Thursday, 31 December 2015

Back to business

Happy new year to all of you and welcome back to business. First order of business is to say what a ghastly shower our Leave campaigns are. Long time campaigners like you should be both delighted and enthused at an amazing opportunity to get what we have worked for. We should have a campaign we are proud to support. But what do we have instead? Crass jingoistic trash and mostly wrong beancounting statistics and massaged economic metrics. Boring. Old hat. Pathetic.

There is no good reason to be enthused by either of the main campaigns who add zero value and embarrass us all on a daily basis. Why should we have to tolerate it? Is this really all that euroscepticism is? 

If by now it isn't abundantly clear that these Toryboys and Johnny come lately haven't the first idea what they are doing then you damn well ought to be ashamed of yourselves for not paying attention. They are everything the Remain camp could possibly want.

As to all of those readers who have given us hassle for pointing this all out, I would ask where you get such a nerve in accusing one of the longest running EU blogging operations of failing to contribute. Seriously, how dare you?

This has to be sorted and it has to be sorted soon and we have no hesitation in calling for the resignation of Matthew Elliott and Dominic Cummings. They are both inept as they are dishonest.

Meanwhile LeaveHQ comes back into play this week with some seriously heavy material. We are not screwing around now. We have to clear out the losers and take charge or these London Tory bozos will bury us. If we allow them to set the agenda then the cause will be hammered into the floor. Forever.

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Why is Dominic Cummings undermining Brexit campaigners?

I could write a blisteringly pretentious and condescending rebuttal of this article by Victor Blank in the Telegraph. In it he says "As a member of the EU, our companies are able to sell, without barriers and tariffs, to a market on the UK’s doorstep of 500 million people. They need only abide by one set of regulations covering the entire, vast and complex region. Our biggest trading partner is the EU. As a non-member these same companies could be obliged to negotiate with each individual country they sell to within the EU. One set of rules would be replaced by a possible 27, not to mention payment of duties."

We'll skip over the notion countries would have to negotiate with each individual country they sell to. That's just plain silly. If you comply for one, you comply for all. That is a condition of market entry in or out of the EU. And let's also ignore the fact that the single market is far larger than the EU. The crux of the matter here is he is talking as though we were going to leave the EU and the single market and strart working to a whole new set of rules.

Were that the case there would still be gaping flaws in his many assertions but the general thrust of his article is correct. If we leave the single market as well as the EU then it's a very big risk, and there would be serious economic consequences.

We could leap upon his words and question if he is even aware there is a difference between the EU and the single market - and even ask if his complete omission of the words "single market" is a wilful deception to keep such a distinction out of popular discussion. Either is possible.

But where would be the point in writing an article like that? We have already debunked this garbage time and again - and will probably not have written the last of its type. No, we would ask why we even have to write such articles? The distinction should be so clearly established in the debate by now that no business mandarin would have the brass neck to attempt such a dismal deception.

The problem is that it isn't. And why is that? That's right, because Vote Leave Ltd have used their column inches in the Telegraph to denouncing the single market. Our own side is laying down conditions that give the opposition everything they could possibly want: A risky proposition with many technical questions for those ill-placed to answer them. Who would do that? Only a fool. Dominic Cummings to be precise.

As foolish as attacking the single market is, he has alienated the entire campaign for any supporters trying to de-risk the Brexit proposition. He has isolated the campaign from arguments that can win.

Since the man is confirmed by clever people in the media as a genius, we cannot assume this is by accident, so we can only assume this is wilful sabotage. We must now ask if his contempt for those who think differently to him is so severe that he is willing to sacrifice the entire cause out of spite. Given his career record, we can't actually rule that out can we? He really needs to go.

Put the hobby horse away

I don't want to write more about flooding because I've said all this before, but the idiocy is coming thick and fast. No two catchments are the same. Cumbria is not Somerset. Moreover, freshwater silt clearing is not gravel bed clearing and both are worlds apart from marine dredging. Marine dredging has its entirely separate laws dealing with shipping channels and river basins, but not watercourses.

Dredging works in Somerset - but even that has caveats. Ditches, trenches and rhynes with gravity gates give you the added capacity. It does not prevent flooding but it does reduce the depth and duration. The rivers also need serious attention. But they are not rivers in the Levels. They are drains. Man-made.

Cumbria is another matter. Not only are there separate catchments, there are also different policies for different parts of the river depending on whether they are gravel or silt beds. And quite obviously you can't dredge bedrock. In some places you could dredge, but there is very little point when you have winter tides flushing it all back upstream.

Then there's the Pennines which is a network of dams, drains, canals, ditches, channels and rivers. It all needs attention and a lot of modernisation but even if you did it all in one hit, you would still get floods. The geomorphology alone changes from year to year.

In this you have local by-laws, national laws, EU laws, flood prevention laws, sustainability laws, water quality laws, and habitats laws and probably a whole strata of law I'm not even aware of - with multiple agencies and multiple lines of accountability - all with conflicting agendas and priorities - all of which have to be accommodated.

To say it is complex is an understatement and no two experts agree on anything. So really, stop pushing hobby horses about planting trees and not building on floodplains and pay no attention to the media or anyone seeking to politicise it. It isn't the cuts, it isn't EU law and it isn't something you can wade into overnight and expect to understand. All of it is true and none of it is true. It's one giant complex issue that may never be satisfactorily resolved.

The only certainty I can really offer is that George Monbiot is wrong and so is Ukip. But when is that ever not the case?

The noise they make

So, between Ukip, Vote Leave, Leave.EU, the IEA and elements of the Tories the message is coming through.

They want a Britain that is not part of the single market, but is inexplicably involved in making the rules of it at the global level. They want to restrict visas for workers and put more controls on borders (with all the bureaucracy and delay that entails), They want to run two different sets of regulations here at home, they want to end cooperation with the EU entirely and instead spend all the money on nurses and flood defences - and spend absolutely no money on advancing our interests overseas.

Oh, and in between now and the referendum, everything is the EU's fault. That's their campaign.

They expect to be taken seriously and win the argument.

What it looks like to the informed outsider is a bunch of contradictory histrionics from a bunch of losers who have no coherent message, have a strong dislike of anything external to the UK, and haven't understood the very basics of trade and regulation.

It wouldn't be so bad were if it were just the one organisation spraying their ideological incontinence onto the internet, but they are all united in rejecting the need for a carefully considered vision and a detailed assessment of how their vision can come into being.

Thus we can conclude that the main body of leavers do not want to focus or win the argument. They want to moan for the whole two years and lose badly. What else could we conclude?

I wish I'd known this ten years ago. I'd have found something more worthwhile to do with my time.

Sunday, 27 December 2015

Newsflash: It rains in Yorkshire

So, it has been raining in the Pennines. I don't think anyone has blamed gay asylum seekers yet but the usual histrionics have already been unleashed, with talking heads eager to pile on their own ignorance.

Just this morning we had George Monbiot on the telly waffling about his pet hobby horse of not dredging rivers and planting more trees. As it happens, in a rainfall event like this, once the ground is saturated, no amount of trees will make much of a difference. More to the point, basic hydrological theory can never be applied uniformly - and not without looking at the local circumstances.

It so happens that the Pennines are my favourite place on earth to avoid people. I know the region very well. What I know is that there is no single point of failure and no single answer. I also know that you rule nothing out in flood prevention.

There are circumstances where dredging isn't the answer but with the canals and man-made waterways, you are looking at a vast reservoir system that very much is part of the solution. Real questions must be asked as to whether the new owners of our canals have kept up with their obligations and whether those obligations are enough.

That said, to our media, nothing has any historical context. Many are keen to blame global warming, but our mill towns are no stranger to flooding. The houses in Hebden Bridge, Holmfirth and Todmorden tend to conform to the configuration we see above where it is only in recent times that the ground floor is used as living quarters. Steps up to the main house are not uncommon. It doesn't take a genius to work out why.

What we do have in abundance is millponds, canal basins and all manner of infrastructure from the industrial revolution that could be put to good use. There are any number of innovative measures that could be of great value while also maintaining a healthy industrial heritage industry.

The problem then is who does it and who pays for it? Put any council tax rise to a referendum and the answer will uniformly be no. Everybody wants flood prevention, nobody wants to pay for it. This prompts ever more shrill calls for foreign aid to be redirected into domestic flood prevention as though that budget had not already been spent a dozen times over on whatever the last crisis was.

At some point we just have to accept that flooding is one of those occasional things we have to put up with. What matters is the speed of recovery and the way it is managed when it happens. In that regard the warning system has worked well, the response has been adequate and the way the police have managed the roads has been surprisingly excellent.

I'm all for asking good questions and looking for blame where there is a single point of failure, as indeed there was with Somerset, but I have little more than a sneer of contempt for the petulant whining coming from the Ukip inclined people blaming it on immigration and foreign aid. I can also find enough room to loathe the crassness of the media - emoting rather than informing, inviting know-nothing talking heads from London to share their ignorance with us.

There are good questions to be asked about this. Have the canals been used to their full potential? Could we build more dams upstream? Have the new owners of the waterways properly invested? Is the structure of local government and the Environment Agency fit for purpose? I could go on.

It would be good to have answers to these questions, but with a system as complex as the Pennine waterways, I don't think it realistic to demand that we never see floods of this type, not least when we're not seeing major casualties.

We could spend an extra billion here and there around the Pennines but looking at the scale of it, I don't see even the best prevention measures withstanding a weather event like this. This is the Pennines we're talking about here. It rains. A lot. Why is anybody surprised?

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Dominic Cummings: Hypocrite

Scrutiny of the establishment you say? Is this the same Dominic Cummings who's been a ministerial advisor all these years? (and sacked from every job)

Sunday, 20 December 2015

I should be angry

I've lost count of the number of blogs I have written about what the Leave campaigns should not do. I've made a reasoned case on what should be done instead and LeaveHQ, to the best of my ability, is my attempt to show what the right pitch should be. Given our complete lack of financial clout, it fails to punch through the noise of those who think they know better. That's a real shame.

Instead we have noisemakers like Leave.EU who today have given us the clearest indication yet that they intend to go "the full Ukip", with Arron Banks endorsing Nigel Farage on his twitter feed. In more ways than one they have largely adopted the Ukip narrative verbatim - and are only a short step away from running with "EUSSR" memes.

It very much looks to me a like a decisive snub to any kind of nuanced and intelligence lead campaign, throwing caution to the wind, giving the opposition absolutely everything they have been hoping for. Were I in the remain camp, I would see this as Christmas come early.

The campaign will now pander to the most base instincts of the very worst elements in the eurosceptic movement and it will be a great enabler for all the knuckle-scrapers who turned Ukip into a dustbin for foaming misanthropes. We know how that goes.

So be it. There is, however, a price. Arron Banks has had it pretty easy up to press. The criticism they've had has been mild. They do not yet have the full attention of opposition activists. I have a good idea of who they are and how they will play it. They are relentless and ruthless. They are going to take Leave.EU to pieces - and they will do it with glee.

Having precisely zero in house expertise on the EU - and having no idea where to look for it, and having painted themselves into a corner, they'll find themselves up the same creek as Ukip - digging the hole deeper every time they speak.

I won't be able to help them out either because the lines of attack the opposition will take will be about right in. Leave.EU will suffer all the consequences of fighting a campaign on a foundation of intellectual sand and they'll flail around without a single clue.

I should be angry about this, but there comes a point where you just have to laugh. If they think they had a hard time from us, oh boy have they got it coming. And not from us. They will be ridiculed and massively humiliated in the public eye. And the more they they protest the worse they will look.

And while I find that terribly sad that such time, effort and money has been wasted, and we probably suffer a 2:1 defeat at the polls, I will settle for the next best thing. Rubbing their noses in just how wrong they were. Every reasonable effort was made to equip these people with what they needed. They chose to ignore it. We will make that known.

It's really just a waiting game now. They have fallen into the traps, believing all their own bullshit, thinking they're in a strong position. They don't have the first idea what they are walking into.

Luckily for me, I won't have to work too hard to blog it. It will be a re-run of the lead into the general election campaign, with Ukippers strutting around like they own the place, believing every positive poll - venting their venom at me for not showing a lemming like unity, only to wake up the morning after to realise that we're staying in the EU for the rest of their miserable lives.

I actually wouldn't be surprised if the European Commission sends Arron Banks a personal thank you letter for all his hard work. This is largely down to his inability to decouple his personal fondness for Ukip from the referendum campaign. For some time it's been a binary choice. You can either fight for the future of Ukip or you can fight to leave the EU. Shackling the Brexit cause to a tarnished brand is suicidal.

Meanwhile, if anyone thought Vote Leave Ltd was going to make a decent showing of it, forget about it. With inbred Toryboys running the show with their fingers deep in the till, again presenting unwinnable arguments, repeating all the mistakes of 1975 - blethering about regulation, the price of potatoes and controlling the borders, it will be a miracle if we are not slaughtered on polling day.

With that said, there is little reason to get angry. Trying to get such a bunch of pathological losers to actually think about what they were doing rather than just emoting was always a forlorn hope. The progressive and intelligent message of LeaveHQ is very much the minority view, so why shouldn't the morons have it how they want it?

Now, at least, the referendum campaign message does largely represent what most eurosceptics think. At least is it an honest proposition. That the proposition cannot carry more than 40% of the vote doesn't matter to them. They just want to whinge loudly, and for that whinge to ring out across the nation - regardless of how little that achieves. So what's to be done but have a little fun?

We will put our best efforts into LeaveHQ and as much as we will have fun taking down every europhile we meet, we can watch with schadenfreude as Leave.EU make massive fools of themselves. That's entertainment you can't buy.

Friday, 18 December 2015

The best thing Ukip could do for us is to go away and die quietly

So today, as far as Kippers are concerned, has been all about the spat between Carswell and Farage. I can't tell you how little I care. What does it matter? The damage is done.

The last thing we needed was for the Brexit cause to be boxed in by the immigration issue. Having polluted the political sphere with nonsense about "Australian style points based systems" and blaming the asylum crisis on the EU, immigration has become a central issue that both Leave campaigns feel obliged to make an issue of. Precisely where we didn't want to be.

That is all down to Farage. It is too late for Ukip to "change direction" in that it is a terminally soiled brand and the damage cannot be undone. It should never have gone down the immigration path to begin with. It was always a loser. Ho hum!

What happens now is largely irrelevant. The accepted wisdom is that Farage still has the full backing of the party, but this rather neglects the point that there are as many lapsed and ex members of Ukip as there are current members. Carswell, still has enough political capital, albeit diminished, to cleanse the entity of the mouthbreathers and restore it to something resembling a political party.

But what good would that do? It would take a total purge of the Farage clan, it would take quite a long time - and by the time it happened the referendum will be upon us, if not actually over - by which time anyone's interest in that party will have collapsed.

Thus to wade into the argument is to intrude upon private grief. Those focussed on leaving the EU have no dog in this fight. This is a hangover debate that may have been relevant before the election but not now. This is bald men fighting over a comb.

The very real and serious battle is the fight for control of the Brexit message, which again is a pretty empty debate in that neither Leave.EU nor Vote Leave presents us with a credible strategy or a grown up message.

That this spat has gained any traction at all it is through the media's inability to contextualise and it's obsession with personal political dramas. But even then, this row has been eclipsed by the EU renegotiation theatre, which should be the full focus of Ukip's efforts were it anything like a competent entity.

Instead it is caught up in it's own navel gazing, oblivious to the fact it has ceased to be relevant. It is the dog that didn't bark. Or rather it is one of those rather annoying dogs that barks persistently and chases passing cars.

Rather than being a mission focussed campinging party it is a generic whinge at the world, representing those who are perpetually angry about everything but are not remotely interested in analysing the problems or proposing solutions. Why bother when you can simply blame the EU and foreigners?

The short of it is, for Ukip, the party's over. It had an opportunity, they blew it, and they are yesterday's news. It is not through any deliberate decision that I have not blogged on Ukip recently. It's just that they are not central to my concern - which is leaving the EU. They are not worth talking about. Who leads what remains of it is their concern - and only their concern. The rest of us have a referendum to fight. The best thing Ukip could do for us is to go away and die... quietly.

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Why we fight the Leave campaigns

Big change is risky. People will not vote for big risky change. So instead we need to sell them a gradual change that carries no risk. This is what we are not doing.

The Leave campaign is saying that we will have a bonfire of regulations, that we will save a lot of money (£933 per household) that we can miraculously also spend on schools and hospitals, we get to control immigration and end foreign aid.

There is only one Brexit option we can take that will grant these wishes. Total and complete withdrawal from the EU and the single market in a single stroke.

That is a massive undertaking. It comes with major consequences - not all of them known. Moreover, that comes with as many negative economic consequences as positive ones. In fact, I would say the economic benefits are few, the savings are few and ending freedom of movement will do little to tackle problem immigration.

Going all the way out of the EU, all at once is complex, difficult and risky. For that reason alone, business will not wear it and nor will more level headed and informed voters. So then how we leave becomes as important as why we leave. So we must have a Brexit plan that de-risks Brexit.

That means adopting Brexit paths that have great deal more certainty. That will have to be a single market based solution. Adopting a single market based Brexit plan means that we have to pay into the EU budget and accept most of the regulation and freedom of movement. By doing so, we can transition away from the EU gradually. That is easier to sell and it neutralises most of the scaremongering arguments of the opposition.

But by doing it that way it means that the Leave campign cannot be pumping out a message that we will have a bonfire of regulations, that we will save a lot of money and control immigration. But that is exactly what both major Leave campaigns are doing. In doing so, it makes it impossible to argue for a careful and well executed Brexit.

That is why this particular blog is at war with the Vote Leave campaign. There is a gaping intellectual inconsistency in our message and everyone can see it. They would argue that I am over intellectualising it and the public are not engaged to that extent. That misses the point.

In deciding how to vote, in the end people will make up their minds on the basis of what they see on the television, but also from people in the pub, a visiting relative or an old friend - those people around them who read the newspapers, read the blogs and engage on Twitter and Facebook. Their opinions are ones forged in the fires of public debate - which largely follows the media debate.

Consequently, winning the intellectual argument at that level is absolutely essential. Convincing opinion formers that we have a credible case is paramount. Ukip's lack of policies and half baked ideas were widely ridiculed in the general election. It cost them seats.

Many voters liked some of Ukip's ideas - but the vibe coming off then was that they were a bunch of amateurs with no real idea how to govern. People who may have been tempted to vote for them were put off by those around them whose opinions - or at least instincts - are trusted. Vibe is everything - and the debate at the top of the tree is what creates that vibe.

How one votes depends as much on how one identifies with the message and those other peers who believe in it. We have seen that a tawdry tabloidesque campaign yields 14% of the electorate. In a referendum, that increases somewhat. But the more it dumbs down, the more repellent it is to the swing voters who do not identify with it.

Consequently, the campaign cannot be different messages playing to different audiences. We need to set out the intellectual case and argue that case, and derive all the memes and slogans from that case.

For sure, the case is a lot harder to make when you have to focus on less lurid arguments than controlling immigration and saving a few quid - but that's why marketing agencies with a track record of success charge a lot of money. The job is not to find out what the customer likes and give them what they want. The job is to take what we have and find a way to make them want it. That's the hard bit.

If we go around saying that Brexit is the answer to all your gripes and it comes without compromise, then it opens up too much of a credibility deficit, injects too much risk and the referendum is then lost. Any campaign director who does not understand these fundamentals basically has no hope of winning.

This is something neither Vote Leave or Leave.EU understand. They would rather fight from their comfort zone rather, arguing the case the want to make rather than the case that can win. That is why we attack them. It's lazy, it's dangerous and it's a referendum loser. Until such a time as they get their act together, we have no choice but to continue attacking them. We will do that for as long as it takes. We will not give up and we will not go away.

If you think we are being hard on them - wait til the real campaign heats up. Lord Rose has identified the weak spots and he will exploit them. I really don't blame him. It reinforces all that we have said. We cannot win without a Brexit plan and we cannot win without having good answers to tough questions. Why is that so difficult to grasp? It seems the last man on earth who will wise up to it though is one Dominic Cummings of Vote Leave Ltd. That is why he must resign.

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Dominic Cummings is the man who will keep us in the EU

LeaveHQ has picked up on this Guardian article in which Lord Rose makes some pretty outlandish remarks about Brexit. Rose has said that the Leave campaigns are proposing a specific deal: ending all budget contributions, ending free movement and repatriating economic regulations while retaining full access to the single market.

LeaveHQ can justifiably claim this is untrue of them, but the Rose's message is a sideswipe at Leave.EU and more specifically Vote Leave Ltd. Neither have put forth a centrepiece Brexit proposition.

All we have heard thus far from Dominic Cummings is that there will be an unspecified "better deal" than the Norway Option. He openly attacks the single market on Twitter - and makes infantile claims about what Brexit will save the taxpayer - and how we can control our borders. Somehow in all this, trade and jobs are unaffected.

So in fact Lord Rose can justifiably infer that Vote Leave wants nothing to do with either the EU or the single market and wants regulatory divergence - without showing any sign of understanding the what that entails or what the EU will demand in kind.

For all that I have said about Leave.EU, exactly the same applies to Vote Leave in that their entire output follows roughly the same pattern - making indiscriminate claims about what Brexit can achieve. What this screams is confusion within the campaign, a lack of expertise - and uncertainty for business. It says that the Leave campaigns are directionless.

From this, Lord Rose can quite justifiably point to the worst case scenario and say that is what would happen. I don't blame him either because that's exactly what I would do in his position. He's not far wrong. In that regard, Dominic Cummings ought to be thankful that I am not in Lord Rose's position because I would do a much more effective job of ripping holes in his campaign.

The message coming out of Vote Leave is that we can have it all our own way by severing ties with the EU and that there are no consequences to this. Cummings will say in that oh-so-patronising way that "you should actually read what we write and say on television" - but as it happens I do very little else. Their flagship youtube video makes claims about deregulation and not paying into the EU budget. I read their often contradictory newsletters that clutter my inbox. There is no consistency at all. This is dangerous.

The Brexit proposition put forth by Dominic Cummings is one that will be kicked around in the media. As the commentariat gradually snowball their knowledge of Brexit issues, they will see that Lord Rose has a point - and that Brexit as Cummings sees it is just not a realistic or even achievable. They will conclude, along with other opinion formers, that we just don't have the goods.

From the beginning we have argued that all the populist memes and soundbytes in the world (telling the activist base what they want to hear) will not win this. We must also convince the opinion formers and win the intellectual argument. Thus far, Cummings et al have put forth nothing at all that assists us to that end. Certainly nothing that permeates the noise - which also suggests an ineffectual communications operation. The field is left wide open to speculation about what us Brexiteers want.

You can imagine our frustration as we now have a small army of online activists raring to go. Instead we are looking on in horror as the lead campaign walks into every trap, while having their own best efforts undermined by Cummings - a man determined to exclude everyone who is not willing to be an echo chamber for his diktats. It's maddening.

All of Lord Rose's assertions could be put to bed overnight with a credible Brexit plan. It could end the endless media speculation and shift the debate onto our own turf where the Remain campaign has no traction.

The Europhile think tank British Influence recently posed ten questions to Brexit groups. We answered them in full here. You will see that when we concede on freedom of movement, we sideline their best arguments and leave them with nothing. We are aware that upsets a large body of eurosceptics - but ultimately, it is the job of the campaign to smooth those feathers rather than pander to the whims of the base - which have largely been whipped up by Farage.

What that then does is tighten the scope of the debate to a comparison between our defined Brexit solution and the reforms that Cameron will offer. There will be a choice on offer between two carefully considered futures. Sadly, while Cummings is running the campaign, the choice is one between the security and marginal reforms that Cameron offers - or the total chaos that we can infer from Vote Leave's non-campaign. That is a referendum loser right there.

Frustratingly, the work has already been done for the campaign in Flexcit. It is all there for the taking. We have dedicated campaigners who know the subject far better than any of the spads and interns at Vote Leave - people who don't rest on weekends and work through the night. We are the people who can win it - but Cummings and his crony clan is determined not to let us near, keeping us out in the cold so as not to intrude on what he and his ilk consider their own personal property.

This know-nothing johnny-come-lately is the major obstacle to running an effective campaign. It is his ego and his hubris driving the campaign into a dead end. It is his envy, vindictiveness and spite that will shatter any chance of leaving the EU. This is intolerable. He must go.

Were I in his shoes I would quit now - because eventually the message will get out that he alone is responsible for corrupting the campaign - and if he thinks he's getting a hard time now, he doesn't know the half of it. A man as sour as Cummings will have to pay the piper eventually - and he has definitely pissed off the wrong people. 

A reply.

This post is a reply to a blog by Ruminating Sheep. In it he says: 
As a committed Leaver, (reasons here), I am concerned that the Leave side is putting out contradictory and confusing messages which will fatally weaken the campaign and that some groups are adopting tactics that will fail to convince the undecided centre ground who will ultimately determine the outcome of the poll. We will only have one shot at this so it is important that everyone sets aside political tribalism and preconceived ideas for a higher purpose and to ensure that we get it right.

To this end, I thought I would cover a few factors that I believe are key to our success. If you agree, I The first is unity. The various Leave campaigns must come together and agree a consistent message. If not, ‘Remain’ will exploit the differences and portray leavers as inconsistent and lacking any clear plan for what would happen following a vote to leave. George Osborne has already made comments to this effect and we can expect much more of the same unless things change. There are positive reasons for a Leavers’ union too as both camps could bring important strengths to a combined campaign. 
Unity? Fuhgeddaoudit. Not going to happen. I would rather some groups be right than all of the groups be united and wrong.  We would accept unity if they were united behind a workable exit plan and that plan were informing the campaign. That is not going to happen either though. Dominic Cummings is convinced of his own superiority and is never going to adopt Flexcit. Instead all they are going to do is blunder from pillar to post, walking into every trap. Leave.EU will likely do the same.
VoteLeave could provide media and westminster access, expertise and personalities whist Leave.EU has an existing army of well-organised, extremely enthusiastic and dedicated UKIP activists that could be easily tapped into for local campaigns and doorstep campaigning. Such a union would also allow a single campaign to disassociate itself from any particular political party and all the tribalism that such associations promote.

Whilst the grassroot supporters of VoteLeave and Leave.EU seem amicably disposed to each other, their respective leaderships are too wrapped up in egotistical arguments over leadership and related tribal politics. The news yesterday that the two sides had failed to agree to any kind of merger is a massive blow to Leavers of all camps and I would recommend that supporters of both sides lobby their leadership to make them think again especially as it seems the differences are more about leadership personalities than campaign technicalities. If we enter the referendum with these two large camps operating separately then Leave will lose the referendum. Its as simple as that. More background to this issue can be found in an article here.
The politics here are complex and the rivalries go back years. Vote Leave is very much the product the the Tory brat pack - an insular little bubble that sees the referendum campaign as its own property. It's a gravy train to them that will be a career stepping stone. One which they are busy cannibalising, carving our sinecures for their friends and relatives. They have no intention of including anybody from outside their own grubby little circle. It is as "establishment" as establishment gets.

Moreover, it's a snobby little circle. The idea of sharing the limelight with anyone is offensive to them. Just look at their young activists. In the main they are ToryBoy interns from the Tory bubble. There is nothing grassroots about this organisation and the only use it sees for the grassroots is for them to obey the diktats of Dominic Cummings. There is no compulsion upon them to enter a dialogue with anybody. It is a wholly top down relationship by an unaccountable organisation that has presumed the role of lead Leave campaign before it has gone anywhere near the electoral commission.

This would be offensive to us even in the most cordial circumstances, but when the mastermind behind Vote Leave is a nasty, vindictive and arrogant bully with only a very shallow understanding of the issues, surrounded by ambitious sycophants - then that is something of a problem. Especially when their message is all at sixes and sevens and the spokesmen involved are not working to a brief, possessing very little subject knowledge.

In calling for unity you are asking us to give this a free pass and somehow work around their chaotic message. We can't. They undermine us at every turn and some of the time, that is less to do with the inherent incompetence of Dominic Cummings as it is vindictive sabotage. You tell us what our reaction to that should be. There is no making nice with these people. The only thing they will accept is obsequious praise. That is their definition of cooperation - as it requires nothing from them in reciprocation. You say:
In my opinion, Dr North’s commitment and frustration occasionally affects the tone and accessibility of his site, and I feel his treatment of the media and the 2 main leave campaigns is mistaken and counter-productive because it deters some who might otherwise be supporters. 
Nothing we haven't heard before - but you are talking as though we were fresh in the game. You should level your complaints at the two main campaigns. In both instances we have two very shallow campaigns barging into the limelight, not understanding the technicalities or the terrain. Vote Leave won't be told anything despite repeated attempts through back channels to persuade. We have tried a more subtle approach which resulted in Daniel Hannan and Cummings conspiring to cut off funding for Richard North. How are we supposed cooperate with that? I'm all ears.

Then on the other hand we have Leave.EU whose excuse is "Sorry, we're new at this, give us time - we will make mistakes". Except they are making totally avoidable mistakes that could have been prevented by heeding much of the good advice directed at them. Advice they repeatedly choose to ignore. The more we ask them to moderate their message, the worse they get. They completely ignore us. I'm not going to give them a free pass on that. We don't have time to let them fumble around in the dark and work it out by trial and error. This is a fight to the death and a one shot deal. We do not have the luxury of waiting for them to get their act together. You say:
"I would like to end with a note on media (I don’t admire them but they are unfortunately a necessary evil (My views are here). This is one area where I do disagree with’s approach. They correctly identify the problem concerning the lack of proper analysis but they seem to react to this by throwing brickbats at individual reporters and media organisations. The tone is aggressive, and in my view will alienate the very people that we need to culture in order to get key messages across and to prevent the slick propaganda machine of Remain having primacy. They refer to them as ‘legacy media’ but I feel this might be wishful thinking by committed individuals who perhaps feel somewhat ignored.
Time is not a luxury we have. We don't have time to schmooze all the hacks writing absolute garbage. We could spend the time sucking up to these people but we have been there before. They say they agree with you and they understand and then completely ignore the points put to them. Thus diplomacy is a waste of time. I feel that humiliating them is a faster approach. These idle hacks must be shown up for who and what they are. Some respond well as all good journalists thrive on criticism - the others will just put up walls, in which case we haven't really lost anything as they were never going to listen to us anyway.

The likes of Bannerman, Hannan, Carswell and Goodwin put up walls the moment anyone so much as disagrees with them. They are only interested in projecting ego and have no interest in debate. Your role in this is is to bask in their glory and accept their gospel. Over many years we have put it to them that they are mistaken. On the few times they see fit to acknowledge their mistakes, they will lift our work verbatim without acknowledgement. We are quite magnanimous about it considering how often they do it. We don't mind too much since them promoting our message is all for the greater good. But don't expect us to be nice about it. We are talking about theft here.

You will see from our Twitter activity that those bloggers who pitch in will get links from us and mutual retweets. We have always been about mutual assistance and inclusion. They do not see it that way. They are parasites who lift what they want and leave the rest - seeing the success of other voices as a threat rather than a contribution. They are in transmit mode only. They are guarding an orthodoxy and winning comes second to that. There is only really one response to that. Hostility.

More than that, as a tactic, it actually works. Hostile as we are, there are those who attempt to see it from our point of view - and when they do, they see precisely what we see. These are shallow, venal and unpleasant people exploiting the platform and exploiting the work of others and there isn't a way to "cooperate" with them. Cooperation requires effort from both parties. They are not interested in cooperation.

As to the wider media, we use a good cop bad cop means of rounding on hacks. There is a strategy to it and it works. I don't want to give the whole game away by setting it out in detail. It is actually quite obvious to some what we are doing. Those people pitch in and retweet what we do, knowing the strategy in play. We write rebuttals of sloppy work and we push them hard, making an unpleasant noise that cannot be ignored. The people who read our work will see as you have that it is solid work grounded in fact. Those people are the ones who will round on the target - and it is they who will do the gentle persuasion as we move onto the next target.

In short, we know the territory, we know the people and we know what we are doing. You would actually know this if you had been following the blogs in any detail. Very little in this post is anything new to regular readers - and this post is more a courtesy to you because you took the time to blog it.

Don't get us wrong - we take no pleasure in it. We wish we didn't have to. We wish it were not necessary. We wish there were some other way. We also wish that the main campaigns were competent so that we could have unity. We would like it very much if we did not have to fight through our own side to get to the enemy. But they have not given us any choice in this and if being aggressive and making problems for them is what it takes then that is what we will do. The problem isn't us. The problem is in their shop. If they want an easy ride, it is for them to clean up their act and fall into line with us. Then we can have unity.

There is no compromise in this. It can either be done the right way or the wrong way. We will not drop the right way for the sake of lemming like unity. We cannot support the things they say because what they say is wrong. We can gently point this out until the cows come home but they will continue to ignore us - so if a war of infighting is what it takes then that is what they shall have. This can go away at a time of their choosing by engaging with us and including us. Also, an apology wouldn't go amiss.

If you think it can be done some other way in the time we have - we are all ears. But we have been in this game for ten years dealing with these same people. We know how it works and have heard all of your arguments before. It's waste of time - and as you go about trying to persuade such people with a charm offensive - you will find the same things we have. It is impenetrable.

If in the unlikely event you enjoy some greater success doing it some other way, then that's great - go out and train more like you in your methods with the material we provide. The more people saying what we say the better. The sooner you do, the sooner we can spend less time doing it and instead focus on what we are best at which is producing original research and innovative arguments. That's time better spent for everyone.

Monday, 14 December 2015

Vote Leave is playing a very dangerous game

Vote Leave have been warned about making noises about immigration. It doesn't make a great deal of sense. Freedom of movement is not the problem with the British immigration system. It is multifaceted and complex. Ending freedom of movement does very little to solve these multifarious issues and hurts business. Moreover, demanding an end to freedom of movement puts us in a very weak position when arguing for Brexit as that also entails leaving the single market.

The EU has made it abundantly clear that if we want to stay in the Single Market, acceptance of the principle freedom of movement is non-negotiable. We can abolish freedom of movement or we can stay in the single market. We can't do both.

In order to leave the EU and secure the medium and long-term gains that accrue from so doing, we must accept a short-term compromise over freedom of movement. If we don't we are arguing for a Brexit that is uncharted waters and wholly uncertain negotiating territory. This is an unwinnable line of attack in a referendum. There are too many unanswered questions that have only speculative answers. 

On the other hand, we have a safe, secure means of leaving the EU in the Norway Option, but Dominic Cummings of Vote Leave believes that the riskier option is preferable so that we get a better deal. This is foolish. 

Brexit presents an existential threat to the EU. If it concedes an exit deal to the UK that is better than it could achieve within the EU, other Member States might be tempted to leave. A "better deal for Britain" could collapse the entire EU. For that reason, it will never be offered.

Thus, rather than hold out for unachievable perfection, an off the shelf exit is preferable to the risk of losing the referendum and staying trapped in the EU. We make whatever compromises are needed to get out quickly and resolve outstanding issues must be resolved once we have left.

The short of it is, Dominic Cummings is playing a very risky and reckless game, advancing arguments that simply don't stand to scrutiny. Moreover, Twitter knows it. Hereabove, Jonathan Portes gets thirty retweets for his observation that Vote Leave's tweet is built on a foundation of intellectual sand. In Twitter terms, that is a serious vote of confidence in a tweet. His view is clearly not an outspoken view. Such foolishness does not go unnoticed.

At this point we must ask if this is outrageous stupidity or deliberate, vindictive and wilful sabotage of the winning options. Knowing what we know about Dominic Cummings, the latter is looking more plausible. This man is a loser. He needs to go or we are staying in the EU. 

This is not a post about Brexit.


David Cameron sent a letter to Donald Tusk, the EU president. In it he said "the purpose of this letter is not to describe the precise means, or detailed legal proposals, for bringing the reforms we seek into effect."

The only mention of migrant benefits says "we have proposed that people coming to Britain from the EU must live here and contribute for four years before they qualify for in-work benefits or social housing." So we have a letter to table articles for discussion with proposals for reform, not demands.

In any negotiation, proposals may prove to be infeasible, and in kind a counter proposal must be heard. This is the case with migrant benefits as Mr Cameron has been unable to secure and agreement with Poland.

The media reports this as a "humiliating climb down" on a "core demand". The prime minister has not, however, climbed down on anything. He has said he is prepared to "give way and accept alternative proposals – as long as they reduce the flow of migration to Britain".

Not wishing to labour the point but it must be restated that there have been no "demands". A proposal has been put forward which now seems implausible on the basis preliminary discussions before any formal negotiations and so the Prime minister has merely said he is open to alternative solutions.

The media has completely misrepresented the nature of the letter to Tusk and attached their own significance to what amounts to a single sentence within it - ignoring the rest of the letter because it falls outside their comfort zone.

Eager to wilfully lower expectations in anticipation of the Leave campaigns making political capital from it, saying that he will achieve nothing, the PM has not been in any great hurry to correct this artificial media construct.

Predictably, the inept Leave campaigns have told their supporters than Cameron has asked for nothing and will get nothing. This leaves them looking rather foolish when the EU, as per the Prime Minister's invitation, comes forth with an alternative proposal that satisfies a great many of the vague proposals put forth in the letter.

He will be able to say that his critics said he'd get nothing as he proudly presents a big change in the EU's make up. The moral victory will be his, adding to his prestige. We will see is a set of major structural reforms already planned by the EU dressed up as his own suggestion and attributed to him. This is the associate membership I have spoken of so frequently - as the EU divides into a two speed Europe to consolidate the eurozone.

We will see some political theatricals to make it look like it took some effort and skill on the part of the PM, but in reality, he is being handed is one and only option.

Having not seen the migrant benefit decoy for what it is, the media will also fail to see through the charade and report it as a great victory in the face of low expectations. The Leave campaigns are showing evidence of being entirely fooled by the migrant benefits ploy and still do not realise what is happening to them.

That is the situation as best as I understand it. The respective merits of the deal on offer is something we have already discussed and will be central to later blog posts and online debates and so we shall not dwell on those. What is alarming here is that this has not happened because of an establishment conspiracy or media bias. This is just a Prime Minister playing a very skilled political game against vastly inferior self-appointed opponents. The critical factor to his propaganda victory is not media complicity, but rather media ignorance.

There is nobody in the whole politico-media establishment who has noticed the game in play or have even noticed they are being used. Associate membership will come to pass without the slightest bit of detailed journalistic scrutiny. We can also say the same of the recent COP21 agreement, which is already ancient history to our media. So too is our decision to launch air strikes on Syria.

What we have is a media entirely unfit for purpose, neglecting its primary duty of informing the public. How then can we say that we have a functioning democracy if the people are unaware of what is going on?

You might say that freedom of speech and social media means that we have have a voice in this but we do not have the brand prestige of the legacy media or their monopoly position or their reach into the establishment. In the classic Marxist sense, the elites own the means of production where media is concerned. Atomisation and fragmentation of social media then ensures that we have only limited reach without acknowledgement from the legacy media. Thus only those sycophants who do not rock the boat and praise those within the bubble are ever recognised as even existing.

I am often warned against being so direct and disagreeable with those pundits and politicians who promote erroneous and false narratives because such hostility means they will never listen to anything I say. But this rather neglects the truth that over many years there has been a concerted effort by many to persuade such people, and they too have met the same dynamics of hostility, defensiveness and denial no matter how much deference is employed. There is no greater sin than to break with the herd, thus the prevailing orthodoxy survives in tact.

Here I am forced to conclude that hostility and ridicule is all that they deserve, and ultimately the only thing that will work as their prestige and gravitas is gradually eroded. This in tandem with persistently proving them wrong has more chance of working than pretending these people are worth a nanosecond of our time. 

In this we observe so long as they hold the power of communication, advancing narratives through collective ignorance, all the free speech in the world will not make us a democracy. Such speech is directed at a brick wall. A wall we will need to smash if we ever want a properly democratic society.

Winning still depends on you

Looking at LeaveHQ tonight and we see that the media and the entire politico-media class has been outfoxed by Cameron and the big announcement on associate membership is very much on the way.

We can add that to the growing list of things that was right about. Having anticipated it we have a good deal of preparatory work ready for when the media catches up. That is actually where this job starts getting interesting. And fun. Fun because we now have a wealth of material from legacy media hacks who never saw it coming.

Here, our bloggers can reap the rewards of throwing their dismal hackery back in their faces and publicly humiliating them for their manifest failure as journalists.

They have repeatedly failed to read the signals, with many still engaged in idle speculation about the date of the referendum, chasing after every dead chicken thrown at them. Whatever is news to them is old hat for us. In fact the reason the productivity of this blog has fallen is because there are only so many ways of illustrating the same basic concepts before losing the will to live entirely.

As bloggers we need to show that these hacks have no credible basis on which to be pontificating about the effects of Brexit having demonstrated such a shallow understanding of the games in play. Winning the referendum depends on undermining their prestige. That shouldn't be difficult. With a track record of accuracy and prescience we bloggers now hold all the cards and can rival their influence if we work together. Their newspapers may have large circulations, but the hacks themselves do not.

To that end we still need more bloggers and we need them now so that they build up a decent audience for when it matters. Extending the reach of our message means our reach is as deep as theirs - and we can show that our ideas are better than those of Mr Cameron.

Just a hundred bloggers each with their own online constituencies can shape the public debate in untold ways. Even with just a thousand daily readers you are talking to opinion formers who in turn will have their own audiences. This is how our message can spread. And though a thousand readers doesn't sound like a lot when you look at larger circulation numbers, take a long look at the picture above. That is what a thousand people looks like. Through them we can reach a million opinion formers. That's how we win. It all depends on you though.

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Fun while it lasted is having a hard time fighting off the tedium and predictability of it all. I am having similar problems. If it were my job to fisk crap journalism on EU matters then I'd be a million years behind in my workload. There is too much of it to absorb, all of which is white noise. It's bleak.

It even seems like a chore lampooning Leave.EU. I've come to the conclusion that they are so far off the rails they have ceased to be serious players. They are fast becoming a parody of themselves. What more could I add? My spoof above is a bit too close to the bone.

I'm not saying it has to be a po-faced and corporate operation with no sense of humour but there needs to be a little sophistication behind it otherwise it's just adding to the noise. I'm not the only one to notice that it's gone a bit Monty Python recently. And not in a good way.

At this point even if they did land the lead campaign designation from the electoral commission it won't do them any good. What matters is whether they are getting a message out. Cleverdick memes churned out by the dozen are easily forgotten. It is ideas that lodge in the mind and in that respect, because Leave.EU is not intelligence lead, it is largely a futile operation. It's also not going to hit the mark either. Leave.EU is a paper tiger.

If you throw enough money at newspaper adverts and online advertising, eventually some of it will stick, but in real terms, I know from experience that Facebook likes and clickthroughs are worthless. You may reach your audience but you do not necessarily change their minds. Arron Banks is wasting at least half of his cash.

So you might as why I do attack Leave.EU since they are so useless? To be honest, it's fun. It's the low hanging fruit on those days when I can't be bothered with anything more serious. They take it in good humour, unlike Ukippers who are just nasty articles. Banks may be useless but he's a very likeable fellow and takes it on the chin.

In the end though, Banks and Co can be as crass as they like, but in the pecking order of who gets the most flack now, they have to get in the queue. We are on the slow wind down to Christmas, but in the new year when we come out fighting, Leave.EU will be an amusing distraction for coffee breaks rather than the centre of attention. If you see me attacking them it's because I'm slacking off. Banks is yesterday's news.

There is a more serious problem to attend to now. It doesn't matter who wins the electoral commission designation now because the media have largely decided for all of us that Vote Leave is the establishment voice and that is where they will look for opinions, largely ignoring any genuine activity by and from the people.

That is a problem. Vote Leave Ltd is equally inept, but a larger threat to our chances by way of their privileged position. You could engage in critiques of Vote Leave so that they might up their game, but they see themselves as superior beings who should not have to engage with plebs from outside the M25 - and will not respond to it. In that regard I detest them as much as Arron Banks does.

Vote Leave Ltd is entirely an exclusive operation and hugely malevolent. They think the referendum is their own personal property - and will not only ignore others in the game but also actively sabotage them. Their primary concern is their next sinecure after the referendum thus will fight to protect their prestige. It's a jobs for the boys operation.

Thus as much as it's engaging to have scraps online with the Remain camps, they are not the real enemy. The media is. They must be reminded that Vote Leave speak only for themselves and are part of the Tory establishment that largely wants to keep us in the EU or has no strong opinion either way. That is why we need a more sophisticated plan of attack.

The soft target in this is the hackosphere on Twitter. Gentle persuasion doesn't work. Hacks don't have the attention span. We have to go around them and undermine them. Make them the object of ridicule. We can't go direct as it just looks like petulance but if genuinely inquisitive readers start questioning their output then they are then forced to account themselves, where they will be mercilessly cut down.

We don't have time to pander to egos or suck up to fragile egos. This isn't an election campaign where we can try again next time. This is a one shot deal and a fight to the death. Consequently, for the time being, the soft target (the media) is the main target - and we must attack their credibility and their prestige. In that, we are not restricted to just EU issues.

Since Leave.EU are our neighbours in this, it would be nice of they kept the noise down just to save us the embarrassment. Self awareness is always a worthy virtue. The smart thing for them to do at the very least is not to piss us off. Believe it or not, we are being quite restrained at the moment. Let's keep it that way shall we?

Monday, 7 December 2015

How many times does it need to be said?

You'll notice I've been quiet on the blog. Or at least not as productive as usual. Certainly there is an amount of Brexit fatigue and in the wind down into the darkest days of winter it is difficult scratch up the energy. Blogging takes its toll, but the performance of the Leave campaigns of late is utterly demoralising.

As we have repeatedly argued, we have to be our own worst critics in order to strengthen our arguments. But that is an empty exercise if such criticisms fall on deaf ears.

On the one hand we have one arm of the campaign dismissing veteran campaigners as "internet nutters" and on the other, a campaign so fundamentally off the rails that more than a few have asked this evening if their Twitter account has been hacked. What can one possibly say that has not been said already?

I have something of a reputation, especially with Andy Wigmore of Leave.EU, for being a tempestuous son of a bitch. Well this is why. I've been saying for a long time that this scattergun approach without any coherent strategy behind it is a Brexit killer.

Tainting your own brand in such a way defies all logic. I happen to disagree with the "capture base strategy" they have in operation and even if I didn't, dumbing the campaign down to this extent goes beyond the degree necessary. We've scraped through the bottom of the barrel and are now tunnelling halfway to China.

We would have thought that lessons would have been learned from Ukip's abysmal campaign yet there is no end to it. Leave.EU have made three forced retractions in the space of a month. Is Arron Banks trying to bury us?

I am doing the best I can with limited resources which is hard enough as it is, but with a lead campaign smashing a lifetimes work by undermining us, I am besides myself with dismay. If I had any sense at all I would walk away.

Leave.Eu's twitter feed keep boasting of their impressive numbers, reading it as though the campaign was working. All it's doing is harvesting the "headbangers" who already want to leave. But they as ambassadors of our cause will drive people away in droves.

I share Bank's dislike of the prudish and po-faced establishment media, and it may be fun to fly in their faces, but the culture war he and Ukip is fighting is not the same thing as the EU referendum. The influence of the po-faced establishment order is very much one of fact and must be accounted for in any strategy. This is not a game.

In this I implore Andy Wigmore to take a seriously hard look at what he's doing. I don't want to be spending my time saying these things. I am not being awkward for the sake of it. I do so because it is my sincere belief that our own side is more destructive to our cause than the opposition. It needs to stop. Happy to help if that's what it takes. Some editorial judgement on the Twitter feed at the very least?

I stand by my conviction that the SW1 Tory clan running Vote Leave Ltd is a clear loser and their arrogance and presumption is unparalleled. There is no helping them. They do need to be sidelined but if Leave.EU continues to thrash around like a tethered shark then we are in serious trouble.

Leave.EU need a complete reappraisal of how it manages communications. All memes and tweets branch out for a set of core principles and everything that goes out must go through a quality control process. It needs a set of value tests, along with stress testing of how it will be received and how it will be critiqued.

For that it needs to be managed by someone with a comprehensive knowledge of Brexit implications. I would recommend a system much like a nuclear submarine with no missiles launched without two keyholders. Too much is happening unilaterally. A bit of professionalism is needed. Mr Banks would not let his insurance brand be abused in the same way, so why is it ok to do that to Brexit?

Saturday, 5 December 2015

War of the worlds

If there is an anti-establishment sentiment afoot then it isn't voting for Farage. Labour party voters and members clearly know what they want and the Parliamentary Labour Party is out of step with the voters. The PLP is not cooperating because they know Corbyn cannot win. Or at least that is the conventional wisdom. That said, the conventional wisdom also said that Ukip would win seats in the general election and it also failed to predict a Tory majority. It may well be that Corbyn is not as isolated as some believe.

Your guess is as good as mine but my radar is telling me that this week marks a shift in the political tides. The government's honeymoon is over, and while the Twitterati, the media and the SW1 bubble are enamoured by the fluff of the Benn speech, I get the feeling of a different mood emerging among the public. Whatever support there may be for strikes on Syria will rapidly melt away.

The gulf between the public and the SW1 centrism is widening. People do not seem to care that Corbyn isn't an astute politician or even that his politics are largely wrong. I think he is the embodiment of a particular sneer at the establishment rituals, processes and orthodoxies. While I have nothing politically in common with him, I have a lot of sympathy with his distaste for Westminster right now.

In this I think it's worth noting that Corbyn has halted the flow of old Labour to Ukip. It tells us that the discontent is largely with politics rather than any particular issue and Ukip's polling would seem to confirm that immigration is not the central source of the discontent. It would appear that it isn't the EU either.

If I were to hazard a guess it would be to do with the gaping chasm between the reality of SW1 and the public. It's not a new phenomenon but I can't be the only one to have noticed that Westminster is vanishing up its own backside faster than usual.

There is sentiment to be identified which thus far Brexit campaigners have failed to isolate. If it can be isolated and amplified then I think therein lies the key to winning the referendum. The populism of Banks and Farage clearly doesn't cut it and I suspect barking up the left wing tree won't do it either. But there is a certain appetite for change. We have to sell the idea that Brexit is the answer but first we must find out what the question is.

Friday, 4 December 2015

Parliament is not fit for purpose.

I sincerely hope it doesn't happen, but it is not beyond the realms of imagination that we could see British Tornado pilots in cages being burned alive by ISIS.

That will be a consequence of sending antique aircraft into a contested airspace with lousy threat detection ability on a suicidal attack profile. MP's will be demanding answers as to how this could have happened. It happens because MP's like Hilary Benn would rather use the debates as an opportunity to sing their own virtues to the world rather than scrutinising bad government policy put forward on the basis of wilfully distorted intelligence.

I'm sure it feels mighty good to stand up in the house and preach about fighting "fascism" and "evil". That gets a round of applause. Who wants to listen to some stuffy old bore asking questions about quality of intelligence, military capability, strategic objectives and timescales? Who cares about the morality of barging into someone else's war of self determination that could develop into the front line of a new cold war? Zzzzzzz!!! BORING!!!

Never mind the tough questions of who we are bombing and what with, and what the long term effects and consequences will be, just so long as it feels all warm and fuzzy to side with the PM. After all, dropping bombs in Syria just because the French are is a perfectly viable reason for expanding a war!

Nevermind the details. Let's just give a mandate for the PM and MoD officials to do whatever they like with it. Who cares what we're actually voting for or why?

What I would ask though is if parliament is just Speakers Corner to project sentiment rather than scrutinise, why even bother having a debate at all? We have Farage to do tubthumping fact free speeches. Why even bother with parliament? It no longer does what it is supposed to do.

If ISIS do end up having a Tornado pilot barbecue, all the bovine MPs who couldn't be bothered to do their most basic duty of scrutiny will have to take a bow for that.

Given how degraded parliament is now, that should give some pause for thought for all those Brexiteers who want powers returned to Westminster. As much a Brussels isn't up the the job, our own parliament lacks the intellectual and moral capacity to be trusted with these such decisions. We must have direct democracy on these matters, because this is most certainly not representative democracy. 

Thursday, 3 December 2015

So there was a by-election.

There isn't much I would say about the Oldham West by-election. In 2001, 6552 voted for the BNP's Nick Griffin. Today, 6487 voted for Ukip.

It looks to me like Ukip has hit that glass ceiling. Not only has the immigration gamble failed to grow the base in any meaningful sense, it hasn't dented Labour at all even as Labour is in full civil war. It has parked Ukip firmly in the BNP slot with nowhere for it to go.

There is broad spectrum agreement now that Ukip has stalled and has nothing left to do now except quietly die.

This is a cause for some celebration among a great many anti-kippers and Tories. I just think it's sad. Had Ukip played it's hand well it could have been a major new force in politics - and a welcome one. Instead, against all the best advice, Farage threw caution to the wind and set course for the rocks.

It is now tarnished in such a way that it cannot recover. All that time and effort wasted. All those hopes dashed. All because of one man and his arrogance.

I suppose that should be a warning of sorts to Arron Banks. One bad turn and Brexit is buried. A movement tied to Ukip is one that has shackled itself to a concrete block and jumped into the harbour for a long sleep with the fishes.

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Benn has got it completely wrong

"Watch Hilary Benn's extraordinary speech on Syria which moved MPs to tears and applause" demands the Mirror. As if this display of mass sycophancy was not nauseating enough on its own, Benn has got it wrong on several counts.

Firstly, he's lumping a lot of disparate attacks around the world as ISIS attacks. That's dishonest for starters. They all have to be viewed in their unique context. He can't make the case that those attacks would not happen we ISIS not operating in Syria. Making ISIS the new Al Qaeda is not helpful.

Secondly, his assertions about air power are wrong. Air power alone was not responsible for driving ISIS back from Iraq. It's multifaceted. It had a lot to do with kicking Maliki out of the Iraqi government to create a more inclusive government, along with an amnesty for defecting army officers. Iraq used close air support and we used it to support local tribes who volunteered to fight ISIS when they were sure there was a chance of winning. That was more politics than air power.

Also, Iraqi towns were not occupied by a large number of ISIS fighters and chasing them out was not done without Iranian militias and weapons. And Iranian Su25's if I recall. That's what it took after American sponsored efforts failed. We never got a full reason why there was a media blackout for the first attempt at liberating Tikrit and the Americans most certainly are lying about it.

In protecting the Kurds that was done by force of deterrence and bluff which is effective up to a point when there is a territorial defence objective - but I don't see how this "get em where they live" approach without any ground coordination and without political exertion is going to do a damn thing.

We don't know who the supposed allies are on the ground or if they will fight when we want them to. Moreover, the air power we used last time was close air support. Something we don't even have. We had Harrier in Afghanistan and that was useless and in this case a stray bomb in the wrong camp might well turn a whole tribe to forge a temporary alliance with ISIS.

I'm no specialist in Syrian internal tribal dynamics but I'll bet the local support for ISIS is largely born of expediency and convenience and we don't actually know whose plans are being disrupted by killing them. A pretty big gamble for the sake of Western vanity.

This is chalk and cheese we are talking about. I'm not going to call Benn a liar or a deceiver. I will just say he is irresponsibly ignorant with no excuses. Empty virtue signalling, stringing a bunch of lofty sentiments together should not be the province of back benchers. Back benchers have a responsibility to know the difference and not be militarily and historically illiterate on matters this serious. He also shows us that he wasn't paying any real attention to events as they were unfolding when ISIS first became a concern.

The hackosphere have been saying that he sounds like a leader. The fact is, that's the sort of waffle that leaders on the international stage get to say. Not politicians who are supposed to scrutinise policy, hold government to account and ask tough questions. If this was a leadership bid it's a pretty cynical opportunity he has chosen to upstage Corbyn, whether you like Corbyn or not.

Benn is being lazy in not bothering to consult historians and military analysts before drawing some pretty spurious parallels. The only thing "extraordinary" on display was the cynicism, the opportunism and the extraordinary ignorance. That is why MPs cannot be allowed to make decisions of this magnitude. They are not morally equipped to do the job and the herd dynamics and bullying of Westminster make it impossible for the house to come to an adult conclusion. Decisions of this nature can only be legitimate via referendums. Our politics is too broken to let politicians take us to war.

Brexit business: Back at the coalface.

One complaint I often get is that I attack my own side and spend more time doing that than attacking the EU. The truth be known is that there are only so many ways one can attack the EU in any measured sense if ones opposition to it is on a point of principle. The rest of the effort goes into detailing the debating strategy and the finer details that will later come in useful.

As to attacking my own side, I have come to the conclusion that Vote Leave Ltd is not on anybody's side but it's own. It's a nest of greedy, self-serving self-entitled spoiled brats. The type who would let you pay the bar tab without offering to chip in and not even think to say thank you. Bullies, cowards, cronies and sycophants.

Moreover, when you look at the kiddies in the PR shots you can bet your ass they're unpaid interns hoping for a job in the SW1 bubble later down the line. Vote Leave will be a Toryboy academy for as long as it is in operation. Its graduates will be the Tim Montgomeries and Mark Wallace's of the next generation. Pompous, self-regarding, loathsome creatures. They are plagiarists and lazy narcissists who would have a stroke at the thought of doing a day's work.

You get the picture. I don't like these people very much and I never have. The way they deal with criticisms is through bullying, sniping and malicious gossip. It's that culture that creates the toxic and inbred circle that forms our chumocracy ruling class. Their only real talent is treachery.

These are not people capable of running an effective campaign, not least because one doubts any of them have rubbed shoulders with an ordinary voter for as long as they can remember. If Vote Leave Ltd has an authentic grassroots base then I am the Stay Puff Marshmellow Man.

Such people have ruled the roost for a long time in the Tory inner circles. It's a deeply unpleasant clan and I happen to know there are journalists sniffing around for more insights at the moment. Their dirty laundry is going to be aired sooner or later and I expect Dominic Cummings will run out of borrowed time as his past catches up with him. Anyone hoping for a referendum win should hope this happens sooner rather than later. It is most certainly not in our interests to have these people running the campaign.

That said, you might notice that I spend little time analysing the substance of their message. That's largely because there is none. Apart from some vague cut up slices of SW1 campaign gossip that nobody cares about, the Vote Leave Ltd campaign has very little to say for itself. On the odd occasion it offers a snippet of substance it looks more like an act of sabotage of our own side than an actual campaign message.

The snobs in the London set argue that it's better to have these people running it than Arron Banks's operation in that they are a more acceptable face of Euroscepticsim, but apart from the styling (bland corporate) I don't actually see that their substance is any more sophisticated or informed than that of Leave.EU. If asked which was worse I would have to flip a coin. Certainly a bunch of Toryboys are never going to reach out to the left, assuming they can reach outside of the M25 at all.

But on that score, going the full Ukip as Bank's operation has done is not going to win any friends on the left either. On current form it's not likely to reach out to anyone who has yet to form an opinion. Even the kippers are now cautious. Things can be dumbed down so as to start insulting the voters intelligence which is never a good idea. It doesn't make any sense either. Kipper inclined voters will accept a more sophisticated message, but middle England is never going to embrace a message aimed at kippers. That's a fact.

Snobbery and self-identity play a huge part in how people vote. Quite a lot of people are privately conservative but for self image purposes present themselves as "progressive liberals", largely for social convenience. For that reason the message has to appeal to the vanity of target voters. In that regard, TheKnow had a better styling than Leave.EU.

Sadly it seems that the promising start Mr Banks made has gone into reverse gear, aiming for the lowest common denominator each time. I don't understand the game plan here. Every advisor he has (if they are any good) must be telling him this is a seriously dumb idea and it does have consequences - which they should by now be acutely aware of. Bait and switch isn't going to work when you have spent an entire year soiling your own brand and undermining your own closing message.

As we have outlined, to win this we need to attack David Cameron's prestige. But to attack prestige one must have prestige, and that's one thing our side does not presently have. With Leave.EU doing what it does we have little chance of building up intellectual credibility. That's why there is such a pressing need for an alternative campaign. To that end I suppose I should focus on building that campaign - and stop "attacking" my "own side" as some suggest. I'm just disappointed that I have to. That alone is almost a full time job.

I just have one more question for Arron Banks though. Would you rather be a footnote in history as the man who took down the EU referendum campaign and made it unwinnable, or do you want to be remembered as a national hero - the insurance salesman who took on the establishment and won? If it's the latter, now would be a good time to clean up your shop and stop poisoning the well for all of us.

It only takes one thoughtless act to bring down the whole cause which would be an utter betrayal. It's taken the lifes work of a small army of people to get us this far. Mr Banks, you owe it to those people not to blow this.

Not in my name

For various reasons I oppose strikes on Syria. I think any serious operation would likely fail and produce unwelcome results or at the very least disperse ISIS so that Syrians themselves cannot confront and kill them. There is also the point that our commitment in real terms will be so small and so useless that it will be gesture politics of no real value.

To this, I say "not in my name". This prompts James Kirkup to lecture us on the virtues of representative democracy. He has it that: 
"Any binary political choice means one side is disappointed, doesn’t get what it wants. But being disappointing is not the same thing as being undemocratic. Representative democracy exists to aggregate our wishes into the outcome that disappoints the smallest possible number of people.
The measure of whether a decision is democratic and legitimate lies not the decision itself but the process that produces it. You may not like the decision to go to war in Syria, but your views were reflected and given voice in the process that led to it.
But the logic of “Not in my name” is that because you don’t like a decision that reflects the views of your fellow citizens but not your own, you don’t need to accept it. That is either a misunderstanding of how representative democracy works, or a deliberate decision to reject that democracy.
This is the typical pomposity of the establishment media speaking. It assumes that Westminster is an effective aggregator of views. It most certainly isn't. The debates we hear are very often incredibly shallow, omitting critical information, it's lacking depth and detail - and shows that few, if any, have given it time enough for sober reflection.

Moreover, as the Labour Party has a leadership crisis, there is posturing as part of internal power plays that determines how MPs will vote. That is how debased the commons is. A herd mentality takes root so that the end vote is nowhere near representative of public sentiment. We don't even know what the public sentiment is given that the polling is often commissioned by those with agendas of their own.

Moreover, the vote shares that many of our MP's get in on is often far less than half of the local electorate, so they have no majority mandate to speak in any case. This is not just statistical sophistry. It is a point of principle that hardly any MPs are in there with an outright mandate. 

Given how many of our politicians rely almost entirely on our media and parliamentary briefings, along with being subject to party bullying, I don't think that is any basis by which you could produce a legitimate decision to go to war, especially when our media is a festering inbred bubble full of talentless clones. They won't ask the tough questions knowing that their next job depends on sucking up to the right people. 

This evening we saw our media pouring over the debate footage, examining not the far reaching consequences of taking us to war in a theatre where Russia is presently operating - but instead to count the number of times Cameron was asked to apologise and whether Corbyn had the confidence of his party. This is coprophagia in action. 

I genuinely believe that our political establishment is so far removed from the public sentiment that it is not fit to make decisions of this very serious nature. Grown up decisions should not be handed to squabbling children. Only a referendum can produce a legitimate result.

In that respect I will take no lectures from James Kirkup. I utterly reject that "democracy" and I say as loudly as ever "not in my name". When I see a vibrant and healthy media and political structure that does not collude and conspire to freeze out voices that are not their own, and when I see decisions being made by the people themselves then I will accept the democratic will. But please can we dispense with the notion that this archaic and deeply rotten system we live in constitutes a real expression of people power?

Are they trying to lose?

Here follows a report from the Huffington Post:
Leave.EU have taken down a spoof video which jokes about “foreign johnnies” who “end up in pieces” thanks to UK military action overseas. The video, which the anti-EU group claim was produced months ago, says people in the Middle East say “jolly good show for liberating their countries from stability and unsightly high-rise buildings.”

Produced in the style of wartime newsreel, the video refers to Ireland as ‘The Balkans’, Saudi Arabia as ‘Middle East Land’ and Iraq as ‘F*!k Knows!’. A spokesman for said: “It’s an old video from round about the General Election. As soon as we realised it was still up we took it down. “We recognised that the issue of Isis and Syria is far too complicated for such a video.”

Despite the claim the video was produced “round about the General Election”, the logo appears at the beginning and end of the film. The organisation was originally launched as The Know campaign after the General Election. It rebranded as in September after the Electoral Commission announced the options on the EU referendum ballot paper would be ‘remain’ or ‘leave’. 
I don't even want to write this post. The message is obvious. The internet never forgets. Inconsistency and crassness is noticed and it can and will come back to haunt all of us. How many times does it have to be said? It was bad enough with Ukip doing it. Now we have a branded Leave campaign at it. Just what are they playing at? 

But while Leave.EU have allegedly pulled the video, if they continue in the same vein as their recent efforts, they may as well not have bothered since virtually everything else they do undermines our efforts in exactly the same way. This isn't the first blunder of it's type from Leave.EU either, having just last month deployed a tasteless tweet on remembrance day. If they keep this up they are in real danger of pulling the who eurosceptic movement down.

An effective campaign would have seen this coming yet this lot didn't. This is incompetence. Leave.EU is unfit for purpose. It needs an urgent houseclean if they are serious about winning. I am not the only one saying this, many influential eurosceptics are saying the same thing and even Ukippers are starting to ask questions. If that isn't a sign, I don't know what is.