Ahead of Today’s European Election, Chris McSweeney makes a final appeal to reason and begs you on his hands and knees not to vote UKIP.
Let me start by saying this: I get it.
I get that the UK has seen better days. I get that Farage is a straight-talking, confident guy leading an exciting movement against the bloated bureaucratic establishment. The media and the political elite loathe him, yet he doesn’t back down and powers through every debate like a champ. You can’t barrage the Farage, right?
However, politicians should not be celebrities – they’re known to lie and twist and distort. As a rational, logical being, you should carefully consider all of the evidence in some depth, and weigh up all the elements in the equation before you make a decision.
I am not trying to spin you. I don’t have a political party of choice – at least not one that I firmly believe in. At the time of writing, I’m undecided between three parties. Instead, I intend to briefly explain – based on the empirical evidence I have been privy to – why UKIP are possibly the second-or-third worst party to vote for in today’s election (the worst being the merry band of neo-Nazi football hooligans “Britain First”, obviously). I shall do this by breaking down some of UKIP’s key priorities. Starting with…
THE EUROPEAN UNION
…obviously. Now don’t get me wrong, the European Union is an inefficient technocratic nightmare. It is certainly not without its flaws, but it also has many significant benefits – some of which are too complicated to fit into a tweet or a snappy newspaper headline (which is why they’re not very well known). However, much of the anti-EU sentiment that I’ve heard from Euro-sceptics in general is largely informed by myths, distortions and outright lies.
Membership of the EU is expensive, although not as expensive as UKIP have often claimed. The £55m a day figure is contradicted by official figures, and does not account for what we get back – both in measurable amounts (like grants), and figures that we can only estimate (like the economic benefits of free trading with the Eurozone). Some estimates put the UK’s gross revenues from EU membership in tens of billions.
Many, many small businesses in the UK enjoy the privilege of EU small business grants, among other EU perks. The sudden removal of this system would severely disrupt these businesses, possibly to the point of bankruptcy. Many British jobs would be lost – although almost certainly not as many as 3 million, as pro-EU zealots the Liberal Democrats often like to claim.
Aside from this are the obvious diplomatic benefits. The EU maintains a consistent, democratic dialogue between European nations. If you look closely, most EU statute is populist and liberal-minded, such as the removal of trade tariffs, cheap flights, human rights and gender equality. Criticism often comes amid green energy policy and immigration which can potentially cause economic damage to various groups, however all of this is a long way from the undemocratic theft of sovereignty that UKIP claims it is. Look closer at the day-to-day operation of the EU and you’ll reach the same conclusion.
There’s also the fact that UKIP’s plan in the EU Parliament (you know – the positions they’re going for), is to stagnate proceedings, abstain from votes and try and make the EU look like the inefficient waste of taxpayer money they accuse it of being – all the while wasting taxpayer money without the slightest sense of irony.
Ultimately, the EU is an incomprehensibly complex system that has evolved over time to support our economy (another mind-blowingly complex system), and our economy has in turn adapted to the EU. I only have a basic knowledge of this stuff – I’m not degree educated in economics – but in these fragile, uncertain times where economic recovery is precarious, is making sudden, radical moves like leaving the EU the best course of action?
Just to be clear, I don’t personally know the answer to this. If you are qualified in economics, please fill me in. Which leads me to my next point…
On a serious note though, progressive change is often made against the wishes of the public. Repealing the death penalty and the legalisation of homosexuality were both against the wishes of the general public. When it comes to overwhelmingly complex issues such as the EU and its effect on global economies (be it positive or negative), I only trust those with experience of international diplomacy and an Economics PhD to make an informed judgement, and I don’t see many of those in UKIP.
It is my personal opinion (and I understand it may not be yours) that the public has been misinformed for years on the issue by rumour-spreading anti-EU newspapers, and the rhetoric of fact-twisting parties such as UKIP and the BNP. More about the fact-twisting later, but this is why I feel that there shouldn’t be referendum – because the public would get the wrong answer.
You might think this isn’t very democratic: elitist even, but this is the nature of representative democracy. We elect people with better knowledge than us to make these decisions, and the majority of people in power currently seem keen to remain in the EU. Again, I’m no expert, but that speaks volumes.
Would you walk into ASDA and ask the first person you saw to be Chairman of the Bank of England? The second person to be Chief Economic Adviser? The third to be Chancellor of the Exchequer and so on? That’d be suicide, but it’d be very democratic.
IMMIGRATION (AND FACT-TWISTING)
I shall tread carefully here, because the truth is no one alive can claim to know any of this stuff accurately. The Government, and specifically the Office for National Statistics (ONS) can make an educated guess, while everyone else (particularly UKIP) just speculates. We all like to think the Government has an up-to-date figure of everyone in the country – who they are, where they’re from, what their job is, but this is an illusion. People are tricky to count, because they never stand still for long enough.
I won’t try to sell you on the economic benefits of immigration, and why in the long-term we need it due to our aging population. Instead, I’ll briefly point out how UKIP recently twisted some fact quite disingenuously:
Every 10 years we have a census, which counts almost everyone. This is only once a decade (the last was 2011), so until the next one we can only take shots in the dark with regard to who lives here (the only way to improve this system would be some kind of ID-card program, which sounds a bit Big Brother to me). Intermittently, however, the results of other surveys come out, such as the Labour Force Survey (LFS).
The LFS is calculated by ONS surveyors making thousands of phone calls to business owners. They ask about their employees – how many, where they’re from, ages, etc. The bosses answer as best they can, and the data is collated. The sample size is comparatively small, so the results are multiplied by 500 to estimate a figure on a nation-wide level. This means each person in the survey represents 500 in the data. Room for error here, I’m sure you’ll agree.
The LFS data was released last week, and while many newspapers reported that the data showed a drop in Romanian and Bulgarian workers in the first quarter of 2014 (contrary to UKIP’s prediction that there’d be “a flood”), UKIP pointed out that the data showed an increase of 250,000 EU-born workers over the last year. They said that this was a result of uncontrolled immigration, but there’s nothing to suggest that this is the case. The Labour Force Survey is exactly that – a survey of people with jobs. People who previously did not have a job last year now have a job. They could’ve lived here for many years, had been unemployed last year, and have since found employment. Lots of British people benefited from this situation as well, as the economy improved and unemployment fell. UKIP however, failed to point this out (alongside their incorrect “Romanian flood” prediction).
This example of cherry-picking data and misrepresenting facts to support their agenda is only the most recent. Contrary to what UKIP would tell you, immigration is not a very important issue when you look at the big picture, although alarmist dogma about radical Islam and erroneous figures about birth rates can scare you into thinking otherwise. I could be here all day pulling apart posts from UKIP’s Facebook page and website, spewing thousands of words on why their rhetoric doesn’t stand up to scrutiny, but let’s move on.
CLIMATE CHANGE, BIG BUSINESS AND EVERYTHING ELSE
UKIP are not publicly admitted climate change denialists, but they certainly act like it. Nigel Farage has often slammed green energy policy, and regularly likes to align himself with the pro-fracking crowd. For those who don’t know, fracking for shale gas (hydraulic fracturing) is an inefficient environmental disaster, in which millions of gallons of toxic sludge are blasted into the earth at high pressure to release natural gas. In the worst cases, rivers are contaminated, and flammable translucent spirits run from people’s kitchen taps. Seriously.
I’m not sure about your stance on the issue, but it is my belief (and the belief of the entire scientific community) that climate change is a factual reality. UKIP are keen to take steps backward in this area, and undoing the little that has been achieved in the fight against climate change could prove to be an absolute disaster. Even if climate change is all a liberal conspiracy as some claim, finite fossil fuels are not. The oil will run out this century, and the sooner we switch to renewables, the better. We all know this to be true, but like UKIP, we prefer to cling to our normalcy bias. The Titanic can’t sink – screw the lifeboats, let’s go to the bar.
As a former commodities trader, Farage likes an unregulated free market that works for the entrepreneur (AKA your boss). UKIP have been shown to be soft on workers’ rights and market regulation that stops companies exploiting their workers or the system in general, and cite economic regulation as one of the key reasons they’re against the EU. One should point out that it wasn’t immigrants that were to blame for the 2008 recession – it was the removal of regulation. Everyone gets rich in the short term, but then the debt explodes and everything collapses. Farage has covered all of his bases with pre-election banker-bashing, but personally I don’t buy it.
On the home front, Farage also stated that UKIP are the only party “brave enough” to cut pensions and the NHS – as in, more than the Tories already have. Things are definitely going in the right direction there, I’m sure you’d agree.
That’s about all I have to say on the issue. If you’ve read this far, I thank you for your time and patience. Whether or not you intend to vote UKIP, you have my respect and gratitude for being an engaged, open-minded individual and I wish you all the best. The information above is gained via a plurality of sources and recounted here to the best of my ability and knowledge. I have tried to keep it impartial, empirical and evidence based, but my apologies if I’ve offended any sensibilities (especially you, Coldplay fans). Now stop reading and go and vote.
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