Category Archives: UK Elections

Indecision over the EU is damaging us all

The ongoing arguments about the relationship between the UK and the EU are like a festering boil that needs to be lanced. The questions are “what caused the boil in the first place?”, “who yields the lance?” and “how is that enabled?”.

The Economic Arguments

I am a great admirer of Dr Alf Oldman who also has a political blog. He believes that there are huge advantages in being a part of the EU and that to leave would be an act of folly. He could be right. Here is a link to one of his blogs expressing that view. Please read it and the comments too (some, I confess, from me). Dr Alf and I are more or less on the same wavelength when it comes to this question but there are significant differences in the detail.

Lord Lawson, and you could say that he should know, believes we would have a brighter economic future outside the EU. He could be right.

There are many other examples of people convinced that they are on the right side of this divide but, to be blunt about it, few are completely detached in their thinking and the only reasonable conclusion must be that we just do not know. Furthermore, we shall never know. If we are in an economic mess in, say, twenty years time people will be saying it is because we are in the EU (or its successor) or, as the case may be, because we are not in that group. I would argue that global conditions have, are and will have a far greater impact on us and that that makes this argument over the EU almost trivial.

So if there is no economic argument is not the cause of this boil, what is?

The Bureaucratic Costs

Google “the eu bureaucracy” and you will get over 5,500,000 results. Near the top of the list is a piece written by Vince Cable almost exactly a year ago. Under the headline “The tide is turning against EU bureaucracy” with a sub-head stating “Britain is no longer a lone voice in the push for deregulation and a flexible labour market”, this appeared in the Telegraph. Here is the link to that piece which, I suppose, we should remember was written by a pre-EU LibDem.

Meanwhile, an unexpected source of comment on this subject can be found on the Datalite web page. Here we read a very detailed and cogent argument written by John D Henry BA Bsc, Managing Director of this company whose function is the manufacture of picture frames and personalised gifts. The headline reads “How European Union Bureaucracy is Killing Business in the United Kingdom”.  This is all good stuff and I must agree that I find Mr Henry’s arguments very persuading but I would suggest he should also turn his attentions to some of the UK generated regulations which are not doing a great deal for our commercial sector either. But the stuff of boils? No, not really. The number of our electorate who really feel the impact of EU bureaucracy is quite small: there is something else.

The Democratic Deficit

This should be sub-titled “the fact that much power has been passed from the Mother of all Parliaments to the EU without the people of the UK having any say in the matter”.

I believe this is what is causing all the problems: this sense that we are losing control of our own destiny. This has become a boil that needs lancing for a variety of reasons.

  • The perception that the politicians we have elected do not trust us, the people, with making what we all know is a very difficult decision.
  • Despite that obvious lack of trust, politicians of all colours are widely divided on this issue: who are they to suggest that they should be the ones to act on our behalf when they can’t agree amongst themselves?
  • The gravy train: just look at the people who, having proved less than good elsewhere, have found themselves in very nice and well paid jobs in the EU.
  • The loss of control over immigration (much less of a problem than it is perceived to be it is, nevertheless, a factor to take into consideration).

That list could be longer but I trust is sufficient to make the point. This, I believe is the answer to my first question: what caused the boil in the first place?

None of the political parties who have controlled government since we joined the EEC has been able to include any meaningful references to the matter of our relations with the rest of Europe since they have been hopelessly divided on this – thus no election has given the government a mandate to act in a given way. The result has been a succession of treaties which have been entered into willy-nilly. Clearly the politicians cannot be trusted to lance this boil – it has to be the people.

The answer to the last question is easy given the above: a referendum and the sooner the better.

Here we are talking about carts and horses. Should the renegotiations (whatever they may be) precede or follow a referendum? I would opt for the referendum first for because if the vote is for staying in the EU, whoever is negotiating with the others in the EU can say, “We are committed to the EU, we wish to be at the centre of the EU for our people have spoken. So, less posturing and more hard work is needed and please remember that we expect the EU to be a democratic organisation.” Meanwhile, if the vote is for leaving the EU, so be it. That is the decision for the people.

If the re-negotiations take place before, our team is in the same position as it is today – it will be considered as being on the fringe of Europe and of no great consequence. Then comes the referendum and the outcome will depend in large part on how well or badly the results of these re-negotiations are “spun” to the people. Is that what we want?

Time to decide: in or out of the EU

What a day on which to write a political log. What to choose? Is David Cameron about to be faced by a leadership crisis? Were he to resign, who do the Tories have who could act as a credible leader: one capable of uniting the parliamentary party (and, of course, the coalition) whilst also meeting the needs of his party members in the country (the troops who fight the election campaigns and are generally on the right wing of the party) and appealing to the centre right moderates – the swing voters without whom the Tories have no hope of victory?

Then, of course, there is the little matter of Europe. I have said this time and time again and yet, at least as far as I know, nobody else has expressed this specific view.

No government has sought a mandate in the matter of the EU. None could. A promise to become more involved would not be tolerated by any party activists – although the LibDems come closest to that. A promise to extricate the UK from the EU would also fail to obtain the required support other than in UKIP. This is important because it means that none of the questions surrounding our relationship with the EU have been given the electorate’s thumbs up – or down.

This is why we need a referendum to determine the future. It needs to be simple – in or out. All this tripe about waiting for new negotiations is a nonsense. Obviously if the electorate votes to remain in the EU, it is on the assumption that the government of the day – of whatever colour – would fight the UK’s corner and do the best for us that it can. For many reasons the time has come to clarify the position.

Obviously a lot of people (I am one) would prefer to be a part of a common market but with no political overtones. That is why some time ago – it feels like another world – I was my constituency’s coordinator for the “yes” vote when we had the last referendum on this subject. Looking back I think this was because my independence from every party at that time meant that everyone was happy work with me.

Those days are gone. The reality is that the EU will either implode or become a federation. Thus the question is simple. Do we or do we not want to be a (quite small) part of a Federal State of European countries? It should be the people of the UK that take that decision and nobody else: for the reasons given above, this cannot be decided by our version of representative democracy. Indeed, that is a model that is beginning to look inadequate in the present age although what should replace it, if anything, has yet to be defined.

 

Back to blogging with thoughts on UKIP

Those of you who have followed the “Devonian’s Politicial Blog” will be aware that I have been very quiet in recent months. Put it down to a few health problems which, if not resolved, have now become stabilised and so I hope to be able to post at least one blog a week. Generally speaking, I feel that this will be posted on a Sunday and will cover my thoughts from the previous week regarding matters political.

Last week was, of course, dominated by the elections and what can best be described as UKIP-HYPE (probably pronounced “u—ki—fipe). Certainly Nigel Farage and the other UKIP’s are to be congratulated with their 25% of the votes but even that sentence raises a question mark about the party. Who are the other UKIP’s? Certainly none of those I asked to give me a name could do so – and that included the name of the UKIP candidate standing for this neck of the woods. For all the hype, UKIP has a long way to go before it is a real challenge to the other parties.

An Exmoor river: bubbly and exciting but not yet grown up. Rather like UKIP in fact.

An Exmoor river: bubbly and exciting but not yet grown up. Rather like UKIP in fact.

Is the party destined to make a lasting change on the political scene in the UK? Time will tell. Two things have to happen if the answer is to be “yes” and I suspect that neither will be achieved. The first is for those who have been elected to make a real and positive difference in the communities they represent. Based on the way the UKIP MEP’s have behaved—generally speaking acting as a protest party rather than making sensible contributions to the business of governing—then the prospects are not that good. I was interested to hear  what’s—his—name (the party chairman or some such whose name escapes me) say on television that none of the UKIP Councillors would be whipped and all would be expected to take decisions on the basis of “what they consider to be best for their local communities”. In other words, they will be acting like independent Councillors. Is that what they said on the hustings? No idea.

As one who believes that party politics really should have no part in local government (simply because what is right down here in Devon may be a nonsense in Durham so central control from party HQ is not a good thing), I should be very pleased. Anyway, we shall have to wait and see what happens.

Then there is the little matter of UKIP’s policies. I have trudged through the policy statements on the party’s web site. I say “trudge” because these are very wordy but say rather less than one would like. Essentially they are a list of uncosted aspirations. I can do that too:  sure I want a society where everyone in the UK is happy, wealthy and healthy so vote for me even though, like you and a million others, I have no idea how to set about creating it. Anyway,  if these policies remain  uncosted and as random as they are today, unthinking voters might support them at a general election: if they pull themselves together and produce sensible policies suited to the UK in the 21st century, they take the risk that they will look no different from the other parties but that is what they have to do if they are to remain viable on the political arena.

Whatever else this election demonstrates it is that there is a paucity of political leadership in the UK at this time—which is why a showman such as Mr Farage can have such an impact.