EU Referendum Live-Blog: Cameron v Farage, But Not Really

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Semi-Partisan Politics: EU Referendum Live Blog – Cameron vs Farage (but not really)

#ITVEUref

21:57

And that’s it. Cameron off the hook, with no major hits landed on him.

Combative and effective as usual from Nigel Farage, but nothing new to suggest a recalibration to reach the essential 50%+1 on Referendum Day. Once again Farage will have pleased his supporters and disgusted his detractors.

What an utterly pointless “debate”, and what a useless format. I sincerely doubt that anybody in the country learned a single new thing from watching that “showdown”. Generally weak audience questions served little purpose other than to tee up the usual soundbites we are tired of hearing from Vote Leave and Stronger In.

Weak moderation too – Julie Etchingham seemed to be imposing rules and time limits which existed solely in her head, and which often ended up cutting through some of the more eloquent and discursive points on each side.

All in all, this was yet another example of the media’s shameful, shallow coverage of the EU referendum – and the glibness and alarming lack of depth of those who lead us.

21:56

Polished, passionate and utterly vacuous.

21:54

David Cameron, directly asked by an audience member whether he is “finished” regardless of the result of the EU referendum, waffles and talks about anything and everything else.

But it is very hard to see Cameron continuing. This is a supposedly conservative prime minister who gladly, joyfully shares a platform with Labour and Green Party politicians campaigning for an outcome which most party members detest. There is no love for Cameron, who will go down in history as a second-rate version of Ted Heath.

21:53

More scepticism about David Cameron’s assertion that Brexit means “quitting”:

21:49

Good point by audience member. Hardly anyone can name their MEP. Because the European Parliament is a chamber representing a demos which does not exist. There is no European demos. Hardly anybody feels European first and foremost, above their national or regional identity. And yet the EU seeks to acquire all of the trappings and powers of statehood. Shouldn’t that be setting off alarm bells?

21:48

Contra Cameron, “quitting” is staying in the EU and giving up on the ability of the fifth largest economy and second (by some rankings) military power to influence world events.

21:47

True democracy is about whether you can fire the people in charge if they start to do a bad job or if the people want a change.

The British people can’t fire the people who run the EU. There is no democracy.

21:44

No, Cameron. We will not be like a country with our faced pressed against the glass while the EU makes key decisions on trade. On the contrary, by leaving the EU we will regain our voice, our seat and our vote at the true global top tables which set key regulations and standards – organisations like UNECE, the IMO, ILO, Codex Alimentarius and many others.

These are the true originators of much regulation today, and for as long as we are in the EU with the Commission acting as middleman, we have a limited voice and a diluted influence in shaping these regulations – even ones which could obliterate entire British industries at the stroke of a pen.

Here’s why the EU is no longer the “top table” for trade – and why David Cameron was just deceiving the audience.

21:41

Ooh, it’s NHS time. Everybody genuflect to our National Religion.

If you are basing your decision on whether Britain should leave or remain in the European union solely or primarily on the NHS, then you are doing it wrong.

21:40

I’m glad someone brought up Little England. Because it is the Remainers – with their declinist, pessimistic view of Britain – who have low horizons. Those who want Britain to be an independent country, fully participating in the true global top tables for trade (hint: not the EU) are the ones with bold, global aspirations.

21:38

Yes, David Cameron is doing his creepy “passion” thing again, in place of actually standing for things and leading:

21:35

Audience member takes David Cameron to task for his fraudulent renegotiation. Everything Cameron is saying now is false – the “agreement” he reached was negotiated with EU leaders acting in their capacity as heads of state and government. Many of them will soon no longer be in power. The EU is in no way obligated to honour the pitiful commitments in that agreement.

21:32

Immediately David Cameron pivots to talking about the single market, not the EU.

But leaving the single market is not on the ballot paper – we can (and almost certainly would, in the event of a Leave vote) leave the political institution of the EU while maintaining access to the single market – the so called interim EFTA/EEA or Norway Option. Adopting this plan immediately negates every single pessimistic, fearmongering argument put forward by the Remain campaign, which is why they are so desperate to slander or dismiss it.

21:31

David Cameron’s turn.

Good first question from the audience. 6 months ago Cameron was saying that Britain could thrive outside the EU, yet now he says it would mean economic Armageddon.

Was the prime minister lying then, or is he lying now?

21:27

Well, that was Farage. A typically assured performance. Ukippers will be happy. Liberal leavers like this blog and members of The Leave Alliance less so, for obvious reasons – Farage doubled down on all of the illiberal and protectionist arguments while doing nothing to reach those not already convinced that Brexit is the way to go.

In terms of moving the needle of public opinion, Nigel Farage certainly hasn’t done himself any harm. But it has made it harder for those of us arguing for a more progressive case for Brexit to do our work.

21:25

Moderator of this referendum is worse than useless so far. Staying silent when she should guide the debate, cutting across when actual interesting points are being made.

21:24

Audience member rightly notes that there are many separate means of cooperation between EU countries independent of the EU. Brexit doesn’t mean severing ourselves from the continent of Europe or from schemes like Europol. By freeing ourselves from the EU’s political union we restore our democracy and are able to choose the areas and nature of our cooperation.

21:23

Waving a passport around is not going to get us from 40-45% of the vote to the 50%+1 the Leave side needs to win the referendum. People who get misty eyed about blue passports are already going to turn out and vote to leave. We need to reach undecideds with a comprehensive, safe offering, showing them that it is possible to leave the EU while minimising economic risks.

21:21

I’m not the only one to note the markedly poor quality of questions coming from the audience so far. Roland Smith (author of the Liberal Case for Leave) sees it too:

21:19

Farage is a natural performer. One can only wonder what an asset he could have been to the Leave campaign had he only updated his 1990s-era euroscepticism and embraced a more progressive (or small-L liberal) case for Brexit.

21:16

Audience member with an utterly fatuous question about the Leave campaign supposedly whipping up anti-black fervour. As a mixed race person (not that it should matter), this is complete hogwash. Disagree with UKIP all you want (and I disagree with them on plenty), but disagree with their stance on immigration all you want, but fatuous, blanket assertions that their immigration stance is racist or “legitimises racism” is flat out false. And in fact it is this effort to slander euroscepticism and worries about immigration with the charge of racism that creates further resentment.

21:15

Oh, Justin Welby accuses Nigel Farage of legitimising racism, eh? The Archbishop of Canterbury might do better to look at the gaping hole in the public discourse where a rational, intellectual and moral Christian case for the European Union should be.

Shockingly, it doesn’t exist.

21:13

The good thing about Nigel Farage is that he doesn’t feel the need to flatter audience members, agree with them and accept their assumptions and premises. I think that some people do admire that, even if they disagree with him. Contrast it with David Cameron’s doubtless oleaginous performance once he takes the stage.

21:10

Every moment Nigel Farage spends talking about tariffs is time he could be spending reassuring wavering Brits that we can leave the EU’s political union while maintaining our access to the single market.

21:09

Tremulous audience member worried about Britain being “punished” if we vote to leave the EU. This takes us back nicely to the Remain side’s cognitive dissonance about whether the EU is a friendly club of countries who get together to knit and braid each other’s hair, or an abusive relationship where we will be beaten up if we try to leave. The Remain camp really do need to make up their minds…

21:08

Oh dear – the first appearance of “they need us more than we need them”. Farage is rightly being taken to task by an audience member for this point.

Far too much talking over one another going on already – Farage, audience members, the moderator.

21:06

Fair point from Farage – there is a marked difference between people in current positions of power in government and NGOs who tend to side with Remain, and those now out of power, who are more likely to back Leave. Something about the freedom of being able to speak one’s true mind seems to make people more likely to support Britain’s independence from the EU. Funny, that…

21:03

Okay, here’s Nigel Farage. The man who arguably did more than anyone else to secure this referendum, but failed to produce a plan for actually leaving the EU.

21:00

Well, here it is. The debate that is not a debate, because David Cameron doesn’t dare actually engage anyone in debate these days.

I’m far from certain that this event will be worth live-blogging, but it will be practice for the Semi-Partisan Politics live-blog of the referendum count and results on 23/24 June.

 

 

More about The Leave Alliance here.

More about Flexcit here.

The EU Referendum blog here.

 

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Don’t Blame Anti-Establishment Politicians For Vile Online Abuse

Internet Troll - Cyber Online Abuse

Taking offence in the behaviour of a politician’s online supporters says a lot more about your view of that particular politician than the uniquely “hateful” nature of their fans

What do Jeremy Corbyn, Nicola Sturgeon, Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump and Nigel Farage all have in common?

Nothing to do with their political views, obviously – you would be hard pressed to imagine four more different politicians, both in terms of style and substance. But they do share something more fundamental in common: the fact that their supporters are uniquely derided as being angry and intemperate, even sexist or racist trolls, especially when compared to the supporters of their more established rivals.

How many times have you heard a wounded, thin-skinned Westminster media type complain in hurt tones that they have received “vile online abuse” from crusading Ukippers or SNP-supporting Cybernats? And this is nearly always followed by the accusatory observation that the journalist or media star in question has never been so insulted or abused by supporters of the other mainstream parties or candidates.

You have likely seen or read this lament numerous times in one form or another. Typically, they will conclude – either explicitly or by inference – that there must be something uniquely awful and unacceptable about that particular party or candidate’s views, something which either attracts a disproportionate number of crazy people, or else makes otherwise good people behave in reprehensible ways.

Here’s the Telegraph’s James Kirkup raising an eyebrow after receiving a less than loving and nurturing response from online UKIP supporters, in a piece rather preciously titled “Why are UKIP supporters so rude and horrible?”:

A brief glance through the comments sections of the Telegraph website will show this is not an isolated incident; hostile and personal remarks are a common feature of online discussion about Ukip-related stories and columns. My email inbox tells a similar story.

I’m not alone here. There is nothing unique or special about me, no individual quality that attracts such strong feelings. All of my colleagues who cover Ukip and Mr Farage regularly receive such vitriol, and several of them get it in much larger volumes than me.

[..] I’m increasingly convinced that Ukippers are one of the political groups whose members are disproportionately likely to go in for online bile. (Scottish Nationalists are another; I haven’t had the pleasure of their electronic company for a while, but in a previous job I got to know the “cybernats” fairly well.)

Kirkup’s piece is actually fairly generous – he goes on to praise Ukippers for their passion and commitment, although it comes across in a rather condescending way.

But there is no such generosity in this farewell to the Labour Party from Barbara Ellen, who took her leave after finding herself unable to cope with the fact that her preferred centrist wing of the party finds itself temporarily out of favour for the first time in decades.

Smarting from the “howling gales” of disagreement she encountered, Ellen raged:

Still the Corbynista circus refuses to leave town, with one troubling result being that the term “moderate” is starting to look tarnished and devalued – deemed too centrist, restrained, temperate, cautious. Never mind that this describes most of Britain – or that this culture of moderate-baiting is hounding people like myself (lifelong Labour voters) out of the party. Like many in the great disenchanted Labour diaspora of 2015, I don’t feel remotely “Tory lite”, but nor do I feel that there is a place for me in this brutal and monochrome, but also silly and over-simplistic, “with us or against us” regime.

And maybe there’s a faint hope that by leaving, by voting with your feet, you’ll finally quietly reasonably (moderately!) make your voice heard. It’s a sad scary moment when “moderate” starts feeling like a insult. I’d have thought that moderates were the bricks and cement of any political party – without them, the extremes become unmoored, sucked into howling gales of their own making. The leftier-than-thou can taunt the departing “boring”, “gutless”, “Tory lite” moderates all they like. In the end, we were necessary and we’ll be missed.

The media’s hysteria about boisterous and sometimes deeply unpleasant online political discourse reached its peak with their coverage of the Jeremy Corbyn campaign, with endless finger-wagging remarks about how the actions of a few anonymous knuckle-dragging trolls supposedly make a mockery of Corbyn’s “New Politics”.

Here’s the Spectator’s Sebastian Payne rending his garments in anguish at the fact that some unhinged Corbyn fans happen to say some very unpleasant things online:

It was meant to be about open debate and discussion, consensus through dialogue. But so far, Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour party and the arrival of the so-called New Politics has resulted in division and a lot of abuse and bad feeling. In light of last night’s vote on Syria airstrikes, Twitter and Facebook have been exploding with extraordinary levels of comments and abuse that no one, MPs or otherwise, should be subjected to.

For example, hard-left groups such as Lefty Unity, have been using Twitter to stir up agitation against the MPs they disagree with.

The article goes on to cite a tweet listing the names of Labour MPs who voted for military action in Syria, and calling for party members to deselect them. Remarkably, Payne presents this as some terrible affront to civilised behaviour rather than precisely what should happen in a democracy: MPs making decisions in public, and the public judging MPs based on those decisions. The horror!

Unfortunately, our default reaction is increasingly not just to sit back and mock the individual trolls (justified), but to then also make the lazy assumption that the internet trolls somehow speak for the wider movement or supporter base (much less justified). Everyone enjoys seeing an ignorant verbal abuser put back in their box, but we are being intellectually lazy if we then go on to believe that people like the anonymous idiot silenced by JK Rowling are representative of general UKIP or SNP opinion.

Cybernat - Online Abuse - Trolling

Exactly the same phenomenon can now be seen in the United States, where supporters and media cheerleaders of Democratic establishment favourite Hillary Clinton are lightning-quick to accuse their opponents of sexism, and to refer disparagingly to supporters of socialist rival Bernie Sanders – alas, a white male – as the “Bernie Bros”.

Glenn Greenwald does a superb job of debunking the myth that Bernie Sanders supporters are uniquely sexist or misogynistic among political supporters over at The Intercept, writing:

Hillary Clinton is the establishment candidate. Therefore, she has far more supporters with loud, influential media platforms than her insurgent, socialist challenger. Therefore, the people with the loudest media platforms experience lots of anger and abuse from Sanders supporters and none from Clinton supporters; why would devoted media cheerleaders of the Clinton campaign experience abuse from Clinton supporters? They wouldn’t, and they don’t. Therefore, venerating their self-centered experience as some generalized trend, they announce that Sanders supporters are uniquely abusive: because that’s what they, as die-hard Clinton media supporters, personally experience. This “Bernie Bro” narrative says a great deal about which candidate is supported by the most established journalists and says nothing unique about the character of the Sanders campaign or his supporters.

And the same blindingly obvious truth hits closer to home with the media’s reaction to – and coverage of – Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign for the Labour leadership:

This exact media theme was constantly used against Corbyn: that his supporters were uniquely abusive, vitriolic, and misogynistic. That’s because the British media almost unanimously hated Corbyn and monomaniacally devoted themselves to his defeat: So of course they never experienced abuse from supporters of his opponents but only from supporters of Corbyn. And from that personal experience, they also claimed that Corbyn supporters were uniquely misbehaved, and then turned it into such a media narrative that the Corbyn campaign finally was forced to ask for better behavior from his supporters.

Time and again we see establishment candidates and their fans in the media reaching for the smelling salts and clamouring to tell us how insulted and distressed they are, simply because something they said or wrote happened to tap into the coarsing vein of popular anger against a political establishment which grows remoter and more self-serving by the day. But we should recognise this for what it is – a cheap attempt to shut down the debate by rendering certain political ideas unthinkable or unsayable.

It is very much in the interests of centrists within Labour and the Conservative Party that people should fear policies with a genuine ideological twist to them, be they from the Right or the Left. When their entire pitch to the electorate consists of fatuous promises to be the most competent managers of our public services, as thought Britain were nothing more than a rainy island of hospitals and job centres, anything which attempts to inject some inspiration, ambition or bold thinking into our political debate is to be greatly feared, and thwarted at all costs.

Hence the continual efforts to portray Jeremy Corbyn’s left-wingery, something which would have been considered perfectly normal in 1986, as beyond the pale of acceptable thought in 2016.

Hence the sneering, virtue-signalling attacks on Ukippers, who have been shamefully portrayed by the media as a bunch of grunting, uneducated, economically “left behind” losers who wrap themselves in the Union flag because they are somehow more scared of change than a “normal” person.

Hence the apocalyptic predictions of those opposing Scottish independence, warning that Scotland would become some kind of tartan-clad North Korea if they went their own way.

Now, this blog believes that Jeremy Corbyn’s left wing policies are utterly wrong for Britain, that UKIP does have a certain unsavoury element within it, and that Scottish independence and the breakup of the United Kingdom would be a tragedy. But I don’t for a moment assume that the virtue of these ideas can be judged in any way by the behaviour of their most crude and sociopathic advocates. And nor do I attempt to suppress the expression of those ideas by linking overheated rhetoric on social media to any one particular idea, candidate or party.

All of which makes you wonder: If the establishment are so self-evidently right, if the centrist parties and politicians do indeed have a monopoly on Good and Pragmatic Ideas, and if anybody who proposes the slightest departure from the status quo is a juvenile dreamer or a tub-thumping populist, why not let the arguments speak for themselves?

If the establishment have the facts so overwhelmingly on their side, why do they not limit themselves to patiently explaining why Bernie Sanders, Jeremy Corbyn, Donald Trump and Nigel Farage are wrong on the issues? And at a time when political engagement is falling and faith in democracy ebbing, are the Corbyn critics and Farage haters really saying that they would rather people were disengaged than back a radical candidate?

This blog would argue that there is a certain nobility in all of the populist insurgencies currently roiling the political landscape in Britain and America. Whether one agrees with them or not (and there is often much to vehemently disagree with), they are at least attempting to drag us out of a stale and timid political consensus which has delivered prosperity for many but also failed too many of our fellow citizens.

Or as this blog remarked last year:

It is very easy to sit smugly on the sidelines, throwing the occasional rock and taunting those who risk hostility, ridicule and contempt as they struggle to find a way to make our politics relevant to the people. Anyone can be a stone-thrower. But it’s another thing entirely to roll up your sleeves, join the fray, pick a side or – if none of the available options appeal – propose new political solutions of your own.

Ukippers and Jeremy Corbyn supporters have often been steadfast in their political views for years, and as a result have languished in the political wilderness while those willing to bend, flatter and shapeshift their way toward focus group approval have been richly rewarded with power and success.

The “Bernie Bro” phenomenon in the United States and the centrist Labour hysterics about the antics of a few offensive people are nothing but a choreographed backlash from the establishment, whipped up by people who are happy to hijack issues like feminism and use them for their own short-term political advantage, or do anything else to disguise the yawning chasm where sincerely held convictions and beliefs should reside.

So, when you see a bunch of prominent, well-connected people feigning horror at the way in which people with whom they disagree are comporting themselves on the internet, your first thought should not be to dismiss the idea or candidate whom the obnoxious trolls support, but rather to question the real motives of the people weeping and rending their garments because they have been spoken to rudely on social media.

It may turn out that the trolls are still wrong, as well as being obnoxious and offensive. But many times, it will likely transpire that the people making the most fuss about the way that a particular candidate or party’s supporters are behaving also happen to have the most to lose in the event that those ideas gain a wider following. And their sudden desire for comity and a more respectful public discourse is cynical at best.

So what do Jeremy Corbyn, Nicola Sturgeon, Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump and Nigel Farage all have in common?

They are all flawed.

They are all willing to say things which make them wildly unpopular with large swathes of people.

Without their boldness and tenacity, few of us would still be discussing their top issues and obsessions – be it genuine socialist politics, Scottish independence, immigration or the coming EU referendum – and our politics would be left to the stale old two-party duopoly.

And none of these politicians, whatever their flaws, deserve to be judged by the online behaviour of their most angry, antisocial supporters.

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Top image: “#GamerGate is the future of troll politics”, Techcrunch.com

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An Open Letter To UKIP Voters

Open Letter to UKIP Supporters - Brexit - Immigration

Dear UKIP Supporter,

There’s no easy way to put this, so I’ll just come right out and say it. If you truly want Britain to vote for Brexit and independence from the European Union in the coming referendum – if that is your top priority right now, as it is mine – then we need to drop our demand to scrap the free movement of people between Britain and Europe and stop calling for stricter immigration controls on people wanting to live and work here.

Before you dismiss me as some pro-European mole from the Remain campaign sent to deceive you, hear me out. I voted for UKIP in the 2015 general election after much soul-searching, because I share your disillusionment and disgust with the political establishment and three main legacy parties – all of which are pro-EU to their core, and all of which have lied to us for decades about the European project and ever-closer political union. I also have admiration and respect for Nigel Farage, without whom we would not be having this referendum at all.

But this is our last chance to save Britain from being absorbed into a European state, and I am terrified of waking up on the morning after the referendum only to find that by insisting on every single one of our demands – particularly on immigration, which is a controversial topic with strong feelings on both sides – we scare the public, lose the vote and squander our only chance of escaping from ever-closer political union.

By asking people to vote to leave the EU, we are already asking them to place a lot of trust in our shared vision for a stronger, more prosperous independent Britain. Unfortunately, many people are swayed by the Remain campaign’s pro-EU propaganda, which relentlessly tells them that Britain is too small and weak a country to succeed on its own. You and I know that to be nonsense, but we already have an uphill battle on our hands to overcome the establishment’s formidable misinformation machine. And demanding an end to the free movement of people within the European Economic Area on top of everything else is just a step too far. People are naturally risk-averse, and keeping this issue on our list of demands is one thing too many.

I know that having secured the referendum from a reluctant David Cameron, it seems like total victory is within your grasp – that you are on the verge of getting everything that you have wanted for so long. And I know that despite the difficult general election result, there are enough indicators to convince you that the tide is turning in your direction, that the entirety of UKIP’s agenda can one day be achieved.

But I implore you to remember what happened to overconfident Labour supporters at the general election. They imprisoned themselves in an ideological bubble of their own making, used social media to talk to each other rather than convincing undecided voters, were hypnotised by their partisan Twitter feeds and drew the false conclusion that the country was about to make Ed Miliband the next prime minister. Their hearts were broken on May 8. Don’t make the same mistake.

I’ve seen some of the UKIP discussion groups on Facebook and the online newspaper comments sections, and I know you have, too. Yes, there are good points made here and there, and some very honest and decent people. But there is also an obsession with immigration that borders on the fanatical. To win the Brexit referendum, we need 51% of the country to vote with us, and like it or not, too many people simply don’t consider immigration a burning issue. They do, however, think that harping on the subject too much strays very close to xenophobia, and if our movement is portrayed as racist or xenophobic in any way, then it’s game over.

Besides, is immigration itself really the problem, or is it the negative side effects of immigration which need to be tackled – the impact on schools, housing, public services and community cohesion? Because there are ways that we can address these issues other than campaigning on a platform of ending free movement and enforcing strict limits on immigration, thus scuppering any chance we have of winning the referendum.

We can look at making our welfare system work on a much more contributory basis, and we can do more to ensure that local areas feeling the greatest strain of inward migration are given significantly more money and resources to help them cope. We can invest properly in adult education, reskilling our workforce for the jobs of the future so that hardworking British people are never left behind at the mercy of cheap overseas labour. And yes, we can also have that important conversation about British values, so that everyone who lives on these islands respects the unique culture and heritage which make Britain so special. Many of the levers to help mitigate the impact of immigration are not possible under EU law, but they would be if Britain were an independent country again.

But by insisting on ending the free movement of people within the European Economic Area as part of our demands for Brexit, we are letting perfection be the enemy of the good. At the risk of using too many clichés, ending free movement is the straw which will break the camel’s back and end our dream of leaving the European Union. Why? Because there are not enough votes in an anti-immigration stance to win, and because opposing free movement loses us nearly as many votes as it gains.

By insisting on ending the free movement of people as part of Brexit, 25% of the electorate will shun us because no matter how misguided they are, they hear “immigration controls” and think “racism”. And another 25% will be very wary of us because they are young, pro-European professionals or students who like the idea of easily being able to live and work in Rome or Paris if they want to, and understandably don’t want to jeopardise their own life chances. That leaves us with no margin for error – we would have to win every single other vote out there, which is just impossible.

But if we campaign for Brexit while promising to respect the free movement of people for the time being, we take away our opponent’s greatest weapon – the false and ludicrous accusation that we are Little Englanders who want to pull up the drawbridge because we are somehow scared of Johnny Foreigner.

Truth be told, you didn’t begin supporting UKIP just so that you could talk about immigration all the time, important though it is. Like me, you recognised that something fundamental is at stake when it comes to our relationship with the EU. Are we to continue sliding down the greasy slope toward European political union, where so many key decisions are taken in Brussels that the idea of Britain as a sovereign state with unique national interests becomes a laughable absurdity? Or are we finally ready to do what every major non-European country does, and face the world as a fully engaged, globally connected and influential world power? Will we continue to be governed by laws and policies set in Brussels where we have just 1/28th of a voice, or are we mature enough to govern ourselves?

At the end of the day, it comes down to one small word – democracy.

Like me, you supported UKIP because you saw Nigel Farage standing up for democracy when it seemed like nobody else cared. And the country owes you a debt of gratitude for what you did. I know many of you have received insults, abuse and worse for daring to vote differently than your friends and family, but your courage has brought us to a place where the dream of independence from the European Union and the return of democracy to Britain are within our reach.

Having got this far, it is all too tempting to assume that the same strategy which forced David Cameron to offer the referendum in the first place will also help us win it. But this is just not so. Nigel Farage did an amazing job turning UKIP’s 3% at the 2010 general election into 13% in 2015, but that still leaves us a massive 38 percent away from winning the referendum. And you just can’t make up that kind of gap by shouting the same message with a louder voice.

Bearing this in mind, I ask you to consider that no great endeavour is won without great sacrifice, and that something major has to change if we are to win the referendum and secure freedom and democracy for our country. And at this critical juncture, like it or not, the sticking point for the electorate is immigration and the free movement of people. Accept the status quo on the free movement of people for the time being and we have a fighting chance of extricating ourselves from the tentacles of Brussels. But stubbornly insist on getting everything we want, and we will be left with absolutely nothing.

This is a difficult and unwelcome message to hear, I know. But making this one sacrifice, and taking this one leap of faith – on the understanding that as an independent country we will seek to deal robustly with the negative consequences of immigration – will put victory within our grasp.

And just think of what we gain by being more flexible on immigration:

The young first-time voter who has only ever been taught good things about the EU and immigration will no longer be scared away by our campaign, and can then be engaged with our arguments about democracy and persuaded to vote for Brexit.

The young professional couple living in Manchester or London will be forced to pick between one side which wants remote and unaccountable government in Brussels and another side which wants laws made by the people they affect. And when they no longer have to worry that their freedom to live and work in Europe is in jeopardy, they will be much more likely to side with us.

Small and large business owners who are naturally eurosceptic but fear the potential uncertainty of labour supply or harm to the economy will be free to follow their hearts and vote for Brexit, knowing that there is no risk to their livelihoods.

Meanwhile, the sneering europhiles of the Remain camp will be dumbfounded, and their campaign left in utter chaos. Their whole argument is built on lying to voters and insisting that people like us only oppose the European Union because deep down we hate foreigners and want to see a complete halt to immigration. This is a golden opportunity to show them – and the country – that they are wrong, that while we have legitimate concerns about unrestricted immigration, we support Brexit because we are on the side of democracy first and foremost.

And ultimately, it is our faith in democracy – not our policies on immigration or anything else – which is our greatest strength, and the greatest weakness of our opponents. Unlike the europhiles, we can look voters in the eye and tell them that Brexit is about trusting them to make the right decisions for themselves and for our country. The Remain campaign has nothing to say about democracy, because they distrust the British people so much that they simply don’t believe we can run our own affairs.

So there it is.

We can win this referendum and secure Britain’s future for our children and grandchildren. But nobody said that it would be easy, or that this victory would be possible without sacrifice. Therefore we must be adaptable and willing to look at plans which have a chance of winning over undecided voters while simultaneously de-risking Brexit, even if it means that we don’t get everything that we might want.

And remember: democracy is key. If we win the referendum and keep Britain from being irreversibly absorbed into a political union, we preserve our freedom to revisit any and all other agreements with the EU in future, and to stand up for our national interest. But if we allow our greed to lose us the referendum, then Britain will soon be unable leave or change the terms of our membership, even if we want to. Dropping our demands on immigration is the safest thing to do, and it is also the right thing to do.

I hope that you will consider what I have to say, and bear it in mind as we respond to demands to show our plan for Brexit. Thank you for hearing me out.

With best wishes,

Sam Hooper

British citizen, former UKIP voter, Brexit campaigner

Open Letter

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Oldham, UKIP And The Soft Bigotry Of The Guardian

Jim McMahon - John Bickley - Labour Party - UKIP - Oldham by election

In their smugness at the Oldham by-election result, the Left are in danger of learning the wrong lessons from UKIP’s failure to gain traction

It goes without saying that the by-election result in Oldham is of great reassurance to Jeremy Corbyn and a bad, bad outcome for UKIP.

Much is already being written about how the result provides breathing space for Corbyn after a difficult week marked by the Syria vote. But one piece of commentary caught my attention, specifically this throwaway line at the bottom of the Guardian’s analysis:

 

Ukip can take no joy from failing to win in a racially charged area.

 

In this short, throwaway sentence lies all of the sneering anti-UKIP bigotry which has come to typify the new middle-class left-wing clerisy and their house journal, The Guardian.

Why would UKIP “take joy” from winning in a racially charged area? The Guardian clearly accepts this idea as gospel, but why would any decent human being be actively thrilled to profit from racial unrest and community tension?

That’s not to say that UKIP do not benefit from these conditions when they occur. But as newspapers like the Guardian usually love to point out, UKIP actually tend to do best in areas where there are fewest immigrants but where local deprivation is high. If anything, the ideal target constituency for UKIP is not somewhere awash with hardworking Polish immigrants, but a run-down, faded and economically dying coastal or northern town with few job prospects and even fewer immigrants.

No decent person would arrive in a constituency marred by racial tension, rub their hands in glee and look forward to collecting the electoral dividend. But this is precisely what the Guardian accuse UKIP of doing. Because they don’t believe it is possible to be decent and a Ukipper. First they continually equate UKIP’s opposition to unlimited EU immigration with racism, which it categorically is not, whatever the other rights and wrongs of their position. And then they write about UKIP taking joy from exploiting racial tension as though they were the BNP in tweed.

Last week while campaigning in Oldham, Labour’s shadow chancellor John McDonnell stood in front of a crowd of supporters and called UKIP (and, by extension, the party’s supporters and sympathisers) “evil”. That was an incredibly insulting, ignorant and offensive thing to say, as well as being factually inaccurate. But at least we all know where John McDonnell stands and exactly what he thinks of people who believe in democracy, quiet patriotism and the nation state.

The Guardian would never be so gauche as to explicitly say that UKIP are evil. But they don’t need to. Their typical reader assumes it to be true, and so will nod along unthinkingly at a line about UKIP being supposedly disappointed not to have successfully exploited racial division.

Unfortunately, this is just further evidence of the Left assuming a very two-dimensional, cartoon caricature image of people who disagree with them. Conservatives can never disagree with socialism due to honest differences in outlook, they must be selfish Tory Scum. And Ukippers cannot have legitimate concerns over democracy and immigration, they must simply be racist.

We saw this same inability to empathise, to think from the perspective of the other person, when Channel 4 aired their ridiculous mockumentary “UKIP: The First 100 Days”, where Ukippers were portrayed by London-dwelling middle class film makers as two-dimensional, foul-mouthed, racist simpletons with working class accents.

There’s no doubt that the Oldham by-election was a very bad result for UKIP. Either UKIP have reached a natural ceiling in their support, their current electoral strategy is wildly misfiring, or the party’s reported financial troubles are so severe that they prevented the deployment of any serious ground game and voter mobilisation effort. The reality is likely to be some combination of all three.

But sneering that UKIP lost because they failed to exploit racial tensions – as though that goal is what motivates the party, and as though Nigel Farage were just another Nick Griffin – is wrong and ultimately counterproductive to the Left’s attempt to defeat the UKIP challenge.

Lasting victory can only ever come via a thorough understanding of one’s opponent. And the Guardian’s response to Labour’s by-election victory in Oldham proves that the Left are still a long, long way from understanding UKIP.

Labour Launch their Oldham West and Royton By-election Campaign

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Mao-Quoting IRA Apologist Calls UKIP An ‘Evil Force In Society’

John McDonnell - UKIP - An evil force in our society.jpg

Labour’s shadow chancellor has all the time in the world for IRA terrorists, and only praise for their murderous actions. But John McDonnell thinks that UKIP voters and people who believe in national sovereignty are “evil”

While speaking at a Momentum campaign dinner this weekend, John McDonnell took a break from quoting Mao Tse-Tung and spoke instead about his view of UKIP:

But actually, winning for Labour is important but beating Ukip is just as important as well.

We can not allow what I think is an evil force within our society – that divides society often on the basis of race, often on the basis on some of the crudest policies that you can imagine any political party advocating. We cannot allow them to get any form  of toehold within our political system and that’s why it’s about defeating them but more importantly, defeating them — a clear contrast in terms of a sincere, local committed socialist candidate.

This, of course, is in the context of Labour’s loosening hold on the constituency of Oldham, where UKIP may overturn the 14,000+ majority won by the late Michael Meacher back in May.

And it’s good to know exactly what the Labour leadership thinks of those British people who believe in democracy, national sovereignty and self-determination – people who dare to be quietly patriotic instead of angrily insisting that there is any moral equivalence between Britain and the forces of terrorism, religious fundamentalism and communist dictatorship.

But of course we already knew what the Labour leadership thinks of those people. Since the beginning of Ed Miliband’s vacillating, sanctimonious leadership of the Labour Party back in 2010, the Labour Party has strutted around as though they are the sole custodians of the nation’s conscience and morals, the only ones with a soul – while the rest of us are evil Tory Scum who delight in persecuting the poor and the sick.

Even an unprecedented rejection at the ballot box in May and a leadership election did nothing to shake the confidence of the party base that they were enlightened and virtuous souls voting for society, while the rest of us were greedy, avaricious racists, voting for our wallets and a return to the 1920s. This may be the marching song of the Corbynites, but it is a self-flattering myth believed by other more moderate factions of the Labour Party, too.

As it goes with domestic policy, so it is with international affairs and Britain’s place in the world. The slavishly pro-EU stance of the Labour and the British Left are portrayed as the only “enlightened” or “moral” opinion to hold, while anyone who questions whether Britain should continue to participate in a tightening supra-national political union that nobody wanted or voted for is somehow reactionary or old-fashioned.

And that’s before we even mention immigration. The Labour Party are at their thuggish worst when they seek to smear anyone who questions the wisdom of unlimited intra-EU immigration as a bigot or racist. And John McDonnell proves that he is more than willing to do this, when he speaks about the danger of a political party which “divides society often on the basis of race”.

The irony, of course, is that whatever the other rights or wrongs of UKIP’s immigration policy, theirs is inarguably the least racist policy of all the main political parties, including Labour. The Labour Party, together with all others, are fully wedded to Britain’s continued membership of the European Union and the continued free movement of people within that union. Which is lovely for hard-working southern and eastern Europeans with no qualifications, who out-compete unqualified Brits in the labour market, but less so for highly skilled Indian, Pakistani, Chinese or Brazilian workers who may have a huge amount to contribute to our economy but face significant obstacles to working and settling here.

The Labour Party has no response to this fundamental truth. They know that their fixation on continued British membership of the European Union promotes racial discrimination against non-Europeans when it comes to immigration policy, as well as dooming underqualified Brits to a life of minimum wage drudgery. But the socialist, internationalist pipe dream of European government trumps real concern for working people every single day. So they assuage their guilty consciences by ostentatiously pretending to be great anti-racism campaigners, and accusing everybody who sees through their cheap, tawdry tricks of being tantamount to a white supremacist.

It’s cheap and it’s pathetic, and it’s being pimped out by a despicable Labour shadow chancellor who praised the use of terrorism – the bomb and the bullet – against innocent British citizens.

Six months after a general election at a time of Conservative government missteps and scandals, and Labour are struggling to defend a 14,000 seat majority in the safest of safe seats. Those votes are bleeding away in no small part to UKIP, who are convincing many wavering Labour voters that Nigel Farage’s party is now better placed to defend their interests than a Labour Party which has been captured first by substance-free Milibandism and then by Islingtonian, Jeremy Corbyn-style moral hectors.

And Labour’s response? The same response they always give when they are backed into a tight spot – shroud themselves in the white robes of virtue and scream “racism!” at anyone who points out just how morally and intellectually bankrupt they really are.

A humiliating UKIP victory in Oldham – and the banishment of John McDonnell back to the swamps of vile far-left obscurity where he belongs – cannot come soon enough.

John McDonnell - Little Red Book - Mao Tse Tung

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