Thomas Paine

Thomas Paine
"These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman."

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Why not ‘We Demand Referenda’?

It is good to see the new party ‘We Demand a Referendum’ has been formed – it is reminiscent of James Goldsmith’s Referendum Party that stood at the 1997 General Election on the single issue of a referendum on our membership of the EU. However, sadly, it is almost certain to suffer the same fate as Goldsmith’s party – this stood in 546 constituencies, finished fourth and received around 3% of the vote.

Goldsmith, a billionaire, could afford to produce a 12 minute video tape warning of the dangers of a EU federal superstate, a threat now of almost imminent danger, which was delivered to five million households – this may not be possible for WDAR because of the high cost involved. Had Goldsmith’s Party continued, it may have gradually achieved more votes, but UKIP effectively took up the cause after 1997 and initially as a single issue party – they never seriously challenged the traditional parties.

Although UKIP has found greater success with the steadying hand and funds of Stuart Wheeler, who has broadened the Party’s appeal with better thought through policies, it is still a right-wing party and although opposition to our membership of the EU comes mainly from the right, a recent poll shows that 44% of Labour Party members are against our membership with 39% in favour.

As a right-wing Party, UKIP still can only act as a pressure group to the Tories, as it is likely to be impossible for them to garner enough of the left-wing vote to win the seats necessary, at a General Election, to become any kind of force in the House of Commons. Their support will come primarily from traditional Tory voters so, should the electorate become sufficiently concerned at the UK being drawn into an EU federal superstate, their success will be at the detriment of the Tory vote – which will lose any seat that UKIP might gain. UKIP would certainly not be viewed as a potential partner in coalition by the Labour Party.

The history of the Referendum Party and UKIP has demonstrated that concern over the single issue of our membership of a federal EU superstate has not been strong enough to over-shadow voters concern for the economy – which is always the most important issue to the electorate. This explains why Labour and the Tories are always returned as the largest parties – they are seen as the only parties with the experience necessary to manage the economy.

Even now, with the formation a United States of Europe looming and likely to be completed some time during the lifetime of the next UK parliament, although the split between those who want to leave the EU and those who want to stay is 65/35% – UKIP, the only party seen as against our membership by the vast majority, is very unlikely to win a single seat at the next general election.

It is only a party like ‘We Demand a Referendum’ that can hope to accumulate enough votes actually to win a general election, but only if they add demands for a referendum on the many other issues where the main parties policies are against the wishes of the people. Certainly high on this list is that of immigration where, if a referendum were held, not only would the majority want immigration to be halted, but also the introduction of measures encouraging the most recent immigrants to return to their nation of birth is likely to gain overwhelming popular support.

Another issue likely to be supported, by the majority in England, is the introduction of an English Parliament, in one form or another. The difficulty experienced in deporting Abu Hamza and others would also likely find strong support for the withdrawal from the European Court of Human Rights. Concern over the privatisation of the NHS is also likely to find returning this to its previous form a popular move – as would be the right of constituents to recall their Member of Parliament, should they wish.

There are, no doubt, many other issues that the electorate would like to be able to decide by referendum and the significant difference between a party like ‘We Demand a Referendum’ adding further issues to be decided in this way is that each promised referendum will increase the popularity of the party – for few voters object to be included in the decision making process. Also there are many issues that select groups feel passionately about and would be prepared to be highly active in support of a party that promised them a referendum. This contrasts with a party, like UKIP, who, if they add further ‘decided’ policies to their manifesto – are likely to lose the support of many of their existing supporters – those against the newly added policy.

We are now at a unique time – the main parties have been thoroughly discredited, either during this or the previous administrations. An effective United States of Europe will almost certainly be formed during the lifetime of the next parliament and, if one of the main parties form the government, they will definitely act against the will of the people in relationship to this body.

Only by pulling together the majority of small parties and major pressure groups, by offering referenda on all of the significant issues of our time, is there any chance of amassing a party with sufficient support to provide a government representing the will of the people – during this highly significant period in our history.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Will Hope, Like a Soufflé, Rises Only Once

According to the BBC, a report by The Resolution Foundation argues that millions of poor and middle-income households may be bypassed by any economic recovery, should there be one, and that their living standards could stagnate for the next 10 years, ending no higher in 2020 than they were in 2000.

This is bad news for the government, for these poor and middle-income households are not the condemned unemployed or benefit cheats, they are those who are following the government’s advice and are working hard to succeed during these difficult times.

It is bad news in the sense that the majority of these people have no hope of improving their standard of living, the primary purpose of life in an acutely materialistic society, but they also represent a great many votes of people who are unlikely to be supportive of any party that does not offer some hope of improvement.

The findings of the Foundations are hardly surprising, predictions of years of austerity measures and the experiences of the majority have already created a sense of hopelessness and the measures the Foundation have put forward are obviously little more than ‘sticking plaster’ remedies. For hope to rise, clearly there needs to be a major shift in approach, something that none of the main parties are likely to offer.

When the Coalition came to power, there was a chance that the nation would come together in an attempt to save a bankrupt nation – a crisis that was rightly blamed on the previous Labour administration that had tried to deny that the dreadful state of the nation’s finances – making no attempt to reduce expenditure – in the hope of winning the general election. As with most of the problems arising from the activities of government, the desperate desire to remain in office often creates a madness which leads to appalling decisions being taken.

This goodwill towards the incoming Coalition began to be lost when, despite correctly allocating the blame on the previous government, Cameron decided to pick on the unemployed – implying that they were not trying hard enough to get the few jobs that did exist. Whereas employers must be delighted to have thousands of job applications for the few jobs available and being able to apply harsh terms on those selected, it was obvious that this frantic effort by the unemployed would not create jobs – merely add to their misery as they were rejected time and time again.

Coupled to this wrongly attributed blame, was the clear intent to ensure that the pain did not fall evenly across society. The corporation tax rate was reduced, as was the tax rate for the highest earners and, perhaps most galling, the global corporations who had been allowed to buy up so many traditionally British companies, were allowed to take advantage of the tax laws and pay a fraction of the rate of tax that would be paid by a small or medium sized British business.

Virtually all large corporations, including those of the UK, were shown to be using tax havens to reduce their tax liability and whilst public services were being reduced and privatised the very need for these measures was being accentuated by the failure to collect tax from these global giants – who are to be the beneficiaries of the program of privatisation!

Net immigration, that was promised to be cut to the tens of thousands, by Cameron, is probably still running at more than 200,000 each year – and incredibly the true amount is not known. At times of high unemployment, this influx of additional workers is infuriating, particularly to those who cannot get a job – disregarding the additional pressures placed on already over-stretched housing, education, health and other public services.

Most people are aware that many of those who migrate to the UK cannot be stopped because we are a member of the EU which allows free movement of EU citizens between member states. However, it is obvious that there are many here who come from beyond the EU and although the majority in the UK wish for us to leave the EU, so that our borders can be reclaimed – none of the main parties are offering an ‘in’ or ‘out’ referendum.

The Coalition did have a golden opportunity to put many things right on assuming office, but it has been clear the measures taken have followed Tory ideology, giving every advantage to the wealthiest and big business at the expense of the people, that Cameron has almost ensured the return of Labour at the next election – something that even the most optimistic Labour supporter could not have contemplated less than three years ago. It does not matter what the Coalition does now – their chance has gone – for hope, like a soufflé, rises only once.