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The Daily Toast: To Win, Eurosceptics Must Show That The EU Is Outdated

Old Europe Map

Another new initiative for Semi-Partisan Politics – counterpart to The Daily Smackdown (same basic idea, but reversed). Will focus on a different praiseworthy or perspective-changing article, argument or action each day

Allister Heath has a good piece in the Telegraph, where he observes that the europhiles may end up wrong-footing themselves in the coming referendum by buying into the lazy, two-dimensional caricature of eurosceptics as ornery traditionalists who are stuck in the past and afraid of the future.

Heath rightly points out that the europhiles dismiss or underestimate we Brexiteers at their peril, writing “it is always a fatal error to assume that your political opponents are evil or stupid”. I certainly hope that this rule holds true just as it did for Ed Miliband’s vacuous, virtue-signalling Labour Party at the general election.

The hopes of many a lefty were extinguished on May 7  when it emerged that the left-wing echo chamber on Twitter was in fact not representative of the country, and that people other than psychopaths and billionaires actually voted Tory in good conscience. So by all means, let them assume once again that anyone who doubts the inherent virtue of the European Union must be a grumpy retired colonel, a Mafeking stereotype from a run-down coastal town.

Heath writes, in praise of campaign group Vote Leave:

Vote Leave’s core argument is that the EU’s institutions remain stuck in the post-1945 era: an industrial and agricultural world dominated by a few rich nations and overshadowed by the Cold War. In those days, bureaucratic centralism was the fashionable answer; 60 years on, the EU’s creaking, lumbering structures cannot cope with change involving genetic engineering, cybercrime, driverless cars and digital manufacturing.

They are just as debilitated when it comes to addressing contemporary geopolitical risks, including the crisis in the Middle East, the rise of terrorist organisations such as Isil, or even negotiating bilateral trade deals with emerging economies. It is Europe that now has a protectionist mindset, pretending that its borders stop at the Mediterranean while looking on uselessly as Syria is engulfed in a humanitarian catastrophe.

Rather than advocating a retreat into splendid isolation – which is what pro-EU activists wrongly assume Eurosceptics believe – Vote Leave will be calling for increased and improved international cooperation to deal properly with the forces that are changing the world. This, it will argue persuasively, requires different institutions to those that exist today: structures that can tackle problems quickly and that allow decentralised cooperation between nations.

I have my grave doubts about Vote Leave, for reasons well summarised over at the blog Vote to Leave the EU. There are serious doubts as to whether Brexit is the true goal of that group’s leadership, or if they are simply agitating for an initial “no” vote to then strengthen Britain’s hand for a future, “serious” renegotiation with the aim of securing a slightly sweeter deal. But Heath’s broader point is a very good one.

What threadbare arguments could have been made for the European Union back in the 1950s when the world was indeed divided into distinct and competing supranational blocs have lost all of their potency in the twenty-first century multi-polar word. For too long, europhiles have been allowed to portray themselves as forward-looking and progressive. And some really do believe it to be true. But it is increasingly hard to believe that Britain’s national interest is best served when represented through the collective voice of twenty-seven other distinct countries, each with their own unique circumstances and agendas.

Heath continues:

The future will belong to shifting networks of nations, not to monolithic empires. Voters will have to be empowered and kept involved, rather than bypassed through undemocratic transnational democracies. The Inners, who for decades have claimed to represent modernity, are about to be wrong-footed by a campaign and arguments that they will find very difficult to respond to.

It is absolutely essential that this is the case, if we are to achieve the goal of Brexit. This cannot be a campaign focused on some chimerical, glorious past, and if it becomes such a campaign we will be ripped to shreds and lose our last, best hope of regaining national sovereignty.

That means we must focus on all of the things that Allister Heath talks about in his article – how an independent Britain will be free to pursue advantageous commercial and diplomatic deals in our own interest rather than holding one 28th of a say over the common European position, how Britain’s membership fee can be repurposed and reallocated to focus on our own priorities and incentives, and more. But that’s all long term.

We also need an immediate plan mapping out what British secession from the European Union actually looks like. It is imperative that the “Leave” campaign pushes such a plan, otherwise voters will (rightly) conclude that a vote to leave the EU is a leap into the unknown, and choose the stultifying status quo as the safer option.

At present, you would be forgiven for thinking that there is no such plan. Neither of the two main campaign groups spend any time talking about what Brexit might actually look like. Vote Leave certainly don’t mention one (quite probably because Brexit is not their end goal), while Leave.EU are more focussed on attacking the EU than promoting a positive vision of post-EU Britain.

But such a plan does exist. It’s called Flexcit, and if I keep banging on about it on this blog in the coming weeks and months it is only because I have come to realise that the referendum cannot be won without a clear and unambiguous plan for Brexit, and it is high time some of the “heavyweight” eurosceptics publicly adopted this plan or ventured one of their own.

Flexcit is a serious, pragmatic plan which outlines a step-by-step process for leaving the EU and rejoining the world. It doesn’t make undeliverable promises of free chocolate and rainbows for everyone, but it is comprehensive and rigorous, and does what it says on the tin. As I have already said, every serious eurosceptic and Brexit campaigner should read it and give it fair consideration.

Only then, with the referendum won and Britain taking her first steps in the world as a truly independent and sovereign nation once again, can we do as Allister Heath says and show the vanquished europhiles just how forward-looking and ambitious we Brexiteers are for our country.

David Cameron - EU Referendum - Brexit - Human Rights Act

Further reading:

The British Model

Is the penny dropping about Vote Leave’s true intentions?

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The Daily Smackdown: David Cameron’s Begging Letter To The EU

David Cameron - Donald Tusk - EU Renegotiation - Brexit - Referendum

The problem with the European Union cannot be solved through a renegotiation, because the renegotiation is just another symptom of the problem

If you hadn’t already worked out that David Cameron’s EU renegotiation is a sham, a PR exercise from a PR prime minister designed to make it look as though Britain is leading real change in Europe when in fact we are merely haggling over a few cosmetic and inconsequential concessions, then your remaining doubts should now be answered.

Yesterday, the government released the wheedling, subservient letter that David Cameron has written to Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, begging his permission to reclaim a few minor and superficial aspects of British sovereignty. The fact that half of the prime minister’s demands – such as the call for the European Union to respect the principle of subsidiarity – are things which the EU has long been committed to doing on paper, but shown zero interest in following in practice – gives zero hope that whatever Cameron takes home from Brussels will be honoured.

But Britain’s fundamental problem with the European Union cannot be solved through a renegotiation, because the renegotiation itself is just another symptom of the problem. For as long as any British prime minister must flatter and beg countries like Portugal or Malta and seek their permission before acting in our own national interest, we have no true sovereignty and the European Union will remain an unwanted, antidemocratic millstone around our necks.

No possible outcome of David Cameron’s EU renegotiation will come close to touching this fundamental issue, because the EU is determined to remain a supranational political union, sitting above national governments and gradually acquiring more and more of their power. That’s just a fact, and those europhiles still in denial need to stop deluding themselves that an organisation with its own parliament, executive and judiciary is somehow just there to promote love and understanding between the peoples of Europe, with no designs on our democracy. Such a view is childishly naive.

Even if Cameron’s plea for Britain to be somehow exempted from the Treaty of Rome commitment to ever-closer union is heard, this will simply relegate us to a form of “associate membership” which would leave us – as Leave HQ put it so succinctly – “out on the edges and still on the leash”.

And so we are left with a cosmetic list of demands based not on any attempt to reflect the concerns of the British people, but based instead on what limited concessions David Cameron thinks he might be able to cajole from his European friends. He is essentially starting at his desired outcome (Britain voting to “remain” in the EU) and then working backward, rather than starting with Britain’s national interest at the forefront of his mind, and then letting the chips fall where they may when it comes to the renegotiation.

The whole exercise is a sham, and I refuse to be a part of it. I will not report the ups and downs of the coming “renegotiation” effort, with the inevitable carefully choreographed table-banging rows between Britain and France or the back-and-forth with Poland on migrant benefits access, because the whole thing is a PR exercise designed to make it look like our Conservative In Name Only government are looking out for our national interest when in reality they are only looking for a way out of an unwanted political problem.

Or as my Conservatives for Liberty colleague Ben Kelly puts it in his must-read piece:

There are no negotiations because the outcome of this act of political theatre has been decided for some time, the great deception is already in play. Osborne and Cameron will go through the ridiculous charade of demanding “associate membership” and their EU colleagues will play along and agree to their “demands”.

They will then return declaring a great victory for Britain and ask the public to endorse it in the referendum and give them a mandate to create our “new deal” in a “reformed EU”, which may very well include promises of minor concessions of reduced contributions and some leeway on the “four demands”.

On the surface, this two tier structure will seem enticing, in reality not only will we retain all the major disadvantages we currently suffer – from our trade policy being an ‘exclusive policy of the EU’, to the union’s redundancy in a globalised world, to its essentially anti-democratic nature – but once the eurozone integrates further we will be truly isolated within the union as a second class member.

What matters most now is not whatever choreographed stunt George Osborne or David Cameron cook up every day to make it look like they are going to battle for Britain. What matters most is honing our arguments in favour of Brexit to reach out to the undecided middle. And this means coalescing around a viable plan for a phased British exit from the EU, one which reassures wavering voters that stepping away from the EU is a prudent move, and not a leap into the unknown.

That plan is called Flexcit – I have seen no others that come close to Flexcit’s level of detail and rigour. All eurosceptics, Brexiteers and “Leave” campaigners now have a duty to read it, improve it where possible and then either champion it or propose a better plan of their own.

EU Renegotiation - Brexit - European Union

Further Reading:

The biggest gamble of all is to stay in the EU

The Cameron Deception: “associate membership” of the EU

Mr. Cameron still can’t beat the Flexcit offer

The EU makes us self-absorbed and insular

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Are People Waking Up To Left Wing Virtue-Signalling?

When it comes to the British political debate, what you say now matters more than what you do. The BBC has apparently just noticed this trend

The standard Daily Politics slapstick comedy treatment makes it almost unwatchably patronising, but this segment of the BBC’s dumbed-down flagship political programme is actually on to something.

Last week, the Daily Politics invited journalist James Bartholomew – coiner of the phrase “virtue signalling” – on the show to talk about why more and more of us stop after stating our good intentions rather than following through by acting on them.

First, we get this candid and refreshingly frank take on the virtue-signallers:

“Virtue signalling without actually doing anything is not true virtue. It is self-righteous, vain and silly. It’s not what you say or think that matters, it’s what you do.”

Bartholomew then offers this interesting angle:

“I think the welfare state is a lot to do with it. People feel that they have outsourced their decency. I’ve paid my taxes, therefore I don’t have to do anything. I think that’s part of the cause, why virtue signalling without actually doing anything has increased.

[..] But what really irritates me is those people who I’ve met, in contrast to people who do real good, the people who think ‘oh, I can say I hate the Daily Mail and I hate UKIP, and I vote Labour once every five years. I’m a morally superior person.’ And that really irritates me because there are people who go out and make sacrifices and effort.”

I think there’s a lot of truth in this idea that the welfare state leads us to outsource our decency. Obviously there are many people who both contribute to the welfare state through their taxes and also find the time and resources to do additional good in their communities. But there are also many of us who do not.

There are too many of us who think that an angry Facebook meme or a lazy re-tweet counts as doing something meaningful and helpful. You could argue that we see the same phenomena every time something like the Ice Bucket Challenge sweeps the internet – a well intentioned fundraising initiative that soon led to large numbers of (particularly young) people uploading their own videos out of a desire to participate and show off, without then going on to make the all-important cash donation to MND charities.

This phenomena is an annoyance when it is confined to the social or charitable arena, but it becomes most problematic – and distorting – when it starts taking over the field of politics. Bartholomew himself has written about how the virtue signalling Left make any serious discussion about the future of British healthcare almost impossible:

It’s noticeable how often virtue signalling consists of saying you hate things. It is camouflage. The emphasis on hate distracts from the fact you are really saying how good you are. If you were frank and said, ‘I care about the environment more than most people do’ or ‘I care about the poor more than others’, your vanity and self-aggrandisement would be obvious, as it is with Whole Foods. Anger and outrage disguise your boastfulness.

One of the occasions when expressions of hate are not used is when people say they are passionate believers in the NHS. Note the use of the word ‘belief’. This is to shift the issue away from evidence about which healthcare system results in the greatest benefit for the greatest number of people. The speaker does not want to get into facts or evidence. He or she wishes to demonstrate kindness — the desire that all people, notably the poor, should have access to ‘the best’ healthcare. The virtue lies in the wish. But hatred waits in reserve even with the NHS. ‘The Tories want to privatise the NHS!’ you assert angrily. Gosh, you must be virtuous to be so cross!

This blog made the same point on the NHS only yesterday.

But whether it’s worshipping the NHS, opposing the bedroom tax or hating George Osborne’s plans for tax credits, it is clear that millions of people are willing to share a supportive tweet or Facebook post, but less willing to do anything else – even so much as vote in accordance with their own social media timelines, as Ed Miliband discovered to his cost on May 7.

Why is this? Are people that self-centred that they’ll give the poor a swipe of their thumb if they come across a lefty meme on their phones while commuting to work, but won’t march down to their local polling booth? Or are these lefty memes being shared not because people have given serious thought to the issues at stake, but rather because Politics via Social Media encourages everyone to treat their political opinions like this season’s fashion, casually adopting or discarding opinions in order to fit in with the group and gain acceptance by one’s peers?

Both factors are probably at play. But one thing is clear: when we are all so busy “raising awareness” of our pet causes on social media, we neglect the people actually making real-world policy at our own peril.

NOTE: It should be pointed out that virtue-signalling exists on the political Right, too, though not to the same extent. In the United States, some of the more craven military-fetishising and quasi-religious #humblebrags (“Feeling so blessed that the Lord has graced me with this promotion / pay rise / new washing machine”) would certainly count as virtue-signalling. And elements of the online meme-sharing Tea Party clearly got caught up in a bubble of their own and deluded themselves into expecting a Mitt Romney victory in the 2012 presidential election. So the phenomenon does cut both ways.

Sexual Consent Class - Consent Educator

Social Justice Warrior

h/t Guido Fawkes

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The Daily Smackdown: ‘Save Our NHS’ Fanatics Thwart Essential Reform

nhs-lapel-pin-national-religion-healthcare-hagiography-sps

Trialling a new addition to Semi-Partisan Politics – the Daily Smackdown. Basically a repository for the zingers and comebacks that pop into my mind but which I lack the time to work into a full article, these will be one or two-paragraph responses to a specific piece or trending topic in the national media. The aim is to allow the blog to cover more ground each day, while challenging lazy thinking or rhetoric from across the political spectrum – as well as giving you all more to read!

Dr. Rob Galloway writes an “open letter to members of the British public” in Think Left today, deploying all of the usual tired catchphrases (“our NHS” is “on its knees”, etc. etc.) in an effort to persuade us that we should continue pumping endless money and human resources into an anachronistic healthcare delivery system from the 1940s.

From Galloway’s letter:

The NHS is on its knees and unless things change, it may not survive.  It has been attacked, part privatised, demoralised and starved of funds.

So the NHS’s defenders have been saying since 1948. But do go on:

We have tried to highlight what is going on; through the media, marches, speeches and endless tweets and face-book posts.  But it is not working.  Things are getting worse and the NHS, which we all care so much about may soon no longer, be able to care for us.

It’s almost as if endlessly sharing and re-tweeting the same sanctimonious, scaremongering articles within your own closed information loop of like-minded friends and acquaintances doesn’t actually effect meaningful change, isn’t it? Maybe talk to Ed Miliband about that one, I hear he’s thinking of starting a support group.

The only things which might save it is if the British public no longer just accept what is happening – but start to fight back.  This is above party politics.  This is about what we want our society to be like.  Fight back for the greatest safety net we have – the knowledge that as a UK taxpayer if we get sick, then we will be looked after; an envy throughout the world.

The envy of the world? Sorry, I’ve had enough of that one. I always forget how people in Canada simply collapse at the side of the road and go untreated until they swipe a valid credit card.

People who say the NHS is the “envy of the world” have clearly never used their passport and gone to another country. You don’t have to embrace the US model (often world-leading hospitals and treatments, with runaway costs and a crummy patient access system of giant private healthcare providers wrapped around them) to recognise that other countries somehow manage to provide good healthcare to their citizens without resorting to a monolithic, monopolistic, inefficient state provider like the NHS.

It’s funny – in so many areas, many people are self-deprecating about Britain and our national greatness, almost to a fault. Many of us can often be found negating our successes, apologising for our history or (in the case of the coming Brexit referendum) believing that an economic, cultural and military power like the UK somehow needs to remain yoked to that mid-century relic of a supranational political union, the EU, just to stay relevant in the world.

But on one issue alone – the National Health Service – we have convinced ourselves that we in Britain have created perfection itself, that no other nation on earth comes close to matching our achievement, and that health secretaries from Ottawa to Canberra secretly covet what we have. And yet surprisingly, few countries are beating down our door for advice on replacing their existing systems with one modelled on “Our NHS”. Shouldn’t that tell us something?

Let’s stop singing hymns to a 1940s anachronism or praying to Saint Aneurin Bevan to Save Our NHS for a moment, and actually re-examine British healthcare from the bottom up. If we were to do so today (not that we will), we would in all likelihood end up with something far better – and probably quite unlike – our current National Health Service.

Further Reading:

Treat the NHS as a religion, and you give it the right to run your life

Our deadly obsession with the NHS

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Britain First Are Abhorrent, But Banning Their Party Conference Is Wrong

Britain First - Paul Golding - Masked Activists

If you don’t protest the forced cancellation of the Britain First conference in Chesterfield, don’t call yourself a supporter of free speech

Let’s skip the near-obligatory paragraph restating for the record just how odious and hateful Britain First are. Britain First’s racism, paranoia, manipulative social media campaigns and grotesque subversion of patriotism are abhorrent; that much really goes without saying.

But something else should also go without saying, yet is not being widely said: no matter how nasty that party’s speech and campaigning activities may be, the decision by Chesterfield council to cancel the venue booking for Britain First’s conference at the last minute is a brazen violation of the dual freedoms of speech and assembly.

From the Derbyshire Times:

A far-right political party has been banned from holding a conference in Chesterfield due to “the risk of public disorder”, it has emerged tonight.

Britain First had booked a Chesterfield Borough Council venue for its seven-hour meeting next Saturday.

But in a letter to the nationalist party’s leader Paul Golding, the council’s chief executive Huw Bowen said: “I am writing to advise you that a decision has been taken to cancel this booking because of the risk of public disorder. Your fee of £379 will be credited to your account.”

And the Huffington Post’s jubilant, gloating report:

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