Posts Tagged 'Narrow Thinking'

Farage counting cost of being all things to all men for too long

The digital wailing and gnashing of teeth is a sight to behold. It was always only a matter of time before it came to the fore.

Nigel Farage has a track record of masterful inaction and silence when he wants to be all things to all men.  Article 50 is a case in point.  With some in UKIP wisely recognising Article 50 as the only legal process available for commencing Brexit from the EU, and others loudly declaring it to be a vicious trap to be avoided at all costs, Farage stayed silent on the subject for years lest he alienate one of the divergent sections of UKIP supporters.  Eventually he came down on the side of Article 50 in a conference question and answer session, leaving UKIP ‘heavyweights’ like Rodney Atkinson, Torquil Erikson and Professor Tim Congdon on the wrong side of the party’s policy.

But that was an EU related matter and therefore an issue of steadily declining importance in UKIP, which has instead opportunisitically positioned itself to become a rallying point for the disaffected anti immigration/anti asylum constituency as part of Farage’s grand plan to eclipse the BNP by wooing their supporters.  As intended, many former BNP supporters who saw the Nick Griffin bandwagon coming off the tracks saw UKIP, with its own sizeable, vociferous and unchallenged ‘the UK is full, no more migrants or asylum seekers‘ anti immigration rump, as their new natural home.

Certainly, Farage wasn’t saying anything that would alienate them so it seemed the perfect fit .  But what they did not note was that Farage was also saying nothing on the subject to alienate the more rational and realistic members of his party, who recognise that controlled immigration is necessary for a country with an economy like ours and providing asylum to those in fear for their lives is a humane act.  But that has been Farage all over, letting everyone believe he is on their side and in tacit support of their worldview because he was able to stay quiet on anything contentious.  That is they way it remains until silence is no longer an option, or Farage decides there is capital to be made by coming down on one side of the fence.

Over the weekend, calculating a potential advantage that could wrongfoot David Cameron and make UKIP seem more cuddly to potential voters who are otherwise put off by that UKIP faction which wants all immigrants to leave and no more immigrants or asylum seekers – particularly not Muslims – to be admitted, Farage threw one of his legs over the fence and called for the UK to accept refugees from Syria.

Cue the digital equivalent of a collective howl from the small minded little Englanders who had, until that point, believed Farage was in lock-step with them and would pursue a policy of pulling up the drawbridge.  Moderate ‘kippers have been celebrating Farage’s call, as much for the manner in which he has exposed Cameron’s Conservatives as lacking ‘compassion’ as for it being the right thing to do.  However, for the true believers who abandoned the BNP cult for the UKIP cult, some of whom infest the comment threads of the Telegraph and the Mail, Twitter and UKIP’s Facebook page with their obsessive and often illogical rants, the sense of betrayal has been too much to bear as the selection of the comments below shows:

ukip_asylum_2ukip_asylum_3ukip_asylum_4ukip_asylum_7ukip_asylum_8ukip_asylum_9ukip_asylum_10ukip_asylum_11ukip_asylum_12ukip_asylum_13

Their reaction is akin to being courted, bedded then dumped just before a big date, after they have spent lots of time being told this is the real thing.  UKIP is going to lose members and gain vocal, bitter critics that were previously sworn brothers in arms.

For this schism Farage has only himself to blame.  He could have avoided getting into bed with these people by making clear what he believed in from the outset.  But his view is why bother alienating people who are in the tank, spreading the word, plastering ‘Vote UKIP’ in every comment thread on news websites and supporting the claim that UKIP is growing and winning new supporters.

Farage might have finally realised that UKIP has a ‘toxic brand’ far worse than the one that causes the Conservatives so much anxiety, but it is one that might now be too embedded for moderate people to ever give the party their support.  That is something for which Farage will have to count the cost.  Sadly for the EUsceptic cause, it is a cost borne there too which adversely affects the likelihood of securing the essential Brexit from the EU.

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Boris Johnson thinking small again

When one seeks an example of yawn inducing dog whistle politics, Boris Johnson rarely fails to deliver.  It never ceases to amaze that such well educated individuals can lack common sense and imagination.  But Boris has shown that to be the case once again with his ‘back of the fag packet’ call for a free labour exchange between UK and Australia.

As an appeal to the section of the Eurosceptic community that laments the UK’s change of focus from Commonwealth ties to subservience to the EU, and a piece of flag-waving to those who resent the high level of immigration from non-Anglospheric countries, Johnson’s comments about closer UK-Australian workforce links work perfectly and no doubt prove reassuring, perhaps even encouraging.  For those who want to see politicians suggesting approaches that fit the circumstances of the day, while providing evidence of some deep thinking and imagination, his comments are just so much more waffle.

By way of a quick observation, the Commonwealth was fine back then, but looking at it today as an alternative to the EU internal market would be a retrograde step.  Increasingly, at the time the UK was stepping back and looking closer to home for politicial harmonisation and trade opportunities, the Commonwealth provided as much of a bind for some of its member countries as the EU does to the UK today.  Consider the New Zealand experience, where Commonwealth driven approaches saw the high volume – low margin for lamb hold back and poorly compensate Kiwi farmers.  But as the UK turned towards Europe, New Zealand’s sheep (and dairy) farmers took the opportunity to better serve their own interests by switching to a lower volume – high margin model, which rejuvinated the agricultural sector and increased wealth.

Returning to Johnson, why his comment represents small thinking is that there is a whole world of opportunity outside the EU for labour exchange, trade agreements and – more crucially – establishing new blocs of countries with common interests to negotiate trade deals.

Look at the Doha Round of WTO trade negotiations.  There are some large blocs there, such as the US, the EU and the BRICS.  The talks have stalled for years, particularly as the US and EU squabble over agricultural subsidies.  Imagine the UK left the EU –  dispensing with Brussels’ political baggage and instead representing itself on the world stage and truly having a seat at the real global top table – and opted to join EFTA as part of the strategy for retaining access to the internal market.  Some other EU member states could follow suit (thinks Denmark, Sweden and even Ireland).  Suddenly EFTA would have quite some clout.  Indeed it could then progress to become a trade bloc in its own right, sitting in WTO trade rounds like Doha, working for deals in our interests rather than the broader, more dilute interests of the larger EU bloc.

It could be a game changer, as trade with the US, BRICS and tiger economies of south east Asia could be via a genuine trade bloc rather than a customs union, not hampered by political governance issues.  This is just one idea.  It certainly has more vision and aligns better with today’s realities than Johnson’s small thinking and political gaming.

But this should not detract from the elephant in the room, which is the pressing and essential need to extract ourselves from the EU as quickly as possible, while preserving access to the internal market.

For this to happen the British people need to be convinced and reassured that the UK can leave the EU without suffering adverse commerical and economic consequences.  Enough doubt and fear has been created by pro-EU entities who falsely claim leaving the EU means losing access to the single market.  They pretend the negotiation option does not exist, and without providing any evidence for their rationale they reject EFTA membership as a stepping stone or even longer term solution.

The evidence that contradicts and exposes the Europhile claims, and undermines their political motives for keeping the UK under the control of Brussels, is irrefutable.  But it is only a handful of bloggers with their limited reach who are telling the story.  The Eurosceptic cause needs UKIP and every Eurosceptic organisation out there to tell the story and take control of the debate.  By defining the narrative and citing the evidence – namely having something of substance to say – even the media will not be able to ignore the available solutions which can help the UK chart its own course in the world.  It would certainly result in less attention being given to the inane waffle emanating from London’s indecisive and political greasy pole climbing Mayor.


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