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No Easy Answers For Immigration

By Guest
June 18th, 2016 at 12:00 pm | 3 Comments | Posted in EU

There’ll be little agreement on solutions but Brendan Cox’s analysis of the absurd immigration targets culture is spot on.

If Leave win on Thursday. Their immigration campaign will come back to bite them. Principally because they will be no more successful than David Cameron in ‘taking control’ of the issue.

The most sensible immigration policy is one that matches demand for labour with supply. While ensuring compassion and capacity for genuine refugees. Enabling them to be part of the solution to their plight, not just a burden on those that host them.

Neither element of that benefits from a quota. Quotas in economic migration are either irrelevant (if high) or damaging (if low). The notion the state can plan the ‘right’ number is as absurd here as it is in every other policy area.

With refugees capacity matters, and capacity can change in reaction to events. There is no objectively right number unrelated to the circumstances of the day.

In both cases you also need to look at why the UK finds it so difficult to cope with migration. We are not full, 97.5% of our land is undeveloped. There is no good reason why public services should not cope with expansion. You don’t hear businesses moaning about having more customers, why does the NHS?

Nor do we have to pander to the myth that immigration is only hard because of rampant racism from ‘stupid Sun readers’. Integration isn’t easy. But it isn’t helped by tribal politics and sneering elitism. Fascists and anti-Fascists screaming abuse at one another do not represent the core of any debate on community relations. Daily Express headlines have not turned us into a fertile ground for the BNP. Anti-racist hate tactics in political campaigns do not encourage tolerance.

And so on…an honest dialogue about immigration would be welcome. It might start though with a bit more understanding between factions as to where their views on the subject and the public come from… rather than assumptions.


If it’s Leave, what then?

By Guest
June 14th, 2016 at 7:45 am | Comments Off on If it’s Leave, what then? | Posted in EU

The outcome of the referendum on June 23rd is still uncertain. As it has been throughout. The main difference is that it is now uncertain leaning to Leave, rather than uncertain leaning to Remain. We know this from the polls. From the reported state of the postal votes coming in. And on the ground from relative campaign activity.

If that is the outcome, it is not I think an overstatement, to suggest large parts body politic will be suffering something akin to psychic shock. We can already see evidence of this in the way the Prime Minister’s faction is behaving. They have started fighting the likely post-referendum battles through personal attacks on Boris Johnson. Something largely unhelpful to the Remain cause now. And long-term more dangerous than that.

If Leave win. It is not at all clear what the public has voted for… It is entirely clear what they will have voted against. The EU. But not which of the umpteen possible Brexit scenarios is preferred. Or who they’d prefer to try and achieve them.

In that regard Remainers should perhaps start thinking about which Eurosceptics they want to win the fall out.

The worst option would be to attempt to ignore the vote. This is the ‘Norwegian option’. Where the establishment saddled their public with a bad deal similar to full membership, in the hope of a rethink.

The continuing absence of Norway from the EU following referendums in 1972 and 1994 should tell you just how effective that strategy will be. Not to mention how badly that move will sit with the British public.

I strongly suspect, for example that a large part of the growing Leave vote is one of utter contempt for those that govern us. British and European. The Referendum has created a safe way of expressing that contempt, that doesn’t involve electing Nigel Farage or Caroline Lucas Prime Minister.

If the response of Parliament is contempt in kind. Which along with Norwegian deals, includes any scenario that doesn’t involve the swift resignation of the then self-discredited Prime Minister. That Farage option, or worse, will come back. The inexplicable desire of sane people to vote for hollow populists in the US, France, and other places, will become our problem as well.

Which is why the Cameron’s sanctioned personal attacks on Johnson, and possibly others soon, are so dangerous. Whatever one may think of Johnson’s opportunism. He’s not Donald Trump. And has rather been a fairly reliable tribune of the liberal centre ground tradition in the Conservative Party. He is not a fool. And he would be very unlikely as Prime Minister to saddle the UK with a Cabinet of fools, hell bent on proving the Treasury’s melodramatic forecasters right.

The same is true of Gove, and a number of other Vote Leave luminaries. All those wise enough to keep UKIP in their heritage theme park Britain box. Rather than let Farage use the Referendum as a personal platform.

The most dangerous outcome of the referendum then is if the centre-ground, divided on this one issue, decides to form a circular firing squad. Discrediting one another so bitterly and viciously that the next Prime Minister ends up being someone far less able or palatable. The sort who genuinely believes Mexican walls can be built in the Channel. Or heaven help us Comrade Corbyn, a man who still thinks Venezuela is a progressive paradise.

So like it not, on a Leave vote, the Remainers would be well advised to accept the outcome, and fight for the least unappealing regime change. In order to get the best Brexit possible. Many of the other alternatives are far worse.

How The LibDems Created UKIP

By Sara Scarlett
June 11th, 2016 at 6:00 pm | Comments Off on How The LibDems Created UKIP | Posted in Liberal Democrats, UK Politics

The Liberal Democrats are relatively good civil libertarians, but when it comes to lifestyle freedoms one wonders how widely a party can interpret the word ‘Liberal.’ There is no branch of Liberal thought that can comfortably justify the high levels of nanny-statism we experience in the United Kingdom. Disappointingly the party that calls itself ‘Liberal’ is now one of the nanny-state’s greatest cheerleaders. After joining the Liberal Democrats in 2008 (I was young. So very, very young…) I very soon realised that the LibDems are not a political party – they are a small clique where ‘Liberal’ is a just term for everything they like regardless of the word’s definition.

The notion that the state should generally not impede the lifestyle freedom of individuals is an idea that Liberal (with a capital ‘L’) thinkers, such as John Stuart Mill, can comfortably lay claim to. This tradition of thought was woven into the Liberal Party of old to some significant degree albeit not without caveats and exceptions. The Liberal Democrats, however, have abandoned this notion almost entirely. Just skim LibDem Voice op-eds over the last few years and you’ll find members happy to promote: the Sugar Tax, Plain Packaging, the Prohibition of Drugs (in its entirety – no, really. All drugs.), Minimum Alcohol Pricing, and much, much more.

By evacuating this political ground so spectacularly, the Liberal Democrats did a number of things. Firstly, they became less distinctive from New Labour. They lost any claim they had to being an ‘anti-authoritarian’ party. This also opened up a massive unguarded front on which their enemies could attack them. By creating confusion about what the ‘Liberal’ in Liberal Democrat was referring to, no one did more to weaken the Liberal Democrats own brand that the Liberal Democrats. More crucially, by departing from this particular piece of political ground, the Liberal Democrats left it open to be assumed by another political party. Enter UKIP.

It is a boon to outsider parties to be considered ‘anti-authoritarian.’ By championing lifestyle freedoms on the side, UKIP hoovered up support from people who had been neglected by the three “LibLabCon” parties. It strengthened UKIP brand as the true outsider party and allowed UKIP to plausibly deny being a one issue party. To micromanage the intimate lifestyle choices of the electorate is to talk down to the electorate. This is not the main reason people are voting for UKIP, it is, however, why UKIP is so immune to scandal. In contrast, the Liberal Democrat’s seemingly endless capacity for sanctimony amplifies their own indiscretions when they inevitably occur.

By transforming into lifestyle paternalists, the LibDems willingly ceded political land that was undisputedly theirs. It was from this political land that UKIP broadened their own support base and strengthened their brand. Much of UKIP’s wider policy remains underdeveloped and strikes me as very ‘Little England’, but by seizing what should have been policy mainstays of the Liberals, they coloured themselves as rebels. This has only been further reinforced by Nigel Farage’s earnest pint drinking/fag smoking image. When I was a LibDem, I remember many discussions about why people who described themselves as ‘liberals’ didn’t automatically vote or identify as Liberal Democrats. For those of us outside the clique, the definition of the word still applies.

Liberal Democrats vote to undermine affordable low carbon future

By Guest
March 15th, 2016 at 8:54 am | Comments Off on Liberal Democrats vote to undermine affordable low carbon future | Posted in Energy

The irony of the LD’s new extreme-green anti-fracking position is that it will largely self-sabotage things that green Liberal Democrats purport to care about.

It is easy, lazy politics to oppose fossil fuels. Petrol cars… boo… coal-fired power… double-boo… solar power… hooray!… wind farm (but not in my back yard)… double hooray!

Even some climate change sceptics don’t like burning oil, coal and gas for power. Whatever one thinks of carbon, burning these materials produces air pollution. It would better if they could be used purely for manufacturing. For example all those plastics and advanced composites that make up solar panels and wind turbines. And even with those there one day may be bio-based alternatives with superior properties for recycling and reuse.

But we are not there yet. We have technologies, but they are far from affordable, and will not be the technologies we eventually need or use to solve the problem. That’s how progress works. We try stuff, get better at it, and then try something even better. Magic solutions don’t just fall out of labs ready formed and instantly cheap.

That is why the previous Liberal Democrat policy on fracking was careful to hypothecate the revenue it would generate to low-carbon R&D. To use the problem to create the solution.

A position that then influenced Coalition policy. And led to a commitment to create a sovereign wealth fund on the back of future shale taxes. A real win. Which happily is still there if and when the UK shale industry starts delivering.

The Liberal Democrats just voted to scrap the fund… Without regard to the consequences. They could seek alternative finance (cutting elsewhere or raising other taxes). But they’ve also got to cover the cost of shutting down domestic gas for energy.

That economic home goal might be still be sensible if the fracking process represented some existential threat to the natural environment previously unseen.

But claims to that effect by the fringes of the green NGO movement have no basis in scientific fact. They have been repeatedly refuted by credible independent studies across the word. Including in the UK. Which already had a moratorium to consider these concerns. And as a result has a very rigorous level of regulation.

To ban fracking on environmental grounds you have to apply a level of risk mitigation to the process so extreme that if more widely applied would also see us ban all forms of transport, mobile telephony, medical treatments and other things that cannot guarantee never to be flawlessly safe. In essence is all human activity… and quite a lot of stuff in nature as well. It is a nonsense argument peddled by cranks and opportunists.

Which is really what this change of policy is all about. The Liberal Democrat Party comfort zone is local opposition to uncomfortable change. It looks at all the energy that goes into nimby campaigns and wants a piece of the action. It confuses activity with insight.

So it can now join the Greens in trolling construction workers and the Police. The policy makes no sense. But screw it. There will be photos of ‘very concerned’ councillors to put on leaflets ‪#‎libdemfightback‬. And phantoms of terror to unleash on disengaged local voters about water supplies and house prices ‪#‎spinninghere‬. There are Parish Council by-elections to be won.

The direct losers in that will be the fuel poor and British Industry, who need cheaper energy. One to survive. The other to thrive. The indirect losers though will be the low carbon entrepreneurs and scientists. They need real money to invest, not magic beans. It’s a pity that a Party that thought hard about how to link those things and effected the changes to deliver it, is now campaigning to sabotage their own legacy.

Pro-Homelessness Group Funded By Big Tobacco

By Sara Scarlett
March 14th, 2016 at 6:59 pm | Comments Off on Pro-Homelessness Group Funded By Big Tobacco | Posted in Housing, Uncategorized

Today, in a spat over a letter sent to the Observer by Chief NIMBY Shaun Spiers, of the rapacious pro-homelessness campaign group, CPRE, it was revealed that the CPRE is funded by big tobacco, a number of trusts, an anonymous trust, and host of anonymous donors.

This news was greated somewhat more charitably by IEA scholars than I imagine the accusatory Shaun Spiers would have taken the news had it been the other way around.

Screen Shot 2016-03-14 at 22.49.30

In a somewhat pityful follow-up blog post, NIMBY High Wizard Shaun Spiers, explains CPRE funding, though did not reveal who the pro-homelessness group’s large anonymous donors were. The IEA also reveals the trusts who give it money but not the individual donors making it somewhat similar in transparency to the CPRE in this respect.

Regardless of their funding, the policies adovocated by the CPRE continue to contribute to the shortage of housing, misery, and homelessness which is currently plaguing my generation. They are a national disgrace.