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“Oh Not Kent, They’re All Chavs,” Says Poll 31 May 2006

Posted by David in Uncategorized.
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 A poll by UKTV Style Gardens has seen Kent – my home county – knocked from its top spot as England's most beautiful county. Reasons blamed by the poll include Chavs, of which we are apparently a centre for, and the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, which actually does little or no harm at all since it mostly follows busy roads anyway. We polled just 5.2%, putting us fifth.The poll was topped by North Yorkshire on 31.3% with Devon on 21.7%, Derbyshire on 10% and Gloucestershire on 8.6% respectively. I think we were hard done by. I blame John Prescott's building plans – that's John "still on full perks and salary for playing croquet at the taxpayers expense" Prescott. Also, where's Cherie Blair's apology?

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How Safe Is Bromley and Chislehurst? 31 May 2006

Posted by David in Conservatives.
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After the sudden death of Eric Forth MP, the party is facing one of its first defensive byelections of the Millennium, and the first parliamentary test of David Cameron's leadership. By-elections always worry me as they are so open to protest votes and local issues they are hard to draw conclusions from, yet conclusions always are drawn. Take for instance the more recent – that of Dunfermline – won by the Liberal Democrats despite their numerous troubles at that time, thanks mainly to a campaign based around a toll bridge.

The party has thankfully avoided a head on confrontation over the A-list, with Bromley and Chislehurst Conservatives free to select whomever they like. A candidate has yet to be selected. I hope however that they hurry up, the Lib Dems are well known by-election agents and have already chosen their candidate, Ben Abbotts. They had in fact even started campaigning before Eric Forth's funeral, although this caused quite a storm and Ming the Minger as the Sun dubbed him, has since ordered his party to wait for the election writ.

The last time the Conservatives were defending a seat at a by-election, Romsey in 2000, the Lib Dems won and still hold it to this day. It is possible to draw many comparisons between the two seats, both deemed safe Conservative areas. Romsey had a Conservative majority of 8,585 in 1997, with 46% vote share. The Lib Dems had 30% and Labour 19%. Being cheeky so and sos, Labour hardly campaigned, dropping to just 3.7% of the vote.

Now look at Bromley and Chislehurst. Eric Forth won in 2005 with a 13,342 majority on 51%. Labour was on 22% and the Lib Dems on 20%. They have a considerable Labour vote to eat into once again, and who'd vote Labour at the moment? To add to the problems, there's two independent conservatives standing so far, John Hemming-Clark and Chad Noble. There is also likely to be a strong UKIP campaign, possibly with Nigel Farage MEP as the candidate. At the South Staffordshire delayed poll, UKIP won 10% of the vote. The BNP and English Democrats may also enter the race, the ED's getting 2.5% at the South Staffs poll.

So the Bromley and Chislehurst by-election certainly isn't a foregone conclusion, with an awful lot on the line. Chameleons on Bicycles wishes the real Conservative candidate – whoever that will be – the best of luck.

Britain: Europe’s Awkward Partner – And Proud Of It 31 May 2006

Posted by David in Europe.
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Ever since the early concept of the European Union after the Second World War, Union Flag wavingthe United Kingdom has been an awkward partner. “We are with Europe but not of it,” said Churchill, and the Labour administrations of Atlee shared this sentiment. Britain felt closer to her historic partners – the Commonwealth and the United States of America – where Churchill had fostered a close and strong special relationship. Churchill’s belief in an “alliance of the English speaking world” was far closer to the government and public opinion than any ideas of European unity.

Even the more pro-European leaders, such as Macmillan, viewed membership of the then EEC as building blocks to a Europe “like the city states of Ancient Greece”, contrasting with the federalist noises coming from the institutions. In power, even the pro-European Prime Ministers cooled the European rhetoric. Attempts to join the Common Market, blocked by De Gaulle, angered Britain, and it wasn’t until 1973 that membership was completed under Edward Heath admist a much divided party and nation.

Ever since joining however, the UK has been an awkward partner in the project. From the 1974 cancellation by Wilson of the Channel Tunnel project (not restarted until Margaret Thatcher), through the wide public division exposed in the 1975 referendum, and particularly the Thatcher era of the rebate, hand-bagging and provocative style. The policy of opposing federalism has continued since.

Today, even under Blair, the UK remains an awkward partner in the EU. Britain has not joined the single currency, nor rejoined the exchange rate mechanism (a prerequisite to EMU), and the “wait and see” policy of Major has simply been changed into Gordon Brown’s five un-passable tests. This is not to say that the Prime Minister Tony Blair wouldn’t like to see a more positive EU role, indeed he sees the Euro as “Britain’s destiny”, simply that the Chancellor is generally more Eurosceptic (at least in practice). Britain has also vetoed moves to qualified majority voting on issues of defence, security and taxation.

In other areas the UK has become more conciliatory with integration, notably the Rapid Reaction Force promoted by Blair, moves to greater qualified majority voting in some areas, the signing of the Social Chapter of the [Maastricht] Treaty of the EU, and moves to Europe wide initiatives in aid, counter terrorism, tackling organised crime and people trafficking. Although the rest is held out for full reform, Blair has surrendered part of the annual rebate to the tune of £1 billion annually in return for the promise of a Common Agriculture Policy review in 2009.

The UK is an awkward partner in more ways than one however. Britain has surely the most finely managed, efficiently run and Europe-hostile press in the World, a press which is greatly supported among the public, well known for their dislike of the EU. The regular EU funded Euro-barometer polls show huge mistrust, dislike and resistance to the project; for example just 33% of Britons see the EU as a good thing compared to the EU average of 49%. A recent YouGov poll shows 59% support for a free trading bloc only EU. Britons do not participate widely in European Parliament elections, and when they do, they overwhelmingly vote for Eurosceptic parties. The UK has one of the largest anti-EU parties in Europe, the UK Independence Party.

Only the Liberal Democrats have widespread pro-European views, views they tend to keep quiet about. So called ‘Orange Book Liberals’, modernising supporters of free trade, are also more Eurosceptic. The Conservatives are highly Eurosceptic, with many backing withdrawal, and most backing a free trade only solution, if only privately. The Scottish Nationalists and Plaid Cymru only support the EU for a federalist agenda involving greater powers to regions.

As a nation the most awkward partner imaginable. The public and press are very much against European integration, some 25% spontaneously told the Euro-barometer surveyors “I don’t want it” to EU Citizenship, despite that not being an option they were given. The majority back a trade bloc only, a Common Market as voted for in 1975. It is only the post-Thatcher governments that have shown weakness – the public attitude and press strength have held governments down. We can be grateful for that at least, but must not forget to keep up the pressure at all times.

Candidates, Target Seats and Winning Elections 30 May 2006

Posted by David in Conservatives.
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I read with interest news today of the publication by David BurrowesBig Ben Tower MP of Pick ‘em local and Pick ‘em early. Whilst I’d rather it be titled something more sensible that didn’t shorten words with apostrophises or refer to candidates as “’em” – maybe Thoughts on Candidate Selection – it does have several worthy comments and suggestions. The use of local candidates, with good local name recognition, and repeat candidature (keep coming back despite losing), are all key to target seats and above average swings. Experience on the council – providing it popular – also boosts the swing.

The idea that we can parachute insubstantial and untested candidates with little knowledge of the local scene into key seats to win the confidence of people they seek to represent is the bizarre theory of people who spend too much time with the pseuds and posers of London’s chichi set and not enough time in normal Britain – an unwelcome rant by John Hayes MP

Whilst we are all keen to see highlighted good candidates not lucky enough to be in a Tory territory seeking a new candidate, the A-list has been fairly disappointing, even to David Cameron. As an example, 68 A-listers were already candidates at the 2005 general election (admittedly most not in target seats). Of these, 46 achieved below average swings, compared to 22 above. This however has caveats attached, see Conservative Home.

Based on my informal ‘market research’ the celebrity A-listers such as Adam Rickitt and Zac Goldsmith have also gone down badly among my non-party friends. I would have rather stuck with a single approved list, but maybe had candidates highlighted as 'CCO Top Picks' or even given scores by a panel. It also seems the A-listers are avoiding tougher seats according to the Telegraph.

A problem we are going to face at the next general election is certainly going to be entrenched Liberal Democrats in once traditional Conservative seats. They have used local candidates and repeat candidature to serious effect, and these seats will be a serious roadblock to a future Conservative government unless they are won back. For example, Lewes had a Conservative MP for 123 years. It was won with a majority of over 12,000 in 1992 but a repeat candidature of Norman Baker saw him win in 1997 with a 1,300 majority, increasing it to 9,710 in 2001. Currently it is 8,474; mostly due to a Green candidate winning 1,071 votes.

I hope the party has some form of tactics for dealing with Lib Dems, where normal campaigning doesn’t seem to work. One theory I stand by is that Lib Dems are popular local campaigners as MP’s, and most people are happy to have just that alone – basically not get tangled up in government. They are a kind of anti-politics option, almost a none of the above. This seems to fit, a recent poll put them at 17% but just 8% wanted a Lib Dem government (meaning less than half Lib Dem voters want them to win, which seems strange).

Desert Island Discs 29 May 2006

Posted by David in Uncategorized.
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Desert Island Discs

Well Iain Dale did it, then Paul Linford did it on his blog, and probably others as well, and so we too are getting on the bandwagon. So this is Chameleons on Bicycles very own Desert Island Discs, because we too are highly unlikely to get on the real one.

1. Nine Million Bicycles In Beijing – Katie Mellua
Nine million bicycles, means nine million chameleons right? But aren't they all driving 4x4s now they've discovered the free market?

2. Karma Chameleon – Culture Club
Well we had to really.

3. Things Can Only Get Better – Simply Red
See explanation for #4

4. Big Yellow Taxi – Joni Mitchell
Don't it always seem to go, that you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone, paved paradise and put up a parking lot.

5. Oops I Did It Again [Kareoke Version] – Britney Spears
Allowing any manner of changed lyrics involving prisoner releases, scandals or other sleaze.

Luxury Item: CD/Record Player to play records
Has no-one thought of this, everyone picks their records and then some odd luxury, but how will you play them? A renewable energy source would be handy too- such a thing as a clockwork CD player?

Book: Anything about how to get off a desert island, like a boat building manual.

Do you get the feeling I'm a bit bored? Roll on better weather.

Tax Freedom Day – Make It Known 29 May 2006

Posted by David in Uncategorized.
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Tax Calendar 2006 

The 3rd of June is this year’s Tax Freedom Day – the day the average person finally works for themselves instead of Gordon Brown. It is the latest it has fallen since 1988. Every blog should make as much noise as we can about it, to hopefully increase media attention. Just look at Iain Dale’s success over the recent Cherie Blair Hutton Report auction for Labour party funds – it was ignored by the media all of Monday and Tuesday, but caused a storm on Wednesday after bloggers action.

I will dedicate the blog for the entire day to the event (barring a major news story), and will gladly host any articles or pieces anyone contributes on the matter.

More information on Tax Freedom Day can be found here and remember to send a e-card to everyone you know.

There’s More to England than Football 29 May 2006

Posted by David in Uncategorized.
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Flags are going up everywhere, and those ones jammed Car Flagbetween car windows are particularly odd if you ask me. I am all in favour of flags, but think discretion and subtlety are key. Flying from a town hall or church tower – great – even on a nice flag pole in the right situation is good, but hanging off a smokey old ford fiesta or white van is less so (nothing against them).

Also, defaced flags I dislike. Please do not write 'England' across the flag of Saint George – we know it's English. Nor stick lions in the four corners (there are only three anyway). What's wrong with the real flag? 

I am sad to say, as a nation, we seem to forget the great and important things and celebrate instead only sports. There's more to England than just a football team. Where are the flags on Saint George's Day? Very rarely seen. How many know which day it's even on?

What particularly annoys me is that, unless you are very much into football and flag waving for football matches, people think you're some strange kind of untrustworthy, unpatriotic, grumpy weirdo. I have no problem with football, but please don't think of me as odd for not being obsessed by it!

I have created a quiz here on Englishness beyond football for my readers, have a try, see how you do. It's just a bit of fun remember – the same as should be said for sports (bad sadly usually isn't).

But what is more annoying is anti-flag people. I am not anti-flag, I am just for discretion and subtle flags that aren't defaced. People banning flags, recently a school, are just handing them to the BNP, along with a major media coup. Also those who claim they are offensive – that's crazy, they're not. All of that is just an insane, disrespectful authoritarianism posing as liberalism. We must reclaim our flags from the BNP, but also to a degree from sports – there's more to England and Britain than sports, and there's more to our flags too.

Update: I am told Japan treats their flag as sacred, and only uses it in certain situations and/or discreetly, and thus increases its meaning and value. The over use of flags simply devalues them (inflation?) as they are no longer special.

The Proof That Opinion Moves 29 May 2006

Posted by David in Uncategorized.
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An interesting article and poll in the Telegraph today showing public support for animal testing at an all time high. After the side effects felt by 6 human test subjects earlier this year, and violent protests including grave robbery and death threats, 70% now say it is "acceptable to test new medical treatments on animals before human trials". Some 72% now say testing on animals is sometimes essential, and 77% agree those activists recently sentenced could be termed "terrorists".

This poll, more than anything, is proof that public opinion is liquid and moves. In the Civitas publication Conspiciuous Compassion, author Patrick West says the public had adopted a "sentimental, hypocritical and mushy headed attitude to living things". This was based on the poll then showing 64% against animal testing – something very much needed for medical progress – yet only 2% against eating animals as meat.

This poll should do two things. First it should send a signal that we do not like animal testing, but accept it for medical progress – this should get the protesters to calm down and researchers to limit their experiments wherever possible. Whether it will or not, I do not know.

Secondly, it should send the message to politicians not to rely on focus groups and the latest polls. People make their minds up over time, based on information and ideas. If new ideas aren't formulated and articulated, we'll never get anywhere.

Global Earthquake Response Poor Compared To Waste 28 May 2006

Posted by David in Uncategorized.
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Here are a few shocking figures relating to the tragic earthquake;

EU contribution to earthquake appeal; $3.8m
UK total net contribution to EU; £3.8bln

I am sick of the European Union, and our government, squandering money when there is a real disaster that needs our help. Governments should be ashamed of themselves, I am ashamed of them, particularly the EU that contributes so little, sings its own praises so highly, and holds back developing nations with tariffs and taxes. www.redcross.org.uk

How the Euro is Doomed 28 May 2006

Posted by David in Europe, Formal Works.
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Swedish Green Party - No to the Euro Advert 

The Euro, the final result of years of currency market intervention tantamount to market rigging, restrictive economic practices and visionary dogma, was introduced in 2002. Its effects have been as predicted, though most Eurozone nationals have found it a harsh wake up call, and its many symptoms and side-effects will only become more evident as the malaise of restrictive practices takes control further.

With its introduction, the 12 Eurozone members handed their economic independence to the newly created European Central Bank. But it is not the lost sovereignty that bites back, but what the sovereignty was, is and will continue to be used for. The ECB, now a major financial institution and accountable to no-one, controls the interest rates and monetary policy of the Eurozone. Along with this, the ECB necessarily also sets limits on spending, thus controlling fiscal policy as well.

The Euro is a conquest of sovereignty. It gives us a margin of manoeuvre. It's a tool to help us master globalisation and help us resist irrational shifts in the market – Dominique Strauss-Kahn, French Finance Minister, The Daily Telegraph, 1st January 1999.

And the main effect of this loss of sovereignty has been a total loss of flexibility, what they wrongly call "irrational shifts in the market". Whereas each national currency once moved freely on currency markets, based on that nations economic situation, all are now combined into the single currency. The Euro now moves for the Eurozone wide situation, an average situation that no nation may actually have. This is also true for interest rates, set by the ECB for the Eurozone average, not what each nation actually needs. A study by the University of Liverpool showed that no single Eurozone nation suited the ECB interest rate, with many such as Germany over 1% out.

Lacking the flexibility on interest rates and currency valuation, each Eurozone nation has its own unique problems. To worsen the situation, global changes don’t affect the Eurozone symmetrically; some areas will be hit harder than others. With no national level flexibility, there is no way out. A nations currency value and interest rates are a safety valve for problems, if control is lost, the results are felt elsewhere; unemployment, inflation or deflation, boom or bust economies, deep lengthy recession and no escape.

The current account balances of France and Italy continue to worsen. France has gone from a deficit of $8.4bn in 2004 to almost $39bn last year, while Italy’s deficit has worsened from $15bn to $36.5bn. Spain’s deficit is $83bn ($55bn). Germany, by contrast, has seen a strengthening of its current account surplus. If this is convergence, it is not as we know it – The Business Newspaper, 28 May 2006 

Growth is destroyed by the inflexibility; just 2.4% projected for 2006, compared to 4.8% in America. Some look to America as a model for the Eurozone, but the reality would be harsh, the US Federal Reserve has to focus on the big wealthy states such as New York and California as these are most productive. The ECB may be forced to do the same, trapping poorer Eurozone states as the EU answer to Kansas. The areas are simply too large to converge to equally high standards.

During change over shop keepers took advantage of the switch and ‘favourably converted’ prices in their own interest, triggering inflation. The inflation lead to wage inflation, leading to further price increases. A cycle of inflation is thus triggered through expectation. Lack of flexibility makes tackling it hard, as only solutions involving spending cuts and tax remain open. The inflation makes the country less competitive, further slowing growth and costing jobs.

From the extent of our country, its diversified interests, different pursuits, and different habits, it is too obvious for argument that a single consolidated Government would be wholly inadequate to watch over and protect its interests; and every friend of our free institutions should be always prepared to maintain unimpaired and in full vigor the rights and sovereignty of the States and to confine the action of the General Government strictly to the sphere of its appropriate duties – Andrew Jackson, A Political Testament, 1837

In addition to poor growth, unemployment and worsened economies, spending of Eurozone member states is restricted to maintain Eurozone balance. In times of crisis, such as in Italy now, or Spain where ‘bust’ is predicted, or Greece where inflation is running away, cuts to public spending and services, and/or tax changes, are necessary.

For all the hype of greater wealth, the Eurozone has failed to deliver. International companies do not trust the currency, leading to much investment in Britain. Foreign reserves have not rushed to stockpile Euro bonds, lest not Italian ones where a higher yield accounts for the risk of collapse, and the Dollar remains the World’s favoured currency except among anti-Americans. There is some minor increase on Eurozone-Eurozone trade, mostly consumers buying shopping, although this is very small and balanced, causing very little in the way of shifts in wealth, trade or prices.

The one effect that has occurred as the EU hoped is increased stabilisation compared to other currencies. This however is artificial stabilisation through the currency following Eurozone average figures, which suits no-one, certainly not the Eurozone member states, as none match the figures exactly. As the Eurozone economy worsens, the exchange rate will move anyway. Currencies move for a reason, merging currencies for stability is like strapping yourself to the Titanic for fear of icebergs.

Furthermore, ideas that economic integration would lead to political integration proved wrong, and the EU project has stalled. The Euro is predicted to die a slow death over 10-20 years by Paul De Grauwe, an economist whose work was used to make the case for the single currency.

Italy, Spain, Portugal and The Netherlands…are now powerless to restore their competitiveness without introducing outright deflation, and large increases in unemployment. A political union is the logical end-point of a currency union. If political union fails to materialise, then in the long term the euro area cannot continue to exist. Now that nobody appears to want that political union, you can begin to wonder whether monetary union was such a good idea. Political unification has failed. But that is a big problem for the currency union. That is in danger. The effects of this will take time, he said. In the longer term, the monetary union will collapse … not next year, but on a time frame of 10 or 20 years. There is not a single monetary union which survived without political union. They have all collapsed. Sometimes I wonder: do we still need the European Union? I start to have doubts about that. It is sufficient that countries open up their economy. You don’t need to do that in the context of the European Union – Paul De Grauwe, a Eurozone founding economist

The Euros main effect has been to worsen the European economy through lack of flexibility, dynamism and freedom. The rigid Europe-wide “one size fits all” idea has proven an abject failure; “the Euro has been a disaster” (Silvio Berlesconi, 2005). What has been gained in stability has been lost ten times over in inflation, unemployment and stagnation. While the global economy has marched on, the Eurozone has been on the brink of recession since the Euros creation.