Friday, 17 April 2015

VoteSwap - Don't do it.


There has been a movement recently in the papers and on social media to promote the idea of ‘vote-swapping’. The basic idea is that Green voters in marginal Labour seats should vote Labour for tactical reasons, to keep the Tories out of power. Where this is promoted by Labour supporters like Owen Jones or Sunny Hundal, it is understandable. But when this is recommended by erstwhile Green Party supporters, it is harder to swallow.

All over the country thousands of activists are working flat out to get their council and parliamentary candidates elected, for what is now the third biggest political party in the UK. Despite our rapid growth, we don’t have the same fat cats to bankroll our campaign. We rely on membership fees, donations from members and crowd funding campaigns. Those donors and all this hard work would be totally undermined and quite frankly betrayed by vote swapping.

If we are to achieve real change in our political system we must vote with our convictions and do it now. Whilst the FPTP system will not favour small parties, if we hope to have any influence over a future Labour government we must ensure that our opinions are heard and the proportion of votes in each constituency is representative. Voting tactically means Labour can sit back under the impression they have an unquestioned mandate and their continuing austerity policies have popular support. We must shake them out of their complacency and open the debate.

The argument that ‘by voting Green you get Tory’ is a poor reason to vote for a party that does not represent you. If they cannot win on policy, they must not win on fear. This might be a principled and un-pragmatic approach – true we do not want the Tories to regain power – but how much difference is there between Tory and Labour now? Remember that since Blairism and New Labour, we have less and less in common with a pro-fracking, pro-austerity, pro-Trident party under Miliband – a party that even went so far as to copy a UKIP policy and then sold mugs that proudly announced it.

So if you are a Green voter or are considering voting Green, then that is exactly what you should do no matter where in the country you are.



Monday, 10 November 2014

Why Vote UKIP? What UKIP stands for...


The UKIP deputy leader Suzanne Evans has written a pamphlet as a part of the 'Why Vote...' series published by Biteback Publishing

I've read it, so you don't have to. 

On the whole, the book is written with the self-confident feel of a doomed-to-fail A-level essay – the pupil given the assignment and launching forth into what she considers a magnum opus based solely on the York notes. Footnote numbers in the text lead simply to footnotes, and where references are given, they are incorrectly or incompletely listed, affording the reader little chance of consulting the source material. But the source material in most cases seems to be articles in the Daily and Sunday Express, and where these haven't actually been written by senior UKIP figures, they have an obvious leaning in that direction to say the least.


The introduction
The first 10% of the book (Kindle edition), is given to outspoken defence of UKIP whilst attacking other parties (note use of the favourite line of UKIP defence – smear), interspersed with tired, jingoistic, post-imperialist nonsense.

It is hard to see a mention of any policy or fundamental ideology listed other than leaving the EU, one of the reasons being it’s  “theoretically possible for 500 million” people to come to the UK.


Chapter 1 – leaving the EU
This is unsurprisingly the theme of the first chapter. UKIP watchers will not be surprised to learn that this drags out all the usual UKIP tropes that bear so little relation to what people in the real world call ‘facts’. The whole chapter is an attack – again, not one policy other than the title of the chapter – not even how this policy would be practically achieved.


Chapter 2 - immigration
UKIP has “the least racist immigration policy” being put forward by any party – which of itself, is a chilling way for a party to describe any policy.

Our ‘tiny’ island is being swamped with a population density of 680 per square mile (actual figure is 96 - this figure would make the population 166.5 million!). We need to build a house every 7 seconds (no reference given but this comes from right-wing lobby group Migration Watch not the ONS as stated) and so how long before our ‘green and pleasant land’ is concreted over?

As the text goes on, it becomes more rhetorical and frenzied in style. As in the first chapter, most of the text is given over to attack. One ‘fact’ is 16 ‘alleged illegal’ immigrants were fighting deportation at a cost of £1.5 million to the taxpayer. The source for this is ‘government figures released 16 April 2014’ – however the actual source for this story is the Daily Express of that date which is also not referenced – so the government documents cannot be traced – though from other sources, it seems that these ‘alleged illegal’ immigrants are in fact asylum seekers in detention whilst their cases are heard.

The author states the case that the current immigration policy is ‘arguably racist’ in that it discriminates in favour of ‘predominantly white’ and ‘Christian’ EU citizens. This is laughable nonsense – following this argument, UK-only desks at border control would also be racist.
Whilst stating that UKIP would operate a points system, fair for all, and wouldn’t pull up the drawbridge, it does specify in black and white the policy of denying all state assistance, health, benefits and education to all immigrants for five years. The author acknowledges that this would greatly reduce immigration. Of course the truth is that it would effectively end all immigration.
It goes on to state that whilst ‘overseas workers’ would be prevented from taking minimum-wage jobs, ‘those already living here could apply as usual’ (note that IS a direct quote).

Speaking ‘competent’ English would be a condition of entry too – but what level is considered ‘competent’ or how this would be assessed is not stated.


Chapter 3trade
This again follows a pattern of attack, attack, attack, (smear) attack. Though the theme is trade, hidden in the text is an attack on safety and worker’s rights legislation, and once again, the main fault for unemployment and low wages lies with the hordes of immigrants. It follows the ‘lump of labour’ fallacy as expected, and doesn’t mention the fact that the highest proportion of jobs advertised to the EU relate to the lack of the required qualifications in the UK labour market, or that indeed all these jobs are advertised within the UK and open to anyone (with the right qualifications).


Chapter 4 - Government waste and lowering taxes.
This goes on about tax in the way that you would expect from a neo-liberalist party. Tax is an inherent evil, so the state will be dismantled in order to reduce it. 

It does mention some policy, though confused and obviously, not costed. It confuses minimum wage with living wage, stating the lowest paid will be removed from income tax (as they are currently), whilst the top rate of tax will be reduced to 40% and start at £45k. Apparently earning this much ‘doesn’t make you wealthy’ – though you would be in the top 17%, earning almost double the average wage of £26,500 (that stat DOES come from the ONS).

There is the inevitable attack on green policies and wind power, claiming to quote stats from a report by Graham Sinden from the Environmental Change Institute - claiming, as somewhat curiously, that report is the only one not published online. The extract below however from another report by the same author, seems to completely contradict what was attributed to him:

Low wind speed conditions affecting 90% or more of the UK would occur in
around one hour every five years during winter;

The chance of wind turbines shutting down due to high wind speed
conditions is very rare – high winds affecting 40% or more of the UK would
occur in around one hour every 10 years. 

Though the chapter is about tax, here the policy of building more gas-fired power stations fuelled through fracking is laid out. The process is ‘safe’ (!) and would ‘invigorate rural communities’ – though what this would do to our ‘green and pleasant land’ isn’t mentioned here. It quotes the American case, and says that shale would be a source of wealth and drop domestic fuel costs. It doesn’t mention that to reach those levels in the UK would require in excess of 50,000 fracking wells throughout the countryside, from urban areas to green belt and national parks.

And again, those to blame for the welfare bill are… immigrants, with the source of this scholarly information being… The Daily Express. So whilst it talks about cutting the welfare bill (of which only 0.8% is spent on foreign-born migrants – and most of that will be on the asylum seekers and refugees that UKIP says it will look after), other than its policy of effectively ending immigration, it doesn’t say how this will be achieved.


Chapter 5 – Ethical Foreign Policy and Aid.
Basically, according to the author, the EU developing its own foreign policy is to blame for wars, pestilence and famine, from Afghanistan to the Ukraine. The LibLabCons have repeatedly made errors with interventionist policies. UKIP intends to maintain the UK’s ‘seats’ at NATO and the UN but will retain full control of the armed forces, only intervening if there is direct threat to the UK or ‘moral grounds’ for doing so – no mention how this would affect standing treaties.

The international aid budget would be slashed. There seems to be naïve lack of understanding as to how aid works hand-in-hand with trade and cultural exchange – for example not understanding why developing countries give aid to each other. It talks at some length about the UK giving aid to India – when in fact this has already been terminated by mutual agreement. 

It says that UKIP would not give aid to corrupt governments, and curiously not to governments that deny rights to LGBT people – the first and only mention.


Chapter 6 – investing in the NHS
As before the first part of the chapter is defence of UKIP and attacking the other parties, accusing them of responsibility for all the recent health scandals. Not forgetting the nasty EU with their Working Time Directive, meaning doctors can’t work more than 48 hours in a week. 

And let’s continue to scapegoat immigrants of course, not just the myth of the ‘health tourist’, but also ‘foreign-born mothers’ (so we don’t know whether this includes residents or citizens as well) responsible for one-in-four births. ‘Serious diseases have been re-introduced to Britain’ it declares (!).

So how would UKIP save the NHS?

  • ·         Abolish ‘non-jobs’ in admin (redundancies – how many?)
  • ·         Free eye and dental checks to cut long term costs
  • ·         Open GP surgeries one evening a week
  • ·         Put nurse training back to on-the-job in the hospital as there is no need for nurses to have academic training
  • ·         Free at the point of delivery to UK-born ‘residents’ (citizens? nationals?) and immigrants who have been here for five years
  • ·         Scrapping car park charges
Two things are concerning about this – the classification of UK-born residents – as if being born in the UK does not automatically determine citizenship and nationality. Also, throughout the text, free is always immediately qualified by at the point of delivery

As for the much publicised ideas of privatisation and procurement – no mention at all, other than to criticise the way it was done by Labour and the Tories.


Chapter 7 - Farmers and Fisheries
From this point forward we’ll skip over the EU did this, LibLabCon did this etc.

Some agreement here in the way the Common Fisheries Policy has been applied. The author doesn’t mention that one of the key reasons for the CFP is over-fishing and declining fish stocks, to the point where we could pass the point of no return on fish populations. The way industrial fishing is being done has not changed, so that rather than catching to quota (which on the face of it, may be impractical) the trawlers continue to trawl everything and then sort on deck, throwing dead and dying fish, not saleable due to quota, size or species, back into the sea to rot. 

UKIP would take our territorial waters back to 200 miles (what is now classified as the Exclusive Economic Zone by the UN, not as stated) and exclude all other fleets, effectively stopping the livelihood of every North Sea fisherman from every other European country. All quotas would cease, all fish to be landed. It mentions security resource – so imagine how many navy ships would need to be on constant patrol to secure just under 300,000 square km of sea?

Farming – UKIP would continue farming subsidies but cap this at £150k p.a. and no have no set-aside award. De-regulation will consider ‘risk’ and ‘hazard separately, basically setting aside all the current safety and environmental protection laws specifically mentioning: nitrate vulnerable zones, electronic sheep tagging, white asbestos (!) and anti-BSE measures. They will ban the export of live animals for slaughter and control the import of bush meat (already illegal) as this can spread disease like ebola (it can’t).


Chapter 8 – Education
The chapter starts with building development. It will protect the green belt, build on brownfields, invest in roads, re-establish local bus routes and re-open branch lines. No idea where the money will come from or how this will be achieved. They will also guarantee free parking within town centres (imagine what that will do to congestion).

Policing: a no-nonsense zero-tolerance policy with police freed from paperwork (no mention how that will be done either). It will lengthen and enforce prison sentences, making space by deporting foreign convicts. It will remove us from the ECHR and deport criminals whether they have families in the UK or not. Again, no mention how this would be achieved or how the countries receiving the convicts and their families would react. 

They will build more prisons, have full education and rehabilitation programs within prison and rehabilitation centres after release. No mention again of how this will be paid for or realised. Compulsory education? Special needs and adult teachers to be trained – in some respects laudable, in others practically impossible and laughably naïve.

Education – grammar schools. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, they believe that grammar schools are the magic bullet and will bring back strict selection and the school system of fifty years ago. Those ‘not suited to the academic’ will be placed in vocational training and apprenticeships.
University tuition fees will be scrapped for those who meet the academic requirements and go on government approved courses to fill skill gaps. 

The focus here entirely is education to get a job and for the good of the state – not education as an end in itself. The result would be an extension of what is happening under the current system – only the privileged would be able to study what they want and the humanities and arts would eventually only be taught at a few universities. Everyone else would be fighting for the gov. approved and funded engineering and science courses. The university system would be quite deliberately destroyed through this policy.


Chapter 9 – Taking Pride in Britain
This chapter isn’t really a policy at all. It attacks multiculturalism, blaming it for everything from terrorism to FGM. UKIP is not ashamed but proud of Britain’s imperial history. Of course the PM should not apologise for the slave trade! The ‘sneering intelligentsia’ look down on the empire and have invented ideas of ‘post-colonial guilt’. The empire has benefited the world. It stands up for Christian values, and perhaps the denigration of these values by ‘left-wing atheists’ has caused ‘negative consequences’. There is a very heavy emphasis here on Christianity at the heart of British culture and law that came as a surprise.

Multiculturalism is determined and designed with the intention of ‘destroying’ the culture of the majority, condemning any idea of patriotism as ‘racism’. UKIP will stop funding for multiculturalist projects, stop multi-lingual formatting of government literature (except indigenous languages); teach pride of empire in schools.


Chapter 10 – UKIP in Government
UKIP follows the neo-liberalist idea of small government. It will close the following ministries: 
  • International Development 
  • Justice
  • Energy and Climate Change
  • Communities and Local Government
  • Culture Media and Sport
  • BIS
It would stop charities such as Child Poverty, War on Want, Oxfam, WWF for Nature and FoE from any political activity, reporting or lobbying. 

They would ‘clean-up’ Westminster, controlling SPADs, quangos and tsars.

Aside from the damage that the removal of these departments would do to everything from efforts to combat climate change to investment in the arts, the total restriction of the activities of charities can only be seen as a deliberate attack on any form of organised dissent or non-commercial influence on government policy.


So, still not much in the way of actual policy or how this will be achieved, but wading through the ranting attacks and scapegoating, some new and very frightening policy intentions. And as Farage says in his blurb on the cover, 

"This lively and authoritative guide sets the record straight about what UKIP really stands for..."





 


 

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Immigrants? UKIP loves immigrants! ...or not.



Today the findings of UCL’s academic analysis of the financial and other impacts of immigration on the UK economy hit the headlines. Amongst other things, it puts the final nail in the coffin of the ‘health’ and benefit tourists’ myths at the heart of UKIP policies, with European migrants making a net contribution of over £20bn over a ten year period. It even makes the recent increased contribution demand of £1.7bn look tiny. It is precisely why the idea of free movement is at the core of EU policy – the economic advantages of a mobile workforce as well as the trade that brings are immense. Effectively, the report removes all financial reasons why the current level of immigration from the EU would be opposed.

So, what is UKIP’s response to this academic, fact-based analysis of the data?

Steven Woolfe MEP, UKIP’s immigration spokesman, replied here.
Let’s have a look at this in detail. 


1. “The principal issue for UKIP has never been about whether immigrants are all 'benefit scroungers'. We recognise that immigration can be economically advantageous for the UK.”


Really? These posters and leaflets really put that message across don't they? 




2.   “That's why we are the only major political party proposing a points based immigration system that will accentuate the benefits to Britain while reducing any negative impact.”

We already operate a quite restrictive points based system for non-EU immigrants – but the UKIP policy would actually close the borders to all but the rich – also startlingly, removing residency rights and allowing ‘application’ for these only after TEN YEARS.



 3.    "What this study doesn't do is to show what wealth our own people could have generated if they weren't ‎subjected to wage-reducing, employment-displacing mass immigration from the EU. Nor does it truly take into account the opportunity costs to the UK of substituting large sections of Britain's workforce with migrant labour.”


No, because it is based on fact, not speculation. Also, there is no mass immigration; no work displacement due to migration (because that is the Lump of Labour fallacy); the changes in employment practices and fall in wages are a direct result of government policy. As for substituting  the UK workforce – the study reveals that the EU migrants are better educated and qualified (“in 2011, 25% of immigrants from A10 countries and 62% of those from EU-15 countries had a university degree, while the comparable share is 24% among natives”) – equivalent to a £6.8bn investment in education. Again, this is the fault of government policy, the destruction of proper apprenticeships, polytechnics, EMA and the scandalous university fees . Employers will employ the best qualified (and isn’t that a ‘libertarian’ idea?).



4. “I am also very alarmed how the methodology of the report pits migrants from the EU against immigrants from the wider world. I fundamentally disagree with the discrimination of our current system which favours Europeans at the expense of people from the Commonwealth and the rest of the globe. It shouldn't matter which country you are from when applying for a visa. A fair and ethical immigration policy should be based on merit and need.”


He’s trying to discredit the study by accusing it of discrimination! This is farcically nonsensical; the study has to consider the different groups as different laws and restrictions apply, aside from the greatly differing demographics of the source populations.

The current points system does discriminate depending on home country. Is he suggesting that English native-speakers are treated the same as non-speakers? That the security measures applied to some nationals be applied universally? That the differing treaties we have with different countries all be negated?

The core message here is that the anti-immigrant fears and myths are just that and have no basis in fact. Any attempt to continue them after this report should be carefully scrutinised – exactly why would anyone oppose immigration, when it supplies vital support to our economy?