Monday, 27 April 2015

A missed opportunity for Ukip

The Saharan death trail

You would think that Ukip, the eurosceptic party, would be ripping shreds into the EU's murderous immigration policy. It's a bigger failure than CAP and CFP put together - and it costs billions. As much as thousands are dying in the Mediterranean, a great many more perish crossing the Sahara desert because the EU's broken asylum system incentivises the journey. More die each year than in the Nepal earthquake. But there's no rolling news coverage of that - and not a peep from Ukip.

In reality, Ukip is no longer interested in defeating the EU. These bozos are never happier than when they're miserable and they wouldn't know what to do with themselves without the EU to rail at. They don't even want an EU referendum and I'm quite sure they'll want to lose it when they get one. They show no interest in actually winning it.

They are nihilistic miserablists through and through, who want to hide from modernity and pull up the drawbridge, fling shit at the EU, but remain silent at the EU doing their dirty work in keeping the black people out. That's what they're really about now.

Attacking the EU on its killer immigration and asylum record would be all it needed to do to prove it wasn't a dismal xenophobic cult. But that's precisely what it is, so all we'll get is silence. Farage might stumble across the point by accident, but like most of the media, he'll get it wrong. We won't see any grown up analysis from Ukip or its sympathisers.

A eurosceptic party that wanted to be part of a bigger global community than the EU and shouted from the rooftops about the EU's iron curtain of death would be one I would be proud to vote for. I'm disappointed to say that isn't Ukip. Disappointed, but not surprised.

Saturday, 25 April 2015

The real reason for the boats

Immigration experts have been confounded by a new wave of migrant boats crossing the Mediterranean. Some have suggested it is a result of EU human rights law while others point to Western military interventionism, but a new survey of the survivors has revealed new insights.

Recent shipwreck survivor Adbul Sharir explains "In reality we could fly from any airport from around $400 but climbing aboard an overcrowded rickety barge for $3000 is a major improvement on British Airways. The food is a lot better and scrabbling up the rocks to reach the shore is still a more pleasant experience than baggage reclaim at Heathrow. You have a better chance of actually keeping your suitcase too."

He added "You get a free cup of tea and some travel shoes when you're rescued which is much better than the Costas by the taxi rank, and those Heathrow Express ticket machines are a nightmare to use. For sure you have to stay in a tent in Malta, but it beats a Bed & Breakfast in Hounslow. They're full of junkies and single mums. We may be refugees but we do have some standards".

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Tim Stanley is a prat

"Why's everything suddenly going wrong for Ukip?" asks Tim Stanley. Course, readers of this here blog knows that there ain't nuffin sudden about it. Ukip has been tanking for ages and you didn't need to be Nostradamus to see it coming.

They've run an odious and stupid campaign, scoring every own goal along the way, blundering into policy areas with no up front intellectual capital, and instead invited ridicule by banging on about immigration with no coherent policy. They've given the long-redundant anti-racist brigade a shot in the arm at every opportunity and have managed to humiliate themselves whenever they speak. This is the true Farage effect. It's one thing to whine about media bias but what were they expecting? And why did they have run head first into the gunfire?

At the top of Ukip the people are lacklustre, and that's not by accident. The back office and communication operation is shambolic - and that's no accident either. Anybody with brains and talent cannot work with Farage, and Farage doesn't like to feel threatened. This is a party of losers. What else could it do but lose? As to the turnout effect, this blog has long remarked this would revert to a two horse race, for reasons I'm not going to reiterate for the benefit of Stanley.

He concludes that "By denying seats to the Conservative Party, it has the potential to force the Tories back towards the Right – moderating the influence of the unpopular and out-of-touch modernisers. So as Ukip launches its campaign to turn St George’s Day into a national holiday, its subtle influence over political discourse retains weight. Even if the party wins nothing at all in May, it will have altered the terms of the debate". There is scant evidence of this. There are no signs of a resurgent Tory right and an (E)NP dogwhistle is just a topical gimmick. All Ukip has really achieved before it fades back into the margins is to put an EU referendum on the table. One we'll probably lose mainly thanks to Ukip itself.

Half the problem with these hacks is they only read each other, hence why they continue to be months behind the curve and nearly always wrong. No serious analyst could invoke the name of Matthew Goodwin. He's only ever right by accident, and that's hardly ever since he mainly recycles gems like this.

Ukip's failboat getting down to business was all predictable and predicted (especially on this blog) and if Stanley wasn't such a pompous ass I could have saved him making a dick of himself. That said, it's hardly surprising Stanley would write such lightweight, facile space filler, for it is a lightweight and facile election and when you get paid for being wrong, why bother to get it right?

Saturday, 18 April 2015

European Disunion

I'm struggling to write blog posts at the moment. I can no more write a political diagnosis any more than you can stomach reading one. If I see any more hackneyed blether about "the Westminster elite" I shall go postal.

As I cast my eye on the nauseating display of smug self-satisfaction among Plaid Cymru, the SNP and the Greens, I almost feel sympathy for Farage. For all the populism of Ukip, as Robert Hardman points out in the Mail, their brand of populism is just as bad. Curiously while the ignorance of Ukip is chastised, the equal and opposite ignorance of the left wing is legitimised and celebrated.

The truth of the matter is that they are all the product of the same political dynamics. They are all born of the same resentment. Ukip can rail at the SNP and the likes but they are part of the same backlash against an increasingly unresponsive government in Westminster.

Their collective crime is that none of them are in any particular rush to explain why it is unresponsive, and none of the parties have come forth with an accurate diagnosis let alone a solution. All we see is more of the same witless tinkering based on only superficial understanding of the issues. For sure, Ukip have identified the EU as a major source of political dysfunction but the problems run much deeper than that. Leaving the EU is only part of the solution, and Brexit doesn't solve the problems Ukip thinks it does.

For instance, the left like to rail at tax avoidance. The debate is framed entirely in parochial terms about "self-serving Tories" but the truth of the matter is that this problem (if you can call it a problem) is a major issue for most countries and has been going on for decades with nobody having any real idea what to do about it. Every lever we pull is connected to something else.
Pull at any thread and things elsewhere start to unravel. Successive governments working in co-operation with other countries have tried and failed to stop it because successfully closing the loopholes has severe economic consequences. Few on the left have the political wisdom or maturity to acknowledge this. Thus the debate is reduced toxic squabbling with both sides talking past each other, both ignoring the actual issues - and blissfully ignorant of what they even are.

Ukip thinks simply pulling out of the EU solves it. It doesn't. Free movement of goods and services cannot properly function without the free movement of people and capital. Even outside of the EU we will still be locked into international treaties and tax avoidance is going to be a permanent feature of that. It's a cost of doing business, but that business is business we all benefit from. What we are seeing is the product of global governance and global trade needs global regulation. The axis of left wing separatist parties would close those loopholes at the expense of everything else. In that respect they are more isolationist than Ukip. This populism born of ignorance is wholly destructive and malevolent. It threatens to tear the country apart.

In truth, the public are out of touch with reality. For all the hyperventilation "the poor" have never been better off. Things are better now than they have ever been and even a job on a zero hours contract is still a job. There is a lot we can do to improve pay and conditions and it is in our interests to do so so that we can dismantle the disgusting notion of in-work benefits, which are in themselves a subsidy of industry. But that requires effective enforcement and that requires effective local government. That's one thing we don't have and that's one thing nobody seems to want to address. Our councillors have no powers to speak of, councils are corporate regional development agencies working to a central policy and the attempts at devolution we see are empty gestures where there is no real transfer of power. The missing element is democracy.

The solution to this is The Harrogate Agenda. I'm struggling to communicate this because critics of it either haven't read it or don't understand it. I am increasingly ignoring their opinions on just about everything now. In fact just about everyone is wrong about everything. At the global level we need our own voice at the top table and so we must leave the EU. At the local level we need sovereign, democratic entities that we control. The EU is wholly incompatible with that. It is because of the stifling regulation all the way through the chain that government at all levels has become paralysed and unresponsive. It is that which is the engine of discontent. From energy policy to agriculture, it is ruining our prospects for growth and it is destroying jobs. The irony is, it has spawned parties like the SNP and Paid Cymru who want more EU not less. Far from unifying Europe, it is fragmenting Europe from Kiev to Aberystwyth.

If we look at the EU it is wholly anti-democratic, and is 100% incompatible with The Harrogate Agenda and so we must leave. But this is why I have previously called Ukip the most malevolent force in British politics. The establishment has just enough support to fend off these grubby little separatist socialists, but Ukip, while a busted flush in the electoral stakes is discrediting euroscepticism and will prove to be the biggest obstacle to leaving. That is why I have put so much effort into destroying it. The left have been my useful idiots and they have made good with the information I have fed to certain influential individuals.

With any luck, Ukip will be out of the picture by the time we have an EU referendum. That is IF we have a referendum. That can only happen if the Tories win and that's why you must hold your nose and vote Conservative. Until we break the EU deadlock, it doesn't matter who is in power and there can be no progress toward democracy and our country will be ripped apart by the likes of Farage and Sturgeon, leaving a shattered Britain, with a bankrupt, socialist authoritarian hell hole North of the border dragging us all down with it. Nobody wants that.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

A Mirror reflection of Ukip

The Daily Mail has come out against Ukip. Express owner, Richard Desomd on the other hand has just handed the party £1.3m. This should cause no great alarm for any of the parties in that Ukip wouldn't have the first idea how to usefully spend that much. It's akin with handing a toddler a loaded pistol. The money would actually be better going into an EU referendum exit campaign and kept as far away from the Ukip bozos as possible. One might be tempted to suggest they put it away to spend after the election and spend according to a strategy but instead, they'll piss it up the wall in no time.

The Referendum Party proved that money cannot buy votes and without decent policy they have no chance of securing the confidence of opinion formers but in the media and society as a whole. But good policy is definitely what we don't see from Ukip. Moreover, of the few sensible policies they do have they lack the skill and knowledge to credibly defend them. But Ukip is not alone in this. The only thing worse than Ukip's policies is the infantile level of analysis we see.

For instance, The Mirror is aghast at the idea of abolishing childcare registration: "The registration process that is so unnecessary includes a paediatric health certificate, basic food hygiene, a check that you are medically fit to look after children and won’t have too many in your care for you to cope with, and a criminal record check to make sure you’re not a paedophile."

As it happens, the registration system has only really been in effective operation since the early nineties and though it sounds good in principle the reality of it is yet another social services department dedicated to chasing paperwork with long delays at great expense to very little effect. Here I remind readers that Ian Huntley, the Soham murderer, was CRB cleared. The basic hygiene training certificate (for what that's actually worth) is not required of parents so it's really up to parents what they judge to be a suitable standard.

Parents routinely complain about the costs of childcare, often demanding subsidy for their cherished offspring but nobody has stopped to question why it is so damned expensive in the first place and how come it never used to be until the registration system appeared, destroying a lot of voluntary groups in the process. But society has given way to stranger danger, assuming everyone is a potential child molester. I can make a solid case for regulation where it is effective but there is scant evidence to suggest this particular system adds any value at all. Not least when it is administered at the corporate level of local government. It might well be effective if social workers had their won patch and were integrated with such a vetting process, but they aren't. Such logic seems beyond the wit of both the Mirror and Ukip.

The Mirror complains that "Nigel wants to leave the EU while keeping almost all the EU institutions" but this is actually the first hat tip to reality I have ever seen from Ukip on the Brexit front. Most of the institutions we need to preserve are adjacent or above the EU in the hierarchy of intergovernmental systems. Thus the mirror is chastising Ukip for not being as stupid as they think it is. That said, Ukip has only a passing familiarity with the complexity of Brexit and that is entirely a consequence of its own policy neglect in this field. If pressed on the details and what shape Brexit will take, Ukip will fold under scrutiny. Ukip is just lucky in that few in our media have the necessary wit to press them where they are vulnerable.

The Mirror is of course right in that the Ukip manifesto is the rag bag of obsolescence and contradiction we were all expecting, and nobody is really surprised, but our media is certainly in no position to be throwing stones from their house of glass. If the same scrutiny were applied to them as Ukip, they would look equally ridiculous. One is a Mirror reflection of the other.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

That Ukip Manifesto

Having spent a year deconstructing Ukip, I can't not pass comment on the release of the manifesto today. From the Twitter reaction and media response I think it's fair to assume it's the usual rag bag of disjointed aspirations. But at this stage in the game, who cares  if it isn't. The time to establish Ukip's intellectual credibility was back in 2013. Anything sensible now just likes how your school homework used to look when you copied it from the smart kid in your lunch hour to save you a bollocking.

In respect of fisking it, I very much doubt there's anything I could add that the whole media isn't already piling on, save to say the only party that wants to take us out of the EU still has not drafted a substantial Brexit policy.

Still it's all jolly good entertainment for The Telegraph who for much of the day has devoted all three comment slots to Ukip. Graeme Archer devotes his column inches to the idea that he himself should be persuaded by Ukip but isn't due to the toxic message of Ukip, but remarks how Ukip have changed their tone today.
The purple party have decided, I imagine, that banging on about immigration has reached its upper limit of (ugh) utility. Perhaps they’ve realised, too, that since their policy changes according to the spokesman asked about it, or how much alcohol that spokesman had consumed at the time of asking, it might be as well to keep quiet on the immigration front. One Ukip spokesman, helpfully ensconced in a pub, told me: “The problem is, even within my own party, my own deputy chairman didn’t seem to understand it herself despite the fact I actually put picture graphs, I put the numbers on and the point is people confuse immigration."

So having tickled the tummy of the anti-immigrant dog, Ukip is changing focus, and now presents itself as the party for those who love our armed forces. It’s not un-clever. Because which Conservative would complain about prioritising veterans of the services when it comes to housing, health, or jobs?
Essentially having toxified their own brand with immigration they've decided upon blowing the veterans dog whistle instead. It may slow the rate of decline, but probably not, since it doesn't reach into any new constituencies and is blatantly motherhood and apple pie stuff which Ukip already does a good line in. It's nothing to write home about.

But as much as the Ukip manifesto has been the circus event of the day, a new poll suggests that the Tories are set to win fourteen seats in Lib Dem constituencies. That puts the Tories in reach of a workable majority. Perversely this news could galvanise a Lib Dem vote at the last minute. We don't know, but it would be foolish to write the Lib Dems off.

Meanwhile, one almost feels sorry for poor old Professor Goodwin trying to salvage his reputation in the Telegraph.
It is tempting to think that party manifestos do not matter. Our political debate often seems to be guided by a 24-hour news cycle of soundbites and carefully-managed photo opportunities, while few voters have the time or inclination to sit down and read lengthy documents about policy.
But manifestos are important. They set out the lines that divide our parties and through their headline messages they throw light on how the different parties view our society –who they want to help, what issues they think are important, and how they want to change the way that we are governed. 
Course he's right for once in that manifestos very much DO matter in that they are the source that opinion formers go to. They are the people with influence you need to impress. They do shine a torch on the soul of a party. That is why Ukip needed one many many months ago to offset the stupidity of their candidates and as an insurance policy against their leaders misspeaking. A movement without a sound intellectual base cannot succeed and cannot manage a message without it. Farage was arrogant in believing he could wing it and expect the wheels not to fall off.

The problem with Ukip's policies is they are the product of received wisdom, many of which can and have been justified - just not by Ukip - and because Kippers don't fully understand the rationale for their polcies it is assumed their motives are much less sophisticated than they actually are. For instance, you could make a very strong meritocratic case against equality laws - but that argument would not be forthcoming from Ukip.

Goodwin has it that "It is a world where cold economic calculations come a distant second behind intense feelings of anxiety over cultural loss and abandonment - where voters are more likely to trust their instincts over a spokesman from the the Institute for Fiscal Studies. They might not even be able to tell you what is wrong - they just know that something is. So long as Farage and his party are articulating that sense of loss and threat - from their calls to control immigration to the scrapping of hospital car park charges - the reality is that they will always find a receptive audience among a significant section of the population".

But aside from Goodwin's déformation professionnelle, there is also an underlying snobbery to the man where he seems to think that if Ukip keeps blowing on populist dog whistles that dogs will come running. As much as this ignores the deep tribal loyalties, it also ignores a certain public instinct which transcends the emotive - and that is what explains the sudden reversion to a two horse race - something Goodwin was not banking on while he was predicting big wins for Ukip. With two polls now showing a significant slide, Goodwin's credibility is totally spent. Why the Telegraph would give him house room I don't know, since this was all predictable and indeed predicted on this very blog.

That said, it's unfair to pick on Goodwin alone. Most of the bozos at the Telegraph and the Spectator and all points between have got it massively wrong. You might say it's too soon to call it, and while I'm still leaving room to be surprised by the fates of other parties, the word is out that Ukip is a party of pathological losers - and however good their manifesto may be, no party is coming back from that. Not now. Not ever.

This of course does not stop the Guardian and others casting an eye on Suzanne Evans and wondering if they're looking at the next leader and whether she can revive Ukip's fortunes. Let me save you the bother. She can't. She's not very bright and the more exposure she gets, the more it will become apparent. More to the point, she doesn't see the inherent issues at the heart of Ukip and so she's about as likely to listen to criticism as Farage was. As for policy, they can change their spots all they like but their approach to policy will not - and you know what they say about trying the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

This will not stop the whole media circus playing to a new theme of "can Ukip make a comeback?" and even though Goodwin has been thoroughly discredited, he will maintain his position as court scribe, producing the excrement upon which they will feast. This blog has often remarked that our media is no longer in the business of reporting the news, and that they are now merely an entertainment industry. But when it comes to political analysis, they are children mainly entertaining themselves - peddling their derivative wares without depth or understanding. Meanwhile, there has been one blog that called it right from the very beginning. How d'ya like them "sour grapes"?

Monday, 13 April 2015

Smells like reality

I don't know what you make of this poll but it smells about right to me. The Lib Dems have a well managed campaign and were always likely to recover closer to the election, largely avoiding controversy, and Miliband is now a figure of ridicule. All Cameron has to do is remain as anodyne as possible to take home the crown. As for Ukip tanking, this could be an outlier, but my gut tells me this is actually a true reflection of where Ukip has been for some time. Some polls have Ukip settled on 14%, but I'm certain Ukip is nowhere near it.

This week sees the release of all the party manifestos which probably won't breathe any life onto a pretty flat campaign for all parties. Spin and counter spin is of little interest to anyone apart from those who generate it. By the looks of the Labour manifesto, it's every bit as asinine as Ukip's and I doubt we'll see much more than bribes from the Tories.

At one point I might have waited for the Ukip manifesto with some anticipation just for the entertainment value but whatever's in the Ukip manifesto doesn't matter now. They needed their intellectual assets in place long before now to avoid a car crash campaign - and it could have avoided a great many clashes between their senior spokesmen. Now the mood is one of defeat and lethargy and even the anti-Ukip Twitter clan are twiddling their thumbs. By freak accident the Ukip manifesto could be a masterpiece of modern policymaking and it would not turn the tide. I probably won't even bother fisking it. Though I make no guarantees. Picking the wings off flies is always fun.

There are important matters to be discussed but if you think about it, it's all been said - and nothing in this election has much influence on it. When the dust settles it will be business as usual: an overspending state, a decaying civic sphere along with oppressive and dysfunctional local government. As far as this election goes, it's the closest a political blogger gets to a vacation. Real politics is on hold.

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Farage throws in the towel

Ukip supporters should vote Conservative in seats that Ukip has no chance of winning, Nigel Farage has suggested. The UK Independence Party leader took the unusual step of encouraging tactical voting, telling the Telegraph: "Of course, it's a complex electoral system and people have to use their votes as wisely as they can." Tory voters should also vote tactically for Ukip, which is fielding candidates in 625 out of 650 seats, he said. Precisely why they would escapes me. At this point to say such things strikes me as a little careless.

But so much for strategy. Though the Telegraph is being a little disingenuous, the subtext to all this is that Ukip is a forlorn hope. If that was his message, why waste so much campaign money standing in all those seats in the first place? This is Farage basically conceding the whole campaign. Anything else now is just going through the motions. The subtext being that voting Ukip gets Labour. Whether that is statistically true anymore after months of BNP-lite dog-whistles is difficult to say, but this marks the end of the road for Ukip's 2015 general election campaign. Even a manifesto at this point is just an indulgence. A comprehensive fisking of it is just light entertainment. It's all academic now.

It has looked like Farage has known for some time that Ukip's chances were blown, and he himself was just marking time, but having lead the party up a cul-de-sac at the very least he should have had the decency to stand by his followers. But having screwed the pooch for Ukip, and damaged the chances of winning an EU referendum, he's now walking away in a final act of betrayal. I almost feel sorry for Ukippers.

Some might say it was Janice Atkinson who killed the campaign. But don't forget who put that woman in her position. Some might say it was the liberal media. But don't forget who made Ukip an immigration based single issue party. He is the architect of a losing campaign and he is the man who has killed Ukip. And this is the man they credit for the "success" of breaking Ukip into the mainstream. Well, how's that working for you now, Kippers?

But there is at least one consolation. At least Farage is now on message with Douglas Carswell...

Democracy needs Ukip to die

This article is doing the rounds among Kippers, some of them known to me. You can tell a lot about a group by what it reads and this is very illuminating. It is an amalgam of left-wing socialist dogma with pesudo-libertarian dogma. It has a certain coherence about it - it's anti-capitalist, anti-corporatist, nativist and very, very BNP circa 2006. A chorus of dog-whistles. It even speaks to *some* of my own feelings (as does most generic propaganda). That's what populism is.

It comes as no surprise Ukip is proving seductive to Spiked Online groupies either. It's an all singing, all dancing crap at the world; a world of bewildering contradiction and complexity. Some of what it says rings true in that corporate media and the think tank sucklings have an unhealthy influence on the national debate, and the likes of KPMG have more say in local government than the people. We are all passengers in a life raft, tossed around in their wake. Any movement for change is rapidly identified and crushed by a process of isolation, fragmentation and smear.

The article speaks of the emptiness of the issue-free election campaign and speaks of a consensus we are all acutely aware of. There is no ideological divide and as this blog has remarked, government is more overlord than servant. We can argue over the specifics til the cows come home but the simple fact of the matter is that they have the power.

One thing we will see after the election is a plethora of recycled verbal material about electoral reform and the need to dismantle First Past The Post. This is something we should definitely not do. For all the evils of the present system it has provided one thing. Continuity. Even through a global economic crash, Britain has remained a first world, functioning economy and has used its influence to prevent the system collapsing. And as much as we might nihilistically say we'd like to see that happen, the consequences would have been awful and in reality, nobody wants that. In the absence of a viable alternative we have to put up with it.

As bad as things are, I cannot imagine anything worse than a populist rise to power. Nothing good can come of it. So it becomes a question of asking ourselves what we really do want and how we go about getting it. And this is why I parted ways with so many of my compatriots. We all know there's something deeply wrong but taking power only to tackle the symptoms does not get to the heart of the issue. And the issue is power. Who has it, and how it is wielded.

The chief issue for me is not that government is too big or too small. It is a question of who it serves. We are seeing a gradual consolidation of government with power increasingly sucked toward the centre, beyond the reach of accountability, with services run for the convenience of government, not the people. The police, the courts and councils are becoming increasingly corporate and serve mainly as a means of collecting revenue while removing any means of redress - when they're not crushing dissent that is. Changes are imposed on us without consultation and without our consent, and this dynamic doesn't change no matter who wins elections.

The likes of Ukip think that replacing the present bunch of councillors and MPs with their people will yield results. It won't. Tweaking policies this way or that is still working inside the same paradigm, and while we could have a smattering of referendums here and elected health boards there, it is simply the installation of more democratic furniture, which is not actually democracy in itself. Police and Crime Commissioners ought to demonstrate that much. In most respects institutions of government have lost touch with what they are for and who they serve.

A lot of this has to do with the fact that so much of what we treat as a domestic issue, is in fact a global concern and is regulated at a global level. Often the reason issues are absent from elections is because changing such policies is no longer within the gift of our own government. But as much as we are keen to blame the EU, simply leaving the EU doesn't change a thing without recognition that the people are sovereign.

That will require a require a revolution in democracy - one which our present framework cannot deliver. The rise and fall of Ukip proves that the establishment has the power to stop insurgencies and party brands can be discredited. I've known this from the outset which is why so many of my predictions have turned out to be correct. A competent Ukip aware of the game it was playing could have made a breakthrough but even then the impact would be limited so long as it is framed along the lines of symptoms and not causes.

It's no use complaining about corporate media bias. Complaining about that reality is as fruitless as complaining about gravity. It is the reality of the mountain we must climb. Playing the political party game is fighting the battle on their chosen ground. Ukip has chosen to court the attention of the media and by living by that sword it shall soon die by that sword.

Thus any movement for change who wants to succeed is going to have to acknowledge the realities of the battle ahead in that there are certain pitfalls and obstacles one simply cannot overcome. It is a heavily fortified Maginot line we must go around rather than hit head on. If we fight them at their own game then we will lose every time. Immigration as an issue is a loser. It didn't work for the BNP and it doesn't work now. The racism card is too strong and the arguments are weak. The negative effects of immigration are felt by too small a constituency and the EU issue fails to inspire.

But one thing I think all of us are agreed on is that democracy is in very poor shape, if indeed it exists at all. That concept can unite left and right and all points between - every class and every tribe. Ironically, one thing we will not get is democracy by voting for it, for democracy means people power - and our voting rituals are the channelling of sentiment into the establishment paradigm.

Thus I take the view that in order to force our government to do as we wish it to, we shall have to deny it power over us, frustrating its efforts wherever it tries. We will have to force it to listen. It is for this reason that after this election, I will actively be encouraging people not to vote and to remove their mandate. Extra-parliamentary action is the only way to achieve change. Parliament is not the repository of democracy, rather it is the guardian of the status quo. The only reason I shall be voting in this election is simply because I want an EU referendum. Leaving the EU is not the solution but it is the first stepping stone.

Many argue that it will be a false referendum and a rigged one. They are probably right. But the truth is, while they have the power, it will only ever be that way. The only free and fair referendum we will get is if a party of government wishing to take us out of the EU holds it. That is never going to happen. Ukip won't do it and whatever rises from the ashes won't do it either. The system is rigged.

Personally, I'm playing to win. I will fight it with everything I have got. We could lose it, and we probably will. What matter is that if we are to lose, we lose well. A rigged referendum will plant it in the public consciousness once and for all that democracy is shot all to hell. From that there is fertile ground to build a real movement for democracy, having the old and stale EU issue buried. It gives a democracy movement a fresh start and a chance to learn the lessons as to why it has failed for thirty years or more.

The EU debate is still framed in decades old dogma and it cannot inspire a democracy movement. It's technocratic, it's stale and it's of a narrow appeal. We need a new vision and a fresh start, and if by happenchance we do actually win an EU referendum then that's great too. But any such movement will have to be a movement based on a grander idea, a positive premise rather than the negative message of Ukip. It will have to be an affirmation of public sovereignty and it must have no leaders. Farage shows just why leader cults fail.

This blog has said from the outset that Ukip is a bed blocker, preventing a real movement getting a foothold. It is for this reason I look forward to watching it slide back into the abyss in May. Ukip is a failed experiment and if there is to be any hope of winning an EU referendum then we need Ukip out of the way, silenced and discredited. Then we can get down to the real business of revolution and raise a real people's army, not a cult of followers.

Welcome to Loserville. Population: Ukip

This blog predicted that this election would turn into a two horse race and that Mark Reckless was certain to lose his seat. The latest Opinium poll has Ukip reaching a two year low. Cherry-picking poll readings is one thing, but this is in line with the trend and my spidey sense tells me it's about right. Farage is worn out, the campaign looks shabby and from the direction of the dog whistles, we know Ukip has given up trying to reach beyond its base - a base which seems not to include all the people who made Ukip what it is. To all intents and purposes, it is now the BNP. It occupies that vacuum in the electoral continuum and from that there is no return.

Adding to Ukip's woes we learn from the Mail that new figures confirm Mark Reckless will lose his seat as predicted. A senior Ukip source said: ‘It is not looking easy for Mark, but we are hopeful the figures are misleading.’ However, another source added: ‘We aren’t that bothered because Reckless isn’t particularly popular’. 

This will not be news to readers of this blog - or in fact anyone with their finger vaguely on the pulse. Frankly, I don't know how anyone could have thought otherwise. But we were told by Professor Matthew Goodwin that the win in Rochester was conclusive proof that Ukip could make a breakthrough. Yet here we see Ukip unable to stand on its own two feet without the circus of a by-election.

It was always going to be the case that Reckless suffered as funds were diverted elsewhere. Reckless's fate was sealed some months ago having made some unguarded remarks about deportation. Meanwhile, rumour has it that Ukip is broke and because it is make or break for Farage, that's where the money is going and the Northern branches aren't very happy about it.

In the final analysis it looks like all the mainstream media punditry will prove to be worthless and poor old Matthew Goodwin will be left standing naked. For some time now, this blog has been in a holding pattern watching it all unfold on cue and there is little to add apart from "I told you so".

Ukip has been a masterclass in how not to run an insurgent campaign and very little has been of any great surprise. All that's left to come is the actual voting ritual itself and the bitter recriminations about media bias and how the liberal establishment slew it's dragon. In a desperate pitch to reclaim their credibility we will see a torrent articles from the likes of Goodwin blaming just about anything but Ukip and Farage - followed by tantrums about First Past The Post. With that will come a deluge of half-baked ideas about democratic reform, all of which miss the point.

This blog has always said Ukip will change the order of losers and that is what Matthew Goodwin will cling to in that his numbers will show marginal second places and a few healthy third places, but in the FPTP system there are no prizes for second place, and while this will suggest to Goodwin that Ukip has a future, the lack of actual wins will be proof that it doesn't. Goodwin has been jerking Ukip off for many months and this is the premature disgorgement.

Many argue that the loss of the Scottish Referendum is behind the SNP surge and the same will likely happen to Ukip following an EU referendum. It won't. Ukip is toxic beyond repair, there is no-one to replace Farage, there is no intellectual platform, and the core vote is too concentrated. Far from shaking off the image of loonies, fruitcakes and closet racists, the only material difference now is that the racism is out of the closet, wearing a pink tutu and singing Elton John songs. Cameron has shot the eurosceptic fox and the immigration issue will go dead once again. More to the point, Ukip is not the SNP. The SNP is a party on a mission. Ukip is a cult without direction. It looks like the "left behind" will be left behind a good while longer.

Saturday, 11 April 2015

The cancer at the heart of our society

This week saw a forced eviction by a small army of police. Police, not bailiffs. Being it April we also see half a million people summoned for unpaid council tax. We also see a massive upsurge in vehicle clamping by the DVLA in a pernicious revenue collection scam. Thousands of law-abiding motorists are having their cars towed away and having fines of as much as £800 after unwittingly falling foul of car tax rule changes introduced by the DVLA.

Meanwhile, in a world of their own, scandal-hit Rotherham council’s new chief executive could be paid an extra £40,000 per year as a result of ‘negative publicity’ from the town’s grooming scandal.

Councils and government agencies are turning into predators. They are at war with the public and accountable to no-one. Marina Hyde in the Guardian remarks that this election is being run as a pseudo-event. "Back in the 1960s, the writer Daniel Boorstin defined a pseudo-event as one that would not happen if the cameras were not there. It’s almost as if he could foresee the day when journalists would travel to Somerset to watch George Osborne smile at a vacuum cleaner". This blog agrees.

Barring an EU referendum, this like all elections is inconsequential to how things are done down at our level. Corporates are abusing the county court system on a massive scale to harass people for years old inflated debts, where citizens are excluded from the process, defence summarily thrown out, with no right of appeal unless they stump up a fee. Needless to say, the most vulnerable are the most likely to fall victim to it. It's unfair, it's unethical and it's corrosive.

Day by day the system makes new enemies of ordinary, law abiding citizens, who are beginning to learn that in any real sense they are unrepresented and their vote is worthless. Not even a protest vote thrown in the direction of Ukip is worth a damn.

All of this is bubbling under the surface and while some would blame it on "austerity", this has been going of for several years. It has ramped up recently thanks to the rapacious greed of government, cheered on by our Uncle Tom local media. I don't see how this can continue without there being a terrible price to pay. We may be having an election but it's an empty voting ritual. Real democracy is dead.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Unclear on the concept perhaps?

I just have to park this here from 20th March 1015 for my own amusement.

“Prof Goodwin said: “My view is that UKIP is likely to win six Parliamentary constituencies. They have pretty much got three or four seats now in the bag unless there is a monumental mistake and a car crash before May 7.”

Interesting he says "unless there is a monumental mistake". Yet the day before we saw this. The professor clearly has a different definition of "monumental mistake" to the rest of us. My own estimations of Ukip's chances are best summed up here.


Light blogging

The job of this blog is to report on substantive politics. Since there's an election on that leaves me at a loose end. I am instead focussing on dayjob stuff and so normal service will resume when normal service resumes.

Monday, 6 April 2015

Slamming the stable doors

I didn't half take some flack for saying Ukip needed message discipline. You can't expect to run a media campaign with candidates shooting their mouths off before engaging their brains, and without extensive media training or at least a rulebook for candidates you're paving the way for failure.

In any campaign you have to decide what the message is from the outset, brief your candidates and staff, stick to it, develop it and sell it. For that you'd need a manifesto. But no, Kippers knew better. "We're not like the other parties" they said. "Ukip is a straight talking party" they said. "We don't want Ukip to be just like all the others" they said. Well. They got their wish and now Ukip slides in the polls - every. single. month.

Only now do we see candidate guidelines, where according to The Mirror, UKIP has banned candidates from backing the RSPCA or giving their opinions “on moral issues” during the general election campaign - among a few other gems. "Nigel Farage’s anti-EU party has issued “vital” guidance for would-be MPs in an extraordinary clampdown following a string of embarrassing gaffes. The media strategy is a last-ditch bid to stop candidates getting into trouble with unguarded comments".

And that's Ukip all over isn't it? A month from the polls and only now do we see a media strategy, and still we see everything done on the fly, everything a last ditch attempt, and stable doors slamming shut months after the fact, all still in the absence of policy and a manifesto. And what's worse is the candidate most in need of heeding such advice is Nigel Farage himself. This is the party we were told had professionalised.

Back when I was still inclined to give Ukip good advice I raised the matter of message discipline time after time to be met with some of the most vicious personal abuse. Well, guys, don't say you weren't told. This is all your own fault. Humiliation is what you deserve and humiliation is what you will get. Sad that friends took Ukip's word over mine, but as I've come to learn in recent months, anyone who supports Ukip is no friend of mine and never was. More fool me.

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Win or lose in Thanet, Ukip is dead either way

Nigel Farage’s lieutenants are “waiting” to replace him if he steps down, a Ukip MEP has said, as a poll suggests he is on course for defeat at the General Election. Diane James acknowledged that Mr Farage risks losing the South Thanet contest, and used a radio interview to speculate about his potential successors.
Mr Farage is one point behind the Tories in South Thanet, and just one point ahead of Labour, according to a ComRes poll commissioned by Aaron Banks, the Ukip donor. It suggests Ukip has shed nine points in a month, with Labour gaining ten and the Conservatives gaining four. Mr Farage has pledged to step down as leader if fails to win a seat, saying it would be untenable for him to lead the clutch of MPs he wants from outside Parliament.
An email sent to young party members last night warned that the "longevity" of Ukip depends on winning the seat - underming Mr Farage's claims that the party is not a "one man band." Asked about the poll, Mrs James told BBC Radio 5 Live’s John Pienaar show: “Nigel stated categorically a few weeks ago that if he were not elected to the House of Commons, he would stand down. That’s a fact. He has made that statement. She denied that his exit would be a set-back for the movement.“We have a very high calibre of individuals within Ukip. They are frequently on the BBC and other media outlets: Suzanne Evans, Patrick O’Flynn, Paul Nuttall. There are people there waiting. 
Of course Diane James has to say that. But this blog is not shy in saying those are not high calibre people. Patrick O'Flynn is out straight away. If you want to know why, go to Youtube and look at him and listen to him. Case closed. Paul Nuttall though is thuggy. In any serious debate he'll lose. His demeanour is sneering, confrontational and aggressive. He cannot broaden Ukip's appeal nor can he hold the party together.

As to Suzanne Evans, this blog has been rather unkind in calling her "thick as pigshit". That's less a personal opinion as a matter of fact. She has the outward appearance of intelligence and an accent that can sell it, but old Grandma Death is getting a bit senile and doesn't remember what she has said to whom so she'll be chasing her own tail in no time. She's presentable but her understanding of the issues is even more shallow than Farage's. Many won't believe me when I say that, but watch closely enough and it will soon become apparent that she's out of her depth. More to the point, her judgement will be in question.

It's not just a matter of kicking Farage out, but also his apparatchiks and appointees who will be a great deal more difficult to get rid of, assuming she has the wit to get rid of them. The young staffers on the make with no experience will have to go too. More problematic is the band of halfwit MEPs who should be kicked out but can't be. I'm not sure if anyone has what it takes to make that bunch look credible. Certainly not Evans. She will also be the object of ridicule when certain photos come to light.

Ironically, the only one I credit with any real intelligence is Diane James herself but she has ruled herself out and would be unsuitable in any case. Ukip members will reject an intelligent nuanced approach and that rules out Carswell too. It is so invested in blaming the EU for immigration that it cannot now turn tail and opt for a phased EU exit or a moderate tone on immigration. None of these people have the skill, discipline and intellect it takes, and while they have the ego of Farage they do not have his persona. The leadership battle alone will show their true colours.

But supposing Farage wins. What you then have is a hugely unpopular individual maintaining his grasp on the party with a mandate to make it even worse, having his strategy seemingly validated which will encourage him to go further up the cul-de-sac unchecked. Ukip needs to expand the appeal not narrow it and Farage cannot do that. He'll be a one term wonder and end up a Gallowayesque figure of national ridicule - and won't be able to work with Carswell.

Without a mass purge of the cancer at the top of Ukip it simply cannot survive. But that is not going to happen - so Ukip is dead. It will chug along in name only paying the wages of their staff and it might well keep returning MEPs giving the likes of Matthew Goodwin a career as a pundit, but as a force for change, the dream is over. One day somebody might just unite all the disparate factions in British politics, but it won't be Farage and it won't be Ukip.

What are you smoking Mr Goodwin?

You're only allowed twenty free article views on the Telegraph each month. I've used up my entire monthly allowance laughing at this by Matthew Goodwin from last November. "Ukip’s days of amateur campaigning are over" apparently. "The Rochester by-election shows how formidable Nigel Farage's party machine has become" says Matthew.

I suppose this really depends on how you define amateurish and it depends on what you're trying to achieve. I remember well the BNP once had a very slick operation having the top scoring website of all political parties for a time. The message was very much in synch with the rhetoric and updated daily by a team very much in touch with the party leadership. Not so Ukip, where the any coordination between the website and the message of the day is wholly coincidental.

If the strategy is to broaden appeal we have seen no evidence of this. If the strategy is to hold the line it isn't working - and Farage has yet to put a lid on the daily drip of idiocy from Kippers. If Matthew is seeing professionalism, he is seeing effective managed retreat and semi-effective damage control, but his central thesis that Ukip will go on to bigger and better things is now looking threadbare. His whole credibility depends on Farage winning in Thanet, which doesn't seem plausible, and even then his salvation will be short lived.

Ukip can't grow with Farage and it can't survive without him. Farage is a spent force. Meanwhile, Ukip is consolidating on BNP turf which is a fickle and diminishing constituency. It collapses as soon as it looks like a loser. All it can do for Ukip is keep them from folding before the election.

Meanwhile, Farage is blowing the cash on his campaign at the expense of others, and Reckless doesn't look safe at all. Carswell will come out of this looking very bruised and alienated from the party having got caught up in the moment, mistaking Ukip for a political party with momentum as Goodwin has.

Ukip needed to keep up the threat level from last November to win the four or five seats it needed to get its foot permanently in the door. This won't happen. A series of amateurish miscalculations compounded by Janice Atkinson has shattered the illusion that Ukip is different or somehow less sleazy, and the Rotherham scandal showed the true colours of many a Kipper, cementing the suspicion that Ukip is more than just incidentally racist.

Certainly the Meet the Kippers programme has not helped Ukip, but rather than being media bias, it merely shows Ukip in the full light of day. Ukip dragging the press all the way out to a seaside town to not produce a manifesto in some hole where there is no mobile reception didn't do them any favours either. This is the professionalism we are told exists at the top of the party. As to actual policy, there have been eight iterations of Ukip policy on immigration and Carswell having to disown Farage's position on HIV infected immigrants shows the cracks.

The truth is that without setting out their intellectual framework before heading into a campaign, it was only ever going to be failure after failure in the communications department, and the communications team (if such a thing exists) is committed not to a structured campaign but is instead putting out the many brush fires started by Farage. A credible set of policies might just have been the insurance policy that could have converted controversy into a serious debate, allowing Ukip to establish its intellectual credibility and capitalise on publicity but instead it has descended into farce. This is not how a non-amateur outfit operates.

In reality, Ukip entered the campaign with no real preparation, no strategy and no intelligent allocation of resources. Fighting campaigns in totally unwinnable seats is wasteful and pointless and making immigration was a poor choice of platform. The assumption that the whole "left behind" constituency would fall in behind Ukip assumes they're all too thick to spot a charlatan blowing dog whistles. Us Northerners are a bit thick but we know a shitehawk when we see one.

Moreover, the more Farage blows those dog whistles, the more moderate conservatives will drift back to the Tories. There is a sympathy for the politics of the "left behind" but no shared identity. Laying on the rhetoric too thickly is to insult our intelligence. Farage is surrounded by the very thickest and assumes the rest of us are equally dumb. We're not. Consequently, it's no longer just the "liberal media" sticking the boot in on Ukip. It's everyone. The purple revolution is now a busted flush, those significant wins aren't coming, and there's no obvious way it can survive Farage. Only a miracle can save Ukip.

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Nobody likes a loser

I have to admit, the polls had me concerned for a while, but whenever polls talk up Farage and Ukip one is always a little suspicious. Voting intention is such a vague metric. That said, personal approval ratings are not so vague and Farage is not popular with the country and never really has been so it comes as no major surprise to learn that Farage is now looking weak in Thanet. The poll was supposed to have been published last week, but Ukip took it to High Court in an attempt to block it. I can see why.

We can see from the televised debate what the Ukip strategy now is. Hold the line. Farage was blowing all the dogwhistles at once - sparking much debate over the weekend as to whether Farage was right about health tourism. As councillor Gareth Anderson put it "factual accuracy on cost doesn't excuse the deliberate "filthy (foreign) gays" subtext". This blog would not disagree. That's the essential message here same as the bleating about Multiculturalism is a lash out at Muslims. The BNP would come out and say it straight, but the new right has a political correctness all of its own.

You could make an honest case with honest data but it's the motive we have to examine and the underlying message and who it is directed at. Certainly there was no attempt to expand Ukip's appeal nor was there any attempt to change the message to something more positive. It is now speaking only to a niche of its own cultural constituency and it will fail. It didn't work for the BNP and it won't work for Ukip. I will be hugely surprised if Farage now wins in Thanet.

This of course makes Ukip press officer, Matthew Goodwin, look all the more absurd in predicting a big future for Ukip. It was never going to be. I can pick the precise date when it happened and it was last April. The ingredients for success were never there. Far from being a success, Nigel Farage has been a disaster for Ukip. He's turned it from a movement with growing potential to a dismal nativist cult and a busted flush. All that's left to come is failure and bitter recriminations.

Kippers will be keen to point the finger at everyone but themselves. The blame will be mine, yours, Richard North's, and of course the "biased liberal media". Their own conduct and amaterisim will never come into question. Hugh Muir of The Guardian has it that Farage has to take some of the blame. He is wrong. Farage must take all of it. As for me, I only have one question left. What am I going to do with this shipping container full of "I told you so's"? I simply haven't got the space.

Abuse of position

Here we have thug and publicity whore, George Galloway, threatening a business in my home town. Naturally it sparks suggestions on Twitter that Galloway can be dealt with by the good people of Bradford by alternate means to the ballot box. Louise Mensch implores "no threats - no violence, even as a joke. Not funny. He was assaulted once".

But then I'm keen to remind people that only one in four voted for Galloway. He has no mandate yet there he sits as an MP. It's hardly surprising people would consider other means since the ballot box proves a useless measure in keeping such people out of the civic sphere. And as much as we don't deserve Galloway, I don't see what we did to deserve anything else on the menu either. It demonstrates that representative democracy is no democracy - and while a recall mechanism wouldn't go amiss, it's time for a real revolution in how things are done, otherwise it won't just be Galloway doubling up on personal security.

Friday, 3 April 2015

Tear down this wall...

Southwark Council spent £140,000 building a massive 'Berlin Wall-style' metal-spiked fence around a housing estate in south London. The council splashed £200 per metre on the 8ft-high, 700 metre-long eyesore surrounding four blocks on the Aylesbury Estate.

The locals are less than impressed. Here they are tearing it down. And rightly so. Britain is not South Africa. Things are not so bad that we need fences like that. We surrender if we give in to that mentality. Removing it is the correct response and it's nice to see community minded youths making a stand. Good for them. Certainly a great deal more productive than smashing the windows of Fortnum & Mason.

Only a miracle can save Ukip from oblivion

You don't have to be Alistair Campbell to know bringing up immigration and AIDS in the same sentence is political suicide. One might ask what was Farage thinking. But he simply wasn't thinking. We was winging it as usual, going through the motions with no preparation. That said, I can't say I blame him. He knows better than anyone that the game is up. At best he can tread water to try and scrape a halfway respectable vote, but even that is now looking remote. From the smell of things on Twitter, it now looks like the sympathy vote will peel away. The cracks are showing and even Carswell has had to distance himself from Farage's remarks.

It's now a waste of energy speculating what may happen to Ukip. Reckless is going to lose his seat, Carswell no longer looks as safe as he did and Farage will probably find he's blown his chances in Thanet. Mark Wallace of Conservative Home is still going over old ground based on how things looked a month ago. The post election scenario looks very bleak for Ukip.

There is nothing Farage can no do but manage decline but he will now make things worse the more he speaks. Nobody under him has the gravitas or the wit to hold Ukip together and things will fall apart as competing egos position for the crown. Carswell won't throw his hat in. He'll be tainted by association with Ukip and will be in effect sitting as an independent MP. If he's smart that is.

It then falls to either Tim Aker, whose only ace is the fact he's relatively unknown and not as dreadful as the others, but that advantage will slide as he becomes known. Woolfe is too much of a thug and just as much a lightweight as Farage. He won't listen to good advice either. So it looks like Suzanne "Grandma Death" Evans. She will go down well with the party, but the wolfpack will round on her and shred her. She's thick as pigshit and will blow it in no time.

As for their band of clowns in Strasbourg, without Farage that particular circus will produce items of ridicule on an industrial scale. The party will need Farage in Strasbourg if only to keep a lid on it, assuming he can still hack it and assuming he isn't now every bit as much the liability as the rest of them.

With no imminent threat of electoral successes the media will move on, shining a torch on Ukip only whenever it shoots itself in the foot. By that point, any publicity will be bad publicity. Soon after, it will lose a good portion of their councillors. Only a miracle can save Ukip.

My advice to Farage would be to walk away. If he keeps this up he won't see sixty. I know what burnout looks and feels like. He's not far of it and a man in his shape won't survive a heart attack. I dislike the man intensely but I do not wish death upon him. If Kippers want out of the EU, they best drop Ukip and party politics entirely, stop banging on about immigration, and gear up for the referendum because it looks very much like Ed Miliband is not going to be Prime Minister. Winning an EU referendum is more important than the survival of Ukip. Kippers need to accept that and move on. 

Thursday, 2 April 2015

The great debate - the Complete Bastard verdict

Against my better judgement I tuned into the leader's debate (Who wants to be a totalitarian?). I should have stuck with my earlier plans and watched Spongebob instead. Mainly it was noise.

From a Ukip watcher perspective I thought Farage opened well and gave a glimpse of the Farage he once was. But it didn't last and predictably so. Predictable because the opening rhetoric can be well argued with a solid command of the facts - but that is not Farage's style. What we got from Farage was a progressively poor performance. He was playing to his remaining gallery, banging on about immigration and managed to lose on the matter of the EU. He looks tired, he sounds tired and he's not up to the job. A bad day for Ukip but an even worse day for eurosceptics.

Farage is becoming one of those Action Man dolls where if you pull a string from the back it plays back a catchphrase. One wondered just how many times he was going to run with foreign aid. Here was a chance to set out a positive vision and reframe the debate. That did not happen. Nothing Farage said today is anything we haven't heard already and nothing he said is likely to widen Ukip's appeal. He's a shadow of his former self and he wasn't much to begin with.

But any kind of analysis at this point is fruitless. By this stage in the game anyone of us political anoraks has lost our objectivity. You all know my views on Ukip and Farage and I would say these things wouldn't I? I just have to go with my instinct that most people watching will have seen what I have. Farage is spent.

Natalie Bennett was awful because she is awful, her politics are worse and her grasp on economics is tenuous to put it politely. As to Sturgeon, a snap poll has it that she is the winner of tonight's debate. We can't put too much stock in snap polls but if that is the public mood then it really does refocus minds because most of us on the right are terrified at the prospect of an SNP influence in government, making Cameron the only rational choice.

As it happens, I think Cameron did put on a good show. As a Twitterer pointed out... the suit never creased. Clegg was his usual plastic man self without a shred of authenticity and so it looks more and more like we will see a two horse race with the SNP as the significant other.

The Miliband message is that Britain is a place of woe, suffering and misery. The left love it. But I don't think things are nearly as bad. And I think most people know that too. I don't know of anyone who can look at Miliband and seriously suggest he is prime-ministerial material. A YouGov poll tonight puts the Tories on 37% which is a clear lead, and snap polls not withstanding, I think the Tories probably won't get a bump, but they will hold that 37% - which is all they need to do. Ukip may get a sympathy bump but it will be over in a week and back down to 12% shortly afterward. It will fall further. We know the game is over when it hits 10%. And it will.

If Cameron is not Prime Minister after 8th of May it will be by sheer accident of numbers. But when it comes to rune-reading, my bullshit opinion is about as valid as yours. It could be my instincts are simply wishful thinking but based on what we've seen, I might just put my money where my mouth is.

Wake me up when it's over

So there's that exercise in pointlessness tonight. The "debate". Nigel Farage has said he will use the debates to keep the spotlight on immigration, saying: "Particularly, I shall be arguing and asking the Prime Minister and others, will they please admit that, as members of the EU, we cannot have an immigration policy of any kind at all". So there you go. The only tool left in the box and a lost argument. Meanwhile, Hugh Muir notes "If his party has too many pests, he caused the infestation". This blog has said all that can be said on that. With five weeks to go it's now just painful electioneering and marking time.

Dan Hodges finally catches up to this blog, speculating that the Tories can scrape a majority: "The Tories have started the campaign on 35 per cent, and are moving upwards. That is with the further decline in the Ukip vote, “the shy Tory”, “Prime Minister Miliband” and “better the devil you know” factors still to be priced in."

Ukip is worn out already. Farage fever is yesterdays news, everybody now knows who and what Ukip is and with Farage being their only "asset", with only the immigration song to sing, it's looking like a washout. We can't expect much from the forthcoming campaign except for media noise and hackneyed pseudo-analysis from the latecomers. It's more for their entertainment than our information. One just has to listen to the glee in the voice of Eddie Mair on PM as they discuss whether Ed Milband's "hell yes" retort gave Labour a minuscule bump in the polls or not. They live for trivia.

It was said the last election was the most ideas free election in living memory. By that measure, this one is sure to surpass it. There is still time left for one of the top kippers to be caught out doing or saying something egregiously stupid, but as of now, all us Ukip watchers are simply mocking the afflicted and trolling Ukip like Westboro Baptist Church at a veterans funeral. It's time for those of us who are interested in real politics to take a well earned break because the next five weeks is looking like a dry spell. If you're thinking of watching the debate, I urge you to consider watching something more illuminating instead.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Punishing pernicious bigotry is not irreconcilable with free speech

What informs my views on the latest utterances of Katie Hopkins is being comments administrator for three websites. We get comments from the cretinous, the deranged, the hostile and the downright slanderous. I delete them on sight. Kipperish views are two a penny, you can find them anywhere on the internet, they subtract and divert rather than adding to the debate - and a flame war does nothing for the quality of the debate and drags down the reputation of the website, as indeed Kippers do to Breitbart - which is already held in low esteem. So in effect I am a regulator of speech.

I don't control the debate. I welcome disagreement and encourage it, but I clearly set out the terms that people may not be abusive, misrepresent the views of others or use bigoted and crass language. Consequently our sites are often praised for wide ranging and thorough adult debate, and that is something you just won't find on unregulated sites. Good debate and civil discourse is 50% of any website's value. I am no fan of the Guardian for its values but I respect it above all other newspapers in that the quality of debate in the comments surpasses any other. Those wishing to make a point who phrase it in rational and measured terms can voice an opposing view and will get a hearing. That's why I read their comments and not those on the Telegraph and Breitbart. It's not about being politically correct, it's about being polite and accurate and not appropriating sensitive subjects for self-gratification and amusement from the fallout.

It's true I sometimes get good comments deleted by sneaky mods at the Guardian but there are skilful ways of sneaking a point past them. They get it wrong sometimes but it's better to have some regulation than none at all because otherwise all you get is unproductive ego driven noise and bickering. This is the reason why debates have chairmen - to keep things in check. Eventually commenters learn the boundaries and learn that if they want to make a point then they must approach it with wit, respect and skill. Consequently I see no reason why bigots in the public eye should not be excluded from the national debate for the same reason. After all, what is politics if not a debate?

Nobody is saying you can't criticise a faith or race or culture. You can expect to be challenged on it, but no thought is policed nor is any voice or idea stifled - except for those self-serving malevolent individuals who wish to exploit that debate - not for the purposes of promoting greater understanding, but to pour petrol on bonfires for their own amusement and self gratification.

Those in the public eye, without the mechanism of accountability that MPs have are put into prominence by an exploitative media monopoly. They answer to no-one in that despite the fact few part with money for their wares, they still have a disproportionate and unrepresentative voice in the national debate. There needs to be a mechanism by which such people are held to account for stoking up bigotry when they have a force multiplier like Twitter and act as enablers of malicious prejudice. Punishing pernicious bigotry is not irreconcilable with free speech.

Whatever that measure may be, be it a public accountability order, or incitement prosecution, it must apply to those who knowingly abuse their influence. I'm not talking about jailing dissenting people. But in the case of Hopkins, I wouldn't mind seeing her hauled in front of a judge for her to be confronted with the profundity of her idiocy and a sentence of community service be imposed to visit Rochdale and Rotherham to meet the Muslims she maligns, and to listen to the testimony of the specialists and experts attempting to understand the issues and to prevent Child Sexual Exploitation in ways she is too lazy and stupid to attempt. And that might include talking to Simon Danczuk, whom she is so eager to slander.

I sincerely hope that the far right rally in Rochdale does not materialise, but if it does, it's Hopkins who can take a bow. But the racist abuse that follows her worthless interjections, she takes some responsibility. It is her doing. She enjoys a privileged position and has abused it - and wilful ignorance such as hers should not be tolerated or given house room.

We can have a free and far reaching debate about sensitive issues without the likes of her and if we uphold a standard in public debate, like the Guardian, all participants will get the message eventually. Those who approach debate with honest intentions will be heard. Those who don't will not. The product is better debate - not stifled debate. The power to bully, harass and incite is not free speech. It is malevolence. And why should any of us tolerate that?