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Monday, 26 May 2014

"I Voted For UKIP. Does That Make Me a Fruitcake, a Loony or Just Racist"?

I wonder how many of the thousands of English and Welsh voters who voted for UKIP and elected 161 councillors, to add to the 139 the party won in council elections in 2013, have asked themselves that question in the last few hours? (I am writing this before the EU election results are out). The party does not control a single council in England or Wales but it's success in some parts of England in particular, has denied Labour control in one or two areas where they were expected to win handsomely. As there were no local elections in Scotland, the results in England and Wales will have only an indirect effect up here but may well impact on the EU elections. The SNP is confident of taking a third Euro seat and "freezing UKIP out of Scotland". I have already commented on the abuse to which UKIP has been subjected in recent weeks but it seems to have had little effect on the votes the party has gleaned in the local elections, with anticipation of a similar result being recorded in the Euro elections.

The kind of abuse UKIP has had to take over the past few months, is unfortunately typical of the treatment doled out to any "third" party which challenges the hegemony of the established, so-called main parties. Any one who was in the SNP in the 1950's, 1960's and to a lesser extent, the 1970's, will be well familiar with the accusations of racism being thrown at UKIP because it is exactly what was thrown at the SNP. The sneering, the accusations of idiocy, the animosity of the media and the establishment in general, the lies perpetrated by the BBC, the lack of coverage; any SNP member or ex-members of my generation have seen it all before and the irony is that the SNP and its supporters have been as guilty as the rest. It is an attitude they may well regret. I could not help but be amused at the reactions of the various spokespeople of the major parties, as the results started to come in. The sneering and disdain continued, even as they were losing seat after seat to UKIP. The fact the party had won 139 seats in English and Welsh council elections in 2013, seemed to have been forgotten, as they continued to emphasise, "They don't control a single council," "Will this translate to votes in the Euro elections or a general election?".

Great interest was being expressed in where Nigel Farage will stand at the general election, or if he will stand. There were references made to the coming by-election at Newark and everyone was agreed that unless UKIP won the seat or, come close to winning, the bubble will have been burst. At the general election in 2010, the Tories polled 27,590, Labour 11,438, Lib/Dems 10,246 and UKIP 1,954 so if UKIP were to win, the establishment really would be in trouble. In fact, the establishment was willing to discuss just about anything except the fact they were being gubbed, the length and breadth of the country, by a party they have done their best to dismiss as fruitcakes, loonies or racists. As the results rolled in, all of them bad for the Lib/Dems and with varying degrees of harm for both Labour and Tory parties, there was finally a belated admission that perhaps the "disconnect with politics in general" among the electorate, was far greater than had been recognised or acknowledged previously.

The one issue that did not receive as much attention as might have been expected, was the issue of immigration and when it was raised, there was little acknowledgement that many of the fears which have been expressed by people in England, have had some substance. Immigration is not an issue to the same extent in Scotland for the simple reason we have not experienced the same level of influx as has been the case in some parts of England. Nevertheless, the latest opinion polls show that a majority of Scots do not favour the SNP's "open door" policy and at least 32% of Scots would vote to leave the EU now, before any debate has been heard. It is surely significant that the latest immigration figures were published on the day of the poll and showed significant increases of Net immigration, when the claims have been that immigration has fallen. In the run-up to the council elections, it was widely claimed that the number of Bulgarian and Romanian immigrants registered in the UK had actually fallen by over 4,000 over the past year, when the true figure showed an increase of over 50,000 and the increase from Bulgaria and Romania was 19,000 in the first four months of 2014, compared to the same period in 2013. Similarly, it was claimed that Net immigration had been reduced to just over 100,000 when the actual figure was over 212,000 in the past year, an increase of 22% on the previous year. It is little wonder there is a disconnect when people are lied to so consistently.

Now the results are in for the Euro elections, UKIP has defied every prediction in Scotland and won their first seat of any kind up here. Alex Salmond's EU policy is now looking increasingly threadbare, having failed to "freeze UKIP out of Scotland" and completely underestimated the degree of anti-EU feeling there is in Scotland, as there is throughout the EU. I have been telling people on various internet sites for several years, about the degree of Euro-scepticism that exists in the various countries of the EU, including some of the newest members, only to be called every name under the sun for doing so. Perhaps the Euro results will force people to listen to what is being said right across the EU, about the degree of opposition to greater integration, closer political union and lack of accountability. Yes campaigners and SNP supporters have insisted we should wait until after the referendum before making a case for coming out of the EU and accused me of undermining the drive for independence. If the SNP had even made the concession that they would have a referendum on EU membership, UKIP would not have had the same traction for their argument that the main parties (SNP is the dominant party in Scotland) just do not listen. That is as true of the SNP as it is of the others, as far as the EU is concerned and there is gross hypocrisy as well as arrogance to insist on a referendum for independence but deny it for another Union which, if the Euro fanatics have their way, will be just as incorporating as the Union of 1707.

The next blog will be on the EU, looking at the economic realities for several members who are suffering unemployment of 25% and little prospect of that situation improving, but the result of the elections in France and Greece should be a wake-up call for the Europhiles in Scotland. Salmond and the SNP have been insisting that one of the main reasons for independence is that the people of Scotland have different priorities from those of the English and that UKIP, with its anti-European, (it is anti-EU) and anti-immigration attitudes, have no place in Scotland. Well, that has been shown to be wrong but of much greater importance, is the question of whether the SNP is prepared to argue it would rather share an electoral chamber with the FN from France and the Golden Dawn from Greece, than Holyrood with UKIP? Right wing parties in Europe tend to make the Right wing in the UK look pale by comparison and people have been warning for some years that the inability of the EU, to deal with economic instability brought about by the imposition of the Euro, would lead to a rise of the "Right". The answer coming from the Euro fanatics is "more of the same" which means more centralisation of power, less democracy and the eventual creation of the United States of Europe. It is too early to say what effect the election of UKIP will have on the referendum but the people responsible for giving it a helping hand, is the SNP, because like the others, it just refuses to listen.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Have Gutter Journalism And Personal Abuse Usurped Political Debate?

In February 2012, over two years ago, I wrote a piece entitled, "Is it possible to have a civilised debate on independence?" prompted by the inaccuracies carried in The Scotsman and Daily Mail, about alleged comments made by Mike Russell. The past two years have been filled with media pieces which have at times, bordered on the asinine and actionable, although there have been others which have been both informative and thought provoking. Unfortunately, the asinine have greatly outnumbered the informative. The tripe which has been carried in the print media, particularly newspapers such as the Daily Mail, about the consequences for Scots if we vote to become an independent country, says as much about the editorial policy of those papers as it does about those who prompted the stories which are carried. The animosity of the media to any idea of Scottish independence is as old as the movement for independence itself, therefore it comes as no surprise to those of us who have been around a bit longer than the majority who are new to the game.

I had hoped however, that the SNP and the wider Nationalist movement, had been around long enough to persuade the more responsible journalists, to give a fair assessment of the issues at stake and, to be fair, there are a few like Ian McWhirter, Ian Bell and Peter Jones who have produced pieces which have been worth reading. Unfortunately, the SNP has itself to blame for much of the criticism it has taken on the serious questions of the currency an independent Scotland will use and our membership of the EU. The party can hardly complain when it continues to argue that a currency union will provide an "independent" Scotland with the economic levers it needs to have economic control, when it quite clearly will do nothing of the kind. Even the SNP's own Fiscal Commission - along with every other economist and economic commentator in the country - has pointed out the conditions which would be necessary for a currency union to work, conditions which leave control with Westminster. For the SNP to continue to deny that is both stupid and dishonest. For their supporters to attack anyone who points this out, is equally stupid and dishonest but of much greater importance; it does nothing to persuade those who are undecided that they can rely on the information with which they are being provided.

There has never been a more important vote in my lifetime and the Nationalist movement has the more difficult task, because people are being asked to leave their comfort zone and take a step in a direction many of them do not want to go. To make that task even more difficult by being less than honest or by being downright dishonest, and then to be caught out in their dishonesty, displays a degree of stupidity that almost beggars belief. When the party is aided and abetted by a collection of numpties for whom personal abuse is their everyday language and who seem to think the way to persuade people to the cause of independence, is to be as vile and unpleasant as possible, and when it is pointed out that spouting bile and venom is not the way to persuade people of the rightness of their cause, their only resort is to spout more bile and venom, the objective of winning the argument for independence, of persuading the undecided that independence is worth having, may already be a lost cause. Any and every political party and politician invites criticism, simply by being involved. If you are going to put your head above the parapet, you are merely inviting people to have a pot-shot at it - figuratively speaking. It is one thing to be criticised for taking political positions, it is quite another to be personally abused for being involved in politics.

Alex Salmond can be fairly criticised for some of his political decisions, criticism which is perfectly acceptable. The personal abuse he takes is totally unacceptable. Politicians have always been lampooned, it goes with the territory, and a good cartoon can be highly effective but the level of personal abuse directed at Salmond has frequently gone beyond the pale. Neil Kinnock was subjected to similar abuse and there is a section of the media in the UK, which has always been incapable of serious political debate and which catered for the lowest common denominator in UK society. The establishment obviously know how serious the referendum vote is and the hounds have been unleashed. The SNP as a political party, was also a target for the tabloids in the early days, when comparisons with National Socialists was commonplace, but the National Movement in Scotland has never been based on race and try as he might, George Galloway will find it hard to make anti-Catholicism stick. The ire of the establishment, has of necessity, to be directed at individuals and Salmond, as the leader, is the obvious target.

Another who is currently in the firing line, is Nigel Farage, who if anything, is being targeted even more than Alex Salmond and with even greater venom. What is surprising, is the source of much of the criticism and the venom of the abuse. Euan McColm wrote an appalling piece in Scotland on Sunday at the weekend. He wrote, "Farage is a one-trick pony, spouting meaningless slogans while brushing off uncomfortable truths about his colleagues. He's a cynic, attacking the excesses of politicians while raking in a huge salary and expenses as an MEP. And he's a weasel, defending his party from charges of intolerance... But more than all of these things, Farage is a hypocrite...his first instinct is to protect his cushy number in Brussels." Farage's crime was to decide not to contest the Newark by-election himself. He is leader of his party and an MEP, fighting a EU election in a couple of weeks but he is a "weasel", a "hypocrite" because he is not contesting a by-election which no other party leader is expected to contest. I have NEVER heard of  a party leader contesting a by-election under similar circumstances. Since he is paid the same as every other MEP, I take it McColm considers they all have cushy numbers, or is it just Farage?

Farage's critics accuse him of racism but never miss an opportunity to make reference to his "German-born wife" whom he employs as his assistant in his job as a MEP. Ian Hudghton, MEP and President of the SNP has employed his wife since 1999 while George Lyon MEP has employed his girlfriend since 2009, something which is rarely if ever mentioned. UKIP have had some decidedly unsavoury characters who have stood as candidtates and who have been expelled by the party, which is more than can be said for the Lib Dems in their dealing with Cyril Smith, whose activities are still being covered up or denied by the party leadership. Labour in Scotland have had an MP jailed for wilfull fire-raising and another twice convicted of serious assault; the Tories have had two MPs jailed for perjury and the Lib Dems had one recently jailed for perverting the course of justice. They have all had MPs jailed for expenses fraud, one of whom, Laws, returned to the Tory government on release from prison, and a number of others that should have been. UKIP's claims about immigration have just been confirmed and we now know that 4 million immigrants came to the UK during Labour's term of office and about which they lied consistently. All of those people needed somewhere to live, needed jobs, education, health service attention and were in competition for all of those, with some of the poorest people in the UK, many of whom were deprived of them as a consequence. It was much easier to scream "Racists" at UKIP for raising the issue than to deal with them and the fact that the party is now leading the polls in England must mean something or, are 35% of English residents also just racists?

I am no supporter of UKIP but for Farage to be driven off the streets, to be denied the opportunity to speak and told to "go back to England" can hardly be described as rational debate, by people who call UKIP racists. To pelt him - or anyone else -  with eggs is cowardice and I would personally prefer the John Prescott reply to egg throwers - a good, hard left hook. The decision of the Sunday Herald to support independence was a major breakthrough and should be applauded, in the hope that others will follow. The editorial justifying the paper's stance carried the caveat that while it supported the idea of independence, it did not mean it would "support unquestioningly the SNP and its allies". I tweeted that it was to be applauded but also expressed the hope the paper's caveat "would be taken on board by the cybernats". I assumed that any semi-intelligent, rational independence supporter would understand that I was saying that I hoped the cybernats would take on board that supporting independence, did NOT mean that support must be given without question, to everything the SNP and its allies said. I did receive responses to the effect, that differences of opinion were to be welcomed.

However, true to form one of the cybernuts called Patrick Roden, had to surface, with a demand to know what my point was. Still assuming I was dealing with some semi-intelligent individual I posted,
"Try disagreeing with them and you will find out".
That did it. His next post was,
"Who? The Sunday Herald? The Yes Campaign? Haven't saw the SNP tweeting crap about you."
I then suggested he try to understand tweets before responding which unleashed the usual torrent of bile. A further ten posts followed, to none of which I responded and which ranged from,
"Why are you linking SNP with cybernats and doing BT's work for them. Bugger off you bitter old fool"
to
"BT will be delighted with your days work attacking the SNP again. Well done."
to
 "Your problem Jim is I don't need the unionists approval or pat on the head. I don't care"
to (in reply to another poster who had suggested he might concentrate on independence)
 "I agree but Jim seems determined to attack cybernats rather than the other side, silly old cvnt"
to
 "Jim you are the typical Scottish cringer, I'm not like you, your unionist rules don't apply to me."
At that point he decided,
 "not gona waste any more time on bitter old Jim"

Roden is obviously an idiot and caused great amusement among some of my family who were visiting but he is unfortunately, a perfect example of the kind of clown who can do the independence movement a great deal of damage. It is significant that the negativity of the No Campaign is having the exact opposite effect on Scottish voters, to that which they had hoped for; just as the daily abuse and sniping at Nigel Farage and UKIP is merely increasing both his and his party's standing in the polls. We have not had the effects of immigration in Scotland, in the way they have in parts of England and our understanding of the problems there has been at best shallow. Nevertheless, contrary to the SNP mantra, large-scale immigration would not be popular in Scotland, according to the latest polls. It is common to dismiss UKIP as having no support in Scotland but we may get a surprise, just as the polls on the referendum continue to surprise the No side. Fortunately they seem to be incapable of changing either their understanding of the issue or their campaign strategy and I fully expect both the negativity and the abuse to continue. Sadly, that is probably also true of the cybernats and people like Roden, who really should see a doctor.