An update in point form

Jun. 25th, 2016 08:08 pm
[personal profile] alexbayleaf
1. Still alive and kicking. Living a quiet life. Slowly digging out from under the dark pile of crap that has been the last year or so.

2. I'm still checking in on DW every few days at least to follow those who are still posting here, especially those who access lock. I might not always comment but I am reading and appreciating the insights into your lives. Thank you :)

3. As you may have seen I am handing over Growstuff to people who are better able to look after it. Sad to let it go, but glad to be letting go of the guilt about not having the mental wherewithal to deal with it. Pretty much all my old personal websites/domains are also expired/gone. I'm glad to be leaving it behind.

4. Please note username change. While I hated being forced to use my birthname, I actually like my current name, and have been using it more often online of late. Feel free to refer to me as "Alex" when talking about me in the third person. Pronouns are still "they" or "she" - either is fine, though I aim for mostly being gender neutral when refering to myself.

5. I have a new blog, Spinster's Bayley, which more or less replaces the old "Chez Skud" blog, in that it's about domestic life, but is less just "random crap that I feel like writing about" but has a bit more intent around it. I'm tossing up whether to crosspost it here - feedback welcome. If you're interested in simple/sustainable/resilient living, homegrown and homemade stuff, and subjects of that variety, go take a look.

6. I also recently started blogging at Eat Local Ballarat about locally produced food in the Ballarat region. Don't imagine it'll be of much interest to people beyond this geographic area but if you're interested in local food or relocalisation in general, take a look :) Definitely won't be crossposting that one here, but of course there's the usual collection of RSS, newsletter, and social media for those who want to follow it.

7. I would welcome suggestions of any DWs that talk about simple living, or related topics (as above). Anyone got recs?

A new Union of Democratic Control?

Jun. 25th, 2016 09:45 am
[syndicated profile] lib_dem_voice_feed

Posted by Matthew Campbell

It may be a mistake, but in my idiosyncratic way, I tend to approach the present – and the future – through the past.

So I feel the need to point out at this time, that in 1914 during the earliest days of the First World War, there arose within the British Left a movement called the ‘Union of Democratic Control’, one of whose prime movers was a Liberal Radical journalist called ED Morel. (He had already led a very interesting life, and went to have a short but even more interesting life subsequently, including both imprisonment and beating Winston Churchill as a candidate in a General Election).

The UDC initially had three aims: to subject to scrutiny in the House of Commons the secret pacts and war aims agreed between the UK and its allies as pan-European war broke out; to push for a negotiated settlement to prevent conflict escalating into mass loss of life, and to investigate the influence of the arms trade upon UK politicians.

Needless to say, in the short term, their campaign was not successful and was regarded with suspicion and official opposition.
But their guiding principle – that the nation had a right to have its foreign policy and strategy debated by its democratic parliament for its moral and ethical worth – was fundamentally right.

And as it was then, with war, so it is now, with Brexit.

We have voted to leave the EU – but what is it we have voted for? In the coming months of negotiation and political flux, how much will the public be allowed into the process of exit? ‘Leave’ campaigners such as Chris Grayling have dangled the possibility of fast trade deals with other countries – but with whom and how? Where is the devil in their detail? Which lobbyists will surround our new ministers; who is pulling their strings?

Now is the time for a common understanding between parties, politicians and NGOs, extending beyond those who voted to for Remain, that pushes back at those who called for us to leave on the basis of democracy, and calls on them to justify their claims with real action. The UK must not bid final farewell to the principles of ethical politics, when it leaves the EU.

Such a movement would be broad-based, non-blaming and non-partisan, embodying the spirit shown by those such as the late Jo Cox MP, who see that all must pull together to pull the nation together.

A modern Union of Democratic Control, at this time, would be in essence a cross-party compact with four main aims:

To make Parliament the forum for full scrutiny of all negotiations proposed on our behalf in the months to come, both for European exit and for new migration and trade agreements, and prevent any government from truncating debate or operating behind closed doors.
To maintain in British law the fundamental principles of human rights, resisting those who will urge us to remake our own laws to serve the powerful and not the powerless.

To push for a more responsive and pluralist democratic system, where the representative principle is upheld – that we vote for individuals, not parties – but realising that the pre-existing democratic deficit added rage to the combination that took us out of the EU.

To argue forcibly that if we must remake our relationships with the world – in trade, in banking, in whatever other fields we must – we do so prioritising democratic nations who fight corruption. There must be no quick deals with dodgy dictatorships.

We have seen how ‘politics as usual’ – winner-takes-all voting, partisan mudslinging, mass democracy reduced to a middle-class hobby – has walked us to the brink of an almighty crisis. ‘Politics as usual’ will not get the nation out of this crisis.

Can we yet forge the cross-party and cross-national unity that is needed to change the times?

* Matthew Campbell, lives in South Bristol and works for a local authority in the South West of England. He also posts on this site as Matt (Bristol).

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Posted by Tim Worstall

This is, to those who understand what this actually means, one of the more amusing outcomes of Thursday’s vote that Britain should leave the European Union. That Brexit has led Moody’s Analytics to tell us that they are changing the UK’s credit rating outlook from stable to negative. There are those thinking that this is all very alarming. And then there are those of us who know what this means who treat it as a matter of somewhere between no and very little mind. There are three reasons for this – the first being that even if they do downgrade it it makes no difference whatsoever to anything. The second being that Moody’s and the other ratings agencies do not drive the market, most certainly with sovereigns they don’t (with the dodgier sort of corporate bonds they might have more influence). The third is that while they may have changed the outlook (that is, what they might ponder they might do at some point in the indeterminate future) what they’ve actually done is confirm the UK’s credit rating at exactly what it was before the vote.

This is not therefore something important – although there’s an amusement at watching some of the more headless chickens worrying about it.

The news:

Moody’s Investors Service has changed the outlook on the UK’s credit rating to negative from stable following the EU referendum result.
The agency said the result will herald “a prolonged period of uncertainty with negative implications for the country’s medium-term growth outlook”.
“During the several years in which the UK will have to renegotiate its trade relations with the EU, Moody’s expects heightened uncertainty, diminished confidence and lower spending and investment to result in weaker growth,” the agency said.

That is all actually could be, maybe, we don’t know. Which is of course what uncertainty means. But this downgrade of the outlook is not in fact important when referencing sovereign debt. Simply because, assuming that the sovereign debt isn’t really in the doldrums in terms of credit ratings, no one does buy or not buy sovereign debt on the basis of credit ratings. Banks holding debt, investment funds that will only buy investment grade assets, all that sort of stuff. They’re not really governed by the ratings on those government bonds. Sure, it’s easy enough to get lost in the complications of Basel (I, II, III, your choice) but things like capital requirements against a position, whether or not a fund can buy a specific government bond, they’re just not related to the credit rating of that government. They’re government bonds and so risk free (or nearly so) and a minor tweak of the rating in any direction makes no difference to that.

So that’s one reason why it’s not important:

Rival credit ratings agency Standard & Poor’s – the only major body one to still assign Britain a top-notch triple-A grade – said before Thursday’s referendum that Britain was likely to face a downgrade if it voted to leave, and Fitch Ratings said on Friday that the vote would be “moderately negative”.
But Moody’s was the first to take concrete action after the vote, just as it was in 2013 when it was the first to strip Britain of its ‘AAA’ credit rating due to slow growth and rising public indebtedness.

Our second reason for non-importance is that we’re only being told something that we all know. That is, that the credit ratings agencies are reactive, not drivers of markets. A driver of markets would have put the credit rating on watch before the vote – because of the higher risk of leaving etc. We’ve already seen the markets absorbing the news of departure – that fall in the pound, that minor wobble in the equity markets. Moody’s here is not telling everyone “My, it looks more risky.” What is being said is “Everyone else thinks it might be more risky.” This is a reaction, very much less so a prediction.

And there’s more:

Colin Ellis, chief credit officer at Moody’s, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme the UK’s credit rating could have an impact on UK households in the long term.
“The government borrowing rate is normally the benchmark – it is the rate at which other interest rates in the economy are set,” he said.
“A lower rating would typically correspond to higher borrowing costs, and that would be felt not just by the government but by businesses and households in the longer term.”

As above, a lower rating might reflect higher borrowing costs but it is not the cause of them. However, the rating itself has not in fact changed. Here’s Moody’s actual report:

London, 24 June 2016 — Moody’s Investors Service has today changed the outlook on the UK’s long term issuer and debt ratings to negative from stable. Both ratings are affirmed at Aa1.

They have actually confirmed that Britain is still one of the most credit worthy nations in the world. As they say in more detail:

Concurrent with the rating action on the sovereign, Moody’s has also changed the outlook to negative for the Aa1 rating of the Bank of England from stable. The Aa1/P-1 ratings were affirmed. The UK’s long-term and short-term foreign and local-currency bond and deposit ceilings remain unchanged at Aaa/ P-1.

They’ve actually said, well, no change at present and maybe, possibly, we’ll change something in the future. And they are also quite literally stating that lending to the British government is as safe as the Bank of England. This is not a disaster, not a panic and most certainly isn’t worth anyone worrying about it very much. Ratings agencies react to market news, not drive it, sovereign bond ratings don’t change who may or may not buy them and anyway they didn’t in fact change the rating.

So, what time’s the rugby then?

naraht: Tony Blair (polt-Make Tea)

A Europe of the Regions?

Jun. 25th, 2016 09:55 am
[personal profile] naraht
In addition to a whole lot of other things that one could say about this shambolic referendum, it's clear that the Leave campaign has been centred around the interests of England and Wales.

The Guardian has been examining the mess Brexit will make of the life of border communities in Northern Ireland, not to mention the peace process. Was this in any way part of the national dialogue about the referendum. Not really.

And then there's Scotland. Some Scottish Nationalists might well be happy about the vote giving them another chance at an independence referendum – not to mention legitimately angry about having to leave the EU when Scotland voted to stay – but Brexit causes some major issues with the practicality of Scottish independence. It was all very well when both countries were in the EU, but if Scotland manages to rejoin the EU, are there really going to be passports at the border? It seems to me that independence is now a harder road for Scotland, or at least a harder argument, not an easier one.

Of course this would only become an issue if Scotland were able to join the EU again, which is by no means certain (though some think Brexit might make EU membership easier for Scotland).

Having always rather liked the idea of a Europe of the Regions, I find Brexit depressing on these grounds.

(Not to mention all the others, obvs, but I feel those have been well addressed elsewhere...)

This message just in from Yugoslavia

Jun. 25th, 2016 08:28 am
[syndicated profile] tim_worstall_feed

Posted by Tim Worstall

Two years later he conducted Kenneth McKellar, who came ninth in Luxembourg singing A Man Without Love. McKellar had been persuaded to perform in a kilt, but when the BBC collected feedback from around Europe they found an unexpected comment from Yugoslavia. They thought the entry had been OK, but they felt the lady who sang it looked “rather butch”.

That could well be one of those tales which has improved with the telling of it…..

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Posted by Mark Pack

An excellent dissection of political campaign ads work and the power of the montage, starting with some lessons from Alfred Hitchcock:

So much for how effective political ads work, now take a look at how bizarre they can get.

[syndicated profile] lib_dem_voice_feed

Posted by Matt Dolman

If I took one thing away from the referendum campaign, it would be that voters and activists are being ever-more turned off from politics (high turnout notwithstanding).

People on the streets were reacting against the fearmongering, the negativity and the ad hominem attacks employed by many parties in the last few weeks and months.

Back in 2015, we learned that campaigns based on adding ‘brains’ or ‘hearts’ to other parties’ manifestos just don’t work.
My view?

We as Liberal Democrats need to energise ourselves and our communities with a positive, optimistic and internationalist message. And we need to be doing it from today, as many of us are already.

I want to put out a call to action: in the comments below, post your ideas for big, positive and inspiring campaigns our party can run on big ticket national campaign issues. Things to get young activists fired up, things to get new voters excited about.

Starters for 10:

We must continue making the case for engaging positively with Europe and the world to tackle massive problems like climate change, foreign wars and the refugee crisis.

We must work together to ensure new homes, new infrastructure and new power stations of all kinds are built apace.

We must reinforce our status as THE party for civil liberties, for personal freedom and for parity of esteem regardless of sex, sexuality, race or religion.

Lib Dems do amazing things when given the opportunity, from bringing the poorest out of tax and enabling same-sex couples to marry whom they choose, to championing local residents in devolved and local bodies across the country and leading the fight against human trafficking and animal poaching in the European Parliament.

I’ve seen first hand the loyalty that strong campaigns in local communities can engender from ordinary people, whether it’s residents who know they prosper every day under Eastleigh’s outstanding Lib Dem Borough Council or the thousands of people in southern Manchester who know John Leech has their back.

For my part, I’ve always been something of an inconsistent activist.

I’ve gone from being a paid organiser and enthused campaigner at the General Election to doing almost nothing for the locals this year and wearing StrongerIN red, white and blue for much of the referendum.

And I’d be lying if I said I’m sure I’ll renew my membership this year.

I think this is a horrible result for the UK. But however bad the campaign was, however blatant the lies and slander on the airwaves, we must be proactive and move forwards within this new era.

Let’s be positive, optimistic and internationalist Liberal Democrats and win new support in the young, hopeful and vibrant voter base we know exists, despite the result. Let’s be bold. Let’s set out our vision on its own merits and work hard to make it into a reality.

You tell me.

How should we move forwards as positive campaigners?

* Matt is a London Lib Dem and was Constituency Organiser for Mike Thornton and the Eastleigh Lib Dems at the General Election.

Slightly interesting little bit

Jun. 25th, 2016 07:52 am
[syndicated profile] tim_worstall_feed

Posted by Tim Worstall

So, I was in Prague a few weeks ago, the only genuine outer and true eurosceptic at all at a political meeting/gabfest. Was introduced to a Czech MP who asked that we stay. Well, you know, used to work for Farage, all that. Yes, so I understand your point, but won’t you think of us?

It’s hard enough trying to be a free market liberal, an anti-technocrat, with the British in. Think how much worse it will be with you out.

Well, umm, maybe you shouldn’t be in either then?

Yes, it could come to that…..

birguslatro: Birgus Latro III icon (Default)

That dog on the bus moment...

Jun. 25th, 2016 02:00 pm
[personal profile] birguslatro
I'm old enough to remember when the UK joined the European Economic Community, it being a big deal for New Zealand then due to the UK being our biggest trading partner. We sold them lamb and apples and such and we'd get their Cortinas and Ford Prefects etc. And it was good, at least for us. (Using a relative variant of 'good' here, of course.)

I suspect few in the UK remember John Marshall, but those of my vintage in NZ do, and mainly for his regular jaunts to Europe to beg on our behalf for a special relationship with the UK, post them joining the EEC. (I'd completely forgotten he was NZ's PM for a while.) It was all a bit demeaning.

I also remember TV shows from the UK on the referendum about staying in the EEC after they'd managed to join, (it having taken them three attempts). And I remember little vitriol in those shows, but maybe I've forgotten. They definitely wanted to join though.

Anyway, as you may have heard, the UK has decided to leave the EU, (what the EEC grew into), hence the above little history lesson. From an economic point of view, leaving the EU is obviously a silly thing to do. Having easy access to a huge market right on your doorstep beats making that access difficult. And especially given the UK rejected the Euro, thus getting the benefit of a more floaty exchange rate than the countries using the Euro.

In the lead up to the vote, we heard that some in the Leave side of things thought it'd make it easier to do business with countries like Australia and NZ because: Commonwealth. And such. Umm, yes. We'll be quite happy to sell you our stuff, but I'd like to be reminded what it is the UK has to sell us.

It's sad to say, but I'm hard pressed to think of anything outside of media that has Made in Britain on it down here these days. There's the ARM processor, I guess, but 90% of the population wouldn't know they have it in their pockets. Most of our imports come from Asia, Australia, the US or (yes) the EU. As you can see here...

But I expect we probably import more from Singapore than the UK.

As to the Commonwealth, we think of ourselves as a Pacific country these days. (And Australians think of themselves as Australians.)

Anyway, that's just a heads-up for any who think you can turn the clock back. The cultural ties are still strong between the UK and NZ, and I don't mind the UK deciding to leave, being all for democracy and such. (And would applaud Texas following suit.) But now that the dog's on the bus, it'll be interesting to see if it knows what to do now.

In defence of Corbyn

Jun. 25th, 2016 09:11 am
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Posted by chris

The proposed vote of no-confidence in Jeremy Corbyn worries me: I fear it is based in part upon three motives that are wrong, one of which is plain vicious.

The first of these wrong motives is that Mr Corbyn was only half-hearted in campaigning for Remain. In fact, his giving the EU a seven out of ten was a rare light of honesty in a campaign dominated by lies and exaggerations. The EU’s treatment of Greece, and its tolerance of mass unemployment testify to the organization’s flaws: Andrew Lilico is right to say it must be reformed radically.

The second motive – expressed by Frank Field on the Today programme – is that Mr Corbyn in not a “credible” Prime Minister. He says: “We clearly need somebody who the public think of as an alternative prime minister."

Now, this statement comes at a time when Boris Johnson is odds-on favourite to be next Prime Minister. The fact that a liar, charlatan and hypocrite can be regarded as a plausible PM shows that our political culture – fostered by the BBC – is deeply sick. Labour should be fighting this, not acting as Quislings for a feudalistic deference to the high-born.

My biggest problem, however, is that I fear that the desire to get rid of Corbyn is based in part upon a desire to “listen” to “concerns” about immigration – expressed by Mr Field this morning. As one rentagob put it*:

Labour has gone wrong by not being in touch with its voters. I’ve been saying this for the last 10 years in relation to immigration and free movement of labour.

This, of course, misses the facts. Immigration is not responsible for low wages, job insecurity and the difficulty of seeing a GP. Mr Corbyn is wholly correct to say that a large part of the solution to this is to have “an alternative to austerity**.”

It could be that those who want to shift Labour towards greater hostility to immigrants want to use the Farage-Hannan trick of winning elections: lie your face off during the campaign and then disown your promises after you’ve won. This, however, is risky. For one thing, there’s a danger of getting high on our supply – of believing your own lies. And for another anti-immigration talk has real consequences: it stokes up hate and makes immigrants (and let’s be honest, British-born ethnic minorities too) less safe on the streets. That is utterly intolerable.

 Now, I’ll concede that there might well be more reasonable motives for wanting Corbyn out: I’ve no beef with Nick’s complaints about his curious associates, and I fear there’s some merit in the allegations that his organization and campaigning skills are weak.

In throwing out this bathwater, however, Labour risks losing a beautiful baby. John McDonnell is building one of the best economic platforms a major political party has had in my lifetime. It would be a tragedy if this is lost in a retreat towards reaction and economic illiteracy.

* Insofar as this is a motive for hostility to Corbyn, it is wholly wrong to present the issue as one of Blairites versus the Left. For all their flaws, Blairites were – to their credit – not anti-immigrant.

** I’d add that this alternative should be at a pan-European level; a big reason why immigration is so high is that one-in-five under-25s in the euro area is out of work (pdf). Sadly, however, the UK has lost much of its influence to make this argument.

[syndicated profile] tim_worstall_forbes_feed

Posted by Tim Worstall

We’ve seen much about how appalling the Brexit result is for the economy of Britain. Doom, gloom, disaster and no doubt a plague of frogs soon enough.

The actual financial markets themselves don’t seem to agree.

The FTSE 100 ended the week up more than 2pc despite a tumultuous day of trading which saw it plunge as much as 8.7pc when the market opened.

The blue chip index recovered after the initial shock of the UK’s decision to leave the European Union, enjoying a small rally on Friday afternoon and closing the day down 3.15pc.

The FTSE 250, which is considered a bellwether of the UK economy as a whole because it contains more UK-focussed companies, ended the day down 7.2pc – its worst day since Black Monday. The fall wiped £25bn off the value of the index in all and wiped almost a quarter off the value of some stocks.

The FTSE 100 is above where it was a week ago. So too is the FTSE 250.

The pound is down, most certainly. Which rather explains that stock market recovery of course. Simply because markets, when allowed to change, account for changes like this. A lower pound acts as a stimulus to the British economy. There’re no fewer factories in Britain today than there were on Wednesday, there has been no diminution in the skills of the populace, capital has not evaporated into the aether.

What we have had is some minor (well under 10%) change in relative prices between the domestic UK economy and that elsewhere when measured in dollars. And a rather smaller change of that British economy as against the varied European ones.

Shrug, this really is not a crisis. A crisis is when the stock market index goes to zero – as it did in St Petersburg in 1917.

[syndicated profile] tim_worstall_feed

Posted by Tim Worstall

President Martin Schulz says speeding up of UK exit being considered after ‘continent taken hostage because of Tory party fight’

It’s actually because Schulzie just cannot put up with much more of Nigel taking the piss out of him in the Parliament.

And aren’t we rather looking forward to that first speech that Nige does give there? Wonder if the crowd will even let him have the floor.

[syndicated profile] lib_dem_voice_feed

Posted by Paul Walter

Yesterday afternoon, I was somewhat nervous to receive notification that Tim Farron was going to make a “major speech”. Straight after an election, when you are still suffering from advanced post-election bone tiredness, is no time to be suddenly deciding to make a “major speech”.

But it was a good speech and I applaud Tim’s display of righteous anger on behalf of the young and those who are boiling with rage – those who are now shouting: “we are better than this”.

Also yesterday afternoon, I received an email from the party calling the referendum campaign “unbearable and unacceptable”.

Now hold on a minute.

Can we have a little more reverence for the decision of the British people? We had a very long referendum campaign with an extremely thorough thrashing out of every conceivable angle of debate. It was on the telly, radio and social media at breakfast, lunch and supper time for months. Everybody had a chance to have their say. The turnout was massive. The result was clear. We are a union – the United Kingdom – so the majority prevails. End of. The people have spoken. Trust the people.

We have years of wrangling ahead of us, as we shape our post-EU future. But at least we can be assured that people have seen a democratic decision taking place. The will of people has clearly prevailed. So it is reasonable to expect people getting behind that decision to make it work.

And to say there is “wiggle room” within the referendum decision is the under-statement of the century. I don’t think the associate membership being mooted is viable because the referendum said “no” to ‘membership’. But membership of the EEA and/or EFTA is up for grabs. There was no clarity in the plebiscite for ruling out continued membership of the single market. (The Norway solution was never clearly ruled out by the leave campaigns – indeed many leave speakers cited it as a shining example). So, based on a future decision of our parliament, it is up for grabs. We can salvage quite a lot from this decision, once the dust and rubble has settled.

While acknowledging that the people have spoken, one adds that what they have said, beyond the simple “no” to the question on the ballot paper, is not clear. If you prick up your ears to hear what they said, all you will hear is gobbledegook or “gkabdkdithekenidbdunfkfnrjn”.

It is up to parliament to make sense of the decision and move it forward in a reasonable way. And that is where we can influence a reasonable and progressive solution for the future. I believe we can make it a solution which all those young people, who voted “remain” in their droves yesterday, can be proud of.

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist in Newbury and West Berkshire. As part of the Liberal Democrat Voice team he helps with photos and moderation on the site, as well as occsionally contributing articles. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

Err, no, don’t think so

Jun. 25th, 2016 05:36 am
[syndicated profile] tim_worstall_feed

Posted by Tim Worstall

The mayor of Calais has called for migrant camps to be moved to Britain stating the country must “take the consequences” of the decision to leave the EU.

The Le Touquet agreement which keeps border checks – and many migrants – on the French side of the Channel has been called into question following Thursday’s Brexit vote.

Current law is that a carrier who brings someone into the country without the correct documents gets fined £2,000 a head (think that number’s right).

Thus the document checking is always going to be at embarkation.

Further, for anyone claiming asylum or refugee status, that claim must be made in France, it being a safe country. In other words, bugger off.

Independence Day

Jun. 25th, 2016 05:24 am
[syndicated profile] tim_worstall_feed

Posted by Tim Worstall

“There are 183 countries in the world who have independence days – what we have just done is we voted to become the 184th,” he said with relish.

Actually, I live in a country where they have three. There’s independence from Spain day, then the national day, then the independence from the fascists in 1974 day.

And why not a June 23 Independence Day? To be celebrated by putting on a slightly dodgy suit and having a pint and a fag outside the pub?

Or even, now that we are free, a fag inside the pub, if the landlord allows?

Sorry matey, doesn’t work that way

Jun. 25th, 2016 05:19 am
[syndicated profile] tim_worstall_feed

Posted by Tim Worstall

The petition, set up by William Oliver Healey, said: “We the undersigned call upon HM Government to implement a rule that if the Remain or Leave vote is less than 60% based on a turnout less than 75%, there should be another referendum.”

You could have put this into the rules, or the law, which called the referendum, that’s true. Something was like that in the last Scottish referendum but one I think. But post facto, just because you lost, no, sorry, it doesn’t work that way.

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Posted by David Herdson

UKIP youth

Your next mission, should you choose to accept it … is what?

The fruitcakes have taken over the asylum. UKIP, which well under a decade ago was a fringe party – it polled only 3.1% in the 2010 general election – has achieved the purpose for which it was created. Those critics who laughed at the party’s failure to win more than one seat last year should reflect that electoral success is only a means to an end, and is rarely the only means through which it can be achieved.

Rather like a fleet or army in being, UKIP didn’t need to win a direct battle against its opponents (which was useful because it wasn’t very good at it); it simply had to pose a sufficient threat to them by the fact of its very existence in order to prompt them into altering their course of action to offer UKIP the strategic opportunity they seized on Thursday.

Little more than a year after Douglas Carswell returned as UKIP’s sole MP, the true value of his party’s 3.88m votes is now apparent. So much for the ‘wasted vote’ thesis. Farage stands triumphant while all around him lies the wreckage of the careers of the leaders of great parties, of their policies and – who knows – perhaps yet of one or more of those parties themselves.

Never can the future have looked so bountiful in all directions. But in that excess of opportunity lies UKIP’s dilemma: after having succeeded in what it was created for, what does it do next? (It’s true that the UK is still a member of the EU but despite what will no doubt be delusional proposals from Europhiles for some new settlement on the one hand, and the paranoia of cynics that somehow the elite will backslide on the other, no-one can seriously question that the countdown is now running. The decision has been made).

UKIP’s European mission isn’t necessarily over even with EU withdrawal. There’s still the matter of the European Court of Human Rights, which remains a super-national impingement on British sovereignty, but that’s a lesser prize. The real challenge lies now within British politics.

Or challenges, plural. With all three old parties in various states of confusion and weakness, and with UKIP’s unusually broad membership base ideologically, it can – and must – choose where to position itself for the 2020s now that its former USP is greatly negated, or else it will wither and die.

– Does it try to build on that eclectic base and act as a generic protest party against a distant elite? But then what does it do if it attains power?

– Does it promote ‘freedom’ in more individual forms, harnessing its traditional liberal / libertarian strain, and so targeting the Conservatives and Lib Dems?

– Or does it seek to build on the huge Leave votes from Labour heartland areas where the Conservatives are limited in appeal and Lib Dems discredited, and position itself as the authentic voice of the working class?

These aren’t wholly contradictory strategies but there are clear choices that will have to be made between them, or other options, if their platform is to have some kind of coherence.

Beneath the policy question lies another practical problem: the party’s strength in depth, or lack thereof. As a young party, it remains very bottom-heavy: a lot of voters but few cabinet-capable and fully media-ready politicians, for example. If Britain had PR, UKIP would have won around a hundred seats last time out. Had they done so, could they have nominated enough to do the job sufficiently well without causing embarrassment? The track record from the European Parliament isn’t good.

For the time being, the leadership question answers itself. Despite Farage not being party of the official Leave campaign and despite some off-colour moments from him, this remains his victory more than anyone’s. Within UKIP, his position will be unassailable for some years unless hubris strikes. Yet Farage isn’t necessarily the person best-placed to capitalise on the immense strategic opportunity available – but who could do better even if they’d be allowed to? Opportunity in theory is fine but it takes people to grasp it in practice.

The whole edifice of British politics as we know it is weaker than at any time in the last eighty years. There can be no certainties at all. If the first half of the 2010s were extraordinary, the second has the potential to be utterly revolutionary – but only if those with the chance to make it so can take it. UKIP, unlike the SNP, may well fall short on that score. But then UKIP, unlike the SNP, has already achieved its greatest goal.

David Herdson

p.s. A quick word on Margaret Hodge’s No Confidence motion for the PLP. We don’t even know as yet whether the motion will be accepted, never mind how MPs will vote for it if it is. What we do know is that it carries no validity within Labour’s rulebook, only the power of pressure (though that would be considerable if it’s carried). What Corbyn is proving now, as Blair, Brown and Miliband proved before him, is that a Labour leader determined to go on holds an extraordinarily powerful position, particularly while the internal opposition to him remains leaderless.

matgb: Artwork of 19th century upper class anarchist, text: MatGB (Default)

British Liberal, house husband, school play leader and stepdad. Campaigner, atheistic feminist, amateur baker. Male.

Known to post items of interest on occasions. More likely to link to interesting stuff. Sometimes talks about stuff he's done. Occasionally posts recipes for good food. Planning to get married, at some point. Enjoying life in Yorkshire.

Likes comments. Especially likes links. Loves to know where people came from and what they were looking for. Mostly posts everything publicly. Sometimes doesn't. Hi.

Mat Bowles

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October 2015


Stuff and nonsense

I'm the Chair of the Brighouse branch of the Liberal Democrats & the membership secretary for Calderdale Lib Dems and run the web campaign for the local candidates. I have a job, a stepdaughter and a life.

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