Vote Remain, Or London Gets It

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Fiona Twycross AM is an idiot

The latest piece of silly, hysterical scaremongering to emerge from the positive vision-challenged Remain campaign is the idea that London will somehow wither up and become a ghost town if we leave the European Union.

Normally such idiocy wouldn’t merit a response, but it is now being advanced by some fairly serious people, including elected London Assembly members, such as Fiona Twycross AM, writing in Left Foot Forward:

Londoners are also renowned for their openness, and it’s the welcome that visitors receive that draws so many people in.

It’s that latter point that is so important to consider when we discuss the ramifications of Brexit. If Britain choses to leave the EU next month it would effectively signal that we are pulling up the drawbridge and that London is closed for business.

Not only would this diminish our great city, it would discourage the tourists who contribute so much to our economy.

Yes. Because choosing to no longer be part of an ever-tightening political union of European countries is exactly the same thing as “pulling up the drawbridge” and turning our back on the world.

When we consider the major cities of other countries which foolishly failed to dissolve themselves into political union with their neighbours, naturally they are all complete fortresses, utterly hostile to would-be visitors. The reason that Canberra and Wellington are not top of the list of tourism cities is of course entirely because Australia and New Zealand stubbornly cling to the idea of being separate, independent countries. New York City, Toronto, Chicago and Los Angeles are all ghost towns because the governments of America and Canada failed to get together and realise that the only way to attract tourists is to form a political Union of the Americas.

But Fiona Twycross has expert testimony to back up her assertion, from the mouth of London First Tourism Director Matt Hill who says:

Cutting ourselves off from Europe is not in the interests of the tourism industry.

Any new barriers which add complexity and expense to holidaying or doing business in London will put at risk investment in the capital’s attractions, flagship stores and hospitality venues.

Because in the event of a Brexit vote, the government’s first actions will be to blockade the Channel Tunnel and blow up the runways at all of Britain’s major airports in order to most effectively sever our ties with other countries. Because that’s what Brexiteers want. Sure.

Twycross then has the nerve to say “this is not about scaremongering”. No, of course not, Fiona. You’re not trying to worry anybody. You’re just saying that if we don’t want supranational EU institutions to have primacy over our own parliament and supreme court, the world will end.

She continues:

According to the capital’s promotion agency, London and Partners, in 2014 the capital’s tourism industry saw 17.4 million visitors. Their contribution to London’s economy stood at a huge £11.8 billion.

But perhaps most significantly, of these visitors 11.5 million (66 per cent of all tourists) originated in Europe, which shows just how important continental tourists are to London’s tourist economy.

Brexit could therefore mean a devastating loss of billions of pounds and put at risk thousands of jobs.

But why? Twycross doesn’t explain. Quite why any tourist would give a damn whether Britain remains inside a political union with 27 other countries or acts as an independent country like the United States, Canada or Australia is never explained. It is just disingenuously presented as received wisdom in the hope that nobody will notice how stupid it sounds.

If Remain supporters are going to continue claiming that leaving a political union is the same as “pulling up the drawbridge” and liable to result in billions of lost tourism revenue, then let’s see some figures to back it up. Not cooked up HM Treasury statistics which only look at apocalyptic scenarios while ignoring the most likely Brexit option (a controlled, safe exit to EFTA/EEA membership, retaining free movement of people and single market access), but a genuine, unbiased analysis.

Of course there will be none. Because Fiona Twycross, like too many others on the Remain side, is too scared to admit why she really wants Britain to stay in the European Union (because to do so would be politically toxic). And when the Remain campaign cannot be honest about why they love the EU so much, they instead resort to evasions, distractions and scaremongering to achieve their desired result without ever making the passionate case for Britain surrendering what remains of our independence and allowing ourselves to be fully dissolved into the common European state.

It’s a shame that Fiona Twycross and others in the Remain campaign lack the political courage to tell the truth about why they are so desperate for Britain to remain in the European Union. Not least because all of the fake reasons they are scrambling to come up with make them look really, really stupid.

 

Postscript: But full marks to Twycross for her sneaky, disingenous attempt to portray worrying about London’s status as the world’s top tourism destination as the “patriotic” thing, but worrying about Britain’s independence as a sovereign country as reckless and irresponsible. That takes some nerve.

 

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It’s Local Election Day. Who Cares?

Zac Goldsmith or Sadiq Khan for London? Who cares?

“I think voting is great, but if I have to choose between a douche and a turd, I just don’t see the point” – Stan Marsh, South Park

Apparently Thursday 5th May – local election day across the UK – is being dubbed “Super Thursday“.

Except that unlike the Super Tuesdays of the American presidential primary calendar, there is nothing remotely exciting about these local elections, with the partial exception of the Scottish and Welsh assembly polls.

In London, we are bestowed with the awesome privilege of choosing between two leading candidates for mayor – Zac Goldsmith and Sadiq Khan – neither of whom have any meaningful executive experience and both of whom fail the first test of competence and political courage by failing to support the immediate expansion of Heathrow Airport. For this dismal failure alone I cannot bring myself to vote for either man.

Depressingly, the only remotely praiseworthy recent act of English localism – the introduction of Police and Crime Commissioners – has been badly administered and (with a few honourable exceptions) increasingly captured by the same mindless party line approach to voting seen elsewhere. And the scheme does not even apply to London – here, the mayor holds the powers of police commissioner, meaning there is no possibility of a New York style Giuliani-Bratton double-act to crack down on crime. Nobody in London specifically responsible for crime can be removed at the ballot box.

Granted, “Super” Thursday carries a little more weight if one is hugely invested in how aggregate tallies of local council seats reflect on the leadership of the main political parties. But with all the parties committed to campaigning for Britain to remain in the European Union (save UKIP, who often may as well be fighting for the Remain camp) again there is little incentive to specially reward or unduly punish one of the parties currently engaged in the process of selling out our democracy more than any other.

Besides, if you are choosing the person to represent your local ward or district because of something that David Cameron or Jeremy Corbyn said on TV or because everyone in your family/workplace/pub votes a certain way out of tribal loyalty, then you probably don’t understand how local politics is supposed to work. But then I cannot really fault those who do so, for in nearly all cases local authorities have so little real power in over-centralised Britain that it doesn’t much matter who controls the council anyway.

So, if you are a hardcore Sadiq Khan or Zac Goldsmith supporter (assuming that a human watercolour painting like Zac Goldsmith actually has any hardcore fans) – good luck today. May your man win, and may you dance in the street in celebration.

To those pundits waiting to pounce on the results as they come in, and speculate feverishly about whether significant council seat losses for Labour will bring forward the much-anticipated coup against Jeremy Corbyn – knock yourselves out.

To my bloggers-in-arms, fighting the good fight to make the thinking person’s case for Brexit and the restoration of our democracy – keep doing what you are doing. Working alongside you is an honour and a privilege.

…and may all your Super Thursdays be bright.

 

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Just Build The Damn Runway

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This article was first published at Conservatives for Liberty

Build the third runway at Heathrow airport. And a fourth. Build new runways at London’s Gatwick and Stansted airports too. And then build a helipad directly on top of the homes and gardens of all the selfish, hand-wringing, growth-averse NIMBY naysayers who think that their decision to live by an airport gives them veto rights over Britain’s economic future

Chicago’s O’Hare international airport has seven runways. Count ’em. Seven. Five of these runways run east-west and the other two run diagonally. So long as your aircraft possesses an engine and wheels, there is almost certainly a runway at O’Hare suitable for landing without the need to circle in a never-ending holding pattern before eventually lining up for approach and touching down an hour after actually arriving above the city.

You can fly in and out of Chicago quickly, efficiently and cheaply because generations of local political leaders – for all their many other faults – have understood that aviation provides a huge boost to the economy, and that a city which makes access and connection quick and convenient for all types of traveller will surely reap the economic rewards.

Nine hours away in London, this common-sense attitude is sorely lacking. Despite the fact that no new full-length runway has been constructed in London or the south-east of England since the 1940s – when we were still digging ourselves out of the rubble of the Blitz – Britain is wasting time, energy and precious economic opportunities debating whether or not to increase airport capacity at any one of several implausible choices in south-eastern England beside the obvious option of committing to London’s Heathrow Airport, the largest and most popular.

Anyone thinking that the release of the Airports Commission report by Sir Howard Davies (summary: we should probably expand Heathrow, but Gatwick will do in a pinch) would bring this debate to a timely end were deluding themselves. David Cameron’s shrewd political radar is matched only by his lack of political courage – the Tories are terrified of angering neighbouring voters by giving the green light for more noise pollution and traffic congestion around Heathrow.

Worse still, although the Tories are hardly seen as a party of tree-hugging eco warriors their likely candidate to replace Boris “Island” Johnson as Mayor of London, Zac Goldsmith, is also dead set against the idea of expanding Heathrow despite the overwhelming logic behind committing to the major hub airport.

The never-ending question of whether or not to do the obvious and expand Heathrow airport is typical of Britain’s ridiculous approach to important decisions about critical national infrastructure. First we deny the existence of a problem or need. Then we delude ourselves that we have plenty of time to consider the issue from all angles, while better governed countries leapfrog us left, right and centre. Then we establish a time-wasting commission which seeks – in that peculiarly British way – to avoid angering anyone, while actually enraging everyone with its equivocation. And finally, twenty years later, we come to a tortuous decision – at which point anything we reluctantly build is woefully inadequate to current demand.

Not content with fighting the expansion of Heathrow airport tooth and nail, others are opening a new front in the war on aviation with a sanctimonious new attack on frequent fliers, who many left-wingers see not as vital contributors to global business and tourism but rather as parasitic city-hoppers guilty of overconsumption and leaving deadly trails of CO2 in their wake.

Looking wistfully back at the time when an Icelandic volcano eruption grounded flights between Europe and America, the Guardian opines:

The loss of the global economy’s airborne arteries could have been a death knell for business. But, the world didn’t end and people adapted astonishingly quickly in ways that had other environmental benefits.

There was an upward spike in the use of video-conferencing facilities saving business travellers time, money and fatigue […]

What’s more, stranded people turned to each other for help. The Swedish carpool movement spread its horizons, setting up a new Facebook group called Carpool Europe to share cars and rides. Twitter came into its own with hashtags like #putmeup and #getmehome.

You know when else the British people came together to make the best of a bad situation and relied on the kindness of strangers to get by? The Blitz. But no-one is proposing that we invite the Luftwaffe back for a second crack at carpet-bombing our major cities, because although disruptive and traumatic events do force us to come up with inventive ways to survive and keep the wheels turning, it would usually be far better if the negative situation occurred at all.

This is especially true of self-inflicted economic wounds like the proposed frequent flyer tax or the stubborn failure to expand and upgrade key national infrastructure out of genuine (or cynical) concern for the environment. If we continue to starve London of connections to the expanding markets of countries like China, the world will not end. But we will be overtaken by other, better governed European countries and we will all be immeasurably poorer in the long term.

There are times when we absolutely should put the conservation of our planet and natural environment at the forefront of government decision making and planning. But there are also times when our commitment to human progress and building a more prosperous society full of material abundance should be our single-minded goal. The tedious, seemingly never-ending debate about whether or not to build one solitary new runway in Britain falls firmly into the second category.

When formulating government policy or making critical decisions about our national infrastructure, we should subject our thought processes to one key test: does the proposal look to the past or the future? And if the proposal looks to the past – making use of outdated technology, serving a saturated market or simply mollifying people who are scared of progress and change – we should kill it in the crib.

For example, we should not be rushing to build new coal-fired power stations to meet our future energy needs, no matter what spurious claims ‘clean coal’ may make for itself. Rather, we should invest heavily in nuclear power and renewables (home grown where possible) to ensure Britain’s long-term energy independence and national security interests.

Local interests and feelings are important, but there are times when we must think and act as one country, with important national needs and challenges to be faced together. And yes, sometimes this will mean bulldozing over the objections of those blinkered, parsimonious campaigners who seem to find an objection to just about any form of pleasure or economic activity.

Air travel is great. It takes rich tourists from wealthy countries and brings them to poorer countries where they boost the local economy with their money. It keeps the wheels of business turning, from the CEO flying from New York to London for a meeting, the office worker commuting to Berlin every week for a project, to doctors and scientists gathering for international conferences.

Air travel bridges the distance between our towns and cities and helps knit the planet together through a web of far-flung family members, friendships and business relationships. And in doing so, the aviation industry helps to foster trust and understanding, bridging cultural divides and doing more to affirm our common humanity than any third-sector institution or political movement.

And yet we seem intent on attacking aviation, thwarting its growth and choking the life out of the industry with punishing airport taxes and insurmountable barriers to expansion. And for what? So that human beings can creep meekly across the surface of the planet, apologising for our very existence and ostentatiously offsetting the carbon dioxide we emit whenever we open our mouths?

When it comes to coal, by all means let Britain keep it in the ground and in the twentieth century, where it belongs. Regulate the life out of the fracking industry too, if you must, so long as you are willing to explain to the unemployed man why your environmentalist convictions should trump his right to work.

But for heaven’s sake, let’s not continue to suppress Britain’s aviation industry – which is so important and contributes so much – just to burnish our green credentials.

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The Uber Wars: Will The Left Ever Fight For Consumers Over Special Interests?

London Black Cabs - Uber Taxi Protest

Whenever there is a battle between the interests of ordinary consumers and the tired, unimaginative producers who rip them off, the Left take the side of the special interests over the little guy every single time

Wherever there is technological innovation and the prospect of incremental or revolutionary improvements in the way we live, there is also inevitably a finger-wagging lefty standing by with ten good reasons why humanity should stay in the cave, be terrified of fire and reject the wheel because it will put professional floor-draggers out of work.

And so it is with Uber. Left Foot Forward have come up with a list of five things you didn’t know about Uber – the obvious nature of which is clearly based on the assumption that you are a credulous simpleton who has no curiosity or understanding about how the services you use every day come to be delivered. And unsurprisingly, this list of five scandalous “unknown” things just happens to support the case for regulating Uber to death and propping up the greedy, inefficient, snarlingly anti-competitive black taxi cartel.

Here are Left Foot Forward’s five reasons why Uber is actually evil, courtesy of Ruby Stockham:

  1. It asserts that its drivers are ‘partners’, meaning they are not entitled to normal worker’s rights.
  2. If a driver’s rating falls below 4.6 or 4.2 (there are varying accounts) they risk being sacked (or ‘deactivated’ to use the Uber euphemism.)
  3. Uber deducts a fifth of a driver’s income, which is already low.
  4. Uber’s tax arrangements are highly contested.
  5. There are no limits on the number of cars Uber can operate.

My God, it’s awful.

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Politicians Who Are Against Uber Are Against Working Londoners

Uber Taxi Protest

Uber represents everything good about capitalism, disruptive innovation at its most useful. Any politician who wants to make it harder or impossible for Uber to operate is directly working against the interests of the people

If a group of heavies from, say, the Unite union had broken into Parliament during the recent debate on the Trade Union Act, disrupted the House of Commons, forced an end to the session and knocked a security guard unconscious in the process, what do you think David Cameron’s Conservative government would be doing right now?

Exactly. Those involved would be receiving the same full measure of British justice as was dealt out to the London rioters back in 2011 and looking at some hard jail time, while the unions they represented would be positively begging for measures as mild as those currently proposed by the government. The Conservatives would be at total war with the unions, and Labour’s hyperbolic claims about the Evil Tories wanting to roll back two hundred years of industrial relations regulation might actually start to seem plausible.

All of which makes it surprising that when exactly the same thing happened at London’s City Hall earlier this month – when members of that famous cartel, London’s black cab drivers, burst into the chamber and brought an abrupt end to Mayor’s Question Time – there were absolutely no negative consequences whatsoever.

CityAM reported at the time:

Mayor’s Question Time was shut down after police were called to City Hall today, after a security guard was apparently knocked out in scuffle outside the building. 

Black cab drivers were demonstrating outside (and inside) the Southbank venue over ongoing criticism of Transport for London’s handling of regulation for private hire car companies, in particular Uber

They waved banners calling for Johnson to “stand firm” against “Uber’s lobbyists”, with suggestions that the ride-sharing taxi app puts public safety at risk. 

Ah yes, appeals for politicians to consider public safety – the last refuge of the desperate, antiquated monopolist fighting a lost cause as they slide into irrelevance. Won’t somebody please think of the children, too, while we’re at it?

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