1.7 billion steps too far by the EU?






If there’s one thing that the European Union could do to further aggravate the British people at such a unsettled time, it’s ask for more money. With the rising popularity of UKIP and the government calling for a referendum, why would the EU make such a poignant statement to the UK?

That being said, they are acting completely within their rights. Every member state must pay a set amount from their economy towards funding the union. As a result, because our economy is doing very well at the moment, we are having to ‘pay the price’. In some ways, this can be seen as punishment for doing better than other states, which is a baffling concept in itself. What is more, countries such as Greece also have to pay extra dues, despite having an economy in ruin.

However, it is not the amount to be paid that is the issue with this, it is they way that they have asked it to be paid. They have demanded such a huge sum so quickly, that it is almost an impossible bill to pay. Furthermore, this demand is only “provisional”, and could increase further in the near future. Surely this must make every Briton wonder if we are getting value for money from the EU, even if they have never questioned membership before. Just think of improvements that could be made to the NHS, or amount of potholes that could be filled, or amount of new jobs and houses could be created with that kind of money…

Accordingly, when George Osborne began negotiations with the EU, his aim was not necessarily to get out of paying the bill- this would go against EU ruling, but it was to give us more time in which to pay the bill. In spite of this, when he announced that he had managed to get agreement for the bill to be split into two instalments, everyone rushed to criticise him.

What did people expect? He couldn’t just demand to be exempt from a written agreement that we as a nation have signed. Of course the opposition would be his first critic, but what he did was commendable, and did not come back empty handed, as was broadly speculated. As well as delaying and splitting the bill, EU rules have been changed to ensure that we are never faced with such a big bill that has to be paid so quickly. He may have spun the words in the tweet that he used to announce this cleverly, but every politician does.

So, the bill is a nasty one, but we signed up for it, and if Ed Balls thinks he can get out of paying it while remaining in the EU, I would love to see him try.

-Liv Highwood

[Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official view of Reading University Conservative Association or any affiliated institution].

The threat of China is a paper tiger

A current favourite scare story of the media at the moment is that the West will fall and that China will take over; with images of smoldering ruins being of Western cities left in the wake of the cataclysmic take over. The current idea seems to be that as China does well, we will all become the impoverished remains of a bygone and outdated world, huddled together in tattered brown coats and fingerless gloves in order to heat our rations over a burning oil drum.

Fortunately however, this is nonsense. China is not a threat to Western dominance of the globe and certainly is no bad thing for Britain or its economy. The following are some simplified and extremely arguable points for why China is not a cause for us in the West to start battering down the hatches and stocking up on canned goods:

1. China’s still Communist but it can’t be forever – The confused nature of China’s economy is going to have to come to head at some point. When everything does take the plunge and go capitalist (and it will) it will not be pretty. There will be jostling, back room deals a lot of corruption. Some areas of China’s economy will be altered unrecognisably and there will be a nasty recession.*

2. The state’s grip is a poisonous anachronism – One party communist systems… well, they’re a bit old hat really aren’t they? It’s not helped that Xi Jinping like his predecessor appears to be on quite unsteady footing in his leadership. If economic growth continues to slow, then he’ll be out. A lot of influential business owners are going to get all Gordon Gecko (see point one for details). A regime change of a major type is in store for China one day and God only knows what that means for its future.

It’s also worth remembering that, though it’s not going to happen any time soon, there’s going to be a lot of clamouring for democratic reform; to say nothing of the fact there are bits of China that don’t want to be part of China.

3. 2 parents 1 child – China’s doing so well largely because it’s got such a massive population. It’s also of the ageing sort. If you’re of the belief that China’s economy relies heavily on cheap labour, then there’s going to come a time when the sums stop adding up.

4. Someone’s going to end up wanting more money – Rising living standard and Western influences leads to a shallow materialism that we all so richly love in the West. When that happens, people at the lower ends of the economy are going to want more money. This will also lead to China becoming unstable.

5. For China to become the dominant super power it has to beat America – Love it or hate it (and you should love it) America’s very good at staying on top. The America that we’re looking at has suffered the largest economic disaster in living memory and has recently been given a very bloody nose militarily in Iraq. China on the other hand is growing, is relatively unknown to the majority of Westerners and has a politics that is threateningly different to ours, of course it’s going to seem intimidating. But this is America we’re talking about. In a couple of years it’s going to be back to being stronger than ever before. Yes it has its ailments, but China has its own and America is far from a dying country.

And finally point 6 is for the more Mcarthyist inclined of readers.

6. It’s really not in China’s interest to go to war with the West – Without the West’s trade China’s broke. There’s no longer the driving “who has the biggest ideology” of the Cold War and we don’t have anything that China wants that they can take through military force. North Korea is always a potential wildcard, but it’s not going to start World War III. We’re not going to go to war with China, we’re going to get fat and rich off the back of trading with them.

China’s one of the most richly fascinating countries on the planet and is one that’s rightly taking a place on the world stage. But is it something for us decadent Westerners to be staying up late worrying about? No.

*This paragraph was originally going to end with the sentence “What, you thought those couldn’t happen to China?”, however it was pointed out to me that this isn’t buzzfeed and that it just looked annoyingly smug.

[Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official view of Reading University Conservative Association or any affiliated institution].

How Bitcoin could revolutionise the economy and why the UK government is a serious roadblock

Elliott Bear discusses the growing popularity and benefits of Bitcoin.

Bitcoin is a crypto-currency, and is at the forefront of a technological revolution. For those scratching their heads at the term Bitcoin, CNN have written a fantastic introductory article about what Bitcoins are here.

Bitcoins exist as physical coins, though their value is entirely digital

Bitcoins are entirely digital (the physical coins the media enjoys harping on about nonwithstanding), and are transferred electronically from one wallet to another. The benefit of this is that transactions take place in a matter of seconds, from anywhere in the world. With fiat currency, if you pay a cheque into a bank you will have to wait for that cheque to clear – this problem doesn’t exist with Bitcoin.

“But wait!” I hear you cry, “I can transfer money instantly via credit card!” That’s true – but you pay for it. Bitcoin fees are near non-existent, and in addition to the obvious benefit this offers private transactions, the real game-changer comes in regards to charitable donations.

Currently credit card providers and e-merchants take between 1.4-3% (Though some go as high as 5%) of charitable donations as a processing fee. For transactions past a certain value this becomes completely unethical; it’s not simply the fact that processing a payment is an inexpensive task – it’s that the cost to do so does not linearly scale with the amount processed.

This doesn’t happen with Bitcoin. When you remove transaction fees the only party that gets hurt is the bank – and with Bitcoin, there’s never a bank.

Another notable flaw of fiat currency that doesn’t exist with Bitcoin is inflation. Unlike our British pound, Bitcoins are finite in value; you can’t print off more. Though Bitcoins are not immune to fluctuations in value (like any other currency); every government in the world could collapse and Bitcoin would retain its value – it’s not tied to a country or state. In addition to this, Bitcoin is impossible to forge.

The main advantage of Bitcoin is that it empowers the individual – you are in complete ownership of your money, no bank will ever touch it. When you perform a transaction with Bitcoin it’s completely anonymous: no one can steal your personal information. Finally, Bitcoin offers complete commercial freedom; you can send money anywhere in the world at any time, with no fear of additional fees or hidden costs.

So what is the UK doing about Bitcoin? Sadly not much. HMRC currently recognises Bitcoins as a single purpose vouchers instead of currency – which means you have to pay VAT. This is absolutely crippling for any start-up in the UK that wants to become a GPB/BTC exchange – they’d have to add the VAT fee of 20% to the exchange cost, coupling this with a modest 5% profit margin and UK companies would have to charge a 25% mark-up, and no one will buy that.

FOREX transactions are normally VAT exempt under HMRC, for the UK to stand a chance in the crypto-currency revolution; the UK government needs to seriously rethink its classification of Bitcoins. In the worst case scenario, tech companies will simply move off-shore to a more liberal country; like Germany, who famously reversed their stance on Bitcoin, or China.

So what’s the likelihood of the UK government doing something about Bitcoin? Pretty high, but it’s a balancing act; weighing the needs of the private individual against the interests of instituations. With the tin-foil hat firmly fastened to my head it’s not unreasonable to suspect that the government is swayed by the influence of the banks (especially in the light of the generous Royal Mail IPO); and for good reason – banks are directly threatened by currency that doesn’t need to be held by them, even ignoring the loss of earnings via interest, Bitcoin also destroys the remittance industry, in which banks make a hefty profit.

It’s got to the point where banks will flat out refuse to lend money to start-ups interested in facilitating Bitcoin exchange; attempts to mediate this through the Office of Fair Trading results in the following reply:

When considering which issues to examine further we take into account that the OFT has finite resources and must prioritise its work. We assess complaints we receive by reference to our published principles. The OFT considers a range of factors, including impact on consumers, strategic significance, risk and resources. In the case of your complaint, it appears that the benefit for consumers of investigating your complaint is likely to be limited in comparison with other markets that we could study.

A worrying conspiracy emerges – the government refuses to investigate claims pertaining to small markets, and banks refuse to fund the fledgling industry. As banks are the main point of funding for many UK start-ups, it seems unlikely that the market will grow under the current model. It gets worse, when asked by Vince Cable MP to elaborate on the reasoning for declining to fund such start-ups, the BBA responded by perpetuating the idea that Bitcoin is used primarily for illegal activity – someone may want to inform them that fiat currency is also used for illegal means…

However the matter may be out of the banks hands entirely – Sridhar Ramaswamy (Senior VP of Ads and Commerce at Google) recently confirmed that Google were looking at ways to incorporate Bitcoin into Google Wallet – with the possibility of such an easy pathway from crypto to fiat currency, Google may well undercut the UK government in providing the public with a simple way to trade in Bitcoin.

The internet is revolutionising our lives – Napster and it’s successor The Pirate Bay has effectively turned media and software production upside down. Social media is creating jobs that simply didn’t exist 10 years ago, and in turn drastically changing fields which people had previously thought untouchable – look at print journalism. Both of these examples are digitally executed responses to a need for change – in the age we live in (the information age) these digital revolutions are the catalysts of serious change in our day to day lives.

The existence of Bitcoins points to a need for change in how currency works with our increasingly global and online based lifestyle; those that don’t embrace this change may find themselves being left behind.

[Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official view of Reading University Conservative Association or any affiliated institution].

Who watches…?

The Intelligence and Security Committee must be reformed, writes Dan Jones.

Do you remember Ralph ‘Voldemort’ Finnes’ character in Skyfall? He was M’s boss, chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee, a group of Parliamentarians lead in real life by Sir Malcolm Rifkind, responsible for the ‘oversight of operational activity and the wider intelligence and security activities of government.’

For the first time ever, that committee recently met in front of television cameras to question the nation’s three most senior spies.

The Director General of MI5, the Chief (that’s his actual job title) of MI6* and the Director of GCHQ gave evidence for an hour and a half in order to provide ‘an insight into the world of intelligence and the work the Agencies do on behalf of the UK.’

Given scandals in recent years around alleged uses of torture, illegal internet surveillance of British citizens and catastrophic leaking of classified information, you’d have thought some firm questioning would be in order. Apparently not.

This shouldn’t be taken to mean that Sir Malcolm and his colleges did their job poorly. Quite the opposite, they performed their role with aplomb. That’s because this wasn’t questioning in the traditional sense, but a PR exercise to restore British Intelligence’s rapidly receding reputation.

Unlike the parliamentary select committee on foreign affairs, which among other roles holds diplomats to account, or the home affairs select committee, which does the same for the police, the Intelligence and Security Committee doesn’t really work for parliament.

In the world of British espionage, the Prime Minister nominates everyone outside the intelligence community itself who is involved in its supervision. Thus, the politician in ultimate command of our spies can control who has the clearance to scrutinise his or her decisions. There is, in effect, no independent oversight.

The necessary lack of transparency inherent in the oversight of espionage must be offset by an equal level of independence from government.

The Intelligence and Security Committee must be elected by a poll of backbenchers, free from the influence of the executive.




*An aside: The name card in front of these first two spies referred to their organisations as they are specified in this post ‘MI5’ and ‘MI6’ despite this not being their actual names. When even official parliamentary literature don’t use the agencies’ horrifically bland titles**, (The ‘Security Service’ and the ‘Secret Intelligence Service’ respectively) perhaps it’s time to admit that no-one does and re-install the nonsense acronyms to their proper place.

**One might suggest of course, that when it comes to espionage, the blander the better.

[Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official view of Reading University Conservative Association or any affiliated institution].

A shorter version of this article was originally published in Spark*

Treat Those Two Impostors Just the Same – Conservatives, UKIP, and Electoral Defeat

Ellis Wiggins discusses the results of the local elections, and asks what the Conservative Party can do to regain ground from UKIP

The impostor of the Right? – Images courtesy of the Guardian and the Telegraph

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster,
And treat those two impostors just the same
- Rudyard Kipling

To listen to the news coverage over the last few days, you would think that the results of the local elections in England and Wales had left the Conservative Party decimated across the country. Of course, there can be no doubt that UKIP, the impostors of the Eurosceptic Right, made significant gains unparalleled in its 20 year history. Nor can it be denied that the Tory Party suffered a wounding hit, that other impostor, losing 335 councillors and control of 10 councils.

Still, it could have been worse. UKIP might have done well out of the election, but they are unlikely to be the big challengers to the Conservatives in 2015. Labour, on the other hand, gained just two councils. From Red Ed’s pronouncements, a political observer could be led to believe that all of the British Isles had swung against the government. Last Thursday demonstrated that if there is any truth in this argument, it’s certainly the case that voters are not facing towards the Labour Party.

But the stark indicator is that these are Tory heartlands, and if the party’s core vote is draining away across England, in Oxfordshire and in Kent, then things do not look well for the general election in two years’ time. Denigrating and insulting UKIP and its voters did nothing to help the cause of the Conservative leadership – especially given that many of these voted Tory up until very recently.

How to undo the damage? In an attempt to pick up the pieces, senior Tories have tried to tread the path of caution, choosing to highlight the less-than-creditable backgrounds of some of UKIP’s candidates. This is dangerous territory, particularly as there are plenty of Conservative MPs with skeletons in the closet. On a different tack, Cabinet ministers have tried to publicly pick at the holes in Nigel Farage’s policies. Whilst moving in the right direction, the public are still giving UKIP the benefit of the doubt, and it seems likely that this will continue into the European elections.

What David Cameron needs to do right is now is to start taking this small-but-influential party seriously. UKIP has to be tackled on its own ground, and that means facing up to Europe. Pledging to hold an in-out referendum on the EU was dodgy at best, and at worst appeared to be nothing more than insincere electoral blackmail. Many writers on the Conservative Party, from Robin Harris to Tim Dale in his excellent study of the party from Thatcher to Cameron, have pointed out the dangerous tendency of the party to run back to the unpopular theme of Europe when it faces threats at the ballot box. Against Blair, when the voters’ focus was on public services and they had yet to learn to forgive the Tories, the run back to the right was politically stupid. Now, it is all well and good going after swing voters on the middle-ground, but this is utterly useless if a centre-right party finds its base has migrated elsewhere.

If the Prime Minister were to take such a simple step as putting legislation before Parliament that would set up a referendum after the general election, he would take the rug out from under Nigel Farage’s feet. In one fell swoop, he would show that he can put firm action behind strong words on the EU. Undoubtedly, both Labour and the Lib Dems would oppose it, but this would only work in Cameron’s favour. The Conservative Party could then stride into the election, proving to the public that they are the only party possible of forming a government that is willing to give the voters what they want – something that UKIP, for all its electoral success, simply cannot claim.

Ellis Wiggins

[Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official view of Reading University Conservative Association or any affiliated institution].

RUCA Pays Tribute to Baroness Thatcher

The Rt Hon. The Baroness Thatcher, LG, OM, PC, FRS

Margaret Thatcher was without doubt one of the strongest and most influential leaders that this country has ever had, and her successes as Prime Minister were mirrored in her unparalleled electoral victories.

In addition to being the first woman to hold this office, she redeemed Britain from being the “Sick Man of Europe”, returning it to a leading world power; defended the Falklands from Argentine fascism  brought an end to the Unions’ strangle hold that was throttling the UK; empowered thousands through the “Right to Buy” scheme; had a leading role in bringing down the Berlin wall and ending the Cold War; negotiated the European rebate, and countless other great achievements for our country.

While no single statement can hope to do the great Lady justice, members of Reading University Conservative Association and Reading Conservative Future have written their own tributes:

 “Lady Thatcher not only changed the face of our country, but the very fabric of life in Britain; indeed, her influence has been felt across the western world. Her domestic successes, particularly in unleashing the power of private enterprise and promoting the role of the individual, have become the foundations of the Britain in which I have grown up. Just as Lady Thatcher was unquestionably a towering political presence, she has been the most inspiring figure to young people involved in conservative politics, and that is perhaps the greatest testimony we can give.  This is of course a sad day for the nation, but those of us who truly understand the gravity of her achievements should take solace in the fact that history will judge her well”.
James Caldecourt (RUCA President).

“Margaret Thatcher has been a hero of mine for many years. Intelligent, able, determined and above all patriotic, Maggie had an air of authority and dignity that allowed her to lead this country out of its darkest days since the war. She defended the country from threats from both outside and inside the country, and will go down in history as the woman who dealt the fatal blow to socialism. The Great Lady’s love for her country was always her driving motive and she will always be an inspiration to us all. I believe that history will judge her as the great figure that she was”.
Tom Puddy (Chairman, Reading CF).

“Margaret Thatcher’s continuous commitment to traditional conservative values during her service to this country has always been a source of inspiration, particularly in a new century which has witnessed the unfortunate triumph of immediate populist policy-making over a carefully considered vision of elected governance.  Her promotion of the Anglo-Irish Agreement, creating a workable environment in which to both hunt down the murderous terrorists of the IRA, and to begin a long-term process of reconciliation with the Republic of Ireland, the British State and the once oppressed Catholic minority of Ulster was a masterful yet often underrated part of the resolution of conflict in Northern Ireland.  Her constant advancement of individual freedom, not just in and for Britain, but throughout the world, should always be an issue of pride for us, as should her commitment to the independence of this great nation and our willingness to promote and defend the values we love across the seas”.
Christopher Williams (Former RUCA President).

“Despite not having lived during Margaret Thatcher’s years as prime minister, I firmly believe that I have witnessed and experienced her legacy. She successfully revolutionised the country that she loved to the extent that successive prime ministers have attempted to emulate her strength, courage and determination. Lady Thatcher not only created a country where those who aspired to achieve greatness could do so, she laid the foundations for future generations to reap the rewards of her reforms.
Although a divisive and controversial leader, Lady Thatcher led with real ability and confidence when building a Conservative party capable of restoring the country to its former glory. As prime minister she fought for freedom and liberty not just at home but across the globe, to provide the freedom enjoyed in the UK to millions around the world. Her work is admired by many, and the messages of admiration from world leaders today give us an insight as to how influential she was on the global stage. This morning we lost a true pioneer domestically and internationally, she will be greatly missed”.
Andrew Knight (RUCA Vice-President).

“Margaret Thatcher has been my greatest inspiration in politics. Being the first and still only female Prime Minister and climbing from her grocers background to the highest office in the country demonstrates just how remarkable she was. Having been returned as PM three times by the British public, she achieved great things, turning the country around and instilling pride in everyone. Her hard work and determination should be admired and will always be remembered.”
Emma Willis (RUCA Treasurer).

“Baroness Thatcher was a pin up politician, a feminist icon, and without a doubt, the most successful, powerful and headstrong leader this country has ever had.
She is a wonderful example of strength and character, who inspired many and will continue to do so for generations to come. As a country, we are deeply in debt to her and it is with great sadness that we have seen her passing, but her memory and impact will certainly live long with us and with the whole world.”
Rosalind Wise (RUCA Secretary).

“Margaret Thatcher will always be remembered as Britain’s first, and so far only, female Prime Minister, an undeniably monumental achievement that will never be relinquished. She removed Britain from a broken, battered shell, on its knees and held hostage by corrupt and tyrannical Union leaders such as Arthur Scargill and Derek ‘Red Robbo’ Robinson which made the 1970s a dark, regrettable and helpless time for this country. She left the country, as many will agree, in a better place. A Greater Britain. A country standing bravely tall and defiant in Europe, in an ever-strengthening relationship with the United States and building bridges previously burnt by Communism with the new Russian Federation and much of Eastern Europe. Formidable on the political stage and kind in person, Britain has lost one of its greatest ever leaders”.
Edgar Johnson (RUCA Political Officer)

Baroness Thatcher was Prime Minister for over eleven years. She sat in the Commons for over thirty years and subsequently in the Lords for over twenty. It is needless to say that during her political career Margaret Thatcher stood up for the interests of this nation at every possible opportunity. Baroness Thatcher acts as an inspiration to all young people, regardless of their political persuasion; we should all aspire to follow her dedication to public service. May the Iron Lady rest in peace.
Mark Kelleher (President-Elect, Reading University Students’ Union).


It’s Not for Judges to be Legislators

Fight: The right to family life is not an absolute right, it is a qualified right, says the Home Secretary

Standing up for the will of Parliament

The Home Secretary writes about her intention to ensure foreigners who commit crimes are deported from the UK, and how the judiciary must follow the will of parliament.

Theresa May is a Patron of RUCA.


Unless there are very exceptional circumstances, foreigners who have committed serious crimes in this country, or who have attempted to cheat the immigration system, should be deported from Britain.

Parliament wants that to happen, the public wants that to happen, and I want that to happen. But, too often, it is not happening. Time and time again  we are treated to the spectacle of people who have been found guilty of rape or serious assault being given the right to stay in this country.

It is not in the national interest that this situation continues. What is going on? The short answer is that some of our judges appear to have got it into their heads that Article Eight of the European Convention on Human Rights, the ‘right to family life’, is an absolute, unqualified right.

This means that if a foreign criminal can show that he has a family in this country, they take the view he has a right to remain here, regardless of the gravity of the offences.

That interpretation is wrong. The Convention is quite plain: the right to family life is not an absolute right, like the right not to be tortured. It is a qualified right, and it can be restricted when that is required, for example, to protect public safety, or for the prevention of crime.

I thought that possibly the problem for the judges was that our Parliament had not explicitly stated how the right to family life could be restricted.

So in June last year I ensured that the House of Commons was able to debate my amendments to the immigration rules.

Those amendments stated that in the usual case, any foreign national who was convicted of a serious crime should be deported, regardless of whether or not the criminal had a family in the UK.

After a vigorous debate, the Commons adopted the changes unanimously. There was no division because there was no one in the Commons who opposed them.

I made it clear that I would introduce primary legislation should the Commons’ acceptance of my amendments not be sufficient to persuade judges to change the way they interpreted Article Eight. But I hoped that the outcome of the debate would be enough.

Unfortunately, some judges evidently do not regard a debate in Parliament on new immigration rules, followed by the unanimous adoption of those rules,  as evidence that Parliament actually wants to see those new rules implemented.

As a justification for ignoring the new rules, one immigration judge recently stated that ‘the procedure adopted in relation to the introduction of the new rules provided a weak form of Parliamentary scrutiny. Parliament has not altered the legal duty of the judge determining appeals to decide on proportionality for him or herself’.

Some judges seem to believe that they can ignore Parliament’s wishes if they think that the procedures for parliamentary scrutiny have been ‘weak’.

Just think for a moment what this judge is claiming. He is asserting that he can ignore the unanimous adoption by the Commons of new immigration rules on the grounds that he thinks this is a ‘weak form of parliamentary scrutiny’.

I find it difficult to see how that can be squared with the central idea of our constitution, which is that Parliament makes the law, and judges interpret what that law is and make sure the executive complies with it.

For almost all of the long history of disputes between judges and Parliament, it has been  common ground that Parliament is the ultimate law-maker, and that it is not for the judges to be legislators. It is essential to democracy that the elected representatives of the people make the laws that govern this country – and not the judges.

Yet some judges seem to believe that they can ignore Parliament’s wishes if they think that the procedures for parliamentary scrutiny have been ‘weak’. That appears actually to mean that they can ignore Parliament when they think it came to the wrong conclusion.
Vigorously debated: Parliament wants to see the new rules implemented, says the Home Secretary

Most judges, especially in our higher courts, do not take this attitude. One High Court judge, for example, has explicitly recognised that the new rules are ‘unquestionably valid laws, democratically enacted under a procedure which is necessary for the efficient practical functioning of Parliament’.

The majority of judges share his view. BUT a minority think that it is their role  to determine, for instance, whether or not foreigners who commit serious crimes shall be deported. They are able to frustrate Government policy and prevent the deportation of criminals.

It is now clear that only explicit parliamentary legislation will convince them that the law is what Parliament says it is, not what they think it should be.

I am therefore determined to introduce primary legislation that will specify that foreign nationals who commit serious crimes shall, except in extraordinary circumstances, be deported. Once this primary legislation has been enacted, it is surely inconceivable that judges in this country will maintain that it is they, rather than Parliament, who are entitled to decide how to balance the foreigner’s right to family life against our nation’s right to protect itself.

It is depressing that the steps we have already taken should have been insufficient to produce that result. The inevitable delays inherent in passing primary legislation will mean that there will be many more foreign criminals who successfully avoid deportation on the basis that they have a family here.

There will also be more  victims of violent crimes committed by foreigners in this country – foreigners who  should have been, and could have been, deported.

This is not a dispute about respect for human rights, which I certainly agree is an essential part of any decent legal system. It is about how to balance rights against each other: in particular, the individual’s right to family life, the right of the individual to be free from violent crime, and the right of society to protect itself against foreign criminals.

One of the most distressing results of judges taking it on themselves to determine how that balance should be struck, in defiance of Parliament’s wishes, has been the damage done to the notion of human rights: in the popular imagination, ‘human rights’ are wrongly, but perhaps understandably, becoming  synonymous with legal dodges that allow criminals to escape proper punishment and to continue to prey on the public.

I am a great admirer of most of the judges in Britain.

I absolutely accept that the power of Ministers should be reviewed and restrained by independent judges who are appointed, not elected, and who are not accountable to the electorate for their decisions.

But the law in this country is made by the elected representatives of the people in Parliament. And our democracy is subverted when judges decide to take on that role for themselves.

- The Rt. Hon. Theresa May MP

(First published in the Mail on Sunday, 17th Feb ’13.)

No, Mr Farage, UKIP are Not the Real Alternative Vote

Simply laughable – image courtesy of the Independent

Tom Puddy dismisses the idea that UKIP are a Eurosceptic alternative.

Nigel Farage has stated that he has ruled himself out of the Eastleigh by election on the grounds that he wishes to continue to lead his party against Europe. He has stated that UKIP is “the real alternative vote”.

No, they are not. UKIP is a party of shameless populist pragmatism. It is a Party with a thoroughly likeable leader and with members who have an admirable level of personal integrity. However, UKIP is not an alternative vote.

UKIP prides itself on its dogmatic and verbose Euroscepticism, its one uniting pillar. Whether you consider this policy a good thing or a bad thing (and it’s a good thing), it does not a Party make. It is aside from this, a visionless and ultimately pointless party that has as much purpose as the Monster Raving Looney party or a spoilt ballot. Outside of the EU they do not so much have policies, but a list cynically crafted contrarian points of view.

UKIP has on numerous occasions looked as though it would fall apart at the seams. Recently, they have faced heavy criticism after the head of their Youth Wing was ruthlessly removed from his position due to his views on Equal Civil Marriage. Most notably however, the Party faced total civil war under its previous leader Lord Malcolm Pearson. When Lord Pearson asked for his candidates in the last election to not challenge Eurosceptic MPs, he was met with outrage. “Why?” UKIPers cried “why should we put our unrealistic parliamentary ambitions aside? Better that we split the Eurosceptic vote and late a Labour or Lib Dem Europhile into the seat!”

I whole heartedly believe that Lord Pearson had good intentions when he asked his candidates to put their beliefs before their ambitions. I also believe that anyone who compares UKIP’s members to the BNP is probably deliberately being an idiot. But the Party is a dampened demagogue.

When David Cameron unveiled his plans for a strong renegotiation on our position in the European Union and with the promise of an In/Out referendum to back it, UKIP’s leaders ought to have thought long and hard about what it is that they’re the alternative to. Do they really hold their ambitions to leave the EU? Or is that just something that they leave to their members? If you want to see the UK have a better deal from Europe, a United Kingdom that has greater autonomy, or even a departure from the EU all together, then the only way that this will happen will be under a Conservative Government. UKIP offers no alternative apart from Labour.

One final point. UKIP now seems to exist only to grow its own infrastructure and to prevent the Government from getting results. It has no real democratic mandate and its only ambition is a tired mantra that it doesn’t really want to achieve. It almost sounds like the European Union…

- Tom Puddy

[Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official view of Reading University Conservative Association or any affliliated institution].

Next Stop – 1997

Image courtesy of the Bruges Group

Ellis Wiggins discusses the potential of the Conservatives to split again over Europe

Europe is back on the agenda – not that, for the Conservative Party, it ever left. As Berlin and Paris press for their much-desired ‘ever closer union’, and David Cameron commits himself in vague terms to a referendum somewhere in the not-too-distant future, the issue has returned that tears the Tory Party apart easier than tracing paper. And the signs of this coming split are just as transparent as when John Major sat precariously in Downing Street.

Prominent backbenchers openly briefing the press on how much further the Prime Minister should be going. Cabinet ministers scrabbling to argue the case for a referendum while their boss insists that he wants Britain to stay in – even as his party points towards the exit. European leaders dismissive of the British case for renegotiation, let alone the option of the UK leaving.

Showing just how much the Conservatives cannot catch a break; at just the moment that the party should be solidly Eurosceptic is the same time that senior Tories are rightly trying to play down the right’s obsession with the European Union. If the Conservative Party wants any chance of overcoming the surge towards UKIP, it has to be seen to be just anti-European enough to win back the voters who see David Cameron as being overly soft on the EU. Yet at the same time, it is stuck. The moment it moves back towards being anti-European, Ed Milliband will take to the Dispatch Box to deplore “the same old Tories”. It is a sobriquet that has the remarkable ability to stick, and the top levels of the party know it. They fear, rightly, that the public that they want to win back are responsive to Labour’s charge and will drift away from the party.

This strain of thought is deeply flawed. Why? Because it assumes the Conservative Party is going to win over a section of voters on the middle ground that have been solidly Labour or Lib Dem for some time. No matter how hard the Tories try, no matter how much rebranding or re-jigging of policy, these middle-class, middle-ground voters won’t come back to them. At the same time, in focusing on the centre that is falsely believed to be the battleground of British politics, the party is losing working-class voters that flocked to it under Margaret Thatcher, and have since gone down the dark path of fringe parties. That is why UKIP is continuing to grow in strength – not because of some deception coming from Nigel Farage or his colleagues, deluding the middle-ground (which, if you believe certain sections of the liberal press, is all that constitutes the population of the United Kingdom) – not because of this, but because the working-class is simply fed up. At a time where Conservatives cannot win in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland – an end to the Ulster Unionist electoral pact that should be reversed – they should be turning to the disaffected sections of England that feel the only parties talking about sticking up for them are UKIP and the BNP.

Ignoring Labour, dismissing the Lib Dems, and disregarding the liberal press on the charge of being ‘EU-obsessives’ is the strategy to win on this issue. The Prime Minister needs a coherent approach to Europe, which means an end to obfuscating over his desires. If he wants the UK to stay in, so be it, but he needs to appear to be aggressive on Europe, and make clear that if he can’t get a decent renegotiation that he would vote for Britain to leave. Kill the fatuous argument that the government is creating uncertainty in difficult economic times. In one move, he would cut short all of his problems: Labour and the Lib Dems can be accused of being weak on Europe, willing to compromise Britain’s position to remain a member; UKIP would be undercut, holding on to a position of blindly leaving where the Conservatives are at least trying to seek a consensus; and both wings of the Conservative Party would be satisfied, with the left pleased that Cameron is trying to keep the UK in, and the right happy that he will put Britain before Europe if he can’t get a better deal.

The final thing the Tory leadership has to do is set a moderate tone on Europe, and let backbenchers and other members talk about it. Gagging the rank and file will tear open the wound and pour poison into it.

-Ellis Wiggins

[Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official view of Reading University Conservative Association or any affliliated institution].

A Five-Point Plan for 2013

Nothing separating them – image courtesy of the Telegraph

Ellis Wiggins offers the Prime Minister five pieces of advice for the coming year

The closing days of 2012 see the Conservative Party in a perilous state. A year ago, the party was five points ahead of Labour – today David Cameron finds himself cast as Achilles in Zeno’s paradox, always chasing after the tortoise-leader of the Labour Party, no matter how close he gets. An eight point lead separated Ed Miliband from the Prime Minister, a seemingly unconquerable distance. So, as 2013 inches ever closer, here are five piece of advice for David Cameron to secure the initiative and be ahead in the polls a year from now.

  1. Europe will break the party – past evidence has shown this. But continuing the flexible feat of twiddling your thumbs while sitting on your hands will not silence the fierce Eurosceptics and Europhiles in the Cabinet and on the backbenches. Most members of the party believe in the Common Market anyway, so tread a middle line between the extreme wings. Stand up for Britain – don’t compromise on the rebate, don’t allow prisoner voting, and commit to an in/out referendum. You don’t have to decry the EU from the top of the Elizabeth Tower, but make sure you aren’t seen as simply deferring to Europe at every opportunity.
  2. Tighter immigration and opposition to the multicultural creed are the keys to winning the next election. This issue has finally broken the chains of taboo, and is on the table for debate. But the Conservatives are rapidly losing ground. Miliband managed to grab onto the passing bandwagon with the insistence that residents of Britain speak English, and the surge in support for UKIP shows this is an issue that matters to people, and isn’t going away (despite what The Guardian might tell you). Stand up for border controls for EU citizens – take the fines, and the man and woman on the street will be right behind you.
  3. Ignore Labour and the liberal press over benefits changes. The system needs an overhaul, although the coalition’s plans do require a little tweaking. Families up and down the country believe hard work should pay, and will never forgive the party if we are seen to pursue the laziest section of the dole vote, rather than those that want to work.
  4. The Conservatives need to put some clear water between us and the Lib Dems. Distancing from Labour can come later. The party will be dragged under water with the drowning yellow bird if it doesn’t take steps to show up the Lib Dems opposing positive changes. Highlight them throwing their toys out of the pram over Lords reform, and their removing support for boundary changes. Forget worrying about a coalition split (they won’t jump ship yet – it would be political suicide), and restore the Conservative reputation as the party of the working people. Which leads on to:
  5. The party needs more policies aimed at the ‘common’ people – i.e. people who aren’t situated in the wealthy middle-class and above. Conservatives already have the vote of the upper classes, so chasing after their vote is a waste of time. Something needs to be done to bring the working-class back into the fold, as Maggie did so well in the ‘80s. Cutting the top rate of tax was economically sound, but politically stupid, and the leaves Conservatives branded as ‘the party of the rich’. Continuing with fox hunting and gay marriage isn’t making the blindest bit of difference. The public are mostly unconcerned either way, and there is no reason why these things can’t be tackled in the future – just not now. The internal bickering makes the party look petulant, out-of-touch, and unconcerned with putting money back into the pockets of the poor and providing them with effective services on an efficient budget. While so many are on the breadline this winter, the only conclusion that citizens across the country will draw is that the Tories do not work, and do not care.

Faith in our institutions has been shattered this year, and something needs to be done to bring trust back to politics. These suggestions would be a good start. But if David Cameron wants to be Prime Minister after 2015, he needs to learn how to start governing.

- Ellis Wiggins

[Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official view of Reading University Conservative Association or any affliliated institution].