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Douglas Carswell's Blog

10 APR 2015

What were they thinking?

How clever it must have seemed. What a wheeze! When the ad agency unveiled this poster at Conservative campaign HQ a few weeks ago, I bet they chortled at their own brilliance.

"Yeeess!" the assembled aides would have agreed. "Ed Miliband in Alex Salmond's pocket. Ha! Doesn't it just show why people need to vote Conservative!"

To me this poster shows something rather different. It illustrates quite how detached the political classes, who design these sort of things, have become from actual voters.

Standing in front of one of these posters here in Meredith Road, Clacton I got talking to passers-by about it. Many simply did not recognise Salmond. Some thought it was Gordon Brown. My impromptu focus group, like me, simply could not see what point the poster was trying to make.  It is far too SW1.  

There is nothing in the poster that speaks to ordinary folk in Clacton worried about a shortage of GPs. It has nothing to say to someone struggling to get by on wages that have flatlined for six years.

But, of course, no one at that meeting in Conservative HQ would have seen it that way. That's because politics to them is not about the real concerns of ordinary people. It's a game of clever-dickery. With people like George Osborne running their party, it's all about clever tactics and cunning wheezes.

This poster tells us how tepid the Tory party has become. The party that once produced Thatcher is, under the Cameroon clique, reduced to saying "Vote for us, or you will end up with someone even worse. Ha!".

Indeed, this poster is so bad, I feel free to break that political rule about not flagging up your opponents election material. I hope more folk get to see it in Meredith Road.


09 APR 2015

Guess what we got up to yesterday?

 

 

 

 

Something to please David Cameron?  Carswell's head on a stake all over Clacton.


08 APR 2015

Clacton campaign diary: Less overseas aid means more for our armed forces

Today we begin putting up garden boards. The great news is that lots and lots of them have sprung up already.

Here is a photo of Connaught Avenue, Frinton, yesterday afternoon. Folk keep coming into the office asking for window posters – so much so that we have had to order a second print run.

Over the past three years, the government has massively hiked up the amount of money we spend on overseas aid. So much so, in fact, that the Department of International Development was – according to some accounts – struggling to spend the money fast enough.

While we send £1 billion a month overseas, our own armed forces are underfunded.

If that was not bad enough, we face renewed global threats. Terror groups have a toe hold on the southern and eastern Mediterranean. Putin, in my view, spells trouble.

Any sensible government, you'd have thought, would recalibrate spending to reflect these new dangers. Alas, Ed, Dave and Nick all agree on the need to spend 0.7 percent of national income on overseas aid. They even joined forces to pass a law to insist we meet that overseas aid spending target.  They refuse to make any such committment for defence spending. 

Only UKIP is willing to commit to spending 2 percent of GDP on defence.

Can you imagine what it must have been like running election campaigns before we had mobile phones?

Mobiles mean that no one ever gets lost when out leafleting. It also makes campaigning much more fun, with photos and tweets. Yesterday, I even used an app to tell me how far I walked knocking on doors. Just over nine miles, apparently ....


07 APR 2015

Clacton spring

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spring has sprung in Clacton. It is a joy to be out knocking on doors.

The daffodils and magnolias are out – and my window posters are going up.

Yesterday we almost completed the delivery of my early leaflet. With around 35,000 to deliver, that's a lot of letter boxes. But with dozens of local volunteers, it's more or less done.

Mid-afternoon a car pulled up alongside me. Two Jehovah's Witnesses wanted to help too. Unable to vote, they asked if they could take some leaflets to give out to friends and neighbours. A wonderful moment in so many ways.....

Back in the office for a quick tea break, a London-based journalist came in to do a short interview. The questions were almost identical to the ones asked by the previous London journalist, and the one before that.

First comes the suggestion – sorry, question - that UKIP is extremist. I point out patiently that it wasn't a UKIP candidate that tried to cut a deal with the racist English Defence League. It was a Cameron "A list" Conservative.

Then there come the set of questions that are really an attack on UKIP immigration policy. I gently suggest that there is nothing unreasonable in wanting to control our borders or limit the right of 400 million people to settle here.  Australia does it. 

Not for the first time, I am struck by how many journalists working for national newspapers don't seem to be in the business of reporting what they see and hear.  Particularly during an election campaign, they seem to be fishing around for quotes and observations that they can insert into a story they had in mind before they left London. Perhaps their editor instructed them on what sort of piece to write?

"Why" ask some of the more reflective ones "is this mood of anti-politics so strong?"

Perhaps, I suggest, it is not simply a revolt against out of touch Westminster politicians. It is a rejection of a smug, self-regarding commentariat, which has for too long sought to define for the rest of us the parameters of public policy debate.

I'm not sure they always get that last point.

Today we start leaflet number two .... Week two, and we are ahead of schedule here in Clacton.


01 MAR 2015

Watch the Conservative candidate calling for 12,000 extra houses

The Conservative candidate has made it clear that he is in favour of 12,000 extra houses in our area. 


26 JAN 2015

Greece suggests Mr Cameron cannot get a meaningful renegotiation

How different it all seemed when the Euro was launched a decade and a half ago. It was meant to mean a new era of prosperity. A single currency would, we were told amid much fanfare, strengthen the free market and underpin the liberal order across Europe.

Not much sign of that in Greece right now.

The ultra-leftists, Syriza, have been elected to office on the back of a popular revolt against the Troika. An assortment of odd balls and extremists could now hold the balance of power.

Alex Tsipras, Greece's Prime Minister elect, will now attempt to tread a fine line. On the one hand he is committed to negotiating a new deal for Greece, based on debt reduction. On the other hand, he does not want to be so demanding that he gets Greece thrown out of the Euro.

In other words, Alex Tsipras is in a not altogether dissimilar position from our own Prime Minister, David Cameron.

Like Tsipras, Mr Cameron wants a new deal, but does not want to get thrown out of the club. In fact, he's made it pretty clear he is keen to stay in.

Like Tsipras, the Prime Minister has made a lot of pre-election noise about a new deal.

It will be interesting to see what new deal, if any, Tsipras gets.

Bizarrely, given that Britain is a net contributor to the EU budget and one of the largest economies in the world, Greece stands a better chance of getting the concessions it seeks than David Cameron.

For a start, Tsipras been consistent and clear about what he wants; debt cancellation, continued bailout support and a looser fiscal policy. David Cameron has given all manner of vague and contradictory hints. Indeed, his officials have almost given the impression to their EU counterparts that Mr Cameron is not that serious about his new deal.

One of the curious features of the European Union is the way that it exports public policy failure from one state to another. Countries that manage their finances sensibly get punished. Those that run up reckless debts get rewarded. Those economies that grow get fined by Brussels. Those that flounder receive ever large hand-outs.

The Euro system will be far more willing to make concessions to a Greek Prime Minister wanting the re-write the rules in order to prop up a dirigiste state, thereby deepening its dependence on Brussels, than it would concede anything to a UK Prime Minister seeking less Europe.

If Tspiras does not get more than paper concessions, it further undermines the credibility of those in Downing Street who want the British electorate to think they are serious about change.

Perhaps the key difference between Britain and Greece is that if Greece leaves the Euro, it will be because the Brussels elite call time on membership. If Britain quits, it will be because the people say enough.


21 JAN 2015

The case for wind is running out of puff

A Ten Minute Rule Bill to outlaw public subsidies for wind farms has just been voted through the House of Commons. It squeezed through with 59 MPs in favour, and 57 against, the support of UKIP's two MPs proving decisive.

This wasn't just a victory for UKIP in the Commons. It was a defeat for the subsdised scam otherwise known as the wind energy industry.

Generating electricity from wind is an inherently costly thing to do. Unlike solar energy, which thanks to technology is becoming vastly more efficient, wind is - and will remain – a far more costly way of producing power than the alternatives.

Nor is it reliable. The other day, as Allister Heath points out, as UK electicity demand hit 52.54 gigawatts (GW), wind contributed just 0.573GW. That is to say about 1pc of the total. It was left to good old gas and coal to contribute the lion's share of 71 percent.

If wind is not an effective way to generate electricity, why have so many wind turbines been built? Because of the subsidy. Billions of pounds have been deliberately diverted away from more efficient ways of generating energy into wind farms.

Why did politicians and experts decide to plough so much into such a duff way of generating power? Partly it is because they failed to foresee technological change. Policy makers plumped for wind because they assumed that oil and gas would become more expensive. They failed to see the shale gas revolution coming.

At the same time, UK policy makers subscribed to the whole renewable energy shtick. Wind, they persuaded each other, had to be the answer in order for us to meet our renewable energy targets.

This has been a disastrous way of deciding energy policy. We need to scrap the renewable targets. Allow capital and technology to find innovative ways to generate energy. And scrap those subsidies.

Today was a step towards that.


15 JAN 2015

Can Britain be more prosperous than America? Not if we are run by cartels

"There is no reason why Britain cannot be the richest major economy in the world" George Osborne has declared.

In a sense, the Chancellor is absolutely right. Britain ought to be booming.

We are witnessing the emergence of a global middle class around the globe. Each year, tens of millions of people join a sprawling network of innovation and exchange. Britain, with our global ties and outlook, ought to be thriving as never before.

Yet for all that, there is one central, thudding reason why Britain is definitely not the richest major economy in the world: government policy.

With an election looming, Mr Osborne wants to "talk up" the economic mood, with heady suggestions that Britain might become richer than the United States within the next fifteen years. For that to happen, we will need to see some fairly radical changes, and fast.

Over the past decade, governments of all three parties have deliberately increased the cost of energy. Why? In pursuit of various "renewable targets". Yet burning fossil fuel remains the cheapest way of generating energy. Shale gas technology means that the costs are likely to be even lower.

While Mr Osborne's government has been pricing British businesses out of world markets by pushing up energy costs, the United States – awash with cheap shale gas – has been re-industrialising (In 2012, gas prices were 55 percent lower in the United States than in Britain).

If the Chancellor wants us to be richer than America, we will need to be as productive as the Americans. Yet on Mr Osborne's watch, the opposite has happened. In the United States productivity has risen. In the UK, it has deteriorated. Why? Perhaps it has something to do with a tax credit system that subsidises low wages at public expense and provides disincentives against productivity gains.

Since the advent of the European Single Market in 1992, Europe's economic growth has been slow in both relative and absolute terms. North America's NAFTA has created many more jobs, attracted more investment, and raised the living standards of hundreds of millions of people ever higher.

Why the difference? Because Europe's Single Market does not mean more free trade. On the contrary, it means that an entrepreneur can only produce and sell something if they do so in compliance with what the regulator permit. Why else do you imagine that a supposedly free market block requires an endless blizzard of regulation and red tape.

Perhaps the real reason why Britain is unlikely to be as prosperous as we could be is down to politics. Again and again, our sclerotic political system fails to offer us a broad range of public policy answers. Instead we get the same cliché-addled politicians and their Westminster group-think.

Imagine how we might flourish if we changed that?


13 JAN 2015

George Osborne's budget irresponsibility

Today the House of Commons debates the Charter of Budget Responsibility. Had MPs been doing their job properly, perhaps they might like to impose a bit of real budget responsibility on ministers instead of merely taking about it.

Having meekly given the power to control what government spends to Treasury officials, MPs will this afternoon pay lip service to balanced budgets without lifting a finger to make it happen. Successive Parliaments have approved budgets that have been anything but responsible.

First under Gordon Brown, then George Osborne, the ratio of public debt to GDP has increased from 40 percent to 90 percent. Under the past four years alone, debt has almost doubled to £1.4 trillion.

Ironically, it is the Office of Budget Responsibility that helped make this fiscal car crash happen.

Initially, the OBR made a series of overly optimistic growth forecasts. Once the economy had bounced back to 3 percent growth, they seemed to suggest, lots of extra tax revenue would come flooding in.

"No need to cut spending significantly, Chancellor" they seemed to suggest. "More growth means lots of extra tax, which will balance the books".

Except of course the Chancellor's conjuring trick has been a bit of flop. There has been less growth and lower tax revenues. With less budget restraint than was wise, the deficit remains stubbornly high, and debt has doubled. The inappropriately named Office of Budget Folly helped make this happen.

Instead of simply talking about budget responsibility, MPs might actually do it. How? Cutting overseas aid by £9 billion would eliminate the deficit by a tenth. Ending the renewable energy scam would cut the total extra energy subsidies by another £9.8 billion by 2020.

Instead, I suspect MPs will prefer to preen, posture and talk.  As MPs talk in the three hour debate, public debt will increase by another £23 million.


08 DEC 2014

We need an honest energy market

UKIP will be triggering their first ever House of Commons debate this week.

Our Westminster Hall debate this Wednesday won't be on Europe or immigration. Instead we will be discussing something of immediate concern to thousands of people up and down the country: energy bills.

With the colder weather, people have had to turn up the heating, and many are discovering quite how costly energy bills have become. According to consumer group Which? household energy bills rose by over half between 2003 and 2012, from £790 to £1,200 a year.

Rising energy bills, you might think, are just a fact of life. More people plus more industry – of course the costs of energy go up.

Except there's nothing inevitable about higher prices, and certainly nothing inevitable about higher energy prices.

If you stop and think about it, the relative cost of many things keeps falling. Air travel is cheaper today than it was a couple of decades ago. In relative terms, mobile phones, clothing, cars and computers all cost less now than they did in 2003. Where ever capital and innovation are able to meet freely, costs for the consumer tend to fall. So why not with energy?

Actually that is precisely what has happened over in North America. The solar and shale gas revolutions across the Atlantic are pushing down the price of energy, and triggering an industrial revival. While households in Essex, England paid over 50 per cent more to heat and light their home this year compared to 2003, households in Essex, Massachusetts pay relatively less.

It is not that the laws of physics are any different over here. The problem are the rules that govern the energy market.

Instead of an honest energy market, where producers compete to supply customers, UK energy producers have to generate energy to comply with quotas. Government officials have decided the best way to generate energy, and in order
to meet renewable targets they have insisted that companies generate energy using supposedly sustainable sources. It is far from clear how sustainable wind turbines would be without the massive cross subsidies.

The established parties in Westminster both agree on the need to impose renewable targets. They both colluded to pass the laws that are now pricing people out of being able to heat their own homes. It is Ukip that is challenging the cosy little consensus on energy in Westminster.


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