ShedView: Europe & a collective noun of Private Members

The Conservatives are going to try and use parliamentary time to put forward a bill on Europe that they have no hope of winning.  The only reason it seems for doing this is to show that they will definitely hold a referendum in 2017. “Yes we are going to waste parliamentary time showing we are definitely going to do something we said we were going to do, which you knew we were going to do, because we already said we were going to do it”.

It’s not like the Conservative position was confused. Cameron had said he was going to fight tooth and claw with Europe to grab some powers back – he’ll then put those changes in a referendum to a public vote in 2017, at which point he will then fight wholeheartedly to remain in Europe. Tony Blair said this policy was like putting a gun to your own head. I would have said its more like going to a party, telling everybody you are thinking of leaving the party, shitting on the carpet and then shouting “we’re staying!”.

The draft referendum bill was only published by Cameron to appease backbenchers – who then went ahead anyway to vote with ‘regret’ that such a bill didn’t appear in Queen’s speech. This draft bill will need to be introduced by a private member because Conservatives in government can’t introduce it as they specifically agreed not to whilst in Coalition. Not that the Lib Dems will feel too let down. I’m sure they’ll rather enjoy watching the Conservatives split down the middle again.  Cameron has said he won’t ‘lurch to the right’. But he seems to be being dragged towards some sort of Eurotrash TimeWarp. A lurch to the right. And a jump to the right. And a step to the right. With your hand on your hips – bring your hand to the right.

This is all in response to the continued emergence of UKIP. But is UKIP really that much of a threat? It seems more like a cult led by a cross between a bookmaker and Rupert the Bear. He’s always seen with a pint in his hand – but somebody who you always see with a pint in his hand is usually something of an arsehole – because if when you first see them they’ve got a pint, it’s usually not their first pint. Admittedly you don’t often see Nigel Farage finishing the pint he’s holding – but given that UKIP’s policies seem to be 40% more on defence, doubling the number of prison places although we’ve got highest prison population per capita in Europe, abolition of the top rate of tax and tax everybody at around 25%, more grammar schools, 50% more nuclear power, partial repeal of smoking ban and foxhunting ban – you’re thinking what will the policies look like when he does finish the pint?

Gripes about Europe seem largely twofold – Eastern European immigration. And the Human Rights Act. In terms of immigration, the Home Office were supposedly thinking of advertising in Romania to put Romanians off coming to Britain by telling them such things as how crap our weather is. Surely a better advert would be to tell the Romanians that the UK within Europe has the highest rate of sexually transmitted disease, violent crime, obesity, drug use & depression – and follow it up with a big picture of Jimmy Saville.

But advertising to Romanians not to come is in danger of seriously backfiring. In 1972 Leicester City Council advertised in Uganda saying they didn’t want Ugandans to come to Leicester. But that apparently led to increase in Ugandans coming to Leicester, because until the adverts, most people in Uganda had never heard of Leicester and had no idea they might be able to go there.

One of the reasons cited against immigrants is that they come over here to go on benefits. This is wrong. Immigrants are more likely to pay tax – and less likely to be on benefits [e.g. http://www.itv.com/news/update/2013-03-25/immigrants-significantly-less-likely-to-claim-benefits/]. And the experience of Polish immigration seems to have been a largely positive one – polite, punctual, speak good English and happy doing jobs we’re not keen to do. And what’s the downside – going into a corner shop and finding very cheap polish beer and vodka with names that you can only pronounce when you’re pissed.

As for the Human Rights Act, Chris Grayling the justice minister has said Conservatives would like to repeal it [http://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/381630/Tories-pledge-to-scrap-dangerous-Human-Rights-Act ]. This is the same Chris Grayling who said about welfare reform that it would not make more people homeless but that ‘it may result in individual cases of housing mobility’. What a double-speaking tosspot. Not that I want to see him de-selected as an MP. I’m just hoping his constituents decide to make him an individual case of parliamentary mobility.

What the Human Rights Act prevents us from doing is sending some people back to their home countries if the courts think they will be tortured. We could prosecute them in the UK but often the security services don’t want to because they don’t want to reveal their sources or they don’t think the evidence will stack up in court. So surely the thing to do is to release them and then re-arrest them when we can stack things up in court. Britain always like to feel that it stands for justice. And yes the individuals concerned might not share the same standards of justice as we do . But that’s ultimately why we will win – because our ideas are better than theirs.  And that’s why the Conservatives have lost in the last week – the idea of wasting Parliamentary time, on something that isn’t going to happen, and if, at some stage in the future, it does happen, it was going to happen anyway – smells as badly as Norman Tebbit’s logic that legalising gay marriage might allow him to marry his own son for tax purposes. An extremely frightening prospect. Particularly for his son.