Posts Tagged 'UKIP'

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.

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.

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.

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.

Open goals, media handling, EU and the RSPB / WWF axis

The news cycle has moved on. The media roadshow has all but left town.  But for many people of the Somerset levels, the distress and upset caused by the flooding continues.  While the impact of the stagnant floodwater lapping around their communities and homes is all too real, for most people outside the area it is now almost a distant memory.

It’s with that in mind that Nigel Farage dropped into Burrowbridge on Thursday – for a pint naturally – and even made a reference to EU directives.  But the event, shoe-horned in to fit around various appointments and travel plans ahead of the UKIP spring conference, passed by virtually unnoticed and unremarked, and with it went Farage’s promise on Twitter of a press conference addressing the EU dimension to the flooding.

On the comment threads of this blog, my urgent calls for UKIP to get into this issue immediately and underline the EU role in it all, was dismissed by some for whom any criticism of the party or the leader is an outrage that requires immediate condemnation.  There was apparently a party ‘strategy’ in place to deal with this that we knew nothing about and which, surprise surprise, is yet to reveal itself weeks later.  Also despite Lisa Duffy’s train wreck comments on BBC Any Questions recently, there has been no correction from UKIP of her factual error about EU responsibility for the extent of the floods. Forget not being in the game, they haven’t even turned up at the venue!

Then on the failure to make the most of the media and PR opportunities available, I was told I knew nothing about these things, despite working in the profession for the last 14 years and having worked on political campaigns.  Now I don’t know everything but I do know that so far the use of the media, to make the point that EU membership and governance has played a major part in the ruination of the lives of people on the levels, has been non existant.  ‘Nige knows best’ was the subtext, but the outcome has been lamentable.  UKIP’s approach on matters of susbtance is always reactive, if it comes at all, and all too frequently the message misses the point.  The ‘Trust in Nige’ narrative used by the more tunnel visioned party members consistently puts us into a holding patten awaiting pronouncements from the great sage that then fail to materialise, then then adopt the ‘nothing to see here’ approach and move on to something else completely leaving the issue unresolved.

It is not just one open goal missed (again) but several.

The open goal of evident and explicit EU directives central to the actions of the Environment Agency regarding the flooding, some of which we referenced here, has been missed.  But also the open goal concerning the EU’s co-funding of projects with the RSPB and WWF to demonstrate techniques to evaluate and plan floodplain ‘restoration’ (aka, how to flood areas such as the levels).

Then in the last day another open goal has been presented that we can see clearly will be similarly ignored, that of the squandering of tens of millions of Euros of taxpayers’ money by the EU, to fund the activities of the very environmental groups who want to flood more areas in similar fashion, here and overseas. Everywhere we delve into reports and documents on this matter we see not just the all-too-active dead hand of the EU, but unelected and unaccountable long beak of the RSPB alongside the grubby panda’s pawprints of the WWF, which are liberally plastered over everything.

These supposed charities are in fact lavishly funded extensions of government in the EU.  They play a hugely significant and anti-democratic role in the formulation and delivery of policy and implementation of laws.  This EU governance structure should concern and anger people forced to live with the consequences of RSPB and WWF environmental desires being put into effect.

Many people who want something to justify leaving the EU would draw the line at being part of a union that not only permits this but actively encourages it and uses our money to ensure it happens.  But from UKIP we hear not one word about this.  What is it going to take to make them up their game and get these messages across?  Clearly the blogs will have to continue researching where the dots connect and publishing the details in the hope at least some peopleget the message.

If these facts, combined with a financial hit in the shape of grants totalling over €77 million given by the EU to just the WWF alone – one of the groups who pushed for the flooding of the levels – isn’t a subject for an EUsceptic party to bring to wider public attention, then what is?  This is not a blogger hoping UKIP will fail, this is a blogger frustrated that the party is failing and letting down everyone who wants to be free of this EU-driven eco lunacy.

I admit it. I got it wrong about UKIP

It is time to hold my hands up.  It seems I got it wrong about UKIP.

Thanks to the example of an excellent manager I had early in my career, in the work place I’ve always encouraged those who work for me or with me to readily admit when they have got something wrong, correct it, and take from the experience anything that can be learned to apply in the future.  I’m doing that right now.

Yesterday I gave credit to UKIP for embracing the reality of what Brexit from the EU will entail.  Janice Atkinson, speaking in Brighton a day earlier, made clear that extracting ourselves from the EU will take years and would have to follow Article 50 of the EU treaty being invoked to force a negotiation.

The elements of her remarks carried by the Guardian were sensible and measured.  There was no talk of the UK just up and leaving the EU without putting in place a negotiated settlement that covers access to the single market and trade agreements that have been put in place by the EU on behalf of all member states.

Yet just hours later, we see this article that was published on the UKIP website.

UKIP MEP candidate for the south east Janice Atkinson today put out a statement rebutting stories in two Labour-supporting newspapers which claimed she believed it would take years for Britain to leave the EU and that jobs could be at risk.

Mrs Atkinson said: “Of course it is possible for Britain to leave the EU very quickly by repealing the 1972 European Communities Act and effectively declaring independence.

Media outlets hostile to UKIP are clearly seeking to sow the seeds of discontent on this one.

But in the ebb and flow of a live question and answer session, I did not give as clear an explanation as I might have done.

So has she changed her mind, or has she had it changed for her?  Either way, I was wrong.  I let down my guard and I was taken in.

UKIP has not dumped the dangerous delusion of just up and leaving the EU and kidding itself that in matters of trade there will be no consequence – also known as the Gerard Batten, Tim Congdon, line.  Janice Atkinson herself makes this clear…

Trade between Britain and other EU countries is safeguarded by our membership of the EEA and by the WTO.

There is also the important fact that Britain runs a substantial trade deficit with the rest of the EU – i.e. they sell much more to us than we do to them. The idea of Germany wanting to provoke a trade war that will hamper its biggest export market is quite frankly ridiculous. So British jobs are not in danger.

Time for a reality check here.  If the UK just ups and leaves, without following the Article 50 route, which Batten has once again argued in a magazine article is a ‘trap’ and without a negotiated settlement, trade between the UK and EU will be impacted and jobs would be at risk.  We would cease to be members of the EEA and would not be protected in the way some ‘kippers keep suggesting by the WTO.

It is completely and utterly irrelevant that EU countries sell more to us than we do to them.  Without following the rules regarding exit from the EU and without having access to the single market agreed, the UK will become a ‘third country’ to the EU.  Yes, the WTO rules would apply – but those rules mean that as a third country the UK would have imposed on any exports to the EU the same tariff rates that apply to all other third countries that trade with the EU.  If any third country has tariffs imposed on them, the UK would have them imposed too by default.  Anything else would be a breach of international trade rules.

As an example, the 10% tariff on cars entering the EU for sale would then apply to cars made in the UK for the European market, affecting our export competitiveness.  Jobs could be lost.  The UK would likely retaliate and impose tariffs on EU goods coming to us.  Any tariff we impose on an item would then have to be imposed for similar goods from all other countries with which we trade, affecting the cost of imported goods to UK citizens.  UKIP’s favourite example, Germany, may not like it, but those are the rules and they would not be changed, certainly not in anything like a short time frame.

The WTO does not safeguard free trade for former members of a customs union with the remaining members, it just permits discrimination within a customs union that makes tariff-free trade between its members possible.  As such the WTO does nothing to help the UK if we exit the EU without Article 50 and an agreement on trade. No ifs, no buts, no maybes.  That is how it works.  UKIP’s claim otherwise is just wrong.

Therefore the ‘immediate exit’ approach is nothing less than a scorched earth policy.  This fact alone, when explained to voters, would be sufficient to bury UKIP at the polls, given the British people have expressed their desire to retain free trade with the other EU member states and businesses would likely lose market share with costs driven up.  Turkeys don’t vote for Christmas.

Why do we have this ludicrous state of affairs?  The reason is UKIP has a serious, perhaps existential problem.  The party is comprised of factions.  To keep the peace Nigel Farage has not grasped control of the policy and the message.  Yes, he has an iron grip on the mechanics of his party, but in trying to be all things to all men, keeping everyone under the same umbrella and preventing a party split, the factions have been allowed to establish and push their own messages and de facto policies for a long time.  Now Farage is trying to put together a message, the factions are not for turning.

That is why we have the Batten line in Freedom Today completely contradicting Farage’s recently adopted line from the UKIP party conference on Article 50.  That is why we have Janice Atkinson walking back her comments from Brighton and pushing the delusional scorched earth approach, just so as not to piss off a minority yet in party terms heavyweight faction that Farage won’t take on.  Party intrigues affecting principled policy.  This is the core reason why party politics is not the route to successfully leaving the EU.

So there you have it.  UKIP has no defined policy, its senior members are at odds on what approach needs to be taken to achieve Brexit, the leader is hamstrung into inaction in case he creates an argument that splits the party, and the media is handed a large cudgel with which to bash the party repeatedly for its incoherence, contradictions and incompetence.

Yesterday I gave UKIP a bit of credit.  I wanted to encourage what appeared to be some realism and common sense.  But after that they showed loud and clearly why my doing so was folly.  I was wrong.  Mea culpa.

Giving UKIP a little bit of credit

Catching the eye yesterday was a Guardian piece telling readers that UKIP accepts that an EU exit could take several years.

Ukip will have to negotiate a withdrawal from the European Union over many years and the party still has to work out the details of how it would secure such an exit, a leading Ukip MEP candidate in May’s European elections has conceded.

Janice Atkinson, who is number two on the party’s candidate list in the South East England constituency, admitted it would be impossible just to walk away from the EU.

Naturally the Guardian takes advantage of the absence of hard policy to give UKIP something of a whack, but also underlines its EUphile stupidity by referring to ‘Article 51′ when reporting Atkinson’s explanation that our way out of the union is by invoking Article 50 of the EU treaty. It does not seem to be an error on Atkinson’s part as there is no (sic) included in the text to indicate the error was on the part of the person whose words were being reported.

It is something of a relief to see a high profile UKIP figure making such a comment.  Of course it doesn’t tell the whole story, because this does not fully borrow from some painstaking research to explain how Brexit could be achieved within the two year period following Article 50 being invoked and what needs to happen in the years that follow.

Nevertheless the direction of travel here is welcome to see.  It is certainly a substantial departure from the dangerous approach pushed by a hard core minority in the party that the UK can simply up and leave on a whim, after which everything will somehow right itself as the fallout settles, because the Germans will still want to sell us cars. That kind of politicial illiteracy destroys any credibility the EUsceptic side builds up.

While welcoming this small step, it is worth noting UKIP is still a long way behind the curve in bringing these issues to the fore on the platform it has.  The party has never replaced the depth of knowledge or expertise in understanding the processes of Brexit and the risks of exiting in the wrong way, that it had with Richard North on the team.

Lifting and using external work might seem like a simple way to address the party’s deficiency in dedicated and exclusive research and understanding it used to have, but there is far more to it all than that being copied off the web.   The often complex reasoning behind the approaches advanced is lost without party spokesmen being educated to speak with authority on the subject – thus being able to rebut accurately and defeat the FUD thrown by the EUphile side.

So while this is a step forward, it is only a very small one.

Tallbloke returns! But he still dodges the question

UKIP candidate and occasional commenter on this blog, Tallbloke, returned here today to leave a ‘told you so’ comment on a blog post where we said that Farage’s comments on the floods indicate UKIP has abandoned its anti-EU role, which dates back to 9th February.

The comment he linked to in his latest contribution was this one.  As it would not be spotted by most readers, we felt it only fair to give it a good airing.  Along with the reply that has been left to the comment, which is reproduced below…

——————

Nice to see you back here after chickening out of answering the question here. But now you’re back, don’t be silly, Rog.

Farage has deliberately avoided linking the EU to a number of consequences of Brussels governance over the last year.  His shortsighted call for a public inquiry has seen him change his narrative.  He has now chosen to define this mythical inquiry in terms of abandoning dredging, but did not do so previously as you will see in his quote below.  In fact even your previous comment makes yet a different case for a public inquiry, so it’s not actually what you said at all.  In any case he has been caught on the hop by Clegg, and his refusal to immediately accept the offer of a debate has undermined confidence in him.

For clarity, do tell us, why is an inquiry necessary? Is it to explore dredging, or is it to help resolve UKIP’s internal confusion and lack of knowledge? The previous question asking you just what the UKIP line actually is, still stands for reasons the quotes below make all too clear.

1. ‘Ms Reding’s visit took place at the same time as the consequences of heavy rainfall compounded by the effect of EU regulations, have brought about widespread flooding, suffering and the destruction of property.

‘The evidence is that EU directives put wildlife before people. It is starting to be clear that DEFRA and the Environment Agency have been zealous in implementing EU directives’
William Dartmouth

2. ‘Well it’s not Brussels’ fault is it?’
Lisa Duffy

3. ‘I don’t know the truth of the extent to which the Environment Agency is now bound by European Union rules and laws. I just don’t know. That’s why we need to have a public inquiry.’
Nigel Farage

So which is it? Let’s see if you can answer without re-writing history again.

Just so you know, should an inquiry be held it will be chaired by an on-message appointee, the terms of reference will not address what Farage has belatedly chosen to call for, the witnesses will be chosen so as to minimise any adverse reference to the EU and the findings will not change EU laws one iota. So what exactly does Farage think he will achieve? It’s as meaningless as his call for a civil defence corps.

It is just more badly thought out, scattergun rhetoric as he speaks first then tries to decide what he meant by it later, while people like you interpret in a myriad of different ways and put your own spin on it, irrespective of what was actually said.

——————

We await the reply with interest…

The UKIP delusion

Yesterday, Iain Martin in the Telegraph caught my eye with the article above.  Having been pondering the Scotland independence campaign in recent days and what we are learning from it, with a view to covering it on this blog – and given the added UKIP dimension – it was of interest to see where he would go with his piece.

To be honest Martin didn’t add much if anything to our understanding of the dynamics at play north of the border.  But his opinion regarding UKIP’s fortunes and by extension those of Nigel Farage did make one eyebrow rise somewhat.  As Martin opines:

It is curious that Salmond should be blowing up just as Nigel Farage starts to blow up. The two great guerilla leaders of our age – both expert at mounting effective raids on Westminster and discombobulating their much bigger opponents – are in trouble.

This is a ridiculous assertion.  UKIP has never even come close to mounting a raid on Westminster.  While the SNP has most seats in the Scottish Parliament and also returns MPs to Westminster, UKIP has a relatively small number of councillors in England and Wales and has only once come within a couple of thousand votes of ever having an MP elected under the party’s banner (Eastleigh).  However, setting aside such a daft claim, Martin did rehearse a point that we have made on this blog several times:

Ukip looks as though it has hit a ceiling in terms of attracting support. Its attempts to eat into the Labour vote are, so far, misfiring. The party was also running third in a recent poll on the Euro elections, and the Tory claim that a vote for Farage is a vote for Miliband and a Europhile Labour government looks increasingly potent.

We have mentioned this glass ceiling effect previously and all the current polling bears it out.  The trend of UKIP support in the polling numbers is downward and even in the party leader ratings, Nigel Farage has seen his number decline. There is simply no sign of UKIP being close to breaking through and significantly increasing its stock.

The reasons why we believe UKIP is stuck in second gear on the political motorway have been covered in detail here over many months. But what is worth noting today is the extent to which UKIP’s supporters, the vocal ones who lurk on the Telegraph’s comment threads seeking out criticism to attack, could be responsible for a lack of improvement in the party and letting Farage and his top team get away with poor performance at a time when the party should genuinely be surging ahead.

Looking at this subset of UKIP supporters, we can see from their contributions they are angry about Martin’s observations.  They refuse to deviate from their view that UKIP is on a surge, they see his piece as an attack on UKIP requiring an all-out retaliatory assault while at the same time accusing the media of circling the wagons around the main parties, they are desperate to state time and again that the party increased its vote five-fold in Wythenshawe to come second only to Labour, and a number of them claim that the almost the entire postal vote was fraudulent and that this robbed them of victory.

Is it any wonder the party leadership is able to actively resist change and improvement when in the eyes of an extremely vocal minority of members the party and its leadership does no wrong and when things go badly it’s always someone else’s fault or the result of a vicious conspiracy?  Let me explain by taking the points above in turn.

The fact is all the polls still show UKIP bumping along within a point or so of 13% nationally.  There are exceptions in some constituencies of a particular political composition where the party scores higher, but despite this they have been rooted around 13% for a while, having seen a drop from their polling highs around May last year.  This is in no way a surge that they claim it to be.  Arguing there is a surge merely ignores the evidence.

Perhaps Martin’s piece was an attack.  Journalists have reader numbers in mind, it’s all about the traffic they can drive, so anything that stirs a reaction and draws in more readers is grist to the mill.  Of course, Labour, the Tories and Lib Dems have all been attacked at some point and their supporters resent it, often biting back.  But UKIP supporters act as if attacks have never happened before in politics and believe they are under so concerted an attack it is as if the very core of their being and everything they believe in is at risk of destruction.  The resulting aggression and spite this sparks, as evidenced in their outpourings, is truly a sight.

The meme that is circulating in newspapers and blogs, that UKIP increased its vote in Wythenshawe five-fold, is a masterclass in spin.  A candidate who only got 2 votes could increase their vote five-fold next time around and it would still only be miniscule at 10.  UKIP supporters don’t like seeing the cold hard fact that they polled only 4,301 votes and although placed second, the party was so far behind Labour it was an irrelevance in the contest.  This is despite the UKIP vote being mobilised and motivated to turn out.  Before the election some of these people were declaring Wythenshawe to be in play and a possible UKIP gain!  Any attempt to point this out then moves smoothly to the next item on the list…

It requires quite a flight from reality to argue that the overwhelming majority of postal votes that went to Labour were fraudulent and that if people had to vote in person and produce ID, the ballot would have been much closer.  But that is what is being said in UKIP supporter circles.  The clear implication is that Asians in the constituency have engaged in electoral fraud and therefore stitched up UKIP.  No evidence has been provided and they say the establishment would ignore it anyway because it resulted in UKIP falling badly at the hurdle.

Farage and Co must love this.  These arguments let them completely off the hook for such a piss poor performance against a backdrop of real anger at the main parties.  While a small number who have rejected the main parties in frustration have indeed gone into the UKIP camp, UKIP is not picking up the majority of those who are turning their backs, because it is being seen as just another party that is no different to the rest.

It could have been so much different and it should be so much different.

‘Stop sniping from the sidelines, get on board, get behind us and influence the leadership if you want to change the approach’, is a mantra often heard from vocal UKIPpers who object to such observations and any criticism.  Incidentally they never engage on the substance of the criticism, but the details above show they never will because they are in an echo chamber, inhabiting a parallel plane where things like facts are dismissed with a sneer and promises of an earthquake to come are made.

But how could anyone try to change things from the inside when the leadership, irrespective of fault or error, is blessed with reinforcing confirmation bias in its totality from people who have gone beyond loyal and behave with quasi-religious reverence for the leadership and repeat every utterance as an inviolable truth that must not be questioned?

Where people cannot see any fault at all, there is no pressure on the party leadership to get its act together.  This is why UKIP is where it is.  This is why Iain Martin, for all his own failings, got the thrust of his piece correct.

This idea that too many in UKIP are deluding themselves about the party’s performance and prospects, has been given more credence by a YouGov ‘Voting Intention Predictions’ exercise – as covered by Political Betting – where people were asked to say where in the polls the main parties will be at the end of 2014.

While supporters of the four largest parties all rated the prospects of their own party more highly than supporters of other parties did, the predictions from UKIP supporters really stand out from the rest, as you can see below – believing they will have double the polling numbers supporters of any other party predict for them.

Until they return to the real world, UKIP supporters, not just the leadership, will see to it that the party never develops and never breaks the mould.  They are no longer an insurgency, they are just another party.

Why EUsceptics should be concerned

We are a bit late to the party with this because of a trip over the weekend, but nevertheless it is a topic that has to be mentioned here.

Two polls reported over the weekend, from ComRes and Opinium.  The results do not make good reading for EUsceptics.

ComRes

Opinium

In addition to these, ComRes also published the latest findings from its Favourability Index of parties and leaders.  There is a pattern that emerges.

The decline in support for UKIP and decline in voters having a favourable view of Nigel Farage stands out from the rest.  This contradicts UKIPs claims to have momentum and to be increasing its support around the country.

Voters are trying to find out what UKIP’s key message is and what the party stands for.  But they are only receiving a confused jumble of information that appears, at best, random.

Since Farage chose to get involved in the discussion about the floods he has, among other things, separately called for the UK to request financial aid from the EU solidarity fund, then called for foreign aid money to be diverted to the west country, then called for the creation of a civil defence force and then called for a public inquiry.  Anyone listening out for the UKIP line on this subject is either suffering from whiplash or has given up trying to work out exactly what Farage’s priority is.

What is interesting is that while William Dartmouth MEP has, according to UKIP’s website, ‘condemned the EU’s skewed priorities, exposing the damaging consequences of EU directives on flooding,’ Farage’s only references to the EU have been to say of the Environment Agency that:

They seem to want to follow European Directives to the letter of the law…

Then to add later that:

I don’t know the truth of the extent to which the Environment Agency is now bound by European Union rules and laws. I just don’t know. That’s why we need to have a public inquiry.

This is Farage all over, hedging his bets, letting other people like Dartmouth speak out so he can stay silent.  This allows Farage to come down on either side of the fence later and claim either that the party did link the flooding to the EU laws followed by the Environment Agency, or that the party did not link the flooding to EU law, it was only the opinion of one MEP.

It is this kind of pin-head dance that leaves voters drawing the conclusion that Farage is absolutely no different to any other party leader, engaging in spin and playing with semantics.

Too many voters, when they think of EUscepticism, think of Farage.  They link UKIP and its performance to the EUsceptic movement.  So when Farage’s or UKIP’s stock falls with voters, the wider EUsceptic movement is tainted by association.  So seeing this developing trend over recent weeks of UKIP’s polling figures dropping is a frustrating cause for concern for everyone else who wants to see the UK exit from the EU.

There has been a lot of bluster from UKIP officials and supporters that the party increased its vote nearly five fold in Wythenshawe last week, that the party got nearly 18% of the vote, that it ‘came from nowhere’ to finish second in the election.  But the harsh reality is that despite most of its supporters being energised and motivated and turning out enthusiastically, they still only received 4,301 votes.

At the general election they will not increase that by much, if at all.  In all but a few areas the reality is the party has limited appeal, and I would wager that a large part of that is the way the party says what it is against but does not explain to people what it is for.  The invitiation is for people to vote UKIP because they aren’t Labour, Conservative or Lib Dems, not because there is any positive message people can readily point to that makes them say, that is a vision I share and I’m going to support it.

There never will be such a compelling message when the leader wants to be all things to all men and offers contradictory manifestos and campaign slogans depending on whether they contest is in the north or the south.  The fact therefore is that after 20 years of UKIP the effort to free the UK from the EU monolith is no closer than it was before.

So Tallbloke, which is it?

Tallbloke is not only a UKIP candidate but also one of the party’s most trenchant supporters and a dogged defender of Nigel Farage in this blog’s comments section.

In recent comments on this blog, he has maintained that UKIP’s previous refusal to reference the EU’s role in making flooding far worse than it need have been was ‘strategic’, giving the impression that he has taken advice on this from party leadership.

The question I want to ask Tallbloke is whether the UKIP strategy included quietly dripping out an admission of the EU’s role in exacerbating the flooding through EU law, on the party’s website rather than using a major public media platform; or if it included a party representative, Lisa Duffy, going on BBC Any Questions to say: ‘Well it’s not Brussels’ fault is it’?

It would be nice to know just what the UKIP line actually is.

Cheers.

The challenge that UKIP has yet just will not grasp

Labour fanatic Dan Hodges has taken to his Telegraph blog in light of the Wythenshawe election result to dismiss the notion that UKIP is any kind of electoral threat to Labour:

So now we know. The narrative that Ukip is as much of a threat to Labour as it is to the Conservative Party is rubbish. Though to be fair, some of us always suspected as much.

Lest we forget, last night’s Wythenshawe and Sale East by-election was supposed to be the moment that Ukip made the big breakthrough into Labour’s heartland. As my colleague Toby Young wrote recently, many commentators were claiming that an outright Ukip win “is not as far-fetched as you might think, as Mike Smithson points out in this post for PoliticalBetting.com.

Hodges is clearly a man who likes to stir a reaction.  And as expected, this has turned out to be the literary equivalent of taking a stick and poking a nest of angry purple and yellow wasps, with the resident UKIP commenters swarming out to attack, ridicule, criticise, berate and insult Hodges as much as their keyboards will allow.  I think he’s actually quite enjoying it.

But one of the comments left in response to Hodges rightly observing the party has no national message, typifies the lack of awareness or political nous that characterises so many UKIP fanatics who have convinced themselves the party will deliver an electoral earthquake in the near future.  I left a reply to the comment making the point that so many UKIP followers do not seem able to grasp.

What this highlights is the absence of a political strategy at UKIP.  Some people have an idea of some of what UKIP is against, but ask people what UKIP is for and blank stares will form on their faces.  It’s not good enough for ‘kippers to say ‘you can’t criticise our lack of message because the others haven’t got a message either’.

Rightly or wrongly the other parties are established and people have a perception, accurate or otherwise, of what they stand for.  This just isn’t the case when it comes to UKIP.  I stand to be accused once again of waging a campaign against Nigel Farage, or bearing some yet to be defined grudge against him, but the fact is Farage is UKIP and UKIP is Farage.  It isn’t possible to separate the two, such is the control he wields over the party.

Holding Farage responsible for these basic political failings and strategic errors will upset some ‘kippers and the angry comments and emails will arrive again, but it is the reality.  If not him, then who is responsible for it?  UKIP has underperformed for 20 years.  Against a backdrop of anger against the political class it has made a little bit of headway to rise to around 13% nationally, higher in some individual constituencies, much lower in others.  But that is all.  It is not setting the political weather to the extent its supporters imagine because it has sent to the back burner the one cogent message people did understand, that of wanting to leave the EU.

Unless UKIP defines itself and outlines a positive vision that people can aspire to and want to vote for, the party will remain trapped below the glass ceiling it has created for itself.  It doesn’t require the spelling out of huge amounts of detail, but it needs more of a vision that ‘we aren’t the other lot’. Under Farage with his random approach and lack of depth it just ain’t gonna happen.

Unless this nettle is grasped UKIP will be a perennial protest repository that sometimes makes a nuisance of itself but can otherwise be discounted as a genuine threat by Labour or the Conservatives.  Worst of all, it will undermine the wider EUsceptic movement that the media lazily associates with the party.

EU responsibility for scale of flooding has been laid out clearly, but…

I don’t know the truth to the extent the Environment Agency is now bound by European Union rules and laws, I just don’t know, which is why we need to have a public inquiry.

    - Nigel Farage

Even the editor of Country Life gets it, Nigel

It really has come to something when the editor at large of Country Life, despite only a limited summary, is more clued in to the EU dimension of the excessive flooding in the Somerset Levels and more vocal about it than the leader of the UK’s EUsceptic political party.

It is a shame that Mr Aslet, upon identifying the key role played by Baroness Young in preparing the way for this debacle, didn’t go further in ramming this home to Telegraph readers.  But he’s certainly gone further than Nigel Farage, much to the detriment of the EUsceptic movement.

Farage the policy-free zone

Guest post by Richard North

Richard North of the EU Referendum blog, who has done so much to expose the EU’s involvement and responsibility for exacerbating the extent of the flooding in the Somerset Levels, shares his assessment of Nigel Farage’s failure to use recent media opportunities to shine even more light on the EU’s role – and those who are defending this political error:

There is a certain constancy to the “Nigel can do no wrong” brigade. Whatever he does, ex post facto, his little claque will leap to his defence, saying he’s done exactly the right thing.

There is no getting away from the premise here, though, that Farage has scored a massive own goal. The EU dimension of the floods has, on my blog, been the most popular post I have ever written, attracting a massive level of interest. Yet “our Nige” has chosen to play a derivative game, all but ignoring the EU dimension. The sight of an anti-EU party leader ignoring the EU sends its own message.

Further, the populist dimension of the Farage message also sends a message. While there can be no doubt that more money will help in this growing crisis, above all else for the longer term, there is a massive policy deficit. You can throw money at a problem but if the policy framework is not right, the spending will have little effect or even – as we are seeing – a perverse effect.

Thus, it is absolutely essential that the deficiencies in policy are identified and corrected, which provides a magnificent opportunity for a focused and sustained attack on the EU. Farage, however, has walked away from the open goal. UKIP, as always, is out to lunch.

Nigel’s defenders can now blather all they want. But once again, Farage has shown himself to be a policy-free zone, a lightweight who is good for the “man-in-pub” routine but not a serious politician.

Latest Farage comments on floods indicate UKIP has abandoned anti-EU role

While it was not the press conference Nigel Farage referenced in his tweet to me yesterday, this morning he was interviewed for over 4 minutes by Sky News’ Dermot Murnaghan, in Somerset, about the floods there. UKIP have put the full interview up on their website.

Despite having days in which to take on board the extent of EU’s responsibility, for turning what would have been annoying floods into a major incident that has gone on for weeks, the sum total of Farage’s effort to explain it to Sky’s audience was this reference to the Environment Agency’s role in the matter:

They seem to want to follow European Directives to the letter of the law…

This from a man whose primary focus is allegedly fighting tooth and nail for the UK to leave the EU.  Presented with yet another golden opportunity to highlight who really runs Britain, following his Farage on Friday piece before the weekend, and help voters understand and reflect about whether this is in British interests or whether we should determine laws for ourselves, he again passed it up.

Thankfully, Christopher Booker published a valuable piece about the EU’s role in degrading Britain work on flood prevention in his Sunday Telegraph column today.  At least someone with a substantial profile has tackled this head on while the politicians and lamestream media tip-toe around it and do their best to avoid any mention of the part our supreme government in Brussels has played in making flooding in recent years far worse than it ever would have been.

With a sizeable number of UKIP members not seeing leaving the EU as the number one issue for the party, it seems the leader is one of their number and EUscepticism is being forced off the party political agenda to make way for other topics.

Open letter to Nigel Farage

Dear Nigel

There are many matters on which I could correspond with you and offer a viewpoint I doubt you will ever hear from the people you choose to surround yourself with in UKIP.  But for now I wish to content myself with addressing the issue of your ‘Farage on Friday‘ piece in today’s Daily Express and enquiring where on earth your mind was when you wrote it.

Your story selection of the floods in the Somerset Levels was entirely appropriate.  This is a major issue with enormous consequences for the lives and livelihoods of many people, deserving of proper examination of how such a dramatic, large scale event has been able to come about.  It therefore required someone with a high public profile to bring the facts to the fore, air them, and ensure that those who have contributed to this disastrous situation feel the discomfort of unrelenting scrutiny.

Presented with this golden opportunity, to add value by bringing little known but vital facts to a wide audience, you bungled it with a conflagration of superficial waffle.

As you are the leader of a political party that professes to oppose UK membership of the EU, and presumably therefore having a vested interest in highlighting where EU legislation has had a malign impact on British people, it defies belief that nowhere in your 759 words did you find space to reference and explain the role that EU directive 2007/60/EC, also known as the Floods Directive, has had in bringing about the conditions for this flooding.

The shift away from flood prevention to flood ‘management’ is detailed on the Commission website which underlines the priority being given to the ‘environment’, and calls in aid a number of EU measures, including the Water Framework Directive, the Habitats Directive, the Environmental Impact Assessment and the Strategic Environmental Assessment Directive. The Floods Directive is part of the package and, the EU sternly warns, has to be implemented by 2015.  One would think this would be red meat for an EUsceptic party’s leader.  But not for you it seems.

The fact you are a leader of a political party that has railed against quangos suggests you would have an interest in exposing this complicity of quangocrats in making such serious flooding possible, particularly when they hand you a gift of a comment to hang around their necks.  But it seems that you did not feel the staggering comment of Baroness Young – as quoted in this segment of a Guardian piece from 2008 (emphasis mine) which explains the Environment Agency’s agenda with regard to land that was formerly marsh or wetland such as the Somerset Levels – was sufficiently important in putting the Environment Agency’s part in this debacle into its proper context:

If water truly is the stuff of life, then the world’s wetlands are the key to the survival of all living things on our planet. They provide a unique refuge for a wealth of plants and animals: a complex ecosystem which helps sustain life not just in the wetlands themselves, but in their surrounding habitats as well.

But wetlands have a problem. Because they are usually in low-lying areas, and easily accessible, they are prime targets for development. By draining a wetland, and building homes, roads and factories, a nation may boost its economic performance; but this is almost always at the expense of biodiversity.

Yet it’s not all bad news. Uniquely, wetlands can be created – or recreated – much more quickly and easily than other vital habitats such as ancient woodlands, hedgerows or rainforest. As Baroness Barbara Young, chief executive of the Environment Agency, says, “Just add water!”

These actions, or more correctly inactions, by the Environment Agency are germane to the situation in Somerset.  But instead you chose to focus your piece in terms of money rather than dealing with how this was allowed to happen and who oversaw the agenda that was followed.

It is with not a small amount of irony that UKIP rushes into print on its website and with comments to the media from your deputy, Paul Nuttall, to respond to inaccurate stories about supposed EU meddling in British matters, such as the use of flags on food packaging or the volume of water in toilet cisterns.  Yet when the EU actually has direct contributory involvement in the shocking scale of the floods in Somerset – a matter of real substance and appalling impact on British people – and a sustainability agenda has been vigorously pursued by your political opponents, whose placemen reference the restoration of wetlands in places where they used to exist, such as the Somerset Levels, with glib comments such as ‘Just add water!’, you are nowhere in the debate.

It will not come as any surprise to you that the details above were extracted thanks to the forensic research skills of your former colleague, Richard North.  One is moved to ask if it is because North is a former colleague that his valuable work is routinely passed over by UKIP, to the detriment of the EUsceptic movement?  If that were the case, then it would be a disgrace that you would put personal issues before doing all you can to realise your stated aim of getting this country out of the EU.

Your Express column was a terrible missed opportunity and has let down the people of the Somerset Levels, who deserve better for all they are suffering.

Regards

AM

UKIP’s failure will be due to flawed strategy

‘UKIP’s failure?’ I hear some UKIP supporters ask.  ‘We are rising in the polls, we’ve added 13,000 members since 2013, we are taking votes from the Tories and Labour, we are the main challengers in a number of seats, we are favourites to win most votes in this year’s Euro elections, the other parties running scared,’ are comments that are repeatedly made in threads on newspaper websites and blogs. But there is good reason to believe the foundations underpinning these claims are soft.

We will come to the polling in a moment, but first we need to set the scene and look at UKIP’s prospects in this year’s Euro elections.  Farage has talked up the party’s prospects and its members are highly confident that UKIP will win the most votes in the election.  However the Euro polls are still showing that UKIP is behind Labour and will likely only come second at best.  There is even still a chance the Tory vote could just squeak them into second at UKIP’s expense.  It’s worth remembering UKIP’s total vote in 2009 (2,498,226) actually fell from that in 2004 (2,650,768) despite a larger electorate.

This time around, if the party can’t secure the most votes in the Euros, even in these perfect conditions for a protest vote, huge media coverage and a core support that will definitely turn out while millions of Labour and Tory voters will not bother themselves with a trip to the polling station, then success in the 2015 General Election is a pipe dream. Don’t forget, just a year after the 2009 Euro elections, in 2010 at the General Election, UKIP’s total vote fell to 919,546 (with the BNP on 564,331).  That’s a lot votes loaned to the party in meaningless Euro elections that go somewhere else when people are asked to elect a government.  Although with UKIP hoovering up BNP supporters and votes along with disaffected Tories and previous non voters who wish to register their disgust at the three main parties, it would be realistic to see UKIP get well in excess of 1,700,000 in 2015 – possibly even clearing the 2 million mark with room to spare.  But that won’t translate into seats.

Back to polling then.  While polling in some marginal seats funded by Alan Bown has UKIP, when the figures include undecided voters and those who refuse to say who they will vote for, as high as 19% (Thanet South) and 16% (Great Grimsby), nationally the party is still rooted stubbonly around the 13% mark.  But the polls are not telling the whole story here because it is impossible to tell from them what the effect of the BNP’s collapse is.

We know a number of white working class Labour voters defected to the BNP.  With the BNP imploding we know anecdotally that many of their members have been attracted to UKIP as the next best alternative by the immigration message that has taken centre stage.   This 13% average UKIP polling figure is a lower percentage than before the May 2013 local elections in which UKIP won a number of district and county council seats.  There is no breakthrough at the moment and UKIP’s position, third in the national polls, is only that way because the Lib Dems are being punished by former supporters for being in coalition with the Conservatives and have seen a lot of their support desert to Labour. These numbers and other factors considered, we will not see UKIP win any Westminster seats in 2015.  Despite much bravado, it seems that UKIP is hitting a glass ceiling of support.

What does this suggest?  A failure of UKIP’s own making.  What voters are now seeing is a party of blatant contradiction they cannot trust, whose offering is nothing more than a dustbin for protest votes,  ‘vote for us because we’re not Conservative/Labour’, which is offering nothing positive or differentiated of its own.

In the south people see UKIP promoting itself as the alternative to the Conservatives and trying to appeal to those who want low tax, smaller government, shrinking welfare budgets, stronger defence etc. People who are attracted by Farage lauding Margaret Thatcher, in a clear message that he is positioning himself to them as Thatcherite.

In the north people see UKIP promoting itself as the alternative to Labour and trying to appeal to those who believe in government running most things, funded by higher levels of tax than the south want, preserving or even increasing welfare budgets, who would like strong defence because many young men and women from the region join the forces in the absence of other opportunities.  People who are attracted by pictures of Farage drinking bitter in a pub, in a clear message that he is positioning himself as an ordinary working class bloke.

The two are too mutually exclusive, and thanks to national media and 24 hour news, this ‘all things to all men’ strategy employed by Farage is all too visible to voters who will rightly feel it is nothing more than an electoral ploy, saying different things to different people based on what UKIP thinks they want to hear.

While some voters will feel moved to support UKIP regardless, when it comes to putting an ‘X’ on a ballot paper, will that be enough for UKIP to hold on to enough potential supporters in the north and south respectively, who see the party’s schizophrenic pronouncements in different parts of the country?  People who loathe the blue or red side so much they would vote tactically for whoever is best placed to form a government that would keep Cameron/Miliband out of Downing Street.  That’s the crux of the matter.

No matter whether the party is comprised of enthusiastic amateurs or professional political animals, as a strategy it may result in some short term gains.  But in the long term it is doomed to failure. Depressingly, as that happens, so the Eurosceptic cause as a whole will be adversely affected.


Enter your email address below

The Harrogate Agenda Explained

Email AM

Bloggers for an Independent UK

AM on Twitter

STOR Scandal

Autonomous Mind Supports