Archive for March, 2014

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.

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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.

Scrutiny of the BBC: It’s time to amend the FOI Act 2000

One of the most controversial aspects of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 is the way it is interpreted and applied by the BBC.

The BBC’s interpretation, backed by establishment cover among the political class, enables the corporation to reject requests for information, effectively exempting itself from being held to account by the public that is compelled by law to fund it if they own and use a device capable of real-time reception of a TV signal.

A recent story about left wing bias at BBC News and Current Affairs, as acknowledged by presenter BBC Radio 4 Today programme John Humphrys, and now a leaked briefing note from the Question Time programme showing David Dimbleby was told to direct a series of difficult questions to Lord Heseltine (Conservative) and Simon Hughes (Lib Dem), but only ask two tame and generic questions of Rachel Reeves (Labour), are the latest in a string of revelations which consistently point to BBC bias in one direction.

We could submit FOI requests to the BBC for information about the editorial line that had been taken and why it was taken, but we would receive a reply along the lines of:

…the information you have requested is excluded from the Act because it is held for the purposes of ‘journalism, art or literature.’    Part VI of Schedule 1 to FOIA provides that information held by the BBC and the other public service broadcasters is only covered by the Act if it is held for ‘purposes other than those of journalism, art or literature” 1. The BBC is not required by the Act to supply information held for the purposes of creating the BBC’s output or information that supports and is closely associated with these creative activities…

Therefore it is time for a concerted effort to have the FOI Act 2000 amended to remove the clause that allows the BBC to reject requests for information in respect of information held for purposes other than those of journalism, art or literature.

Ireland’s public service broadcaster, RTE, falls under that country’s Freedom of Information in the same way as the BBC here in the UK.  However, unlike the BBC, RTE doesn’t leave its exemption open to the widest possible interpretation to suit its own interests and instead it publishes exactly what is exempt and what isn’t.  RTÉ tells the Irish public that it:

… is funded in part by public money through the licence fee and we believe that our policies and operations should be open to public scrutiny and that access to our records by the public will show that we carry out our public service remit scrupulously and honestly.

before going to to explain:

What is excluded?

Commercially sensitive, personal or confidential journalistic records cannot be released. Reporter’s notes or off-the-record quotes, whether broadcast or not, are excluded. RTÉ’s internal reviews or analysis of broadcast programmes are also excluded.

It is a stark contrast to the BBC’s efforts to keep the public in the dark about how it works when suspicions are raised, questions are asked and when information requested is rejected on the basis of the catch-all exemption.

There is simply no justification for not answering questions from the public about:

  • details of its editorial position on important issues
  • details of its editorial decision making process when making programmes
  • the names of people who inform BBC policies
  • how and why it selects those people
  • how it selects or omits contributors and guests on its programmes
  • metrics about complaints from the public on specific issues

Releasing information about the details above would in no way compromise confidential sources or require details of whistleblowers to be revealed, which are reasonable exemptions and surely the purpose behind the exemption in the first place.  It would not mean sharing commercially sensitive information and it would not require journalists’ confidential notes or off the record quotes to be shared.

Instead compelling the BBC to release information from the bullet list above would enable the public to discover if there has been bias in the way influential programmes – news and current affairs programmes in the main – have been made and if the editorial process has sought to advance a political or activist narrative, in contravention of the BBC Charter requirements on impartiality.

The only way this will happen is if the FOI Act 2000 is amended so that the exemption is removed from the BBC, Channel 4 and S4C in Wales, and a clearly defined and much more narrow exemption put in its place.  The government talks at length about openness, transparency and accountability, so let the demonstrate it by agreeing to a demand from taxpayers to make those fine words a reality.

————

Some notes…

The Freedom of Information Act 2000 gives people a general right of access to information held by public authorities. As the Act makes clear:

Any person making a request for information to a public authority is entitled

(a) to be informed in writing by the public authority whether it holds information of the description specified in the request, and

(b) if that is the case, to have that information communicated to him.

But lurking deep inside the Act, on page 53, is an undefined, catch all exclusion that was granted to a public body which, more than almost any other public body, has the capacity to influence public knowledge and thinking on any number of issues – the BBC.  The full reference reads simply:

The British Broadcasting Corporation, in respect of information held for purposes other than those of journalism, art or literature

That single reference is found in Part VI of Schedule 1 – Public authorities in the Freedom of Information Act 2000, which names the BBC as one of the ‘Other public bodies and offices: general’ under the provisions of the Act.

What the BBC thinks the exemptions means for itself…

In summary, the BBC considers the derogation protects the journalistic, artistic and literary integrity of the BBC by securing a creative and journalistic space for programme-makers to produce material for broadcast free from interference by those who would seek to influence our output.  Additionally, as also recognised by the Court of Appeal, it allows for a “level playing field” between the Public Service Broadcasters caught by the Act (BBC, Channel 4, S4C, GMS) and their commercial competitors.  In practical terms, the BBC has interpreted this to mean that we are not required to supply information held for the purposes of creating the BBC’s output or information that supports and is closely associated with these creative activities.

Ukraine: Media not just ignoring reality but deceiving with naked propaganda

Following on from the previous post about the media ignoring what the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement actually does (clue, no, it’s not a mere trade agreement), we are increasingly seeing the media pushing a narrative that can only be described as outright propaganda that seeks to conceal the EU’s actions, behaviour and responsibility for the crisis.

Yesterday, without any journalistic integrity or commitment to sharing news rather than views, the Telegraph and its ‘experts’ grandly waded further into the Ukraine story with a podcast that can only be described as a rank perversion of the facts and a corruption of the historical record of events surrounding the Ukraine crisis.

The podcast was introduced on the page in the following way:

Power corrupts and it has corrupted Vladimir Putin absolutely. As the drama in Ukraine continues, we examine the mind and motivations of the man responsible.

Ian H Robertson, Professor in Psychology at Trinity College Dublin and author of The Winner Effect: How Power Affects Your Brain, explains how over time the need for power messes with the synapses and induces megalomania. The Professor tells us that the only way the West can get under Vladimir Putin’s skin is through practical sanctions.

Benedict Brogan and Con Coughlin discuss what those sanctions might look like, and if Britain even has the interest or clout to help resolve this dangerous crisis.

This is just staggering.  Describing Putin as the man responsible for the Ukraine crisis is ludicrous. We can but guess why the real culprit in this caper is being treated as if it doesn’t exist and has no bearing on events over recent months.

It was not Putin who was pursuing a policy designed to promote a gradual convergence on legal, social, foreign and security matters with the aim of ever-deeper involvement with Ukraine, it was the European Union.  The EU has a sole foreign policy (which means it is UK foreign policy) of enlarging itself so it can take control of more and more countries across the continent.

You're ignoring me again!

You’re ignoring me again!

The EU has already taken control of the Baltic countries, Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia and they have also become part of NATO.  The EU had already started trying to do the same thing with Georgia and has been doing the same thing with Ukraine.  This has happened despite the west (NATO) promising Mikhail Gorbachev that they would not expand up to the Russian border.  But that is exactly what is happening.

It is laughable of Brogan and Coughlin to talk about power corrupting, and completely ignore that this defines what we are seeing with the EU.  It is equally laughable that they engage a professor of psychology to talk about how the need for power messes with the synapses and induces megalomania while ignoring the EU’s aggressive efforts to enlarge itself and take control of new countries.

As for practical sanctions supposedly being the only way to get under Putin’s skin, the evidence shows that bad faith, lies and broken promises are the way to achieve that – which is why the Russians have acted to secure territory that had long been sovereign Russian territory and is home to a Russian naval fleet.  Finally, asking if Britain has the interest or clout to help resolve this crisis, when we have been party to its creation thanks to this country’s support of the Association Agreement with Ukraine and readiness to ratify this power grab by our supreme government, is pure sophistry.

This is yet another compelling reason for the UK to leave the EU. We have no business furthering such an agenda.

How far the Telegraph has travelled from the days where it reported news and facts.  Now it is a tool of deception that treats its remaining (declining) readership with utter contempt.

Elements of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement the media wilfully ignores

The crisis in Ukraine has provided yet more evidence that the British media is variously ignorant, lazy and cannot be trusted to present news that is not infected with propaganda.

The reporting of the all-important background to the crisis in Ukraine has been nothing other than an exercise in deception. One wonders if any of the hacks have even visited and read the content on the page shown in the image.

Ask the average Briton what they understand about the Association Agreement that Ukraine was being asked to sign with the European Union, and thanks to the media they would either answer ‘a trade agreement’ or look blankly and say they have no idea.  But it is not a trade agreement, it is something much more far reaching than that.  It seeks to being about political dialogue in all areas of mutual interest that:

…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.

That has nothing to do with buying and selling goods and services.  Indeed, a far more significant and crucial element of the agreement is the military dimension outlined in the agreement’s Title II: Political Dialogue And Reform, Political Association, Cooperation And Convergence In The Field Of Foreign And Security Policy.

While that sounds harmless enough, in Article 10 of the document above we find a focus on ‘Conflict prevention, crisis management and military-technological cooperation’, where we find this – section 3 – that would certainly have Moscow seething, particularly when one thinks about how the present Ukraine military has been developed, trained and equipped:

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.

This is one of the areas the EU plans for ‘gradual convergence’ and ‘ever-deeper involvement’, with a country aligned historically, culturally, politically and militarily with Russia and the former Soviet Union.  There is only one destination when the plan is ‘gradual convergence’ and ‘ever-deeper involvement’, and that is union.  The EU’s plans for enlargment includes assimilating the remaining Russian satellites such as Ukraine, but Euro MPs are trying to kid us that only now has this idea come to the fore.

It would always be dangerous ground in the back yard of a country that is insecure, seeking to re-establish itself as a global power and spending big money on building its military capability.  Therefore the Association Agreement was a clearly geopolitical plan with two aims:

  1. To increase the EU’s political and military control over neighbouring countries and continue gradual enlargement
  2. To weaken Russia’s political and military control over its neighbours and hem it in on its western and southern borders

What on earth could Moscow not like about all that, especially with the Russian Navy Black Sea fleet based in Crimea?

While the Russians would be content to see the EU agree a trade deal with Ukraine, of the kind the media would have us think was on the table, the political and military dimensions to the agreement, diplomatically referenced by the Russian ambassador to the EU, was a deliberate provocation in the shape of a power grab by the EU.  Responsibility for all that has followed rests squarely with the EU and its expansionist, power crazed officials in Brussels.  But does our media tell that story?

The lack of impartial news coverage resulting in the disgraceful lack public knowledge about this, despite the EU being our government, the agreement being presented in our name and it being ratified by the British government in Westminster, is the fault of our media – which is pushing the EU’s ridiculous propaganda without question or challenge.

Ukraine, UK, foreign policy, defence and the EU

The media is at it again, with ‘journalists’ and commentators demonstrating that for all the lavish salaries and resources showered upon them they know very little and understand even less.

Con Coughlin is a case in point. Bunkered at the Telegraph, lest he get chased out of a pub by fellow hacks, the great sage has a piece that his sub editor has chosen to title ‘Britain reduced to shaking a weedy fist at Vladimir Putin’ with a subheading thus, ‘Protests against Russia’s annexation of Crimea can’t disguise the fact that Britain is now a mere bystander on the world stage because of defence cuts’.

While that is partially true, it only tells us a fraction of the story and does nothing to explain why we have this state of affairs.  Instead Coughlin deigns to inform us that:

It was always going to happen – the eruption of an international crisis so grave that it laid bare the full limitations of Britain’s ability to act on the world stage. And so it has come to pass, with the humiliating revelation that our policy for confronting Vladimir Putin’s Crimean land grab is to do… precisely nothing.

[…] So far as Britain is concerned, the best we can hope for now is that Ukraine’s new interim government does not react to the blatant acts of provocation perpetrated by Russian troops. For, as we now know, courtesy of a Downing Street photographer’s telephoto lens, Britain’s ability to respond to Russia’s wanton acts of aggression is nonexistent.

There are very good reasons for this.  The defence capabilities of this nation are largely supposed – among other things – to be geared to do two things:

  1. to defend our national territory, and
  2. to protect our national interests and support our foreign policy objectives around the world

I’m over here…

The key point here is point 2.  It is essential to note that we don’t have our own interests any more, the EU has them for us.  And we no longer have any defined foreign policy objectives, as again our foreign policy is dictated by the EU.

For these reasons our defence requirements are ill defined, and our capabilities are being eroded to the point our armed forces cannot act independently – to help bring about the EU plan of an interoperable, member state force taking orders from Brussels.

But Coughlin makes no mention of this. The media has, by and large, embraced EU membership and makes no effort to learn what the EU is designed to do, why it is doing it and how it goes about achieving it. So it is that Coughlin and his friends continue to rail against many effects of EU membership, such as the dearth of a foreign policy supported by defence capabilities to underpin it, but keep telling us how EU membership is essential to this country’s interests.

This mentality extends far beyond the media and deep into the political class, where a few days ago we saw Sir Christopher Meyer, former British Ambassador to Germany and to the US, write in the Times (£) that:

Foreign policy is not an edition of Radio 4’s Moral Maze. It should be based on a cold calculation of national interest. It is time to get back to basics: the clarity of openly defined sovereign interests and publicly acknowledged spheres of interest.

Yet despite these implorings we see no mention of the EU let alone criticism of the fact membership has brought us to this. In fact the Foreign & Commonwealth Office of which Meyer was part is possibly the most enthusiastic cheerleader and advocate of EU membership in the UK.

The fact is, as part of the EU, our armed forces, for all the billions spent on them, will not be strong enough to field sufficient divisions, wings and naval groups to respond independently to geopolitical crises – as it runs contrary to the notion of interoperability. In any case the would not be prepared to do so because our country’s foreign policy will be written in Brussels and our interests will be what the EU defines them to be.

You just won’t hear any journalist, politician or FCO pension recipient telling the public the truth of it.

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.


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