Category Archives: European Union
Price To Pay
The Prime Minister and the Chancellor certainly have their detractors and always have had. People who hate them, really really hate them. But up until recently I suspect there was still a majority for a modicum of respect and a fair number who admired the work they have done. The election results last year would seem to support that.
But this EU Referendum Campaign – oh my goodness. They might as well have taken their records and ripped them up in the eyes of many people. There’s a lot of talk from the “Remain” camp suggesting that the “Leave” side have acted unfairly. But it seems like deflection to me.
Yes, the debate has been awful. Yes, it is dissolved into mutual scaremongering and escalating levels of guesstimate nonsense on both sides. But the abuse of their positions of authority and the sheer level of Project Fearness is off the scale on the “Remain” side, and this is led by the Prime Minister and the Chancellor.
You expect this from the left. From the likes of Polly Toynbee in the Guardian and Owen whatsisname – you know, the giant child who wants to make every news story about him. You expect it from the loopy back-to-the-Seventies current Labour “leadership” (and I use the term lightly.)
You expect it from those folks who are absolutely sure that because they have degrees in multiple ‘ologies they obviously know more ideal Government philosophies than somebody who works on an orchard, or in a shop, or on a factory floor. “People who are voting in are better educated,” they say, while eating an apple pie grown on an orchard, bought in a shop and cooked, processed and packaged on the factory floor. While they get their self-important arrogant technocracy head on they seem to forget the entire point of universal franchise. As though the diploma they were given by the elite institution they spent some time in is some magical talisman of all-knowing. And the rest of the world? It appears we are all just muggles to them.
If “Remain” win next week I have no clue how the pair will hold the warring sides of the Conservative party together. I just don’t think they will be able to. Their behaviour during the campaign has done an immense amount of damage. Despite many calls for “party unity” I simply can’t see how they will repair things. There is no good will left for them that I can detect. But if “Leave” wins – which it might – then they are finished, surely?
What a sad state of affairs. Who advised them to use these tactics? They would have done just as well, probably better, playing it honest and straight. All this negativity, the veiled threats, the increasingly desperate looking condemnation of people who don’t agree with them? It was completely the wrong tactic and there will be a price to pay. Probably more than one price.
Brexit The Movie
This is the full movie produced from Crowd sourced funds. Obviously it has its own bias, but its well put together and very interesting.
On The Wagon
Once Upon A Time, there was a group of men at the top of a mountain. They all wanted to get different places on the mountain, but the one thing they all had in common was that all the places they wanted to be were lower than the top.
The mountain was dangerous. There were thieves and highwaymen lurking in the shadows. The roads were treacherous and poorly-kept. There were sudden and frightening vast ravines and crumbling cliff faces. You could die.
The men decided there was safety in numbers and so when two of them, Kurt and Pierre, suggested travelling together the others agreed. It took a little work to get them to agree though. After all, the men were all quite different to one another. They had different mannerisms and personalities, they didn’t always get along, sometimes they were downright grumpy with one another. But they did all share the goal of being lower on the mountain and that was enough to bind them together.
The men built a huge wooden cart. It was an impressive vehicle. Vast wheels would eat up the downward miles easily and cling to the narrow roads, heavy construction would protect from external threats, clever suspension would cushion the bumps on the mountain passes. Almost everybody was impressed and climbed in. But one of the men, John, hung back. An Independent fellow who had long lived on a part of the mountain quite separate from the others and learnt self-sufficiency (and was, frankly, a little more suspicious of the others because he had fallen out with them so many times), was not quite ready to commit to the unknown. Instead, he trotted along behind the wagon as it began to roll.
Things went well, the wagon began to roll ponderously along the paths and around the corners. John kept pace okay, he was fit and healthy and didn’t mind the exercise. But he could see his fellows up front, whooping with joy at the ride, safe from the rain and the robbers, and he remained unsure about his decisions. He wasn’t lonely because his old friends Dafydd, Patrick and Hamish had stuck by him and were trotting behind too – even though they were less sure than he that this was ideal.
Hamish, Dafydd and Patrick were urging him to rethink, and often Pierre or Kurt would call back: “Come on John! Join us. This is a grand adventure.” Eventually, John became convinced that he was being a fool. His fears about the enterprise were groundless. He agreed to take part and his little group caught up with the wagon and pulled themselves inside.
Perhaps things could have continued like that forever, with the cart rumbling in the right direction and everybody feeling safer together? But some of the people inside were convinced that the exciting endeavor could be improved. Whenever they rolled past somebody they would invite them inside – even if they were nothing like the individuals who had began to journey. Inside the wagon, in an attempt to prevent minor squabbles some of the men began telling the others when they could look out of the windows, which bits of the mountain they could or could not visit in future. Rules began to be made about everything – what they should wear, what they could carry, when they could be active and when they should rest. Many of the individuals inside were used to deciding these things for themselves and balked at being told what to do like children.
At some point, somebody added extra paneling. A few robbers arrows had penetrated the hull and the response was to thicken the shell and seal the exits. They were safer now. It was a bit darker without windows and getting out for some fresh air was more difficult with so many locks and bolts on the doors. But security was important.
As the mountain roads descended they grew steeper and the wagon gathered pace. Corners were taken at speed rather than use unnecessary energy to slow down. This meant that when sharp corners were navigated everybody had to be instructed to lean inwards, towards the mountain, to prevent the wagon falling over an edge and crashing to the rocks below. During these regular scary twists and turns all the men were on top of one another, leaning inwards, pressed close and frightened. Even though they managed each time, somehow, to stay on the road, they became tetchy and surly with one another. Partly due to the unwelcome proximity and invasion of personal space, and partly to cover how terrified they were.
Some time later the wagon reached breakneck pace. It was now barreling down the road, screaming around the corners, everybody was clinging to their seats and making small talk – pretending there was nothing to fear. Pierre and Kurt had declared that slowing down was no longer even an option. They proposed that the most important thing was the continuing mutual journey, which had been taken with the best of intentions and was still the best option for them all. Their solution was to remove the brakes entirely. This would discourage anybody silly enough to even consider a slower pace. From now on, the route down the mountain was going to be an ever faster journey.
John had tried his best. He didn’t want to be a bad companion. But he had spent his life as a self-sufficient independent man. Being cooped up in here, being unable to change the way things were done, having Kurt and Pierre tell him how much they liked him being there but overrule most of what he suggested was really irritating. And he really really didn’t like the speeds they were at. He worried that sooner or later they would take a corner too fast, or hit an obstacle they couldn’t avoid. So one day he announced he was thinking about getting off the wagon.
They didn’t want him to get off the wagon. Partly because John was a useful guy to have around and they liked making use of his many skills. Partly because John was well-known and respected and they needed him there. But mostly because they had convinced everybody else that you simply couldn’t get off the wagon. It was going too fast now. Leaving a moving vehicle on a steep mountain road was suicide. Was he crazy? And if John managed to do it – others might think they could do it too. Kurt and Pierre didn’t always agree on everything, but they did agree that a huge wagon like this needed lots of people to keep it rolling.
“Listen,” said John, “You give me some changes and then maybe I won’t get off. I don’t want much. If you guys don’t want a brake, fine. But I’d like one put in for emergencies, even if its only me that pulls it. Also, maybe I could choose a different colour coat when you all agree to wear green ones? And I’d quite like to still be able to sell the wooden ornaments I carve to peaceful folk on the road as we pass them. Oh, and in the night, I don’t want everybody laying all over me, I’m getting almost no rest at all with so many people trying to share my sleeping space. It’s cramped and I don’t love garlic as much as some of you. No offence intended, old chaps.”
John had meetings with Oto and with Leon, with Daan and with Alfons. He tried to get them all to see that in order for him to stay he just needed them to be reasonable and a bit less bossy. He wanted to sell stuff when he could and sleep in his own bed, undisturbed. Was this so much to ask? They listened politely. They agreed that instead of a green coat, John could wear a light green coat on Thursdays, in the afternoon, sometimes. He could sell his wooden widgets, but only if he could conduct the transaction with the person on the road as the wagon passed by at fifty kilometres per hour. And only if he could get the goods to the buyer in one accurate, careful throw. (And as long as he didn’t mind paying a tariff.) They even promised not to be so bossy – on the condition that he did as he was told afterwards. The bed thing was a no go though. Being in the wagon meant sharing beds and that was that.
John pondered what to do. Hamish was absolutely refusing to leave and John was worried about their friendship. The others had agreed to some reforms, so that was good. But he couldn’t ignore the fact that the wagon was still getting faster and the mountain roads were not getting any safer. They had nearly lost Alexandros earlier in the week in a particularly nerve-racking maneuver. John looked at the mountain wall, flashing by in the late afternoon sun. He looked at the vast cliff on the other side of the wagon. He wondered if, as he leaped off, he would be dashed on the rocks or plummet over the edge. His friends wouldn’t be there to help him – they’d be rolling off ahead and into the sunset.
“What to do, what to do,” John wondered. It was a stay of execution, or a leap of faith. The familiarity of the known versus the fear of the unknown. “I didn’t used to be so scared,” He said to himself. “When did I become so dependent?” The wagon had changed everything. John just had to decide whether to stay on and see where the ride ended. Or throw himself off the back and take the fall and its consequences. Anybody who said there was an easy answer simply wasn’t paying attention.
Not The End.
Dan Hannan On The European Union
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*
* 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
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.
– “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?
– 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.
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.
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?
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.)
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.
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 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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Thanks, Lynton 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
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.
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.
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 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 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 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.
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
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.