A very British problem

Once again Tory Eurosceptics are demanding for a referendum on the EU, powers to be repatriated and even more protection for the City.

Once again they are wrong.

The coalition agreement has stated that a referendum is only applicable when more powers are to be transferred from the UK to Europe, there is no suggestion that this will be the case. Secondly the main issue is for the Euro zone to get its house in order as it is critical to the world economy.

Instead of sniping from the sidelines the UK should be working as hard as possible to steer the Euro into a long term sustainable position, rather than taking sticking plaster solutions. I do agree that inevitably we will need to decide whether the UK is in or out, but now is not the time, there are bigger issues at stake than our own sense of world importance and self rule. We either want to be in “the club”, have peripheral membership but refrain from constant attempts to have things on our term all the time or get out completely.

Lastly, although the City is important to the UK economy, we do seem to bend over backwards for the financial sector and are prone to their lobbying tactics, when more important is the rebalancing of the economy. Come on actions not just words on a new economy.

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How political parties are funded

As I’m preparing a race night in Shepherds Bush on Monday for London based friends and supporters for the campaign in Bromsgrove it occurred to me that the few hundred I’ll make will pale in comparison to events the two main parties. Running an election is not cheap as the graphic below shows (but does highlight how efficient the Lib Dems are)

As membership for all parties has fallen money via members has dried up, there is a limit to how many dinners, speeches and auctions the ordinary member can contribute towards so big donations are ever more welcome.  

The Lib Dems do reasonably well, but we don’t have lots of large donors, evident as we have a quarter of the other parties funding in 2005 election. Labour are very reliant on trade union funding, but this was not quite the case during the Blair years. The Tories are still backed by their Michael Ashcroft’s and hedge fund managers.

All of which is fine, if parties are being funded but policies are not being bought/influenced…

Luckily we don’t have the same lobby group impacts as in America where individual politicians themselves can be funded by big tobacco companies or farming unions.

For background, my event on Monday is open to all members of the public and is bringing trade into an otherwise quiet night for the pub (Green Room 45a Goldhawk Road, Shepherds Bush). I’m also grateful for the support of sponsors Patio Polish restaurant, The Ritz Greek restaurant (not the hotel chain!) and Top of the Town Chinese restaurant, who have covered costs and allowed the  money raised to go straight to the campaign.

Whilst the Tory lead shrinks, they at least have a supporter in Zimbabwe…

…step forward Robert Mugabe, who’s relationship with Britain is at an all time low with our continued sanctions on Zimbabwe.

“In 2002, the government imposed targeted sanctions on Mugabe and his inner circle – including a travel ban and freezing of bank accounts – following allegations of a rigged election.”

Full story in the Daily Telegraph

A long term perspective is important for economic issues such as the strength of sterling

As I was travelling up from London tonight I read a great article by Anthony Hilton, the Evening Standard’s City commentator, regarding sterling’s decline, but how it wasn’t a cause for concern. In fact he rather celebrates it. He identified 3 reasons why there is such noise and media coverage for the short term decline in sterling: financial, political and emotional.

“Financial first. For months, hedge funds have been placing their bets against sterling, for the simple reason that it is overvalued in trading terms…

…And having bought their fire insurance, hedge funds start fires. The past few days have seen them queuing up to make inflammatory statements about the disaster about to overtake sterling in the hope that they can profitably bring about its collapse. In an earlier age they would have been dismissed as simply talking their book. These days, the 24-hour media circus is often naively complicit in helping them spread panic.”

“The second reason is political. Most people have no idea what a run on sterling means nor what causes it but it is easy to present it as a loss of confidence in this country by overseas investors which, in turn, can be laid at the Government’s door. One must expect the Tory party and its supporters to do all they can through their rhetoric to make sterling’s slide appear more serious than it is because, if nothing else, it further undermines the reputation of the Government they hope soon to defeat.”

“That brings us to emotion. People like to see their currency as some sort of virility symbol. They want it to be Clint Eastwood not Donald Pleasance. So when the currency weakens people take it far too personally as if it is a national disgrace — a confirmation of national decline. Well over time it can be; in the long run competitive nations get strong currencies and flimsy nations get weak currencies. But eight hours of trading on Monday is hardly long term. It is just noise.”

He then finishes with a comment on the trust in the same ratings companies which backed the banks right up to the credit crunch and praise for Vince Cable.

Full article here

Our parliamentary candidates should at least pay tax in the UK

It was revealed today in the Sunday Times that Zac Goldsmith, prospective Tory parliamentary candidate for Richmond, has non-domicile tax status, meaning he’s not paying huge UK income tax on his £200m fortune.

He is planning to change his tax status in 2010, which is conveniently when the next General Election will be. I wonder if he’d change his situation if he wasn’t running for parliament???

It’s nice to know as the country suffers one of the worst recessions in modern history with tax rises and spending cuts on the horizon, a member of the political and social elite has been looking after his own situation. As George Osborne would say “We’re all in this together”…

The average local election candidate did 20 hours of campaigning a week!

That’s a lot! Almost half a working week. This is based on research by the Electoral Commission, although it may be skewed by candidates who are retired as they have more time to campaign.

I’ve been reading Conservative Home, to understand the Tory beast, and especially the PPC diaries (Prospective Parliamentary Candidates), and the thing that jumps out is how a lot of their candidates are already working part time or even have no job as they can afford it! They work damn hard though.

It was interesting to contrast it with the Lib Dem PPCs, who sound as though they try to juggle a career with politics. The PPCs I know are all in jobs and juggling their campaigning.

Off to Bromsgrove tomorrow to speak to the locals, do some canvassing and the pub quiz fundraiser.