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Douglas Carswell's Blog

12 FEB 2016

Take a Short cut: UKIP in Parliament shows we can do more with less

The cost of doing research has fallen. Google finds more information in seconds than a team of people can produce in days. So why were Opposition MPs lobbying for more taxpayers' money for SpAds yesterday? It's the Westminster cartel again.

As the only MP for a party that got 3.9 million votes, I was entitled to a huge allocation of Short money funding for Opposition parties. But unlike the rest, I decided to take only a fraction of it. We were determined to do more with less.

Several months on, our small team in Parliament proves efficient politics is possible. Look at our output:

Our work has triggered two Westminster Hall debates. We are holding ministers to account, and offering genuine alternatives to the failed orthodoxies of the Establishment elites. And we're just getting started.

The big, corporate Opposition parties claim they can't be effective without masses of public money. In fact, the opposite is true: parties that rely on ever-increasing public subsidies have a vested interest in Big Government. That means they can't hold it to account.

It's because we've shown parties can do more with less that the politics subsidy is now being cut. On Short money, the Government is following UKIP's lead. We stood up for taxpayers against the Westminster cartel, and won. How's that for effective Opposition?


11 FEB 2016

Coming together for Brexit

Brilliant news for Brexiteers: yesterday ICM showed Leave ahead for the first time since 2013. It also showed that 17% of voters are still undecided. So it was great to get together yesterday with Eurosceptics from all parties to make the internationalist, optimistic, engaging case for voting Leave.

Yesterday the Conservative MEP David Campbell Bannerman hosted a fantastic event called the Good Life After Brexit. 

It brought together speakers from across the spectrum: Labour MP Graham Stringer, DUP MP Ian Paisley Jr., Conservatives Steve Baker, Bernard Jenkin, David Davis, Liam Fox, and John Redwood, UKIP leader Nigel Farage, and Vote Leave's Matthew Elliott.

What was great about it wasn't just the variety of people who came together. It was also the message. 

To win the referendum, we need to reach out beyond die-hard Eurosceptics to people who may never have thought about the EU before. We need to counter the scaremongering of David Cameron and co. in Project Fear.

That means presenting the positive case for voting Leave: making sure people understand that we will have better trade links abroad, more money for our public services, real control of everything from energy to banks to fish stocks, and  genuine freedom.

The ruling elites fear Brexit because they fear the people.

Eurosceptics need to show the British public that this is our opportunity to take back control of our country and our lives.

Let's make sure we take it!


10 FEB 2016

Cheap credit has crashed the economy

Since the financial crisis, ruling elites have bet the ranch on one thing: cheap credit. The idea is banks keep lending money they don't have. People go on borrowing and spending more. The problem is this approach is fundamentally wrong.

Monetary stimulus didn't start in 2007. Policymakers have been doing it since the mid-1980s. They tried it after the market crash in 1987. And again after the Asian financial crisis in 1997. And again after the collapse of LTCM in 1998. And again after the dotcom crash in 2000.

Every single time there has been a market correction, governments and central banks artificially inflated markets again – and provoked a worse correction to come.

Today's news shows people are expecting the same thing now. Pundits are asking not whether Janet Yellen will cut interest rates, but when.

We can't go on like this.

Credit does not exist to be a tool for officials to direct the economy. One person's credit should be another's savings, or deferred consumption.

The problem with the last 30 years of cheap money is that there is no correlation between credit and savings. Artificial credit is no one's deferred consumption.

The only thing cheap credit has created is malinvestment: buildings that should never have been built, businesses that should never have taken off, ventures that should never have been started.

Chronic malinvestment means there will eventually be an almighty day of reckoning. It could be now.

A good shorthand for the cheap credit orthodoxy is Osbrown economics: the monetary consensus of the political Establishment. The groupthink of the people who attend Davos.

When the day of reckoning comes, many will be looking for a way out. An alternative to the failed orthodoxy. That's why I wrote a paper called After Osbrown.

If you're writing an investor note in a City firm today, you could do worse than taking a look.


10 FEB 2016

The markets are right: Europe's banks aren't safe

Yesterday, Europe's banks entered a new crisis as their shares plummeted. Why? Didn't central banks say the financial sector was safe? Our banking paper explains what's gone wrong.

The banking system was meant to be fixed after the financial crisis. We were told banks were holding more capital, making fewer risky investments, being more prudent.

Yesterday's market rout showed it's not true.

To understand why, just look at what prompted investors to panic now: the EU's decision to give up on taxpayer bail-outs, and force bank depositors and creditors to bail in failed banks instead.

Think about this for a second: the idea that the taxpayer might not be on the hook if the banks fail wouldn't bother markets unless the banks were at serious risk of failure. What this panic shows is that investors were counting on taxpayer bail-outs. In other words, nothing has changed since 2007.

A few months ago, UKIP in Parliament published a policy paper explaining why another banking crisis was inevitable. Capital requirements for banks are still far too low. Too many dodgy assets – like the sovereign debt of EU member states – are still being labelled risk-free. The Bank of England's stress test was far too lenient.

It's no surprise, though, that the banks haven't been fixed. Everything policymakers have done since the financial crisis has perpetuated the problem. Banks have been subsidised with low interest rates and public deposit insurance. They have been encouraged to take big gambles without bearing the risk.

The banking cartel needs to be broken. Banks should be genuinely competitive, not propped up by the public purse. We need an alternative to the failed Brown/Osborne consensus – as I wrote in After Osbrown.

Our paper points the way to real reform.


09 FEB 2016

Anglo-French friendship shows we don't need the EU

David Cameron's latest EU scare tactic – claiming a vote to Leave would bring Calais migrants to Britain - isn't just dishonest, it's absurd. In reality, Britain's independent, bilateral border treaty with France is a great example of what can be achieved without the EU.

The reason Britain can carry out border checks at Calais is the bilateral Treaty of Le Touquet. Leaving the EU can't affect it one iota. Besides, France is committed to keeping it. Only 4 months ago, Bernard Cazeneuve, the Interior Minister, called the idea of scrapping the treaty "a foolhardy path," saying "a humanitarian disaster would ensue."

The PM's fearmongering makes it sound like Britain's international ties would fall apart without the EU. But actually Britain's friendship with France – historically our fiercest foe - shows how much can be achieved with bilateral treaties.

A century before the European Common Market, Britain and France established free trade – thanks to the Cobden-Chevalier Treaty of 1860. We formalised peace with the Entente Cordiale in 1904. Just 6 years ago, we agreed 50 years of mutual defence and security cooperation in the Lancaster House Treaties.

David Cameron's pretence that the EU helps us secure our borders would be laughable if the subject weren't so serious. Isn't this the PM who promised to cut immigration to the tens of thousands, but overshoots his own target by 300,000 every year? He knows as well as anyone that as long as we stay in the EU, we have no control of our borders - that's why he is putting up this smokescreen.

Britain and France prove that independent, sovereign European nation states can cooperate perfectly well – much better, in fact, than the dysfunctional EU. We don't need to be afraid of taking back control.


08 FEB 2016

Yes to green technology, no to subsidy

Wrightbus is currently testing new hybrid buses that use power recovered from their brakes. Where did this clean, green tech come from? Think it was funded by State subsidies? Guess again. It's from a completely commercial industry: Formula 1 racing.

F1 green tech is transforming transport – and not just on the roads. Williams F1, which designed the original flywheel system being copied on the buses, is working on similar technology for trains. It is even inspiring hybrid technology EasyJet is developing for planes.

Did I mention all this is being pioneered in Britain?

The green tech trickledown is exclusively the result of market demand. F1's cutting-edge engineering innovations are commercially viable thanks to millions of racing fans worldwide – the kind of people Big Green lobbies against.

According to Establishment orthodoxy, this shouldn't happen: green technology is only supposed to come about through redistribution by the State, subsidising eco-friendly manufacturers at the expense of consumers.

But the subsidy model doesn't work. It means manufacturers never have to make competitive products because they can always rely on handouts from the taxpayer. Subsidies are nothing more than corporate welfare.

Subsidies may even hold back viable clean tech. To quote flywheel developers Torotrak: "The conventional wisdom, boosted by government subsidies, suggests electrification is the only way to curb fuel use in cars, but flywheel technology could be a cheaper and more environmentally-friendly way."

Last week, UKIP in Parliament published a new paper, co-authored by UKIP's Energy Spokesman Roger Helmer MEP. We make the case that to see a real renewable revolution in energy, we need to scrap redistribution and set the market free.

If we genuinely want green tech to take off, we need to say yes to new technology, no to subsidy.


05 FEB 2016

More power to the sheriffs

Perhaps it's because it's the term I used when I first proposed directly police chiefs over a decade ago. Maybe it's because there's something a little bureaucratic and pedestrian about the word "commissioner". Whatever the reason, I still think we should call Police and Crime Commissioners sheriff.

When locally elected sheriffs .... sorry .... Police & Crime Commissioners were introduced in 2012, they were met with a lot of cynicism. But four years on, PCCs have proved their worth. The Home Secretary's new plan to give them more power is a step in the right direction.

The idea behind elected sheriffs / PCCs was to make police services accountable to local people, and put a single person in charge. Experience shows they have succeeded. The Home Affairs Select Committee's PCC report confirmed: "PCCs have provided greater clarity of leadership for policing."

PCCs have also had one big success: overthrowing the Association of Chief Police Officers. That means policing now reflects local priorities, instead of national, top-down directives from unaccountable officials.

Of course, not all PCCs have been brilliant. But that's the beauty of electing them: commissioners who fail to serve local people properly can be turfed out in elections this May.

Critics of the PCCs said they would politicise the police and disempower the professionals. But recent reports of historic police scandals and cover-ups show how important accountability is. It's not enough just to trust the professionals: institutions need to be responsible to the people they work for.

Yesterday, the Home Secretary not only confirmed that PCCs are here to stay, but announced plans to increase their powers over criminal justice. This is good news: the Crown Prosecution Service is as closed to the public as the police were. It would be fantastic if PCCs could hold it to account.


04 FEB 2016

When the electorate's angry, you need a smile to win

For months, everyone has said Donald Trump is way ahead in the Republican race. The liberal media – his top publicists - built him up as a bogeyman. But in the Iowa caucus, something else happened: Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio stole his thunder. Authenticity and optimism trumped anger.

Cruz and Rubio show that successful anti-politics isn't about playing the electorate's anger back to them. Both got elected to the Senate in the anti-Washington Tea Party wave, but both channelled the frustration of the electorate into real political programmes. Cruz is campaigning as a conviction conservative and Constitutionalist. Rubio as a free-market optimist.

In Iowa, Cruz showed the Establishment can be beaten. He ran on an anti-subsidy platform in an ethanol-subsidy state. Political practitioners say that can never work. The state's governor even campaigned against him. But he went on to win the caucus anyway. Iowans showed the Establishment they can't be so easily bought.

Marco Rubio – who came a close third to Trump's second – surged in Iowa at the last minute because he campaigned on a vision for the future. He gave voters an optimistic alternative to Trump's abuse and vitriol.

Far from the anti-Establishment crusader he pretends to be, Trump could turn out to be the Establishment's alternative to Cruz. Mainstream media and Republican elites are starting to support him because he is much less of a threat than Cruz to the crony corporatist cartel. Trump's protectionism, Big Business background, and indifference to Big Government would continue the status quo politics Washington insiders love.

But real supporters of anti-politics should feel positive. Iowa showed that the people have more wisdom than sneering Establishment elites believe. Authenticity and optimism are what will make America great again.


03 FEB 2016

New EU deal? We don't even have our hands on the emergency brake

David Cameron's deal with Donald Tusk was meant to show Britain's relationship with Brussels could be reformed. Instead, it has proven the EU is incapable of change. The only way to keep Britain safe from the broken European project is to vote Leave.

We always knew the "tough renegotiation" was just spin, designed to mask the fact that the PM hadn't really changed anything. But the emptiness of the deal has surprised even Eurosceptics: there really is no substance to it at all.

Take the so-called "emergency brake" – the PM's signature moratorium on in-work benefits for EU workers. It's hardly a massive change, but he couldn't even secure that. Instead, any benefits restriction could only happen in exceptional circumstances, and at the sole discretion of the European Council. We don't even have our hands on the brake.

The same is true of the "red card," which was supposed to allow national parliaments to veto EU legislation. In practice, it means 55% of legislators across 28 member states would have to agree to block legislation, and that would only trigger a "comprehensive discussion" in the European Council.

This "renegotiation" was supposed to show that we could bring back control from Brussels without leaving the EU. Instead, it has proven we can't. There will be no repatriation of powers, no restoration of Parliamentary sovereignty, no national supremacy over borders, courts, trade, energy, employment, tax, fish – the list is endless. The bureaucrats in Brussels are still in charge.

So the British people have a simple decision to make: do we stay in this unreformed, undemocratic, reactionary political project? Or do we take back control of our country and our future?

There is only one sensible choice: we need to vote Leave.


02 FEB 2016

Mortgaging Whitehall to the Gulf sums up Osbornomics

The Department of Health is subject to sharia law. You read that right: to turn London into the "Islamic finance capital of the world," George Osborne secretly made three Whitehall buildings the property of Middle Eastern banks under an Islamic bond scheme, so they are now governed by Islamic law. The question is: why?

Many people will find the idea that an external legal code applies to the heart of British Government disquieting – and rightly so. But there is a more disturbing question: why is the Chancellor using public assets to prop up a bond scheme? Or put it another way: if the scheme were viable in the private market, why would he need to subsidise it?

The truth, I suspect, is that this is classic Osborne corporatism. Like his dodgy tax deal with Google, and his Northern Powerhouse subsidies, this stinks of favouritism for Big Islamic Banks and oil sheikhs that may benefit the Chancellor but sells British taxpayers short.

But if you're outraged about a few buildings being mortgaged to powerful foreign interests, just think about the public finances more broadly: the Government is totally dependent on borrowed money. We're still running massive deficits every year. Total declared public debt is over £1.5 trillion. The whole country is being mortgaged.

If just £200 million of debt means the Department of Health has to be sharia-compliant, what kind of leverage over Britain do you think £1.5 trillion buys?

Debt and corporatism led Britain to financial ruin in 2007. But instead of changing course from Gordon Brown, Osborne has kept on going. To be a successful sovereign country again, Britain needs to change course: that means balanced public finances, free markets, and sound money.


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The End of Politics and the Birth of iDemocracy

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