Tag Archives: vote

EU Referendum Poll

My experience from blogs, meetings and general discussion is that the mainstream polling does not reflect the public mood.  I reckon its 45:20 in favour of Brexit, (with 35% undecided) which is a long way from what is published in the press, or indeed the current odds offered by on-line bookmakers.  So given the power of WordPress I thought I would conduct my own research. – hence this poll.


An alternative to budget commentary…

My objective assessment of which way to vote on 23rd June turned out to require more effort and words than I had anticipated.  At 12,000 words its too long for a blog post so I have uploaded it to Amazon and it should be available in softback and Kindle formats tomorrow, St Patrick’s Day. I will blog the link to Amazon, and have put the summary and conclusions on a new page on my blog site (click here).

Regular readers of this blog may not be surprised that I will still be voting out.  I did find myself surprised at the reasoning; in the final analysis I conclude that::

A vote for Brexit is very probably to the UK’s advantage provided that the UK and EU can agree sensible exit terms.

Brexit is probably not in the rest of the EU’s interest, but given a pro Brexit vote it is vital for the EU to agree sensible exit terms with the UK as soon as possible.

Surely the politicians couldn’t screw that up?  Could they?

I had not appreciated the EU’s position and they really are in a logical and factual bind. I suspect that much of the hyperbole comes from this.  In the pre-internet age that might have worked, I don’t think it will today.

While producing it I have continued to marvel at the low quality of debate, complete with wild extrapolations, over use of “could” and “might”and all the other intellectually bankrupt practices that have sadly become commonplace in politics.

I have encountered very few who say that they intend to vote to stay; those that I have are mostly still in education.  I concede that this observation may say more about my narrow social circle than about the way the country will vote but most of my social circle rarely agrees with me.

My only worry is that, having voted to leave, we cannot find a politician robust and capable enough to lead the departure negotiations.  At some stage Cameron is going to have to accept the possibility of a Brexit vote is larger than he believes and start preparing to enact the people’s will.  If he does not have a clear statement of what we expect from Europe (and how we intend to get it) ready to publish no later than a few minutes after the vote is counted Sterling and the Euro are going to have a roller-coaster ride which could well cause unnecessary economic damage to both UK and EU.  Not having such a plan in place is, I think, evidence that Cameron is neglecting his duties to a level bordering on misfeasance.



In or Out? A Rational Approach to the EU Referendum

Now that the dust has settled on the general election we face some 18 months of campaigning and debate about the long overdue Euro referendum. Depressingly it seems that the quality of debate has already sunk to infantile and I type this in the hope of raising it slightly.

Continue reading In or Out? A Rational Approach to the EU Referendum

Party Conference Season

Hot on the heels of the Scottish Independence fiasco we now have the party conference season upon us. With a general election looming and the commitment to a new settlement for Scotland the unfortunate British (i.e. mostly English) population can look forward to a further deluge of political slogans masquerading as policy and fraudulent financial statements pretending to be a basis for the economy. We may, or may not, see the end of the West Lothian question although its space will be filled by the European argument.

It probably is time to address some of the flaws in the method by which we are governed. However I do not think that this is best done by politicians with an election to win. Rather we need an independent view of how government works, reporting in a timetable concomitant with a sober and thorough appraisal of all the evidence and capable of making sensible recommendations for change. This may, or may not, include a switch of voting system and it should also include an assessment of the proper role of the House of Lords. It may well be that the changes would need to be put to the public in a referendum. Certainly no current Member of Parliament has a mandate for implementing any change. Nor can MPs or the political parties be relied upon to deal with the role of Scotland as Labour have a vested interest in Scottish MPs having wide powers while the opposite is true of the Conservatives. It is unfortunate that the major parties have already started treating the reforms as a political football, although one can’t expect anything more from them.

Our current political structure and processes are little changed since women over 21 were given the right to vote in 1928. Likewise the split of tasks between district and county councils and central government have not changed substantially in concept, the presumption is that central government will have all the power, although increasing amounts of it are either devolved to local government or ceded to Brussels. In some cases the split between district and county councils is fairly arbitrary. For example, district councils collects household waste, but county councils dispose of it. Given the rise of UKIP and the Scottish farce a review of government structure is long overdue.

Perhaps the first question should be “what do we expect of government?” I would argue that given that the overwhelming evidence of history is that socialism does not work (even in Glasgow) and thus we can make the simplifying assumption that free market capitalism is the name of the game. Its effective operation relies fundamentally upon the rule of law and its enforcement. The creation of law is the prime role of Parliament – indeed it is the only thing that MPs can do. This is important, as simply passing laws achieves little. Murder has been illegal since time immemorial, but still happens today. More politicians may well produce more laws, more debate and more democracy but that does not translate directly into more or better government. My answer would be that each level of government should only do what only it can do. That limits it to making the law, starting (or, preferably avoiding) wars and providing a welfare system. It must also collect taxes and set a balanced budget. Bar the odd national policy on transport and providing funds for health and education that is about it.

What the government should not do is provide services. Those of us old enough to remember British Leyland, British Rail and the other nationalised industries know this from bitter experience. Unfortunately those born post the Thatcher revolution don’t understand this. It is incumbent upon us to explain.

Perhaps the best example in a rational world would be the NHS. The 2015 NHS budget is about £100 billion. That is around £4,000 per household. You can buy a fair amount of health insurance for that. It’s not as if the NHS is problem free, although its senior staff seem immune to the charges of corporate manslaughter that would arise in commercial organisations that killed people though negligence and neglect.

Everything else could be done at a lower level of government – i.e. country and district. Again, if we’re going to investigate how this country is governed then it may be that given the advances in technology both levels are not required – Wiltshire, for instance, now has just one layer of government. Schools would be paid according to the number of pupils and the head left to run it answerable to its board of governors, which might have to be strengthened. This is how private schools work, and indeed police constabularies. The innate centralising nature of government would be removed. To be fair, this is happening in some parts of government when no-one is looking.

We would also have to investigate how political parties are funded. State funding is abhorrent to all except professional politicians. But why should the public sector workers (who are in effect the only unionised workers left) fund their own political party? Much of government service is good, but far too much of it forgets that its purpose is to serve the public, not the other way round.

Why is it that the directors of a company seeking finance have to publish a prospectus which is verified and, upon pain of prison, certify that it represents a “true and fair view” while the SNP can produce a manifesto that is blatantly dishonest (and they’re not alone)?

Finally, any such review should consider any reasons for lowering the voting age. Lowering from 18 produces the real risk of “representation without taxation” – the inverse ended badly for England and if the result is years of socialist government there is no reason to suppose that voting at 16 will end well. As someone said, “anyone under the age of 18 who isn’t a socialist has no heart. If they’re still socialist at 21 they don’t have a brain either.”

Friedrich von Hayek’s “The Road to Serfdom” should be compulsory reading for every teenager.

Devolution Is Good – Provided Its Done Right

Last night’s Invictus Games closing ceremony contained many moving scenes and one unique one. Can anyone recall a stadium full of people cheering spontaneously for a member of the Royal Family – or any UK politician?

Prince Harry saw something in America that he thought (rightly it turns out) could help wounded British servicemen. He didn’t have to do it (as 3rd, soon to be 4th, in line to the throne he does not have many formal obligations) but he did. In spite of the torrid relationship with the press which he has endured all his life through little fault of his own, he once again stuck his head above the parapet. Getting the whole show up and running in seven months could not be done without a huge team, all of whom he inspired to achieve the extraordinary through the force of his name, supported by his passion and sincerity. His speech at the end sought no personal credit.

Now imagine the same scenario with another privileged Etonian – David Cameron. For a start, he would deny that there was a problem, and if there was he would blame it successively on his predecessors, his ministers and his civil servants. He would set up a working party, the prime output of which would be publicity for him and his political associates. It would have been delivered late, at huge cost and with far less public support. There would be more TV coverage of the political shenanigans that there would have been of the competitors. Cameron’s closing speech would have been smoother and more polished. He would have mouthed banal platitudes and would either of sent everyone to sleep or got booed off the stage. To be fair, none of his political contemporaries would have fared any better.

As we watch the ambition of Salmond destroy harmony in Scotland on what is becoming obvious (even to the BBC) as a false prospectus with ludicrous assumptions we should ask ourselves what has gone wrong. The people whom we respect have no power; those with power have earned no respect. More importantly, how can we fix it so that we are ruled within a broad prospectus? A few suggestions, the first of which may surprise.

Devolution. Not in the Scottish sense of creating a £400M parliament to add more government rather an imposition of the principle of subsidiarity, doing stuff at the lowest possible level. Most of what central government does involves shuffling money to departments, who shuffle it to counties and then to the agencies that actually deliver the service. Yes, someone has to centrally collect the tax. But then most of it should go straight to the service. So a school would get paid a flat rate per pupil directly from government. Yes there may need to be some regional variation but the point is that it is far cheaper to send the money direct. There is no need for centralising bureaucracy – its only 10 million transactions. Central government should only do what only central government can do. I reckon that list is make the law (but enforce, most of it locally through the county constabularies), collect taxes (possibly not exclusively), foreign policy (which includes compliance with international agreements), wars and that’s about it. Everything else can be provided locally with funds collected from the centre. In the UK, for idiotic cultural reasons, in the first instance health would be included in the central government list. But one day we’ll realise that there are sound reasons why no other country runs a centralised, politicised, monolithic NHS.

Less Powerful Political Parties. At the moment political parties develop policies, select candidates and promote them at elections. The primary fault for the lousy MPs and County Councillors that we have lies with the parties that produce them. The development of policy is a farce, as everyone knows that socialism doesn’t work and the rest of the world works on free market capitalism. Instead we have the absurd proposition of parties seeking credit for “creating the conditions for growth” when their major contribution to economic progress is to not bankrupt the country (ha ha) and not to pass silly, unnecessary or expensive laws (tee hee). Under no circumstances should political parties be state funded – if the public don’t want to pay for them directly through subscription it is immoral to compel them through via taxation.

Better politicians. Why is it undemocratic to require politicians to have certain key skills? They are not allowed to be peers, members of the Royal family, members of the armed forces or insane. What is so wrong in asking them to demonstrate understanding of accounting, an ability to think logically and a proper sense of duty? These things could be shown by qualification or experience. Come to think of it, why do we not also set a minimum age? Say 40. While this may make politicians lack appeal to callow youths (including journalists) it might give us a wiser government. We would also be able to examine their adult past and identify tendencies to larceny and chicanery.

Fewer new peers. There is nothing less creditable than the elevation of failed MPs to become part of the government for the rest of their lives. While there are a few exceptions, most inhabitants of the Commons make bloody awful peers. Rather than letting the Prime Minister purchase political favours                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          we should establish a system of electing peers for life from the counties, directly. The number of peers per county would be set to balance population. They would have to meet the same criteria as MPs, with the added constraint that they should never have sought or received political office. The selection process to be run by Lords Lieutenant (Crown appointees rather than political ones).

On this basis, and this basis alone, I am all in favour of devolution. One of Mr Salmond’s (many) shortcomings is that he can’t see that more politicians is the cause of the problems of centralised power (in Westminster or anywhere else), not the solution.

Lessons from the Scottish Independence Debate

It looks like it is 50:50 as to whether Scotland will vote yes to independence. As I have previously said, I don’t much mind what they do and can see selfish benefits to England from them leaving – assuming that they are not allowed currency union. What does concern me is that a serious debate with many fundamentally important facts to be debated seems to have been hijacked by emotion. I believe that the media, particularly TV journalism has colluded with this. Unsurprisingly, most politicians have been utterly uninspiring and ineffective – if you’re relying on Gordon Brown to make your points then you know you’re in deep trouble.

The fundamental question for the Nationalists to answer is what currency they would use. If is absurd for Salmond to claim that a yes vote gives him a mandate to obtain a currency union. Such a union would be politically suicidal for any UK government, and financially unjustifiable. All that had to be done was all three UK political leaders (four if you want to include Farrage) to state, unequivocally, that there would be no currency union. Full stop.

Salmond’s argument was that if so Scotland would accept none of the UK’s debt. To which the four should have pointed out that as the lending world considered apportionment on population head fair he was now proposing to launch the Thistle (or whatever) with a default. Good luck.

That no politician managed to make these points is depressing. Notwithstanding the huge benefit that the separation of Scotland would give to the Tories, it is incumbent on the prime minister of the UK to ensure that any debate on a referendum that he created is sensible. Whether Scotland stays or goes, Cameron has failed.

Instead we have been seeing a rush to offer extra devolution from Westminster, the so called “devo-max” that Salmond reportedly wanted. This has, of course, been Labour led because the absence of Scotland removes the last bastion of visceral socialism that keeps them electorally viable. But it should not have happed. Cameron should have pointed out that there is already a rolling devolution programme within the UK and that this vote is not about that. It’s in or out, and if it’s out you will not have Sterling.

I suppose that, given the low calibre and lower expectations of our current politicians it was too much to expect an intelligent debate. But the abject failure of TV to pin the participants to a point and expose their contradictions is profoundly depressing. How can democracy work if most people don’t read newspapers and TV can’t provide sensible, objective and rational debate? Even the most educated humans are more emotional than rational (c.f. house purchase). Those less educated have no immediate source of information. So now, 500 years after the enlightenment and almost a century after universal suffrage this country faces government produced by emotional response to inaccurate messages rather than intelligent response to rational debate. It’s alarmingly like Brave New World.

If Scotland leaves then it’s not my problem. But the explicit demonstration of the failed state of democracy in this country is. At the moment my only response is to vote UKIP (although I can’t stand many of their candidates – such as the ghastly Hamiltons) on the grounds that it breaks up the establishment. But it’s going to take much more than that.

I suspect emigration may be a better solution. But not to Scotland.

Why I Voted for UKIP

It wasn’t that hard a decision really.  I’m very swayed by the arguments of FA Hayek in “The road to Serfdom” and thus not in favour of centralised government, least of all one that has never had its expenditure pass audit.  While there are many good Eurosceptic MEPs, such as Daniel Hannan, the reality is that they are part of the status quo and what the entire EC needs is a well applied boot to its backside.  Voting UKIP achieves this.

Were there a referendum today (which, of course there is not) I would vote to leave.  This is an argument to be covered in detail later, the short version is that my current assumption is that as we import more goods from Europe than we sell there it is in Europe’s interest to maintain us as a market.  Slapping tariffs on our exports to them would be reciprocated. There are many other arguments, which I’ll no doubt make on later blogs.

If there were a general election today, (which of course there is not either), I do not know how I would vote, but for sure UKIP would  be in contention.  There is a malaise in UK politics that has created the “Westminster Bubble,”  a coterie of career-politicians, senior civil servants and some media commentators (particularly the BBC) that have sold their principles for the maintenance of the status quo, specifically their continued employment.  Voting UKIP undermines them, and their complete and continued reluctance to contemplate alternatives to our current system of government, which consumes almost 50% of our GDP.  People forget that it is this, not the bank crash, that has led to the mountain of national debt that hangs over the future economic health of our children.

As it happens, I think that a UKIP vote will possibly damage the Conservative party least.  If it comes in at the predicted level he will certainly have the mandate to go to the EC and say “Negotiate or we’re out.”  I don’t actually think that the EC will be able to accommodate the restructuring necessary (remember the “principle of subsidiarity” that got John Major through the Maastricht treaty?)  But at least it gives Cameron the opportunity.

I do think that much of the UKIP coverage in the media has been unfair, but that is unsurprising and I think Nigel Farrage has done well.  Compared to the impact of the Social Democratic Party (formed late 1970s and now somewhere in the Liberal Democrats) he has achieved far more, and without the luxury of starting with seats in Westminster.  While one could argue that the SDP ultimately gave us New Labour it was a storm in a teacup compared to UKIP actually challenging the entire political construct.

Out of interest I include a poll on how you voted.  Feel free to click away