Blocked By Carswell!

On this blog we have followed Douglas Carswell on Twitter for many years; when he was a Conservative MP and now as a UKIP MP. However recently (not long after he has joined UKIP) we are now blocked from seeing his twitter feed as the above screenprint illustrates clearly.

To block our Twitter account is obviously his prerogative, but it confuses us why… Our Twitter account rarely uses bad language, never insults nor is gratuitously offensive. In fact our Twitter exchanges with Douglas Carswell have been minimal to say the least.

Yes, this blog has not always been complimentary about Carswell, but given his inconsistent position on aspects of EU membership among other matters then as an elected MP he should expect a degree of scrutiny and questioning.

It’s thus strange from the same chap who argued for more internet interaction in politics as per the Plan page 24:

Analogue politics in a digital age.

Never has the expectations gap been so wide. when we book a holiday or buy a DVD we expect choice and immediacy. we browse the internet for options, we click a couple of buttons, and we get what we came for.

Compare this to the experience of applying for a driving licence, or getting planning permission – let alone trying to get a child into a particular school. The technological advances of the past decade have empowered consumers in everything except their dealings with the state.

Previous generations were much readier to accept that what they wanted might not be available and that, even when it was, they would have to queue for it.

But the internet has created almost unlimited capacity, eliminating storage costs and reducing barriers to entry. whatever we want, the chances are that someone somewhere will be selling it. And it is now more feasible than ever to deal with that someone – unless that someone is a government agency.

Odd again when we consider this from page 27 from the Plan:

The web has made it possible, as never before, for a politician to come from outside, appealing directly to voters over the heads of party bigwigs.

Even more odd behaviour when we see this from Carswell’s blog in 2013:

Twitter is killing spin

Twitter is a great detector of bull. It is changing the way that news is managed fundamentally. And for the better.

We guess though we shouldn’t expect any different. Like every other politician what Carswell says is not what he does. He advocates open primaries as per page 23 of the Plan:

Many of the peculiar features of American democracy – the election of public officials, from the school board to the Sheriff; the fiscal and legislative autonomy of the 50 states; the use of open primaries to select candidates; term limits and recall procedures to control politicians; open congressional hearings for big appointments; local and state-wide referendums – are designed to prevent law-makers from becoming remote.

Yet when he defected to UKIP he was made the UKIP candidate in Clacton with no open primaries and as result of trampling all over UKIP party rules to the detriment of the hard work by Roger Lord.

Presumably UKIP is supposed to be the new anti-establishment politics, but for the life of me I can’t see the difference.


Total Recall

One possible positive that may be garnered out of the debate yesterday on the Recall of MPs Bill is the fact that the debate is even happening at all is tacit acknowledgment within the Westminster that something has gone wrong with the system.

But it was of no surprise that Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith’s proposals, which would have excluded Parliament’s standards committee from any role in determining whether errant MPs should face re-election, was defeated – it is entirely within character that MPs would be somewhat reluctant to support reducing their powers with enthusiasm. It therefore was of some amusement the naive astonishment shown in some quarters on social media at MPs unwilling to give up powers.

All of this though misses the point. The debate regarding the recall of MPs is Westminster talking to itself – the proposal nothing more than a tinkering around the edges while in effect maintaining the status quo. Very much a politician’s solution then…

Unwittingly Zac Goldsmith betrays this view in his arguments in favour of his proposals by trying to persuade MPs and Ministers that they have nothing to fear from recall decided by the people because it would very rarely be used:

The third concern relates to the fear that Members would face endless recall attempts, amounting almost to a form of harassment, an issue raised several times in last week’s debate. I see no need for a limit, as the experience of recall around the world shows that its use is extremely rare and that it is used only in extreme circumstances. In 100 years of recall in the United States, where there are virtually no financial controls or controls on broadcasters and so on, it has happened only 20 times. There have been 40 recall referendums…

This argument has the backing of Douglas Carswell:

Far from leading to a flood of vexatious attempts to remove sitting MPs, this second stage makes it almost impossible to oust a sitting MP on partisan grounds. Note how few recall attempts have ever been successful in California. 

In other words, vote for this measure because it won’t make any difference at all. It’s a … er … curious argument to make for a democratic device to say the least.

It’s safe to assume that the great expenses scandal of 2009/10 is a cloud hanging over the recall debate, with examples such as Labour MP Margaret Moran going into hiding leaving her constituents unrepresented and they having no means to force a by-election.

Yet it is with some irony that the expenses scandal actually show up the ineffectiveness recall would have. While there was a lot of public anger, further provoked by MPs’ attempts to prevent disclosure under Freedom of Information, voters did not punish them electorally in 2010.

Many MPs (and over 50% sought re-election) who were embroiled in the financial scandal were still re-elected in the 2010 election. Take Alistair Darling for example, who abused taxpayer’s money by ‘flipping’ his two houses four times was re-elected in 2010 with an increased majority.

As this report from 2011 finds, titled “Electoral Accountability and the UK Parliamentary Expenses Scandal: Did Voters Punish Corrupt MPs?” the expenses scandal came low down voters’ priorities. This chimes with my own experience as a PPC in 2010 when the subject was never raised once on the doorstep nor in hustings.

The report finds instead that there was only a modest 1.5% voting impact on MPs implicated:

We find that implicated MPs received a vote share about 1.5 percentage points lower than non-implicated MPs (after controlling for incumbency, region, and previous constituency results). Intriguingly, we do not nd an association between vote share and either the amount the MP claimed in expenses or the amount an MP was required to repay…

The findings may not be so surprising when we consider that the representative ballot is a blunt instrument to deal with the complexities of voters’ concerns such as the economy, immigration and of course partisan competition. Thus the report comes to an interesting conclusion:

The degree to which voters punished individual MPs for expenses abuses (a drop in vote share of about 1.5% on average) is modest in comparison to voters’ responses to corruption in the US and other settings, but the lower magnitude seems reasonable given the fact that most British MPs have few individual powers and British voters have no other opportunity to express a party preference at the national level.

The findings thus illustrate the fact that the degree to which electoral accountability can constrain individual politicians depends on political institutions including the electoral system, separation of powers, and legislative organization.

A better example of why recall won’t work would be hard to find and further demonstration that something far more radical is need to grap MPs by their goolies – The Harrogate Agenda.

Carswell Defects To UKIP

“[The Tory] Parliamentary majority was slashed from a healthy 100 to a – by comparison – fairly feebly twenty. If the truth be told, John Major and the rest of us were relieved to achieve even that result. It was a workable majority, or so the PM thought. The debates on the Maastricht Treaty would prove otherwise. With a majority of 100 a rebellion would have been futile. But with twenty, a group of determined backbenchers can change government policies. The government can no longer allow itself the luxury of doing just as it likes”

Teresa Gorman MP, “The Bastards“.

In news that has seemingly come out of the ‘blue‘, Douglas Carswell has defected to UKIP. In some ways this is not really surprising. His political views have increasingly been at odds with the party he represents. It maybe more a factor that the party has left him not that he has left the party. As we remember he is one of the few Tory MPs to vote against EU measures.

However we also remember that Carswell has not been entirely consistent in EU views, often clearly putting his party first above his ‘principles’. He has backed Cameron when it is readily apparent that Cameron is not only a Europhile but has no intention of being a Prime Minister that leads the UK out of the EU. Despite Cameron’s clear deception on the issue Carswell noted in January 2014 he was wrong to rebel against the party line:

“What is it we now want, guys? We’re going to face a reckoning with the electorate in just over a year’s time. We’re two points behind the Labour Party. We can do this – we really can do this. If we lack discipline, we’re going to have five or six appalling years in opposition to dwell on it”

The Spectator concludes as a result of the interview:

Here’s a sneak preview of what was supposed to be a debate about the wisdom of rebelling – but ended up being Carswell explaining why he believes his colleagues should now stop defying the government, and support the PM.

And this was the same man who in 2012 that claimed (my emphasis):

One of the reasons I backed David Cameron to be party leader early on in his leadership campaign was because I wanted to see a different kind of Conservatism. I still do – and I’d vote for him to deliver it if there was a leadership contest tomorrow. 

Even though there is obvious evidence that Cameron is not…

…a secret patriot waiting for the chance to rip off his expensive tailoring and reveal his inner Thatcher. He is exactly what he looks like, an unprincipled chancer with limited skills in public relations”.

So with this in mind we have a couple of observations or more accurately a number of questions regarding Carswell’s motives.

The first is why defect? As it currently stands (and currently is the operative word) the Tories are the only party in a position to possibly win the next General Election who offers an in/out referendum on membership of the EU. Labour have chosen not to unless there’s a new Treaty and the Lib Dems… well they, to no-one’s surprise, have no intention of doing so.

As we have noted on here before Cameron has categorically promised a referendum in 2017 and one in circumstances which are most favourable to the “outers”:

Thus the EU is in a mess, Cameron has been shown up publicly that he cannot deliver on reform or influence and he almost certainly cannot recommend an “in” vote in 2017. Add to that his general incompetence and it’s difficult to envisage a better framework for the ‘outers’ to win a referendum. The chances of winning a referendum has improved significantly.

Understandably there is much scepticism of Cameron’s promises given the “cast iron” one over Lisbon – which turned out to be one of Cameron’s greatest mistakes and which more than likely cost him the 2010 election.

However political reality suggests that he won’t have much choice to attempt to try the same again. Poll ratings, Labour bias in the electoral system and Labour’s superior ability to manipulate the postal vote means if the Tories do win the next election any majority they gain will be relatively small in number.

With this in mind we refer to Teresa Gorman’s quote above that a small majority gives the backbenchers far more power over the government – “the government can no longer allow itself the luxury of doing just as it likes”. Nothing illustrates this better than the constant rebellions over current coalition government policies such as the EU rebellions over an EU referendum.

In other words, with a small majority the political reality would be that Cameron will be forced to hold a referendum on terms which will be the most favourable possible for the ‘out’ camp. This is reflected in the fact that Cameron only promised an EU referendum precisely because he is “unprincipled chancer”. He will do what ever his party tells him particularly with a small majority.

Of course we are under no illusions of the Tory track record on the EU or that party positions might change in the meantime, but as it stands:

  • A vote for Labour is EU membership
  • A vote for UKIP is EU membership by virtue of they can’t possibly get enough MPs based on current poll ratings
  • A vote for Lib Dems is EU membership
  • A vote for Tories is a possible referendum we can win.

We wonder therefore why Carswell has jumped ship, just under a year away from a General Election, when statistically a Tory win might give him the EU exit he craves?

We appreciate that we’re in the middle of silly season and crucially the news is understandably being dominated by the appalling deficiency of Rotherham Council and Police. So why would Carswell defect when he maybe unable to guarantee dominate coverage to ensure Cameron is fully embarrassed? The answer may lie in the fact that the Tory party conference is taking place towards the end of September which is four weeks away. If the by-election is moved quickly it will occur just in time for the result to be the main discussion point at the Tory conference.

In addition intriguingly via a by-election Carswell might ensure that by winning he would become the first elected UKIP MP – UKIP defections have occurred before of course but not with an electoral mandate. Carswell winning a by-election would pose a problem for Farage, if not a threat. For a man who has made UKIP his own party it could be that the first elected UKIP MP would not be himself – “let’s make history” Farage’s latest email says:

Last night I was selected by local party members to stand as UKIP’s Thanet South candidate for the upcoming general election.

With recent polling showing that UKIP can win the Thanet South seat in May, I look forward to the forthcoming campaign where we can set out a positive vision, for a free and independent Britain outside of the EU.

Farage calls ‘Carswell’s’ move “brave” but we wonder whether that for Farage himself this is a “be careful what you wish for” moment. Another question is where does this leave Daniel Hannan, who co-authored the Plan. Hannan seems reluctant to make the same jump.

Perhaps rather cynically we might consider if this is attempt of a coup d’etat of UKIP by the Tory party just before an election. Its consequences mean there will be splits in the eurosceptic camp – to the convenience of the establishment. A Labour government in 2015 will result in 5 more years of EU membership.

There is no ulterior motive on this blog, apart for campaigning for EU exit. We make no suggestions apart from the fact that as it currently stands Carswell’s defection actually makes EU exit less likely not more, and he is not a man to be entirely trusted. Split parties do not win elections.

The ultimate question is what do Eurosceptics want? Destruction of the Tory party or EU exit?

Acting The (Judas) Goat

On Monday in the EU-supporting Telegraph, we have Douglas Carswell in his regular blog arguing that Britain should leave the Ukraine alone. He states:

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.

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?

In his anticipation of the motives of British diplomats, what seems to have escaped Carswell’s notice is that the UK does not have a choice in the matter. We are members of the EU and as a consequence we cannot have a separate national foreign policy on nations who have Association Agreements with the EU and are undergoing a European Neighbourhood Policy which applies to Ukraine.

Such matters are now a European External Action Service (EEAS) competence so our foreign policy is whatever President Barosso and Baroness Ashton decides it is. It doesn’t matter what the UK wants – we are up to our necks in the Ukrainian mess because of our EU membership.

The increasing importance, or ‘encroachment’ of the EEAS regarding the UK is demonstrated by its continuing expansion at same time the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is declining. For example since 2006-7, staffing has been cut from 7,005 to 4,450 and it is planned to fall further to 4,285 by 2014-15 (page 31).

Yet strangely not once is the EU or the EEAS mentioned in Carswell’s blog. And it’s not as if Carswell is unaware of the EEAS given that he voted against its establishment in July 2010 while most of his colleagues voted for it, and in October of the same year he said this to the House:

I remind Members that the European External Action Service is the EU’s diplomatic corps. It already has about 20 times the budget of our Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

So one wonders why the silence now, Carswell?

Update: I’ve just spotted that Autonomous Mind has just written a piece on a similar theme regarding the silence on the EEAS from Con Coughlin in the Telegraph.

Carswell Goes Native

On 17th April 2012 Douglas Carswell was interviewed by the BBC regarding his criticism of the government’s decision to tax charitable donations. At around 01:19mins in Mr Carswell was asked the following question by a BBC presenter:

“But this is your Government, would you vote against it, if you had a chance?”

Carswell in reply says:

I point out that I’m not a member of this Government…I sit on the backbenches, I’m a member of the Legislature, my job is to hold this Government to account.

We are tempted to be stirred by such sentiments especially as Mr Carswell’s commitment to reform and holding the government to account is so ‘genuine’ he co-wrote with Dan Hannan The Plan: Twelve months to renew Britain which proposed electoral reforms arguing:

I want the voters to have the ability to sack lazy, self-serving MPs by triggering by-elections. I want the people to help set the Commons agenda, and veto politicians and their endless folly. But I still think you need a legislature.

Once you’ve made the Commons properly accountable to the voter – and government properly answerable to the Commons – good luck to any MP who ignored what their local voters thought.

So an impression is made of a man committed not only to EU exit but also significant political reform. Yet fast forward on nearly 2 years (as we get ever nearer to an election) and what a difference. In an interview with the Spectator he has this to say in contrast:

“What is it we now want, guys? We’re going to face a reckoning with the electorate in just over a year’s time. We’re two points behind the Labour Party. We can do this – we really can do this. If we lack discipline, we’re going to have five or six appalling years in opposition to dwell on it”

The Spectator concludes as a result of the interview:

Here’s a sneak preview of what was supposed to be a debate about the wisdom of rebelling – but ended up being Carswell explaining why he believes his colleagues should now stop defying the government, and support the PM.

Thus it becomes clear that when faced with the prospect of the Conservative party losing the next election, Mr Carswell reverts back to type and becomes a loyal party member worried about losing his seat, losing power and the Tories not being in government. “Holding this Government to account” on behalf of his constituents – which he admits is his job – now becomes a ‘luxury’ he cannot afford. He complains of our “rotten political system” but then as his interview illustrates neatly he has become part of it.

I guess we shouldn’t be too surprised, after all this was the same man who stated in 2012 (my emphasis):

One of the reasons I backed David Cameron to be party leader early on in his leadership campaign was because I wanted to see a different kind of Conservatism. I still do – and I’d vote for him to deliver it if there was a leadership contest tomorrow.

The same man who signed a letter proposing for a national veto on EU laws despite that such an idea is a complete non-starter, the same man Witterings from Witney identified as a hypocrite in 2011 and the same man in the Spectator’s podcast (6 mins in) who argues that Cameron will give us a referendum in 2017, despite that the timetable is completely impossible to meet.

So rather than being “a member of the Legislature, [whose] job is to hold this Government to account”, Carswell merely demonstrates clearly the lack of separation of powers within Parliament, whereby loyalty to a party overrides proper scrutiny of a government.

We need the Six Demands:

3. Separation of powers: the executive shall be separated from the legislature. To that effect, prime ministers shall be elected by popular vote; they shall appoint their own ministers, with the approval of parliament, to assist in the exercise of such powers as may be granted to them by the sovereign people of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland; no prime ministers or their ministers shall be members of parliament or any legislative assembly.

Euro Nutters

The Mail on Sunday has a piece outlining the “political guerrilla warfare tactics” used over Cameron’s defeat on the EU budget last week:

A rebel Tory MP had secret talks with Ed Balls as part of the plot to defeat David Cameron in Wednesday’s shock Commons vote on the EU budget crisis.

Harwich MP Douglas Carswell discussed the rebellion with a member of Shadow Chancellor Mr Balls’s entourage to make sure the rebel Tory-Labour ambush was carried out with deadly effect.

Not much there comes as a massive surprise, but at the end of the article is this quote from a Labour MP:

‘The warm glow of defeating Cameron won’t last long.

‘To see us trashing everything we have ever said and done on Europe for a few good headlines was not edifying.

‘Walking through the voting lobbies with a bunch of wild-eyed Tory Euro nutters was a repulsive experience.

‘It would never have happened in Tony Blair and Peter Mandelson’s day – and I won’t be doing it again.’

This on a vote by Parliament of how much more (or less) of our money should go to the EU. When reading the above quote note the words missing; “taxpayer”, “constituents”…