Saturday 31 January 2015
Completely unreported in the British media (and almost everywhere else) is an longstanding confrontation between the governments of Afghanistan and Norway over the expulsion of Afghan asylum seekers (including women and unaccompanied children).
Not only has Afghanistan warned Norway that forcibly returning expulsion of the Afghan refugees will have serious consequences on bilateral relations and cooperation between the two nations, it is also saying that it is no longer prepared to accept forced returns.
A statement from the Afghani Ministry of Foreign affairs further adds "that Afghanistan is a dangerous place to be, the country has huge economic problems, and there is a lack of shelter, jobs and education". The Afghan authorities thus insisted that the return of the Afghan refugees must be voluntary, referring to an agreement between the two nations on repatriation.
This is entirely confirmed by the Norwegian language newspaper Bergens Tildende, which has a copy of the Afghan statement and a full account of the protest, complete with an update from today.
However, no one with any understanding of the wider issues could fail to be struck by the irony of the Norwegian action, in seeking to reduce the large number Afghan refugees who have migrated to Norway and sought to set up home there.
Specifically, it was the Norwegian government back in August 2001 which took such an active part in trying to get the Australian government to accept 438 Afghan refugees who had been picked up by the Norwegian cargo ship, the MV Tampa off Christmas Island to the north-west of the Australian coast.
The Master of the Tampa, Captain Arne Rinnan, had been responding to an emergency message from the Rescue Co-ordination Centre Australia, and had been guided by an Australian Customs aircraft to the 20 metre wooden fishing boat, the Palapa 1, which was carrying the refugees.
But, much to his consternation, when he sought to offload his human cargo on the Australian-owned Christmas Island, the Australian authorities refused him permission to enter Australian waters.
When, after declaring a state of emergency, he defied his instructions, the Australians landed an armed SAS team on board, which sought to force him to leave, the government insisting that no asylum seeker on board the Tampa would set foot on Australian soil.
The ensuring crisis was finally resolved through the intervention of the Australian High Court, and the assistance of Papua New Guinea, and then the island nation of Nauru and New Zealand, with the participation of the Norwegian government, which had lobbied the Australians to allow the Afghans to disembark and be processed as refugees.
The whole affair raised serious questions as to the interpretation and adequacy of international law, many of which remain unresolved. But the one thing the so-called "Tampa affair" did do was trigger the adoption of a new Australian strategy for dealing with what were known as Irregular Maritime Arrivals. This became the "Pacific Solution", defined by then Prime Minister John Howard in terms of him "asserting the right of this country to decide who comes here".
The overt aim of the "Pacific Solution" was to deter future asylum seekers from making the dangerous journey to Australia by boat, on the premise that once would-be asylum-seekers they knew that their trip would probably not end with a legitimate claim for asylum in Australia, there would be dissuaded from attempting to gain entry by this means.
The essence of the policy was to intercept asylum seekers them at sea and convey them to detention centres in the territories of third countries, specifically in the island nation of Nauru and Manus Island, Papua New Guinea.
Those who then qualified as refugees were offered protection in the territories in which they had been deposited or, in a limited number of cases, resettlement in countries throughout the world, including those in Europe and in the United States. Failed asylum seekers were returned to their countries of origin, or detained indefinitely on the islands.
What has been quietly forgotten, though, is that the elements of this policy were promoted by Tony Blair in March 2003, on the basis of a concept paper produced by the Home Office entitled
: "New International Approaches to Asylum Processing and Protection".
Asylum seekers would be sent to "regional protection zones" outside the EU and held in "transit processing centres" while their applications were considered. The centres could be in Russia, the Ukraine or another eastern European country. Albania had also been considered. In the longer term
, the Government foresaw the establishment of UN safe havens that would offer protection to refugees in regions close to the main areas of global conflict.
Speaking later, Blair observed
that the nature and volume of asylum claims to the UK had changed radically, and the 1951 UN Convention on Refugees had started to show its age.
However, to cut a long story short, the idea was given a lukewarm response by the EU, although it was later picked up by Germany
, with the support of Italy, for discussion at EU level. Unfortunately, it was blocked
first by Spanish Interior Minister Jose Antonio Alonso, of Melilla and Ceuta fame
, on "humanitarian" grounds, and then
by France's Dominique de Villepin.
Effectively dead in the water, it was nevertheless resuscitated
by the then Conservative leader, Michael Howard, who put immigration and asylum at the heart of the 2005 general election campaign.
What made the plan very different is that Michael Howard, unlike the Australians and Tony Blair, recognised that this could not be done within the framework of the 1951 UN Refugee Convention, and promised that a new Conservative government would withdraw from it.
With rhetoric remarkably similar to that used by the Australian prime minister four years before (also during an election campaign), Howard declared: "What we ultimately want to do is to say that no one should apply for asylum in Britain. After all, if you think about it, you can only apply for asylum in Britain today if you've entered the country illegally or by deception. It's an invitation to people to break the law".
A future Tory government, he said
, would only take genuine refugees via the UNHCR, at a rate of 15,000 people a year. "Then", he said, "we really would be giving sanctuary to those who are fleeing persecution and torture and not those who simply have enough money to pay the people smugglers".
Interestingly, of the Blair version of the plan, Amnesty International had observed
that it clearly represented an attempt to circumvent important domestic and international legal instruments, including the Refugee Convention. It also contravened the intent and purpose of the right to seek and enjoy asylum set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Bizarrely, though, when it came to the Howard plan, Blair himself condemned it
– even though it was a version of his own. It was, he said, "incoherent babble". The idea of sending asylum seekers to regional processing centres was a "fantasy island" policy.
It was left to Howard to defend the plan
. "I'm interested in doing the right thing for the people of this country", he said. "I believe that we have to bring immigration under control, we have to limit the circumstances that people apply for asylum in this country".
But, within a month of winning the general election, the new Blair government had formally abandoned the plan
, which was actually still on the table after Blair had proposed it. This left the UK government processing a growing number of refugees, while trying desperately and failing to find homes for an increasingly larger number of failed asylum seekers, eventually having to allow them to stay – exactly the problem the Norwegians are now confronting.
As for the Australians, after abandoning their "Pacific Solution" in 2008, the Abbott government launched something very similar under the title
Operation Sovereign Borders.
Of dubious legality, if it does not actually contravene the 1951 Convention, it drives a cart and horse through the spirit of the thing, making out the Australians to be the ultimate hypocrites as they pretend to be functioning members of the international community while effectively ignoring international conventions – as indeed they did in the "Tampa affair".
At least our own Michael Howard had the intellectual coherence and the honesty to recognise that a large part of the problem was the UN Convention, one that even Blair conceded was "showing its age". To be consistent, if the Australians are to continue their policy, they should at least do the decent thing and withdraw from it, as indeed we must.
How utterly bizarre can you get, then, when UKIP, in offering 100 reasons to vote
for it, has for its 76th item: "Protecting genuine refugees by returning to the UN Convention of Refugees principles".
When the Convention is actually part of the problem, and both Conservatives and Labour have pointed to the need to resolve its limitations, and the Australians effectively have to ignore it in order to construct a halfway effective policy, only amateurs such as Ukip could stand up and support it.
Strangely, though, the party does not seem to support the Australian asylum policy – but then, if it did, it would be trailing in the wake of the Conservative Michael Howard. and that would never do.
Friday 30 January 2015
When the Pegida "walks" started in Dresden, I immediately though that they could have considerable repercussions on the body politic in Germany. Such demonstrations have bad vibes, in the Fatherland, and even now – or especially now – memories are too raw for such events to be ignored.
But if the creation of Pegida was important, I suppose its spectacular collapse is equally so, if only because, if it goes away, the German political leaders can breathe a sigh of relief and forget about whatever concessions they were going to have to offer the mob.
Pegida's "disintegration" – as the Independent puts it - began just over a week ago after the movement’s 42-year-old leader Lutz Bachmann was forced to resign following the publication of photographs from his Facebook page.
They showed him wearing a toothbrush moustache, posing as Adolf Hitler. "He's back", read an accompanying caption. Mr Bachmann, a trained cook with convictions for drink-driving and causing bodily harm, was also found to have used racist language on Facebook. He described asylum seekers and foreign immigrants as "cattle", "riff raff", "a pack of dirt" and concluded: "There is no such thing as real war refugees".
That was always going to be disastrous for this infant movement, and indeed it has been – more so that five of its leading members have resigned in disgust, fearing it was being hijacked by the extreme right. They have announced plans to set up a more moderate rival "direct democracy" protest group
Now this is where it gets interesting, if some sort of comparison with the British situation can be allowed, and is relevant. If we suggest that BNP was too "raw" for most people's tastes, and position Ukip as a BNP-lite that is just sufficiently house trained to allow closet racists to support it, then we can posit that Pegida is the BNP equivalent – or was about to become so.
As for the Ukip equivalent, we've seen AfD sniffing round the edges of the Pegida movement, but it's never really committed itself to supporting it. But if the bulk of Pegida is to slough off to become a more moderate group, perhaps that is the opportunity for AfD to link up, to create a genuine mass movement – one that is just about "moderate" enough for Germans to support.
The five ex-Pegida leaders are saying that they want to re-group and re-form, and then, they say: "We want to fight for our objectives such as more direct democracy at a federal level", declaring that their new organisation would be named Movement for Direct Democracy in Europe.
AfD has one of its senior leaders saying that he opposed joining forces with Pegida, and it is likely to decide on its future relations with the movement at a party conference in Bremen this weekend. But at that conference, it could decide – in principle at least – to entertain relations with the "Pegida-lite", ready to exploit the opportunities for enlarging its membership that an association could create.
Germany's main parties, we are told, were scarcely able to conceal their delight at the prospect of Pegida's total implosion, but they may live to rue the day. If the movement has deeply worried mainstream politicians, with many MPs at odds over how best to respond to such a spontaneous grassroots, yet xenophobic organisation, then a "Pegida-lite" should worry them even more.
A serious opposition to the stultifying conformism of German politics could galvanise not only Germany, but the whole of Europe, paving the way for a centre-right grouping that could drive the left back into the hole where it belongs.
But there is another possibility – that Pegida confounds its critics, growing in strength without diluting its message. In that case, we're in serious trouble … or Germany is. Either way, that is not something we can feel relaxed about.
Thursday 29 January 2015
There was a time once when senior political figures said things and I listened, purely on the assumption that they must be better informed, more experienced, and with better contacts and understanding.
Like the plan that falls apart with first contact with the enemy, my deference to "senior political figures" survived for as long as it took for me to meet some of them, when the residual question became one of how these people manage to function on the incredibly low level of knowledge and understanding that they actually possessed.
Very much falling into that category is former Swedish prime minister, Carl Bildt, currently lauded by the Guardian for his supposed insight into the fate of Mr Cameron's treaty change in the wake of the Syriza victory in the Greek election.
According to the Guardian-appointed sage, this victory deals a "severe blow" to Cameron's hopes, the man "warning" us that the appetite for treaty change in the EU has diminished since the election. "Treaty change will be very difficult", he thus tells us.
No one in the business, though, was ever under the impression that there was any appetite for treaty change. In fact, two years ago almost to the day, we were writing of the lack of enthusiasm for a new treaty, and in this respect nothing much has changed in the intervening period.
What has changed, of course, is Cameron's tactical approach, in that he is most likely preparing to avail himself of the "simplified procedure" afforded by Article 48, but such subtlety is a closed book to the Guardian And Mr Bildt. But then, is an ex prime minister, and these sort of people know very little indeed.
However, Bildt has clearly has failed to update himself on the Lisbon Treaty changes (even though he signed up to them), and he is thus working under the impression that, if the treaty process is opened up, the new Greek prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, will be able to use this as a chance to press for changes to the rules governing the single currency.
Under the Art. 48 procedure, of course, only Part III (TFEU) issues can be amended, and that does not include single currency. The euro is safe from any interference by Mr Tsipras and his pals.
What enables Bildt to spread his ignorance, though, is prestige. Endowed with this commodity, he can deliver any amount of tosh to the Guardian, not because it is right, or because the man has any insights worth having, but simply because his prestige carries the day.
Earlier, the man was talking a similar level of tosh at an event organised by the Europhile British Influence at the Royal United Services Institute. There, he was also in a cautionary mood, telling us that the EU and Britain would be diminished if the UK left the EU.
"The weight of the EU on the global stage will diminish but the weight of the UK would diminish even more because the UK is important as a significant actor inside the EU", he said. "Ask Washington. They would go to Brussels, Berlin, Paris. Americans would still change aircraft at Heathrow but that would be about it. I am exaggerating slightly. But there would be a risk of that".
Frankly, US officials are these days more likely to be en route to Geneva or Basel, than Brussels, because that increasingly is where the action is. But the "little European" in Bildt wouldn't be aware of that. His horizon stops at Brussels.
At least, though, he recognises that negotiating a divorce would be "cumbersome but doable", but then we get the usual tedious drivel from a man who fails to step outside the intellectual boundaries set for him.
Those who believe the UK could negotiate a relationship with the EU along the lines of Norway and Switzerland, he says, "would turn the UK into a satellite of the EU". Norway has tariff-free access to the EU's single market as a member of the European Economic Area (EEA). But it has to abide by EU regulations related to the single market "over which Norway has no voting rights".
So he drivels on, pouring out the same derivative tosh that we've heard so many times before. "If you want to be part of the single market [but not in the EU] you would have to enter what is de facto a satellite relationship with Brussels without any influence on the decision making".
Not in the least understanding how the world has changed, and how the Norwegians have it sussed, he then bleats about whether this would this be acceptable to the UK parliament, surmising that we would then have to leave the single market.
"The single market is dependent on the common decision making of the rules of the single market. It is defined by the single rules. Those are decided by the Brussels procedures", he says. "If you want to be part of the market and outside of Brussels then you end up with a huge democratic deficit".
These people are so out of date now that it is a pleasure to see them try it on yet again, as if they had any chance of winning the argument. But we do perceive a slight change, in that he is admitting that we can leave the EU and stay in the single market, so there is some process.
As to who makes the rules, as we know, it isn't Brussels. We need to be "outside of Brussels" to resume our place at the top table, and the likes of Mr Bildt haven't even realised it yet.
Why should we defer to these people? They are the epitome of ignorance.
Wednesday 28 January 2015
A gruelling day spent working on the UK's asylum policy took me to one o'clock this morning, with no overnight blog post written. I was minded to develop the post by the Compleat Bastard, as he raises some interesting points about Ukip that are not being properly explored elsewhere.
At least, when we do write on this subject, some of the more asinine comments seem to have been muted, as our output on Ukip is only a tiny fraction of that produced by the legacy media. At one point over the weekend, the Telegraph had no less than six reports about the party on its website, with hundreds more accessible from other media outlets.
Where much of the commentary goes wrong, though, is in the assumption that Ukip is a political party in the conventional sense, and can thus be assumed to be structured and behave in the same way as any other party. This is where piece citing Rob Ford, profiled by Bastard, goes wrong.
From a position of profound ignorance, Ford is speculating on the possible fate of Ukip when Farage steps down. "Everyone in the party recognises Farage's authority and defers to it. It's not clear yet whether there's another figure who could do that. Without Farage we'd likely see an awful lot more arguments out in the open", Ford says.
Blundering further into the brush, Ford then tells us that the Ukip leader has been trying to build up his top team, so one day, they may have the profile to fill the void. "Farage wants there to be a clearly identified second tier who people have heard of", Ford adds.
Actually, it is the shambling oaf Godfrey Bloom who has at least the advantage of having known Farage personally, and thus gets closer to the reality than Ford, the "political scientists". "Unlike his public persona", Bloom says, "he is very impressionable, defensive about his lack of traditional education and, believe it or not, racked with self doubt. I think this accounts for his reluctance to surround himself with alpha males".
And then in a diagnosis that I recognise as very close to the truth, he says: "There are no alpha males left in Ukip, Nigel has left all the alpha males. they're all beta, some of them very charming, but they are beta males, Nigel is very uncomfortable [with anyone] who can take the spotlight or even the intellectual or moral high ground".
It is not so much the "alpha male" that Farage has dispensed with though, as all those to whom he feels intellectually inferior. Farage the boozer embraces "alpha males" – as long as they are prepared to subordinate themselves to him – as welcome drinking pals. What he can't cope with is intellectual competition.
Thus, Ukip as an organisation has never acquired the intellectual core that turns it into a properly-founded political party which transcends its founders. Whatever founding principles it might have had when Sked started the party have long gone, and there has been nothing to replace them.
That makes Ukip not so much a political party as Farage's "gang". And when the gang leader falls, the battle for succession will start. But without a binding philosophy, this will quickly deteriorate into gang warfare, as rival factions make their bid for the spoils. The outcome will be splinter groups forming, probably spawning yet more political parties, as we saw when Kilroy-Silk quit Ukip.
So there we have it. That's the basis of the post I intended to write, but I'm too tired to develop the theme. Basically, when Farage goes, the likelihood is that Ukip will fall apart. But, by then, we'll be fighting a referendum.
What job Ukip was set up to achieve will have been done, and we will not need it any more, so it doesn't really matter. Perhaps I won't bother writing that post.
Tuesday 27 January 2015
We saw this in October last year when, after years of campaigning by Ukip, we saw the support for remaining in the EU surge to a 23-year high.
This introduced the so called "Ukip paradox", where, as support for Ukip rose, enthusiasm for leaving the EU waned. And now, apparently, we see it again with support for staying in the EU increasing despite the "growing popularity of Ukip.
Actually, I don't think there is a "Ukip paradox". With virtually every opinion poll (apart from Survation) showing Ukip losing ground, it looks more like support for Ukip and antagonism towards the EU are independent variables.
Increasingly, those who support Ukip are not primarily motivated by their dislike of the EU, while the majority of those who wish to see us leave the EU most certainly do not support Ukip.
Nevertheless, there is a great deal to be concerned about in this current poll from YouGov – even if it is commissioned by the pro-EU British Influence group.
It finds that 43 percent of people would vote to stay in the EU in a referendum, while 38 percent would vote to leave. The tables have turned since a year ago, when 46 percent said they would vote to withdraw and 36 percent to remain.
The poll also confirmed the dynamic with which we have become familiar. If David Cameron negotiates and recommends a new EU deal for Britain, the number wanting to stay in the EU rises to 57 percent, while only 21 percent would support withdrawal.
Given, as we suspect, that Mr Cameron will go for the Article 48 "simplified procedure", and come back with a package of modest treaty changed, bolstered with political declarations and legislative commitments from Brussels, he could be well-placed to deliver a superficially convincing "reform" deal and romp home with a convincing referendum win.
In these circumstances, Farage's willingness to support a Tory-led coalition if David Cameron promises an immediate referendum, has to be considered high-end stupidity, as there is no way we could win a referendum under those terms.
Within the time frame of what is practicable (not least getting a referendum Act through Parliament), Mr Cameron could bring back his "package", leaving us ill-placed to fight the campaign, which we would then almost certainly lose.
But then, this is the man who has never supported the idea of producing a coherent exit plan, and is nowhere near delivering one. Consistently, he has under-estimated the difficulties in preparing our departure, allowing diverse party members to make damaging and incoherent statements which can only make it more difficult to win a referendum.
Only by Herculean effort, on the basis of a 2017 referendum, could we stand a chance of winning, and that will only be if Ukip can be persuaded to keep away from the campaign, where it is more likely to do harm than good.
Fortunately, it is unlikely that Mr Cameron would ever accede to an early referendum, and it is also unlikely that he will need Mr Farage's help in forming a coalition government.
Smart money is beginning to suggest that Ukip will be lucky to end up with one Westminster seat after the election while Mr Cameron, up against Miliband, will cruise to a narrow victory, as voters find they cannot bring themselves to accept the opposition leader as a credible prime minister.
With Ukip also delivering never-ending train-wrecks and holding out for a joke manifesto which will be torn to shreds the moment it pokes its head over the skyline, Mr Cameron must already be planning the next make-over for the Downing Street flat.
Monday 26 January 2015
"Bashir represents everything Ukip stands for", wrote Raheen Kassam last year. That he has now played both Mr Farage and Mr Cameron suggests that Kassam was possibly right – unprincipled, opportunistic and self-centred. Small wonder that Ukip is now munching on sour grapes, as it confronts the loss of one of its star MEPs.
Another person not doing so well out of this, though, is Dan Hannan. Apparently, he was the man who brokered the deal that got Bashir his place in the sun, the Conservatives having taken young Hannan's assurances that the man was kosher – so to speak.
Nevertheless, while the Tories have Hannan's egg on their faces, even Dellers is lamenting UKIP's behaviour on this. He states that if: "a Pakistani Muslim Bashir was given special treatment and that a blind eye was deliberately turned to his flaws, then this really is dispiriting". First, says Dellers, it sits ill with what many rank-and-file members would like to believe of UKIP: that it is a party which believes in meritocracy and shuns politicking and sleaze.
Second, it's an opportunity missed. UKIP needs its ethnic minority candidates, of that there's little doubt and every effort should be made to reach out and recruit them. But unless they're any good, there really is no point – as the Conservatives discovered with Baroness "never buy the first pony you see" Warsi, and as they're about to discover yet again with the dismal Amjad Bashir.
Actually, we've been there before. In the 2001 general election, we put up an Asian candidate by the name of Imran Hussain, but only after we had gone to enormous lengths to consult the community and check him out.
There was nothing to discover, then. But leave it to the current bunch of amateurs, and anything goes. Their propensity to create train wrecks is never-ending. And, in that sense, Bashir does represent everything Ukip stands for.
Monday 26 January 2015
Last time, we followed the last Greek crisis, blow-by-blow, in the expectation of a rebellion against the EU. It didn't happen.
But now there is the promise of great things. Under the title of a "turning point for the EU?", the BBC tells us, on Klathmonos Square, the flags were flying high, supporters of Syriza were singing and dancing, there were hugs and tears and broad beaming smiles.
This, we are further informed, was an extraordinary victory for the radical left in Greece - probably beyond its own expectations. Alexis Tsipras will now try to lead an anti-austerity revolution, backed by a strong democratic mandate.
He said in his victory speech that he is willing to negotiate with Greece's European partners. But the question is: how much are they prepared to compromise with him?
Syriza wants to reverse cuts in public services and increase salaries and pensions again. It wants to write off a large chunk of Greece's huge public debt, most of which it now owes to other governments in the eurozone. This is the Greek rebellion against austerity.
Mr Cameron thinks it will increase economic uncertainty, and the Spanish leftists are saying "we're next!".
But I have my doubts about whether anything substantial will come of this. Greece is a small country, on the fringes of the Empire with a small population (less than 11 million) and a tiny GDP, under $250 billion – about 1.5 percent of the eurozone.
In brute terms, the amount of damage it can do to rest of the eurozone economy is slight, while its own economy is fragile and highly sensitive to external shocks.
My guess, therefore, is that we will see from the new Greek government some ritual chest beating and some scare headlines from the pundits, followed by a few minor concessions from the "colleagues" and some none-too-subtle waving of the big stick.
Then the Greeks will knuckle under like they always do, and some sort of stability will be restored, with limited disruption to the EU as a whole. For the one thing the last crisis taught us is that the eurozone is far more resilient than pundits would have us believe, with no interest in the global community in bringing it down.
The one thing the "colleagues" can't afford to do is submit to blackmail so, if necessary, Greece will be driven to the wall, pour encourager les autres. It will not be allowed to pull down the euro – no one sensible wants that, and no one could welcome the chaos that would ensue.
Sunday 25 January 2015
"I have decided to leave Ukip because it has become a vanity project for Nigel Farage and because many of the criticisms made of the party are true", says Amjad Bashir. And after having defected to the Tories, he tells the Sunday Telegraph that Ukip had become a "party of ruthless self-interest", was "pretty amateur" and had a "ridiculous" lack of policies.
He says: "After almost three years as a party member, I realise that Ukip is more concerned with furthering its own interests as a political party than delivering for the British people. I've seen Ukip both at home and abroad, and I'm sorry to say they're pretty amateur. In the European parliament, some of their MEPs think it's acceptable to shout and fool around".
"They think they'll sweep up dozens of seats in May, but that's delusional. What they are in very real danger of doing, however, is making a big enough dent in the Conservative vote to let Labour in".
And then from Mr Bashir, we get the view that "Mr Farage wants to use Ukip as a means for getting power for himself, and that is not what the party was set up to achieve". Bashir goes on to say: "He has created a populist image for himself as the jolly chap at the bar with a pint in his hand, but the reality is different. He runs the party like a dictator, employs people who are totally inappropriate for party positions and gets rid of anybody who stands in his way".
This we have heard so many times, from so many sources, and here it is again. Presumably, this is "sour grapes" on the part of Mr Bashir. But then, after Ukip got wind of his defection, it decided that their MEP was a bad'un and the Tories are welcome to him.
Either way, it's a lose-lose for the cultists. If he's as bad as they make out, he should never have got anywhere near the MEP short-list. But then, he was Farage's protégé, needed as a token Asian to "prove" the party's race-free credentials, so it's down to The Great Leader once again.
But, if Bashir is clean, then this is a coup for Cameron, and Farage is on the back foot as the twittersphere goes into orbit. Then, of course, Bashir could end up proving a liability for everybody - even if he's right about Ukip. The points about amateurism and the "ridiculous" lack of policies smacks of the truth, irrespective of the source they come from.
They are augmented by comments from Matthew Richardson, party secretary, who blithely informs us that Britain has "hundreds of thousands of bigots" and Ukip is proud to stand up for them - then dismissing claims that Ukip candidates with bigoted views would alienate voters. He boasts that "the party will speak up for those with hard line views".
This is the man who, in a speech to a Conservative political conference in Washington in 2010 declared: "The biggest waste of money of course in the United Kingdom is the NHS, the National Health Service".
Then, at a Young America's Foundation meeting the same year he denounced "wasteful socialist programmes" and said: "At the heart of this, the Reichstag bunker of socialism is the National Health Service". Richardson added: "People as a result of privatisation ... of the NHS will do better. That's a battle that we have to win the hearts and minds of people".
So far, then, we have a party which is not only fooling itself but determined to squander political capital on an unwinnable battle, neglecting the core issue of leaving the EU. It comes unprepared to the referendum, with a reputation for wanting to privatise the NHS. If there was a better way of losing ground, I would really like to know what it was.
And that is on top of the Now Show on Friday, BBC Radio 4, which ran the stirring Ukip anthem, "We're making it up, we're making it up as we go along!". The message is getting through - it's been a long time coming, but it's finally getting through.
Sunday 25 January 2015
Although it has been emerging for seven years or more, one of the most extraordinary scandals of our time has never hit the headlines, writes Booker.
Yet another little example of it lately caught his eye when, in the wake of those excited claims that 2014 was "the hottest year on record", he saw the headline on a climate blog: "Massive tampering with temperatures in South America". The evidence on Notalotofpeopleknowthat, uncovered by Paul Homewood, was indeed striking.
Puzzled by those "2014 hottest ever" claims, which were led by the most quoted of all the five official global temperature records – Nasa's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (Giss) – Homewood examined a place in the world where Giss was showing temperatures to have risen faster than almost anywhere else: a large chunk of South America stretching from Brazil to Paraguay.
Noting that weather stations there were thin on the ground, he decided to focus on three rural stations covering a huge area of Paraguay. Giss showed it as having recorded, between 1950 and 2014, a particularly steep temperature rise of more than 1.5ºC: twice the accepted global increase for the whole of the 20th century.
But when Homewood was then able to check Giss's figures against the original data from which they were derived, he found that they had been altered. Far from the new graph showing any rise, it showed temperatures in fact having declined over those 65 years by a full degree. When he did the same for the other two stations, he found the same. In each case, the original data showed not a rise but a decline.
Homewood had in fact uncovered yet another example of the thousands of pieces of evidence coming to light in recent years that show that something very odd has been going on with the temperature data relied on by the world's scientists. And in particular by the IPCC, which has driven the greatest and most costly scare in history: the belief that the world is in the grip of an unprecedented warming.
How have we come to be told that global temperatures have suddenly taken a great leap upwards to their highest level in 1,000 years? In fact, it has been no greater than their upward leaps between 1860 and 1880, and 1910 and 1940, as part of that gradual natural warming since the world emerged from its centuries-long "Little Ice Age" around 200 years ago.
This belief has rested entirely on five official data records. Three of these are based on measurements taken on the Earth's surface, versions of which are then compiled by Giss, by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and by the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit working with the Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction, part of the UK Met Office.
The other two records are derived from measurements made by satellites, and then compiled by Remote Sensing Systems (RSS) in California and the University of Alabama, Huntsville (UAH).
In recent years, these two very different ways of measuring global temperature have increasingly been showing quite different results. The surface-based record has shown a temperature trend rising up to 2014 as "the hottest years since records began". RSS and UAH have, meanwhile, for 18 years been recording no rise in the trend, with 2014 ranking as low as only the sixth warmest since 1997.
One surprise is that the three surface records, all run by passionate believers in man-made warming, in fact derive most of their land surface data from a single source. This is the Global Historical Climate Network (GHCN), managed by the US National Climate Data Center under NOAA, which in turn comes under the US Department of Commerce.
But two aspects of this system for measuring surface temperatures have long been worrying a growing array of statisticians, meteorologists and expert science bloggers. One is that the supposedly worldwide network of stations from which GHCN draws its data is flawed.
Up to 80 percent or more of the Earth's surface is not reliably covered at all. Furthermore, around 1990, the number of stations more than halved, from 12,000 to less than 6,000 – and most of those remaining are concentrated in urban areas or places where studies have shown that, thanks to the "urban heat island effect", readings can be up to two degrees higher than in those rural areas where thousands of stations were lost.
To fill in the huge gaps, those compiling the records have resorted to computerised "infilling" or "homogenising", whereby the higher temperatures recorded by the remaining stations are projected out to vast surrounding areas (Giss allows single stations to give a reading covering 1.6 million square miles). This alone contributed to the sharp temperature rise shown in the years after 1990.
But still more worrying has been the evidence that even this data has then been subjected to continual "adjustments", invariably in only one direction. Earlier temperatures are adjusted downwards, more recent temperatures upwards, thus giving the impression that they have risen much more sharply than was shown by the original data.
An early glaring instance of this was spotted by Steve McIntyre, the statistician who exposed the computer trickery behind that famous "hockey stick" graph, beloved by the IPCC, which purported to show that, contrary to previous evidence, 1998 had been the hottest year for 1,000 years.
It was McIntyre who, in 2007, uncovered the wholesale retrospective adjustments made to US surface records between 1920 and 1999 compiled by Giss (then run by the outspoken climate activist James Hansen). These reversed an overall cooling trend into an 80-year upward trend. Even Hansen had previously accepted that the "dust bowl" 1930s was the hottest US decade of the entire 20th century.
Assiduous researchers have since unearthed countless similar examples across the world, from the US and Russia to Australia and New Zealand. In Australia, an 80-year cooling of one degree per century was turned into a warming trend of 2.3 degrees.
In New Zealand, there was a major academic row when "unadjusted" data showing no trend between 1850 and 1998 was shown to have been "adjusted" to give a warming trend of 0.9 degrees per century. This falsified new version was naturally cited in an IPCC report.
By far the most comprehensive account of this wholesale corruption of proper science is a paper written for the Science and Public Policy Institute, " Surface Temperature Records: Policy-Driven Deception?", by two veteran US meteorologists, Joseph D'Aleo and WUWT's Anthony Watts.
One of the more provocative points arising from the debate over those claims that 2014 was "the hottest year evah" came from the Canadian academic Dr Timothy Ball when, in a recent post on WUWT, he used the evidence of ice-core data to argue that the Earth's recent temperatures rank in the lowest three percent of all those recorded since the end of the last ice age, 10,000 years ago.
In reality, the implications of such distortions of the data go much further than just representing one of the most bizarre aberrations in the history of science. The fact that our politicians have fallen for all this scary chicanery has given Britain the most suicidally crazy energy policy (useless windmills and all) of any country in the world.
But at least, if they're hoping to see that "universal climate treaty" signed in Paris next December, we can be pretty sure that it is no more going to happen than that 2014 was the hottest year in history.
Saturday 24 January 2015
Both the Guardian and the Mail are running prominent stories about collusion between Blair's government and Libya's Colonel Gaddafi, based on access to documents captured after the dictator's overthrow.
In particular, both papers are featuring Blair's "fawning letter" on official Downing Street-headed paper, dated 26 April 2007. In it, the former prime minister apologises for failing to send the tyrant's enemies back to Libya to face torture. Blair expressed then himself "very disappointed" that Britain's courts had blocked the deportation of five Libyan dissidents amid fears they would be mistreated.
On the basis of the court's decision, on 27 April, the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) blocked the deportation, saying a Memorandum of Understanding signed by Britain and Libya to safeguard the protection of returning dissidents was worthless.
Gaddafi, it said, was "unpredictable" and would ignore it. The Commission also expressed concern that a so-called independent board set up to monitor deportees' treatment was to be run by Gaddafi's son Saif and, therefore, there was a "real risk" of them being ill-treated, including being beaten, hung from hooks on the wall, shackled and given electric shocks.
The intriguing thing about this, though, is that Blair seems to have been blocked by the Human Rights Act 1998, which his own government introduced, giving force to the European Convention on Human Rights.
Arguably, there are few people who would have supported a clear breach of an international agreement, to the extent that our government knowingly deported political dissidents to a country where they faced almost certain torture and possibly death.
But in this case, it would seem that the only barrier preventing that had been the Human Rights Act, which Mr Cameron has promised to repeal, and many campaigners are keen to see removed, in order to prevent the courts interfering with the sovereign rights of our elected government.
And therein lies a troubling conundrum. If we cannot trust our own government to refrain from perpetrating obvious human rights abuses, then we need a "higher power" with the ability to intervene, to block such actions.
Thus, repealing the Human Rights Act – and pulling out of the European Convention on Human Rights – could prove a dangerous move, if the result is a prime minister (and his executive) with untrammelled power. It seems to me that we would still need a powerful, independent judicial system to protect us from abuse.
And when the court system fails – as it so often does – what then? At the moment, we have the longstop of the court in Strasbourg. And if we repudiate that, what do we replace it with? Elections are not sufficient protection - Blair was an elected prime minister.
Methinks, we would need our own, written constitution, and our own Supreme Court to enforce it. And that, at the moment, is not on the cards, making the idea of dumping the HRA akin to leaping from the frying pan into the fire. Whether elected or not, there must be a limit to executive power and a means to enforce that limit.