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

EU NO Campaigners to launch Coventry campaign

Members from the main four political parties  planning on supporting the ‘OUT’ campaign in the forthcoming referendum on the UKs Continued membership of the EU; will launch their local Referendum Planning Group in Coventry on the 19th of August in a bid to persuade local Coventry residents to vote NO. The meeting’s theme “A Referendum is not an Election – How to win it and How to lose it”  will be addressed by Edward Spalton Chairman of the national cross party Campaign for an Independent Britain and the group’s local organiser Derek Bennett(contact [email protected]) followed by a short video and Q&A from attendees.
Speaking ahead of the meeting Edward Spalton said ‘’let’s be honest. The truth is that there is no point complaining about many of the issues facing Britain today unless we first address the real problem – Britain’s disastrous membership of the European Union.  We’d all be better off out.  Contrary to many statements by business leaders, we do not need to be part of the EU’s political structure to have access to the Single Market. Much of the regulation which comes to us via the EU is actually made by global bodies, like the United Nations, World Trade Organisation etc. Britain’s membership of the EU actually keeps us off the “top table” and without a voice at these bodies which really shape world trade. It is in the wider world where trade is expanding, not in the declining, inward-looking EU. The economies of Eastern EU countries are being massively weakened by the large scale emigration of their skilled workers”
He added that, following the Conservatives’ election victory in May 2015, various Euro sceptic groups had been getting their act together and that his own CIB was stepping up its activities locally in preparation for the referendum on EU membership which David Cameron has promised to hold before the end of 2017. Pronouncing that the CIB organisation is fully committed to playing a role in the “no” (i.e., the “Out”) campaign in the West Midlands.
Local organiser Derek Bennett, who is co-ordinating  the upcoming meeting, commented that in the Coventry and surrounding area his new group would be working flat out right up to polling day. ’’We will have leaflets to deliver, street stalls to man, dinners, public meetings, and door to door canvassing to arrange – in fact everything you would expect of an election campaign’’ and pleaded with interested members of the public or those wishing to learn more about how Britain would be better off out the European Union to attend its inaugurak meeting , which will be held at
7.00 pm on Wednesday 19th August at Coundon Social Club, Shorncliffe Road, Coventry CV6 1GT.

Photo by Nigel’s Europe & beyond

Only one outcome will clear the air

David Cameron wants us to stay in. The Foreign Office is even keener that we stay in. In spite of polling which suggests that supporters of remaining in the EU are in a majority, there are some fearful people in positions of power who are very, very worried about a vote to leave the EU.

Whatever the real reason behind David Cameron’s announcement of a referendum on our membership of the EU in his Bloomberg speech, for better or worse, he is now committed to holding it before the end of 2017. If we in the “Out” campaign can get our act together – and that’s unfortunately still a pretty big “if” at the moment – we have the better arguments and, unlike the Scottish referendum, where the weaknesses of Alex Salmond’s economics were not exposed until the very end of the campaign, the economic debate is already under way. We haven’t won it yet, but put forward a sensible, seamless exit strategy and victory on this front should be ours well before the electorate goes to the polls.

Unsurprisingly, the supporters of “in” are keen to tilt the balance as much as possible in their favour. Hence the “purdah” vote was taken so early in the life of the new parliament, while the new intake of Tory MPs were in awe of the whips and hadn’t had the chance to develop the 2010 intake’s habit of rebelling. Referendum law is much less well-defined than the legislation surrounding Westminster or local elections as we have had so few referendums, but Section 125 of the Political Parties and Referendum Act 2000 (PPRA 2000), setting out the rules which apply to the 28 days in the run-up to the referendum, is very sensible. During this period, the government and Civil Service have to avoid taking any actions, making statements or spending taxpayers’ money which could influence the outcome of a referendum. Why should anyone be unhappy about this? After all, shouldn’t we be distancing ourselves as far as possible from the likes of North Korea and Zimbabwe where any vote must only have one outcome – or else? The Government doesn’t think so, arguing that if these rules were applied, it could not conduct business in Brussels. This is a pretty disingenuous argument. After all, our government conducts its business in Brussels at the moment without any fanfare. Most people are blissfully unaware of just how much time and money goes into our dealings with the EU. It’s not too much to expect that it could be done quietly and discreetly during the 28 day period before the referendum, with no propaganda being involved.

Thankfully, a few warning shots have recently been fired across the Government’s bows. The cross-party Public Administration Committee has challenged ministers’ arguments that a relaxation in these “purdah” rules was needed to allow them to continue the work of government. The Committee’s Chairman, Bernard Jenkin MP, wrote to David Lidington, the Europe Minister, saying that there was no case for modifying Section 125 and that “the government’s proposal has cast a cloud of doubt over the propriety of the process, even at this early stage. We regard this as completely unacceptable.” This warning has clearly hit home. Sir Jeremy Heywood, head of the Home Civil Service, has claimed that any suggestions that the Government had not allowed a fair debate could result in legal challenges “by people with deep pockets.” Whether these warnings will result in a change to the Government’s tactics remains to be seen, but a very valid point has been made. It is Cameron’s dream to settle the EU question once and for all and he is not attempting to hide the way he wants it to be settled. A vote for “in” which was seen to have been obtained unfairly would not settle the issue at all, however, especially if the margin was very narrow. The threat of legal challenges would mean that the Government just couldn’t ride out the ensuing storm in the hope that it would die down and withdrawalists would roll over and admit defeat. In other words, a skewed result would solve nothing.

There therefore remains only one way of putting this issue to bed – to strain every sinew to gain that critical “out” vote. Considering the disadvantages we face, no one could remotely complain that a vote to leave would have been achieved by fraud, deceit or manipulation. It would be the best and the only way by which the air could finally be cleared in this long-standing issue so critical to the very survival of our nation.

Peer calls on Government to honour commitment to keep President Obama out of EU debate

THE PRESS OFFICE OF                                                           

The Lord Stoddart of Swindon (Independent Labour)  

News Release

24th July 2015

Peer calls on Government to honour its commitment to keep President Obama and other foreign leaders out of EU debate

Lord Stoddart of Swindon, the independent Labour Peer, has called on the Government to honour a commitment made by Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, in a reply (17th June) to a written question from him, in which he was promised that efforts would be made to keep foreign leaders out of the debate about Britain’s future in the EU, ahead of the referendum.

The Baroness said that ‘the decision in the referendum will be one for British voters to make’ and that ’The Government will make this clear as necessary in its discussions with foreign leaders and EU officials.’

Lord Stoddart has written to Baroness Anelay to remind her of the commitment she made, in light of the latest statement from President Obama in which he has blatantly involved himself in the debate about the EU, ahead of the referendum.  He has urged her to ensure that the Government makes representations to the President on the matter.

The full text of Lord Stoddart’s message of 24th July, to the Baroness is as follows:

FAO: The Rt Hon. the Baroness Anelay of St Johns DBE

Dear Joyce

Further to your written reply of 17th June 2015 (see web link below) and the Prime Minister’s article in the Daily Mail of today’s date, may I assume that the Government will be making representations to President Obama in relation to yet another statement from him, reported this morning, urging the UK to stay in the European Union.  His interventions are improper and are a gross interference in British politics that is widely resented.  They also do nothing to dispel the impression that the UK is the USA’s poodle in the EU.

Voting for the status quo is not an option

We are very aware that opinion polls are consistently showing that supporters of outright withdrawal are in a minority. Of course opinion polls can be wrong, with both the UK general election in May and Greece’s bailout referendum earlier this month producing results somewhat at odds with the pollsters’ predictions. Having moved to my present home in East Sussex less than four months ago, I am still at the stage of meeting local people for the first time and being asked what I do for a job. When I mention my work for CIB, in the great majority of cases, the reaction has been along the lines of, “I think we should leave the EU too; good on you!” or similar. This in and of itself by no means proves that the pollsters are wrong, however. Rural East Sussex cannot be taken as representative of the UK as a while and even if supporters of withdrawal really are more numerous than they appear in surveys, there is no room for complacency.

Having said this, however, there is good reason to believe that quite a lot of support for “in” is actually quite soft. The more detailed analyses of UK public opinion which go beyond the simple in/out question find very little support for closer integration. A poll by Ipsos Mori back in October of last year showed that while support for remaining in the EU stood at 61% excluding “don’t knows”, only 14% supported closer economic and political union. Even though support for staying in the EU has increased still further since then, there are still only a small minority of people who want to see further powers surrendered to Brussels.

So, to put it another way, potential support for voting to leave could be as high as 86% if it were made clear that there is no status quo on offer. It is either closer political integration or withdrawal. The dream of ever closer union is still alive and kicking on the Continent, as François Hollande, the French President, made clear over the weekend. “What threatens us is the lack of Europe, not the excess of it,” he said in a speech at an event to celebrate the 90th birthday of Jacques Delors. He went on to talk of accelerating the process of integration within the Eurozone – a common budget for the single currency areas and a separate parliament too – or at least, separate sessions of the European Parliament exclusively for the MEPs whose nations use the Euro. Of course, this is only one man’s opinion – and one man who is very likely to be booted out of office in the next French presidential election, but it was sufficient to elicit a response from Magdalena Andersson, Sweden’s finance minister, who felt concerned that Sweden (and by implication, the other EU member states who still use their national currencies) could be relegated to second class members of the EU.

But is there any alternative? The concept of a “two-speed Europe” has been touted for some years and for all the competing visions of how to move forward and the lack of enthusiasm for closer integration among the populations of some Eurozone states, including France for that matter, there are enough politicians within the governments of the Eurozone countries itching to press on with the primary agenda of the EU – the creation of a federal superstate. They are not prepared to wait for Sweden to decide whether or not it ever wants to adopt the Euro and they do not wish the UK to slow down the process either.

What looks likely is that some form of “associate membership” may be offered to the UK. What it would involve is not totally clear, but it will inevitably be a far inferior relationship to the EU than the EEA/EFTA option. It could well be designed in such a way as to inculcate a sense of inferiority among the non-Euro members in the hope that it will encourage them to join the “vanguard”. It could be far closer to “government by fax” than the former Norwegian premier Jens Stoltenberg’s infamous parody of his country’s relationship with the EU.

To put it another way, “associate membership” would be rather like travelling down a slow, bumpy country lane in a clapped out old banger while the “vanguard” cruise along the autobahns in their sports cars. The duration and quality of the journey on the two roads are very different, but neither route allows you to spend long in lay-bys. You have to keep moving towards the destination whether you travel slowly or quickly (although there will be a few side-roads allowing quick access onto the autobahn from the narrow road) and more importantly, whether you switch to the fast road or continue bumping along the farm track in your banger, THE DESTINATION OF BOTH ROADS IS THE SAME. In other words, an opt-out from ever-closer union is utterly meaningless.

This is the key point – joining the EU means joining a project that has only ever had one goal. Economics comes second to the political objective of creating the United States of Europe and this is where the withdrawalist campaign can, with a good campaign, whittle away at the “soft” supporters of continuing UK membership. I have yet to see the results of any poll asking these people why they want to vote to stay in, but it would be a pretty reasonable assumption that, for many of them, the answer would most likely be, “to keep my job”, “because we need to trade with the rest of the EU”, “I’m nervous about a step into the unknown”, “I’ve been offered an Erasmus scholarship” or “I want to continue living by the Mediterranean and I’m worried I would be forced to return to cold, grey England if we left the EU.” In other words, their big concerns revolve around issues which are peripheral to the aim of the EU. Convince them that there is an “out” option that will address their concerns while at the same time allowing the country to escape from a political project which few believe in and support for staying in the EU will peel away. Or course, we must also convince voters that the idea of keeping the level of EU interference at its current level is a non-starter. It’s either more EU or goodbye EU. Those supposedly hard-won derogations are only humps in the road. They slow your progress but they don’t force you to stop, let alone turn back.

The EEA/EFTA option fits the bill precisely. It also has the advantage of being practical rather than aspirational. Not only have “aspirational” books and leaflets made unrealistic claims (for instance, “Leave the EU and we can control immigration”, or “Leave the EU and we can slash regulation”) but your aspirations – in other words, your picture of what you would like an Independent UK to look like 10 years after we leave, whether or not it is achievable – may be very different from mine. Withdrawalists are united on regaining our sovereignty and in opposing the unaccountability of the EU structure. This in itself is sufficient to provide plenty of “sunlit uplands” and avoids focussing on issues which only divide supporters of withdrawal.

There is, however, one potential pitfall. Plans for closer Eurozone integration and the alternative of “associate membership” may be developed in such a way as to replace the EEA altogether. Richard North flagged this possibility up on his blog last month. Within the EEA agreement, there is provision under Article 127 for members to withdraw on 12 months’ notice. In other words, if all 28 EU countries simultaneously gave notice to quit, there would no longer be an EEA. Whether there is some sort of cunning plan being hatched in Brussels to force Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein into the EU by pulling the EEA rug from under their feet we cannot say as the discussions are being held behind closed doors. However, in the same article, Dr North shows that there is a way of maintaining a “shadow EEA” arrangement if this is indeed the EU’s plan which will avoid being forced into associate membership. With Iceland’s government distinctly unenthusiastic about EU membership and Norway boasting a strong and well-organised anti-EU movement, any attempt to shoehorn these countries into the EU through sheer naked coercion will be fiercely resisted and the shadow EEA idea will no doubt be widely canvassed.

All this is still speculation at the moment, but a quick move to a two-speed Europe with the UK of necessity in the slow lane must surely cause many of those who favour a status quo to realise that it isn’t going to be an option. A vote to stay in means more integration, however much David Cameron’s sham renegotiations will leave us lagging behind the federalist front-runners in the Eurozone.

Countering EU Spin, Fear and Negative Campaigning

The use of spin, (hyperbole, selective information, dubious comparisons, endless simplistic repetition etc.) and deceit to mislead, and negative political campaigning, that almost exclusively attacks opponents to induce fear or distract the electorate, says a great deal about the perpetrators. In particular such behaviour shows that they have contempt for truth, voters, and democracy which exist only to be manipulated to serve their own ends. It also demonstrates intellectual laziness and a lack of competence at delivering high standards of performance for the People; results usually speak louder than empty or shallow words. They have also ignored or discounted the effects of such behaviour on performance of government and enterprise both of which work better and more efficiently if elements of professional integrity, trust, honesty, and self-imposed restraint are present.

Unfortunately, in the forthcoming referendum on membership of the EU there is a high probability the staying IN the EU camp, with its plentiful political and ruling class representation, will make extensive use of these methods. After all, these techniques have been shown to work in politics and can cover up the weak case for continuing EU membership, with its obvious and painful disadvantages, by resorting to shallow fallacies, misleading the electorate and spreading concocted fear of leaving. The following are suggested as the basis for specific and more detailed countermeasures that could be available to the more poorly financed and resourced OUT campaign:

Verification and Logical Analysis – The use of spin, deceit and negative campaigning can only work if they are accepted as being true or reliable, that the electorate can have confidence in them, probably through impartial verification from elsewhere, experience etc. Where this empirical verification does not exist, or can be challenged, then use of such tactics will undermine their proponents, especially where they have a previous record of similar less than reputable methods.

Spin by its very nature is superficial. Analysis, drilling down into the detail, comparison with a wider view or actual evidence can reveal its shortcomings, contradictions and unreality.

Real raison d’être – Where the ends are thought to justify the less than reputable means, it would be helpful to understand and expose the real motives or reasons; vested interests in particular. For the professional politician it could be a case of putting ideology, party, promotion and power before principles and people. For Big Business, especially those of the ruling establishment, it could be a case of taking a very narrow, even monopolistic, self-interested or historical, perspective which does not consider effects on the whole economy or wider national interest; underlying feelings of patriotism, national identity and unique heritage may also be weak in an internationalised ‘Power Set’.

Spin side-effects – Spin negates the need to deliver actual results and restricts the ability to analyse and to think outside the ‘spin-box’; sloppy, vague and confusing language undermines clear, logical thought and rational ideas. George Orwell in Politics and the English Language wrote about political language being used to deceive, conceal the true horror and give substance to pure wind. He also pointed out its limiting or negative effect on ideas ‘English …… becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts.’ The side effects can be serious although the connection to spin etc. is subtle.

Fear mitigation – The positive case of leaving the moribund EU is strongly advantageous and as a sovereign country we would be better placed to mitigate problems and risks as they arise, in some cases in voluntary co-operation with others. Remaining within the EU is the riskier and constraining proposal. Over the years the EU’s institutions, Eurocrats and political actors have shown repeatedly that they are unable to act quickly and appropriately in our interests, for example, on economic, security and migration issues; it is all a slow, cumbersome, disjointed, secretive and attenuating process. They have also created serious otherwise avoidable problems, such as the common currency, the Euro and bureaucracy. Giving the EU carte blanche over us is ‘throwing caution to the EU wind’.

Sham and Distraction Alert – Expose the reality, exaggerations, unsupported claims, misrepresentations and other efforts to create something of substance out of nothing more than spin. Great claims for renegotiation success are likely to be nothing more than shams of little worth. Distractions are likely to be used to divert attention from the positive case for leaving, continuing EU crises and the really important issues facing our country and us individually.

The EU Dream (and nightmare) – The ‘devil is in the detail’ of any holistic EU-centric vision of the future, in particular the practicalities of delivery and its supposed benefits. The detail from Europhiles could display ‘pie in the sky’ naïve emptiness, cliché and muddled, narrow thinking. How will an EU-future facilitate individual liberty, democracy, justice (including the rule of law and social justice) and free enterprise based prosperity? So far the EU hasn’t changed its ‘dead hand’ ways, which are holding back our traditionally hugely talented and dynamic country.

The Positive Leaving Case – The most powerful antidote to negative fear-inducing spin is, probably, cogent presentation of the positive case for leaving the EU and the status quo, for example Selling the Dream – the Case for Leaving the EU now and A Simple Approach for Considering EU Membership.

Olive Branch – Conversions from the fanatical or fantasist IN camp are more likely and easier when treated with magnanimity and acceptance. Reconciliation will obviously strengthen our country’s capabilities in the years ahead and there are many causes that can unite our diverse opinions and backgrounds.

Our country deserves much better than cynical machinations and manipulations by our rulers determined to retain EU membership. It is a truly worthy cause to help liberate the aspirations and great potential of a free, sovereign, democratically governed people.

Photo by russellstreet