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Tuesday 31 March 2015

The Last Post

Well readers (yes, I know that there are at least two of you, so I’m feeling justified in employing the plural), the time has come to call it a day with respect to this blog, and Durotrigan will henceforth be posting no more. For the occasional stray detractor who happens upon this news, this will doubtless be a cause for some satisfaction, whereas for others, it will be a matter of some indifference.

Why is this blog being wound up? It’s a question of time, as other projects now demand my attention, and there are only so many hours in the day. That said, you may one day just possibly read something else that I have written, but if so, it will be in quite a different genre, and format.

Monday 2 March 2015

UKIP if you want to, but don’t get caught napping

UKIP’s Margate conference is over, but its election manifesto is yet to be published. We know what the party’s mood music is, and that it has two policies that the three major national Westminster parties plus the Greens find distasteful: withdrawal from the EU and a greatly tightened points-based system for immigration. Beyond that, what UKIP stands for – concretely speaking – is largely a matter of conjecture; of hope for some, yet apparent fear for others.

UKIP’s failure to define what it stands for and what it would wish to do were it to be in a position to influence policy, illustrates that it still has some way to go to define itself as a political party. As matters stand, it remains a vehicle of protest. A UKIP candidate on the ballot paper will effectively present voters with the opportunity to vote for ‘none of the above’, providing that the latter sentiment also coincides with voters’ opposition to EU membership and mass immigration. As such, a vote for UKIP can be said to be positive, as it increases the pressure on other parties to address these concerns, particularly in marginal seats where UKIP’s seizure of a few thousand votes will doubtless hobble the chances of many a ‘mainstream’ candidate. That said, a vote for UKIP should, given the party’s lack of clarity regarding direction and policy, be one that is loaned to it.

UKIP’s absence of a definite set of policies currently enables it to tap into the discontents of different groups of voters in both traditional Conservative and Labour seats, but as such, this approach is unstable. It may work for a while, but can UKIP function in this manner in the longer term, if indeed, there is a longer term? Douglas Carswell has already stated that he believes immigration “has been, overwhelmingly, a story of success.” How many UKIP voters believe that statement to be true? Carswell appears to have strayed into the wrong party, frustrated by Cameron’s commitment to EU membership. Farage may yet come to rue having allowed Carswell into his party. It may have raised UKIP’s profile and given it a brief fillip in the polls, but if one of UKIP’s two core messages that has great resonance with the public – its opposition to mass immigration – is abandoned, UKIP may as well disband and simply become a campaign group calling for an EU referendum. Then again, perhaps it was never intended for it to be anything other than the latter.

It seems likely that UKIP will stack up a large number of votes across the country in May, taking support from both the Conservatives and Labour, creating unpredictable electoral dynamics and consequences in many constituencies. However, it is unlikely to seize many parliamentary seats, and like the SDP, will come a good second in many a constituency. As to what readers of this blog think, the recent readers’ poll revealed that the greatest proportion of respondents – 25% - thought that UKIP would have 2-3 MPs in the new parliament, but only 3% thought that the party would have no MPs, the same percentage who stated that the party would obtain 51 seats or more (an unusual opinion, certainly). The majority of respondents – some 68% - thought that UKIP would have between 1 and 10 MPs, but surprisingly there was also a cluster of readers – 12% - who thought that the party would obtain between 21 and 25. However many MPs are elected under the UKIP banner, their influence upon this General Election is likely to be a significant and interesting one, but quite what it will stand for remains very much up in the air.

Saturday 28 February 2015

'A country in which words are met with bullets, and choked with blood', Novaya Gazeta

There can be little doubt that Boris Nemtsov’s murder was a contract killing, but as to who was responsible for this, conflicting narratives are emerging in the Russian press. Outside of Russia, suspicion clearly falls upon Vladimir Putin, of whom Nemtsov has been a vocal critic, for such a mode of dealing with political opposition would seem to be perfectly in keeping with the former’s character, as well as his previous role as head of the FSB.

The Russian liberal newspaper Novaya Gazeta has stated that prior to his murder, he had been ‘preparing a report on the Russian Army’s participation in the Ukrainian war,’ and that earlier in February he had voiced concerns that he might be killed by the regime. Clearly, such a report would be at the very least inconvenient for Putin. Moreover, Nemtsov had been organising a protest against the war in Ukraine which is due to be held in Moscow tomorrow. Whoever is responsible, this killing will either have a chilling effect upon opposition in Russia, or galvanise dissident opinion, making it more determined to bring true democratisation and accountability to the country. Six shots, four of which hit Nemtsov in the back, may well intimidate, but it will not kill independent thought in Russia.

Izvestiya, a pro-Putin paper, publicises a different range of scenarios as motivations for the murder of Boris Nemtsov. It should therefore come as no surprise that none of them portray Nemtsov or his supporters in a positive light. These scenarios are:

Firstly, that Nemtsov was with a Ukrainian woman at the time of his murder, who had recently flown from Moscow to Switzerland for an abortion. The paper therefore floats the suggestion that Nemtsov may not have been her only partner, and that another lover may have been behind the murder. Where did this suggestion originate? From ‘a senior source in the law-enforcement agencies’. This tale would therefore appear to be a piece of pure misinformation concocted by the Russian secret services.

Secondly, it was widely known that Nemtsov had travelled to Ukraine on many occasions and had made many contacts with the local political and business elites whom the paper characterises as representing “the party of war.” Izvestiya continues:

They could have provided him with the means for destabilising the situation in Russia. In return for this money, the Ukrainian oligarchs would have expected Nemtsov to split Russian society. However, not only has a split not occurred, but quite the opposite – the consolidation of Russian society. Understanding that their intended result had not been achieved, Nemtsov’s sponsors decided to remove the politician who had not been able to fulfil his task.

Once again, this rather outlandish suggested motive originated with the same unnamed ‘source’.

Thirdly, Izvestiya suggested that the murder could have been a ‘provocation’ staged by political opponents of Putin to discredit the incumbent regime: ‘External and internal opponents may have chosen “a sacrifice” for the sake of destabilising the situation in Russia.’ Once again, this possible motivation was outlined by an unnamed source.

The three motives for Nemtsov’s murder suggested in the pro-Putin Izvestiya appear to be fabrications dreamt up by Russia’s shadowy security apparatus. They are akin to the conspiratorial narratives dreamt up by the Bolsheviks in justification of ‘liquidating’ their opponents, and for Putin, with his professed admiration for the political methods of the Soviet past, ‘liquidation’ is a likely technique to which he turns when dealing with particularly troublesome opponents (Litvenenko and Politovskaya are but two notable figures to have suffered this fate). That Putin is said to be taking a personal interest in overseeing the investigation into Nemtsov’s death does not bode well for its objectivity.

Novaya Gazeta does not concur with the official explanations being offered for the politician’s murder:

The version of events in which this is viewed as the chance murder of a politician does not hold up. Now, it is doomed to become a symbol of the country that we have built over the past fifteen years. A country in which words are met with bullets, and choked with blood.

The paper later commented:

Nemtsov’s murder therefore marks a point of no return, in which a radical destabilisation of the internal political situation in Russia will lead to consequences as yet impossible to predict. Perhaps we will witness official mourning on the part of senior state officials, and then a witch-hunt launched by the secret services and the adoption of new emergency laws to restrict civil liberties.  

The view of Novaya Gazeta is likely to be closer to the truth than that of Izvestiya. With conflict in Ukraine, economic difficulties occasioned by the sharp decline in oil prices and political assassination, Russia is in for a rough time. Whatever happens, policy makers in the UK and the EU should not confuse the actions of the Putin administration with the Russian people as a whole, and thus ought to lend support to dissident voices within Russia, to the likely democrats of the future, rather than to bullishly persist with manufacturing a dangerous and unnecessary military standoff with Russia, which would only serve to cement Russian public opinion behind the Putin regime. Putin must not be permitted to play the victim card.

Wednesday 25 February 2015

70% of French prison population is Muslim

So Newsnight stated this evening. A remarkable figure, certainly, but a surprising one? Islam and France are not compatible, insofar as a vanishingly small percentage of Muslims entertain the concept of secularism. No Muslim who rejects secularism is anything other than an existential threat to France, and to the French way of life.

Tuesday 24 February 2015

Channel 4’s Immigration Celebration

Channel 4 is seemingly going into overdrive in the run-up to the election, churning out a greater than usual stream of pro-mass immigration propaganda. Just over a week ago we had its defamatory hatchet job on UKIP with ‘UKIP: The First 100 Days’, whereas this evening we’re treated to an immigration double bill with ‘The Romanians are Coming’, followed immediately by ‘Immigration Street’. Its senior editorial staff are clearly hoping that they can assist in neutering UKIP’s influence on the immigration debate through endlessly repeating the mantras of ‘diversity is good’ and ‘mass immigration is good’, with an aim of making the UK ‘safely’ hyper-diverse forever.

Why is the channel doing this? Well, turning to ‘Immigration Street’, with a director named Afi Khan and a producer called Masood Khan, would we really expect to see a programme that was anything other than ‘celebratory’ about enforced ethnic hyper-diversity?

Channel 4 has also been giving the Green Party a fair amount of airtime. Part of it this evening was perhaps not that welcome, owing to Nathalie Bennett’s earlier bungled radio interview in which she made a fool of herself by being unable to answer basic questions about the Green’s much-vaunted flagship housing policy. The channel’s ‘Political Slot’ after the Channel 4 News allowed Caroline Lucas to talk about the Green policy of renationalising the railways and the goal of cutting rail fares by 12% (although she did not say over what period). How was this to be paid for? By cutting the road budget, apparently. One also harbours the suspicion that the Greens would introduce a swingeingly punitive set of taxes against motorists, being enemies of the car and individualism. Moreover, one must not forget their ridiculous policy of introducing a 20mph speed limit in all urban areas, which would increase pollution and decrease fuel efficiency.

Still, at least it can be hoped that an increase in support for the Greens will damage the Labour Party, although it seems more likely that it will hoover up more former Liberal Democrat voters.

What are your thoughts on ‘Immigration Street’? How has your neighbourhood changed since Tony Blair vowed to destroy the ‘forces of conservatism’? How many of us realised that by ‘forces of conservatism’ he was referring to the very existence of the nation and its continuity of history across the generations?

Monday 23 February 2015

Review: ‘Children of the Great Migration’, Panorama, BBC1

This evening, the BBC decided to launch an attempt to tug at the heartstrings and to win yet more support for unrestricted mass immigration into the EU in general, and the UK in particular. Its advance publicity for the programme read:

The timing of the documentary has been prompted by the upcoming ‘migration season’ in the Mediterranean, ‘in what threatens to be its most deadly year yet, [for] Europe has cut the number of rescue boats.’ This, intoned the presenter, represented ‘an unfolding tragedy of horrific proportions.’ The capsizing of two of four dinghies carrying hundreds of African immigrants this winter was cited, in which at least 400 died, part of a recent phenomenon that illustrates that people smugglers are attempting to find a way to extend their operations into the depth of winter. A new tactic pioneered this winter employed a seemingly abandoned, crewless cargo ship, the Ezadeen, into which 450 Syrian immigrants were packed, yielding the people smugglers at least £2 million in profits.

What is also alarming is the fact that ‘it’s also shaping up as a record year of arrivals too.’ Last year, it was stated that the Italian Navy’s now discontinued operation ‘Mare Nostrum’ save the lives of more than 160,000 such immigrants. Now though, it has been scrapped, with a new EU Frontex operation providing a scaled-back patrol closer to EU maritime borders. The presenter wondered how this would cope with rescuing the prospective record number of immigrants, whilst this viewer wondered why it was not defending the coastline of Europe, and returning these migrants to their ports of origin.

Panorama also examined one of the major sources for much of the human efflux from Africa: Eritrea. The Sudanese authorities appeared to be eager to help the documentary makers publicise this problem, as hundreds of thousands of Eritrean emigrants have taken up residence, at least temporarily, on Sudanese soil close to the border with their country of origin. Vast refugee camps have sprung up, and the people traffickers have engaged in bloody exchanges with the Sudanese police, killing and wounding many of their number. Whether it is that the Sudanese are neither willing nor able to police their border with Eritrea is not clear, but the border – in their direction at least – is highly porous.

Although Eritrea’s population is a relatively modest six million, it was described as a ‘source of refugees on an astonishing scale’, with many of these departing being teenagers fleeing conscription in a ‘Marxist-inspired totalitarian state’, with a ‘crippled economy’, political detentions and torture. Conscripts, apparently, become transformed into forced labour in state agriculture and industry.

The largest of the camps in eastern Sudan houses circa 35,000 Eritreans and is overseen by the UNHCR together with the Sudanese authorities. In all, there are reckoned to be some 110,000 Eritreans temporarily resident in eastern Sudan, the majority of them wishing to head to Europe; many, including a number of interviewees, to the UK.

To get all the way to Europe can cost $5,000, with the first leg of the trip taking emigrants across the Sahara, and then from Libya across the Mediterranean, typically to the Italian island of Lampedusa. Cameron’s gung-ho and geopolitically myopic intervention in Libya, which contributed to the overthrow of Qaddhafi and created a state of lawlessness in which both people-smuggling and Islamism can thrive, means that an ever-increasing number of people are setting off from the shores of Libya and heading for Europe. It is but 180 miles from the Libyan port of Zuwara to Lampedusa. From there, the immigrants head to Sicily, thence onwards to other European countries, often the UK.

The proportion of children is growing, and they are often unaccompanied for word has fed back to Africa that Europe will never turn children away and will look after them. The African cuckoo knows that the European reed warbler will look after its young at the expense of its own.

Yes, those who come seek to escape from poverty, vile and often oppressive living conditions. Yes, many of them are subject to repulsive abuse at the hands of people-traffickers. However, we cannot provide a lifeboat for the entire World. If we continue to accept this ever-increasing human tide, we will sink. We will go under. Our society will be swamped, fracture and eventually collapse. This is unsustainable, and cannot go on. What should be done? How can this human tide be staunched and turned back? 

UKIP Clowns: 'Meet the Ukippers'

Last weekend Channel 4 launched its anti-UKIP pre-election campaign with its docudrama ‘UKIP: The First 100 Days’, and yesterday evening the BBC waded in with its own effort in the form of a fly-on-the-wall documentary about local UKIP party members in Thanet South, where Nigel Farage is mounting his bid for a Westminster seat in May. As was to be expected, the documentary focused upon the more ‘colourful’ aspects of the lives and views of the featured Ukippers, but to be frank, what was displayed was not so much fly-on-the-wall as foot in the mouth, over and over again.

That the documentary focused more upon personalities than upon policies was unsurprising (it has to be admitted that is hard to focus upon policies when policies largely remain in a state of flux), but given the BBC’s known hostility to UKIP, it would have been expected that those individuals featured would have been a little more circumspect about how they behaved and what they said. In fact, the documentary makers had to do little other than to stick around and wait for certain individuals to politically hang themselves. This was certainly the case with now former-UKIP councillor Rozanne Duncan who stated “I really do have a problem with people with negroid features”, adding that if she were to be invited to a meal where she knew a “negro” would be present, she would decline the invitation. She then made some bizarre reference to this aversion possibly having been acquired in a former life, saying that it would be interest to undergo hypnotic regression to reveal the possible source of the aversion. All of this was played out in the living room of the local UKIP press officer which provided an arresting backdrop of a sea of ceramic clowns; seemingly hundreds of them, for she and her husband were avid collectors of the said items.

This brought to mind some of the other absurdities uttered by another UKIP councillor, David Silvester from Henley-on-Thames, who claimed that the floods of early 2014 were part of God’s punishment for the legalisation of gay marriage. Bizarre? Yes. Fruitcake? Yes. Does this mean that UKIP’s concerns over the EU and mass immigration are bizarre and fruitcake? No. It is exasperating that an aspirant political party that many are turning to as a last straw to deal with these issues is repeatedly making ridiculous gaffes because of the eccentricities of some of its members. If it is to succeed, it has to ensure that its candidates are at least compos mentis, rather than as ridiculous and sinister as a collection of ceramic clowns.

Jack Straw and Malcolm Rifkind: Pounds Sterling, or Yuan?

Oh dear. Jack Straw and Malcolm Rifkind have both been caught out in a sting operation staged by the Daily Telegraph and Channel 4’s Dispatches. The former Foreign Secretaries revealed that they were willing to sell their services to a fictitious Chinese company, with Straw providing the bargain-basement option, only asking for £5,000 – “So normally, if I’m doing a speech or something, it’s £5,000 a day, that’s what I charge.” Rifkind, by contrast, who could arrange “useful access” to any UK ambassador, stated that his services could be purchased for the region of £5,000-£8,000 per half day. Why was Rifkind doing this? Well, despite being an MP, with the perfectly respectable associated salary and perks, he stated: “I am self-employed – so nobody pays me a salary. I have to earn my income.”

“Self-employed”? Since when has an MP been “self-employed”? In Rifkind’s case, it would seem to be just a slight matter of confusing tenses, for I am sure that should he continue and stand in the next General Election, that voters will grant his wish for him to be “self-employed”, as he will no longer be MP for Kensington. Straw on the other hand, will be standing down in May. The Labour Party will doubtless be relieved.

This evening's Dispatches will make for interesting viewing.

Saturday 21 February 2015

Who will govern after 7 May 2015? Readers' opinions

This year’s General Election promises to be the most unpredictable in living memory. For months, as assiduously documented by UK Polling Report, opinion polls have shown a narrow gap between the two leading parties – Labour and Conservative – with the former generally maintaining a narrow lead over the latter. However, this promises to be no typical General Election, for politics in the UK is no longer the traditional two-horse race that dominated the twentieth century after the demise of Lloyd George’s Liberal Party. Old party loyalties have frayed, with many voters displaying an increasing willingness to lend their votes to newer smaller parties, despite the limitations placed on their likely success imposed by the first-past-the-post system (with the exception of the SNP in this respect).

Labour, having sowed the seed of devolution, are shortly, it would seem, about to reap the whirlwind. Following the SNP’s defeat in the independence referendum but subsequent victory in Scottish opinion polls, we could be about to witness the death of the Labour Party as a national force as its MPs in Scotland are swept away by a rising nationalist tide. The Conservative Party has already undergone this process, having effectively become a party restricted to England and Wales. Given the projections relating to the SNP’s likely share of the vote in Scotland, with its rise in popularity being largely at the expense of Labour, Miliband’s party could be heading for near electoral wipeout north of the border in May. Nonetheless, it is clear that the SNP would make for natural bedfellows with Labour rather than the Conservatives. A minority Labour administration propped up by the SNP is a highly plausible scenario, as well as the least desirable, for Labour has indicated that it is in ‘principle’ against the concept of English votes for English laws, which whilst anti-democratic, plays into the narrow self-interest of the Labour Party. We could well therefore witness a situation in which Scotland effectively holds the rest of the Union to ransom, with the SNP exacting as many financial concessions as possible from Westminster, whilst facilitating the implementation of policies not supported by the majority of the electorate in England or Wales. The SNP leadership probably realises that such a tactic would also cause such an adverse reaction in England that it would prompt mass English support for Scottish independence, so as to be rid of an interfering deadweight. However, quite what the recent OPEC-engineered slump in oil prices will do to the long-term fortunes of the SNP and their budgetary credibility, remains to be seen.

A couple of weeks’ ago, a poll was opened to blog readers to gauge their opinions as to the likely shape of our next Government. Unsurprisingly, few believed that a majority Government will emerge on 8 May: some 7% stated that they believed we would have a Labour majority, whereas 14% thought that a majority Conservative administration would be returned. Readers were presented with a wide range of coalition options to choose from, as well as ‘some other configuration’. A total of 14% of respondents opted for this latter category, so perhaps they are placing their faith in the rather distant prospects of majority Liberal Democrat, UKIP or Green administrations.

Readers clearly did not share the view of the pollsters which currently indicate a Labour-SNP coalition as the most likely outcome, as only 7% selected this as the likely result. Even more surprisingly, perhaps, is that nobody thought that there would be the likelihood of a continuation of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition. The second most likely outcome of the General Election was adjudged by 21% of respondents to be a Labour Coalition with the SNP, the Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru and the Greens. Topping the list of likely outcomes, securing 28% of this poll’s vote, was a Conservative Coalition with UKIP.

The only clear conclusion that can be drawn either from this readers’ poll, or from national opinion polls, is that there is massive uncertainty around the outcome of the next General Election. A new poll opens today, gauging readers’ opinions as to how many MPs they believe UKIP will have on 8 May.