Jeremy Corbyn as Labour Party leader

What does Jeremy Corbyn’s success in the Labour leadership election tell us about increasing or decreasing the chances of a “leave” vote in the forthcoming referendum on our EU membership? The answer is potentially quite a lot but perhaps in some new and unexpected ways. Events in the Labour Party over the last few weeks, leading up to the stunning margin by which Jeremy Corbyn won the Labour leadership, show that the political firmament is unstable and rapidly changing,

The Corbyn team are clearly going to be pulled in two ways. On the one hand, we have already had Tom Watson, on the Andrew Marr show, and Hilary Benn elsewhere, telling us that the Corbyn opposition will be campaigning for the UK staying in the EU, whatever the outcome of the current renegotiation process. No doubt this reflects the very widespread view among the former Labour leadership about which way the vote should go. On the other hand, significant elements of the Corbyn programme could not be undertaken within EU constraints and there are substantial concerns among trade unionist in particular about TTIP and losing some of the key benefits from the Social Chapter as a result of the current Conservative-led negotiations.

The result is that the new Labour leadership is much more ambivalent about our EU membership than it would have been if either Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper or Liz Kendall had been elected. John MacDonnell, the new Shadow Chancellor, has said, for example, that Labour should wait to see what David Cameron and George Osborne bring back from their negotiations before making up its mind what line to take. This is an encouraging sign of flexibility and pragmatism at least on this issue.

Where is this likely to take us? Eurosceptics from different parts of the political spectrum have always had varying reasons for wanting to achieve either radical changes to our EU terms of membership or for the UK to leave the EU altogether. One key outcome is that the advent of a strongly left of centre Labour leadership is likely to accentuate this tendency. As a result, there may be more difficulty in getting Eurosceptics all to campaign under the same banner once the forthcoming referendum campaign gets under way. Europhiles from different parties have always found it easier to co-operate than those who are more sceptical but this may not be a match for the enthusiasm which the wave of support for Jeremy Corbyn is potentially now capable of mobilising.

In particular, the result of the Labour leadership election clearly shows how disenchanted a significant proportion of the electorate is with conventional political views, and this may increasingly include scepticism about the establishment opinions on the merits of our EU membership. The new leadership of the Labour Party may, therefore, signify an anti-conventional Westminster politics view which may not be too difficult to mobilise into “leave” votes.

On balance, therefore, the election of Labour’s new Leader looks like a potentially quite substantial plus for the “leave” campaign. It is early days and we will have to see how Labour policies shake down as events move ahead, but the result of Labour’s leadership election does seem to give grounds for optimism on the Eurosceptic front.

Photo by David Holt London

Neverendum!

The Bank Holiday has only just come and gone but already, developments are coming thick and fast with the forthcoming EU referendum.

First of all, the Electoral Commission has decided that the wording of the referendum question needs to be changed as it appeared to favour the supporters of staying in the EU. Voters will now be asked whether they want the UK to remain in the EU or leave the EU. In other words, the two campaigns won’t be the ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ campaigns but more likely the ‘Remain’ or ‘Leave’ campaigns. Whether this change, to which David Cameron has agreed, will benefit those of us wanting UK independence (whatever we are now going to call ourselves) remains to be seen. While there is an instinctive desire in many people to want to please by affirming the positive (in other words, to say ‘yes’ is seen as being obliging rather than awkward), ‘leave’ could still be associated with a step into the unknown with ‘remain’ as the safer option. This, of course, can be overcome if ‘leave’ is seen as embarking on an adventure – a gateway to a more promising future while ‘remain’ is equaterd to stagnation and decline. Incidentally, another reason for the change in wording is that the Electoral Commission believed that some people may not actually realise that we are in the EU in the first place and may have been confused by the original wording! After over 42 years, this seems a bit incredible, but you never know with some people.

Another concession which David Cameron may find himself forced to make concerns the so-called Purdah period before the referendum. A period of 28 days of government silence before a referendum has become the accepted norm, as it is seen as preventing Government intervention on the side which they want to win. Apparently, as many as 40 Conservative MPs may support a Labour amendment banning public spending during the referendum campaign. The Government’s argument is that such a restriction would prevent it from carrying out its regular business in Brussels for four weeks. This, however, has not convinced a number of Tory MPs nor, it seems, their Labour counterparts. One of the Tory MPs keen to see the Purdah period observed warned of the dangers of “Neverendum” – in other words, a vote to stay in being regarded as rigged and therefore not a valid result and not putting the issue to bed at all.

It is very apparent that Cameron is very, very desperate to ensure we stay in and will only allow a level playing field with great reluctance if at all. His master plan, it seems, is a spin-off from the desire among the leaders of the Eurozone countries (although not necessarily their populations) for closer political and economic union. Accepting – well, seemingly – that the UK will never adopt the Single Currency in the foreseeable future, we will be offered some form of associate membership, except it will called something else. It will be sold as the looser relationship with the EU that everyone desires, no doubt with an exemption from “ever closer union” thrown in as a sweetener. In reality, it will be an official second-class status within the EU and the worst of both worlds. We will be excluded from the EU’s “top table”, at which Mr Cameron insists we must have a seat, yet will still be subject to the full EU acquis, enforced by European Court of Justice. In practise it will be little more than taking the slow train to the same destination which the Eurozone leaders want to zoom towards in their TGVs. At the same time, we will still be locked out of the really important top tables, UNECE, the World Trade Organisation and other bodies where the EU is represented as a single entity. It is a vastly inferior option to the EEA/EFTA alternative which Mr Cameron, either through misleading briefings from his civil servants, sheer ignorance or plain pig-headedness refuses to consider and what is more, this route would accomplish the objectives he publicly professes a desire to achieve. No matter how well his arguments get shot down, as they surely will be, he just doesn’t want to go down in history as the UK’s Lee Kwan Yew, the man who reluctantly led his country to independence and prosperity. Still, if we play our cards well, he will have no choice and the Neverendum conundrum can finally be laid to rest for, given that the referendum will not be a fair fight, if we vote out, no one can claim the result was rigged.

Photo by shonk

Mr. Cameron’s smart EU-turn

“The commonest error in politics is sticking to the carcasses of dead policies.” Lord Salisbury, 1877

Mr Cameron, according to many media reports, is definitely not for turning, and has set himself the goal, whatever happens, of tying the British People into the European Union (EU) forever. Arising from recent electioneering and reporting, this could include, as necessary, manipulation of the Electorate using fear, deceit, deception, fake arguments and ‘victories’, etc. However, there are some very good reasons why Mr Cameron and Mr Osborne might wish swiftly to reverse this less than ethical activity if they want the Conservative Party to have a future in 2020 and beyond. However, it needs some background and analysis to see how and why this could happen.

The ‘No’ (let’s leave the EU) campaign in the forthcoming EU referendum is likely to adopt some of the aims and rhetoric of a typical independence or liberation struggle; for example: pursuing freedom, national sovereignty, democracy, justice and social justice; reaching head and heart; opposing a reactionary status quo. Liberation movements and their political parties have often subsequently had leading roles in their newly independent countries for years afterwards. These leading roles come about regardless of their economic illiteracy, socialist inclinations or other unattractive behaviour. Following the Scottish Independence Referendum, the Scottish National Party (SNP) has demonstrated this effect through rapid membership and voter increases, decimating the other parties in Scotland. The EU Referendum is likely to boost subsequent eurosceptic support. This boost will be greater if there is a respectable pro-independence vote or the referendum result (for Mr Cameron) lacks democratic honesty. As things stand, UKIP will be the beneficiary, gaining from all establishment or legacy parties. The silenced eurosceptic part of the Conservative Party could also regain vigour against internal party pro-EU bullying.

For the General Election in 2020, Mr Cameron or Mr Osborne’s greatest nightmare, as campaign strategists is, probably, that the currently shambolic, declining Labour Party revives and the Conservative Party is confused and deeply divided. So could these actually occur?

Not much chance of Labour reconnecting with its core support as an EU-phile party (pro-EU) that sells out hardworking British families to EU taxes, corporatism (in favour of big business and vested interests), mismanagement, mass uncontrolled immigration, and job-destroying ideologies and regulations. Labour’s appeal would also fall through sharing platforms in the referendum campaign with europhile Conservatives, Lib Dems, Greens and Scottish or Welsh Nationalists, and defending their policies rather than showing up the deceit and shallow fallacies of EU membership. How would they honestly deal with some straightforward questions on the ‘Big Picture’ of EU membership? (for example see A Simple Approach for Considering EU Membership.)

Labour, then, has some good reasons for rapidly turning eurosceptic and standing out as a true British working people’s party; its only serious competition being UKIP. Scotland could be regained and, thus, the key to winning England (since voters’ fears of any discriminatory post-election pact with the SNP would disappear). As the EU continues to make the headlines for the wrong reasons (destroying the employment prospects and quality of life of many throughout the EU) it becomes increasingly difficult to keep defending it and Mr Cameron’s empty ‘renegotiations’.

However, Labour could find that it has missed the boat, if the Conservatives have already moved into the eurosceptic slot, with Mr Cameron and Mr Osborne admitting defeat on changing the EU. Could Labour then actually outmanoeuvre these consummate politicians and convincingly claim that it could do better in challenging or reforming the EU? – better even than socialist politicians in Greece, Spain, Portugal, France, et al? Life within the EU is not about standing up for the British People, rather it means doing what the unelected, privileged EU commissariat and its fellow travellers want.

The Conservative Party would undoubtedly seethe with resentment of the Cameroons if Labour revives in 2020 on the back of euroscepticism, as Mr Cameron could have largely averted this by a pre-emptive EU turn and some smart shenanigans to wrongfoot them. The divisions would be hard to heal or to prevent some (possibly many) defections to UKIP. Increasing numbers of the Electorate would in any case deliver their judgement on being manipulated and ignored by the Cameroons at the 2020 General Election ballot box with votes for Labour and UKIP. Would Mr Cameron really want to be remembered for his major mistakes?  – with unflattering comparisons drawn with, for example, Ethelred the Unready (always paying the demanded EU-geld), King John (devious disaster in Europe) and Neville Chamberlain (‘cap in hand’ EU appeasement)?

Making an EU turn to euroscepticism and then campaigning to leave the EU does not look difficult or embarrassing for a Conservative (or Labour) leader and Prime Minister; indeed, quite the opposite as it is both easy and commendable. The apparent confidential nature of renegotiations can be used to shut down inquisitiveness. Blame can be attributed elsewhere anyway. Spin and communications skills can be used to talk up the already substantial advantages of leaving the costly political straightjacket of the EU. Defying the squealing and machinations of EU-fanatical vested interests makes for a heroic, substantial patriot, someone to capture the popular imagination and votes in 2020.

How would Mr Cameron reply in future when presented with the question posed by the great economist, John Maynard Keynes who reputedly said, ‘When my information changes, I alter my conclusions. What do you do, Sir?’

Photo by Berto Garcia

Photo by SiSter PhotograPher

George’s game

It is not only the PM who has been jet-setting around Europe to try and convince us he is engaged in serious talks about EU reform. His side-kick George Osborne has been getting in on the act too, embarking on a tour of European Capitals that began in Paris a couple of days ago.

Osborne recently gave an interview with the Daily Telegraph in which he stated that “For Britain, I always felt that the central attraction of European Union membership was the economic one.” He also went on to say that “I prefer to talk about it as a single market of free trade. It’s free trade with the rules that enable the free trade to be a real success. That’s the way I think we should think about it.”

So Osborne isn’t interested in the EU’s political agenda? Could it be that he isn’t even aware that the objective of the EU is to create a federal superstate? That the great Monnet plan to deceive the peoples of Europe by disguising a political project as an economic project has been so successful that it has pulled the wool over the eyes of the British Chancellor of the Exchequer?

We are left with one of two conclusions. Either he is so stupid, ill-informed or naïve as to be totally unfit to hold such high office or else he is playing a game – engaged, like his boss, in a charade. One is inclined to the latter option, but it is possible that Ozzie really is a complete dimwit, especially given his economic record. We must never over-estimate the intelligence of our politicians. After all, his mate Dave (you know, our Prime Minister), was educated at one of the coutry’s top schools but was still unable to provide an English translation of Magna Carta for an American news channel.

Whatever, in the unlikely event that either George or any of his close friends visits this website, perhaps they should encourage him to read the Flexcit document which explains how we can maintain full access to the single market without having to be a member of it. If this proves too much for such a bear of very little brain, then perhaps he should try Robert Oulds’ Everything You wanted to know about the EU but were too afraid to ask, which goes over some of the same ground but isn’t so long or detailed. I think that shouldn’t be too hard for you, Georgie Boy. Oh hang on a minute – it has over 200 pages and there aren’t any pictures in it, so maybe it might be a bit too taxing after all…..

Photo by altogetherfool

Making a drachma out of a crisis

A letter from our Chairman, Edward Spalton, to the Derby Telegraph

We would be suffering a similar fate to the people of Greece if our politicians had taken us into the euro as many of them wished. We were and still are lumbered with massive government and private indebtedness but have been able to dodge many of the ill-effects because we still have our own currency.

The so-called “bail-outs” are essentially transfers of unrepayable debt, owed originally to German and French banks but now transferred to the public sector. Whatever the result of yesterday’s referendum, the outlook for Greece is bleak.

They already have real austerity. In the Greek NHS, infant mortality has increased massively – up 40%. With the return of the drachma, there would be a prospect of fairly rapid eventual recovery but probably even more hardship in the short term. So it’s a hard choice.

The euro is a political project to create political union. To avoid more countries threatening to leave like Greece, the countries of the Eurozone will have to form themselves into a single, economic, monetary government – in effect becoming one country with a permanent majority of votes within the EU. Such a treaty will take around four years to conclude under EU rules, so could not come into force before 2020. It will make permanent and formal the UK’s existing status as a second-rate member, paying a first-class subscription.

To repatriate any powers from the EU to a member state requires treaty change. Mr Cameron appears to have dropped this demand. Harold Wilson dressed up some very minor administrative alterations as a fundamental renegotiation” in 1975. It was enough to win him his referendum. No doubt Mr Cameron will follow that example.By the second half of 2017, the UK will hold the presidency of the EU and be in charge of issuing all the press releases which follow EU meetings, giving much increased scope for media manipulation. This is the reason for the Government’s abolition of the “purdah” rule, which prohibits it from using its resources to influence the outcome of the referendumThe best he could hope for is that other member states and the EU Commission promise to take his concerns into account when they make their big treaty some time from 2020 onward. This is not a happy precedent. Mr Blair surrendered some of Mrs Thatcher’s rebate in exchange for a promise to reform agricultural policy. That reform never happened.

So Mr Cameron’s referendum is not really about giving people a choice but a manipulative ploy to lock us into the EU permanently in advance of major, impending, centralising change of which he must be well aware.

Lessons from Austerlitz

Napoleon Bonaparte, watching the Austro/Russian army deploying at Austerlitz, is recorded as saying:
“Let us wait twenty minutes; when the enemy is making a false movement we must take good care not to interrupt him.”

The EU referendum campaign has begun and cool strategy is required.

Those who wish to see a ‘NO’ outcome are concerned about the barrage of pro-EU, or pro-Single Market to be precise, statements by political leaders and big banks and business, as well as EU Commissioners, and so on.

And these people are not bothering with Cameron. They are in favour of staying in the EU without any of Cameron’s reforms. Judging by the ICM poll, the ‘stay in’ side is 10-18 points ahead, even before Cameron returns with his ‘reforms’ or those polled have any idea what is likely to be renegotiated.

But did any reasonable person think that this would not happen?

I welcome this barrage on various grounds.

First, a lot of rhetorical ammunition has been expended for nothing.

Second, the EU side is exposed as obviously bereft of any new ideas since 1975. There are no new arguments.

Third, the idea that this is a stitch up, a fudged referendum, a pretence, a fraud, is gaining ground. As Iain Martin says, in CapX:
“The government’s renegotiation with the EU is bordering on the comical.”
and
“No-one likes to be taken as a fool.”

Fourth, there are already signs of infighting between those few who genuinely believe it is possible to have a ‘reformed’ Europe and those who are just using this as a cynical phrase.

Fifth, all those who the electorate most distrusts are climbing into the same lifeboat without bothering about any navigation:-

  • All the political parties and their leaders
  • The directors of big banks, even those presiding over the banking scandals
  • Big Business directors
  • EU Commissioners and Eurocrats generally.

But, of course we need to counter-attack properly with:

  • A proper aim
  • A proper plan
  • All fighting in one direction
  • No room for complacency

It is also worth considering the melting away of the great polled predicted pro-EU vote during the Dutch and French referendums on the European Constitution.

The recent YouGov poll shows the ‘OUT’ side ahead in the key voting groups: over 40s and over 60s.

Most commentators, such as Iain Martin and James Forsyth, tell us that the referendum is about ‘supporting the status quo’. Nothing could be further from the truth. A ‘yes’ vote is a vote for ‘more integration’, as laid out in Juncker’s presidential statement in 2014.

The real choice was put by Jacques Delors, former head of the EU Commission and the main driver of the EU in his day, and a man highly respected in Brussels, in December 2012, to the Handelsblatt newspaper:

“If the British cannot support the trend to more integration in Europe, we can nevertheless remain friends, but on a different basis. I could imagine a form such as a European economic area or a free trade agreement.”

This correctly stated the alternatives for the UK, “Supporting the trend to more integration in Europe” or ‘friends’ on the basis of membership of the EEA/EFTA.

Photo by – = Duke One = –

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