Gavin Maclure's Musings

My take on politics locally, nationally and internationally


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Nigel Farage to stand in Thanet South

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UKIP Leader Nigel Farage set to fight Thanet South

Just as the news on Boris was no surpise, the UKIP leader is poised to seek to enter the House of Commons in May 2015 as the MP for Thanet South in Kent. Nigel Farage is on the party’s shortlist for the seat making it a near certainty he will be selected.

A poll financed by Lord Ashcroft last month for the constituency showed Ukip on 33%, the Conservatives on 29% and Labour on 29%.


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Rabbit hutches

One of the Coalition’s huge failing is the lack of house building, which has pushed up house prices and locked millions of young professionals – who when their parents were the same age rightly expected to own their first or even second home – out of the housing market.

The reason for this travesty is young professionals no longer vote. But their parents – the babyboomers – do, so it doesn’t take a genius to realise why no new houses are being built next door to mum and dad.

The current hot weather also brings home the do-it-on-the-cheap mentality that developers pursue, when they are reluctantly given permission to build by the same babyboomer councillors, to ensure they meet affordable housing targets.  Today, new build homes, or units in the developer parlance, are little more than rabbit hutches for humans, to save on material costs and to cram as many homes to sell into one tiny scrap of land. But that doesn’t mean the few young professionals who are lucky enough to afford a home of their own get a cheaper deal. Don’t be silly. They will still pay sky-high prices to subsidise the affordable home quota.

And boil like rabbits in their hutches upon a summer’s night.

Solution: vote.


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Salmond pummelled by Darling on currency question

Better Together leader Alistair Darling danced rings around SNP leader Alex Salmond last night in a tour de force of rhetoric from the former chancellor as he exposed Salmond’s lack of answers on the currency an independent Scotland would use. The SNP leader said all the mainstream Westminster parties were bluffing in denying Scotland could continue to be part of a Sterling currency with the rest of the UK should they vote Yes on 18th September as the Labour MP taunted him saying even an 8 year old would have an answer. Salmond was booed by the studio audience as time and time again he failed to reveal his Plan B.


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Whilst the cat’s away…

It's a go: Boris will become a Conservative MP again in May 2015

It’s a go: Boris will become a Conservative MP again in May 2015

The Prime Minister is on holiday (in Portugal again, wearing his holiday uniform of navy shirt and brown loafers) so Boris thought it would be a good time to announce his intention to stand for Parliament at the General Election next May.

In typical Boris buffoonery style, he announced during his Europe speech at Bloomberg this morning he would be trying to get selected and elected to the Mother of all Parliaments next year. He made it out as if he might not even find a seat. In reality, Boris will be selected for a very safe seat and will be elected to Westminster with a stonking majority.

Word is, submarine Osborne is stirring below the water…


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So what does the reshuffle all mean then?

Ken Clarke bows out of Government, having spent a total of 20 years in ministerial posts in several Tory Governments

Ken Clarke bows out of Government, having spent a total of 20 years in ministerial posts in several Tory Governments

It is David Cameron doing what David Cameron does best: the heir to Blair. But just like another heir to the throne he doesn’t quite fit the same clothes.

But our dear leader does try nonetheless. Out go all those nasty white middle-class men (oh, you mean the ones who vote Tory by the millions?) and in comes the ex-TV presenters. But Dave being Dave, he does like a bit of blood when doing his re-shuffles, so he axed his best mate Michael Gove, booted fellow Europhile Ken Clarke to the backbenchers, and even two-brains David Willetts was fired.

William Hague chose the opportunity to sneak out the back-door and announce his retirement from politics at the General Election next year. It’s a real shame about the boy from Yorkshire who told the old fogeys at the 1977 Tory Conference they’d all be dead by the time he was in power never really fulfilled his potential. Yes, he made it to one of the big offices of State, the Foreign Office, but he was pure prime ministerial material if it wasn’t for the unfortunate episode of being Conservative leader straight after John Major had been royally kicked out of Number 10. That did it for “Team Hague” and the same passion he showed in 1977 was extinguished by the start of the noughties. Frankly, I’m surprised he hung on for over a decade more since he was sacked as leader.

Dave being Dave decided to axe the only real Tory in the Cabinet, Michael Gove, from his brief at the Education department because the teachers didn’t like him. I think that’s a bloody good reason to keep the man on – he must be doing (and was) a fantastic job. But it was all too ideological for Dave so he had to go. Replacing him is the excellent Nicky Morgan but again this will be a waste of talent as all she has to do is see the reforms Gove made implemented – I wonder if she’ll be able to stop the civil servants and the Lib Dems from watering down the legislation? Gove spent most of his time, it is rumoured, spotting and tackling mandarins, Nick Clegg and David Laws as they tried to stop the Government putting children first and teachers second.

One thing the British Civil Service is good at is changing the guard in an efficient manner: she’d hardly stepped out on to Downing Street after a chat with Dave (it is unsure if it was over red wine) when she was up in lights and Gove was kicked into the dark corridors of Westminster as the new chief whip.

I’m not overly fussed by the re-shuffle really: most of the electorate didn’t know who was in the cabinet on Sunday and most won’t know tomorrow.  It’s all about the politics and whose mush shows up on the regional and national news, hence former GMTV presenter Esther McVey being promoted to Employment Minister and “will attend cabinet” – in other words she is the new “minister for TV” – expect to see a lot of her on the airwaves between now and May next year.

Dave is obsessed that it is the nasty right-wing white males who are his problem, hence the cull of many white males (arguably right-wing but not all). This will cause a lot of rancour on the Tory backbenches and in the shire constituencies (where the Conservative base is), which might counter the new female faces he has promoted to step in front of the camera.

One thing which will really annoy the parliamentary party is the insult chucked at Liam Fox. The previously-fired former Defence Secretary (a position now held by Michael Fallon after Philip Hammond was shunted to the Foreign Office post-Hague) was offered by Dave a junior ministerial position in the Foreign Office if he wanted to return to Government. Dr Fox declined putting out this statement.  This blog is a family-friendly site so I shan’t provide the translation but it goes along the lines of “naff off” as Norman Fletcher used to say.

And in other news, Lord Hill, Leader of the House of Lords, has been nominated as the UK’s next European Commissioner. Who?


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Shock horror, a Scottish Independence debate took place in London

Evening Standard debate on Scottish Independence on 30th June at the Guildhall

Evening Standard debate on Scottish Independence on 30th June at the Guildhall

Last week, I attended a debate organised by the Evening Standard newspaper and the City of London at the Guildhall in central London.

Guests arriving for Scottish Independence debate at the Guildhall in central London

Guests arriving for Scottish Independence debate at the Guildhall in central London

There were – at my estimate – around 1000 people in attendance with queues in typical British fashion winding their way around the Gresham Street entrance square waiting to pass through the reception.

The BBC’s Emily Maitlis chaired the debate and on the panel were the Chief Secretary to the Treasury (and one of the four most powerful men in the country as a member of the infamous Quad at the heart of Government), Tory MP Rory Stewart, Labour peer Helena Kennedy QC, Stewart Hale representing the SNP, businesswoman Michelle Thomson and Scottish (although resident in London) comedian Hardeep Singh Kohli.

Protestors from what are thought to be Campaign for an English Parliament - they didn't speak but made the point nobody outside of Scotland had a say on the breakup of the Union we are all apart of

Protestors from what are thought to be Campaign for an English Parliament – they didn’t speak but made the point nobody outside of Scotland had a say on the breakup of the Union we are all apart of

Even before the debate heated up, a pro-England protest unveiled itself with two men and a woman with duct tape over their mouths standing stage-left with a rather large St George’s flag. As they were not disrupting proceedings (which the duct tape enabled) they were allowed to silently protest throughout the evening. Their point was valid (if it was there point?): no one outside of Scotland (and especially England as the largest country in the Union) has been given a vote on Scotland’s Independence. This is a disgrace as we are all currently subjects in one Union, that of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. If Scotland does decide to separate then this will have a profound effect on the rest of the Union, one we will have had no say over.

Each panelist was allowed to make a speech from a lectern (all very student-politics) and then questions were taken from the audience. For the record, Danny Alexander was in the No camp along with Rory Stewart and Helena Kennedy. Whereas, of course, Stewart Hosie WAS the Yes camp. And to allow balance on the panel, Michelle Thomson and Hardeep Singh Kohli were firmly in the Yes camp too.

Hardeep Singh Kohli thought he was at some kind of 1980s anti-Thatcher rally as he railed against the corrupt Westminster elite and evil Tories who (allegedly) have done such dastardly things to Scotland. He rounded his speech as if Scotland had already said Yes with: “Your body politic is rotting, your House of Commons is full of charlatans and thieves.”. It’s ironic how some Scots are so rabidly nationalistic but in the same token their uber-Lefty thinking makes them so anti anyone else being nationalistic. Michelle Thomson was equally abrupt in her arguments repeatedly trying to speak over Danny Alexander, who received a round of applause when he pointed out it was better for the debate if everyone was given a chance to give their point of view. He also informed the mainly English audience the Scottish Independence debate was a daily occurrence in Scotland, implying we were lucky, but unfortunately it also regularly descended into mud-slinging.

Mr Alexander’s last point about the constant debate up in Scotland compared to almost complete radio silence south of the border was a serious one. Where are the reports of the campaign and debate in the national media? Why aren’t the BBC reporting on it albeit recounting the latest poll results every 6 weeks? It is frankly a complete stitch-up by politicians in Westminster who ensured the rest of the Union didn’t get a vote in case they voted Yes for Scotland to leave.

A number of audience members asked some pertinent questions which fed into Rory Stewart’s (the most Union patriot of the panel) argument that the emotional side of the Referendum debate has been distinctly lacking and it needs to be brought to the fore. The economic arguments pulled together to assist both the Yes and No sides will be null and void in 30, 50 years, 100 years, Mr Stewart said, but the Union, if it is broken up, will still be broken up!

Helena Kennedy, in reflecting the unpredictability of the poll and the likelihood the result will be close, implored the powers-that-be after 18th September to form a Constitutional Convention for everyone in the UK to debate the Union and how we are organised and governed across the British Isles. Without this, we are heading towards an eternal debate on Scottish Independence if the No camp were to win, and if Scotland votes Yes, well this will be a monumental change for the constitution for the remainder of the UK and will need careful and inclusive debate as well.

I end this little summary of the very interesting Evening Standard debate on Monday with the words of Daily Telegraph’s Tim Stanley, who is still the only person in the UK to elegantly sum up why Scotland should not leave us, as we care so deeply for her:


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Juncker In, Britain heading Out

Jean-Claude Jucker: your next President

Jean-Claude Jucker: your next President

Arch-federalist Jean-Claude Juncker has succeeded José Barroso as the next President of the European Commission. British prime minister David Cameron was dead against his appointment, viewing it as a backwards step for the EU and putting the kibosh on any plans for renegotiation with Brussels.

The European Commission is the body which is made up of unelected Commissioners who decide the laws of the 28 member states of the EU. The European Parliament is not a parliament, it is an assembly. The Parliament in Europe is not a legislature in the same way as the Houses of Parliament in Westminster are; it is instead just a talking shop and big fat rubber stamp for the Commission’s new laws. All those MEPs which we elect have the power of a flea. By definition, this is undemocratic and has more in common with authoritarian regimes like Syria or the former Austro-Hungarian empire, for instance.

Britain should have no truck with this charade any longer. We don’t need the EU – most of our trade is with nations outside of the EU in the rest of the world. The big players of Europe – France and Germany – will still want to sell their wine and cars to us.

The UK has a form of national government and voting system different to most other European states: we inherently trust the people.  Whereas the EU thinks the people are an irrelevance, as so ably demonstrated by a man who wants to see a United States of Europe being crowned its President.  This is how Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council and himself also unelected by the European people, announced Juncker’s accession:

But it’s not as if there was a moderate candidate waiting in the wings. Juncker is just one of many arch-federalists in the backrooms of Brussels developing an EU empire stretching from the Russian border (hint – Ukraine) to the Atlantic ocean. One only needs to look at a history book to work out how empires in Europe ended before: very very badly with millions of lives lost. Now, people aren’t going to die in such numbers as a result of the direction the EU is taking (although you might disagree in Athens or Kiev) but unrest will continue as more power is taken from poor southern Eurozone countries and placed in the hands of the Germans and French.

Britain is a very wealthy country with an astonishing (albeit not equal) turnaround in economic fortunes taking place compared to 2010 and to other European states such as France. The EU is merely a hindrance to Britain’s growth in the world and it is time we left to decide our own destiny.


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“The Germans have to thank you too”

 

Sword Beach 70 years ago today as the Allies invade Occupied Europe

Sword Beach 70 years ago today as the Allies invade Occupied Europe

The words of German Chancellor Angela Merkel as she was introduced to D-Day veterans, rightly seated centre stage on Sword beach on the Normandy coast at this afternoon’s Commemorations. Mrs Merkel rarely speaks English in public – although she does speak good English – and although not officially speaking in public I am sure her words were very touching to those British, American and Canadian former soldiers who this very day and hour were on the same beach fighting to free occupied Europe from Nazi Germany.

D-Day veterans on Sword Beach being greeted by French President Hollande

D-Day veterans on Sword Beach being greeted by French President Hollande

Seventy years ago – 6th June 1944 – 156,000 troops landed on five beaches and, although ultimately a successful mission, thousands of brave men were mowed down by German machine gun and snipers as they disembarked from amphibious carriers – the largest ever sea invasion – which began the end of the Second World War and the defeat of Hitler’s Third Reich.

It is today we remember these very brave men who, in the words of John Maxwell Edmonds, gave their today for our tomorrow.

Lest we forget.


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The aftermath of the political earthquake

Political earthquake: Nigel Farage and team

Political earthquake: Nigel Farage and team

Many predicted UKIP would do well but they couldn’t possibly win the UK European elections. Err, well, actually, they did, with even The Guardian reporting Nigel Farage’s party won the European elections with ease.

UKIP topped the poll with 27.5% of the vote translating into 23 MEPs, and even winning a seat in Scotland. It is the first time since the general election of 1906 that a party other than Labour or the Conservatives has won a national election.

This result came on the back of the local elections last week where UKIP took more than 150 council seats off the traditional parties. As Nigel Farage said, “The Ukip fox is in the Westminster hen house”. In my neck of the woods, UKIP surges saw the Tories lose control of councils in Brentwood, Southend-on-Sea, Basildon and Castle Point.

UKIP have capitalised on an anti-establishment sentiment in the UK where people feel they are governed by an out-of-touch metropolitan elite from London and Brussels – and they would be right, of course.  All three main parties suffered in both sets of elections as a result but the Lib Dems were all but annihilated, losing all their MEPs bar one.

The next stop is Newark where there is a parliamentary by-election on 5th June, which UKIP’s Roger Helmer hopes to snap from the Conservatives. This will be difficult – the Tories currently have a 16,000 majority – but not as hard as before the political earthquake Nigel Farage’s party unleashed over the last few days. I still wouldn’t bet money on a UKIP victory but it’s now 50:50 they will get their first MP.

The UKIP leader is looking further afield and is predicting a handful of his candidates being elected to Westminster in next year’s General Election. It is astonishing this is now being taken seriously by the mainstream media considering their contempt only a year or so ago and does go to show there are now millions of voters supporting UKIP.

A fair few Conservative ministers, in particular Defence Secretary Philip Hammond, are parroting the usual line that disaffected Tories who voted UKIP in the local and European elections will come back to the Tory-fold in 2015. I’m now not too sure. Now the UKIP electorate can see it is not the Tories they will be denying a majority in Westminster but Labour, the incentive to come back to David Cameron’s Conservatives is not so strong. And the Prime Minister’s guarantee of an in-out EU referendum in 2017 is not stacking up because a) he would actually have to win a general election and b) they don’t believe him.

I’m not sure David Cameron can do anything about the rise of UKIP except concentrate on the economic message and pray the growth rate trickles down to the provinces before 7th May 2015.