Cameron’s hollow endorsement

the-plan-carswell-hannan-jpgWhat this cover photo – of Douglas Carswell and Dan Hannan’s “The Plan” – does not show is the clear endorsement David Cameron offered to Carswell ahead of the election. It was printed on the back cover, and related to the earlier pamphlet on which the book was based.

The Plan itself consists of some modest reforms to Britain’s health, education and political systems to make them accountable to the public and to restore the kind of incentives many would think are common sense. Today, upon jumping ship to UKIP the betrayed Carswell said Cameron, contrary to his endorsement, was not serious about change:

He told reporters he did not believe Conservative leader and Prime Minister David Cameron was “serious about the change we need”.

He said the decision to jump ship from the Conservatives had given him “sleepless nights” but he wanted to see “fundamental change in British politics” and UKIP – a party he believed belonged to its members rather than a “little clique” of political insiders – could deliver it

That Cameron is insincere is not news, what is news is that UKIP may have it’s first representation in Westminster before May, and by this time next year we might see a party represented by Nigel Farage and Douglas Carswell holding the balance of power against a Tory party led by Boris Johnson. For all their faults, that would be a massive step forward compared to the current bunch.

UPDATED: A bucksome elf has provided a view of the back cover:

image

Immigration controls as a libertarian policy

Having voted UKIP for their constitutional policies, and largely ignoring the immigration issue that say Rob Waller found problematic I thought I should double back and take a closer look at their actual immigration policy. That policy is expressed on the Where we stand page in four bullet points, I’ll tackle three of them:

• Immigrants must financially support themselves and their dependents for 5 years. This means private health insurance (except emergency medical care), private education and private housing – they should pay into the pot before they take out of it.

• A points-based visa system and time-limited work permits.

• Proof of private health insurance must be a precondition for immigrants and tourists to enter the UK.

Ellis Island © Sue Waters

Ellis Island © Sue Waters

There are two basic themes here, the ability of a person visiting the country to pay their way, and control over who they are. That latter point is the one I have a problem with, but what surprisies me is that in conversations with friends and relatives it is the first point that gives them the most concern. Let me make that clear: controlling who comes is more popular than ensuring they pay their way, however, only the former constitutes a violation of individual rights as Rocco helpfully explained recently.

There seem to be three main reasons given for this:

  1. Altruism: This was very obvious in todays Big Questions debate (from 21mins). Expecting people to pay their way is incompatible with helping them to pay their way. People with this view make no distinction between the self-sufficiency requirement and the points system. The points system is seen simply as reducing the help on offer.
  2. Economic development: The argument given is that if you have high entry requirements (such as, the requirement to hold a large bank balance, which may or may not in fact be UKIP policy) then the economy will miss out on people who do not fulfill that exacting requirement now but may still go on to contribute to the UK’s treasury.
  3. Harsh: A points based system is seen as less harsh. A more flexible points system is simply nicer than than a strict self-sufficiency requirement and it is unreasonable to have such very high expectations of people. People born in the UK are not held to such a high standard.

It seems to me that points 1 and 2 are basically asking UK tax payers for an investment in others (including a spiritual investment) that UK tax payers may not be willing to make. For example, who is to say it is wrong for someone to desire a holiday with their family more than the spiritual reward of helping strangers, or to value that holiday this year more than gaining from an improved economy five years from now? I do not think it is wrong to value the holiday more for either reason. This is perhaps a middle class scenario I’ve given, but consider that for a working class person it is less likely to be a holiday at stake and more likely to be clothing, books, or even heating or food. The consequences of higher confiscatory taxes are going to fall more sharply there.

The third point is interesting because the reasons given above do in fact apply to UK born people as well. I think there is an important difference though that being born in the UK is morally neutral good luck, but there is a volitional act involved in emmigrating here that exasperates the moral problems of taking from the system without the active consent of all that contributed to it. Given that moral dimension it seems fully justified to be less generous, although of course the real solution is to be less generous to both categories and move to a more voluntary system where consent is a given.

All three points also seem to ignore what the likely effects would be of a strict self-sufficiency requirement. The most obvious effect, as someone familiar with how friendly societies worked, is that the price of proving self-sufficiency is likely to fall as the implementation of that policy matures. People might get career loans in their home countries to fund a spell of working abroad. This would be analogous to a student loan, int he sense that it i likely to improve their career for life. You might also get not-for-profit groups (or even for-profit groups) opening up a variety of low-cost education, health and housing options. In short, non-state welfare solutions would have a market once again.

So in short, all this talk of a self-sufficiency requirement seems awfully fair and consistent with libertarian ideas (if not the mainstream ones I canvassed). The weird part for a party that claims to be libertarian is that there is a plan for points based system as well. Frankly, if your self-sufficiency checks are working then I don’t see any reason for a points based system. It seems to be there only because it is familiar and popular. It is certainly not consistent wirth libertarian ideas of free movement and action. It smacks of central planning for the labour market. I hope they realise this, and simply drop it.

The spoilt ballot strategy in practice

So I decided to vote None of The Above in the European Elections today — but I included a little note.

None-Of-The-Above-May2014For those of you who struggled like me with what was the best move to promote individual freedom I hope you think this was a reasonable approach. It was the best I could come up with that balanced democratic participation, the values of freedom and opposition to the EU.

The note read…

“To whom it may concern,

In today’s European elections I have decided to spoil my ballot paper and vote None of The Above. I think it both appropriate and in the democratic spirit that I explain my action in a few short sentences.

To be clear I thoroughly oppose the EU. I believe it to be a despicable institution that is anti-democratic, corporatist in outlook and has totalitarian tendencies. I truly hope that one day the buildings it inhabits across the globe stand as empty monuments to mankind’s arrogance and folly.

As a man who holds these views it may seem natural for me to vote for a party such as UKIP. While I have considered this option and believe that Nigel Farage is a decent, honourable and freedom loving man I cannot bring myself to do this. UKIP are a party with very misguided views on immigration. And as someone with many friends and loved ones of foreign birth I believe it would be a great injustice on my part to vote for such a party.

These are the reasons I spoil my ballot paper.

Yours faithfully,

A freedom loving individual

How the media forced me to vote UKIP

This article is neither an endorsement of UKIP – a party with obvious challenges which we’ve discussed before – nor is it an ode the amazing power of the media to control my mind. It has no such power, it is laughably incompetent to wield the power it does have. However, I am now fully persuaded to vote UKIP at every opportunity tomorrow.

Initially this decision seemed like an easy matter: I want a small state and the institutions of the EU increase the size of the state, so I must vote against the EU. The EU is a political union, after all, it is not a free trade area like EFTA. The Tory Party talk about a referendum but in practice a vote for them endorses continued involvement in political union, only UKIP represents a vote against participation in political union. If there was a party with fewer challenges and a greater reputation that also offered a policy of opposition to the EU then I would vote for that party, but there is not.

Of course, some have told me that UKIP cannot deliver a referendum because that is a Westminster matter. Well all the better, for once the system helps me separate two decisions – usually it forces every issue onto one ballot paper. If I wanted to, I can signal my dislike of the EU tomorrow and vote Tory next May if that looks persuasive.

There is another upside to voting UKIP – it will piss off the political elite and scare them stupid. They will be forced, at a minimum, into seeking to justify their policies to the public rather than holding the public in contempt. Good.

The down side, which is new to me is racism. I’ve met several members of UKIP, including senior activists. One of them, over some drinks, spoke at such length to my wife that he bored her senseless. Aside from that though he was entirely civil and friendly to me and my wife, which is important. Why so important? Because my wife is brown in colour. Prima facie then, UKIP was not, for me, a party of racists. The media however, having dredged up every last possible example of racism have done an amazing job on UKIP. I am still not persuaded that UKIP is full of racists, but the media have done enough to make a vote for UKIP look like a vote in favour of racism as a political policy. UKIP will loose votes tomorrow because voters will not want to associate themselves with the bad smell of racism. This is a fine sentiment as far as it goes, and I was teetering on the edge of voting that way myself, but it does not go far enough to overcome one additional factor that weighs in favour of a UKIP vote: pissing off the media.

JamesOBrienThe media have treated UKIP and Nigel Farage in particular in an abysmal manner. For example, far from being a “car-crash” for Nigel the LBC interview was an example of how out of touch and desperate the media class have allowed themselves to become in trying to get at him. Little things stood out in this affair, like the point Nigel made about an audit of fixed sum allowances being a little odd, and in need of careful consideration. James O’Brien treated that point with disdain. O’Brien also tried to make a big deal out of Nigel’s role as company secretary of a failed company. It used to be the case that every company needed a separate person to act as secretary and it was fairly normal to use a relative – I used my mum’s name on the paper work for a few years – and it is noteworthy that the authorities recently dropped this requirement. Did my mum keep much of an eye on things? No, not really. Making this out to be a personal failing for Nigel is ridiculous. O’Brien’s sneering remarks about being a “normal person” and not understanding financial matters made him seem hateful and disrespectful of business in general. Failing to understand the difference between a petition to wind-up and an actual winding up show that James O’Brien has never had to use, or defend himself from, these procedures himself. That means he has never properly considered the options for dealing with an unpaid debt and he must be either very lucky or very green, and either way is unqualified to be so snide. Finally, there were the word games:

You cannot reasonably ask someone their opinion about a compound concept: dirty water, white sheets, good wine, foul smells, and try to break apart that person’s response after the fact. If I asked you whether you prefer to drink “dirty water” or “red wine” you would say “red wine”. If I said you have some kind of problem with the moral character of “water” based on that answer, that would be utterly ridiculous. In the same way, asking someone about a group of male Romanians and a family with German children, then criticising Nigel’s opinion of the group of men is just a foolish game of playing with words. Seriously, who would not find it odd that more than a normal houseful of men are living together worthy of note? It directly speaks of the group’s economic circumstances. Such verbal tactics do not allow the truth to be uncovered and the public are sensible enough to see immediately that they are not even an attempt at getting the truth. It is all an attempt to trick Nigel into loosing a word-game.

If it were just James O’Brien acting this way, it would not be such an issue. Regrettably though the media picked this up on TV and on the radio and repeated the same trick over and over. This was not the only trick, nor am I the only person to notice. Brendan O’Neill has more.

This whole witch-hunt has showed me that the media as a class is dysfunctional to its very core. Truth does not matter to them, nor even does entertainment (the LBC interview is not at all entertaining as a listen). I am not in favour of stuff like Leveson, which reverses the proper relationship between politics and the media, but nor am I comfortable with a media class that attempts to determine the winner of an election by a tournament of competitive word games and muck-raking. Politics, if we have to have it, should serve the interests of voters and the political media must be allowed to represent the voters by scrutinising politics (this is a division of labour in the politics industry and is quite valid), but the media must also have respect for its audience and it clearly does not. Allowing this prolonged mistreatment of UKIP to sway your vote tomorrow would grant a victory to a dysfunctional political media –  I propose to give that group a bloody noise instead.

I will be going ahead with my UKIP vote some time after 7 tomorrow. So if you want to talk me out of it, leave a comment.

UKIP come 2nd

Labour has held on to its seat in the Wythenshawe and Sale East by-election with a comfortable majority while UKIP beat the Tories to second place.

Michael Kane won with 13,261 votes, beating UKIP’s John Bickley, with 4,301, in second.

BBC

In other news, Paul Tew has reiterated his intention to stand for UKIP in Beckenham.

Paul Tew to run on UKIP ticket

When I came back to the table Paul had opened his laptop and pulled out his written notes – a couple of pages of printed A4. The laptop screen showed a multi-tabbed spreadsheet and I could see 155 rows. As he set out the agenda for the meeting I was glad I had brought my notebook. It had felt faintly ridiculous, like I was pretending to be a proper journalist, but I was a mere blogger someone I’ve spoken to many times at the events I organise in Southwark. I was prepared for a beer and a chat, not a briefing.

paul-tew-publicity-shotPaul and I share a common goal: we want to replace a cold destructive atomising system with warmer, more open and more prosperous minarchy. We want to see a country – Britain – shift decidedly in a libertarian direction before we are dead and unable to enjoy it. Paul, at 35, is a couple of years ahead of me on that score, though he seems older, and he has chosen a different route to change. For me, having learned about these amazing ideas, the imperative is to tell the world about them. I tend to assume that if people know the same things as me, then they will do the same things and want the same political policies, so I think about education and the national debate. Paul has a more direct approach: he wants to be one of the elite 650 people that get to make policy in this country. He seems to neglect education a little but wants to take his principles to Parliament and enact them there, where it matters. Trying to persuade the country a person at a time is not for him. He says political tribes are no longer defined by ideological labels but by clusters of policies on the issues of the day.

Of course, this does mean that for libertarians who seek to educate and inform Paul has little to offer. He says optimistically that “you don’t know what comes of things” and points me towards the fact that MPs seem to get privileged access to the media – a megaphone capable of reaching the whole nation. And this is true; the opinion of the local MP does get a certain amount of automatic respect, exactly because they have their hands on the policy levers.

The notebook I grabbed was a squared paper exercise book appropriate for an engineering student.  Neither student nor engineer, we used our smart phones and dove into detail, calculating the extent of the subsidy the Royal Mail offers to Westminster candidates. Seventy thousand stamps are costing Paul, or UKIP, the five hundred pound deposit. I’m not sure why businessmen aren’t standing as MPs and using this subsidy to send advertisements. Paul is not going to waste it. Right at the outset he had told me about his simple, but well organised plan for the mailshot. Canvas the households first, prepare three or four tailored messages and do a mail merge to get his leaflets to the correct addresses; a simple clean and professional plan. Paul Tew is a VBA and SQL programmer (Microsoft Office macros are his play ground), he knows how he can handle a mailshot single handed and has already cleansed his unedited dump of the Electoral Register database. He has the skills to do this right.

Where Paul does not have the skills, he still knows what to do. His plan included training for himself and reminders to chase up people on the UKIP forum who would act as election agent and graphic designer. He’s set his budget and has begun thinking about where the money is coming from and how it needs to be handled. I’m persuaded he’ll get the money in; much of it is his. He knows what publications to talk to and where to get the map from for the wall of his office. All these little details make the plan seem solid, serious and real. It is quite a contrast to the other libertarian candidacies I have followed, the ones that were cancelled before they started, where support was asked for without saying what support was needed. Paul feels a sense of responsibility, in part because he is representing UKIP, to handle his campaign properly and to deliver the party line. From that responsibility comes a level of enthusiasm which has him pushing harder than some parts of UKIP. Paul is the mainstay of his own campaign, and if he gets the support he needs from head office, and from his fellow travellers, then it seems likely he will deliver a solid performance for UKIP.

The last problem he faces is, not surprisingly for a popularity contest, the possibility of rejection. He may be a bit too liberal for a normal UKIP voter in Conservative Beckenham; and UKIP may be too conservative for him to appeal to libertarian activists that might otherwise help him win. Paul, a New Zealander, believes controlled immigration is the right policy for the UK: “the mixed economy creates the need to control immigration”. He notes that many UKIP policies still seek to do the impossible – central management of the economy – but are at least a bit more “common sense” than the coalition’s policies. He is opposed to Gay Marriage, but only because he believes that state licenced romance is a bad kind of romance to be left with, and he does not want to see homosexuals brought into that officious scheme as well – I agree, better we all get out of it.

Paul’s simple organised bid has better odds than prior Westminster bids of the LPUK era, and I am sure he’ll do correspondingly better. If he gets into power he will be another MP driven by sound principles to office in an unsound institution – like Douglas Carswell, Dan Hannan or Steve Baker. While many will reject his association with UKIP, I don’t think having another MP like them is such a bad idea.