Tag Archives: Nigel Farage

Battle of the Pygmies

Nigel ‘the European Union has blood on its hands over Ukraine’ Farage appears to have done it again. An instant poll showed that Farage triumphed in the second television showdown on Europe by 69 per cent to 31 per cent, a higher margin than the one following last week’s LBC pioneering Europe debate.

It seems incredible to me that Farage again praised Vladimir Putin, the man who has, among other things, annexed Crimea, vetoed United Nations action to end the war in Syria, and sent troops into Georgia. It is, of course, deeply worrying that anyone holding views such as those evident during Farage’s appearance should come out on top in any television discussion, let alone one on a subject as important as Britain’s relationship with the European Union.

Having said that, the Europe debate itself is to be welcomed. Whatever else, Farage and the United Kingdom Independence party have put the EU on the agenda. We have never before had such coverage of the EU on mainstream television. Now both the BBC and the LBC leaders’ debate-style format have allowed us to engage with each other’s thoughts on Europe. Although Nick Clegg and Farage lead minor parties, each around 11 per cent in current national opinion polls, pygmies indeed compared to the prime minister and the leader of the opposition, they, together with LBC and the BBC, have raised the nation’s game on Europe.

And it was a real debate with hugely differing ideas and perceptions on the EU with a dialogue which at times became heated. It was good television and fascinating politics. My enduring hope is that Britain will continue its evident interest in the EU with an increased turnout in the elections to the European parliament on 22 May. It is high time this country participated in EU matters in more than a superficial semi-detached fashion.

Even though Farage chooses not to recognise it, the EU is, in fact, a democratic institution. The British people elect members of the European parliament which co-legislates with the council of ministers, made up of the elected governments of all EU countries. We do not, as Farage claims, have a massive number of laws forced on us from Brussels. It is the British prime minister and government together with elected representatives such as me who make this legislation.

This means, of course, that the EU is a political institution, not the out-of-touch bureaucracy of Farage and wider Eurosceptic myth. The EU is currently controlled by the political right. One of Farage’s problems with it is that it is not rightwing enough; cherished EU values – free movement of labour, protection at work and health and safety not to mention gender equality – are all anathema to him. The real reason Ukip wishes to return to little England is that it wants everyone to know their place – working people should put up and shut up, women should stay tucked away in the kitchen and non-British people should never darken our shores.

Neither Farage nor Clegg is your average man on the Clapham omnibus. Despite Farage’s claim, made more than once last night, that he is not a career politician, his life before Ukip as a public school (Dulwich College)-educated stockbroker was hardly ordinary. Likewise Nick Clegg, Westminster School and Cambridge University, followed by a stint in the EU. They may both be pygmies on the national stage, but it would appear that in 21st century Britain that even the pygmies come from privileged backgrounds. While some may see the EU as unrepresentative, the same could definitely be said about these two party leaders.

This was originally published on Progress Online.  To see the original please follow the link here.


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Honeyball’s Weekly Round-Up

LBC’s EU debate between Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Ukip leader Nigel Farage this week acted as a curtain-raiser of sorts for the European Elections on May 22nd. Clegg, a former MEP and committed Europhile, originally proposed the idea of a debate on the issue earlier this year. The result was a fascinating clash between the leaders of British politics’ two smaller parties.

In the course of the evening Farage’s use of statistics, and in particular his suggestion that there were 485 million people looking to enter the UK – an aggregation of the EU’s entire non-British population – led to accusations that he was being deliberately misleading. Moreover his claim, made in the final minutes, that the EU had “blood on its hands” in relation to the Ukraine, caused deep anger among experts on the subject. Jan Techau of the Carnegie Europe think tank said afterwards it “completely disqualified” Farage from making any kind of foreign policy judgements.

I myself appeared on LBC later in the evening to provide analysis, and as I suggested then, I think it was an evening which exposed the very worst of Ukip. Farage set out an insular and closed-minded vision for Britain – a future where the UK becomes petty, self-interested and internationally irrelevant.

Although snap surveys conducted immediately afterwards declared Farage the ‘winner’, I believe the more telling poll is the one by YouGov earlier this month, which showed that the British people now narrowly favour staying in the EU – and that they have become significantly more pro-European since Cameron’s proposed referendum started to make an EU departure look like a serious possibility. I hope and believe that the proof will be in the pudding if the public vote on the so-called ‘Europe question’, and that when it comes down to it people will see through the smoke-signals and hot air created by Nigel Farage on Wednesday. As Clegg himself knows all too well, when it comes to political debates one swallow does not make a summer.

On Thursday, meanwhile, the Turkish government prompted anger by banning citizens from using YouTube. TIB, the telecommunications regulator there, reportedly decided to block access after a leaked video about possible military action in Syria was said to pose a “national security issue”. It follows previous recordings, released on the video-sharing site, which appeared to implicate Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government in corruption and attempts to influence the media. Last week micro-blogging site Twitter was also blocked by the TIB and this weekend, after declaring victory for his party in the local elections, Erdogan said those who had accused him of corruption would “pay the price”.

It is difficult to know or understand completely the motives and intentions of the Turkish government from the outside. However, as a part of the world which has tremendous influence over what happens in Syria and the Middle East – not to mention a number of recent problems of its own – I would urge leaders there not to fall further into the trap of trying to suppress social media. Restricting freedom of speech is a dangerous path to go down, and is one which rarely ends well.

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Commenting on the Farage-Clegg debate for LBC

On Wednesday night I appeared on LBC’s Duncan Barkes Show to provide analysis and response to the debate between Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage about Europe. It was a pleasure to join Bill Cash, Nick de Bois and Steve Pound in providing analysis.

This was clearly a dispute between the two smaller British political parties, with Ukip looking to join the mainstream and the Lib Dems keen to find an area where they can distinguish themselves from the Tories to protect their vote. Nevertheless it provided an interesting taster of a discussion which is going to grow in the months running up to the European Elections this May. Farage suggested, among other things, that 485 million migrants are queueing up to come to Britain, demonstrating the dangerous way in which Eurosceptics use emotive language and figures of obscure the many sound economic reasons for being in Europe. With a recent YouGov poll showing that a narrow majority now support us staying in Europe, I hope people are beginning to see through this and recognise the benefits of the EU.

You can listen to clips from the show below:

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Honeyball’s Weekly Round-Up

This week saw Conservative MEPs vote against a Europe-wide initiative to provide aid for those struggling with food poverty. The £3 billion EU fund, known as ‘European aid to the most deprived’, would have sent £3 million in the direction of Britain. The choice to try and block the fund was made on the grounds that “It is not for the EU to dictate…how to help the needy. Individual countries must be allowed to decide for themselves.” It left the Tories among a tiny rump of MEPs voting against, making the Coalition the only European Government to oppose the fund.

With the Tories under pressure to address the explosion in the number of food bank users since they’ve been in office, their approach to Tuesday’s vote baffled many. It comes at a time when pressure is building on the Coalition to address the food poverty crisis, with religious and third sector organisations condemning the effect welfare cuts are having on UK rates of poverty. This week Richard Howitt, my Labour colleague in the European Parliament, called the Tories’ decision to vote against the fund “heartless and callous”.

Blocking European Aid is just the latest in a string of instances which have seen Conservatives adopting indefensible positions in the name of Euroscepticism. Before Christmas they blocked the Estrela report – a strategy to, among other things, end FGM – and they have also obstructed the EU Emissions Trading Scheme, a market-based solution to environmental challenges. They’ve done so on the grounds that endorsing such plans would represent a concession to the EU. This is despite the government’s Balance of Competences review so far finding that the weighting between EU powers and domestic autonomy is roughly right.

David Cameron’s increasingly hostile noises about the EU appear to have been taken by Tory MEPs as a license to indulge their most reactionary instincts. They do this irrespective of morality or the UK’s national interests. As a result we are approaching a state of Tea Party-style fanaticism among some on the British right in Brussels; a new and virulent brand of Euroscepticism. It’s vital that those of us who support the EU do not allow this self-defeating ideology to triumph.

Also this week, UKIP’s Spring Conference was overshadowed by the embarrassing revelation that Nigel Farage’s campaign slogan – “Love Britain: Vote UKIP” – was a rehash of a strapline used by the BNP. Nick Griffin’s far right party campaigned under the same banner in 2010, using the wording “Love Britain: Vote BNP”. The comparisons did not appear to end there, with Farage using his “Love Britain: Vote UKIP”-branded plinth to launch an excoriating attack on immigration, which he claims has made Britain “unrecognisable”. When the BNP link was pointed out Farage argued, bizarrely, that he’d been trying to ‘reclaim’ the slogan.

So far Ukip have resisted calls from the European far right to join ranks. Geert Wilders and Marine Le Pen have both attempted, unsuccessfully thus far, to reach out to Farage, pointing out the common ground their respective parties share with his. But with UKIP MEP Gerard Batten’s ties with the far right attracting increasing controversy – not to mention Farage’s recent admission that he supported the “basic principle” of Enoch Powell’s 1968 ‘Rivers of blood’ speech – the overlap between UKIP and the extreme right is becoming hard to disguise.

To avoid a return to the ugly politics and racial tensions of the 1970s Labour must contest UKIP’s narrative every step of the way.

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Honeyball’s Weekly Round-Up

At the start of this week results came out from Switzerland’s referendum on migration, revealing narrow backing for plans to impose a cap on migrants. The ‘Federal Popular Initiative Against Mass Immigration’, which was passed by 50.3% to 49.7%, represents the effective rejection of freedom of movement pacts negotiated between Switzerland and the EU. The initiative, which was put forward by the anti-immigrant, anti-Europe Swiss People’s Party, was not just opposed by those on the left but by figures across the Swiss the business community. In the aftermath of the vote economists at Credit Suisse wrote that Switzerland would pay “a high price” for its decision, and the Swiss Bankers Association sought to distance itself from the move. One financier told the Financial Times, “The Swiss are delusional to think they can just cherry pick what they want from the EU”.

The wider implications of Switzerland’s decision look to be severe. Despite being a non-EU country Switzerland has historically benefited from many of the trade perks enjoyed by EU member states. Indeed, UKIP and Eurosceptic Tories have pointed at Switzerland as a model of the type of country Britain could supposedly become if we left the EU. However, the result of Monday’s plebiscite has led the European Commission to re-examine Switzerland’s access to the European single market, with all treaties now up for negotiation. EC vice-president Viviane Reding pointed out on Monday that free trade and free movement were inextricable: “You take them all or you leave them all.”

Switzerland’s neighbours voiced similar warnings, with Laurent Fabius, the French foreign minister, calling the move “worrying” for a small country which “lives off the EU.” His German counterpart, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, said the country had “harmed itself,” and the Luxembourg government were also concerned for Switzerland’s economic prospects, with their foreign minister warning “there will be consequences”.

The response to the Swiss referendum shows the absurdity of the ‘pick ‘n’ choose’ approach to the EU advocated by many on Britain’s political right – especially those, including David Cameron, who plan to limit freedom of movement for migrants. Even Switzerland, a country which has over several hundred years been very successful at negotiating its relationship with the EU, will ultimately struggle to decide things entirely on its own terms.

Being part of Europe is ultimately about maturity. It requires certain sacrifices, but in return we get tremendous rewards. As the Swiss referendum looks set to demonstrate, you cannot shirk your responsibilities without jeopardising your privileges. The present UK government would do well to take note.

On Thursday, meanwhile, it was good to see Labour fend off UKIP at the Wythenshawe and Sale East by-election. The run-up to the vote was dominated by headlines about Nigel Farage’s attempts to woo “patriotic, working-class Labour voters”, and Labour frontbenchers including Douglas Alexander – who last week set up Labour’s “anti-Ukip” unit – worked with party members to expose the ‘purple peril’ in the constituency. In the end, despite an aggressive UKIP campaign, Labour extended their share of the vote, and it was the two coalition parties who suffered from UKIP’s poll bounce.

Although the outcome sent a strong signal that Labour can withstand UKIP pressure in Northern communities, the extremely low turnout was a source of concern. It is vital that politicians of all parties reconnect with the electorate, otherwise apathy will translate into votes for UKIP and other parties even further to the right.

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Beware the ultra-right in Europe

As reported in the British press a few days ago, Marine Le Pen, leader of the National Front in France, and Geert Wilders of the Freedom Party (PVV) in the Netherlands, will attempt to launch a pan-European Eurosceptic movement.

This could indeed prove vexatious for Nigel Farage and UKIP, not least because Farage has ruled out joining his fellow ultra-right wingers. (Some would even call them fascists).

Unfortunately for the legitimate democratic parties, recent polling suggests that far-right or populist parties across Europe are threatening to create upsets in next May’s European elections. This is obviously the main reason for Wilders and Le Pen looking to form an anti-European alliance now. Le Pen will, in fact, travel to the Netherlands next month to discuss a joint campaign in the European elections with Mr Wilders’ PVV.

Yet the idea is not catching on across the extreme right in Europe. In addition to UKIP, the Northern League in Italy, Vlaams Belang in Belgium and the Democratic Party in Sweden have reacted coolly to the idea.

Interestingly, part of the problem is that the various populist or far-right parties in Europe are nervous of being associated with one another. I am tempted to ask what they have to fear and why they are so reluctant to be seen as part of the same movement. Maybe they still think that they can better hide their true colours by acting independently of each other. “Our party has not joined the alliance,” said Martin Kinnunen, the spokesman for Sweden’s Eurosceptic Democratic Party: “It is hard to say anything at this stage as we don’t know which parties will participate.”

Farage is the leader of the current Eurosceptic group in the Parliament, one that is dominated by UKIP. The Europe for Freedom and Democracy group (EFD) as it’s called, has been troubled with a good deal of internal conflict recently and it could be the case that a new political group will have to be cobbled together after the European elections.

Social Democrat and centre-left parties in Europe would do well to take note of the activity being undertaken by Le Pen and Wilders. It looks very much as if the extreme right, racist parties are mobilising in a more organised fashion than they have done before.

We need to be prepared to fight this kind of fascism with all our strength and at the same time get rid of the BNP at the European Parliament elections in May next year. Britain is fundamentally a decent country. Let’s make sure it remains just that.

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Godfrey Bloom’s attitudes are ‘the tip of the UKIP iceberg’

UKIP MEP Godfrey Bloom this afternoon prompted outrage when he suggested a room of women were “sluts” for not “cleaning behind the fridge”. Party leader Nigel Farage appeared on television shortly afterwards to announce the withdrawal of the party whip.

As followers of this blog will know, I have been a long-time critic of Bloom. His words today were not an isolated ‘gaffe’ or a one off misjudged joke. Since becoming an MEP he has repeatedly courted controversy, whether it be his ‘Bongo Bongo Land’ remarks, his Nazi jokes in the EU Parliament, or his assertion that no business should hire “a woman of child-bearing age”. His social attitudes are not just old-fashioned – they are prehistoric. There is no place for the likes of Bloom in British or European politics, and there has not been for several centuries.

The condemnation Nigel Farage made of Bloom was carefully calibrated, calling him “beyond the pale” but at the same time referring to his “dad’s army” sense of humour. The intention was to distance Farage and UKIP from Bloom, but simultaneously to pass the whole episode off as a storm in a teacup, blown out of proportion by a politically correct media.

We must not allow either of these things to happen. Bloom’s comments today were not just the words of a marginal buffoon (as Farage wants us to believe). They in fact come far closer to representing the true spirit of UKIP than anyone in the party’s high command would admit. Barely a day goes past without a UKIP candidate somewhere making a racist or sexist comment of some kind, and many of the party’s elected representatives have at points flirted with far right politics.

Many right-of-centre politicians use dog whistle messaging to make clear their position on race or gender. UKIP are particularly guilty of this. Bloom is only unusual in that he routinely breaks ranks and is openly derogatory. Farage and others in UKIP must not be allowed to distance themselves from him. Their language may be more refined, but their actions and voting records tell us what they really think. Bloom is just the tip of the UKIP iceberg.

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From the Archive: Nigel Farage accused of being Stalinist and anti-women

This blog comes from February of this year at a time when Marta Andreasen MEP was thinking about quitting UKIP.  Well for any of you who don’t know, she did quit in the end and is now a member of the Conservative party and is part of the European Conservative and Reformist group.  Seemingly the bullying, sexism and general chauvanism that characterises the UKIP delegation in the European Parliament became too much for her.  I think I probably disagree with Marta on a good many things, but on this I can feel nothing but sympathy for her; having to work with the likes of Farage, Bloom, and Batten can’t have been easy.

Nigel Farage accused of being Stalinist and anti-women

Political aficionadas, not to mention geeks, may remember when UKIP MEP Godfrey Bloom told the world way back in 2004 that a woman’s place was cleaning behind the fridge.

Incredibly, UKIP misogyny has just got much worse. Marta Andreasen, their only woman MEP, has launched a searing attack on Nigel Farage. “He (Farage) doesn’t try to involve intelligent professional women in positions of responsibility in the party. He thinks women should be in the kitchen or in the bedroom.” she told the BBC.

Marta Andreasen, who represents South East England in the European Parliament, has said she is unlikely to stand as a UKIP candidate next year. Andreasen, who worked for the European Commission before joining UKIP and being elected in 2009, told the BBC that “if things don’t change” within the party “she can’t imagine a way to continue”.

Andreasen continued by telling the BBC that she had been openly criticised by her party leader and other MEPs, suggesting that this amounted to bullying. “I’ve been bullied, in private situations, for decisions I have made by Nigel. I have been accused of being disloyal, breaching confidence and breaching my contract with the party. There’s an attitude that either you keep silent about everything that’s been going on in the party or suffer the consequences.” Ms Andreasen said she believed Mr Farage – who was re-elected as leader in 2010 after standing down a year earlier to contest a Westminster seat – “did not like women”.

Farage’s views on women are not, apparently, the only problem. Ms Andreasen told LondonlovesBusiness.com: “Under his (Farage’s) leadership – and I have questioned his leadership obviously a number of times – the party (UKIP) has become a dictatorship. This is a Stalinist way of operating and he doesn’t care about the membership or the grassroots.”

Andeasen says she plans to stay in the European Parliament as a UKIP representative until the end of the current Parliament in 2014, to see out her mandate and “look for ways I can continue to represent the membership”. She may consider standing as an independent next year.

It’s worth remembering former UKIP MEP Nikki Sinclaire, a lesbian, who won a sex discrimination case against her former colleagues on a default judgement at Exeter Employment Tribunal after UKIP failed to lodge a defence. Sinclaire claimed UKIP MEP Godfrey Bloom had called her “queer”.

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From the Archive: UKIP’s proposal to cut back public spending – kill prisoners

The theme of these archive blogs seems to be that UKIP are far more right-wing than Nigel Farage would have us believe.  This blog was originally 19th March 2010 and details some of the more extreme views held by fellow London MEP Gerard Batten.  My only hope is that, with the increased exposure from the recent successes in local elections and their climb in the polls, we will see UKIP challenged more for their extreme elements.

UKIP’s proposal to cut back public spending – kill prisoners

I do not  like my fellow London MEP Gerard Batten very much. Let me explain why. He claims as a UKIP member to be a patriot but does not pay his taxes.  Perhaps he would feel more at home in Belize with Michael Ashcroft? In 2008 I exposed that he was covering up his financial records . (He does seem to have a bit in common with Lord Ashcroft – perhaps he is a non-dom too?) He voted against extending education in Europe with a minority of hard right oppositionists (the vote was 623 for, 56 against). He does such a poor job of representing London that his UKIP colleague Godfrey Bloom MEP from Yorkshire has to come in and help him. On immigration his view is “Enough is enough.

Gerard is not keen on people of different races mixing writing:

“THE MYTH of multiculturalism depends on the belief that completely different cultures, and indeed contradictory world views, can peacefully co-exist within the same geographic and political space.”

I wonder what new UKIP MEP Marta Andresan who is an Argentine by birth makes of this weltanschauung?

Gerard has a high regard for Dutch extreme right politician Geert Wilders who you can see him pictured with.

Now Gerard has turned his mind to economic policy. Last week speaking in Strasbourg during a debate on the death penalty in South Korea he said:

” This (the death penalty) would also save millions of pounds every year currently wasted on keeping such criminals in prison for life that could be better spent on the old and the sick. So well done South Korea: go on executing your worst criminals.”

Forget justice the key issue is saving money. Look on the bright side, if there are any miscarriages of justice in Gerard’s world at least thousands of pounds has been saved with this eugenic economic policy. Of course the wonderful thing is that any country which is a member of the European Union must renounce the death penalty. To me it demonstrates what a civilized institution it is. How frustrating for Gerard.

Even by Gerard’s previous policies his new Vote UKIP – Kill Prisoners – Save Millions campaign must be a new odious low.

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From the Archive: UKIP provide further proof of their far-right leanings

UKIP have proved time and time again that they are a great deal more extreme in their politics than they would have you believe as these archives blog seem to be proving.  This blog was originally posted last year when a number of MEPs joined UKIP’s European Parliament political group the Europe for Freedom and Democracy party.  The most worrying among them is Slavi Binev, formerly of the Hungarian political party Attack, an extreme right wing organisation.

UKIP provide further proof of their far-right leanings

This morning in the plenary chamber Martin Schulz announced that two MEPs have joined UKIP’s Europe of Freedom and Democracy (EFD) political grouping.  

The first of these is Mike Nattrass, though he is actually rejoining after quitting the group in June 2010.  Mr Nattrass left the group because, as he said, he did not want to sit with MEPs “who do not wish to leave the EU and have very odd views on many issues which are incompatible with my own”. He also said that by remaining a member of the EFD he “would be condoning this progressive destruction of our cherished institutions” and would be ‘far more effective’ as a non-attached MEP.

Perhaps more intriguingly, the newest member of the EFD is Slavcho (aka Slavi) Binev from Bulgaria.  Mr Binev was elected in 2009 as an MEP for Attack, a far-right nationalist party, that he has since left.  The Attack party has been involved in a number of scandals, most notably in 2006 when then leader Dimitar Stoyanov made racist and misogynistic remarks about another Bulgarian MEP.  What’s more Mr Binev was named in a 2005 US diplomatic cable on organised crime as heading the MIG entertainment group whose ”criminal activities include prostitution, narcotics, and trafficking stolen automobiles”.

UKIP are a strange bunch with stranger friends and this acceptance of Slavi Binev is further proof.  It’s worth remembering another person who felt the need to leave the EFD, Nikki Sinclaire who resigned from the EFD citing her displeasure at what she claims to be some of the racist, extremist parties that belong to the group.  Sinclaire was subsequently expelled from UKIP for refusing to be part of the EFD group, but went on to win an Employment Tribunal claim for sex discrimination against them.

Farage may be feeling confident after UKIP’s showing in the recent by-elections, but he should show a bit more care about his public perception.  I have already spoken about Godfrey Bloom’s sharing wine with fascist leader Marine le Pen and now Farage has decided to campaign against gay marriage in order to steal votes from the Tories.  Farage, it appears, is well on the way to exposing the extreme-right and bigoted character of UKIP.

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