The decline of batting technique and other modern cricketing ills

Robert Henderson

The batting of the 2015 Australian side on anything other than a featherbed pitch  has been shockingly inept,  not least because for  twenty years or so from the late 1980s  Australia had top class batsmen coming out of their ears.   Some, like Darren Lehmann,  played much less  Test cricket  than their talent  deserved and  others like poor Stuart Law managed but one game wearing the baggy green cap. The lack of proper practice games on tours

But the current Australians are not alone in their ineptitude whenever a ball swings, seams or spins.  There is a growing  propensity  for Test sides to collapse whenever faced with a large opposing total  – England are a good example of this.  Specialist batsmen  playing at the highest level are increasingly showing that they have  neither the technique nor the mentality to play not just Test cricket but first class cricket.

No country has any room for complacency because as older players with good techniques  retire there are few plausible replacements.  Look at Sri Lanka without  Dilshan, Jayawardene and Sangakkara  or imagine Australia minus Clarke, Rogers, Watson and Voges.   Take Bell and Cook away from England’s top order and what  is left but Root of proven Test batsmen?   How many really reliable day-in-day-out Test batsmen are there today?  Precious few and almost all of them are players nearer the end of their Test careers  than the beginning.

The batting averages of the 2015 Ashes tell their own story of ever diminishing batting technique.  England had only one player Root (57 ) averaging over 40 with the rest of the specialist batsmen turning in 36 (Cook), 29 (Bairstow), 26 (Bell),  14 (Lyth), and 24 (Balance) . Australia had three players (Smith, Rogers and Warner) averaging over 40,  which looks respectable but disguises the fact that Smith and Rogers alternated big scores with runs of small scores, while Warner repeatedly failed to make a  big  score in the first innings.   They also had their captain Clarke averaging 16 and Voges 28.   Nor did the often  pivotal batting spots of  six and seven do much, with no player who regularly appeared for either side in those positions managing an average of  better than 25 (Stokes).

It might be thought from those statistics that the bowling on both sides was of high quality.  Well, compare the bowling attacks of 2005 Ashes series with those today. In 2005 there were  Flintoff, Harmison, Jones, Hoggard and Giles (England); Mcgrath, Lee, Gillespie, Warne (Australia).  Today we have Anderson, Broad, Wood, Finn, Stokes and Ali (England) and Johnson, Starc, Hazlewood, Marsh and Lyon (Australia).

I doubt whether there would be much dissension from the claim that the 2005 bowling was decidedly  superior to that of the 2015 series .   Apart from two all time greats in Warne and Mcgrath, England’s four pronged pace attack with three genuinely fast bowlers in Flintoff, Harmison and Jones  was formidable. Yet  the scoring of top six batsmen in 2005 was heavier on the England side  than that of the 2015 team with four  of the top six averaging 39 or better   with  Pietersen, Trescothick, Strauss and Flintoff scoring 393 runs or better. The 2005 Australians did not score more heavily than the present day side overall  but they scored much more consistently, with four of their top six (Ponting, Langer,  Clarke, Hayden) scoring over 300 runs in the series.  Given the  superiority of the 2005 bowling, it would have been reasonable to expect the 2015 sides to score more heavily than those 2005 if the quality of batting was as good as that of  2005.   Patently it was not as both the averages and the frequency of collapses by both sides shows.  .

Another good example of how batting technique has declined is the inability of present day Indian batsmen  to play spin. This is a startling change because Indians have always been the batsmen noted for being expert in dealing with spinners. Yet now that the old guard of Tendulkar, Dravid and Sewag have departed the Test scene India are suddenly all at sea against spinners .  In England in 2014 they allowed Mooen Ali to take 19 wickets in four Tests despite the fact that he is not and never has been  considered a serious spin bowler. More recently in Sri Lanka India  were shot out for 112  when chasing a target of 175 with the main damage being done by  the slow left armer Herath  (7-48) and the offspinner Kaushal (3-47). Watching those ten dismissals it is  astonishing how uncertain the batsmen’s footwork was and how often they went hard at the ball early despite the fact that it was turning and bouncing.

What has caused this decline in batting technique?


It has been suggested that the Australian batting  failure was down to a lack of experience of English conditions, both because the lure  of T20 cricket has meant Australian players have not spent seasons with county clubs as they often did before the India Premier League began  and the attenuated nature of tours these days.

These arguments  will not stand up to close scrutiny. Before the relaxation of county qualification rules in 1968  Australian Test players did not have the experience of  playing in county cricket. As a consequence Australian teams would arrive in England with many players without any experience of first class cricket in English conditions and those with experience would be players  who had toured England before so they would probably have only a single season’s experience. Yet they still managed to make a fist of things.   As for the short tours, this is not a new circumstance. On the 2015  tour Australia also had four first class matches outside of the Test against Kent , Essex, Northants and Derbyshire. In 2005 Australia played only four first class matches outside the Tests against Leicestershire,  Essex, Worcestershire and  Northants.  It is worth adding that  Australians still play plenty of  county cricket and most of their  specialist batsmen  had with experience of English conditions either from playing for counties or from having previously toured England.

A much more likely cause of the decline in  Australian batsmanship is T20. It is surely no coincidence that the decline in technique is most marked amongst batsmen who have played all or most of their  careers after  T20 had gained a real hold.  Batsmen are conditioned by T20 to go hard at the ball . Playing with soft hands is seemingly unknown to them, and  the idea of building an innings completely alien.  Bowl a couple of maidens  in succession  at players in a first class match and their anxiety to score becomes palpable.

Other aspects of T20 play to the changes in technique and mentality. Benign T20 pitches with white balls used play to rarely provide much of an examination of technique. As the batsman has only a short time to play in T20  – 90 minutes at best if they bat through the innings-  batsmen have not only an urge to score quickly but no incentive to build an innings.  As T20 is where the big money is these days, batsmen will naturally enough increasingly think that  a cameo innings of 30 or most of the time with a fifty  now or then and  an occasional century in T20 is to be preferred to heavy scoring in the first class game.

There is also the absence of close catchers in T20 breeding bad habits. Players get away with risky stroke play in T20 because there are few if any close fielders,  then find when they return to first class cricket that they cannot stop themselves playing  the same strokes which have them  regularly caught  close to the wicket.

Bowling in T20 also has its part to play. As bowlers have only four overs to each bowl batsmen never have to come to terms with a bowler as such.  At most they can only face twenty four balls and will be unlikely to face more than a dozen. If a bowler is causing them serious difficulties they have a good chance of surviving an over or two whereas in a first class match they would probably get out.

When batsmen return to first class cricket from T20 because their techniques are faulty they find it difficult to adjust to cricket which is played on pitches which are normally more difficult to play on than those used for T20, not least because the games last for days. In addition, first class cricket is a much more fluid game than T20 with no limits, other than the time available,  on how many overs a bowler may bowl or a team may bat  and no fielding restrictions. The best bowlers can bowl as long as their captain wants. The batsman must  live with an uncertainty which does not exist in T20 where a  batsman knows that he  will only have to bat for quite a short time  even if he bats through the innings and because of the restriction of four  overs per bowler a batsman will be able to structure their approach to an innings around the knowledge that a bowler has only so many overs to bowl and have a good idea when a  bowler will bowl. In short, in a first class game the batsman has to think for themselves far more than they do in T20.

It might be objected that limited over cricket has been widely played since the mid 1960s without having the same effect as that of T20.  There are two answers to that. Limited overs cricket  longer than T20 has been played over 65 over, 55 overs, 50 overs and 40 overs. The longer the limited overs  game the nearer it will  correspond to first class cricket simply because duration alone  necessitates a difference in approach to the game..

The other major difference between the T20 period and what went before is that before T20 limited overs cricket loomed much less large than first class cricket and especially Test cricket which was the main revenue source.   Since the advent of T20 in England in 2003 and the creation of the Indian Premier League in 2008, T20 has become the main cash cow for cricketers with T20 competitions around the world.  Professional cricketers increasingly see their careers in terms of what T20 will bring them and concentrate on excelling at that variety of  the game to the detriment of acquiring the skills naturally learnt by playing first class cricket.

The batting stance

T20 is also probably  driving  the adoption of increasingly odd  stances in the professional game. Watch a first class game in England  today and almost all the specialist batsmen (and most of the allrounders and lower order) have foresworn the traditional stance.  Instead of standing still with, at most,  the bat thumping the ground a few times as the bowler moves in, batsmen adopt a variety of stances which place the batsman in an awkward position.   Quite a few batsmen look more  like a baseball hitter than a batsman as they wait for the bowler to deliver.

The most common oddities are where the  batsman holds the bat raised in a locked position. This hich looks both awkward and traps the player in a position which delays his movement to play the ball.  Some combine the raised bat with bat waving. A few mix the fixed bat raised stance with leaning forward in the stance which means they  are committed to the front foot and a sucker for the short fast ball.

Locking the bat in a raised position or waving it about  must both distract the batsman from concentrating on the bowler and the ball after it is delivered.  The  stance with the bat raised in a set position  must also be tiring in an innings of any length. A batsman making a century will probably  face 200+ balls so that is  200+ holding the bat in an awkward and tense position whilst supporting its full weight. Batting for a full day would probably mean 400-500 times of doing this tiring action.

Then  there  are  the extraordinary movements around the crease of some batsmen, for example, Steve Smith, before the ball is bowled. This leaves them vulnerable to any ball which moves in the air or off the pitch because it will take a fraction of a second longer to move to the correct position to play the ball than it would in an orthodox stance.   Movement about the crease before the bowler bowls must also distract the batsman from concentrating wholeheartedly on the bowler. Movement of the head is also  common, which again must distract the batsman from concentrating on the ball.

The orthodox stance is the best technical stance because it has the batsman with their weight evenly distributed so the batsman can play back or forward with equal physical ease, the batsman does not have to support the full weight of the bat , the batsman is  in a relaxed and comfortable position and,  most important,  has nothing to stop him giving his full attention to the bowler and the ball.

Helmets and batsmen who look like Michelin men

Since the adoption of helmets batsmen are regularly hit  on the head. Before helmets it was very rare to see a batsman struck on the head. I began  regularly watching first class cricket in England in the nineteen fifties. Between then and the routine adoption of helmets around 1980 I saw only two batsmen hit on the head: Jim Parks by Don Bennett in a Middlesex/Sussex county game at Lords  (Parks  was knocked out when a ball jumped from a length and hit him flush on the chin),  and Denis Amiss who walked into the line of a Holding bouncer playing  for the MCC against the 1976 West Indies.

It was not that bouncers were  bowled infrequently before helmets.  Throughout  cricket history there have been complaints about the overuse of the bouncer: Macdonald and Gregory just after the Great War, the Bodyline tour of 1932/3, Miller and Lindwall immediately after WW2, Thomson and Lillee  in the 1970s and  Holding, Roberts and Daniel on the 1976 West Indies tour of England all produced vociferous complaints. Nor were bouncers reserved only for those who could bat. It is true that that there was a supposedly gentleman’s agreement not to bowl bouncers at tail enders, but that  did not prevent  Lindwall hitting Tyson on the head during the 1954/5 Ashes tour or Charlie Griffith  bouncing Underwood during the 1966 West Indies tour of England when he lingered too long  at the crease for Griffith’s liking.  Batsmen were rarely hit on the head because they were skilled at getting out of the way by swaying or ducking.

The most plausible reason for why batsmen are regularly hit today is  that helmets  have made them  careless in their treatment of the bouncer, either through not watching the ball or a too ready willingness to hook and pull regardless of their technical command of the shots.   Before helmets, batsmen only hooked or pulled bowlers of any pace if they were competent players of the shot. Fine opening batsmen such as John Edrich and  Bobbie Simpson rarely if ever hooked.  Moreover, even the competent players  were very selective in what they hooked and pulled. Today every  Tom, Dick and Harry in the first class game feels they  should hook and pull, with even undisputed rabbits indulging themselves on occasion.

The false sense of security which helmets bring is heightened by the extraordinary extra protective paraphernalia with which batsmen equip themselves  today: bumper bras, arm guards, massive thigh pads which go round both thighs. The result is batsmen routinely get to the wicket looking like Michelin men.  This must impede their movement.  In the past batsmen had at most pads,  rudimentary gloves, a box and an inadequate thigh pad or a towel shoved down the trousers on the leading thigh for protection. Some, like Trevor Bailey,  dispensed with thigh protection altogether believing it made them less agile.


There are two main worries about bowling: inaccuracy and  the decline in spin bowling. I can vouch for the fact that bowlers in the past were much more accurate than they are today. Those of a younger generation who doubt this should go and view a few clips of extended play  from the fifties and sixties to see the difference. Bowlers in the past knew how to bowl to their field in a way which bowlers today all too often do not.

Bowlers today experiment too much, but they also are conditioned by T20 (and to a lesser degree in the longer limited formats)  to bowl  to contain rather than take wickets.  This has a particularly unfortunate effect on spin bowlers.  It makes them bowl flat and fast. The England and Middlesex offspinner John Emburey who started his career in the 1970s bowling an attacking line outside the offstump with plenty of spin and ended it bowling middle and off after spending a good deal of time bowling in limited overs games.

Spinners are used freely in T20 and longer form limited overs games. Indeed, in England you are more likely to see spin bowlers in those forms of cricket than in first class games where it is rare to see two frontline spinners in a team and even when there are two captains never seem to keep them bowling in tandem, the most effective tactic for spinners on most pitches. As for the idea that spinners can be attacking bowlers on any pitch, through flight and disguised changes of pace where a pitch is benign, this has gone completely out of the English game.


Not only does accuracy and bowling to a field make life  more difficult for the batsmen, it also helps the  fielding because, guess what, batsmen play the ball to the set field more often. This means that less spectacular fielding is required.

Modern fielding is often   lauded as being vastly better than it was in the past. It is certainly true that the sliding tackle stop looks spectacular and some of the catches in the outfield are spectacular, but I would question whether the fielding is superior overall. In particular, close catching has declined.   This I suspect is due to the movement away from specialist fielders  as limited overs cricket and particularly T20 has expanded its importance.  The fact that limited overs cricket constitutes so much of the modern player’s career also means  that the opportunities  to be a close catcher are much reduced.

Modern wicket keeping is much inferior to that of the past. That is partly a consequence of the universal fashion for selecting wicket keepers who can bat well enough to at least qualify as genuine  allrounders  (ideally well enough to score like specialist batsman) and partly the decline in spin bowling which robs them of the experience of keeping whilst standing up.

The aesthetic side of cricket

Cricket has become much uglier since the 1970s when helmets came in. Instead of watching  a batsman with bare head or a cap or sunhat on it batsmen now look out for bars covering their face.  Nor is it only batsmen because it has become routine to see wicket keepers and fielders such as short leg  wearing helmets with grills. The bulkiness of the other new protective I have already remarked on but they also make batsmen look both un-athletic  and less agile and natural in their movements.

Then there are the weird modern  stances and the dancing around the crease instead of standing still as the bowler runs in. These are both ugly to watch and irritating to watch.

Watch extended recordings of batsmen from the fifties and sixties and you will see that they looked better, adopted neat orthodox stances which left them balanced to go back or forward with equal ease and were readily recognisable.

First class cricket is in danger of dying

First class cricket is the form of cricket which develops and maintains the fullest range of  skills. It needs to be played regularly  to both develop the skills and maintain them.  Someone playing little first class cricket outside of Tests,  as many established Test players do these days,  will find flaws enter their techniques that  go uncorrected because of their  lack of regular first class play.  To be a young international  batsman with a central contract from their national cricket authority means that the normal development of technique through playing  regular first class  cricket does not happen.

First class cricket will die if  the skills needed to play it are lost or so reduced that the idea of playing a three  day game let alone a five day Test match simply becomes impractical because the players will be unable to play a match which lasts so much longer than limed overs cricket.  Batsmen will lack the technique to handle pitches and climatic conditions where red  balls spin, seam and  swing; bowlers will be conditioned to bowling defensively and will probably lack the fitness to bowl twenty overs or more in a day; fielders will be unused to fielding for day after day and all players will simply be mentally unprepared for the much greater and more varied demands first class cricket  poses.

If first class cricket does die or even becomes a very poor relation of T20, cricket as a serious professional sport could be finished. Limited overs cricket whether it is 50 overs or 20 overs is formulaic and one dimensional compared with first class cricket which has an extended and varied narrative that limited overs cricket can never begin to match.  That is why limited overs matches are rarely remembered while Test matches and Test series  have a resonance which often lasts a cricket lover  for a lifetime.  The danger is that eventually T20 is  all pervasive and cricket  becomes less and less popular as the  stereotyped and predicable  nature  of T20 begins to bore people.

Posted in Sport | Tagged | 4 Comments

Defend your national territory  or lose it

Robert Henderson

The present attempts of migrants from around the Mediterranean and  beyond to effectively invade Europe have brought the long simmering immigration threat to a head.  First World   politicians can no longer pretend it is under any sort of control. The question those in the First World have to answer is  gruesomely simple: are they willing  to defend the their own territory as they  would if faced with an armed invader  and by doing so preserve their way of life and safety , or will they allow a fatal sentimentality  to paralyse the entirely natural wish to stop invaders until the native populations of the First World are at best a tolerated minority in their own ancestral lands and at worst the subject of acts of genocide.

The Prime Minister of Hungary Victor Orlan  has had the courage to point out  something which is obvious but anathema to the politically correct elites of Europe, namely, that  immigration on the current scale will result in Europeans becoming a minority in  their own continent with a consequent loss of European values.  Anyone who thinks that Europe (and the rest of the First World) is not in danger should think on these facts:

  • The population of the world is approximately 7 billion. At the most generous estimate only one billion live in the First World.
  • The population of the world is estimated to grow by another two billion by 2050 with all the growth being in the Third World.
  • The white population of the world is projected to be in a minority in Europe and North America by 2050.
  • The First World already has large minorities of those from racial and ethnic groups whose antecedents are in the Third World and who have had their sense of victimhood at the hands of whites  fed assiduously by white liberals for over 50 years. Once established in a First World  country they agitate for the right to bri9ng relatives over and to relax immigration control generally. A  recent report by the think tank Policy Exchange estimates that one third of the UK population with be from an ethnic minority by 2050.
  • Political power in most of the First World is in the hands of politicians who arequislings in the service of internationalism   in its modern guise of globalism.
  • Those working in the mass media of the First World share the ideology of First World politicians with bells on, missing no chance to propagandise in favour of mass immigration.
  • The First World is funding its  own destruction by feeding the Third World with huge amounts of Aid . This promotes war throughout the Third World (providing a driver for Third World  immigrants to the First World) and, most importantly, increases the  populations of the Third World which rapidly outstrip the  economic carrying capacity of their societies.

At present the mainstream media in countries such as Britain and the  USA are voraciously feeding the public what amounts to unashamed propaganda  to persuade them to accept not merely huge numbers of Third World immigrants now,  but an ongoing and ever increasing stream in the not too distant future as the invading hordes gather around the Mediterranean waiting for their chance to entered the promised land of the rich European states of the north.

It is easy to be swayed by photos of  a  young child who has died or   boatloads crammed to the gunnels with miserable looking people  to the point where the resolution to defend your native territory is overridden, but look at the aggression and sense of entitlement the invaders, for  that is what they are, as they battle to leave Hungary. They are in the position of supplicants but far from begging for help they demand as a right that they be let into the richer countries of Europe.

There are very few if any places outside of Europe and  the Anglosphere countries of the United Kingdom,  North America, Australia and New Zealand  which have any serious history of freedom and the rule of law and even amongst that group only the Anglosphere has  enjoyed  both an uninterrupted political system of representative government and been free of civil war for a century or more.  These are countries which have the very rare and valuable attribute of having worked out a social and political system which creates peace and tolerance. That seriously at risk because of mass immigration. Does anyone believe  for example, a that Britain in which there was a Muslim majority would remain a Parliamentary democracy or have any regard for free expression?

Those amongst the native populations of the  First World who propagandise in favour of mass immigration do so in the belief that they will be untouched by the immigration because they live in affluent areas where immigrants cannot generally settle. Not for these people state schools which “boast” that “there are 100 languages here”; not for these people a need for increasingly scarce affordable (social)  housing  in places such as London; not for these people having to use grossly over subscribed medical services in their area.  These people think they are safe  from the effects of mass immigration,  but if it continues their children and grandchildren will not be so lucky. There needs to be a penalty for those who promote and facilitate mass immigration, for example,  forcing them to take immigrants  into their homes and be responsible for their upkeep .

Mass immigration  is conquest not by armed force but by those who are come equipped only with their victimhood and misery and, most potently, the  mentality of the elites in the First World who subscribe to the idea of white guilt and the white populations of the First World who have been browbeaten  into believing that they cannot have any world other than a globalist world which includes huge movements of peoples. We are seeing the scenario described by Jean Raspail begin to play out.

Homo sapiens is the social animal par excellence. All social animals need boundaries to their group because trust has to exist between the members of the group. Human beings can tolerate very large numbers in their group, but there is a limit. To be a member of a functioning human group,  whether that be tribe,  clan or nation,  the members or the group must share sufficient distinguishing behaviours and  attributes to create the necessary trust. Putting huge numbers of people with very disparate background together cannot create that trust. Anyone who doubts that should try to find any society where territory is shared by different racial or ethnic groups  that does not have inter-group discord,. They will not find one in history or the present.

If you wish to save your country ignore the  misery now being waved in your face and concentrate not on the immediate present but the future.  Say no to further mass immigration by voting to leave the EU because while Britain is in it nothing can be done to stop massive numbers of immigrants continuing to come to Britain.  Leaving the EU will  remove from our political elite any excuse for not stopping the casual destruction of our country.

Posted in Immigration, Nationhood | Tagged , , , | 9 Comments

Britain will vote to leave the EU if the public message is right

Robert  Henderson

One thing about the coming EU referendum is certain: it will be a much fairer fight than that which occurred in 1975 when  the  stay-in camp had captured most leading politicians including all the party leaders,  all  the mainstream media and most of big business . In addition, the stay-in side then had funding which utterly dwarfed that of the get-out campaign and, not content with that advantage,  used the  government machine to  produce its own pamphlet on the renegotiations to go alongside  those of the stay-in and leave campaigns.  Perhaps most damaging was a lack of preparation for the vote by those who wanted to leave the EEC.

Today we have an established mainstream party  Ukip  unequivocally urging a vote to leave,  substantial support within  both the Tory and Labour parliamentary parties, including frontbenchers  and senior backbenchers. In addition influential business voices such as Lord Bamford of JCB Ltd and business groups  such as Business for Britain are raising their voice to both allay fears that  the British economy  would collapse  in a heap if we left the EU and advertise  the considerable  costs,  both economic and political,  which membership of the EU entails. There are even signs that the unions may be turning against the EU with the leader of Britain’s largest union Unit, Len McCluskey, suggesting that Britain might have to pull out if the EU’s labour  legislation is watered down as a result of Cameron’s renegotiation.

There is a further  important difference between 1975 and now.  In 1975 Britain had been in what was then the European Economic Community (EEC)for  less than three  years.  There was little for voters to go on to say  whether the EEC was going to be a good or bad thing.  Nor was the EEC anything like as intrusive as the EU is now.  Today the British people  know that the EU has not turned out to be the  driver of economic growth that was promised in the 1970s,  but a supranational  entity in  which the Europhile  political elites  are willing to ruthlessly enforce their will to achieve their end of a United States of Europe (is the only honest interpretation of the Treaty of Rome) regardless of the effects this has on  ordinary people, something of  which  the people of Greece are now only too savagely aware.

It is true that David  Cameron is  doing his best to fix the result. His government has announced that the civil service will not have to cease publicly commenting on the referendum  for the last four weeks of campaigning before the referendum  and the proposed referendum question  –Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union? –  is clearly biased because it emphasises  membership as the status quo  and gifts the YES vote to those who want to remain in the EU..  Perhaps most importantly, the spending rules in the referendum are slanted to favour those parties which will be likely to support a vote to stay in. But none  of these disadvantages are set in stone and   could be challenged  as the European Referendum Bill makes its way through Parliament or  by judicial review.  Moreover,  even if  all these pro-stay-in pieces of jigger-pokery remain unchanged  they will not be insuperable obstacles to a vote to leave because our circumstances are so  very  different  from those of 1975. .  There is also a possibility that Cameron will carry through his threat to insist that  all  those in his government  must  support whatever terms he decides to put to the country or resign. However, that would backfire if many did leave the government or  Cameron backed  down on his threat.   Either way he  would look weak and  strengthen the impression that leading  politicians are increasingly wanting to leave the  EU.

It is vital not to panic over polls which show that a majority will vote to stay in the EU.  Since Britain joined the EEC the polls have  regularly swung violently. The determining factor will be  political leadership or perhaps more exactly what the British elite – politicians, mediafolk, businessmen, academics –  say in public .  The vast majority of electors do not make their decisions by careful unemotional analysis of abstruse economic data or ideological belief, but on basic emotional responses such as fear and hope.   If there is support for leaving the EU, or even just an acknowledgement that leaving would not be a disaster for Britain,  from a broad swathe of those with a public voice,   enough of  the general public are likely to be persuaded to vote to leave to  win the referendum.

At the heart of the OUT campaign  must be Britain’s  complete inability to control her  borders while we remain in the EU.  Polls consistently show that immigration is one of the  major concerns of the British public and,  when the politically correct inspired terror of speaking honestly about race and immigration is taken into account, it is odds on that immigration is the number one issue by a wide margin.  A British Future report in 2014 found that 25% of those included in the research wanted not only an end to immigration but the removal of all immigrants already in the UK and a YouGov poll commissioned by  Channel 5  in 2014 found that 70% of those questioned wanted an end to mass immigration.  If  Britain leaves the EU it will not only allow the legal control of EU migrants but also removes from  British politicians any excuse for not controlling immigration generally.

Putting immigration at the heart of the OUT campaign would also have the bonus of appealing to the Scots through  a subject on which they feel  much the same as the rest of the UK, that is they are   opposed to mass immigration.  That is important because the SNP are trying to establish grounds for Scotland having a veto over the UK leaving the EU if Scotland votes to stay in the EU and either England  or England, Wales and Northern Ireland  vote to leave.  The larger the vote to leave the EU in Scotland is, the less moral  leverage they will have for  either a veto over Britain leaving  the EU or another independence referendum.

The other central plank to for the campaign should be the fact that it does not matter what Cameron obtains by his renegotiation, because whilst we remain within the EU any concessions given now may be reversed at a later date by the EU, most probably  in cahoots with a British government consisting of Europhiles. “Legal” guarantees such as Britain’s opt-out for the Social Chapter  were rapidly undermined by using EU workplace health and safety rules to impose much of the Social Chapter.

Nigel Farage does not need to be the campaign’s  sole leader , but he does need to be a very  prominent part of the leadership. If he does not take a lead role the OUT campaign is likely to end up in the hands of people who have bought into the politically correct view of the world. That would mean the immigration card will not be played with the vigour it demands or even played meaningfully  at all.

More generally, what this campaign needs is emphatic, unambiguous and above all honest  unvarnished explanation of what the EU represents,   It needs  Farage at the forefront of the OUT campaign  to set that tone.  No one else will do it.

Posted in Economics, Immigration, Nationhood | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments

Bruges Group Meeting 1 June 2015 – John Redwood says he could vote to stay in the EU

Meeting title: The EU and the Future of Britain

Robert Henderson


Tim Aker  (Ukip  MEP)

John Redwood (Tory  MP)

Peter Oborne (Associate editor of the Spectator  magazine)

The meeting was well attended with in excess of 200 people present, many of whom stayed   throughout despite having  to stand.  Particularly pleasing and encouraging were the number of young faces, which made up perhaps  a  quarter  of the audience.  The audience was very animated and a positive forest of hands were going up when questions were taken.

The order of the speakers  was Aker – Redwood – Oborne.  However, for ease of summary of their views both in their  speeches  and in answer to audience questions I shall  deal with them with them in this order:  Redwood – Aker – Oborne.

John Redwood

Redwood was so out of touch with the feeling of the audience that  he came close to being booed. As it was there were frequent cries of “no”, “rubbish” and general murmurings of dissent as he asked the audience to trust Cameron’s honesty in his attempt to renegotiate Britain’s relationship with the EU and put forward a plan for the OUT campaign which side-lined Nigel Farage . (The traffic of  audience disapproval   was countered by support for Redwood , but judged by the noise made  those against him were   considerably more  numerous than his supporters).

Redwood said that he  believed  in Cameron’s honest intent  in  his negotiations  with EU. Consequently, he would not make up his mind whether to vote to leave until Cameron had completed his negotiations. Also said explicitly  that he would vote to stay in if the renegotiations were successful.    I think most people who have followed Redwood’s voluminous pronouncements  on  the EU over the years will be more than a little surprised by his adoption of  such an equivocal position as the referendum approaches.   His position was all the more unexpected because he began his talk by  denouncing  the fact that  membership of the EU  meant elected governments  –  most notably Greece at present – could not  do  what their electors wanted even if they wished to.  An important question arises,   if  Redwood  is  undecided about which way he will vote  how can he be part of the planning of the OUT campaign?   Indeed, if Cameron gets concessions which Redwood deems enough to persuade him to vote to stay in,  presumably he will be campaigning with the  stay in camp.

While Redwood’s unwillingness to directly dismiss Cameron’s stated aim as a sham is understandable, he is just a backbencher   who is unlikely to find a place in  a Cameron cabinet in a Parliament where his party only has a small majority.  These circumstances mean Redwood  has considerable freedom  to speak his mind. He could have said something along the lines of “The Prime Minister is sincere in his desire to reform the EU but I am  sure we all know in our hearts that this is a lost cause. Therefore, I have no doubt that I  shall be voting  to come out of the EU” or,  even better “, I  shall be voting to leave the EU regardless of what is offered by the EU  because for me the question  is not about renegotiating our term of membership but  of Britain being a sovereign nation state”.  Either statement would be consistent with what Redwood  has said over the past few years.

Redwood also  failed to  describe in any  detail what  would constitute  sufficient changes to the UK’s relationship with the EU to make him vote to stay in.  Neither Aker nor Oborne challenged him on this and no audience member who was called to ask a question raised the subject.  However, the subject is  academic in the long run because it really does not matter what Cameron obtains by his renegotiation, because whilst we remain within the EU any concessions given now may be reversed at a later date by the EU, most probably  in cahoots with a British government consisting of Europhiles. .

Perhaps most  disturbing for those  who wish  the UK to leave the EU as a matter of principle, that is, those who wish our country to be a sovereign nation again, was Redwood’s strategy for the OUT campaign.  He  adopted the line that Nigel Farage should not lead the OUT campaign because  Farage is a marmite politician  who will alienate large chunks of the waverers  as we approach the referendum.  In fact, Redwood gave the impression he would like to see  Farage completely excluded from the OUT campaign.

Redwood’s tactics  for the OUT side  consisted of not frightening the voters with vulgar non-pc  talk about immigration or , indeed, being  brutally honest  about anything relating to the  EU. Of course it is true  that both  the undecided voters and  faint-hearted supporters of Britain leaving the EU will have to be appealed to in the right terms. The mistake Redwood is making is to imagine that the right terms do not include putting immigration controls  at the heart of  the OUT campaign.  Polls consistently show that immigration is one of the  major concerns of the British public and,  when the politically correct inspired terror of speaking honestly about race and immigration is taken into account, it is odds on that immigration is the number one issue by a wide margin.  A British Future report in 2014 found that 25% of those included in the research wanted not only an end to immigration but the removal of all immigrants already in the UK and a YouGov poll commissioned by  Channel 5  in 2014 found that 70% of those questioned wanted and end to mass immigration. .

Putting immigration at the heart of the OUT campaign would also have the bonus of appealing to the Scots through  a subject on which they feel  much the same as the rest of the UK, that is they are   opposed to mass immigration.  That is important because the SNP are trying to establish grounds for Scotland having a veto over the UK leaving the EU if Scotland votes to stay in the EU and either England  or England, Wales and Northern Ireland  vote to leave.  The larger the vote to leave the EU in Scotland is , the less moral  leverage they will have for  either a veto over Britain leaving  the EU or another independence referendum.

Why is Redwood putting forward the  idea that Farage should be kept out of the limelight?   It cannot be simply to damage Ukip in the interest of the Tory Party  because there will be no general election for years (probably five years) . Could it be personal spite against Farage on Redwood’s part because they have quarrelled? I doubt it because I cannot recall Redwood and Farage having had a serious disagreement.   How about Redwood being  contaminated with the politically correct imprinting on the subjects of race and immigration  with the consequence that he thinks Farage’s views on these subjects are simply beyond the Pale? This is much more likely.  Interestingly, such a view echoes that of Douglas Carswell  who said of Nigel  Farage’s comments about foreign HIV patients costing the Earth:  “I think some of the tone that we deployed – for example the comments about HIV I think were plain wrong. Wrong at so many levels. Not just wrong because they were electorally unhelpful but just wrong because they were wrong.”

Redwood added fuel to the fire of the audience’s  discontent  by adopting a patronising tone adorned with a  supercilious smirk to anyone who disagreed with  him – Redwood kept on repeating that the referendum  would be lost if any general  plan but the one he described  was followed – and refused to answer when he was asked to comment  on what he would  do and think if Farage did lead the OUT campaign.  The smirk became particularly  pronounced at this point.

Tim Aker

Unlike Redwood and  Aker   was very forthright and uncompromising, dealing pretty roughly with Redwood  whose position on Cameron’s sincerity   he treated with undisguised  incredulity. He  pointed out the impossibility of the EU  giving Cameron anything substantial  and the folly of trying to sideline Farage.  He pointed out that without Farage and Ukip there would be no referendum, a simple  truth  because before Ukip began to make substantial inroads into the Tory vote  Cameron had  shown no serious interest in a referendum.

In his speech Aker made all the right sort of  political noises likely  to appeal to most  electors :  immigrants reduce the wages of the low paid; the unemployed of other EU states are being dumped on the UK;  the need for positive patriotism; a vote to remain in the EU would betray future generations;  billions in  Aid went to foreigners while  some of our own people went to food banks ; England was being Balkanised through the city regions being forced on the country by Cameron;  it is time to get rid of  the Barnett Formula and so on. All of this produced in Redwood and Oborne the kind of  facial expression  that people adopt when they have encountered an unpleasant smell.   That alone told you that Akers is  on the right path.

Peter Oborne

Oborne gave a very poor speech. It  largely  consisted of backing up Redwood’s objections to  Farage and Redwood’s   plans for the OUT campaign.  He described Akers as misguided and predicted that Farage  would bring to the ballot box only  the 14% or so who voted Ukip at the General Election.  That  claim was simple nonsense because  a general election and a referendum are chalk and cheese, and there are many  Eurosceptics in other parties, even some in the LibDems.  To assume that Farage would  cause such people to vote to  remain in the EU or to abstain is ridiculous.

However, Oborne  was strong on the need to have spending restrictions during the referendum campaign and made  the  interesting claim that  Rupert Murdoch will be coming out for the stay in the EU side because Murdoch has re-established his close association with the Tory Party.

What needs to be done

Nigel Farage must not be shouldered aside but put in the forefront of the OUT campaign. Not only is he an increasingly effective public performer, especially in debates,  unless he takes a lead role the OUT campaign is likely to end up in the hands of people such as Redwood and Carswell who have bought into the politically correct view of the world.  What this campaign needs is emphatic, unambiguous and above all honest  explanation of what the EU represents .  It needs  Farage  at the forefront of the OUT campaign  to set that tone.

Immigration must be at the heart of the OUT campaign because it is (1)  the issue which concerns more voters  than any other issue and (2)  it  cuts across party and ideological lines in a way no other issue in the referendum will do.

Setting spending limits must be made a priority and should be agreed and  put into operation by the end of 2015. The Europhile political elite will doubtless try to  restrict spending limits to a short period before the vote is held.   This would produce a re-run of the great inequality of resources between the YES and NO sides  the 1975 referendum.

The fixing of the EU referendum by the Europhiles has already begun with  the choice of a palpably biased question: “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union?”  The bias comes from both the trigger word “remain” and the fact that the status quo has captured the  YES answer. Ideally a  judicial review should be launched as soon as possible. If Ukip  could fund it,  that would be a most  effective way of exercising control over the OUT campaign.

What should the question be? The original question put into European (Referendum) Bill  was “Do you think that the United Kingdom should be a member of the European Union?”  That is much less biased because it does not overtly ask electors to vote for the status quo.

An alternative would be a double question with a box to mark against each question, for example

I wish Britain to be a member of the EU

I do not wish Britain to be a member of the EU.

Even that is not perfect because there is the problem of the order in which the questions come (being first gives a slight advantage because people tend to have an inclination to read the first question on a ballot and  be swayed by that before reading subsequent questions).  However, it could be objected that people would be confused by having the question in different orders.

Above all the OUT campaign needs to get its skates on as the referendum could be upon us quicker than we think, perhaps by the end of 2016 if Cameron has his way.

Posted in Nationhood | Tagged , , , | 9 Comments

Shamocracy – The Tories give a whole new meaning to democracy

If you won’t vote for an elected mayor have an unelected one

Robert Henderson

The Tories are currently bleating their heads off about how they  are all for bringing  politics and the exercise of  political  power to the people. Local democracy is, they shout ever louder, the order of the Tory day.  In the  vanguard  is Manchester, where a mayor and a “cabinet”  is to have the responsibility  for the spending and administration of  billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money  on  public transport, social care and housing as well as police budgets and, most dramatically, ultimately  the devolving of all NHS spending for the region.   When the process is completed local politicians will control more than a quarter of the total government money spent in Greater Manchester.

The political structure to support the mayor will be this:

“The mayor will lead Greater Manchester Combined Authority [GMCA], chair its meetings and allocate responsibilities to its cabinet, which is made up of the leaders of each of the area’s 10 local authorities.”

This is to be known as a city region. The mayor will not be an absolute  autocrat and can have  both his strategic decisions and spending proposals voted down by two thirds of the GMCA members – go to para 8.  On public service issues, each  GMCA member and the Mayor will  have one vote, with a  policy agreed by a majority vote. However, the mayor will have considerable powers and the requirement for over-ruling him  on strategic decisions and spending – two thirds of the GMCA members – is onerous to say the least.  That will be especially the case because the  councils of the  Manchester city region are largely Labour and the mayor, at least to begin with, will also be a  Labour man.

The casual observer might think this is a democratisation of  English politics. But wait, was not Manchester one of the nine English cities which firmly  said no to an elected mayor in a referendum in as recently as  2012? Indeed it was. Manchester voted NO by  53.2% to 46.8%  (48,593 votes to  42,677).  Admittedly, it was only on a 24% turnout,  but that  in itself shows that the local population generally  were not greatly interested in the idea. Nonetheless, 91,000 did bother to vote, a rather large number of voters to ignore.   Moreover,  low as  24% may be,  many a councillor and  crime and police commissioner has been   voted in on  a lower percentage turnout.

After the 2012 referendum the Manchester City Council leader Sir Richard Leese said  the vote was  “a very clear rejection”  of an elected mayor  by  the people of Greater Manchester while the  then housing minister Grant Shapps said  ‘no-one was “forcing” mayors on cities’.   Three years later that is precisely what is happening to Manchester, well not precisely because  Manchester is to have an interim mayor (see para 11)   foisted on them without an election,   who will serve for a minimum of two years and a maximum of four years before an election for a mayor is held.( The period before an elected mayor arrives  will depend on how long it takes to pass the necessary legislation,  create the necessary powers for the mayor and create the institutions on the ground to run the new administration ). When the time comes for the elected mayor the interim mayor, if he wishes to run for mayor, will have the considerable electoral advantage that incumbency  normally brings.

Sir Richard Leese, now promoted to be  vice chairman of Greater Manchester Combined Authority, has had a Damascene conversion to the idea of a mayor : “It was clear that an over-centralised national system was not delivering the best results for our people or our economy.

“We are extremely pleased that we can now demonstrate what a city region with greater freedoms can achieve and contribute further to the growth of the UK.”

The  interim mayor will be appointed  on 29 May by  councillors meeting in private.  There are two candidates, Tony Lloyd and Lord Smith of Leigh. Both are Labour Party men.  This is  unsurprising because the body organising the appointment is the  Association of Greater Manchester Authorities, (AGMA) which  is comprised of the  leaders of the 10 councils making up the region. Eight of them are Labour.   The job description for the interim mayor included the provision that he must be a politician from Greater Manchester ‘ with a “proven track record” of “achievement at a senior level in local government”’ . These requirements  made it virtually certain that both candidates would be Labour politicians.

The exclusion of the public from the appointment of interim mayor  is absolute. Here is Andrew Gilligan writing in the Sunday Telegraph:

“ The two candidates for mayor  have published no manifestos, done no campaigning, made no appearances in public and answered no questions from voters or journalists. Last week, The Sunday Telegraph asked to speak to both candidates. “He’d love to,” said Mr Lloyd’s spokesman. “But he’s been told he’s not allowed to talk to the media.”’

A spokesman for Lord Smith said: “He can’t speak about it until it’s over.”

Perhaps as a result, the “contest” has been barely mentioned in the local press and has gone completely unreported nationally.

His precise salary, predictably, is also not a matter for public discussion. It is being decided by an “independent remuneration committee” which meets in private and whose members’ names have not been published.

Judged by the mainstream media coverage there has been precious little public dissent about this gross breach of democracy  from influential Westminster politicians. Graham Brady, Tory MP for Altrincham and chairman of the    1922 Committee,  has ‘questioned whether the process was “within the bounds of propriety”, saying that any arrangement which gave the interim mayor “two or even up to four years to establish a profile and a platform for election would clearly be improper and unfair”.’  But that is about it  and  the appointment of the interim mayor carries  on regardless.

There are many serious  practical objections to devolving power to  English city regions , but the naked disregard for the wishes of the voters  makes the practical objections irrelevant  if democracy is to mean anything.  Nor is the fact that eventually there will be an elected mayor of any relevance  because the voters have already rejected the idea. Even if  there was to be an election  for the mayor now instead of an interim mayor,  it would still be wrong because the voters of Manchester have already said no to an elected mayor.

This affair smacks of the worst practices of the EU whereby  a referendum  which produces  a result that  the Euro-elites do not want is rapidly overturned by a second referendum on the same subject after the Euro-elites have engaged in a  huge propaganda onslaught , bribed the offending country  by promising  more EU money if the result is the one the elites  want and threatened the offending country with dire consequences if the second vote produces the same result as the first referendum. In fact, this piece of chicanery is even worse than that practised by the EU because here the electorate do not even get another  vote before the elite’s wishes are carried out.

But there is an even  more fundamental objection to the planned transfer of powers than the lack of democracy.  Let us suppose that the proposal for an elected mayor for Manchester  had been accepted in the 2012 referendum, would that have made its creation legitimate?  Is it democratic to  have a referendum in   part of  a country on a policy which has serious implications for the  rest of the country  if  the rest of the country cannot vote in the referendum?  Patently it is not.

The effect of the proposed devolution to Manchester would be to set public provision in the  Manchester city region  at odds with  at the  least  much of Lancashire, parts  of Cheshire and  Derbyshire plus  the West Riding of Yorkshire.  For example,  Manchester could make a mess of their NHS administration with  their medical provision reduced in consequence and   patients from    Manchester seeking better  NHS  treatment elsewhere.  This would take money from the Manchester NHS  and place pressure on NHS services outside of Manchester  as they catered for people from Manchester.  Alternatively, Greater Manchester might be able to improve their health services and begin to draw in patients from outside the city region, reducing the public money  other  NHS authorities  receive and driving down the quality and scope  of their services.

A single city region having the powers that Manchester are going to have will  be disruptive to the area close to it, but  If other city regions  follow suit – and it is clear that the new Tory government intends  this to happen –  the Balkanisation of England  will  proceed apace, with city region being set against city region and the city regions being  pitted against the remnants of England outside the city regions.

Nor is it clear that  the first candidate city regions would be evenly spread around the country.  The cities which like Manchester rejected an elected mayor in 2012 were Birmingham,  Newcastle, Nottingham, Sheffield, Wakefield, Coventry, Leeds and Bradford.  Having been chosen to vote for an elected mayor It is reasonable to presume that these would be the cities which would be at the front of the queue for city region status.  They are all either in the  North  or  Central Midlands of England. Even in those areas there would be massive gaps, for example,  all  four  Yorkshire cities (Sheffield, Wakefield, Leeds and Bradford) are  in the West Riding.  The most southerly one  (Birmingham) is 170 odd miles from the South Coast.

There may of course be other city region candidates , but  it is difficult to see how such a policy could be rolled out across the country simply because there are substantial areas of England without  very large cities or towns. In fact, south of Birmingham there are precious few large towns and cities (London being  a law to itself)  which could form a city region in the manner of that proposed for Manchester.  The only  Englsh cities south of Birmingham which have a population of more than 250,000 are Bristol and Plymouth.   Hence, it is inevitable that England would be reduced to a patchwork of competing authorities with different policies on vitally important issues such as healthcare and housing.

The idea of giving powers to city regions  stems from the imbalance in the devolution settlement which leaves England, alone of the four home countries, out in the cold without a national political voice. It is a cynical and shabby  political fix for a problem which will not go away but may be submerged for the length of a Parliament  through a pretence of increasing local democracy in England.  Anyone who doubts this should ask themselves  this question,  if devolving power to the local level is so desirable why do Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland show no appetite for it?  The answer is that their politicians recognise that to do so would weaken both the  political clout of their countries and deprive their electors of a focus of national pride and loyalty.

There is also an EU dimension to this. The EU welcome anything which weakens national unity, and there is no better way of doing that than the time honoured practice of divide and rule. That is precisely what Balkanising England through creating regional centres of political power will do. The EU will seek  to use city regions (or any other local authority with serious powers)  to emasculate the Westminster government by  attempting to deal directly with the city regions rather than Westminster and using the fact of the increased local powers  to justify bypassing Westminster.

Once political structures such as the city regions are established it will become very difficult to  get rid of them because the national political class is weakened by the removal of powers from central government and the new local political power bases develop their own powerful  political classes.  If the Tories or any other government – both Labour and the LibDems have bought into the localism agenda – succeed in establishing city regions or any other form of devolution in England it will be the devil’s own job to  reverse the process of  Balkanising England. That is why it is vitally important to either stop the establishment of  serious powers being given to local authorities or  to put a barrier in the shape of an English Parliament between  Brussels and the English devolved localities.




Posted in Devolution, Nationhood, Politics | Tagged , , , , | 10 Comments

Cameron is unwittingly preparing the way for Scotland to become independent

Robert Henderson

All the signs are that the incoming Tory government is  going to pander incontinently  to the Scottish National Party (SNP)  and grant ever greater devolved  powers to Scotland, viz Cameron saying  post-election  “In Scotland our plans are to create the strongest devolved government anywhere in the world, with important powers over taxation”, while  the newly appointed  Scottish Secretary  David  Mundell  speaks of the possibility of  powers for Scotland  greater than those recommended by the Smith Commission  after the NO vote in the Scottish independence referendum. There are even hints that full fiscal autonomy – the ability to set and collect all taxes in Scotland and decide how to spend the money raised – might be on the cards with Nicola Sturgeon saying the SNP would vote for it if it was offered and  the  Tory ex-Scottish Secretary Lord Forsyth has advocated a White Paper on the subject.

The problem with appeasement is that it can never be a strategy only a tactic to buy time.  This is because any concession is viewed as a sign of weakness and  encourages the appeased to demand more and more. What Cameron and his fellow  supposedly  pro-union appeasers of Scotland do not  give any sign of understanding is that each granting of extra powers to the Scotland is preparing the country for eventual independence, because the more power a devolved government has the greater confidence  the politicians in the devolved region will have that they can go it alone.  As things are going,  there will quite soon  come  a point where  the SNP will be able to say to  fainthearted voters , look, we are virtually independent now so  there is nothing to fear from independence.

The reasoning of those  unionists who support   new tax raising  powers for Scotland is that if the Scottish parliament  has to raise much of the money their government spends it will  cause  the attitude of  both politicians and the public in Scotland to change, with the politicians behaving prudently or facing the wrath of the electors, who would cease blaming the UK government and become disenchanted with the SNP.

This is pie-in-the-sky. If the SNP get anything short of full fiscal autonomy they will continue to blame the UK government for underfunding  Scotland. The massive preferential Treasury funding which Scotland receives compared with England (currently worth around £9 billion pa) will show this to be a lie,  but SNP supporters and Scots more widely will eagerly swallow the lie.   Moreover, it will be easy for the SNP to fudge the matter  in public debate,  because if Scotland gets  substantial powers to  raise taxes , the  Barnett Formula (which creates the higher per capita Treasury payments to Scotland) will be adjusted to reduce the amount of UK Treasury  funding  that Scotland receives.  The SNP will inevitably  claim any reduction is unfair.  They will also dispute how much taxpayers’ money  goes on  what might be termed UK spending, things such as defence and foreign policy.

If full fiscal autonomy is given to Scotland the same general problem would  arise, but in an even more extreme form because the Barnet Formula would be scrapped.  This would result in a considerable revenue shortfall  for the Scottish government. Not only would there be arguments between Scotland and Westminster about what would then  be  de facto federal measures – defence, foreign policy, the financing of the national UK debt, the management of the Pound  and so on –  but disputes over Oil and Gas revenues and  things such as the distribution of public money to pay for the administration of the domestic UK national civil service.

The dangers of devolved public debt

Devolving serious  tax and spending powers to Scotland would carry grave risks for the rest of the UK.  A Scottish government might well be reckless in its spending and run up large debts.  This could happen even if no formal further borrowing powers were given to Scotland because policies for Scotland would be based on estimates of future tax revenue.  These estimates could be seriously wrong if the SNP’s absurdly optimistic  predictions  over North Sea Oil and Gas tax revenue  are anything to go by. If serious  formal borrowing powers are  given to Scotland  the risk of overspending and large Scottish debts would be even greater .

These are not fanciful fears.  Spain stands as a salutary  example of what can happen when devolved power allows regional governments to run up debts. A significant part of  Spain’s present economic problems stem from the huge debts the 17 regional governments in Spain ran up prior to the present Eurozone crisis.

The Smith Commission proposals for further devolution to Scotland  (see p 23 onwards)  provide for a good deal of Scottish control over  fiscal matters . These proposals  have been broadly accepted by Cameron’s government. They include the following borrowing  proposals:

(5) Borrowing Powers: to reflect the additional economic risks, including volatility of tax revenues, that the Scottish Government will have to manage when further financial responsibilities are devolved, Scotland’s fiscal framework should provide sufficient, additional borrowing powers to ensure budgetary stability and  provide safeguards to smooth Scottish public spending in the event of economic shocks, consistent with a sustainable overall UK fiscal framework. The Scottish Government should also have sufficient borrowing powers to support capital investment, consistent with a sustainable overall UK fiscal framework. The Scottish and UK Governments should consider the merits of undertaking such capital borrowing via a prudential borrowing regime consistent with a sustainable overall UK framework.

There is untold opportunity for reckless behaviour there.  The danger is that Scotland will run up debts they cannot service let alone pay off and in those circumstances as happened in Spain, the central UK government (effectively the English taxpayer) t would have to bail Scotland out.

Nor would the dangers for England stop there. The effect of  less UK control of  taxation and Scottish borrowing would have a depressive  effect on the international credit worthiness of the UK as a whole  because the rest of the world would see that an element of new potential risk and uncertainty  had been introduced to the UK economy..

Leave the SNP to twist in the wind

The comprehensive  way to deal with the SNP threat would be to set up an English Parliament. That would immediately dissolve  SNP influence over the rest of the UK  both for  now and the future. However, there is no realistic prospect of an English Parliament  in the near future.  (The Conservative proposal for English votes for  English laws is no substitute for an English Parliament although  it is a stepping stone to one).  Short of an English Parliament  what could be done to nullify  SNP  influence?  The answer is ignore them because  the great enemy of the SNP is  time.

There is a kind of collective madness amongst the Scots at present. Not all Scots by any means, but at least half of the adult Scots population. From England it may seem that Scotland is a land of milk and honey because of the incessant reports of the Scots getting heaps of public goodies denied to England ,  such as no university tuition fees and  free  personal care for the elderly.  But the truth is that the SNP is struggling to fund such things even with the £9 billion or so extra they get from the Treasury each year. Look at any of the Scottish national papers and you will find every day a litany of complaint about poor public service or the  incontinent waste of money on projects such as the Edinburgh tram system fiasco.  Importantly, the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has calculated that the SNP manifesto  contained larger spending cuts than Labour. If true, those are rather nasty pigeons coming home  to roost in the next year.

The way to tackle the SNP  is to give them nothing  and plenty of it for the next few years so that there is time to allow the economic mess that the SNP is creating in Scotland to come to its full fruition, time to  allow the many disturbingly authoritarian measures they have put in place  such as the centralisation of Scottish Police in a single national police force, the creation of a state guardian for every child in Scotland  and the banning of Auld Firm chants and songs to begin to  seriously worry people.    Sooner or later the Scots will start  blaming the SNP for their policy failures and misrepresentations  and begin chaffing against the growing restrictions on their  liberty. That will be the beginning of the end of  the SNP as a hugely dominant political force in Scotland.

The really angering thing about the dangerous course the Cameron government seems set on taking is that it is completely unnecessary because the SNP are powerless in the present House of Commons.  It smacks of political masochism.

Posted in Anglophobia, Devolution, Nationhood | Tagged , , | 17 Comments

Reasons why Ukip will underperform in the upcoming election

Robert Henderson

Editor’s note: Robert Henderson recently sent me a link to his article, “British Future report says 25% of British adults want all immigrants repatriated” which discusses a survey showing a great deal of hostility toward immigration in the U.K. The question then is why are we reading that Ukip is losing ground in the polls and not expected to get more than a handful of MPs. The most recent poll, published in the Telegraph, has Ukip at 13% and 3 MPs for the May 7 election. Given that Ukip rankshighest of all the parties in the popularity of their immigration proposals, the question is why. Many of his points apply also in the United States and  elsewhere.
1. Political inertia.  The first past the post system makes it  immensely  difficult for new parties to get established as a real political force because most British constituencies have large in-built majorities for either the Labour or Conservative Parties.  This is because the nature of the populations in those constituencies are such as to make a winning vote for the  Conservatives or Labour  candidate very likely, for example, Labour safe seats will lie at the centre of major cities and towns and old industrial centres  where thy continue to capture the White working-class vote and those of ethnic/racial minorities. Safe Conservative seats will  tend to be in the suburbs and countryside.   In many constituencies people will think there is no point in voting for anyone but the almost certain winner and often will not bother to vote if they do not support the party of the probable winner.
In the years since the Restoration in 1660 and the formation of the Whigs and Tories only one entirely new party (Labour)  has every formed a government in the UK , although the Whigs transmuted into the liberals and the Tories mutated into Conservatives  during the 19th century.  The fate of the Social Democratic Party formed by four dissident leading members of the Labour Party  in the early 1980s is instructive.  It managed to win by-elections and in alliance with the then Liberal Party managed to gain 25% of the vote at the 1983 General Election. That gained the alliance a paltry  23 seats out of 650.    By the next general election the SDP was a dead duck.   The problem for the alliance was that their vote was spread much more evenly across the country than the vote of Conservative and Labour  parties.  The same applies to Ukip.
2. The fear of being called a racist runs very deep in Britain.  This is unsurprising because almost every week there are stories in the media about people, normally white Britons, being involved in a “race row”.  These incidents  will frequently  result in the person losing their job, and increasingly people accused of racism are being sent for criminal trial. The police also have a regular practice of investigating people for “hate crimes” without any  real intent to prosecute — the intention  being  to intimidate individuals and, by their example,  the general population.
3. People are subjected to incessant politically correct propaganda on race and immigration.  Those under the age of 35 will have had it blaring at them all their lives, including hard-core indoctrination at school.  [Editor’s note: Today, listening to BBC radio while driving through Scotland, there was a comment  on the drowning of 400 African “migrants off the coast of Italy. The comment managed to discuss the Holocaust based on survivor accounts (the Nazis came to our farmhouse and shot our dog in sight of the child) and the British involvement in the slave trade in the 18th century (where slaves were huddled together in overcrowded ships), both of which she recalled from her school days; the message was that the U.K. must be open to such people. Endless empathy and compassion needed.]
This propaganda produces a strange state of mind in many . They  do not agree with the propaganda but they  f eel that opinions which go against the propaganda are somehow beyond the Pale.   Fear lies at the root of it but it manifests itself not in a conscious focused fear but as a general sense that something should not be done or said.
4. The mainstream media  in Britain give far less time to Ukip in general and immigration matters in particular than they do to other parties and political subjects.  When Ukip speakers get onto television and radio  they are almost invariably face a more hostile questioning  than those from other parties.  If they appear on panels  with other politicians or commentators they are invariably in a minority, normally a minority of one with chairman who is biased against them.   If there is an audience the audience will invariably be packed  with people who support the politically correct view of the world. As for the written media, they get much less opportunity to publish their views than the parties who oppose them.
5. Ukip send mixed immigration messages because they try to fit what they propose into a politically correct envelope.  They advocate a points based system  such as the Australians have.  Unless the numbers are severely capped this could mean more immigration than we presently have.  Ukip are advocating a cap of 50,000 per annum on skilled workers  (which would be far  more immigrants more than the British want),  but are saying nothing coherent about immigration through family reunion, students and asylum claims which forms the major part of immigration to the UK from outside the EU.
Then there is the rhetoric. Ukip claim constantly that race/ethnicity does not matter.  They  say that that their scheme for “ managed migration”  shows they are not racist because they want everyone in the world to have the same chance of coming here if they meet the skilled worker  criteria.  The idea that Black, Brown and Yellow migrants are to be substituted  for White European migrants is unlikely to appeal to the British public.
6. Ukip also embrace the free trade mania.  As a prime  justification for leaving the EU,  Ukip place alongside control of immigration the idea that we should leave because this will allow us “to trade with the world”.  Having seen what  “trading with the world” in the context of globalism has brought them even within the EU — offshoring destroying huge swathes of British jobs,  iconic British companies sold to foreigners in the most cavalier fashion and  claims that free trade must  by definition include the free movement of labour  (the reduction ad absurdum of classical economic theory)  — many of the British public are unwilling to jump from the EU frying pan into the laissez faire globalist fire.  That policy will alienate many.
7. Ukip are also for shrinking the British state radically. In particular Farage has made it clear that he thinks the  NHS  should be  replaced by  an insurance system whereby treatment is free at the point of use but the state ceases to own the medical infrastructure and employ the staff. The official Ukip policy is not for this,  but as Farage is seen as Mr Ukip, most voters will think the party is for the privatisation of the National Health Service. That is electoral poison in Britain.
8. The muddled thinking of electors. Many of those who say they want an end to mass immigration also support staying in the EU. This is nonsensical because unless we come out of the EU, immigration cannot be controlled.  This reduces support for Ukip because the “we want to stay in the EU” trumps the desire for immigration control.
9. A widespread  lack of discipline within Ukip, both in terms of promoting Ukip policy and personal behaviour, from Westminster candidates , MEPs and councillors. This all too often provides opportunities for the mainstream media to represent Ukip as at best as amateurs put of their depth.
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