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 Brexit: the march of the obsessives

 Wednesday 23 April 2014

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Yesterday, the lead news on most of the legacy media was about the sacking of a football club manager, marking probably a new low in the trivialisation of the media agenda. There is no way that I will accept that this item was more important than any other event, anywhere in the world.

For some though, the second item was UKIP, with its "racist posters", branded by one commentator as "worse than the BNP" but, in other respects lacking even the conviction and intellectual honesty of BNP.

In that vein, the glaring omission in the UKIP portfolio remains any serious (or any) attempt to chart our way out of the EU, leaving the only comment of the day to Lord Lawson, with the vacuous observation that leaving the EU "will allow Britain to win back the self-confidence it lost after Margaret Thatcher quit as Prime Minister".

What is so empty about this claim is that it portrays the exact reversal of the reality. In effect it is only when Britain regains its self-confidence will it have the determination to chart the complex and arduous task of withdrawing from the EU.

But then, this was the man who presided over the shambles of the rigged IEA "Brexit prize", which manifestly failed to deliver a workable or even halfway credible plan. That, perhaps illustrates precisely the problem, in that the establishment is not yet ready to entertain a serious exit plan and is content instead to play fantasy politics.

The greater irony is that UKIP, supposedly dedicated to withdrawal from the EU, has also failed to step up to the plate. But, while some of my regular ex-readers would accuse me of "obsessing" about UKIP's lacklustre performance, they fail to understand that my real obsession is with the preparation of a credible plan.

Having been working flat out, I was able to post version 05 late yesterday, some 6,000 words longer than my original IEA submission, with version six to follow in a few days. I will keep at it until we have the thing complete.

From my observations, though, the real obsessions is over the electoral fate of the Faragista cult, and the march of what we are beginning to call Ewe-kip. But, when the dust settles, our prospects for leaving the EU will depend on our ability to develop a credible plan for EU withdrawal. Yet  I see no evidence of any widespread interest in the mechanics of leaving, despite the vital nature of the issue.

And, for a population that shows such little concern for this, one wonders whether the legacy media, in making the fate of a football manager its number one story, is a far better judge of the mood of the country. But, if the nation is content to allow the media to dwell on the trivia and the superficial, it is never going to make any progress on matters of substance.

We, the obsessives, can do our stuff, but without the interest and involvement of a wider constituency, the lacklustre performance of a BNP-lite is all you're going to get. If there is no real demand for a coherent plan, the party is not going to deliver.


Richard North 23/04/2014 link

 UKIP: your daily grind

 Tuesday 22 April 2014

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"The news that some MEPs have been feathering their nests yet again will make Nigel Farage's job even easier than it is", said the extraordinary editorial in the Telegraph yesterday. Extraordinary it was because Farage was amongst those feathering his own nest, setting himself up with a comfortable £71,000 a year pension at the public expense.

Over the past few days, and now on this, one wonders whether Farage has cast a spell which has suspended the laws of politics. How can it be that something which is so damaging to MEPs in general does not harm TGL when he too has dipped his fingers in the till?

Strangely, it was Matthew d'Ancona who, in the Sunday paper, wrote of the "astonishingly easy ride in the media", Farage was enjoying, only for us to see such an egregious example of it in his sister paper.

This coincided with the launch yesterday of UKIP's poster campaign, funded to the tune of £1.5m by Farage groupie and stage Yorkshireman Paul Sykes, another one who seems to have fallen under the spell. With the magic of photoshop, however, we can see a more accurate version of the "daily grind" advert (above).

Sykes, of course – as he always does – is keeping hold of the purse strings. The BBC notes that he is paying for the adverts directly instead of handing the cash to UKIP. He wants to make sure his money is used for campaigns and not sucked up in general party administration, then to end up in one of Farage's offshore funds. Trust only goes so far, it seems.

The essence of Sykes's campaign is the idea that we should be able to "take back control of our country" by voting for UKIP on 22 May. UKIP, we are told, is the "only political party advocating immediate withdrawal from the European Union". Why that should happen, when the euro-elections have no influence on our membership of the EU, is not explained.

The interesting thing also is that UKIP wants to make the euro-elections a referendum on our membership of the EU, presenting a vote for UKIP as being a vote for "out". But the party that is doing all this advocating hasn't the first idea of how it would manage a withdrawal, to this day not having published a coherent exit plan.

And although The Times stood on its own last week, with not one other newspaper joining the fray, their own particular version of the "daily grid" ain't over yet. There is a little corner of this world still that isn't under the Farage spell, so we expect to see some more interesting accounts of past deeds.


Richard North 22/04/2014 link

 Brexit: an application of Bootleomics

 Monday 21 April 2014

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It is nearly two weeks since the IEA "Brexit" prizes were announced, and far from starting a debate, as the Lord Lawson hoped it might, the IEA intervention has killed it dead. Within a few days of the prizes, publicity had sagged and it has now been four days since there has been any media at all.

Nevertheless, I am continuing to work offline on upgrading our own version of the "Brexit" plan, I've been hard at it all weekend and have now been able to upload the latest version of "Flexit" (v.04), accessible here or from the button on the menu above.

Added to the original are more than 6,000 words in over 20 pages, the additions alone longer than one of the entire submissions selected as a finalist for the IEA prize. Oddly enough, I am inspired by a quote I extracted from a paper written almost exactly a year ago by Ben Harris-Quinney of the Bow Group.

"It is now not enough to simply bemoan the failings of the EU", he wrote. "The first priority for all eurosceptics should be to find a superior and realistic alternative, and to actively and constructively work towards it".

What I'm currently working on is an evaluation of why some pundits favour the "Swiss option" for leaving the EU, over the "Norway option", the essence being, in part, that the former supposedly offers a greater chance of securing cost-savings.

From the work I have done so far, it seems that the justification for this is, to say the very least, rather ingenious, coming from Open Europe. I thought it worth running it on the blog to see what my regular ex-readers thought of it.

To save their money, Open Europe, it seems, have a theory is based on a comparative analysis of cost/benefit ratios, as between EU and UK law. According to Open Europe, EU law comes out at 1.02, which means that every pound spent delivers a mere £1.02 of benefits. On the other hand, UK law comes out at 2.35 which means that every £1 spent delivers £2.35.

When the two ratios are compared, they tells us, this gives a 2.5 times advantage to UK law, which has Open Europe arguing that it is more cost effective to regulate nationally than it is to regulate via the EU.

This is a delicious theory, and one that would be very attractive – if it was valid. But the big problem for me is that chalk seems to be being compared with a very ripe cheese. Let's look at a few bits of legislation from the two different systems, in a target year of 2008/9.

On the UK side, we have the Estate agents (Redress scheme) Order 2008 and Estate Agents (Redress Scheme) (Penalty Charge) Regulations 2008. These ensure that consumers have access to independent redress from estate agents and estate agents are fined for non-membership of redress schemes.

Picking more or less at random from the EU side, we have Directive 2008/105/EC of 16 December 2008 on environmental quality standards in the field of water policy (amending and subsequently repealing several other directives).

On the UK side, we have the Local Transport Act, an Act which seeks to empower local authorities by giving them strengthened powers to deliver a local transport system that is best suited to local needs. Back to the EU, we have Council Directive 2008/72/EC of 15 July 2008 on the marketing of vegetable propagating and planting material, other than seed.

The UK then can have Street Works (Charges for Unreasonably Prolonged Occupation of the Highway) (England) Regulations 2009. This is designed to reduce the number of occasions when works in the highway by undertakers take longer than the agreed duration and so help to reduce the inconvenience and disruption caused.

From the EU we then have Directive 2008/28/EC of 11 March 2008 amending Directive 2005/32/EC establishing a framework for the setting of ecodesign requirements for energy-using products.

Back on the UK side, we have Pensions Act 2008 which introduces measures aimed at encouraging greater private pension saving. And from the EU we have Directive 2008/68/EC of 24 September 2008 on the inland transport of dangerous goods.

Clearly evident from this small sample is that very obvious fact that the two legislatures are operating in completely different areas. But even if we expand the sample, it is still evident that we are dealing with very different legislation sets, covering completely different territories.

Taken as a whole, we can accept that the UK law offers a cost/benefit of 2.35 and the EU delivers 1.02 but – and it's a very big "but" – if the UK had produced all the EU law, can we assume that the cost/benefit would have turned out at 2.35 instead of 1.02?

And that, of course, is the point. Different law sets will have different outturns, with the cost/benefit ratio determined as much by its nature as its origin. The idea that changing the source of the legislation will, necessarily, produce a different outcome is surely absurd.

However, from here the plot thickens. When Mr Roger Bootle's firm Capital Economics produced its NExit plan for Wilder's Partij voor de Vrijheid last February – for an undisclosed fee - it went for the "Swiss option" on the basis that the Open Europe scenario could save the Dutch a shed-load of money.

Looking at the comparative analysis of cost/benefit ratios, they decided these could be applied to the Netherlands. Thus, after NExit, Capital Economics argued that, for every regulation transferred from Brussels to Den Haag, costs could be reduced "in line with the difference in the benefit to cost ratios".

Based on an equally dubious estimate of the number of laws that could be repatriated and re-enacted to become domestic law (failing to recognise that much of it now stems from international agreements), the firm then applied the modern equivalent of the magic wand, called "modelling".

This clever technique, straight out of the "climate change" arsenal, allowed Capital Economics to claim that their "Swiss option" gave them an extra €326 billion (2013 prices) in cumulative gross domestic product over the period between 2015 and 2035 (about €15bn a year), "purely from a reduction in the regulatory burden".

Add a nice snazzy diagram (above) and you have a classic example of Bootleomics – very clever and persuasive until you make the mistake of looking at the detail. But, to strengthen its credibility, you can now rely on the six IEA "Brexit" finalists choosing the very same "Swiss option".

And it wouldn't have hurt having that nice Mr Bootle as an advisor to the judging panel, despite being kicked off as a judge after complaints of lack of impartiality. Nice work if you can get it.


Richard North 21/04/2014 link

 Booker: BBC's groupthink an enemy to free speech

 Sunday 20 April 2014

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In emphasis only, there is an element of disagreement here, between Booker and I. Having stopped listening or watching BBC output many years ago, except for very special reasons, I don't have a view on what the BBC does say. 

But, from reviewing the internet pages, I am as much concerned by what it doesn't say, as does. Personally, right across the board, I regard censorship by omission as the biggest defect in the legacy media. However, taking just what the BBC does publish, I would not even begin to disagree with Booker's general line that, on pretty well every issue, it has its "party line", shaping what is said.

Booker calls in aid Jeremy Paxman, a man so loathsome I can't bear to watch him. When he joins the growing chorus of those who criticise the way the BBC has become a "smug", dysfunctional, over-blown bureaucracy, run by overpaid unaccountable apparatchiks, one might think that they are describing the EU, Booker observes. You might also think that the EU's similarities in corporate culture might be why the BBC loves it.

Nevertheless, we are familiar with the main reasons why the BBC, for all that it continues here and there to make much-appreciated contributions to our lives, has come to inspire such hostility ("loathsome" was the loathsome Paxman's word for it).

Its higher reaches have indeed become a parody of that mindless bureaucracy so brilliantly satirised in its own recent series W1A. It is outrageous that 360 of its senior executives are able to pay themselves more than £100,000 a year, 130 of them more than the Prime Minister.

It is perhaps not surprising that the overwhelming impression that the BBC and its presenters give to the world is that they seem to be so babyishly pleased with themselves. And one of the symptoms of this "inflation", as the psychologists call it, is that the BBC, with its endless puffs and trailers to tell us what a wonderful service it is giving us, too often seems, au fond, to be about nothing more than itself.

But, as ever more people seem to recognise, the most damaging price we pay for the BBC's near-monopoly of the airwaves is the way it imposes on our national culture its own, only too recognisable view of the world: its own narrow, one-sided, left-of-centre form of groupthink.

On pretty well every issue of the day, the BBC has its "party line", dictating what can and cannot be said, who it invites on and who it excludes: from the EU and global warming to gay marriage; from wind farms to government "cuts"; from Israel to fracking.

This is to the point where too many of its programmes are little more than propaganda, put over by self-regarding presenters who frequently cannot hide their impatience with anyone who doesn't agree with the groupthink.

There is one salutary way to see just how one-sided the BBC has become, and that is to listen to American radio talk shows. Some, described as "liberal", parrot the same politically correct line as the BBC. But others, called "conservative" are everything the BBC isn't.

Appearing on some of the more intelligent of such shows, with spirited, well-informed presenters, I have more than once observed: "I can't tell you what a relief it is to be on this show, because back home in Britain none of what we have been saying to each other would ever be allowed on the BBC".

With ever more people suggesting how the BBC could be reformed, or its monopoly broken up, there could be no more effective way to show British listeners what we are missing than to allow a rival network, free to put over alternative views.

What we would want are the kind of views and values which, at the moment, the BBC manages to exclude from the national debate, except to pour scorn on them, even though they might reflect views held by much of their audience.

This would certainly give the British a shock, because it is called "free speech", something which no body is more active in suppressing than that unutterably "smug" state broadcasting organisation we all have to pay for, Booker concludes. 

Speaking personally, it would be nice to think that competition would help. But so degraded has the media become that even a total free-for-all might not deliver much improvement. Despite that, though, it would be so nice to see the BBC utterly destroyed, so much so that I would prefer even for Portland Place to be turned into a bombsite, for use as a TV/film set. 

At least then it would be doing something useful.


Richard North 20/04/2014 link

 EU masterclass: a trial run?

 Saturday 19 April 2014

Every now and again, I am asked to provide background details on aspects of the EU, to enable readers better to fight their battles. I'm reluctant to do so, as there is plenty of basic material out there, so my input is hardly needed – and I wouldn't want to insult my regular ex-readers by posting Janet & John stuff.

However, what I am prepared to do is run the occasional "EU masterclass", where I take on board a specific EU-related subject (not necessarily topical) and post a briefing note, followed by a discussion on the comments. The two would be very much linked, so that we are not talking about a sterile briefing note, but an active exchange of views.

Probably, the best day to do this is a Saturday, but I'm open to ideas on this, possible frequencies, and topics for discussion. I'm not going to lecture into thin air, but if there is interest in the idea, and you are clear as to what you want, I'll do it. 

Richard North 19/04/2014 link

 UKIP: blind, unquestioning loyalty

 Saturday 19 April 2014

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I was wondering what Paul Sykes might have been thinking about the latest UKIP publicity, only to have The Times oblige.

In today's piece, they have him say: "I'm sorry if there's some ambiguities about the odd bits of money - I'm sure there is in every political party - but there's only one political party giving the British people their rights in an immediate referendum if they win the European elections and that's what I’m fighting for".

"Some ambiguities?" "Odd bits of money?" You just have to walk away from that sort of thing, shaking your head in wonderment. But you also have to puzzle over the political acuity of a man who apparently believes that UKIP is "giving the British people their rights in an immediate referendum if they win the European elections" or, for that matter, that we could win a referendum if we actually got one in the near future.

This also harks back to my research into The Harrogate Agenda, where I have looked hard at different revolutionary movements, and what made them successful. In this context, most often people don't count the rise of the Nazi Party as a revolution, but that is exactly how it was seen at the time.

Looking back at that period of the early '30s, we ask ourselves how it came to be that the German people could give their blind, unquestioning loyalty to a leader who was so evidently flawed. And then you look at what is happening around us today, and the comments of Mr Sykes. The behaviour of the German people begins to look more understandable. 

And no, I'm not suggesting that Farage is in any way like the German leader - the irony of the juxtaposition with the previous piece hasn't escaped me. But I do see similarities in the behaviour of his supporters, a suspension of judgement and some of the other characteristics that seem familiar. These characteristics, one could hazard, allowed the situation to develop as it did, way back in those dark days. 

There is something not right, not quite "British" about the way things are developing. We don't do our politics this way. Then - and now - this does not end well.


Richard North 19/04/2014 link

 EU politics: keep away from the Nazi foundation myth

 Friday 18 April 2014

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We really, really, really can do without this garbage. I thought we had finally got past the Rodney Atkinson syndrome, with the lurid and entirely unsubstantiated claims that the Nazis created the European Union.

Yes, there were Nazi enthusiasts for creating a greater Europe, particularly Werner Daitz, Joachin von Ribbentrop, Hitler's foreign minister, and Walther Funk. And in November 1940, we saw outline plans published – with attendant publicity in the British and US papers.

There was no doubt then that this was a cynical propaganda ploy by the German government to convince the United States that Nazi intentions towards the newly occupied Europe was benign, and thus keep it out of the war. There was no genuine intention on the part of the Germans to create anything other than a Berlin-centric greater-German empire.

Nor was talk of European Union unique to the Germans by any means. We published a report to the War Cabinet on 12 November 1942 by Leo Amery. This was after a committee had been set up to consider the establishment of a "federal Europe" at the end of the war, based on the original initiative by Duff Cooper. This was alongside plans for Anglo-French co-operation, set out in these Cabinet papers

This was part of an initiative to crystallise the allied "war aims", to provide an incentive for Europeans to stay in the fight – something more positive than just winning the war. Some of that thinking emerged after the war, to feed into to push for a federal Europe, so much so that the earlier wartime thinking can be seen as a competitor to German propaganda.

And for those who want to argue that Hitler invented the construct we now know as the EU, we have Monnet's colleague, Arthur Salter, and his essay of 1929, which sets out an administrative structure for a " United States of Europe", the title of the book he subsequently published in 1933 (see pg 83). This exactly matches the structure of what is now the EU fathered by Monnet.

Hitler, on the other hand, never an enthusiast for a united Europe, simply wanted Europe pacified so that he could turn his attention east to Russia. And how could he have invented the term "United States of Europe" when Salter was writing about it in 1929?

As to the wartime period, Hitler, tiring of the advocacy of the people around him, and in particular Ribbentrop, for whom he had nothing but contempt, on 4 November 1942 issued a Fuhrer decree requiring that, "the planning, preparation and execution or demonstrations of a European or international kind, such as congress, assemblies, the founding of associations, etc., must cease".

Thus, while the idea of Europe was an idea in vogue at the time, particularly embraced by the Resistance, it is wholly wrong – a complete travesty – to attribute the creation of the EU, in the form that it has emerged, to the Nazis.

The attempts to do so, in my view, have cause serious damage to the anti-EU movement, contributing to its "loony-tunes" reputation, more so when the Europeans see the construct as the antidote to Nazism and all that is associated with it.

How typically crass it is of the Express to publish details of what can only be a silly book, peddling a malign idea. This is a route we really do not want to go down again. We are struggling hard enough for credibility already, without making it even easier for our critics and detractors.


Richard North 18/04/2014 link

 Brex-kip: the issues combine

 Friday 18 April 2014

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Over on Autonomous Mind is an update to the William Dartmouth "wind turbine" story, which leads us to the conclusion that UKIP MEP is concealing ownership behind layers of obscurity, all to prevent people seeing where the controlling interests lie.

How ironic it is, therefore, that the self-same William Dartmouth is the UKIP spokesman shrieking for openness in the IEA "Brexit" competition, reacting "furiously" to the news that Iain Mansfield, winner of the prize, "has been silenced by the Foreign Office".

Never mind that Mansfield hasn't been silenced – we wouldn't expect a UKIP spokesman to get such a detail right. He has simply been held to his standard contract which prohibits him from speaking to the press without permission from his superiors – something which we would expect of a supposedly neutral civil services.

But Dartmouth is nothing if not determined to parade his ignorance. "It is ludicrous that William Hague and the Foreign Office are hounding this man and censoring his voice simply because he put forward a case for Britain to leave the EU", the man says, oblivious to the fact that Mansfield has written a blueprint on how we leave the EU, once the decision to leave has been made.

As he was careful to explain when he received his prize, he had no view on whether we should leave the EU, and certainly did not "put forward a case for Britain to leave the EU".

One might have, though, that a man so dedicated to openness might be keener to declare his real interest in the wind farm development with which he is being linked. He might also have a view on why the IEA apparently rigged the "Brexit" competition, and seem set on suppressing any options other than that one preferred by IEA former judge and advisor Roger Bootle.

As explained by The Boiling Frog in some detail, the IEA opted for a flawed and relatively rare combination of EFTA membership and exclusion of participation in the EEA in favour of bilateral negotiations with the EU.

By coincidence, it seems, that was precisely the option adopted by Bootle's own firm, Capital Economics, reportedly up for sale for as much as £50 million, set to make Mr Bootle a very wealthy man. The last thing Bootle would have wanted, however, was IEA Brexit prize winners to offer contradictory solutions. That cannot have enhanced his firm's reputation, with possibly adverse financial effects.

How relieved Bootle must have been when all six finalists came up with the same solution, identical to that proposed in his "Nexit" plan, endorsed by a judging panel of which he had been part, and continued to advise despite complaints about his lack of impartiality.

One might have thought that such shenanigans might be just the sort of thing to come to the notice of a UKIP MEP, as the party has a strong interest in seeing a workable exit plan being promoted. But then, William Dartmouth seems to be so wrapped up in his own shenanigans that this one seems to have passed him by.

Thus it is that, when you vote UKIP, a party opposed to both wind farms and the EU, you get wind farms and a rigged EU exit plan, all without a murmur of protest.  It thus seems we must vote EX-KIP. You know it makes sense.


Richard North 18/04/2014 link

 UKIP: a sterile campaign

 Friday 18 April 2014

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Lord Tebbit, the former chairman of the Conservative party, has said that Mr Farage must learn to expect greater scrutiny over his finances after joining the "big league" of British politics.

To which Farage might have rejoined, "Not as long as Carter Fuck is around to stop it happening". Even the oaf Bloom is turning on his former drinking pal, though, but if that is all The Times has to offer for today's piece, then its is scraping the bottom of the barrel to such an extent that the splinters are a serious hazard.

The interesting thing is that, while The Times will focus on his character flaws, not a single journalist will ever comment on Farage's political incompetence. The fact that he is useless at the very thing he is paid to do is of no interest to the legacy media. And that's why, ultimately, this campaign will be sterile.

We are doubly doomed, however, if the fluff-head Isabel Hardman is any guide, offering a response to the Times campaign in the Barclay Beano. If this is the best the metro-centric media can offer than we really have been wasting our efforts.

Almost ignoring the issues - these are, effectively, noises off - la Hardman indulges her girlie preoccupation with personality politics, preferring the gossip-led approach to writing about issues of substance.

Never mind that donations to UKIP in the order of £400,000 have gone missing, with suggestions that TGL has developed a chronic case of digitos lentescit, all the girlie is concerned with is that, this week, Farage "has been showing us his grumpy side", after being challenged on Sky News about his office's £3,000-a-year electricity bills.

Being "Mr Angry", is seems, is UKIP "taking yet another leaf from the playbook of its apparent rivals", the LiB-Dems, leading Hardman to the conclusion that Farage will need to "discard the very useful persecution complex he's copied".

Otherwise, says Hardman, "his party will continue to walk along, muttering to itself about its enemies, when it’s simply experiencing the highs and lows of being under the spotlight".

As this excruciating drivel of jaw-dropping banality continues, the girlie girds her loins, or whatever it is girlies do, and delivers unto us her peroration. "The exact timing", she intones, "will be a matter of fine judgement for those running UKIP's spin machine". Then from this girlie of all girlies, we are told that, for the time being, we should not expect "difficult stories" about Mr Farage's expenses to dampen his activists' enthusiasm.

So that is what it's all about: "difficult stories". This is from Hardman of Spectator fame, a supposedly leading political journal. If that is the measure of her penetrating political analysis, then the local playgroup beckons. It is the destination of choice in the future.

Richard North 18/04/2014 link

 UKIP: Times attack day number three

 Thursday 17 April 2014

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On the third day of the assault on the Farage Party by The Times, we are witnessing an interesting media phenomenon. Single-handedly, a national newspaper is setting out to destroy – or at least gravely damage – a prominent political party.

For the moment, it seems the rest of the legacy media is content to sit on its hands and watch The Times and UKIP slug it out, the idleness in part enforced by wholesale threats of intervention by Carter Fuck, and the inherent caution of post-Leveson editorial policy.

There is a sense that the beast is not yet mortally wounded, so the hyenas are circling the prey, not sufficiently emboldened to move in for the kill. The effect, though, has been drastically to reduce the volume of stories featuring UKIP, and to cut off the supply of Farage puffs.

That said, the hostile publicity is doubtless having an effect, with the latest offering headed: "What happened to the £287,000 donated to Farage’s local branch?".

The question is genuine. The newspaper has been made aware of almost £300,000 in UKIP party donations having been paid in to Nigel Farage's local branch and withdrawn as unspecified "other costs". There could, of course, be perfectly innocent explanations for this and, to the brainwashed cultists (#cultofFarage), the mere assurances of TGL are sufficient to support a belief of rectitude.

The more cynical and world-weary, however, are less easily convinced. UKIP insiders, for instance, have repeatedly raised concerns over £287,734 spent by the party's southeast branch in 2004 and 2005 – a fortune compared with the funds in other branches which struggle to meet even basic expenses in the hundreds.

In detail, The Times is looking at a company called Ashford Employment Ltd, a company owned by Mr Bown, UKIP's biggest donor, and run by UKIP. It  was set up in October 2003 to pay for call centre workers collecting donations from UKIP supporters, spending £158,582 in 2004 and £89,456 in 2005 in operating costs.

Once staff and the running costs had been met from donations, the surplus from Ashford was transferred to the Farage's southeast branch, according to Terry Quarterman, the centre's former manager and a director of the company. The branch received £291,931 in donations in 2004, the year of the European elections, and £114,967 in 2005, although it is unclear how much was from Ashford.

Former UKIP members have raised concerns about the two large sums that were paid out of the branch in the same two years. In 2004, the branch recorded a £211,267 withdrawal as "other" running costs. In 2005, £89,996 was spent in the same way. Late in 2005, the call centre's financial affairs were transferred to UKIP's head office.

What is especially suspicious is that the money was transferred to Farage's branch – over which he had complete control, and not to head office for distribution to the national branch network. And, in the hands of Farage, it was not used for campaigning, communications, property rental, utilities or auditing. In the accounts filed with the Electoral Commission, the spending is described only as "other running costs". Even though the accounts itemised payments for as little as £496 on communications, they offered no explanation of how these much larger sums were spent.

In the years after this suspicious spike in expenditure, total branch running costs amounted to no more than £8,200, clearly indicating the exceptional nature of the costs. 

If in any commercial business, unusually large sums started flowing through the accounts, without any information on where the money was going or what it was being spent on, suspicions would quite reasonably raised – especially as the money, collected from members nationally, should have been distributed nationally.

In a political party, and especially one supposedly committed to openness, full details of expenditure should have been given and, in the absence of such detail, it is not at all unreasonable that questions should be asked. When those questions were met with a wall of silence, and persistence was then greeted by sustained aggression, the very obvious and reasonable question was: "What have you got to hide?". Furthermore, Farage and his supporters can hardly complain if people try to fill the gaps with speculation. 

What we do know then takes on greater significance, and through The Times the wider pubic (or some of it) is told that these unexplained withdrawals came as UKIP was channelling national donations generated by the "controversial" call centre in Ashford, Kent, directly into the southeast branch.

This had started off as a fundraising operation, set up in mid-2003 in an office provided free by Alan Bown. Farage himself is on the record as claiming that it raised at least £400,000 and boosted the membership of the fledgeling party.

Understandably, UKIP officials who started seeing this flow of money started asking questions. Martin Haslam, the treasurer at UKIP's southeast branch in 2005, described the call centre as an operation "where money went in and no one quite knew what happened to it".

Such was the concern about the call centre's finances that in 2006, a group of UKIP members in the south east commissioned a corporate due diligence company to examine the centre's business structure. A partial copy of the initial report, obtained by The Times, indicates that concerns were raised about "a lack of transparency regarding the set-up and continuing operation of Ashford Employment Ltd".

There were also questions raised about he company history of John Moran, one of the centre's founders, the outcome being that the report called for an independent auditor to perform a full audit. This was never done, further strengthening suspicions that things were amiss.

To this day, there have been no satisfactory (or any) explanations of what happened to the money and now it is known that very large sums were passed to a branch under the total control of Farage, for which there are no details as to the eventual destination of the money.

It would have been very easy for Farage to have provided independently audited accounts, certifying where and how the money had been spent. His refusal to do so, combined with his aggression against anyone who asks perfectly reasonable questions, tells its own story.

For my part, on this blog, I really have better things to do with my time than chart these apparent misdeeds, but I – like many others concerned with the conduct and performance of UKIP – cannot stand idly by as the party seems to become more and more the private fiefdom of Mr Farage and, it would appear, his personal piggy bank.

Still to come are some very strange tales of offshore bank accounts in the Caymans, Farage's unexplained disappearances when he was supposed to be in Strasbourg but had in fact hopped over the border, to spend days at a time on "private" business in Geneva, relying on free passage with his MEP's diplomatic passport.

Thus, those who believe that this is merely a "plot" organised by Conservative HQ could not be more wrong. If that was the case, we would be dealing with the same sort of low calibre of people who were involved in rigging the IEA "Brexit" competition. If they were behind this, you would see their clumsy bootprints all over the terrain.

What we have here is altogether far more considered, amounting to a search for what is looking like fraud on an industrial scale. And until Farage comes clean, instead of unleashing the attack dogs on his critics, the questions are not going to go away.


Richard North 17/04/2014 link