Posts Tagged 'Bureaucracy'

Why the UK can’t simply up and leave the EU

People who like Nigel Farage and feel I am unfair to him and should cut him some slack may not like this. But this is an issue that strikes at the heart of Farage’s credibility as a politician and explains why I cannot and will not support UKIP with him as leader.

Farage’s stated position is that the UK should simply up and leave the EU. It is what UKIP says it would do if by some quirk of fate it found itself forming a government. It is a broad stroke of a policy that utterly fails to acknowledge or address the difficulty and consequences of doing so. It demonstrates that Farage has not only failed to grasp the issues at stake but staggeringly, nae, disturbingly, that he has no coherent strategy for extracting the UK from the EU in a manner that protects this country’s economic and commercial interests.

There are thousands of different conventions, agreements, protocols and other arrangements which could realistically be affected by a UK withdrawal from the EU and make it more difficult to export goods to EU member states, with far reaching consequences for the UK economy.

By way of a short example Richard picks up on just one such issue to illustrate the complexity of what lays ahead; and separately explains how EU law could prevent our goods being shipped into EU ports – unless the UK carefully negotiates favourable new terms with the EU, something that can only be triggered with certainty by invoking Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.

That Farage has never presented a clear, positive explanation of how his policy could be realised in the absence of such detailed negotiation and essential housekeeping reduces his credibility to zero. It leaves the truly eurosceptic side of the EU membership argument open to fatal attack that would see an in-out referendum lost as people buy in to the europhile fearmongering that, for once, would be an accurate reflection of what could realistically happen.

Leaving the EU without securing terms that protect this country’s interests is worse than folly. Criticising those people who point out the fundamental flaws in Farage’s UKIP approach is a similar folly. Allowing Farage to hold a prominent position on the eurosceptic side of the argument in light of his ill-considered and shallow exit policy is nothing less than lethal.

Getting out of the EU demands more than Farage’s brand of Jack-the-Lad, cheeky chappie punchline populism. As Richard has demonstrated, the stakes are extremely high. We can’t just up and leave. We have to negotiate the dotting of every i and crossing of every t to extract ourselves from the tangled web woven over a period of decades. Withdrawal from the EU would be a serious business requiring serious people who can master fine details.

To take back power we need to change focus

Why is it so many people look at Parliament, the party conferences and internal power games within the three main political parties and conclude that politics is irrelevant, remote?  Perhaps it is because ordinary people cannot influence politics at the national – or transnational – level.

Many people have asked, via the comments on other posts and via emails, how it is possible to further a democracy agenda and take back power if you reject the party political system.  The answer has unwittingly long been provided by the Conservatives with one of their empty pledges – localism.  Local politics is the real seat of power in this country.  Ordinary people can exert great influence in politics from the local level, but too few realise this and choose to do so.

Local politics is the least scrutinised area of public life.  But it is also the most vulnerable to people power.  The necessary origins of the kind of non-party political movement that is required to drive the change needed in this country are rooted in local government.  That is why it is no coincidence that organisations like Common Purpose have a strategy to build a base of local bureaucrats and civil servants to ‘lead beyond authority’ – or in other words to assume power and, without the awareness or proper scrutiny of the people, further a Marxist agenda that takes advantage of that very lack of local focus and ignorance of where real power resides.

Consider, local Authorities are the most enthusiastic supporters and endorsers of EU policy. Be it the regionalisation agenda, climate change obsession, zealous focus and enforcement of waste disposal and recycling, or health initiatives such as reducing tobacco use, local authorities embrace these issues as a means to increase their power and control.  It is from local authorities that many of the members of unelected and unaccountable regional assemblies and quangos are drawn.  District and County Councillors are appointed to various bodies that have control over vast sums of public money, such as police authorities, health trusts and education authorities.  This enables them to influence and take decisions that affect all of us – and extract ever more money from us to service their pet projects and vested interests.

Control should and supposedly does reside with elected local Councillors.  However it is the Council Officers who pull the strings.  They write the reports, they formulate the recommendations and all too often they seek to neuter any elected members who challenge them.  All too often the Council Officers help the Councillors to feather their nests, thus keeping them compliant and unwilling to rock the boat.

And it is this that needs to be the focus of our attention – the restoration of democratic control, transparency and accountability to stop the Officer tail wagging the Councillor dog.  It can be done, for it is far easier to create a non-party political local campaign, build up support in a ward or wards, and then run independent candidates who can win local elections than it is to get a non aligned candidate into Parliament.  Candidates who will not play the game, and who when elected will wrest control back from the bureaucrats and put it back in the hands of those who are directly accountable to the electorate, are a nightmare scenario for the powers that be.

Such an effort is the natural extension of using Freedom of Information to expose actions by local authorities that are unjust or unlawful, or to highlight bureaucrats over reaching their power.  It is the next logical step to tackling Officers who loot the public purse – steal our money – by writing their own outrageous contracts that see them paid wildly inappropriate six figure salaries and allow them to cash in on hundreds of thousands of pounds of severance payments when voluntarily leaving a post to take up another elsewhere, while also retiring early and getting generous payouts on top of their gold plated pension provisions.

All it takes is having elected people sitting in the Town Hall to say ‘no’. And that is more easily achieved than people imagine.

Of course some Officers will try to cajole elected members into accepting their recommendations.  But Officers have to follow the decisions made by elected members – unless they break the law.  If Officers refuse to carry out the wishes of the elected members, making that fact public would quickly alter things.  It is one thing to attempt to manipulate elected members behind closed doors, but quite another to stand firm in the face of  a public outcry.  A public that is sick and tired of being pickpocketed to fund initiatives they do not support.  A public that is sick and tired of being told what to do by people who are supposed to serve yet seek to control.

While it is good to highlight the anti democratic excesses of the EU – and the incompetence and self interest of politicians in Westminster – if campaigners and bloggers want to see change and make a real difference we need to focus our attention on local government first and foremost.  Pile on the FOI requests, attend council meetings and drag the decsions of Councillors blinking into the sunlight, and write to the local press so they cannot ignore the groundswell of opinion seeking to challenge the status quo.

That is the route to building a genuine powerbase outside the structures of the political parties.  That is the method of converting a grassroots desire for change into a political movement that can take back power.

The last unauthorised protester, Brian Haw, dies

The death yesterday of Parliament Square protester, Brian Haw, signals the end of last unauthorised protest within one mile of Parliament.

While I did not agree with all that Brian Haw believed in and stood for, he was an excellent example of how ordinary members of the public can thumb their nose at the political class which seeks to marginalise and silence people when they choose to dissent and campaign about something they strongly believe in.

The people of this country should be entitled to protest against the decisions of the political class directly outside the Palace of Westminster as they see fit.  But since 2005 the parasites have sought to insultate themselves from protest and opposition by the people who pay their wages and make their legislative agenda possible via taxation.  This underlines the fact that Britain in 2011 is not a democracy and ordinary voters are an inferior class to those who form the establishment.

If enough people choose to do so, they have the power to reject this segregation and make a mockery of the insulation law passed by Parliament by carrying their protest right to the heart of this nation’s supposed seat of democracy without having to seek permission from the police. It is those who have seats in Parliament who should be answerable to us, not the other way around.

Brian Haw tried in his own way to make that point and whether you agree with his cause or not, he deserves recgonition for standing against the establishment in the way he did.

Abuse of the law and public inertia

Or, The State We’re In.

Our current condition throws up some examples of how power crazed bureacurats are falsely charging themselves with the power to stamp on individuals who rightly stand up against bureaucracy and public service failings and challenge unaccountable and unsanctioned decision making. Two cases make the papers today that should be spread far and wide.  But as always there is little or no ‘follow through’ by the journalists to connect the dots and display the bigger picture for people, so we have to rely on the blogosphere to do that.

Firstly we have the case of blogger Jacqui Thompson, author of ‘Camarthenshire Planning Problems and More’. She tells the story of how she was arrested for allegedly breaching the peace this week for filming part of a Camarthenshire County Council meeting from the public gallery to bring events to a wider audience.

Ms Thompson then goes on in a follow up blog post to describe her treatment after being arrested and presents readers with an evident example of the law being abused by Camarthenshire Councillors and the police to suit the ends of the establishment. A polite refusal to acquiesce to an unreasonable demand – namely to stop filming when filming is not banned by the Council’s own standing orders – is not a breach of the peace.

A legal action for false arrest seems justified as to deny this woman her liberty for wishing to highlight failings in the supposedly democratic process is an abuse under the law. There was no need for the Council to suspend proceedings and no grounds to instructing her to leave the public gallery. The police were not only heavy handed, they were resorting to stereotype number one, that the establishment is in need of protection and the ordinary taxpaying member of the public is the aggressor.

Secondly we have the case of blogger Daniel Sencier, author of ‘Prostate Cancer – My Journey!’ and a former cancer patient at the Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle.  He tells the story of how North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust are bullying him using threats of legal action for daring to speak out about the experience of newly diagnosed Prostate Cancer patients at his local hospital in Carlisle.

The Trust is giving the impression of having more power than it actually possesses, as once you read the content of their solicitor’s letter to Mr Sencier you can see how little they can do to prevent a protest they believed Mr Sencier was planning. But the abuse becomes evident when you see the Trust’s threat against Mr Sencier if his blog contains what they consider to be:

…unsubstantiated criticism of the care you received at the Trust the Trust will have no hesitation in considering taking legal action against you

Criticism is subjective and if Mr Sencier considers the care he received was substandard then he has the right to say so. It is his opinion and there should not be any need for his opinion to be substantiated by anything. At any rate, as if to underline the blowhard position the Trust is only saying they won’t hesitate to consider taking legal action. They know they will almost certainly have no grounds for doing so, but that doesn’t stop them trying to intimidate a dissatisfied member of the public into silence.

This is the reality of Britain in the 21st Century. We supposedly boast the mother of all Parliaments and the finest model for legal systems that has been much duplicated around the world. But what we see here is not only examples of the corruption of our democracy but the extent of the assault on our liberty and individual rights by the State in service of its own interests against ours.

For how much longer will the public stay silent on matters such as these and shy away from taking back from the establishment the power that is ours by right?  It cannot continue. We need to make a stand.

(Cross posted at Orphans of Liberty and Independent Political Bloggers – links on the right).

Who are they serving, exactly?

The Daily Mail is going to town over the decision by Crispin Blunt to approve a prison inmate’s application for artificial insemination because of his human rights. They sense blood in the water and are hunting for a scalp.

But irrespective of the rights, wrongs, accuracies or otherwise of the story and the reporting, one line in the Mail’s piece should stand out as yet another example of how the ruling elite serve their own interests rather than ours. Attempts by the media to find out who exactly made the decision to let the prisoner attempt to father a child while still in prison, resulted in this outcome:

The Ministry of Justice yesterday refused to say who took the decision.

These are public servants who are supposed to be accountable to the people of this country. We are entitled to know which Minister or faceless bureaucrat took the decision. The Ministry of Justice has no legitimate reason whatsoever to deny us this information. This is deniability and lack of accountability writ large and it is unacceptable.

It is a measure of the contempt in which we are held. The political class wants us to do two things, pay up and shut up. It is another example that underlines how Referism is an idea whose time has come.

The volcanic ash cloud story repeats itself

This is a story that needs to be covered properly, and thankfully Dr Richard North at EU Referendum has done so.

One of the many scoops broken by the EU Referendum blog was the story last year when we had the last Icelandic volcano eruption. Uniquely, Richard North identified that the situation had been made inestimably worse by the lack of real time direct ash monitoring, owing to the shortage of aviation assets.

As he recorded last May, the one and only aircraft capable of carrying out the necessary monitoring, a BAE 146 operated by FAAM, was in the hanger with its instrumentation stripped out, about to undergo a paint job.

Now, a year later, the airlines are disputing the severity of the situation, and Ryanair is disagreeing with the CAA about the extent (or presence) of any ash in Scotland. Once again, there is an urgent need to carry out monitoring to find out exactly what is going on, but history is repeating itself.  The FAAM aircraft is currently engaged on a full flying programme and is not available for volcanic ash sampling.

While it is clear Ryanair’s test flight cannot gauge the extent of ash concentration in the air, a strip down and inspection of the engines on the aircraft used would provide much richer information about the risk to aviation.  If the engines have been unaffected by flying through the ash particles the Met Office computer models say are there, then there is no reason to suspend flight operations.

Perhaps that is a point the media should be making, but thus far our intrepid newshounds have failed miserably to do.

Tax and EU regulations make HSBC set to move HQ to Hong Kong

According to the Telegraph HSBC is preparing to relocate its HQ from London to Hong Kong due to increasing taxes and extra layers of EU regulation heaped on the City of London.  Thanks to higher taxes and the suffocating bureaucracy being imposed on businesses, the UK is becoming uncompetitive.

Warnings that bankers could desert the UK if the government interfered in their bonus schemes were dismissed with a sneer by the likes of Vince Cable. But while focusing efforts on playing the gallery on that trivial matter, the government seems to have missed the frustration of entire corporations that have the capacity to move their headquarter operations out of the country.

If HSBC decides to relocated the impact will be billions of pounds less in the UK Treasury coffers. It will be this idiotic grandstanding government and unaccountable EU bureaucrats to blame for such a move and the harmful impact on our economy.

Galileo farce turning into re-run of Quaero project

It was just over three years ago that the Commons Transport Committee has said it has serious concerns about the merits of the £2.9 billion pound Galileo project and the way in which the European Commission planned to fund it.

Back then MPs on the committee were saying that the European satellite navigation system rival to America’s Global Positioning System (GPS) must be stopped from going ahead until its costs, risks and benefits have been thoroughly assessed.

Fast forward to today and we find that Berry Smutny, the CEO of OHB Technology, a company that has a £475 million contract to build 14 Galileo satellites, has been suspended after leaked US diplomatic cables revealed he considered the project to be a ‘stupid idea’ and ‘a waste of taxpayers’ money’. We also find that the £2.9bn bill for taxpayers in the EU is now estimated to have risen to around £6bn. Yet despite this obscene sum being devoted to the Galileo project, sheer incompetence and waste on a gigantic scale attracts no consequence.  As EU Referendum points out:

‘That Smutny has lost his job in itself tells you something. The euroslime can commit all sorts of indiscretions and rob the taxpayer blind, yet they get to keep their jobs. But one word against the EU’s spendthrift vanity project and you are out on your ear.’

Galileo is Europe’s attempt to match America’s progress in technology. This is the “Quaero” fiasco all over again – where French President Jacques Chirac’s decided to build a ‘European’ rival to Google. Being European it would obviously require a partner for the French, so Germany was wooed to take part in the great search engine collaboration dubbed ‘Quaero’.

Up to €2 billion of taxpayers’ money was pledged between the two countries and planning work got started, while Google and Yahoo! carried on going from strength to strength with their respective portals, leaving the European consortium in its wake. Less than a year later and the ‘Quaero’ consortium had fallen apart. What odds that Galileo goes the same way?  Or is this one different because the French has a military interest in the project despite years of lies peddled in various countries, including the UK, that Galileo was a purely civilian system?

Years of research and a lot of investment went into developing GPS for successful civilian use from its original military application. The EU wants the same prestige and capability in a fraction of the time, by copying an existing technology long after the Americans have already moved on to the next generation of technology.  The game of catch up will be never ending because vainglorious EU wastrels insists on centrally planning such projects and using public money in a scattergun fashion without revealing the real purpose of it.

EU spin machine moving into another gear

The ‘party line’ is the order of the day for the EU in 2011.

Stephen Fidler, writing in the Wall Street Journal, explains that at the top of the European leaders’ new year resolutions is ‘promising to stay on message’. In other words, leaders and officials are being told to shut up and only sing from the Brussels approved hymnal. It is a recipe for deceit that will widen the gulf between the political elite and the people they are determined hide the truth from.

Fidler provides an anecdote that neatly summarises what communication from the EU will look like in the future:

It used to be quite common for politicians to say one thing to audiences at home and something quite different abroad. The Brazilians have a saying for it: só para inglês ver. It literally means “Only for the English to see” but it’s used to describe things said or done for show where the underlying reality is quite different. It is said to have derived from the 19th century when the British were clamping down on the slave trade, and the Brazilian government (which did not abolish slavery until 1888) pretended to be helping them.

In the example, the role of latter day Brazilians will be played by the EU and the deceived English will be played by the ordinary people of the member states, who be told the party line rather than the truth. This is not about better communication, it is about controlling the flow of information to keep people in the dark. We will only hear what Brussels wants us to hear.

It is an abuse of power by the political elite in its determination to avoid being held to account or accept the wishes of the people. It is neither democratic nor acceptable. But this is what will come to pass unless people wake up and resist what amounts to a concerted effort to enslave us within a new bureaucratic order over which we will have no control.

Update: Witterings From Witney weighs in, observing that the Heads of Member States are just confirming that they are no longer in charge of their country’s destiny.

More EU verbal flatulence aimed at Russia

You may be familiar with the saying ‘Speak softly and carry a big stick’. The thinking behind it was that where possible nations should use diplomacy to resolve a dispute and do not rush to confrontation. But by way of a last resort nations should have the ability and willingness to use force if those diplomatic and peaceful methods fail.

When it comes to the EU that old adage has been transformed into ‘Utter meaningless words and carry a big carrot’. Far from a stick and carrot approach to dealing with worrying developments, the craven EU employs a unique ‘carrot and bigger carrot’ approach.

This was evident after the Russian invasion of Georgia. French President Nicolas Sarkozy packaged up and delivered to Russia an EU peace plan to bring an end to the short, one-sided conflict with Georgia.  A quick scan showed the EU plan had more holes than a sieve and favoured Russia disproportionately.  Russia duly flouted the terms brazenly and the EU offered nothing more than a few limp words of disappointment. Within a few months and with Russian troops still on Georgian soil, the EU completed its ‘tough approach’ to Russia in typically hypocritical and unprincipled manner by opening up trade talks with Moscow.

Now the EU is at it again, this time uttering meaningless words and reaching for the carrot sack on the subject of Mikhail Khodorkovsky. As European Voice reported on Monday:

The European Union’s leaders have issued statements warning the Russian authorities about the treatment of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who has been convicted for a second time.

A court in Moscow announced on 27 December that Khodorkovsky, the former head of the Yukos oil company and sometime political opponent of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, had been convicted of embezzlement and money-laundering on top of his existing conviction from a trial in 2005. He has been in prison since the 2005 conviction and a further term of imprisonment is now expected.

Apparently the EU has said that the severity of punishment meted out to Mikhail Khodorkovsky could impact bilateral relations after Moscow courts found the oil tycoon guilty of embezzlement. Oh please. If the EU is capable of turning its collective back on Georgia and appeasing Russia in the self centred way it did in 2008, can we really be expected to believe it will do a damned thing to defend the interests of Khodorkovsky? Why do they bother with this theatre? It is gesture politics and Moscow knows as well as we that the EU will run away at the first hint of any back straightening in the Kremlin.

The EU is only capable of subverting democracy and eroding the rights of people living in its member states. The bureaucracy that thinks it’s a country is nothing but a paper tiger when it involves itself in matters on the world stage. Any entity that consists of more than a few north African tribesmen is just too strong to tackle.

History is repeating itself and Moscow will laugh off the Brussels bleating as the vacuous posturing it is. It would be no surprise if we see a repeat of a major EU power, such as France, announcing a major deal with Russia within a few short months.  The only question is, what does Russia want that the EU will fall over itself to hand over? In the meantime Brussels should do us all a favour and give up the histrionics.

The harmful hidden hand of the EU exposed again

One of the many examples of the EU living in some odd parallel universe is revealed in EurActiv today, in an article titled ‘Starting a business is faster, cheaper, but challenges remain’.

The article tells us that the European Union ‘adopted the Small Business Act in 2008, with the intention of making it easier to start and run a business. Two years on, the EurActiv network takes a look at the achievements and challenges ahead’. But what of the failures? Strangely there is never any assessment of the failures, but more on that in a moment. It does seem the EU understands the importance of small businesses. As the article explains:

‘Small and medium-size businesses create 80% of new jobs in Europe. That means entrepreneurs and small and medium businesses will play a critical role as Europe recovers from the economic and financial crisis. So anything that hinders new businesses hinders growth.’

It is one thing to talk the talk, when it comes to the EU it is quite another to walk the walk. Because while the EU utters all the right noises, its actions undermine small businesses and are responsible for driving huge number of them to the wall.

As England Expects observed last week, a report from the Federation of Small Business (FSB) in Wales revealed that ‘Over 50% of failing businesses cite EU regulations as part of their downfall’:

‘In the EU, every year 1.7 million businesses fail and over 50% of these cite the regulatory burden as a significant factor.’

It was the same in 2009, only the data from the FSB that time also showed that 27% of businesses are put off from expanding due to red tape. Sadly the small business community, in complaining to the UK government, seems not to understand where their pain originates and who holds the levers of power. This is another example of how the hidden hand of the EU directly and negatively impacts the lives of people in this country.

So just how is the EU’s Small Business Act making it easier to run a small business when hundreds of thousands of them are buried in red tape and cannot survive because of the bureaucracy, time and effort needed to meet demands for reporting and compliance; and the money that needs to be spent adhering to rules made up by people who have mainly spent their careers in the public sector shielded from the reality of the business world? Let EurActiv explain that one rather than spewing out sanitised EU propaganda.

Big government and small business do not go together. The regulation factory is killing small business and with it our economy.

Update: Don’t take my word for it, just read the experience of a small business owner, Andy Baxter, in the comments. Thanks for your insights Andy.

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