Following on from Iain's description of the site as "increasingly obsessed and deluded", Matthew Sinclair takes a look at UKIP Home and decides that it is really not very good. He is, of course, entirely correct; it isn't.
Ladies and gentlemen, I present the famous self-rebutting [UKIP webmaster]. Also, increased petrol tax as a solution to climate change, being a focussing of the entire cost of curbing emissions onto one cause (leaving out air fuel, industrial emissions, power generation) is deeply distorting and hardly a policy for someone wanting to be a part of "the Libertarian Party".
I know that every party has its cranks and there will be others in the UKIP who are more sensible but it does tend to attract a disproportionate share of crackpots.
I love UKIP Home very, very much; it is one of the most amazing sites on the whole internet. The wit and incisive intellect of UKIP Home's webmaster is unparalled in the entire blogosphere., He even has a fan, who is so into UKIP Home and its primary writer that he has set up a blog in homage: UKIP Moan.
Of course, Matt is hardly sympathetic to UKIP anyway (though at least he is intelligent, rational and not a complete fucking monkey), as we have seen. After telling how he met a couple of rather alarming UKIP members, Matt goes on to develop his "EU conspiracy meme".
The question I have to answer is why, if the UKIP as a party is so moronic, it attracts some supporters, such as DK, who are clearly not. I think this is caused by the same thing that makes the UK's blogosphere somewhat stunted by comparison with the US; the EU conspiracy meme. This meme runs as follows:'The EU is awful; unremittingly sordid, venal, sinister and dreadful. Most of the public agree with us (cite some public opinion poll which highlights public dissaproval of Europe). However, no one appears to care (same opinion poll has Europe towards the bottom of voter priorities). The media rarely gives prominence to stories of European folly. Therefore, voter apathy about Europe must be fuelled by a media which wants us to stay in Europe and avoids stories which reflect negatively on the European project.'
Some see blogging as the solution to this; bypassing the traditional media to get their message directly to the public. There are at least a dozen, some extremely good, blogs dedicated exclusively to cataloguing what is going wrong in Europe. Others aren't sharp enough to see this option and their rage drives them to become UKIP activists.
The trouble is that I have never really seen blogs as a way to change the world as such. I write about what enrages me and I attempt to provide some solutions, often cribbed from other bloggers who are much more informed on certain technical issues than I. Sure, I like to think that I have made some converts—or at least made people think—but I also suspect that the old adage that bloggers are, more or less, only talking to other bloggers is, to a greater extent than not, fairly true.
The fact is that the only way, at present, that you are going to change things is through an involvement in political parties. Now, I do believe that blogs can be a very useful tool in forming policies that are popular and also in convincing those waverers who are tech-savvy and intelligent enough to understand the way in which blogs work. They should also provide feedback on policy announcements to the party leadership (although ConservativeHome does not seem to have done much good for the Tories in this regard but this may be because the Tories don't really have any real policies).
What I would say is that minority parties, especially, tend to be filled by those who are single-minded enough not to wish to compromise their beliefs beyond a certain point; this is because the members know that their party has little chance of gaining power but they gain the satisfaction of at least working towards something that they believe in. This is, for instance, the main reason why I am a member and supporter of UKIP: as a political party, their views accord far more closely with mine than any of the main three.
However, the truth is that, most likely, neither will find an effective means of tackling public apathy about Europe because it is not born out of ignorance. Rather, it is rational and, like most rational public perceptions, mistakes in either direction average each other out to produce that rational result.
Unfortunately, I believe Matt to be wrong on this point and there are several reasons for this. First and least important, (do say, Matthew, if I am incorrect here) I would say that Matthew Sinclair, who has just recently completed his MSc in Economic History at the LSE (well done), has had only limited recent contact with the... shall we say... salt-of-the-earth workers. A university is still, by any standards, a somewhat rarified environment. I spent the first six years of my working life amongst printers from Musselburgh, Kirkcaldy, Newtowngrange and other such (prelatively poor) places and amongst people who, whilst very good at their jobs, were not educated particularly well and for whom The Sun and its simplistic messages were the normal daily reading.
Second, listening to Farage on the James Whale show a while back, the majority of the people 'phoning in really did not know the extent to which the things that they were complaining about were EU dependent; when they did find out, they were shocked but they were also grateful for the information. And they were angry that they had not known about it, or that they had only heard the connection to the EU through some vague rumour.
And this leads me onto the third and most crucial point. As some will know, I have been conversing a fair bit with UKIP's London press office and I know how much of the information that they research (and, yes, they actually do research, one of the more frivolous being the story about the Britishness Test) never makes it into the newspapers (one reason why I want to set up a central repository for these stories). The office's daily press briefing is stuffed full of things that should be reported but are not; I have seen the frustration that the POs feel when story after story—that they have spent time researching, often at the request of a reporter who cannot be arsed to do it themselves—is pulled, ignored or spiked.
To decide that public opinion on the EU is not based on ignorance is to be unaware of the facts; it is also to ignore the fact that it is deliberate government policy to conceal the facts from the people. And, as we all know, it is very easy for the government to influence the media agenda by simply threatening to deny the media access to any ministerial comment.
Enthusiasm for expanding our commitment to Europe, in the Liberal Democrat mould, is clearly misguided. Those who signed up to the Euro are now regretting it as it does its part in making a mess of the German economy among others. European regulation on working time does not have public support and is economically stifling as well as plain illiberal. Equally, much of European regulation now is flawed and Britain should be pushing for a rethink where this is the case.
This is, of course, the approach that has been advocated by both NuLabour and NuTories: "don't worry, chaps, we'll be at the heart of the EU and we'll get these nasty regulations changed. Just you wait and see!"
How many years of this patent bullshit must we endure?
Let's just take a recent example: we negotiate a partial opt-out from the Working Time Directive and then, a few years later, it pops up again. And this time we negotiate another partial opt-out but this time not only is the opt-out itself less favourable than the previous one, but the support for our position has waned. We just about struggled through this time: we might only get limited to 60 hours work a week if we are really lucky. But next time? And the time after that?
However, the EU is also really not going to come for you in the night.
Well, unless you are cited on a European Arrest Warrant, of course, which allows you to be arrested and deported from your own country to any EU state on the flimsiest of evidence. We no longer have power over our own lives and our government is unable to defend us; the ECJ trumps all.
It does involve a sacrifice in sovereignty but so do all international treaty obligations, NATO, the UN etc. Unless you wish to go the Switzerland route this is a difference of degree not principle.
This is a rather silly argument, of course. To compare the EU, the eventual and utterly aim of which is a federal superstate with draconian powers of enforcement, with a purely military pledge to help, under certain circumstances, our partners in NATO is ludicrous. As is comparing our obligations under the (toothless) UN to the national law-trumping Directives of the EU is equally fatuous.
You may agree with Matt that it is, in fact, a matter of degree and not principle but I would not. Provided we are not aggressors, our treaties with NATO and the UN cannot force us to act against our national interests and they cannot overule the will of our elected representatives; the Directives from the unelected EU Commission can. These directives are backed by the power of the ECJ and the ability to impose swingeing fines upon countries that refuse to implement those Directives.
And whilst, in theory, the Treaties that bind us to the EU can be renogotiated, the Directives cannot be negotiated since they can only be changed by the Commission because the only body that can initiate law in the EU is the Commission. Once a competence has been signed over via a treaty then that's it; we are bound by whatever Directives are issued relating to that competence.
This is a fundamental change of principle because, whilst we may agree that aspects of our national sovereignty may be relinquished we do not know, at the time of negotiating that treaty, exactly what the Clauses are. It is rather similar to signing a contract agreeing to work for someone and leaving the number of hours that you are going to work and how much the employer is going to pay you blank. And then signing the Clause that says: "I agree to be bound by whatever my employer writes in those blank bits, that this contract can never be renegotiated and I have no redress if I am starving to death for lack of money." This is, quite obviously, lunacy.
Except, of course, it's an imperfect analogy. What our politicians have done is rather different; what they have done, in position of managers, is to agree with the new owner company that the managers can pay themselves whatever they like, but that the new owner can impose whatever work conditions they please on the managers' staff, irrespective of whatever agreements the managers may have made previously with their staff. It is a deeply cynical and sordid attitude.
Given that it does increase, while far from the perfect free trade animal, free trade within the important market of Europe and leaving would cause a severe institutional disruption there seems no driving need to leave immediately.
Please, forgive me for issuing a somewhat hollow laugh at this last statement. Let me make this absolutely clear: Europe is not only not an important market for Britain—comprising, as it does, a mere 10% of our trade in goods and services—but the opportunity cost that it has imposed has simply not been worth it.
William Hague estimated, in his speech to Open Europe (which I shredded), that free trade with the EU was worth some £20 billion to this country's economy. Wow! Great, eh? Except that, as Hague pointed out (from the European Commission's own figures and projections), the EU is in severe decline.
Europe is in the grip of a slow burning crisis. Many of Europe's economies are performing poorly and the continent is in relative economic decline. According to the European Commission, by 2050 the US share of world output will rise to twenty six per cent, while Europe's will have shrunk to only ten per cent.
So what is already tiny market will, in fact, become even more of an irrelevence. And an increasingly expensive one at that.
And what have we lost? Well, in a phrase, free trade. Free trade with the rest of the world and most importantly, as Chris pointed out, with the US.
However the EU also prevents the UK from many potentially good opportunities. Such as in 2003 whena Bill was introduced in the Senate that would have created a free-trade agreement between the two countries. Alas, Blair had to decline this, shamefacedly (I’d like to think) having to point out that this country had no right to negotiate international trade agreements.
Free trade with the USA is not the only area that Britain could have been trying for, free trade agreements with fast growing Brazil, India, or China might have been possible where we not in the EU
And what is the cost of these lost opportunities?
Estimating the costs of these lost opportunities can lead to total figures such for the cost of being in the EU that are truly horrendous.when one adds on the costs described earlier to the opportunity costs, the current recurring annual net cost to the UK of EU membership is ten percent of GDP, or approximately £100 billion per year at present levels of UK GDP.
This from a newsletter in 2004 [PDF], so the numbers will probably have gone up since then. That rather makes the 20 billion that Mr Hague claims that the UK gets from the common market seem rather insignificant. If it exists at all, the Civitas report also notes thatthe Bundesbank could find no evidence that it [the single market] has helped German trade. The UK economy is unlikely to be any different.
I wrote a long article (minus swearing!) for Wanabehuman about these costs (and, indeed, I am getting slightly fucking tired of having to repeat myself), which were also broadly backed up by the economist Patrick Minford in his book, Should Britain Leave The EU? [PDF].
And I we haven't even begun to consider the vast amount that EU administration cost our businesses every year: EU Referendum reported on this.
Can we leave yet?
So asks Tim Worstall in The Times today, after doing the maths.
While Gunter Verheugen, the EU enterprise commissioner, complains that compliance with Single Market regulation costs €600 billion a year, Tim has found out that the commission boasts [PDF] only that the Single Market benefits the economies of the EU to the tune of €164.5 billion a year.
Losing €600 billion to get €164.5 billion back in order that the politicians can enjoy and exercise their power is not something which passes a cost-benefit analysis, writes Tim.
And he is entirely correct: if you think that this is a good deal, then you are a fucking idiot.
Nor, of course, have we considered the environmental and economic damage that the Common Fisheries Policy is doing to our fish stocks.
This comes from Gerd Hubold, the general-secretary of ICES, who has told the uncritical Times that the main problem is that although cod catches have been cut to 26,500 tonnes a year, more than twice that amount is being caught in bycatches by fishermen chasing other species such as haddock, whiting, hake and plaice.
Fishermen, we are told, "accidentally" caught about 50,000 tonnes of cod last year, and have to throw the dead fish back in the sea because it is classed as an illegal catch.
This of course is a direct function of the mad quota system devised by the EU and supported by ICES...
And, of course, having completely destroyed our own fish stocks in a classic tragedy of the commons, the EU is now busy annihilating those of the African nations too.
Were we talking about anything other than the EU, of course, at this stage in the argument I would be entirely justified pointing out that the burden of proof is on my detractors to prove that our membership of the EU is beneficial. But, unfortunately, ignorance is the problem: most people are simply not aware of the vast amounts of money that the EU is costing us every, single year. In fact, most people on the blogosphere—who tend to be rather more educated than many of your average voters—seem to languish in complacent ignorance: how, then, should we expect the average punter to be clued up?
And, of course, the EU is not just costing us (as a customs union, it's entire reason for existence is more than suspect): who can guess how many more millions of people are made poorer—or die unnecessarily—because of the EU? It's a lot. And that makes us, as members of this orgnisation, murderers and torturers by association. Our membership helps to ensure that between 1.5 and 2 million people die of malaria every year; it helps to ensure that tens of thousands starve or die of easily treatable diseases; it helps to ensure that a great proportion of the world's population remain in poverty.
Right, so now that we have exploded the economic and moral arguments for belonging to the EU, can someone please tell me why, although "there seems no driving need to leave immediately", there is a reason for continuing to belong to the EU? And do those benefits really outweigh the costs?
Because you see, the longer that we stay, the harder that it will be to leave and the more subverted and distressed our independent mechanisms will be. And once the Constitution is ressurected—which introduces massive financial penalties for countries leaving the EU: effectively, we would have to buy our way out of the club—as it will be, it really will cost us to leave.
That is why I will happily continue to assist UKIP in any way that I can and why I shall continue to smash and deride those who see the EU as merely a "matter of degree rather than principle." It's because I have principles and I thought that it was about time that I acted on them rather than merely ranting.
Also, I was a bit pissed...