Tag Archives: Nigel Farage

Honeyball’s Weekly Round-Up

UKIP’s second by-election win should give us all pause for thought. They have now demonstrated the level of their support and have provided clues about what they would do if they were ever to gain any kind of power. Nigel Farage has, for instance, said he would like an insurance based private health care system.

Unfortunately the media, in particular the BBC, has been full of ‘fun’ footage of Nigel Farage enjoying a friendly pint of ale, seemingly harmless enough-only it isn’t. Perhaps now, as Andrew Rawnsley so brilliantly suggested, there will be fewer images of ‘Nigel down the pub and a lot more questions about what he would do with power.

David Cameron has underestimated the party’s threat. He promised to ‘kick his fat arse’, referring to Mark Reckless, of course, who won last weeks by-election in Rochester and Strood. Reckless is now Ukip’s second MP. Despite promises to ‘throw the kitchen sink’ at the election- which he did by visiting the constituency no less than five times, the Tories still lost.

It is true, as Rawnsley points out, that by-elections are a very unreliable predictor of what will happen at a general election. However, the Labour Party also has to focus its efforts and be very mindful of the threat Ukip poses.

Although the England women’s football team lost to Germany yesterday (3-0, to those of you who are interested), congratulations none-the-less to the women’s team who attracted record numbers of spectators at their first match held at Wembley. They drew huge crowds, 45,619 to be precise- more than for the last men’s game played there. So, now the campaign must begin in earnest to get them the recognition they deserve, as the Telegraphs Wonder Women section writes.

An inspired campaign started by Belinda Parmar, CEO of Little Miss Geek, focuses on changing the perception of children. The playground trading of football cards is big business. Match Attax cards are bought by 1.5 million children each year. Yet none of those cards circulated by millions of kids display women players.

Parmar’s Change.org petition hopes to achieve just that – ‘to ensure school children know the names of female footballers as well as they know their male counterparts. This is one step to starting to change the male dominated face of football.’

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Hitler-defenders and misogynists – UKIP’s new allies

Nigel Farage has struck a deal with a far right MEP in order to save his political group the Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy (EFDD) in European Parliament.

The Polish MEP, which Farage has invited into his political grouping to save it from collapsing, belongs to the Congress of the New Right and its leader, also an MEP but who is not joining the EFDD, Janusz Korwin-Mikke, has questioned the Holocaust and made offensive remarks about the right to vote being taken away from women.

He has also made some terrible remarks about the difference between rape and consensual sex, claiming that “the difference is very subtle”. On the issue of the Holocaust he claimed that Adolf Hitler was “probably not aware that Jews were being exterminated”.

Korwin-Mikke even made remarks about the British national minimum wage claiming it should be abolished. And when he refused to withdraw and apologise for racist remarks he made he was fined 10 days allowance by The President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz.

President Schulz said of the incident, in a statement: “As Members of the European Parliament, we are particularly obliged to respect and protect the fundamental values of the European Union. This includes the principle of non-discrimination and respect for human dignity.”

The EFDD would have disintegrated had Farage not invited the Polish MEP, this is because any group wishing to form must have a minimum of 25 MEPs across seven different countries in order to be considered. Farage lost the support of Latvia MEP, Iveta Grigule, who quit the group meaning Farage lost the minimum number of people required to form the group.

The EPLP referred to the party as: “Hitler-defenders and misogynists” and called them “UKIP’s sickening new allies”. Glenis Willmott MEP, Labour’s Leader in Europe, said: “Nigel Farage’s desperate attempt to resurrect his group has seen him sink to an all-time low. The views expressed by his new allies are sickening even by UKIP standards.

Farage was clearly so desperate not to lose the kudos, power, prestige, extra funding and speaking rights that he has taken this drastic and very worrying step of aligning with a far-right party whose leader has made these dreadful remarks.

Even Marine Le Pen, the leader of France’s Front National, refused to form an alliance which included Korwin-Mikke on the basis that his political views are “contrary to our values.” It says rather a lot about Farage and his morals if he is willing to align with a member of a party who has such disturbing views, and which even other far- right politicians refuse to have anything to do with.

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Honeyball’s Weekly Round-Up

David Cameron re shuffled his cabinet this week and in doing so increased the number of women in it from three to… five. In 2011 the number of women in his cabinet was five so there is no improvement in real terms. And even if you include those who can attend cabinet that figure has only increased from five to eight. We are just a few months away from a general election so Cameron placed a couple of women in some prominent positions to appease those who would criticise the lack of women in his cabinet in previous years.

As I said in a post from my blog earlier in the week, “it was not a good day for women…He [David Cameron] illustrated that he is in no way committed to any form of gender parity…”

Andrew Rawnsley wrote a powerful article in this weekend’s Observer in which he said that you can tell a lot from the appointments Prime Ministers make when they form a cabinet.

So what does Cameron’s decision tell us about him? He doesn’t have a particularly high regard for women if the choice words Downing Street used to describe the new women ministers are true. Rawnsley explains: “Getting the promoted women to parade up the Downing Street ‘catwalk’, as Number 10 spin had incited the hacks to call it, diminished both them and the claim that the prime minister is an equal opportunities employer. It strongly suggests that for all his rhetoric about valuing women for their abilities, he really believes, in Melissa Kite’s acute phrase, that “a woman’s place is in the PR strategy.”

I also reminded people in my blog that “what is particularly disappointing (but not very surprising) is that back in 2009 before Cameron was in power he had promised to ensure a third of his cabinet would be women by the end of his first parliament.”

Meanwhile the Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has urged the UK to stay in the European Union, hours after UKIP’S Nigel Farage promised the UK was “close to exiting.”

Renzi was addressing the European parliament in Strasbourg on Wednesday, as Italy started its six month presidency of the European Union, when he said: “Europe without the UK would not only be less rich, but less Europe and less itself.”

Meanwhile, what Farage meant by “Britain is close to exiting” is anybody’s guess, since that’s so obviously not the case.

And last but by no means least, congratulations to Emily Benn on being selected to contest Croydon South for Labour. If elected Emily will be the fifth generation of her family to sit in the Commons; Stephen and Nita must be very proud. On a more mundane note, I was pleased to chat to her uncle Hilary at the National Policy Forum on Saturday.

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Honeyball’s Weekly Round-up

Labour’s deputy leader, Harriet Harman, gave a revealing and frank interview to the Observer this weekend. In it she revealed that taking her seat in Parliament 32 years ago was a very different experience to what today’s female elected MPs might experience. When she was first elected, Parliament was 97% male. “We were very much fish out of water and regarded as intruders in the world of politics. But I think there is now a critical mass of women,” she said.

Of course the House of Commons is still disproportionately made up of men, just 22% of seats are represented by women. While this is a significant improvement even since 1987 when just 41 MPs were women, evidently there is still a huge amount of work to do before any kind of equality is reached.

The opening of the European Parliament took place in Strasbourg last week, and to mark the occasion an orchestra played Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, the EU’s unofficial anthem. However, in an act of protest UKIP, Led by Nigel Farage, stood with their backs turned while the anthem was played. It was extremely ignorant and disrespectful. However, their display simply served to reiterate that the party doesn’t in any way take its role seriously and is not able to act in anyway as a credible opposition.
Over the weekend it was announced that Police would lose the power to unilaterally “drop” rape investigations, even if they think there is insufficient evidence to proceed, under a Labour government.

The party will tackle the way in which sexual crimes are handled if elected. It was revealed over the weekend that the shadow Attorney General, Emily Thornberry, will announce this week that the Police service will have to get agreement from the Crown Prosecution Service if they wish to end an investigation. Under current rules the Police are not obligated to investigate a case or present it to prosecutors.

The Independent on Sunday revealed: “she hopes the plan would end the culture of rape and sexual violence being an ‘optional’ crime to investigate and help end a ‘culture of defeatism’ where the authorities believe there will never be a large number of rape convictions because it is ‘too difficult’ to prosecute.

I don’t doubt sexual violence is a hugely under-reported crime in the same way that human trafficking is. These crimes are heavily associated with power and control and this would be a significant move towards supporting victims and letting them know that the crime will be properly investigated. Hopefully, with knowledge that they will be believed, this will go some way to encourage more victims to report the crime of which they are a victim.

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Farage aligns with far right group to form a new bloc

I have written an article for New Statesman online analysing Nigel Farage’s attempts to set up a new political bloc (Europe of Freedom and Democracy) in the European Parliament.

I explain how he has in the past tried to appear principled about not accepting membership from those who have previously been members of the National Front or BNP, and suggested this was a reason not to align with Le Pen.

Nevertheless he has invited a group founded by white supremacists, the Swedish Democrats, into his new bloc. “Not only is it hugely hypocritical but it also shows the lengths to which Farage is prepared to go in order to ensure he gets to lead a group within the European Parliament,” I said in my piece. You can read the article in full here.

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Labour is now the Party of the Big Cities

European_Parliament_election_results,_2014_(England_by_council_areas).svg

Yesterday’s blog Labour is a Progressive Party or we are Nothing cries out for a follow-up. As is shown only too graphically in the map at the beginning of this post, the UK Independence Party took votes from what used to be considered Labour’s “core” vote in the largely white old mining and industrial areas outside the big cities. The white working class outside the major conurbations is no longer blindly loyal to Labour, and the European and local election results showed a very marked difference in voting for UKIP and voting for Labour in the cities as opposed to the less urban areas. While we have come to expect UKIP to do well in the Tory shires, their rise in Labour’s old heartlands is relatively recent.

Rather than concentrating on what are still seen as Labour’s “core” areas where mining and the older industries used to hold sway, the Labour Party would do well to examine why we did so well in the big cities – London, Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, Leeds – as well as other urban areas. As an MEP from London where Labour topped the poll with four MEPs while the Conservatives went down to two and UKIP remained at one, I do feel able my views on this are valid.

The statistics are revealing. Across London Labour won 36.37 per cent of the vote, the Conservatives 22.52 per cent while UKIP managed only 16.87. In both Manchester and Liverpool Labour again came first with 51 per cent of the vote in both cities, although UKIP were second in both places. Labour also won in Blackburn. Although not as high a percentage of the vote, Labour was first in the Sheffield, Leeds, Bradford and Kirklees.

While I completely accept that both the European and local council elections are often used as a protest vote and that people act differently when choosing a government, it is still valuable to look hard at why Labour succeeded in the cities in 2014 but lost out in our “core” towns and more rural areas. Indeed, the Labour Party should not be too complacent about regaining these voters at next year’s general election. While some will undoubtedly want a Labour government, there will also be those who may continue to vote UKIP. Lord Ashcroft, who has made a bit of a name for himself as a pollster, reckons that about half of those who voted for UKIP will unfortunately stay with them.

Tragically for those of us who want to look forward not backward and believe that it is of the utmost importance that all of us in this country live together in peace and harmony whatever our ethnicity or cultural background, immigration is one major dividing line between the cities and most of the rest of the country. Even more tragically, it’s not just immigration; there is also a strong dose of racism working to increase UKIP’s support. Put simply, if you live in a city surrounded by people from all over the world speaking a number of different languages you accept everyone who is reasonable and decent. People in all of this country’s large cities are used to diversity and do not fear it.

I suspect this is not the case in mainly or all-white areas, a situation made worse by lack of government funding for schools, doctors, hospital and housing. While the Tory-led coalition has been responsible for the rise in the UKIP vote by starving our communities of much of what they so badly need, voters would not have turned to UKIP without the innate fear of the outsider often felt by those who live in racially homogeneous areas. While I believe politicians should be aware that this fear exists, I think it is neither right nor helpful to act on it by condemning immigrants or immigration. People are people after all and Labour is the party for everyone, the many not the few.

In addition to ethnic and cultural diversity, people living in Britain’s big cities are also younger and better educated than those in the old mining and industrial areas. UKIP have, in fact, admitted that London’s population was too well educated to back their party. As reported in the Evening Standard,UKIP’s communities spokesperson, Suzanne Evans conceded that UKIP “haven’t really got our message across” in London, where …. support for Nigel Farage’s party is significantly lower than in other parts of the country”.

Ms Evans told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “There is work to do, I think we haven’t really got our message across in London. As you say, we do have a more media-savvy, well-educated population in London, and they are more likely I think to have read some of the negative press that’s been about us and I think they’ve been more likely to believe it.”

Whether Suzanne Evans meant to put forward her views in quite this way is unclear. She did, however, hit the nail on the head.

Britain’s big cities make up a large proportion of the electorate. The population of England and Wales in 56.6 million, London is 7.8 million, Greater Manchester and Liverpool together 5 million while the cities of Birmingham and Leeds combined come to 1.85 million, a total of 14.65 million or nearly a quarter of the population of England and Wales. This is, of course, a very rough calculation and does not take account of all Britain’s large urban areas.

There is clearly a lot of electoral sense in Labour concentrating its efforts on Britain’s cities. While much of what Labour used to see as its heartlands is showing unmistakable signs of moving away from the party, the cities, which have also generally shown strong levels of support for Labour, are coming towards us. Labour is now the party of urban Britain. In order to win in 2015 we really must embrace and nurture these supporters, wherever they are from and whatever their ethnicity.

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Labour is a progressive party or we are nothing

It comes as a disappointment that the Labour Party appears to have done little analysis, at least as far as I know, of the results of the European and local elections held a month ago. While I fully accept that these two polls, often the repository for protest votes, do not necessarily provide pointers to the outcome of a general election, nevertheless, it would only be sensible for the Party to look at the way the votes went and draw conclusions which may be helpful for the future.

The Labour Party really needs to do this for the simple reason that, outside the large urban areas, it is not too good for us. Furthermore, in some places where Labour has traditionally regarded the electors as its “core vote” we lost and UKIP gained at Labour’s expense. There is obvious disillusionment in parts of the country which Labour ought to address urgently and certainly in time to take some remedial action before May 2015.

What is generally regarded as strong Labour territory in some of the Yorkshire and Humber region and southern working-class areas such as Thurrock turned to UKIP rather than us in the European Parliament elections. In Doncaster UKIP gained 24,240 votes against Labour’s 23,743. Across the Yorks and Humber region as a whole, UKIP won 31 per cent of the vote giving them three MEPs and Labour had 29 per cent with two. UKIP also won in Thurrock with more than twice as many votes as Labour, 17,416 to 8,645. The Labour Party should be worried by this strong showing for UKIP, not least because disaffected Liberal-Democrats turned to the UK Independence Party rather than Labour, which would have been the norm in the past.

The exception for Labour was the big cities, especially London, where we won four out of the eight MEPs. This is, I believe, a separate but linked phenomenon, and will be the subject of another blog. The urgent lesson for the Labour Party to address now is what we do about the fact that UKIP came first in the European elections. To imagine that all those errant electors will come home to Labour in a general election reeks of too much complacency. Tory polling guru Lord Ashcroft reckons about half of them will stay with UKIP. While I accept it’s a while to May 2015, Labour needs a strong and credible response in relation to the parts of the country, notably the old industrial and mining areas, which have suffered over the years from loss of jobs and Tory cuts in public services.

The Labour Party firstly needs to understand the lessons it should learn from the decline in its fortunes in these areas which were once solid for us. Although, as a Londoner I’m not particularly qualified to pontificate on the actual places under discussion, I do think that those living in the cities where Labour’s vote is holding up have valid comments to make. Let’s start with the old “being out of touch” chestnut. The Guardian today published their research into the backgrounds of prospective parliamentary candidates in marginal seats. In the 90 seats where Labour is the challenger, the majority of candidates had links to either Westminster or Brussels. In other words, they were political insiders.

While I think the “political insider” criticism is just a bit too trite, it is definitely one of the problems Labour is facing. Any political party which doesn’t represent its voters will find in the end that the voters go somewhere else. Yet the problem goes beyond this since UKIP did very well even in Dennis Skinner’s Bolsover. It is also true that some of these UKIP voters were for the British National Party in the past. It is, of course, also true that society has changed and those in the old mining and non-urban industrial areas are now a minority of Britain’s population.

Maybe it is this very change in the nature of our country – much higher levels of educational attainment, mass communication, the fragmentation of families and communities and, of course, immigration, to name but a few – which is causing UKIP to gain support. UKIP is a backward-looking party, a cancer eating away at the strength of our country which will inevitably attract those who are feeling alienated and disconnected. Labour, by contrast, is a progressive force, outward looking, wanting to improve people’s lives. Sadly, and possibly unhappily for Labour in the short-term, quite a few of those in former Labour areas feel the changes which are taking place so rapidly in our country are nothing to do with them and in any event they don’t like what is going on.

Short of becoming a UKIP clone, possibly in rather more of a sheep’s clothing, there is realistically little Labour can do about the old “core” vote in places which are currently rejecting the party. We need to look forward, to keep to our values, and to represent what is best for the country as a whole and not simply try and get back those whom we have clearly lost. Trying to out-UKIP UKIP would only move the whole political discourse rightwards with disastrous consequences for what the Labour Party should be about – fairness, equality, justice, freedom for the many not the few.

The irony of UKIP, led by Nigel Farage, a public school educated stockbroker, becoming the party of the old white working class is really quite tragic. I very much hope Labour will win back these voters by putting forward a programme in government for all the people of our country. If Labour does not fully embrace progressive policies which recognise the benefits of immigration, are strongly in favour of Britain playing a full part at the centre of the European Union, seek to improve living standards, including health, housing and education, and maintain Britain as a major player in the world economy and in world affairs, we will be hard pushed to get there in 2015. The choice is ours; the 2015 general election is Labour’s to lose.

 

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