

But while that was circulating and pouring copious amounts of mud into already murky waters, the former editor of the Telegraph, Tony Gallagher, was telling the BBC that one of Miller’s special advisers had leaned on the journalist writing the story of her claiming money she was not entitled to, effectively threatening that Miller had the ability to exact legislative retribution for the Telegraph running the story.

At the time I thought, if there is anything in this claim – and the wording did seem very specific – the journalist would surely have the comments on tape.  Having given Miller’s aide sufficient time and space to deny the story, the Telegraph has now released a recording showing that Miller’s SpAd did exactly what she was accused of.

In the same way I refuse to believe someone in the UKIP press office made up and issued a policy reversal on gay marriage without it being sanctioned, I refuse to believe Maria Miller’s SpAd acted without Miller’s knowledge or authority.  While Miller might have just about unjustly survived paying back a tiny amount of overclaimed money from our hard earned cash, and for giving an ungracious 32-second apology that was the equivalent of flicking two fingers to MPs (the public of course get no apology, despite being the party offended against), the actions of her adviser should have her clearing her desk by Monday.

No Cabinet Minister has ever made such an apology in the Commons and clung to their job.  She should have resigned this week.  But now we can add what amounts to blackmail in an effort to silence a media that is already shockingly poor, she should be sacked. No ifs, buts or maybes.  This abuse of office cannot be allowed to stand.

But of course, this is the state of our ‘democracy’ today.  The decisions will be made by MPs and men in grey suits.  The voters who have been offended against and who should have the ability to have Miller removed from office for what has happened, can only look on.  In this case it’s just as well the media decided to take an interest, otherwise Miller’s wrongdoing and the corruption in her office would not have come to light.

Just imagine how many more falsehoods, truths and corruptions could be exposed if the media chose to take notice and report them…

The truth that Mats Persson and Open Europe don’t want you to know

The claim that Norway has to put up with EU regulation without representation, and has no influence over what it must implement to be part of the single market (so called ‘fax democracy’) is a lie.  There is no other way to put it.

The fact is Norway has more influence over EU regulation than every EU member state.  Norway also has a veto over EU law so it does not have to follow the EU line.  Norway also pays substantially less to the EU for single market access than it would pay to the EU for being a member state.  Facts such as these are not just drawn from documentary evidence, they have also been established by speaking to ministerial level politicians in Norway who are best placed to understand exactly how access to the single market, without being an EU member state, impacts Norway.

These facts have been repeatedly shared indirectly and directly to Mats Persson of Open Europe – a ‘think tank’ that claims to be Eurosceptic, but which doggedly works to keep the UK firmly stuck in the EU – in order that he may correct his inaccurate claims.  Despite this, Persson continues to repeat the lie time and again, using his platforms on the Open Europe site and the Telegraph’s Blogs section.  The only conclusion that can be drawn is that Mats Persson is determined to deceive people in order to further his agenda of keeping the UK in the EU.

But knowingly repeating a falsifiable lie in the media in such a manner, to deliberately deceive readers, surely cannot be acceptable.  Therefore, my friend The Boiling Frog has submitted a complaint to the Press Complaints Commission, outlining the truths that Mats Persson deliberately seeks to conceal from people as part of his deceitful campaign.  The text of the complaint is shown below – and all readers are invited to share it and its contents widely in the media and on other blogs.  Please also feel free to reproduce the information below to submit your own complaint about Persson’s falsehoods, so that the PCC takes notice.

———————

Dear Sirs

I’m writing to you wishing to draw your attention to an article on the Daily Telegraph website by Mats Persson Director of the think tank Open Europe. He writes about the important issue of the UK’s membership of the European Union – more specifically in this case the possible method of leaving. The website URL in question is below:

http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/finance/matspersson/100026967/leaving-the-eu-how-article-50-could-make-the-divorce-very-tricky-for-britain/

My reason for contacting the Press Complaints Commission is that I have deep concerns that much of the article is incorrect and factually wrong. In particular I wish to highlight this paragraph regarding the debate about the UK’s role in the EU:

“If only it was that simple. There’s no good off-the-peg model that the UK can simply adopt should it leave the EU. The Norwegian (“regulation without representation)…”

Persson’s dismissal of the Norway option (“regulation without representation”) has been repeated before despite being corrected personally to Persson himself and in the comments (url below)

http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/finance/matspersson/100022087/brixit-why-the-norwegian-model-simply-wouldnt-work-for-the-uk/

Mats Persson’s argument relies heavily on the false doctrine that Norway has “no influence” in making EU law. However this is simply factually untrue, Norway has more influence than the UK regarding Single Market rules as illustrated below:

A) Many of Single Market laws are made at an international level for example the WTO – Norway gets to represent itself while the UK has only 8% influence with the EU which represents us on our behalf.

B) Norway is also on over 200 EEA (Single Market) committees which influence EU law from the outset –Anne Tvinnereim, former State Secretary for the Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development in Norway for example said this: “we do get to influence the position”.

C) Norway can then contest that laws don’t apply to their EEA agreement – currently they have over 1,200 in dispute.

D) Ultimately Norway can veto any EU legislation, as they did with the 3rd EU Postal Directive while the UK had no choice but to implement it by the 2011 Postal Services Act.

Another inaccurate assertion by Mats Persson in the same article is:

“Under Article 50 [of the Lisbon Treaty] and in continuity deals, France, the European Parliament and others could consistently block market access for the UK’s exporters of IT, insurance, banking and other services.”

The Lisbon Treaty and Article 50 is covered by international law, notably by Article 54 of the Vienna Convention on the Law on Treaties, for the EU – an international organisation – to block market access would be in fundamental breach of international law. The EU would be obliged to adhere by its international Treaty agreements.

The UK’s membership of the EU is clearly a very important topic of debate and regardless of various views of our membership rigorous but accurate debate in our media is essential. The Press Complaints Commission confirms on its website it considers that accuracy of the press is of utmost importance:

1 Accuracy

i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information, including pictures.

ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion once recognised must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and – where appropriate – an apology published. In cases involving the Commission, prominence should be agreed with the PCC in advance.

iii) The Press, whilst free to be partisan, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.

iv) A publication must report fairly and accurately the outcome of an action for defamation to which it has been a party, unless an agreed settlement states otherwise, or an agreed statement is published.

The issue of the UK’s membership of the EU has clearly taken a more prominent role in UK politics, signified by David Cameron’s promise of a referendum in 2017 (if he were to win the 2015 election) and the current debates between Nigel Farage and Nick Clegg. Thus it’s imperative that the public are accurately informed. In this spirit we note the Press Complaint Commission’s conclusion with an untrue story about EU rules on eggs in 2010:

http://www.pcc.org.uk/case/resolved.html?article=NjU5OQ==

With this in mind I wish to formally complain that Mats Persson’s article breaches the code of conduct of accuracy – it is misleading and is an attempt to severely distract readers of a very popular newspaper from forming a proper and considered opinion.

Yours faithfully

It’s time to take on and defeat the pro-EU side

Under the section on ‘Progressing the Agenda’ on page 26 of the Harrogate Agenda pamphlet, it says:

One of those objectives, not explicitly stated, is the withdrawal of the UK from membership of the European Union. As it stands, the direct democracy embodied in THA is not compatible with membership of the EU.

The inception of the Harrogate Agenda was to campaign for a transformation in British democracy – namely bringing it about.  It just so happens that democracy, real people power, is utterly incompatible with membership of the EU and its model of governance beyond accountability, which is why THA says it is necessary for the UK to leave the EU.

However, given the significantly changing pace and indeed face of the EU referendum debate, the Harrogate Agenda committee and advisory panel will meet in May to discuss formalising and increasing the link between THA and the EU Referendum issue, in order to give more prominence to campaigning for withdrawing from the EU.

In other words, although THA was not brought into being to fight for withdrawal from the EU, it is looking to re-focus its activity to achieve that end.

This does not mean THA will abandon its aim of demoratic reform in the UK.  Far from it.  Rather it is a recognition that before that can happen the UK needs to be free of the EU and we have a part to play in that.

To achieve that goal of leaving the EU there is a clear need for the anti-EU side to get all the help it can.  Blogging supporters of THA have variously highlighted and lamented the shortcomings of the anti-EU side over months and years.  Therefore the proposal being put before THA supporters – who are currently engaged in building the foundation of the movement before presenting it to the public – is that we now actively get involved in the game, that we devote our attention and focus on EU withdrawal, while formally bringing to it whatever philosophical and technical tools we can.

There are too many things that the public is not being told.  There are too many Europhile lies going unchallenged.  The media is awash with FUD, spin, deliberately sown confusion and ignorant commentary.  Not enough is being done to provide voters with reassurance that leaving the EU can have positive benefits in addition to the UK governing itself and speaking with its own voice on the world stage.

It’s time to tackle and overcome those problems.

THA has something to contribute – not least Richard North’s outstanding, condensed FLexCit plan that provides a definitive roadmap for leaving the EU and dealing with expected stumbling blocks along the way. It’s time to get out of the stands, onto the field and energise the pro-independence side.

The Hype Office strikes again

met_office_logoMet Office forecasts are seemingly becoming ever more sensationalist.  Observed weather conditions too often show that predicted extreme weather either fails to materialise, or turns out to be nowhere near as extreme as forecast.

Yesterday was another case in point.  The media was saturated with worry-inducing forecasts of high levels of atmospheric pollution at concentrations never before seen in this country. The Met Office were at pains to spread the warnings around.  And they are at it again today.

Yet in the event, the ‘high or very high levels of air pollution across southern England and the Midlands’ came nowhere close to the predictions. It turns out the pollution levels three weeks ago were worse than yesterday’s ’7′, but that hardly got any coverage and hardly anyone except those with severe respiratory conditions actually noticed any difference.

There’s method in the Met Office’s hype madness, from all these ‘weather warnings’ and triangles on TV maps that now appear in seemingly every other forecast for conditions that are almost always perfectly normal for the time of year, to the Met Office’s new overblown pollution predictions.  They know that people will only remember the overblown warnings and the media’s fealty in reporting them with due prominence.  It is all intended to embed a sense that our weather is becoming ever more extreme, to fit their narrative on human induced climate change – and justify ever more millions for ‘research’ and ever more lavish computer systems.

The Met Office’s typically quiet concession after the fact that things actually didn’t get as bad (£) – or even close to as bad – as they believed, for some reason or other, never gets the same prominence of course.  They are able to say they corrected the record if challenged, but they quietly make the correction in the same manner in which a newspaper will bury an inconvenient correction on page 31, in a single column inch of tightly spaced lettering near the foot of the page.

Then everything is fine again. Until the next time. Meanwhile the bonuses continue to flow from our pockets into theirs as reward for alarmism rather than accuracy, and the propaganda continues to gush out of their site in Exeter, and the sites of their alarmist University allies in Reading, Leeds and East Anglia.  Also, to ensure these fearmongers are never challenged on their hype, the BBC commissions ever more ludicrous reports to criticise giving airtime to people who seek to counter the ‘consensus’ and point out flaws in the science, thereby justifying the naked bias in editorial decison making and coverage of the subject.

It seems the greatest warming that is happening is that of our hearts as we joyfully fork over ever larger sums to fund this nonsense without complaint or revolt.

IEA agenda has excluded it as a serious player in the Brexit debate

The announcement by the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) of its finalists for the €100,000 Brexit prize was made this week.

It was noteworthy for this blog as the entry by my friend Richard North, assisted by another friend, Paul Williams, regretably did not make the final six – despite producing a submission of incredible detail, that presented a solution for a post-EU Britain based upon real world dynamics, governnance and structures.  You can read the submission, ‘FLEXCIT’ here.

A closer look at the entries that survived showed the authors all share a common theme, namely that Brexit should be accompanied by a formalisation of a Commonwealth free trade bloc.

What is interesting is that the original shortlist of 20 included a number of entries espousing variations of British membership of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) upon exit from the EU.  But in whittling down the field, every single one of them has been culled, while entries pushing a Commonwealth solution, or written by people who push such a solution, have made it to the final.

The only possible explanation for this is that the judging panel have abandoned any pretence of embracing wide-ranging and innovative solutions in an open minded fashion, and instead sought to advance entries that mirror their own pre-determined viewpoints.  In short, that the IEA Brexit panel are only interested in entries that reinforce and confirm their own biases, which renders the whole IEA competition worthless.

So why can the IEA no longer be considered a serious player in the Brexit debate?

Put simply, when combined with the wholesale exclusion of the overwhelmingly political dimension of a Brexit,  it is that in the modern age the Commonwealth solution is no longer a realistic option.

Free trade blocs requires its members to have broadly similar standards and have similar levels of social development.  The is such a difference in standards and social development between Britain and, for example, Uganda, that the notion of the Commonwealth being a suitable wrapper for a free trade bloc just doesn’t stand up.

The IEA has ignored the real world in favour of a concept that would be unworkable and costly.  It has pretended the politics of Brexit are irrelevent and that economics trumps all.  As such it cannot be taken seriously and any interventions it makes in the debate concerning the UK leaving the EU are likely to cause more harm than good.

There is no other way to say it… Nigel Farage is a disaster for the anti-EU side

Nick Clegg will be breathing a sigh of relief this morning.  Give Nigel Farage a grenade to play with and you can be assured that after a few drinks to get into character, he will manage to blow himself up.

But in doing so, Farage also injures the anti-EU side because of UKIP’s prominent position in the effort to get the UK out of the EU.

Alistair Campbell gave Farage a grenade to play with by interviewing him for GQ magazine. He then pulled out the pin by asking Farage which world leader he most admired. Farage’s response, however vigorously it is defended by his cult following and however many howls of rage they emanate saying their man is being misrepresented, was the equivalent of releasing the lever to allow detonation.  He has given the Europhiles and his political opponents an entire magazine of ammunition.

Farage could have dodged the obvious trap by saying that if he was being asked who is the most effective world leader in terms of pursuing their agenda then he would say Vladimir Putin. Then it’s a non story.

But no.  He did not refute the idea of him admiring Putin, a politicised thug who has waged war in Chechnya and Georgia and whose government is widely considered responsible for a wave of assassinations of political rivals and journalists, and abuses the legal system to throw into remote prisons those who might be a threat to his position.

In fact, as reported by the Telegraph, he even went so far as to say that he thought Putin’s handling of Syria – where Russian weapons and ‘advisers’ have propped up Bashar Assad – was ‘brilliant’.

In so doing, Farage has completely shattered the wholly appropriate case against the EU for its expansionist actions in eastern Europe – which stirred up violence in Ukraine, followed by a coup and a fragmentation of the civil society on ethnic lines, prompting UDI by Crimea and its vote to join the Russian Federation – all for the sake of Brussels extending its power.

Nigel Farage is a disaster. He is a liability for the anti-EU side. He is incompetent. He revels in his ignorance of EU governance.  He has a reliance on alcohol and women to function. He lacks depth. And as shown by this latest gaffe, he has absolutely no sense of judgement – an essential quality for any leader of any entity.

Nick Clegg is going to spit roast Farage with this.  No matter what Farage and his cult argue, many people are going to turn against Farage and the anti-EU side as a result, and the EU’s provocation of Russia across eastern Europe will be swept off the agenda to be replaced with a narrative that Farage is an ultra nationalist who admires warmongering heads of thugocracies.

UPDATE: Richard is all over this issue too at EU Referendum

Clegg vs Farage – Part 1

The debate tonight on LBC will be meaningless to some, but is actually of interest.

We know how Nick Clegg will approach this.  He will put a huge economic emphasis on what is a political issue.  He will cite statistics that have already been debunked several times over, such as the ’50% of our trade is with the EU’ (it is actually 50% of our goods transit through the EU regardless of final destination) and ’3 million jobs will be lost if we leave the EU’ (no entity has ever been able to quantify such a claim).

Clegg will bluster but much of he claims will not stand up to scrutiny.  He will then appeal to the ‘we must work all together for better outcomes’ argument – but never once justifying why cooperation is insufficient and why nation states must give up political and judicial control to Brussels.

What remains to be seen is how Nigel Farage plays this.

If he chooses to argue the fatuous points Clegg will make – the ‘wrestling with the Chimney Sweep’ approach, then he will come off badly.  If he keeps dragging the debate back onto the political ground where it belongs, he has a chance to make a positive impact on behalf of the anti-EU side.

Farage has to avoid playing into Clegg’s hands.  Say what you will about Clegg, you don’t get to his position without having some smarts about you.  Farage will be making a huge mistake to underestimate the Lib Dem leader.

Let’s see how this pans out…

Media continues to spin the lie that Association Agreements are ‘free trade agreements’

Fears that Russia could seize a second chunk of territory in eastern Europe grew on Sunday after Nato’s top commander warned that Moscow’s troops were poised to move into a pro-Moscow enclave of Moldova, according to the Telegraph‘s Colin Freeman.

The great sage goes on to tell us that US Air Force General Philip Breedlove said that Russian troops massing on the eastern border of Ukraine were well-positioned to head to Transdniester, a Russian-speaking enclave that has declared independence from the rest of Moldova.  General Breedlove said it would give President Vladimir Putin the perfect pretext to send troops in there as a “protection” force for ethnic Russians, just as he has done with his military annexation of Crimea.

There is absolutely sufficient (Russian) force postured on the eastern border of Ukraine to run to Transdniester if the decision was made to do that and that is very worrisome.

Never mind that NATO has been desperate to get Ukraine into its gang and also wants Moldova on board.  Breedlove’s comments are an example of NATO  being precious because Russia wants to keep a buffer between itself and its expansionist western rival. If the west wants to drag countries into its sphere of influence, via the EU, that is OK.  If Russia tries to do the same or, God forbid, tries to woo those countries with counter offers, that is an outrage.

But what makes Freeman’s piece stand out is the ignorance or deceit about the EU Assocation Agreements put on the table to Ukraine and Moldova. He writes:

Moldova, whose five million people mostly speak the Latin dialects of neighbouring Romania, is Europe’s poorest country, and has ambitions to eventually become part of the European Union.

It is currently negotiating a free trade agreement with the European Union, the same one that Ukraine’s ousted President, Viktor Yanukovych, abandoned last November amid massive Kremlin pressure.

Signing the free trade agreement would take Moldova firmly into the European fold, but Transdniester’s unresolved status would make full membership of the EU or Nato more complicated. As such, some believe the Kremlin has a direct vested interest in fomenting further pro-Russian sentiment in Transdniester.

As we have demonstrated previously, Association Agreements are not free trade instruments.  Perhaps he should tell us why the EU-Ukraine ‘free trade agreement’ necessitates that political dialogue in all areas of mutual interest…

shall be further developed and strengthened between the Parties. This will promote gradual convergence on foreign and security matters with the aim of Ukraine’s ever-deeper involvement in the European security area.

Or that:

The Parties shall explore the potential of military-technological cooperation. Ukraine and the European Defence Agency (EDA) shall establish close contacts to discuss military capability improvement, including technological issues.

The agreement with Moldova is little different, including this element in Article 5:

The Parties shall intensify their dialogue and cooperation and promote gradual convergence in the area of foreign and security policy, including the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP), and shall address in particular issues of conflict prevention and crisis management, regional stability, disarmament, non-proliferation, arms control and export control.

Clearly that is essential to the process of selling sunflower seeds and walnuts.  Colin Freeman is either a lazy hack who talks about things he doesn’t understand and hasn’t even researched, or he is a liar shilling for the EU and deliberately misleading readers about what our supreme government is doing.  Either way, this sums up the British press perfectly.

Party politics: Compare and contrast

Coverage of the Conservatives

Tories neck and neck with Labour – Sunday Times (£)

Post-budget poll boost for Tories – The Observer

Coverage of UKIP

The rage of Farage: Over balloons of brandy, UKIP leader fumes at ‘drunk womaniser’ claim, and delivers icy riposte to transsexual MEP who savaged him – Mail on Sunday

UKIP leader Nigel Farage under fire for staying at a swanky penthouse suite at taxpayers’ expense whenever he’s in Brussels – Mail on Sunday

—————-

For a long time this blog has warned that UKIP need and deserve better than Farage.  By making himself and the party indivisible from each other, the current negative coverage of Farage looks to be having negative polling consequences for UKIP, with likely electoral implications down the line.  Already, Survation – UKIP’s favoured pollster – now has the party back in third place in European election polling.  And yet the cult-like idiots who idolise Farage want a referendum now?

All the while Farage is sitting with journalists talking about whether or not he was screwing Annabelle Fuller (and his denials do not match up with first hand accounts of their behaviour in Brussels) and Liga from Latvia, all the while he is posing with a drink in his hand, comparing himself to Alfred the Great and Dennis Thatcher, and all the while he is trying to discredit Nikki Sinclaire as being on police bail (and has been for two years because no wrongdoing has been uncovered and the investigation has crashed to a halt), he is not presenting UKIP’s message.

Perhaps that is because under Farage, UKIP has no message apart from they are not the other parties, and whatever disgruntles you UKIP will speak up for you – even if that ‘all things to all men’ approach results in blatant contradictions.  Under Farage, what could be a respectable, meaningful and supportable party is now a political punchline.  It is a joke.  Farage is a JAP, just another politician.  He is using UKIP for his own ends and the decent people who want to see a genuine alternative party grow and develop are having their aspirations trampled into the ground because of one man’s vanity and selfishness.

Undecided voters coming off the fence for Tories, UKIP and Lib Dems slip

Two polls out tonight have the Conservatives closing the gap with Labour to just 1%, with UKIP and the Lib Dems falling back.

Political Betting‘s Mike Smithson reports that:

Tonight’s Survation poll for the Mail on Sunday provides a massive boost for the Tories following the budget.

The pollster, which pioneered prompting for Farage’s party, has traditionally had the biggest shares for UKIP. That’s down 3 to 15% while the Tories jump 4. The LDs also see a 3% drop.

My understanding is that a big driver of the Tory advance is that far fewer 2010 CON voters are now saying don’t know. On top of that there are fewer 2010 CON voters switching to the purples.

There’s a long way to go to Election 2015, but this week’s Budget and Labour’s appalling response to it seems to have resulted in a Conservative bounce at the expense of the smaller parties.  If tonight’s polls are not outliers, it could signal the early start to the two party squeeze this blog has been predicting.  If that happens, and more undecideds come down on the Tory side to prevent Miliband taking the keys to Downing Street, then Labour is not yet a dead cert to win the election.

General Election 2015: Labour must be stopped

This blog has not spent enough time focusing on the Labour party.

Much of our time has been devoted to highlighting serious flaws in a party we wish was doing so much better, but is hamstrung by incompetent, rudderless and lazy leadership.  But following the party’s actions and inactions subsequent polling shows that the momentum it built, before the 2013 local elections and its high point in winning council seats and polling above the Lib Dems, has ground to a halt.

UKIP may have finally embraced Article 50, but a damaging combination of shallow intellectual base, poor political judgement and disgraceful misallocation of resources means the party offers little and can deliver even less.  Its only relevance in 2015 will be the extent to which it damages the Conservatives and leaves the way open for Labour to form the next government.  Depressing and frustrating for ‘kippers and those of us with anti-EU sentiment, but true.

Ed Miliband getting the keys to Downing Street is a prospect that should increasingly fill people with horror.  While over 70% of our laws and regulations are imposed by the EU, the remaining percentage of governance still controlled within these shores provides Labour with ample scope to cause substantial harm to this country.

While there has been much talk of UKIP posing the main threat to Labour in the north, the reality is the ‘north’ is not a single entity.  There are as many complexities, rivalries, jealousies and agendas in the north of England as there are constituencies.  One size does not fit all.  UKIP appealing to folk in Burnley for example, does not mean it therefore appeals in the likes of Wythenshawe, Sedegefield, Batley, Hemsworth, Blaydon and Wansbeck. Being opponents to Labour and not be Tories has not been sufficient for Lib Dems all these years and it won’t be for UKIP.  The real battles in 2015 will be Conservative marginals, where unpopular government faces off against incompetent opposition that will cause real damage to this country if it is able to form a government.

The Labour way is the wrong way and that is even before you factor in the increasing control being exerted by the trade unions, whose desires are increasingly out of kilter with the desires of ordinary people and families, and the fact the party is – to use that infamous expression coined in The Thick of It - disconnected to the point of autism.

Labour held sway in Scotland and was so dire it was replaced by the pisspoor SNP, which has also managed the referendum campaign in such cack-handed fashion it is now likely to be beaten by dire Labour at the next election.  The real losers however are the Scots people who see-saw between two cheeks of the same arse and see their country steadily deteriorate as the client state grows, outcomes decline and wealth creation dwindles.

Then take Wales, where the Labour administration is getting some overdue, uncomfortable scrutiny from Daily Mail today.  Even making allowances for the usual media errors, hyperbole and spin, the article still hits on many home truths about the Labour party and the way it operates in office.  The key takeaway is that despite all the failings and incompetence highlighted and the attendant corruption that always accompanies Labour rule, Ed Miliband holds up Wales as an example of Labour in action.

Miliband’s declaration that if a new EU treaty is presented to the UK during a Labour government, he would hold an in/out referendum rather than a yes/no on the terms of the treaty itself, looks like a gift to the anti-EU side.  But it isn’t.

It is a carefully constructed ploy to maximise the prospect of an ‘in’ vote and put an end to discussion about leaving the EU for a generation or more.  The lines that will be taken in addition to the current unsubstantiated reasons for remaining a province of the EU are obvious… along the lines of ‘You wanted reform and here is reform’, ‘It would be overkill to leave the EU just because of this treaty?’.  Combined with the fear, uncertainty and doubt that will be spun concerning alleged economic and employment impacts, even when countered, many voters will opt for a ‘safety first’ approach and stick with EU membership.

So as you can see, it is not just Labour’s unique brand of spiteful, corrupt administration that will be brought about across the whole country by Miliband taking office in 2015, but also Labour’s insipid plan to destroy the anti-EU movement and cement the UK’s involvement in bringing about ever closer union.  Labour has to be prevented from winning the next election.  More thoughts on this soon.

Ukraine signs its Faustian pact with the EU

So there we have it.  The EU has signed its Association Agreement with the self appointed administration in Kiev – which came to power through a coup, rather than waiting for elections promised by Ukraine’s elected President, who is now in exile.

It may be that Ukraine’s electorate might have voted for a party or coalition that remained in favour of beginning the long process of surrendering sovereignty to the bureaucracy in Brussels, but as things stand a political settlement has been rammed through by the political class, without a clear mandate from what remains a disenfranchised population.

Small wonder that Ukraine’s unelected Prime Minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, claimed that Ukraine and the EU share the same values.  That democracy is not one of those values has been reinforced once again today.

The hypocrisy of the EU has broken new ground as it commenced the process of taking control of yet another territory without the approval of the people it will eventually govern. Whatever hopes the people in Ukraine had for a democratic, sovereign future have been swept away with a few flourishes of politicians’ pens.

The country has now been carved up between two rival entities.  The EU is set to take the spoils in the west and north, Russia has snapped up the peninsula in the south.  Another triumph for the political class.

The BBC reports that the EU Association Agreement is designed to give Ukraine’s interim leadership under PM Arseniy Yatsenyuk economic and political support.  What it actually does is give the EU ever greater control over Ukraine.

You do not have to say anything, but it may harm your political credibility if you do not mention…

ukipWhile in the previous post the UKIP website is worthy of mention for what it carries today regarding the ‘gays can marry’ / ‘no they can’t’ farce, for much of the time it is notable for what it doesn’t cover.

Look through the home page of the party website and there is not a single headline concerning international relations or heavyweight domestic issues – this from a party that has MEPs and aspires to win seats in the Westminster parliament.  For example, since the policy reversal on allowing Syrian refugees to live in Britain, there has been barely any mention of foreign affairs matters.

Given UKIP’s silence on the matter, Ukraine may as well be a self drive plant hire company.  It’s as if UKIP does the political equivalent of pleading the American 5th Amendment.

There has been little if any coverage or comment on the site about Ed Miliband changing the terms of a referendum on an EU treaty to making it a question of membership, thus ensuring a bias towards remaining in the EU.  Despite today being the day the Chancellor delivers the Budget, UKIP have nothing to say about it or what their offering is in respect of economic matters.  Similarly the silence has been deafening in respect of David Cameron’s nonsensical EU renegotiation position, with no rebuttal or counter position.  There’s more examples besides.

The website of a political party is its ambassador.  It is a place where people can go to get the unvarnised view of the party, and where media will lift quotes to use in news stories.  Loathe the BNP as I do, their website was responsible for raising issues into talking points and making the other parties address issues they had long tried to hide away from more than anything Nick Griffin said into a microphone.

But UKIP waste their web presence and one can only assume it’s because they have nothing of substance to say on the big issues.  They complain they don’t get a hearing in the media, but do nothing to use their available channels to reach beyond the media and speak directly to the electorate.  It all contributes to their electoral glass ceiling (11% in the latest You Gov poll), because potential supporters look at what the party has to say and find it amounts to very little.

Small wonder then that with the approach we see from UKIP, on the subject of leaving the EU or staying in, the current polling shows 39% want to leave and 41% want to stay.  The party isn’t doing the anti-EU side any favours.

Kirsten Farage describes the party’s headquarters operation as a ‘freakshow’. Maybe the party’s silence on key issues like those above is an attempt to keep her husband’s shallow soundbite-laden observations away from the public sphere, lest it incriminate the party as incompetent and ruin its credibility once and for all.

May the farce be with you

Otherwise known as policy on the hoof.  The media covered a policy reversal by UKIP yesterday in which Nigel Farage was quoted in a press release stating that the party would no longer oppose gay marriage.

Tuesday, 5:08pm

While some of the UKIP faithful claimed in comment threads this was a sign of ditching the party’s ‘drivel’, many hit out in anger at a u-turn in policy they vehemently disagreed with.  A number of the Faragista even said the party could not claim to be different from the rest when it followed the same line as the others.

Just over an hour ago, more than 17 hours after the widespread coverage of the reversal were published, UKIP released a retraction on its website.

Wednesday, 10:23am

It is inconceivable that had this been a mistake of the type Farage claims a national party, with Daily Express veteran Patrick O’Flynn running its media operation, would have waited so long to correct the story.  If it was an unplanned release Farage would have been tracked down to a lady’s boudoir somewhere and asked about it.  His press team would have seen it and challenged it as not being on the message calendar.  Phones would have been ringing to journalists to correct it, and the party’s website would have carried a correction very swiftly indeed to ensure there was no confusion for supporters.

But that could not have happened because many hours passed with no change to the new narrative and the Daily Mail piece is still live even now.  There are checks and sign offs to go through before any piece gets close to being released.  It is unimagineable that Farage would have not been asked to clear the quotes being attributed to him – at which point he would have killed the piece stone dead if it was not true.

The only conclusion that anyone in the communications profession would draw from this is that the reaction of party supporters to the announcement has forced Farage to back down and claim this was all a big cock up.

Back room boys and girls don’t go writing policy reversal announcements without express instruction to do so, and then only following discussions within the party leadership about such a serious change.  But what passes for leadership in UKIP is generally a word from Nigel.  The lack of democracy within the party becomes more evident by the day.  UKIP is Farage and Farage is UKIP. It is personality politics writ large.

EU membership: We have to change the terms of the debate

Laura Sandys MP, we are told, is the Conservative Member of Parliament for South Thanet and the Convenor of European Mainstream. In Parliament, Laura was first appointed to the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee and, until recently, was the Parliamentary Private Secretary to Greg Barker MP, Minister for Climate Change. She is currently focused on consumer policy, energy security, the green economy and our relationship with the European Union.

Unsurprising to find therefore that she has written a puddle of unmitigated dribble for the Telegraph, in an article that the editors have chosen not to allow comments on.  A puddle that includes gems like:

[...] ‘Better off Out-ers’ appear fearful of negotiating abroad, unable to succeed in getting their way, and instead choose to loudly ‘beat their retreat’.

[...] However, ‘Out of Europe’ as a stated policy would be the first time in modern history that the UK’s aim would be to diminish its influence in Europe – an extraordinary retreat from our national interest.

[...] For my part I am greedy for the UK, not cautious – I want EU PLUS. I want the 500 million customers that the EU offers PLUS new trading partners and new export opportunities from across the globe.

There is a world of difference between ‘negotiating abroad’ and being subject to political control from abroad.  It is the better-off-outers who want to broaden the UK’s horizons and look beyond the borders of the EU for cooperation and trade in our own name and using our own voice.

It is worth noting that we are increasingly seeing politicians attempting to justify political settlements and the erosion of democracy with some perceived economic benefit.  Almost every political matter is now being projected through an economic prism.  Sandys is doing exactly the same thing here.

This shows the extent to which the political process has been captured and is now dominated by vested corporate interests.

The Europhile side barely ever talks about any other reason for remaining under EU control than trade and wealth.  Important as these things are, people power, accountability, sovereignty and self determination are essential elements for a society.

Having these removed by stealth, without our permission, then having a meagre promise of an economic carrot tossed in our general direction as some kind of compensation when the culprits are rumbled, is not acceptable.

We have to pull the debate back on to the political pitch and demand that the politicans talk to our interests, rather than move the issue on to the economic pitch preferred by their corporate paymasters.

BBC bias: John Humphrys confirms BBC tactic of bias by omission

The BBC has begun its effort to sanitise, downplay and distort the comments by Radio 4 presenter, John Humphrys, in the Radio Times in which he said that BBC coverage of EU and immigration matters has been biased to the left because the corporation is ‘broadly liberal’.

Despite the Humphrys piece being picked up across the media for his observations about liberal bias, you can see in the image on the left that the BBC is instead focusing on his comments about the corporation being ‘over-managed’. Move on, little to see here is the clear message. Humphrys is doing his bit to backtrack by claiming this was in the past and the BBC isn’t like that any more.

To be sure listeners get the message, Radio 4′s Feedback programme, presented by the pathologically smug and condescending Roger Bolton, continued the fightback today by broadcasting an interview with Humphrys (audio below).  But what the BBC hadn’t counted on was Humphrys inadvertently making the hole even deeper, with comments about the editors and how they work, which confirms all we have asserted over the years about ‘bias by omission’, where voices that dissent from the BBC worldview are deliberately denied airtime, effectively censoring the counter viewpoint.

The following exchange begins on the You Tube clip at 4 min 21 seconds…

Roger Bolton:  But the point surely is this, it’s not what people may feel in the BBC, it’s whether they control those feelings and remain as objective as possible. So to make the claim that the BBC was liberal is to say that its policies and its decision making were liberal, not necessarily that those [unitelligible]

John Humphrys: No, I think it’s to make the claim that the mindset was liberal. So when somebody suggested, might suggest, on this programme or others ‘let’s do so and so’ a particular politician who’s known for his anti European, his sceptical views, people would tend to say ‘mmm a bit bonkers isn’t he? Hmmm well maybe not’. And maybe he wouldn’t then be interviewed. So it wasn’t rampant, I’m not suggesting, I didn’t suggest in that conversation, that Radio Times conversation, that it was rampant, that we were kind of foaming at the mouth pro Europeans, you know, federalists to a man and woman. We weren’t. But there was a mindset that thought that the right approach to Europe should be supportive. So no, of course there was no conspiracy, but it was a mindset, it was an approach. And I think if you do an analysis of our coverage during those years I think that’s the impression you would gain as well.

Then a few minutes later at 7 min 41 seconds as the interview draws to a close, there followed this exchange which illustrates the point perfectly, that the problem of bias which needs addressing is the editors who are able to shape the programmes to reflect whatever point they want to make, be it political or activist…

Roger Bolton: And just finally for the record, has any editor ever told you to go soft on a political interviewee?
John Humphrys: Nope. Nope. Nope.
RB: Has anybody ever told you to go soft on the question of immigration?
JH: Nope.
RB: Has anybody ever told you to go soft on the question of Europe?
JH: Nope. But that doesn’t prove the point, Roger. Because I don’t edit the programmes, I don’t decide who gets interviewed and that is crucial to it.

The bias problem at the BBC that Humphrys is at pains to tell us is a thing of the past, is still very much alive and all too apparent.  But thanks to Humphrys’ candid comments, we now have helpful confirmation that the BBC treats with contempt and frquently excludes from its programmes those who do not share its worldview (unless they are so poor a speaker or utterly disagreeable that they put people off) and that contributor selection is what counts.

UKIP: Media revenge porn

ukipOver many months this blog has come in for some often aggressive responses to posts that have been critical of UKIP.

One of the accusations levelled at me (and certainly at Richard North) is that we have been waging a vendetta against Nigel Farage because of an historical ‘grudge’.  Where we have pointed out deficiencies in UKIP policy, media handling, message and approach – frequently naming Farage because he is the face of the party and has complete control over the approach taken – we have been told our criticisms are invalid because we are simply pursuing a campaign against him.

They reject our separate responses that we are actually critical friends of the party, want it to succeed for the sake of the anti-EU campaign, and are highlighting failings in the hope they are addressed by the party and not repeated.

However, the coverage of UKIP over the last couple of weeks in the Telegraph, Guardian and Times, puts things into context.  If aggrieved UKIP supporters thought the criticism of their party here and on EU Referendum was unacceptable and driven by a grudge, a look at what is happening in the media shows what a real grudge looks like – with allegations of extra marital affairs, party organisation incompetence, donors refusing to channel cash directly to the party and deliberate misuse of taxpayers’ money all dragged out in front of the public, with the sole aim of taking Nigel Farage down.

Some of the noisy hardcore have gone on to comment threads and said UKIP is being singled out by the media and the other parties are being given a free pass, indicating media bias.  Some of them claim that this is the establishment running scared of UKIP and trying to discredit it.  But it is something altogether different.  This is ‘score settling’.

For a long time the media has ignored UKIP.  There wasn’t enough interest to warrant publishing the stories it had, even though there have been personal spats behind the scenes where Farage and some of those close to him have seriously put the media’s nose out of joint.  We always said though that the media would turn its attention to UKIP at the point when it is considered one of the main parties, and that the scrutiny would be damaging.  That moment seems to have arrived and the media is now getting pay back for what has gone on before.  This is the political equivalent of revenge porn.

Worryingly for UKIP there is yet more material, much of which is not in the public domain, that the media is sitting on, waiting to toss into the public domain when it chooses to. Already the polls are showing the mythical ‘surge’, which has seen UKIP in third place in the polls but stubbonly rooted around 13%, seems to be retreating.  On Tuesday ICM put the Lib Dems in third place above UKIP. On Thursday an Ipsos-MORI poll saw the Lib Dems keep their third place ahead of UKIP and this morning YouGov has the Lib Dems overtaking UKIP, pushing them back into fourth.  This may have little impact in the European elections in May, which always sees protest votes rise dramatically, but for next year’s General Election this has Farage writing his resignation letter after failing to win any Westminster seats.

While the ultra hardcore party faithful, who behave more like a cult, will forgive anything and justify or excuse the behaviour reported in the allegations – incredibly accepting apparent defrauding of the taxpayer – many of the people that UKIP needs to change their vote to support the party will be put of by the claims.  They will take the view that for all his words, Farage is JAP – just another politician.

That will only compound the problem UKIP has of being the least popular and most unpopular of the parties, as shown in an ICM poll reported on Political Betting this week.

The concern for this blog is that the drip feed of negative stories about the party’s behaviour, and that of Farage in particular, will turn people off the anti-EU movement.  The latest polling disturbingly showing that now only a minority of voters currently want to leave the EU – 39%.  While UKIP is only polling around 13% nationwide, showing they actually don’t represent most anti-EU voters, there is still a perception that UKIP is the anti-EU movement, and if UKIP turns people off some might back away from anti-EU sentiment.

It is a sad fact that the reason the good ship UKIP is now taking water over the side is that its actions and those of Farage have generated so many negative stories for the media to feast upon.  The party has brought this on itself and scrutiny was always going to result in this.  There is no fire without fuel.  The lack of discipline, the questionable attitude of the leadership, the failure to develop and articulate a clear position on matters and the refusal to link the issues that have caused public anger to their EU origins, are seeing a double whammy of media feeding frenzy and flatlining poll numbers respectively.

What we have seen over the last few weeks is why this blog has long said UKIP deserves and needs better.  The stories currently in flight have far more impact because the main characters in them are still in place.  Perhaps in the light of these stories being trotted out in the media, our reasoning now makes a bit more sense.  Sadly for the anti-EU movement we can be certain things will get worse for UKIP before they have any hope of getting better.  It means we all lose.


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