The Democratic Deficit

We all think we know what a democracy is.  Adult citizens vote periodically for people to represent them and make decisions for the common good.  Half of us generally don’t like those decisions, but we accept them.  We know we’ll get another bite at the cherry in a few years time when another election will be held, and there will be an opportunity to get rid of the failures, charlatans, idiots, incompetents, crooks, corrupt or however else we see the politicians that call themselves “The Government”.  Sometimes they get re-elected, sometimes they don’t.  But at least we have the chance to turf out the people who make far reaching decisions on our way and quality of life.

But very few people seem to understand that that model no longer exists, except superficially.  Yes, we still have our elections, and we swap one of these politicians for another, so no regime apparently lasts for ever.  But since the UK parliament ceded sovereignty to the European Union through the Maastricht and Lisbon Treaties (thank you, John Major and Tony Blair), it is no longer the highest law making body in the land.  That body now resides in Brussels and is never elected by us.  I refer not to the European Parliament (which is only a talking shop peregrinating around the EU at great expense) but to the European Commission, which has reserved to itself alone the power to propose all EU legislation.

Who or what is this Commission?  At the political level, it is formed by appointees nominated by each of the Governments of the Member States, so there are 28 of them, each allocated to a specific portfolio.  So Malta (population 0.4m) has the same representation as Germany (76.4m).   The representatives of small countries have proportionately the most power: the ten smallest countries with 5 per cent of the EU population have 36 per cent of the Commissioners.  Commissioners tend to fall into two categories.  The first type are former national politicians whose domestic career is over (or never got started) and they want a well remunerated place to park themselves (one thinks of Kinnock and Mandelson).  The other type is the ambitious politician who wants a bigger stage and better remuneration than he or she can get in their own country.  These guys and gals hang around for 5 years, but if they want to stay on for another term they usually can.  It really depends on whether their national government wants to reward another supporter with this plum Commission job.

The personal financial future and career of these people is intimately tied to the future of the institution, so there are none who would question its existence, its goals or its modus operandi.  The same goes for the 23,000 public servants who support these Commissioners and are the motor for the entire EU project.  It goes without saying that these people are also highly paid with a wide range of non-taxable emoluments to cover things like healthcare, education, living expenses, travel – the things that the rest of us have to meet out of our taxed income.  Oh yes, they also have a special low rate of income tax.  One can see why such people are committed European Unionists.

Now although the Commission is the only body that can initiate legislation, and it gives it to the Parliament to discuss and propose amendments (which it does though it never seems to reject anything of substance), there is a third body which the Unionophiles claim gives the EU a democratic constitution.  This is the Council of the European Union consisting of a single representative of each member state, usually the minister responsible for whatever subject is being discussed. This institution has a remarkable constitution.  Eighty per cent of all decisions in this Council are decided by a qualified majority, but this majority is harder to get if the proposal being discussed does NOT come from the Commission! A Commission proposal is passed if 16 of the 28 member states with at least 65 per cent of the population approve it.  But any non-Commission proposal (and it is not at all clear how anything can get through to this Council without first being vetted and approved by the Commission) requires 21 member states to support it before it becomes law.

So it is clear that legislation can be steered through even though a substantial minority of member states may not want it.  But what about the famous veto that Cameron insists the UK can wield to prevent developments damaging to the UK interest?

There are a number of policy areas where a member state may declare especial sensitivity and for which a unanimous vote is required to pass the measure into law.  In theory, anything can be classed in this manner, but since this would effectively prevent any decision ever being taken, member states confine themselves to issues such as the budget, EU membership, foreign policy, and a few other areas.  So, Yes, the UK does have a veto over EU expansion, as does every other member state.  But vetoes are rarely used since they are considered the nuclear option, and bring opprobrium and discrimination against the recalcitrant state.  In practice there are a number of ways in which a state can be isolated and co-operation in other policy areas withheld.  It is, after all, not a union of friends but a grouping held together by fear of isolation.  According to the Remain campaign, our “friends” in the EU would turn the knife on us if we ever dared leave.  Some friends!

In all decision making in the EU, the key institution is the Commission which is unelected and permanent (which alones give it much more influence than all the transitory ministers who fly in and out of Brussels a few times a year).  But by allowing the peoples of the EU to vote for a toothless Parliament, the Commission has kept the illusion of democracy.  We still have a vote, but it is valueless.

I was watching The Suffragettes the other day and could not but be impressed by those heroic efforts by a relatively small number of women to get the vote for women in the UK.  That was only 100 years ago.  Full enfranchisement only came in the late 1920s.  So they earned the vote, and what they struggled to get has now been rendered valueless by the institutions of the EU.  Will be reclaim our democracy this year, or will we resign ourselves to permanent rule by a foreign-based technocracy?

Immigration benefits the country?

The UK Government puts out numerous claims that immigration is good for the country, and attempts to bolster this claim with data showing that EU immigrants pay more in taxes than they claim in benefits.  Some of this “data” is cobbled together by so-called academics at University College, London.   Well, it would be a wondrous thing indeed if this were not the case – how else would a surplus be generated to pay for public services (not to mention the cost of maintaining Cameron and his cronies)?

If we take the UK population as a whole, then what it pays in taxes (via income tax, VAT, excise duties, council tax etc) exceeds what it receives in welfare benefits by about 5:1.  And this is absolutely necessary because there has to be money over to pay for the health service, for old age pensions, for education, for infrastructure like roads, for council services, for police, for the army, navy and air force, for our annual taxes to the EU, for the …. you get the picture.  So to say that our EU immigrants pay in more than they take out via welfare payments is quite fatuous.  There would something extremely wrong if they didn’t.  Even they should make a contribution for all the public services that they get for “free”, like the rest of us.

However, if one wants to raise this issue, as Cameron & Osborne have done, then one should at least be more accurate.  In fact, as far as can be estimated (and everyone except Tweedle-Cam & Tweedle-Oz admit the estimation is fraught with difficulties and based on assumption piled on assumption), the immigrants from eastern & central Europe make a far smaller contribution to UK government revenues than the rest of us simply because their incomes on average are lower.   So these immigrants are certainly making a smaller contribution to all the non-welfare services which are actually the largest component of government expenditure.

Note that this comparison does not include the immigrants from the “older” EU countries like France, The Netherlands, Germany etc, most of whom are professionals earning considerably more than the average.  Because their numbers were always relatively small, they were never considered a problem in the way the current level of mass immigration is.

However, the comparison is invidious because one should not compare low paid immigrant workers to the UK population, but to low paid UK workers, and no doubt if that could be done, it would show very little difference between the two groups.  Both would make a small net contribution to the Government’s revenue.  But both groups use public services, which are predominantly paid for by others.  In that sense, both are subsidised.

So is the Cameron/Osborne claim that migration is a benefit to the economy correct?  The Tory Duo, as usual, either through ignorance or deliberate deception, mix up government revenues with national economic benefit. Yes, government revenues are increased by mass immigration (assuming the migrants work and work “officially” with an NHS record), but their call on publicly funded services more than offsets their small individual tax contributions.  But even more important, government funded activities are not the economy.  Mass immigration has a major spatial impact, the more so since immigrants tend to settle in already densely populated areas where job opportunities are more likely.  So the housing market comes under pressure, as do roads, parking, anything that requires space.  We need to build over 80,000 houses a year just to keep pace with the tide of immigration (ignoring any backlog) and where are these to go?  This is the part of the economy that Tweedle-Cam and Tweedle-Oz just don’t get.  Why should they?  They and their ilk are not affected by the pressures facing the rest of the population.

None of the above is an argument against immigration per se.  We all know that depending on economic conditions and needs, skilled immigration can be highly desirable.  What the above discussion shows, rather, is that mass immigration of low paid workers is hardly a benefit to the country.  What is good in the short term for government revenues is not good for the population, especially those in the recipient areas.  These people face not just increased competition for housing, space generally, public services, but also for their jobs.

A government that is unable to control immigration, that is unable to look after the interests of its inhabitants, that actually does not care about their conditions, is simply not a government – it is merely a mouthpiece of a foreign directorate.  Our Prime Minister is just a viceroy for the shadowy powers in Brussels.

The issue is not about “Immigration – good or bad?” but can we control the level and type of immigration in the interest of Britons as a whole.  Within the EU we cannot, and the only way to regain control is to leave this domineering and undemocratic power grouping.

David Owen’s Speech

I have always believed that when it comes down to it, people will vote in the Referendum on a single issue – the issue that is most important to them.  Staying in or leaving might affect so many issues – housing, jobs, environment, trade, economy, regulation, liberty, independence, identity, security, etc – that it is nigh on impossible for anyone to weigh up all that might happen (or not) and decide on balance how to vote.  I have made it clear in my opening blog (“A Greener Country?”) that for me the environment is the key issue and on that basis a Leave vote is essential to preserve some semblance of a quality of life.  But others will have different priorities.  The speech by David Owen is a rational and calm appraisal of the major political issues at stake and deserves much wider reporting than it has received hitherto (the BBC preferring to give publicity to the views of visiting Americans and French who obviously have our interests at heart).

So take a little time and listen to David Owen who as most of you will know is a former Foreign Secretary and was always supportive of the European Economic Community in which we voted to remain in 1975.  But I must add that even then I voted to Leave because I had studied the development of the Community since the mid-fifties, understood the longer term political objective, and had cottoned on to its undemocratic nature.  Even then, the Eurocats (sic) were taking the cream.




The Greenish Red Party (aka The Green Party)

I once voted for the Green Party.  Yes, in the early days of its existence I thought I had found a political party which had the same core values as myself.  It pushed for more recycling, something which people of my generation had grown up with and believed was a normal element of civilised and economical living.  Younger people today may think recycling is a new found trend but it was a part of life for those born during the war and growing up in the 40s and 50s.  All glass bottles had a deposit which was given back when the bottle was returned to the shop, so no bottles were thrown away.  If by chance, some bottles were left lying around, they were eagerly grabbed by the kids who earned some pocket money from returning them.  I once tripled my pocket money by collecting, along with a crowd of other boys, the empty beer bottles left behind after the Derby race meeting on Epsom Downs. The milkman, of course, collected empty milk bottles daily.  Our newspapers were tied up in bundles and left once a week on the pavement for collection.  Old household goods were collected by the rag and bone man with his horse and cart.  There was very little waste.  Even uneaten food was not wasted.  It was either fed to one’s back yard chickens or collected by the swill man who boiled up a melange from a hundred and one households and fed it to his pigs.

The Green Party was also in favour of the preservation of the countryside, and that meant resisting developments that encroached on it.  But that was yesterday ….

But what is it now?  It’s a party that is blind to the nexus between population growth and the quality of life.  Blind to the impact of mass immigration on housing development, on the infrastructure to support a higher population, on the generation of household rubbish, on air quality in urban areas, on all those things that economists call “externalities” because they impinge on people without ever being taken into account in conventional market measurements.  Thus, GDP may increase for ever and a day, but it does not mean that individuals are better off.  In this, the Green Party is no better than the shower that constitute the present Government (and previous recent governments back to the Blair era).

Green Party Platitudes

What does the Green Party believe in?   Well, most of it is pious platitudes: a just, equitable and sustainable society, a society that meets everybody’s needs, a job for everyone, a secure and affordable place to live for everyone, and a planet protected from climate change.  I would think that every political party would support these aims.  However, there is not a great deal of “greenness” there.  Anyhow, how would the Green Party meet these objectives?

It does not say how it will guarantee a job for everyone (at the living wage as a minimum, of course), or meet everyone’s needs (and how on earth can it ever do that?).  But it does have a housing policy. It will build more socially rented homes (council houses used to be the term) and bring abandoned buildings back into use.  So as the population continues to rise inexorably (as the current Government expects if we remain within the EU), the Greens would be busily building more and more houses (300,000 needed every year according to “experts”), more and more roads, more and more other infrastructure associated with population growth.  But, hey!  What about our countryside, our towns and villages?  Are they all to be destroyed or degraded?  Yes, if the Green Party has its way.

And what is its solution to controlling CO2 emissions and meeting whatever target the EU imposes?  Obvious – we build more wind turbines (though the energy they produce is erratic and very expensive), more solar panel farms creating landscape eyesores (again expensive and hardly reliable), insulate buildings better (no problem with that, but it won’t power our cars, lorries or buses), and – hang on – phase out nuclear power even though it produces no CO2!  According to the Green Party, “a rapid transition to a zero-carbon sustainable economy will create millions of jobs and secure a safe climate for our children and grandchildren.”

It is all pie in the sky, totally unachievable, for even if the UK could get to zero emissions (which it cannot within the foreseeable future with current technology) then global CO2 emissions would not be controlled.  The UK is so small in world terms that increases in emissions from China, India, Russia and the emerging economies swamp anything the UK does.  If we face facts, something the Green party has an aversion to, there is nothing the UK can do to stop the rise in global CO2, and in fact there is nothing that even the EU can do, nor the United Nations Convention on Climate Change (NCCC).  It is powerless in the face of global developments.

Sustainability and immigration

There are 32 more policy areas which the Green Party believes will help the objective of sustainable growth to be achieved, in addition to the two identified above.  Given it wants to build millions of new homes in the next few years, what does it say about land use?  Well, it wants a high priority on the natural environment, and activities with high environmental cost should be discouraged.  Clearly, there are two parts of the Green Party that never talk to each other.

Does it say anything specifically about immigration?  You bet, given its leader is an ocker Aussie.  For a start, the Green Party does not believe the UK or any “richer” region has “the right to use migration controls to protect their privileges from others in the long term.”  So it’s open door for the world’s poor, about 6,000 million of them.   But wait, the “Pardee” as their glorious leader calls it, also says immigration should be restricted if the ecology of the area would be significantly adversely affected.  But the Greens only think this applies to national parks and the rest of the country can go hang.

The Greens also think immigration should be restricted if the traditional lifestyle of the indigenous inhabitants is adversely affected.  So that’s something, isn’t it? But no!  This exception only applies to the likes of Australian aborigines and not for the traditional lifestyle of you and me.  The UK under all Green Pardee criteria must keep accepting more and more immigrants.

Somebody in the Pardee must have thought this might lead to problems, so of course they have a policy for that.  Migrants and the local community should negotiate a resolution of any problems that arise, and that, of course, will solve everything.  What cloud are these people living on?

Its ideas on limiting population growth …

The Pardee reaches its pinnacle of contortion and contradiction when it details its population policy.  It starts by saying over-consumption of the Earth’s resources will lead to conflict and reduce the Earth’s carrying capacity.  The Pardee is thinking purely in anthropogenic terms and the material consumption of human beings.  Impacts on wildlife and their habitats are of no consequence to them per se.  Their solution to excessive population growth is to promote international brotherly love, eliminate war, environmental disasters (not defined), inequality (again not defined) and social strife.  Somehow, in this perfect world, population levels will suddenly stabilise and the problem will disappear.

Turning to the UK, the Pardee notes that the population of the UK currently consumes more resources than can be sustainably supplied from within the UK, and, even worse, more than its fair share of global resources to the detriment of the people and the environment in producing areas.  So the Pardee is against international trade, which virtually everyone else considers to have been a major factor in raising living standards since it allows specialisation and scale economies, with benefits to the producer and consumer.   The Pardee wants to reduce the UK’s “ecological footprint” by reducing total consumption, but it does not square this with also welcoming increased immigration.  No one in the Pardee can even add up the simplest sums.

Its short term policies to attain its golden vision of a sustainable population level (and presumably those it would initiate immediately if ever, heaven forbid, it ever gained power) are quite simple: comprehensive sex education, free family planning service with free condoms for all,   and new methods of contraception.  Simple, yes; simplistic, yes indeed. And quite futile.  The Pardee shies away from any broader policy measure which might make people actually responsible for any children they produce, and which might introduce some degree of control over the number of people in the country.  And importantly, the Pardee supports continued membership of the EU, even though this condemns the UK to unlimited immigration and population increases.

Real greens should reject the “Pardee” and EU membership

So it is not surprising that I will never vote Green as long as the current bunch of naive simpletons are running things.  And it is why I believe that anyone with any real green tendencies should vote to leave the EU.   Leaving the EU in itself will not solve our overcrowding problem, our housing, our congestion, or the assault on our countryside, but it is a sine qua non for starting the process.  Stay in the EU and we really condemn ourselves to an ever declining quality of life, a loss of countryside, and a continuing decline in the quality of our environment.  The Pardee puts its socialist ambitions above any green objectives.