Thursday, 22 May 2014

I would vote UKIP, but it is not libertarian

I want to vote UKIP in the European Parliamentary elections today.  There have been and are a lot of reasons to commend UKIP, but despite a plaintiff claim by Nigel Farage on Conservative Home, I am strongly inclined to not put a cross beside UKIP - because UKIP is no longer the libertarian-inclined party I warmed to, and was a member of for a year.  I say this with great hesitation, because I passionately believe the UK needs a party that is led and populated by people who want much less government, I believe exit from the European Union is, unfortunately, essential to achieve this, and I also think, fundamentally, Nigel Farage errs on the side of less intervention. 

What's the problem?  Well it's all about Romanians.  Yes there have been plenty of instances of Romanian gangs engaging in criminal activity in the UK, but you can talk about disproportionate numbers of crimes committed by race in several other dimensions as well.  Had Nigel Farage said "you know the difference between a group of black men moving next door and a German family", then he wouldn't and couldn't have got out of it by saying "well the crime statistics show a disproportionate number of prisoners are black".  It isn't just taboo because it is politically incorrect, it is because the implication that everyone else should look upon people of a certain ethnicity with suspicion that they could be criminal because of their ethnicity leads you down a path that is utterly reprehensible.

For in that are the seeds of collective guilt, the seeds of racial discrimination and hatred.

So whilst Farage initially wrote off his radio comment as just being because he was "tired", this press release killed my vote for UKIP. 

Blame whoever wrote the headline to it, because I don't need to quote from the press release to "get it".  In my office I work with a Romanian woman, who is hard working, diligent and conscientious and who arrived in the UK legally before the "doors were opened".  I don't believe she was after "my job" and I also don't believe I'd have reason to be concerned if her and her friends or family moved in next door by merely the fact that they are Romanian.

Had Farage come out and said his concern was about open borders allowing criminals to live in the UK unchecked from other countries, not just Romanians and that it was highly inappropriate and wrong to appear to single them out, he might have saved it.  However he didn't, he and the party, engaged in the sort of slimy two-faced contradictions it accuses the others of undertaking.

The press release said "Police figures are quite clear that there is a high level of criminality within the Romanian community in Britain. This is not to say for a moment that all or even most Romanian people living in the UK are criminals."

"Lots of black people commit crime, but most of them don't."  Imagine that statement, for it could be said to be true, but how is it treating people as individuals?  On their deeds not their background?
I'm not one to throw about the "racist" insult as is the tactic of all too many on the left, and by no means do I think UKIP is anything approaching the BNP.  Indeed, by wanting a common approach to immigration from all countries, it resists this, but it is absolutely true that UKIP's campaign this year hasn't been about liberating the UK from the EU primarily, it has been about scaremongering about immigration.  As one wit quipped, "if you are scared that a poorly educated, non-English speaking eastern European is going to take your job, then maybe you might just be quite shit at it".

There was a lot that could have been focused on more, like the contribution the EU has to the cost of living, but instead it focused on this:


We believe in the right of the people of the UK to govern ourselves, rather than be governed by unelected bureaucrats in Brussels (and, increasingly, in London and even your local town hall). 

We believe in the minimum necessary government which defends individual freedom, supports those in real need, takes as little of our money as possible and doesn’t interfere in our lives.

What libertarian would find that to not be in the right direction, with the only slip to freedom being a reference to what would be a basic welfare state, but which would be a revolutionary change from the socialism of Red Ed's Labour, the do-gooding enviro-statism of the Liberal Democrats, to the diluted, Green-tinged, petty statist Conservatives?

Sure there were some signs that the instincts of some in the party were wrong.  Some defended the NHS, some argued against liberalising planning laws.  In fact the party's local government policy says that it would stop housing development on green space, even though the primary cause of the housing crisis is the neo-Stalinist planning system that locks up half of the land in London in less than pristine greenbelt land (and a quarter of that land would supply London's housing needs for a generation).

Then the EU was blamed for HS2, the privatisation of Royal Mail, the privatisation of the NHS and more latterly the crisis in Ukraine.  There are enough reasons to criticise the EU for its wasteful subsidies and fetish for regulation without making up conspiracy theories about how the EU changes policies that are outside its remit, or making excuses for corrupt kleptocratic revanchist thugs. I've argued vehemently with several UKIPpers on these points, using facts and quoting European legislation (see I know this stuff!), and they either fold quickly and say it doesn't matter or claim I've been duped because somehow I can read legislation and understand it with a law degree.

A party that proudly can't be bothered to use reason in its arguments, and more recently blames Russian irredentism on the EU, is not just getting it wrong, but is damaging the cause.

Now Romanians have been scapegoated, and there isn't really any shame about it.

When he sticks to that subject, he's an excellent proponent of the argument. But when he brings Romanians into it, when he smears an entire nation to make the case against immigration, he's clearly doing the cause more harm than good. You can sense more moderate voters recoiling every time he strays into this territory. It's as if the Ukip leader is confirming the caricature of Euroscepticism that the BBC, the FT, the Independent and the Guardian have been trying to paint for the past 30 years – the Eurosceptic as swivel-eyed loon, as Little Englander, as closet racist. People like me have always claimed that's a straw man. But Nigel Farage is that straw man. 

In the local election my choice is clear.  My borough is Labour dominated, in my ward there are three Conservative councillors, and one UKIP candidate, who hasn't bothered to distribute a leaflet outlining his views on council spending, housing, roads and schools (council issues), so he doesn't deserve my vote (especially given UKIP's opposition to new housing on the greenbelt).  I'll vote for the Conservative councillors on their individual merits.

I have a mild tribal instinct to treat UKIP as Thatcherite Conservatives, but it isn't - despite Labour's protestations, it isn't by a mile.  I detest the simpering, ecologist felching, gutless cowardice of some of the Conservative leadership, albeit this has changed somewhat in government, but give the choice I have decided to vote Conservative.  Not because it will make a difference, but because I cannot give moral agency to UKIP campaigning as it has done, and because polling indicates that UKIP may win, with Labour second and the Conservatives a close third.  I'd much rather give the Conservatives a chance of beating Labour, than give my moral endorsement to UKIP's campaign.

UKIP is proudly seeking working class Labour voters.  Good on it, I'd be thrilled to see Labour terrified in the heartlands it has so cynically taken for granted.  However, that isn't me, and I would much rather that a reasoned debate be had about the European Union and what the UK could be like without it, than scaremongering about an entire nation and evoking "understanding" for Vladimir Putin.

Quite simply, despite much that is good about UKIP, it is now poisoned, and I can't bring myself to endorse a party that tolerates that poison.  I'll vote Conservative because the European Parliament itself is not that important, and because the candidates themselves are fighting for less control from Brussels, and include some rather fine individuals (e.g. Daniel Hannan) who consistently argue against environmentalism, socialism and the travesties of the Common Agricultural Policy and EU waste.   It's not the UKIP I wished I could have voted for, but it's in the right direction, its professional and it doesn't besmirch individual nationalities.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Farage's gaffe on Ukraine

More often than not I agree with Nigel Farage.   He generally has disdain for statist authority, tends to prefer to leave people alone to live their lives the way they want and his stance against the EU is primarily (although not exclusively) about wanting less rules from Brussels, not more rules from Westminster (the Tony Benn stance).

 I agree with withdrawal from the EU for many reasons, most of all its strong protectionist instincts, the overwhelming push to introduce pan European legislation on matters that shouldn't be regulated and the unaccountable nature of the European Council and European Commission, not least because the European Parliament has no powers to repeal or introduce legislation.  I'm no worshipper of democracy, but law making should not be done by appointed officials, rather than elected representatives, not least because the latter can be removed.

I don't believe the EU should have a foreign policy that extends beyond trade, not least because the interests and positions of Member States are wildy diverse.  How can you reasonably represent a common view from leading NATO Members that are Nuclear Weapons States (the UK and France) against neutral states (Austria, Ireland and Sweden)?  You need only look at the sclerosis the EU has with disputes between its Member States of this nature (Gibraltar-UK) to see this, as well as how ineffectual it is in dealing with issue facing its Member States from threatening behaviour.  

However, when Nigel Farage debated Nick Clegg saying the EU had "blood on its hands" and spoke rather approvingly of Vladimir Putin he opened a can of worms that he didn't really intend.  Hence the backtracking via press release.

You see Nigel's most appealing trait is that he speaks off the cuff, he says what he feels like saying, it isn't particularly well rehearsed and that shows, and people respect it.  What it means is that sometimes what he says points to much much more than he really means.  That is what has happened over Ukraine.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Budget 2014

I agree with the IEA - Budgets should be scrapped.  They are awful political exercises in running a lolly scramble, whereby the Chancellor of the Exchequer gets to exercise wholly inappropriate powers to dish out other people's money.
He seeks glory and gratitude from the various preferred parties who either get some of their money back (a tax cut, or even tax freezes are meant to gain applause) or get to spend other people's money.

There are two things I want from the Budget in principle, as for the detail, I have suggestions on those too, but here goes.

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Is it fear or is it editorial judgment?

In the past week, a battle within the Liberal Democrat Party has become news, if only because it highlights the clash between those who believe in absolute free speech, and those who think free speech should be tempered by it not "causing offence" to others - which of course is not free speech.  The latter is the sort of "free speech" seen in China, when you can talk about anything, as long as it doesn't offend the Communist Party, or in Islamist countries where you can't offend the local clerics.

It is anything but liberal.

- A Sunday morning BBC discussion programme included two people who wore t-shirts from "Jesus and Mo".  Here it is 

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

No. You didn't pay into the "state pension", it's a fraud

One of the most cruel and callous lies of the pension system in the UK is that it involves people paying all their lives "into a system" that they get "paid back" from.

This myth has been created and perpetuated by politicians, and is sustained by the lie that is "national insurance".  It isn't insurance.  Any private company that offered a voluntary scheme that resembled "national insurance" would face legal proceedings and its directors would be convicted of fraud.  I have heard it once described as a PONZI scheme, which is what is resembles.

The problem lies in several dimensions.

Taxpayer funded old age pensions originally were established to address the poverty of the elderly, back in the days when life expectancy was in its mid 60s.  The issue simply being that when people were too old or frail to work (during an age when most work was physical) there was a lot of support for providing for the elderly poor.  This translated eventually into a basic universal pension to avoid poverty, but not much else.

What came beyond that was the idea that people could have more, and that it could be contributory.  "You get what you pay in" sounds like a fundamentally fair principle.  So came "national insurance", essentially a tax that would be a contribution through your life that would reflect in a higher pension once you retire.

Except that it was an unintended fraud.

Unlike individual pension schemes, where there are accounts kept, where the money is invested for a return that will be reflected in the final pension amount, national insurance contributions were treated as taxes.  

The state spent the lot.  It saved nothing and invested nothing.

Sunday, 28 April 2013

UKIP could do so much good, but needs to professionalise properly

There is a good reason for UKIP existing in UK politics.  Its original raison d'etre, to support UK withdrawal from the EU, is a position that was ridiculed for so long by the three major parties.  Indeed, it was long thought that the Conservative Party was denying itself electoral victory by opposing the Euro and having a strong Eurosceptic wing to it.

Those days are long gone, and given EU attempts to expand regulation across business, spending on rent-seeking industries and its persistently unaudited accounts, there are sound reasons to promote leaving the EU on economic liberal grounds, and retention of sovereignty. 

So there is a space for a party that seeks to leave the EU.

UKIP's views on immigration, which are decidedly not libertarian, are still views that no major party has been good at taking on.  Support for a points based immigration system, that means migrants are clearly net contributors, is not racist or nationalistic, but likely to be acceptable to many who reject immigration for more unsavoury reasons (i.e.  don't like foreigners, especially ones who work harder than me or for less money).  Similarly, opposition to an absolute open door for migration from across the EU does have a sound basis in terms of managing the obvious claims to the welfare state, and being able to exclude convicted serious criminals.

Beyond that, the real potential for UKIP is to be the party to keep the Conservatives honest to certain key principles.  Like less regulation rather than more.  Like believing in not only fiscal responsibility, but in reducing public debt and the size of the state.   Like promoting a simpler tax system, with lower rates.  Like encouraging competition and choice in public services, and confining the welfare state to relieving poverty as a safety net, not providing support to people on middle incomes.  

However, to do that UKIP needs three major internal steps to transform itself.  These have become apparent in recent weeks with the dramatic growth in candidate numbers, and the symptoms of a party that has grown from a small bunch of enthusiasts to a large bunch of amateurs.

It has parallels to what happened to the BNP, which has had very brief bursts of popularity, but has long been so toxic, rightfully so, that is only attracted people who either wanted to join but retain a low profile, or those for whom BNP participation wouldn't ruin their employment or business prospects.  That's because they weren't that good in the first place.

UKIP can be different.  It does explicitly ban BNP, NF and EDL members from joining, but does so on an honour basis.   However, it has a lot of people who have joined with little experience of politics and has developed an ad hoc approach to policy.  It has a window of opportunity to change this.  Criticism leading up to the county council elections will do little harm, but UKIP ought to be aiming to come first next year in the European elections, and do well in the larger scale local elections.  To do this, it needs to ensure it harnesses what is good and negates what is bad:

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Scrap planning laws and urban growth boundaries, and go back to property rights

Give some credit to Nick Boles, he's actually making an effort to confront part of the problem with housing - the socialist central planning focused planning laws that make just about any alteration to a property a matter, not for the property owner, but for "society".

That means the immediate neighbours, the near neighbours, the people down the road, the local residents' association, the local environmental group, maybe a competing business, a charity and of course, the council itself.  

Your property isn't yours, and it isn't about protecting the property rights of others, it is simply about gaining the consent of those whose property it isn't.  In other words, it is communitarianism.

So I applaud the attempts to simplify planning laws, to make it easier for property owners to build on their own land, and to change the use of properties from commercial to residential purposes.

However, it isn't enough.  The fundamental philosophy behind the planning system is rooted in 1940s style socialism - the belief that property is communal, not private.

This needs to be scrapped and replaced with a new approach, based entirely on private property rights.