We Must Re-Create The Brexit Movement

The Brexit Movement, prematurely wound down after the EU Referendum, needs re-creating to continue making the case for it, so as to keep pressure on the Government to deliver it.

Note: this is the long (and updated) version of an article first published at The Conservative Woman on Friday 17th November 2017.

Like many ConWom readers, I suspect, I spent the early dawn hours of Friday 24 June 2016 in a state of ecstatic semi-euphoria that the British people had ignored the pro-EU hectoring of the massed ranks of the New Establishment and their globalist backers, and had voted to leave the EU. It didn’t last very long.

Such was the furious reaction of the Remainer-Elites and their compliant media courtiers to their unexpected defeat that, before the day was out, I’d become convinced that while we had won the Referendum battle, we certainly hadn’t yet won the war, and that the celebrations of some, on the assumption that all that was needed to achieve Brexit had been done, were hubristic and perilously premature.

I even tweeted as much, as this selection from my Twitter timeline between early that Friday morning and late that evening shows (with apologies for the profanities…)

But sadly, this is precisely what happened after the Referendum. The Vote Leave campaign wound down: its principal Conservative politicians dived headlong into the internecine strife within their party from which its Remainers emerged predominant, while its successful CEO, Matthew Elliott, decamped to the Legatum Institute.

On the Leave-EU side of the Brexit movement, an insufferably bombastic and complacent Nigel Farage resigned as leader of UKIP to forge a new career in the media as the man who won the Brexit that hasn’t occurred yet. UKIP meanwhile has collapsed into virtual irrelevance after the two most credible replacements were seen off by the residual Farageistes, is now led by a non-entity, and is near-invisible. 

A couple of pro-Brexit campaign groups persist, but active mainly on social-media only. One of them, connected to the Leave-EU movement, has a website where it’s comparatively rare that the space taken up by the text of a blogpost actually exceeds the space taken up by images accompanying it. 

In effect, the loose coalition that delivered that historic vote by 17.4 million people to retrieve their sovereign nation-state popular democracy from supranational unaccountable-elite technocracy, and the communications infrastructure that made it possible, has all but dissolved.

It’s this article’s contention that this has been a catastrophic error: that developments,  not only since the Referendum generally but specificially more recently, are placing Brexit in ever-greater jeopardy: and that the Brexit movement needs to be re-constituted and go back on to a war footing, to fight for what the British people voted for, and even contest if need be the second referendum which I personally believe to be the Unreconciled Remainers’ end-objective.

Although the Leave coalition subsided, the Remain campaign never ceased. Unlike Vote Leave and Leave-EU, the pro-Remain Open Britain campaign has never wound down, and continues to make the anti-Brexit case.

Readers will recall the ugly post-Referendum orgy of anger and hatred directed by ‘liberal’ Remainers and their cheerleaders at Leave voters, the constant attempts by the academic and judicial elite to delegitimise the Referendum result, and the sometimes near-hysterical anti-democratic polemic of, to name only two egregious but typical examples, the philosopher A C Grayling and Labour MP David Lammy, so I need not reiterate them.

It intensified once again during the Gina Miller litigation designed to facilitate a majority pro-Remain House of Commons vetoing the Government’s Article 50 notification. But it lessened somewhat after Parliament voted by 494 votes to 122 to authorise the triggering of Article 50 by 31st March, and matters reached a sort of uneasy equilibrium.

But then came May’s ill-advised, mismanaged General Election. When she and the Conservatives were returned drastically weakened, the Continuity-Remain movement was re-invigorated and its political, civil service, media, academic and judicial channels have visibly stepped up their campaigning by several levels of magnitude. They’re making the running: they look increasingly confident that Brexit really can be stopped and the Referendum reversed, and a majority-Remain Government seems at best half-hearted in response.

Now the fight is intensifying even more with the tortuous passage through Parliament of the EU Withdrawal Bill. The parties of the pro-EU Left have made clear their intention to conduct a guerilla war against it, voting against even the clause setting out its overall purpose, aided by 15 or more Unreconciled-Remainer rebels on the Tory back benches, some with considerably less honourable motivations than others.

In passing, let’s dismiss the disingenuous platitudes so many of these utter about wishing to do no more than “improve” the Bill. In many cases, it’s self-serving cant. They want to keep us in the Single Market and Customs Union, and under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice,  not out of genuine concern for our post-Brexit trade prospects or the position of UK-resident EU nationals, but to engineer either a Brexit-in-name-only, or one which is so close to EU membership that re-joining would seem like a logical step.

Many remain unreconstructed supporters of the EU Project and Britain’s submersion in it. It’s long been clear that, for them, the prime attraction of EU membership lies in is its very anti-democracy: it enables them to put as much policy-making and as many decisions as possible beyond the reach of what they see as the capricious domestic democratic process and an electorate whose views they by-and-large do not share and for whom they harbour a visceral contempt.

If some of the amendments being proposed already seem very technical and legalistic, be prepared: worse is yet to come. In this very detailed long-read published on 12th November at Brexit Central, Professor David Campbell of Lancaster University sets out how the legislative process of Brexit could become almost impenetrably bogged down in the morass of a quasi-constitutional conflict over the supremacy of the Judiciary, or Parliament.

It doesn’t look impossible that it could establish the supremacy of the Judiciary over that of Parliament. Just think what that would do to the prospects of Brexit happening at all. That partly explains, in my view why such an ardent anti-Brexiteer as Labour’s Keir Starmer is so keen to maintain the jurisdiction in post-Brexit Britain of the European Court of Justice.

Professor Campbell concludes that we may need an Assertion Of Parliamentary Sovereignty Act to make Brexit tamper-proof from judicial-activist usurpation of the powers of Parliament to implement the express instruction of the electorate.

If the EU Withdrawal Bill is set to have a rocky passage through Parliament, imagine how difficult it would be for a minority Government to push legislation, whose effect would be to prevent the pro-Remain Judiciary from blocking Brexit on constitutional grounds, through a marginally pro-Remain Commons and a majority pro-Remain despite unelected Lords.

Another potential complication emerged on 14th November, with a European Court of Justice ruling that EU citizens who become British do not lose the right to bring a non-EU spouse from a non-EU country to live with them in the UK. The continuing post-Brexit application of ECJ human-rights rulings is figuring strongly in debate on the EU Withdrawal Bill, so this is a further area where continued pro-Brexit advocacy is lacking.

May herself arguably opened a new front in the anti-Brexit campaign with her speech to the Lord Mayor’s Banquet on Monday 13th November. Yes, it is possible to interpret her remarks on Russian interference in Western elections as a desperate ploy to divert attention from her domestic travails: but it’s also possible to interpret it as a fresh attempt to de-legitimise by association the entire Brexit vote, especially the evening before the EU Withdrawal Bill was re-introduced into Parliament, with every prospect of the Unreconciled Remainers on her own back benches determined to vote it down on any pretext?

The signs are ominous. The EU is refusing to move on to talks about a post-Brexit trade relationship unless its exorbitant financial demands are agreed. Each UK concession on these is banked, not reciprocated, and met with merely a request for a larger sum. On 20th November, it even had the temerity to demand in effect an EU veto on UK domestic tax, environmental and business-regulatory policy after Britain has left the EU.    

Its intransigence is being encouraged by a UK media overwhelmingly hostile to Brexit and resolved to paint it in the worst possible light. Sir Humphrey, for whom Britain’s EU membership has been axiomatic for 40 years and thinks Brexit a monumental folly of crude populism-appeasement, is dragging his feet.

The Government is being forced by its weakness and wafer-thin, DUP-dependent, majority into unwanted concessions. It’s conceding votes in Parliament on aspects of Brexit which, with the clear instruction delivered by the Referendum result, should no longer be in play at all. In these circumstances, that it might, to win a crucial vote, concede a second Referendum, either on the terms of our exit, or even on the decision itself to leave, can’t in my view be ruled out.

If that comes about, the Remainers will have achieved what has been their prime objective – and also the EU’s, for it has an unsavoury record of ignoring plebiscites with unwelcome outcomes and requiring electorates to vote again and again until they come up with the “right” answer.

And then what? Unlike Vote Leave and Leave-EU, the pro-Remain Open Britain campaign has never wound down, and continues to make the anti-Brexit case. Continuity-Remain could gear-up for a second EU Referendum comparatively quickly. The money would come flooding in.

It’s victory, though, would be far from a foregone conclusion. Since June 2016, the electorate has seen the EU moving faster towards ever-greater integration and centralisation in ways the Remainers denied were even being contemplated. It’s seen how so many of the scaremongering predictions of Project Fear failed to materialise. A second Referendum could be won with another Leave vote.

But not without a campaign organisation. Even without a second Referendum, Brexit feels in enough danger to justify the reconstitution of the Leave coalition, if only to continue to make the case it made so effectively in the first half of 2016, and hold the Government’s feet to the fire. The Brexit movement needs to be re-created.

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Tax-Havens: Also A Force For Good

Far from being solely amoral, piratical facilitators of crime, kleptocracy and evasion, so-called tax-havens in fact also play a valuable role in promoting economic efficiency and curbing State-predation  

Tax havens Panama CitySo-called tax-havens have a bad reputation. In public and political minds, influenced almost wholly by the clamour of either wilfully-ignorant or Leftist-populist media and political hacks, they’re all, without exception, places solely where unsavoury associates of autocrats and plutocrats soak up the sun in between furtively stashing suitcase-loads of ill-gotten gains in anonymous numbered accounts.

As we’ve recently seen all too starkly. Because one of the main features to become glaringly obvious in the Panama Papers leaks, and in the domestic political furore in the UK which has followed it, is a self-evidently widespread inability (or possibly unwillingness) of the politico-media class and commentariat to differentiate the few truly-nefarious tax-havens from the more numerous well-run and properly-regulated offshore financial centres (OFCs) – they are decidedly not the same thing: or to distinguish illegal loot-hiding, money-laundering and tax-evasion, by corrupt despots, criminals and others, from the entirely legal use of OFCs in perfectly legitimate investment and tax-avoidance.

As so often, reality is both more complex, and more nuanced, than media-driven populist perception.

For a start, on the basic issue of definitions. The OECD lists four criteria which a territory or jurisdiction must fulfil in order to qualify as a tax-haven, as opposed to an OFC:

  1. Imposing no, or only nominal, taxes, even domestically
  2. Lack of transparency
  3. Laws and practices that discourage or even prevent automatic exchange of [tax-purposes] information with other governments on the beneficiaries of its tax regime
  4. No stipulation that the activity domiciled in its jurisdiction be substantive

On these criteria, there are relatively few true tax-havens: even the OECD lists only four, and, on its Automatic Exchange Of Information criteria, a mere two.

Tax havens Waterfront Grand CaymanMoreover, and more importantly, the vast majority of the Crown Dependency and British Overseas Territory OFCs, which Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn incorrectly labelled as tax-havens and proposed arbitrarily supplanting their democratically-elected governments to place them under direct rule from Westminster, don’t even fall into the “tax-havens” category at all.

So when no-one seriously opposes measures to prevent, detect and punish both those who undertake criminal tax-evasion, money-laundering and loot-concealment and the few residual disreputable genuine tax-havens which do facilitate them, the real objections by governments, commentators and so-called social-justice campaigners to the legitimate use of OFCs or any low-tax jurisdictions must originate from elsewhere.

Those objections arise from two principal, and unsurprising, sources. Firstly, the misunderstanding, derived from popular fallacies, of the economic good that low-tax jurisdictions promote: and secondly, the competitive threat they represent to the otherwise-unconstrained power of high-taxing, high-spending states to extract taxes from their economies and populations almost ad infinitum.

To address one of the most popular fallacies – that money deposited in OFCs or low-tax jurisdictions is somehow irretrievably “lost” to the global economy. This is just arrant nonsense.

First, it wrongly assumes there is a fixed amount of global capital whose geographical distribution creates a zero-sum game, where any partial deployment of it to Location A must automatically reduce that available in Locations B-Z. In fact global capital is both dynamic, and fungible, and continues being created in those parts of the so-called “losing” mainstream onshore economies that aren’t sensitive to geographically-differing tax rates.

Tax Havens BermudaSecond, it assumes that all capital deployed to low-tax jurisdictions stays there, static. This isn’t necessarily the case – small islands generally don’t have much potential for domestic infrastructure investment or large-scale economic activity – and it’s especially not the case in a period of low or even negative real interest rates. Although the total of assets located in an OFC may change only slowly, that ignores the stock-vs-flow issue, where many of its components parts may be being directed into other forms of investment in other locations, and subsequently repatriated, on a regular basis.

Inasmuch, too, as the location of capital and/or assets in the low-tax jurisdiction encourages their investment to generate a return not achievable if based in a higher-tax jurisdiction, the OFC is actually promoting more FDI in the investment location. In this way, the availability of low-tax OFCs makes them conducive to an increase in overall international investment and in global capital, not its depletion. They are not “poaching more than their fair share” of international capital, but acting as a conduit for its more productive and optimal investment back into mainstream onshore economies.

Third, international systems of taxation don’t always cope well with avoiding the dangers of double-taxation. If you’re an investor (and remember, you may well be, even via an ISA or your employer’s pension scheme) in a fund set up in a country that levies a withholding tax on redemption payouts, but those redemption payouts aren’t taxable domestically in your own country, then recovering the tax that’s been wrongly withheld from you is going to be difficult. By providing a tax-neutral environment, low-tax OFCs perform a valuable role in making sure that your investment, even an indirect one, isn’t taxed twice. That benefits you.

Tax havens Mossack Fonseca PanamaFourth, the fallacy assumes the “losing” country is automatically forced to raise its own domestic tax-rates to replace the tax-revenue “lost” when assets are relocated to a low-tax OFC. Countries, however, don’t operate in isolation from their international environment: lower tax-rates in other jurisdictions act as a restraint on mainstream onshore governments’ own tax-rate policies. Both firms and workers in those economies therefore benefit in purely micro-economic terms from overseas low-tax OFCs, in the form of lower taxes domestically than might be levied otherwise.

Next, low-tax OFCs also fulfil a vital function in providing a safe harbour for wealth legitimately created and held, against the tendency of inherently corrupt, dictatorial  & kleptocratic regimes to predate on it.

Depending on the definitions chosen, there are approximately 170-190 countries in the world: but only a minority are full democracies where the government is subject to the rule of law and scrutiny by a free Press. The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index 2014 in fact lists a mere 24 as full democracies and a further 52 as flawed, out of a total of the 167 rated, leaving over 90 regimes described as either hybrid or (the majority) authoritarian. Perhaps not surprisingly, there’s a correlation between the latter categories and the Transparency International Corruptions Index 2015’s assessment of the most corrupt countries.

Most & Least Corrupt Countries 2014

These are countries where even if, against all the odds, an honest entrepreneur, investor or businessman manages legitimately to amass capital and assets, they are liable to be arbitrarily seized at any time by the regime, either unashamedly or via a quasi-criminal or complicit judiciary, and confiscated. By existing at all, low-tax OFCs furnish a safe refuge for such assets. In this role, rather than encouraging or facilitating corruption, they are in fact operating so as to thwart it.

Benefits of Tax CompetitionLastly, low-tax OFCs form a valuable macro-economic brake on the overall ability of excess-spending, excess-taxing governments to otherwise levy punitively-high taxes without restraint. In the absence of the tax-rate competition provided by lower-taxing jurisdictions, it’s unlikely that governments, viscerally-disinclined on both ideological and electoral grounds to curtail State intervention and largesse, would not take the opportunity to impose economically-damaging higher taxes generally. 

It’s primarily for this reason that the member-states of supranational political unions like the EU are so enthused by the prospect of cross-border harmonisation of taxes, or centralised democracy-proof pan-European fiscal control, as the corollary to curbing the legitimate activities of low-tax offshore financial centres. 

The vocal but unthinking critics of low-tax OFCs, in their haste to condemn what they see as the obvious, miss a point – that they are also a force for good. The existence, and legitimate activities, of low-tax OFCs both promote greater economic, capital-allocation and investment efficiency, and indirectly benefit employers, employees and consumers in the mainstream onshore economies by protecting them from excess State predation.     

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Why The Red Lights All Show Green

In theory, Environmentalism ought to be a conservative, or at least apolitical, philosophy: but, in its politicised Climatism mutation, it’s been captured and exploited by the Left and Centre-Left, as a means to pursue Leftist ends 

Between small-“c” conservatism, especially in its classical Burkean tradition, and environmentalism in that word’s true, literal sense, there should, on the face of it, be a natural philosophical affinity.

Burkean conservative thought holds that society makes better progress, and simultaneously better preserves its legacy for future generations, not by the tearing-down of its structures and customs in orgies of radical, revolutionary fervour: but by preserving and perpetuating, though also adapting, established social, political and cultural institutions that have stood the test of time.

Englands green & pleasant landIt contends that the environment in which we find ourselves, not only the social, economic and cultural but also the physical, is not ours exclusively to re-make afresh solely out of desire to indulge the narcissism of the immediate, or even just to satisfy present needs; that we are not its absolute, unfettered owners, but trustees, stewards and custodians: that the corollary of societal betterment is an obligation to safeguard for those who have gone before the inheritance which they bequeathed to us, and in turn to pass it on as our legacy to generations yet unborn.

On this argument, then, environmentalism – in that word’s true, literal, sense – should be primarily a concern of philosophical conservatives – even its “conservation” synonym suggests as much.

Yet, because of the well-documented hijacking of the environmental movement by the hard-Left following the fall of the Berlin Wall, it’s now across that part of the ideological spectrum that spans from far/hard-Leftism to Cameroon ‘Liberal’-Centrism where the new politicised Environmentalism predominates.

cover climatism steve gorehamA better name for it than “Environmentalism” is Climatism, after Steve Goreham’s excellent book of the same name, debunking its dubious scientific claims and political prescriptions. It bears little resemblance to Environmentalism in its original, true, conservation-oriented roots: Climatism is its mutation into the more familiar, stridently-collectivist, statist, anti-capitalist, intolerant-of-dissent, authoritarian secular Green Religion – eco-socialism, eco-fascism, eco-communism, or whatever specific eco-variety of Leftism one cares to assign it.

And so, unsurprisingly, it’s politicians ranging from Hard-Left to ‘Liberal’-Centre – perhaps we should just call them Climatists as convenient shorthand, to save time agonising over whether they’re eco-socialists, eco-fascists, eco-communists, or just eco-opportunists – who seem regularly to place the most reliance on it, to justify almost anything. As can be seen from merely a quick selection from the UK political scene in the last month or so.

natalie bennett green party spring conf 2016First out of the traps, as you might expect, are those über-Climatists, the Green Party. In her keynote speech to its 2016 Spring Conference, leader Natalie Bennett employed well-worn Climatism-misanthropic memes to bemoan both the availability of relatively-inexpensive, reliable energy, and the greater mobility and travel opportunities which our 21st century prosperity has brought within the reach of vast numbers:

“The government is encouraging, subsidising, the frackers, the oil-drillers, the destructive open-cut coal miners. It’s promoting new roads and new airport runways”

Not content with that, Bennett went on to propose in effect  State control, not merely of monetary policy, but money creation itself, and also its deployment into the economy:

“We must build a future with a new system of money creation that puts resources into the real economy rather than casino finance”  

Red Ed pro-EU speech Mar 16But here, for example, adducing Climatism to advocate Britain’s continued membership of the EU, is Labour’s Red (or rather, Green-Left) Ed Miliband – progenitor of arguably the most damaging piece of legislation ever passed by Parliament, and written at his invitation by Friends Of The Earth’s deep-Green ideologue Bryony Worthington, the 2008 Climate Change Act – in his recent pro-Remain speech:

“That’s why we need to be in the European Union. Take the most important threat of all: climate change. It just isn’t realistic to think one country can do this on its own. It’s only EU legislation that is forcing any action from this Government”

There are, incidentally, at least three blatant falsehoods contained in those short four sentences, but for the purposes of this argument, we’ll let that pass.

Jezza Corbyn straight talkingHere too, this time enlisting Climatism in the cause of State-directed investment, control of markets, and curbs on business freedom, is Labour’s Hard-Left leader Jeremy Corbyn:

“We need a state that invests. This means we can shape markets and shape the goods they produce. All of this must be driven by democracy in the production of energy.”

Tim Farron Spring Conf 2016Now, also embracing Climatism to justify a vote to stay in the EU, comes Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron, in his speech to the party’s Spring Conference:

“We face vast international challenges: climate change, the refugee crisis, a global economy. Do we best tackle these together or on our own? We are stronger together. We are Stronger In.”

aileem mcleod snp spring conf 2016Next up, citing Climatism as justification for greater wealth redistribution and overseas aid, administered and dispensed at one remove from full democratic accountability and control, is the SNP’s Scottish Government “Climate-Change” Minister, (suitably-attired in Green, naturally) Aileen McLeod:

“We have doubled the innovative Climate Justice Fund, a global first that is supporting some of the world’s poorest communities to deal with the impact of climate change”

Nicky Morgan 4

Finally, impeccably metropolitan-Cameroon ‘Liberal’-Centrist Education Secretary Nicky Morgan, blatantly and desperately recruiting Climatism as a helper to try and win over the self-appointed trendy and the youth vote in the Government’s increasingly flailing and fear-mongering campaign to keep Britain in the EU, in her pro-Remain speech of 29 March:

“Whether it’s tackling poverty or protecting the environment and tackling climate change, young people know that our voice and impact are magnified by playing a leading role through the EU” 

It’s nigh-on impossible not to be struck by the remarkable, and consistent, similarity between many of the prescriptions advanced by Climatism and the Climatists, and policies that are recognisable Hard-Left, Centre-Left and even ‘Liberal’-Centrist shibboleths, but for which they struggle to gain popular consent if advanced openly via the normal democratic process. To document the main ones:

Democracy-bypassing supranationalism.

Unlike UKIP and the Conservative Right, all the parties referenced explicitly favour removing swathes of public-policy decision-making away from domestic dependency on voter consent to mainly unelected, unaccountable, anti-democratic supranational bureaucracies.

The SNP knows its peculiar variety of nationalist state-socialism, while presently-dominant in Scotland, has minimal, if any, political traction south of the border. The LibDems and the Greens are psephologically near-irrelevant. Labour, in its post-Blairite iteration and despite its lip-service platitudes, has never really trusted democracy to back its policies since its three successive shattering defeats of the 1980s. The currently-reigning social-democratic, paternalist, ‘liberal’-Cameroon wing of the Conservatives openly disdains the Party’s robust classical-liberal pluralists.

Club of Rome New Enemy quote

To all of these, the attraction of ensuring the implementation of electorally-unobtainable policy, by re-locating its origination and direction well away from vulnerability to democratic rejection, is irresistible. And what better ostensible justification for it could there be than the supranational regionalist or even globalist eco-stewardship they assert is inseparable from Climatism?

Thus, their near-unanimous support for, in particular, Britain’s continued EU membership, with its incipient pan-EU supranational energy-union and emissions-trading scheme which Green campaign groups still insist is not climate-policy at all, but a neo-industrial policy.

Greater State control of monetary policy, economy and markets.

Hard-Left Labour and the Greens are at least quite open about it. Between them, they overtly intend, in the name of Climatism, a much more economically-interventionist and controlling State: one that not only usurps control of monetary policy from an independent central bank, but also inclines towards almost directing producers what to produce and even consumers what to buy. As near to Soviet-style central planning, in fact, as the West has seen since that model’s deserved ignominious collapse in failure in the 1980s.

But they’re by no means alone. All the featured parties favour more State involvement in the economy to some degree or other, and in some way or other. Think of the LibDems’ Green Investment Bank: the Cameroons’ risibly ill-designed and ill-fated Green Deal: and the eco-benefits claimed by Osborne to justify his ludicrously-expensive and crony-corporatist deal with EFD and China over the Hinkley Point nuclear power facility.

Higher Taxes.

Climatism offers ample opportunities with which to justify the increase in the State’s overall tax take, and therefore its share of national GDP, that so beguiles the hard-Left, the Fabian “Progressives”, and the paternalist ‘Liberal’-Centrists alike. Beguiles them, because common to them all are the Left-ish –

  1. assumption of the State as indispensable and irreplaceable enabler:
  2. conviction that the State really does know better than the citizen how his money should be spent: and
  3. innate distrust of leaving wealth, as Gladstone put it, to “fructify in the pockets of the people”.

Higher eco-taxes on petrol and diesel, in addition to excise duty and VAT, which mean that tax of one kind or another accounts for up to 70% of the pump price. Green levies and taxes aimed at “carbon” reduction, to be recouped from domestic consumers, and which load their energy bills by up to 15%. Environmental obligations imposed on businesses, but which inevitably have to be passed on to the purchasers or consumers of their products in higher prices. Air Passenger Duty, supposedly a targeted incentive for reduced “carbon” emissions, but in reality an indiscriminate, scatter-gun, catch-all tax on overseas holidays and business.

These aren’t direct taxes, in the sense that they’re visible deductions from monthly or weekly pay-slips: they’re more insidious, in that they’re indirect, or hidden, secondary-effect, stealth taxes. But here’s the sting – they still come out of the poor taxpayer’s same wallet or bank account, and they still wind up in the same Treasury till for disposing by the State that, remember, knows best. Leftists of all persuasions love that.

Forced Income and Wealth Redistribution.

Climatism’s high apostles make no secret of the redistributive aims of the secular Green Religion. Here, for example, are Ottmar Edenhofer, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group III, and former Canadian Environment Minister, Christine Stewart: they make no attempt to conceal the true, socialist-redistributive objectives of globally-directed, nation-state democracy-immune Climatism.Edenhofer-Stewart comp 2

It doesn’t require a great leap of the imagination to discern the same sentiments in Bennett’s “putting resources into the real economy”, or the SNP’s “Climate Justice” Fund: as Friedman, especially, shows us, any movement with “Justice” as its suffix is almost unfailingly in reality a campaign for wealth/income abstraction and redistribution via State-coercion. And the universal support among our chosen Party luminaries for Britain’s continuing EU membership is a pointer, too: the EU seeks ever-more control over member-states’ economic and fiscal policies, with greater distribution explicitly included in its aims.

Curtailment of Personal Freedom.

The broad church that constitutes the Left in its widest sense distrusts individual liberty: philosophically, it remains in thrall to the Rousseauian concept of the human born pure but corrupted by his surroundings: to the inherent perfectibility of human society, given only sufficient power residing in the hands of the State. Climatism furnishes myriad openings to justify the extension of restrictions on personal freedom – and in how noble and incontrovertible a cause! – nothing less than the salvation of the planet itself.

Thus the increasing exhortations against flying (remember the Green Party’s Caroline Lucas, equating flying to Spain on holiday with murder by stabbing?), and the public implicit shaming of those whom the self-appointed arbiters of eco-propriety deem to have exceeded their allocated entitlement: the vocal disapproval of food choices on the laughably-flawed “logic” of grazing-space or food-miles: the drive to install smart-meters or third-party control systems into private homes to monitor, and even remotely-curb, energy consumption.

 Intolerance and Suppression of Dissent.

Few political movements have exhibited the vicious intolerance of dissent from the Green orthodoxy for which Climatism is, rightly, reviled – with the possible exception, that is, of those found in totalitarian states.

Dispute the received wisdom, that the mere 3% of atmospheric CO2 that results from human activity is catastrophically dangerous while the residual 97% that results entirely from natural climatological phenomena somehow isn’t, and you will be met, not with an attempted explanation (because there isn’t one, apart from the basic premise being wrong), but ad-hominem abuse, usually including an adverse judgment or three disparaging your moral worth as well as your motives.

Challenge why global average temperatures have been flat for 19 years despite continued rising atmospheric CO2, and you will be called, not an adherent to Popper’s Scientific Method, but the catch-all insult of “denier” – which is quite rich, considering that Climatists, to cling to the Green Orthodoxy, are themselves forced to deny 4½ billion years of more or less constant climate change, ever since the Earth’s formation, and often far more dramatic than any over which Climatism professes to agonise.

Confront the quaint notion that increased floods from (entirely natural) climate change are better prevented, not by improving flood defences but subsidising inefficient, expensive renewables off the backs of the poor’s energy bills, and you will be treated, not with discussion but with ferocious scorn and derision (but little else).

This is pure Leftist technique, the late 20th/early 21st century manifestation of what’s in Alinsky’s Rules For Radicals (from which Obama, incidentally, draws so much of his inspiration). “Your views are so self-evidently morally-repugnant (alternative: “driven solely by greed“)”, goes the Leftist narrative, “that they absolve me from any obligation even to debate the issue with you at all, especially as my aims are noble and altruistic, so that their ends in any case justify whatever means are required to realise them“. It’s called Shutting Down The Argument. Leftists (and Climatists) deploy it routinely.

None of this multi-faceted consistency of aims and policies between Leftism and Climatism should surprise, given the historical circumstances in which they came together. The 1989 collapse of Soviet-style communism and the end of the Cold War deprived the Left almost overnight of the models – economic, cultural, societal and geo-political – which for 70 years it had revered as inspiration for and validation of its state-authoritarian, collectivist, anti-capitalist, anti-Western philosophy.

The nascent environmental movement was the ideal candidate to replace it. It offered, not just an alternative justification for totalitarian-inclined, anti-capitalist, anti-Western, anti-freedom disaffection, but one with an even wider potential: this time, the oppressed victims, deemed to be in need of salvation from exploitation and subjugation by liberty, capitalism and free-markets, were not merely the downtrodden working-class masses: they were humanity in its entirety, and even the Earth itself.

Green New Red 3As described and referenced above, the takeover of the environmental movement by the hard-Left proceeded over the next 10 years or so, and it continues to this day, to the extent that Green and Socialist policies and outlooks are now virtually indistinguishable from each other on the Left of the politico-ideological spectrum.

It’s why the prescriptions advanced by and in the name of the secular Green Religion of Climatism bear such an uncanny, but strictly non-accidental resemblance to what Leftist political-economy has long advocated. Green really is the New Red. The red lights of politics, from the palest tinge of pink to the deepest shade of crimson, are all showing Green.

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The Incredible Shrinking Chancellor

Formerly seen – not least by himself – as a master strategist and astute political operator, George Osborne’s authority is eroding before our eyes

“Events, dear boy, events”, former Prime Minister Harold Macmillan is reputed to have replied when asked to predict the factor most likely to derail his political plans. He meant “the unexpected”: in modern political parlance, the “unknown unknowns” that can, and almost always do, erupt, unforeseen, seemingly out of nowhere, to blow the most carefully-crafted plans off course.

Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne could be forgiven for spending more time than usual ruefully recalling Macmillan’s remarks at the moment. Because, since the start of 2016, his plans for his own political advancement have been derailed spectacularly, to an extent which, on 1st January, he can surely scarcely have imagined. Yes, partly by some of those unknown unknowns: but, ironically, also by his own blunders. His stature and authority are crumbling astonishingly, virtually on a daily basis.

Osborne with shadesYet, contemplated from Osborne’s New Year’s Day breakfast table, 2016 must have looked satisfyingly promising. First, Budget Day on 16 March would give him the opportunity to continue the centre-leftwards tack started in his 2015 Autumn Statement, designed to capitalise politically on Corbynite Labour’s charge towards hard-Leftism, by hoovering up disaffected Blairites and Labour moderates into the Cameroon social-democracy-leaning Big Tent.

Second, David Cameron would round off his tour of European capitals pressing for EU reforms at the Brussels EU Heads of Government Summit over the weekend of 19-21 February. True, he’d return with only trifling and essentially cosmetic reforms. But, accompanied by some lurid Brexit-alarmism, a Cabinet united in campaigning for Remain, and a “helpful” media narrative, they should be just enough to persuade a risk-averse British electorate to vote to stay in the EU. Clearing the way for Cameron to resign in triumph as Prime Minister and Party Leader some time in 2017 or 2018, and leaving Osborne in pole position to see off any  challenge and ascend to No 10.

Except it hasn’t quite worked out like that. In fact, it’s rapidly going pear-shaped. “Events, dear boy, events”.

Take the EU “re-negotiation”. Yes, Cameron did indeed return from Brussels with a “reform” deal: but one of such abject and transparent paucity, ineffectiveness and unenforceability, that it had unravelled, and been both rightly exposed and excoriated for it, within 72 hours. And to such an extent that the Government’s official Remain campaign strategy adopted, almost from Day 1, what had been hoped would be the back-up strategy of Project Fear. Any plausible pretence that there is a “reformed” EU at all has been dropped. Brexit-scaremongering Project Fear, to all intents and purposes, is the  Remain campaign.            

Conservatives - Careers before countryThen, from Osborne’s point of view, came the bombshell. He must surely have reckoned that both Boris Johnson and Michael Gove would be reliably on side, fully signed up to the Government’s official position, as fellow-advocates for Britain staying in even the risibly non-“reformed” EU that was on offer: Boris because of his general pro-EU and internationalist outlook, including a desire to see Turkey in the EU, and Gove because of his personal loyalty to Cameron. Before the Brussels summit of 19-21 February, even this political cartoon was circulating: the Party heavy-hitters, including Boris and Gove, lined up, Dad’s Army style, in Captain Camwaring’s pro-EU Home Guard platoon.

Not any more. Because in fact, the opposite happened. Boris, after much public and private agonising, declared for Leave, and Gove, with what must be one of the finest personal statements to grace British politics for a very long time, did the same.

Those two “defections”, I suspect, rocked Osborne back on his heels: not just on account of their unexpectedness, but also because of their implications, both for the EU Referendum itself, and consequentially, for Osborne’s own political future. On the Leave campaign, to Boris’ public appeal is added Gove’s principled integrity and intellectual heft. They make the outcome of the Referendum far closer and far less predictable: that the Government and Remain could actually lose it, and that Leave could triumph in a vote for Brexit, really isn’t beyond the bounds of possibility.

If that happens, despite his bluster, Cameron would, politically, be Dead Man Walking: and given that their political ideologies and fortunes have been so inextricably linked for 25 years, that means Osborne would too. Even with a wafer-thin Remain win, Cameron’s credibility, and thus Osborne’s, will be seriously damaged: the latter’s, possibly fatally, with intra-Party talk already being that the next leader will almost certainly have to come from the Party’s pro-Brexit wing.

osborne looking grimNo wonder Osborne has suddenly seemed such diminished figure, thrown off balance, ever since. His prospects of following his planned and mapped-out route of a smooth ascent to No 10 in the wake of a benignly-departing David Cameron have suffered a severe blow: they may even be receding, a victim of Boris’ burgeoning popularity with Party members and activists since his ostentatious and publicity-maximising conversion to the Brexit cause.

And it gets worse. Because, intriguingly, in only the barely three weeks that have elapsed since the denouement of these events, a gaffe-prone Osborne has been either been caught out and had to retract hubristic claims, or forced to execute a sharp policy U-turn in an humiliating climb-down, or experienced an open challenge to his authority and rebellion from his own backbenchers, on no fewer than seven separate issues.

First, the Google tax deal. A clearly pleased-with-himself Osborne made extravagant claims for the £130 million agreement he had reached with Google, presumably on the calculation of reaping political capital from the vocal lobby opposed to any (entirely legal) tax-avoidance by multinationals. That soon unravelled, however, with the revelation that it covered a full 10 years of back taxes and amounted to an effective tax rate of only 3%, against the UK standard corporation tax rate of 20%. It concluded with scathing criticism of Osborne from his own backbenchers, both the Commons Public Accounts and Treasury Committees launching separate inquiries, and both Google and HMRC being asked to re-appear before themGoogle, meanwhile, are reportedly furious with Osborne for making self-aggrandising claims which have given them additional poor publicity.

Second, the claims of extra tax revenue from the lower top rate. Osborne boasted  that an additional £8 billion in tax revenue had been generated from the reduction in the top rate of tax from 50% to 45%, attributing the entire amount to the rate change. Unfortunately for him, that was quickly challenged as “precarious” by none other than the Institute for Fiscal Studies, on the grounds that it ignored any deferment factor and was more a one-off gain than a systemically-permanent windfall. We have heard no more about it.

Third, the planned tax-raid on pensions. Osborne had been planning a very Gordon-Brownian stealth-tax: to abolish higher-rate tax relief on pensions, and lower the threshold at which money invested in a pension pot starts to attract high, almost penal, rates of tax. The entirely predictable backbench uproar duly ensued, with Osborne’s plans being rightly denounced as simultaneously both economically-incompetent – disincentivizing prudent retirement saving – and politically-inept – targeting a natural Tory electoral constituency. They have been dropped.

hinkley Point comp 2Fourth, Hinkley Point Nuclear Power Station. This was announced with much fanfare by Osborne on his September 2015 trade visit to China. The deal, was, though, subject to a £2 billion taxpayer guarantee to EDF, without which they would have struggled to secure project finance, and immediately attracted informed criticism because of its capital intensiveness and cost per MWh of output. It’s now emerged that the building cost has roughly trebled, the strike-price per MWh for its output has doubled, and the start date has been put back 8 years: all within 6 months. The calls for it to be scrapped as an expensive and uneconomic white elephant are growing.

G20 vs EU How Do They Cope via Julia H-BFifth, the G20 warning against Brexit. At Osborne’s initiative, the plan was for the G20 group of advanced economies to warn Britain against exit from the EU. That quickly collapsed, to widespread derision, when commentators pointed out the inconvenient fact that 16 of the 20 G20 countries are actually outside the EU, yet self-evidently still manage to be in the top 20 economies globally. Prompting the question: how could they then credibly warn Britain, the 5th largest, that it must be inside the EU to ensure its very survival? Silence.

Sixth, this week’s Sunday Trading liberalisation débacle. Despite being warned of the likelihood of both the SNP yet again ignoring their pledge not to vote in Westminster on what are devolved matters in Scotland, and an incipient Tory backbench rebellion, Osborne nevertheless determined to push the Bill through the Commons. When it became apparent that the SNP and Osborne’s own backbenchers would indeed carry out their threats, there was a ham-fisted attempt to water down the Bill’s provisions, culminating in an humiliating rebuff from the Speaker who refused to accept a related Motion.  SNP MPs duly supported Labour, the Tory rebels duly rebelled, and an embarrassing defeat for the Government, plus the loss of the liberalisation measures, was the outcome.

Seventh, another Tory backbench revolt, against another Osborne tax rise, this time on motor fuel duty. Despite 74% of the pump cost of a litre of diesel or petrol now comprising tax, Osborne, it appears, had planned to use next Wednesday’s Budget to increase the duty even further. Cue the now normal resistance movement, by up to 150 MPs, and the plans for a hike in the duty are reportedly being shelved.

These kinds of setbacks aren’t unprecedented: Osborne has had wobbles before. Think of the Pasty Tax in the 2012 Omnishambles Budget: a previous attempt to raise fuel duty with effect from January 2013 which similarly had to be abandoned on backbench pressure: and the tax-credits imbroglio of 2015, when an Osborne converted, we were told, to “listening mode” was equally forced into an embarrassing retreat.

osborne looking grim 2But Osborne’s present troubles look and feel different, quantitatively and qualitatively. Quantitatively, because they’ve been coming thick and fast – no fewer than seven, and in just three weeks, which, I’d venture to suggest, is unprecedented. Qualitatively, because they contain an element which hasn’t been present in earlier iterations – a ready willingness, particularly among Tory backbenchers, not merely to voice misgivings, but vocally and robustly to resist, rebel, criticise and take to the media to denounce the Chancellor’s proposals in no uncertain terms, both as economically-disadvantageous and politically-inept.

The latter charge being especially ironic, and wounding. Because Osborne is, above all else, a Political Chancellor, far too prone to seeing virtually every aspect of economic and fiscal stewardship through the prism of partisan political triangulation. The shameless stealing of Blairite clothing in the form of a National Living Wage (aka, arbitrarily raising the floor price of labour to employers by State diktat) is but the latest example.

Osborne has long been lauded – not least by himself – as a political master-strategist. But, in truth, his excessive concentration on it, to the detriment of his economic and fiscal stewardship, has had decidedly mixed results. He’s been allowed to get away with increasing the National Debt by more in five years than even that preposterous antithesis of fiscal rectitude, Gordon Brown, managed in thirteen, largely because, when only 6% of the population know the difference between deficit and debt, few votes were risked by it.

Yet being master-strategist for two elections, 2010’s not won, even against Brown, and 2015’s, not expected to be won, but won mainly out of voters’ fear of a Labour-SNP government, tell a different story. As does the prevalence of the “austerity” narrative, despite the lamentable pace of deficit reduction. During the 2010-2015 Coalition, the overall rate of public spending reduction was a miserable 0.4% pa in real terms: supposed political master-strategist Osborne, however, succeeded in being portrayed as the heartless architect of Victorian-workhouse austerity, for the macro-fiscal equivalent of reducing a weekly £200 shopping bill by 80p.

So the last month’s acceleration in the decline of Osborne’s standing is partly an overdue reckoning: but its litany of serial hubris, politico-economic miscalculation, U-turn and climb-down, in just 20-odd days since the shock of Boris’ & Gove’s defection to the Brexit cause, have notably exacerbated its visibility. The wider appreciation of his Brown-like inveterate political-meddling and fiscal neo-Keynesianism, stealth-taxes and all, mean that the “Osbrowneomics” and “Osbrowne” memes are gaining wider currency.

osborne looking hauntedAs each successive Tory backbench anti-Osborne rebellion yields results, his critics are becoming more emboldened. They’re getting a taste for it, scenting blood. Osborne suddenly looks at bay, haunted, error-prone, wan, vulnerable, yesterday’s future, a fast-diminishing figure, in a way few can have predicted on 1st January.

He really is The Incredible Shrinking Chancellor, his stature and authority crumbling daily before our eyes.

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