» 2012 » November ¦ What You Can Get Away With

They’re riding high(ish) in the polls, they’ve just broken their own recently-set record for their best by-election performance and with the European elections of 2014 on the horizon, it seems UKIP are getting serious:

It’s no secret that the Ukip leader Nigel Farage is planning a purge of many, if not most, of the party’s existing 11 MEPs. He feels that too many of his MEPs up to now have oddballs and eccentrics, too old, often lazy, sometimes corrupt. He thinks his MEPs don’t project the right kind of modern, serious image that will appeal to young people and those who’ve never voted for Ukip before. And Mr Farage also thinks he hasn’t got enough prominent women in his party.

That’s certainly a bold move, sweeping away the old guard for a new, young and fresh breed, ready to show how UKIP are dramatically different from the other parties…

Wait? They’re planning to have both Christine and Neil Hamilton as candidates?

As Sir Humphrey might say, that’s a brave decision, Mr Farage.

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North Korea, Ireland, UKIP, revolutions and the end of the world. Enjoy.

Don’t be fooled: UKIP is not a libertarian party – Alex Massie in the Spectator points out what should be obvious, but ‘libertarian’ has been so abused, people sadly think they are.
Stand Still for the Apocalypse – Chris Hedges on the latest World Bank report on global warming, which is predicting all sorts of nightmares for the rest of the century.
It really is that bad: A powerful speech on North Korea – “One challenge I always have when I speak about North Korea is I run out of adjectives for how bad things are.” What’s happening in North Korea, and how we’re letting it go on. (Watch the video too)
On social change – Chris Dillow asks if we’re going through a revolution right now
10 things that are different about British and Irish politics – An interesting illumination by Jason O’Mahony. “Whereas hardly any Irish TDs rebelled over paying billions to bank bond holders, they did break ranks over dog breeding and the inspection of septic tanks.”

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Today’s the Castle Ward Day of Action, with people from lots of difference agencies (including Essex Police and the Council) carrying out a variety of different tasks around the ward. There’s a lot more information about it here, and if you’re in town there’s an information booth in Culver Street West (outside Halifax) with representatives from lots of different agencies and organisations giving out advice and information.

Along with my colleague Cllr Bill Frame, I’ve just been watching Junior Speedwatch in action, which was interesting. It’s an action to tackle speeding in one of the areas it’s been reported and is a partnership of the police and one of the local schools (I’m being a bit vague on the location details as it’s still ongoing!).

There’s a PC and PCSO out with speed sensor, identifying cars that are breaking the speed limit. When they find one, the car gets pulled over, informed they’re breaking the speed limit and then asked to get out of the car to meet some children from the local school. The children then get to ask the driver questions about why they were speeding and related issues, which can be more effective in getting the driver to think about what they’ve been doing than just a talking-to from a police officer.

There’s lots of things like this going on today, and there will be for the next three months after while the Safer Colchester Partnership works heavily in this area as a follow-up. Hopefully, it will help make Castle Ward better for everyone, and I’ll report back some more information from the day when it’s been collated.

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Reading this, I’m struck by a question or two:

Is there any issue the libertarian right think can’t be solved by the supposedly free market? And how many issues can be discussed by them without straw man arguments and ad hominem attacks on those who disagree with them?

(I’m considering a longer post on the use of ‘libertarian’, but this will serve for now)

Dan Hodges writes on the Telegraph website today:

Ukip are not a political force, but a political curiosity. In years to come many a pub quiz trophy will be won by those who can correctly answer the question: “What was the name of the guy who ran the anti-EU party? Begins with an N.”
In life there are rules. What goes up will come down. The Earth rotates around the Sun, not vice versa. And come election time, minor British political parties get squeezed out of existence.
It may not be fair. It may not be healthy. But them’s the facts. And unfortunately, they are immutable.
Of course, come Sunday 5 May, 2013, when next year’s European votes are counted, there’s going to be a whole lot of muting going on. Ukip will be in the process of recording their greatest ever election triumph. The Tories will have been beaten into a humiliating third place. Eurosceptic MPs will be fanning out across the airways demanding action and the summary execution of Ken Clarke.

So far, so generic. But hold on, what’s this?

Sunday 5 May, 2013, when next year’s European votes are counted

I know ‘vote early, vote often’ is an oft-used saying, but a whole year early? That’s either real dedication to the cause, or someone who’s supposed to understand politics and commentate on it not knowing basic facts like when elections take place. And these are elections that take place in London too, so the media are allowed to notice they’re happening.

But who needs to bother with facts when they can get in the way of giving your opinion?

(The Telegraph have now slightly corrected the error, though the page now reads ‘come June 2014, when next year’s European votes are counted’ which implies a vote next year and then a delay of several months before they’re counted. A screengrab of the original page is here, just to confirm)

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Various people were buzzing this morning thanks to this story in the Telegraph where UKIP treasurer Stuart Wheeler talks about people he’s had lunch with recently. With this, and the bizarre ‘Sarah Teather’s about to join Labour’ rumour that went round last week, it seems we’re in a new silly season, probably caused when everyone got confused by an MP going on a televised holiday to Australia in November.

As I wrote a few weeks ago, MPs crossing the floor is something that’s happened very rarely in modern times. (See here for a list) They also tend to happen as surprises, because negotiations about defection take place in secret, not with the full blast of publicity. I don’t doubt that Stuart Wheeler has had lunch with Tory MPs, and he might even have floated the idea of them joining UKIP at those lunches, but equally those MPs might well have thought that they were doing their bit for the Conservative Party and trying to lure him back. If UKIP had one Tory MP close to defecting to them, let alone eight, they’d be keeping very quiet about it until it was a done deal. Making noise about it seems to be more about attempting to drum up some interest and make Tory backbenchers restless, rather than a signal of imminent defections.

Indeed, one might want to ask what a Tory MP would get out of switching? The prize the Tory anti-Europeans appear to be seeking at the moment is an electoral pact with UKIP, and if that deal seems possible – and Nigel Farage appears to be indicating that if the Tories defenestrate David Cameron, he might be open to it – why would you defect to a party that’s going to step aside to give a free run to the one you’ve just left? (Though there’s an interesting question about how much impact a pact like that would have – see Anthony Wells’ latest piece for more on that) Defections tend to take place between competing parties, not ones that are seeking to come to an accommodation.

From UKIP’s perspective, there’s also what you could call the Kilroy factor to be aware of too. They got lots of headlines from Robert Kilroy-Silk joining the party in 2004, but the subsequent turmoil caused by his belief that he was the biggest fish in a very small pond damaged the party. UKIP may want MPs, but do they want ones who’ll get lots more publicity than the rest of the party and try to mould the party around them?

I wouldn’t be that surprised to see a Tory MP switch to UKIP at some point in this Parliament, but like many defections, it’ll likely be someone disaffected (and possibly deselected), rather than some mass ideological walkout. They’ll continue to woo Tory MPs, but any actual defection will likely come after a period of silence, not a PR blitz.

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It’s Monday, and so it’s time for a new week of silly proposals from obscure Tory MPs. First there’s Michael Fabricant batting his eyes enticingly at UKIP, and then there’s this as well: (via)

For individuals aged under 25 who have not yet paid National Insurance contributions for a certain period, perhaps five years, unemployment benefit should be in the form of a repayable loan. An unemployed teenager would still receive the same amount of cash as now, for example, but they would be expected to repay the value once in work.

Like many proposals from the nuttier fringes of the Tory party, it reads like a parody – it’s not enough for the poor to be poor, let’s put them in debt to the state as well! – and the information at the bottom of the piece left me just as confused:

Chris Skidmore is MP for Kingswood, and a member of the Free Enterprise Group.

The name, the constituency, the ‘Free Enterprise Group’ – they all sound like things that could exist in Britain and the Tory Party, but do they actually exist? Is Skidmore just the Richard Geefe of the Tory right, perhaps Craig Brown sneaking something under the radar?

Apparently, no. Like James Delingpole, and so much else that passes for ‘commentary’ at the Telegraph, it’s entirely and depressingly genuine.

But it got me thinking – how hard would it be for someone to create an entirely fake MP and get people (including the media) to believe they were real? Kingswood, for instance, is one of those generic-sounding names that could be anywhere in the country (it’s actually to the north of Bristol), but if an article told you that it’s author was the MP for Queensbridge, for instance, would you question it? After all, there are 650 MPs, and who can remember all of them and their constituencies? Then if your fake MP was spotted, you could always invent a fake Lord to take their place – even political obsessives can’t name more than a handful of crossbench peers – though that is a trick that someone else has tried to pull recently. (But then again, surely Christopher Monckton is a parody that’s gone out of control?)

And finally, if you’ve had your fill of Parliament, you could always try setting up a fake Council. The 1974 Local Government Act gave us lot of names that can fool even the most experienced geographer – Vale Of White Horse, Three Rivers, Dacorum, Adur – as well as a lot of Mids, Wests, Easts, Souths and Norths, so it should be easy enough to come up with a name. Of course, there’s no chance of the media paying any attention to you, no matter what you do, unless you find some way to make them think you’re actually a London borough. Still, you’ll likely get lots of invites to attend and speak at Really Important Conferences.

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