The cost of doing research has fallen. Google finds more information in seconds than a team of people can produce in days. So why were Opposition MPs lobbying for more taxpayers' money for SpAds yesterday? It's the Westminster cartel again.
As the only MP for a party that got 3.9 million votes, I was entitled to a huge allocation of Short money funding for Opposition parties. But unlike the rest, I decided to take only a fraction of it. We were determined to do more with less.
Several months on, our small team in Parliament proves efficient politics is possible. Look at our output:
Our work has triggered two Westminster Hall debates. We are holding ministers to account, and offering genuine alternatives to the failed orthodoxies of the Establishment elites. And we're just getting started.
The big, corporate Opposition parties claim they can't be effective without masses of public money. In fact, the opposite is true: parties that rely on ever-increasing public subsidies have a vested interest in Big Government. That means they can't hold it to account.
It's because we've shown parties can do more with less that the politics subsidy is now being cut. On Short money, the Government is following UKIP's lead. We stood up for taxpayers against the Westminster cartel, and won. How's that for effective Opposition?
Brilliant news for Brexiteers: yesterday ICM showed Leave ahead for the first time since 2013. It also showed that 17% of voters are still undecided. So it was great to get together yesterday with Eurosceptics from all parties to make the internationalist, optimistic, engaging case for voting Leave.
Yesterday the Conservative MEP David Campbell Bannerman hosted a fantastic event called the Good Life After Brexit.
It brought together speakers from across the spectrum: Labour MP Graham Stringer, DUP MP Ian Paisley Jr., Conservatives Steve Baker, Bernard Jenkin, David Davis, Liam Fox, and John Redwood, UKIP leader Nigel Farage, and Vote Leave's Matthew Elliott.
What was great about it wasn't just the variety of people who came together. It was also the message.
To win the referendum, we need to reach out beyond die-hard Eurosceptics to people who may never have thought about the EU before. We need to counter the scaremongering of David Cameron and co. in Project Fear.
That means presenting the positive case for voting Leave: making sure people understand that we will have better trade links abroad, more money for our public services, real control of everything from energy to banks to fish stocks, and genuine freedom.
The ruling elites fear Brexit because they fear the people.
Eurosceptics need to show the British public that this is our opportunity to take back control of our country and our lives.
Let's make sure we take it!
Since the financial crisis, ruling elites have bet the ranch on one thing: cheap credit. The idea is banks keep lending money they don't have. People go on borrowing and spending more. The problem is this approach is fundamentally wrong.
Monetary stimulus didn't start in 2007. Policymakers have been doing it since the mid-1980s. They tried it after the market crash in 1987. And again after the Asian financial crisis in 1997. And again after the collapse of LTCM in 1998. And again after the dotcom crash in 2000.
Every single time there has been a market correction, governments and central banks artificially inflated markets again – and provoked a worse correction to come.
Today's news shows people are expecting the same thing now. Pundits are asking not whether Janet Yellen will cut interest rates, but when.
We can't go on like this.
Credit does not exist to be a tool for officials to direct the economy. One person's credit should be another's savings, or deferred consumption.
The problem with the last 30 years of cheap money is that there is no correlation between credit and savings. Artificial credit is no one's deferred consumption.
The only thing cheap credit has created is malinvestment: buildings that should never have been built, businesses that should never have taken off, ventures that should never have been started.
Chronic malinvestment means there will eventually be an almighty day of reckoning. It could be now.
A good shorthand for the cheap credit orthodoxy is Osbrown economics: the monetary consensus of the political Establishment. The groupthink of the people who attend Davos.
When the day of reckoning comes, many will be looking for a way out. An alternative to the failed orthodoxy. That's why I wrote a paper called After Osbrown.
If you're writing an investor note in a City firm today, you could do worse than taking a look.
Yesterday, Europe's banks entered a new crisis as their shares plummeted. Why? Didn't central banks say the financial sector was safe? Our banking paper explains what's gone wrong.
The banking system was meant to be fixed after the financial crisis. We were told banks were holding more capital, making fewer risky investments, being more prudent.
Yesterday's market rout showed it's not true.
To understand why, just look at what prompted investors to panic now: the EU's decision to give up on taxpayer bail-outs, and force bank depositors and creditors to bail in failed banks instead.
Think about this for a second: the idea that the taxpayer might not be on the hook if the banks fail wouldn't bother markets unless the banks were at serious risk of failure. What this panic shows is that investors were counting on taxpayer bail-outs. In other words, nothing has changed since 2007.
A few months ago, UKIP in Parliament published a policy paper explaining why another banking crisis was inevitable. Capital requirements for banks are still far too low. Too many dodgy assets – like the sovereign debt of EU member states – are still being labelled risk-free. The Bank of England's stress test was far too lenient.
It's no surprise, though, that the banks haven't been fixed. Everything policymakers have done since the financial crisis has perpetuated the problem. Banks have been subsidised with low interest rates and public deposit insurance. They have been encouraged to take big gambles without bearing the risk.
The banking cartel needs to be broken. Banks should be genuinely competitive, not propped up by the public purse. We need an alternative to the failed Brown/Osborne consensus – as I wrote in After Osbrown.
Our paper points the way to real reform.
David Cameron's latest EU scare tactic – claiming a vote to Leave would bring Calais migrants to Britain - isn't just dishonest, it's absurd. In reality, Britain's independent, bilateral border treaty with France is a great example of what can be achieved without the EU.
The reason Britain can carry out border checks at Calais is the bilateral Treaty of Le Touquet. Leaving the EU can't affect it one iota. Besides, France is committed to keeping it. Only 4 months ago, Bernard Cazeneuve, the Interior Minister, called the idea of scrapping the treaty "a foolhardy path," saying "a humanitarian disaster would ensue."
The PM's fearmongering makes it sound like Britain's international ties would fall apart without the EU. But actually Britain's friendship with France – historically our fiercest foe - shows how much can be achieved with bilateral treaties.
A century before the European Common Market, Britain and France established free trade – thanks to the Cobden-Chevalier Treaty of 1860. We formalised peace with the Entente Cordiale in 1904. Just 6 years ago, we agreed 50 years of mutual defence and security cooperation in the Lancaster House Treaties.
David Cameron's pretence that the EU helps us secure our borders would be laughable if the subject weren't so serious. Isn't this the PM who promised to cut immigration to the tens of thousands, but overshoots his own target by 300,000 every year? He knows as well as anyone that as long as we stay in the EU, we have no control of our borders - that's why he is putting up this smokescreen.
Britain and France prove that independent, sovereign European nation states can cooperate perfectly well – much better, in fact, than the dysfunctional EU. We don't need to be afraid of taking back control.
Wrightbus is currently testing new hybrid buses that use power recovered from their brakes. Where did this clean, green tech come from? Think it was funded by State subsidies? Guess again. It's from a completely commercial industry: Formula 1 racing.
F1 green tech is transforming transport – and not just on the roads. Williams F1, which designed the original flywheel system being copied on the buses, is working on similar technology for trains. It is even inspiring hybrid technology EasyJet is developing for planes.
Did I mention all this is being pioneered in Britain?
The green tech trickledown is exclusively the result of market demand. F1's cutting-edge engineering innovations are commercially viable thanks to millions of racing fans worldwide – the kind of people Big Green lobbies against.
According to Establishment orthodoxy, this shouldn't happen: green technology is only supposed to come about through redistribution by the State, subsidising eco-friendly manufacturers at the expense of consumers.
But the subsidy model doesn't work. It means manufacturers never have to make competitive products because they can always rely on handouts from the taxpayer. Subsidies are nothing more than corporate welfare.
Subsidies may even hold back viable clean tech. To quote flywheel developers Torotrak: "The conventional wisdom, boosted by government subsidies, suggests electrification is the only way to curb fuel use in cars, but flywheel technology could be a cheaper and more environmentally-friendly way."
Last week, UKIP in Parliament published a new paper, co-authored by UKIP's Energy Spokesman Roger Helmer MEP. We make the case that to see a real renewable revolution in energy, we need to scrap redistribution and set the market free.
If we genuinely want green tech to take off, we need to say yes to new technology, no to subsidy.
Perhaps it's because it's the term I used when I first proposed directly police chiefs over a decade ago. Maybe it's because there's something a little bureaucratic and pedestrian about the word "commissioner". Whatever the reason, I still think we should call Police and Crime Commissioners sheriff.
When locally elected sheriffs .... sorry .... Police & Crime Commissioners were introduced in 2012, they were met with a lot of cynicism. But four years on, PCCs have proved their worth. The Home Secretary's new plan to give them more power is a step in the right direction.
The idea behind elected sheriffs / PCCs was to make police services accountable to local people, and put a single person in charge. Experience shows they have succeeded. The Home Affairs Select Committee's PCC report confirmed: "PCCs have provided greater clarity of leadership for policing."
PCCs have also had one big success: overthrowing the Association of Chief Police Officers. That means policing now reflects local priorities, instead of national, top-down directives from unaccountable officials.
Of course, not all PCCs have been brilliant. But that's the beauty of electing them: commissioners who fail to serve local people properly can be turfed out in elections this May.
Critics of the PCCs said they would politicise the police and disempower the professionals. But recent reports of historic police scandals and cover-ups show how important accountability is. It's not enough just to trust the professionals: institutions need to be responsible to the people they work for.
Yesterday, the Home Secretary not only confirmed that PCCs are here to stay, but announced plans to increase their powers over criminal justice. This is good news: the Crown Prosecution Service is as closed to the public as the police were. It would be fantastic if PCCs could hold it to account.
For months, everyone has said Donald Trump is way ahead in the Republican race. The liberal media – his top publicists - built him up as a bogeyman. But in the Iowa caucus, something else happened: Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio stole his thunder. Authenticity and optimism trumped anger.
Cruz and Rubio show that successful anti-politics isn't about playing the electorate's anger back to them. Both got elected to the Senate in the anti-Washington Tea Party wave, but both channelled the frustration of the electorate into real political programmes. Cruz is campaigning as a conviction conservative and Constitutionalist. Rubio as a free-market optimist.
In Iowa, Cruz showed the Establishment can be beaten. He ran on an anti-subsidy platform in an ethanol-subsidy state. Political practitioners say that can never work. The state's governor even campaigned against him. But he went on to win the caucus anyway. Iowans showed the Establishment they can't be so easily bought.
Marco Rubio – who came a close third to Trump's second – surged in Iowa at the last minute because he campaigned on a vision for the future. He gave voters an optimistic alternative to Trump's abuse and vitriol.
Far from the anti-Establishment crusader he pretends to be, Trump could turn out to be the Establishment's alternative to Cruz. Mainstream media and Republican elites are starting to support him because he is much less of a threat than Cruz to the crony corporatist cartel. Trump's protectionism, Big Business background, and indifference to Big Government would continue the status quo politics Washington insiders love.
But real supporters of anti-politics should feel positive. Iowa showed that the people have more wisdom than sneering Establishment elites believe. Authenticity and optimism are what will make America great again.
David Cameron's deal with Donald Tusk was meant to show Britain's relationship with Brussels could be reformed. Instead, it has proven the EU is incapable of change. The only way to keep Britain safe from the broken European project is to vote Leave.
We always knew the "tough renegotiation" was just spin, designed to mask the fact that the PM hadn't really changed anything. But the emptiness of the deal has surprised even Eurosceptics: there really is no substance to it at all.
Take the so-called "emergency brake" – the PM's signature moratorium on in-work benefits for EU workers. It's hardly a massive change, but he couldn't even secure that. Instead, any benefits restriction could only happen in exceptional circumstances, and at the sole discretion of the European Council. We don't even have our hands on the brake.
The same is true of the "red card," which was supposed to allow national parliaments to veto EU legislation. In practice, it means 55% of legislators across 28 member states would have to agree to block legislation, and that would only trigger a "comprehensive discussion" in the European Council.
This "renegotiation" was supposed to show that we could bring back control from Brussels without leaving the EU. Instead, it has proven we can't. There will be no repatriation of powers, no restoration of Parliamentary sovereignty, no national supremacy over borders, courts, trade, energy, employment, tax, fish – the list is endless. The bureaucrats in Brussels are still in charge.
So the British people have a simple decision to make: do we stay in this unreformed, undemocratic, reactionary political project? Or do we take back control of our country and our future?
There is only one sensible choice: we need to vote Leave.
The Department of Health is subject to sharia law. You read that right: to turn London into the "Islamic finance capital of the world," George Osborne secretly made three Whitehall buildings the property of Middle Eastern banks under an Islamic bond scheme, so they are now governed by Islamic law. The question is: why?
Many people will find the idea that an external legal code applies to the heart of British Government disquieting – and rightly so. But there is a more disturbing question: why is the Chancellor using public assets to prop up a bond scheme? Or put it another way: if the scheme were viable in the private market, why would he need to subsidise it?
The truth, I suspect, is that this is classic Osborne corporatism. Like his dodgy tax deal with Google, and his Northern Powerhouse subsidies, this stinks of favouritism for Big Islamic Banks and oil sheikhs that may benefit the Chancellor but sells British taxpayers short.
But if you're outraged about a few buildings being mortgaged to powerful foreign interests, just think about the public finances more broadly: the Government is totally dependent on borrowed money. We're still running massive deficits every year. Total declared public debt is over £1.5 trillion. The whole country is being mortgaged.
If just £200 million of debt means the Department of Health has to be sharia-compliant, what kind of leverage over Britain do you think £1.5 trillion buys?
Debt and corporatism led Britain to financial ruin in 2007. But instead of changing course from Gordon Brown, Osborne has kept on going. To be a successful sovereign country again, Britain needs to change course: that means balanced public finances, free markets, and sound money.
Tech sceptics often fear the Internet is inhuman. We're so wrapped up in the global village, they say, we're forgetting how to build real human relationships. Turns out it's not true: technology is actually helping us to trust each other.
The Internet – as Wired explains - is building new networks of trust. Yelp tells you if you can trust a restaurant. Uber allows you to track the stranger who drives you home. Dating apps allow people to get to know each other before they meet in person.
"But hold on," you say. "Aren't all these open to abuse?"
Obviously the Internet isn't vice-free: it provides a platform for anonymous trolls, scammers, and stalkers too. But here's the thing: the Internet is providing much greater accountability than what it has replaced.
People used to put their faith in big, central institutions. The Gentleman in Whitehall was meant to keep us safe. But we've seen that was all a mirage: Parliament, Government, the media, the regulators, the church, the police have all been exposed for scandals, cover-ups, negligence, and corruption. Popular faith in national institutions is at an all-time low.
So instead of trusting institutions, people are starting to trust each other again. How? Through technology. The Internet enables open data and transparency, so that people can make informed decisions instead of putting blind faith in a remote bureaucrat to decide for them.
Amid the bad stories that get reported about Uber or Airbnb, let's not lose sight of the overall good story: technology is gradually restoring our faith in each other.
Next week, the Iowa caucuses kick off the US Presidential race in earnest. So far, British coverage has been transfixed by Donald Trump. But the Presidential primaries are much more interesting for what they can teach us about democracy.
Different states' electoral systems embody different models of democracy.
The Iowa caucuses are relatively restrictive: only party members can attend, and there is only one caucus location per precinct. As a result, turnout tends to be low, and the candidates that do best will those that appeal to a narrow, self-selecting group.
At the other end of the spectrum, fifteen states – from Alabama to Wisconsin – have open primaries. Anyone can cast a vote – not just party members. That means the winning candidate is more likely to be someone with broad appeal.
A big problem with our democracy today is that a narrow, zealous minority gets to choose who is in office, while the vast majority are so fed up with the political class, they are totally apathetic. Democracy has been subverted; as William Butler Yeats put it, "the best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity."
The aim should be to do the opposite: energise the best people to come out and vote, and ensure the winner has a real democratic mandate. The answer already exists in fifteen states: open primaries.
But what do we have in Britain? The Iowa caucuses are a free-for-all compared to the selection process for candidates here. A tiny minority of voters pick their party's local candidate for Parliament. Many candidates are special advisers parachuted in by the central party machine. Parliament has become a self-selecting cartel.
If we want to restore our democracy, we need to burst the Westminster bubble: open primaries are part of the solution. The rest is all part of The Plan.
Apple's slowing sales have made a lot of people panic. But for consumers it could actually be good news: Apple is selling less because other manufacturers are catching up. Capitalist competition is what makes producers more creative and consumers better off.
One of the big myths about capitalism is that it allows a stable, wealthy elite to line their pockets with profits. But that's not how it works: in a free market, a company that makes a groundbreaking new product will face massive competition from others who see an opportunity to imitate it. As they catch up, its profits will consistently decrease. The only way to stay on top is to keep creating and innovating.
Don't believe me? Think about some of the world's most successful corporations today: Apple, Google, Microsoft, Walmart. Where were they 30 years ago? Google didn't even exist. Now think about some of the biggest corporations then? IBM, DuPont, Bethlehem Steel – which has long since disappeared.
The big names have changed, and they'll change again. Who knows what Apple will be doing in 30 years' time? Maybe they won't exist. Maybe they'll focus on Apple Pay and become a bank. Either, way disruptive innovation will change the market - and transfer wealth from elites to consumers.
It's the industries in which the big names haven't changed that should make us suspicious: big banks, energy, American car manufacturers. Too often, the reason they survive is because they have colluded with Government to rig the rules and keep out the competition. Too often, the taxpayer bails them out – transferring wealth from ordinary people to the corporate elites. That's not capitalism; that's crony corporatism.
I hope Apple meets the competition with wonderful new innovations. But if its competitors pick up the baton and out-innovate Apple, so much the better! Market-driven innovation is what makes all of us better off.
Google is in the news for avoiding UK corporation tax. It's not the only multinational to do it: Starbucks and Apple have done the same. So how come our Government can't do anything about it? Because of the EU - and for two key reasons.
First, EU law allows multinational corporations to pay tax on European revenue in whichever EU member state they claim to be based. So companies obviously pick the state with the lowest tax rates. This is a tax loophole the EU intentionally created.
So, despite having thousands of employees in the UK, Google denies having a 'permanent establishment' in the UK, instead claiming it is a UK 'branch' of its Irish operation. It therefore avoids tax in the UK.
Second, EU law prevents the UK clamping down on tax-avoidance. One wheeze is for a company to move intellectual property offshore. It then pays licence fees to that offshore entity, shifting its profits from the UK to a tax haven. UK law seeks to prevent this by levying a 25% withholding tax on licence fees transferred to a tax haven.
However, Holland does not apply any such tax and EU law stops the UK applying a withholding tax on transfers to a Dutch company. Therefore multinationals set up Dutch companies to channel licence fees from their UK company to whichever tax haven holds their intellectual property, thereby avoiding UK tax.
Here's the key point: for as long as Britain stays in the EU, we can't close Google's tax loophole, or Starbucks', or Facebook's. Our Government is bound by EU law, and is powerless to change it.
We cannot demand that Google pay its fair share of UK tax unless we take back control of our tax law from Brussels. The British people have the power to change the rules: the solution is to vote Leave.
British people are living longer, healthier lives. That's fantastic! But we're also facing a problem: the Bank of England is making it harder to save for retirement than ever before.
Mark Carney recently announced he would be keeping interest rates at record lows of 0.5% for an eighth consecutive year. Borrowers will see that as good news. But it's very bad news for savers – and people with pensions most of all.
Artificially low interest rates are making it far too hard for private pension funds to get a return on investments. Years of low yields mean many funds are in crisis – or have had to stake their customers' retirements on higher-risk assets. Either way, savers suffer.
Low interest rates hurt insurers too, for the same reason. If investment returns are lower, premiums have to be higher - meaning policy holders have to pick up the tab.
In every case, the debasement of currency transfers wealth from ordinary people to wealthy corporate elites.
At the same time, the State pension is in crisis. We know pension liabilities are unfunded in the long-term. Where's the security for retirement there?
Pension funding should be a policy priority. Instead it's being brushed under the carpet. As the pressure on State pensions grows, it's all the more important for people to be able to save independently. It's time to stop putting bankers first, and raise the rates.
More and more businesses are debunking the BSE myth that Brexit will damage our economy. The question we should be asking is not about the risks of leaving the EU, but the risks of staying.
"That's all very well," I hear you say. "But what about the businesses that want Britain to stay?"
That's true: there's Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, and Bank of America - the bankers who brought us the last financial crisis, and are now trying to buy the referendum. There's the super-rich elites David Cameron was trying so hard to impress at Davos. Are these really people who have Britain's best interests at heart?
The reason parts of Big Business love the EU is that the EU is a cosy corporatist club. It enables a tiny clique to rig the rules and suffocate the competition.
The people telling us Britain can't survive Brexit are the same people who said we couldn't survive outside the euro. In fact, the then CEO of Unilever, Niall Fitzgerald, told us, "Britain will ...lose influence, investment, jobs, and economic growth." But look at Britain – and Unilever – today, and then look at Europe.
If European economic union is such a good idea, why are Continental countries in a state of economic emergency? Why is Eurozone unemployment sky-high? Why are EU migrants queueing up to work in Britain?
The European project has proved to be an economic disaster. Shackling Britain to more European integration would mean Britain faced the same economic future as Greece, Spain, and France. Tell me again how that makes us better off?
Ask Essex commuters their opinion on Network Rail, and you won't find many who think it should be the model for national infrastructure projects. So is why the Government using exactly the same model for broadband?
Network Rail is an unaccountable public monopoly. BT Openreach is an unaccountable private monopoly. Just as Network Rail controls the whole of our railways, BT Openreach controls our broadband infrastructure. It faces no competition, and has total leverage over its clients. So in both cases, the result is the same: poor service for consumers.
BT Openreach has received £1.7 billion of taxpayers' money to make broadband faster. Yet 5.7 million people across Britain are still stuck with Internet connections that don't meet the industry's minimum standard. And that doesn't just affect households, but businesses too. BT's poor service is costing Britain money – and the Government is rewarding it for failure.
That's why I signed a cross-party report calling on the regulator Ofcom to hold BT to account. The report's main recommendation is that Openreach should be separate from BT, which as a service provider as well as the infrastructure owner has an unfair advantage.
I think we can go further still. Making Openreach an independent private monopoly won't solve the core issue. We need to start looking into ways to break the infrastructure monopolies altogether, and introduce real competition. Services won't improve until customers have real choice.
Oxfam is on another crusade against inequality. It claims the richest 1% will soon own more than the other 99%, and points the predictable finger at capitalism. But Oxfam's Occupy agenda is dishonest: the free market is finally ending Africa's poverty. The socialist politics of aid agencies are selling out the world's poorest people.
Fifty years ago, Asia, not Africa, was the poorest place on Earth. Famine was endemic, and millions starved. Yet today, famine in Asia is a thing of the past. What changed?
The big shift was down to capitalism. India, China, and countries across the Far East opened themselves up to private investment and foreign markets. Catastrophic Communist economic planning was reined in. As a result, living standards rapidly rose.
Meanwhile, what has happened to Africa? Many countries that were once rich have gone backwards. Rhodesia was once the breadbasket of Africa; Zimbabwe, under Mugabe, has become one of the continent's poorest countries. Dictators, warlords, and militias have perpetrated genocides and entrenched economic collapse. That is, until recently.
In the last few years, things have started to change. Corruption is being constrained, and democracy starting to develop. Investment – instead of aid - is flowing in. Wealth and health are on the up. "Capitalism," as Fraser Nelson writes, "is lifting people out of poverty at the fastest rate in human history."
But what's Oxfam's big solution? Clamping down on tax havens. Now let's be honest: making sure that HMRC gets more money from the jet-setting rich won't make life any better for the African poor. Oxfam is just selling the socialist dogma that - as a great lady once said - would rather the poor were poorer provided the rich were not so rich.
Markets – not redistribution - are the solution to Africa's problem. We need to remove the constraints on African economies – like EU tariffs – that keep the continent poor. We have to enable Africans to produce and sell, not abandon Africa to more decades of dependency. That's why UKIP believes in trade, not aid.
Oxfam needs to be honest: capitalism is making lives better; it's time to stop fighting it.
Seen the Project Fear propaganda about Britain being safer in the EU? Here's something they won't tell you: Eurocrat-in-chief Jean-Claude Juncker is about to rip up the rules on the resettlement of refugees. No longer will asylum seekers be obliged to seek refuge in the first country they come to. Instead, Britain will be forced to accept EU asylum seeker quotas. Once again, the EU is taking control of our borders.
The "Dublin rules," which mean asylum seekers have to seek refuge in the EU country they entered first, made some sense. It is one thing for people fleeing state failure in Syria to seek asylum in Greece. It is another for people who have reached Calais to look to stay Britain instead of France. The rules were intended to distinguish between migrants by necessity and migrants by choice.
The reason Juncker wants to change the rules is because the numbers arriving are too high. Those countries that are first in line rightly feel they can't possibly handle the volume of people entering. But how will redistribution from Brussels solve the underlying problem?
Opening Europe's doors to mass immigration will only make the migrant crisis worse. Almost a million people have already risked their lives to cross the Mediterranean. Many drowned in the attempt. Creating EU asylum seekers quotas will only encourage more people to make the same perilous journey.
The EU's cack-handed approach to the migrant crisis is doomed to fail. It will make life worse for the countries of Europe, and worse for people fleeing state failure.
But here's the question for Britain: as long as we stay in the EU, our basic sovereign right to determine who lives in this country will be overridden by the preposterous political priorities of the Euro elites. Who honestly believes that makes us safer?
The economy is meant to be sorted by now, isn't it? The Chancellor told us he'd fix the roof while the sun was shining. The Bank of England said it would lead Britain back to prudence and prosperity. But now another downturn is approaching, it's clear our overlords have just repeated the mistakes of the past.
Yesterday, the Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, announced he wouldn't be raising interest rates from record lows until at least next year. "The world is weaker and UK growth has slowed," he explained. "Now is not yet the time to raise interest rates."
But when is the time? The Bank originally cut interest rates to 0.5% in 2009 as a temporary measure to deal with the financial crisis. They were meant to be raised again in 2010. Seven years later, the rates still haven't changed. Clearly the Bank's plan has failed.
The real reason Mark Carney won't touch interest rates is that our banks couldn't survive a rise. They are totally dependent on artificially cheap capital. Quantitative easing and ultra-loose monetary policy hasn't saved us from economic collapse. On the contrary: it has just redistributed more wealth from taxpayers to a crony cartel of Big Banks, and propped up a failed financial system.
The financial crisis was caused by seven years of massive public subsidies to the financial sector by central banks and central Government. And what have our wise leaders done to make sure it doesn't happen again? Another seven years of public subsidies to the financial sector. Well guess what: if you make the same bad decisions, you can expect the same results.
The UKIP Parliamentary Resource Unit recently published a paper on the need for real banking reform. Our paper makes the case that to avert economic disaster, the Government needs to stop rewarding bankers for failure. This time, let's not repeat our mistakes.
This year many UK-resident non-EU citizens who earn below £35,000 face deportation. Lots of people are saying this is unfair. They're right: as EU members, Britain has a discriminatory immigration policy that penalises immigrants based on their nationality. There is only one route to fair immigration system: vote Leave.
The only reason the Home Secretary is clamping down on non-EU immigrants is because there is nothing she can do about immigrants from the EU. Deporting non-EU immigrants based on how much they earn is a futile attempt to reduce record high immigration figures. But as long as Britain remains in the EU, over 400 million EU citizens will automatically be free to live in Britain.
Our immigration system is failing us not just because the numbers coming in are uncontrolled but because it is essentially xenophobic. It allows all EU entrants in without question, but turns back doctors from Delhi and computer scientists from California. It discriminates between immigrants not based on what they can bring to Britain, but where they were born.
UKIP is the only party that supports an Australian points-style immigration system. We want to take control of our borders, and admit people based on their talents and the nation's needs – no matter where they come from. But it is impossible to implement that system while we locked into the workforce protectionism of the EU.
A fair immigration policy wouldn't reject people because of their nationality. There is only one way to make immigration equality possible: vote Leave.
The Spectator has resurrected the old myth about technological unemployment. Millions of manual jobs will soon be done by robots, it warns; this is a 'potential catastrophe'! Except it's not true. Mechanisation didn't cause mass unemployment in the industrial revolution, and it won't today.
In 19th-century Britain, many artisanal industries became mechanised – but that didn't mean people had no work. On the contrary, mechanisation generated so many jobs that employment kept up with an unprecedented explosion in population as Britain broke the Malthusian trap. It made basic goods like clothes and fuel much cheaper to produce and transport, and therefore much cheaper to buy. It allowed millions of people to escape poverty and earn a stable wage.
Yes, there were losers as well as winners. Weavers, for example, didn't gain from the mechanisation of the textile industry. In fact, textile workers formed a movement – the Luddites – to protest against the rise of the machines, by smashing them up. But the employment losses suffered by a small group were outstripped by the enormous employment gains for a much larger one – and the wider economic gains for consumers.
The key point is this: mechanisation creates jobs because it creates demand. By cutting the cost of production, mechanisation means people have more money to spend. It stimulates consumption and demand. More demand calls for more supply – which means more people end up being employed in the production process.
Arguing that robots can replace all human jobs completely misses the point. It is Bastiat's 'broken window' fallacy: yes, industry may radically change so that people won't be doing some jobs in 50 years' time that they do today; but what about the wider effects we're not looking at?
If we actually get to a point where people don't need to work for a living, that won't create destitution; it will open up brand new economic activity. It will create enormous demand. And that will allow people to exchange their skill and labour in entirely new ways.
The Industrial Revolution made Britain the greatest country in the world. We shouldn't be afraid of harnessing that spirit today. Quite the opposite: market-led innovation will make Britain a world-leader again!
The European Court of Human Rights has decreed that employers now have the right to read their employees' private messages. This is a major change to UK law: why is it being made by unelected, unaccountable foreign judges?
Whether or not employers should be able to see employees' personal messages that are sent during work hours is an arguable point. Of course employers expect employees not to use work time for private purposes, or use a private messenger account for work – just ask Hillary Clinton. But employees can also justifiably claim that allowing their boss free access to their personal messages is a direct violation of their private property. There is a case both ways.
What can't be justified is that this is being decided by a handful of unelected officials in Strasbourg. Step back and think about this for a second: the decisions of a foreign court now take precedence over those of both our Parliament and our judges. We have simply surrendered our sovereignty. And for what?
The European Court of Human Rights was set up in the wake of the Second World War. It was meant to protect the people of Europe from appalling persecution by tyrannical governments. But instead it has been co-opted to do the opposite. By overriding national democracies and judiciaries, it has eroded the rights and liberties of the peoples of Europe.
We don't need an international court to determine the relationship between employers and employees. In fact, we don't need a uniform relationship at all. The solution is freedom of contract: individual employers and employees should have the right to work out their own terms and conditions through bargaining. Restricting that freedom doesn't preserve our rights, it violates them.
If we meekly give up our democracy, sovereignty, and liberty to an unaccountable administrative elite we have learnt nothing from the last century. The ECHR is no different from the EU: it's time we leave both, and take back our rights.
Here's an amazing fact: in 1955, 1MB of computer memory cost over $400 million. Today, it costs less than 1 cent. Some of the world's poorest people today have better computers in their pockets than the world's richest people could afford 60 years ago. Falling prices have made billions of people better off.
High-tech deflation has transformed our lives. Think about communication: 30 years ago, calling a friend abroad cost a fortune in phone bills. Now you can do it for free with Skype or WhatsApp. For sending messages, snail mail was the only option. Now, with e-mail, it takes no time and costs consumers nothing.
Or think about information: Google and Wikipedia have given us more information at our fingertips today than you can find in the world's best libraries. The Internet has made information so cheap, even hard copy newspapers have become giveaways to compete.
The 'freeconomy' shows that the doom-and-gloom claims about falling productivity may be a myth. As a recent piece in Prospect argues, conventional productivity statistics miss the fact that the economic productivity of communication has soared by enormous proportions.
The papers today are full of panic about falling prices: oil, houses, food. But hang on: isn't that a good thing? If you pay less for petrol, heating, and groceries, aren't you better off? If you wouldn't have to borrow so much to buy a house, wouldn't you feel more secure?
Commentators are saying another recession is around the corner – and they're probably right. But the problem isn't that prices are too low, it's that they're too high. House prices and the stock market have risen much faster than wages. They've been driven up artificially by central banks. Asset price inflation has made elites rich as the expense of everyone else.
Falling prices are what we should be aiming for. If we can get more for less, that isn't something to panic about; it's economic progress!
A lot of people are asking what Britain would look like outside the EU. Businesses, employers, and investors are increasingly making the case that Britain will thrive outside the constraints of EU red tape. But here's the question that the Remain side doesn't want you to ask: what would Britain look like if we end up staying? The truth is we don't really know – but the signs aren't good.
The EU never stops integrating. It has changed radically just in the last few years. The Lisbon Treaty, which came into force in 2009, gave the EU its own constitution, President, and Foreign Minister. The sovereign debt crisis enabled central EU institutions to dictate national policy in Italy, Ireland, and Greece – and even impose an unelected Prime Minister on the Italian people. Slowly but surely the EU is taking power away from member states and centralising it in Brussels.
So what does the future of Europe look like? If the last few years are any guide, it means more economic stagnation, more sovereign debt crises, and more open-door immigration both within and outside the EU. It means less democracy and accountability.
What will that mean for Britain? The Prime Minister claims to want Britain to opt out of the words 'ever-closer union'. But changing the semantics is one thing; changing the reality is another. When the EU introduces the next round of major integration, will Britain be dragged along with it? What protections will we have? From the PM's 'renegotiation', it doesn't look like we'll have any. But the truth is no one knows.
What we do know is that EU restrictions on Britain's trade with the rest of the world mean that Britain's economy is dangerously tied to Europe's. We'll be much more exposed to the EU's next economic crisis if we stay in the EU than if we leave.
Europe's future is out of our control. But Britain's future isn't. Brexit would give the British people – instead of the Brussels elite – the power to determine this country's destiny.
The risky option is to trust the bureaucrats in Brussels. The safe choice is to vote leave and take back control.
China's stock market bubble has finally burst. The Communist leadership's attempt to control the economy has been shown up for what it is: the cause of chronic malinvestment. Once again, the hubris of central planners has made entire populations poorer.
The Chinese people are no strangers to suffering brought on by the economic insanity of their leaders. Chairman Mao – the worst mass murderer in human history – tyrannised the population through authoritarian central planning. His 'Great Leap Forward' ended up killing 45 million people in four years.
China's progress from a country in economic catastrophe to a global superpower in a few short decades is down to one thing: market forces. By liberalising the economy, making room for private enterprise and private investment, the Chinese government unleashed astonishing productivity growth and wealth creation.
But let's keep a sense of perspective: China is not a free country. People are still denied basic liberties and rights. The Government is still authoritarian and all-powerful – unchecked by either the people or the rule of law. The State still manipulates the economy. The idea that modern China has escaped its Communist past is a myth.
The dangerous results of the latest round of Chinese central planning are now coming to light. Huge new ghost cities – built by regional governments trying to keep up with national growth targets – that no one can afford to live in. A vast asset bubble, and an ever bigger mountain of credit. Enormous fiscal and monetary intervention by Chinese authorities failing to stop the rot. China is facing a serious economic correction ahead – and there is nothing the State can do to stop it.
Western commentators are facing a correction too. During China's boom, pundits were quick to jump on the bandwagon, telling us that big statist projects and contempt for liberal democracy were the way forward after all. They ignored the fundamental reason the West has been economically supreme for so long: free enterprise, and limits on the power of the State.
China's crash should be a wake-up call for the West: the only route to prosperity is to set the economy free.
The Bank of England says Britain's banks have been fixed. But have they really? Our research suggests the banks are no safer today than they were before the financial crisis, and shows they need real reform.
Watch our video, read our paper, then tell us if you agree in our poll.
When will the State stop subsiding wasteful wind farms with taxpayers' money? That's what I asked the Energy Minister yesterday. It's a reasonable question: British workers give up a huge portion of their wages in tax; the State shouldn't be squandering it. Shame the Government doesn't seem to agree.
If you wanted to make an industry inefficient, you could not devise a better system than State subsidies. British Government subsidies to the banks gave as Too Big to Fail and the 2008 financial crisis. EU agricultural subsidies to farmers produced wine lakes and butter mountains – excess supply no one could consume. US Government subsidies to General Motors and Chrysler resulted in failing companies manufacturing cars people don't want to buy.
Subsidies break the connection between producers and consumers. Normally, a company needs to satisfy the interests of consumers if it wants to make money. A company that makes products people don't want won't sell, and won't succeed against better competitors. That's why under normal circumstances producers have an in-built incentive to keep improving their product.
But a company that receives subsidies from the State doesn't have to satisfy consumers. Instead of making its revenue from selling good products, it can simply collect a cheque from the State. Subsidies allow companies to get away with making bad products knowing the taxpayer will pick up the tab.
State subsidies aren't just bad for the taxpayer. They are bad for the industry they are supposed to support. They take away the incentive to innovate, improve, and deliver good value for money.
Subsidies for renewable energy don't only hurt for British taxpayers and households. They damage renewable technology too. If we want renewables ever to become efficient and useful, we need energy producers to be incentivised to create more efficient technology. Lavishing taxpayers' money on wasteful wind farms serves nobody's interests. It's time to end the renewable racket.
Clacton has a chronic GP shortage. For many of my constituents, it is becoming impossible to access primary care. Analysts too often blame "demographics" for strains on healthcare. But the patients aren't the problem. Something is very wrong with our healthcare system.
Doctors in Clacton are at a premium. Three out of four of GP surgeries won't accept new patients. Even if you are lucky enough to be on the books, it is exceptionally difficult to get an appointment.
So what's the problem? The pundits would probably tell you the problem is too many patients. Clacton, they would say, has an ageing population. Doctors, they would claim, can't cope with the increasing demand on the system.
But think about this for a second: in what other area of our lives is too many clients a problem?
Does Tesco complain that it has too many customers? Does O2 worry that too many people want to buy iPhones? Does Saga claim there are now too many old people who want to buy insurance or go on cruises?
No other provider worries about too many people wanting to use it. Quite the reverse – the aim is more punters. So why is this "blame the patient" argument acceptable when we talk about healthcare?
The truth is that something is going very wrong with the system. My constituents have paid into the system all their lives. The fact that many cannot access healthcare today is a breakdown in how the system is supposed to work.
The problem is that GP contracts are centralised. A doctor with a very high workload in Clacton receives little more than a doctor with a relatively low workload somewhere else. This isn't fair on doctors. It isn't fair on patients either. The system has created perverse incentives: doctors should be incentivised to come to areas where demand is highest, like Clacton. Instead they are incentivised to leave.
The Conservative Government points the finger at Labour. They will say John Reid made things worse when he overhauled GP contracts in 2004. But what have they done, after almost 6 years, to fix the problem? Ministers fiddle with their central production targets and spreadsheets, isolated and insulated from what is happening on the ground.
The political class needs to recognise reality. We urgently need to look at how other countries deliver primary care, and see if there may be lessons for our system. Otherwise Clacton's GP shortages will soon affect the entire country.
Britain's banks are in bad shape. They are too indebted, too protected from the disastrous consequences of their own decisions, and – thanks to decades of Government subsidy – far too big. They need serious, far-reaching reform. What they don't need is a pointless official review into their "culture."
Several Labour MPs on the Treasury Select Committee are apparently furious that the Financial Conduct Authority has scrapped an inquiry into "Britain's banking culture." But what do they think it would have achieved?
Watching bank executives work – as if they exist in a vacuum – will tell us nothing. To understand how banks act, we need to think about their incentives. That doesn't require an inquiry; they are there for everyone to see.
Broken banks are the result of perverse incentives dictated by the central bank and the Government. The Bank of England has kept interest rates – the price of capital – unprecedentedly low, so banks are incentivised to borrow and lend. The Government insures deposits, so banks are incentivised to run down their reserves. Taxpayers are forced to bail out banks when they fail, so banks are incentivised to take as many risks as possible.
If banks have a culture of excessive risk-taking, it is because monetary policy, public subsidy, and Government regulation has encouraged it. Recognising the symptom is not enough; we have to tackle the cause.
Last month, the UKIP Parliamentary Resource Unit published a report explaining the danger of banking collapse, and the reforms necessary to avoid it. I encourage anyone looking for a serious discussion of financial reform to read it.
We urgently need to end a financial structure that systemically transfers wealth from taxpayers to the Big Banks. If Labour MPs were really different from corporatist Conservatives, that's what they would be championing. Of course, we know they're not: in 2008, Gordon Brown instigated the bank bailout that amounted to one of the biggest transfers of wealth from the poor to the rich in human history.
Only UKIP is prepared to take on the Big Bank cartel.
Innovation is what made Britain a global superpower. Our agricultural and industrial revolutions ultimately transformed the economy of the entire world. But today we don't have the freedom to innovate, because of reams of red tape regulation from the EU. Brussels is holding British business back.
The latest victim of the EU's dead hand is the e-cigarette.
Some of the e-cigarette technology (the cartomiser) was invented in Britain. Today, there is a huge market for e-cigarettes in the UK. They have been so successful in helping quitting smokers give up tobacco, even the NHS has recognised their potential.
But now the EU is stepping in to crush the e-cigarette. In May, they will become subject to the EU's Tobacco Products Directive. Think about how absurd this is for a second: the whole point of e-cigarettes is that they are not a tobacco product.
The EU has form when it comes to blocking efforts to reduce early deaths from smoking. Brussels bureaucracy has already had devastating consequences for medical research in Britain. Before the EU Clinical Trials Directive came in, about 6% of all clinical trials happened in this country. Now, it's a shade over 1%, with innovation leaving the EU altogether.
The Tobacco Products Directive could be just as catastrophic for the e-cigarette industry. Manufacturers will now have to submit detailed annual reports on their sales and users. Big Business might be able to cope with this bureaucracy. But small businesses – like most in the industry – will be suffocated.
The sad thing is that none of this comes a surprise. The EU is corporatist to a fault: it always acts against the interests of small business. It always produces regulation that hurts SMEs the most. It always works to defend Big Business from disruptive innovation by new start-ups.
Small businesses know this too. That's why so many are already set to vote for Brexit.
Britain needs to recapture the entrepreneurial spirit of the industrial revolution to succeed in the 21st century. We should be pioneers in the digital revolution – and lead the world in innovation again. You can make it happen: vote Leave.
Happy New Year! 2016 could be the biggest year in British politics in four decades. The referendum on Britain's EU membership may be only six months away. We have a once in a lifetime chance to take back control of our nation, and define our own future. Let's make sure we take it.
Britain's future is bright. We have the creativity, the innovation, the vibrant democracy, the global prominence, the confident national identity to continue to be a great, successful country in the 21st century. There is just one thing holding us back: the EU.
The EU is a product of 20th-century anxieties. It is rooted in the fear of European war, and of European peoples. It is a reactionary force, dedicated to obstructing all change except further European integration.
The Remain campaign has rightly been labelled Project Fear. It's not just that the Remainers don't believe Britain can survive outside the EU. It's that they don't believe Europe can survive without the EU. They buy into the pessimism and fear that defines the whole European project.
Change is inevitable. The world of 2016 is not the same as the world post-World War II. Germany and France are not about to drag Europe into total war again. In fact, the main cause of tension in Europe today is the EU itself.
We cannot let our destiny be determined by the paranoia of the European Establishment elite. We have to be free to adapt to a new world. We need to be optimists about the future, and realists about the EU.
Let's make 2016 the year we place a vote of confidence in Britain.
Just before Christmas, Spanish voters became the latest to rebel against their political Establishment. The global rise of political insurgents tells us one thing: the old political consensus isn't working.
Voters around the world are all disaffected with their governments at the same time. This isn't a coincidence. People aren't just playing copycat. Nor is this only about economics. There is a deeper issue at the heart of our politics.
People are realising that whichever way they vote, nothing seems to change. That's why they are now voting for genuine, radical alternatives instead. The political Establishment has failed them.
Some are aghast about the rise of insurgents. They see extremists winning public support, and they fear the will of the people. But it is misguided to fear voters. We should be afraid of the failure of democracy: if the people support change but government stays the same anyway, we no longer live in a genuinely democratic society.
But it is also misguided to believe that a change of rhetoric and personnel will automatically bring change in government. Syriza in Greece are a case in point: they were originally elected on a platform of opposing EU austerity measures, and have ended up implementing even harsher EU austerity measures than those they set out to oppose. And when the insurgents fail, what then?
The problem is that too much government is totally disconnected from the people. In the UK, we are governed from Brussels by EU officials we never elected and cannot get rid of. But we are also governed by unelected officials in Whitehall. Vast institutions with their own political agendas that elected representatives can no longer hold to account.
The root of stasis and groupthink in political Establishments worldwide is Big Government. As long as we allow power to be centralised in opaque officialdom, there will never be change. Insurgents who ignore the role of Big Government will inevitably fail to deliver. Effective insurgency must shrink the State to give back power to the people.
Do you trust the "experts" in the Treasury to manage the economy? Would you trust them if you knew the economic data they use was less than 80% accurate at best?
It turns out that the UK is one of the least reliable advanced countries in compiling accurate economic data. This dodgy data is what the Chancellor and the Bank of England base their grand plans on. Anyone spot the flaw here?
The inaccuracy of our economic data might explain a lot. It may tell us why Government borrowing always overshoots projections. It might give us a clue why so many people in Britain feel no better off even though the economy is supposedly growing.
How do you measure the product of an entire economy accurately though? The truth is it's impossible. A major economy comprises trillions of individual transactions – more than anyone can possibly understand, let alone keep track of. Every metric we use to measure growth is only a broad estimate, and GDP is a pretty suspect estimate at that.
If measuring the economy is beyond us, how can we possible expect to manage it? The idea that any "expert" can run the economy and allocate resources better than the market is what Hayek called the fatal conceit. Yet this delusion is part of the DNA of our political Establishment.
Believing in the free market is about recognising that the gentleman in Whitehall doesn't know best. It is about trusting millions of individuals to manage their own affairs rather than putting our faith in the tiny elite that keeps getting its sums wrong with disastrous results. Hubristic central planning is what holds our economy back. The route to prosperity is to set the economy – and the people – free.
How much do you think the top EU officials get paid by the taxpayer? Now you can find out.
This week the UKIP Parliamentary Resource Unit has published the first ever EU Rich List – setting out the salaries, pensions, benefits, and tax advantages of the 200 best-paid Eurocrats. It makes astonishing reading.
Our research reveals:
• The top 200 EU officials cost taxpayers over £50m last year
• All of the officials in the EU Rich List earned more than the Prime Minister.
• The top 200 EU officials each brought home nearly ten times as much as the average British worker.
• On average, officials in the EU Rich List each pay £50,000 less tax than they would in the UK.
• Pensions of officials in the EU Rich List are projected to cost European taxpayers £4.5m every year
Since the financial crisis, central EU institutions have imposed severe austerity packages on several member nations. Yet while Brussels has forced cuts on the peoples of Europe, it has allowed its own budgets to balloon. Our report shows Eurocrats' salaries have increased in real terms in spite of the financial crisis. EU officials have insulated themselves from the pain they have inflicted on the people.
Want to see the full scale of Euro excess? Read the EU Rich List here.
Cheer up! This time next year, we could have voted to leave......
Yesterday the Evening Standard published a poll suggesting the majority of people in Britain believe the police should be routinely armed. I'm not so sure.
I can see arguments either way. Perhaps this is something best decided locally? What might be suitable for parts of London might be very out of place in rural Essex. Some parts of our country are at more serious risk of terror attacks than others. Some have more violent crime than others. What is right for police in one part of the country may not be right for police in another.
The good news is we now have a way to decide police priorities and tactics locally through elected Police and Crime Commissioners, plus in London, the Mayor.
Perhaps we ought to be asking candidates to be PCCs - and London mayoral candidates - whether or not they would arm the police? Then the voting public could have their say in a real ballot instead of an opinion poll.
I suspect most would say a firm "no" to routine arming where they live - but support more armed response police where needed.
Whether or not the police carry guns is an issue that needs to be seriously debated. The Paris attacks last month were a reminder that armed terrorists on our streets are a genuine threat. It is no surprise that public support for arming the police has since gone up. But after the Jean Charles de Menezes shooting ten years ago, many criticised the idea. If there is going to be a fundamental change in policing, it is important it has explicit, democratic backing from the people.
The next PCC elections take place in the coming year. So does the election for the Mayor of London.
Localising control over policing does not bring out the mob-mindset. It means a sensible debate about how best to deal with the policing challenges we all face.
The Labour MP Frank Field has published a report confirming what people outside the Westminster bubble already know: open-door immigration is making Britain's housing crisis worse. Frank Field has always been a voice of reason in Parliament, and an original thinker who is not afraid of defying the Establishment consensus. The question is why the political Establishment is so blind to the obvious.
You don't need to be an economist to see that a massive rise in demand without a corresponding rise in supply will push prices up, or even create shortages. Yet that is what the Government is allowing to happen in the housing market, year after year, by letting unrestricted immigration continue unabated. (Of course, George Osborne doesn't understand basic market forces in housing, but that's another story.)
This Government isn't even trying to control immigration. Immigration control is certainly nowhere near the empty agenda of David Cameron's sham EU "renegotiation." The truth is we cannot control immigration until we become sovereign again.
Sovereignty is the core issue. In the 1950s and 1960s, there was a genuine debate in this country about immigration. Some were in favour, others were against. But the point is people's opinions counted for something. And when Parliament voted, its decisions were binding and meaningful.
Today, neither the people, nor Parliament, nor even the Prime Minister have a say over border control. We have ceded the right to determine who comes into this country to bureaucrats in Brussels. Foreign officials are even opening our borders to immigrants from outside the EU without our democratic consent. Whichever side of the immigration debate you come down on, how can anyone seriously defend that?
I believe that controlling our borders is critical to our national security. I also believe that controlling immigration is indispensable for a cohesive society, a functional housing market, and a remotely sustainable welfare state. I understand that other people in Britain have different views. I can't understand why anyone in Britain would want their views to be irrelevant. That, fundamentally, is why I believe we need to vote leave and take back control.
Here's a Christmas cheer up fact: this year's Christmas lunch is set to be the cheapest since 2011. In fact, In fact, global food prices have hit a seven-year low. Who do we have to thank? Technology and the free market.
Food prices have come down from a particularly high peak. Back in 2012, rocketing food price inflation every year was a serious concern. So what has changed?
One major driver of the price of food is the price of fuel. In 2012, the average price of a barrel of oil was $109. Today it is under $40. Over the last few years, fracking in America has unleashed a wave of new supply. That has not only cut the cost of fuel, but also cut production costs in agriculture and industry.
This is helping break the oil cartel. Saudi Arabia and others are starting to supply what the market wants, not what it suits oil producers to produce.
Britain isn't feeling the full benefits of cheap oil though. The cost of petrol at the pump hasn't dropped anywhere near as much as the wholesale price. Neither have energy bills. Why? Because Government regulations and taxes on fossil fuels keep costs up.
The Government's campaign against fossil fuels doesn't just affect the price of energy. It raises the cost of basic necessities across the board. A tax on fuel is a tax on food too.
Many people across Britain still have to scrimp and save to provide their Christmas lunch. Farmers and factories struggle to break even every year. By keeping energy prices artificially high, the Government puts unnecessary pressure families and businesses. Cutting regressive green taxes would be a nice Christmas bonus for all of us.
P.S. It's also December 21st - the shortest day of the year. The days can only now get longer...
Could there be another financial crisis around the corner? The Bank of England claims the big banks have been fixed. Our new banking study shows they haven't.
The big banks are supposed to have built up their reserves since 2008. They are meant to be taking fewer risks. They are assumed to be much safer now. That's what the Bank of England says anyway.
But hold on a minute: the Bank of England didn't see the last financial crisis coming. It thought the banks were fine in 2007. Why should we trust it today?
The UKIP Parliamentary Resource Unit has done its own study of the UK and European banks. We found that the Bank of England is masking serious problems. Its stress test of the banking system relies on dodgy risk assessments and overoptimistic economic projections.
So we did an alternative stress test – looking at what would happen if the banks faced the same shocks as they did in 2008. Our test shows that the big banks are actually no safer now than they were then.
The big banks are still broken. They have only survived because of massive subsidies from central banks. This week the Federal Reserve raised interest rates from record lows for the first time in almost a decade. But credit is still far too cheap – and the big banks can no longer survive without it.
Banker bashing is very fashionable. Popular movements rail against the greed of financial fat cats. But the problem goes much deeper than the bankers: the problem is the system.
Central banks, like the Bank of England, are actually the core issue. Providing unlimited credit to a few banks is what has made them too big to fail. Bailing them out at the taxpayer's expense is what has encouraged them to take more risks.
The banking system needs radical reform. For a start, the retail banks urgently need to beef up their reserves. Otherwise another serious crisis is inevitable.
Read our paper to find out more.
3.8 million UKIP votes. One Member of Parliament. Zero chance of having a question answered by the Prime Minister. Welcome to the Westminster cartel.
People across Britain are genuinely anxious about the Prime Minister's "renegotiation" of our EU membership. I recently met a trade unionist who represents public sector workers in Essex. He is open-minded about the EU, but is worried about what the renegotiation would mean for employment and social law.
Yesterday I put that question to the PM. I pointed out that two years ago he said he wanted to bring powers over employment and social affairs back from Brussels to Britain. Now it looks like he has given up on any repatriation. So I asked him straight: in his negotiations with the EU, would he be demanding those powers back or not?
But instead of answering, all the PM could come up with was abuse. Instead of enlightening millions of concerned citizens, he decided to play to a tiny clique of careerist MPs.
I had to wait four months for the chance to be called at PMQs, and give Clactonians and 3.8 million UKIP voters a voice in Parliament. The PM's refusal to answer shows the political cartel at work. He knows he won't deliver any reform, so he has resorted to covering up for his cronies in Brussels. He has become the EU's PR-man in London.
Do you trust David Cameron to get the best deal for Britain? Watch his response, and decide for yourself. Want to wipe the smug smirk off his face? Vote leave.
Did you know the EU's new deal with Turkey gives 75 million Turkish citizens unrestricted access to Europe? Did you know it allows 400,000 Syrian migrants to settle in EU countries? Did you know Britain is powerless to do anything about it?
The EU spins its deal as the solution to the migrant crisis. It is no such thing. Europe's porous borders caused the crisis. Opening them even wider will only make a bad situation worse.
We had no say over this agreement. It was negotiated and signed with no British input. But it will have a huge impact on Britain.
The deal is supposed to apply only to Schengen countries, not the UK. But once the 400,000 migrants have got EU residency papers, what is to stop them coming here? Answer: nothing. In fact, migrants placed in countries where unemployment is rampant – like Portugal or Italy – will be looking for the first opportunity to leave.
This is a seminal moment: we will now have open-door immigration not just from inside the EU, but from outside it too.
On Monday night, this dodgy deal was discussed by a virtually empty Commons chamber. Most of the political Establishment was happy to let this key issue of national security pass unnoticed.
But the real tragedy is that Parliament was powerless to do anything about it. Even if MPs had been given the opportunity to vote the deal down, it would have made no difference. The debate was a sham. Parliament long ago signed away the right to control Britain's borders.
The British people had no say over this deal. Their elected legislators had no say. Their Government had no say. Is this really how we want to be governed? How can it not be better for Britain to vote leave and take back control?
Imagine if a business leased a fleet of driverless cars, and ran them as a taxi firm available through uber. You could, in theory, automate every aspect of the firm. When to lease or more vehicles or clean them could be determined by demand. Every aspect of the business, including how and when to advertise, could be run by a computer programme.
Except you don't have to imagine it: soon it will be real.
Technology is transforming the way we do business. Uber's app already enables people to order vehicles at the touch of a button. Google's driverless cars are around the corner. Now blockchain technology – set to take off in 2016 - is revolutionising how companies work.
Blockchain – the digital code technology behind Bitcoin – is an automatic, public database of transactions. It allows direct, peer-to-peer buying and selling, with no central, corporate broker keeping a record. It enables a company to be entirely run by software.
This technology has enormous implications. It means people can trade without any interference from the State. Blockchain facilitates smart contracts: the rules of the trade are written into the code – meaning trade is self-regulating. No legal system is required to enforce the contracts.
Blockchain prevents other State intervention too. Bitcoin has already broken the State's monopoly over currency. It allows people to avoid the tyranny of the Osborne pound and his mendacious monetary manipulation.
Technology allows us to see what a genuinely free market would actually look like. No red tape. No price controls on capital by central banks. No debasement of the coinage by the Big Banking/Big Government crony cartel. No arbitrary extortion on private enterprise, conjured up every six months in burdensome budgets by the Chancellor.
For hundreds of years, parasitic elites have lived off other people's labour and ingenuity. High-tech innovation may finally set humanity free.
There has been a huge rise in new-born babies being taken from their parents by the State. Nicky Morgan, the Education Secretary, has rightly expressed alarm. But does her own department feel the same?
Just three weeks ago, the Minister for Children and Families told Parliament the adoption system was working just fine. He said the family courts have a "strict and stiff test" for adopting without consent. He also dismissed the need for greater scrutiny, glibly parroting that going beyond the current system "requires careful consideration."
Ministers are encased in a Whitehall bubble that insulates them from reality. They are surrounded by officials who present the adoption system as it ought to be, rather than as it is. That's why it takes the seizure of new-born babies for Nicky Morgan to wake up to what's going wrong.
UKIP has been part of a long campaign to reform the adoption system.
I triggered the Parliamentary debate on forced adoptions three weeks ago. I made the case that it is too easy for the State to break up families, and that there are too many cases of injustice. I argued that secrecy in the family courts is the problem, and that we need more openness and public scrutiny of the adoption system to ensure that the right decisions are being made.
We also published a paper on the change the system needs: Opening Up the Family Courts.
This issue is too important to be left to ministerial mediocrities. It shouldn't take a scandal for ministers to notice that the system they're supposed to be running is causing terrible harm. We need ministers who can get a grip on policy. Responsible Government should be acting in the interests of children and the public, not those of the family court cartel.
Watch our video, and join our campaign:
The EU Referendum campaign is stepping up.
This coming Saturday, 19th December, I'll be joining speakers from across the political spectrum in Eastbourne to make the case that we need to vote leave and take back control. Come and make your voice heard too.
I'm delighted to be speaking alongside some great believers in Britain's future. Dan Hannan MEP has spent his entire adult life spearheading the campaign against a federal Europe.
It's great that Jim Mellon, one of Britain's most successful businessmen, who has been involved in Leave.EU, will be joining us. We're all coming together because this referendum is so important.
Our political Establishment is determined to sell us out to Brussels. The PM's sham row with Donald Tusk last week embodies everything that's wrong with the EU. The European project is built on undemocratic attempts to subvert the will of the peoples of Europe.
That's why the referendum is so important. For the first time ever, the British people are getting a say on our membership of the EU. We have one opportunity to win back control of our country from the Euro elites. Join the Vote Leavecampaign to make sure we take it!
If you are near Eastbourne, why not come along?
George Osborne's Help to Buy mortgage subsidy makes it easier for first-time buyers to borrow. "That's great," you might say. "Now more people can get on the housing ladder." But what effect does this policy have on house prices? And what does it mean for everyone who can't claim the subsidy?
New data shows London's house prices are higher than ever . Prices are rising much faster than wages, making homes less and less affordable. Why? Because the Chancellor has made it easier for a chosen few to get a mortgage.
Osborne's mortgage subsidy increases the reservoir of buyers. Because more people can borrow money, more people are in the market for a house. But the mortgage subsidy doesn't increase the housing stock by one brick. More people are bidding for the same number of houses. That means house prices go up.
If you're a first-time buyer, you might be okay. The mortgage subsidy means you can buy a house – even if you have to borrow a fortune. But what about everyone else? People who can't claim the subsidy are now finding a new house out of reach. So instead of expanding home ownership, the Chancellor has restricted affordability to those who can get easy credit. Because he has picked a tiny pool of winners, everyone else loses out.
But can Osborne see the damage he's doing? Not remotely. In fact, next year he'll be rolling out a new London Help to Buy. While all in favour of helping people in London buy, this approach will actually mean even fewer affordable houses overall.
More affordable housing requires more houses and less cheap credit.
Isn't Donald Trump appalling? He's brash, abrasive, and obnoxious – not to mention deeply illiberal. He even treats the US Constitution with contempt. But here's the thing: if everyone agrees he's so awful, why is he so popular?
Millions of Americans support Donald Trump because they can't stand mainstream politicians. Confidence in Washington has plummeted. People look at Congress and see both parties cosying up to lobbyists. They know that legislators collude to gerrymander electoral districts – denying voters a real choice.
The political cartel creates bland politics. A year ago, everyone assumed this presidential election would be a contest between another Clinton and another Bush. In a country founded on rejecting monarchy, politics has become dynastic. Is it really a shock that voters are thumbing their nose at that?
In the West, we are fortunate to be citizen consumers. Choice is a normal in almost every area of our lives. Why should we be expected to put up with identical politicians?
Hatred of the political classes is the fuel for Trump's campaign. That's why he says ever more outrageous things. On Monday, a new opinion poll suggested his support in the first primary state – Iowa – was fading. His response? Bait the Establishment. Right on cue, President Obama, Hillary Clinton, and his Republican rivals lined up to condemn him – and handed him just the boost he wanted.
The people who really fear Trump are the Republican Establishment. They can't bear the thought of him winning the nomination. Yet they helped make his candidacy possible. Under Bush Junior, they complacently assumed the Republican base was behind big-spending, oversized Federal Government, and illiberal economic intervention. They expanded Washington as much as the Democrats. Now the base has rejected them because of it. Donald Trump is the monster they created.
People on this side of the Atlantic need to understand that hysterically attacking Trump only makes him stronger. Instead of virtue signalling at PMQs about foreign political showmen, maybe we could allow MPs for Cumbria to ask about flooding. When political insiders focus on self-righteous grandstanding instead of real issues, is it any wonder people are sick of them?
Britain's armed forces need the best possible equipment to keep us safe. That means getting the best possible value for money in defence procurement. Yet for decades the Government has prioritised the supposed interests of big defence corporations over the interests of the country.
I believe defence procurement needs radical reform. Watch this video and read our paper to find out why. Then tell us if you agree in our poll.
The Prime Minister is supposed to be at odds with the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk. If the anonymous briefings are to be believed, unless Brussels backs down, daring Dave will jolly well campaign to leave.
Except it's all balls. A deal has been quietly agreed, and all this bogus bust up is designed to make it look like a big win for Britain.
We know this because Cabinet minister Iain Duncan Smith has let it slip that the PM has already cooked up a deal "behind closed doors". This whole row is a farce.
What this bogus deal does reveal is the contempt that the political elite have for the voters. Thinking that it is still 1990-something, they believe they can spin and manipulate public opinion.
Stage a couple of fake rows, and their pet pundits in the press lobby will loyally write it all up as a big win for Blighty.
I'm not so sure. We live in an age of deep seated distrust of politicians. Folk can and will see through it.
Dave's new deal is meaningless. Staging a scripted row fools no one.
It's because of stunts like this that trust in the political class is at an all-time low, and radical politics around the world is on the rise.
We don't need to be governed by a remote elite that holds us in contempt. Come the referendum, we can end this charade – and defy the Downing Street clique - once and for all.
Is Britain still a Christian country? The evidence around us suggests it is: people are buying Christmas presents; choirs are singing Christmas carols; radio stations are playing Christmas songs. So why does a Government commission claim it isn't?
The new report by the Commission on Religion and Belief claims that religion - and particularly Christianity – is in decline. It says Britain needs a new "national conversation" on "fundamental values." It demands that national and civic events mirror "the pluralist character of modern society."
But does this really reflect Britain today? Yes, fewer people go to church. But British culture is still hugely influenced by Christianity. People of all faiths and none share elements of Christian culture – like Christmas. Look at the Tube map: Blackfriars, Charing Cross, St. Pancras. The church is part of the landscape.
Christianity is also intertwined with our legal system. Common law is rooted in biblical commandments. From Magna Carta to the Bill of Rights, the relationship between church and state has framed our constitution - and enshrined the principle of religious liberty for every citizen.
Britain's religious identity is about the foundations on which our civilisation stands. Fundamental change should be decided directly by the people – and perhaps organically over time - not by unelected officials and academics.
But I suspect most people are perfectly comfortable living in a Christian country. Commissions like this are part of a multiculturalist agenda imposed by the ruling elite.
The new report is full of multiculturalist doublespeak. For example: "the right to free speech includes the right to offend, but the latter does not enjoy the same degree of importance and immunity." All free speech is equal, but some is more equal than others.
It also tries to deny the connection between religious ideology and terrorism. It claims there is no "one-way causal link between a worldview, ideology or narrative on the one hand and specific actions and behaviours on the other." Recent events in Paris, San Bernadino, and Leytonstone suggest otherwise. Perhaps the Commissioners missed Sayed Qutb's Milestones?
The Church of England criticised the report, saying it had "fallen captive to liberal rationalism." If only! Multiculturalism can't be pinned on the Enlightenment. It has, however, been championed by the clergy - in fact Rowan Williams was one of the Commission's patrons. The Church can hardly complain about the results of its own policy now.
Britain doesn't need to apologise for its Christian roots. Creating a cultural vacuum can only make our society worse. Let's ignore this attempt at cultural engineering, and have a happy Christmas!
Last month, the people of Argentina rejected Peronism and elected Mauricio Macri. Now the people of Venezuela are set to turf out Hugo Chavez's successor Nicolas Maduro. Why? Because socialism has brought both countries to ruin.
Both Argentina and Venezuela are in economic crisis. Inflation in both countries is rampant, driving up the cost of living, and depressing living standards. Nationalisation has caused industrial stagnation. Price controls have created supply shortages of basic goods. Crime and corruption are pervasive. In Venezuela, the healthcare system is collapsing, and State repression of dissent is increasingly ugly.
These ought not to be poor countries. Both are rich in natural resources. Their economies have been destroyed by central planning. A corrupt elite in both countries lives in luxury off the backs of the people they rule. As the supermarket shelves have emptied and medicine run out, Maduro and Kirchner have amassed millions. Socialism has made the rich richer, and the poor poorer. It's like an Ayn Rand novel come to life.
None of this is surprising. What does surprise me is that the leader of Her Majesty's Opposition is an open admirer of Nicolas Maduro. He even says so on his campaign website, claiming: "Success for radical policies in Venezuela is being achieved by providing for the poorest, liberating resources."
Yesterday night's Brexit rally in Canterbury was by all accounts a fantastic success. If you missed it, don't panic! There are two more coming up in the South East. I'll be speaking at the last - in Eastbourne on 19th December.
The Brexit campaign is hotting up. Before the end of 2017, you will have the chance to have your say on Britain's membership of the EU. Over the next two years, I'll be joining people from all parties and all sectors of society to make the case that Britain will be richer, safer, and freer if we vote leave and take back control.
This month's rallies – organised by Daniel Hannan MEP – feature representatives of the Conservatives, Labour, and UKIP. Guests at last night's rally heard from one of this country's greatest living authors, Frederick Forsyth. In Eastbourne, I'll be speaking alongside Jim Mellon – one of Britain's most successful investors.
The Brexit campaign transcends normal politics. It unites people from all walks of life who may disagree deeply about how to run Britain, but all believe that the British people – not Brussels bureaucrats - should decide.
The EU referendum will determine the future of this country. Now is the time for everyone who wants to take back control of Britain's destiny to get involved. Start this month: join me on the 19th.
Isn't it odd that almost all British universities charge undergraduates the full £9k a year? The idea was that different universities providing different kinds of education would charge different prices. Yet instead they all charge the same. Why? Because they are a cartel.
Universities aren't just a cartel for fees. They are a cartel for ideas. Yes, there is still incredible research in the sciences – because it is hard to politicise the empirical method. But in the humanities and social sciences, leftist orthodoxies are barely ever challenged. Universities are so dominated by leftist groupthink that they actively silence anyone who thinks differently.
Groupthink has meant that publicly funded universities no longer serve a public purpose. Since the 1970s in America, think tanks replaced universities as the producers of new ideas. Now the same has happened here.
Who is producing new ideas to deal with our broken public finances? In the last month, the IEA, the Adam Smith Institute, and the Legatum Institute have all launched projects challenging fundamental economic assumptions with long-term thinking. Three think tanks are producing more than the whole university system.
Who is coming up with new thinking to fix our broken banking system? The only major, radical thinker at a university is Jesus Huerta de Soto. Otherwise, the only places to find original ideas are think tanks like the Cobden Centre.
Universities are unable to challenge Establishment ideas because they are the Establishment. They share the same statist outlook because they are all big, bureaucratic, taxpayer-funded organisations. Just like at the BBC, leftist assumptions are institutionalised and pervasive. Supporting the free market, controlled immigration, and responsible government spending would run counter to their whole ethos.
As a result, the ivory tower is higher than ever before. Universities are cut off from society. They rely on a research funding model that backs projects precisely because the market – i.e. ordinary people – would never have any use for them. They think they have a right to taxpayers' money, even though the vast majority of taxpayers don't benefit from anything they do.
People across the world are realising the political cartel needs to be broken. The academic cartel should be next in line.
Labour was once a decent party. It used to represent working people. Now it represents only elites and Maoists. Today, the progressive, radical alternative to corporatist Toryism is UKIP.
The Labour party has been severed from its roots. The party of Keir Hardie used to reflect the sectional interest of organised labour. Its MPs used to be people who had worked in industry.
But many Labour MPs today are indistinguishable from the Tories. They do the same PPE degrees at the same Oxbridge colleges. They spend their entire careers inside the Westminster bubble. They created the soggy Blairite consensus which has monopolised politics for the last two decades. They are part of the parasitic Establishment.
It is because Labour lost touch with its roots that party members rebelled in the leadership election, and voted for someone completely different. But Comrade Corbyn is even more out of kilter with what Labour used to be. His anti-Western worldview is remarkable in a party that used to be so proudly British. He speaks for the mob in the streets and on Twitter, not working people.
Corbyn and Blair are supposed to be polar opposites. In fact, they have more in common than they would like to admit. Both are creatures of unrepresentative elites in Islington. Champagne socialists and bohemians have dominated progressive politics for too long.
The real progressive alternative to the Tories today is UKIP. In the long, English, radical tradition of the levellers and the Chartists, UKIP stands for the ideals of liberty, democracy, low taxes, and free markets that made Britain great, and will make her greater still.
For as long as anyone can remember, the Lib Dems have been the mid-term alternative to the Government. That is no longer true. UKIP has firmly established itself in that role. Against all the odds, the public has broken the Westminster cartel and made UKIP Britain's third party.
Whatever the Westminster elites think, Labour has no divine right to hold safe seats whose voters it no longer represents. UKIP - as a serious, radical, progressive alternative - can displace Labour too.
The EU's new deal with Turkey means non-EU citizens will now be able to live in the UK without any permission from our Government. We have lost control of our borders.
From October 2016, Turkish citizens will be able to travel within the Schengen area without visas, and 400,000 Syrians will be settled across Schengen countries. Once they have European residency papers, they will then be able to come to Britain – even though Britain isn't part of Schengen.
This deal is meant to solve the migration crisis. It is full of sweeteners to incentivise Turkey to control its border with Syria and stem the flow of migrants to Europe. But it is hard to see how migration to Europe can be controlled by giving 75 million Turks unrestricted access.
In fact, this agreement will give us no control at all. Europe has no way of logging people in. We don't know that people who enter won't stay – and we won't know if they do.
This deal is dangerous. We know from the Paris attacks that jihadist terrorists have already got in to Europe by posing as refugees. Opening Europe up to a country that ISIS can easily infiltrate is asking for trouble.
It is also deeply undemocratic. The British people were never consulted about freedom of movement within Europe. Now we have no say over free movement not just from outside Europe, but from a warzone. We were never asked about giving up control of our borders to the Eurocrats. Now our border control is being abandoned altogether without our consent.
But the fault for this hugely misguided policy lies not just in Brussels, but also in Number 10. It is David Cameron who has allowed the EU to negotiate on our behalf, and enact policy that endangers our national security.
The British people are powerless to change this decision. But some time between now and the end of 2017, citizens will finally get their say. The EU referendum gives the people the chance to regain power over Britain. We need to vote leave to take back control.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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?
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.
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
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.
How on earth does Jeremy Corbyn keep getting away with it? He and his coterie of supporter now running the Labour party could not be more wrong-headed.
They deny that government has overspent, advocating that we spend even more. They dither over whether the police should be allowed to use lethal force against armed terrorists. Perhaps forgetting that the attack on the Twin Towers happened before the Iraq war, they appear to blame Western policy makers for attacks on the West. One has even seemed to suggest that Mi5 and the security services be disbanded.
Wrong, wrong and yet more wrong. Yet they are still on 27 percent in the polls. Remarkably, around one in four are still apparently prepared to vote for them.
How do they get away with it?
Motive. Or rather the perception that some people have as to the motives of Comrade Corbyn and co.
"Yes", many of the 27 percent will say. "Jeremy might be wrong about this or that. But he means well."
Don't misunderstand me. I do not believe that Jeremy's motives are any more elevated than those of any other party leader. My point is that as long as some people trust his motives, they will support him – no matter how wrong he may be.
The converse is also true. No matter how right you might be in politics, people will not support you if they do not trust your motives.
Immigration, Europe, the economy, energy; you can win the argument on all the big macro issues of the day. But you still will not get the votes if folk do not trust why you are saying what you are saying.
George Osborne has been telling us for five years that he is closing the deficit. Today's borrowing figures are so bad, it is almost as if Gordon Brown was still in charge.
While telling us he has been dealing with the national debt, on George's watch the national debt has doubled. This is a serious problem – and not just because we are saddling future generations with an enormous bill. The bigger the debt gets, the harder the deficit is to close.
Look at the Government's spending figures for the last few years. Departmental budgets have been cut. But there is one item that keeps getting bigger: debt interest. Currently we are paying £1 billion every week to the Government's bondholders. We have been spending more on debt interest every year than on education and police combined.
This situation will only get worse. The more we borrow, the higher the interest bill will be. The more our taxes will fund creditors instead of public services. The less impact departmental spending cuts will have. The worse our public services will be.
The Left will tell you that we shouldn't worry about borrowing. That spending cuts are unfair and cause inequality. In fact, they are the ones promoting inequality. Promoting borrowing means that the British people will increasingly work for the benefit of a rentier class. They are advocating a two-tier society.
The only way to secure public services and reduce inequality is to balance the public books before it's too late. After five years, the Chancellor needs to follow through on his promises.
Politics is changing. Across the democratic world, establishment elites are losing the trust of the people. Insurgents – from Donald Trump to Alexis Tsipras – are on the rise. But real change won't come from messiahs, but from modernity.
Innovators in California have launched a new website that gives a taste of the future. Called Crowdpac, the site uses data from voting records, speeches, and political donations to give a comprehensive picture of the stances of American politicians on a range of key issues. Voters can use Crowdpac to match their views to the candidate they most agree with. It's the political equivalent of online dating.
Crowdpac is not the first website to match voters with politicians, but it offers new depth. In particular, it highlights the influence of lobbying. By digging down into the political interests of rich donors, it gives a much greater guide than other sites as to the likely policy positions of the candidates they support. Its aim is ambitious: to "help end the stranglehold of big money donors and special interests on the political system."
Cronyism rightly angers electorates more than anything else. It's why many don't trust politicians. Voters know that partisan journalists won't give them the facts either – which is why many don't trust the media. Instead, voters are turning to outsiders whom they believe - or hope - can't be bought. In many cases, they will be disappointed.
Crowdpac offers a better way. By providing data directly to voters, it gives the public an insight into whom their elected representatives are really serving without the intermediation of any media spin. It will make politicians much more transparent - and much more accountable as a result. Crowdpac will help to restore trust in politics in the only way possible: by giving politicians an incentive to be trustworthy.
I believe Crowdpac is only the start. Three years ago, in my book The End of Politics and the Birth of iDemocracy, I predicted that the digital revolution would transform politics for the better, and restore power to the people. It's already happening. And it goes to show: progress – not pessimism – will defeat the political cartel.
Britain is a chronic borrower. Not just the Government, but the whole country. We are buying more than we sell, and making up the difference with debt. This is unsustainable.
Our current account deficit – the amount that the value of our imports exceeds the value of our exports – is the largest of any developed country as a share of GDP. In the last quarter, it was equivalent to 3.6% of national income, or £16.8 billion. Think about that for a second: we spent £16.8 billion more than we earned just this past summer.
The amazing thing is that 3.6% is an improvement. Last year, Britain's current account deficit was 5.5%, or £97.9 billion – an all-time record. But if you think we're moving in the right direction, don't get your hopes up: this quarter, it is set to widen again.
Buying more than we earn is made possible by enormous borrowing. It means that people across Britain are drowning in debt.
It is also funded by the sale of British buildings and businesses to foreign buyers. Wondering why foreign investors are allowed to buy London properties and drive up house prices? That's part of what's paying for our imports.
High borrowing is the result of low productivity. Exorbitant energy costs, caused by green taxes, are making our exports uncompetitive. Lax monetary policy is pumping money into assets instead of innovation.
We are also held back by being tied to the world's only declining trading bloc: the EU. During the recent visits of the Indian and Chinese leaders, the Government touted our trade with the far east. But non-EU Switzerland, with a population eight times smaller than ours, exports almost twice as much as us to China, and over four times as much to India. Switzerland also has a bilateral free trade deal with China, and is in the process of negotiating one with India – something that we, as EU members, can't do.
The EU is holding us back from doing what we're best at. Britain specialises in services; yet EU diktats make exporting services to the rest of the world much more difficult than it needs to be.
Politicians often talk about "rebalancing the economy." But balance won't boost our exports. What we really need is to do is focus on our strengths, and exploit our comparative advantage. To do that Britain – not Brussels – needs to be in control.
What is the role of a university? Is it a place of free inquiry, which expands the bounds of knowledge, and rigorously scrutinises the orthodoxies of the day? Not anymore. Instead of promoting freedom of thought and speech, universities increasingly restrict it.
In The Closing of the American Mind, the American philosopher Allan Bloom warned about what was happening on campus. Relativism, he wrote, had replaced critical inquiry. Universities increasingly indoctrinated students with contempt for the past, and for the West. As a result, students learnt only to subscribe to a set of lazy cultural doctrines.
Bloom published his book in 1987. The situation has only got worse since. Students today actively work to restrict free speech. Any dissent from left-wing political norms is condemned on the basis that it is a form of oppression. Those who disagree face trial by the mob.
The campus inquisition has recently reached extraordinary proportions. At Yale, academics who questioned an e-mail calling for "cultural sensitivity" in Halloween costumes faced a gang of students demanding their resignations.
Here in Britain, it is no different. At Oxford last month, students claiming to be oppressed by a statue of Cecil Rhodes protested to insist the university remove it. "No platform" policies are used ban certain people – like members of a party that recently won 3.8 million votes - from speaking.
Students used to protest against the Establishment. Now they have become part of it. They collude with culturally Marxist academics to enforce orthodoxies, not challenge them. In the battle for truth and progress between Galileo and the Church, today's students are predominantly with the Church.
Freedom of thought and speech is indispensable to our society. It's what creates the innovation that propels economic progress. It's what differentiates the democratic West from the countries that millions are now fleeing. It is irresponsible for us in Britain to allow radical censorship to flourish at our public universities.
But the biggest losers from the campus inquisition, I suspect, are a large silent minority of students. Young, inquisitive people – like many I spoke to at Warwick University a few weeks ago – who don't agree with the left-wing consensus, but are too intimidated to say so. If we're going to worry about oppression on campus, they are the people we should be thinking about.
There is a chronic problem with GP access in my constituency. Many of my constituents cannot get an appointment to see a GP. This problem is not unique to Clacton; it is systemic. It requires a policy rethink.
We are used to living in a world of choice. In most walks of life, service providers compete for our custom. Yet when it comes to our health, we increasingly have no choice at all. In fact, for the residents of Tendring, it is patients who have to compete to see a GP.
This problem is not confined to Tendring, because it springs from national policy. Part of the reason Tendring has a GP shortage is that GP contracts are centralised, and are paid based on the size of their patient list, not necessarily the size of their workload. GPs are often disincentivised from working in areas where demand for healthcare is higher.
The practical result for many is that they bypass the GP altogether, and go straight to A&E. This in turn puts enormous pressure on hospitals. By any metric, this is a failure.
Believe it or not, in Germany and France, people don't have to go to a GP as their first point of call. Instead they often get their primary care straight from specialists. We are chaotically sleepwalking into something similar in the UK. Perhaps we need to take lessons from Europe and think about how we could make a non-GP-based healthcare system work.
The Government is supposed to be reforming healthcare to increase patient choice. As my constituents can testify, it clearly isn't working. Britain's population is aging; our healthcare system must be flexible if it is going to cope. We need to start thinking outside the box.
Next week, the Government will publish its Strategic Defence and Security Review. The Paris attacks are a reminder that external defence and internal security can no longer be considered separate.
We think of national defence in terms of standing armies, air bases, and battleships. It is a structure that hasn't changed for as long as anyone can remember.
But as last week's attacks testify, the threat we face has changed. Since September 11th, the main danger to citizens of Western countries has been groups of terrorists with links to a global jihadist network. A handful of jihadis travelling through Europe can now threaten Western capitals more immediately than any hostile standing army.
At the same time, jihadist groups have carved out territory in failed states. Recruits are drawn from countries all over the world using social media. Most major conflict is no longer between states, but pits a state against jihadist groups, or jihadist groups against each other. Unconventional warfare has become conventional.
The change in the threat needs to change our assumptions about strategy. We probably can no longer look at our armed forces and our security services as separate. When IS and other jihadists work as united actors across borders, our defence services cannot make a distinction either.
We also have to be able to adapt quickly. Less time passed between the last British cavalry charge at Omdurman, Sudan and the first British tank charge in World War I than has now elapsed between the collapse of the Soviet bloc and today. Yet in our generation we have not been nimble enough in refocusing and adapting - not just our equipment, but our tactics and strategy.
Power projection remains necessary. We still need fast jets to target threats abroad. But fast jets wouldn't be much use against gunmen on the streets of London. It would be a mistake to privilege one weapon in our armoury over others. We can't be stuck with cavalry when our enemies are advancing in tanks. We mustn't end up trying to fight today's threats with yesterday's technology.
New threats require a new approach. Adaptive change is our ally in preserving our security; we cannot be afraid of it. I hope that will be reflected in the SDSR.
The Paris attacks are not a new phenomenon. Islamists have committed many similar murders in Europe, America, East Africa and most of all in the Middle East. Too often we have talked ourselves into believing the problem is our foreign policy, or our cartoons. It is time to realise these attacks are not a reaction. They are the implementation of a violent, imperialist ideology.
Islamism in Europe is on the rise. But in the Middle East and parts of Africa, it is already dominant. It fills ungoverned space, from Libya, to Somalia, to Yemen, to Gaza, to Iraq/Syria. It is state-sponsored in Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Qatar. It is the motivating force behind both Sunni and Shia when they meet on the battlefield.
A day before the attacks in Paris, over 40 people were murdered in Islamist attacks in Beirut. The Lebanese capital – a place I have visited several times - used to be known as the Paris of the East. Yet the battle between the Shia Islamists of Hezbollah and the Sunni Islamists of ISIS and Al Nusra is steadily consuming Lebanon in Syria's civil war.
Islamists are reducing the Middle East to ruin. They are not the victims of aggression. They are the perpetrators. Their goal is total supremacy. They cannot be appeased.
What can the West do to counter Islamism?
Military action is one response. Thinking that if we leave Islamists alone, they will leave us alone is self-deception. Islamist ambitions are global. They must be met with force. We must not be deluded by wishful thinking to believe otherwise.
But force alone is not enough. We cannot ignore the fact that Islamist terrorism in the West is often home-grown, or that one of the Paris attackers may have successfully posed as a refugee. The Government is attempting to counter Islamist radicalisation in schools and communities. Liberal rationalism needs to get a lot more muscular and unapologetic. The Islamist threat also needs to be a factor in our immigration policy.
For too long Western foreign policy experts have buddied up to regimes in the Middle East that export, if not overt terrorism, a virulent, extremist terror-inducing ideology. We cannot remain allies of these governments unless they stop funding and exporting extremist creeds.
We need to stay to true to our ideals of liberal democracy. Our way of life is extraordinary and precious. We must not take it for granted. And yes, the West will need to fight to protect it.
Yesterday Sweden – the poster nation for open-door immigration – reintroduced border controls, in defiance of the Schengen Agreement. Swedish ministers say the volume of migrants entering the country has left them no choice. Austria, Germany, and France have already done the same. When even Europe's overtly integrationist states are placing national interest above federalism, the European project is in serious trouble.
Sweden claims the border checks are "temporary." But when they effectively abandoned the Scandinavian currency union, they said the same thing. That was a hundred years ago.
In fact, Euro elites think Schengen may be unsustainable. "Saving Schengen is a race against time," warns European Council president, Donald Tusk. "If we do not find a European solution for the migration crisis... then Schengen's dead," panics Luxembourg's foreign minister.
Yet the migrant crisis has shown that there can be no European solution, because European countries don't have a common interest or outlook. Sweden and Germany blame everyone else for not taking their "fair" share of migrants. But other countries don't see why they should pick up the tab for unilateral decisions to accept a million people taken in Stockholm and Berlin. Hungary, for one, refuses to be shamed into accepting any.
If anything, Sweden and Germany are now following Hungary's lead. Angela Merkel's popularity has plummeted as her immigration policy descends into chaos. Sweden's governing socialists are looking over their shoulders at the insurgent, Eurosceptic, and electorally successful Sweden Democrats. Swedes are increasingly concerned about social breakdown in Malmö and elsewhere, which many see as the result of mass immigration.
The gradual collapse of Schengen must inform our debate on the EU in Britain. Europhiles talk about staying in the EU as if it is static. But in reality the EU is in flux. Euro-elites – as usual - are pushing for more integration, but nation states are increasingly pulling in the other direction. Come what may, the status quo is over.
How fast is your broadband? Vodafone claims it sells much faster broadband in Portugal, Spain, and Italy than consumers can access in the UK. Why? Because here, BT has a virtual monopoly.
In most of Britain, if you want broadband, you need to go through BT. Even if you buy it through another company, you'll most likely still be using BT's cables, because BT owns the only national network. Consumers have no real choice at all.
BT's monopoly is a big reason why many people find their Internet so slow. Most of BT's network is outdated copper cable. Even where fast fibre-optic cables have been installed, connections to individual houses and offices are still copper. But what incentive does BT have to upgrade its infrastructure? It has no competition.
The railways have the same problem. Like BT, Network Rail owns the only national network. There is no competition to drive down the cost of the infrastructure. Costs to consumers keep going up, but service stays slow.
Think the problem is privatisation? Think the solution is to nationalise our infrastructure?
Network Rail is a public monopoly: the rail network was never properly privatised, even as Railtrack - a supposedly private business. Dependent on government fiat and finance, Railtrack/Network Rail has morphed into becoming a branch of the State. BT is a private monopoly made possible by a heavily regulated telecom market, rigged by the State. Nationalisation isn't the solution; it's the problem.
The real solution is to break the monopolies. We need to think of ways to introduce competition, and give consumers a real choice. That might mean allowing other telecom companies to install their own fibre-optic cables along BT's routes. It might mean reuniting train and track, allowing both to be leased or bought together by a private operator.
Either way, if we keep restricting consumer choice, we'll only ensure that our infrastructure never gives us what we want.
Yesterday I tabled an amendment to the Trade Union Bill to permit individual trade union members – instead of union barons – to choose which political party their dues support. In a world where individual choice is the norm, this reform is long overdue.
All of us take free choice for granted in our daily lives. Trades unionists are no exception. Yet the current rules prevent them from exercising free choice in their unions.
Under the current system, union barons get to decide which party members' political contributions fund. All members – no matter their own political opinions – are forced to support the same party.
The problem with this one-size-fits-all funding model isn't just that it denies individual members a choice. It also conflicts with the essence of the trade union movement. The purpose of unions is to allow workers to stand up to bosses. So why should workers defer union bosses on which party their donations support?
My amendment would empower union members to choose for themselves. It would give them the power to send their political fund contributions to a party directly. Those members who wanted to continue funding the party chosen by the union bosses could still do so. But those who wanted to send their money elsewhere would no longer be compelled to bankroll a party they do not support.
So there it is. The Prime Minister's grand new plan to redefine our unhappy relationship with the European Union.
Except it's not so new, is it?
First, the PM says we need binding safeguards so that the block of 19 Eurozone countries cannot out vote the rest. Good luck with that. If 19 of 28 are in a common currency, the Euroblock will have a massive gravitational pull. It is in the nature of power that they will exert that gravitational pull. The only way not to be subject to rules written and rigged against us is to leave.
Mr. Cameron talked a lot about improving EU competitiveness. Just like Tony Blair did circa 2000-2001.
For all his talk about deregulation and scrapping rules, he also talks about the need to "deepen the single market" for services. You cannot have both. If we extend the single market rule making, we smother more sectors of the economy under job-destroying red tape. If you doubt me, look at the destructive impact of the EU's VAT rules on small Internet businesses.
Then the PM talked about public disillusionment with the EU. Rather comically, he seems under the impression that removing the words "ever-closer union" will fix the problem.
He can change the preamble to whatever treaty he likes, the acquis communautaire will still apply, and as a result European court rulings will continue to rule in favour of more Europe. The ratchet will keep turning. The PM, I'm sure, knows this, yet he chooses to pretend that amending the preamble to the treaties is a solution.
Then Dave outlined his idea of national parliaments being able to veto EU rules. If enough national legislatures got together, they could force a rethink. Sounds good, eh? Except it would formalise the subjugation of our parliamentary system. Looked at the other way, it would mean that those we elect would be conceding that they could not decide things without the permission of other European institutions.
Far from sorting out the issue of our self-government, it would recognise its demise.
Perhaps the saddest thing about Dave's New Deal is the idea that it boils down to in-work benefit claims. If the PM really thinks that paying people who happen to live in Warsaw differently to those who happen to live in Walsall will resolve our EU problems, his New Deal is going nowhere.
If there is one thing Britain has always relied on for international trade, it is our maritime ports. So guess what the latest British victim of EU regulation is going to be?
The EU's new Port Services Regulation is designed to impose internal competition on big, nationalised, uncompetitive continental ports. Yet it won't just apply to Rotterdam and Antwerp; it will hit Harwich and Hull as well.
British ports are nothing like those on the Continent. They are smaller, private, and consequently much more efficient. Our ports are major contributors to our economy, and require no subsidies from the taxpayer. They manage 95% of our trade in goods, and employ some 100,000 people.
But thanks to the new regulation, all that is set to change. Forcing internal competition on our ports will raise their costs and deter investment. Far from making them more competitive, the EU is jeopardising their future.
So what is the Government doing about it? After telling us for two years that they would fight to stop the regulation or get us an opt-out, a few weeks ago our political leaders gave the shipping industry their final answer: British ports will just have to live with it.
The BSE campaign constantly tells us that the EU is essential to Britain's trade. How can it be when it is about to ruin the one industry we really need?
But the bigger lie is that EU membership increases our influence as a trading power on the world stage. When our vital interests are ignored by the other member states and our objections overruled, it is obvious we have no influence within the EU, let alone outside it.
This winter many people will again be unable to afford to heat their homes. Every year, many old people die as a result of energy poverty. We have a moral duty to put a stop to this. But successive Governments have been making the situation worse.
Listen to the Establishment parties on energy: you'll find they're all saying the same thing. They all support green taxes that cost British households and industry £46 billion last year. They all back a rigged energy market, which restricts consumer choice and prevents genuine competition. And then they all blame the energy companies for driving up prices.
The truth is that energy prices have been driven up by politicians – and they have done it deliberately. In their obsession with global warming, they have designed a system to cut energy use by raising prices.
What the political class and their bureaucratic buddies in Whitehall don't get is that the way to increase energy efficiency is not to restrict the market, but embrace it.
A new report by the Adam Smith Institute points the way forward: disruptive innovation can reduce energy consumption and energy prices at the same time.
Remember the American bureaucrat who claimed that the US would never do a free trade deal with the UK post-Brexit? His credibility took a hit when it emerged that he used to work for the European Commission, and so did his wife.
Now it has taken another, thanks to presidential candidate Jeb Bush.
"Great Britain is a sovereign nation, and they must make this decision about their relationship with Europe on their own," the former Florida Governor told Breitbart. "As President, if Great Britain made that decision of course the U.S. would work with them on a trade agreement."
Jeb Bush may not become president. But I suspect he speaks for the American people more than the State Department when he says the constitutional arrangements of a sovereign nation are no one else's business. That's the idea America was founded on.
Back in 1776, Americans felt the same toward London as many Brits feel toward Brussels today. They didn't understand why they needed to be taxed, regulated, and governed by a remote elite that didn't represent them. They believed they could just as well govern themselves.
Like Britain today, some pessimists believed they could never make it outside the British Empire. An independent outpost in a world dominated by European great powers seemed like a fantasy. But the optimists won the day, and the United States went on to become the most prosperous country the world has ever seen.
The idea that the US wouldn't do a bilateral free-trade agreement with the UK when it has happily done deals with a host of other countries is absurd. But the pessimistic prediction that Britain can't prosper outside the EU's red-tape curtain totally misses the lessons of history. Government by remote bureaucratic superstate is what holds nations back.
If we need an American to tell us about the consequences of independence, let's make it George Washington.
After waiting for over 2 hours, I finally got to speak in yesterday's debate about the sale of the taxpayers' shares in RBS. Listening to my colleagues reminded me why banking is crisis. Many stood up to criticise RBS, only to ignore the monetary framework that caused its collapse.
I spoke about the real reform we need: curbing the excesses of fractional reserve banking, and ending the glut of cheap credit. It's all in my paper, After Osbrown: Mending Monetary Policy.
Watch my speech – and read on!
The corporatists at the CBI are inexplicably surprised that Comrade Corbyn doesn't want to meet them next week. If I were in his sandals, I wouldn't go either.
The pretence that the corporatist clique that calls itself the Confederation of British Industry represents British business is wrong. I wonder if perhaps the CBI should be prosecuted under the Trade Descriptions Act?
The CBI in my view represents not free-market capitalism, but crony corporatism. It seems to favour more regulation, higher subsidies, and bigger Government. If I am not mistaken, the CBI supported a prices-and-incomes policy in the 1970s, the ERM in the 1980s, and joining the Euro in the 1990s. In other words, they have a history of getting things seriously wrong.
I wonder if the CBI really represents those that produce and sell things in the companies that back it. I recall once attending a so-called business visit to Brussels some years ago. Many of the firms on the trip were household names.
"Yippee!" I thought. "I would get a real insight into what the wealth producers thought".
How wrong I was. It turned out that virtually all the representatives of all the big businesses on the trip were in fact from their Corporate Affairs departments. In other words, they were in-house lobbyists. They spent all the time chatting about who was being hired by which PR firm, and who was who in lobbying.
Perhaps it's much the same in terms of those who represent big firms at the CBI? Maybe they too come from the Corporate Affairs side of the business too? I think we can all see why lobbyists love Brussels. It's made for and by people like them.
Maybe that's why the CBI commissioned such a questionable poll on business attitudes to EU membership? Even the British Polling Council seems to have acknowledged that there is some doubt about the poll's methodology. All a bit Volkswagen, perhaps?
When the CBI tells us what business thinks it is really telling us what it thinks. And it is not quite the same thing a business.
I'm with Comrade Corbyn on this. If the CBI ever invited me to address them, I think I'd say a polite "no", too.
George Osborne's big speech in Germany was finally meant to reveal the Government's demands for "renegotiation" of Britain's relationship with the EU. Instead, he confirmed that the Government is not just backing the status quo, but supporting more Euro-integration.
Osborne's "key demands" will change nothing. Open-door immigration? That's a keeper. £350 million every week in EU membership fees? No change there. Common Agriculture Policy, Common Fisheries Policy, Common Foreign & Security Policy? No reform in sight.
In fact, Osborne made it clear today he wants more Europe. He is asking for "principles embedded in EU law" to "support the integrity of the single market." He is calling for treaty change to further entrench the failed euro project - "the stronger Eurozone we want you to build." He is backing more British exposure to Eurozone collapse under the new Capital Markets Union.
Osborne mentioned only one specific change to the status quo: cutting in-work benefits for EU citizens. If this is the sum total of the Government's big reform, it's truly pathetic. It is also absurd. Think about how it would work in your local factory: are we really suggesting different salaries for two people doing the same job because one comes from Walsall and the other from Warsaw?
What this shows is that if you want petty, small-minded parochialism, look no further than the pro-European British elite. For decades, the Establishment has been trying to smear Eurosceptics as Little Englanders. But we are the ones calling for Britain to join the rest of the world. It is the Euro-integrationists who can't shake the mean-spirited xenophobia that underpins the world's biggest protectionist club.
On top of that, we've heard it all before. Everything Osborne said today, Cameron said in his Bloomberg speech two years ago. Think about that for a second: in the past two years, Apple has launched a computer in a watch; Samsung has invented a phone you can roll up like a newspaper; Lockheed Martin claims to have created a nuclear fusion reactor. But all our political leaders can deliver in two years is the same speech calling for virtually no change which they may still never get.
Project Fear has gone into overdrive over the last week. Officials, pundits, and pressure groups – some of whom have curious connections to the EU payroll - have been making out that Brexit is a leap into the unknown, as if Britain has never been an independent, sovereign, trading nation before.
Here's the problem with the scaremongering: it's nonsense.
British Eurosceptics have consistently called for a post-Brexit relationship with the EU based on free trade and friendly cooperation. Given that we buy much more from the EU than we sell, they have every incentive to negotiate a trade agreement with us.
"But what if they don't?" You may ask. "What if they want to raise trade barriers against Britain to teach us a lesson? What happens in the worst case scenario?"
The truth that the BSE campaign won't admit is that the EU couldn't raise punitive barriers against British goods even if it wanted to. Britain post-Brexit would resume her seat on the World Trade Organisation, and WTO rules prevent members raising discriminatory tariffs or non-trade barriers against each other.
In its detailed report on Brexit, Business for Britain calculated the average rate of export tariffs without a new UK-EU deal at 4.4%. That would cost us £7.4 billion per year – almost £4 billion less than our current annual net contribution to the EU.
"Ah," you object. "But they're Eurosceptics. They're biased."
Okay; well listen to what the House of Commons Library researchers said in their report on Brexit this year:
"The maximum tariff would be that applied to the MFN [Most Favoured Nation]. The EU's MFN tariff has generally fallen over time, meaning that in this particular context the 'advantage' of membership has declined. In 2012, the EU's MFN tariff was 2.6%."
2.6%! Just over half the worst-case-scenario rate forecast by Business for Britain. Hardly crippling.
Of course, looking at our trade with Europe only tells a fraction of the story anyway. Europe is a shrinking market - and a rapidly declining destination for British goods. As a proportion of our total exports, we sold less to the EU in 2014 than ever before – despite the EU holding us back in the global marketplace. Post-Brexit, we would have the freedom to negotiate our own trade agreements with non-EU countries: think what that would do for our exports.
Succeeding in the 21st-century global economy means adapting how we do business to new circumstances. We know what we would get if we stay in the EU: Jean-Claude Juncker's managed decline. We also know that leaving will bring us new opportunities – we just don't know quite how many. Let's vote leave, take control - and find out!
It all sounds so sensible, doesn't it? Today, the Prime Minister said he wants to cut adoption waiting times, and stop children being sent to live with relatives they don't know. "Quite right too", I hear you say.
But there are dangers.
If we accelerate the adoption process, we need to ensure it is still subject to proper scrutiny. Taking children away from their parents by force is a big deal, and we need to get it right. Evidence needs to be tested in an open court and the evidence of experts open to challenge. This does not happen today.
Setting targets means unintended consequences. 70,000 children are in care, and not enough are adopted. Yet setting adoption targets puts pressure on the system to break up families. It means more easy-to-place infants and toddlers being taken off mum, not necessarily more adoptions of challenging teenagers.
The Government is proposing to speed up adoption without due legal process: "We want to see more early placement for adoption, so children move in with their prospective new family sooner, without having to wait for the full process to complete." Might this lead to more cases like that of the Coxes? These cases happen because the process is sped up.
The PM's plan to clamp down on Special Guardianship Orders – designed to place children in care with relatives like Granny and Grandpa as a first resort – will only intensify this outcome. UKIP's adoption policy paper specifically recommends more SGOs as a means to reduce forced family break-up – and make it easier for Granny and Grandpa to adopt.
"Children to be placed with relatives who are most able to look after them, and not distant unsuitable relatives they have never met," says the Downing Street press release announcing this policy shift.
But who is suggesting that children should be sent to live with distant relatives? Social services should consider relatives but reject them if they're not right. It's a fatuous point that Number 10 is making.
"Ministers will look at proposals so that where adoption is the right thing for children, social workers and courts pursue this." Of course, but how do you know that if the evidence cannot be tested?
The PM's plan to restrict the consideration of relatives to those with an existing "strong bond" with the child is not as simple as it sounds. It begs the question how that bond will be defined, and who will define it. Will it be the same social workers who are currently placing children with distant relatives when it is inappropriate? What is to stop them turning down loving grandparents who don't fit the social workers' idea of a "strong bond"?
I believe the PM's plan is profoundly wrong. UKIP has proposed a better way. Our first Parliamentary policy paper – published last week – proposes to open up the family courts to proper scrutiny, and increase the number of Special Guardianship Orders, not cut them. That is the reform the adoption system needs.
Two recent stories illustrate how bad the financial prospects for Britain's young have got. First, house prices in the capital are inflated far above income. Second, falling wages since 2008 have primarily affected young working people.
These stories are the tip of the iceberg. There is a deeper issue with state pensions: young people are not paying for their own retirements, but for the pensions of current retirees. 25-year-olds who won't be able to retire at 65 themselves are paying into a welfare system that barely sustains an ageing population today, and will leave nothing for the future. This is a direct transfer of wealth from the young to the old.
Why is this happening?
Because of irresponsible monetary and fiscal policy.
Cheap credit created by the Bank of England – designed to create the illusion of sustainable economic growth – has deliberately inflated house prices above wages. But that wasn't enough for the Chancellor: he chipped in with Help to Buy, which is really Help to Borrow – incentivising young, first-time buyers to take on vast mortgages they cannot afford.
The Chancellor and the Bank of England have colluded to create a new 2007-style subprime bubble, and enrich established homeowners at the expense of young people struggling to get on the housing ladder.
The situation with pensions is even worse. As the Chancellor allows state pension liabilities to become increasingly unsustainable, the Bank is driving private pension funds into insolvency. Seen the Treasury's patronising adverts telling young people to pay into workplace pensions? Osborne and Carney are preventing pension schemes from making any money anyway. The Chancellor is taking with one hand, and taking with the other.
Student protest movements like Occupy can see that young people are losing out, but they can't see quite how dysfunctional the system is. They complain about corporate greed, and blame bankers' bonuses – but then they call for more government. They don't see that it is the Government and the Bank of England that make Too-Big-to-Fail Finance possible. More government means more corporatism and more inequality.
Cameron and Corbyn are both committed to the same thing: more spending and more monetary activism. They are both perpetuating inequality. There is only one route to real social equality: sustainable public finances and sound money.
Who do you trust? Politicians? Bankers? Government bureaucrats? Police chiefs? Or, none of the above?
Bitcoin – the digital currency – hit a new high this week. At first glance, it may seem surprising that so many people are willing to invest in a piece of digital code. But there is one very good reason why: they trust it.
As the Economist explains, the remarkable thing about Bitcoin is not the currency itself but the blockchain technology behind it. Blockchain is a public database of transactions which every user can view but no single user controls. One information has been entered in the blockchain, it can never be erased.
Unlike with fiat money, there is no one person or authority in charge of Bitcoin. No central bank can debase Bitcoin at will by printing more. No creative accountant can falsify the books. No government authority needs to supervise it.
Blockchains allow us to have self-organising systems, with no central control. And no risk of central authority gaming things for its own advantage. Bad new for politicians and parasites. Good news for everyone else.
Bitcoin allows people who don't trust banks, the government, or even each other to trade without fear of being ripped off. No wonder the price is rising: the more people lose faith in mainstream institutions, the more sought after Bitcoin will be.
What Bitcoin highlights is how the ruling elite have systematically undermined public confidence in the economy in their efforts to promote it. Bailing out the banks and guaranteeing deposits was meant to shore up confidence; yet all it has achieved is to paper over the cracks of an overleveraged, dysfunctional banking system, and throw good money after bad.
The Political Establishment may not understand this, but people don't trust what they know is dishonest. Propping up systemic malinvestment to try to avoid a correction, and manipulating the price of capital to create the illusion of growth has only intensified the danger of a serious crisis, and made people rightly cautious to trade and invest.
Bitcoin shows the alternative: the way to build economic trust is to keep government out of it.
Comres's new poll for the IEA should be a wake-up call for the political Establishment. It shows that the British public can see not just that Westminster isn't working, but that the only people who benefit from the status quo are the ruling elite themselves.
The figures are damning: 77% of the British public feel they have little or no influence on the decision-making of their elected government. 81% feel the same about the EU. 75% think that politicians propose legislation to favour special interest groups. Only 8% believe that politicians act in the best interests of the country.
People can see the problems with public services too. 59% believe the welfare state is "not fit for purpose," and 75% agree that it needs substantial reform. 80% think that laws and regulations fail to achieve their goals, and 79% that they often create new problems instead. Most importantly, 65% think the main consideration for public services should be quality, and only 9% think it should be who runs them.
Disaffection with government and politics doesn't come as news – at least not to UKIP. The unpopularity of the big-government, high-tax, open-door-immigration state Labour and the Tories have built is what won UKIP nearly 4 million votes in May, and keeps us climbing in the polls.
The amazing thing is that the Establishment parties are oblivious to public concerns. Look at what's happened in politics just this week: unelected Labour and Lib Dem peers blocking tax credit reform; the PM ditching any pretence of renegotiation of our EU membership and defending the status quo; the Comrades' ludicrous obsession with renationalising the steel industry.
What about our unfunded social security liabilities, which would put Bernie Madoff to shame? What about the EU regulations that are suffocating businesses? What about the regressive green taxes that are impoverishing families and destroying industry?
The public can see that the big issues aren't being dealt with. The political Establishment is blind to it.
Westminster and Whitehall need to wake up. The people won't tolerate failing public services and a government that doesn't address their concerns. I'm pleased that the IEA's new Paragon Initiative will be offering imaginative ideas about how to provide effective public services for the long term. The first step is to break the political cartel.
Governments that spend more than they earn all have one thing in common: they tend to bypass the elected legislature.
What's happening on Capitol Hill at the moment is a case in point. A Democratic President and a pliant Republican Congressional leadership are rushing through a budget deal that will raise spending by over $100 billion and suspend the debt ceiling, so that the Federal Government can borrow as much as it likes. Congressmen who oppose the new deal are being excluded from the legislative process.
But things are poised to change. Congress is about to nominate a new Speaker – Paul Ryan – who won the support of the fiscally sound Freedom Caucus by promising to change the legislative process. If he is true to his word, major legislation will no longer be imposed top-down by a cosy cartel of party leaders but will instead be generated bottom-up by legislative committees. Representatives elected on a popular mandate to sort out the public finances will be empowered to block it.
British supporters of fiscal sanity should take note. One of the reasons Britain can't balance the books is that backbench MPs have no input into the budget. George Osborne pretends he can cut spending by fiat, but he doesn't even follow his own rules – just like Gordon Brown before him.
We will never rein in public spending if we keep giving the Chancellor free rein over our money. Changing Parliamentary procedures might seem arcane. But giving Commons committees and backbenchers real input and scrutiny over the budget – like we had until the 1930s - would go a long way toward restoring fiscal responsibility.
Be under no illusion: our massive fiscal deficit is a direct result of our massive democratic deficit. The vast expansion of the State – on both sides of the pond – has been made possible by the centralisation of power in a tiny, self-serving elite. The chattering classes calling the Freedom Caucus "extremists," and the Corbynista Comrades relying on unelected peers to block spending cuts are part of the problem. They are actively working to deny the taxpaying people control over their own money, and keep power confined to the crony cartel.
UKIP is different. Our councillors across Britain already govern by backbench committee rather than centralised cabinet – and are creating real, functional bipartisanship in the process. Congress is about to follow suit. Why can't Parliament?
Back to the Future II was right about 2015. We may not have all the high-tech gadgets it predicted, but we do have innovations beyond the wildest imaginations of even Hollywood executives 30 years ago – from smart phones to 3D printers. In fact, the film only got one thing wrong: the 21st-century, technocratic State won't let us use them.
If Marty McFly tried to use his hoverboard in London today, he would be stopped by the police. According to the Crown Prosecution Service, "self-balancing scooters" are illegal to ride anywhere in public. In fact, the CPS deems hoverboarding on the pavement "an offence under Section 72 of the Highway Act 1835" – a law which predates the invention of the bicycle.
As Boris Johnson says, banning hoverboards while permitting mobility scooters is absurd. In fact, so the Mayor tells us, this ban is so preposterous that even TfL "experts" – no strangers to banning new technology – recognise it.
But the real issue is not with the ban itself but the people issuing it. In 1835, traffic law was made by elected legislators in Parliament. How did we end up giving the power to make our laws to unelected bureaucrats in an unaccountable government agency?
The CPS was founded in 1986 with one purpose: to bring criminals to justice. In my constituency, it's doing a pretty shoddy job – and it's no different elsewhere. Research by Policy Exchange in 2012 found that the CPS won barely half of its prosecutions in court, yet refused to bring charges against actual criminals – like the 2011 rioters – for fear of criminalising them!
Instead of applying the law, the CPS consistently spends its time trying to make it.
Earlier this year, the CPS blocked a private prosecution against gender abortion on the grounds that it "wasn't in the public interest." Since when does a quangocrat cartel speak for the public?
Six years ago, CPS head Keir Starmer – now a left-wing Labour MP – tried to change the law on assisted suicide, despite Parliament explicitly refusing to do so. At least he ultimately stood for election to push his agenda.
There is only one way to have an accountable, efficient public prosecution service – and that is to elect local public prosecutors.
There is also only one way for the law to reflect the public interest – and that is for elected lawmakers in Parliament to legislate. We knew that in 1835. It's about time we went back to the future.
This morning, I joined UKIP Deputy Chairman Suzanne Evans and former Lib Dem MP John Hemming to launch the UKIP Parliamentary Resource Unit's first policy paper, aimed at ending the injustice of forced adoptions.
Too many children are removed from their birth parents by the State without due cause – as a result of secret proceedings in the family courts. We need public scrutiny of forced adoptions to stop the State breaking up families unfairly, and hold those responsible to account.
Here are our proposals to introduce transparency and end the forced adoption scandal:
1. Promote more extensive use of Special Guardianship Orders, particularly where a child is made a ward of an extended family member, such as a grandparent.
2. Open placement and adoption order proceedings to the media on the same basis as other family law proceedings.
3. Introduce a presumption to allow reporting of Family Court proceedings on an anonymised basis (e.g. Child A, the mother of Child A).
4. Mandate publication of all judgments (those from district judges on application and subject to a fee), except where the presiding judge seeks and obtains a contrary order from the President of the Family Division.
5. Mandate that all local authority witnesses, including social workers as well as expert witnesses, be identified by name and position(s) held.
6. Require expert witnesses to list previous court cases in which they have given evidence, on application and subject to administrative costs.
7. Publish, on an anonymised basis, all statements of case, skeleton arguments, case summaries and other documents prepared and exchanged by the advocates in a case.
8. Allow media access to expert reports on an anonymised basis, with reporting restrictions imposed only in exceptional circumstances.
9. Allow unrestricted access to expert reports to academics for peer review on the condition that any research papers written as to the quality of reports are anonymised.
Read the full paper here!
Earlier this month, the Portuguese people voted to kick the government out. The centre-right, pro-Euro-austerity coalition lost its absolute majority in parliament. The Socialist opposition agreed to form a majority coalition with radical left-wing parties, on a democratic mandate to reject the austerity measures imposed by the EU and the IMF. But last week the Portuguese President promised to do everything in his power to prevent the elected majority taking office.
Why is he overruling the people? Because the EU doesn't like their choice. "Never in 40 years of democracy," the President said, "have the governments in Portugal relied on the support of anti-European political forces."
Sound familiar? It's the classic EU approach to democracy. If the people give the answer you don't want, ignore the people. Portugal was the backdrop for the EU's last undemocratic coup, when the Lisbon Treaty brought in the EU constitution rejected in referenda by the peoples of Europe. Eight years on, the EU is denying democracy in Lisbon again.
But the fact that this latest EU coup is happening in Portugal is especially distressing – and not just because she is the UK's oldest ally. Portugal joined the EU only fifteen years after the end of Salazar's dictatorship, on the promise that the European project would help consolidate democracy. Now we know how hollow that promise was.
Don't get me wrong: I'm no fan of Communists in government either. No ideology has been more destructive over the past century. And the idea that governments can ignore fiscal reality and spend money they don't have is madness. But thwarting the democratic will of the people isn't the solution to the rise of left-wing radicalism; it's the cause.
Across Europe, Eurosceptic parties are gaining support as people realise that they are being ruled by a new oligarchy. The recent elections in Poland and Portugal have produced polar opposite results, but they have one thing in common: both reject the federalist agenda of Europe's political Establishment.
Doubt what's happening in Portugal is an Establishment stitch-up? Portugal's current pro-EU president – Anibal Cacavo Silva – was the prime minister who took the country into the EEC thirty years ago. One of his successors as PM – Jose Manuel Barroso – later became President of the European Commission. Portugal's political class has long relied on Brussels as its core constituency.
The Euro Establishment thinks it can continue to rule the nation states of Europe like fiefdoms. It is blind to the lessons of history. Reactionary, centralised, undemocratic regimes in Europe met with popular revolts in 1789, 1830, 1848, and 1917. Britain avoided this fate by recognising that the status quo was untenable, and liberalising. Yet the EU thinks it can get away with not only ignoring the people, but centralising even more.
We need a new model for Europe - based on peace, friendship, and free trade between independent nation states. We need to end neo-oligarchic government from Brussels. We need to vote leave, and take control.
I'm supporting Frank Field's proposals on tax credit reform. Why?
Firstly, because Frank's proposals mean that we still get the changes to the tax credit system that we need.
Tax credits were introduced as a way of topping up the income of those on low pay. But it has ended up as an excuse for employers to pay people low wages – in the knowledge public money will be used to top it up. What started as a way of trying to help those on low incomes has become a system of corporate welfare. Big business gets the taxpayer to subsidise their payroll.
I suspect one of the reasons Frank has come up with a sensible middle way suggestion on the issue of tax credit reform is precisely because Frank knows that you cannot talk about controlling immigration and not, at the same time, also look at the issue of in work benefits.
If there is one issue UKIP has campaigned on consistently it is immigration. UKIP cannot ignore the impact that tax credits have had on drawing labour in from outside the UK. To reduce immigration, yes we need an Australian-type points-based system. Yes, we need to properly control our borders. But we also need to accept the need to reform the in-work benefits system that currently acts as a subsidy for labour migration.
George Osborne does not emerge from these tax credit reforms with his reputation enhanced. Just like over Child Benefits in 2013, the Chancellor has introduced a change without thinking through its consequences.
On that occasion, Mr Osborne woke up to the fact that his measures would mean a cliff edge for some people, and allowed what is known as a taper, so that the measure would take effect more gently.
With his tax measures due to kick in in one swoop next year, something similar is now needed to phase in the changes – preferably as the Living Wage rises and the labour market generates higher wages.
As happened with Child Benefits, the House of Commons now needs to step in and correct the minister's mistake. But at the same time ensure that welfare reform goes ahead.
"Why not just oppose the government?" I was recently asked by a journalist. "You could embarrass them and hit them hard."
This is about doing the right thing, not scoring points. It is fundamentally wrong that we subsidise low wages and thereby keep wages low.
It's also bad politics. There was once a third party in this country that tried to be all things to all people. They were called the Liberal Democrats, and they showed what happens you ditch any pretence at principle and do whatever you think makes you look good. You end up looking like Nick Clegg.
/>The talk about the latest Brexit poll has focused on the impact of the party leaders. But the real story is how narrow the gap now is – and which way the trend is moving.
Leave is now neck and neck with Remain – despite being several points behind just two months ago. It seems like our campaign's optimistic belief in Britain's global future is winning people over – particularly in light of the downbeat defeatism served up by the Inners.
What is remarkable about the most recent poll is actually how little difference the leaders' opinions make. But then why should anyone be surprised? People are sick of the political cartel – they no longer trust elites in Westminster and Whitehall to make their decisions for them. Besides, the point of the referendum is that the people decide.
The whole idea of a referendum is anti-politics. That's why the political Establishment spent so many years trying to block it. That's why the Establishment parties are all campaigning to keep decision-making confined to a remote elite in Brussels, as far away from the people as possible. That's why we are campaigning for the British people to vote leave and take back control.
The really interesting statistic in all the polls is that 20% of people surveyed have yet to make up their minds. This is a reminder that, for all the discussion about national identity and our place in the world, many people see the referendum as a pragmatic question about how a Brexit will affect their daily lives.
Those of us backing Leave have to answer practical concerns with practical arguments. We need to keep making the case that when it comes to jobs, trade, and business, the EU is only holding us back. We need to highlight the technological forces that are bringing the world closer to us, and leaving Europe behind.
One thing is for sure: the referendum will be a close fight – and we can win!
"In the case of nutrition and health, just as in the case of education, the gentleman in Whitehall really does know better what is good for people than the people know themselves." Or so presumed Fabian elitist Douglas Jay in his 1947 manifesto The Socialist State.
Today, as people used to making consumer choices in every aspect of our lives, this view sounds absurd. What is amazing is that our professional bureaucrats still believe it.
Alison Tedstone is one such – in fact, one of 5,000 at Public Health England. People are too fat for her liking, she told us yesterday. So she wants to tax, legislate, and above all patronise us to the weight she considers acceptable.
She demands a duty on sugar, a ban on "supersized" portion sizes, and regulation of cartoon characters in advertising - starting with public enemy number one: the Coco Pops monkey. "Things like those Coco Pop monkeys," she informed the Commons Health Select Committee, "do engage children and affect food preference and choice."
Don't adjust your sets: this is not 1947, when Britain still had food rationing. Dr. Tedstone seriously thinks people will tolerate nanny-state planning by the gentleman in Whitehall today. She really believes cartoon characters are a national priority. She actually expects taxpayers to keep paying her to patronise them.
At a time when the demand for healthcare is stretching NHS budgets to breaking point, we are paying over £300 million a year to be lectured by Public Health England. When hospitals are in financial crisis, we are allowing PHE to spend £48 million on infantilising "health marketing" campaigns fronted by B-list celebrities. When junior doctors are facing pay cuts, PHE's chief executive, Duncan Selbie, is making over £285,000 annually.
I suspect that people don't want to be lectured on obesity by well-fed technocrats living off the fat of the land. They don't need to be told to trim the excess by the pointless parasites of the rent-seeking class. After seventy years of statism, they have learnt the hard way what happens when they blindly trust the experts – on everything from immigration to interest rates. That's why so many don't trust them anymore.
On the other hand, I know that people do want efficient healthcare. Taxpayers do want their money spent properly.
If we really want to improve health outcomes - if we really want to cut the fat – then forget the Coco Pops monkey. Public Health England is the place to start.
We are constantly told by the EU-funded CBI that business wants Britain to remain in the EU. In fact, many big British companies – facing crippling EU regulation and tariffs – are increasingly iffy about it.
I visited one such company – Tate & Lyle - earlier this week. T&L's refinery has been processing cane sugar since 1878. It is one of the largest industrial employers left in London. The company has survived depression, world wars to become the largest cane refiners in Europe. Yet now the EU threatens to shut T&L down.
Why? Because nineteen EU member states produce beet sugar. So the EU openly rigs the sugar market against cane.
Since 2009, the EU has restricted cane refiners to importingraw sugar cane from 5% of the world market. EU import duties for sugar cane from the other 95% are staggering: €339 per tonne. Even within the accessible 5%, duties and quotas still apply.
Unlike cane, the EU is progressively deregulating beet sugar. From October 2017, there will be no quotas or levies on sugar beet production – with prices set to fall by 15%. But beet producers – used to receiving guaranteed prices under the quota – will be subsidised to counteract any price drop. Cane refiners, meanwhile, will be driven out of business.
The conspiracy against sugar cane is discrimination not just against T&L but against the UK. The single market that the Peter Mandelsons tell us is essential for Britain to wield influence as a trading power is, in fact, systematically undermining British trade and British businesses on the whims of bureaucrats and lobbyists. This isn't a free market, it's protectionism.
Brussels masquerades as seat of high minded internationalism. In reality it's home of grubby, dishonest corporate fixes. Markets and the rules that govern them are systematically rigged. To help rig them are an army of lobbyists, which is why lobbying is one of Europe's few growth industries.
The EU's cane tariffs have already cut jobs and production for T&L. Since 2009, T&L's annual sugar output has fallen from 1.1 million tonnes to 600,000. It could well be unable to survive after 2017.
Curiously, 2017 is also likely to be the year of the EU referendum. The corporatist cartel will keep telling us that business wants to stay in. The truth is that the only way to save businesses like Tate & Lyle is to vote Leave.
The British steel industry is in crisis. As the UK currently faces an inflow of Chinese steel, many are pointing the finger at China. But the real problem isn't Chinese policy. It's ours.
British steel producers have been struggling to compete in global markets for years: the value of the UK steel industry has declined by 42% since 1990. And one of the main things holding the industry back is the Government's energy policy.
For an energy intensive industry like steel production, raising the price of energy has an enormous impact on the cost of production. Yet – in their quixotic quest to cut carbon emissions - this is precisely what successive Governments have done.
The Government's green obsession costs energy consumers billions of pounds a year. Last year, we paid a record £46 billion in green taxes. Ed Miliband's 2008 Climate Change Act alone intentionally raises the cost of energy for British consumers by an average of £18 billion every year.
Green taxes are regressive. They harm everyone, but hurt the poorest most of all. As we approach winter, they will be the direct cause of many people being unable to heat their homes.
But industrial producers suffer most of all. Because of green taxes and regulation, industrial electricity prices in Britain today are over 50% higher than those in other major EU economies.
To understand the impact of energy policy, just consider how cheap energy should be. Thanks to American shale, wholesale energy prices should be falling in the UK – like they are in the US. Right now, British industry has a plentiful and cheap source of energy readily available, but can't make use of it – all because of green legislation. The Government has simply broken the energy market.
Yet – astonishingly – the Government can't even see the problem. When I joined UKIP last year, the first backbench debate I triggered was on energy policy. I quoted DECC's own figures to show that the State was systematically driving up energy prices by requiring energy producers to increase the proportion of electricity they generate from renewables. But the Minister responsible - contradicting his own department - told the House that wholesale energy prices are "beyond the control of any government."
We need a government that will set our energy market free. Government price-fixing is not just costing jobs in industry, but the lives of pensioners who can no longer afford to pay their heating bills. But the Establishment parties have all colluded with Big Green to rig the energy market against the interests of the people.
If we want to break the energy cartel, we need to break the political cartel first.
What does it mean to create wealth? Politicians like to talk about "growing the economy," using the metric of increases in gross domestic product (GDP). But – as Liam Fox highlighted yesterday - GDP doesn't tell the real story.
The GDP metric seriously misrepresents the economic value of government spending. Whereas the contribution of a business is assessed in terms of what it sells – by the value of what consumers have purchased from it. But the Government's contribution just based on what it spends – as if it is another consumer, not a producer.
So if the State spends more on wages – even if the staff do no work and produce no output - it has increased its contribution to GDP. If the State spends taxpayers' money on planes that don't fly, guns that don't fire, or tanks that don't exist, all of its pointless outlay counts towards GDP. Who really thinks that is economically valuable?
Moreover, Government spending is not like other consumption. The Government can only spend money that it either takes out of the people's pockets through taxation, or borrows for the people to pay back – at exorbitant interest – later on. The more the Government spends, the less individuals, families, and businesses can spend.
The Government doesn't put wealth into the economy. It takes wealth out of the economy. Yet the GDP metric allows governments to create the illusion of economic growth simply by increasing spending.
A better metric for economic growth is what Liam Fox calls gross private product (GPP): total GDP minus government spending. Looking only at private spending and investment shifts the focus to the productive sector of the economy.
For many years preceding the crash in 2007, our GDP grew while our GPP shrunk. What this shows is that the economy was not really growing during this period, whatever Gordon Brown was telling us at the time.
In fact, not only was the productive sector of the economy contracting but the unproductive sector of the economy – i.e. Government – was expanding. The financing of Government was becoming more and more unsustainable. Ever wondered how we ended up with a public sector debt crisis? That's how.
It is only by growing the productive part of our economy – the private sector – that we can both increase our prosperity and fund our essential public services. This Government pays lip service to real growth and sustainable public spending, but is still borrowing at unsustainable levels while campaigning to stay in the suffocating EU regulatory system that is holding British business back.
Only UKIP will set Britain free.
Sound money. Now that's a term you might not have heard for a while. That's because we've not had it for many years.
Hats off to Liam Fox for putting the subject of how we manage our money on to the political agenda with a talk at the Institute of Economic Affairs.
For years, the Osbrown economic orthodoxy has engaged in a policy of print-money-and-pray.
Facing a fall in the economy's output? Throw lots of cheap credit and hope people start buying stuff. Tank the banks? Don't worry, hose them with money that you conjured out of thin air, and hope they start lending.
To every economic problem the Osbrown consensus has been easy money.
"But" I hear you say "those central bankers must have been doing okay. There's been no inflation"
Really? I'd say there has been the most enormous inflation of asset prices. Houses, shares and other assets classes have rocketed in value.
The reason why consumer goods have not shot up in price has little to do with central bankers. The addition of millions of extra workers to the globalised economy in China, Eastern Europe and elsewhere has kept consumer good prices down.
The single biggest driver of income inequality in Britain today is a monetary regime that drives up the value of the assets of the haves, yet does little to secure the economic security of the have nots.
For too long all establishment partied in Westminster went along with the Osbrown insanity. Today I hope they are starting to consider the alternatives.
I set out my post Osbrown ideas in this paper.
The second reading of the Cities and Local Government Bill in the Commons this week brought communities one step closer to gaining control over their public services. UKIP strongly advocates empowering communities rather remote officials in Whitehall, which is why I was pleased to support this bill in the Commons. The question is, does the Treasury feel the same?
The impact that this new legislation stands to make really is significant. By removing restrictions on the composition of combined local authorities, expanding eligibility for and functions of elected mayors, and – crucially – allowing powers currently exercised by national public bodies to be transferred to local authorities, the Bill would give local communities much greater power and scrutiny over their public services.
So is the future for devolution bright?
Not exactly. While Greg Clark is working to devolve power, George Osborne – with his "Northern Powerhouse" agenda – is pushing in the other direction. Instead of bottom-up government, allowing the people who live and work in northern cities to decide what kind of infrastructure and investment is right for them, the Chancellor is imposing top-down plans devised hundreds of miles away in London.
For decades, every government and every governing party – Conservative, Labour, and Lib Dem - has paid lip-service to devolution while doing the opposite. The Chancellor's northern vanity project shows he is no different. Don't be fooled by the "powerhouse" rhetoric: the prospect of picking winners from the Treasury empowers no one but George Osborne.
Centralising power and money in Westminster and Whitehall elites is not only undemocratic but inefficient. Economic planning by technocratic elites only ever leads to malinvestment. Real growth in the North and across the UK will only come from economic democracy: allowing individuals to decide where and how to invest their money, liberating businesses from burdensome regulation, and giving local communities control over local economies.
The Establishment parties may never support real devolution. UKIP will.
The UK currently sends £350 million per week to Brussels. Does that make you or your family better off?
Every penny we send to Brussels is money we can't spend on our public services. Just think what one week's worth of EU fees could pay for:
· A year's salary for over 950 more GPs,
· ...and 2,300 new nurses
· Plus lifesaving breast cancer drugs – blocked by NICE over cost - for 500 patients
· 7 new free schools
· ..along with annual wages for over 2,200 new teachers
· Upgrading East Anglian rail lines and building a new rail terminal in East London or expanding Liverpool Street station
· And saving 15 police stations and 190 police jobs in Essex
Or we could reduce borrowing by £18 billion per year, and immediately cut the deficit by 20%.
Alternatively, we could let the EU spend our money on what it wants. £350 million almost pays off the UK's annual bill for the EU's corporate PR. Or goes towards essential projects like lifts to nowhere, airports for ghosts, and homeopathy for farm animals.
Don't expect the Prime Minister to "renegotiate" our membership fees either. This is the man who last month paid a £1.7 billion bill to Brussels that he described as "appalling". In fact, as we cut our public spending across the board this year, our EU contributions are projected to rise. This Government really believes that taxpayers' money is better spent on Brussels than Britain.
The only people better off from Britain's EU membership are the Eurocrat elites collecting our cheques. The EU is not only holding us back from growing our economic links with the rest of the world but wasting public money that is desperately needed at home.
It's time for British taxpayers to take back control over their money. We're better off out.
Labour is not having a good time. Having lost their reputation for economic competence when they tanked that banks in 2006-07, Labour is still in denial mode.
It was the world economy's fault, they claim. That chronic budget deficit that Gordon Brown ran up? It was investment, they insist.
The denial turned a bit comical this week when Diane Abbott was sent in to defend Labour's u-turn on the Fiscal Charter.
Asked why John McDonnell, Labour economic spokesman, is now against a Charter he said he supported only two weeks ago, Diane said Labour had always been consistently Keynesian.
If this is consistent Keynesianism, it would be news to John Maynard Keynes.
Keynes argued that public spending should be counter-cyclical, not fiscally incontinent. Governments should run surpluses during economic booms and deficits during busts. Which is, in fact, precisely what the Fiscal Charter says.
Rejecting the Fiscal Charter is not remotely Keynesian; on the contrary, it is a repudiation of one of Keynes's core principles.
UKIP supports government living within its means. I have voted for cuts to public spending. I am backing the Fiscal Charter too, because it is right to support the principle of balanced budgets.Labour's commitment to ever-expanding government borrowing is not just irresponsible but deeply immoral. How can it possibly be fair or right to leave for us to spend money now and leave our children to pay for it?
Of course, having doubled the national debt and borrowed throughout a boom, the Conservative Government is no closer to economic credibility than Labour. Britain is currently running a higher budget deficit than almost every other country in Europe – even Greece is borrowing less than we are.
I agree with George Osborne that borrowing forever is a "threat to the economic security of working people." When will he put his own principles into practice?
The launch of the Remain campaign this morning was a comeback reunion for the discredited Euro-lobbyists of the past. The same people who told us we had to join the Euro – Peter Mandelson, Ken Clarke, Roland Rudd, Martin Sorrell – are now telling us we have to stay in the EU. Yet it isn't just the same people on show, but the same failed arguments.
The campaign launch this morning confirmed that the Remain will be based on the same bankrupt ideas that the Europhiles used to advocate the UK entering the disastrous single currency.
Stuart Rose warns that leaving the EU would "risk our prosperity, threaten our security, and undermine our standing in the world."
"Britain on its own would resume the decline which continued through most of the 20th century," writes Ken Clarke.
Leaving Europe would make us "notionally independent" but "less influential" says Peter Mandelson.
"Britain would lose its influence within Europe if it left," protests Martin Sorrell.
"Brexit is economic madness," according to Roland Rudd.
Fifteen years ago, they said the same thing about being about the Euro.
"Until we come off the fence over joining the Euro, we will slip backwards in Europe," Peter Mandelson told us then.
"Business leaders appreciate the success of the Euro," agreed Roland Rudd.
"Public opinion is already changing as people can see the success of the single currency," claimed Ken Clarke.
"If the Government rules out membership of the Euro, it will be damaging for British-based business," warned Martin Sorrell.
Fifteen years after they told us we couldn't survive outside the Euro, the same corporatist cronies are back telling us we can't survive outside the EU. The battle lines for the referendum have been drawn: ex-ministers and corporate lobbyists vs. entrepreneurs and the people.
The polls show how closely fought this campaign will be. But wouldn't it be wonderful to defeat the Europhiles again, and be freed from the patronising propaganda of this self-serving elite?
"I want us to end discrimination and finish the fight for real equality in our country today," David Cameron said yesterday. Isn't it wonderful to live in a country that is more tolerant and open than ever before?
But what did the Prime Minister mean by "real equality"?
The Prime Minister spoke about tackling wealth inequality, yet his record so far is hardly promising. During his five years in Downing Street, price inflation has outstripped wages, raising the cost of living for the poorest. House prices have rocketed, preventing young people from buying a home. The single biggest driver of economic inequality in Britain today is a monetary policy that drives up the value of those with assets, and leaves those without behind.
This is happening as a direct consequence of the government's fiscal and monetary policy. Artificially low interest rates have stoked asset price inflation, while £375 billion of quantitative easing has pumped public money into failed banks – debasing the currency, and transferring wealth from the poor to the rich. At the same time, the Chancellor has doubled the national debt, unfairly leaving the next generation to foot the bill for his overspending.
Without monetary reform, the next five years will be no different from the last. House and stock prices will keep rising, benefitting those who already own assets, and freezing out those who don't. Productivity – the real engine of prosperity – will continue to stagnate. Unsustainable, debt-fuelled economic growth will continue enriching the elite at the expense of the majority. As long as credit stays cheap, Cameron's words will be cheap too.
Subsidies for certain sectors, and crony corporatism, have helped create vested interests and rent seekers. If you think that the Private Finance Initiative helped enrich various corporate interests with a claim on future tax revenue, wait until you see what the new Infrastructure Commission gets up to. Lobbyists are already rubbing their hands with glee.
Greater equality means tackling head on the cosy cartels that have rigged the corporate banking sector, the energy market and much else. We need a return to sound money and balanced budgets. And we need to break open the greatest cartel of them all – the political cartel in Westminster which has rigged our politics like the bankers rigged Libor.
It is deeply worrying that so many young people cannot afford to buy a home. We desperately need a Government that addresses the gap between house prices and wages. Unfortunately this Government is doing the opposite.
The basic reason houses are unaffordable for so many young people is that house prices have risen inexorably while wages have stagnated. This is the result of years of artificially cheap credit: by setting negative interest rates in a bid to create the illusion of economic growth, the Bank of England has incentivised borrowing and inflated asset prices.
But the Chancellor is to blame too. He has not only backed the Bank's monetary activism, but also added his own cheap credit through Help to Buy. Encouraging more mortgage lending without building any more houses can only ever have one consequence: price inflation. Far from making houses more affordable for first-time buyers, Help to Buy has only served to place them further out of reach.
Nor is that the only policy pushing up house prices. The Government promises to deliver 200,000 homes a year to account for population growth. But even it met that target, the new homes wouldn't even cover population growth just from net immigration, which currently stands at over 300,000 per year. As long as immigration outstrips housebuilding, prices must continue to rise – and we can't control immigration while we remain in the EU.
At the same time, planning regulations prevent desirable housing development. Regulations on building design produce regimented, identikit houses and flats that people don't want to live in. New developments are imposed on local communities from the top down, without concern for the impact on local infrastructure and services.
Affordable housing requires more sound money and less regulation. We need to liberalise design – encouraging innovative construction that produces not just houses but homes. We need to localise planning, enabling local councils to choose where to build and keep the resulting tax revenue. We need to retake control of our borders, so that housebuilding can keep pace with sustainable population growth.
Above all, we need a Government that is actually serious about tackling our country's enormous debt burden.
"I have no romantic attachment to the European Union," David Cameron claimed today. "I'm only interested in two things: Britain's prosperity and Britain's influence."
Sounds sensible, doesn't it?
When ministers talk about wielding influence in Europe, it sounds as if they mean the attainment of defined objectives. In reality it means something rather different. Influence really means the ability to lobby the EU machine, rather than necessarily get the things we want.
Take for example the PM's claim to be the driving force behind the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. If Britain really wanted free trade with the United States, we could have it – if we had control over our own trade policy.
But we don't. Europe decides for us. So we are left lobbying Brussels to get the kind of deal that we want – and when it kind of begins to get us where we want to be, we claim we have influence.
Doing trade deals as part of the EU means, of course, that the deal making takes much longer. Not only do we have to try to square the interests of Italian shoemakers or Spanish textile companies. By doing a Single Market type trade deal with the US, we end up not actually striking a free trade agreement at all, but negotiating a permission-based trade deal.
Firms in the UK won't be able to produce and sell goods freely to America – and vice versa. Firms will only be able to produce and sell if they do so in compliance with standardised regulations drawn up at the behest of lobbyists.
Influence? I can see why lobbyists might like it, but not the rest of us.
Instead of seeking influence over how we are governed, it would be nice to have a Prime Minister who actually governed.
City AM recently reported that the value of equity crowdfunding has doubled in the last year, rising to £146 million in 2015. "The growth of this new form of finance has been so strong," the paper says, "that researchers have struggled to catch up with the speed with which the entrepreneurial finance market is changing."
This is good news not just for entrepreneurs, but for all of us.
Crowdfunding is revolutionary because it democratises investment. It takes away the middleman – allowing people to invest without going through a broker. It widens access to capital for entrepreneurs – allowing start-ups to reach people beyond the confines of the City. It gives ordinary people – rather than billionaires – the opportunity to be venture capitalists.
In a financial system warped by malinvestment, crowdfunding is a welcome antidote. Technology is transforming our way of life, increasing productivity and prosperity. Of course, high-tech is not immune from the misallocation of resources – as the DotCom crash showed – but it beats inflating asset bubbles. Lowering the cost of living demands more investment in innovation, and less money pumped into the housing market.
Most importantly, crowdfunding shows that finance is more than the banking system as we know it. It gives the lie to the banks that claim that the world cannot exist without them, but can no longer survive without taxpayer subsidy. In bypassing traditional funding streams, entrepreneurs are proving that there is are other ways to do investment. We should not be afraid of abandoning a model that has failed.
To fixing our broken banking system, we need to allow people to choose where to put their money. For too long we have undemocratically subcontracted that choice to central bankers and governments, and allowed elites to get rich at the expense of the people. This is the root of social inequality today.
Crowdfunding shows market capitalism as it should be: economic democracy. Bring on the free-market financial revolution.....
"For Osborne, foreign policy is strictly business," complained the BBC, following the Chancellor's trip to China. "Economics trumps everything else, be that old alliances or any notion of a universalist, ethical foreign policy."
But is Britain's foreign policy actually good for British businesses and consumers?
Osborne's deals with China's dirigiste bureaucrats are a classic example of government failure in business: UK taxpayer subsidies to foreign companies that will raise energy prices for British consumers.
But the Chancellor's vision of foreign policy is hardly new. In fact, he is staying true to a tried, failed, but stubbornly retained British foreign-policy tradition that is not pro-business, but pro-corporatism.
We live in a global economy, and have done for hundreds of years. Trade between people thousands of miles apart –whether following the Silk Road, the Via Maris, or the Spice Route – has been happening for millennia without any need for government intervention.
In fact, when governments have intervened in international trade, it has usually been to restrict it: by imposing tariffs to protect vested interests and enrich political elites at the expense of consumers. Centuries of benefits from free trade have done nothing to dampen government enthusiasm for opposing it. Just look at British government support for the world's biggest protectionist club.
The Foreign Office claims to promote trade. But its trade missions and delegations are actually designed to stitch up contracts between Big Business and foreign governments, and freeze out real competition. The fact that the FCO focuses on kowtowing to authoritarian regimes should come as no surprise. From Saudi Arabia to Iran to China, it is the countries where trade is the co-opted the most by political elites that provide the biggest opportunities for cosy backroom deals.
This isn't international trade; it's international cronyism, or neo-mercantilism.
Trade must be a key part of any country's foreign policy. UK foreign policy should aim at the very least to secure our borders and allow our goods access to foreign ports. Recent weeks have proved that this Government can't even manage that.
The best trade policy should mean getting government out of the way.
Here is the full text of my speech in Doncaster last week:
"I stood on this spot exactly a year ago. I had just joined UKIP, and called a by-election.
Looking around, I see lots of familiar faces. People who came to help in that by-election. Activists who campaigned in the General Election.
So I wanted to start by saying "thank you." Thank you for all that you did – in the by-election and afterwards. I could not have done it without you.
It wasn't my victory. It was yours. It was UKIP's victory.
We could not have got a staggering four million votes at the last General Election without your hard work.
All that campaigning can be quite an experience. Knocking on all those doors, you get to see human nature in all its rich tapestry.
Let me tell you about this one day. I was out campaigning in one of the smarter parts of my constituency. Lots of large Victorian houses. Wide lawns. Long gravel drives.
I walked up one of those gravel drives to the door of this big house. The front door, I noticed, was slightly open. I could hear the sound of music inside.
I knocked and waited. I knocked again and waited.
Eventually this hear bobbed around. A young lad – in his teens – peering up at me from around the door.
He was wearing, I noticed, what appeared to be a smoking jacket – several sizes too big, the sleeves rolled up.
Between his little fingers I could see what looked like a small cigar. In his other hand, he held what looked to me suspiciously like a glass of brandy.
"Are mum and dad at home?" I asked.
"Does it ruddy look as if they're at home?" He replied.
"What's it like being UKIP's only MP?" I'm often asked.
I might be UKIP's only MP, but being an MP for UKIP is much more fun than it was being a Conservative.
For a start, meetings of the Parliamentary party are a lot shorter. There tends to be unanimity. Mostly.
But I wish more of us were there in the Chamber.
It can be immensely frustrating.
Sitting there on the green benches, I find myself surrounded by a sea of Scottish Nationalist MPs.
We got three times more votes than they got, yet there are fifty something of them, and only one UKIP MP. How can that be fair?
We got more votes than the Lib Dems, Plaid Cymru, the Ulster Unionists, and the Green Party combined.
I know how unfair our political system is in this country. I sit next to it every day.
Politics is a cartel. The rules have been rigged to remove the threat of choice and competition to insiders.
There is a mood of real restlessness out there amongst the voters. Almost four million voted for us. Tens of thousands of comrades voted to make Comrade Corbyn Labour leader.
Anger at the injustices of the corporatist economy are simmering away not far below the surface.
There is a mood of resentment directly towards the political cartel in Westminster.
Europhiles will smear and jeer. They claim that UKIP is a rejection of the modern world. No, we're not. Far from rejecting modernity, modernity has made the emergence of UKIP as the third force in British politics possible.
Instead of implying that there is something wrong with voters for feeling disaffected, the question is what is wrong with our political system.
Historically, the established parties in this country represented different sectional interests. Labour, as the name suggested, once represented the interests of organised labour. The Conservatives once represented the interests of business.
Today, the sectional interest those two parties most clearly represent is that of career politicians.
Far from ensuring voters get a choice, the cartel parties diminish voter choice.
They select the same kind of candidates, drawn from the same narrow background, with the same sort of outlook.
Too many trod the same path from special adviser to safe seat. From backbench toadying to front-bench blandness. MPs becoming MPs because they worked in the offices of MPs. It's a cosy club.
Of course, there are good people in all parties. I know lots of people on both sides of the House full of good intentions.
But if you only ever follow the whips through the voting lobbies, how can you know that you are doing the right thing?
Westminster encourages group think.
And it's group think that has run this country for too long... and run us into the ground.
It was group think about banking and credit before 2007 that helped cause the financial crisis.
We've only had more group think ever since.
The single biggest driver of income inequality in Britain today is a monetary system that has artificially driven up the value of assets. This has widened the wealth gap between haves and have nots. At the heart of the "capitalist" system, central bankers, not the market, fix the price of capital. That's not the free market. It's crony corporatism.
And both establishment parties are happy to go along with it.
Then there's the adoption scandal. Group think means more and more forced adoption, hidden from public view. More and more grandparents find their grandchildren taken off them by force. Secrecy in the family courts. Expert evidence unchallenged.
Both establishment parties are unwilling to change things. None of them is willing to end the blanket secrecy of the family courts.
It's group think that took us into what became the European Union all those years ago – and it's the group think of the Westminster tribe that keeps us there.
It's groupthink that led us into the Exchange Rate Mechanism in the 1990s.
It's group think that has tied us to the world's only declining trade block. Group think cannot see that our future prosperity means joining the 93% of people on the planet who don't live in the European Union. We need to leave the EU.
We need political reform to break the cartel, to end the group think that is holding us back.
That means a proper Right of Recall, allowing voters to trigger by-elections.
Too many MPs come from safe seats. They answer not to voters, but to party whips. We need a right of recall so that local people decide who represents them.
But we also need electoral reform to abolish the idea of a safe seat altogether.
I am so pleased to see Katie Ghose from the Electoral Reform Society here. I was a supporter of electoral reform while I was still a Conservative. I sponsored meetings of the Electoral Reform Society long before I joined UKIP.
Katie, it is a great honour to have you and the Electoral Reform Society here with us today. Thank you.
What kind of electoral reform system do we need? It's not up to me.
It'll be for you, our members, to decide.
But I would simply say this. The first-past-the-post system we have today is not a longstanding British tradition. Like so many things we think of as ancient integral pieces of how we're governed, it's a late Victorian invention.
Until the 1880s, we didn't have first-past-the-post. We had first-two-past-the-post. Most constituencies returned two MPs to Parliament. Having two MPs per constituency meant more choice and competition.
It was only in the 1880s, around about the time they gave the ordinary working man the vote, that they had to devise a monopolistic electoral system to try to control whom the working man might elect.
If UKIP is to win, we must be a force for change. And in order to carry a convincing message of change, we must radiate optimism. A belief that tomorrow can be better than today.
Optimism is infectious.
The world is getting better. Yes, there's plenty we don't like about the cartel politics and the corporatist economy. That's why our party wants change.
Most people in this country are living longer, happier, and healthier lives than ever before.
Infant mortality is not only falling in sub-Saharan Africa. It's down dramatically in this country too.
Yes, people are right to be concerned about crime. Knife crime in my Clacton constituency remains stubbornly high. But overall violence is in decline. There's less binge drinking amongst the young than a decade ago. Diseases that could only be managed a generation ago can today be cured.
Britain is a more tolerant and open society today than ever before. Let's never blame outsiders for the problems caused by political insiders.
Technology is giving us greater choice and opportunity than seemed imaginable just a couple of decades ago. Blockchains and other innovations are about to open up a whole new world of possibilities.
But there's one great, stonking reason – above all others – for UKIP to be cheerful. We are finally going to get that In/Out referendum. The thing we've all campaigned for, for so long, is going to happen.
We've all been involved in the struggle for this referendum. Many in this room deserve a medal.
David Cameron once flatly ruled it out. Not anymore. We won that argument, and it's down to many here now.
But it will all be worthless if we do not now win the referendum.
The only question that should really count is, "how can we win it?"
We need to put our country first. This is not about who wins democratic elections. It's about whether we remain a self-governing democracy at all.
We must be prepared to work with anyone – left or right, politician or undecided. All backgrounds, all faiths, all colours, all people.
There are good, honourable, patriotic members in all parties. We must work with them all.
It is not enough to win by offering opposition to Brussels. Our challenge is to show how Britain outside the EU can prosper.
It's an honour to have joined UKIP a year ago. I have made many friends and been warmly welcomed. Together we have the great referendum battle ahead. Let everything we do be about winning it. Let's do it."
So often so much news is so glum. Here, on this bright autumn day are some reasons to be cheerful.
1. It's an Indian summer: England is bathed in stunning sunshine (just look at the view from my office!). In my corner of Essex, the autumn weather has been glorious, with a bountiful supply of blackberries and fruit.
2. Diseases are being cured: Medical advances are not only helping us live longer but curing conditions thought to be untreatable. Just in the last few weeks the World Health Organisation has backed the global rollout of antiretrovirals to treat HIV, new immunotherapy drugs are bringing new hope to sufferers of melanoma in the UK, and British doctors have pioneered stem cell surgery to reverse the effects of macular degeneration. There have been more medical advances in the last twelve months than in most of the last 10,000 years of human history.
3. Technology is taking off: Driverless cars - set to be tested on British streets next year – herald a future of lower congestion and higher safety in our cities. 3D printing is revolutionising manufacturing in everything from circuitry to cooking – bringing production to the people. The Internet of Things is transforming the home – allowing you to control heat, light, water, power, even pot plants from your smart phone. We are living through the greatest age of innovation since the industrial revolution.
4. Power to the people: The digital revolution may change even politics for the better. Blockchain technology, the basis for digital currencies like Bitcoin, has created the potential for companies, political parties, and public services to run without top down control – taking control away from the elites, and giving it to the voters.
5. Corbyn mania is just hype: Listening to Comrade Jeremy yesterday was nothing new. In fact the speech was recycled from the 1980s, and the ideas were regurgitated from the 1960s. He had lots of clichéd phrases, and little to say fresh about the condition of our country today. His poll ratings are negative – and that's in his honeymoon period. It's an existential problem for socialism, I'm pleased to say – see point 4 above.
6. UKIP rising: There is now an enormous opportunity for a forward-looking, free market party that challenges the elites and offers genuine reform. A party which understands that tackling inequality requires sound monetary policy, preserving democracy demands taking power back from Brussels, and ensuring the prosperity of everyone in Britain means breaking up the cosy corporatist cartel of Big Government and Big Business. UKIP is that party – and the latest polls show our message is getting through.
7. And if that's not enough... Christmas is only 85 days away!
Unless you dislike sunshine, hate Christmas, and have an insatiable need to tell other people how to live their lives, there is every reason to be cheerful!
UKIP is committed to working with any group that stands a reasonable chance of being designated the official Leave campaign by the Electoral Commission.
Doing so ensures that UKIP is central to the official campaign - whichever group gets the designation.
Working with everyone is in UKIP's best interests - and it maximises our chances of winning the referendum.
David Cameron's tête-à-tête with François Hollande this week showed – once again - that his promised EU "renegotiation" is nothing more than smoke and mirrors. Six decades of ever-closer union have demonstrated beyond doubt that the European project knows only one direction of travel. A reformed EU will never be an option.
But Britain must not be afraid to quit the unreformed EU. In fact, we have everything to gain from leaving.
Britain is uniquely placed to benefit from economic cooperation with the rest of the world - if we break free from the world's only declining trading bloc. As Business for Britain's excellent Change, or Go report observes: we already have global reach in financial services; our language is the lingua franca for business worldwide; and our legal system is shared and emulated by countries across the globe.
Yet the EU is holding us back from globalisation. Instead of promoting trade, it prevents it – by raising tariffs and other barriers against countries outside Europe. Instead of making it easier to do business, it makes it harder – by undermining the global competitiveness of British companies with pointless regulation.
Moreover, the costs of staying in vastly outweigh any benefits. Even in the worst case scenario, the future cost of potential tariffs for doing business with the EU is nowhere near the current cost of EU membership. At the same time, the cost of our exposure to an ever more likely Eurozone collapse will be far greater if Britain is still chained to the sinking European ship when it happens.
Britain has been a global trading nation for 300 years. It has been part of the Single Market for only 40. There is every reason to believe that Britain can and will prosper outside the EU, and no reason to expect the EU to recover from its continual downward trajectory.
Let's not be 'little Europeans,' shackled to the failed protectionist orthodoxies of the past. There is a whole world of trade opportunities waiting. It's time for us to take them.
Listen to Government bravado, and you'd think our economy is in rude health. New productivity figures tell a very different story.
The Office for National Statistics records that UK output per hour lagged behind the G7 average in 2014 by 20 points – "the widest productivity gap since comparable estimates began in 1991." In fact, there is only one G7 country with lower productivity than the UK: Japan.
Why is our productivity so low? The answer lies in what the UK and Japan have in common: easy credit.
Our economy can't kick the addiction to cheap money. Like Japan, the UK has kept interest rates artificially low to prop up effectively insolvent banks: zombie companies that would otherwise fail.
Socialising the losses of a broken banking system is a bad idea in itself. Yet the broader consequences of negative interest rates are worse still. Because it is cheap to borrow, consumers borrow to spend instead of saving to invest. Money flows into speculative asset bubbles, instead of innovation. In short, the result is malinvestment: the misallocation of resources to unproductive sectors of the economy.
We are living on not just borrowed money but borrowed time. We are relying on consumption-fuelled economic growth, made possible only by an ever-growing inflow of foreign capital, and ever-widening current account deficit.
But foreign lenders will not finance our profligacy forever. They know that if we are chronically incapable of earning as much as we spend, then we won't be able to pay them back. Sooner or later the markets will react: the cost of borrowing will grow, the value of sterling will fall, the price of imports will rise – and households across Britain will suffer.
What can we do to avoid this? One thing we cannot do without is genuine banking and monetary reform – and UKIP will be putting forward practical policies to achieve this.
But other reform is necessary too. We need to reform the tax credits system and stop incentivising companies to rely on low-paid workers instead of capital investment to increase their efficiency. We need to take back control over our borders, with a points-based immigration system that doesn't discriminate in favour of cheap labour from Europe at the expense of high-value-added labour from the rest of the world.
The only way to increase our prosperity is to improve our productivity. Human history gives us every reason to be optimistic about economic progress: we can look forward to working less and earning more. Only bad public policy is holding us back.
George Osborne is in China this week, proving that politicians can't do business. Yesterday he announced £2 billion of public subsidy for a new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point - to be built by French and Chinese state energy firms. He calls it "another move forward for the golden relationship between Britain and China." But who gets the gold?
Government subsidy makes nuclear energy vastly more expensive than the alternatives – and taxpayers and consumers foot the bill. The Government estimates the minimum price it will pay for energy from Hinkley Point at £89.50/MWh – double the current average wholesale energy price of £44.72/MWh. To quote the BBC's Robert Peston, Hinkley Point energy looks "scarily expensive."
But it gets worse. The Government is relying on France's state-backed EDF Energy to deliver the new power station on time and on budget. Yet EDF has a track record of failure. Its new nuclear plant at Flamanville in France, scheduled to open in 2012, is now more than three-times and €7 billion over budget, and still isn't running. EDF's tie-ups with its partners in China aren't going smoothly either, with serious concerns arising over safety.
Moreover, the Chancellor is effectively handing over our energy production to foreign governments. We will now be relying on France and China – both going through economic crises - for our electricity. So much for our energy independence and security.
Yet misguided nuclear subsidies are not enough for the Chancellor. He also backs subsidies for all varieties of renewable energy – some costing taxpayers and consumers over £300/MWh. All the while, the price of oil has fallen to under $50 per barrel and looks set to stay low.
Household energy prices should not be an issue right now. They have been kept high by cross-party collusion with Big Energy. Since Ed Miliband's 2008 Climate Change Act – supported by the Tories – UK consumers have been forced to fork out up to £18 billion every year for inefficient energy providers.
Government subsidies are the kiss of death for any industry: whether cars, or banks, or food. They remove any incentive for producers to compete, and ensure that they will never be able to survive without taxpayer support. Energy is no different. By supporting massive subsidies for renewables and nuclear, the corporatist consensus at Westminster ensures that they will never be a sustainable alternative to fossil fuels.
UKIP is the only party that stands against subsidy, and for lower energy prices. As such, UKIP is also the only party that is truly in favour of renewables and energy diversity.
Time to cut the cords of corporatism, and set energy free.
Too many grandparents never get to see their grandchildren again. Why?
Because the state takes their children's children into care – and then has them adopted. The key decisions are made in secret family courts.
Don't get me wrong. Most of the time, I have no doubt that the decisions made by family courts are the right ones. You need the wisdom of Solomon to make these kinds of judgements.
But too often I fear wrong decisions are being made. Perfectly loving grandparents, who are perfectly capable and willing to provide of home for the grandkids are being ignored and overruled by a system that invites collusion between the experts and the professionals.
Family court proceedings are closed to the public, and the testimony and identity of local authority witnesses is protected. As a result, local officials and expert witnesses responsible for the break-up of families are immune from public scrutiny and accountability.
Intervention to put a stop to genuine cases of child abuse is a necessity. But the lack of accountability has led to other abuses. In many cases, children have been removed from their birth parents unnecessarily, causing enormous emotional distress. Instead of being protected, some have suffered abuse in foster care that they would never otherwise have encountered.
In 2008, The Times's Camilla Cavendish wrote a series of articles documenting the failings of social services. In some cases, injuries to children had been improperly diagnosed. In others, recommendations were given by professionals who had never met either parents or children.
In response to the Cavendish campaign, Gordon Brown's government drafted legislation to allow media attendance in court and the identification of professional witnesses. But following an inquiry by the Commons Justice Committee in 2011, the legislation was never implemented.
It is time to put this injustice right, and UKIP in Parliament will be bringing forward some new ideas to do this.
According to Bank of England chief Mark Carney, Jeremy Corbyn's plan for people's quantitative easing would "hurt the poor". Osborne and Cameron have called him a "threat to our economic security". They're right, of course. Trouble is, they're not much different.
Osborne and Carney have pioneered "print money and pray" economics. Between 2009 and 2012, the Bank of England made asset purchases (translation: printed) in the sum of £375 billion. At the same time, it has kept interest rates effectively negative since 2008. Since Mark Carney took over as Governor in 2013, the Bank has postponed raising the base rate every month for two years. Mark Carney may disingenuously claim prices have been stable, but price inflation outstripped wages – and decreased living standards – for six straight years.
Moreover, the newly printed money has flooded into assets and created new bubbles. Not only has the stock market seen enormous rises, out of all proportion to wider economic growth, but house prices nationwide have continued to rise in spite of the recession, and in London have outstripped wages by over 15%.
This is the single biggest driver of inequality in Britain today.
Osborne supported Gordon Brown's bank bailout, one of the largest transfers of wealth from the poor to the rich in human history. He has backed the Bank to the hilt – proudly describing himself as a "monetary activist." His Help to Buy mortgages incentivise young first-time buyers to take on unsustainable debt, and promote the same subprime lending that led to the crash in 2007. At the same time, he has almost doubled the national debt, leaving the UK catastrophically unprepared for the next crisis.
Young people in Britain who cannot afford to buy a home and will spend the rest of their lives paying off their parents' debt have Osborne and the Bank to thank.
Don't misunderstand me: Corbynomics are disastrous. But they are merely an extension of OsBrown economics: inflationary, corporatist 'Soak the Poor' policies that enrich the elites at the expense of the British people.
Britain needs a real alternative: sound money, sustainable public finances, fair taxation, and free enterprise. An economy run by the people, for the people – not by the Westminster elites for their cronies.
We are constantly told that business wants Britain to stay in the EU. But does it?
The FSB's new survey of small businesses in the UK suggests no such thing. Look behind the spin, and the figures are startling: less than half (47%) of small businesses surveyed support staying in, and under 35% believe the EU is good for their individual business.
Meanwhile, over 40% are in favour of leaving the EU.
But should this be a surprise? Most of what small businesses produce and sell isn't for the single market at all, but instead for domestic consumption or non-EU markets. Yet whether or not they sell to the EU, small businesses still have to comply 100% with EU red tape.
Why should a coding company doing business in India, or an agri-business selling to Russia and Latin America, or a hairdresser serving customers in Clacton have to conform to rules introduced under the auspices of the Single Market? Is it any wonder many want out?
More revealing is that many small businesses don't feel informed about the EU and its impact on Britain. They are told that we need to be members of the EU to trade with it.
But common sense shows otherwise. Non EU Switzerland exports 5 times more per person from outside the Single Market than we manage from within.
If the Stay spin machine can't even get business onside, then the submit-to-EU campaign is really in trouble.
The challenge for the Leave campaign is to show how leaving the EU is better for business and trade. We are making that case - and the polls reflect it as the deep scepticism of the FSB members shows.
On Tuesday, I voted for fiscal responsibility, supporting a proposal to reduce tax credits.
Inevitably this prompted howls of protest on Twitter. "How heartless!" one insisted. "You're letting people down" declared another.
Really? What is compassionate and virtuous about a system that permanently keeps working people in low pay?
Tax credits were introduced by Gordon Brown to reduce poverty. Far from lifting people out of poverty it has ended up keeping many people there. If big business knows that the taxpayer is going to top up low wages, they have every incentive to keep on paying low wages.
It is odd that the party Keir Hardie founded cannot see that. Tax credits on the current scale are part of the corporatist economy that is holding people back. What the Left wants us to believe is a subsidy for big corporate payrolls ends up helping working people.
At the same time, if tax credits are too high, they incentivise companies to rely on cheap labour, and disincentivise them from capital investment to increase their productivity, which would ultimately enable wages to rise. As the Telegraph's Jeremy Warner has written, 'there is little incentive for employers to improve their productivity, and therefore their wage levels, when labour is subsidised to the degree it now is from general taxation.' Hence the worrying stagnation in the productivity of our economy.
Jeremy Corbyn and the comrades support a welfare wonderland that would not merely make us a basket case like Greece. They support measures that would actually pay to prevent us getting more productive and competitive.
UKIP will always support fiscal responsibility and fair taxation. The Government's reforms to the tax credits system are a step in the right direction. There is plenty that this government is doing that needs opposing. Labour's support for Venezuela-economics precludes them from doing that job. UKIP will – with a sensible approach to economics.
Welfare reform is economically essential – and, thanks to the good sense of the voter, widely popular.
"Labour is ... running off to the Left" suggests Fraser Nelson in today's Telegraph, and "the Tories must now run towards them."
Anyone else spot the gap in the political market?
If Fraser is right and the two main Westminster parties canter off to the left, there is a massive opportunity for a politicial upstart - or start up - rooted on the center right, with a radical reformist agenda based on choice and competition.
"Impossible!" scoff many Westminster insiders. Traditional Labour voters can only be scooped up with traditional leftwing policies, they presume.
Really? Over in the US, Donald Trump's stuborn success in the primary contest suggests that many traditional Republican voters might not actually be that into the political philosophy that guided many Republican leaders. Digital disintermediates politics in all sorts of weird and wonderful way, including in some cases by separating insular leadership from the base.
I just don't believe that traditional Labour voters are animated by Fabianism idealism anymore. (See Ed Miliband for details). They are up for something fundamentally different.
About half of Labour's traditional vote may be up for grabs, Fraser informs us. And he is right.
But does anyone seriously think that many of those votes will migrate to David Cameron's Conservative party over the next five years? In whole swathes of the north of England, one thing that has helped keep an atrophied Labour party office has been the repellant power of the Tory brand.
Yes, those Labour votes are up for grabs, but they are unlikely to go to the Conservatives. The story of the last election was of Labour voters moving to UKIP. Not unlike the 1920's, I believe a process of realignment is underway.
The same research Fraser refers to suggests that Labour switchers to the Conservatives are uneasy with their new choice. Those that switch to UKIP don't look back.
The Conservatives must, according to Fraser, be the opposition to their own government. Given the extent to which many ministers in this administration are run by their mandarins, that will indeed be the case.
David Cameron has "long been fusing the best of New Labour with the best of Conservatism", according to Fraser. The Cameroons, he tells us, have picked up where Blair left off.
I don't disagree. Soft right Tory governments are almost indistinguishable from soft left Labour one's. Its what voters means when they say "all you politicians are the same".
Like New Labour, the Conservatives are pursuing the same corporatist economic agenda, with credit rationing and massive stimulus spending. And like the Blairites, they are fond of the same sort of patrician social improvement programmes. (See Kids Company for details.)
There a growing market for a radical alternative, based on breaking open the political and economic cartels that run this country in their own interests.
If Cameron chases Corbyn to the left, there'll be plenty of space on the stage for UKIP.
Europe needs to change, insists David Cameron. It has to become more competitive. We need to complete the Single Market, he tells us.
This sounds plausible. But take a look at what this actually means.
In the name of completing the single market in digital services, the EU has changed the rules on VAT.
Each time a business sells a digital good to a customer, VAT needs to be paid. Previously the amount of VAT in a transaction depended on the VAT rate where the business was based.
But, of course, VAT rates vary and businesses found it more advantageous to base themselves in low VAT member states. In other words there was tax competition.
For all Cameron's talk about competition and the EU, when faced with a bit of internal tax competition - which might actually make Europe as a whole more competitive - EU officials moved to stop it.
Since January, VAT is no longer calculated on where the business in any transaction is located, but the customer.
Now there are 27 different VAT jurisdictions across the EU. Businesses selling digital goods to customers in the 27 EU states have to calculate VAT, and process VAT payments to different tax authorities, 27 different ways.
Smaller firms cannot cope, even if big corporates get by. However much Cameron and co want to associate themselves with everything Tech City and digital, on their watch the digital economy has been massively disadvantaged by these EU rules. Many digital businesses around the world amply won't sell to the EU now.
Of course David Cameron is not stupid. He can of course by now see the damage. But he's powerless to change it. He can only offer empathy and words.
It's always like this with the EU. More Europe is supposed to make things new and bright and shiny. It's all meant to be the future, which only reactionary retros oppose.
But in reality the EU leaves us less able to face the challenges of the modern world.
Our digital economy would benefit from Brexit.
"We have a moral duty to act" over the refugee crisis, I began the interview.
"There are genuine asylum seekers" and we could do more to help them, I continued, as I made the case for doing more.
Got that? UKIP MP saying government should do more to help Syrian refugees?
Pretty middle of the road stuff, I'd have thought. If there was any angle to put on it, I'd have thought - at the most - it would be to point out that even UKIP thinks the government should do more.
Not according to the BBC's interviewer, Simon McCoy. Clearly told to expect his UKIP interviewee to make all sorts of outrageous points, he tried his best to confect a bit of outrage.
Watch it for yourself. He seems at times to be literally clawing around to find something objectionable that I've said.
This interview reveals more about the prejudices of BBC presenters than it does about the migration crisis, or how we might respond to it.
Oliver Cromwell, that great East Anglian, died 363 years ago today.
To many, he was the hero of the English civil war. Thanks to his tenacity, the tyrant Charles I was defeated. Continental-style absolutism was overthrown. The rights of free born Englishmen and women safeguarded.
To me, Cromwell is both – and as such, perhaps suggests that we English had our revolution a century too early.
Having defeated absolutism, we had no idea with what we should replace it (as the rather overblown Putney debates rather suggest).
If only we had had our revolution after the works of Polybius had been rediscovered in those dusty archives. Revealing, as they did, the inner workings of the Roman republic, they showed us how power might be constrained. It is no coincidence that when our American cousins had their revolution a century later, they therefore created a Senate and built a Capitol on the banks of the Potomac.
In Cromwell's time, we had no such example to guide us. So we lapsed back into despotism. Until of course, in 1688 we hit upon the idea of restraining the monarchy by putting a Dutch variety on the throne. Which worked. Sort of.
Perhaps if the works of Polybius had been rediscovered before the civil war we might now have a consul or two in Downing Street instead. And more constraints on sofa government. Or may be not.
Anyhow, spare a thought for Cromwell today. Hero or tyrannt, I hope you will agree that we still need to find better ways of holding those with power to account.
Imagine that you are the government of Hungary. Or the head of a municipal authority in Italy.
Tens of thousands of migrants have just turned up in your jurisdiction over the past few weeks, and you haven't the resources to cope. At the same time, the migrants that you are struggling to feed and house don't really want to be there anyhow. Most are keen to press on north, into Germany, Scandinavia or the UK.
At first, perhaps you turn a blind eye if any of them clamber aboard a train heading north. Or maybe you issue a rail warrant to encourage them on their way.
How long before you do something more drastic and begin to issue migrants with official documentation that will allow them to travel freely across Europe?
The debate about how many asylum seekers we should accept from Syria is a side show. Last year, 636,000 people came into Britain. A mere 12,000 people were offered asylum.
The real issue is how many of the hundreds of thousands of migrants coming into Europe will get the right to come to Britain. So long as we remain in the EU, they will all eventually have the right to come.
Rather than focusing on the 5,000 migrants camped around Calais, we should be thinking about the 800,000 migrants who have just arrived in Germany. As soon as they get official status in Germany, they will have the right to come to Britain – and there is nothing David Cameron can do to prevent it.
As long as we remain in the EU, our borders are not controlled by British officials at Heathrow, Harwich or Calais. The ability to cross our borders is today in the hands of any official in any EU memberstate minded to issue a migrant with an ID card or passport.
At the moment, EU nationals can travel to Britain with just an ID card. These ID cards, with which one can enter the UK, are issued in many EU countries by local municipal authorities. What is to stop some local authorities in Italy or elsewhere issuing ID cards as a way of getting migrants to move on?
I suspect it is only a matter of time before this happens.
From monetary policy to migration policy, the EU seems to export public policy failure from one member state to the next. We need to leave.
It was one of those watershed moments. Rev Paul Flowers, chairman of the Co-operative Bank, was asked by the chairman of a Commons committee if he knew the total asset value of the Co-operative Bank.
About £3 billion, he ventured. In fact, the total asset value of the bank over which he presided was £47 billion.
Before that moment, you would have been forgiven for assuming that those who sit on the boards of the big banks knew what they were doing. Afterwards, it was obvious that corporate governance was not merely a problem at the Co-Op bank.
Far from being wise and competent, what if City board rooms were full of people who looked and dressed the part, but thought and talked in clueless cliché? Those we once assumed to be capable and competent started to seem anything but.
I wonder if we will have a similarly revealing moment in politics, too.
Just like with banking, we take it for granted that those at the top in Westminster know what they are doing and why they are doing it. They are, after all, at the top. It is their job to think hard about public policy. So they must have done so, right?
A couple of days ago, the Times wrote about a new book, Inside the Nudge Unit. It is the story of the Whitehall behavioural insights team. Housed in the heart of government, this team has been able to improve the way we are governed. One of its big successes, the Times told us excitedly, has been to change the wording on letters sent out with tax returns. This has improved the rate of returns by several percentage points, apparently.
Great. But where is the new thinking about the big picture issues? Where is the unit in Downing Street thinking about how we might respond to the mass mass movement of people across the Mediterranean? What, besides more fences for Calais, do ministers propose we actually do?
Like the Co-Op board, government seems to have detailed policies on issues of relatively minor significance, but little grip on some fundamentals.
The economy is growing again. The politicos who preside over us are keen that we should thank them for it. Yet, just as we have done for decades, the increase in output is largely driven by consumption. It is a rise in output conjured up with cheap credit. We continue to live beyond our means by issuing IOUs.
Several years after the banking bubble burst, who in government is giving serious thought to monetary alternatives and real bank reform? Ministers are keen to dress in hard hats, but are they prepared to ask the kind of questions that will need answering if we are to actually rebalance the economy?
Corporate governance means scrutinising those who run things. Just as a bank needs good corporate governance, so does a country.
If the chairman of the bank does not know the total asset value of the business, why even talk about banking ethics? If ministers cannot control our borders, why are they worrying about being able to control sea levels?
The business of government has become too big and bloated. Government needs to de-clutter. Ministers need to understand the core business of government.
Giving an additional £3 million to embattled charity, Kids Company, would not help "deliver the outcomes for which the department is funded by Parliament", the head of the Cabinet Office warned ministers recently. It did not stop them handing out the money.
Perhaps ministers need a far sharper sense of the outcomes government is there to achieve – and then some grown up thinking about how to achieve them.
Germany, we were often told, is losing people. The birth rate is so low, according to the experts, that there will be many fewer Germans in the decades ahead.
Early this year, a report by the World Economy Institute projected that the population of Germany will fall from 81 million today down to 67 million by 2060. Others talked about there being eight million fewer Germans by 2050. An official think tank produced proposals about managing demographic decline.
That was all before the summer.
Now we learn that almost 800,000 migrants are expected to arrived in Germany this year alone. Those reports that were just a few months ago talking about 100,000 new arrivals each year are looking a little redundant.
It could be that this year is a one off. An exceptional year for migration. Demographic projections are notoriously unreliable. Alternatively, this scale of migration might turn out to be a new normal. We cannot be sure.
I suspect that in 2050 – and indeed 2060 – there will be more people living in Germany than there are today, despite what the expert think tanks once told us.
Computers, it has become fashionable to say, are taking over. Its not just that they allow us to shop or bank online. They are, we are told, able to do more and more things that were once done by humans.
It is not merely a matter of automated checkouts and driverless cars. Ever more sophisticated digital technology means that computers may one day be capable of doing some of the things that solicitors and doctors currently do.
The techno pessimists seem cheered by the thought of mass redundancy. Technology, which has for so long raised living standards, will put us out of work, they imply. Nonsense.
Of course new technology is going to be disruptive. It will destroy jobs – and cause hardship and upheaval for those affected. But people will do what they have always done when technology increases our productive capacity; they'll find work doing something even more productive.
Here in my corner of rural Essex, a handful of combine harvesters have been getting in the wheat and the barley. A dozen or so men have been busily doing what once every villager would have laboured long and hard to achieve. Indeed, the local schools did not start again until mid September, once the harvest was in, so that children could help out, too.
When agriculture was mechanised many jobs went, including the one's that meant having youngsters labour in the fields. At the time it might have seemed that farm labourers might not easily find more work. But they did - and their descendants work in shops and offices doing less backbreaking work, with longer leisure hours.
Machines destroyed the job of charcoal burner, blacksmith, miller and candle maker, too. Most of the jobs that existed in rural Essex a century or so ago have gone. Yet there are more people working in this part of Essex than ever before.
The digital doomsters cannot imagine what everyone might do for a living in the future. That tells us less about the future than it does about the difficulty they have imagining it.
In thirty years time, more people will be working in more productive jobs, sustaining an even higher standard of living than today. (Unless, of course, Jeremy Corbyn gets in). Cheer up!
Corbynism is a reaction to Osbrown economics. We must not let it be seen as the alternative.
Jeremy Corbyn, we are told, wants something called "People's QE". Instead of using QE – or Quantitative Easing – to give hand outs to the big banks, Mr Corbyn wants to use this magic money tree to build things. People's QE, it is suggested, would be used to build better transport links and hospitals.
And why not, many might say? If money can be conjured out of nowhere to give large City institutions massive subsidies, why not do the same for road and rail links? If monetary policy is to be used as a form of stimulus, why not do it by building things the public actually needs?
The arguments against "People's QE" are perfectly sound. The trouble is that they are going to be rather hard to make given that the people who will be making them will have spent much of the past decade cheerfully advocating QE for the banks.
For those on the centre right, this is part of a bigger strategic problem. You cannot achieve small state, free market ends through big government, interventionist means.
This has not stopped successive Tory administrations from trying. A generation ago, Conservative ministers created the national curriculum in order to ensure teachers taught the way that they wanted. I would argue it had the precise opposite effect, allowing leftist dogma from teacher training colleges into every class room in the country.
Conservative ministers justified QE on the basis that it would "save the banks" and "rescue capitalism" blah blah blah. What it has actually done is make banks dependent on state hand outs and give capitalism a bad name.
Worse, it has created a mechanism that will allow a future leftist government to conjure out of nothingness a balance sheet that it can spend. If you have "People's QE", why even bother asking those that we elect to approve what Treasury officials wish to spend?
Again and again, Conservative party leaders make concessions to big state intervention and corporatism. All they do is enable their opponents to push the agenda to the left.
Despite being governed by those that talk right, successive administrations have taken us to the left. George Osborne is no exception.
If Corbyn does ever start to sound credible on Question Time, its because corporatism makes him seem that way.
The alternative to Gordon Brown and George Osborne's "print more money and pray" economics is not Corbynism. It is time for an unapologetically free market, small state alternative. UKIP. Here are some ideas on what that free market alternative might look like.
The media narrative has switched to Comrade Corbyn and Labour's leadership saga. The professional pundits are spending their summer trying to explain a phenomenon they failed to see coming.
The idea of politics as an authentic, grass roots activity, guided by a coherent philosophy is something they find baffling.
Meanwhile, here in Clacton last Friday evening over 110 local residents paid £10 a head to come to a fish and chip community supper. The event was so popular, we had a waiting list.
The theme of the evening, on which I gave a little talk, was "Why we all need to cheer up!". Think of it as Hayek and von Mises for everyone. Optimistic, libertarian, unapologetically free market. The world is getting better thanks to freedom and free trade. In the era of ebay, Amazon and smart phones assembled through globalisation, these ideas have never been easier to articulate.
Of course, as everybody in SW1 knows, politics informed by a coherent philosophy is a complete no no. Which is why most politicans keep patronising voters with empty soundbites.
On the subject of empty, I gather there were spare seats at Yvette Cooper's big event yesterday. Maybe they would have been filled if she had something to say?
Labour faces wipe-out, according to Tony Blair. If the cyber comrades really do elect Jeremy Corbyn as party leader, warns the former Prime Minister, Labour will suffer catastrophic electoral wipe out.
I reckon he's right.
For years, Labour has been run by politicians who never quite said what they meant. Triangulation and spin became such common currency in the upper echelons of the party, no one ever seemed to know what the Labour front bench stood for – least of all those on the front benches.
Craving something more authentic, and uninspired by the mediocrities standing for the leadership, the leftist tribe appear to be ganging up on line to elect Comrade Corbyn. Lost in that echo chamber called twitter, the left simply cannot see how toxic their authentic socialism will actually be to swing voters in marginal seats.
Yet this is not merely a crisis of the Labour leadership. This is an existential problem for the whole of the left.
Being on the left has always meant wanting to do things by top down design. Whether under Attlee or Blair, Wilson or Clegg, the left in this country has in its DNA an assumption that human social and economic affairs are best be organised by blue print.
Comrade Corbyn's grand plan – with its aim of renationalising industry – might be a little grander than the Yvette Cooper / Andy Burnham blueprint – which will merely want to tell us how much sugar we should eat and how to raise our kids. But they are all in the business of bossing us about.
The trouble for the left is that the assumption that human affairs are best arranged by grand plan is coming to an end. Digital means the democratisation of decision making. Its not just on Spotify or iPlayer that we will be able to decide things for ourselves. Self selection is becoming a cultural norm. Public services will increasingly be personalised, to the point where it won't really matter what Yvette Cooper or Andrew Burnham think.
Corbyn's cyber comrades might believe that the banking crisis shifted politics leftward. To the rest of us, its just another piece of evidence to undermine the leftist assumption that "experts' – in this case central bankers – know best.
A handful on the left see the danger. The rest seem to be gearing up for vote for Jeremy Corbyn.
Jeremy Corbyn, of course, wants to reinstate Labour's Clause 4, which talks about putting the "means of production, distribution and exchange" into the hands of the people. Of course, in the age of Amazon, additive manufacturing and bitcoin, the means of production, distribution and exchange are indeed increasingly in the hands of the people. Only not quite the way the left intended.
To me, the catastrophe of British politics happened in the 1920s, when the Liberal party was displaced by Labour. From then on, political discourse was about the extent to which the apparatus of the state should run things. From that, all subsequent disasters followed; nationalisation, currency debasement, the expansion of the state, EU membership, the rise of corporate parasitism.
But what if we could undo the tragedy of the 1920s? What if UKIP, with almost 4 million votes to Labour's 9 million, were to displace them? What if politics became a contest between a patrician market Tory party and a properly radical, genuinely reformist, free market alternative?
Vote for Corbyn, comrades!
What if Comrade Corbyn wins? Just imagine what might appear in the next Labour manifesto.
A Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour party would promise to take over the energy industry. The trains, they tell us, would be run by the state. Oil and gas companies would face nationalisation, the banks (re) nationalisation.
Those that rented houses, it has been suggested, would be given a legal right to buy their homes.
First under Tony Blair, then David Cameron, private providers have been allowed to deliver select NHS services and education. These reforms would be reversed, the state reinstated once more as the monopoly provider.
But hold on a moment..... Would these changes be allowed under EU law?
European Union rules say that there has to be competition in certain sectors. Nationalisation would remove that. With non-UK companies and capital involved in everything from UK energy to banking, surely any efforts to expropriate such assets could be stopped as a violation of UK treaty obligations?
Even if a Corbyn-led Labour party won an election, much of its manifesto might be vetoed by Brussels.
Surely, you'd think, that is a reason to be in favour of Brussels? At least the EU would save us from socialism.
Except it won't. It is the EU that is giving out dated lefties a new lease of life right across Europe.
Far from being pro-free market, Brussels is a corporatist scam. Everything is run for the convenience of big business and big bureaucracy.
Under the Brussels system, profits are made by rentiers able to lay claim to public revenues. Capital is locked up in pursuit of subsidy. Amassing wealth is less about innovation in the pursuit of contented customers, and more a matter of gaining regulatory permission denied to rivals.
This, of course, gives capitalism a bad name. Which in turn is what makes Corbyn and co credible. His policy prescriptions might be 180 degrees wrong, but there is an element of truth in Owen Jones' critique of The Establishment.
If the social and economic affairs of millions of Europeans can be organised by blueprint, why not, voters might ask, make it a socialist, rather than a corporatist, blueprint? Brussels corporatism makes socialism more plausible. If energy companies can be told how to generate energy, why not tell them at what price to sell it?
When Britain joined what was to become the EU, we were told it would guarantee the free movement of goods, services and capital. The free market system, it was suggested, would be somehow locked in.
Except it isn't. The single market is not a free market. The EU is has produced a grisly corporatism, which is generating precisely the sort of retro socialism we struggled so hard to escape.
Several days after hitting her head and passing out unconscious, my constituent still had not received any medical attention. It was not through lack of trying.
Her husband did what he was supposed to do, calling 111. Advised to attend her local hospital, she then sat there ignored for several hours, eventually feeling so unwell she gave up and went home.
When they tried calling 111 again, they only got an answerphone.
It gets worse.
When my constituent asked me to get involved, I wrote to the health minister, Jeremy Hunt.
I know that you cannot look into every individual case, I explain in my letter to Jeremy, but what is happening on the ground and what your officials tell you is taking place are two separate things. Here in our part of Essex, someone who knocks their head and is rendered unconscious cannot get medical attention for several days. Could you make a few enquires to find out what is going on?
So I get a letter back from someone called Lord Prior of Brampton. This unelected member of the House of Lords is apparently in charge of these things. Except he's not, according to his letter.
It's the responsibility of the local CCG apparently. Or NHS England. Or anyone but the NHS minister.
Lord Prior, a former MP rejected by the voters of North Norfolk, went on to become Chair of the CQC. He served on the NHS Workforce Race Equality Standard Strategic Advisory Group. He has been chair of Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.
It seems to me as if Lord Prior has done rather well out of the NHS. My constituent cannot even get seen by a doctor.
No medical attention for her head injury. No follow up or diagnosis. No one in charge. A former quangocrat minister who won't accept responsibility.
This is how our country is run today.
It's bad news, isn't it?
Greece is poised on the verge of economic ruin. Half a million desperate migrants are likely to have crossed the Mediterranean this summer. A quarter of a million people have been killed in Syria.
These things are all truly awful. Yet when you consider the overall state of human kind, many things have actually got better.
I recently discovered Human Progress, an amazing new website that uses lots of facts and figures to show how much better things are today.
Think the world is getting more dangerous? Not so. We are living longer, safer lives, in a world that is notably less violent than it once was.
Concerned that we live in a world of injustice and inequality? Things are far from perfect, but the developing world has made remarkable progress within a few decades. Most folk around the world are much better off than their grandparents.
Fearful that the world is overpopulated? In fact birth rates are plummeting.
What really messes up the world are efforts by people to try to organise human affairs by grand design. Don't. Stop it. Left to human action, the world keeps getting better.
This isn't how it was supposed to be. Decades of bungs from Brussels to the Greeks was supposed to create a grateful euro citizenry.
For years, EU money was lavished on Athens. New roads and construction projects were built. Massive agricultural subsidies were paid out. At one time, almost a tenth of Greece GDP was accounted for by such EU generosity.
Yet instead of showing their appreciation, the stubborn Hellenes now loathe the euro system. By a crushing majority the Greek people have rejected the hated Troika regime and what it has done to their country. Euro flags in Athens are today more likely to be burnt than waved.
What has happened in Greece is not just a run of the mill EU crisis. No council of ministers quick-fix can solve this one. This time it is existential.
Why? Because of what this crisis reveals about the viability of the European project that Jean Monnet and Jacques Delors, the two chief architects of EU integration, built.
The Monnet-Delors European ideal is based on the notion that by doing things together, Europe can do things better. The Greek crisis demonstrates how wrong that assumption turns out to be. Instead the European project has allowed public policy errors in one member state to be exported to the rest.
Greece, to be sure, is in a mess first and foremost because successive Greek governments have lived beyond their means. But it is the euro that allowed them to carry on doing so for so long.
Having showered Athens with handouts throughout the 1980s and the 1990s, as the EU prepared to take in new members in the east, a significant slice of Brussels largesse moved with it. But rather than rein things in, having developed a taste for living beyond her means, Athens was able to carry on with the good times by simply borrowing in euros.
The euro created a system of beggar-thy-neighbour economics. Borrow in the Balkans, and pass on the bill to everyone else. It's not just fiscal and monetary folly that the European project exports from one member state to the next.
Can't control your own borders or coastline? Don't worry, you can literally shunt the problem off to Calais. Suffering because your own industrial base is sclerotic and uncompetitive? Fear not. Thanks to the EU, you can create a level playing field by making everyone else in the EU equally uncompetitive too.
According to that old joke, the perfect European country would be one in which the chefs were French, the policemen British, the artists Italian and the officials German. What the EU project actually produces are Greek levels of fiscal irresponsibility, French attitudes towards free enterprise and an Italian system for controlling borders.
The Greek referendum result is crushing defeat for the European elite. Having used every sort of scare tactic imaginable to frighten the people into voting for the Troika deal, the people overwhelmingly rejected it.
This too reveals something terminal about the nature of the Monnet-Delors project. The European house the Jean and Jacque built has fundamental design flaws. It cannot much longer stand.
With no European people, or "demos", the founders of the EU project set out to deliberately create a system that co-opted support for their grand plan from local elites in each member state. The Brussels bung to Athens were not incidental, they were key to expanding the EU empire.
By giving politicians and officials in each country a vested interest in more Europe, the architects of the EU hoped to create a momentum towards closer integration that public opinion could not stop. This explains why, in every member state including Britain, the ministers and mandarins are always more pro-EU than the people they are supposed to serve.
Yet Greece shows that that does not ultimately work. Without democratic legitimacy, no amount of collusion with local elites will hold the Brussels system together. In Greece – and perhaps soon too in Britain - local political leaders who play the role of Brussels' poodle, may not find themselves local leaders for very long.
The centre cannot hold. The house that Jacques and Jean built will fall apart. Grexit looms. So, too, does Brexit. Sometime next year there is almost certain to be a referendum on Britain's membership of the EU.
Like the Greeks, we, too, will find the EU elite, and their local satraps, trying to frighten us into voting for more Brussels. Already lobbyists with a stake in the Brussels system are pouring money into a nascent In campaign.
Unlike Greece, Britain – mercifully - never joined the euro. We have our own currency. Our economy grows, exports rise and trade with the wider world soars.
If even bankrupt Greece can afford to reject more Europe, Britain cannot afford not to.
Unless it is somehow able to change the laws of mathematics, the Greek referendum this weekend will not change the fundamentals.
This weekend Greece is being asked to vote to approve or reject the creditors demands. Pro Brussels pundits are lining up to cheer on a "Yes" vote.
Yes or No will not change the fundamentals.
Greek debts are now growing faster than Greece's ability to repay them. Only yesterday the IMF was talking about another €50 billion overdraft increase.
Maths means that Greece's debt to GDP ratio is only going to go one way - unless Greece defaults on the debt. No poll or politics can change that.
A Greek default means repaying creditors in a post-Euro Greek currency. It means higher taxes in Greece, most notably inflation tax, where by government prints too much money in order to transfer wealth from citizens to the state. It is not a case of wanting any of this or not wanting it. It is what will come to pass.
Greek governments have lived beyond the means of Greece taxpayers. They have done so for many years, and they were able to do so because European monetary union allowed Greek governments to borrow far in excess of what was sensible.
The poll this weekend cannot change any of that. It merely influenced how long this sorry saga must play out ahead of a default and abandonment of monetary union with the rest of the EU.
Greece might be the first Western state in modern times to have discovered that you cannot live forever beyond your means. She will not be the last.
Imagine if for every £12 you spent doing something you got only £1 back. If your aim was to make yourself richer, I hope you would soon have enough sense to stop doing it.
Not so if you are the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
Over the past eight years since the financial crisis, successive administrations have tried to stimulate the economy by spending. For all the talk of "austerity", since 2007, government has spent £839 billion more than it has taken in tax.
The past eight years have seen, by definition if not by Treasury description, the biggest Keynesian stimulus in British history.
How much growth extra output has all this fiscal stimulus generated? £71 billion more. Got that? £71 billon more output for £839 billion more debt.
A 130 percent increase in debt has been used to generate a 4.1 percent rise in output. Doh
Britain may well be the fastest growing economy in the G7. But we are the only economy daft enough to have spent £12 of debt to purchase every £1 extra prosperity.
Things might not feel so bad right now. But we can't go on like this.
It's not been a great week for the Northern Power House, has it?
First fracking. Despite sitting on enough natural gas to fuel the kind of industrial revival seen in America, it is proving almost impossible to get the stuff out of the ground. Why? It's not the laws of physics that are different on this side of the Atlantic, but the laws of regulatory restraint.
The gas must remain underground. Any dream of a northern industrial revival on the back of cheap energy must remain precisely that.
Then the rail upgrade between Leeds and Manchester got scrapped.
A day after this much heralded investment in northern transport infrastructure got cancelled, we learned that either Heathrow or Gatwick is going to get an extra runway. So much for regional rebalancing.
Despite all the talk of a Northern Power House, the economy in the north of England is barely back to where it was before the financial crisis.
The economy of London, meanwhile, surges ahead, the financial service sector fuelled by subsidies from central bankers and lashings of easy money. Quantitative Easing (QE) has been a great boon for corporate banks in the south of England.
If you handed out free flour to bakers it would be a massive subsidy to the baking industry. QE does something similar to banking, with easy money handouts to the banks. No wonder the London economy is roaring ahead, while the north struggles.
Far from rebalancing the UK economy, government policy is exacerbating differences. Rather than empowering the north of England, George Osborne's wheeze makes the north of England ever more dependent on the whim of those inside the Treasury.
There is nothing inevitable about innovation. In fact, for most of human history there has been a striking lack of it. For most of the past hundred thousand years, one generation of Homo Sapiens lived with the same misery-inducing level of technology as the one before.
When new technologies do come along, what stands out is how often attempts are made to suppress their wider application.
Ming China restricted the use of printing technology to official texts. Efforts were made to curb the use of new spinning machines during the industrial revolution in England.
Often it is not so much an outright ban that is the problem, but regulatory restriction.
Rather than welcoming newly invented motor cars, MPs in the late nineteenth century passed the Locomotives on Highways Acts. Amongst other things, this required a man with a red flag to walk in front of any motorised vehicle on the grounds of what we would today call "health and safety".
It's a relief to think that we are far to sophisticated and tech-savvy today to go in for any of that sort of reactionary nonsense. Except we are not.
We have been putting lots of men with red flags in front of technological innovation to slow it down.
Yesterday, councillors in Lancashire voted against a fracking development. A new technology that would enable us to access billions of cubic feet of gas trapped in rock beneath our feet, cannot be applied because government has put in place dozens of regulatory obstacles.
Of course, no one has actually banned shale gas extraction. Instead we have created a red flag regulatory system that makes it practically impossible to get any of the stuff out of the ground.
Medical science is making some extraordinary advances. A whole new range of drugs, based on our understanding of genetics, are being developed. Yet EU clinical trial rules and data protection insanity have put a series of red flags in front of their practical application.
Technological innovation means that cheap air travel is increasingly accessible to millions. Yet we put red flags ahead of aviation capacity.
In France yesterday it wasn't just a case of red flags slowing down innovation. French officials actually arrested a couple of executives working for the taxi app Uber. (How is that new, competitive dynamic Europe thing coming along, by the way?)
Ours may be the most technologically advanced generation to have ever existed. If we want innovation to keep happening, we need to ensure that politicians and vested interests are not able to prevent its further application.
The rest of Europe knows that David Cameron is bluffing.
Whatever new deal they offer him, they know that Mr Cameron wants to lead the referendum campaign in Britain to persuade the rest of us to accept it. Not really a great negotiating position to be in, is it?
I popped over to Brussels this week to meet team UKIP in the European parliament.
One thing that struck me was the sheer scale of the EU's imperial ambition. It is reflected in the architecture of the parliament building, with its sweeping glass and chrome façade. It is moulded in the art that litters the corridors. It is etched on the faces of the Euro grandees that strut around the coffee bars and corridors.
If only folk back home could see this, I kept thinking.....
So here are a few photos that try to capture that atmosphere of Euro entitlement.
With so many vested corporate interests embedded in the EU corridors of power, there are special signs for lobbyists (Hat tip Steven Woolfe).
The coffee counter has two separate queues; one for mere mortals, the other for Euro politicians.
Outside the parliament building were several thousand Euro lefties on strike. They were protesting that they, too, should be allowed to live at someone else's expense.
The productive base in Europe today is no longer big enough to sustain a bloated welfare burden. And the EU grandees are too encased in their chauffer driven world to do anything about it.
No wonder Europe's economy is such a mess .....
What is the point of the Labour party?
I don't pose the question to offend. It is what I found myself asking as I followed the turgid Labour leadership "debate" last night. What is Keir Hardie's party for?
The original purpose of the Labour party was, as the name suggests, to stand up for the interests of organised labour. Socio economic change means that we are no longer defined in quite the way that we once were. If the old sectional interest that the Labour party once represented has gone, what sectional interest does the Labour party in Westminster now stand for? That of career politicians, I'd suggest.
The contemporary Labour party is a cartel. It exists to sustain its MPs in office and its staffers on the payroll.
Perhaps the most extreme example of Labour as a self-serving cartel was Scottish Labour. Remember the Falkirk selection row? A small clique were accused of fixing the party's selection process.
That, I suspect, was just the tip of the iceberg. For decades Labour ran its Scottish seats as fiefdoms. The result was that some deeply unimpressive MPs were sustained as MPs in "safe seats".
Yet without choice and competition, pressures built up, erupting in a political Krakatoa in May.
But surely the triumph of the SNP, who replaced Scottish Labour, suggests that the left is alive and well?
I'm not convinced. It might not seem that way right now, but the SNP appears to me to be an aberration sustained by the Barnett formula. It is the by-product of a McPolitical system north of the border in which everyone gets rewarded for complaining about injustice, but no one needs to take responsibility for paying the bill.
Once the Scottish government has to live within a Scottish tax base, the centre of gravity in Scotland will shift dramatically. Give Scotland fiscal responsibility, and the land of Adam Smith will indeed be reborn – if not quite the way that uber lefty SNP MPs intend.
What happened to Labour north of the border could happen further south. It is not simply that my own party, UKIP, achieved four million votes to Labour's nine million. Nor is it because we are a close second in many northern seats. Something more profound is going on.
We live in a world of self-selection. From Spotify to our career decisions, making choices for ourselves has become a cultural norm. Who, in such a world, is going to vote for a party that offers only blue prints for how we organise society?
Twenty years ago, a sizeable slice of the electorate had memories of wartime rationing. They had grown up in a mid-twentieth century world in which the state presumed to know best. That has faded away. The last vestiges of mid twentieth century state rationing that remain have become by-words for delay and dissatisfaction.
On all the major topics of the day, the political pundits have shifted their stance dramatically over the past decade – and they've not moved to the left. Governments, they recognise, cannot keep spending money they don't have and call it investment. Uncontrolled immigration, they are willing to concede, is not always an unqualified blessing. Even (Lord) Danny Finkelstein is now willing to accept the need for an In Out EU referendum.
The left's crisis is existential. The left was born of the idea that human social and economic affairs are best organised by grand design. Digital dooms such gigantism.
Politics was once an argument between the capital and labour. It is increasingly a dispute between corporatism and the free market.
Interesting new ideas – on banking and money, political reform, the future of the EU, the digital economy – come not from the left, but from the free market, socially liberal right.
The Labour leadership candidates have little new to say because the left no longer has much new to say.
Which MPs saw a default coming - and which ones dismissed it all as "Eurosceptic scaremongering"?
Four years ago, MPs debated the prospect of a default in the House of Commons.
Some MPs could see what would happen - and spoke up.
Others, such as Jo Johnson, MP for Orpington and Claire Perry, MP for Devizes, dismissed the idea of a default as "Euro sceptic scaremongering". "Highly, highly unlikely" said Jo.
Who's judgement will you trust when the referendum happens?
All eyes are on Greece. A grossly indebted country, with underlying structural problems, has been living beyond it means for years. Something is going to give.
But might the same not be said about the UK economy too?
On the face of it, there is no comparison. UK output is rising fast, while GDP has collapsed in Greece. More jobs have been created in the UK in the past decade than there are jobs in Greece.
Yet before we get too cocky, the UK economic performance is not as good as it might seem.
For several years, our economy has been on the receiving end of a massive stimulus, both fiscal and monetary.
Despite all the talk of austerity, the government has in mathematical reality spent billions of pounds more than it has taken in tax, thereby injecting massive amounts into the economy. In doing so, the government has approximately doubled the national debt while adding a few percentage increases to output in return.
UK debt has grown faster than the economy. This is not the economics of a sustained recovery but of the credit card debtor.
Then there is the monetary stimulus. Governments have hosed cheap money and credit around to stimulate growth. Again, output has increased but, in the context of such a massive stimulus, not by much.
To get a sense of the economy's underlying strength, imagine if the stimulus stopped? What if the government ran a balanced budget? What if interest rates were back at the kind of level that incentivises savers to lend?
House prices continue their dizzy upward spiral, especially in London. Savings ratios remain far too low. Household debt continues to rise. And our current account deficit – the difference between what we sell to the world and what we buy from the world – grows.
All of this, to me, suggests an underlying problem of chronic malinvestment: House prices rise not merely because of supply constraints, but because candy floss credit keeps being poured into bricks and mortar. Savings ratios are low because saving does not pay.
Household debt rises because monetary policy madness stimulates overconsumption. And the current account grows because monetary stimulus encourages us to live beyond our means, while the malinvestment it generates constrains the ability of companies to innovate and export. Oh, and malinvestment might also help explain Britain's chronic productivity problem too.
If the underlying UK economic problem is malinvestment, then one day that candy floss credit will have to come out of the system. It won't be pretty.
In 2006, 65 percent of UK exports went to the European Union. Last year, that figure had plummeted to 46 percent, according to ONS data.
Europe grows less important with each new set of trade statistics not merely because of the Euro crisis. Something more profound is happening to world trade.
Back in the 1990s, international trade meant developed countries buying and selling things from other developed nations - with a little bit of import and export with the less developed nations on the side. As late as 1990, trade between less developed nations was minuscule, accounting for a few percentage points of total global commerce.
This has changed dramatically in little more than a decade. Today, over a third of all global trade is between developing / emerging economies. It's happening without the old advanced Western countries involvement at all.
International trade in 2014, according to Liam Halligan, was worth $18,500 Billion. Of that, $6,000 Billion was trade between the developing world.
Africa's most important trade partners are no longer European or North American, but Asian. As late as 2000, Chinese trade with the whole of South America was worth less than $10 Billion. By 2013, it was worth $280 Billion. In 2009, China overtook America as Brazil's premier trading partner.
Of course the EU is becoming less important for the UK. Our trade deficit would be in an even worse state it that were not the case.
Rather than sitting comfortably inside the world's only declining trade block, Britain needs to look to do deals with the parts of the world that are growing. Trade between the old industrialised states has been virtually stagnant for since 2007.
Being in the EU means we are stuck behind a common external tariff. Worse, every British business is subject to a burdensome regulatory framework. And we can't make trade arrangements with the parts of the plaent where the growth is.
"Being part of the EU means we have clout" insist the Brussels lobby. "It allows us to negotiate favourable terms".
On the contrary. Being part of the EU means not having trade deals at all. Outside the EU, Switzerland now has a trade agreement with China. When might we? Due to various vested interests in Brussels, Britain does not even have free trade with India – despite the fact that Jaguar Land rover, a highly successful UK based business, is owned by an Indian parent company!
The idea that we need diplomatic clout to trade with the world is based on a misunderstanding as to why trade happens. Trade occurs when someone in one country wants to buy from someone in another. It's a question of mutual advantage between buyer and seller, not how many diplomats you have sitting at the top table.
For trade to happen, officialdom needs to get out of the way. That requires mutual standard recognition so that if it is legal to produce and sell product X in one country, it's legal to buy it in another.
When UK trade ministers (who despite all the first class air travel are famously bad at boosting trade) talk about negotiating favourable trade deals, what they really have in mind is more regulation. Their idea of a trade deal is to make it impossible to produce and sell product X in any country unless it conforms to a uniform regulatory standard. Big vested corporate interests tend to encourage this kind of arrangement, since they get to decide those single regulatory standards.
If Britain left the EU, we could, under Article 50, offer the EU genuine free trade. If it was legal to buy and sell a product or service in Colchester, it would be legal to buy and sell it in Cologne or Copenhagen too – and vice versa.
Of course, the EU might reject such a trade deal, insisting that if we wanted to sell to the EU we would have to comply with Single Market rules. But we have to do that already today.
If we only had to comply with Single Market rules when selling to the Single Market, we would be free from much of the harmful EU regulation when seeking to sell to the world. Given that almost 60 percent of our exports are now to the rest of the world, it makes little sense to bound 100 percent by every Single Market regulation.
If the EU rejected real free trade, and insisted that when selling to the Single Market we had to comply with Single Market rules, fine. There would be nothing to stop us going on to negotiate genuine free trade with the parts of the world that are prospering.
Given that the EU accounts for a rapidly diminishing share of our total exports, the case for being free to trade with the world beyond Europe grows every day.
Soon after the 2010 General Election, European leaders got together to discuss the Greek problem.
A decade of Euro membership had allowed the Athens government to borrow vast amounts of money off the banks. The debt, in Euro denominated bonds, was so vast, Athens could barely service the debt, let alone repay it. What to do?
One idea would have been to write off the debt. When a person or a country gets so into debt that they can't pay off what they owe, the least worst thing is often to make it the lenders problem.
A Greek default would have meant decoupling from the Euro, and re-establishing a Greek currency. All those debts could then be paid back, but in low value Drachmas, rather than Euros.
The consequences would have been painful. Output in Greece would contract. Credit would contract. Unemployment would rise. The banks that lent Greece all that money would have lost it.
But economic resources would have been rapidly reshuffled in the real Greek economy. As Argentina discovered after devaluation, or Britain found out after leaving ERM, growth would resume. Five years on, Greek output and living standards would be on the up.
Yet what did the people that preside over Europe do instead?
Almost unbelievably, they increased the size of the Greek debt through a series of catastrophic blunders they called "bailouts". Contrary to what the term implies, the bailouts did not alleviate the debts. Each one meant lending Greece more money, pushing Greece further into debt.
Secondly, the European governing classes used the bailouts to turn the Greek debts owed to private - often German – banks, into public liabilities. Foolish lenders were rescued from the consequences of their own idiotic fixed income investment strategies – and everyone else was left to pay.
Five years on, Greece is thirty percent more in debt than she was. The Greek economy has shrunk by a quarter. Millions of young Greeks have spent all that time with few prospects.
Yet here's the real tragedy; For all that, Greece is still going to end up having to default, decouple and devalue all the same. But because the debts are that much bigger and the economy that much weaker, things will be even worse.
Europe's delusional elite, obsessed to the point of madness with their grand Euro projects, have spent five years making things worse.
The irony is that Greece is now looking to non EU Iceland for a solution. Far from passing private liabilities on to the public, Iceland told foolish bankers to take a hike. Some banks went bust. The currency devalued. The reshuffle started. Growth resumed.
Five years on, Iceland is doing pretty well. The next generation in Reykjavik will do better than the one before. How many Eurozone countries can say the same?
How are we Better Off Outers to make our case? How do we show those undecided voters that Britain would do better if we left the European Union?
It won't be easy.
Brussels trade rules might be holding us back from dealing with the world. But it is hard to show something that's not happening. EU regulation might be stifling innovation. But how do you point to something that isn't there?
What benefits there are to being inside the EU - the grants and handouts - are tangible. The costs and lost opportunities are often dispersed and hidden.
Then along comes the EU Clinical Trials Directive.
Back in 2000, Britain lead the way in medical research. Six percent of all clinical trials world wide took place here.
This was good news for UK universities, hospitals and scientists. It was also great for those patients who benefited from pioneering treatment, too.
But the EU Clinical Trials Directive, whose regulations came into effect in 2004, put an end to much of this vital medical research.
Thanks to the Euro regulations, by 2006 a mere 2 percent of all patients entering into clinical trials were in the UK. By 2010 it was down to 1.4 percent. Medical innovation did not stop. Like HSBC is about to do, it merely moved to another non-EU jurisdiction.
Between 2007 and 2011, the number of clinical trials in the UK fell by 22 percent. According to Cancer Research UK, those cancer clinical trials that still take place in Britain take 65 percent longer to set up. Britain dropped from being the third most important place in the world for clinical trials, to an also ran. Beneath a blizzard of red tape, we slipped into mediocrity.
"But" defenders of the Euro system will say "those old EU rules are about to be replaced by bright new regulations which won't stifle clinical research".
Perhaps. But why must it take a decade of disastrous over regulation to get the rules changed? Why, for a decade, did all those trials not happen, those patients go untreated and those jobs and innovation have to move away?
If those that made the rules were meaningfully accountable to those affected by the rules, we could get it right right away.
If Britain was to determine our own rules for clinical trials we might become a world leader once again. And what applies to clinical trials applies to almost every area of public policy.
If Britain was free to decide policy for ourselves, then from trade to technology, energy to the environment, we could innovate and adapt.
Free from the corporatist clutches of Brussels, Britain would thrive and prosper because we would be open to innovation and the world.
Digital is overturning many of our assumptions about size and scale. In terms of political communication, digital means that you no longer have to be big to get your message across.
As UKIP's sole MP in Parliament, I will be using digital technology make sure that UKIP gets heard.
Starting from this week, I will post on to my Facebook page every time that I take part in a Commons vote or debate – with a short explanation as to why I have voted the way that I have.
Many MPs hide behind the herd as they tramp through the division lobbies. They meekly vote the way the whips text tells them, the weekly whipping instructions remaining a closely guarded secret.
I'll be putting an account of why I vote the way I vote on line each time. That way, everyone gets to see what I am doing.
I be voting in what I beleive to be the best interests of my constituents. I'll also aim to vote consistently for less government, lower taxes and for personal freedom. Oh yes, and for free trade – the great engine of human progress.
Do please link up to me on facebook....
Exhilarating, isn't it? A referendum on Britain's continued membership of the European Union is at hand. For the first time in a generation, there's a real possibility that Britain might leave.
With that prospect so tantalisingly close, it's tempting to want to rush ahead. "Bring it on!" many regular readers will say.
Hold on. Let's make sure we maximise our chances of winning.
Like it, or not, a great many voters - despite all that Brussels red tape and all those ghastly EU commissioners – have yet to be convinced that we should leave. If you think that winning over fifty percent of the votes is easy, just cast your mind back to election night in your constituency ......
For almost forty years, we Brits have complained about Europe. We've found the over regulation irksome and the arrogance of Brussels officials overbearing. We have muttered and grumbled.
But every time we have started to contemplate the alternatives, the political elite have bought us off with the promise that things are about to change.
Maastricht, we were told, was the high-water mark of federalism. Deregulation, Tony Blair insisted, would make Europe globally competitive. Subsidiarity would close the democratic deficit.
Of course, none of it ever happened. But the idea that things would be different has been used to keep us in. Let's not fall for it again.
That is why we should allow David Cameron time to negotiate his new deal.
Show us what different looks like, Prime Minister. Take your time. Don't rush things with Jean Claude Juncker. Why just a weekend at Chequers? Invite him to stay for the summer, if it helps....
The longer that the Prime Minister takes negotiating his new deal, the more evident it will become that there is no fundamentally new relationship with the EU on offer. Indeed, the Prime Minister is not even pushing for it.
The primary purpose of Mr Cameron's new deal is not to change our relationship with the EU, but to keep us in - just like Harold Wilson's faux deal all those years ago.
Once it becomes apparent that things are not fundamentally going to change unless we leave, many of those undecided voters will decide that enough is enough. The only way to get the trade-only arrangements with Europe is to vote to quit the EU.
Another brandy, Jean Claude?
Since 2007, general government debt in Greece has risen by 30 percent. Over the same period of time, the size of the Greek economy has declined by 25 percent.
Forget all the blah blah from the expert pundits. Ignore all the shenanigans about what one politician said to another. Those two bald facts are all you need to know.
Greek debt has increased with every bailout (a bailout does, after all, mean assuming more debt), and the ability of Greece to pay it back has diminished.
At the very outset of the crisis, some of us said that the least worst option would be for Greece to do the three Ds; Default, then Decouple from the Euro and then Devalue. If that had happened five years ago, Greece today would no doubt be well on the road to recovery, with a competitive currency and with all that malinvestment out of the system.
Instead our government, along with the rest of them, went ahead with a rescue plan that was specifically designed to save banks from their own exposure to Greek debt - but not actually rescue Greece from any debt.
Thanks to this disastrous approach, five years on, Greece has acquired five more year's worth of debts, making the inevitable crunch when it comes all the more painful.
The UK economy is growing – and rather fast compared to other Western states. Great.
But so it should be given the size of both the fiscal and monetary stimulus.
This year, the government will spend £ 75Bn more than it will take from the economy in taxes. For all the talk of austerity, the government been engaged is a massive Keynesian spending stimulus for almost a decade now.
To put it into perspective, this spending stimulus has ranged between 5 and 11 percent of GDP for seven years in a row. That dwarfs the sort of spending stimulus we saw in the 1960s and 1970s, the supposed heyday of Keynesian orthodoxy.
At the same time, the economy has been hosed with cheap credit and Quantitative Easing.
What would be remarkable, given all this stimulus, is if there had not been any growth.
"But" I hear you say "if there's really has been so much stimulus, where's the inflation?"
Of course the prices of some things, such as houses and other assets, are rising. The prices of various consumer goods, however, are not. Might this not have something to do with the massive expansion in productive capacity that has occurred as Asia and the rest of the world industrialise?
There are limits to what stimulus economics can achieve. Sooner or later policy makers will discover that growth needs something else.
First, we need supply side reform. That is to say, instead of creating growth by making people spend more, we should make it easier for wealth producers to produce wealth. Sajid Javid's arrival at the department of Business, Innovation and Skills could, potentially, be very good news – if the EU rules allow him to deregulate.
Supply side reform also means making it easier for energy producers to generate cheaper energy. We need to break the energy cartel and replace it with a functioning market.
Secondly, we need to put some serious thought into the impact of in-work benefits.
Gordon Brown created a Byzantine system of tax credits, which in effect subsidise low wages. If you subsidise low wages, wages stay low.
There is a growing clamour for a "living wage". Might it be that many people are on less than the living wage because the state is actively subsidising their employers to keep paying them below the living wage in the first place?
As well as keeping wages low, could in-work benefits also explain poor productivity growth? Might it not have some impact on migration, too? Surely that is worth asking on the day that net migration tops 318,000?
Flush with their recent success, the Conservatives (Sajid and one or two others aside) seem in no mood to question the corporatist orthodoxies they find in government. Labour, faced with an existential crisis, can't. It is up to UKIP to develop a coherent, credible alternative to the government's carry on corporatism.
UKIP will, I fervently hope, displace Labour. We could do to Labour south of the border what the Scottish Nationalist have done to the north.
Impossible? If the recent election results are anything to go by the signs are pretty encouraging.
UKIP polled almost four million votes to Labour's nine. Before the last election, dozens of Conservative MPs feared losing their slender majorities. Today they are back in Westminster with bigger majorities. Why? Because their local Labour vote went UKIP. That's where UKIP's future lies.
Does displacing Labour mean some sort of "red UKIP" strategy? Not at all - and here's why.
Labour today is a party of statism. The shape of the blue print envisaged for society might vary. To what ends the levers of state control should be tugged will be debated by different Labour leadership contenders. But Labour is hooked on the idea of top down control.
Labour might have abandoned socialism, but Labour is a corporatist party, on the side of vested interests; PFI, which gives big business a guaranteed slice of future tax revenues. Energy targets, which mean subsidies for big energy companies paid for by ordinary householders. Bailouts for bankers, tax breaks for a favoured few. Look at the lobbyists who hover around the party like files ....
Labour once stood up for ordinary people against the interests of the powerful. Today Labour sides with remote EU functionaries and well-renumerated Human Rights lawyers.
Keir Hardie's party today shows a patronising distain for the very folk the party is supposed to represent.
UKIP can offer an alternative to Labour not by apeing the left, but by offering something radically different.
UKIP believes in dispersing power. We want political reform to make government accountable to Parliament and Parliament answerable to the people. We don't merely seek to return power from Brussels to Westminster, but to push control from Whitehall to the town hall.
We want to disperse economic power, too. The way to do that is not through corporatism, but via honest markets. Real markets that work for customers, as well as producers.
What would dispersing economic power look like?
From education to health care, digital technology allows us to have public services provided to the public with a degree of personalisation that was once the preserve of the private sector.
It would mean real bank reform. Instead of reining in the worst excesses of fractional reserve banking with top down regulation, and bail outs, we need to make the case for comprehensive bank reform.
Osbrown monetary policy has transferred wealth from those with savings to those with assets. Hosing cheap credit at the housing market has inflated house prices, putting homeownership beyond the reach of many in their twenties and thirties. Sooner or later we will need a different approach. (See: http://www.douglascarswell.com/downloads/after-osbrown.pdf )
We need an energy market that encourages innovation and pushes down energy prices. At some point the PFI taps will need to be turned off.
Instead of spending the defence budget in the interests of contractors, we need to see it spent in the best interests of our armed forces.
Here is the outline of an agenda for UKIP that is both free market, and popular – not Poujadiste.
The delight I felt in the early hours of Friday morning having won my Clacton seat soon turned to dismay. First came news that my good friend Mark Reckless had lost in Rochester. That was followed by despondence at the news of Nigel's defeat in Thanet.
In seat after seat, so much effort had been made by so many people – and all for so little.
So what next for UKIP?
We should not despair. In terms of seats won, election night might not have gone well. Looked at another way, it was an amazing result. Almost four million people voted for us, making UKIP Britain's third party.
As many people voted UKIP on Thursday as voted for both the Liberal Democrats and the Scottish National Party combined. The shocking failure to convert votes into seats is less a failure of UKIP's campaign strategy than it is a failure of our dysfunctional political system.
However infuriating we might find the Commons arithmetic in this new Parliament, take heart. David Cameron, with his slender majority, is likely to find it even more annoying.
Over the next five years, Parliament is going to really matter. Ministers will really need to make their case every time - and cannot automatically assume that they will get their way.
Beyond Westminster, UKIP – and the factors that explain our rise - are not going away.
As long as Britain remains bound by the European Union, politicians might be able to win votes by promising things. They won't be able to deliver when so many of the decisions that affect our lives are made for us by Brussels.
Far from abating, the mood of anti-politics that fuels UKIP will only grow. We need to become a champion for change; giving voters the power of recall, so that local constituents can sack wayward MPs, open primary candidate selection and electoral reform.
UKIP might have only finished first in a single seat, but we finished second – often a tantalisingly close second – in 120 seats. That bodes well for our future.
Our candidates, often standing for the first time, have gained valuable experience. This means we now have a cadre of campaigner's right across the country.
With David Cameron in Number 10 and Labour in turmoil, the opportunities for UKIP to present a credible alternative are going to be enormous. To do so, Ukip needs to reach out beyond the four million people who voted for us last week.
Many of the seats where UKIP finished second are in the north of England. Far from being a party of Tory ultras, UKIP's future lies in extending our appeal, and not simply geographically.
While the Scottish National Party can only stand candidates north of the border, the disaffection with the Labour party that has fuelled their rise reaches right down towards Manchester and the midlands.
Study a map of support of UKIP, and you will see deep purple patches in the old Labour heartlands. Like much of Scotland, these are often constituencies where the Conservative party has only existed on paper for at least a generation. At the same time, voters in such seats have begun to tire of a Labour party that regards them as their private fiefdoms.
The idea of displacing the Labour party is not fantasy. Ed Miliband's party got slightly over 9 million votes. At almost 4 million, the UKIP tally is not impossibly far behind even now.
Positioning ourselves as an alternative to Labour does not mean that we should imitate Labour. Ed Miliband has neatly demonstrated the folly of offering the voters retro 1970s socialism. Not even Ed Balls former constituents were convinced about the would-be chancellor's high tax and regulation approach.
Years of bank bailouts and cosy deal making between big government and big business has started to give capitalism a bad name. First under Blair-Brown, then under Cameron, Britain has shifted away from the free market towards a form of crony corporatism. There is a massive gap in the political market space for a new popular, democratic capitalism, which works of ordinary people.
In the age of Amazon, the case for free trade has never been easier to make. Ukip should be making it. In a world where in work benefits are subsidising low wages – and thus keeping wages low – we need to be prepared to advocate alternatives. Poor productivity growth is not just something that should concern policy wonks. It is harming people on every high street.
Nigel Farage has been an inspirational leader. Like hundreds of thousands of other people, he inspired me to leave the comfort of by previous party, and join him. I was prepared to resign from Parliament and fight a by election in order to do so. I feel gutted that he is no longer our leader.
But I will not stand to be leader of UKIP. Why? Because I can think of half a dozen figures in UKIP who could do the job better; Suzanne Evans, Patrick O'Flynn, Stephen Woolfe, Paul Nuttall or Diane James.
Every anti-establishment movement in history suffered set backs. But the successful one's were those that united, regrouped and carried on. UKIP's next leader will do so, too.
Ukip's next leader needs to be someone that recognises our party exists first and foremost to get Britain out of the European Union. We should take heart from the fact that there now appears to be, for the first time in a generation, a Commons majority in favour of holding an In Out referendum.
We could be two or three years away from achieving the very thing our party was founded to achieve all those years ago.
Everything that our new leader does over the coming months needs to be directed at securing a majority in favour of leaving the EU. Given than 87 percent of people did not vote Ukip at the last general election, Ukip needs to campaign in the coming referendum as part of a wider movement. Yes, we might be passionate about the need to leave the EU. We should recognise that we might not always be the best people to make the case to undecided voters.
We need to recognise that the case against our continued EU membership is not simply a matter of immigration, but of a better kind of Britain for the future.
Ukip must not make the mistake made by the SNP in their recent referendum. We should not equate support for leaving the EU with support for our own party. Do that, and the European Commission in Brussels would be delighted.
Between now and 2020, UKIP needs to focus on selecting good local candidates in key seats – and selecting them early on. Our candidates need to be local champions, as passionate about safeguarding the local maternity unit or police station as they might be about immigration or defence.
UKIP used to worry about getting noticed. What matters now is that we are listened to - and that means speaking more softly. And when we do speak, we speak to all Britain - and all Britons. Politics is about bringing people together – literally, in order that as many as possible each place their cross on the same part of the ballot paper.
Cheer up UKIP! Ultimately in politics optimism works. From Clement Attlee to Ronald Reagan, presenting a brighter ideal for the future is an essential ingredient for electoral success. Ed Miliband today probably wishes he spent a little more time outlining not what was wrong with Britain, but what he would do about it to make things better.
Last night was the candidates' debate in Clacton – and it was very enjoyable.
About 350 residents came along – and the number one issue seemed to be the council's plans to allow 12,000 extra houses in our area.
I explained why I feel the council has got this wrong. Things got a little heated between some of the panellists and the audience when the panellists tried to justify extra housing.
All the other candidates came out in favour of increasing Britain's overseas aid spending to over £12,000,000,000 a year. I explained why I felt that the aid budget needed to be cut.
I also highlighted the need for more GPs - and touched on the action I have taken to recruit more locally.
There is clearly overwhelming support to keep open Clacton police station, and I am pleased that on that issue, at least, we have cross party support.
I think it is fair to say that one or two had probably decided how they were going to vote before the meeting started. The audience was certainly lively and seemed to enjoy it!
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.
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 ....
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.
The Conservative candidate has made it clear that he is in favour of 12,000 extra houses in our area.
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.
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.
"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?
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.
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.
Four years ago, David Cameron and Nick Clegg "came together in the national interest". Or so they told us at the time. The dire state of the public finances demanded it, apparently.
How have they been getting on with sorting it all out?
Tomorrow will be George Osborne's fourth Autumn Statement - and by any objective yardstick he has failed get a grip on our public finances.
Debt, the House of Commons library's briefing paper baldly puts it, "continues to rise". Far from paying down debt, this administration has been accumulating ever more of it.
This year, the government will spent £100 Billion more than it takes in taxes. Borrowing in the first six months of 2014 was 6 percent higher than over the same period the year before.
Behind anything else the chancellor might choose to tell us tomorrow lies one undeniable fact; Public sector net debt will increase yet again to almost 80 percent of GDP.
Things are not getting better. That magic money merry-go-round of low interest rates and Quantitative Easing just makes it feel that way.
Tomorrow's Autumn Statement will be full of Brownian-style bluster. Statistics intended to mask the true state of our public finances will be cockily bandied about. Clever wheezes and gimmicks will be scattered in the direction of the press gallery.
But remember, for most of the time he was chancellor, Gordon Brown was seen by many of the pundits as a genius. It is only with the benefit of hindsight that we can see how recklessly he ran this country's finances.
So, too, with George. Osborne's continuity Brown approach to public finances means that the Coalition will incur more debt in five years that Gordon managed in thirteen.
Tomorrow will be George Osborne's fourth Autumn Statement. In many ways, it will be Gordon Brown's eighteenth.
UKIP is to politics what Aldi and Lidl are to supermarkets.
For years, British shoppers have been paying over the odds for everyday groceries. And because most of the retailers were at it, no one seemed to see it.
Then along came Aldi and Lidl. Two decades after they started to show customers what good value looks like, they have reached a tipping point. The established players aren't just losing market share. If they don't adapt fast, there's even talk they may go under.
Cartel politics has not just left us out of pocket. It's a lousy way to run a country.
For decades, voters have never been offered the full spectrum of public policy options. It's a fix. Faux debates rage between the frontbenches, but on the fundamentals, ministers meekly defer to mandarins. Government-by-Sir-Humphrey has led us inexorably towards national decline.
Public debt has doubled in five years. The banks are unreformed. Immigration remains uncontrolled. Opportunities for new trade agreements with Asia and Africa have been squandered. Does our country still have a foreign policy?
So much of Britain is now run in the interests of vested interests. From energy and banking, to politics and PFI contractors, the rules seem to be written by those on the inside, with no reference to the country outside.
A system of crony corporatism has incrementally replaced free market capitalism - which explains why the economy might be growing, but not the living standards of ordinary folk.
Neither of the two established parties can even see this because they are part of the problem. Career politicians in SW1 are another to the vested interests running our country in their interests.
The Conservative party has been run by an out of touch clique for the past decade. Labour has been run that way since Tony Blair's lot took over. One gives us Matthew Parris, the other produces Emily Thornberry.
UKIP stands for fundamental, far reaching change in the way our country is run. We need to bust open the cartels in the energy markets and banking, public procurement and PFI – and yes, politics, too.
The Coalition came together to fix the deficit. After four years, the deficit is still running at over £100 Billion a year.
Rather than narrowing, the gap between what the government spends and what it takes in tax actually grew in the first half of this year.
Why? Because like every other post-war administration, the Coalition counted on being able to balance the books not so much by cutting back on state spending, but through higher tax revenues.
Fixing public finances on the back of more tax take only works if you are able to take more tax. In the first half of 2014, tax revenue grew less than expected, leaving government borrowing £5 Billion higher than over the same period the previous year.
Lower than expected tax revenue is because of higher tax thresholds, according to some. Although there are more workers, many of the new jobs pay less, suggest others. I don't disagree with any if that.
But might we be seeing something else happening, too? Could the fact that tax revenues are not increasing the way the Treasury assumed herald a more profound change in the nature of the tax base itself?
If a government wants to raise resources, it needs to tax wealth creation. In the last century, wealth in Western economies – to put it crudely – came from factories. So the state tended to tax factories and the vast payrolls of employees who worked in
In the twentieth century, wealth is increasingly a question of intellectual property. And how do you tax that?
A factory in the mid twentieth century was relative immobile. It was pretty difficult – but not impossible - to relocate a manufacturing operation from one high tax jurisdiction to another low tax jurisdiction. Intellectual property tends to be as mobile as an email.
This year in Britain, almost 30 percent of total income tax revenue will be paid by 1 percent of the population. And rather like IP, that 1 percent tends to be pretty mobile, too.
Could it be that we are starting to see a change in the nature of the tax base? Instead of thinking of the tax base as something solid and dependable, might it be something that can flow across the boundaries of tax jurisdictions?
Governments will, in the short term, respond to this by trying yet more transnational tax arrangements to try to stop the tax base moving. I suspect that in the longer term, we might need to respond to this by changing the way that we tax. Instead of taxing production, we may have to shift the burden of taxation towards consumption.
If we are to balance the books in future, governments might need to rely less on raising the tax take, and instead try to live within their means.
How is Britain to pay its way in the world? Carry on as we are, and we won't.
Its thirty years since the UK government last ran a balanced budget. Since then our governments have piled borrowing upon borrowing. Public debt has doubled over the past four years, with the Coalition incurring a further £100 Billion this year alone.
Britain today is better at buying things that other countries produce than at producing things others want to buy. Our balance of payments data – the difference between what we import and export – looks dire. Selling off London real estate to balance the books won't work forever.
We need to change Britain's business model.
Hosing cheap credit at the economy might create growth. But it is growth based on over consumption and debt. It means we build lots of shopping malls but not enough factories.
UK plc's business model today depends heavily on importing cheap labour. So much so, in fact, that per capita GDP has been falling.
This cheap credit / cheap labour model is subsidised by the state. Government not only conjures up cheap credit for the banks, they use the tax credit system to publicly subsidise low wages. The government is borrowing billions in order to help big corporate interests keep wages down.
This is not free market capitalism, but crony corporatism.
If we are to maintain our living standards in the years ahead, things need to change. The massive pull of capital and productive output to Asia and elsewhere could be an opportunity for us. It means tens of millions of middle class consumers willing to buy things from us.
Instead of a crony corporatist energy market, we need to allow capital and innovation to cut the cost of energy, as has happened in North America. We need real bank reform and a government willing to take on the vested corporatist interests holding Britain back. Rather than remain inside the world's only shrinking trade block, we need free trade deals with the world.
Our future prosperity depends on it.
It was when government ministers started mouthing insults across the Commons chamber that I knew they were in trouble.
Yesterday's extraordinary scenes in the House of Commons might not have shed much light on the European Arrest Warrant. They did reveal some uncomfortable truths about the way we are governed.
Thirteen days ago, the Prime Minister solemnly promised that our elected representatives in the House of Commons that "there will be a vote" over the European Arrest Warrant. He made it clear that this would happen "before the Rochester by election" on 20th November.
Yesterday was the day that that was supposed to happen. Except it didn't.
Mr Cameron's own whips engaged in a straight forward deception – and were brutally caught out.
Rather than allow a vote on the European Arrest Warrant, the government whips put forward a meaningless motion to facilitate a lot of hot air discussion. But without any vote on European Arrest Warrant. How the government whips must have chortled at their own cleverness as they thought up that wheeze, eh?
Since the House of Commons no longer has the power to decide if we sign up to the European Arrest Warrant, whips decided to avoid having such a vote at all. Cunning, eh?
But then Speaker Bercow, doing precisely what a Commons speaker ought to do, made it clear that the Commons had been had. The vote that might follow, said the Speaker, would not be about the European Arrest Warrant. There was uproar. A contemptuous fury was directed at the government benches by their own side.
As Theresa May's share price visibly plummeted, Yvette Cooper's soared.
If, she told the House, ministers could not be honest with MPs about the business before the House, let us vote down the business of the House. In the vote that followed, the government came within five votes of defeat.
Yvette wasn't finished yet, either. Clearly one to do her homework, she used a Commons device to try to close down Theresa May's Mickey Mouse "debate".
Caught on the hop twice in the same debate, government whips scurried in and out of the chamber. They were panicking, desperate to get everyone back to the Commons. They even summoned the Prime Minister back from a banquet.
Thus did David Cameron hurry back to the House of Commons to quash debate on a subject where only a few days previously he had promised a vote.
This administration is not in trouble because it nearly lost a vote. Nor because its ministers mouth insults across the chamber when they fear defeat. Nor even because David Cameron can no longer be taken at his word. Nor merely because of the whips office's serial deception.
They are in serious trouble because are unable to see that any of this is wrong.
What should one make of the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or TTIP?
"Hurrah!" was my first reaction. What could be better than free trade between hundreds of millions of people on both sides of the Atlantic? Think how much better we might all be if that network of specialisation and exchange called the free market were to stretch from California to the Carpathians.
Alas, as so often where big government is concerned, things aren't quite what they seem. You see TTIP isn't really about free trade.
If it were, then there would be remarkably little to negotiate. If it was legal to sell something in Idaho, it would be legal to buy it in Essex. No regulation. No tariffs. Such a trade agreement could be done and dusted in a day.
Instead what TTIP does is extend the European Single Market model to transatlantic trade. This would mean that rather than freeing up trade, rules would be introduced whereby it is only possible to produce and sell things if they comply with a single standard.
Far from greater economic freedom, under such a system producers start to need permission to produce things. Note how every aspect of economic life the European Single Market touches gets swathed in red tape.
Worse, since permission is needed to produce and sell things, every vested interest begins to lobby to have the rules written to their advantage. Instead of big businesses trying to persuade willing customers to buy their products, they spend their marketing budgets paying lobbyists to rig the rules against the competition and the customer.
It is precisely because the various vested interests are trying to cut cozy deals behind closed doors through TTIP that the negotiations are taking ages.
TTIP is not about free trade. It is crony corporatism at its worst.
Of course, if Britain was to leave the EU, and the cozy corporatist cartel called Brussels, we could have genuine free trade agreements. Not only with the EU and the United States, but with China, India and much if the rest of the world.
"But we need to be in the EU to strike such deals", claim the various vested interests. Nonsense. Trade does not depend on the might of your public administration or the grandeur of your technocrats.
Trade happens when a person in one country produces something that someone in another wants to buy. That holds true weather you are in a country of over one billion people or under a million. And it explains why tiny Iceland now has a free trade deal with China.
The European Union is in danger of "pricing itself out of the world economy", George Osborne.
I agree. But what has our Chancellor of the Exchequer done about it?
One reason manufacturing firms in Britain and the EU find it harder to compete is due to rising energy prices. The EU has imposed an energy policy which encourages energy companies to generate so called "renewable" energy. Because this cannot be done as cheaply as burning fossil fuels, renewable energy has had to be subsidised, pushing up energy costs in the round.
Far from trying to stop this, the Chancellor and his neighbour in Downing Street, have been at the forefront of calls for more stringent renewable energy targets. Only last week, the PM reiterated his commitment to a policy that will push up energy costs.
Another reason why European business is struggling is the blizzard of red tape and regulation. Has the Chancellor done anything about this?
On the contrary, George Osborne has been pushing for the Single Market to be extended. Given that excessive regulation has been introduced under the auspices of the Single Market, extending the Single Market to services will increase the regulatory
drag on UK firms.
The Chancellor might complain about the extra burdens imposed on business. It is, of course, his own department that has been forcing firms to act as unpaid tax collectors. Even relatively small firms are now required to report their tax returns in real time. Great for a tax hungry Treasury. Not such good news if you are a firm trying to keep your costs down.
As so often with this administration, the Chancellor seems to think that it is all about making the right noises.
For four years, the Chancellor has relied on cheap credit and a fiscal stimulus to generate economic growth. Thus far he has done almost nothing to address the problems of competitiveness that he now pays lip service to.
Not since the 1970s has Britain had such a mediocre government.
Cast your mind back to that sun-lit May morning four years ago. What was it that the Coalition promised us, and what has actually happened?
"We'll come together in the national interest to sort out the public finances", Clegg and Cameron told us. Since that press conference in the Downing Street garden, our nation's public debt has almost doubled. If getting government borrowing under control was really what brought them together, they have taken their eye off it. Government borrowing last month was ten percent up on the year before.
Ministers pushed through costly NHS reforms. None of it has actually improved health care. Many folk cannot get to see a GP, and no one seems to be in charge.
Energy policy continues to be built on expensively subsidised renewable targets. To meet our renewable obligations, poorer people have been priced out of heating their homes. Businesses have been made less competitive and there are fears a winter blackout.
Instead of cutting immigration, it's back up to where it was under Gordon Brown. Our armed forces remain over stretched and under resources. Localism, which was supposed to give local people decide on planning, turns out to be a sham. Using the language of the free market, ministers intervene in the economy in the interests of crony corporatism.
"But what about the government's welfare reforms?" you ask. "And what about Michael Gove at education? Surely ministers have got some things right?"
To be fair, not even Ted Heath's government got everything wrong. Yet a lot of this administration's welfare reforms were in fact pioneered by that uber Blairite minister, James Purnell. Much of the rest, such as universal credit, has yet to actually happen.
As for Gove at education, he is no longer at education. Rather like Ted Heath and the unions, this government runs shy of vested interests.
Just as Ted Heath promised a radically new approach to the economy, Clegg and Cameron promised a different kind of politics. Last week we saw government whips use the same old Westminster tricks to sabotage the Recall Bill. A measure designed to allow voters to hold MPs to account will do nothing of the sort.
On Europe, at least Ted Heath had the virtue of consistency, even if he was consistently wrong. Mr Cameron has flipped from Heathite acquiescence to mere flops.
First ordered his own MPs, on a three line whip, not to vote for an In Out EU referendum. Now he puts the prospect of an In Out vote, and the faux offer of real change, at the heart of his re-election bid.
A few months ago, Number 10 told us they were opposed Jean Claude Junker as European Commission President. A couple of weeks ago, he ordered his MEPs to vote for the Junker Commission. How long before he tells us he was against Euro Arrest Warrants all along?
Of course, there is one big difference between this administration and that of Ted Heath, and that is the economy. Output is up and unemployment is down. But so it seemed under Ted Heath during the Barber boom, too.
They might not call it that, but with the government spending £100 billion a year more than they take in tax, we are living through the largest Keynesian spending stimulus in our history. Record low interest rates mean a massive monetary – as well as fiscal – stimulus. Like the Barber boom, will it last?
Osbrown economics may yet turn out to be little more than reheated Heathism.
MPs will soon be asked to vote on whether to opt back into the European Arrest Warrant.
Although European Arrest Warrants have been use since 2004, due to the way that various EU treaties have been revised since, it is necessary for the House of Commons to vote to keep us in. Failure to do so will mean an end to Euro Arrest Warrants in Britain.
It is vital that MPs vote against opting back into the Euro Arrest Warrant.
Why? First and foremost, it's about justice.
Extradition between countries is a good thing. It is in the interests of justice that someone suspected of committing a crime in another country can be sent to that country to face trial.
But before they are extradited, surely it is right that a court considers that there is a case to answer?
We would be appalled if someone could be held on remand in Britain without evidence of wrong-doing. So why are we prepared to have someone carted off to another country without giving a UK court the chance to take a look at the basic evidence?
As one of my constituents has discovered, the Euro Arrest Warrant means that once an application to extradite is received, the process rolls along more or less automatically. You can, for example, be hauled off to France to face trial for crimes you were supposed to have committed there without having actually been to France.
"But" insist Home Office apologists "we need these extradition arrangements to fight terror".
Really? It was perfectly possible to extradite terror suspects before we had Euro Arrest Warrants.
While the use of Euro Arrest Warrants has sky rocketed over the past ten years, only a tiny, tiny fraction of those arrested under the EAW have been accused of anything to do with terror. My local constituent, for example, was carted off because he was believed to have been involved in tax fraud.
Far from being the end of everything we hold dear, opting out of the Euro Arrest Warrant simply means that we would have to revert to the kind of extradition arrangements that existed before, and which we have with all sorts of non-EU states.
Of course the Commons vote won't simply be about justice. It will also be the credibility of those voting that will be on the line.
When the idea of Euro Arrest Warrants was first mooted a decade ago, the Conservative party in opposition opposed the idea. Now in government, many Conservative ministers have, of course, been captured by the mandarinate.
Any Conservative MP who fails to vote against Euro Arrest Warrants cannot make an credible claims to be Eurosceptic.
I gave up going to Conservative party conferences several years ago. Why? There never seemed to be many Conservatives. The lobbyists outnumber the activists. The fringe debates seemed so sterile.
Compare that to what I found at UKIP's gathering in Doncaster. There was a real buzz. Supporters from all over the country, and all kinds of backgrounds, were genuinely enjoying each other's company. New friendships were being formed all around me. Not a lobbyist in sight.
"What do you think of Grant Shapps?" asked a journalist, hoping I might say something rude. I like him, and I've made no secret of my admiration of him in the past. If he has had to say some fairly strong things as Conservative party chairman over the past few days, he is doing it because he is Conservative party chairman.
I know Grant is a thoroughly decent person and have always enjoyed his company. I might have changed parties, but I'm not going start pretending that everyone that wears a blue rosette is bad. Grant is one of the good guys.
Government used to be accountable to Parliament, and Parliament once answered to the people. Slowly but surely this has changed.
MPs have lost the power to amend budgets or meaningfully control what ministers do with our money. The executive controls the legislature, rather than the other way round. Political parties have "safe seats", which they treat as fiefdoms to reward A listers and insiders.
The result is that we are governed by tiny cliques, each competing to sit on the sofa in Downing Street – and none of them much in tune with the country over which they preside.
Not so very long ago, to make such observations might have seemed a little wonky or obtuse. Dissatisfaction with the way Westminster works – or fails to work – is now so widespread, even Westminster is waking up to it.
Each week, as a constituency MP, I would pick a couple of streets at random – and go and knock on the doors.
"Hello. I'm Douglas, your MP" I'd say. "I'm in the neighbourhood and wanted to introduce myself". I got to make a lot of new friends and drink an awful lot of tea.
During this by-election I've been knocking on many of the same doors again. I've had to say many a polite "no" to tea this time, but the friends are still there.
The internet and iDemocracy will overturn many of our assumptions about politics. But not perhaps the way some pundits imagine.
A big part of the problem with Westminster is the whipping system. Party whips hold far too much power. Instead of answering to the electorate, too many MPs end up answering to whips.
Whips are able to influence MPs in all sorts of ways. But their power stems from their one ultimate sanction; they can withdraw the whip.
Withdrawing the whip from an MP means, in effect, that the MP has been sacked. Unless they grovel, they are out and cannot run as a party candidate again.
What if instead of whips being able to sack MPs, MPs were able to sack their whips?
Big political meetings are a thing of the past, we are told. They might have done politics like that yonks ago, but not any more, they say.
Really? Tomorrow in Clacton there will be a full house at the biggest venue we could find. Over 700 people are coming – and they are all local residents.
It won't be some sort of choreographed rally of the party faithful. These are ordinary people, coming to take part in a grass roots meeting.
All 700 places went within the first day – and we could have filled the venue twice over.
Political apathy? Not in my part of Essex.
For decades, fashionable opinion formers liked to imply that society was going to the dogs. Modern life is more atomised, they would say. Folk are more lonely and isolated than ever before.
Not in my experience. Over the past few years as a local MP, I've noticed how many community groups have been reenergised.
Why? I suspect it has a lot to do with the internet. Things started to change around about the time we got broadband. Email and social media make it easier to do things together. Administration gets simpler. It's much more straightforward to find out about what's happening in your neighbourhood too. Connections can be made via google, not just serendipity.
Far from bowling alone, Holland on Sea bowls club, as I discovered when I dropped in for tea on Saturday, has lots of new members and is thriving.
For years, politics has been dominated by big corporate parties. Why? Only they could generate the brand recognition. They alone could aggregate votes and opinion.
The internet, as I suggested in my book on iDemocracy, is going to change this. The digital revolution creates the space for nimbler start ups. Not only does campaigning change. Many assumptions about messaging are turned on their head.
I am, you might say, trying to put that theory into practice in my corner of Essex. There is still an awfully long way to go until polling day, but thus far I have been struck by how mid90s the Westminster party machines have been on the ground.
Our campaign office in Clacton is bang opposite the train station. This means we have a constant flow of MPs and ministers wandering past. My team was rather amused to see one minister arrive in Clacton on the quarter to train – before racing to get back on to the five past back to London.
Whichever way the Scots vote today, things will never be quite the same again.
Either Scotland votes to become an independent country, or – in order to save the Union – Scotland will have been promised what amounts to internal self government, or devo max.
Back in 2009, Daniel Hannan and I co-authored a book called The Plan, which suggested giving each of the different parts of the United Kingdom a form of devo max. What a pity that the option was never even included on the ballot paper.
My old party, the Conservatives, paid lip service to localism, but did little beyond toying with these ideas. By not making the changes, they have rather lost the ability to shape the change when it happens. How very sad.
Herds of MPs and ministers are now wandering around Clacton. Balloons are being handed out. Local residents are being told, in friendly yet firm tones, that their views matter.
My own campaign team is made up of the "little platoons". Older folk from Holland-on-Sea take the bus to pick up leaflets. Sixth formers from Frinton put up window posters.
We seem to be holding our own against the big, corporate parties who have descended on us from Westminster. But we need more help. If you are reading this, and are a supporter, please come to Clacton this Saturday.
MPs in Westminster, as we all know, are beholden to their party whips. Whips decide who gets made a minister. They select who sits on various committees.
Yet the whip's power ultimately comes from their ability to remove the whip from an MP. Lose the whip, and unless you grovel and get it back, you forfeit the right to stand for your party.
But what if MPs could sack the whips, rather than whips sack MPs? Suddenly the whips might lose their ultimate sanction. Shock, horror – MPs might then begin to represent those that elected them, rather than do the whips bidding.
Come to Clacton – help take on the whips!
The jam making season in Essex is here again. I've not, alas, had much time to think about blackberries and pectin.
I have given a pot of last year's quince jelly to help raise funds for my new party at their conference in Doncaster. The label proudly says "Made in Essex".
The Scottish referendum campaign also seems to mark the moment when the whole of the United Kingdom at last woke up to a stark, uncomfortable possibility; perhaps that cozy, complacent clique in Westminster, whose business is to govern us, aren't that good at it?
Those in SW1 ignore big public policy questions for as long as possible. Then, when forced to, they make key decisions on the hoof. They fail to think things through. Tactics are mistaken for strategy.
Surely we can do better than this?
The past few days in Clacton feel unlike any campaign I've experienced before.
There is a freshness and enthusiasm in the air. As summer turns to autumn, there are hints that perhaps the political season is changing, too.
We've had to do a second print run of window posters to keep up with demand. Folk who would never previously have even considered voting Conservative are now cheerfully helping former Tory party members deliver leaflets calling for choice and competition in politics.
When I was first elected to Parliament in 2005, I was horrified to discover the extent to which Clacton's sea front had been neglected.
Maintaining the sea wall and beach had once been the responsibility of the old Clacton town and district council. During the out-of-season winter months, local building firms would be commissioned by the town council to repair and restore the sea wall and the beach groynes. The arrangements worked well.
Then, of course, Ted Heath restructured local government, abolishing the old town council. The old arrangements, like the rotting groynes, abandoned.
Slowly but surely the beach was washed away. The sea wall started to collapse. Holland-on-Sea was on track to become Holland-in-Sea.
Then in 2006 I called a meeting in the town hall, backed by the local beach hut owners and others. That led onto a meeting with ministers and Environment Agency. They eventually found the money.
Work began this summer on a £36 million project restore the sea front. It will give us some of the best beaches in England.
Talking of beaches, I found a fossilised shark's tooth on the beach at Walton on the Naze on Sunday. On a family walk with the dog, I at last spotted something I have been on the lookout for for years. They are not uncommon in these parts – but until Sunday I'd never managed to find one.
Still razor sharp, I held it in the palm of my hand contemplating the tens of millions of years that separate us from the fearsome creature that produced it. It puts certain things into perspective.
Thursday marks three weeks until polling day. The halfway point.
Perhaps it is a sign of middle age, or maybe it's just the sheer intensity of a by-election, but it can be exhausting. At the same time, I have found the past few days exhilarating. There is a massive appetite out there for real political change.
The big, corporate parties like to talk about election "battle grounds". They send out "battle buses" to fight them and coordinate it all from "war rooms".
Why such aggressive language? Politics ought to be an act of persuasion, not combat. To win an election you need to bring people together, no?
I suspect that the school boy language tell us about the school boy mind set of many of those that run the big political parties.
Here in Clacton we don't have a "war room". We have an open office, and we give people warm welcomes and big smiles.
I struggled to even get into my Clacton campaign office on Saturday. The crowd of people outside was so big, it took a while to get past all the handshakes and hellos.
Two hundred and fifty people came along to help me get my next leaflet out. A lady who had come on the bus from Frinton went off to do some leafleting with some lads who had come on a coach from Manchester. I feel humbled by all the help and warmth I have had from so many different people.
Over the past few decades, so many things have got so much better. Britain is more tolerant and open. Most people are for the most part more prosperous.
Medical advances mean we are living longer and healthier lives. There's more choice in the supermarkets. We can access our bank details from our own home. Instead of having to save up to phone relatives in Australia as a Christmas treat, we have facetime and skype.
Imagine if we were to have a little bit of change and choice when it comes to our politics?
UKIP is not an angry backlash against the modern world. Modernity has raised our expectations of how things could be.
I wrote a book – The End of Politics and the Birth of iDemocracy – setting out the sort of changes I would like to see to the way we do politics.
A local GP surgery had, until very recently, a single doctor trying to serve 8,000 patients. Predictably, the latter ended up having to compete to be seen be the former.
That meant pensioners in their 80's standing on a pavement, in the rain, at 8am trying to get an appointment. Disgraceful.
Having pressed local NHS bosses to act, there has been some improvement. But what riles me is the response from Whitehall. "Nothing to do with us, Guv" sums up their attitude.
If you can log in to your bank account on a mobile phone, surely it ought to be possible for people to get the health care they have a right to expect, without having to queue in the rain?
Who isn't being very modern, minister?
It is not true that our Clacton campaign office has now instigated a "Matthew Parris prize", awarded each day to the volunteer who delivers the most leaflets. That would be unkind.
Pride of place as you walk into our Clacton office is a quote by Mahatma Gandhi; "Happiness is when what you think, what you say and what you do are in harmony".
It's been quite a week. This time last Thursday I was pacing anxiously around St James' park, readying myself for the coming press conference. I'd decided to leave the Conservative Party and join Ukip.
Why? As I was about to tell the assembled throng, I no longer believe that the upper echelons of the party are serious about the change our country needs.
No one forced me to resign from Parliament and face a by-election. I just feel it's the decent thing to do. MPs should answer directly to those who elected them to Parliament. If I am going to make this move, I must get permission from folk in my part of Essex.
I walked into the press conference. Said what I believed. Things have been a bit full on ever since.
If I'd even the tiniest teeniest doubt about what I was doing, it disappeared the moment I got back to Clacton. Walking down Wellesley Road, I kept on hearing cars beeping. It took me a moment to realise that they were beeping me.
Lots of thumbs ups and grins. A van pulled up alongside and cheerfully asked why it had taken me "so b––––– long". When I opened my email inbox that evening, several hundred messages said much the same.
This isn't mainly about Europe. It's the failure to deliver meaningful political reform that drove me to do this. Read – if you can bear to – the Conservative Party's 2010 manifesto.
It's full of great ideas – which have not been implemented.
More localism, so locally elected councillors can decide on local planning. So why has a government official ignored what our local councillors decided, and imposed an extra 12,000 new houses on our area?
It promised to give local people the power to recall MPs and enable open primary candidate selection. Ministers stalled on recall, scuppering the idea over the summer. The last proper open primary – as opposed to an open meeting, or caucus- used to select a Conservative candidate was in 2009.
Politics is about cosy cliques. Too many MPs became MPs by working in the office of MPs. They answer to each other. We can change this, and we must.
I've made many wonderful new friends this week. Some wonderful people have dropped everything they were doing and rallied to help. I cannot thank them enough.
When we moved into our amazing new Campaign Office bang opposite Clacton railway station, dozens of people came to help.
It's the little things they do that touch me the most. A retired chap stopped me in the street, pressing a £20 note into my hand. "Here you are, Douglas. This is for your campaign."
My unofficial campaign HQ seems to have become McDonald's. When visiting journalists drop by, it's a great place to meet. And there's nothing quite like a McFlurry or a milkshake to keep the energy levels up.
Tory HQ is apparently briefing that I have misused data belonging to the Conservative party. This is simply not so.
Any data that I might have helped gather for the Conservative party while a member of the Conservative party is rightly property of the Conservative party and must remain so.
At no point in my campaign will I, or indeed, UKIP use any data obtained from the Conservative party or from Merlin. It is mischievous to suggest otherwise.
Remember the London Olympics a couple of years ago?
Okay, so I admit it, beforehand I'd been a little grouchy about the whole idea. But then I saw that amazing opening ceremony – wow! It blew me away. I was hooked.
Within a few days, like most people I knew, I felt I'd become an expert on sports I hardly knew existed previously.
But far more than that, the Olympics made me feel so good about our country. It seemed to show the world what we could be. We could do amazing things when we come together as one.
"It's the best moment of my life" explained Mo Farah. "This is my country and when I put on my Great Britain vest I'm proud." Me, too. I felt that intense pride in Mo Farah, Jessica Ennis and our other athletes, too. I also felt pride in the Olympic volunteers, welcoming visitors to London.
I found myself falling into conversations with perfect strangers about it all.
So why can't we feel that way about our country all the time? Why can't we feel that sunshine can-do, instead of the drip-drip pessimism?
Because of the way our country is run. Our politics is dominated by politicians. It's all about them, not the people they are supposed to answer too.
Things don't have to be this way. We can change things.
All of the major challenges we need to deal with together as a country – improving the NHS, reforming the banks, controlling our borders, changing our relationship with Europe, sorting out our public finances – we can sort out. We can make this country so much better.
But we will only be able to make them better if we have a government that answers to Parliament, and a Parliament accountable to the people. Politics must be more than a competition between two cliques to sit on the same sofa.
And that means real, meaningful political reform. I'm up for it. If you are too, pop into my office in Clacton - bang opposite the station .... I need your help!
For some people, it's the fact they can't get to see a local GP in Frinton and Walton. For other it's the way remote officials insisted our local council accept a further 12,000 new houses.
Others are concerned about benefit migration into Clacton. And the spate of knife crime in the town centre. And the decision by remote officials to switch off our street lights.
All of these problems can be fixed. But they can only be addressed if we have meaningful political reform. Those who make public policy must be made accountable to the public.
Until government answers to Parliament, and Parliament answers to the people, we will never get a government that is on our side.
Too many decisions are made by little cliques in London. No one seems to want to take responsibility. When things go wrong
they hide behind process and procedure.
I didn't have to resign to fight this by election. But I believe that I owe it to local people here in our corner of Essex.
You - not David Cameron - are my boss. I really meant it in my regular newsletters when I said that I answer directly to you!
There is nothing we can't achieve in Clacton or this country – but only if we have real political change. Those that make public policy must be made accountable to the public.
My new office opens at the Station Road / Carnavon Road junction in Clacton today. I'll be there. Please pop in to help our local team make the change – and help us make Clacton make history!
I'm today leaving the Conservative party and joining UKIP.
This hasn't been an easy decision.
I've been a member of the Conservative party for all my adult life. It's full of wonderful people who want the best for Britain.
My local Conservative Association in Clacton is thriving. It brims with those that I am honoured to call my friends.
The problem is that many of those at the top of the Conservative party aren't on our side. They aren't serious about the changes that Britain desperately needs.
Of course, they talk the talk before elections. They say what they feel they must say when they want our support.
But on so many issues – modernising our politics and the recall of MPs, controlling our borders, less government, bank reform, cutting public debt, an EU referendum – they never actually make it happen.
All three of the older parties seem the same. They've swathes of safe seats. They're run by those who became MPs by working in the offices of MPs. They use pollsters to tell them what to tell us.
Politics to them is about politicians like them. It's a game of spin and positioning.
First under Tony Blair, then Gordon Brown, now David Cameron, it's all about the priorities of whichever tiny clique happens to be sitting on the sofa in Downing Street. Different clique, same sofa.
Few are animated by principle or passion. Those that are soon get shuffled out of the way. Many are just in it for themselves. They seek every great office, yet believe in so little.
Only UKIP can change this. Only UKIP can shake up the cozy little clique called Westminster.
I'm joining UKIP not because I am a conservative who hankers after the past. I want change. Things can be better than this.
I am an optimist. Britain's a better place than it was when I was born in the early 1970s.
We're more open and tolerant. We're, for the most part, more prosperous. More people are free to grow up and live as they want to live than ever before.
As the father of a young daughter, I've come to appreciate what feminism's achieved. Most girls growing up in Britain today will have better life chances than before thanks to greater equality.
There's been a revolution in attitudes towards disabled people.
What was once dismissed as "political correctness gone mad", we recognise as good manners. Good.
So much about Britain is so much better. Except when it comes to how we do politics.
UKIP is not an angry backlash against the modern world. Modernity has raised our expectations of how things could be.
We need change.
People have a right to expect a government that gets the basics right.
In a world of 24 hours supermarkets and instant access everything, it ought to be possible to make an appointment to see a GP. Yet in my Essex constituency patients have to literally stand in line and wait. They have to compete to been seen by doctors.
There is an alphabet soup of NHS quangos supposed to be in charge. But who takes responsibility?
People have a right to expect the government to control who crosses our borders. Tens of thousands of Londoners log in and log out of the London underground each day. Yet the government just wasted another £224 million on a system that failed to log people in and out as they cross our borders.
On the subject of immigration, let me make it absolutely clear; I'm not against immigration. The one thing more ugly that nativism is angry nativism.
Just like Australia or Switzerland, we should welcome those that want to come here to contribute. We need those with skills and drive. There's hardly a hospital, GP surgery or supermarket in the country that could run without that skill and drive. Real leadership would make this clear.
We should speak with pride and respect about first generation Britons.
But like Australia, we ought to have the right to decide who comes.
Ministers promised us a great Freedom Bill, which was going to repeal all that unnecessary red tape. It never seemed to
Ministers promised us real bank reform. They only seemed to tinker.
They don't think things through. They make one glib announcement after another – and then move on. On to the next speech. The next announcement. The next headline.
They promised to cut the public debt. In just five years of this government, public debt will increase by more than it did during thirteen years of Gordon Brown.
Clever word play about debt and the deficit doesn't conceal that fact that we're still having to borrow over £100 billion a year – and even then government is not getting the basics right.
We need change.
People have a right to expect a government that answers to Parliament, and a Parliament that's accountable to the people.
All three parties went into the last election promising to give local people a right to recall their MP. The Coalition agreement promised a system of open primaries, to throw politics open to those beyond SW1.
None of it has happened. The whips spent the summer trying to undermine Zac Goldsmith's proposals for real recall. They're really not serious about real change.
We need change in our relationship with Europe.
When we joined what was to become the European Union all those years ago, we imagined we would be joining a prosperous trading block. In the early 1970s, it accounted for almost 40 percent of world economic output.
Today it accounts for a mere 25 percent. In a decade, its expected to be down to 15 percent.
Far from growing, the European Union has grown sclerotic. Indeed, it's the one continent on the planet that isn't growing.
Even a decade ago, we were told that we had to join the Euro because it would raise our output. It would bring prosperity.
Looking across the channel, no one seriously argues that any more.
Yet who in Westminster – who amongst our so-called leaders – is prepared to envisage real change?
To be fair, over the past four years ministers have at times done the right thing about Europe. They vetoed a treaty change. They refused any budget increase. And of course they agreed to an In / Out vote.
But on each occasion they only did the right thing because they had been forced to by their own side. On each occasion, they had instructed their own MPs on a three line whip to support the wrong thing.
With an election approaching, ministers most Eurosceptic boasts are about things they know that they were pushed into doing. It's not leadership. They've not serious about real change. They're only interested in holding office.
No one cheered David Cameron more loudly at the time of his Bloomberg speech, when he finally accepted the case for a referendum. He would, he claimed, negotiate a fundamentally new relationship with the EU, and put it to the people in 2017; In or Out.
But there's been no detail since. That's because there isn't any. Again, they've not thought it through.
Ministers have specifically ruled out a trade-only arrangement with the EU. The Prime Minister said so specifically at a meeting of the 1922. It won't even be on the table.
His advisers have made it clear they won't contemplate any deal with UKIP. They're more comfortable doing deals with Nick Clegg than with a party that wants real change in our relations with the EU.
His advisers have made it clear that they seek a new deal that gives them just enough to persuade enough voters to vote to stay in. It's not about change in our national interest. It's all about not changing things.
Once I realised that, my position in the Conservative party became untenable.
There is a world of change and opportunity out there. Tens of millions of people have been lifted out of poverty within my life time. There is a growing middle class in India, China and elsewhere.
Our future prosperity rest on being able to produce things that those millions of new consumers want.
Ministers are simply not up to giving us the kind of realignment that we need.
It is not enough that I leave the Conservative party and join UKIP.
As someone who has always answered directly to independent-minded Essex folk, there is only one honourable thing to do.
I must seek permission from my boss - the people of Clacton. I will now resign from Parliament, and stand for UKIP in the by election that must follow.
I don't have to do this. It would have been easy for me to have muddled along comfortably as a backbench MP. There are all too many who enjoy that convenient life. But that's not the sort of person I am.
I stood for Parliament in the first place because I believe in certain things. I still do. With greater determination than ever.
I just happen to know that principle in politics is more important than the career of an individual MP – even if that MP happens to be me.
Things don't have to be this way. I'll be asking the voters of Essex to help me bring change. Let's do this together. Let's see if we can make history.
Thank you. I must now return to Clacton to prepare for what is to come.
It's quite something when Gordon Brown's former spin doctor, Damian McBride, attacks you as a Labour party leader for being ..... well ... a bit .... pointless.
After years of coveting the top in 10 Downing Street, Gordo was infamous for not really knowing what to do with it. Having finally prised Tony Blair out the door, Brown muttered something about values. Grinned foolishly on youtube. Wandered around Suffolk on his summer holidays pretending to enjoy it. And then lost the subsequent election.
No one really seemed to know what a Gordon Brown premiership was for, least of all himself.
Miliband's policies by contrast are a "great, steaming pile of fudge", says McBride.
Worse, the coterie that surrounds him are "dysfunctional". Perhaps that means that when they throw Nokia's at one another the way Gordo was alleged to have done, they keep missing?
It's not just McBride who doesn't think Ed Miliband is up for it. According to this rather amusing website, www.JustNotUpToIt.com , dozens of Labour party members across the country are starting to ask what Ed Miliband is for.
"This is all just Westminster bubble silly season stuff" various left leaning pundits will say. "Its childish and puts people off politics" they will sternly inform us. "Time to focus on the real issues"
I'm not so sure. I have just spent the past week going from door to door in one of the more Labour leaning wards in my part of Essex. If there was one constant that keeps coming up its doubts about Ed Miliband from once Labour leaning voters.
No. I wasn't able to tell them what Ed's about either.
They won't like it at the Foreign Office. Not only has the new Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, given a straight answer to a straight question. He's said that he would be prepared to vote to leave the EU if things don't change.
Hammond is not just the first Foreign Secretary to say that exit is an option. Hammond has made it clear that the current terms of our EU membership are not in our interest.
There could be some interesting conversations with the Sir Humphrey's in his department this morning. It will be interesting to see if Hammond remains resolute, or if he begins to buckle to the views to the big Whitehall bureaucracy.
Ever since David Cameron announced plans for an in/out referendum in 2017, our Foreign Office has followed what you might call the "Wilson strategy". That is to say they intended to engineer a bogus renegotiation, like Harold Wilson in the 1970s. The Prime Minister, they hoped, could then wave this new deal at the public in 2017 – and then persuade them to vote to stay In.
At the same time, Britain's permanent representative in Brussels – Ukrep – has organised meetings for Tory MPs in Brussels, Paris and elsewhere to try to soften their Euroscepticism. Mixed results, apparently.
The failure to block the appointment of Jean Claude Juncker has caused real alarm in King Charles street. Stopping him was a key part of the Wilson strategy. "Look! We blocked that unreconstructed federalist! We can get a new deal", they wanted ministers to be able to say.
For the Wilson strategy to work, our government needs partners willing to go along with the smoke and mirrors trick. But by 26 to 2, the rest of the EU showed that they are not even willing to pretend to make concessions.
Philip Hammond's position has now become the default position for most Tory MPs: vote to leave, unless there is a substantially new deal.
Hammond, like most, is a little vague about the detail in any new deal. The Prime Minister has already specifically ruled out a Swiss type of trade only arrangement. Indeed, Mr Cameron has made it clear that he is not even seeking arrangements that would apply distinctively to Britain, but rule changes applicable to all.
Great. As Hammond says, without substantive change, the chances of exit grow. The longer there is a lack of detail about any new deal, the more mainstream the out option becomes.
This article first appear for the Telegraph.
With the reshuffle over, we now have in place the Tory team to take us into the next election. Good. But what about policy?
Attention will begin to turn to the manifesto this summer. Here are a few suggestions as to what we might put in it:
Education: The next Conservative manifesto should promise to give every parent a legal right to request and receive control over their child's share of local authority education funding.
If you are happy with the education your child is getting, fine – carry on. If not, you should be able to ask the state to give you direct control of your child's pot of money, and spend it at a school that is able to give your child an education that you are happy with. Think of it as self-commissioning, but for schools.
No, parents would not be able to fritter away the money on something other than education, since the pot of money could only be redeemed by an approved school. No, it would not mean subsidies for private school fees, since those paying top tax rates would be exempt.
Michael Gove's reforms have done a brilliant job of widening the supply of education. Now let's free up the demand. It is absurd and antiquated that we allocate school places using catchment areas. Give mums and dads real control – unless of course you don't trust them, the way one or two patrician Tories once argued that council tenants could not be trusted to own their homes...
Health: Patients need a legal right to control access to their own medical records. Don't try to build a giant, government-designed mainframe database. Don't require folk happy with how things are to change. Simply allow those who want to access their medical data digitally a right to do so.
The impact of this would be massive. GPs might have to compete for their patients, rather than patients compete to see a GP as currently happens. This idea is so Right-wing that even Labour's Ian Austin wants it in his party's manifesto.
Europe: Of course we Conservatives will give a manifesto commitment to an In/Out referendum in 2017. But how about making sure it is a choice between two known options?
The current Scottish referendum campaign strikes me as a contest between two unknowns – the blank slate of independence versus a vague sense of devo-max. Not a great template, I'd suggest.
The party needs to make a manifesto commitment to offer voters a choice between In (meaning David Cameron's new deal – or not so new deal) versus Out (meaning good relations with the EU as good neighbours – free trade et al). The manifesto should be the place to flesh out the two alternatives, giving voters some sense of what In or Our would look like.
After the frustration of coalition, drafting the manifesto could prove rather invigorating.
Could there possibly be a worse way to run our railways?
The companies that operate the trains are all private businesses. But the entity that supplies the operators with the track on which to run their trains – Network Rail – is a government-backed monopoly.
This means that the former are utterly dependent on the latter. Yet the latter seems to have few incentives to raise its game.
In my corner of Essex, we have seen a series of unacceptable cock-ups in recent weeks. Weekend engineering work overruns into Monday morning, resulting in cancellations during peak commuting times. Over-head lines that ought to have been maintained properly have apparently not been maintained properly, resulting in massive delays.
Of course, everyone understands that accidents happen from time to time. And when they do there is no one more stoic and understanding than the British rail commuter. But it is a sense of serial incompetence that is really starting to get people's back up.
At the same time, public attitudes are shifting. Modernity has elevated people's expectations of what good customer service looks like. Folk simply aren't prepared to be fobbed off by big corporations who fail to deliver like they might have been in the past. "Why do the signals keep failing?", a fellow commuter recently asked
Network Rail is supposed to maintain a railway network for a living. It is what it does. Yet time and again they seem pretty hopeless at it. They have a board of grandees that oversee it, but who is there to speak up for the customers.
"Re-nationalise it!" one of my constituents suggested. Part of the problem, surely, is that Network Rail is already a de facto nationalised entity. It is backed by taxpayer cash and has little incentive to respond better to its customers. I am not convinced that ministers running the railways would make things better.
I am not sure what the answer is, but the current corporatist configuration is simply not good enough.
The OECD famously failed to foresee the financial crisis of 2008-09. That has not stopped this Paris-based think tank from publishing a report telling us what the world economy is going to look like in 2060.
According to the OECD, there will be less growth, more inequality, and lots of jobs are going to disappear.
If that wasn't bad enough, Channel 4's Paul Mason has now written a piece suggesting that the doomsters at the OECD are being hopelessly optimistic. Things, he suggests, will be even worse.
We should take this all with a large pinch of salt.
To be sure, many jobs will disappear over the next fifty years, just as lots of jobs disappeared over the previous fifty years. They will tend to be the more repetitive, menial ones, and they will generally be replaced with more interesting ones.
Many more people in 2060 may indeed be working part time. But that is because they will earn more for doing less.
Seen from the perspective of a dawn-to-dusk farm labourer in the nineteenth century, today's work patterns, with seven-hour shifts and two-day weekends, must seem pretty part time. And a very good thing too.
Far from slowing down, I suspect that growth will speed up. The internet will make us more interconnected, allowing ideas and innovation to happen faster. The network of specialisation and exchange that drives human progress will be even greater.
Far from being less equal, many of the barriers to individual success are starting to come tumbling down. Elite university courses, once the preserve of a privileged few, will be available online to the masses. Access to capital, without which would be entrepreneurs cannot succeed, is becoming ever easier.
Specialist knowledge, once the preserve of the powerful, is a mouse click away. Thanks to solar and shale gas, energy costs in 2060 will, I suspect, be a whole lot lower.
Paul Mason claims that the best of capitalism is over. What capitalism? Today we have a system of crony corporatism masquerading as the free market. It is about to get blown away by the real thing. A system of capitalism under which anyone can own the means of production, distribution and capital.
The world in 2060 will as a consequence be much more prosperous, better educated and more equal. Folk will have much more leisure time and vastly higher living standards.
One thing perhaps that won't survive is the twentieth century Western model of big government knows best that gave rise to today's creeking corporatism. But that really is about the one thing left that is holding us – or at least the Western part of humankind – back.
It's no way to run a country. After reading the same sort of degrees at similar Oxbridge colleges, many MPs become MPs having worked in the offices of MPs. Selected for a safe seat, they then sit on the front bench – and prepare to govern us.
Many of those at the giddy heights of SW1 politics have got there without ever personally having had to depend on winning over swing voters in marginal seats. And it shows.
The ethos of Westminster today is that MPs answer to one another, not outwardly to the voters. Promotion comes by regurgitating the established line, not by challenging it.
Fundamental questions go unanswered because no one seems to even ask the question.
"At what point", wrote Charles Moore, recently "does the freedom to borrow, so necessary for wealth-generation, go too far?" Six years on from a financial crisis created by unrestrained fractional reserve banking, no answer. No solution. No fresh thinking. The candy floss credit machine simply revs up again.
"How can public services", he continues, "replicate the degree of choice and personal attention that a market-based culture has come to expect?" No one in SW1 is looking to give us playlists for our own personalised public services.
When I first arrived in the Commons, I assumed that somewhere across the road in Whitehall would be rooms full of wise, cool-headed experts. After considering important public policy issues from every angle, they would then present their recommendations.
Now I realise it's more like the Wizard of Oz. Draw back the curtain and you find a rather befuddled, middle-aged man (it usually is a man) making it up as he goes along. On everything from energy policy to overseas aid, public policy is made on the basis of ingrained departmental assumptions that are often years out of date.
Our system of democracy isn't working. On everything from EU policy to defence procurement, it has a Byzantine capacity to stifle essential reform and reinforce failure.
It wasn't always like this.
In 2014 many more people – thankfully – have the right to vote than they did in, say, 1914. But that does not necessarily mean we have become more democratic. Many more have the right to vote, but the ability of those with votes to hold those with power to account has steadily diminished.
A hundred years ago, it was not simply MPs who decided which MPs got promoted. If your local MP was appointed to the government, they had to resign their seat, come back to the constituency and get your permission in a by election for them to join the government.
There were no A list party favorites and think tankers, to be parachuted into safe seats. Until remarkably recently, candidates were selected by genuinely autonomous, mass membership branches.
Until the 1930s, those we elected decided how much the government spent. MPs could table amendments to the budget. Since then, MPs are only allowed to rubber stamp what Treasury officials have decided – and government largesse with taxpayer money has increased dramatically.
If we are to be well governed again, we need profound, far-reaching change. Government needs to be made accountable to Parliament, and those who sit in Parliament must be made properly answerable to the people.
Lots of voters are angry and disconnected, according to Labour's Chuka Umunna, because they can't send emails and have no idea how to use the internet. These techno-illiterates would feel a lot less alienated, continued the sage of Streatham, if only they had better digital skills.
Chuka has it 180 degrees wrong. Many of the angriest, most alienated voters that I've come across feel that way precisely because of time spent online.
Firstly, the internet has democratised opinion forming. Instead of a small clique of BBC-type pundits telling folk what to think, people can now source comment and opinion from blogs and Twitter. This has left many voters feeling a lot less deferential towards smug opinion formers – and their smug, self-satisfied opinions.
Voter dissatisfaction is a product of modernity, not a rejection of it. If you are used to the idea of Tesco being open 24 hours a day, you feel less than happy about GP services that shut at the weekend.
As more people do more things online as part of their everyday life, public attitudes and expectations are beginning to shift. Once you are used to things being hyper-personalised around you and your requirements, as they are online, you feel a little underwhelmed by politicians offering you nothing but generic public services offline.
If millions of commuters are able to log in and log out of London's transport network each week, you might start to ask – as one of my constituents did recently – why no government is able to log people in and out when they cross our borders.
If you listen to music through Spotify, self-selection starts to feel like the norm. So what are you to make of a political party that imposes candidates and shortlists on you?
What are you to think about a political system that produces identikit candidates, who speak and think in cliché?
Far from being a rejection of modern Britain, voter disillusionment arises out of a sense of how else things might be. It is precisely because more voters are plugged in to the modern world online that they are feeling disillusioned with the retro offering from Chuka and co in SW1.
The internet has not cut voters off from politics, but politicians off from voters.
It looks as if it might be Jean-Claude Juncker after all. Despite the best efforts of Downing Street to block his appointment as next President of the European Commission, I reckon that next week this uber-federalist is going to get confirmed in the role.
Not since Jacques Delors will we have had a head of the Commission so personally, and explicitly, committed to the grand project of European integration.
What might be the consequences?
David Cameron opposed Juncker on the basis that he is "a face from the Eighties", unsuited to reform. Indeed. If the face from the Eighties gets the job, the chances of there being any serious efforts to tackle Euro-sclerosis or the growing political disaffection spreading across the continent are pretty much nil.
I doubt there would even be the sort of token reforms – minor concessions on who can claim benefits, lip service to national parliaments – that the Foreign Office has been angling for.
Having Juncker in the role will make it harder for the Whitehall establishment to concoct some sort of bogus new deal in order to try to hoodwink the public in the 2017 referendum. Which would be a good thing.
Juncker is such a committed federalist, he would do almost anything to preserve his grand project. Even if that means letting Britain go. Indeed, he has already hinted at giving the British some sort of associate, trade-only membership. That might terrify the political tribe in SW1, but not the folk in Essex.
Juncker getting the top job in Brussels will be a wake-up call in Whitehall. Having cheerfully signed away the right to decide who becomes the Commission President in the Lisbon treaty, only now have ministers and mandarins woken up to the implications. "Did we really agree to that?" one can hear officials saying. "Cripes!"
Almost 20 years ago, John Major vetoed the appointment of Jean Luc Dehaene as Commission president. Today, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom no longer has the power to do even that. This is what surrendering your sovereignty feels like, chaps. Not nice, eh?
A Juncker win next week makes it clearer than ever that we need a coherent Europe strategy. For too long Europe policy has been all tactics; Turning up to Brussels ready to cut a deal with the French president over financial services regulation, but ending up vetoing a treaty when he wouldn't play ball. And then pretending that was your intention all along.
Opposing an EU budget only after losing a Commons vote. Saying you want less Europe, but then opting back into the European Arrest Warrant. Saying you don't want Juncker, but not lining up an alternative candidate. Saying you want a new deal, but not spelling out any meaningful details.
We need not only a strategy, but strategists. Too many of those officials in Downing Street, the Foreign Office and the Cabinet Office that I have come across are too clever by half. All tactics, they lack any sense of strategy. They are federalist to their fingertips.
If Juncker gets the job, it might be time to ... you know ... appoint some officials who have a sense of Britain's national interest. And who can talk about us having a distinctive national interests without rolling their eyes and smirking? Yes, "cripes!" indeed.
It was only when I discovered how to order contact lenses online that I realised what a bad deal I had been getting previously from my optician. Once a little bit of choice and competition came along, the terms of trade between punter and provider changed.
So, too, in politics.
For years, we have had two (and a half) providers in politics. This meant that politics was played out as a game between politicians.
Those wanting to win elections did not have to ask what was right or what was in the national interest. Instead, they only needed to ask where they stood in relation to the other side. It was all about positioning – preferably as close to the middle ground as possible, but just short of where the other lot stood.
The two and a half parties came to be seen as pretty indistinguishable to many outside Westminster.
Now it seems that some in SW1 are starting to wake up and recognise that the two and half providers – rather like my old optician – haven't really been serving the punters as well as they might have.
With all that emphasis on a tiny number of swing seats, a large swathe of the electorate has come to feel neglected. All that clever-dick positioning has left many wondering what the parties really stand for. The subjects and values that animate the SW1 tribe might not, it seems, do it for all the folk beyond.
These voters – the great ignored – might be angry, but they are not, in my experience, reactionary. In fact, many seem up for some far more profound change than anyone in Westminster is willing to contemplate.
At a community supper in Clacton the other evening (full to capacity, organised entirely online) people were anything but anti-modern. On the contrary, they wanted to know why we manage to have 24 hour super markets, yet they can't get to see a GP when they need one.
Far from being ill at ease with the world, they wanted to know what was keeping public services and the politicians behind.
"Millions of commuters use oyster cards each day to log in and log out", said one. "The system knows who they are and has all their details". "So why", he continued, "can't the government keep track of people, logging them in and out, when they cross our borders?"
Many of the most politically disaffected seem that way precisely because modernity has raised their expectations of how things might be. It is the full-time politicians that have failed to keep up. Anyone who thinks that it is the voters fault for losing touch with politicians, rather than the other way round, has spent too long in SW1.
If the great ignored are at times a little pessimistic, whose fault is that? Where are the Clement Attlees, the Margaret Thatchers and Ronald Reagans showing them the sunlit uplands?
In her speech today, Her Majesty the Queen announced a recall Bill. This could have been the most significant change in decades to the way that Britain does politics.
For far too long, politics in Westminster has been done for us by a clique of career MPs, most of who come from "safe seats". Secure in the knowledge they can only be sacked if they lose the party whip, most MPs tend to answer primarily to other MPs. Politics in SW1 has thus become a game played by politicians and pundits, without much reference to the people.
Recall ought to overturn this cosy way of doing things. It's wildly popular: over 150,000 people signed up to 38 Degrees' superb campaign within the first two days. (Please add your name here.)
Recall could make the customer – rather than the whips' office – king. But will it?
I suspect that when we see the small print, it won't actually mean more direct democracy.
The SW1 gang, terrified of the implications of letting the people back into politics, will ensure that the trigger for any recall mechanism remains safely in their hands. Local people will only be allowed to vote to confirm what political insiders have decided.
Done properly, recall must be triggered by local voters, not a committee of Westminster grandees. And it must also involve an actual recall ballot – should your local MP be recalled, yes or no?
We trust juries to decide if someone has broken the law, rather than pass a verdict on whether they agree with the law. Similarly, recall means trusting local constituents to decide if the behaviour and conduct of their own MP is acceptable, not if they happened to vote for them last time round.
It is a sad reflection of our political system today that so many in Westminster balk at the very idea of allowing their electorate to make that kind of decision. I suspect most MPs would get a fairer hearing from their constituents than they ever would from a committee stuffed full of whips'-office placemen, under pressure from the lobby pack in full hunt mode.
Giving local people the power to recall their representatives, it is sometimes said, would lead to vexatious attempts to unseat MPs. What makes you think SW1 insiders cannot be vexatious?
Local people would be far better at deciding what was and what was not a legitimate complaint about their local MP. When the Tories triggered a judicially sanctioned recall ballot in Winchester in 1997, it backfired spectacularly. Seen as sore losers, they managed to turn a Lib Dem majority of almost zero into a Lib Dem majority of over 20,000.
"I can't see the point of recall," scoff some pundits who have rarely spotted a swing voter in a marginal seat either. "What we should really be focusing on is whether Boodle will be promoted in the reshuffle rather than Doodle. And what was on the menu when the PM and the German Chancellor met for lunch?"
We Conservatives have long understood the importance of choice and competition in business. I fear we have missed a chance to extend that same principle to politics.
How many times have we heard it from the Europhiles? Britain must be in the EU so that we can trade freely. The case for Britain's EU membership, say the fed heads, is built on trade and investment.
But then look at what they do in practice.
When an actual case of free investment comes along – Pfizer wanting to buy AstraZeneca – the Europhile mob suddenly go all protectionists.
Listening to MPs in the House of Commons debating the deal, I was struck that it wasn't we Better Off Outers demanding that Britain pull up the draw bridge. It was Vince Cable, Ed Miliband and Chuka Umunna.
"We have to protect British jobs" declare Europhiles who have spent decades telling us that they support the free movement of people. "We must not let R&D move abroad", screeched those that tell us we need open borders.
Last week we could see Europhiles for what they really are: economic nativists. British ownership, implied these little Englanders, must somehow be inherently superior for the UK economy.
Of course it is nationalist nonsense to believe that just become something is owed by British investors, rather than US, German or Indian ones, it will be better run. See the amazing success story that is Jaguar Landrover.
Europhiles talk free trade but act protectionist. Don't expect the BBC or the FT to point out this glaring corporatist inconsistency any time soon.
The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, which we are starting to hear so much about, is not really about free trade and investment at all. It is about giving people like Vince, Ed and Chuka more power to intervene and meddle in people's lives.
Next time you hear a politician telling you we need to be in the EU to benefit from a Transatlantic trade deal, ask them why they did not speak up in favour of free investment when it came to Pfizer?
Each time you do a Google search, who is it that you are asking?
Perhaps you imagine you are drawing down information stored and catalogued by Google on some giant database. Not really. Each time you google, you aren't asking Google, you are asking everybody else.
When you google, you are skimming the views of thousands – maybe tens of thousands – of people like you. Think of it as a market place, with the relative weight and prominence of what crops up largely determined organically, by the online community.
To be sure, as in any market, some will try to rig it. Search engine optimisation firms manipulate the search algorithms for their advantage. But the non sponsored links that appear when you do a Google search more or less reflects what fellow web users think. It's a product of organic design, not central cataloguing.
This did not stop the European court yesterday ruling that Google must be held responsible for what appears about each of us. We have, say the Euro judges, a "right to be forgotten".
"Bravo!" you say "A victory for the individual against the Google machine!"
Except it isn't. It is the precise opposite.
The Euro court ruling means that Google must remove links that appear even if the links are to data that is 100 percent accurate. That means you will no longer be free to read things that are correct and true.
Who do you imagine will benefit from that? You or the politicians and the powerful?
I can think of several politicos who might already be penning their demands to Google to have them make sure no embarrassing references to their past crop up. Google might be made to remove any reference to that awkward criminal conviction thingy. Or perhaps the Lib Dems will ask them to remove any of those annoying references to any pre election promises.
Insisting that Google manipulate search engine results to remove embarrassing facts is a bit like the demand that producers only charge a "fair price". It sounds superficially attractive.
But of course a price is normally an expression of what other folk like you are willing to pay. And what appears onGoogle is normally a reflection of what people like you, not any techno geeks in California, are thinking.
The Euro court ruling is techno illiterate and a threat to the free market in ideas that the internet gives us.
We are all familiar with the story of the printing press. While the elites in Ming China and the Ottoman Empire restricted its use, the same thing could not happen in Europe. With no central political authority, there was no Euro officialdom to inhibit the application of the new technology.
Now, of course, Europe does have central political authority. And they are beginning to seriously restrict the application of new technology.
It is all so un-Conservative and illiberal. Yet the Conservative-Liberal Coalition is allowing it to happen.
Tax officials are about to be given automatic powers to take money from your bank account, if you don't pay what they feel you owe them. Thank goodness for Andrew Tyrie and his select committee for taking the Treasury to task over it.
No doubt we'll be told these powers will only be used in extreme cases: "When dealing with fraudsters or organised criminals, you understand." Don't you believe it.
My surgeries are regularly visited by ordinary folk who are on the receiving end of HM Revenue and Customs incompetence – I've yet another one due in later today.
We are told that money will only be taken from people's bank accounts if they fail to respond to multiple demands for payment. I wonder if that applies to the constituent of mine who has regularly – and incorrectly –been sent demands for thousands of pounds he is supposed to owe in VAT. He has never run any sort of business in his life.
Given that HMRC freely admits that millions of people are routinely charged the wrong amount of tax, surely it would be insane to give them the power of what they call "direct recovery".
If the taxman believes he is owed money from someone who is refusing to pay, he should do what everybody else does and seek a court order. As with the BBC and their licence fee, we should strongly object to giving semi-official agencies privileged rights to demand payments from people. There was a time when most liberals and Conservatives – and indeed liberal Conservatives – would have understood all this automatically.
What I find extraordinary about this whole sorry saga was the response from the Treasury yesterday: we need to "reduce the deficit so that we deal with our debts. It is therefore important that people pay the tax they owe on time."
I am sure that the Emperor Commodus, whose extravagance and waste left Rome bankrupt, might have said much the same. Public debt back then was caused not by the pesky people failing to hand over their cash fast enough, but by his propensity to spend.
What the Treasury's response really tells us is who is in change. We are no longer governed by executive organizations, in accordance with predetermined rules set down by Parliament, and able to seek redress from courts when we feel those rules have been set aside. We are increasingly run by an "extra executive" state. Quangocrats at HMRC write the rules and act as final judge, jury and bailiff. Accountability through ministers in Parliament becomes a fiction.
And we wonder why the fire of anti-politics burns ever more fiercely.
Help for Heroes sold hundreds of cakes on Christmas Tree Island in the centre of Clacton to raise funds for injured service men and women.
I turned up to show support - and scoffed lots of cake!
Three cheers to Paul Ballard, Help for Heroes local organiser, and his magnificent team!
Also attending was the Only Cowards Carry Knives team, and their cookie monster.
I bought a Help for Heroes hat, which I shall use when gardening.
I know that Tory backbenchers like me are supposed to be pessimists. We're meant believe that the glass is half empty. But it isn't. Life today is so much better than before.
Since 1971, the year I was born, Britain has become a far more open, tolerant and interesting place to be.
We're almost all materially better off. In the early '70s the average household spent around a quarter of their disposable income on food. It's down to 15 percent now. And it's much better food, too.
Back on the 1980s, families once saved up in order to be able to spend a few precious minutes talking to relatives on the phone in Australia at Christmas. Today we have Skype.
We have much more entertainment. Instead of having to make do with three or four TV channels, we have iPlayer and Spotify.
Even the little things seem so much better designed these days. Suitcases now come with wheels (why did no one think of that when I was dragging luggage around as a kid?). Tin openers mean you can now open tins without having to lift the jaggedy lid with your finger tips.
For years Conservatives have lamented social breakdown. Modernity, we told ourselves, was leaving society atomised and fragmented.
Not any more. Social media, and sites like streetlife.com are weaving a new social tapestry. Local online communities are springing up, introducing neighbour to neighbour. (I know because I have witnessed it first hand in my Clacton constituency, and it is magnificent) We're becoming richer in a civic, not merely a material sense.
Britain isn't going to the dogs. In fact, thanks to better nutrition and veterinary care, even our pets are living longer.
But there's one area where things have not improved quite so dramatically. And they are the things run by government.
We might have 24 hour supermarkets, but it is still impossible for most people to see a GP at a weekend or evening. Your children might have a Spotify playlist at home, but there is not enough personalised learning in schools that adhere to a top down curriculum.
Government isn't just bad at customer service. Government often makes things worse.
New technologies, such as solar and shale gas, ought to have reduced the cost of energy. Instead, thanks to ham-fisted intervention by government, we are subsidising medieval windmill technology and 1950s nuclear technology - and pushing up the price of electricity.
Instead of letting us enjoy an abundance of cheaper air travel, government taxes it, and at the same time manages to faff around, creating bottle necks of indecision where airports ought to be.
Perhaps government hasn't got much better for the simple reason that our political system hasn't changed? With seven out of ten Parliamentary seats a 'safe seat', MPs aren't as responsive to the taxpayer as they ought to be.
Britain would be even better if we had the kind of choice and competition when it comes to choosing our politicians as we take for granted elsewhere.
US company Pfizer wants to give £50 to anyone in Britain who owns a share in UK pharmaceutical business AstraZeneca, in return for said share.
Is this a good deal? I think we ought to leave it to those that own the shares to decide. According to to latest reports, AstraZenca's board does not think it a good deal. But we shall have to see if the folk that own the company concur.
What is not right is that it should be for people like Lord Heseltine to have the final say.
Having got so many of the big macro questions of the 1980s and 1990s wrong (Industrial policy, Westlands, the Tory leadership, joining the euro) Lord H was back on the air waves the other day explaining why this takeover was a bad deal for Britain.
I am not sure we would want to live in a country in which politicians decide what works. I can't help notice that in all the time Hezza has been in public life, it's the things not run by politicians that have got vastly better. It's the things run by politicos that aren't up to scratch: think coal mines, think NHS.
It is not, after all, Britain that owns AstraZeneca, but the shareholders. Many of whom are British. What the protectionists want is the power to stop those that own the business from selling it. Should we let them?
The UK overall is a massive beneficiary from the free movement of capital. Think of the UK car industry, and how it has massively gained from all that foreign investment and take overs? Since an Indian firm took over Jaguar Landrover, it's started to sell overseas successfully again.
And what about the foreign takeover of UK shoe manufacturers? Twenty years ago, shoe firms were on their knees. Today UK shoe companies export more shoes to China than ever.
Would the protectionists have prevented that too? No one could have foreseen the British successes that overseas investment and acquisition produced.
Pundits complain that this takeover will harm UK research and development. They ignore the fact that the reason why Cambridge and others have become global leaders in technology is precisely because they are open – to foreign money, investment, ideas and – yes – people.
Plenty of respectable pundits like to sneer at Ukip immigration policies. Yet they seem perfectly happy to bar pesky foreigners coming over here and giving wads cash to AstraZeneca shareholders. Economic nativism is as daft as any other.
This article first appear at the Telegraph site, where Douglas writes regularly.
Britain is, we're told, an 'aid superpower'. We have apparently become the first major nation to spend 0.7 per cent of our gross national income on overseas aid.
According to Ben Jackson, writing in the Times, who works for a network of aid organisations, 'this is a historic achievement and should be a source of national pride'. Perhaps he finds the lack of national celebration puzzling.
It is always easy to be generous with other people's money.
'How mean spirited!' retort those who want us to cheer this great British giveaway. 'You wouldn't say that about taxpayer money being spent on pensioners, would you?'
No, I would not. That is because UK pensioners are UK taxpayers. They have been paying into the system for years. The government of Malawi has not. UK taxpayers have a greater claim upon UK tax revenue than anyone else.
Britain's aid budget has grown so fast that the government only just managed to meet its target of giving our money away faster than anyone else. I understand something like 40 percent of the annual budget ended up being spent in the last quarter of the financial year. And it is so large that it buys all kinds of things.
Projects and initiatives. More projects and 4x4s. Subsidized largess from various bloated bureaucracies across sub-Saharan Africa, and, I gather, UK school fees for various UK officials posted on overseas assignments. Never forget that many of those who lobby for this extra money on overseas aid are what one might term 'Lords of Poverty'. It might sound a little uncharitable to say so, but they do rather well out of it.
Ben Jackson lays into what he calls 'populist onslaughts' against all this aid spending. Pesky people, eh? Worrying about how the elite are spending their tax pounds!
Surely it is not mere populism to point out that the one thing that all this aid money does not buy is sustainable development. It is a statement of the facts.
Over the past six decades, Western governments have spent $2 trillion on official development assistance in sub Saharan Africa. That is the equivalent of three times the size of the South African economy, just on aid.
For all that official aid, according to Rajan and Subramanian, there is no evidence that any of this has accelerated growth or development. Their research finds no evidence of a correlation between aid inflows and economic growth at all. None. Zilch.
Perhaps the real purpose of UK aid spending is to buy a nice, warm, fuzzy feeling amongst the chattering classes. Think of it as a sort of twenty first century equivalent of buying indulgences. Something the politico-media elite buy – using public money – to assuage any feelings of guilt?
The irony is that Africa seems to be developing rather well without our 'aid superpower' efforts. On my most recent return to Uganda – a part of the world I know rather well – I was struck by how much progress and prosperity there has been. Africa is doing well because of Africans and the internet. In so far as aid is helping, it tends to be private – mainly American – philanthropists that are making the difference.
This article first appear on the Telegraph site.
For many a millennium, life on the island of Mauritius must have seemed pretty good for dodos. Surrounded by sun and the sea, they could potter about eating stuff. Not having any wings must have hardly seemed to matter.
And it didn't matter, until things turned up that could walk faster than they could waddle.
For many years life in Westminster was almost as insular. Seven out of ten seats was "safe", with very little chance of ever changing hands during a general election. That cut many MPs off from the views of the voters. Many on the island lost the ability to see themselves the way swing voters in marginal seats saw them.
Once on the SW1 island, most MPs fortunes rose or fell on the basis of what other people in SW1 – whips and journalists – thought about them.
Politics became for many a kind of private parlour game. A clever scheme to try and position yourself on the right side of the debate – according to everyone else on the Westminster island – and leave your opponents on what all the opinion formers told you was the wrong side.
This sort of political waddling was what counted – the trick being to make sure no one could waddle faster than you.
In a world where everyone waddles, why bother to remember what it is to fly? Thus did so much of our politics become so petty and pedestrian.
Then along came the internet. Like the arrival of Dutch sailors on Mauritius, it heralded a change in Westminster's insular ecology. Suddenly more creatures enter the political ecology.
It is no longer just the island's established pundits – the ones who told us Nick "nine points in the polls" Clegg had won the recent EU debates – who decide what is the right side of any debate. Opinion formers are displaced as comment is democratised.
All sorts of other beasts can aggregate ideas and opinion – and even perhaps votes.
Faced with a spot of competition as they peck around for votes, we discover some of the long established political players have all the elegance and aptitude of a dodo. They're just not very good at it. They might have seemed like "big beasts", but only when many of the others were the political equivalents of flightless pigeons.
We begin too to see quite how cosy and crass so much political reporting has been for so long. What should have been analysis turns out to have been an echo chamber. Thoughts, we discover, were for so long recycled clichés.
This internet thingy means that the barriers to entry in politics have gone. It is changing the political ecology forever. Some will adapt. Others, perhaps believing that they already know all that there is to know on the island of politics, will not.
They will go the way of the dodo. Or the old Liberal Party.
This article first appear on the Telegraph, where Douglas writes regularly.
British exports to the world aren't rising, but falling. In February sales of UK exports were down 1.6 percent to £23.5 Billion.
This is the lowest level since November 2010 – despite the fact that the world economy is 5 to 10 percent bigger now than it was then.
What has gone wrong?
Mainstream economists have struggled to account for this export enigma. Despite all the best efforts of government to rebalance the economy, and make the UK less reliant on domestic consumer growth, we are today more reliant on domestic demand than ever before.
In my recent paper on monetary policy, I hinted at one possible explanation.
Years of ultra easy money – low rates, QE, cheap credit – have created lots of "zombie firms". According to some estimates, 1 in 10 UK businesses is now a zombie firm, in that they have debts that they are able to service – while rates remain low. But have little chance of ever being able to pay the debt back.
Zombie firms are undead. They are able to keep on going. Serving existing customers, but not expanding into new markets – as exporters would need to. They can carry on doing what they do, but not adapt or change.
Normally an economic downturn means that economic resources – capital, plant, people – are reshuffled. The process in painful, but leads to restructuring that ultimately leaves everyone better off.
Low interest rates in recent years might have prevented this process from happening. Much of that malinvestment, made during the Brown boom, is still there in the system. Like cholesterol, it continues to clog up our economic arteries.
Britain last ran a current account surplus in the mid 1980s – at around the time we abandoned monetarism. The massive trade current account deficit that now looms seems to me to be a clear indication that we are, as a country, living far beyond our means.
Years of using cheap credit to engineer growth has given us lots of shopping malls. But fewer factories producing goods that foreigners want to buy. It has encouraged overconsumption, not export driven production.
It is not a coincidence, in my opinion, that countries that have maintained a sound approach to monetary matters, like Germany, tend to have done better as exporters.
At a little-noticed meeting at the Home Office a few weeks ago something remarkable happened: England and Wales's 41 Police and Crime Commissioners confirmed that they had effectively voted to end Acpo, the Association of Chief Police Officers.
"So what?", you might think. "One branch of officialdom squabbling with another".
Except it isn't. Those Police and Crime Commissioners – however low turnout might have been in their first ever elections – are not officialdom. They are us. We elect each one of them directly to decide police priorities where we live.
By endorsing a report by Sir Nick Parker on the future of Acpo in January, our locally elected Police Commissioners not only sealed Acpo's fate. They overturned the idea that police rules and guidelines should automatically be determined from on high, and imposed uniformly across the country.
For years, policing policy has been decided by Acpo. Technically a limited company, Acpo was accused by its critics of ignoring Freedom of Information requests. They did not properly answer to anyone – either the public or Parliament. Yet they wielded enormous power.
It was Acpo that decided – unlawfully – that any DNA profiles, taken from anyone under almost any circumstances, would only be deleted in "exceptional circumstances". They played a key role in setting by the sinister Confidential Intelligence Unit, apparently.
Acpo's worst offence was not to sell data from the Police National Computer for £70 a pop – despite it costing them only 60p to access according to critics. Nor to market "police approval" logos to commercial anti theft devices.
The real problem with Acpo was that the policing "guidelines" they issued had a habit of becoming hard and fast rules. Acpo did more than any other organisation to promote a culture of centralised policing – one in which compliance with procedures coming from on high determined how a local community was policed. "It's Acpo guidelines" I kept being told.
With Acpo's demise, your locally elected Police and Crime Commissioners ought to have a far greater say in deciding how you are policed where you live. "Stuff Acpo, it's what the locally elected Commissioner has decided" is what I want to hear.
Acpo's demise proves that a single MP, if persistent and bloody-minded enough, can change the way we are governed. Mark Reckless, the Member of Parliament for Rochester, has for years waged a lonely campaign against Acpo. And now he has won. Not since David slew Goliath has something quite so big, bloated and grossly overrated been so magnificently felled.
The end of Acpo provides us Conservatives with an important strategic lesson, too.
For a generation or more, even when we have won elections, we have tended to lose the political war. Why? Because ranged against us have been structures and institutions – Acpo, the BBC, the Foreign Office – with outlooks and objectives inimical to ours.
What Acpo was doing to policing, the Foreign Office has done to Europe policy, and the BBC to public discourse. In fact the sprawling alphabet soup of quangos that preside over us has been doing it to Britain. Powerful corporate bureaucracies, pursuing their own agendas, without reference to the rest of us.
In order to ensure the public policy outcomes we want, we Conservatives need to recognise that we must put in place structures that will yield those outcomes. Elections are not enough.
Create a cadre of directly elected local Police Commissioners, and sooner or later they will begin to insist that they – not a remote bureaucracy – decide things. There could be something in this direct democracy after all...
And so it begins. The In/Out referendum campaign is under way. The actual vote may not happen until 2017 – or even 2020 – but the big decision day on Britain's EU membership is coming.
It has been a long march for us Euro sceptics – during which we sang some beautifully sceptical songs. Yet as we enter this new, decisive phase, we must change our tune to sing something that chimes with the whole country.
It will not be enough that people resent the intrusion of Brussels into their lives. Instead of anger, people need uplift. Folk are going to need to know what an independent Britain will look like.
Voting to hand back our membership of the Euro club is not so much a vote to leave anything as to rejoin the rest of the world. When we signed up to the Euro club in the 1970s, we thought we were joining a prosperous trade block. It turns out to be a declining customs union. The EU is holding Britain back. Voting Out will allow us to trade more freely with the world.
"But what about the single market?" lots of perfectly sensible folk will ask. "Or those new free trade agreements Brussels wants to make with the world?"
In politics and plebiscites, people need to do more than merely agree with you. They need to know that you are plausible. There is only one plausible place to be when it comes to trade policy: in favour of liberalisation.
We Outers need to show that the single market is not in fact synonymous with trade liberalisation. Far from freeing us to trade – which is what we thought we were signing up for – the single market has become a vehicle for all that blizzard of red tape. Single market rules are created by vested interests to rig the market.
British firms, like Swiss, American, Australian and Chinese ones, should only have to comply with single market regulations when selling to the single market.
Far from giving us more clout when negotiating free trade agreements with America, India or China, the EU has dithered and delayed. The trade agreements the Eurocrats want to put in place are anything but free. It is precisely because Brussels wants deals based on quotas and red tape that it is taking forever. Tiny Switzerland now has more trade deals with the major economies of the world than the EU has managed. Vote Out for a Britain that trades openly with the world.
Immigration, many Outers seem to believe, is our strongest card. It links one of the public's number one concerns with the question of our EU membership.
Perhaps. But the Out campaign must not descend into any kind of angry nativism. First and second generation Britons must feel as comfortable voting to quit the EU as those whose ancestors came over before William the Conqueror.
An independent Britain is not going to have no immigration. It will have democratic control over immigration – like Switzerland, where one in five workers is non-Swiss. Or Australia, where thousands of new arrivals become new Australians each year.
In the coming referendum, the Outers will be the insurgents. Ranged against us already are the established interests of Westminster, the CBI, corporatist lobby groups and the giant Whitehall machine.
To prevail, we must be more than just a guerrilla campaign, mounting hit and run attacks on the SW1 elite. We must prepare to hold and defend fixed positions.
Post-EU we want a series of sensible, coherent reforms that push power outward and downward. There is no point in returning powers from Eurocrats in Brussels, only to leave them festering with a narrow clique of special advisers in Whitehall.
We want open primaries and recall powers to make individual MPs properly answerable to their constituents – not just party whips. We want real localism. The smug, out-of-touch mandarinate in Whitehall – that sort that tell us we cannot leave the EU – need to be made answerable to the rest of us.
To win over small "c" conservative voters, nervous about what change might mean, we must show we have grown up plans to make Britain a better run country. The Out campaign must not simply pile high every expression of discontent with the modern world. We need a coherent, credible theme and philosophy.
For most of the last century, big was beautiful in business, economics and geo politics. Small countries were overtaken by big ones. The future seemed to lie in trade blocks. The EU is itself a creation of these residual assumptions about the needs for size and scale.
But many of those assumptions are becoming redundant. We want out because we see that the world is changing, and we want to change with it, not – like France or Italy – try to hold out against it.
Instead of mass marketing and mass production, the future lies in the niche and the nimble. With the world just a click away, a business in Essex can trade as easily with a customer in Canterbury, New Zealand, as with one in Canterbury, Kent. Future prosperity lies with start ups, not just the FTSE 100.
Vote Out not in defiance of the modern world, but in order to embrace it and shape it.
Faced with a threat to their £3.7 billion-a-year licence fee, the BBC is going into overdrive to try to demonstrate to MPs how jolly balanced and fair it really is.
Not for one moment do I doubt that the BBC gives equal airtime to different political parties. But it is the lack of balance in terms of outlook and assumption that I find so appalling. Again and again, the premise behind so much of the BBC's output - not simply current affairs programmes - is leftist and corporatist.
With £3.7 billion to spend each year, you can ask a lot of questions. When did the following questions ever form the premise of any BBC programmes?
The economy: How can you call it austerity when the government continues to spend £100 billion a year more than it takes in tax? That's a spending stimulus, by definition, no?
Education: If your child can have a personalised music playlist on Spotify, why can't they have a personalised curriculum for their learning? Why have a national curriculum at all?
European Union: Why do otherwise rational people imagine that Britain would be better off being run by unelected officials in Brussels rather than by deciding things for ourselves?
Bankers: Instead of blaming "neo liberalism" for the banking crisis, wasn't it the incompetence of state-run central bankers, who stoked up a credit bubble with low interest rates?
Health: If supermarkets manage to be open 24 hours a day, why are most GP surgeries shut on weekends? Where is the consumer power?
International affairs: Why do we at the BBC always characterise baddies in Russia, Iran or any place else as being "Right wing"?
Middle East: In a region of turbulence and strife, what is it about the liberal democratic state of Israel that makes it such a remarkable success story?
Immigration: When considering the pros and the cons, shouldn't we look at more than just the economic implications?
Climate change: Isn't the climate in constant flux? And if the Roman or Medieval warmings weren't caused by industrial activity, why do we suppose that any contemporary warming, if it exists, must be down to human activity?
BBC: The BBC has the most extraordinary sense of self-regard, with changes in personnel within the corporation reported though they were stories of national significance. Yet strangely the Beeb never seems to find the time to ask why its top management trousers over a quarter of a million pounds a year each. Or why the same clique of opinion-formers seem to be commissioned to tell the rest of us what to think.
The digital revolution is making the world better in all sorts of weird and wonderful ways. As well as dooming the licence fee, it is democratising the process of opinion forming. The priesthood of liberal-leftie pundits and commentators, so long used to telling the rest of us what to think, are being displaced.
I delight at the prospect of self-styled "progressives" raging against modernity and the implications of the digital revolution.
Venice has just voted to become an independent city state once again. Last week, an overwhelming majority of the two million or so people living in Venice and the surrounding region opted to break away from Italy.
The online poll is not, however, legally binding. Despite the overwhelming support, Venetian independence is unlikely to happen just yet.
But what should we make of this Venetian vote? Just another example of crazy Italian politics? Another daft turn from the country that gave us Silvio Berlusconi, then the Five Star Movement?
The idea of an independent Venetian city state is not as daft as it might at first seem.
Venice was, after all, an independent city state for around a thousand years – and a jolly successful one. Until the French dictator, Bonaparte, snuffed out the Serene Republic, Venice had not only existed as a free state for centuries, but she had flourished. A tiny mud bank off the coast of Italy, Venice rose to become a great power, as well as a centre of trade and commerce and learning.
"But that is all ancient history", you might think. "Today Venice would be too small to be a separate state".
Too small? Estonia has a population of a mere 1.4 million – and she seems to be doing pretty well. In fact, if you consider how her public administration has adapted to the internet, I reckon Estonia has a thing or two to teach us. Singapore is small and successful. So is Iceland, Norway, New Zealand, Dubai. In fact if you look at the richest countries by GDP, they tend to be the smaller states.
For much of the past 200 years, geopolitics was all about size and scale. Bigger states eclipsed smaller states. The English eclipsed the Dutch, before in turn being overtaken by Prussia, America and Russia.
Modernity and mass production meant everything seemed to favour size. Economies of scale seemed paramount. It was on the back of such mid-20th century assumptions about the need for size and scale that Jean Monet and co founded what we now call the European Union.
I suspect that the digital revolution means that the era of bigness is coming to an end. Mass markets are giving way to niche markets. Mass production to tailor made, additive manufacturing. With the whole world just a click away, proximity to markets has never mattered less.
Underpinning the idea of big political units is often an assumption that human social and economic affairs are best arranged by grand design. Digital changes that. We cannot only do collectivism without the state. We do not need a big state arranging things for us.
There is growing evidence that smaller states are better governed because they have less government – and the governance that they do have is less remote, more accountable, and better able to adapt when things need to change.
Attempts to organise Europe by grand design – with a common currency and standardised approach to policymaking – are failing. After the EU, I hope Europe consist of lots of smaller, self governing units. Provided post-EU Europe manages to retain the free movement of goods, services, ideas and – with a couple of caveats – people, having more self governing units might give Europe back her missing mojo.
A secret ballot looms. MPs are being canvassed for the coming contest. Quiet words are being exchanged along the corridors.
I refer not to some idiotic idea of a Tory leadership contest (note to bored press pundits: there ain't going to be one), but to the ballot to decide who'll chair the Commons defence select committee.
There are some superb candidates to choose from. The list includes Julian Brazier, author of some good ideas about reservists, the uber-sound Julian Lewis, James Gray and Bob Stuart, the widely respected Keith Simpson, the excellent Crispin Blunt, Tobias Ellwood and Rory Stewart. It will be a genuine contest – thanks to some subtle tweaks to House of Commons rules that prevent the whips from rigging it like they used to. With MPs on all sides of the House voting, the winner will have powerful mandate to put the spot light on the government over defence.
So who to vote for? Here are four questions I will be asking before deciding:
1. Have you ever defied the government on a three-line whip?
It hardly matters whether it was over widgets or Syria, but at some point you really ought to have defied a three-line whip over something. The whole point of having select committees is to hold ministers and officials to account. The chair needs to be someone prepared to do precisely that.
2. Can you work with the other lot?
Consensus is a much overrated virtue in politics. You need to have a clash of ideas.
But to be fruitful, the clash and clang within any committee ought not be along party lines. If so, the debate becomes phoney and theatrical – and the ministers and mandarins get off scot free.
3. What do you think of the Defence Industrial Strategy?
As chair of the committee, you will be lobbied intensely by various defence contractor interests. They will present you with all kinds of arguments – sovereignty of supply, cyber security, skills – to justify the racket that is Britain's Defence Industrial Strategy.
Don't fall for it. The defence budget is not supposed to fund giant job creation scheme. It is meant to equip our armed forces with the kit they need, when they need it.
For a generation or more, many in the upper echelons of the Conservative party haven't just been on the wrong side of the argument over Europe. They got it seriously wrong over defence procurement, as well (think Westlands, think Nimrod, think Eurofighter). It is time to get it right, and ditch many assumptions about how we spend the defence budget.
4. What is defence policy for?
Many in SW1 use the term strategy when they mean tactics, and tactics when they talk of strategy. The next chair of the defence select committee needs a clear head, and a sense of strategic direction.
Defence policy is about more than equipment. How should defence policy tie in with foreign policy? What is defence policy for?
I am not sure I know the answers. Nor am I convinced that the mandarin machine in Whitehall really knows, either. All the more reason to have as the next chair of the defence committee someone who does.
John Major was going to reform Europe. Oh yes! Federalism has "reached its zenith", he said in 1995. There needed to be not inconsiderably less centralism. Reform would see powers "returning ... to the nation state". There would be less red tape and interference.
Then came the treaties of Amsterdam, Nice and Lisbon, which passed ever more power into the hands of unelected and unaccountable Eurocrats.
Tony Blair also set out to reform Europe and make it more to our liking. After much lobbying, he got his fellow leaders to sign up to the Lisbon Agenda in 2000. These reforms would turn the EU into the "most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world" by 2010. There would be less red tape and interference.
Then came an economic crisis caused by the very integration and single market overregulation that was supposed to be Europe's salvation. Fourteen years on, Europe is the least dynamic continent on the planet.
Now David Cameron says he wants to reform the Euro club too.
There will be less centralism, with more power returning to the nation states, just like last time.
Those that we elect to national parliaments are, apparently, to have some sort of power to block Commission proposals. Some of the time.
Pan-EU immigration is to be controlled, or something. And there is to be less "unnecessary interference". And – as ever – the promise of less red tape.
Good luck with that, guys. Surprised you didn't throw in a line about subsidiarity, or closing the democratic deficit, too.
When the In/Out referendum comes, David Cameron and I will, I imagine, be on opposing sides. I will certainly be fighting the coming election as an Outter. The important thing we do agree on is that we should give everyone that In/Out choice in 2017.
Ed Miliband refuses to let you have a vote on our EU membership. By voting for the Conservatives, we stand a realistic chance of being out in 40 months' time. Or not, if all those powers have been returned to nation states, immigration brought under control and all that red tape scrapped.
The magnificent Andrew Bridgen MP has tabled an amendment to the Deregulation Bill to make non-payment of the BBC license fee a civil, rather than a criminal offence. And quite right, too.
Now the £3.6 billion a year BBC empire has struck back.
In an unintentionally funny "briefing note" sent to naughty MPs minded to back the amendment, the BBC complains that "the BBC cannot turn off services for those who do not pay the licence fee".
Switching off services for those not wanting to buy said services is what normal service providers do - and not just in broadcasting.
Switching off the service for those that do not pay for it, rather than trying to send them to prison, is called a subscription service. In the era of digital technology, a subscription-based service, as opposed to a criminal conviction-based service, has to be the way forward. It is a pretty straight forward proposition.
If you fail to pay a utility bill, you face civil sanctions. Yet fail to pay the BBC its fee, and you face criminal charges.
The briefing note goes on to say that without the threat of criminal sanctions, the poor BBC might get less money. Without the threat of criminal sanctions for non-buyers, all kinds of organisations get less money. Inconvenient, I know, but it is the way things are done, chaps.
Perhaps the BBC could stop squandering tens of millions of IT disasters instead?
Or ease up on some of the £300,000 a year plus salaries that they pay their senior management.
They might even need to look beyond the well-remunerated clique of talent when commissioning programmes, eh? (No one has ever been able to explain to me quite how it works, or if anything ever gets put out to tender .....)
"Please don't do this to us" the briefing note seems to plead. "We will set up a working group of grandees to look at it".
A little late for all that, don't you think?
Do you like music? I listen all the time. Thanks to Spotify, I've a playlist far bigger than any record or CD collection I ever owned.
But would you put up with it if I, an MP, was to decide for you what was on your playlist? Of course not. You would be appalled.
Even if you shared my taste in the Stereophonics or Shostakovich, you'd think it a bit of a cheek if I was to impose my preferences on you.
So why let people like me impose our preferences on you when it comes to education, or healthcare, or social protection? Having a tiny clique impose their preferences is pretty much the way we run the country.
Not so long ago it was how we did music, too. Most folk could only afford a few dozen records or tapes at best. So it was left to a radio DJ to select music for us. Sure, we had a bit of choice between stations, and some enterprising producers allowed the public to phone up for a "record request". But basically, we had to make do with what was chosen for us.
One of the reasons I am so optimistic about the future is because I see big changes happening round the corner. The digital technology that now allow us to select our own music is going to make self selection the norm over many other areas of our lives.
Instead of a national curriculum (a learning playlist, if you like), digital technology will allow us to hyper personalise learning. Each child will have a personalised curriculum designed for them.
Elite Ivy League type degree courses, once the preserve of a carefully chosen few, will be accessible to everyone.
Soon our digitalised medical records will be as secure and portable as our online bank details. Instead of patients being made to stand in line and wait at the convenience of the health care provider, those who wish to do so will have different health care providers queuing up in front of them.
The average English household stumps up an estimated £650,000 tax bill over the course of a lifetime. Imagine if you could allocate even a small portion of the £650,000 of taxes your household pays into a personalised account? A personalised education account?
A personalised health care account, perhaps? Or a personalised pension pot, which isn't funded by IOUs like the government run one today? What would have once seemed prohibitively bureaucratic will soon be simple.
"But how will people know what is right for them?" you might ask. "It is all very well letting people chose their own music, but surely not their kid's education".
What makes you think MPs are better at spending your money than you are? For years, we've left it to politicos to spend zillions on our account – and not give us what we need or want.
If you aren't prepared to have politicians select your music playlist for you, why trust them with something really vital, like your child's education or your family's health care?
The future for the Conservatives, I suspect, lies in first refining – then articulating - this upbeat, optimistic vision of how things could be.
"Imagine the horror", our early ancestors might have thought. "A handful of those newfangled shepherds will soon be able to grow all the game needed to eat. No more need for hunting! What are we hunters to do with ourselves?!"
Technology has been disrupting established human behaviour for a very long time. And every time it does so, humans fear that it will put them out of a job.
The agricultural revolution must have ended the careers many hunter gathers. The mechanisation of farming put a lot of farm hands out of work. At the start of the industrial revolution, a lot of weavers fretted about the impact of weaving machines.
So, too, with digital technology. As Roger Bootle's column suggests, advances in robotics and digital technology could have some very disruptive consequences over the coming years. Should we despair?
If everyone is mobile banking, who needs so many bank tellers? If folk shop on line, what happens to high streets? Driverless cars are going to have enormous consequences on everything from car hire to freight transport.
Won't this make us redundant? No.
Each time technological advances have put humans out of work in one area, we manage to find something else to do that is even more productive. As well as being generally more enjoyable and rewarding – which is why living standards rise.
In so far as technology creates under employment, it is under employment in the sense that we no longer have to labour quite so long, for so little. Humans are no longer – in most countries, anyway – having to labour from dawn to dusk doing back-breaking work, with no leisure, no career choices and no respite, the way our ancestors did.
Which is why we can have things like leisure time and weekends. No longer forced to spend every daylight hour chasing gazelle or scratching out a subsistence living, we have time to read, socialise, better educate our kids, write software, try a spot of gaming or simply chillax.
Technological innovation means that Homo sapiens gets far more for far less. Digital technology means we will get even more for even less.
We will have more leisure time. More people will earn a living by thinking and imagining than ever before. Educational opportunities that were once the preserve of a tiny few will be available to everyone. Living standards will rise as the cost of so many things plummets (think of what happened to the cost of phone calls, but for all the man-made stuff in your house!)
There are no limits to human ingenuity. Free from drudgery, there are no limits on what we can spend our time doing. Relax. The future is going to be even better.
As I suggest in my book, digital might even mean we find a better way of doing politics and government ...
The House of Commons is on a one-line whip today. It was on a one-liner from early afternoon yesterday, and it will be again tomorrow.
Last week things were hardly heaving. Nor the week before, or indeed before that.
To put it bluntly, not a great deal is happening in Parliament right now. Little primary legislation. Not much oversight.
Perhaps you think this is a Good Thing? After all, who needs meddlesome politicians thinking up new ways to boss us about? Maybe, like the Texas state legislature, which is forbidden to sit on more than 140 days each year, we should not judge our representatives on the basis of what they do, but what they stop officialdom from doing?
Perhaps. But if only our under-engaged MPs in Westminster were as effective as those on the Capitol in Austin at overseeing the activities of government. Instead, they seem to be reduced to telling people when they might smoke in cars. No longer holding government to account, bossing the rest of us about is about the only thing left for our MPs to do.
The House of Commons' current state of inactivity demonstrates why the Commons needs to take back control of its own timetable. Not so long ago, the Commons decided what the Commons debated and voted on.
Like so much else about our constitution, slowly but surely the old constraints have been subverted by the governing classes. Today it is a government committee of grandees that meets to decide what our elected representatives should be allowed to debate and vote on.
Thus there is never, apparently, enough time for a Recall Bill. That In/Out referendum Bill? "Not space for it, I'm afraid, old boy." That promise about Open Primaries, and the necessary change in the law to allow local people to petition returning officers? "No space."
A decision about the future of airports? "Bit busy right now. Let's set up a commission." So much in Westminster seems to be on hold. Is this the best way to run a country?
With Whitehall setting Westminster's agenda, it is hardly surprising that the Commons no longer does its job. Ahead of the budget, Commons select committees ought to be gearing up to approve – or veto – the budgets of the department they are supposed to shadow. Few MPs even look at the number, let alone understand them.
That army of quangocrats that really run the country should be required to appear before a select committee confirmation hearing. No chance.
In place of real decision making, our moribund Commons passes declaratory legislation designed to "send a message"
The Commons Order Paper is cluttered with meaningless Early Day Motions that allow MPs to do nothing but posture and preen. Meanwhile, the big decisions are increasingly made elsewhere.
No wonder fewer and fewer people bother to vote to decide who sits within it.
Five years ago today, the Bank of England cut interest rates about as low as they can go: 0.5 percent. And there they have remained.
If rates have been rock bottom for five years, our central bankers have been cutting them for even longer. You need to go back almost nine years to find a time when real interest rates last rose. Almost a million mortgage holders have never known a rate rise.
And this is all a Good Thing, according to the orthodoxy in SW1. Sure, low rates might hit savers, who don't get such good returns, but for home owners and businesses, it's been a blessing.
Don't just compare the winners with the losers, say the pundits. Think of the whole economy. Rates were set at rock bottom shortly after banks started to go bust. Slashing the official cost of borrowing saved the day, they say.
I disagree. Low interest rates did not save the UK economy from the financial crisis. Low interest rates helped caused the crisis – and keeping rates low means many of the chronic imbalances remain.
To see why, cast your mind back to 1997 and Gordon Brown's decision to allow the Bank of England to set interest rates independent of any ministerial oversight.
Why did Chancellor Brown make that move? Fear that populist politicians did not have enough discipline. Desperate to curry favour with the electorate, ministers might show themselves to be mere mortals, slashing rates as an electoral bribe.
The oppostite turned out to be the case. Since independence, those supermen at the central bank set rates far lower than any minister previously dared. And the results of leaving these decisions to supposedly benign technocrats at the central bank has been pretty disastrous.
Setting interest rates low is simply a form of price fixing. Set the price of anything – bread, coffee, rental accommodation – artificially low and first you get a glut, as whatever is available gets bought up.
Then comes the shortage. With less incentive to produce more of those things, the supply dries up. So, too, with credit.
With interest rates low, there is less incentive to save. Since one persons savings mean another's borrowing, less saving means less real credit in the system. With no real credit, along comes the candyfloss variety, conjured up by the banks – and we know what happened next. See Northern Rock...
When politicians praise low interest rates, yet lament the lack of credit, they demonstrate an extraordinary, almost pre-modern, economic illiteracy.
Too many politicians and central bankers believe cheap credit is a cause of economic success, rather than a consequence of it. We will pay a terrible price for this conceit.
Low interest rates might stimulate the economy in the short term, but not in a way that is good for long-term growth. As I show in my paper on monetary policy, cheap credit encourages over-consumption, explaining why we remain more dependent than ever on consumer- (and credit-) induced growth.
Cheap credit cannot rebalance the economy. By encouraging over-consumption, it leads to further imbalances.
Think of too much cheap credit as cholesterol, clogging up our economic arteries, laying down layer upon layer of so-called "malinvestment".
"Saved" by low rates, an estimated one in 10 British businesses is now a zombie firm, able to service its debts, but with no chance of ever being able to pay them off.
Undead, these zombie firms can sell to their existing customer base, keeping out new competition. But what they cannot do is move into new markets or restructure and reorganise. Might this help explain Britain's relatively poor export and productivity performance?
What was supposed to be an emergency measure to get UK plc through the financial storm, has taken on an appearance of permanence. We are addicted to cheap credit. Even a modest 1 per cent rate rise would have serious consequences for many.
Sooner or later, interest rates will have to rise. The extent to which low interest rates have merely delayed the moment of reckoning, preventing us from making the necessary readjustments, will then become painfully evident.
A clear majority of the local population in two provinces want to break away and become part of their larger neighbour, with whom they felt a national and cultural affinity.
The larger, militarily formidable neighbour sends troops across the border in support of the secessionists.
Access to an important sea port is at stake. Protocols are signed in remote capitals insisting that the existing territorial integrity is a "European necessity".
I refer of course not to the situation in eastern Ukraine today, but to the Schleswig-Holstein question of the 19th century. In that instance, Prussia played the role of Russia, and Kiel that of Sevastopol. Let's hope Britain still plays the role of Britain.
This is not the first time, nor the last, that the international order will be challenged in this way.
What should we do? Take great care, for a start.
At the time of the Schleswig-Holstein question, when Britain was the world's hyperpower, we avoided wading in. We would be wise to be cautious now.
Every time there is an international crisis, a great deal of nonsense is talked about Britain in danger of being bypassed, of becoming a global irrelevance. Unless we are calling the shots, Benedict Brogan suggested today, we are just a bystander on the world stage.
Is that really so? I don't see India or China or Switzerland or Australia or Japan as global bystanders. Are they wading in or throwing their weight around? Maybe, just maybe, this desire to be in the thick of things comes less from a sense of our strength, and more from a fear of our weakness. Perhaps after Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq, a certain kind of British official feels that this is what one does.
British diplomats might want to be doing the deals and laying down the terms of the UN resolutions. But since when was the amour-propre of British diplomats the yardstick by which we measure the national interest?
Twenty-first-century technology might make the world's problems seem more immediate. But 21st-century reality means that we should not seek to embroil ourselves in all of them.
Secondly, we would be wise to recognise that as with Schleswig-Holstein, sometimes boundaries do need to be redrawn – and the world is a better place for it. Does anyone today seriously suggest Schleswig-Holstein should still be part of Denmark? Would the Balkans be a happier land if Yugoslavia was still intact?
Finally, we need to recognise that the world – despite the spread of liberal democracy and global trade – remains a dangerous place. If Russia and others are to try to challenge the existing international order, we need to prepare accordingly.
Closer ties with our Anglosphere allies. A bit more defence spending and a little bit less energy dependence, for a start.
The Left once stood for democracy. In the tradition of the Levellers, the Chartists and the Suffragettes, the British Left once fought to take power away from the elites and dispersed it among the people. The Labour party, when founded by Keir Hardie, stood up for the working man – and woman.
No longer. The Left simply does not trust people.
They have become not merely undemocratic, but anti democratic. Rather than standing up to elites, the Left actively defends the concentration of political and economic power in the hands of an unaccountable few.
Many Lefties opposed the creation of directly elected Police Commissioners. Some did so for the rather bovine reason that it was a Tory idea. Others remain fearful of what they sneering dismiss as "populism".
Left wing pundits and campaigners have tried to vilify ordinary mums and dads who have wanted to set up their own free schools. They prefer to side with the education establishment against ordinary people wanting the best for their kids.
Guardianistas remind us daily of their visceral opposition to an EU referendum. They don't simply distrust the people, but are on the side of unelected Commissioners. Confronted with the Euro crisis, which has seen tens of millions ordinary Europeans impoverished, self-styled "progressives" have put themselves on the same side of the argument as those calling for public money to be used to rescue bankers from their own folly.
The modern Left is no longer socialist, but corporatist. They do not seek public ownership of the means of production. Instead they stand to create a world in which private meetings between Brussels lobbyists would buy commercial advantage.
Rather than democratise politics, giving everyone say over candidate selection, as the Tory party has begun to do, Labour has given us Falkirk.
There is an essential dishonesty about the British Left today. They know that they cannot obtain a popular mandate for many of the grand schemes they want for us. So they have embraced anti democratic means to impose them instead.
They cannot win the argument for wind turbines, so they foist them on us using hidden subsidies and a local planning process that gives the locals little say. They could never win a mandate for the unrestricted free movement of people into Britain – so they hand control over such matters to unelected officials and judges.
On issue after issue, where they know they cannot win openly, the Left has passed responsibility over to quangocrats and Commissioners, Human Rights lawyers and judicial activists.
The Left obtains by top down decree what they cannot win at the ballot box. And the Right loses, even when we win elections.
Far too many on the right still seek either re-heated Thatcherism or a kind of mid-70s, patrician Toryism. Neither will do.
A truly modern Tory party needs to recognise that we must do battle against the Left not merely for votes on polling day. If the Left has created structures that are beyond meaningful democratic accountability, we must embrace direct democracy. We must be prepared to re-engineer the machinery of the state – the quangos, the senior civil service, the judiciary – and yes, even Parliament – to make them properly answerable to the rest of us.
Either we do that, or we face more defeat and retreat.
Fitting a roof-rack on the car the other day – as dads do – I got thinking about design. Instead of trying to screw one of those unwieldy metal cages to the top of the car the way my folks used to do, I was clipping in place a sleek, aerodynamic box that wouldn't take the paint off.
It's not just the design of roof-racks that has got better. The cars on which they sit are a vast improvement on what we had in the Seventies. As are buses, tubes and trains. So, too, suitcases that now all come with wheels. Phones aren't just better designed, they include features such as video cameras, maps and games, which would have seemed like science fiction not long ago.
Yet when it comes to the way we do politics, we still do things the same clunky way we did before.
Prime Minister's Question Time is rigged, with faux questions and faux outrage. The weekly ritual generates much heat, but like an eco light bulb (a rare example of design getting worse) little light.
Seven out of 10 constituencies remain "safe seats", unlikely to change hands at a General Election. Politicians still get far too much say over who gets to become a politician – the public much too little choice.
The mechanism within our democracy that is supposed to translate public preference into public policy seems to get stuck, like a Seventies gearbox. Instead of being ruled over by representatives of the people, answerable to us, ideas seem to emanate from a closed shop in Whitehall. Politicians have become apologists for what the mandarinate decides.
From bank reform to energy policy, the result is groupthink and policy stalemate – with the emphasis on stale.
Politics desperately needs a redesign.
The system of jukebox politics we have today lets you listen to the same records over and over again. We need to think Spotify. Just as you can now select your own music playlist, let voters select party candidates where they live.
Rather than expecting activists to become submissive party members, why not use the web, an endless network of innovation, enthusiasm and ambition, to create an army of folk wanting change? Make iMembership a compelling retail proposition, with votes on policy and a chance to have a real say, and you might increase party membership.
Instead of party bosses in SW1 presenting voters with a worthy manifesto – which no one outside SW1 reads – let registered supporters help write it wiki-style. "But you can't trust the people?" I hear you say. Wikipedia manages to, having re-defined encyclopedias.
One day someone will implement these type of changes, and then, as with mobile phones, we'll wonder how we managed before.
It started as the G6. Back in 1970-something, finance ministers from the world's six leading economies – France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the US and the UK – got together to talk.
They had, one might imagine, quite a bit to discuss. There were oil shocks to contend with. Post-Bretton Woods, how were they to manage the money?
And back then, of course, those six Western players, were – economically speaking – it. The West accounted for almost 60 percent of global GDP.
Things have changed a little since.
By 2003, the West's share of global output had fallen to less half. By 2030, it is forecast to be about a third.
Already, Italy no longer makes it into the top six. Another decade of Euro-sclerosis, and only America and Japan would qualify from the original guest list.
So to keep everyone on board, in the late Nineties they came up with the G20, which meets this week in Australia. (Who knows, by 2040 they might be calling it the G80 so France can still make the list. Squeeze 'em in beside Burkina Faso.)
Apart from allowing politicians to feel important, what is the G20 actually for? Other than posing for group photos (and the occasional selfie), what do they actually do? Isn't this all just politics tourism for the sort of people who all met up in Davos the other week?
According to initial reports, the G20 finance ministers meeting in Sydney have decided that they will be adding $2 trillion (£1.2 trillion) of extra growth to the world economy. If it really was as easy as all that, why not an extra $4 trillion?
Over the two days of the G20 meeting, I cannot imagine that finance ministers from, say South Korea, South Africa and Russia, can do much besides talk generalities. Stand by for communiqués ladened with clichés. So why do they do it?
It is hardly as if these international shindigs have produced any good ideas I can think of.
International bank reform? Six years on from Lehman's bankruptcy, we've still not seen significant changes.
Advances in free trade? For all the talk, things seem to have become bogged down in corporatist quota setting, masquerading as free trade agreements.
Coordinated monetary policy and exchange rate management? When five of the G6 finance ministers agreed at the Plaza Hotel in New York in 1985 to manipulate exchange rates, it had some pretty disastrous unintended consequences. Heaven forbid anyone try that again.
Far from leading to better global governance, I fear that these get-togethers reinforce groupthink.
Perhaps what really makes ministers keep coming is the badge of respectability they feel it gives them. A kind of peer approval. And, of course, an army of diplomats and officials, each with careers and departmental budgets invested in such supra-national summits.
"The age of purely representative democracy," Peter Mandelson once told us, "is slowly coming to an end."
And he was right. Throughout the Western world, public policy choices which were once in the hands of representatives we elected have been farmed out to technocrats.
Whether it is making decisions about dredging or about monetary policy, ministers might justify and explain what has been decided. They rarely if ever make the decision themselves. The machine runs most ministers, not the other way round. Vanity might stop egocentric politicians 'fessing up to it, but most ministers are little more than departmental mouthpieces.
Whitehall mandarins have long since stopped pretending that they merely implement policy. They make it. More than that, they routinely overrule elected ministers who want things done differently.
To see the most extreme manifestation of post-representative democracy, look at Italy. Any moment now, the mayor of Florence, Matteo Renzi, is about to be made the third Italian prime minister in a row who wasn't actually elected to the role. Renzi in office will probably deliver the same bland policy nothingness that every Italian "leader" seems to have produced for as long as anyone can remember.
To understand quite how anti-democratic Italy has become, imagine if, after having had Adair Turner run the country for a bit, followed by Lord O'Donnell, the Queen then invited Boris Johnson to have a go. It might all be rather colourful, yes, but it would hardly be democratic. Nor I suspect, given that only those willing to tag along with mainstream establishment opinion would be chosen, would it lead to better government.
Representative democracy was invented in order to rein in the power of parasitical elites. For a while it worked rather well. Governments were kept small and accountable.
Increasingly, however, the governing elites – the sort of people one finds at Davos each year – have discovered ways of subverting the democratic constraints. The result is big, bloated, inept public administration.
Real Conservative modernisers need to think of new ways to rein government in again. Open primary candidate selection, recalls, popular initiative, annualised budgets, confirmation hearings – we need to make representative democracy a little more direct if we are not to see it replaced by a smug, self-serving Davos technocracy.
Who is the greatest French man or woman to have ever lived?
Napoleon Bonaparte? I'd argue his involvement in human affairs was largely destructive. Louis Pasteur? He must have saved an awful lot of lives.
Pierre Michaux and Lallement, who helped invent the bicycle? Louis Le Prince, inventor of movie cameras? There are many French inventors, especially from the late nineteenth century, to choose from. Francois Hollande? On April 1st, perhaps.
I reckon that one of the greatest Frenchman of all time is a fellow called Frédéric Bastiat (1801-1850). Not heard of him? France, I reckon, would have remained a truly great global player if more people had.
A free market, Classical liberal thinker, Bastiat grasped how wealth is created - and how parasitical elites and vested interests will seek to live off the productivity of others.
Nations rise, he could see, when various naturally parasitical interests were reined in, making production more fruitful than parasitism. Nations sunk into mediocrity, or remained there, when the parasites got their way - and other people's wealth.
Far from being just a creature of his time, Bastiat speaks to us now. His spoof petition of the candle stick makers (they lobbied politicians to block out unfair competition from sunlight) tells us a great deal about the behaviour today of energy renewable interests and central bankers.
As a free market thinker, Bastiat was up there on a par with Adam Smith or Richard Cobden. Yet unlike Smith and Cobden, for all his brilliance, Bastiat had little impact on the French body politic. French lassiez faire gave way to dirigisme. A once global player, presided over by enarques and corporatist interests, France has sunk into Hollandesque mediocrity.
My fear is that free market thinkers on this side of the Channel turn out to be little more than British Bastiats. Already the land of Adam Smith is run by a big, bloated state bureaucracy. The country that produced Cobden trades with the world on the basis of quota, not free competition.
There are of course lots of French people who like Bastiat believe in free markets and enterprise. France's problem is that they all seem to live in west London.
Unless the Conservative party begins to outline a coherent, credible free market alternative, Britain too will descend into corporatist mush and mediocrity. There will be lots of entrepreneurial Brits out there, trading freely with the world. But they will be doing so from Singapore, Sydney and Shanghai.
This article first appeared on the Telegraph site, where Douglas writes regularly.
In fairness to Lord Smith of the Environment Agency, he can't control the weather. Anymore than Lord Turner of the Financial Service Authority was able to control the credit cycle. Or Lord Rooker of the Food Standards Agency was able to control the food chain.
From flooded levels to tanked banks, public policy failure comes not because quangos control things, but because we presume that they can.
No central government quangocrats - no matter how worldly or wise - could gather enough information in any one place to know where to dredge to withstand every winter gale. Nor could they know precisely when to raise bank reserve ratios to withstand a financial one. Thus we eventually get overwhelmed.
For a generation or more, under successive governments, public policy has been handed to central quangos.
Sea defences, once left to district authorities and land owners, became a county responsibility. Then it became the responsibility of two or three Whitehall bodies. And finally in 1996 the preserve of just one, the Environment Agency. Has more land been reclaimed or abandoned to the sea since that process of centralised policy making began?
It's been a similar story for everything from financial service to food regulation.
"But at least these quangos are independent" I hear you say. "Instead of playing politics, the experts can just get on with it".
Letting the experts get on with it never works out quite how we imagine.
With only experts running things, there's no one around to ask those dumb, non-expert questions that need asking like "why aren't we dredging, like we used to?" Or "what happens if Northern Rock, which borrows short term to lend long term, couldn't borrow for a while?"
Worse, leaving things to "experts" means that faddish ideas that excite such people become the basis on which wider public policy interests are decided. The public rarely has much say.
If you work for the Environment Agency, you might well believe in elevating the natural over and above the interests of the human. But does that mean that the rest of us really want "managed retreat"? After centuries of reclaiming land from the sea, are we to now prioritise salt marsh over farm land?
If you work at the Financial Service Authority you might well believe, like so many "expert" economists, that low interest rates are a cause of economic success. What happens if low rates are a consequence of economic success instead? What about the interests of savers?
If you run the Food Standards Agency, it is much easier to insist that every last sandwich shop in the land has a five star rating on its front door. Checking that those cottage pies aren't really cheval pies seems a bit tedious.
Some have suggested that Lord Smith should resign. Replacing leftie Labour placement with Tory placemen will not solve the problem. Passing responsibility back to local government, and making government agencies properly accountable to Parliament, just might.
I'm not sure how I would vote in the Scottish referendum if I lived in Scotland.
On the one hand, I am a Unionist – literally, one side of my family having English roots (plus a bit of Welsh mixed in), and the other being Paisley Scots. There's probably not a street on this island in which there are not family ties binding our two countries together.
Harwich, in my part of Essex, boasts a magnificent bagpipe band, which regularly parades in kilts, testament to the large numbers of Scots that have settled in the area down the years.
It would be a shame if our two countries, which have achieved so many great things together, were to go our separate ways. Do we really want so many cousins, great aunts and grandparents to become foreigners?
And yet if I lived in Scotland I think I would want change.
The argument that Scotland is somehow "too small" to be a success is nonsense. Norway copes with self determination.
A staunch "localist", I reckon if I lived in Scotland I'd be hyper sensitive to the idea of remote officials in London and Brussels making decisions on my behalf. I'd want Scottish concerns decided in Scotland – and I'd want those doing the decision making in Scotland to be made properly answerable to me in a way that they are currently not. A lot of devolution seems to have transferred decision making from one unaccountable elite in London to another in Edinburgh.
Most of all, I think I'd want financial autonomy, the Scottish government living within the Scottish tax base. Decades of fiscal dependence on London have had an enormous impact on Scotland and on the political economy north of the border. And not necessarily for the better.
Since Scottish taxpayers don't have to pick up the tab, what is the rationale in anyone standing for office in Scotland offering voters a lower tax and spend alternative? And we wonder why Scottish politics has drifted ever further left.
The land that produced Adam Smith now has a big, bloated, sclerotic state bureaucracy. I am not sure that that is a long term recipe for prosperity.
What Scotland needs is so-called devo max. Scotland should have complete control over tax and spending decisions. Offer that, and I suspect many voters tempted to vote for separation might just decide to vote to remain in the Union.
If you think the London tube strike has caused chaos and misery, imagine what things must have been like for our grandparents in the 1970s. Back then so many days were lost to strikes nationally it caused huge scale economic disruption.
Yesterday, as I loitered with a zillion others waiting for a bus that wasn't full, I wondered if our attitude to industrial (in) action might have changed? Back in 1970 something, I imagine many more folk were ambivalent about strikers.
Not in my bus queue, they weren't. Bob Crow, I reckon, must be about the most unpopular man in London and the Home Counties right now.
A generation ago, when a strike caused personal inconvenience, it remained largely personal. Sure, one might tell co-workers and friends about the freezing bus stop. But it was much less a collective experience.
Back then, it was the unions that did collectivism. The poor, frozen punter just had to get on with it.
Now of course we have Twitter and smartphones. Everyone in that bus queue seemed to be bleeping and tweeting. Their personal experience as a victim of the strike was shared far more widely. Those individual grains of grumbling coalescing into a more widely shared public opinion.
No longer each in our own atomised little world, patronised by the mainstream media and told what to think, we can see what an appalling effect the strike is having. We can read on our smartphones that we are not alone in feeling cross about it. So our expectations change. We start to ask the questions that the pundits never seem to ask, like "how dare they."
In the 1970s, leftie unions did collectivism. Digital means we all will. Citizen consumers, not organised labour, will be the decisive force in politics in the future.
The one thing you are never short of as an MP is advice. From the moment you arrive in Westminster, everyone you find there – whips, lobby groups, pundits – seems keen to tell you how to your job.
"It is so important that you do fiddlesticks", urge some. "The issue that really matters is X", urge lobbyists for X.
"What swing voters really want...." insist many people who have probably never come across an actual swing voter in their lives.
While I admire pollsters for their efforts to measure opinion empirically, the average poll probably bases it's findings on interviews with a thousand or so people. When I tot up my surgeries, surveys, curry nights, coffee mornings, supermarket surgeries, email in box and the rest, I reckon I engage with more constituents than that in a fortnight.
MPs might get lots of advice. But when it comes to good advice, the folk to listen to are in your constituency, not SW1.
Take yesterday, as an example. Should I be in Prime Ministers Questions, joining in the brouhaha? Or, following a gas nasty explosion, ought I skip PMQs and be in Clacton? Cloes Lane, Clacton it was. Talking to those affected by the blast. There will be another PMQs along soon enough.
Speaking at PMQs, or on Newsnight, or on the Today programme is the jam. What an MP does in their constituency – before the people that gave you the job in the first place – is the bread and butter of politics.
Over indulge on the former, without enough of the latter, and you risk political indigestion.
However matey MPs might become with pundits and pollsters in Westminster, there is one crucial difference. We depend on what the punters in the constituency think. They don't. Listen first to the voter.
Slowly we are getting there. Bit by bit the Conservative Party is nudging its way closer to calling for Britain to leave the EU.
That might not yet be the official line, but a certain inexorable logic is driving us towards a tipping point. More and more Conservatives are starting to realise that we simply cannot achieve the kind of changes that we want and remain members of the European Union on current terms.
With just over a year to go until the General Election, one or two minds in Westminster have started to turn to the manifesto. What sort of things might we put in it? What might a future Conservative government seek to do?
Perhaps we fancy some long overdue reform of the energy market, allowing lower prices and proper competition. We'd need EU approval first.
Maybe we'd want to adopt the sort of sensible, balanced immigration system they have in Australia? Not even last week's modest amendments to the Immigration Bill would be acceptable to the Euro system.
What about closer trade ties with Asia, Africa and those parts of the planet where the growth is? Brussels decides. Less regulation? Ditto.
We cannot even promise that we would not give prisoners the vote without permission from the Euro judges.
It is not just that being part of the Euro system makes it harder to see how a Conservative administration might implement a Conservative programme in government. Being in the EU makes it harder to persuade the voter that a future Conservative administration will implement a coherently Conservative programme in government.
How might a centre-Right, free-market group of MPs in Westminster deliver a centre-Right, free-market government when most public policy choices are made for us by a remote corporatist clique in Brussels? Perhaps the voter has clocked this....
Perhaps the real reason why the Europe question has bedevilled the Conservative party for years is not because of any determination on the part of supposedly swivel-eyed Eurosceptics. It is because we are in the EU, and being in the EU turns out to be ultimately incompatible with a properly Conservative administration. Far from being reconciled to the idea of EU membership, more and more Conservatives have begun to wake up to its implications. More did so last week.
Once most have, it is game over. Or rather game outer.
The polls have narrowed. Labour's lead has evaporated to between 1 and 2 per cent. Miliband no longer looks like a PM in waiting, but like a Neil Kinnock tribute act. (Hattip photo from @GeneralBoles)
What's going on?
The Left has gone loopy, that's what. It's not me saying it, but what thousands of voters seem to be telling the pollsters each week. Westminster watchers are so busy watching every nuance in SW1, they have missed something that folk outside can see clearly: the Left today is simply not credible.
1) Opposing benefit reform: The party that set up the Welfare State has somehow managed to get itself in to a position where they think it is OK for some families to earn more than £26,000 a year in benefits.
2) Francois economics: Across the Channel, French President Francois Hollande is giving us a live demonstration on how not to run a country. Government spending is up, income taxes on high earners have been raised to 70 per cent, the brightest and best are leaving and the economy has stalled. Even Hollande has started to think twice about the wisdom of Francois economics. So what did Ed Balls announce last week? A Francois economic plan for Britain.
3) Energy pricing: Energy prices are up because Ed Miliband as a minister signed us up to EU renewable targets. Ministerial meddling has had massive consequences in terms of higher household bills. So much so that even Brussels has ditched the idea. So what does the Left now aim to do? More ministerial meddling, with government setting prices.
4. Hounding Tony Blair: OK, so not everyone in Labour is part of the "Arrest Blair" initiative, but plenty on the Left think it acceptable to harass him. Some seriously argue that the most electorally successful prime minister that the Labour movement has ever produced should stand trial in the Hague. Really.
5) Distrustful of democracy: Keir Hardie, the founder of the Labour Party, believed in standing up for the ordinary working man and woman against the interests of the rich and powerful. Yet the Left today is actively distrustful of greater democracy. Labour opposes directly-elected police commissioners. They have sided with rich bankers in the eurozone against the interests of ordinary Europeans, impoverished by monetary union. On the side of unelected technocrats in Brussels, the current Labour leadership will do anything to prevent the people being allowed a say in an EU referendum.
The Left has gone loopy – which is why it can be defeated. We really could have that referendum to take us out of the EU in 2017, lower taxes, less government, political reform ... and all those other things we would like to see a proper majority Conservative government do.
This article first appeared for the Telegraph, where Douglas writes regularly.
I've changed my mind. Having added my name to Nigel Mills' amendment to the Immigration Bill, I am not going to vote for it this Thursday.
Don't get me wrong. Nigel is a magnificent MP who has done wonders with this. And I feel as strongly opposed to uncontrolled immigration from Romania or Bulgaria as ever. In fact, more so than before.
But it's just that this is all .... well ... blah blah. It is well meaning, but ultimately pointless displacement activity. A kind of Parliamentary grandstanding.
If we want to restrict the free movement of people into Britain from the European Union, then there is only one thing we can do; Leave.
No amendment. No motion of the House of Commons. No ministerial initiative or decree will change that. If you belong to a club that has a rule that says there is to be free movement, you had better leave the club if you don't want it.
To be sure, there are all sorts of changes we can make to our welfare system to make it less accessible to those who have not contributed. We can tinker round the edges. But to stop uncontrolled immigration from Europe, we have to quit the EU. Let's not bull with the British people.
At Bloomberg a year ago, David Cameron made a radical promise. He would seek to renegotiate the terms of our membership, and then hold an In / Out vote. Nothing we do must make the prospect of an In / Out vote less likely.
Having spent all my adult life campaigning to get Britain out of the EU, perhaps we Outters need to grow up if we are to achieve our goal. The whole point of Bloomberg is that we can now win. The restoration of British independence, the repudiation of the Treaty of Rome, is a realistic option. But we need a little discipline to make it happen.
On Thursday, those decent, patriotic MPs behind Nigel's excellent amendment should not press ahead with it. They should join our campaign for Britain's withdrawal from the EU instead.
In Davos, Hassan Rouhani is mounting a formidable charm offensive. Ambrose Evans-Pritchard reckons that "the 30-year US vendetta with Iran is over in all but name".
This prompts a wider question. Are we about to see a radical realignment of the West's relations in the Middle East? Or, more specifically, are the United States – and possibly Britain – about to recalibrate their relationships with various regional players?
Since the 1930s, there has been one constant in US-Middle Eastern policy: a close alliance with Saudi Arabia. Relationships with other countries might have ebbed and flowed, but that alliance has remained strong.
I just wonder if things are about to change.
To some extent, international relations in the Middle East today are defined by a rivalry between two camps: one led by Saudi Arabia, the other by Iran. In Syria, we can see the Iran-led and the Saudi-led blocks fighting what is – in effect – a proxy war. It is significant that the West did not enter that conflict, de facto, on the side of the latter.
So where does the US stand in relation to this power play? Until recently, I would have said "certainly not with Iran". But I just wonder if this will always be the case.
Imagine if – heaven forbid – Iran and Saudi were to come to blows. On which side would the United States, or Britain be? Even a year ago, I would have thought the answer would be pretty obviously the Saudis. Today I am much less certain.
Which of the two states is more liberal? There's a strong case that it is Iran, actually. Which is more democratic? .... not the Saudis, for sure. Iran, with a large, educated middle class, perhaps has more potential for reform.
The United States dependence on oil might in the past have helped cement her friendship with Saudi Arabia. Thanks to shale gas, the United States will soon be a net energy exporter.
If I was in London or Washington, looking for a regional player with whom I could deal, might I be tempted to take a second look at Iran? Until 1979, Iran used to be a close ally of Britain and America. Might it be so again?
Of course, several issues would need to be addressed before there could be an chance of a rapprochement with Iran. That thorny nuclear issue would need to be resolved. Iran would have to make it clear that she was no longer any kind of threat to Israel – and Israel would need to feel secure that Iran was not any kind of threat. Internally in Iran there would have to be some serious, irreversible progress towards liberal reform.
Perhaps all that makes any sort of realignment impossible. I am not so sure it is quite as impossible as it once seemed.
During the Cold War, the Iron Curtain seemed pretty solid ...
Growth is back. Unemployment is falling. Each week seems to bring a flurry of upgraded forecasts. The mood of the pundits has gone from gloom to boom.
But headline growth figures do not tell the full story. They only tell us about headline growth.
Any government can raise output – and all other kinds of economic indices – by hosing cheap credit at the economy. As successive British chancellors have discovered, it is not quite the same thing as sustainable growth.
The signs are that we are in the early stages of yet another credit-induced boom. Even at this early stage of the "recovery", we are more dependent on consumer spending and mortgage debt than before. The current account deficit – a good indicator of excessive demand – has deteriorated from 1 per cent of GDP in 2009 to approaching 4 per cent in 2013. The savings rate has fallen. Britain now invests – in the correct sense of the term – a smaller share of her national income than 158 other countries.
Since 1971, Britain has experienced four periods of sustained economic downturn. Each time, the fall in output (red line) was preceded by the same thing (blue line): a credit-induced boom. The same familiar pattern is happening again, I fear.
"Not so!" I hear you say. "Money measures aren't growing wildly. M4 is under control. Thanks to Bank of England 'forward guidance', there's no chance of repeating the mistakes of the past."
True, M4 has not expanded wildly. But M4 does not tell us the whole story. Look instead at the Divisia index, which measures not only broad money, but the ease with which it can be spent. Divisia is considered by many to be a better indicator of likely future spending. A canary in the monetary mine shaft, Divisia suggests we are headed straight into the familiar boom/bust credit cycle.
As for the notion that those wise experts at the Bank of England might use "forward guidance" to avoid the mistakes of the past, they cannot even forecast unemployment with any accuracy. It was only five months ago that our central bank bureaucrats confidently told us that unemployment would fall to its present level by 2016.
Appointing Canadian central bankers and hoping they manage interest rates better is not enough.
We need a tighter monetary policy – higher interest rates and an end to QE. If this flies in the face of conventional wisdom, remember that it was such wisdom that got us where we are.
Years of gouging on a diet of cheap credit has clogged up our economy's arteries with "malinvestment". M4 lending has outstripped M4 bank liabilities by around £400bn. Mortgage lending dwarfs lending to business, with bricks and mortar soaking up enormous amounts of credit.
After years of candy floss credit, an estimated one in ten British firms is a "zombie" company, capable of servicing its debts but not repay them. Undead, they can carry on doing what they do, but not expand into new markets or innovate. Might this help explain our poor export and productivity performance?
Raising interest rates would flush out the malinvestment. It would encourage savers. Debts would be paid down – or written off. We might at last live within our means.
Most important of all, we need real bank reform.
The monetary regime we have in place today has produced low(er) inflation. But inflation stability on one side of the equation has come with wild credit crunches and banking bubbles on the other. As long as banks are able to conjure credit out of thin air, we run the risk of credit bubbles.
How much a bank lends today depends on its appetite to lend, borrowers' appetite to borrow – and regulators' capital ratio requirements. To avoid credit bubbles, how much a bank lends ought to be a function of its deposits, in addition.
In my paper, published by Politeia, I propose a clear legal distinction between money paid into a bank as a loan – against which banks might extend credit – and money paid into deposit accounts, for safekeeping. Rather than a vertical separation between retail and institutional banking, I suggest a horizontal one within banks, with two tier accounts, rather like there used to be with building societies.
If customers placed more money into loan accounts relative to deposit accounts, the ability of the bank to extend credit would grow. Conversely, if customers shifted money into deposit accounts, the ability of the bank to create credit from nothing would be curtailed.
I've just made the switch from online banking to using a mobile banking app. Just a few taps on the screen, and I can call up all my bank details in an instant.
So why can't we do the same with our medical records? Our medical data, like our financial details, needs to be secure. But if banks can manage it, why not the NHS?
Imagine how different life would be if all our bank records were maintained at our local bank branch. We'd probably find ourselves having to pop in all the time, like our grandparents had to. Each time we wanted to do something financial, there would be a need to verify what was written on the ledger in the back office of our local branch.
I can't help thinking that that is a little bit like the way that we manage medical records today.
One GP recently told me that the reason her patients prefer not to see a doctor out of hours is that the doctor simply does not have access to their records out of hours. Another tells me that with each person's medical records tied to one particular surgery, it is impractical for folk to be able to make appointments with a neighbouring GP surgery if their own happens to be
fully booked that day.
But just imagine if our own medical records could be called up on an ipad – by us, or more importantly, by our doctor?
Imagine, too, how much aggregated data digitalised records could produce, allowing resources to be more efficiently allocated in different areas? Of course privacy needs to be respected. Just like it is with online banking. But the advantages could be enormous.
So what is stopping us for getting on with it? Just as technology is about to allow us to do something really new and amazing, rather like China under the Ming, along comes a decree from the mandarins banning it. EU officials want to forbid the idea of digitalised medical records. Data protection issues, they say.
On that basis, surely one ought to look to ban online banking, too? And what about those Tesco store cards, that allow the supermarkets to know what I want to buy and when?
On second thoughts, perhaps we should not go giving the mandarinate ideas.
The smaller their majority, the more Eurosceptic a Conservative MP is likely to be.
Contrary to media myth, those demanding the Prime Minister take a tough line on Europe are not backwoods men from "safe seats". They are disproportionately those MPs from the marginals.
It is a statement of fact, not opinion. The size of the average Conservative MP's majority is, according to my calculation, 9,471. Yet the average majority to those 81 Tory MPs who voted for an In/Out referendum (before it became party policy) is a mere 8,276.
If you look at some of the other key Eurosceptic votes, the trend is repeated pretty consistently. Eurosceptics on the Conservative benches tend to come from more marginal seats.
Why might this be?
Perhaps those MPs in more marginal seats tend to be younger, and more likely to reflect the mood of Euroscepticism of the younger generation?
More likely, I suspect is that MPs in more marginal seats are more receptive to the views of the public. And the public is increasingly Eurosceptic. Which is how democracy is suppose to work, if you think about it.
Growth is back. The mood of gloom has turned to boom. Forecasts, it seems, are being positively revised with every passing week.
But, of course, any government can raise output by spending £100 billion more than it takes in tax, and by showering the economy with cheap credit. As Ted Heath discovered, stimulus economics isn't necessarily the same as sustainable growth.
In my paper on monetary policy, After Osbrown, published today by Politeia, I suggest that we can already see clear signs that this is yet another credit-induced boom. We're more dependent on consumer spending than before. The UK current account deficit – a good indication of excessive demand – is widening. House prices rose by over 8 per cent last year.
When it comes to monetary policy, the Coalition has picked up where Gordon Brown left off. QE has been expanded. The promise of record low interest rates extended. Programmes devised by the Treasury under the last administration to subsidise credit have been rolled out.
Far from solving our underlying economic problems, I fear monetary policy today is sowing the seeds of yet another downturn.
Over the past 40 years, Britain has experienced four significant downturns. On each occasion, the downturn was preceded by the same thing: a surge in the money supply. Monetary policy today is creating something similar.
"Nonsense!" says orthodox opinion. "M4 and those other measures of money are not rising like they did before."
Indeed M4 is not. But by the time M4 does so, it'll be too late. We need to look at some of those other monetary indicators, such as the divisia index, for example. And as I seek to show in my paper, they suggest we're repeating that same credit boom/bust cycle again.
The trouble is not so much that we Conservatives are aping Gordon Brown. We are adhering to establishment orthodoxy. And we are doing so because we have lacked a coherent idea of what a free market base monetary policy ought to look like. And we've not had one for almost 30 years.
What can we done?
Gordon Brown economics is not the answer. Neither, I suggest, is reheated monetarism. Nor should one ever seek to game monetary policy around the demands of the electoral cycle. Ask Anthony Barber, Ted Heath's Chancellor. Neither the economics nor the politics ended well.
My paper proposes three changes in monetary policy:
1. Tighter monetary policy: Of course raising interest rates flies in the face of conventional wisdom. But it was the conventional wisdom, which believed that low interest rates make you rich, that got us where we are.
Raising rates would increase savings and dampen down excess demand. But most important, higher rates would unwind the malinvestment, which like cholesterol in our economic arteries explains our sluggish economic performance (See exports and
2. Real bank reform: Why have we had runaway credit bubbles over the past four decades? Part of the problem has been misjudgment on the part of monetary authorities. But part of the problem stems from the ability of banks to conjure credit from thin air.
How much banks lend needs to be a function of their deposits, as well as their willingness to lend and borrowers' willingness to borrow. In my paper I outline a free-market proposal to ensure that a bank's lending is curbed by the actions of its depositors.
3. Break up the banking cartel: We cannot be certain if being a cartel makes UK banks more prone to extend credit recklessly. But the cartel has undoubtedly behaved recklessly. Starting with RBS, the banks need to be broken up. Perhaps the regulators also need to make it easier for non-traditional banks, such as PayPal or Google or O2, to begin to offer de facto banking services, too?
My paper does not offer a comprehensive solution. There is no silver bullet. But it does, I hope, offer some suggestions of what a free-market monetary policy might look like. I reckon we are going to need one.
Here is a graph that shows the four economic downturns Britain has been through (red lines) over the past forty years.
What I find strking is that each downturn was preceded by the same thing: a surge in the growth of money (blue line). In other words, the bust followed an unsustainable credit-induced boom.
The motives and justification behind monetary policy leading up to each boom/bust might have been different. In the early 1970s, monetary policy was shaped by Competition and Credit Control (CCC) reforms. In the late 1980s, those who decided monetary policy wanted to shadow the Deutschemark, then join the Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM). After that unhappy experience, monetary policy was made in order to target inflation.
No matter what those in charge thought they were doing – CCC, ERM or inflation targeting – as the blue lines show, they nonetheless presided over an unsustainable growth in the money supply. Which was followed by a sharp downturn.
In a paper on monetary policy published in the House of Commons tomorrow, I argue that we are in danger of repeating the same mistakes again. Yet another growth in money and credit – which will be followed by yet another falling red line on the graph.
Many of the warning signs of yet another credit-induced boom are already there; increasing reliance on consumer spending, surging house prices, falling savings ratio and a deteriorating current account balance.
What ought we to do about it?
First, we need a tighter monetary policy, with higher interest rates. But we also need some more far reaching change in the way we run the economy, too.
One of the reasons, I suggest in my paper, why successive administrations have failed to prevent these credit bubbles is not merely down to misjudgement. Part of the problem is that banks are able to conjure credit out of thin air.
Preventing endless boom/busts requires real banking reform. In my paper I suggest how we might prevent runaway credit bubbles forming – but using the free market, rather than the flawed judgement of central bankers or regulators.
Although the Bank of England might not have met its inflation target for many months, it has delivered lower, and more stable, inflation. In the twenty years since inflation targeting began, inflation has average 2.1 per cent – compared to 12 per cent in the 1970s and 6 per cent in the 1980s.
But low and stable inflation on one side of the equation has seen bank busts and credit crunches on the other. As long as banks lending is simply a function of their appetite to lend, combined with the appetite of borrowers to borrow – and restrained only by regulators – this fundamental instability will remain. A banks ability to lend must also be a function of its deposits. My paper proposes a simply way of achieving this.
If we are to avoid boom/bust 5, we need to change the way we manage the money. I hope my paper and its suggestions help. I suspect at some point in the future we might need new ideas on monetary reform.
This article first appeared on the Spectator Coffee House blog site.
Douglas Carswell's paper After Osbrown is published by Politeia tomorrow.
Here is a graph showing the Conservative party share of the vote each month since 1979. The red squares mark the party's share of the vote in each General Election along the way.
Look at the vertical red line – which marks the day Britain left the European Exchange Rate Mechanism. What do you notice?
Before ERM exit, the party polled over 40 percent in 35 of the 60 previous monthly polls. In the 60 months that followed, the Tory party failed to poll above 40 percent even once. In fact, according to Ipsos MORI, they did not make it above 40 percent for another 13 years!
Of course it wasn't just ERM exit. There were various sleaze scandals, John Major's petulant leadership, not to mention the initial electoral attractiveness of Tony Blair. But in a paper published by Politeia on Wednesday, I suggest that ERM exit was an enormously significant event since it revealed the hollowness of Tory economic policy.
Throughout the 1980s, the Tory party possessed – or was believed to possess – a coherent monetary policy. If many people, Tory MPs included, did not necessarily understand the minutiae of monetarism, the party seemed to have a credible sense of how to run things. ERM exit was devastating because it showed otherwise.
Monetarist certainties had, of course, been quietly ditched some time before ERM exit. In the mid to late 1980s, Nigel Lawson had begun to shadow the Deutschemark with his "exchange rate monetarism". From that, we drifted into and then out of ERM.
Still without a coherent, free market idea of what monetary policy might be, we had nothing to say as the Gordon Brown bubble inflated. Like Brown, we too mistook the increase in output, caused by all that cheap credit, as sustainable growth. We, too, believed that all the additonal revenue flowing into the Treasury coffers was a permanent addition to the tax base.
Nor have we had much to say since the Brown bubble burst. Indeed, in my paper After Osbrown I suggest that we have been left offering many of the same "candyfloss credit" solutions.
Hosing cheap credit at the economy a second time round will no more achieve sustainable growth than it did the first. What we need is neither Continuity Brown nor reheated monetarism. Instead we need something that the Tory party has not had for a very long time; a coherent, free market way of managing the money.
In my paper, launched this Wednesday in the House of Commons, I try to suggest what that might entail.
What do 12th-century Venice, 17th-century Amsterdam and contemporary California all have in common?
They each in turn blossomed, becoming centers of innovation, enterprise and wealth creation. More than that, like a flower that draws bees, so too did each of these centers of human ingenuity attract many of the brightest and best humans. They attracted immigrants because they grew, and they grew because they attracted immigrants.
What would Venice, a mud bank in the Adriatic, have been without all those people, drawn from every corner of the Mediterranean, who thronged her cramped piazzas? Amsterdam, bereft of natural resources, grew because of those human resources from all over Europe that made her damp streets their home.
Sunny California's universities are today full of bright students from Asia, the Middle East and Europe. Silicon Valley teems with startups started by people who were not born in California.
Immigration that draws in the brightest and the best produces prosperity. But not all immigration does so.
For several years, Britain has had what one might call a "productivity puzzle". While economic output has remained fairly static, the number of jobs has grown rapidly. In other words, there are lots more people working, but together we are still producing about the same amount. Productivity has fallen.
Perhaps it is because we are all spending too much time on Facebook, when we ought to be working in the office? Some economists have suggested that productivity only appears to be
falling because the GDP data is dodgy.
But here's a thought. What if part (I emphasise the word "part") of the explanation was due to
the kind of immigration we have had? What if, instead of mathematicians, medics and wannabe dot com entrepreneurs, we have been attracting those with relatively low skills? I do not know for sure.
What I do know is that Switzerland today is full of migrant workers, and much better off because of it. An extraordinary one in five of the work force is non-Swiss. Rather like
the Venetians, the Dutch and the Californians, the Swiss draw in the brightest and the best – and those with skills that are needed.
Of course, the Swiss are able to do so because they have control over their own borders by virtue of being outside the EU. Once we have left the EU, we could do so, too.
It's not just the year that's changed. The New Year economic outlook seems very different, too.
We've gone from gloom in 2013 to boom in 2014. No longer are pundits writing pieces predicting our imminent economic demise. Instead it is all about rising house prices, stronger sales and growth. An extraordinary number of new jobs have been created, and unemployment has fallen to slightly more than seven percent.
Over the next few months, I reckon we are going to see a flurry of good news about the economy. All sorts of forecasts are going to be revised positively.
But a note of caution.
Pundits – like politicians – often have a herd-like mentality. If every other financial journalist is writing about the End of Days, a reporter will be more likely to make the news story they are writing about fit that narrative. And when the herd collectively tires of one particular narrative, they then tend to fit the facts around a new one.
If there was excessive pessimism in 2013, watch out for undue optimism in 2014.
There will, I believe, be a sharp increase in output in the coming months – and all manner of positive economic indicators. But I suspect that neither they, nor the commentariat, will tell us the full story. Headline growth data tells us how much output is expanding. It does not tell us why output is growing.
Output can be boosted by cheap credit and by having government spend more than it takes in tax. Ted Heath's government managed to raise output – and property prices – rather spectacularly in 1971-73. But sustainable growth happens when capital and technological innovation combine to create new and better ways of producing more of what we want.
The good news is that there is plenty of technological innovation out there – from shale gas to driverless cars to new medicines. Not to mention things we have not even yet heard of. My concern is that the partial nationalisation of capital allocation since 2007 will hinder sustainable growth.
We seem to have a capitalist economy, at the heart of which capital is no longer allocated by the free market, but by official fiat. You need to look beyond the headline growth figures to see this, though. So most pundits don't.
Once monetary stimulus is exhausted, I suspect, we are going to need a fundamental rethink of monetary policy. I have a paper on this subject published in mid-January.
After a long run of bad years, 2013 proved to be really rather good for Parliament. Here are seven reasons to be cheerful:
1. Parliament recovers its purpose: Whether it is Syria or HS2, what matters is what the House of Commons thinks. Gone – or rather, going – are the days when those we elect were there to rubber-stamp what the whips said.
2. Open Primaries catch on: The idea of letting everyone have a say over who should stand for Parliament once seemed kooky. 2013 saw the idea go mainstream. Used in half a dozen seats this year, it has produced some excellent candidates, including Nusrat Ghani and Chris Philip. (Purists might complain that strictly speaking these were open caucuses, not full blown primaries – but the direction of travel is clear.)
The only slight disappointment is that the party founded by Keir Hardie has yet come round to the idea of allowing ordinary folk a say over candidate selection.
3. Recall: Voters need to be able to hold their local MP directly to account. To try to head off giving voters a right to recall MPs, the Westminster grandees began 2013 with a daft, bastardised version of the plan. Gloriously, they have failed. By the time Zac Goldsmith won a vote overwhelmingly for real recall last month, it was clear that he had comprehensively out gunned them.
Real recall is going to happen - not the grubby counter proposal put forward by Clegg and co. Which party gets the credit for making it happen remains to be seen ....
4. Select Committees grow up: Free from the malevolent influence of the whips, 2013 saw select committee come of age. No longer full of placemen, they are starting to get better at holding ministers and mandarins to account. Select committee chairs such as Margaret Hodge, Bernard Jenkin, Keith Vaz and Andrew Tyrie are – in their different ways – on a roll.
5. Speaker Bercow: Mutterings by the mastodons rumbles on, but Bercow's determination to ensure that the legislature holds the executive to account is paying off. The culture and tempo of the Commons is changing for the better.
6. The internet: "The internet," Homer Simpson once asked. "Is that thing still going?" It is, and its influence on politics grew ever greater in 2013.
The internet has given every MP a tool to broadcast their views and ideas. Those that do, like Rob Halfon, Mark Reckless, Tom Harris or Stella Creasy are thriving. Increasingly, those that don't, won't.
7. Sofa government gets less comfy: For too long power in Britain has been concentrated in the hands of whichever clique happens to be sitting on the sofa in Downing Street. Politics, which ought to be about electing 650 representatives to help determine public policy, has been reduced to a contest between two cliques to see which lot sits on the sofa. It is no way to run a country.
Thanks to all of the reasons above, power is starting to ebb away from the sofa set and back where it belongs: to those elected by the people.
Bitcoins fans should love the euro, according to Matthew Parris. Writing in the Spectator, he suggests that if you favour one, why not the other?
The euro and Bitcoins are not, contrary to what Matthew suggests, very similar at all.
The euro is all about getting different countries to use one currency. Bitcoin means folk in any one country being able to use different currencies.
It might, as Matthew suggests, be beyond the ability of national politicians to tinker with either the Bitcoin or the euro. But supranational bureaucrats are very much capable of manipulating the euro - and of using the euro not only as a monetary tool, but means of determining fiscal policy too.
The euro gives a small clique of "experts" the power to decide what monetary medicine those living in the eurozone need. Bitcoin repudiates the idea of monetary grandees doing things by grand design.
If the euro imposes a uniform monetary policy on tens of millions, the Bitcoin belongs to a new era of currency competition.
In my book, The End of Politics and the Birth of iDemocracy, (a corking stocking-filler, incidentally, I'm told...) I suggested that digital technology makes currency competition inevitable. That process has now started.
Is Bitcoin it? I am a bit of a Bitcoin sceptic, to be frank.
When it comes to private currency, my money – so to speak – would be on units redeemable with a large institution. How? Imagine if PayPal, Google or 02, which already have zillions of account holders and take payments, were to start providing banking services? What if, like banks in Hong Kong or Scotland once did, they were to issue IOUs?
Competing currencies – both state-issued and private – will free us from the tyranny of monopoly fiat money. And the euro is the ultimate monopoly fiat money. If you are reading this is Greece or Spain – where there have been years of economic decline – it probably feels a tad tyrannical too.
"Detestation of the European single currency," writes Matthew, "is actually rooted in a detestation of Europe". Really?
To detest something is to hate it. I am not sure that the case against the euro is rooted in hatred at all. Nor is it sensible to attribute base motives to those with whom one happens to disagree.
The euro, like the EU project itself, is a product of grand design. Eurosceptics are – the clue being in the name – doubtful that it is desirable to arrange Europe's affairs by grand design.
The euro belongs to an era when it was possible to arrange human social and economic affairs that way. With or without Bitcoin, the digital revolution dooms that kind of giantism.
Philip Hammond, the defence minister, this week abandoned one of his proposals to overhaul defence procurement.
Ironically an attempt t0 bring more choice and competition into the system has been defeated by a lack of choice and competition. Only one bidder came forward to run the procurement process.
I am sorry to see this setback, but am sure it will be just that: a temporary setback.
Britain cannot afford for Hammond not to press ahead with change.
For decades, Whitehall has been monumentally useless at converting billion-pound defence budgets into weapons.
It is not just a case of the MoD not having enough expertise and personnel, or enough bright lawyers. Those are symptoms of the malady, not the disease itself.
The problem with defence procurement lies in the way that successive governments have consolidated the defence sector. Firms were encouraged to merge. Giant consortiums were formed. This might have achieved economies of scale in the defence industry, but it has had one very serious consequence.
In any market, when you restrict supply, the seller sets the terms of trade. This is what has happened in defence.
Defence production costs have soared. Squillions have been spent on second-rate options, delivered late.
Add in some of the protectionist ideas that corporatism inevitably breeds, and you end up with one of the largest defence budgets in the world, but serious shortages of kit. Aircraft carriers without aircraft. Helicopters that cost twice the price of the better alternatives. Loitering munitions programmes that ought to have been wound down. UAVs that contain yesterday's technology, when we have spent enough on them to have today's.
We need to start spending our limited defence budget in the interests of our armed forces, not the contractors. We should certainly never spend the defence budget as a giant job creating scheme.
Hammond is seeking to make many long overdue changes. Off-the-shelf procurement is becoming the default. Various vested interests that have their paws all over defence spending are being reined in. Various parasitical corporate interests must be taken on and broken.
The sooner Hammond presses ahead, the better.
We've already seem a flurry of forecasters upgrading their estimates about UK growth. Expect more of that in 2014. Output is likely to rise sharply.
But, as I asked the minister in Treasury questions yesterday, is this just another of those credit-induced booms? Another of those consumer-led recoveries, built on debt?
The Bank of England would, I am sure, say "no". The money supply, they might point out, is not growing wildly. In fact, they might go on to argue, the credit that all that new banking regulation is taking out of the system is being replaced by just the right amount of QE and credit.
If you look at narrow measures of money, it would be difficult to disagree. But it isn't quite that simple.
If you consider some of the broader measures of money, it seems that the money supply is growing – and growing fast. Look at the Divisia index on the left and see how it has shot up since 2011. Money supply expansion coincides a little too neatly with the rise in output. (Hattip: Anthony Evans of ESCP Europe Business School and the Market Monetarist blog site.)
Another credit-induced boom? I hope not. The Treasury minister said he would pass on my concerns to the new Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney.
Of course, the monetary mandarins allowed a bubble to balloon before. And they thought they had got the measure of the money supply right then, too.
What we need to do to make sure this does not happen yet again is the subject of a paper that I have coming out in the New Year.
One thing the world never seems short of is cultural pessimism. We are constantly invited to believe that society is going to the dogs. Communities are supposed to have been atomised. Social capital squandered. The bonds that bind us together are meant to have frayed.
At the turn of the 21st century, Robert Putnam's Bowling Alone gave empirical backing to these claims of civic decline. But I reckon Putnam and the pessimists failed to factor in the internet thingy.
Rather than leaving us to live in our own, lonely little worlds, my bet is that the internet revives civic engagement. Things are going to get better. Much better than they were in the past. Broadband will turn out to be a kind of glue, bringing communities together in all sorts of wonderful new ways.
At a recent (internet-organised) town hall meet up in Clacton, people who had lived in the same street for almost 20 years sat down and spoke for the first time. Brought together thanks to Twitter and email. It was touching to watch. From where I was sitting, it looked like they were starting to become friends as they munched fish and chip together.
In my part of Essex are dozens of small groups of emailers who constantly ping messages back and forth among their little cluster. Someone's local email list becomes a sort of social network. It's how several volunteer groups I know got going.
This phenomenon is happening all over the place – even if expert sociologists have yet to write PhDs about it, or invent the jargon to describe it.
Some of the digital platforms that will regenerate this new social capital have yet to be written. But already StreetLife.com (think Twitter, but with postcodes for hashtags) is allowing people to connect to organise everything from Christmas lunches for the neighbourhood to advice about washing machines. It is full of neighbourly chat from details of a bloke selling fresh fish locally to someone seeking a new home for a travel cot.
Bowling alone? Thanks to broadband, only if you choose to.
"What about the digital divide?" you ask. "Not everyone knows how to use computers." Of course. And nor is everyone is online. Yet. But thanks to technology, more and more people are. Using computers is becoming so intuitive that we're almost at the point where it is not seen as "using a computer" at all.
When radio, film and television came along, the doom-mongers predicted that the new technology would prove isolating in its effects. But that is what cultural pessimists say about everything. Instead radio, film and television provided entertainment for millions – not to mention common cultural reference points. Victorian era music halls emptied out for a reason.
The internet not only makes unlimited choice, at the lowest price available to everyone as we do our Christmas shopping. It is going to make better neighbourhoods, too.
When confronted with new facts, politicians' first instinct – like that of most people – is to try to get them to fit their preconceptions.
Thus those that have long advocated a particular policy on widgets will instinctively look to make any new data about widgets support what they advocated previously. It's not that they bad people, but, I'm told, just the way our brains are wired.
Nowhere is this phenomenon more evident in Westminster than where opinion polling is concerned.
Yesterday, a polling firm, Survation, published data from two Parliamentary constituencies – Great Grimsby and Dudley North.
In both seats, which the Conservatives came within a whisker of winning at the last election, Labour seems to be comfortably ahead.
Without there necessarily being any direct shift in support from Tory to Labour (as for example happened between 1992-97), these polls suggest that Labour could gain because of the re-distribution of support amongst third and fourth parties. Lib Dems going to Labour, combined with some of the Tory base going to UKIP, could change the electoral arithmetic quite dramatically.
It is at this point in the conversation that widget syndrome usually kicks in.
"This only goes to show that Cameron must announce X" say long-term advocates of X. Self-conscious modernisers, meanwhile, will tell you why this means we need to become more self-consciously modern.
I am not convinced. Of course one needs the right policies, but the one way for a party leader to guarantee that they won't get any credit for them is to allow themselves to be seen to be doing something because they have to. To be plausible, perception of your motives is vital.
What the Survation data really suggests to me is that the era of pendulum politics is over. A loss of support for one party no longer automatically translates into support for the other. To respond, we don't need knee jerk policies on widgets or anything else. We need to fundamentally rethink the way we do politics.
If the political market place is fragmenting, with room for niche brands and distinctive offerings, we Conservatives should stop looking for one-size-fits-all solutions. We need to become a much more niche, decentralised party.
A generation ago, the Conservative Party was routed in Scotland because a party that branded itself as a Scottish Unionist party until the 1970s, allowed itself to be seen as an English party. It wasn't a purple party that took our share of the market in Scotland, but the dark blue of the Scottish Nationalists.
Across English constituencies today, we are in danger of being seen as a Westminster party. The property of those in SW1.
It will take more than a tougher widget policy to change that.
Britain is one of the greatest places on the planet to live.
It's not just me who believes that. There are tens – if not hundreds – of thousands of people who settle in Britain each year who seem to think so too.
One or two people in the comment thread below might disagree, but I hope the rest of us would never hold it against any individual for wanting to make a better life for themselves by living in the UK.
We can, however, hold it against the political class for failing to be a little bit more selective as to who gets let in.
With so many people from around the globe wanting to come to our country, you'd have thought we might have a system in place that ensures we attract the brightest and the best. Unfortunately, we don't.
Being in the EU, we are open to anyone from any EU member state wanting to settle here. That means that we allow many unskilled migrants, who are more likely to claim Working Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit.
At the same time, highly educated and entrepreneurial Singaporeans, for example, have to apply for work visas. It makes no sense.
I know of a farm in Essex (not in my constituency, I might add) that has for years depended on Bulgarian students to help gather in the harvest. Each year they come over, work hard, and return to Bulgaria. Without them, the farm would not cope. However unfashionable it might be to point this out, it needs pointing out.
But here's the thing. While Bulgarian students are willing to travel across a continent to work on that farm, just a few miles away are some folk living at public expense, who could do the work, but won't. This also needs pointing out.
We cannot get serious about reforming the immigration system without also ending the something-for-nothing benefit culture. At times, I wonder if politicians almost depend on the crazy immigration system we have in order to avoid having to make any difficult decisions about benefits.
In order to change things for the better, Britain needs to take back control of its immigration system. It is no coincidence that two of the countries with the best immigration systems I can think of – Switzerland and Australia – are both outside the EU.
It is those elected to Bern or Canberra – not faceless officials in Brussels – who decide on who gets to live in Switzerland and Australia.
And because those elected take responsibility for immigration policy, immigration policy in both Australia and Switzerland has adapted to the needs of each country.
In Switzerland, where one in five workers is non-Swiss, there is an intelligent, rational debate about needs of the Swiss economy. Look how far the debate in Australia about immigration has moved on since the days of Pauline Hanson.
Surely we need to discuss not only the needs to the economy, but what helps make successful first and second generation Britons, too?
If those we elected to Parliament – and vulnerable to the views of the voters - were responsible, we might begin to have an intelligent debate about what kind of immigration we need. As long as we remain in the EU, I doubt this will happen.
It is a question of maths. Either we can retain our system on non-contributory welfare benefits, or Britain can continue to allow the unrestricted movement of Europeans into Britain.
We cannot do both.
Britain is currently one of only five EU member states – the others being Ireland, Estonia, Germany and Finland – that offers those out of work non-contributory cash payments. Only in those countries can you draw payments, when unemployed and looking for work, without having paid into the system.
There has been a 70 per cent surge in EU migrants coming to the UK in recent years. Most come to work, but already one in every 25 on Job Seekers Allowance is an EU migrant – and that is with a residency test in place.
The European Commission has taken issue with our residency testing, and wants to allow every European the same right to claim non-contributory benefits in Britain as UK nationals. If we did that, the system will become unsustainable.
It goes without saying that if you or I pitched up in Paris, Milan, Athens or Bucharest, we could not claim benefits without having contributed. Such benefits don't exist there as they do here.
No matter, the Eurocrats are determined that they should decide who is entitled to UK benefits. Did anyone imagine that this is what we were signing up to when we joined the Common Market all those years ago?
How bizarre would it be if Clement Attlee's welfare state was brought down not by swivel-eyed free marketeers, but by the EU project? Tragically, the British Left is too intellectually moribund to see it, just as they proved too flat-footed to appreciate the impact of uncontrolled immigration (not for the first time, I sense that the British Left defines what it is for largely in terms of what it believes Tories to be against – a wider assessment of the national interest rarely enters into it).
For some time now, the Commission and their pet pundits have been trying to undermine the idea that benefit tourism is a problem. A series of "experts" – often in receipt of large Commission grants – have been wheeled out to tell us it is a non problem. Besides, they say, EU immigration is a good thing.
We should take such claims with a large pinch of salt. The authors of one such report last month on the tax contribution of migrants contained an elementary error. The report's authors seemed not to understand how tax is collected. Another authoritatively told us welfare was not acting as a magnet for migrants, yet drew that conclusion on the basis of "stakeholder consultation", rather than facts.
Another pro-migration report was authored by the same "expert" who in 2004 told us that unrestricted migration from ten new EU states would mean a mere 13,000 migrants a year.
Britain is, I believe, the best place to live on the planet. We cannot rationally begrudge people wanting to come here to make a better life. We can begrudge unelected officials who want to prevent us from being a bit more selective about who we let in – and who can claim UK benefits.
With so many people wanting to come here, we ought to encourage the brightest and the best. If the European Commission gets its way, we will be required to accept low skills migrants, who – despite "expert" claims to the contrary – are already considerably more likely to claim in work benefits.
If you're a Lefty, you probably think Britain ought to be more like Sweden, with high levels of tax and spend. Those on the political Right might want to model ourselves more on low-tax Texas.
But bizarrely, Britain today manages to combine Swedish levels of tax and spend, with Texan standards of public service provision. No wonder voters on both Left and Right feel let down.
"Don't exaggerate, Carswell," I hear you say. "It can't be that bad." But how many hospitals in downtown Houston do you suppose are subject to police investigations over the alleged manipulation of cancer patients' data? My local hospital is.
I know a school in Essex where nine out of 10 children do not get an A*-C grade GCSE in maths and English. How many charter schools in the US would be able to get away with that?
Government spending as a percentage of GDP might be coming down. But it is falling from a Scandinavian 48 per cent peak.
By any objective measure, Britain has been badly run for a generation. The amount of tax taken by the state has rocketed, without the corresponding improvements in public services the public had a right to expect.
Instead of defending the way things are, we Conservatives need to be a little bit less conservative. We need to be the party of radical change.
In 2015 voters will face a clear choice; either you can vote for Ed Miliband – and the idea that we should hose yet more money at public services, hoping that this time it will be different – or you can vote for more public service reform, and the idea that those who run public services ought to answer to the public.
But it is not just public service reform that Conservatives need to champion. Britain desperately needs political reform, too.
One of the reasons Britain has been so badly run under successive governments is that it has been run from the sofa in Downing Street.
A more "presidential" Downing Street has not always got the big, macro decisions right, whoever is in charge. From Margaret Thatcher's implementation of the poll tax, to Tony Blair on Iraq and David Cameron over Syria, those on the sofas in Number 10 could have done with someone else saying "hang on, chaps. Are we sure about this?"
Instead of voting to change which clique gets to sit on the sofa in Number 10, we need to vote to change the system of sofa government itself.
Ministers and mandarins need to answer outward to Parliament, not just to the special advisers in Number 10. Ministers today ask themselves "will judicial review allow me to do this?" We need proper legislative review of ministers' actions.
Instead of a president in Number 10, we need to return to the notion that the Prime Minister is primus inter pares. If MPs are to be bound by collective responsibility, government needs to be bound by Cabinet decision-making once again.
Our politics, like our public services, needs reform to ensure far more openness and accountability. Do that, and we might be better governed whoever is in government.
I'm seething. But not half as angry as my constituent.
Her daughter had studied hard and been accepted by a good university. She had just started life as a fresher. Mum was so proud, busying herself with the sort of things that proud mums do when their daughter goes off to university.
No one imagined that that that irksome delay with the Student Loan whatsit was anything to fret about.
Because my constituent, and her family, had lived for a while in Germany, the Student Loan Company wanted more details. How long had she lived in Germany? Was she normally resident here?
Spend two minutes talking to my constituent, and it is perfectly obvious she – and her daughter – are as British as a post box.
But it is ticking the boxes on the application form that counts. And because she had lived in Germany for a short time, her application for a student loan was rejected. Despite a very understanding Vice Chancellor, she has now had to drop out of university.
Try to imagine how that family in Clacton might now feel, when they read that student loans to Bulgarians and Romanians have just been suspended.
Do you suppose my constituents are likely to be grateful that at last some chump in Whitehall has finally woken up to the fact that many of the Bulgarian and Romanian applications were, apparently, bogus?
No, my ministerial pals. They are going to be furious. Livid. Volcanic in their anger. And it will be directed at you.
What the heck are we doing, they will ask themselves and their neighbours, giving student loans to any Bulgarians or Romanians in the first place? The very month that my constituent's daughter had to pack her things and leave university, we were apparently approving student loans to non-UK nationals. Why?
Thanks to decades of Euro folly, those in SW1 have landed us in a situation where a British student, who happens to have spent some time in Europe, is thrown out of university. European students, meanwhile, have been accessing student loans.
Being British now counts for nothing in a bureaucratic world in which it has become strictly verboten to discriminate on grounds of nationality. So we end up discriminating on grounds of residency. Which is what got a British student thrown out of a British university after six weeks.
Another day, another illustration of what membership of the EU actually means. Politicians and their pet pundits in SW1 need to stop thinking about EU membership in terms of backbench "rebellions" or "Tory splits". Think about what it means for this Clacton family.
Did anyone imagine that this is were we would end up when we voted to join a Common Market all those years ago?
We cannot go on like this. For the first time I am starting to think that maybe the Tory Party must become explicitly "outist" – or, I fear, there might not be much left of the Tory party.
Today is the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg address. His 272 words, delivered on the afternoon of 19 November 1863, is one of the most famous speeches in history.
Why do politicians give speeches? To let the rest of us know what they are thinking, obviously.
But for what purpose?
Partly it is to justify, or explain, a course of action. After years of bloody, brutal conflict, Lincoln wanted his Union electorate to appreciate why they'd had to make such sacrifices. Lincoln's words are more than just an explanation. They rally his audience to a vision of something greater, more uplifting, than the here and now.
In non-democracies, where leaders are less accountable to the demos, there is less need to constantly justify and explain, or give the vision thing. Hence the leaders of countries like China, for example, are notably more reticent. When they do give a speech, it is often plodding, and aimed at a foreign audience.
In many 21st century Western states, effective executive power has slipped gradually away from those we elect, towards quangocrats, state functionaries and judges. Unelected officials – rather than those we vote for – increasingly get to decide who can enter the country. Or what sort of houses get built and where. Or if that wind farm planning application gets approval.
This leaves those competing for voters still in the business of giving speeches. But what they say is no longer an attempt to justify or explain a course of action. Increasingly politician's speeches have become a substitute for action.
Contemporary politicans often give speeches to demonstrate that they are on the voters' side. Whether it is energy prices, or immigration, or the price of petrol, the purpose of a speech is to emote – rather than to outline a specific course of action.
In so far as they outline a vision, politicians speeches are often motherhood and apple pie. They say the kind of things – stringing together the clichés – that they feel someone in their position ought to say. (Watch Love Actually again this Christmas to see what I mean).
Wielding executive power is difficult. It takes ideas and precision. Being able to distinguish between tactics and strategy. And requires some sort of ideological framework and judgment. Much easier just to give a speech ...
Many of the managerialist politicians inside SW1 believe in ideas-free politics. Ideology, to them, is a dirty word. Passion is something to be practised for the cameras.
For them, the key to giving a great speech is a hire a great speech writer.
But all the wordsmiths in the word cannot give you something worth saying unless you have ideas you believe in.
The "real Tory divide" on Europe, according to my friend James Kirkup, is between Tory MPs in safe seats versus those in the marginals.
"Those sitting on fat majorities" he wrote the other day "are intensely comfortable banging on about Europe". Whereas "those fighting for survival" in marginal seats say that the Tory party should talk about "anything but Europe."
That might be what some folk brief lobby correspondents, but I am not sure it is a view supported by the evidence.
If Euroscepticism was an indulgence of MPs in safe seats, one would expect Eurosceptic "rebels" to come from seats with bigger majorities. In fact the opposite is the case.
The size of the average Conservative MP's majority is, according to my calculation, 9,471. Yet the average majority amongst those 81 Tory MPs who voted for an In/Out referendum before it became party policy is 8,276.
If anything, those who woke up to the "we-want-a-referendum" thing first had smaller majorities.
Correlation, of course, is not causation.
Perhaps those MPs in more marginal seats tend to be younger, and thus more Eurosceptic in outlook? The fact that an MP is a Eurosceptic could help explain why in certain cases they have a safe seat in the first place.
I suspect that MPs in more marginal seats are more receptive to the views of their (overwhelmingly Eurosceptic) electorate.
No matter, we all support an In/Out referendum now. Which is my real beef with what James wrote.
Lobby correspondents have spent so many years writing about "Tory splits" on Europe that they have missed the real news; there is no longer a significant Tory divide on Europe. We all agree to let the voters decide if we stay or leave.
Before David Cameron committed us to an In/Out referendum, there was on average an EU-related Commons "rebellion" every three to four months. Since then? I can't think of a single one.
Of course, now that we do agree on letting people vote to get us out of the EU, we can focus on many of the other changes Britain so desperately needs as well.
Over the past decade or so, immigrants have paid billions of pounds more in taxes than they have cost the public purse, according to a report by the Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration (CREAM). And, what's more, immigrants are 45 percent less likely to claim state benefits.
Yet more justification for all those "Britain needs more immigration" articles one finds in the Economist, perhaps?
Except on reading the CREAM report, I discovered errors, guesswork and oversight.
First, an elementary error. When calculating the fiscal contribution made by migrants, the report's authors try to work out how much tax migrants pay. In doing so, the report's authors seem to count the £10 Billion business rates paid to the Treasury each year as if business rates were a tax paid by every self employed person in the country. It isn't. Most of that £10 billion tax contribution comes from big companies.
Crediting every self employed person with a £2,500 tax contribution that they do not make is not only wrong. Because a much higher proportion of EU migrants are self employed, it seriously distorts any net assessment of the overall financial contribution they make.
Then there is the guesswork. When trying to work out how much corporation and capital tax migrants pay, the report appears to make assumptions that look to me like a guesstimate.
Then there is the oversight. The report tells us that migrants are 45 percent less likely to claim benefits. Really? If you only look at Labour Survey data it is possible to draw that conclusion. But not if you look at HMRC data, which suggests that migrants are 20 percent MORE likely to claim certain benefits.
Is it not a bit odd that a serious research unit, associated with University College London should produce a report that does not appear to understand who pays business rates? Not nearly as odd as the reaction I provoked by pointing this out.
Writing for the Independent on Sunday, David Blanchflower dismissed what I had to say as the "visceral response" of a "Right-wing Tory MP". He did not, however, get around to countering the points I had actually made.
It was enough for Blanchflower to simply assert that "Christian Dustmann is definitively the number one expert on migration in the UK". While Carswell, on the other hand, is a mere "amateur".
Indeed I am.
But isn't it all the more shocking that a mere "amateur" can expose flaws in a report produced by the "number one expert on migration"? No wonder UK immigration policy seems to be such a mess.
"Be fair, Carswell" I hear you say "it's jolly hard to work out how much migrants pay in tax".
I agree. Hideously complicated. So much so that I believe we cannot possibly claim to know for certain. Which is my point.
Responding to my critique, Christian Dustmann did not rebut the substantive points I raised. Instead he said that it was a "well-established" way of doing it. Maybe the fact it is so "well-established" helps explain why so many similar reports have tended to draw the same kind of conclusions? That does not prevent it from being wrong.
He went on to accept that the data on which his report was based was "not perfect". "Assumptions" he wrote "have to be made". Quite. So why make such big and bold announcements about the impact of immigration if the data is known to be so imperfect?
It was, you may recall, Professor Dustmann who once "predicted that opening UK borders to 10 new EU countries in 2004 would increase the population by 13,000 a year". Data can indeed be imperfect.
Britain is more of a democracy now than in the past. Right?
Everyone knows we've been getting steadily more democratic. First working men got the vote. Then women. There's even talk of giving it to 16-year-olds.
The proportion of the population entitled to vote has undoubtedly increased. But what about their ability to hold those with power to account?
Measured that way, democracy has been in retreat.
Look at a political map of Britain today and you will see a mosaic of local party monopolies – 21st-century "rotten boroughs". In seven out of ten parliamentary constituencies, there is almost no chance that the seat might change hands between parties at a General Election. Yet within most of these safe seats, it is the party machines and cliques that control candidate selection (think Falkirk). They do so as tightly as any local duke or landowner once did.
The uncomfortable truth is that most folk still do not have a real say over who gets to represent them in Parliament.
Many MPs answer not to their constituents, but to the party machine and other MPs. And because of this, the executive has been steadily able to neuter the legislature. Those we elect to hold government to account find that they are accountable to government.
Ponder for a second what really kicked of the English civil war. It was the king's insistence that he be able to appoint ministers without reference to the Commons. But isn't that more or less what the Prime Minister now does?
Until the mid 1970s, it was Parliament, not the Prime Minister that decided the scope of ministerial responsibilities. Far from being a quirky leftover from the past, the powers of Crown Prerogative have been extended.
From 1701 until 1918, it wasn't just Parliament that approved what ministers did. Local voters were required to approve who became a minister in the first place. Once invited to join the government, an MP would have to return to their consistency, resign their seat, then fight and win the by-election that followed. There might have been fewer voters in each constituency, but they were able to approve ministerial promotion.
Whichever clique happens to be sitting on the Downing Street sofas gets to decide who becomes a minister and what they do as a minister – not the people you actually vote for on polling day.
Within living memory, the Commons controlled its own agenda. Today a committee of the executive decides what those you elect should be allowed to decide (with a little time for tame Backbench Business blah blah, you understand).
Until the 1930s, those we elected could table amendments to the Budget – in other words make real tax and spend decisions. Today MPs are invited to say "yes" or "no" to a Budget drafted in Whitehall, which few of them have even read, let alone understood.
More people might have the vote. The ability of voters to determine public policy has steady declined. No wonder so many people no longer bother with the whole process.
Russell Brand is right to recognise this. The solution, however, is not to give zillionaire celebs a greater say. We need more direct democracy, with open primaries and recall votes, so that ordinary folk with votes might actually have votes that count.
For years, the debate about immigration has been dominated by "experts".
Complex and inaccessible data was used by remote academics. They crunched the numbers and drew the conclusions. The rest of us had to take it on trust that the facts sustained what they told us.
Take the recent report by the Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration (Cream). The data, declares their report, shows migrants are "less likely to receive benefits ... than UK natives". And they "made a considerable net positive contribution to the UK's fiscal system".
End of conversation. The people with the PhDs agree. It must be so.
But hang on. Does this report sustain these conclusions? Let's use this internet thingy to deconstruct what the "experts" declare.
1. How does the report work out what migrants contribute in tax? With some school boyish errors, it would seem.
Take for example business rates. They generate something like £10 billion a year for the Exchequer – and as everyone ought to know, that £10 billion of tax revenue comes largely from big business.
But as Michael O'Connor points out, the report appears to credit business rates as a fiscal contribution – worth what appears to amount to £2,500 each – from every self-employed individual in the country. That is simply wrong.
Yet doing so massively distorts the fiscal balance sheet, since we know that EU migrants are far more likely to declare themselves as self-employed. (Indeed, if you come from Romania or Bulgaria, you often have to call yourself self-employed to
be allowed in).
2. How does the report assess the contribution of migrants in terms of company and capital taxes? By guessing, it seems.
Company and capital taxes represent about 9 per cent of the UK tax base. To work out what share comes from migrants, the report allocates a share to migrants on the "implicit assumption that company ownership (i.e. share ownership) is similarly
distributed between the native and immigrant population".
Perhaps it is. Perhaps it is not. But to me that sounds like guessing.
3. What data does the Cream report use? Labour Force Survey data, which is drawn from what information folk give about what they are claiming. It is not cross checked with what they might actually be claiming.
While Labour Force Survey data suggests migrants are less likely to claim out of work benefits, HMRC data shows they are significantly more likely to claim working tax and child tax credit.
4. How does the Cream paper assess the benefits paid to migrants? By conflating benefits and tax credit – and, worse, by assuming everyone gets the same amount.
If, for example, a Brit get £20 a week child benefit, and a migrant gets £80 a week tax credit, the report treats them as together getting £100, which it nets out as £50 each.
Why does this matter?
5. The report fails to factor in data we have about different migrant groups very different claiming patterns. Michael O'Connor highlights work by Drinkwater and Robinson in 2013.
Migrants from Poland, Estonia, Latvia or Hungary, for example, are less likely to claim (relatively low) unemployment benefits – but significantly more likely to claim (relatively high) tax credits or housing benefit.
In other words, this is not simply methodological nit picking. It could undermine the claim that European Economic Area migrants contribute 34 percent more in taxes than they receive in benefits.
Not for the first time, I suspect a report written by "experts" tell us more about what "experts" think than it does about the way things