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Douglas Carswell's Blog

22 MAY 2015

Grexit? The two facts that tell us all we need to know

Since 2007, general government debt in Greece has risen by 30 percent. Over the same period of time, the size of the Greek economy has declined by 25 percent.

Forget all the blah blah from the expert pundits. Ignore all the shenanigans about what one politician said to another. Those two bald facts are all you need to know.

Greek debt has increased with every bailout (a bailout does, after all, mean assuming more debt), and the ability of Greece to pay it back has diminished.

At the very outset of the crisis, some of us said that the least worst option would be for Greece to do the three Ds; Default, then Decouple from the Euro and then Devalue. If that had happened five years ago, Greece today would no doubt be well on the road to recovery, with a competitive currency and with all that malinvestment out of the system. 

Instead our government, along with the rest of them, went ahead with a rescue plan that was specifically designed to save banks from their own exposure to Greek debt - but not actually rescue Greece from any debt.

Thanks to this disastrous approach, five years on, Greece has acquired five more year's worth of debts, making the inevitable crunch when it comes all the more painful.


21 MAY 2015

UKIP economics

The UK economy is growing – and rather fast compared to other Western states. Great.

But so it should be given the size of both the fiscal and monetary stimulus.

This year, the government will spend £ 75Bn more than it will take from the economy in taxes. For all the talk of austerity, the government been engaged is a massive Keynesian spending stimulus for almost a decade now.

To put it into perspective, this spending stimulus has ranged between 5 and 11 percent of GDP for seven years in a row. That dwarfs the sort of spending stimulus we saw in the 1960s and 1970s, the supposed heyday of Keynesian orthodoxy.

At the same time, the economy has been hosed with cheap credit and Quantitative Easing.

What would be remarkable, given all this stimulus, is if there had not been any growth.

"But" I hear you say "if there's really has been so much stimulus, where's the inflation?"

Of course the prices of some things, such as houses and other assets, are rising. The prices of various consumer goods, however, are not. Might this not have something to do with the massive expansion in productive capacity that has occurred as Asia and the rest of the world industrialise?

There are limits to what stimulus economics can achieve. Sooner or later policy makers will discover that growth needs something else.

First, we need supply side reform. That is to say, instead of creating growth by making people spend more, we should make it easier for wealth producers to produce wealth. Sajid Javid's arrival at the department of Business, Innovation and Skills could, potentially, be very good news – if the EU rules allow him to deregulate.

Supply side reform also means making it easier for energy producers to generate cheaper energy. We need to break the energy cartel and replace it with a functioning market.

Secondly, we need to put some serious thought into the impact of in-work benefits.

Gordon Brown created a Byzantine system of tax credits, which in effect subsidise low wages. If you subsidise low wages, wages stay low.

There is a growing clamour for a "living wage". Might it be that many people are on less than the living wage because the state is actively subsidising their employers to keep paying them below the living wage in the first place?

As well as keeping wages low, could in-work benefits also explain poor productivity growth? Might it not have some impact on migration, too? Surely that is worth asking on the day that net migration tops 318,000?

Flush with their recent success, the Conservatives (Sajid and one or two others aside) seem in no mood to question the corporatist orthodoxies they find in government. Labour, faced with an existential crisis, can't. It is up to UKIP to develop a coherent, credible alternative to the government's carry on corporatism.


19 MAY 2015

Red UKIP? We are not Poujadiste

UKIP will, I fervently hope, displace Labour. We could do to Labour south of the border what the Scottish Nationalist have done to the north.

Impossible?  If the recent election results are anything to go by the signs are pretty encouraging.

UKIP polled almost four million votes to Labour's nine. Before the last election, dozens of Conservative MPs feared losing their slender majorities. Today they are back in Westminster with bigger majorities. Why? Because their local Labour vote went UKIP. That's where UKIP's future lies.

Does displacing Labour mean some sort of "red UKIP" strategy?  Not at all - and here's why.

Labour today is a party of statism. The shape of the blue print envisaged for society might vary. To what ends the levers of state control should be tugged will be debated by different Labour leadership contenders. But Labour is hooked on the idea of top down control.

Labour might have abandoned socialism, but Labour is a corporatist party, on the side of vested interests; PFI, which gives big business a guaranteed slice of future tax revenues. Energy targets, which mean subsidies for big energy companies paid for by ordinary householders. Bailouts for bankers, tax breaks for a favoured few.  Look at the lobbyists who hover around the party like files ....

Labour once stood up for ordinary people against the interests of the powerful. Today Labour sides with remote EU functionaries and well-renumerated Human Rights lawyers.

Keir Hardie's party today shows a patronising distain for the very folk the party is supposed to represent.

UKIP can offer an alternative to Labour not by apeing the left, but by offering something radically different.

UKIP believes in dispersing power. We want political reform to make government accountable to Parliament and Parliament answerable to the people. We don't merely seek to return power from Brussels to Westminster, but to push control from Whitehall to the town hall.

We want to disperse economic power, too. The way to do that is not through corporatism, but via honest markets.  Real markets that work for customers, as well as producers.

What would dispersing economic power look like?

From education to health care, digital technology allows us to have public services provided to the public with a degree of personalisation that was once the preserve of the private sector.

It would mean real bank reform. Instead of reining in the worst excesses of fractional reserve banking with top down regulation, and bail outs, we need to make the case for comprehensive bank reform.

Osbrown monetary policy has transferred wealth from those with savings to those with assets. Hosing cheap credit at the housing market has inflated house prices, putting homeownership beyond the reach of many in their twenties and thirties. Sooner or later we will need a different approach. (See: http://www.douglascarswell.com/downloads/after-osbrown.pdf )

We need an energy market that encourages innovation and pushes down energy prices. At some point the PFI taps will need to be turned off.

Instead of spending the defence budget in the interests of contractors, we need to see it spent in the best interests of our armed forces.

Here is the outline of an agenda for UKIP that is both free market, and popular – not Poujadiste.


11 MAY 2015

Good reasons for UKIP to be cheerful

The delight I felt in the early hours of Friday morning having won my Clacton seat soon turned to dismay. First came news that my good friend Mark Reckless had lost in Rochester. That was followed by despondence at the news of Nigel's defeat in Thanet.

In seat after seat, so much effort had been made by so many people – and all for so little.

So what next for UKIP?

We should not despair. In terms of seats won, election night might not have gone well. Looked at another way, it was an amazing result. Almost four million people voted for us, making UKIP Britain's third party.

As many people voted UKIP on Thursday as voted for both the Liberal Democrats and the Scottish National Party combined. The shocking failure to convert votes into seats is less a failure of UKIP's campaign strategy than it is a failure of our dysfunctional political system.

However infuriating we might find the Commons arithmetic in this new Parliament, take heart. David Cameron, with his slender majority, is likely to find it even more annoying.

Over the next five years, Parliament is going to really matter. Ministers will really need to make their case every time - and cannot automatically assume that they will get their way.

Beyond Westminster, UKIP – and the factors that explain our rise - are not going away.

As long as Britain remains bound by the European Union, politicians might be able to win votes by promising things. They won't be able to deliver when so many of the decisions that affect our lives are made for us by Brussels.

Far from abating, the mood of anti-politics that fuels UKIP will only grow. We need to become a champion for change; giving voters the power of recall, so that local constituents can sack wayward MPs, open primary candidate selection and electoral reform.

UKIP might have only finished first in a single seat, but we finished second – often a tantalisingly close second – in 120 seats. That bodes well for our future.

Our candidates, often standing for the first time, have gained valuable experience. This means we now have a cadre of campaigner's right across the country.

With David Cameron in Number 10 and Labour in turmoil, the opportunities for UKIP to present a credible alternative are going to be enormous. To do so, Ukip needs to reach out beyond the four million people who voted for us last week.

Many of the seats where UKIP finished second are in the north of England. Far from being a party of Tory ultras, UKIP's future lies in extending our appeal, and not simply geographically.

While the Scottish National Party can only stand candidates north of the border, the disaffection with the Labour party that has fuelled their rise reaches right down towards Manchester and the midlands.

Study a map of support of UKIP, and you will see deep purple patches in the old Labour heartlands. Like much of Scotland, these are often constituencies where the Conservative party has only existed on paper for at least a generation. At the same time, voters in such seats have begun to tire of a Labour party that regards them as their private fiefdoms.

The idea of displacing the Labour party is not fantasy. Ed Miliband's party got slightly over 9 million votes. At almost 4 million, the UKIP tally is not impossibly far behind even now.

Positioning ourselves as an alternative to Labour does not mean that we should imitate Labour. Ed Miliband has neatly demonstrated the folly of offering the voters retro 1970s socialism. Not even Ed Balls former constituents were convinced about the would-be chancellor's high tax and regulation approach.

Years of bank bailouts and cosy deal making between big government and big business has started to give capitalism a bad name. First under Blair-Brown, then under Cameron, Britain has shifted away from the free market towards a form of crony corporatism. There is a massive gap in the political market space for a new popular, democratic capitalism, which works of ordinary people.

In the age of Amazon, the case for free trade has never been easier to make. Ukip should be making it. In a world where in work benefits are subsidising low wages – and thus keeping wages low – we need to be prepared to advocate alternatives. Poor productivity growth is not just something that should concern policy wonks. It is harming people on every high street.

Nigel Farage has been an inspirational leader. Like hundreds of thousands of other people, he inspired me to leave the comfort of by previous party, and join him. I was prepared to resign from Parliament and fight a by election in order to do so. I feel gutted that he is no longer our leader.

But I will not stand to be leader of UKIP. Why? Because I can think of half a dozen figures in UKIP who could do the job better; Suzanne Evans, Patrick O'Flynn, Stephen Woolfe, Paul Nuttall or Diane James.

Every anti-establishment movement in history suffered set backs. But the successful one's were those that united, regrouped and carried on. UKIP's next leader will do so, too.

Ukip's next leader needs to be someone that recognises our party exists first and foremost to get Britain out of the European Union. We should take heart from the fact that there now appears to be, for the first time in a generation, a Commons majority in favour of holding an In Out referendum.

We could be two or three years away from achieving the very thing our party was founded to achieve all those years ago.

Everything that our new leader does over the coming months needs to be directed at securing a majority in favour of leaving the EU. Given than 87 percent of people did not vote Ukip at the last general election, Ukip needs to campaign in the coming referendum as part of a wider movement. Yes, we might be passionate about the need to leave the EU. We should recognise that we might not always be the best people to make the case to undecided voters.

We need to recognise that the case against our continued EU membership is not simply a matter of immigration, but of a better kind of Britain for the future.

Ukip must not make the mistake made by the SNP in their recent referendum. We should not equate support for leaving the EU with support for our own party. Do that, and the European Commission in Brussels would be delighted.

Between now and 2020, UKIP needs to focus on selecting good local candidates in key seats – and selecting them early on. Our candidates need to be local champions, as passionate about safeguarding the local maternity unit or police station as they might be about immigration or defence.

UKIP used to worry about getting noticed. What matters now is that we are listened to - and that means speaking more softly. And when we do speak, we speak to all Britain - and all Britons. Politics is about bringing people together – literally, in order that as many as possible each place their cross on the same part of the ballot paper.

Cheer up UKIP!  Ultimately in politics optimism works. From Clement Attlee to Ronald Reagan, presenting a brighter ideal for the future is an essential ingredient for electoral success. Ed Miliband today probably wishes he spent a little more time outlining not what was wrong with Britain, but what he would do about it to make things better.


28 APR 2015

Clacton candidates' hustings

Last night was the candidates' debate in Clacton – and it was very enjoyable.

About 350 residents came along – and the number one issue seemed to be the council's plans to allow 12,000 extra houses in our area.

I explained why I feel the council has got this wrong. Things got a little heated between some of the panellists and the audience when the panellists tried to justify extra housing.

All the other candidates came out in favour of increasing Britain's overseas aid spending to over £12,000,000,000 a year. I explained why I felt that the aid budget needed to be cut.

I also highlighted the need for more GPs - and touched on the action I have taken to recruit more locally.

There is clearly overwhelming support to keep open Clacton police station, and I am pleased that on that issue, at least, we have cross party support.

I think it is fair to say that one or two had probably decided how they were going to vote before the meeting started. The audience was certainly lively and seemed to enjoy it!


10 APR 2015

What were they thinking?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


09 APR 2015

Guess what we got up to yesterday?

 

 

 

 

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


08 APR 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


07 APR 2015

Clacton spring

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


01 MAR 2015

Watch the Conservative candidate calling for 12,000 extra houses

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


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