Douglas Carswell's Blog

01 DEC 2015

UKIP: the low tax, progressive alternative

Austerity politics is over. That was the message of the Autumn Statement. From now on, this Government is about high borrowing, high spending, and high taxation – all based on the fantasy of eternal economic growth. George Osborne is leaving Britain in worse shape to face another recession than Gordon Brown did.

The fundamental problems in our economy remain unresolved. Over the last five years, the national debt has doubled. The Government is still spending billions more than it takes in taxes. Welfare is still unreformed. Productivity is worryingly low. Britain's trade deficit is wider than ever. Britain's banks are still dangerously exposed to toxic debt. The Bank of England is still too afraid to raise interest rates from record negative levels.

Like Gordon Brown, George Osborne assumes that the economy will continue growing forever. But the economy works in cycles: a period of growth, followed by a correction.

So what happens when the next crash hits? When the national debt is already so vast, where is Osborne planning to find the money for another dose of "fiscal stimulus"? When interest rates can't go any lower, how can the Bank of England inject more "monetary stimulus"?

The truth is Osborne isn't planning. He hasn't fixed the roof while the sun is shining. In fact, he isn't even trying anymore. He has left Britain dangerously unprepared for the next recession.

Now that the Labour party has embraced its inner Maoist, the Tory leadership has clearly decided to fill the vacuum on the centre-left. The Conservatives are now New Labour. They have already broken the promise to safeguard "economic security" on which they were elected only months ago.

We cannot fix our broken economy without radical change. Businesses need to be set free from crippling regulation. Families need relief from high taxes. The State needs to slim down and spend within its means.

The Conservatives no longer support lower taxes and a smaller State. Only one party offers a responsible alternative to kamikaze borrow-and-spend economics. Only UKIP.

30 NOV 2015

How to resign and spark a tricky by-election - my guide for rebellious MPs

It's not much fun being a Labour MP right now.

Just as you were trying to come to terms with not winning the last election, Jeremy Corbyn takes over as leader. Its not just that someone you used to regard as a bit of a joke is now in charge. He's unelectable.

Yet there he now is, backed up by hundreds of thousands of new members convinced that their Twitter timeline reflects the views of middle England. Worst of all, they are demanding that you tag along with every daft demand – or face deselection.

"People don't speak to each other face-to-face as aggressively as they do on Twitter," said one Labour acquaintance of mine. "Except in Labour branches."

Sooner or later, it will end badly. I hope that some of the saner MPs in the Labour party don't wait to be pushed. Here's my advice on how to jump:

1. Be discreet. If you are going to make the move, don't let on. You don't owe Jeremy and the comrade clique anything. Make sure that the first that they hear of your departure is on the news.

2. Don't make it about you. The mad Maoists in your own party are doing everything possible to make George Osborne a shoe-in for 2020. Progressive reform and the values you believe in are being torpedoed from within. When you jump, be sure that folk realise it's not about you. It's about those reformist values that made you join Labour in the first place.

3. Insist on a by-election. Between 1701 and 1918, a by-election had to be called every time an MP was invited to join the government. Think of it as a sort of confirmation hearing. Insist on a by-election to confirm your move with the electorate. It's the only honourable way. Incidentally, there is no disgrace if they do say "No". What would be disgraceful would be to live life subservient to people you cannot respect.

4. Never call it defection. If you switch parties, you will be frequently asked about your "defection", as if you were some sort of Soviet spy who betrayed their country. It is not you who is the mad Marxist. Remain true to what took you into politics to begin with.

5. Constituents first. Always be available for local people. Hold regular surgeries. Respond quickly to local residents. You never know when youmight need their support. They – not the shower now running the Opposition Whips office – are your boss.

6. Join a new party. If you believe in radical political reform in the spirit of the Chartists, respect the free market, and want to break up the political and economic cartels that increasingly run our country, join UKIP. I did, and I've never enjoyed being an MP more. Many of your party's traditional supporters have already made the move. Come with us. If those are not the sort of things you believe in, then why not run as an independent? Seriously. The days when we can do politics without big, corporate parties is coming.

You did not go into politics in order to be told what to think by Diane Abbott. So don't. Sack your whips. Do the job on your constituents' terms. Free yourself from the shrill tyranny of those who imagine that Facebook likes are more important than votes.

Incidentally, you will have much, much more fun too.

This article was first published by The Telegraph.

29 NOV 2015

Subsidised mortgages just means more debt

Who benefits from the Government's Help to Buy scheme?

George Osborne wants you to believe that it'll be first time buyers. And to be sure, a lucky few will benefit. But Help to Buy is really a subsidy to bankers, developers, and people who already own property.

If you are a young person wanting to own your own home, and if you do not happen to be on the list of the lucky few who get a subsidized mortgage, house prices go up even further beyond your reach. Even if you do get a Help to Buy loan, what the Chancellor is doing is giving you more debt.

Help to Buy means first-time buyers borrow more. By making it easier for them to get mortgages, it pushes up property prices. It transfers wealth from people who don't own a house to people who do – and the bankers who lend them the money.

It's also good news for developers. Help to Buy encourages first-time buyers to borrow money from the taxpayer if they are buying a new build property. Osborne claims this will boost the housing supply. But he won't deal with the real reason there are too few houses: restrictive red-tape regulation. Help to Buy just uses unsuspecting first-time buyers to transfer taxpayers' money to big developers. It's classic crony corporatism.

Osborne economics is pushing up rents. His clampdown on buy-to-let will end up cutting the supply of rental properties, and raising the cost of renting as a result. Thanks to the Chancellor, young people face a double whammy of unaffordable property prices and higher rents.

Taxing buy-to-let isn't fair on pensioners either. Lots of people invested money in rental property after Gordon Brown raided their private pensions. Now his successor is eating their nest egg again.

The Chancellor is spending £10 billion on this subsidy alone. The Autumn Statement was littered with others. Osborne is quick to claim to be a Thatcherite. His real spirit guide is that ultimate corporatist Ted Heath.

Ted Heath once thought he had fixed the economy via various corporatist wheezes. It did not end well. Neither will the Osborne mortgage subsidy.

28 NOV 2015

Cheer up, its Christmas shopping time! In defence of mass consumption

Self-righteous British media types love to hate so-called Black Friday – the start of the Christmas shopping season. They can't bear the "consumerism": millions of people freely choosing products they want at prices they can afford. The horror!

"Britain doesn't have Thanksgiving. Black Friday as a US import designed to make folk spend after Thanksgiving and before Christmas," the chattering classes moan. "Why are we importing such vulgar American materialism?"

I don't think there is anything vulgar about consumer choice. I happen to believe it is rather wonderful.

I grew up in a country where people were denied free choice.  In Uganda under Idi Amin, rulers stole what they could, while restricting and regulating what folk could buy and sell. You needed permits for everything in an economy that produced little.

Perhaps those pundits who sneer at consumerism simply do not know what its like for a society to not have much to consume?

Instead of sneering at Black Friday, we should be asking why there are so many people in the world who are still denied the right to choose how to live their lives. And why in so many areas of our lives – schools, hospitals, public transport, energy providers – we have so little choice. Usually it has something to do with a remote bureaucratic cartel deciding how resources should be allocated, instead of letting people decide for themselves.

American elites whine about Black Friday contradicting the spirit of Thanksgiving. In fact, they have more in common than you might think. They're both about choice.

Thanksgiving began with a group of people who left Europe to live without fear of religious persecution. They founded a society based on the right to choose. That ideal of freedom is the root of American prosperity today.

We may not have a formal Thanksgiving in Britain. But that shouldn't turn us into miserable pessimists. On the contrary: on a day like Black Friday, we should be grateful for the choice and prosperity we enjoy.

27 NOV 2015

On Short money, the Government is following UKIP's lead

This week, George Osborne proposed a 19% cut to Short money - public funding for Opposition parties. Taxpayers will now pay less to subsidise politics. This is a direct result of what UKIP has done in Parliament.

As the only MP for a party that got almost 4 million votes, I was entitled to a vast amount of public money. We felt that taking the full whack simply wasn't right. Instead, we decided to reduce the amount we received unilaterally.

We proved it is possible to do more with less. We showed the Government that other Opposition parties can do the same.

Of course, the other parties don't agree. Not the Lib Dems. Not the Greens. And certainly not Labour. New politics? We're the only party doing anything different.

The Commons will probably have to vote on the cut. If so, I'll be voting for it. It looks like most other Opposition MPs will vote against. Once again the Westminster cartel will try to take as much money from the taxpayer's pocket as it can get.

Opposition parties are furious with George Osborne for this. They accuse him of being underhand. But it isn't the Chancellor who needs to explain himself. It's them. Opposition MPs need to explain why they expect working people across Britain to fork out more hard-earned cash for spinners and spads in Parliament.

Is politics really as expensive as these politicians make out? Do spin doctors really need six-figure salaries at the taxpayer's expense? The comrades Chairman Corbyn has been hiring don't even believe in private property.

Cutting the politics subsidy is a little Christmas bonus for the taxpayer. You'd have to be a turkey not to vote for it.

26 NOV 2015

Immigration control? This government isn't even pretending to try

Today, David Cameron wants to talk about Syria. He would like the media to focus on whether or not he has the numbers in the House of Commons to authorise military action.

I happen to think there is a case for military action, but I respect that there is an honourable argument the other way. I'm open-minded.

But what I think we all have a right to resent is that we are being asked to focus on what the government should or should not do in the eastern Mediterranean, rather than asking why the government has failed to secure our borders here at home.

On the very same day that Mr Cameron has got us talking Syria, shocking new immigration statistics show that this government has comprehensively failed to control our borders.

Over the last year, 636,000 people immigrated to Britain - mostly to settle. Net migration hit 336,000 - the highest on record. While non–EU immigration rose only slightly, immigration from within the EU jumped by 42,000, or 19%.

David Cameron was elected to office on a promise to reduce net migration to under 100,000 per year. But in the last year, the increase in net migration alone was 82,000. The truth is he made his pledge just to return to Number 10. He had no intention of keeping it. Now he wants to change the subject and talk about something else.

Secure in Downing Street, with the looney Labour party on a long march to Maoist irrelevance, Cameron has give up even pretending to try to control immigration.

Statecraft should entail securing our own borders before we talk about going to war. Before we talk about sending tens of thousands of Western troops into Syria, why don't we debate how to control the hundreds of thousands of people who are freely entering Britain?

26 NOV 2015

Blair is back

The Labour party has now lurched so far to the left that George Osborne has decided to take on the mantle of Tony Blair. There is no other way to understand yesterday's Autumn statement.

Labour's shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell, has – bizarrely - started quoting Chairman Mao. Really. This has created the space for George – the master of political tactics - to shift left.

And like Blairite budgets before, this one sounded pretty good – but the numbers don't add up.

Osborne announced he was scrapping cuts and going to reduce the deficit. Like Blair, he seems to be over-committing unearned tax revenue before it's even come in.

The real significance of this financial statement is that yes, there will be some fiscal leeway to play around with due to economic growth. But George has, like every other left of centre administration since the Second World War, decided to use the leeway he has to expand the state, not cut taxes.

Billions that could be spent on tax cuts will go on the Chancellor's favourite hard hat projects. The consequences of this choice will be profound.

It means that those who want lower taxes and less government no longer have an ally in a corporatist, Heathite Tory party. George's Conservative party is patrician and interventionist. He even said we needed an industrial strategy.

Here's a final depressing thought: with George at the helm, this year our government will spend more on overseas aid than on the entire Home Office budget, including the police.

Perhaps all this creates the space for a low tax, small government, patriotic non-Maoist alternative?

25 NOV 2015

Cut spending, empower Parliament

Today, George Osborne will deliver the Autumn Statement. He might use clever clogs words to hide it from us, but things aren't going well. Government spending keeps going up. The national debt is still increasing. The deficit is getting wider. In fact, the only thing that's falling is the Chancellor's popularity rating.

David Cameron correctly styled himself the heir to Blair. George Osborne has been less keen to admit he is the heir to Brown. But his record speaks for itself.

Like Brown, Osborne has presided over an unprecedented rise in public debt – which has doubled since he took office. Like Brown, he is borrowing during an economic boom. Like Brown, his spending plans are based on constant economic growth – the illusion that he has abolished boom and bust.

Osborne is deliberately disingenuous about controlling spending. But to be fair to him, no modern Government has managed to make cuts – not even Margaret Thatcher's.


Because the executive has a vested interest in increasing spending. Every Government department always wants more money. So ministers sitting at the Cabinet table invariably lobby for more funding for their departments.

But it hasn't always been this way. The budget wasn't always written entirely behind closed doors in the Treasury. Parliament used to be able to amend the text. In fact, the enormous twentieth-century expansion of the State can be traced to the point in the 1930s when MPs lost the power to amend budgets. Since then they can only boo or cheer. Often MPs won't even understand the tax and spending as they do so.

Look at countries that keep spending in check: Switzerland, Australia, South Korea. They have powerful legislatures that do their job of controlling public spending. The United States may have serious debt problems, but they would be even worse were it not for the power of Congress. Twice in recent years, the legislature has pushed through budget cuts against the will of the President.

Imagine what we could do here if Parliament had the same power. What if each government department had to have its spending plan scrutinised and approved by a select committee of MPs? What if select committees had the power to veto departmental budgets?

The Autumn Statement is a ritualistic sham. The Chancellor's statement to Parliament gives the illusion of accountability. In fact, Parliament is powerless to do anything but rubber stamp his plans. Unsustainable spending is possible because there are no real checks on the Treasury's dominion over taxpayers' money. The solution is to empower Parliament.

24 NOV 2015

LEAKED: Labour Party social media code of conduct

The Labour party is about to get its members to sign up for a code of conduct for social media, apparently. Here is a draft copy of the leaked memo outlining the soon-to-be-compulsory dos and don'ts:

1. Do remember that in the new politics the party whips are much more relaxed – so always tweet on message

2. Don't be disrespectful to others - unless you're referring to Simon Danczuk or Tristram or Blair. Or anyone not in Momentum.

3. Don't use hate speech – unless you're talking about #Toryscum. Remember someone need not be a Tory to be #ToryScum

4. Do broadcast your support for foreign terrorist groups – especially if you're a party spin doctor

5. Do express your opposition to evil multinationals using an Apple, Samsung, or Sony device, and where possible free Wifi provided by Starbucks

6. Do use Facebook to complain about how Facebook doesn't pay enough tax

7. Should you lose a debate or election among real voters, do retreat into your Twitter timeline to have your prejudices reinforced.

8. Jeremy Corbyn is the New Politics - so do not disagree

9. Don't forget that in the new politics likes are more important than votes

10. Use a hashtag to signal your virtue and differentiate you from #ToryScum

23 NOV 2015

We need new defence thinking to fight the new wars

Today, the Government launches the Strategic Defence and Security Review. This is an opportunity to rethink our strategic assumptions, and it is all the more essential that we do so in light of the recent Paris attacks.

Put simply, jihadist terror blurs the boundary between external defence and internal security. Our secret intelligence agencies are as much on the front line as our troops serving in northern Iraq or Cyprus. Defence spending must reflect this.

We need to strengthen our partnerships with democratic allies around the world, not merely those members of NATO with whom we joined forces to counter the old Soviet threat.

With unprecedented pressure on our public finances, and some extraordinary new and demanding security challenges, now is the time to rethink how we convert money into military muscle. The brutal truth is that we have not always been very good at getting bang for our buck.

That tended not to matter during the post-Cold War interlude when we could all sleep safely at night under the protection of the American hyper power. Long may the Pax Americana continue - but even Uncle Sam was not able to avert the Paris atrocity.

We face what academic Mary Kaldor has termed "new wars" – asymmetric threats waged between a combination of states and non-state networks. This is not a reason to carry on with clumsy Cold War era defence procurement, but all the more reason to ensure that we are nimble in developing and researching new weapons.

For too long, UK defence procurement has been plagued with problems. Major projects routinely come in late and over budget. Some, like the Nimrod MRA4 spy plane, never get off the ground at all. Complications in these projects and others have left us without key military capabilities.

UK defence procurement elevates the vested interests of defence contractors above the national interest. Elements of the defence budget have been spent as if they were part of a job creation scheme. This needs to stop.

Even in World War II, we relied on our allies for key munitions and equipment. Britain's defence industry today would not function without collaboration with foreign manufacturers.

Successive governments have consolidated the UK defence industry. In doing so, they sought the advantages of scale. What they also did was constrain supply.

In any market where supply is constrained, the seller sets the terms of trade. So, too, in defence. This is just one of the reasons why "defence inflation" is so high. Its also explains why despite having the fifth largest defence budget in the world, our armed forces are often ill equipped.

Ministers need to move towards more "off the shelf" procurement. Yes, there are certain weapons systems that we need to manufacture entirely ourselves. But there are many bits of kit that frankly we should buy off allied countries.

Various governments have tried collaborative production of different weapons systems – with mixed results. We ought to do more to try joint purchasing to shift the terms of trade away from contractors and drive down costs.

Thanks to the UK's absurdly complex procurement system, the UK defence budget currently has to pay for more than 10,000 officials to manage different contracts. Think of it as PFI gone mad.

Yet in the last Parliament, the regular army was cut by 20,000. Ministers last week announced an additional 1,900 intelligence officers. How many more we might we yet have if we did not have such a cumbersome procurement system?

The West faces serious threats. We do not have the luxury of misspending. Now is the time to change.

This article was first published by The Telegraph.

See older posts (2772 more)Loading...

See all posts (2782)

The End of Politics and the Birth of iDemocracy

"A revolutionary text ... right up there with the Communist manifesto" - Dominic Lawson, Sunday Times

Printed by Douglas Carswell of 61 Station Road, Clacton-on-Sea, Essex