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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 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.

Richard North 28/01/2015 link

Tuesday 27 January 2015

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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.

Richard North 27/01/2015 link

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.

Richard North 26/01/2015 link

Monday 26 January 2015

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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.

Richard North 26/01/2015 link

Sunday 25 January 2015

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"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.

Richard North 25/01/2015 link

Sunday 25 January 2015

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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.
,br> 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.

Richard North 25/01/2015 link

Saturday 24 January 2015

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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.

Richard North 24/01/2015 link

Friday 23 January 2015

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Although a year out of date, the Swiss Federal Statistics Office has just issued this press release with figures for 2013.

With the headline, "one third of the population has a migration background", it tells us that 2.4 million of the 6.8 million people aged 15 or more living in Switzerland had a migration background. Four-fifths of them were born abroad; the remaining fifth were born in Switzerland but to parents who were born abroad. Over a third (35 percent) held a Swiss passport.

This information, though, is different from the standard format, which tells us that in 2013, 1,937,447 foreign citizens lived in Switzerland (23.8 percent of the permanent resident population), with almost two-thirds (65.9 percent) coming from an EU28 or EFTA country.

In this current press release, we are given the proportion including those holding Swiss passports, which adds ten percent to the previously posted figure, thus representing a more comprehensive figure than standard compilation of first generation immigrants.

A more up-to-date figure is the number of new asylum seekers registered in Switzerland. Last year (2014) was 23,765, an increase of 11 percent on the 2013 figure. The largest nationality group by far were Eritreans, whose numbers more than doubled (+170 percent) to 6,923.

The Swiss increase, we are told, was modest in comparison to the overall figures for Europe, where the number of registered asylum seekers in 2014 reached 600,000, an increase of 35 percent on 2013.

The number of Syrians who made it to Switzerland to request asylum doubled last year to 3,819 people. The most common route to the European mainland for Syrian and Eritrean refugees is by sea to Italy.

In accordance with EU law, Italy is supposed to process these refugees on the spot, but it has a long history of "passing the buck", and allowing migrants to travel to other countries, where they then seek to register as asylum seekers.

This affects the UK as much as Switzerland, and we should be voluble in our insistence that the "colleagues" obey the laws they have signed up to. Needless to say, though, our timorous wee beasties are silent on this issue, which leaves Swiss Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga to do the honours, calling on Italy to comply with its obligations under the Dublin Regulation and register asylum seekers.

By way of a quid pro quo, she also signalled Switzerland's willingness to help share the asylum burden but first, she says, "Italy must first fulfil its obligations".

Sommaruga was speaking ahead of a meeting with EU interior ministers in Luxembourg, in which the parties agreed on a common strategy to deal with "exceptional situations" relating to refugees, such as the Italian case, in order to ensure the functioning of the Dublin Regulation.

The Dublin Regulation stipulates that the first EU Member State an asylum seeker enters is responsible for that individual's asylum process. Asylum seekers who travel to another country and reapply for asylum can be sent back to the country where they first entered.

Switzerland sent a letter to Brussels in mid-September calling for Italy to fulfil its obligations under the Dublin Regulation and record all asylum seekers arriving on its territory. Previously, France, Germany, Poland and even Britain have complained to the European Commission about Italy's inaction.

But the last word is left to Sommaruga. The problem cannot be resolved unless everyone contributes, she says. She might have added: "and obeys the law". Even Iceland seems to manage this, and if Switzerland is shouting the odds, it is bizarre that our voice should be so muted.

Richard North 23/01/2015 link

Thursday 22 January 2015

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Front page lead in the Express yesterday offered the startling revelation that "80 percent of Britons want to quit EU in biggest poll for 40 years".

This turned out to be a mock referendum organised across three neighbouring parliamentary constituencies by Peter Bone, MP for Wellingborough, Philip Hollobone, MP for Kettering, and Tom Pursglove, who is standing as candidate for Corby and East Northamptonshire at the general election – all of them Conservatives.

But, in the ballot, it turns out that 100,000 voting slips were delivered to households while only 14,581 people voted, of which 11,706 agreed that the UK should not be a member of the European Union – effectively 12 percent of the sample.

As a self-selecting, unweighted poll, this is of course totally valueless – without meaning, as the Independent was quick to point out.

That paper, however, does not "completely dismiss the growing rise in Euroscepticism". It recalls that YouGov's latest poll showed 44 percent of respondents in favour of leaving. But, it says, "let's at least have a proper debate about it rather than resorting to the Express's magic calculator".

And that debate is going on, in its own distorted fashion, with British Influence hosting David Hannay, the Lord Hannay of Chiswick, former UK ambassador to the EU and UN, to give a simplistic analysis of exit options for the UK's trade policy.

Obviously unaware of Flexcit, his ideas are the usual superficial mishmash, but the man then goes on to say that some may argue that this analysis is on the pessimistic side.

"The challenge to them is to demonstrate in a convincing manner why that is so, and why one of these alternatives or perhaps something totally different is a genuinely viable option which could secure Britain's future prosperity if it were to quit the EU".

"In the absence of such a demonstration, the jigsaw puzzle of withdrawal is missing a truly critical piece. Trade policy is not the only issue that would be at stake in an in/out referendum. But it surely is a seriously important one that demands a convincing answer".

Somebody should perhaps tell Hannay that his "challenge" has been met and exceeded, except to the great and the good, mired in their own ignorance, the likes of EUReferendum are invisible.

What this is, therefore, is a challenge to the front-runners in the debate, such as Ukip, to come up with a credible exit plan, But, with a party where even its leader admits the party is not credible, and has ditched its head of policy , Mr Hannay is going to be waiting a long time for anything from that quarter.

Actually, Hannay is being more than a little disingenuous, as there was the Peterson speech in November, which he also ignores.

That, though, brings us back to the Express effort. Those who are ostensibly in favour of leaving the EU would do far better off if they concentrated on real issues, instead of producing empty propaganda, which takes us nowhere. And high on the list must be an exit plan, to nail the feline superficiality of the Europhiles.

Richard North 22/01/2015 link

Wednesday 21 January 2015

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The UN Security Council is being briefed in an emergency session on what appears to be an ongoing coup attempt in the capital city of Yemen.

Sanaa, we are told, has descended into chaos since violent clashes broke out on Monday, with armed rebels reportedly shelling the home of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi. These are Shiite Houthi rebels, possibly financed by Iran.

Yemeni army commanders have told reporters that the rebels have already breached the presidential palace in Sanaa, where Mr Hadi's offices are located, and raided it for munitions. Smoke and flames has been seen rising during heavy clashes between presidential guards and the rebels.

Why this matters more than most is that Yemen, with its 23 million population, is a major host for refugees from the Horn of Africa. Early estimates had 82,000 people reaching Yemen's shores in 2014, up from 65,000 in 2013. Currently, UNHCR is saying that the number has risen to "at least 91,592".

There is a tendency in the UK (and Europe generally) to forget that refugees are a worldwide problem, and that other countries are taking the load as well as us. But to have the possibility of the Yemen becoming a generator of refugees, instead of a receiver, is one we can do without.

Particularly in 2014, the year ended with more people dying trying to cross the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden than ever before, making it the deadliest year in recent memory. A flood of new refugees can only make that problem worse, especially if the flow turns north and heads for the Mediterranean.

And, apart from the political consequences, what happens this year in the Mediterranean will land on our doorstep the year after. In an unstable region, even more instability can do nothing but harm. 

Richard North 21/01/2015 link