Motherhood and Apple Pie

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I noticed on Twitter recently that UKIP MEPs had been accused of “voting against equal pay for women”.  Of course we did no such thing.  We voted against Brussels’ interference in UK labour markets.

Equal pay is a highly emotive issue, especially with the feminist lobby, so let’s talk about something (very slightly) less emotive.  Like Motherhood and Apple Pie.  Let me say it up front: UKIP is in favour of Motherhood and Apple Pie.  Absolutely.  If it hadn’t been for my Mother (God rest her soul) I shouldn’t be here today.  And without apple pie, the world would be a sadder place, whether you like it with custard (Sauce Anglaise over here – I write in Strasbourg), or cream, or ice cream, or even Greek-style yoghurt.

But now imagine a European Directive on Motherhood and Apple Pie.  It might do a number of things, like regulating the size of the pie, and restricting the ingredients (less sugar, less salt, less fat).  Maybe it would endorse traditional Bramley apples and exclude other varieties (the EU is very good at outlawing rare varieties – or making them unaffordable and uncommercial).  (I dread to think what it might do to Motherhood).  Or providing EU funds at the tax-payers’ expense to promote Motherhood.  Or Apple Pie.  Or both.

So while we are passionately in favour of both Motherhood and Apple Pie, we would vote against any such directive, because we would say that it was unnecessary, and that rules on Apple Pie should be made at the national level (or better still, not made at all).  Nevertheless, we get the knee-jerk reaction that “UKIP voted against Motherhood and Apple Pie”.  No we didn’t.   We voted against Brussels’ regulation of Motherhood and Apple Pie.

So please bear this in mind when you read that UKIP voted against this, or that, or the other.  We’re not against clean beaches and pure drinking water and fresh air, but we’re against giving new powers to bureaucrats, and to the proliferation of EU rules.  It often happens as well that quite regardless of the EU vs. Member State issue, we find that their method of dealing with (say) Motherhood and Apple Pie is sub-optimal.  Or more often, counter-productive.  A classic example would be the EU’s Climate & Energy Package.  No matter what your view of climate issues, the fact is that the effect of the EU policy is to force up energy prices, to drive energy-intensive businesses out of Europe, taking their jobs and their investment with them, and to leave households and pensioners in fuel poverty.  It also arguably increases the very emissions it seeks to curb, through the process known as “carbon leakage”.

So no, guys.  We didn’t vote against equal pay for women, and in principle we’re in favour of equal pay for equal work.  I would add that having spent over thirty years running businesses (I had a proper job before politics) I think any employer who deliberately undervalues and underpays a section of the workforce will damage his own business.  What we voted against was Brussels’ heavy-handed involvement in UK labour market regulation.  We have too much of that already.

In conclusion, I had hoped that Cameron’s shopping list for his much-trailed EU renegotiation would at least include the reinstatement of the opt-out on the Social Chapter, plus the Working Time Directive (see the damage it’s doing in the health service) which John Major thought was included in the Maastricht opt-out.  (The way Brussels managed to exclude the WTD from the opt-out is an extraordinary lesson in EU subterfuge).  But sadly Cameron’s vague, ambiguous and unambitious list of demands had nothing to say about it.

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It is Time to Dismantle the Euro

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One Nation Politics

Be afraid, Ed.  Be very afraid.

Be afraid, Ed. Be very afraid.

Odd, isn’t it, that even with Google, you can lose a press article that you clearly remember seeing.  There was an excellent piece in the Indy recently (that’s not a sentence I write very often!) about Labour’s complacency over the UKIP threat, and can I hell find it?  No I can’t.  But here’s an earlier and not dissimilar one.

Of course the conventional view is that UKIP is no more than “The Conservative Party in exile”, in Peter Oborne’s resonant but highly misleading phrase.  Indeed we’re characterised as the rest home for the most fuddy-duddy ex-Tories who just can’t stomach David Cameron’s “modernising” agenda (remember that?).  So Labour certainly did look on with quiet satisfaction at what they saw as yet another division in the Tory ranks – and one that would help to deliver a Labour victory in the General Election of 2015.  (Miliband in Downing Street – what a nightmare!).

And of course the Tories are frantically talking up the same story.  “Don’t vote UKIP”, they cry, “You’ll only let Ed Miliband into Downing Street.  Then you’ll lose the EU referendum that Dave has promised in 2017″.  Hands up everyone who honestly believes that Dave will deliver an EU referendum in 2017.  No?   I thought not.

Clearly these pundits (and Tory activists) were not up there in the Rotherham by-election last year.  I was.  And I was gripped by a warm flush of nostalgia, because in 1966, as a newish member of Procter & Gamble’s marketing department, I was packed off to Rotherham to do my six months sales training.  I lived at No 1 Alma Road, overlooking the steel works.  Every week I cleaned my salesman’s Cortina, and every week by the time I reached the boot, the bonnet was already lightly covered in smuts from the furnaces again.  How times change.

But I can honestly say that during fifteen years in politics I have never had such a warm reception on the doorstep.  In Rotherham.  In Labour heartland.  Of course Labour won it, with 46% of the vote.  But UKIP came a good solid second with 21.7% — a country mile ahead of the rest.  And of course we’ve had a whole series of remarkable by-election results in strong Labour seats.  Something very special is happening.

Our own polling shows that we’re now taking share as much from Labour as from the Tories.  We’ve even taken votes from the Lib-Dems – half a million votes, as some accounts say. Sensible former Lib-Dems has switched from “The Party of In” to the Party of Out – without even a short stop in a half-way house like the Tories or Labour.

But by making the immigration issue our own, by pointing to the harm done to working class voters by mass immigration, the pressure on schools and hospitals and housing, the lengthening dole queues, the wage compression, we’ve struck a particular chord with traditional Labour voters.  Be afraid, Miliband.  Be very afraid. Look out of the window. Those are UKIP’s tanks on your lawn.

The obituaries of the terms “left” and “right” in politics have been written many times, though occasionally they still have a value.  But they mean less and less.  So when we in UKIP say “We’re not left, not right, just common sense” we communicate with all sides of political opinion.

The fact is that in the Conservative Party there are good, decent people who believe in their country, in their right to self-determination, and are profoundly unhappy at the way our right to govern ourselves has been eroded.  But such people also exist just as much in the Labour Party, which is increasingly the party not of working people, but the party of public employees and a sneering urban “intelligentsia” and commentariat.  After all, Miliband himself is the Oxford-educated son of a Marxist historian.  What a pedigree.  And as we are seeing, there is a residue of decent, patriotic people in the Lib-Dems as well – and they too are coming our way.

So UKIP finds itself in a strong position, with a message that resonates right across the political spectrum.  Labour and Conservative both like to talk about “One Nation Politics”.  But while they talk about it – we’re doing it.

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Global Warming Pause? What Pause?

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On Thursday April 3rd, I took part in a Hustings-type debate in a lecture hall at Nottingham Trent University.  It was organised by the Nottingham Post, and we had Conservative, Labour, Lib-Dem, and Green candidates – although I was the only #1 candidate present.  I had understood that Bill Newton Dunn was to be there, but in the end he sent a substitute.

Given that Bill has made a big deal of “challenging Helmer to a debate”, and issued press releases saying that I’d “ducked out” of a debate with him, I was mildly amused that he’d failed to show at this event, where he could have debated with me and taken questions from the public.

I arrived well ahead of time (it’s that punctuality anxiety again), as did one or two members of the audience, and a lively informal debate started up before the formal kick-off time.  One member of the audience was a bright young man who seemed to be a member of the University Debating Society.  He was also studying politics, and as a result he naturally took the view that he was an expert on the climate debate.  We rehearsed a few of the standard lines of argument.  Then I pointed out to him that in fact there had been no “global warming” for seventeen years.  A look of total derision and contempt came over his face, as if he were asked to debate with a six-year-old or a congenital idiot.  Here he was (his expression said) face-to-face with an ignorant, prejudiced red-neck heretic who obviously knew absolutely nothing about the subject under debate.  Or at least nothing like as much as a twenty-year-old politics student.

The thing I found shocking was the fact that (A) he considered himself to be well-informed on the climate issue, but (B) he simply had no idea about the “pause”, which is increasingly central to the climate debate.

I had to explain to him in words of one syllable that there are four major and reputable global sources of meteorological and temperature information.  These are not front organisations for dodgy climate sceptics, but official, highly respected and universally accepted sources of data, used by the IPCC and everyone else concerned with the debate.  GISS is NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies.  HADCRUT4 comes to us courtesy of the UK Met Office (which as we know has a perfect forecasting record!) UAH is the University of Alabama in Huntsville. RSS Remote Sensing Systems uses microwave data from satellites.  Find all their graphs covering recent years here.

Many people regard satellite data as intrinsically more reliable than ground station data.  The latter can be biased by changes in the database (for example many weather stations in cold areas disappeared with the demise of the USSR).  Then there’s the famous Urban Heat Island effect http://wattsupwiththat.com/tag/urban-heat-island-effect/.  Over time, sprawling suburbs surround long-established weather stations.  Or people tarmac the field for a car park.  Or put a new air-conditioner in an adjacent building.  Or in one case build a new runway allowing jet engine exhaust to play on the weather station.  Not surprisingly, this tends to exaggerate temperature readings.

So perhaps it’s significant that while three of the four record sets appear to show broadly static global temperatures this century, the RSS satellite data (above) seem to show a slight decline.

But my ace debater and politics student still thought that the global warming pause was so utterly mistaken as to be simply ridiculous.  We still have some education to do.

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Let’s talk about CO2

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They’re at it again.  Al Gore Tweets “Continued carbon pollution threatens humanity’s future”.  Leave aside the technical quibble that he seems not to know the difference between carbon and carbon dioxide.  The huge error in his Tweet is, of course, that CO2 is not a pollutant at all.

Let’s stand back and think about it.  CO2 is a trace gas in the atmosphere, currently at a level of 400 parts per million.  That’s tiny.  It’s 0.04% of the atmosphere.  CO2 is a natural, harmless, invisible, odourless, non-toxic gas.  It is not only harmless — it’s essential to life on the planet.  Imagine a world without any CO2 at all.  All plants would die, and consequently all animals would die too.

Of course CO2 is also a “greenhouse gas”.  Indeed in our hypothetical CO2-free world, we would be so cold that we should have glaciation over the whole planet, even at the equator – the “Snowball Earth” scenario.  But the warming effect of CO2 is not linear (forgive me, I used to study mathematics).  That is, the increase in the warming effect of additional CO2 depends on how much you have already.  The more you have, the less effect any given addition will make.  If we were at 20 ppm, a doubling to 40 ppm would have a significant effect (approximately +1oC).  But when we’re at 400 ppm, an extra 20 ppm makes very little difference.  In fact the warming effect is governed by a negative logarithmic equation.  A doubling of CO2 will always have the same effect.  To get the same 1oC warming now you’d need not an extra 20ppm, but an extra 400 ppm — a doubling from today’s level.

You can readily see that this gives a curve that flattens as the CO2 rises – a law of diminishing returns.  And we’re already so far up the curve that further increases will be very small.

I should qualify my 1oC per doubling figure.  The IPCC uses a figure of around 3oC, which better fits their alarmist theory.  They recognise the basic 1oC figure, but argue that there are positive feedbacks (primarily water vapour) which increase the effect..  But they are unable to demonstrate those positive feedbacks.  Meantime other scientists point to negative feedbacks (for example, cloud cover and albedo), and some believe that the negatives may outweigh the positives, leaving the sensitivity of climate to CO2 even less than 1oC per doubling.

Al Gore in his infamous film “An Inconvenient Truth” demonstrated a close correlation between atmospheric CO2 levels and temperatures.  Such a correlation is strong evidence for causation.  But it does not of itself tell you which of two phenomena is causing the other.  It doesn’t tell you the direction of causation.

Al Gore simply assumes that CO2 causes temperature rises, and proposes a plausible mechanism for such causation – the greenhouse effect.  But what if it were vice versa – the temperature causing the elevated CO2 levels?  Here again we have a plausible mechanism.  There is around fifty times as much CO2 dissolved in the oceans as exists in the atmosphere.  Cool water retains dissolved gases better than warm water.  Warming can cause dissolved gases to leave the ocean for the atmosphere.

So which causes which?  It is a fundamental principle of science that effects cannot precede causes.  So which comes first, the chicken or the egg?  If we examine the data on which Al Gore relies for his correlation, we find that the peaks of temperature precede the peaks of CO2 levels by around 800 to a thousand years.  Therefore temperature causes elevated CO2, not vice versa.   And the temperature changes are driven primarily by solar and other astronomical factors.  Warmists blame the steadily increasing level of atmospheric CO2 in recent decades on human activity.  But it could just as well be caused by the natural cyclical warming of the planet as we leave behind the Little Ice Age and move into a new 21st Century Optimum.

While the correlation is fairly close over the last 600,000 years, it does not stand the test of deep time.  Go back many millions of years in Earth history, and it breaks down completely.  There have been times when atmospheric CO2 levels have been as much as ten or even fifteen times higher than today, and those periods were not associated with elevated temperatures, still less “runaway global warming” or “tipping points”.  The very long-term trend in CO2 is down, and biologists tell us that if we got down to around 200 ppm – only half of today’s level – we could see a dangerous drop in plant growth.

I was astonished to learn a few years back that horticulturalists who raise tomatoes in greenhouses routinely bring in tanks of compressed CO2 and release it in the greenhouse to raise CO2 levels from an ambient 400 ppm to three times that level – 1200 ppm.  Why? Because their tomatoes grow much faster and bigger.  CO2 is airborne plant food.  Current slightly elevated levels of CO2 are increasing plant growth, biomass formation and crop yields.  They are literally greening the planet.  Matt Ridley in his excellent rebuttal of IPCC alarmism cites a figure of a 14% increase in greenery over the last 30 years, based on satellite observations.

If we look at climate negotiations over recent years, and at the rate at which the world is building coal-fired power stations, it is clear that any thought of reducing levels of atmospheric CO2 is simply fanciful.  We cannot achieve it no matter how many billions we waste on wind farms.  But the good news is first, that CO2 is not causing significant warming, and pace Al Gore is not a threat to humanity.  And rising CO2 levels will have considerable benefits that Lord Stern and the IPCC have not considered.

 

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Prodding the Russian Bear

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During an election campaign, one can rely on one’s opponents to pick on any chance remark and blow it out of proportion.  This seems to be happening with Nigel Farage’s comments on Russia, Putin and the Ukraine.

Nigel has remarked that in terms of the political and diplomatic (and potentially military) chess-game over Ukraine and the Crimea, Putin has played a blinder.  He has totally out-smarted his opponents (particularly the EU).  So naturally UKIP’s opposition, starting with Paddy Ashdown, has characterised UKIP as “apologists for Putin” and supporters of Russia against the West.  One only has to write that down to see how absurd it is.

No one in UKIP has suggested for a moment that the Russian behaviour is anything less than reprehensible, and illegal.  No one in UKIP supports the interference of great powers in the affairs of smaller nations – indeed we have criticised the Western propensity to intervene first, and fail to clear up the mess afterwards.

Nigel’s primary objective was to criticise the EU’s strategy (or indeed lack of strategy).  Roosevelt’s advice was to tread softly and carry a big stick.  The EU has taken the opposite course.  It went trampling around in Ukraine, dangling the prospect of EU membership and funding, and failing to carry any sort of stick at all.  It appears that Brussels simply didn’t bother to think through the possible Russian reaction, because if they had, it was entirely foreseeable that Russia would be very annoyed indeed.  Direct interference in Russia’s “Near Abroad”, its traditional sphere of influence, was bound to cause ructions.  Loss of the Ukraine would have been a major humiliation and a domestic set-back for President Putin personally, and he wasn’t going to let it happen.

So Brussels could have stood back and allowed the status quo to continue.  Instead, it prodded the Bear.  It provoked a quite unnecessary crisis, and now has no idea how to respond.  With 30% of European gas supplies coming from Russia, it simply dare not apply serious sanctions.  We’ve handed Putin a political opportunity that he could hardly have dreamed of or engineered himself, and he’s taken full advantage of it.  Chances are the Western reaction will blow itself out, leaving Putin with the Crimea, and President Barosso with egg on his face.

So game, set and match to the Kraken in the Kremlin.  Or at least the short game.  Maybe Putin hasn’t thought carefully enough about the medium and long-term.  The Russian economy has failed to reform and modernise.  It remains a bandit economy based mainly on fossil fuel exports.  But the one positive outcome of the Ukraine crisis is the sudden realisation in Europe that the EU urgently needs fuel resources that are more diverse, and as far as possible indigenous.  It must cut its import-dependency, and especially it must rely less on unstable suppliers, especially those like Russia who have demonstrated their willingness to apply fossil-fuel blackmail.  (We in UKIP have been arguing this point for a long time.  It’s taken the Ukraine crisis to get through to the thick heads of the Eurocrats).

At a time when Europe is tentatively debating the plusses and minuses of shale gas, and is blinded by the negative anti-shale propaganda from green lobbyists who are (ironically) funded by the European Commission itself, there could hardly be a stronger impetus for drilling in Europe.  We cannot sit on our hands and give in to Russian blackmail on gas when we are ourselves sitting on decades – maybe centuries – of gas supplies, but are too pusillanimous to exploit it.

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The CBI gets its sums wrong

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Pro-EU politicians from the old parties keep telling us that “every UK family benefits by £3000 a year from EU membership”. This is based on a recent CBI report. But there are big questions about the CBI’s numbers.

First of all, they’ve done no new research.  The CBI has simply carried out a review of existing literature on the theme. They’ve taken public estimates of “benefits” – typically 2 to 3 % –and rounded them up substantially. They say “It is not unreasonable to infer (my emphasis) from a literature review that the net benefit arising from EU membership is somewhere in the region of 4–5% of UK GDP or between £62bn and £78bn”.  This claim is unsupported by references, at least in the Executive Summary.

It’s worth reading the excellent critique of the CBI position in the Telegraph blog by Mats Persson, Director of Open Europe.

The CBI appears simply to have ignored the costs of membership.  This is a bit like the reverse of Lord Stern and The Stern Report on Climate Change.  He took all the costs of “global warming”, exaggerated them, and ignored the benefits.

They have also implicitly assumed that we would lose the trade we currently do with the EU when we leave.  They suggest that in any trade negotiations after we leave, the EU would have the stronger hand.  This ignores the fact that we will be not only the EU’s largest external trade customer, but also the largest net customer.  Clearly the UK will have the stronger hand.  The CBI has failed to produce an exhaustive study of the literature and has ignored the many contrary views which have been published.

The most notable omissions include cost/benefit analyses by the Institute of Directors (IOD) and the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR). The conclusion of the IOD was that after totting up all the economic costs and benefits, staying in the EU leaves Britain out of pocket, to the tune of 1.75 per cent of GDP. A report by NIESR in 2004 concluded that EU membership delivers only a small net benefit.

Further studies by the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) and the US International Trade Commission found it essentially too close to call either way.  The author of the IEA paper, the late Professor Brian Hindley, says: “Any economic gain or loss is small – almost certainly less than 1 per cent of GDP… more precise or more sophisticated calculations will not arrive at a large number for either gain or loss.”

This is very different from the CBI’s estimate of EU membership boosting GDP by 4-5 per cent a year. Have these contrary studies been missed off the list because they are “off-message”, as far as the CBI is concerned?

The independent House of Commons library has recently produced an alternative study on the topic which has a choice of literature completely different from the CBI, and represents a much broader spectrum of opinion.  Separate and independent analyses by two of the UK’s most respected economists, Tim Congdon and Patrick Minford, both indicate that the costs of membership, including the huge damage inflicted by gross over-regulation, cost as much as 10% of GDP.

Former trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson estimated trade benefits at 1.8% of GDP (the CBI seems to start at 3 to 5%, and round up to 4 to six per cent).  But former Industry Commissioner Günther Verheugen estimated the regulatory costs of EU membership at 5.5% of GDP (and rising).

So should we take this claim that EU membership boosts GDP by up to 5 per cent seriously? I don’t think so.  No one seems very clear on how the CBI researchers have arrived at those figures. And, as the CBI report itself says, I wonder: “what would have happened if history had been different?”.

 

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