Tag: ukip

Fantasy Island

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I haven’t written anything on this site for a while now.  It’s actually rather difficult to know what to write when confronted with the astonishing spectacle of national self-destruction that is unfolding in front of our eyes.  Nowadays hardly a day passes without another  reminder that the UK has entered a new political dimension in which delusions of grandeur, magical thinking and ideological fantasy have replaced anything that we once thought had any connection to the real world.

These tendencies reach across the political spectrum.  You can find them in George Galloway, doing the full UKIP/Churchill thing on Arron Banks’s Westmonster website (sorry not linking to this) and reminding Europeans that WE saved them during WWII and that ‘If not for us not a single European politician would hold office anywhere unless as a Quisling collaborator of the German Reich.’  For the Churchillian war-child Galloway this means that ‘ when I hear a “Schnell” or an “Achtung” from the Junkers (sic) of this world I don’t consider it music in my ears.’

Let no one spoil this demagogic rant by telling Galloway that Jean-Claude Juncker comes from Luxembourg not Germany. He already knows that.  But for Galloway, anyone who has anything to do with the EU is close enough to Nazis to make no difference, and anyone who says otherwise, like Churchill’s opponents, belong to what he calls ‘the gang of appeasers and fifth columnists within the British elite.’

Such idiocy, as we have seen for some time now, is not confined to the fringes.  Take Boris Johnson’s latest fatuous suggestion comparing the border between  Northern Ireland and Ireland to a congestion zone between Westminster and Camden.  Never one to resist blowing his own trumpet, Johnson reminded Radio 4 listeners ‘ when I was mayor of London we anesthetically and invisibly took hundreds of millions of pounds from the accounts of people traveling between those two boroughs without any need for border checks.’

Many people have pointed out that it may not be so easy to ‘anesthetically and invisibly’ bypass Irish history or a conflict that cost 3,000 lives.  It’s a bleak testament to the current state of things that such points even need to be made, or that a self-aggrandising buffoon like Johnson has any influence on anything at all.  But his continued presence in the corridors of power is a symptom of a detachment from reality that only seems to grow wider as the Brexit process slouches incoherently  towards political Neverland.

For eighteen months the May government has been asking for things it cannot have, promising things it cannot deliver, bluffing, posturing, and pursuing things that cannot be achieved, even as its own impact assessments predict that the country will be worse off in every single Brexit scenario.   Yet when civil servants point out the potential damage that the country is likely to inflict on itself, they are dismissed as traitors, quislings, closet Eurocrats or members of the ‘pro-European elite’.

Humankind cannot bear very much reality, wrote TS Eliot, and Brexiters cannot bear any reality at all that conflicts with their fantasy of a global buccaneering Britain, freed of EU red tape and the unwanted immigrants that the country depends on, able to smoke in pubs as we surge toward a brave new world that we now know will not be a ‘Mad Max-style’ dystopia.

In fact a country that allows its politics to be driven by ideological fantasies and straw man constructs is likely to find itself inhabiting a reality that is more dystopian than its opposite, and the right aren’t the only dreamers in Brexittown.  On Monday, Jeremy Corbyn once again demonstrated that the left is no less prone to magical thinking than the Rees-Mogg/Nadine Dorries crowd.

Corbyn’s speech was hailed by his fans as a ‘ bold Brexit vision’, because his fan base will never say anything different about anything he says.  But despite – or perhaps because of – its attempt to be everything to everyone, his speech was littered with little reminders of why His Majesty’s Opposition have presented very little opposition whatsoever to the Brexit process,  and has largely fallen over itself in its desire to wave it through.

There was a leftwing version of the ‘£350 million for the NHS’ pledge in Corbyn’s promise to ‘use funds returned from Brussels after Brexit to invest in our public services and the jobs of the future, not tax cuts for the richest.’  While insisting that there should be ‘no scapegoating of migrants’, Corbyn once again promised that ‘Our immigration system will change and freedom of movement will as a statement of fact end when we leave the European Union.’

So migrants won’t be scapegoated, but freedom of movement – one of the great progressive achievements of the European Union – will end  in order ‘ To stop employers being able to import cheap agency labour to undercut existing pay and conditions’.

When Corbyn last mentioned this ‘importation’, it was in relation to the construction industry, which has a skills shortage and where wages are actually rising.   But Corbyn clearly believes that immigration is a ‘bosses club’ ploy and in Brexit Britain believing is everything.   Corbyn won’t accept a ‘ deal that left Britain as a passive recipient of rules decided elsewhere by others’ even though the EU has made it quite clear that it will not accept cherry-picking deals that allow the UK to continue to enjoy a privileged position without any obligations.   Then there is this:

‘There will be some who will tell you that Brexit is a disaster for this country and some who will tell you that Brexit will create a land of milk and honey. The truth is more down to earth and it’s in our hands. Brexit is what we make of it together, the priorities and choices we make in the negotiations.’

Not really.  Because whatever priorities and choices we decide upon, the UK is negotiating within a very limited set of parameters and is almost certain to find itself worse-off than it was before, no matter what is ultimately decided.  The tragedy is that neither the government nor the opposition want to admit this. Mesmerised by their own narrow party or personal interests, wide-eyed and prostrate before ‘the will of the people’, they offer fantasies and pipedreams and demand the impossible in an attempt to square circles that cannot be connected.

Sooner or later the consequences of this political cowardice and dereliction of duty will become impossible to ignore, and when that happens things may get even uglier than many of us imagine.  Because there are historic mistakes that cannot easily be undone, and Brexit is one of them.

For now, it seems, the millions of us who are unwilling passengers on this runaway train can merely sit while it heads towards the buffers, hostages to a political nightmare that we seem incapable of waking up from, shouting out warnings that those who are driving this process seem unable or unwilling to hear, and from the point of view of a writer – and a citizen – that is not a comfortable position to be in at all.

The above article was written by Matt Carr and originally published on his excellent blog, Matt Carr’s Infernal Machine at:

http://www.infernalmachine.co.uk/fantasy-island/

 

A message to the people of Stoke & Copeland: Let’s propel Nuttall & the UKIP P*ss-taker’s into the dustbin of history

Paulnuttall.jpg

By Daniel Margrain

During his barnstorming speech at the last Labour Party Conference, Jeremy Corbyn said:

“If you believe, like me, it’s a scandal that here in Britain, in the sixth biggest economy in the world, 4 million children are in poverty, 6 million workers are paid less than the living wage. And if, like me, you believe we can do things far better, then help me build support for a genuine alternative that will invest in our future – a more prosperous future – in which the wealth we all create is shared more equally.”

Buoyed by both the electoral success of Trump, and the disorientation of large sections of the Left resulting largely from the growth in right-wing populism throughout Europe, Paul Nuttall will exploit these issues during this coming Thursday’s Stoke and Copeland by-election campaigns by cynically using the kind of socialist language of Corbyn above, in an attempt to steal the Labour vote.

Nuttall, who gained a fraction of the votes secured by Corbyn during their respective leadership campaigns, denies climate change and opposes abortion and gay marriage. He is also in favour of capital punishment, fox hunting, NHS privatization and lied when he claimed to have been “a survivor of the Hillsborough disaster.” The latest scandal emerged on February 18 when a UKIP canvasser was allegedly caught on CCTV urinating on the house of 73-year-old widow Marjorie Pinches, from Northwood in Stoke.

Rarely is the political-media establishment willing to discredit the kind of fascist cult UKIP represents, particularly when faced with the potential threat of a genuine socialist alternative. But to their credit, up until now, they have done a pretty good job of exposing Nuttall for the lying, homophobic, racist and xenophobic thug that he is.

Class consciousness

What would appear to be a growing class consciousness among a significant segment of the population is, I would contend, offset by a large minority of working class voters who are sympathetic to UKIPs right-wing message and who, too often, are persuaded to vote against their own interests. This would explain the reason why the UKIP vote among ordinary people during the forthcoming by-elections are unlikely to be insignificant.

As far back as the 1930s, Italian philosopher Antonio Gramsci grasped that when confidence in the working class is high – like it was, for example, during the 1960s – people are less likely to be ‘brainwashed’ by the kind of extreme ruling class ideology represented by groups like UKIP than is the case when confidence in the class is relatively low, as it is now.

These kinds of contradictions help explain how the emergence of an opportunistic right-wing establishment tool like Nuttall is able to exploit the same political space as principled socialists. This is achieved by perpetuating the myth that the party Nuttall leads is in any way able to effectively represent the interests of an angry and disaffected working class, many of whom channel their anger and disaffection towards immigrants. Nuttall will hope to be able to channel this disillusionment at the ballot box in Stoke where anti-EU sentiment is high.

Unfortunately, some unprincipled and careerist Labour politicians like Rachel Reeves are also only too willing to pander to racists in order to grab their votes. For example, during an anti-immigration speech, she sought to ensure potential Labour voters that her party could be just as racist and reactionary as UKIP and the Tories. Similarly, a tweet by a long-standing Labour party member and Brexit-supporter, Scott Nelson, who I responded to in the wake of Nuttall’s victory (see below), illustrates that pandering to racist ideas is not the monopoly of right-wing and faux-left politicians.

Scott Nelson @SocialistVoice

“If Labour doesn’t take immigration seriously then UKIP will take control of the party’s heartlands in the north” 

Daniel Margrain Retweeted Scott Nelson

“No pandering to racists, sorry. If we lose votes, then so be it.”

People voted for Brexit for a multitude of reasons that include anti-establishment sentiments, the democracy argument, to give David Cameron a kick, naive wishful thinkingLexit and because they believed the brazen lies that the hard-right Vote Leave mob told them. However, it’s undeniable that a significant percentage of the 17.4 million people who voted for Brexit, did so because they bought into the racist immigration fear-mongering ideas of extreme-right groups like UKIP and Britain First.

Given the level of contradictory working class consciousness outlined above, it’s not unreasonable to suggest that many working class UKIP voters who oppose the socialist principles and values espoused by Corbyn, nevertheless favour issues like taxing the rich and renationalizing the railways.

Deflector shield

It’s this kind of contradiction that underpins the genius of a propaganda system that demonizes political figures the establishment regard as a threat to the status quo. The corporate mainstream media tend to bash socialists like Corbyn while promoting bigots like Farage by giving the latter a media outlet such as a mainstream radio talk show with which to espouse reactionary right-wing views, because his role is akin to that of a deflector shield whose purpose is to conceal the political establishments own ineptitude.

The inability of the media in highlighting, in any fundamental way, the tensions that exist between Theresa May, Boris Johnson and EU ministers over the Brexit debacle is a case in point. Johnson’s contention, for example, that the EUs position amounting to an automatic trade-off between access to the single market and free movement was “complete baloney”, is a total misreading of the Lisbon Treaty that nevertheless went largely unchallenged in the media.

In response to Johnson’s outburst, German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble said in a rather sardonic fashion, If we need to do more, we’ll gladly send her Majesty’s foreign minister a copy of the Lisbon Treaty then he can read that there is a link between the single market and the four core principles in Europe.” The minister continued, “I can also say it in English, so if clarification is necessary, I can pay a visit and explain this to him in good English.”

Johnson’s assertion that the UK should already have triggered Article 50, was subsequently contradicted by May, while the three ministers tasked at extricating the UK from the EU are too busy fighting among themselves. Moreover, Johnson has spent a great deal of his time flying around Europe apologizing to everybody he has insulted. And yet, the media only tend to report on the lack of unity within the Labour ranks with regards to Brexit. Meanwhile, EU leaders continue to harden their stance against the Tories saying that they intend to rule out any cherry-picking in relation to the ability of Britain to access the single market.

Lowest common denominator

By demonizing Corbyn on the one hand, and with their disproportionate coverage of right-wing parties like the Tories and UKIP on the other, the media fail to bring real power to account. There can only be one reason why they have barely mentioned any of the tensions within the ruling class that have arisen over the Brexit debacle, and that’s because they regard Corbyn as the lightening rod for abuse and bad publicity.

The election of Paul Nuttall as leader of UKIP, whose image is more worker and street fighter than cheeky-chappy banker and financier, will not only serve as another establishment deflector shield, but is also intended to split the working class Labour vote by appealing to the lowest of common denominators. Like a journeyman who travels on a road without end in the anticipation that beyond the rainbow lies salvation, Nuttall’s race to the bottom is in reality, a race on a road to nowhere. I am hoping that come the vote on Thursday, the good people of Stoke and Copeland will see sense, and help propel UKIP to the dustbin of history where they belong.

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A second referendum?: The Tories continue to fiddle while Britain stumbles into the abyss

By Daniel Margrain

Last Wednesday afternoon I took the Eurostar from a grey and dismal London to a sunny Paris. I decided that I would try to ignore the news while I was away. However, by Friday, temptation got the better of me. While sitting at a restaurant table in the small picturesque Parisian commuter-belt town town of St Germaine en Laye enjoying my lunch, I asked the waiter if he knew what the result of the EU referendum was. He expressed his shock at the decision of the British public to renounce their membership of the 28 member club. “That’s it”, he said, “the European project is dead”. I asked him whether he thought that this was a good thing or a bad thing? “It’s a bad day for Europe”, he exclaimed. “I’m not sure the project can continue to be run effectively with Britain gone but your heart was never really in it anyway”, he continued.

He claimed that Britain had already negotiated for itself numerous concessions and any more would have effectively made the Federalist vision for Europe he was in favour of, a redundant concept. The British position he said was selfish in as much as the government appeared reluctant to use its economic muscle as leverage in order to help improve the living standards of the working classes within poorer nations of the EU which, according to him, was the ethos at the heart of the project. In other words, for the poorer nations to gain something, and for the European project to work, as he saw it, it was necessary for richer nations like Britain, to concede some financial ground at the expense of the poorer nations.

He blamed David Cameron for triggering “an unnecessary referendum based upon unfair criticism of the EU and many years of misinformation about how it actually works”, which in turn was perpetuated by some of the most right-wing media in the whole of Europe. He also claimed that vast swaths of working class people were further disorientated by some political commentators and politician’s on the left of the spectrum who he said, “ought to have known better” than, for example, to effectively blame immigrant workers for allegedly undercutting British workers. All of this, he claimed, had eventually – from a Brexit perspective – “bore fruit”.

It was difficult for me to disagree with any of this. The news that the British people had decided to leave the EU appeared to have been as much of a shock to him as it was to me. The statistics show that the demographic of those who voted to leave were mainly the elderly age group and those who voted to remain were from the younger age group. However, the elderly will not be around for long compared to the young. It therefore, follows, the former will experience the consequence of a decision that they made to a far lesser degree than the latter who didn’t.

It does seem strange that an ageing population who were allowed to vote but statistically are less able to make an informed decision with regards to issues that have long-term ramifications, are considered to be a better judge for what is best for the country than people who are, say, 16 or 17 years old but are prevented from voting on something that will effect them to a far greater degree and for far longer. For this and other reasons, it makes sense why younger people might be furious with older people. The latter, for example, have overseen the ruination of the environment that includes the spreading of poisons throughout the atmosphere, sea and soil. They have also overseen climate change, the ruination of entire economies and been at the forefront of the shift in wealth from the many to the few, which will mean that the generation to come will not only be poorer than the preceding one, but will die sooner.

In short, the older generation have run the world for their own selfish short-term gain. The younger generation are suffering, and will continue to suffer, the consequences wrought by a post-war generation that were virtually guaranteed socioeconomic protections that will be denied to their young counterparts. This includes the concept of a job for life, free higher education and gold-plated, index-linked pensions that the elderly have taken for granted. Relatively speaking, the post war-generation have never had it so good, although one will be hard pressed to draw such a conclusion from the mainstream media. And to top it all, by disproportionately voting to leave, the older generation have now given a future to the young that they specifically do not want – problems that will be further compounded by the imminent growth in automation and increasing global competition.

What is also bizarre is that countries and regions like London, Scotland and Gibralter wanted to stay in the EU within a context in which some of the most deprived parts of England and Wales were intent on leaving. In Boston, in North East England, for example, 75.6 per cent voted to leave the EU. Paradoxically, given that Brexit means that no more EU funds will be forthcoming to these deprived regions, it’s the poorest who will be most adversely affected as a result of this decision to leave. Consequently, it would appear that the poorest have been persuaded to make the decision to leave for the worse reasons, predicated largely on lies. These lies included the amount of money they were told the government spends on the EU and what amount, by contrast, it spends domestically.

The leave campaign also understated the positives of continued membership in terms of the amount of funds Britain receives from the EU as well as insisting that by leaving the British people would have the prospect of being surrounded by fewer foreigners. On all these points, and more, the public were lied to by the leave campaign. In terms of the second of these issues, for example, UKIPs Nigel Farage has already back-tracked in relation to his assertion that the £350 million a week that he wrongly claimed was spent on the EU would, instead, be spent on the NHS. The more likely scenario is the correct £161 million net figure will be used to pay for more tax cuts for the rich. Apparently leave have deleted their promises from their website. This is a useful aide-memoire.

Almost a week has passed since the referendum result was announced and the Conservative government under PM David Cameron is in disarray. With the PM still not having made any definitive legal commitment to leave, the political consequences for the remaining 27 members is far from certain. With Britain’s new status outside the EU yet to be legally formalized, its legal sequestration remains uncertain. For all those who thought that the Brexit vote would have meant a hasty political decision to leave based on a legal determination, might need to think again. As I said in my previous post, in legal terms, the referendum is advisory not mandatory. What happens next is a matter of politics, not law – a determination that’s dependent upon whether the government decides to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.

Even though I supported the remain camp, I respect the democratic decision the British people made when they voted to leave. Any decision to either seriously delay invoking Article 50, or any attempt at backtracking on the referendum result would, in my view, be totally unacceptable. Nevertheless, delaying the democratic decision of the majority is what the government appears to be intent on doing. Seemingly, this will involve the implementation of a possible second referendum. The government intends to respond to calls for it within the next few days. This will likely take the form of a debate in parliament following the signing of a government petition by four million people to that affect.

In many other democracies throughout the world, four million signatures would guarantee a vote on the issue. But in Britain, a similar amount of signatures only guarantees that the government will consider talking about the possibility of a vote. The governments petition committee is currently considering the protest following a meeting they held yesterday (June 28). The petition entitled EU Referendum Rules Triggering A Second EU Referendum, reads:

“We the undersigned call upon HM government to implement a rule that if the remain or leave vote is less than 60 per cent based on a turnout less than 75 per cent, there should be another referendum.”

Will the government give in to the demands set by the petition and thereby allow a second referendum to take place?

The wider issue seems to be that unless the government can find a way of presenting simple solutions to a complex set of problems, people on the whole will not understand them. However, the problem is there are no simple solutions to such complex problems. Ultimately, David Cameron will go down in history as the man who set in motion the chaos and uncertainty that will almost certainly ensue in the coming days, weeks, months and possibly years.

Because Cameron attempted to assert his authority over the Tory party, he assumed that by offering the people a referendum and winning it, would cement this authority and garner the UKIP vote as a consequence. But by losing, he has bolstered the xenophobic fringe within the UKIP and Tory parties, unleashed the potential for a rise in racist attacks and hastened the rush for Scotland to break from the UK. But perhaps most significantly of all, is that a final decision to leave, will prompt the 60 per cent of companies outside the EU who have their EU HQs in the UK and who trade with the EU, to re-locate elsewhere. If you headed a company that was based outside the EU but was big enough to have a EU HQs and you selected to be in a country that is now potentially going to be outside the EU, what would you do?

It’s a no brainer. You would have to up-sticks and move to the EU. Having an EU HQs in a country that is no longer in the EU, makes about as much sense as having a US HQs in London. So in the event of Britain definitively leaving the EU both politically and legally, tens of thousands of jobs will be lost. This is a bare minimum of the chaos that is likely to occur set against a backdrop of increasing resentment, suspicion, xenophobia and racism. Buckle up, it’s going to be a bumpy ride ahead.

Tough Tories

Mr Amin hatched a scheme to persuade the English Defence League (pictured) to announce an inflammatory march against a new £18million ‘mega-mosque’

Employers who take on illegal immigrants will apparently face new sanctions under the law. Immigration Minister, James Brokenshire said companies “will be hit from all angles” (1) with raids and checks concentrating on building sites, cleaning firms and care homes.

Apparently, the government intends to use a multi-pronged attack using HMRC, the tax office, the health and safety executive and the Gangmasters Licensing Authority (the body that issues licenses to employment agencies and gangmasters within the agricultural industries) in an attempt to tackle employers who break the law in this way.

But is this merely another illustration of government grandstanding and the use of soundbites in exchange for any serious commitment to tackling the issue? A Freedom of Information request found the Home Office had issued almost £80m in fines but collected just £25m. The figures show that more than 8,500 penalties totalling £79,300,000 were issued between 2008/09 and 2012/13, but two-thirds of that total remains uncollected (2).

In 2009/10 the number of employers fined for using illegal immigrants stood at 2,254. By 2013/14 (the latest available figures) the number had been reduced to 2,090 (3). The government would claim that this is a success. But Labour and the unions say that this merely shows that the problem is going undetected because a lack of resources because of cuts, hence the need for the crackdown.

Unite, the country’s largest union, argue that the scope and powers of The Gangmasters Licensing Authority need to be expanded to prevent abuses that amount to modern day slavery (4).

They said that if the government was really serious about this crackdown it would expand the remit of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority to include more sectors other than just agriculture. And they would give it more money. In fact, it’s funding was frozen in 2010 (5).

The gangmasters when contacted by Channel 4 News about the supposed government crackdown didn’t know anything about it (6). A poll of Border Force employees revealed 98% ­questioned thought staff shortages were stopping them making all the checks they should (7).

Meanwhile, on the back of Cameron’s description of migrants as a ‘swarm’ (8), Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond defended his use of the term ‘marauding’ when describing the immigrants at Calais who are trying to access the tunnel their (9).

This narrative fits in with the government’s perceived crackdown on rogue employers who take on illegal workers. In reality, the appearance of toughness has more to do with appeasing their right-wing constituency in an attempt to win back former Tory voters who deserted the party for UKIP prior to the last election.