Category Archives: European Union

Dan Hannan On The European Union

Dan Hannan On The European Union

Still Funny?

Still Funny?

I’d like to introduce you to some of the groups who have just been elected to the European parliament.

Say “Hello” to the Front National.   It’s leader, Marine Le Pen had to censor her own father when he suggested that the easiest way to “sort out” Europe’s “immigration issue” would be Ebola.  Yes, that delightful flesh-eating disease.  He said it would “sort it out” in “three months.”  It’s the first time i’ve heard an immigration policy suggestion which included a pandemic as a useful tool.  This is the same guy who called the Nazi gas chambers a “small detail.”

“Through clever and constant application of propaganda, people can be made to see paradise as hell, and also the other way round, to consider the most wretched sort of life as paradise.”- Famous Quote*

Say “Hello” to Germany’s National Democratic Party.
Their entire campaign is based on “stopping immigration.”  Sound familiar?  Of course, they’ll tell you that “being opposed to immigration is not racist” and no doubt they’re right.  The fact that their banners occasional refer to their ideology of “National Socialism” and that they have said in interviews that Europe is a: “Continent of white people” is probably nothing to worry about.  Peace in our time.

The broad masses of a population are more amenable to the appeal of rhetoric than to any other force. – Famous Quote*

Say “Hello” to Greece’s Golden Dawn.
Their main spokesman has a swastika tattoo.  But that’s probably just irony.  Or a misspent youth.  After all, pleasant well-adjusted youths often rush out to have swastikas tattooed on them, don’t they?  Their supporters spend a lot of time vandalising mosques, synagogues and cemeteries.  Their 2012 election slogan was the tasteful: “rid this land of filth.”  But no, no, they’re definitely not nazis.  They say so, so it must be true.

“Anyone who sees and paints a sky green and fields blue ought to be sterilized” – Famous Quote

Say “Hello” to the Danish People’s Party.
The party’s founder Pia Kjærsgaard holds the view that Denmark is not a country where immigration is natural or welcome.  In response to criticise from Sweden, she retorted: “If they want to turn Stockholm, Gothenburg or Malmö into a Scandinavian Beirut, with clan wars, honour killings and gang rapes, let them do it. We can always put a barrier on the Øresund Bridge.”  That’s just what Europe needs, that is.  Big barriers.  And big walls.  That always works.

“I use emotion for the many and reserve reason for the few.” – Famous Quote*

Say “Hello” to the Netherland’s Party Of Freedom.
Geert Wilders party didn’t do quite as well as some of the others, but they still have four MEPs. Geert campaigns to end all Muslim immigration to the Netherlands and “repatriate” Muslims currently living there.  This week, he said. “Do you want more or less Moroccans in this city and this country?”
To chants of “Less! Less!” he replied: “We’ll arrange that.”  The word “arrange” in this context gives me a cold chill.  But that’s probably just the wind.

“The very first essential for success is a perpetually constant and regular employment of violence.” – Famous Quote*

Say “Hello” to Hungary’s Jobbik.
Well, if it hasn’t been creepy enough yet, get a load of this lot who have three MEPs.  Members have called for the country’s Jewish inhabitants to sign a special register.  “I think such a conflict makes it timely to tally up people of Jewish ancestry who live here, especially in the Hungarian Parliament and the Hungarian government, who, indeed, pose a national security risk to Hungary,” the party’s deputy parliamentary leader, Márton Gyöngyösi said.  Nothing menacing there then.

Say “Hello” to Austrian Freedom.
Anybody know why so many of these neo-Nazi fruitloops feel the need to add “freedom” into their name?  It’s a bit like the way they keep telling us they are “not racist” – as though repeating the mantra over and over will make it true.  Austrian Freedom gained around a fifth of the vote for its anti-immigration platform. It doubled the number of MEPs, from two to four and says it hopes to form an alliance with the Front National. The party is fiercely anti-Muslim immigration, and believes Austria should not accept any more migrants. But don’t worry.  They are definitely not racist.  Strache says he himself is not a racist because he “eats kebabs.”  So that’s okay then.

“The great masses of the people will more easily fall victims to a big lie than to a small one.” – Famous Quote*

Say “Hello” to Lega Nord from Italy.
The party gained 6% of the vote in Italy. Nobody seems to know much about them.  But one of the old MEPs has a quote which is doing the rounds and which seems to suggest something about their style.  “Africa hasn’t produced great geniuses as anyone can see from a Mickey Mouse encyclopaedia.”  Apparently, an entire Continent has produced no geniuses.  My advice would be to look somewhere other than a Mickey Mouse encyclopaedia.

“If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed.” – Famous Quote*

Meanwhile, Great Britain booted out Nick Griffin of the BNP.  And elected a whole bunch of mini-me Nick Griffins in his place?  Hurrah!  Hurrah for “Common Sense.”    Just wait until they all start rubbing shoulders.  Won’t it be nice?  We can make “lists” of certain types of people, then “arrange” what to do with them.  It’ll be just like old times.  Just not our old times.  But never mind.  As long as the LibLabCon** get a kicking, any price is worth paying. Right?

The leader of genius must have the ability to make different opponents appear as if they belonged to **one category. – Famous Quote*

britannia-sad

* All the quotes in this blog post come from Adolf Hitler, whose lunatic words should be helping us spot fascists and their ploys.  But if you don’t learn from history you are doomed to keep repeating it.

Variations On A Theme

Variations On A Theme

I was glancing at the ballot paper picture on Elliott Johnson’s excellent blog post today.  As Elliott pointed out, there are a lot of UKIP clones and cast offs appearing.  Plus other strangeness.  Curiosity piqued, I did a bit of research into some of the other weird and wonderful offerings that voters have the option to choose.

“An Independence From Europe”
– UK Independence Now
These guys seem to be based around Mike Natrass MEP, who UKIP deselected as a Candidate, and ousted UKIP Member Chris Pain, who dramatically and colourfully fell out with his party last year and formed a break-away group.  Other than the clever plot to get to the top of the ballot paper, I’m not sure how they are any different to UKIP, except maybe angrier.  If such a thing is even possible.  They have a YouTube video here, which uses a War Of The World spoof of sorts.  It’s pretty amateur looking and the start is silly, but they’ve had a good go at it, I guess.  Interesting that they say they will “take the UK out of the EU without a referendum” and “scrap VAT.”  Neither are powers available to MEPs, but hey ho.

“British National Party”
– Because we can make Britain better
The British National Party, withering away as their members are sucked to UKIP and elsewhere, are still trying to cling on.  They want to “make Britain better.”  Luckily, they’re never going to get the opportunity to enforce their vision of a “better Britain” on the rest of us.  Thank God.

“English Democrats”
– “I’m English. Not British. Not EUropean.”
I don’t really get the English Democrats.  I’ve tried, but I can’t get my head around it.  You can be proud to be English, or British, or whatever you like.  But what’s the point of being so insular about it?  We have a long history with the Welsh and the Irish and the Scottish – why all this xenophobic dislike for people who are an intrinsic part of our shared past?

“Harmony Party”
– Zero immigration. Anti-EU. Pro-Jobs.
This one cracks me up.  ZERO immigration.  Zero?  No new person is ever, ever, ever allowed to come and live or work here? Ever?  Luckily, they are also “pro Jobs”.  Because all the other parties just hate jobs, right?  #facepalm  They have no website, there’s virtually no information about them.  Not sure I’d have chosen the name “Harmony Party” if I was running on that ticket.  Maybe “North Korean Appreciation Society” or something?

No2EU -Yes To Democracy
Are you getting deja vu yet?  There’s definitely a theme developing here. :)  What makes this bunch interesting is that they “oppose nationalisation and support Workers Rights.”  So they are a further left version of UKIP.  They want to leave the EU, but only after a referendum.  So, sort of like Labour, if they supported the Conservative’s referendum.  Which they don’t.

The Christian People’s Alliance
On its website, the party says the EU must be reformed to reflect the “Christian vision” of its founders and unless this happens, the UK should seek to leave.  So they want a reform attempt followed by a referendum?  Sounds familiar.  After all the arguments about whether or not the UK is a Christian country, it seems they want a debate about whether or not Europe is a Christian continent!  :)  Controversial stuff.

Socialist Party Of Great Britain
The party says it will be campaigning for common, democratic ownership of public services, the abolition of property rights and an end to inequality.  So a vote for them is a vote to lose the ownership of, well, all the stuff you own?  I can see that going down well on the campaign trail.

Britain First
Another candidate in the “who can look the grumpiest” competition.  On its website, the party promises to promote a “robust and confrontational” message about the need to leave the European Union, end immigration and put British workers first. Candidates: Fielding candidates in Scotland and Wales only.  So a bit more patriotic xenophobia, coupled with some good old price and movement controls.  Very retro!  Having fund-raised the money to stand their website says: “The leadership sends our deepest thanks to our army of supporters for helping us reach our target.”  An army of supporters?  An army?  But, but … I thought UKIP were the “People’s army?”  Handbags at dawn, I say.

The Peace Party
You’d think, given the names, there might be some cross-over with the aforementioned “harmony party.”  No such thing.  The party supports the UK’s continued membership of the the European Union, which it says is a “force for peace”, but urges the EU to be more pro-active. On its website, it also calls for a living wage and all foreign troops to be withdrawn from Afghanistan.  So it’s more like competition for the Lib Dems.  I feel a bit sorry for the Lib Dems – they could really do without competition giving the electoral kicking that most people think is coming for them.

Communities United
On its party website, Communities United says it is campaigning for reform of council tax and business rates and a university education for all.  I have some questions.  First of all, what has council tax and business rates to do with the EU.  Council tax is set but – um – Councils.  Business rates set by parliament and collected by councils.  Also, what if somebody doesn’t want a “university education?”  Are they going to compel them to go?

4 Freedoms
The party is vowing to give London a “strong voice” within the EU. On its website, it commits to aligning its MEPs with the European People’s Party, the largest grouping in the European Parliament. Fielding candidates in London only.  Which is a shame, because I’d liked to have seen them field a candidate somewhere like Liverpool and still beat the Lib Dems. :)

Socialist Equality Party
The European Union should be replaced by a United Socialist States of Europe, the party says, with “workers’ governments” and an end to the “age of austerity”.   Designed for the militant who wakes up in the morning and says: “Do you know what?  Ed Miliband just isn’t Socialist enough.”  This lot are about as Left Wing as you can get before you fall off the edge of the world.

We Demand a Referendum Now Party
At its launch, the party said it had just one policy, to force a referendum on EU membership. On its party website, it says the debate must be settled “once and for all”.  You have to admit, they are the party who can best be described as “what it says on the tin.”  But still not as radical as “An Independence From Europe” who don’t even want to bother asking the people before they leave.

Liberty GP Party
Yes, it’s getting pretty dull to hear the same thing over and again.  But here we go.  On its website the party says it is campaigning for withdrawal from the EU, the repeal of existing EU laws, the abolition of the Human Rights Act and legislative guarantees for freedom of speech.   I guess that means they are not quite the same as UKIP then, who are presently apparently calling for people who criticise them to be arrested.  (Steve has sudden vision of being carted off by the Old Bill.)

Pirate Party
Actually, I’m not going to take the mick.  I have a soft spot for the Pirate Party.  “All institutions, including the EU, should be more transparent and accountable,” the party believes. It also wants EU data retention and intellectual property rights directives to be repealed.

Yorkshire First
One of my personal favourites this.  Yorkshire First says it is campaigning for a stronger voice for the region in national and European politics and more devolution, including … a Parliament for Yorkshire. If any more bits of the country threaten to break off and become autonomous we may have to rethink the old Feudal system,  :)  Crop rotation, anybody?

YOURvoice
YOURvoice is pledging to deliver “a better democracy”. It states that constituents will be able to vote online to directly influence how its MEPs represent them in the European Parliament.  Now I know I’ve read a sci-fi novel about this one! :)  Exactly what the world needs is  the electronic empowerment of the Tyranny Of The Masses with all that completely incorruptible data empowering people in positions of power to enact any populist policy at the whim of the people – and the media.  Joy.

Roman Party
Campaigns for increasing knowledge of the Romans’ contribution to modern Britain.  Okay then.  Good for them.  Also, an end to injustice and greater educational opportunities.  But not world peace, apparently.

Gorefield Public Meeting

Gorefield Public Meeting

Just over a week ago I was asked to organise a Public Meeting and Campaign Session for all seven of the Conservative MEP candidates for our region – and I had to do it (a) within a week and (b) on a Bank Holiday Monday!  Cue lots of pulling out hair and general panic on my part.  Particularly since I was doing this in the middle of a by-election campaign in the same area and that our MP, Steve Barclay, was also going to attend.

Never mind, we got there.  The candidates wanted to come to Roman Bank so I booked the village hall in Gorefield and then set about delivering hundreds of flyers to let people know it was on.  I had no idea what to expect – it’s not easy to get people to come to a political campaign meeting at the best of times, let alone on a Bank Holiday and let alone when it’s lovely and sunny!

In fact the hall was nearly full.  We had 67 attendees, plus the candidates.  The format was a short presentation by each candidate followed by a question and answer session with the audience.  A number of interesting questions were asked and the MEPs were well received by an interested and intelligent audience.

After this, the Candidates joined local Conservative candidate Samantha Clark on a mass canvass through Gorefield.  We were joined by two dozen Conservative activists and this meant we were able to roll effectively through the entire main area of the village taking in the High Road, Back Road, St Marks Road, Churchill Road and the Oxfield Drive Estate before we ran out of time.  Of course, we’ve already canvassed all these roads several times, but it’s nice to revisit houses where you didn’t catch anybody home and try and talk to the ones you missed last time.

After this we all decamped to Wetherspoons in Wisbech for a very pleasant lunch.  Then the team moved to the Market Square to talk to pedestrians and shoppers and generally to mingle.  I think some folk were surprised to see their MP, all seven of the Eastern Conservative MEP candidates and so many activists, but the reactions were friendly and engaged.

I then left the MEP team to get on with their road show and headed back into Roman Bank; specifically Newton and the long difficult Sutton Road stretch.  Only a few days to go until the By-Election and every second counts.  I’ll be glad, come the small hours of Friday morning, when this latest one is over and I can have a rest.  And hopefully, good people of Roman Bank be willing, a celebratory drink.  Fingers crossed.

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Campaign team outside Wisbech Market Place.

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Local Conservatives & Friends

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Steve Barclay listening to resident

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Chatting as the meeting hall begins to fill.

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Steve Barclay MP, prospective Councillor Samantha Clark,
David Campbell-Bannerman MEP

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Samantha Clark, thrown in the deep end! :) :)
MEP Candidates, Steve Barclay MP and Samantha Clark.

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Steve Barclay MP with some of the MEP candidates.

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You can’t have a meeting without tea!

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Steve Barclay MP and Vicki Ford MEP – involved in some debate!

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Cllr Garry Tibbs

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Cllr Samantha Hoy & James Barker

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An “action shot” – :) :)  Canvassing in Gorefield High Street

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The Conservative cohort and Friends outside the hall.

No Ifs, No Buts

The Prime Minister couldn’t have been clearer on Monday night’s call: any government he leads will hold an in-out referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU in 2017.

No ifs, no buts. As he said to the thousands of supporters on the line, he will not be Prime Minister of a government unless it carries out this commitment to hold an in-out referendum.

And this commitment is at the heart of our European Election campaign. It’s on our leaflets, it’s on our party political broadcasts – and now, it’s on our posters.

 

European Election campaign poster

 

From tomorrow, this image will be going up on billboards and digital adverts around the country – but I wanted you to see it first. Please share the poster on Facebook and Twitter and let everyone know: while Labour and the Lib Dems won’t give you a say, and UKIP can’t give you a say, the Conservatives can and will give you the in-out referendum Britain needs.

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Thanks, SignatureLynton Crosby Election Campaign Director If you want a referendum, donate £10 to our campaign today.


To opt out of messages from David Cameron and the Conservatives, send a blank message to this address Promoted by Alan Mabbutt on behalf of the Conservative Party, both at 4 Matthew Parker Street, London, SW1H 9HQ

Choosing Our MEP Candidates

Choosing Our MEP Candidates

Conservative members of three months standing or more should have received their ballot papers by now for selection of Conservative candidates for next year’s European elections.  I thought I’d do a brief run-down of those involved and my thoughts about them.  This is purely a personal position and has no bearing on any other group or body I am affiliated with.

First – where we are.  This is a map of the regions for the purposes of electing MEPs.

mep_map

Here in Wisbech we are in the Eastern region, as is the whole of Cambridgeshire.  Our region elects seven MEPs of which four are presently Conservative; Vicky Ford, Geoffrey Van Orden, Robert Sturdy and David Campbell Bannerman (the latter of which defected from UKIP.)  There is one Labour MEP, Richard Howitt.  One Liberal Democrat, Andrew Duff.  And one UKIP, Stuart Agnew.

What will happen next year depends on what school of thought you follow.  Some optimists think the Conservatives may, with hard work and a strong campaign, take an additional seat or even two.  Others think we might stay roughly the same.  Pessimists think it likely that we’ll lose some vote share in favour of UKIP and Labour, which may leave us with only two (or maybe even only one if its a truly horrible day) MEPs.  So this vote for our candidates matters very much, because it sets the order in which the candidates fall on the list.  The voting system delivers a number of candidates based on how many votes the party gets and they are elected based on that list position which you are setting with your choices on the ballot.

First thing you’ll see is that two candidates are pre-selected based on their performance in the process thus far.  These are Vicky Ford and Geoffrey Van Orden.  You still need to vote on them as you will be choosing which is “number one” and which is “number two” on the list.  After this you have six further candidates, of which only five can be selected.  You can choose up to five candidates by marking X in the appropriate box on your ballot sheet.  You don’t have to choose five though, you can pick any number up to five if you prefer not to use all your votes.

Now if you believe that the likely result is three victorious Conservatives or less you can see how important this vote is.  Who gets that important third slot is a big deal.  If you believe we might take a fourth slot, then that slot also becomes important.  Bear in mind that you might presume to know what is going to happen – i’ve heard all sorts of theories bandied around – but if a week is a long time in politics, a year is forever.  Anything could happen.  So don’t presume!

I wont go over Vicky Ford or Geoffrey Van Orden’s credentials here today.  In my view they are both solid, hard-working and genuine Conservatives who have done us proud over their terms of elected office.  I’m glad to see them both at the top of the list.  What i’ll do today is to run over the other six, briefly, with some commentary that I hope you find useful.  Remember, this is my personal view only.  Nothing more.

David Campbell Bannerman

I rather like Mr Campbell Bannerman.  He’s very eloquent and on the occasions where I’ve heard him speak I’ve been impressed by his depth of knowledge and his willingness to “tell it like it is.”  The controversy, of course, is that he came from UKIP.  So on the one hand there are people who are worried that if he’s not selected with a fairly high ranking this sends a message to other likely UKIP defectors which might discourage the practice in future.  But on the other there are people who wonder why he should get an easy ride when there are sound and loyal Conservative candidates who have never dallied with those on the purple side of the fence.  For myself, I will be judging based on what I know of the man himself, rather than on how many years he’s served as a grass roots member.  We are, after all, electing candidates for a very senior body.  We need to be choosing strong candidates.  And wherever else he has been, I do think he is a strong candidate.

Jonathan Collett

I know next t0 nothing about Jonathan Collett other than the couple of pages of pretty generic stuff in the ballot booklet.  Now he could have made the effort to communicate with members – some of the other candidates have.  But if he’s made such an attempt, I haven’t seen it.  He was a press secretary for Michael Howard, apparently.  He’s also worked as a “Public Relations Practitioner”, a “Well-Known Regulator” and a “Major Industry Trade Group.”  Having checked it out, it appears that the “Well-Known Regulator” he has worked for is the Press Complaints Commission.  All of which would put me right off of him were it not for the fact that he was also a Director of the Euro-sceptic Bruges Group.  That last, at least, is a pretty good indicator in my view.  At least it proves he’s not a blind Europhile, ready to sell us down the river to the Brussels for the cost of a nice office and a good pension.  But even so, for a man who seems to be all about communication and public relations – why haven’t I heard from him before now?

John Flack

John has been around a while.  He is one of those really sturdy grass roots campaigners who gets out and does the legwork year after year.  I have a lot of time for him.  I’ve run into him on different campaign trails over the years and there is no doubt that he is a man of conviction, dependable and energetic.  In short, John Flack is a real Conservative of the old school.  I always enjoy the pun on his name that lets him name his website: “Give Europe Flack.”  It might even be argued that he got a bit of a raw deal in the last European elections, though this is water under the bridge.

Cllr. Tom Hunt

Tom Hunt is the one on the right. : )
Tom is the youngest candidate and many people know him both for his solid campaigning and his positive upbeat approach to politics.  He is the son of the well-respected councillor Bill Hunt, though he has certainly cut his own powerful record in local government.  What is interesting about Tom is that he is fairly plain-spoken when asked about his position on the EU Referendum.  He says that, barring a very powerful renegotiation, he would vote to leave.  I don’t know about you, dear reader, but I find that damn refreshing.  Now I’m a fan of candidate diversity – I like to see a mixture of young and old, men and women, folk from different walks of life.  What I like about Tom is that not only does he tick a number of important boxes, you don’t have to talk with him for long to realise how strong a candidate he is.  Intelligent and direct, but also likeable and relaxed in a way that so few people manage, I feel Tom Hunt would make an outstanding candidate for a high position on our list.

Gagan Mohindra

Gagan is another of those candidates who has either made little effort to talk to the membership, or who has managed to miss me while doing so.  Either way, I don’t know a lot about him.  In his blurb he talks a lot about “rolling back the steamroller that is the European Union” and yet, reading between the lines, he is clearly a supporter of “staying in.”  I’m not a big fan of folk who play the Eurosceptic card while actually propping up the failing institution.  On the plus side, from what little I can find out about him he sounds like a “people person” which is good.  We do need to elect folk who want to listen, rather than folk who just want to talk.  Apparently he’s a councillor for a ward called: “Grange Hill” (in Epping Forest) which, being the age I am, I found amusing.  But I digress.

Margaret Simons

Margaret says: “I believe in British sovereignty and a strongly renegotiated settlement rejecting the path to ever closer union…” and then some more stuff that marks her, in my mind at least, as a Europhile.  She does say most of the generic stuff about “a new relationship with Europe” that we’ve heard plenty of times before and I have no reason to think she doesn’t mean every word of it.  I just think the time of playing gently with Brussels is over and that, where the EU is concerned, we need to be choosing candidates who are prepared to do battle – and leave if need be.  That said, Margaret has built up a respectable campaign history – and in Luton, of all places.  So she must know a thing or two about playing hard ball.

Tricky Voting
So, on the one hand you can “play it straight” and simply make five X marks next to candidates you like.  This means that in reality you are voting for everybody except one candidate who, for one reason or another, you don’t favour.  The alternative is to not use all five of your votes.  This may seem like you are wasting your votes but this is not necessarily so.  You may consider that you are using your votes tactically.  There is nothing wrong with this – the system allows you to use up to five votes for a reason.  It is precisely so you can express nuances of preference.  For instance – if you really, really liked one candidate you could just use your single vote for them and leave the other four choices blank.  This is powerful because everybody will have different favourites and if you use all five votes all you are really doing is saying “no” to one individual.  But if you use fewer votes, you are depriving some candidates of your mark.  When all is tallied up this is important.

For what its worth this is what I intend to do.  There are two candidates of these six who I think are particularly strong.  I intend to only vote for those two.  It is not that I have anything against the others.  I think they will all be fine choices, in their way.  But it is important to me that these two candidates are highly-placed and so I will use my vote to try and help that happen.  If there was only one candidate that I thought significantly stronger than the others, then I would only vote once.

I hope you’ve found some of my musing useful.  All these guys can be found with a bit of googling, if you fancy getting more information than the stuff in the election bumph.  But please (if you are a Conservative member) do take the time to vote, regardless of how you think next year’s Euro-elections might go, even if you don’t care much about the result of Euro elections at all.  I don’t know about you – but I think the EU is going to become a bigger issue, not a smaller one.  It is important that the Conservative party selects strong, bright characters to these positions of influential leadership.  It is by their actions and decisions that many of us are judged.

The Shoulder Devil’s Persuasive Voice

The Shoulder Devil’s Persuasive Voice

One of the things I’ve always found annoying about politics is this idea that you can never ever support things the opposition say or suggest.  When I was a county councillor there were many times I sat in group meetings where we all mulled over some forthcoming Liberal Democrat motion and debated what position we should take on it.  On a number of occasions I proposed that we support their motion, for the simple reason that it seemed pretty innocuous and I couldn’t see any reason not to.  I would make the point that we really didn’t need to oppose it since we broadly agreed with what they were saying.  Though a small number of colleagues supported me, the majority would gently remind me that they were, after all, Liberal Democrats and that this meant the motion would probably be some political equivalent of an elaborate trap.

Now, to be fair, the Lib Dems did bring this on themselves.  Although individually there were some very nice local Lib Dems, as a group they were a deceptive lot.  There were many occasions where they could take a predatory, “strategic” or just plain tricksy line in order to score political points.  They were relentlessly opportunistic and would take contradictory positions on the flip of a coin if it suited their goals.  But the point I always made was that this didn’t really matter.  We could simply make the case for why we supported their motion in part or in full and if they tried some shenanigans we would explain our side.  It may be that such behaviour, consistently held, would bring about a more frank debate.  You don’t know if you don’t try.  I rarely managed to convince the group about this – they just didn’t trust their opponents at all.  The trouble with the breakdown of trust is that it will never return if somebody doesn’t take the first step.

This Friday the House Of Commons will debate the framing of an EU Referendum into law and decide upon the issue.  I’ve been watching UKIPpers on Twitter sneer at this all week and it’s deeply depressing.   This is the party that keeps on telling people they are “different” to the Big Three, that swears they are a New Politics.  They aren’t any sort of new politics, they are exactly the same as every other political party or group – and this is a clear indication of that.

There are three reasons why UKIP seem to want to pull that unattractive “yeah, right,” face when the issue is raised.   Obviously, it worries them because – whistling in the dark aside – it is clearly going to have some effect on their support.  No, I’m not suggesting it will reverse the current situation, but to pretend it will have no effect whatsoever is deceptive.  Of course they will deny this first reason to their last breath.  The second reason, which they are happier to talk about, is that they want the referendum sooner than 2017.  Fair enough, though they haven’t explained how this could happen if Labour and the Liberals wont support it in parliament.  That would involve engaging with the real issue,rather than just making proclamations.  The third reason, which is the one trotted out most often and most loudly, is they doubt David Cameron’s willingness / ability / honesty / integrity on the issue.

But this is just like those situations I described where one party refuses to support the motion of another, not because they don’t agree with the principle, but because they have gotten so tied up in party political games, strategy and distrust that they can no longer support something that is patently right up their street.  The Houses of Parliament will debate putting an EU Referendum into law.  This brings the very issue for which the UK Independence Party was named to the very forefront of public debate, with a view to making the single most key item of their agenda a law of the land.  You would think  they would be swinging from the rafters and partying like its 2099.  You’d think, at the very least, that they’d be able to say: “We don’t like the shape of it or the timing of it, and we still don’t trust you, but good on ‘ya anyway.”  It wouldn’t take a lot and wouldn’t cause them to lose their mojo.

But they can’t, because they are caught in the exact same political web as everybody else.  The cynically bleak and gloomily myopic atmosphere of national politics has wrapped its cold arms about them.  They can’t hear the angel on one shoulder saying: “This is quite good, isn’t it.”   They are deaf in that ear.  But they can hear that devil on the other shoulder just fine. “It’s all lies,” he says.  And he has such a persuasive voice.

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Weak, weak, weak.

Weak, weak, weak.

I always hope for more, but each time the Liberal Democrats in national government get the chance they demonstrate that they picked exactly the right colour to represent their party.  The latest is that in the House Of Commons debate on the EU Referendum they are going to “abstain.”

Not come along and argue about it – apparently.  Oh no.  That would demonstrate some sort of backbone, at least.   No, instead they plan to “stay away.”  Good old Danny (Alexander, but I can call him ‘Danny’, or at least he hasn’t yet told me otherwise) has said today they: “Won’t be there.”  I can’t make up my mind if this is a “taking my ball and going home” situation, or a “I’ll be hiding in the bike sheds until the big boys are gone” scenario, but whatever it is it’s pretty darn pathetic.  Well, isn’t it?

Come on local Lib Dems!  Condemn this nonsense!  I mean, we have our differences, but you aren’t usually scared to make your case and fight your corner.  Your national leaders are making your party just look plain weak!  Even if you must abstain isn’t it at least right to come and engage in the debate and to explain to the House Of Commons and the public, in the proper way, why you are taking the position you’ve chosen?

Hat tip to the Kebab Time Blog for highlighting this lovely piece of old video, back when the Lib Dems weren’t afraid to say how they felt.  On this exact issue, oddly.  Just watch it and then compare to their current position.

I particularly love Nick Clegg attacking the other two parties for “bottling it” about giving the people a vote on membership of the EU, demanding that it is what the people want and so it should be what the people get.  Anybody who ever doubted that the Lib Dems will say anything they think will secure votes on any given day must surely find this illuminating.

The Case For A Referendum

It has been nearly 40 years since the British people last had their say on Europe. In that time, so much has changed – the countries involved, the powers devolved, the benefits and costs of membership. People feel that the EU is heading in a direction they never signed up for. It is right to negotiate a fresh settlement in the EU that is better for Britain – and then put the result to the British people in an in-out referendum by the end of 2017. This isn’t just a Conservative campaign – it’s for everyone who believes that we need a different relationship with the EU and that the British people deserve a say.

GIVE THE PEOPLE A VOICE!

62% of people believe we need a referendum on Europe, but some people and some parties don’t believe we should have a say.

WHY WE NEED A REFERENDUM

  • Europe has changed. More change is imminent.
  • People feel that the EU is heading in a direction that they never signed up for.
  • We need a fresh settlement that is better for Britain – based on fairness, flexibility and competitiveness.
  • We should let the British people have their say on that new settlement through an in-out referendum by the end of 2017.

HOW WE CAN MAKE THIS HAPPEN

Currently, only one of the main three political parties believes the British people deserve a say on Europe: the Conservatives. They are bringing forward a draft bill to legislate for an in-out referendum before the end of 2017, following a renegotiation. This bill will need the support of either Labour or Lib Dem MPs to pass. Some issues are bigger than party politics. It’s time to Let Britain Decide.

TAKE PART IN THE CAMPAIGN

Lobby your MP.  Write to the Fenland Citizen.  Download and share campaign graphics and posters.  All by clicking here:-

http://letbritaindecide.com/

 

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EU Referendum Dream Speech

EU Referendum Dream Speech

The rumour is out that David Cameron plans to promise a referendum on our EU membership – of some sort – after the next election.  The telegraph has it as a news story on its website.  People and pundits are suggesting it.  So, quite probably, it’s true.

David Davis MP says the public won’t believe the prime minister because his pledges on the issue have a  reputation of not being, how can I put it politely, not quite as strong as, say, cast iron.  He’s right, of course. Some will believe it, but many will expect some sort of fiddle down the line.  But this does not have to be the case.  If the speech and policy are framed correctly, this could be a truly amazing moment.  It probably wont be.  But it could.

So I was thinking – what would I really like the Prime Minister to say?  What speech would I urge him to give on the day that he announces the referendum – in whatever shape it is going to take.  Well, I can tell you, he will never in a million years give this speech.  But if he were to pluck a speech out of my elusive daydreams, this would be it:-

For some time now this country has been involved in an internal debate about our membership of the European Union.  Some people of every political persuasion and of none have looked critically upon aspects of our involvement.  From the way our legal system now works, to how we spend our limited resources.  From the cost of membership to the benefits of it.  From the way we buy and sell things to Europe and the rest of the world, to the way we handle our tariffs and taxes.  From who can come into our country, under what conditions, and for how long.

This matter is too important, too intrinsic and just too big for government to consider alone.  No wise committee, experienced diplomat, office of cabinet or Prime Minister has the ability – or the right – to take this decision alone.  It requires the wisdom, the courage and the experience of the British people as a whole to determine which path we shall tread.

It is for this reason that I propose to hold a referendum on our membership of the European Union.

I will not take a side in these discussions.  Not because I do not have a view.  Not because I want to sit on the fence.  Not because I am afraid of the issue.  But because I want the country to decide this and I do not wish to make it a directly party political issue.  This should not be for political grandees or party whips to decide.  I intend to give Conservative MPs a free vote on this.  Moreover, I encourage them to go out and make the case for what they believe, whatever it is, in or out, to the public and to their constituents, in the media and in parliament.

Let us have an open and frank discussion over the next two years.  Let this matter be aired and debated and discussed.  Let us hear those who would champion the European Union and our place within it, and those who would take it to task.  Let us take this important and passionate issue and air it once and for all so that when it comes time to vote we will all be able to take an informed, intelligent and considered view.

This referendum will not take place after the next election.  It will take place alongside the next election.  It will not feature three or four options in order to water down opinion, there will be only two.  Stay in and renegotiate, or leave.  We must discuss this issue like civilised adults, with full understanding that there will be consequences to our final decision – whatever that might be.

In two years time the British People will be asked to stand in line and cast a ballot and I hope turnout will be enormous and record-breaking.  Because make no mistake, we as a nation will be making a crucial decision about the future of our country and its place in the world.  We will vote whether to stay in the European Union or leave – and any Conservative-led government will stand by the will of the majority of British people as evidenced by that referendum.  Whatever it is they ask.   We will enact that decision promptly and decisively, whatever it is, safe in the knowledge that right or wrong, for better or for worse, this is the will of the people who this parliament, and this prime minister, serve.