Tag Archives: UKIP

The way back from Rochester & Strood

Mark Reckless’ UKIP victory over the Tories serves notice on all the parties.   The Tories, having sworn to ‘throw the kitchen sink’ at retaining it in Cameron’s words he must now regret, see a near-10,000 Tory majority in 2010 turned into a 3,000 (7.3%) UKIP lead.   Labour, which never had a chance of winning, loses nearly half its vote.    The LibDems virtually disappear with less than 1% of the vote.   Of course by-elections are wholly different from general elections, but the result for UKIP in Rochester, 271st in their list of target seats, hardly suggests that the Farage phenomenon, based largely on sentiment rather than policy, has lost momentum.   But there are several important implications.

The likelihood of further defections of Tory MPs has apparently subsided for the moment, though with at least 5 Tory MPs having little or no chance of holding their seats next year unless they switch to UKIP, that could very well change in the next 6 months.   For the Tory party as a whole chasing UKIP to the Right is likely to be counter-productive since Farage will always be able to outflank them.   For Labour the odds on countering UKIP are more promising.   Research has shown that UKIP supporters believe big business takes advantage of ordinary people and they strongly agree there is one law for the rich and one for the poor.   They are largely working class voters, they want to renationalise rail and energy, they demand higher taxes for the rich and an increased minimum wage, and they even want income redistribution.   What this says is that though these policies are anathema to New Labour, they fit perfectly with traditional Labour policy.   So why has this new insurgency of Labour persuasion joined the hard Right?

Clearly because they don’t believe that Labour will deliver this transformation that they crave for.   It’s true that Labour has in fact promoted several proposals which would deliver many of these demands, but there has not been a forceful presentation of a single policy capable of decisively swinging public opinion in Labour’s favour.   The one that cries out to be proclaimed is that a Labour government, recognising the sense of abandonment, anger and hopelessness that has driven loss of security and identity, will steadily move away from austerity and endless spending cuts and instead go down the alternative route of public investment, growth, jobs and rising incomes, not only to escape the blind alley of Osborne’s destruction of the welfare state but because that is now the only way to pay down the deficit.   When austerity itself is causing the deficit to rise this year, sticking with Osborne’s policies is certifiable.   It’s also the only game-changer in town that’s likely to stop the SNP advance that’s threatening wipe-out for Labour in Scotland.   So what’s Labour waiting for?

Why haven’t there been riots about endless austerity? That may be about to happen

One of the most remarkable facts about the British public’s attitude to prolonged austerity is the lack of the kind of open revolt which has been seen in so many other countries.   In Greece it has led to the dramatic rise of Syriza under the dynamic leadership of the radical Tsipras who now has a poll rating ahead of all the other parties, including the government.   In Spain the resistance led by originally the indignados has crystallised into a new party named Podemos which was formed only 10 months ago, but now is equally challenging the government.   In Italy the prime minister Renzi has achieved the highest rating for his Democratic Party (39%), but second is the party of the comedian Beppe Grillo in the mid-20s%, well ahead of Berlusconi’s Forza Italian on 15%.   So where is the equivalent in the UK?   UKIP hardly counts as a serious alternative to government, though both the SNP in Scotland and the Greens in England could be seen as in the initial stages of a challenge to the main parties, significantly both from the Left like Die Linke in Germany.   The dramatic rise of almost all these movements have been sparked by deep public resistance to austerity.   So why not in the UK?  It may be about to happen.
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Labour still odds-on not only to win election, but overall majority too

Now that the storm-in-a-teacup in the PLP, orchestrated by 3 ne’er-do-well malcontents and gleefully inflated by the Tory tabloids, is over, it is as well to assess the state of play before another bout of self-indulgent hysterics blows up.   Before the PLP gets afflicted again with a turn of the jitters, look at the evidence.   The latest poll puts Labour on 32%, the Tories on 31%, UKIP on 14% and the LibDems trailing at 11%.   This 1% Labour lead is dismissed as wafer-thin and fragile – and of course a 5-10% lead would be much more reassuring – but the significance of that 1% is widely misunderstood.   If there were an election now with that polling distribution deployed across the country in a uniform swing, Labour would now have 55 more seats than the Tories and with 321 seats would be just 5 seats short of an overall majority.   Not a bad position from which to start an election campaign!   Nor is this just a polling freak.   Just 6 months ago in the May elections Labour ended up with a virtually identical spread of votes across the country – actual votes, not responses to pollsters – which left the party just 4 seats short of an overall majority.   So despite the roller-coaster of the last 6 months, Labour remains in a potentially commanding position.
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Cameron versus Miliband: who would you choose?

Cameron at least has one special skill – to hold together an ungovernable party which is irrevocably split.   He does not appear to have an ultimate belief in anything – only to sustain his own position and his party at whatever cost to the country at large.   That explains his early embrace of driving an anti-climate change sleigh and hugging a hoodies to de-nastify the Nasty Party, only to be unceremoniously junked as soon as he got to No.10.   It explains his latest gyrations over the EU and immigration, promising what he can’t deliver in order to deflect the UKIP rampage, putting Britain at risk of real isolation to score points for personal and party advantage, and alienating the whole of the EU (and the US too, behind the scenes) for the sake of short-term electoral gain.   When tasked about this at PMQs he never answers any questions, but uses the occasion (and his unique privilege in having the last word) to smother his opponents with clouds of party political rhetoric and partisan propaganda.   His Bullingdon Club toff self-confidence (or overweening arrogance whichever way you look at it) is well-suited to this abuse of parliamentary procedure.

But the current chatter isn’t about Cameron because the Tory tabloids (whatever they really think about Cameron, which is often unprintable) are remorselessly determined to retain power for the Tories at all costs.   The talk is about Miliband because the Labour Party is less resolute under fire and, in some quarters at least, panics quickly at the potential loss of their own seats.   The real problem for Labour at this time isn’t Miliband.   It’s Labour’s bizarre economic policy, promising austerity and spending cuts all the way to 2020, exactly the same as the Tories, which is counter-productive and a massive voter turn-off.   What Labour voters need, and indeed the whole country, is HOPE when at present they feel only insecurity, abandonment, alienation.   What is needed is not idle and destructive chatter about a change of Leader (which is frankly inconceivable anyway), but focusing relentlessly on a commanding narrative – restoration of the NHS, reversing austerity via public investment in sustainable economic expansion, Living Wage plus a relentless assault on inequality and tax avoidance, rebuilding public services, restoration of collective bargaining and trade union rights, etc.

Miliband himself has some priceless qualities which his party should be talking up, not bad-mouthing in dark corners.   He has integrity, honesty and vision, none of which Cameron has, and he has courage – he took on Murdoch over BSkyB, the Tory tabloids over Leveson, and Cameron over a missile onslaught on Syria and yet another Middle East War, and won in each case, which no previous leader of Labour in Opposition has ever achieved – certainly not Blair.   The sooner Labour members recognise and promulgate the assets of their leader, the quicker

they might learn to stop throwing the election away.

Study finds migrants pay in £20bn more than they take out

Migrants from the EU have a lower rate of unemployment than the UK-born population, according to an analysis of 201 census data just published by ONS.   They also make a net contribution to the British economy whilst the UK-born population involve a net cost to the economy.   This is a stunning conclusion when the prevailing ideology, persistently promulgated by the Tories and the right-wing tabloids, is that EU migrants are largely ‘benefit tourists’.   What however detailed analysis of the figures shows, as opposed to anecdotes, is that migrants from the 10 Eastern European countries that joined the EU in 2004 contributed nearly a net £5bn to the UK  in the decade to 2011 whilst those from the original 15 EU members generated a net gain of £15bn over the same period.   The analysis further showed that EU 15 migrants contributed 64% more in taxes to the UK than they received in benefits, and migrants from the Eastern European EU members (Poland, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia and Lithuania) contributed 12% more than they received.

However both migrants from the EU and the UK-born population had a higher rate of employment than migrants from outside the EU, and it is the latter who make up two-thirds of the England and Wales non-UK-born population, about 4.2 million out of 6 million.   Polish people were the most likely to be in work: 81% were employed compared with 69% of the UK-born population.   The lowest employment rate was for Chinese and Bangladeshi migrants, though 76% and 40% respectively were students.

The research also found that EU migrants are significantly younger than the average UK-born resident and also more likely to have a degree.   Significantly also, it was found that Britain tends to attract far more skilled immigrants than other EU countries.   Polish immigrants to the UK, for example, had much higher levels of education than those in Germany.   The study also found that a greater proportion of recent migrants are highly qualified.

It was striking however that the researchers calculated that, as opposed to EU migrants, the non-EU migrants between 1995-2011 involved a net cost to Britain of £118bn, partly due to the higher numbers of children and lower employment rate.   By comparison the EU migrants over the same period brought a net gain of £4bn.   That certainly highlights how far the UKIP argument about EU immigration has falsified the evidence and given a slant to prevailing views which is wholly inaccurate.


Race to the bottom on immigration won’t work

The Tory programme on immigration is set to get the worst of all worlds, with disastrous consequences for Britain over the EU.   The Tories now want to restrict benefits to immigrants and to make citizens from future EU member countries wait longer before they are allowed to work in Britain.   Now Cameron is going further still with rhetoric about ‘fixing’ immigration to Britain from the EU, and has even floated the idea of an ’emergency brake’ on immigration beyond a certain level from even existing EU members.   But an ’emergency brake’ is doomed to fail both ways round.   It’s unlikely to placate UKIP supporters since UKIP will always go further in extreme promises about keeping out foreigners.   It doesn’t even get to the heart of the problem since immigration is clearly a scapegoat for wider economic disgruntlements.   That explains why London, the city most changed by immigration, is generally relaxed about it, whilst several of the areas most determined to keep out immigrants have actually seen very few.   An emergency brake will not calm anxieties in the latter areas even if Cameron could deliver it, which he almost certainly won’t be allowed to by the rest of the EU as Merkel has not made adamantly clear.
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SNP makes it imperative Labour produces commanding narrative to separate it from Westminster establishment

The Westminster establishment, to which all the three main political parties are seen to sign up, is the most toxic brew in modern British politics.   It has led to UKIP which robbed the Tories of Clacton and likely Rochester as well as almost certainly several Tory seats at the next election, and which came within an ace of robbing Labour of Heywood and Middleton.   It has now led to the SNP where the some polls suggest that, of the 59 constituencies in Scotland where Labour currently holds 41 and the Tories 1, it will capture between 47-54 of these seats and leave Labour with only 5-10 seats.   Less dramatic polls indicate the SNP might take 23-26 seats, but that could still have severe reverberations for Labour.   Next May’s election could well hang on whether UKIP does more damage to the Tories than the SNP does to Labour in Scotland.   However the 6 months still to go is a long time in politics, and for both the two main parties the counter-argument will be spread relentlessly: for the Tories, vote Miliband and wake up with Farage, and for Labour, vote SNP and you deliver yet another London-based Tory government at Westminster.   Those arguments may yet get some considerable play.

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Labour should make inhumanity of Tories a key electoral issue

The Tory government’s decision to withdraw from the search and rescue missions in the Mediterranean where tens of thousands of refugees are fleeing their war-savaged homelands is an act of pitiless inhumanity.   Already this year alone some 25,000 people have arrived in Italy, and similar numbers from Eritrea, with thousands more from Iraq, Nigeria and Somalia.   The numbers who never got there and drowned on the way are not known, but they certainly run into thousands.   To back out of this humanitarian mission is callous and despicable, especially when the motive is plainly to compete with Ukip in being hostile and harsh to migrants.   It is made even worse when the Home Secretary hides behind the disingenuous pretext that saving lives only encourages more persons to risk this treacherous escape route.   It is a shameful indictment to Britain’s reputation as a haven to the persecuted that the UK has resettled less than a tenth of the number of Syrians taken by Germany and Sweden and is now washing its hands of a fundamental humanitarian duty.
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Is the EU Commission on the side of Farage?

It is difficult to believe that some senior members of the EU Commission are not secret Ukippers.   To demand that Britain hands over more than €2bn because its economy is doing relatively well compared with the rest of the Eurozone, which is doing appallingly badly, is beyond satire.   The idea that Germany, where the Merkel doctrine of unwavering austerity has brought the eurozone low, should now receive a rebate at Britain’s expense of £780m  is the kind of black comedy normally associated with farce.   The UK contribution to the EU budget is already large at £8.6bn last year, and this surcharge would now make the UK by far the biggest top-up contributor.   What adds salt into the wound is that this surcharge stems from the EU charging the way it calculates gross national income to include more hidden elements such as prostitution and illegal drugs!
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