From the Archive: Farage Acting Out Again

Labour Party

I have decided to go back through my old blogs and find some of the choicer moments from UKIP.  With local elections next week now is the time to remind ourselves of some of the worse aspects of UKIP.

So from February 25th 2010, this is the blog I wrote in response to Farage’s speech to Herman Van Rompuy when he became president of the council.

Farage Acting Out Again

 

It would be quite remiss of me not to comment on Nigel Farage’s latest attempt to garner publicity in the run-up to the General Election.  In a pathetic and offensive attempt to get himself noticed, the  co-chair of the European Freedom and Democracy Group yesterday launched an unprecedented personal attack on the new President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy.

Mr Farage’s reference to President Van Rompuy as a “low grade bank clerk” with the “charisma of a damp rag”, was deeply insulting and unsurprisingly elicited loud protests from those listening in the European Parliament Chamber.  They were quite simply shocked by the outburst, as indeed was I.

Mr Farage didn’t just limit himself to insulting Mr Van Rompuy.  Later in his speech he turned his puerile attack on to the entirety of Belgium, referring to it as a “non-country”.

Mr. Farage, who stepped down as Leader of UKIP last year, has controversially broken with British political convention by running against Speaker John Bercow in the upcoming General Election.  Farage now needs to get people to vote for him, and it seems he will stop at nothing in this futile quest.

A lot of what Mr Farage does is, of course, an exercise in self-promotion, both for its own sake and more recently to further his Westminster ambitions.  After the announcement of President Van Rompuy and Cathy Ashton as President and High Representative, Mr Farage gave a scurrilous speech in the Chamber full of fatuous points and inaccurate statements; a man very much in love with the sound of his own voice.  On that occasion Jerzy Buzek, the usually placid and even-handed President of the European Parliament, felt the need to reprimand Farage for his outburst.

I was very interested to hear the coverage of yesterday’s incident on the Today Programme on BBC Radio 4 this morning.  The journalist Jonny Dymond stated that Mr Farage was aiming to get himself expelled from the parliament as a “martyr” for euroscepticism.  Apparently he believes that this will help in his fight against Speaker Bercow.  If this is true I am not the least bit surprised.  Mr Farage is not interested engaging in political discussions in a proper and reasoned manner.  He would much rather go for the headline grabbing, shock tactics, because they focus the attention more on him than on the debate.

I would urge my colleagues in the European Parliament not to rise to his bait.  Don’t expel him, don’t give him what he wants.  He should instead be treated like a naughty child who is acting out.  Just ignore him, he’s only doing it for attention.

My admiration goes to President Van Rompuy, whose response was succinct and dignified:  “There was one contribution that I can only hold in contempt, but I’m not going to comment further.”  Quite.

Honeyball’s Weekly Round-up

Labour Party

Taxes will have increased some 300 times by 2015 when the Coalition Government’s term will end, the Tax Payers Alliance (TPA) warned earlier in the week.

The TPA researched tax policies since the Coalition Government was formed and the Alliance claimed there had already been some 254 tax rises and at least 45 more planned before the next election.

You can read the full report here.

There was a very curious story on the front of this week’s Observer. The lead, front page story accused Gove advisors in the Department for Education (DfE) of smear tactics on journalists and opponents. The article warned that official guidelines may have also been broken.

The story concerns the Observer’s allegations that the DfE has undertaken a propaganda campaign using an anonymous twitter account called @toryeducation.

The account, so the Observer story reveals, is used to attack critical stories about the secretary of state for education, Michael Gove, and the department. “It is often abreast of imminent Tory policies, suggesting it is coming from close to the centre of government. However, it is also used to rubbish journalists and Labour politicians while promoting Gove’s policies and career,” the article warns.

You can read the Observer’s full report here.

Last week saw some embarrassing confusion from the Coalition Government over the child care shake up. Early Years Minister, Elizabeth Truss, announced on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme that child minders and nurseries could increase the number of children they care for if they improve their qualifications.

However, just hours later Tory MP, Claire Perry said: “I think she [Truss] perhaps got a little bit ahead of herself with the announcement.”

Critics argue they are unhappy with the ‘fixation’ to alter the ratios. You can read more on this subject here.

Also this week, Olympic Gold medalist Mo Farah and his wife criticised the Government’s Games legacy. Mrs Farah said, in an exclusive interview with the Observer that she and her husband wanted to see an increase rather than a reduction in school sports budgets.

She told The Observer that “having both come from a school where PE at grass roots level was widely accessible, Mo and I are acutely aware such a system can have on the younger generation.”

She went on to say that it is at this stage that gifted students are discovered and they should be nurtured. You can read the full story here.

European Commission convinced Greece will be in Euro in five years’ time

Labour Party

The Head of the European Commission task force on Greece, Horst Reisenbach, stated in no uncertain terms yesterday that he believes Greece will still be a member of the Eurozone in 2017.

Speaking on Radio 4’s Today programme, Mr Reisenbach said that now Greece had reduced its primary debt, the challenge was to strengthen growth and employment. Recognising that many people in Greece had made huge sacrifices and suffered as a result of the austerity measures, he was nonetheless certain that Greece’s governing coalition led by Loukas Papedemos had set Greece on the path to recovery.

Mr Reisenbach’s comments should be seen against the fact that March 20 had previously been viewed as a potential day for debt-ridden Athens to default. The manager of currency trading at Mitsubishi UFJ Trust and Banking commented in relation to the Eurozone sovereign debt difficulties that although concerns over Europe’s sovereign debt are bot completely gone, investors now have more c9onfidence. 

The new-found optimism regarding Greece is, of course, in part due to the approval by the Greek parliament of a new international bailout deal which will provide Greece with an additional 172 billion Euros. Coupled with massive debt restructuring, this latest bail-out is accompanied by a government pledge to abolish 15,000 public sector jobs this year, while salaries, pensions and other benefits have also suffered a new dramatic round of cuts.

So Greece, it would appear, is on the road to recovery. The Communist Party nationwide protest against this deal, which included a rally outside the parliament building, appears to have had limited impact. Meanwhile, the international financial community seems relatively calm about Greece’s future prospects.

It’s unfortunate, to put it mildly, that what is hopefully the beginning of the resolution of Greece’s sovereign debt problems has received so little coverage in the UK. A crisis, particularly a crisis in Europe, will always provoke anxiety and frenzy in the British media and in our political circles. It’s a real shame that solutions do not merit the same level of attention.

The real cost of Osborne’s Budget

Labour Party

David Cameron is today spending huge amounts of taxpayers’ money holding a Cabinet meeting in Yorkshire.  When Gordon Brown took his Cabinet to Leeds at the end of 2008, West Yorkshire Police spent £138,000 on extra security.  Add travel, hotels, and the other necessary costs and we have a very substantial sum.

This may be just acceptable if the Osborne budget had not happened.  But it did and we will soon be feeling the consequences.

Last week the Chancellor announced £30 billion pounds of welfare spending cuts.  Households with a joint income of £30,000 will lose tax credits. Disability and housing allowances will face swingeing cuts.  Meanwhile the ring-fencing of health and international aid and the Chancellor’s promise to protect education and defence spending will mean a cut of around £43 million from the remaining £125 billion of departmental spending – a 34 per cent cut in real terms.

The real effect of these overwhelming numbers was brought home to me yesterday listening to a representative from the UK Film Council talk about what they are expected to do.  The UK Film Council, which receives £30 million a year from the Treasury as well as other funding and employs about 100 staff, does a huge amount of work stimulating the film industry in this country thereby not only improving our quality of life but creating jobs.

The UK Film Council along with the rest of government has been asked to produce spending plans showing cuts of up to 30 per cent for the forthcoming Comprehensive Spending Review.  A cut of 30 per cent in an organisation employing 100 people is obviously devastating.  I would go so far as to say it would completely undermine its viability.

This takes me back to the very bad old days, the 1980s under Margaret Thatcher.  My first general election in London was in 1979, the year Thatcher won.  I have never doubted that the Iron Lady had a very clear agenda which fell into two parts.  One was to break the power of organised labour by increasing unemployment.  The other was more subtle in its incarnation if not its philosophy: to maintain, and even increase, the power of a ruling, right-wing elite.

Thatcher was remarkably successful in achieving her ends.  The trade unions have never been the same again.  What is more, Britain’s governing class have now reverted to type – over half of the current Con/Lib-Dem Cabinet are public school educated.

Thatcher managed her revolution on the back of the money from North Sea oil which provided just about enough revenue to fund the enormous cost of unemployment benefit caused by her policies.  Much of the real damage to government was therefore hidden by this criminal waste of money, money which could have been used for the things Osborne claims he wants to maintain – health, international aid and education.

The essential point is, however, that Thatcher could afford the cost of her vicious right-wing policies because she had the means to do so.  Cameron does not.

Make no mistake, the Cameron/Osborne cuts are as ideological as any made by Margaret Thatcher.  While there is a need, endorsed by the G20, to get public expenditure under control, Osborne’s enthusiastic embracing of public sector cuts was not necessary.  The Government could, and should, have waited.  It did not all have to be done at once, and the immediate cuts could have been made in areas such as big government IT projects unlikely to hit either welfare benefits or middle income families.

It is, of course, the scale of the cuts and where they fall that demonstrates their ideological nature.    

There is no doubt unemployment will go up, a human tragedy in itself.

What is more, the cuts will put an end to policies which may have helped.  On the Today programme this morning two economics professors, Dr Mariana Mazzuccto and Dr Linda Yeuh of the Open University and Oxford University respectively, discussed the need for the UK to improve its export performance.  There both agreed this meant more academic research and innovation – an distant prospect indeed since it’s extremely unlikely that even the protected education budget will be increased to make this happen.

Met plans to scrap Trafficking Unit are a Disgrace

Labour Party

Trafficking PicThe plans announced by the Metropolitan Police to abolish its specialist unit dealing with human traficking – trafficking of women and children – are nothing short of a disgrace.

I woke up to hear this bombshell on the “Today” programme, which we can get in Brussels, this morning hardly able to contain myself.  Trafficking of women is to a large extent trafficking to sell women into prostitution.  These often unsuspecting women are lured away from their homes, frequently on the pretext of a better life elsewhere, only to find themselves totally in thrall to ruthless criminals whose only aim is to exploit them for gain.  It really is a modern form of slavery and should be treated as such.  I hope there will be a major outcry against the Met’s plans so that they are forced to think again.

What is more, the Met trafficking unit has been viewed as an international example of good practice.  It also takes several years to develop expertise into trafficking, expertise which would more than likely be lost if the Met were to disband its unit which has built up a range of knowledge since its inception in 2007.  The nature of the crime also means that those cases which are brought to book are only the tip of the iceberg and if more of the iceberg is to be exposed, specialist expertise is required.

There is, in addition, the matter of the Olympics in London in 2012.  The last football World Cup in Germany attracted thousnads of prostitutes who openly plied their wares as prostitution is legal in Germany.  I was, in fact, one of a number of women who signed a petition to the German Government to outlaw prostitution at the World Cup.  The general view was that a large number, more than likely the majority of those women had been trafficked from outside the host country.  For the sake of the trafficked women, we need to be extremely vigilant to ensure that the same thing does not happen in London in 2012.  It would be a massive tragedy if the Games were marred by any form of criminal element. 

The Labour Government has been very vigilant on the fight to stamp out trafficking.  When I organised my “Tackling Trafficking” conference two years ago, we were joined by the then Home Office Minister, Vernon Coker.  I therefore call on the Met to see sense and keep the trafficking unit.

I have started a petition asking the Met to rethink its plans for shutting this vital unit down. 

Please click here and sign it.

You can also follow my campaign by clicking on my campaigns page.