Douglas Carswell's Blog

26 NOV 2015

Immigration control? This government isn't even pretending to try

Today, David Cameron wants to talk about Syria. He would like the media to focus on whether or not he has the numbers in the House of Commons to authorise military action.

I happen to think there is a case for military action, but I respect that there is an honourable argument the other way. I'm open-minded.

But what I think we all have a right to resent is that we are being asked to focus on what the government should or should not do in the eastern Mediterranean, rather than asking why the government has failed to secure our borders here at home.

On the very same day that Mr Cameron has got us talking Syria, shocking new immigration statistics show that this government has comprehensively failed to control our borders.

Over the last year, 636,000 people immigrated to Britain - mostly to settle. Net migration hit 336,000 - the highest on record. While non–EU immigration rose only slightly, immigration from within the EU jumped by 42,000, or 19%.

David Cameron was elected to office on a promise to reduce net migration to under 100,000 per year. But in the last year, the increase in net migration alone was 82,000. The truth is he made his pledge just to return to Number 10. He had no intention of keeping it. Now he wants to change the subject and talk about something else.

Secure in Downing Street, with the looney Labour party on a long march to Maoist irrelevance, Cameron has give up even pretending to try to control immigration.

Statecraft should entail securing our own borders before we talk about going to war. Before we talk about sending tens of thousands of Western troops into Syria, why don't we debate how to control the hundreds of thousands of people who are freely entering Britain?

26 NOV 2015

Blair is back

The Labour party has now lurched so far to the left that George Osborne has decided to take on the mantle of Tony Blair. There is no other way to understand yesterday's Autumn statement.

Labour's shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell, has – bizarrely - started quoting Chairman Mao. Really. This has created the space for George – the master of political tactics - to shift left.

And like Blairite budgets before, this one sounded pretty good – but the numbers don't add up.

Osborne announced he was scrapping cuts and going to reduce the deficit. Like Blair, he seems to be over-committing unearned tax revenue before it's even come in.

The real significance of this financial statement is that yes, there will be some fiscal leeway to play around with due to economic growth. But George has, like every other left of centre administration since the Second World War, decided to use the leeway he has to expand the state, not cut taxes.

Billions that could be spent on tax cuts will go on the Chancellor's favourite hard hat projects. The consequences of this choice will be profound.

It means that those who want lower taxes and less government no longer have an ally in a corporatist, Heathite Tory party. George's Conservative party is patrician and interventionist. He even said we needed an industrial strategy.

Here's a final depressing thought: with George at the helm, this year our government will spend more on overseas aid than on the entire Home Office budget, including the police.

Perhaps all this creates the space for a low tax, small government, patriotic non-Maoist alternative?

25 NOV 2015

Cut spending, empower Parliament

Today, George Osborne will deliver the Autumn Statement. He might use clever clogs words to hide it from us, but things aren't going well. Government spending keeps going up. The national debt is still increasing. The deficit is getting wider. In fact, the only thing that's falling is the Chancellor's popularity rating.

David Cameron correctly styled himself the heir to Blair. George Osborne has been less keen to admit he is the heir to Brown. But his record speaks for itself.

Like Brown, Osborne has presided over an unprecedented rise in public debt – which has doubled since he took office. Like Brown, he is borrowing during an economic boom. Like Brown, his spending plans are based on constant economic growth – the illusion that he has abolished boom and bust.

Osborne is deliberately disingenuous about controlling spending. But to be fair to him, no modern Government has managed to make cuts – not even Margaret Thatcher's.


Because the executive has a vested interest in increasing spending. Every Government department always wants more money. So ministers sitting at the Cabinet table invariably lobby for more funding for their departments.

But it hasn't always been this way. The budget wasn't always written entirely behind closed doors in the Treasury. Parliament used to be able to amend the text. In fact, the enormous twentieth-century expansion of the State can be traced to the point in the 1930s when MPs lost the power to amend budgets. Since then they can only boo or cheer. Often MPs won't even understand the tax and spending as they do so.

Look at countries that keep spending in check: Switzerland, Australia, South Korea. They have powerful legislatures that do their job of controlling public spending. The United States may have serious debt problems, but they would be even worse were it not for the power of Congress. Twice in recent years, the legislature has pushed through budget cuts against the will of the President.

Imagine what we could do here if Parliament had the same power. What if each government department had to have its spending plan scrutinised and approved by a select committee of MPs? What if select committees had the power to veto departmental budgets?

The Autumn Statement is a ritualistic sham. The Chancellor's statement to Parliament gives the illusion of accountability. In fact, Parliament is powerless to do anything but rubber stamp his plans. Unsustainable spending is possible because there are no real checks on the Treasury's dominion over taxpayers' money. The solution is to empower Parliament.

24 NOV 2015

LEAKED: Labour Party social media code of conduct

The Labour party is about to get its members to sign up for a code of conduct for social media, apparently. Here is a draft copy of the leaked memo outlining the soon-to-be-compulsory dos and don'ts:

1. Do remember that in the new politics the party whips are much more relaxed – so always tweet on message

2. Don't be disrespectful to others - unless you're referring to Simon Danczuk or Tristram or Blair. Or anyone not in Momentum.

3. Don't use hate speech – unless you're talking about #Toryscum. Remember someone need not be a Tory to be #ToryScum

4. Do broadcast your support for foreign terrorist groups – especially if you're a party spin doctor

5. Do express your opposition to evil multinationals using an Apple, Samsung, or Sony device, and where possible free Wifi provided by Starbucks

6. Do use Facebook to complain about how Facebook doesn't pay enough tax

7. Should you lose a debate or election among real voters, do retreat into your Twitter timeline to have your prejudices reinforced.

8. Jeremy Corbyn is the New Politics - so do not disagree

9. Don't forget that in the new politics likes are more important than votes

10. Use a hashtag to signal your virtue and differentiate you from #ToryScum

23 NOV 2015

We need new defence thinking to fight the new wars

Today, the Government launches the Strategic Defence and Security Review. This is an opportunity to rethink our strategic assumptions, and it is all the more essential that we do so in light of the recent Paris attacks.

Put simply, jihadist terror blurs the boundary between external defence and internal security. Our secret intelligence agencies are as much on the front line as our troops serving in northern Iraq or Cyprus. Defence spending must reflect this.

We need to strengthen our partnerships with democratic allies around the world, not merely those members of NATO with whom we joined forces to counter the old Soviet threat.

With unprecedented pressure on our public finances, and some extraordinary new and demanding security challenges, now is the time to rethink how we convert money into military muscle. The brutal truth is that we have not always been very good at getting bang for our buck.

That tended not to matter during the post-Cold War interlude when we could all sleep safely at night under the protection of the American hyper power. Long may the Pax Americana continue - but even Uncle Sam was not able to avert the Paris atrocity.

We face what academic Mary Kaldor has termed "new wars" – asymmetric threats waged between a combination of states and non-state networks. This is not a reason to carry on with clumsy Cold War era defence procurement, but all the more reason to ensure that we are nimble in developing and researching new weapons.

For too long, UK defence procurement has been plagued with problems. Major projects routinely come in late and over budget. Some, like the Nimrod MRA4 spy plane, never get off the ground at all. Complications in these projects and others have left us without key military capabilities.

UK defence procurement elevates the vested interests of defence contractors above the national interest. Elements of the defence budget have been spent as if they were part of a job creation scheme. This needs to stop.

Even in World War II, we relied on our allies for key munitions and equipment. Britain's defence industry today would not function without collaboration with foreign manufacturers.

Successive governments have consolidated the UK defence industry. In doing so, they sought the advantages of scale. What they also did was constrain supply.

In any market where supply is constrained, the seller sets the terms of trade. So, too, in defence. This is just one of the reasons why "defence inflation" is so high. Its also explains why despite having the fifth largest defence budget in the world, our armed forces are often ill equipped.

Ministers need to move towards more "off the shelf" procurement. Yes, there are certain weapons systems that we need to manufacture entirely ourselves. But there are many bits of kit that frankly we should buy off allied countries.

Various governments have tried collaborative production of different weapons systems – with mixed results. We ought to do more to try joint purchasing to shift the terms of trade away from contractors and drive down costs.

Thanks to the UK's absurdly complex procurement system, the UK defence budget currently has to pay for more than 10,000 officials to manage different contracts. Think of it as PFI gone mad.

Yet in the last Parliament, the regular army was cut by 20,000. Ministers last week announced an additional 1,900 intelligence officers. How many more we might we yet have if we did not have such a cumbersome procurement system?

The West faces serious threats. We do not have the luxury of misspending. Now is the time to change.

This article was first published by The Telegraph.

23 NOV 2015

It is not enough to be right. You need to be seen to have the right motives

How on earth does Jeremy Corbyn keep getting away with it? He and his coterie of supporter now running the Labour party could not be more wrong-headed.

They deny that government has overspent, advocating that we spend even more. They dither over whether the police should be allowed to use lethal force against armed terrorists. Perhaps forgetting that the attack on the Twin Towers happened before the Iraq war, they appear to blame Western policy makers for attacks on the West. One has even seemed to suggest that Mi5 and the security services be disbanded.

Wrong, wrong and yet more wrong.  Yet they are still on 27 percent in the polls.  Remarkably, around one in four are still apparently prepared to vote for them.

How do they get away with it?

Motive. Or rather the perception that some people have as to the motives of Comrade Corbyn and co.

"Yes", many of the 27 percent will say. "Jeremy might be wrong about this or that. But he means well."

Don't misunderstand me. I do not believe that Jeremy's motives are any more elevated than those of any other party leader. My point is that as long as some people trust his motives, they will support him – no matter how wrong he may be.

The converse is also true.  No matter how right you might be in politics, people will not support you if they do not trust your motives.

Immigration, Europe, the economy, energy; you can win the argument on all the big macro issues of the day. But you still will not get the votes if folk do not trust why you are saying what you are saying.

21 NOV 2015

Osbrown's debt disaster

George Osborne has been telling us for five years that he is closing the deficit. Today's borrowing figures are so bad, it is almost as if Gordon Brown was still in charge.  

While telling us he has been dealing with the national debt, on George's watch the national debt has doubled. This is a serious problem – and not just because we are saddling future generations with an enormous bill. The bigger the debt gets, the harder the deficit is to close.

Look at the Government's spending figures for the last few years. Departmental budgets have been cut. But there is one item that keeps getting bigger: debt interest. Currently we are paying £1 billion every week to the Government's bondholders. We have been spending more on debt interest every year than on education and police combined.

This situation will only get worse. The more we borrow, the higher the interest bill will be. The more our taxes will fund creditors instead of public services. The less impact departmental spending cuts will have. The worse our public services will be.

The Left will tell you that we shouldn't worry about borrowing. That spending cuts are unfair and cause inequality. In fact, they are the ones promoting inequality. Promoting borrowing means that the British people will increasingly work for the benefit of a rentier class. They are advocating a two-tier society.

The only way to secure public services and reduce inequality is to balance the public books before it's too late. After five years, the Chancellor needs to follow through on his promises.

20 NOV 2015

The new politics is digital

Politics is changing. Across the democratic world, establishment elites are losing the trust of the people. Insurgents – from Donald Trump to Alexis Tsipras – are on the rise. But real change won't come from messiahs, but from modernity.

Innovators in California have launched a new website that gives a taste of the future. Called Crowdpac, the site uses data from voting records, speeches, and political donations to give a comprehensive picture of the stances of American politicians on a range of key issues. Voters can use Crowdpac to match their views to the candidate they most agree with. It's the political equivalent of online dating.

Crowdpac is not the first website to match voters with politicians, but it offers new depth. In particular, it highlights the influence of lobbying. By digging down into the political interests of rich donors, it gives a much greater guide than other sites as to the likely policy positions of the candidates they support. Its aim is ambitious: to "help end the stranglehold of big money donors and special interests on the political system."

Cronyism rightly angers electorates more than anything else. It's why many don't trust politicians. Voters know that partisan journalists won't give them the facts either – which is why many don't trust the media. Instead, voters are turning to outsiders whom they believe - or hope - can't be bought. In many cases, they will be disappointed.

Crowdpac offers a better way. By providing data directly to voters, it gives the public an insight into whom their elected representatives are really serving without the intermediation of any media spin. It will make politicians much more transparent - and much more accountable as a result. Crowdpac will help to restore trust in politics in the only way possible: by giving politicians an incentive to be trustworthy.

I believe Crowdpac is only the start. Three years ago, in my book The End of Politics and the Birth of iDemocracy, I predicted that the digital revolution would transform politics for the better, and restore power to the people. It's already happening. And it goes to show: progress – not pessimism – will defeat the political cartel.

19 NOV 2015

Our current account deficit is as worrying as our budget deficit

Britain is a chronic borrower. Not just the Government, but the whole country. We are buying more than we sell, and making up the difference with debt. This is unsustainable.

Our current account deficit – the amount that the value of our imports exceeds the value of our exports – is the largest of any developed country as a share of GDP. In the last quarter, it was equivalent to 3.6% of national income, or £16.8 billion. Think about that for a second: we spent £16.8 billion more than we earned just this past summer.

The amazing thing is that 3.6% is an improvement. Last year, Britain's current account deficit was 5.5%, or £97.9 billion – an all-time record. But if you think we're moving in the right direction, don't get your hopes up: this quarter, it is set to widen again.

Buying more than we earn is made possible by enormous borrowing. It means that people across Britain are drowning in debt.

It is also funded by the sale of British buildings and businesses to foreign buyers. Wondering why foreign investors are allowed to buy London properties and drive up house prices? That's part of what's paying for our imports.

High borrowing is the result of low productivity. Exorbitant energy costs, caused by green taxes, are making our exports uncompetitive. Lax monetary policy is pumping money into assets instead of innovation.

We are also held back by being tied to the world's only declining trading bloc: the EU. During the recent visits of the Indian and Chinese leaders, the Government touted our trade with the far east. But non-EU Switzerland, with a population eight times smaller than ours, exports almost twice as much as us to China, and over four times as much to India. Switzerland also has a bilateral free trade deal with China, and is in the process of negotiating one with India – something that we, as EU members, can't do.

The EU is holding us back from doing what we're best at. Britain specialises in services; yet EU diktats make exporting services to the rest of the world much more difficult than it needs to be.

Politicians often talk about "rebalancing the economy." But balance won't boost our exports. What we really need is to do is focus on our strengths, and exploit our comparative advantage. To do that Britain – not Brussels – needs to be in control.

18 NOV 2015

The Closing of the American Mind?

What is the role of a university? Is it a place of free inquiry, which expands the bounds of knowledge, and rigorously scrutinises the orthodoxies of the day? Not anymore. Instead of promoting freedom of thought and speech, universities increasingly restrict it.

In The Closing of the American Mind, the American philosopher Allan Bloom warned about what was happening on campus. Relativism, he wrote, had replaced critical inquiry. Universities increasingly indoctrinated students with contempt for the past, and for the West. As a result, students learnt only to subscribe to a set of lazy cultural doctrines.

Bloom published his book in 1987. The situation has only got worse since. Students today actively work to restrict free speech. Any dissent from left-wing political norms is condemned on the basis that it is a form of oppression. Those who disagree face trial by the mob.

The campus inquisition has recently reached extraordinary proportions. At Yale, academics who questioned an e-mail calling for "cultural sensitivity" in Halloween costumes faced a gang of students demanding their resignations.

Here in Britain, it is no different. At Oxford last month, students claiming to be oppressed by a statue of Cecil Rhodes protested to insist the university remove it. "No platform" policies are used ban certain people – like members of a party that recently won 3.8 million votes - from speaking.

Students used to protest against the Establishment. Now they have become part of it. They collude with culturally Marxist academics to enforce orthodoxies, not challenge them. In the battle for truth and progress between Galileo and the Church, today's students are predominantly with the Church.

Freedom of thought and speech is indispensable to our society. It's what creates the innovation that propels economic progress. It's what differentiates the democratic West from the countries that millions are now fleeing. It is irresponsible for us in Britain to allow radical censorship to flourish at our public universities.

But the biggest losers from the campus inquisition, I suspect, are a large silent minority of students. Young, inquisitive people – like many I spoke to at Warwick University a few weeks ago – who don't agree with the left-wing consensus, but are too intimidated to say so. If we're going to worry about oppression on campus, they are the people we should be thinking about.

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The End of Politics and the Birth of iDemocracy

"A revolutionary text ... right up there with the Communist manifesto" - Dominic Lawson, Sunday Times

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