Category Archives: David Cameron

Confession: I think the EU referendum was a mistake

I now think that holding a referendum on Britain’s continued membership of the European Union was a mistake. I have, I fear, reached this conclusion far too slowly.

I suspect it was the glamour of it all; the honour of working at the heart of a history-making political campaign that clouded my judgement.

I was in the midst of it all a 20-year old that had been given a fantastic first job I was arguably too immature for. That is not to say that it wasn’t anything other than a modest role, but to me it meant the world.

This, combined with occasional television appearances after the result, got to my head a little too much. I should have realised sooner that simply taking part in the referendum would not be enough.

It is a matter of head versus heart. The heart looks back with fondness at the privilege of campaigning and the many friends and contacts made.

But the head is nagging me about our constitutional difficulties, ambiguous Brexit options and unstable, incompetent leadership during such a sensitive period.

I always try my utmost to allow my head to win these battles. And so in this case I must concede that referendums are not the way to exercise ground-breaking political reform.

It has been quietly obvious for a while now that the real winner of the referendum was in fact David Cameron, who was able to use the result to slip out of government in time and avoid the mess we are now in.

He and his advisors probably saw all of this coming. I predicted as the results were coming through on June 23rd that he would step down as Prime Minister, but, rather naively, did not foresee the obstacles that acting on the result has since faced.

The main problem with last year’s plebiscite was that it did not provide clarity for those like Richard North who supported both Brexit and membership of the single market.

I wish I had taken notice of researchers like him (and indeed his blog eureferendum.com) much earlier than I did. He and his son Pete, bizarrely inept at social interaction, have yielded answers to complex questions for longer than our media has been able to keep up.

Referenda are binary, usually offered to appease the electorate and are and deliberately oversimplified. The options given lack nuance, ensuring they provide exactly the fertile soil for disruption and chaos. This is why governments tend to support the status quo option. 

Our EU referendum created the inevitable problem that, in the event of a Leave vote, which became predictable weeks before polling day, ambiguity over what kind of Brexit its voters would prefer caused poisonous hostility. 

Now, a simple way of getting round this would have been to alter ballots in New Zealand-style fashion and ask those voting for Brexit a second question: “Do you think the UK should remain a member of the single market?”

Of course, we know what the answer would be if folk were well-informed. Since immigration was the largest single issue aroused by our camp, most would have opted for a single market exit too.

But that is not the point. My point is that a referendum over such a huge issue created a mandate for a policy without a policy. We were left directionless in an uphill battle.

And what made it worse was the fact that we had a government responsible for addressing the policy that did not agree with its premise in the first place. 

Despite being an exercise in direct democracy, our referendum exposed a sharp disconnect between public opinion and the preferences of those in the Westminster bubble. 

Referenda are, as I now appreciate more fully, renowned moreso for the constitutional upheaval they generate. Crimea in 2014 is perhaps a more extreme example. 

Since signalling for EU departure is the most profound democratic decision made by the British electorate arguably in history, it is no surprise that our politicians can barely organise themselves to adhere to it. 

In hindsight, a much more durable alternative to a national poll would have been a clear manifesto commitment, from either of the two major parties, to leaving.

Both Labour and the Tories have more than their fair share of voters wanting out, and any party claiming to be government material must be able to embrace the possibilities that come with legislative repatriation.

Yes, upon election, there would still have been the grave difficulties of negotiation, but at least direction and mandates would be more clearly established.

The only reason why neither party dared to do this was because they were (and still largely are) afflicted by the lingering Blairism that for so long prevented them from carrying out policies supported by faithless voters.

David Cameron certainly wouldn’t accept such an inclusion in a Tory manifesto. He is as supportive of the European project as they come.

A mutual friend of Dan Hannan and I, and notable Flexcit supporter, once told me that during his years at university, Mr Cameron donned prized cufflinks sporting the EU flag.

And the party’s current stock of leadership contenders aren’t much different, I might add. A referendum may therefore seem like an escape from this problem, but in reality caused many new ones of its own.

Had there been no referendum, significant pressure from Tory party members would have spurned their politicians into action, I am sure of it. 

I sometimes wonder what the European Commission and fellow member states think of all this. They cannot possibly consider Mrs May to be tough negotiating material.

She made far too humiliating a mess of last week’s General Election to be considered so, and only remains in Number 10 thanks to a cynical, gentleman’s agreement from the DUP (who themselves favour what we call ‘soft’ Brexit).

I must also point out here that in no way do I regret my vote or campaigning last year. I am as fervent a supporter of our secession as one can be. I just think that our means of securing that exit were profoundly flawed.

And since elections are now heavily influenced by last year’s result, as was expected given how divided we are, it may as well have been a party decision to take us out after all.

 


Reflections on railway renationalisation and a Tory Brexit

My apologies, firstly, to readers for the general inactivity at the blog since the middle of April. This has been down to juggling work at a new job and the completion of my journalism dissertation, which I submitted on Thursday evening.

My hope is to achieve the 2.1 that will allow me to continue my studies into Masters level, with my eyes currently set upon an MSc at Royal Holloway in ‘Campaigns, Elections and Democracy’. I should now hope to return here frequently for the foreseeable future.

In my absence, this year’s General Election has gotten under way. A portion of the Labour Party’s manifesto has been leaked, and thanks to pledges to renationalise the railways, Royal Mail and energy sector, has been described as taking the UK ‘back to the 1970s’.

It may be worth remembering for a moment that Germany, a modern and well-run country, operates nationalised rail and worker-run energy co-operatives. Northern Ireland, too, (incidentally a part of the UK) retains public control of its rail system.

For the record, I don’t support renationalising Britain’s energy sector, but local, energy co-operatives, similar to those that exist on the continent do not sound like such a bad idea. I do admit to succumbing to the appeal of democratic ownership of utilities and co-operative privatisation (worker control of industry) of Royal Mail may be popular amongst postmen and women.

As far as our railways go, the ongoing debate around public and private ownership would seem to me to be a secondary issue. The primary issue is upgrading infrastructure and investment, and cancelling the vast amounts of money we seem keen to spend on vanity projects like HS2, which stands only to increase London’s workforce and damage the rural environment of the midlands. Any strong government ought to, by now, have scrapped such madness.

Britain’s rail infrastructure is predominantly Victorian and not entirely electrified, much to our national embarrassment. The billions put aside for HS2 should be re-directed towards modernising track and signalling, and towards investing in more medium-speed, medium-distance inter-city railway lines. London is too often used as a connecting city for long-distance travellers making their way across the country (and often finding themselves paying extortionate amounts).

The question of who owns rail services is made less important still by the fact that there need not be one single system of ownership, as demonstrated by the state operating of the East Coast mainline until March 2015. Britain’s rail system is not only franchised, it is regionalised, which means that, with very few exceptions, services are all co-ordinated independently of one another. The state can retain ownership of some lines whilst allowing for others to be run privately, depending on factors like performance and quality of service.

Immediate renationalisation would not make the running of rail services particularly cheap. As I have said, it is the cost of maintaining infrastructure, due to its age, that sets the cost of British rail travel above that of the rest of the continent. Upgrades to infrastructure ought to be at the centre of any debate about Britain’s railways and present a far more pressing concern than discussions over ownership.

I will not vote for the Labour Party on June 8th, but the aforementioned leaked manifesto content doesn’t look to me as if it will take us back forty years. This is merely dishonest Tory propaganda, no doubt aided by the incompetence of figures like Diane Abbott, who do nothing but discredit the Left and its labour movement.

Meanwhile, the Tories sit firmly in the driver’s seat of this election. They are rightly standing on a platform of seeing out the Brexit process, but of course, they are doing it for the wrong reasons. Many of them do not support out withdrawal from the European Union and thoroughly resent last summer’s referendum result. My vote for them in June (if I bother or indeed remember) will be more out of obligation than anything else.

I am at least glad that the Liberal Democrat leader this time around is Tim Farron, and not a young and fresh Nick Clegg, who managed to sweet talk the country into voting for him seven years ago. Thanks to Farron’s confusing position as leader of a party with which he has profound moral disagreements, the Lib Dems are not quite the force they could be.

Knowing that I was an adamant leaver, some readers might think that I am relieved the Tories are in poll position to win this General Election. This is not quite so. Something about the party’s (and indeed the Prime Minister’s) track record over the European question is cause for concern in my mind.

A couple of days ago, David Cameron made a comment that sparked some degree of doubt in my mind. He said that Mrs May needs a big majority so that she can “stand up to the people who want an extreme Brexit, either here or in Brussels.” It is a shame that UKIP can no longer muster the strength that it did back in 2014.

UKIP formed the ideal barricade against sentiments of this kind within the Conservative Party. There are many who call themselves conservatives, despite their continued existence that Britain should not govern itself and control its own affairs, who are fanatically supportive of the European project and of ceding parliamentary sovereignty.

When these people (Michael Heseltine, Ken Clarke, Nicky Morgan and George Osborne to name a few others) use the expression ‘extreme Brexit’, they demonise the reasonable belief held by large sects of the country, including especially much of the Tory grassroots, that the United Kingdom should control its own trade, borders, lawmaking and judicial process, no matter the difficulties which undoubtedly lie ahead.

Mr Cameron’s comments reminded me that placing complete trust in the Tories and giving them a free hand over such an important issue might not be advisable after all. We’ve heard ‘Theresa May’s hard Brexit’ quite a lot in recent months, but increasingly my fear is that when it is all said and done, Britain will no longer be halfway in the EU. Instead, she may find herself perching halfway out in what will look like an especially embarrassing position.


UKIP will not pose a threat in 2020, but this may be bad for British politics

I now think that UKIP will play no considerable role at the 2020 General Election (provided, of course, that there isn’t one sooner). My conclusion is partly informed by uninspiring quarrels between its senior figures and partly by the result of last year’s referendum, which now seems so far away I can scarcely believe how time has flown.

Notice that I use the word ‘uninspiring’. Of course, squabbles in political parties – despite the fact that they can open up debate – aren’t usually very helpful, but with UKIP, matters are made worse. The party was primarily a one-issue political force, acting as a battering ram and driving home an agenda that had been forgotten or deliberately ignored for far too long.

At present, UKIP lacks purpose and direction. Its primary goal has almost (barring a few late hiccups) been achieved and it must now attach itself to other issues worth pursuing. Indeed, Michael Heaver, Nigel Farage’s former spin doctor, thinks that proportional representation and House of Lords reform are two such issues that the party can use to maintain its foothold in British politics.

This is a false trail. These areas of policy are fringe issues not capable of rallying a significant portion of the electorate. UKIP’s divisions are therefore uninspiring because neither side is offering any credible path towards long-term relevance in the current political climate. Arron Banks, who funded UKIP at the last General Election, claims that Paul Nuttall is week, but the problem is in fact much deeper.

The party has reached its sell-by date, and as the party only ever truly planned for a referendum, it is unsurprising to me that it finds itself a little hollowed out and purposeless afterwards. This is itself causing internal doubt and frustration. Being the leader, Mr Nuttall will find himself in the crosshairs, but truth be told, even Nigel Farage would struggle to keep UKIP on the map.

I do not write this gleefully by any means. I have always been fair to UKIP and stood up for the party when under unjust attack. This is because I believe that its impact on British politics has been largely productive. Its success transcends electoral representative democracy and, perhaps ironically, was aided largely by its very inconvenience to the establishment parties and their pocketed media tycoons.

UKIP’s most profound influence on British politics was to apply serious pressure on the Conservative Party to be conservative; to stop supporting Britain’s ongoing membership of the European Union, to stop imposing on the country unprecedented levels of mass immigration, to strengthen and illuminate the national culture and character. These simple premises had long ago been abandoned by a party that knew that all it had to do was mirror Blairite values and – as the Labour Party was hollowed and left demoralised in the ensuing post-Blair years – it would guarantee electability for years to come.

The Conservative Party knew that it had become New Labour. How could anybody have missed the many glaring parallels between its leader, Mr Cameron, and his now infamous predecessor? The trouble was, so too did many of its members. Its most disgruntled supporters switched their allegiances and opted instead to seek refuge in a growing party that believed and said the things conservatives had been saying vainly for so long. It is no wonder that UKIP became a force in such a short period of time.

Nigel Farage shrewdly spotted a few years ago that if he could only (but correctly) associate mass immigration with EU membership, and raise awareness to a possible referendum, his and his party’s political legacy would be secure. Though what he still does not recognise, to his discredit, is how ineffective the Leave campaign would have been had UKIP been spearheading it during the country’s referendum period. Alas, it no longer matters. Our side won it, all that remains is for departure to be negotiated and executed.

But what of the future of UKIP? I would love for my prediction to fall flat. They have been a useful kick in the backside for the Tories down south and northern Labour who, shamefully, have resisted public opinion (even that of its own voter base) and insisted on fighting – rather than listening to, UKIP. In the run up to the triggering of Article 50, backsliding on Brexit was widely suspected. But come the inevitable collapse of UKIP, a party almost too combustible for its own good, more serious backsliding may be seen.

The Tories, knowing full well that much of conservatism is damage limitation, may not see a battle worth fighting, and we could well see them revert to their old, disingenuous ways, freed of the UKIP-led electoral pressure that so many took for granted.


Some thoughts on UKIP’s struggles, purpose and future

First, a little personal history about my involvement with the UK Independence Party:

I joined UKIP around the time of the 2015 General Election, knowing at the time very little about British politics but for the fact that the European Union wasn’t particularly democratic and that crucial powers had left the jurisdiction of Westminster for the jurisdiction of Brussels. Nigel Farage was primarily responsible for igniting my interest in Britain’s EU membership. My reasoning for joining was always to help pursue Brexit. I never really had all that much interest in the rest of the party’s manifesto. I left almost a year later, upon gaining employment with the Vote Leave campaign. To clarify, I was not asked to leave and did not feel compelled to, rather I chose to in order to focus on one campaigning avenue and set of messages.

Unlike most of UKIP’s detractors, I have actually been inside the party. This means that I know where faults lie (especially at local level) and I know where to draw the line between fair and unfair criticism. UKIP is not a party of racists and homophobes. In fact, it mostly comprises of former Labour and Tory voters, disillusioned with their former party’s messages around issues like EU membership and immigration. The oddity was that as UKIP drew more scorn from their rivals, they became more popular, as other parties began to reek of sneering, establishmentarian arrogance.

It took the main parties quite a long time to realise this, which has always surprised me. The Labour Party still makes the mistake of referring to UKIP’s message as the politics of hatred and division, despite its ongoing battle to overcome lingering internal anti-Semitism. The Conservatives, who had the most to lose from a strong Independence force, reacted a little more proactively, and ceased labelling UKIP figures and voters in uncomplimentary terms because they knew that it would backfire on them. What is even more interesting is the number of Tory youth members – of which I know many – who like UKIP and credit them for giving their party a kick up the backside across various policy areas.

It is correctly argued that UKIP does best as a radical party, but it is also worth remembering that the sheer scale of immigration for the past two decades, and the party’s ability to link it to a referendum, shaped their success. UKIP will still portray itself as a radical party, but it will not be aided in the same way going forward. Michael Heaver, Nigel Farage’s former spin doctor, believes that his party needs to get back on the offence and take the lead in policy proposals. He mentioned on the Daily Politics today that House of Lords reform or proportional representation could be areas of policy that UKIP may try to influence – but these things simply do not have the same value for them. They are not issues that unite or rally their voter base, and they are not big enough issues to attract very many swing voters. This is especially true of the country’s Remain supporters, who would sooner barbecue their own children than be pulled in by even a sentence of any UKIP manifesto.

The in-fighting quite clearly isn’t helping things either. UKIP squabbles aren’t new and they most certainly aren’t surprising. But, in previous years, hostile sections of the party could put their differences aside much more easily as they knew that on the horizon lay an issue not worth dividing over. Even Farage and Douglas Carswell, who I got to meet several times during the referendum campaign and rather liked, simply ignored one another in the weeks leading to polling day, knowing full well that it was better to enter battle united that it was to entertain pointless feuding.

For the record, I believe Douglas Carswell was a little petulant in not backing a proposed Nigel Farage knighthood. I think it was quite clear why he did it. Just as it became clear that his defection from the Tories softened UKIP’s jagged voice as the referendum debate was under way. For anybody who has not yet read it and is interested, my blog on the case for knighting Mr Farage can be read at the following link:

https://norgroveblog.com/2017/02/25/why-nigel-farage-deserves-a-knighthood/

I am therefore unsurprised to learn that Arron Banks, who I’ve often thought will prove to be more useful behind the scenes in political life, is preparing to challenge Mr Carswell for his seat in Clacton. I don’t believe the UKIP donor will win the seat – in fact, come the next election, I believe it is highly likely that the Conservative Party may reclaim it…even if Douglas Carswell does re-stand for election. Between the by-election of 2014 and the General Election a year later, the Tories gained seven and a half thousand votes, and with the Leave vote now under the country’s belt, it is entirely possible that this increase will continue in 2020 (provided that another election is not called sooner).

I will always defend UKIP from unwarranted attack, and I greatly appreciate their efforts in fighting for an ‘in/out’ referendum on the question of EU membership. It was at least sincere, unlike the false promises made by former party leaders over the years (Tony Blair in 2005, David Cameron on the Lisbon Treaty in 2009). But their time as a credible political force, radical or not, has come to end in Britain. The Conservatives will soon be able to sleep easily.


Why 2016 was the year of the establishment

When Nigel Farage and Donald Trump describe the events of 2016 as a ‘political revolution’, they do so not to paint an informed picture, but to massage their own egos. For them, the idea of revolution cements their place in history. It validates their importance to the political arena, even in the face of adversity and massive public criticism.

Various alt-Right claims concerning the magnitude of last year’s political changes are at best dubious and at worst insulting lies. 2016 was not the year of political revolution. It was a year in which swamps were drained with swampland and a year in which the public relations industry worked its magic in ways never seen before to create the false perception that we now, more than at any other time, live in a post-truth political environment.

Yes, it is true that startling alliances were exposed that sent powerful signals to government, and that the public mood seemed to defy even reputable polling, but one only has to take a look at the manoeuvring of the chess pieces currently on the board to examine that the effects of 2016’s groundbreaking votes haven’t been as profound as commonly thought.

Take, for instance, the new cabinet of president-elect Donald Trump. After promising to ‘drain the swamp’ at the White House for many months, Trump’s new cabinet picks are more than a little eyebrow-raising. The combined wealth of Trump’s cabinet, excluding the president-elect’s $3.7bn fortune, is a staggering $4.5bn[1], and not all positions have been decided upon.

It can be a little easy to forget that the establishment often branches out far wider than politics itself. What we call the establishment is in reality an intricate web of political figures, banks and multinational corporations, media, owners atop strategic industries and international institutions. Many of Trump’s cabinet selections, like ExxonMobil chief Rex Tillerson or Wilbur Ross, who made millions dealing with subprime mortgage’s during the 2007-08 crash, reek of establishmentarianism.

They are deeply engrained within an economic elite, and despite Trump’s plan to draft in figures that will revolutionise America’s negotiating skill and allow it to do business his way, the establishment stench will linger so poignantly that even many of his voters will be able to smell it. If by ‘swamp’, Trump was referring to establishment figures, then swampland has undoubtedly been replaced with swampland. It is, too, worth noting that the ‘anti-establishment’ candidate received more than 2 million less votes than the firmly established Hillary Clinton in last year’s presidential contest.

I am always suspicious when a political figure claims to be waging a war with the establishment. It tends to be a war cry, designed to rally a specific kind of voter; whoever the disillusioned and marginalised voter of the day would appear to be. It makes sense, as the thirty year period of neoliberal capitalism has, for all its successes, brought about a deep-rooted marginalisation of the working man. Anger is understandable. The question therefore should be: “How do we deal with this frustration constructively?”

Similar trends were noticed during Britain’s EU referendum. As the arguments intensified, established politicians like Boris Johnson and Theresa May played their cards close to their chest, one choosing to use the campaign to fight a proxy war with David Cameron, the other choosing to campaign mildly in order to take advantage of a fallen Prime Minister. The script read like a west end play.

After Cameron’s resignation and an underwhelming Tory leadership contest, Remain-backing Theresa May took the helm and entered Number 10 as Prime Minister. The government she formed featured campaigners on both sides of the referendum, and once again the Conservatives found themselves strapped with the task of carrying out Brexit. Thanks once again to some clever manoeuvring, the party that for years had supported Britain’s membership of the European Union was in charge of withdrawal.

The same politicians, with a few exceptions, are calling the shots, and Britain seems both reluctant to reveal its negotiating cards and content to stretch the process out for as long as possible. The very same pattern has emerged on both sides of the Atlantic: the anti-establishment types, camouflaged as defenders of the working man in a bid to attract widespread support, were so zealous and deceiving in their pursuit of power that they forgot almost entirely how to deal with it when it came.

In 2016, the establishment launched a coup unto itself, disguised as its sworn enemy. It managed to harness the anger of forgotten communities and mould it into a brand new mandate; with which it will trot confidently into what is deemed to be the new political era. And what’s worse? Even our populists, who ceaselessly present themselves as anti-establishment, are starting to look every bit as careerist and every bit as bubbled as those they claim to oppose.

 

[1] Peterson-Withorn, C. (2016). Here’s What Each Member Of Trump’s $4.5 Billion Cabinet Is Worth. Available: http://www.forbes.com/sites/chasewithorn/2016/12/22/heres-how-much-trumps-cabinet-is-really-worth/#e7a9676f0219. Last accessed 2nd Jan 2017.


Why, if Britain is not taken out of the European Union, I will never vote again

I voted to leave the European Union on June 23rd because I thought it would inject patriotic and democratic life into a country sorely lacking both. It was a decision I had made over the course of a couple of years; one thought about extensively and certainly not taken for granted. It wasn’t, to the dismay of some of the more petulant Remain voters, a decision based upon xenophobic prejudices or the consumption of misinformation.

It was an honour to have worked for the Vote Leave campaign and something that I will never forget. To say that I played even a small part in a campaign which made history is immensely pleasing, but, weirdly enough, the post-referendum jubilation has been replaced by a few nagging fears, some of which I feel obliged to address.

On polling day, 17.4 million people opted for Britain to part ways with the European in the most substantial and important democratic exercise of a generation. The question now is not whether we desire an exit, but when and how it will be arranged. Towards the end of June, I became a member of the Conservative Party as I considered it to be, as of David Cameron’s resignation, the most effective buffer against the European Union.

I confess to being disappointed by the lack of urgency surrounding our departure, but I hold faith that the current administration are working on it and consider it to be a top priority. My personal suspicion is that Theresa May is waiting for the outcomes of the French and German presidential elections next year before invoking Article 50. It would seem to align perfectly from her perspective: a two year period resulting in Brexit, with a few months to go to prepare for the 2020 General Election.

From my own perspective? My nerves would probably prefer Article 50 to be triggered much sooner than that. I should also explain here and now that if Article 50 is not triggered in this parliament, I will not vote for the Conservatives at the next or indeed any forthcoming general election, and, by extension, if Britain is not pulled out of the European Union entirely (I am happy to entertain arguments advocating temporary EFTA membership, but would want a full retreat as quickly as is possible) then I will cease voting completely.

Why? Because it will have been cheapened and insulted beyond any reasonable repair. Because I will never again trust any government to act according to the wishes of the British people, and because my own determination and campaigning efforts leading up to the referendum will have been thrown in my face. To vote again after such a betrayal would be to re-legitimise a fraudulent process which in part was designed to allow politicians to manipulate us.

Voting is often wrongly portrayed as a crucial freedom in our society. Many cherish the opportunity to vote, but few actually bother to think about what it entails. In equal measure, the freedom not to vote is just as important. I have expressed before on this blog and for other publications my desire for Britain (and other western governments) to adopt democratic procedures based fundamentally around a system of sortition. I will return to this subject again very soon.

What has been rather astounding since the result of the referendum was announced on the 24th June has been the Westminster elite’s attitude towards both democracy and the concerns of ordinary British people. The Labour Party, in particular, has exposed this divide in more obvious ways than perhaps they would have liked. There is an element of snobbery amongst those who govern us. Many of those at the top in our society clearly think that we should not have been trusted with this decision, and that everything possible must be done to ensure that the British government overrules or ignores it.

If Britain is not withdrawn from the entirety of the European Union framework, electoral democracy will once again have been proved bogus. We will have been lied to by those elected by us to govern us. On a leaflet sent to more than 27 million households a few months ago, the government advised us to vote to remain a member of the EU, but, crucially, assured us that “they will implement our decision”, regardless of the result.

It couldn’t have been written in plainer English.

Yes, the political and economic consequences of leaving the European Union will be far-reaching, but this is no excuse for kicking the issue into the long grass. After a gruelling campaign and many months of claims and counter-claims, many British people (including myself) will at least feel at ease in the knowledge that their government listens to them and is willing, despite the dissatisfaction of many within the Metropolitan elite, to carry out their wishes.

So here we are, languishing on some kind of political precipice. I am worried, my family are worried and my fellow activists are worried. For now though, I have faith that the right thing will be done. I believe that Mrs May is genuine when she says that ‘Brexit means Brexit’, and though I suspect she is worried and disappointed that ‘Remain’ was not the eventual referendum outcome, I am confident that she will respect the will of many in her party and the 17.4 million that made their voices heard on June 23rd.

But make no mistake, our democracy is suffering, and if the United Kingdom is not taken out of the European Union, I will never vote again.


A few reflections on an historic referendum result

Joyous tears, sleepless nights and a fair few units of alcohol later, the result of Britain’s EU referendum has finally sunk in. In truth, I feel pretty numb. I played a part (however modest the role) in changing the course of British and European history, in salvaging our plundered democracy and in setting a powerful precedent for the future of national and international politics. It’s a day I will never forget, and one for which I will be eternally proud.

A lot has happened over the course of the last 48 hours. I managed my first uninterrupted night of sleep only last night, a Prime Minister has resigned, Hilary Benn has been sacked, and the pound is bungee-jumping its way round the international markets like never before. British politics is at least interesting again, and that must count for something.

Hysteria after such a monumental result was to be expected. Spiteful, bitter Remainers are grasping for excuses and accusations. This is not, I dare say, something likely to end any time soon, and Brexit campaigners must be prepared for this. I’ve already received three death threats over social media thus far; something I’ll be speaking to my local police force about a little later. For the next few months, expect any tragedy or instability to be associated (not always unfairly) with Brexit. Waves of attacks will be launched as a last-ditched attempt at trying to reverse the decision and overruling the British public. I urge readers and fellow campaigners to ignore such petulance and focus on their triumphant victory.

Two especially horrendous sources of this disdain have been Lib Dem leader Tim Farron and SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon. Frankly, it is to their shame that two senior political figures have stooped to the anti-democratic lows of the union they seek to keep us in. Mr Farron said on Saturday evening: “The Liberal Democrats will fight the next election on a clear and unequivocal promise to restore British prosperity and role in the world, with the United Kingdom in the European Union, not out. If you agree with us, join us to make this happen.”

The comments came after his pathetic outburst on the BBC News just hours after the referendum result was announced, in which he said: “What a tragedy that other voters have chosen to damage their [young people] future.” He quite correctly notes that 75% of young people voted to remain, but he forgets to mention that youth turnout was, as was expected, very low. Pensioners and parents did not betray young people, young people let themselves down by not speaking up and voting – or at least those, unlike myself, who support EU membership.

The great irony here is that Mr Farron, leader of the Liberal *Democrats* is actively seeking to overturn the democratic desire of the British people. I am certain he and his party will lose respect and support for this. A party of democrats showing their support for the European Union is a bemusing contradiction in and of itself, but an abject refusal to accept Friday morning’s mandate leads me to believe that Tim Farron, along with Nicola Sturgeon (whom I shall come onto in a moment), is a charlatan.

But the arrogance of political leaders doesn’t stop here. In typically opportunistic fashion, Nicola Sturgeon ensured that she herself be the first senior voice to speak out after the referendum was lost. A second independence referendum (timed quite remarkably after the UK’s vote for independence) ‘must now be on the table’, she asserted. She did, I will admit, warn us prior to the vote on many occasions that a second Scottish independence referendum was inevitable, but sensible people are left wondering why such a prospect is necessary after June 24th was quite defiantly proclaimed Britain’s ‘Independence Day’. I’m starting to respect David Cameron more and more by the minute. At least he had the decency to abide by the result and stand down.

Enough negativity, though. This is a victory for me personally, after months of passionate campaigning, a victory for democracy and, perhaps most significantly, a victory for our country. What a pleasure it was in the early hours of Friday morning to witness the quiet residents of England’s rural heartland stand up and roar. An oddly appropriate coalition between the grassroots communities of the Labour and Conservative parties, each with their own largely ignored concerns about EU membership, was forged – and the UK achieved something most commentators and investors deemed impossible.

Such unity between usually divided parties was not as shocking as it may seem. There is real disconnect between the beliefs of those in Westminster village and those who are suffering in their local neighbourhoods. Many traditional Labour voters retain social and moral conservative values, just like the Tory grassroots, and this vote has exposed this brutal fact quite unlike anything I’ve ever witnessed. This referendum will go down not just as an impassioned defence of democracy, but also as a reminder that the British people remain noticeably distant from those that govern. They threw everything at us, from dire pension warnings to shocking projections from authoritative economic institutions, and they were still defeated. I couldn’t be prouder.

I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank everybody I’ve met along the way, everybody I stood at street stalls with, everybody I worked with at Vote Leave HQ, everybody who veered off with their own enterprises (from Students for Britain to BeLeave) and everybody who came into Westminster Tower to volunteer by phone or by leaflet – thank you all. I’ve had the honour of meeting some very genuine, bright and enthusiastic young people along this incredible journey (many of you know who you are), and I appreciate the outstanding effort that you’ve all put into to this remarkable campaign.

We all knew that if we kept our heads down, stuck to our key messages and fronted the positive, patriotic case for leaving, we would win this referendum – and the finger-pointing and accusations of xenophobia from the Remain campaign post-defeat shows how successful we were, and how disappointed they must feel. We are democrats, not xenophobes. We love this country, we believe in this country, and we refused to talk down this country, and that is why we won this EU referendum. Britain is in for a period of turbulence, no doubt, but the erection of a petition onto parliament’s website last night calling for an independent state of London was desperation personified. And they call us little-Englanders.

Anyway, that’s enough from me. My warmest congratulations go out to everybody who helped make this dream a reality, right across the political spectrum. My second full day as a member of the Tory party is a happy one, and I’m confident that, given time, we have a great future outside of the European Union. Believe in this country, believe in its people, and we can make independence work…for all.


Why are politicians rushing to publish their tax returns?

Just as I expected, one politician decides to publish his tax return and they all follow suit in their droves. Admittedly, David Cameron was backed into a corner somewhat by a storm of criticism over his role in a tax-avoiding offshore fund, but he should never have been forced into revealing private information. Not by angry leftist mobs or anybody.

I don’t care if politicians are public figures, or even if they represent the British people. We should not be demanding, nor should they feel obliged to open up the sores of their own privacy just to satisfy the expectations of the general public. Tax returns, just like most financial data, concern the individual alone and need not be shared with the world.

The man in the street wouldn’t do it, I wouldn’t do it and the reader of this blog post likely wouldn’t do it either. Why? Because we wouldn’t want to do it. Politicians, much like the rest of us, won’t be particularly pleased about publishing their personal tax returns, but those who are will soon be exposed as attention-seeking, applause-craving idiots.

Personally, I’d have much more respect for a politician that held back against publishing personal financial information and defended his or her privacy. Nicola Sturgeon followed David Cameron quite shrewdly to become the first major politician in the UK to volunteer to publish her own dealings. Yes, she was asked about it in an interview, but probably realised afterwards that doing so would be a smart PR move.

So now we are left with the domino effect. Leanne Wood came immediately after, posting her information on Facebook, I’m assuming to make the most of the limelight. Before long, I suspect that we will see all the major party leaders and cabinet ministers publishing their annual tax returns. I shouldn’t be surprised to see the event receive huge media attention, either; something all the best politicians know how to use to their advantage.

And who knows? It could even be set officially as a day on which, year after year, politicians are required by law to publish their private information. I understand that politicians may not be always be especially trustworthy, but this immense interference with liberty and privacy would not be tolerated by workers in any other profession, and it seems to me to be unreasonable to expect it from those running the country.

As I write this, I am reading rumours of Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones planning to do the same, apparently noting that he has “no qualms” with releasing his private tax returns for public viewing. If we aren’t careful, there will be a club soon for politicians wanting to do this. It’s almost cute if one doesn’t bother to read between the lines and discover that this is all being done as a means of one-upping other political leaders for the purpose of scoring some cheap points.

Britain’s politicians shouldn’t demean themselves in this way. Liberty and privacy are far more important than the SNP leader’s contribution to HMRC, and it would be refreshing to see our leaders defend these principles.


David Cameron’s bad week matched only by Arsenal’s

Only a mob of violent leftists could make a tax-avoiding Tory look good

When angry leftists and violent, lawless thugs march angrily through the streets of London, I have a tendency (as was the case yesterday) to be more concerned about the well-being of the police officers present than about the political exploits of parading lunatics. I don’t think I’ve seen such a disproportionate and childish response to the actions (which are buried in the past) of a politician. I was particularly angered by pictures of bloodied female police officers, who in attempting to do their jobs, were cut and bruised thanks in no small part to the petulance of Left-wing hate mobs.

The Prime Minister was quick to apologise for any past connections with legal tax avoidance (something many of his critics are, I suspect, also connected to in some way), despite being pushed on the issue multiple times before admitting what he had to hide. My personal view is that those demanding Cameron resign yesterday were attempting to ride the waves of momentum instigated in Iceland just a couple of days ago.

David Cameron hasn’t done anything wrong from a legal perspective, contrary to what the malevolence of protesters may imply. His unfortunate week has been blown up out of all sensible proportion for the purpose of political point-scoring. Many Left-wing figures in the media, as well as newspapers and politicians have been quick to denounce Dave’s dealings as immoral and deceitful, and have been awfully quick to call for his head.

I’m not a fan of David Cameron for various reasons with which I will not bore readers, but I don’t think he should resign over connections to tax avoidance. His £30,000 worth of shares in an offshore fund was sold before he became Prime Minister, and the heckling he has received over his father’s behaviour has been rather petulant. As world leaders go, Cameron is actually remarkably uncorrupt, fair and responsible. Recent bumps aside, he clearly enjoys the role of Prime Minister, and likely isn’t willing to give up the post any time soon.

Arsenal’s annual capitulation comes a little late

Credit to Arsenal and Arsene Wenger for taking us along for the ride until at least April this season. Usually, early March is spring time for cracks at The Emirates, and Arsenal fans are left, bound to helplessness as they watch their team’s title chances erode away for all to see. To fans of rival teams, it must be quite hysterical by now.

Yesterday’s game at Upton Park was fantastically entertaining, but a game not won is a bad game for a title chaser. Particularly bizarre was Wenger’s decision to leave Petr Cech on the bench as he watched replacement David Ospina prove once more that he, in fact, does not have what it takes to play consistently for a top team between the sticks. Perhaps I’m being a little harsh, but Arsenal’s defensive display yesterday afternoon was certainly one to forget. Gabriel, too, was poor.

Though at times we looked unstoppable going forward (I can think of several attractive attacking sequences which, if fruitful, could quite easily have killed the game off in the first half), fans could sense that the team lacked any real desire or coordination that title winners would have been capable of in order to see out victory. Commentators and neutrals may have enjoyed the six-goal feast, but I, being somewhat ambitious, did not.

To compound upon this misery, Tottenham look set to finish above Arsenal for the first time in over two decades this season; a fact which Arsenal fans will do their utmost to pretend does not bother them, whilst it secretly eats away at their patience. Patience, by the way, which is gradually thinning thanks in large part to Arsene Wenger’s repeated failures.

I didn’t bother to read or listen to Wenger’s post-match comments, but no doubt over the next couple of months he’ll trot out the same, recycled nonsense about financial restraints, injuries (which to my astonishment seem to linger even with new medical staff) and lacking a component which will not be drafted in during the summer. The refreshing success of Leicester this season has, at least, been a timely reminder that many of Arsene’s managerial excuses can now be put swiftly to bed.


Letting rip at all of this ‘renegotiation’ bullshit

I think it’s now pretty clear that David Cameron regrets his decision to campaign for the ‘stay’ vote. In hindsight, his alleged renegotiation may have proved far more fruitful had he expressed a threat to take his country out of the European Union. Perhaps, in such a case, the European Commission would have scrambled together some extra concessions, awarded him for his troubles and waited patiently for the referendum.

For any British patriot like me, having to watch a Prime Minister tour Eastern Europe, pleading with foreign governments to allow Britain a so-called ’emergency break’ on migrant benefits has been not only an insult to our sovereignty, but a refreshing wake-up call for anybody who had previously questioned the control that the EU has over the United Kingdom.

An independent, self-governing Britain wouldn’t, of course, have such a problem. If anything, this renegotiation has been a startling reminder of not only who this country’s supreme government is, but also their glaring lack of accountability. If only it was me at that negotiating table, instead of Mr Cameron.

The difficulties do not end with agreement between Donald Tusk and the Prime Minster, either. Once some sort of deal has been reached, other European Union members will be able to weigh in with their opinions and suggestions, possibly rendering any agreed negotiation obsolete. The whole thing would be laughable if it wasn’t so important.

When Bernard Jenkin, Conservative MP for North Essex, stood up in the House of Commons a couple of months ago and asked: “Is that it?” he wasn’t kidding around. The overwhelming problem with Britain’s renegotiation is that, quite plainly, no substantive attempt has been made to repatriate any existing legislative power. Nothing on fisheries, nothing on TAX or VAT rules, nothing on preventing the destruction of our coal-fired power stations and nothing on the European Council’s voting system.

It does pose the intriguing question of whether or not a successfully agreed deal will actually be a success for Britain, or whether it will actually be felt across the country. It isn’t entirely David Cameron’s fault, however. I get the sickening feeling that just about anybody, europhile or eurosceptic, in his position would have struggled to extract anything hugely substantial from our European neighbours.

Pathetic attempts to exclude the United Kingdom from ‘ever-closer-union’ and instead implement a new, cutely branded ‘associate’ membership are futile. Anybody interested in the subject need only read page 2 of the Treaty of Rome, 1957 to arrive at the conclusion that this project will not be stopped anytime soon. A rampant migrant crisis, soaring public debt and the threat of terrorism, though, have halted any aspirations for imminent political integration. I suspect normal service will be resumed in a year or two.

June 23rd is the target date for Britain’s vote on membership of the European Union, and my feeling is that the result will be incredibly close. In all likelihood, a mere 3-5% swing will be the deciding factor. But, no matter how we vote, one thing can be said for sure, and that is that David Cameron’s renegotiation should have absolutely no bearing on any voter’s decision-making.