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

Foreign Office’s “Sticky fingers” all over Queen’s speech in Germany

THE PRESS OFFICE OF                                                           

The Lord Stoddart of Swindon

(Independent Labour)                                                                                          


News Release


25th June 2015


Queen’s speech in Germany has “sticky fingers of the Foreign Office all over it” says Peer

The independent Labour Peer, Lord Stoddart of Swindon has expressed his disappointment with Her Majesty the Queen’s speech in Germany, on European unity, accusing the Foreign Office of using the Royal family as “pawns” in the pre-referendum debate.

Lord Stoddart said:  It is very unfortunate that the emphasis on European unity in the speech has led to speculation that Her Majesty was supporting the pro-EU side of the referendum debate.  The speech has the sticky fingers of the Foreign Office all over it and I believe it was a clumsy attempt by them to place the monarchy on the side of the UK remaining in the EU.

“The division in Europe referred to by Her Majesty in her speech derives from the chaotic nature of the EU and its attempts to extend its empire eastward while, at the same time, pursuing financial, economic and social policies within its borders that are leading to huge reductions in standards of living and rioting in some nation states.  The Foreign Office should beware of using the Royal Family as political pawns in the debate about this nation’s future as a member of the EU.

“Her Majesty should reflect on the fact that her status has been reduced to that of a European Union citizen, without so much as a by your leave.”


Mistaken Assumptions about the EU Referendum battle

1. Business supports staying in the EU. WRONG.
Many businessmen make speeches about the advantages of staying in the Single Market. It is perfectly possible to stay in the Single Market and leave the EU, as detailed in the FLEXCIT plan, supported by us. Businessmen do not make speeches about supporting any other part of the EU membership.

2. The referendum is about business. WRONG.
By staying in the Single Market there will be no change to jobs, investment or trade.

3. The referendum is about the UK’s trading arrangements. WRONG.
Staying in the Single Market means there will be no change to jobs, investment or trade. Deciding future trading arrangements will be done at a future date by the democratic discussion in an independent UK.

4. The alternatives are presented as staying in the EU as it is or leaving it for an unknown future. WRONG.
There is no option of staying in the EU as it is. The correct alternatives were put by Jacques Delors, in 2012:: “If the British cannot support the trend to more integration in Europe, we can remain friends
but on a different basis. I could imagine a form such as an European Economic Area or a Free
Trade Agreement.

5. The referendum is about whether or not Cameron’s reforms are satisfactory. WRONG.
The referendum is about ‘remain in’ or ‘leave’ the European Union, not choosing between an ‘unreformed’ and ‘reformed’ European Union.

6. A ‘remain in’ vote proved to be a blank cheque in 1975.
The British government took a ‘remain in’ vote as authority to push through numerous further treaties, further integration and loss of independence. A new ‘remain in’ vote is another blank cheque.

7. The referendum is about British influence and sitting at the ‘top table’. WRONG.
The UK is not, and does not want to be, a member of the inner core of the EU either in the eurozone or the Schengen agreement on open borders. This lack of involvement has not diminished British influence because the EU long ceased to be the ‘top table’ and is nowadays more a transmission belt for regulation from global bodies.

8. It is safe to stay in the European Union. WRONG.
Staying in the EU means the UK is involved in the eurozone crisis and the refugee/migration crisis in the rest of the EU. These crises arise from the supranational nature of the EU and can be termed ‘existential’. It also means that the UK voters proclaiming they are not concerned about these
crises are willingly giving up their strong opportunity to change matters. The EU institutions will conclude they can move towards much faster integration.

Deconstructing the case for staying in the EU

We have no eternal allies, and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual, and those interests it is our duty to follow. (Lord Palmerston)

Responding to arguments for staying IN the European Union in the forthcoming referendum will be difficult given the ‘YES’ campaign’s overwhelming ‘firepower’. It is likely that any direct rebuttal of YES claims, however weak and/or disingenuous these IN claims are, will go largely unheard; shut down immediately by much of the media or drowned out by noisy, on-message repetitions from YES supporters. Can anything be done by the OUT of the EU (NO) campaign to effectively expose and disabuse the weaknesses, inconsistencies, contradictions or duplicity of the YES case?

Any attempts to examine YES arguments need to include honest, precise, perceptive analysis and logical conclusions. These efforts should also present a better alternative and realistic implementation plan, and if possible, use the firepower of the YES campaign to validate this dissection. Obviously, just referring to a different politician, expert, news report or study etc. is inviting the YES campaign to respond in kind with their own of these and pile on more of the same using their vastly superior resources. Any examination that stands a chance of helping the electorate reach an informed judgement and further democracy needs to hit the YES arguments where they have difficulty arguing back directly, and if they, do it undermines their overall case.

Expose the missing elements – The YES campaign is likely to present arguments with important elements missing; they are being selective and the items missing are needed to complete the ‘Big Picture’. So, for example, the superficial sound-bite ‘at the heart of Europe’ (and development of this theme) is missing clarity as to what it actually means, why it is important and how best to achieve it compared with alternatives. Also claims that the EU has maintained peace in Europe are unlikely to explain how the EU’s bureaucracy deterred Soviet aggression or a prevented militaristic dictatorship in Germany.

‘Every silver lining has a cloud’ could also potentially be true. So, for example, the full story and downside may be missing as part of manipulating and deceiving the electorate, or through following secret agendas. The ultimate truth is admitted only as actions on the ground become visible and irreversible.

Find, understand and challenge underlying paradigms – A paradigm or conceptual framework, in this context, is the collection of ideology, aspirations, knowledge and assumptions that are present and influence a relevant analysis, action, opinion, policy and priorities, etc.. (The terms ‘paradigm’ and ‘paradigm shift’ were used by Thomas Kuhn in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, to explain how dramatic changes occur in science.) Highly influential paradigms relate to this country, the EU and the future.

One major UK focused paradigm predicating the YES case can be characterised by the decline, humiliation and failure of our country as a sovereign and trading nation – consequently we need membership of the EU whatever its shortcomings in order to stop or delay our national and economic decline, accept whatever humiliation the EU inflicts on us, and recognise we’d be failures (at almost everything) without subservience to the ‘benign’ EU. Unfortunately this paradigm is self-fulfilling when the Establishment manages this country in accordance with it, which is what they are actively doing.

One major EU focused paradigm predicating the YES case can be characterised by the More EU the Better (perhaps with some minor fine-tuning or renegotiation). Consequently, acceptable, or even desirable, are: more EU integration and homogenisation; EU expansion into different areas of centralised top-down control; loss of individuality and freedom; omission of democratic accountability and transparency; increase of injustice and redistribution of jobs/people; high levels of taxation, corruption and waste; implementing destructive EU favoured ideologies without compassion.

A YES campaign’s paradigm of the future is very much steady state – the future needs the slow moving, orthodox, grandiose and regimented solutions of the past (such as the EU) to fix its problems or create opportunities. Consequently, acceptable are fixing the wrong problems or ones that no longer exist; losing competitiveness, missing fast moving opportunities and being left behind; discouraging spontaneous, informal, voluntary initiatives and collaborations (outside official channels); creating unintended or unwanted societal and economic side effects.

There are major problems in the EU, not least political, economic and demographic. It is difficult to see how being a part of this grandiose and costly experiment to create a European Superstate is in our interests. Rudyard Kipling in The Elephant’s Child has given us the succinct questions to deconstruct the YES/IN campaign:

I keep six honest serving-men
(They taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who.

Photo by Horia Varlan

Spreading Alarm and Despondency amongst British Expats

Whilst we know that politicians are not on oath to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, they are not entitled to misinform people either recklessly or deliberately. This is particularly true for those who speak from a position of apparent experience or authority which lends weight to their views.

You would expect a lawyer and former Crown Law Officer to be aware of this responsibility. Yet Dominic Grieve, the former Attorney General and a practising barrister did not live up to this standard.

In the run-up to the election, the Guardian reported him saying that 2 million UK citizens working in the EU would become illegal immigrants overnight if Britain were to leave the EU. This is a massive untruth. People who have acquired rights of residence will still have those rights even if the EU treaties cease.

They are known as “acquired rights”, “executed rights” or “vested rights”. They are so firmly established that they have acquired the status of “customary law” which means that they stand as a fundamental principle of international law, not needing a specific treaty to confirm them. There is even a parliamentary briefing note about it, so Mr. Grieve has no excuse.

On 26 May I was surprised to see a report on RT (Russia Today) giving credence to this scare in a report about worried British expatriates living in France. Now RT is generally a far more sceptical reporter of EU affairs than the BBC but they seemed to have swallowed the British government story hook, line and sinker. There were some very distressed people with established businesses, fearful that they would be forced to leave and preparing to put their homes on the market.

We can expect much more of this style of panic mongering from the British government as the date for the British EU referendum approaches and it was surprising that RT had unwittingly stoked up unnecessary distress for these people.

There is a perfectly feasible way for the UK to leave the political structure of the EU and retain its trading and other relationships without any significant disruption. You can read it here and can listen to a half hour introduction it here

Photo by James O’Gorman

Cameron in a spot of bother

The European Union Referendum Bill was finally published by Philip Hammond, the Foreign Secretary, on 28th May. If you wish to read it in full, click on the link here. David Cameron seems determined to rush it through the Commons as quickly as possible. It has already passed its second reading, with only 53 MPs voting against.

However, he is already facing some bother from his MPs over the technical details. The procedures for referendums have not been as well developed as, for instance, the rules governing elections, which have evolved over a period of centuries. It was only 40 years ago that the first referendum, on whether we should remain in the EU, was held.

The biggest challenges he is facing revolve around the concept of “purdah” – a 28-day period before the actual referendum when ministers and civil servants are unable to make official announcements. This reduces the opportunities for one side to rig the debate. It was first introduced in 2000 and banned the publication of promotional material by central and local government in the 28 days prior to the holding of a referendum. Hammond tried to argue that it would be “unworkable” to expect ministers not to explain where the national interest lay in the referendum campaign or to continue their day-to-day business with the EU. However, he was challenged in a superb speech by Owen Paterson MP, who has emerged as David Cameron’s most vocal critic since the election.

Cameron also got into a muddle about whether members of the Government would either have to support him in selling his renegotiation strategy or resign. At first it appeared that this was what he was saying, but according to several newspapers. he claimed that his statement had been “over-interpreted” and that he was just talking about ministers having to abide by collective responsibility during the negotiation process. Several prominent Tories, including Boris Johnson, have argued for flexibility. “It would be safer and more harmonious” to allow those with different views to articulate them, he said. Meanwhile, Graham Brady, who chairs the 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers, said that, when the referendum campaign gets underway, “I would urge the Government to treat EU membership as a matter of conscience for front and backbenchers alike.”

A new grouping of Tory MPs has emerged which might further upset the Prime Minister. Led by Steve Baker, the MP for High Wycombe, Conservatives for Britain appears to belong to the “wait and see” camp that purports to support the renegotiations and will not declare their hand until they find out what deal Cameron has brought back. However it does appear that this group is setting the bar so high that there is no chance of their wish list being granted. Freedom to strike our own trade deals and the right of Parliament to throw out EU legislation will unquestionably be rejected by the other member states – not that Cameron has any intention of even bringing these subjects to the table.

What is clear is that Cameron’s desire to steamroller through a “yes” vote as quickly as he can is already causing cracks to appear in the solid wall of Tory unity that stood them in such good stead in the election campaign. At this stage, it is impossible to guess how many MPs will ultimately rebel and make a clear commitment to support withdrawal. They will certainly face great pressure from the whips, but we can but hope enough of them will put country before party to ensure that Cameron is unable to repeat Harold Wilson’s 1975 trick that he is clearly so wishing to emulate. He has clearly upset a good few of them already. Given that the general Election took place barely a month ago, this is a more promising start than many of us could have imagined.

As if that was not enbough, Labour has attacked him, not only over the “purdah” issue, but on his denial of the vote to 16- and 17-year 0lds. The SNP are also unhappy with the exclusion of 16- and 17-years olds as they were allowed ot vote in the Scottish independence referendum. The bill goes to the Committee stage next week. As Richard North argues, It is yet possible that an alliance between Labout, the SNP and those Tories unhappy with his steamroller tactics may inflict a defeat on the government, leaving Cameron’s strategy in tatters.

Photo by derekskey