Thursday, 30 January 2014

Total Crap

One thing that sets apart the politics of Scotland and England is that the madness of UKIP has not managed to impress voters north of the border.

But there is no doubt that the United Kingdom Independence Party is completely crazy because we hear that from none other than its leader, Nigel Farage, who has been forced to disown the last UKIP manifesto (which Nigel admits he never even read) - along with some of his own councillors, MEPs and election candidates.   

Here are two news reports which set the scene, one from the Guardian and one from the Independent, the first of which shows a UKIP MEP losing his temper and bashing a well-known TV journalist over the head with one of the UKIP manifestos - which Nigel Farage demised as rubbish.   

Now all this reminds me of the famous speech when the boss of a high street jewellers store, Gerald Ratner, dismissed his own products as "total crap" and shortly afterwards the share price of his company fell like a stone.

Like most people I can understand the 'anti-politics' mood of voters in countries across Europe, but the downside of being excessively cynical is that you end up with comedians like Beppe Grillo and his Five Star Movement arriving on the political scene in Italy - though as far as I can see it hasn't improved things any.

More worrying is the emergence of some like Dieudonne M'Bala M'Bala in France with his ultra-left background and his links to the ultra-right Front National founded by Jean Marie Le Pen.  

So, if you ask me, UKIP are the Ratner's of UK politics, or maybe an English version of the Tea Party in America, but either way the secret of their success remains a huge mystery to voters in Scotland.

Wrong kind of people are in UKIP, Farage says

By Lucy Fisher

Nigel Farage has lashed out at the “Walter Mittys” damaging UKIP as he warned the party’s candidates that they must show more discipline before a series of crucial tests at the ballot box.

In an interview with The Times, the UKIP leader admitted that the party had “got it wrong” in the past and allowed in some people who had proved to be “disappointments”.

“It’s very natural that a newish party will attract all sorts of people,” he said, admitting that it had not always succeeded in screening out “Walter Mittys seeking a role in politics which, in the end, they will let down not just us but themselves with”.

The party was confronted with widespread ridicule this month when David Silvester, a local councillor, claimed that the recent floods had been God’s punishment for new gay marriage laws.

UKIP courted further controversy when it emerged yesterday that Godfrey Bloom, one of its most prominent, members, taunted a disabled student by asking whether he was Richard III, the medieval king who suffered a spine deformity, during an Oxford Union debate last Thursday.

With the party preparing to begin a major spring offensive before the European elections in May, and the Tories nervously watching their progress, Mr Farage announced that he will not tolerate further embarrassment.

Admitting that the party had a “struggle with talent in the early days”, he said that he wanted it to “professionalise”, and hinted that candidates must curb eccentric views. “We must together be campaigning on similar issues,” he said.

Mr Farage added that he does not “want to turn this thing into a new Labour outfit where they’ve all got pagers on their belts and they’re told what to say and think”, but said: “I need us to have a disciplined election machine.”

UKIP is keen to appeal to blue-collar voters and Mr Farage claimed that a third of UKIP’s support now derives from former Labour voters. He risked undermining his pitch to them, however, by saying that bankers were entitled to receive large bonuses.

“We don’t need official caps or limits being placed on these things. Don’t forget that quite a lot of this comes back to people in terms of pension incomes and all the rest of it,” he said.

“The very thought that the bureaucrats in Brussels now set the limits we can pay the highest earning people in London is truly astonishing.”

Anti-Europe sentiment has risen among the country’s business elite as Mr Farage has been courting powerful City donors.

Last year UKIP received a £50,000 donation from the Mayfair-based investment group Harwood Capital and Andy Brough, the star manager at Schroders, is understood to have joined the party after growing weary with the coalition and European attacks on the City.

Mr Farage, who is the son of a stockbroker and followed his father into the City after school, admitted that bonus cultures could “encourage short-termism”, but argued that offering share options and future deals could constitute “very responsible” incentives.

The pay packets of public-sector workers in local government and think-tanks are a bigger issue than those of bankers, he suggested.

“The numbers of people now working in local authorities, working in the quangos, who are earning a hundred thousand pounds a year with quite remarkable pension deals compared to people in the private sector are somewhere where really big savings need to be made,” he said.

Mr Farage declined to outline any economic policies, however, refusing to be drawn on a date by which UKIP believes the deficit should be cut.

“UKIP put forward figures in the last election. UKIP will put forward domestic policy after May 22 and not before.”

In the meantime, as well as fighting the European elections, the party will plough time and resources into day-long assessment centres to find the best candidates to field in next year’s general election.

Mr Farage said that the stringent tests were “not just about the odd barmy opinion — it’s really to try and work out whether these are reliable, steady, solid people”

Nigel Farage calls for UK gun laws to be relaxed

Ukip leader says ban on handguns brought in after Dunblane massacre is 'ludicrous'

By Rowena Mason

Nigel Farage said the gun laws brought in after the 1996 massacre were 'kneejerk'. Photograph: Suzanne Plunkett/Reuters

Nigel Farage has called for firearm laws to be relaxed, calling the current ban on handguns "ludicrous".

The Ukip leader criticised the "kneejerk" restrictions on handguns imposed after the 1996 Dunblane massacre in which Thomas Hamilton killed 16 schoolchildren and a teacher before shooting himself.

The laws were brought in by Sir John Major, the then Tory prime minister, and extended to a total ban by Tony Blair's Labour government in 1997.

Asked about gun controls, Farage said: "I think proper gun licensing is something we've done in this country responsibly and well for a long time, and I think the kneejerk legislation that Blair brought in that meant that the British Olympic pistol team have to go to France to even practise was just crackers.

"If you criminalise handguns then only the criminals carry the guns. It's really interesting that since Blair brought that piece of law in, gun crime doubled in the next five years in this country."

"I think that we need a proper gun licensing system, which to a large extent I think we already have, and I think the ban on handguns is ludicrous."

Ian Mearns, Labour MP for Gateshead, said the comments were an example of "how extremely dangerous Ukip are".

"Families facing a cost-of-living crisis will find it bizarre that one of Nigel Farage's priorities would be to relax Britain's tough gun controls," he added.

The remarks come after Farage was caught in a storm over his party's 2010 election policies, which he entirely disowned this week and later described as "drivel".

The Ukip leader said he had never read the 486 pages of policy documents that were published alongside Ukip's manifesto in 2010, which included plans to repaint trains in traditional colours, bring in a uniform for taxi drivers, and ban offshore windfarms amid fears they could hurt fish.

After rejecting the entire collection of policies, he told LBC 97.3 that they were put together by Ukip's then policy chief David Campbell Bannerman, who is now a Conservative MEP.

"We had a manifesto – and I'm going to put some inverted commas around it – that was produced in 2010. It was basically a series of policy discussion papers that was put up on the website as a manifesto," he said.

"It was 486 pages long. I'm pleased to say that the idiot that wrote it has now left us and joined the Conservatives. They are very welcome to him.

"Malcolm Pearson, who was leader of Ukip at the time, was picked up in interviews for not knowing the manifesto. Of course he didn't know the manifesto. It was 486 pages of excessive detail.

"Eighteen months ago, I said I wanted the whole lot taken down off the website. We reject the whole thing. We'll start again with a blank sheet of paper. So there's nothing new in that story.

"I didn't read it. It was drivel. 486 pages of drivel. I didn't read it and nor did the party leader."

However, his attempt to distance himself from the documents was undermined on Friday, after it emerged he wrote the foreword to the party's manifesto and helped launch it at an event in London.

A video started circulating of Farage speaking as Ukip's chief spokesman at the launch of the manifesto in Westminster in 2010, promising "straight talking" about the party's policies. The Ukip leader also co-authored the summary 16-page manifesto that now appears to have disappeared from the party's website.

The 2010 policy documents – which also appear to have been blocked – detail plans such as capping the number of foreign players in football teams, bringing back "proper dress" at the theatre, scrapping paid maternity leave, allowing corporal punishment in schools and holding referendums on new places of worship such as mosques.

Other ideas included making the Circle line on the London tube circular again, investigating alleged discrimination against white people at the BBC and teaching schoolchildren more about the role of Arabs and African states in slavery.

Farage's attempt to distance Ukip from its manifesto of four years ago may put him under more scrutiny about what the party stands for in the runup to the May elections.

On Thursday, the usually assured politician floundered on live television as he was asked about the party's proposal to scrap Trident, saying he was not sure where the interviewer had got this suggestion from.

When told it was on the Ukip website, he said: "When it comes to websites, I'm not the expert."

Challenged over a compulsory dress code for taxi drivers, he said: "Do we? News to me."

And asked about a policy to repaint trains in traditional colours, Farage said: "I've never read that. I've no idea what you're talking about."

However, he said it was not "obvious nonsense" that he could cut £90bn of taxes and increase spending by £30bn, even though that would be "ambitious".