The only thing that matters on the EU question

Michael Gove announced this weekend that he would campaign to leave the EU. To accompany this announcement, he wrote a 1,500 word article giving his reasons for his decisions. Whatever you think of Michael Gove, his piece is very well written. In two paragraphs he distills the key reason why I think most people should vote to leave. Gove writes:

My starting point is simple. I believe that the decisions which govern all our lives, the laws we must all obey and the taxes we must all pay should be decided by people we choose and who we can throw out if we want change. If power is to be used wisely, if we are to avoid corruption and complacency in high office, then the public must have the right to change laws and Governments at election time. 

But our membership of the European Union prevents us being able to change huge swathes of law and stops us being able to choose who makes critical decisions which affect all our lives. Laws which govern citizens in this country are decided by politicians from other nations who we never elected and can’t throw out. We can take out our anger on elected representatives in Westminster but whoever is in Government in London cannot remove or reduce VAT, cannot support a steel plant through troubled times, cannot build the houses we need where they’re needed and cannot deport all the individuals who shouldn’t be in this country. I believe that needs to change. And I believe that both the lessons of our past and the shape of the future make the case for change compelling.

This is the key reason why I will be voting to leave, and I think whatever the other arguments bandied about are – for or against – the whole referendum should boil down to this key issue. Do you want to be able to change the way our country is run through democratic means, or are you happy to continue to give up those means because they are outweighed by the benefits of remaining in the EU?

 

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Is “reforming the EU from within” realistic?

Today David Cameron announced – to the surprise of no one – that the EU Referendum will be held on 23rd June. He further stunned the world by announcing he would be campaigning to remain in the EU. This followed months of painstaking negotiations over some trifling ‘reforms’ he had cobbled together. This was concluded last night after a two day summit of EU leaders. The result seems to have been that Cameron can go away and say he has secured a ‘special status’ for the UK, while all the other EU leaders laugh behind his back and go home to tell their voters that nothing of import has changed.

So that’s where we are now. No one who is campaigning to remain – including Labour, the Green Party and the Lib Dems – actually say they are happy with the current set-up of the EU. ‘Reform from within’ seems to be the mantra. But given the tortuous mess that were David Cameron’s attempts to achieve his “thin gruel” reforms (as Jacob Rees-Mogg called them), what possible hope do the likes of Labour have for achieving a single reform they want going forward? They don’t have a cat in hell’s chance.

If we vote to remain on 23rd June, the EU will consider the matter settled and push on in the same direction they have been travelling for the last 40 years – towards greater and greater integration. I don’t know how anyone could vote for that.

What should Labour be talking about?

The Labour Party is a joke at the moment. The Corbyn side seems to be trying to steal the Green Party’s manifesto at the moment with it’s talk of basic income guarantees and “Democracy Days“. Meanwhile, the rest of the Parliamentary Labour Party seems focused on ensuring it performs terribly in the May elections, with a side project of campaigning to stay in the EU. Neither side seems interested in winning round voters to their way of thinking. Here’s what I would do if I were Labour.

Most people either actively despise politicians or have no interest in it whatsoever. Someone who seems different to the norm and has a fresh approach could re-capture some of those people turned off by politics. Labour politicians should have embraced this opportunity, but instead they squandered it with petty squabbling. At the same time though, you don’t want to scare people off. The media will try and do that, but helping them to do that is not smart. You have to go to where people are before you can take them to where you want to go.

With that in mind, here’s where I think most people ‘are’ on some issues:

  1. Immigration. People don’t really care about whether immigration is good or bad for the economy. They see the impact on their local area, or areas nearby and dislike the change this represents. Humans have evolved to be wary of outsiders and I don’t see this changing any time soon.
  2. It’s normal for humans to compare themselves to those around them and to feel envy and resentment to those they feel don’t deserve what they have or are getting something without working for it. This is why cuts to social security generally have the support of the majority, but why cuts to working tax credits specifically are not popular.
  3. Most people’s resentment about perceived unfairness can be quite easily channeled towards those at the bottom. Everyone can think of examples from their own communities where people seem to be getting ‘something for nothing’. People also resent those at the top seemingly taking the piss.

You may not agree with those descriptions of where people are, but assuming they are true, what policies would flow from them?

  1. No party can do anything on immigration while a member of the EU. Personally, I can’t see why a party seeking to represent working people can support our continuing membership of the EU. In an ideal world, Corbyn’s Labour Party would be campaigning to leave. They could then advocate for a points-based immigration system, while continuing to talk up the contribution skilled migrants make to our country. Realistically though, this was never going to happen. The modern Labour Party is as pro-EU as the top of the Tory Party. What can they do now they have decided to remain in the EU whatever the terms? Answers on a postcard please.
  2. Labour should adopt a position that anyone with the ability to work should work. They should scrap all welfare to work programmes and instead introduce guaranteed jobs paid at a living wage for all who find themselves unemployed and unable to find alternative work. Anyone unable to work should be give generous and unconditional support for as long as they need it, with the assurance that when they feel able to do any type of work, a job can be tailor made to suit them.
  3. Our economy is far too reliant on the finance sector and the very wealthy extracting money from the economy through unproductive investments like property. Labour should pledge to put a stop to this by increasing taxation significantly on those unproductive areas of the economy, while reducing tax on productive investments which have a positive impact on the economy.

Those are just three areas then, a fair immigration system, focus on employment guarantees rather than traditional social security, and – as Keynes might say – on euthanising the rentiers. I don’t see much prospect of any of these things becoming Labour policy, but all those 3 areas would have popular appeal in my view. What other areas could they focus on?

Is there anything worse than a President Trump?

Donald Trump’s presidential bid is still being treated with a mixture of scorn and fear over here, while in the States he is currently winning the Republican race for their nomination, while liberal American looks on in terror and the Republican establishment still can’t quite believe their eyes.

I have grown mildly addicted to the nomination race on the Republican side, and while it’s true Trump has said some controversial things during the campaign, he has also made it one of the most fascinating contests I can remember. A lot of people on the left seem to tremble at the thought of Trump winning the nomination, and celebrated when he lost the Iowa Caucus, but if we look at Trump’s competition, it seems to me he is by far the best candidate on the Republican side. Here’s who he’s up against:

Ted Cruz

With the style of a quack televangelist, Cruz is a gigantic arsehole. Everyone who knows him well seems to despise him. Cruz was accused of some seriously shady practices in Iowa, including telling voters one of his rival candidates was dropping out, and sending other voters mail saying they had committed a “voter violation” and would be in trouble of they did not vote. Cruz is also the most right wing candidate in the race. If you are worried by Trump winning, you should be terrified at the prospect of a Cruz win (but don’t worry he won’t).

My rating: 0/10

Marco Rubio

Youthful looking and somewhat charismatic, Rubio is one of the Republican establishments main picks along with Jeb(!) Bush. That is to say he is bought and paid for by big business. If Rubio wins there will be a continuation of the status quo. Rubio had some momentum after the Iowa Caucus where he came third but his debate performance on the eve of the New Hampshire Primary killed that momentum dead. The higher ups of the Republican Party still haven’t given up on Marco though, so he is probably second favourite at the moment. This clip from the New Hampshire debate is a joy to watch. He is now known by many as Marco Roboto.

My rating 3/10

 

Jeb(!) Bush

Another establishment favourite, but who seems to be losing big at the moment. Bush started his campaign wanting to distance himself from his brother’s legacy, and so all his posters said Jeb! rather than Jeb Bush. That didn’t seem to work so he’s recently taken his Mum and brother out on the campaign trail with him (reminds me a bit of Jacob Rees Mogg and his nanny). Also bought and paid for, Bush has been given a tough time by Donald Trump. He spent $36 million on his campaign in New Hampshire only to come a distant 4th.

My rating 3/10

Ben Carson

Dr Ben Carson is a brain surgeon of some repute. By all accounts he is a good man. Sometimes says some odd things. Can’t win and will almost certainly drop out after the South Carolina Primary on Saturday.

My rating 4/10

John Kasich

Current governor of Ohio. Likely to go back to his day job shortly. Labelled the ‘moderate’ of the contest. Kasich came second in New Hampshire, but won’t go much further.

My rating 5/10

There are only 4 people who could feasibly win the Republican nomination at this point (and 2 of them have little chance). Trump, Rubio, Cruz and Bush. Ultimately, it will probably come down to Rubio vs Trump. To me, Trump would be preferable to all of those. I would even prefer him to win the Presidency than Hillary Clinton who seems to me hopelessly compromised. A Trump vs Bernie Sanders race would be interesting, but I can’t see Hillary losing to Bernie at this point. The Democrats just wouldn’t allow it.

If you look beyond the lurid headlines about Trump, he seems to me to be the best candidate bar Sanders. To me, a Cruz, Clinton, or Bush (again!) presidency would be a much more scary prospect.