How dare I ask to pay?

I recently sent the following tweet. 

Hi @George_Osborne 

I pay top rate tax. I don’t want a tax cut. I want better benefits for the disabled. Tax me more, you inhumane twat.

Which was unwise, given the flurry of abuse it generated. Not, sadly, from George, but from the type of feral UKIP intellect which occupies that perfect grey area between being fiercely patriotic about Britain, yet totally unwilling to pay a penny to fund it.

I am not patriotic. I find patriotism very uncomfortable, in that it automatically assumes the specialness of this country and therefore the lesserness (not even a word) of everybody from other countries. 

But perhaps that’s why I’m a fan of taxation, and the patriotic right aren’t. I don’t feel I’m more special or more deserving than anyone else. Luckier, sure, in some ways (but also a cancer survivor, so not particularly lucky in the matter of kidneys).

It’s been pointed out to me that, if I want to be taxed more, I can just write a cheque to HMRC. And I could, it’s true. But this misses the point of taxation. 

Firstly, my excess money wouldn’t help much. Disclosure: my salary is £40,000, which puts me in the top 12% (just), but I’m fortunate to have the kind of job that lets me freelance, so in a good year I can earn another £8,000 or so, pre-tax. 

So my massive cheque to HMRC would amount to, at best, about £40 a month.

If everyone on £40,000 paid another £40 a month (and pretty much all of them could) it would fund university education for everybody, or better social care for the disabled, or… Christ, at least some improvement to our shambolic, crumbling, failing nation. But my forty quid on its own? Not so much.

Second: I have an old friend who works at HMRC, who tells me (and this is my only reference for this, so if I’m wrong, forgive me), that HMRC don’t want your bloody cheque unless it’s for about £20k. It’s too much paperwork. They have a facility to accept it, but not the manpower; not since the closure of 108 tax offices and 60% cut in staff. Cos Osborne is all about chasing those tax avoiders. Yeah.

But, say the right, I could give it to charity. They’re right. Except, well…

Third: how many bridges have been built by charity? How many hospitals? Yeah, I could (and do) give money to charity. I worked for charities for 13 years, gave up 20% of my earnings, built free websites for them (and still do, in evenings and weekends); and I do all the usual standing-order stuff.

Good for me, aren’t I a saint? No, I’m not, I’m a smug git, but sleep well knowing I’m doing my bit (and probably your bit too)

But my bit isn’t much, and isn’t mandatory. Tax is mandatory. What about the poor sods who need to know – not hope, know – that their disability allowance will be paid each week? Charity, on the whim of comfortable smug arseholes with spare time and HTML skills, does not replace a functioning society. Only those who assume they’re better and more valuable than other people could be so blinkered and greedy. Cough up, you self-centred git.

Fourth point: government is useless, wasteful, thick. It says so in the Daily Mail. Well… yes. It is. So is private enterprise, and to the same extent. This shows us that:

CEOs, no matter how much they are paid, have no effect on the performance of a company: the idea that they are worth what they are paid, which is gigantic compared to the average member of their workforce, is nonsense. A report in 2013 found that between 1993-2012 40% of the USA’s highest paid CEOs had either their companies bailed out by the taxpayer, had their companies charged with fraudulent activity, been fired for poor performance, or have overseen the death of their companies

Are charities any better? If so, why don’t FTSE100 companies headhunt charity CEOs all the time? They don’t. Inefficiency, failure, stupidity – they’re human factors, and exist everywhere. But collective taxation does things charity or private endeavour can never do. Those things have a vital role, but so does government; and if you don’t understand that, you’re an ideologue and there’s no hope for your mind: it’s ossified in the position chosen for it by The Sun. 

Fifth: lower corporation tax has not grown the economy. We have a lower rate than anyone in the G20, but still lose investment to Germany (with a rate 8% higher). Reduced tax receipts hit our deficit, and increase the debt (which has doubled under Osborne’s low-tax regime). Our tax income has fallen almost a quarter since George the towel-folder took charge. Reducing our tax income yet more is idiotic in the extreme.

And you know who has super low tax and super tiny government? Sierra Leone. I bet they’re all glad they saved a few quid on tax and had stopped funding the state, when the local warlord is demanding their daughters down the barrel of a gun.

Finally, there’s an assumption that champagne socialists like me (and, by the way, I don’t like champagne and am a pretty rational middle-of-the-road business owner who struggles deeply with Corbybism and thinks functioning capitalism is a positive thing) – there’s an assumption that we just want “richer people than us” to pay. Well… yeah! I do. 

I’m 45. But after 25 years hard work, often 2 jobs at a time, I can’t afford to buy a house. I can’t replace my 10 year old rust bucket of a car. I saved for 2 years for an engagement ring, cos I have no savings, no pension, and for 6 years I had no holiday whatsoever. And I’m lucky. I’m in the richest 12%. Most of us have seen no pay increase since 1980 (in real terms) even though the total amount of wealth has more than doubled.

But the richest 1000 Britons increased their wealth by £155 billion since the 2007 crash – coincidentally the amount cut from government spending is also £155 billion. 

Where on earth could that money have gone to? Gosh, it’s a puzzle.

I live in Knutsford, which is all posh’n’that: but I rent here because I need to be here for work. I can’t live elsewhere, it’s utterly impractical. And I’m no silver-spoon wet liberal: I was born and brought up in a tough working class place called Ashton Under Lyne, which has just about the lowest life expectancy and highest social deprivation in the UK (certainly in the lowest few percent). If I live in Knutsford now, it’s cos I worked damn hard for it. That’s how it should be – see: no communism here, mate. 

But there are many, many people much richer than me, who can comfortably afford to pay the same top rate tax that I want to pay on my own higher earnings. There is, for example, £13trillion – yes trillion – hidden offshore, untaxed, and squirrelled away by the wealthiest 0.1% of psychopaths. Can they not afford to pay 5% more on that, to secure food and heating for our poorest and most disabled? 

Yes they fucking can. 

So when I argue for higher tax for myself (and others who are doing ok-to-spectacularly-well), I do it from a position of knowledge about how much is out there. And from a moral understanding that I am not better than the people our best patriots are currently driving into starvation, poverty, misery and death.

The logic of Trident

 Let’s think this through. 

We wouldn’t launch a nuclear attack on a non-nuclear state, as every non-nuclear state knows. So 190-odd states are not deterred by our nuclear weaponry. We don’t need it for them.

There are 8 confirmed nuclear powers, most are in NATO, the others are China, Russia, India and Pakistan. 

As a member of NATO, we’re signatories to the policy of “an attack on one member is an attack on all”. So we don’t need nuclear weapons to deter: we just need friends with them. Anyway, we can rule out any chance of the UK nuking a NATO member, or vice versa.

So: big bad scary Russia, ooooooh. Well, Germany is closer to Russia than we are. It has recent history of Russian (proxy) invasion. And it has no nuclear weapons. So clearly, there’s no need for nukes as a deterrent to Russia: if there was a need, Germany would have them. It can certainly afford them more than we can!

Also remember that Georgia houses nuclear weapons… and they did nothing to deter Russia’s Crimean adventure. So they’re no deterrent, even if you have them. We can effectively rule out Russia as an atomic threat/target, because nukes don’t deter them anyway.

I’d be amazed to hear a cogent argument that China is threatening to unilaterally launch a nuclear strike on the UK. And if it did, we have the protection of all of NATO (which should be the screensaver in your brain during any thinking about Trident).

Frankly, if China really wanted to destroy the UK, it’s best weapon would be finance. It holds several trillion dollars in reserves, and could crush us on the bond markets with not a drop of blood spilled. It hasn’t done so because we’re not a threat and we’re not a rival: we’re a customer. You don’t kill your customers. Not even communists do that (as if China are communists).

In the same region, North Korea are, of course, holy batshit crazy; but if they went nuclear, China would destroy them. A crazy neighbour is fun until he turns violent. Regardless of the target, China would obliterate North Korea if NK attacked anybody. And for all their bluster, NK know it. 

Granted, Pakistan is a worry, being home to a large part of the Taliban. But Pakistan’s key strategic enemy is India, the Taliban has been comprehensively out-moroned by ISIS; and there is a vanishingly small chance Pakistan would enter into a war with NATO by attacking one of its key aid donors (which we are), or home to about a million of its citizens (which we also are). We’re safe from Islamabad, unless you’re a Kipper, in which case THEY’RE COMING TO GET YOU, NIGEL!

Likewise India: would they really launch an attack on a country which has so many expats living in it (as we do)? Would they really decide to go to war with the UK, and, as a consequence, beat war with the whole of NATO?

Really? Why?! What possible reason?!

Which leaves the only people we would conceivably use nuclear weapons against as… our closest NATO allies.

Erm… I’m running out of reasons to keep a nuclear arsenal.

Maybe getting rid of them would be seen as political weakness… but Reagan and Gorbachev vastly reduced their arsenals, and are considered strong, effective leaders (ignoring their other failings).

There’s no path through the logic to a renewal of Trident. If you can find one, you skipped a logic-step and/or are being governed by your inadequate penis.

Maybe we should flip it on its head and ask politicians to explain the circumstances under which they’re prepared to go down in history as the man/woman who nuked a million civilians to death.

I’ve yet to hear that discussed. 

There’s the argument that we can’t predict the future, so should have them just in case. But it took the Manhattan Project 3 years to design, build and deploy the bomb over Hiroshima, including isolating the uranium and – lest we forget – inventing all the technology. All of it. It would take us 1/10th the time today, because we have the knowhow, and if we forget it, you can find it on the Internet

So is it likely a nuclear state would go from peaceful trading partner to “we will bury you” in the 3-4 months it would take us to nuke-up in a crisis? If it starts heading that way, we’d have plenty of time to cobble together something atomic that we can drop out of a biplane. 

And that assumes no NATO partners offer to help us if we got in a pickle. They would.

Look: we cannot uninvent nuclear weapons. But we don’t all need to have them either… we simply need a couple of counteracting large powers who deter each other, and have agreements with twats like the UK (who keep in invading places). And we have those agreements with big tough friends. Lots of them.

If your argument is “think of all the jobs it creates”, I say: why, this is wondrous news! – neocons have bought into the argument that not every penny spent must produce a profit or a functioning outcome. Things can be for the common good!

But if you’re going to spend £100 billion just to protect some jobs, maybe there are things that cost a lot of money and we do need. 

Housing might be one. Think of a £100 billion budget for new homes.

Or, to retain the engineering jobs, why not a push for renewables? Wind turbines. Wave power. Battery technology.

And if you’re into batteries, why not a car industry? Unlike Trident, cars are something we can deliver to other countries without becoming war criminals. £100 billion would be a great way to kickstart an electric car industry to rival Tesla, help to fix climate change, and contribute to our balance of payments.

But, yeah, if you insist, we can spend £100 billion on a potential mass-murder toy that we’ll never use, and can’t figure out how to safely store or degrade. It’d play so well in the Daily bloody Mail. And that’s what really matters, yeah?

You are not qualified 

If you’re poor and speak against rampant capitalism and greed, it’s the politics of envy.

If you’re rich and speak against rampant capitalism and greed, you’re a spoiled Hollywood actor who doesn’t understand the real world.

If you’re a charity and speak against rampant capitalism and greed, you should stick to addressing real problems, like something about Africa or sick animals.

If you’re a union and speak against rampant capitalism and greed, you’re an old fashioned socialist wielding too much power.

If you’re a church and speak against rampant capitalism and greed, you’re out of touch, should stay out of politics, and stick to preaching tea and biscuits to empty pews.

If you’re a business and speak against rampant capitalism and greed, you don’t understand the markets and are unrepresentative.

If you’re a minority and speak against rampant capitalism and greed, you have divided loyalties and are probably a secret terrorist.

If you’re a nurse or teacher and speak against rampant capitalism and greed, you’re too reliant on the state to have any independent thought, and should focus on healing the starving and teaching homeless kids.

Conclusion: nobody is ever qualified to speak for the poor. Ever.

Cow politics.

I have a love-hate relationship with politics.

It’s important stuff that shouldn’t be trivialised, and it affects every aspect of all of our lives in a way that Russell Brand seems incapable of recognising. Voting for your leaders is the thing that separates us from animals more than anything else apart from speech, clothing and line-dancing.

But I also recognise that politics is a nonsensical soap opera, and a big part of the fun – if fun it be – is hitting MPs with a bladder full of piss whenever they do something stupid.

The problem is: we fail to spot the really big stupid things until 100 years after they happen.

A really big stupid thing is happening right now, and this little blog is my take on it. But first, and because I like incongruity, let’s discuss bison.

A bison is a massive, hairy, aggressive, powerful one-ton cow with huge horns and a fearsome mothering instinct; it can run at 20 miles an hour for 20 or 30 miles, and it lives in huge groups which have the potential to form an impregnable wall of horns, muscles and overwhelming strength.

And they get eaten by wolves all the time.

On David Attenborough’s recent series there was a spectacular sequence showing 3 wolves, each weighing 40lb, managing to take on a biomass of Bison weighing several thousand tons, scaring the bejesus out of the cattle, and killing the weak.

Now, dogs are pretty stupid, but not as stupid as cows. If bison had any brains (or maybe some vocal cords or WhatsApp ) they’d agree not to run and scatter. Scattered, they’re all vulnerable. Combined they’re indestructible, and only idiots who leave the safety of the pack would be killed. If wolves ran at 1000 tons of angry bison, and 1000 tons of angry bison turned to face them and growled, we’d see a lot of wolf tail and absolutely no blood.

This is a neat metaphor for today’s global economy. 100 years ago, nations were like bison in a land without wolves. They competed with each other, and had fleas, and were subject to plague; but nobody was picking them off, so it made no sense to have agreements. Eat your cud, keep your head down, cooperate with nobody.

But today, the world is different. International finance and corporate giants – whilst a fraction of the size of most nations – are wolves picking off the weak. National laws have no effect on international companies, just as they have no effect on international criminals (in most minds, these amount to the same thing).

So to return to my earlier comment: the stupid thing we’re doing right now is wasting air on a massive debate about which way to run, like each nation is a bison, and we can’t communicate or join forces to mount a defence.

What we should be doing, of course, is recognising the reality and joining forces to make a shield-wall of horns and muscle against predatory capital, to prevent anyone being destroyed.

Of course, in this biomass there would be a lot of mess. We’d all have to wade through a lot of shit before we work out the toilet facilities. We’d have to learn to live together in ways we didn’t before. We’d have to work collaboratively to walk to the watering hole en-masse, and have proper health and safety rules that prevented anyone falling in.

But wolves wouldn’t kill us. And we’d prosper.

And this – in its confused, bureaucratic, inefficient way – is what the EU is attempting to do. It’s not perfect. It’s not clean. There is shit underfoot, and we haven’t figured out a way to get to lush green pastures yet. Lots of people are bitching about the cost of health and safety (although they’d stop bitching if they saw what it’s like when someone falls into the pond). But the EU is protection in a world which is – like it or not – ruled by wolves which will kill us all, given a chance. It’s not great protection. But that’s mainly because we’re not yet great at collaborating.

And this is my intellectual opposition to UKIP. They fail to realise that alone, we’re at the mercy of killers. They’re too busy moaning about other bison standing too close and nudging them while they wee to recognise the truth: that proximity to neighbours is better than having your throat ripped out by lupine psychopaths. UKIP ignore the fact that the problems of globalisation aren’t globalisation per se. The problem is that only the killer corporations are global. The nations are still, well, national, and therefore vulnerable.

We can’t put the Internet away, or stop progress. All we can do is recognise the new vulnerabilities progress exposes us to, and find ways to fix them. And the only rational fix for supranational finance is supranational governance.

Not only should we stay in the EU (which must, I agree, reform fast). We should also work towards more and more global agreements on tax, workers rights, ecology, power, military and more.

Otherwise, we’re little better than idiot cows running away from each other to be slaughtered in the bushes.

The illusion of activity at the BBC

Last week, the BBC chose to ignore a protest march against Austerity.

You may have heard of it: 50,000 people marched from the BBC’s new HQ to Westminster, the latest in a series of protests against the agenda of cuts and privatisation which are slowly, inexorably destroying the fabric of the British State.

But in spite of it starting at the BBC’s front door, the corporation chose to ignore the protest. That evening’s news bulletins were filled with 30,000 people having a party to celebrate the Summer Solstice; and the important news that a single Scotsman had cheered for England at the World Cup.

But nothing at all about any views which run counter to those of the coalition. There was (apparently) a 25 second mention on BBC Radio 4, and two days later a 30-second clip appeared on the BBC News website. But that’s it.

This is the latest in a long series of – speaking charitably – inexplicable editorial choices that BBC News have made.

In 2013, they had upwards of 15 reporters based in Manchester to report the Conservative Party Conference, yet felt unable to point the camera at the 60,000-strong march happening outside.

The BBC barely mentions a word about the fact that over 70% of NHS contracts are now in private hands, and that even Tory Health Ministers are confessing that they no longer control the NHS. Silence about that. Yet every story that casts the NHS in a negative light is given hour-long Panorama specials and shouty, scary headlines on the 6 O’clock News.

The Green Party, an actual political party with actual policies and actual MPs, gets nary a mention during the EU Elections. Yet UKIP, which has no MPs and no policies, and which actually lost 6% of its vote, is hailed as producing a magnificent victory and given round-the-clock exposure.

Ed Miliband, who is (at the time of writing) 6-8 points ahead in the polls, and has led polling for 4 solid years, is on track to win the next election. Yet the BBC reports that he’s in crisis, and leaves viewers who are unable to discover facts in other ways with the impression Labour has collapsed.

It’s very difficult to avoid thinking that this is a deliberate choice by the BBC.

But I’m no conspiracy theorist: it probably isn’t planned, and the BBC probably isn’t even aware it’s happening. There is no cabal of evil executives making secret midnight visits to each others’ lairs, and planning how to screw over the Northern, left-wing, working-class and ethnic parts of the country. That doesn’t happen.

It doesn’t happen, because it doesn’t need to.

No: the BBC doesn’t need to plan its bias; it emerges organically as a natural side-effect of becoming enmeshed with the Establishment that the media is supposed to be holding to account.

To hold a decision-making position at the BBC, you need to be bright, talented, educated, based in London, and well-connected. And people who fit that bill are highly unlikely to find themselves at the shitty end of austerity policies. They’ll have jobs. They’ll have property. They’ll have pensions. And even if they lose all of those things, they’ll land on their feet pretty damn fast, because they’re part of the largely privately-educated Oxbridge Mafia which helps out “people like them”, and always does just fine, thank you.

So how can the executives at the BBC have any experience or understanding of what is happening to people who aren’t a privately-educated Baron who attended Keble College, Oxford, like the current head of the BBC?

We all know they can’t understand normal lives. I mean that literally: we know it in our bones, but we know it as a fact, because an independent report by the University of Wales in 2013 found that the BBC has been “pushed to the right” and shows a consistent bias.

Of course, BBC News didn’t report that fact. Of course not.

By “pushed to the right”, the report means that the BBC unquestioningly accepts the views of corporations and the Conservative party, and under-represents countervailing opinions of Greens, nursing bodies, doctors, the Police Federation, local government, the Scottish, the Welsh, Labour-supporters, unions, scientists, charities and churches. Yet between them, those sections of society account for almost everybody who isn’t a current member of the Cabinet.

I find BBC bias disturbing because it under-reports my own (widely held) opinions, but even moreso because it represents an existential threat to the BBC. The BBC and NHS are, to my mind, the alpha and omega of British cultural and social life. Those two great institutions are written into the national DNA. The Heath Service is, as we speak, being ideologically dismantled by short-termist, blinkered, money-grubbing incompetents who know the price of everything and the value of nothing. Thankfully the NHS is fighting back hard, in the shape of countless protests and the formation of a political party to defend it.

But the BBC is currently in the process of destroying itself. It needs no help from the Tory Party. It’s on a kamikaze mission if it continues to under-represent millions of people who aren’t former members of the Bullingdon Club, and who don’t approve of privatisation, austerity, the upward movement of assets and finance from the poor to the rich, and the dismantling of the state. Left unrepresented and ignored, those people are likely to stop funding a national broadcaster which has become little more than a propaganda tool for the Establishment.

As a result of being infested with figures from an ever-narrower socio-economic group (and to reduce the risk to its funding model) the BBC has given uncritical voice to every piece of Tory spin. But in doing so, it’s ignored the far larger problem on its left-flank: if we stop valuing the BBC, we will stop paying for it. And an inflation-matching licence fee will be wiped out by only a few thousand of us stopping paying.

It’s a real risk.

I made this very point in a letter to the BBC early this week, and wasn’t much surprised that a few hundred people retweeted the text of my complaint. I’m not alone in feeling this way.

Nor was I surprised that, 4 days later, I still haven’t heard a peep from the BBC’s Complaints department.

What did surprise me was when a nice man from BBC Points of View contacted me, and asked to film me for the programme. We chatted on the phone for 10 minutes, and I expressed, in a fairly eloquent way, the points I made above.

Now, I’m not a journalist, and I don’t habitually record my phone calls. So If Nice Mr BBC feels I’m misrepresenting him in the lines which follow, I apologise and invite him to correct me.

Nice Mr BBC told me Points of View were considering making a “half-hour special” programme about bias and the #NoMoreAusterity march, and whilst I was hardly going to be the star (something I’d dread), I would make a valuable contribution. I’m not someone who seeks fame, which is why this blog and my Twitter feed avoid the use of my real name. So I don’t want to appear in front of cameras: but I thought about all the people who felt strongly about the non-reporting of the #NoMoreAusterity march, and who hadn’t been offered a national platform to discuss the issue. I didn’t feel I could refuse to say something on their behalf.

So I said yes: I’d do it. Nice Mr BBC would travel from London to Stockport to meet me, film me for what was described as a “14 minute segment” of the show, and the results would be broadcast on Sunday. But in the meantime, would I mind drafting out a 90-second statement, which would form the backbone of my comments? He wanted to check it for legal issues, but wouldn’t make any editorial changes: he wanted my voice.

I did as I was asked, sent him a script I’d timed to 90 seconds, which expressed the key points made in this blog: a pattern of bias, the Cardiff University report, the march outside the Tory Conference, the silence about the NHS privatisation, etc.

And late last night, when Nice Mr BBC arrived at his hotel in Manchester, he called me back to discuss my notes.

The content was too long, he said. Although the segment was 14 minutes long, the part about the Austerity march would only be around 3 minutes. And we have to give time for a right-of-reply, which means the BBC Exec who produces bias news broadcasting 24 hours a day would have at least 50% of the segment to make his views. Again. And finally, he explained that Points of View is a current affairs show, so I couldn’t mention anything about previous marches, the NHS or the University of Cardiff report. It all had to be about one matter: the #NoToAusterity march.

I protested: the very point of my complaint was being missed, and I was instead being turned into content-fodder for a minor BBC programme. Nice Mr BBC said it was prime-time BBC1, an important platform, and that the Director General of the BBC would be watching; but I doubt it.

And even if that were true, extrapolating my broad point about a record of right-wing bias is going to be vanishingly difficult from a 30-second sound-bite about one incident: it would be like guessing I’m thinking about Finlandia by listening to me hum a single note in E-flat major. I know the boss of the BBC is probably a wily old bloke (always a bloke), but he’s not that wily. Any criticism I could make would vanish into a single-issue that could be lightly brushed off, and nothing at all would change.

But in spite of my reservations, I agreed to filming: it’s better than nothing at all. However, it does concern me that the BBC is simply making the illusion of change. They produce a programme, and a BBC News executive comes on to do his “right of reply” thing, and everyone goes home feeling like they’ve ticked their boxes: but nothing changes.

It’s the same problem I have with Twitter, even though I’m often pretty active on there. If you write a tweet about Cameron, and it gets retweeted a few hundred times, you feel like you’ve done something. But it’s just an illusion. Twitter is like a valve on a pressure-cooker, and each time an angry person shouts into the digital void, the parasitic elite who are sucking the life out of the country (indeed, out of the world) feel slightly safer. Each spleen vented on Twitter corresponds to one fewer person manning the barricades.

And I fear this Points of View will be the BBC creating another illusion of change. It will be an inverted swan, where we can all see the mad paddling, but beneath the surface everything glides along as it always did.

I was in two minds about filming today. Nice Mr BBC was nice, and professional, and guided me through the (rather unnerving) process very smoothly. He was exactly the shade of bland, unhearing blank that my English reserve required, given that my role in proceedings was to tersely criticise his existence. And he’d come a long way, was sweating profusely in the heat, and seemed very much out of his comfort-zone in the People’s Republic of Manchester. So I wish him no harm. I just wish what he was producing wasn’t merely a cover for the Continuity BBC.

For those who agree with my critique of the BBC: I hope I expressed myself well on the programme.

For those who are outraged by the lack of coverage of #NoMoreAusterity: I hope I made the case successfully.

But more than anything, for those who want the BBC to do it’s job, to hold power to account, and to report without bias: I hope the executives can read between my too-short lines, and make the changes that the corporation demands.

Because if they don’t, the BBC will lose its reason to exist. And that would be a sad day.

Vote UKIP, get UKIP

People vote (or don’t vote) for a variety of reasons, and pure logic is rarely the main one.

If rational self-interest made decisions for us, most people would vote for a party far to the left of Labour, because the personal interests of the majority of people are better served by redistributive social democracy than they are by the neo-capitalism that currently has primacy. Don’t believe me? Read Thomas Piketty (or don’t, and just take other peoples’ word for it, like most of us will).

But people don’t vote for rational self-interest, they think with their gut. The problem with thinking with your gut is: your gut has shit for brains.

But I’m the same as you: I’m just as liable to instinctive feelings as you are, and just as likely to make wrong choices.

In the coming Euro and General Elections, wrong choices will dominate. I’m talking about UKIP.

There are, of course, sound reasons for liking UKIP. You may have perfectly legitimate qualms about the EU, or rational self-interest may come in to play if your personal job is personally threatened by a person who is from Bulgaria, in person. I doubt it, but it’s possible.

And that’s fine: I’m not one to diss democracy, and I’m not going to tell you not to vote in any way you see fit. If it’s good for you, fine: do it. But please find out if it’s actually good for you first.

Because if you vote for one UKIP policy, you vote for them all.

And, with the exception of “They’re better than Labour/Tory/LibDem” (and I don’t blame you for anger) and an ill-defined “let’s get out of Europe” stance, I doubt many of you actually know what they stand for.

Well, first of all, they stand for nothing. Officially nothing. By the time you read this, that may have changed; but it should be noted that Nigel Farage denounced his own manifesto as “Junk” and dropped it in January. Right now, as I write, there’s nothing at all to replace it. They have absolutely no policies.

So what is it you’re voting for? You don’t know. They don’t know. Nobody knows!

But we can guess, based on what UKIP have said in the last month or so. Their policies appear to be as follows… and remember, if you vote for one of these policies, you’re voting for them all. So think carefully.

1: Leave Europe.

It’s unclear what’s actually meant by this, because UKIP themselves seem a little vague. But I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt, and accept that they’ll find a way to simply withdraw from all agreements with the EU. They want to do this because, UKIP claim, the EU costs jobs and is undemocratic.

They’re all elected, but it’s undemocratic. That’s UKIP logic. So let’s skip past that, and get to jobs. UKIP’s own estimates are that the EU costs 500,000 British jobs.

But studies show being in the EU creates or safeguards 3,400,000 jobs in the UK – 7 times as many. According to a 2 year study by economists at the University of Southampton “2.5 million people owed their jobs directly to exports of goods and services to EU countries and a further 900,000 jobs had been created indirectly by trade with the continent.

It’s easy to argue such speculative figures, and shout “bullshit”, but the research has to be out by 80% before it turns good for UKIP. And this research is from the same people who predicted previous loss/gain of jobs from overseas workers to within 2%, and haven’t been out by more than 5% since 1980.

Why would they be so wrong this time?

1 (b): Stay in Europe but renegotiate, in the same way Switzerland has.

UKIP occasionally say they’d do this, rather than the policy described above. It’s not something I personally support, but renegotiation to become more like Switzerland is a reasonable policy. In fact, it’s the policy of the Tory party. Of course, Switzerland only survives because of it’s banking, and we can’t have banks like that because we have international (not just EU) agreements that forbid it. But let’s skip past that.

If UKIP go down the “become like Switzerland” route, why vote for UKIP? The best they can do is exactly what the Conservatives offer. You might really hate Europe, but if you vote UKIP you get all the rest of the policies listed below. Do you want to vote for these? Really?

Flat tax

UKIP promise to introduce a single, flat tax rate of 31%, which would mean a tax increase for the poorest 88% of working Britons, and a tax cut for the richest 12%.

In fact, from the richest 0.5% it would mean we’d get £18 billion less in taxation each year (based on 2012 figures). But almost 90% of ordinary people would pay more.

The OBR has calculated that a flat 31% tax would see national tax revenue fall by 16% per year, which is the equivalent to three times the loss suffered in the 2007-2014 recession. A tax revenue fall this great is the equivalent to the entire national budget for the departments of education, skills, business, environment and agriculture, plus 30% of the cost of the NHS. We would have to stop funding all schools, business investment, environmental work (including flood defenses) and around 1/3 of the NHS. All of this, just to give a tax cut to the richest 0.5% of people.

Cutting payments to Europe

We currently pay £55 million per day to Europe. That’s a huge amount, but breaks down to 81p per person per day, assuming only individuals pay it. If businesses pay it as well (and they do) the personal cost to each individual is estimated at only 12p per day.

Of course, that huge UKIP figure is disputed – many say it’s much, much lower – but let’s assume UKIP’s figures are correct, and we’re all being squeezed for 12p per day.

The average UK income is £73.85 per day. The cost of Europe is 12p per person per day. For that, you get access to the world’s largest market, human rights protection, union rights, health and welfare regulations, safety at work regulations, maternity regulations, shared access to pipelines and ports and airports and resources, protection for our fishing fleets, and the ability to have a say in all of those matters.

If you want to save that 12p per day, you lose all those things. You can, of course, choose to set up your own welfare, maternity, working-rights and human-rights regulations. But those things would still cost you money, so you might only save 5p per day.

And you’d still lose direct access to the world’s largest market. Honestly: why?

Cutting fuel poverty

UKIP say they’ll do this by scrapping the “green subsidy” on bills, and cutting all investment in renewables. Let’s look at some financial facts.

  • The EU takes £8.7 billion from the UK each year.
  • Russia, right now, takes £26.9bn per year from the UK – 3 times as much. That’s what we spent on Russian oil in 2013. Without renewable energy, we’ll need more oil, so the money we pay to Russia would increase. Rather than spending £24 per year per bill (the average green subsidy) on investing in British fuel production, we’ll end up spending more than that to subsidise Russian fuel production.

If the EU is (as UKIP state) a drain on Britain’s balance of payments, how much more of a drain will Russia be? If we place our national output in the hands of Putin, do you really think he’ll be decent about it? Was he decent to Chechnya, or Ukraine?

Develop shale gas

Shale production in the UK so far has been literally zero. Not one cubic cm of viable, commercial gas has been extracted. It’s thought possible that there will be gas seams in Lancashire and the Home Counties – I don’t deny they may be plenty – but it’s not proven.

And even if we did extract it, the environmental costs would be catastrophic. Nigel Farage might love to spend his time in a smokey environment, but most of us would prefer to live on a planet with a functioning atmosphere. Ignoring climate change won’t make it go away. 99% of climate scientists can’t all be wrong! And the IPCC report states we have at most 5 years to stop increasing C02 emissions and start reducing them, or the entire planet is screwed.

Abolish inheritance tax

Conservative policy, since Thatcher, has said that the way to get rich is to work hard. It’s said “no hand-outs”, and has insisted we invest, build our own futures, manufacture, create, and buy your own home. It was a meritocratic, and the hardest-working, most talented, most dedicated amongst us would succeed and get rich.

We’ve spent 30 years complying, and working harder and harder (we now work longer hours than any country in Europe) and have seen our income drop in real terms by 6%, whilst the richest 0.1% of people have increase – increased – their wealth since 2010 by £450 billion.

That’s 1000 people sharing £450 billion extra since the 2007 crash.

If hard work is the way to riches, how come all the people who work hard aren’t rich, and all the people who are rich don’t work hard?

Owning stuff is how to be rich. And to own things, you have to inherit them. If person A inherits a thing, there’s no way person B can own it, because person B can never earn enough to buy it. Inheritance tax frees up assets for the next generation to earn. Locking inheritance into the system locks up assets so they never change hands, and ensures no matter how hard you work, you can never win.

Nigel Farage knows this, because Nigel Farage is a stockbroker. If he tells you cutting inheritance tax is good for you, he’s lying. Read best-selling, superstar economist Thomas Piketty, and you’ll see that there is massive evidence that I’m right. Even the Wall St Journal agrees that inheritance tax (they call it “wealth tax”, but it’s the same thing) should ideally be set at around 80%, not zero.

Abolishing inheritance tax will not help 88% of Britons. It will help the richest 0.5% quite a lot. But for most people, this policy simply helps to keep you in your place.

Cut regulations.

Politicians have been “cutting regulations” for 30 years, I’m amazed there are any left. But there still seem plenty to cut, if you believe UKIP. Cutting regulations is sold to us as the panacea for everything, because we can all imagine a grey, nasal little man called Brian, sitting in an office, slowly filling in forms and holding everyone up. But the truth is, “regulation” is just another word for law. And we all like to be protected by laws.

Brian, in his grey suit, is probably administering the law that stops people slipping horse meat into your lasagne. Would you really like that regulation to be cut?

Or a regulation that ensures drugs are tested properly before going to market (think Thalidomide)?

Or a regulation that stops banks from betting money they don’t have on sub-prime mortgages (think 2007 financial crash)?

Regulations are there to stop people ripping you off, making you sick, treating you like shit, and damaging your interests. They’re imperfect, but simply scrapping them all isn’t a plan: it’s anarchy.

Safeguard the NHS

Not easy if you’re also cutting 30% of its budget, as their flat-tax policy would do.

And research has indicated (I accept, not demonstrated, but certainly indicated) that UKIP policies to prevent immigration would cut NHS staff by 22%, because of all the nurses and ancillary staff who come from overseas: under UKIP policies they wouldn’t be able to come any more. If this had been happening for the last 25 years, the NHS couldn’t function.

Local homes for local people

If your parents and grandparents live locally, you get a priority council home. Fine… but which grandparents. I don’t know about you, but it’s normal to have four grandparents, and they aren’t necessarily from the same place. One of mine was from Manchester, two from Wales, one from Surrey. And I live in Cheshire.

Where do I collect my council house from?

And, in case you hadn’t noticed: what council houses? Another UKIP policy is to sell off all social housing, and cut spending on building more to “protect the countryside”.

So, in the UKIP universe, there won’t be any council houses, but you’ll still be able to claim one if you live in four places at once, like your grandparents did.

Cheaper petrol

Well fine, but from where? Russia, again? And what will it cost to buy? I’m sorry, but in a global world with global prices, how can UKIP simply state that the cost of petrol won’t rise? Labour did that, and it bought them a political dividend, but it’s not really enforceable for any length of time.

The only way to reduce petrol costs is to find alternatives where possible, and to drive less. If we use oil for power stations, we have less to power cars, so cost goes up. But if we invest in renewables, we don’t need to use oil for power stations, and cost for petrol in your car has a chance of coming down.

And that’s it!

There are literally no other policies. None that are consistent enough to call a policy anyway. No policy on banks, or roads, or medical research, or education, or pensions, or fisheries and farming, or regional investment. Nothing.

They make odd announcements about how it’ll just “be better” in some way, but almost none of them are the same as the announcement they made the week before. I may be doing them an injustice, but we can’t be sure until there’s a manifesto. And right now, there isn’t one.

I accept that lots of parties do this. Labour have had a “policy review” since 2010, and in lots of places there’s no official policy. But UKIP have existed since 1993 – that’s 22 years – and in that time I can find no evidence of them every having a published policy on any of this stuff. Whereas with Labour, Tory or LibDem, there are, at least, large amounts of speeches on subjects, official front-bench spokesmen, previous policies etc.

UKIP have nothing.

Except for this bit

OK, it’s not a good idea to mix personality and policy. I don’t, personally, like political attacks based on comments like “Ed Miliband is so weird”. It means nothing. Ed Miliband’s teeth will not make any difference to your life, but Ed Miliband’s policies might. So ignore the teeth!

But UKIP, or rather Nigel Farage, have made great political capital out of their claims to be unlike politicians, to be above all that sleaze and political chicanery.

So, whilst I don’t like personal attacks, I feel that if a politician campaigns on moral issues (like John Major’s “back to basics” campaign) it’s fair to inspect that politicians morals and see if he’s a hypocrite.

Nigel Farage is not a man of the people. He’s a millionaire, privately-educated former-stockbroker. He’s claimed £2 million in parliamentary expenses, and refuses to let his expenses be investigated amid claims that he took £3,000 a month for running an office which was actually donated for free, and came with no running costs. He hates Europe for stealing British jobs, but employs his German wife as his assistant. He is almost hilariously hypocritical.

And he leads a party which feels it needs to say “we’re not racist”, which is (as any fule no) the prime signature of a racist. UKIP oppose gay marriage, when research shows 8% of all people are gay or bisexual.

So he’s essentially against 8% of Britons immediately.

He opposes what he insists on calling “women’s lib”, like it’s still 1970, and he would reduce maternity rights, abortion rights. And in one interview I saw recently he said he was fully in favour of women being sex workers (he loves a lap-dance) but against women being able to prosecute their husbands for rape or assault.

So he’s essentially against another 51% of all Britons immediately.

He wants to cut spending on support for disabled people, and members of his party (at the time of writing they’re still candidates) support mandatory abortion for disabled children. 12% of us will suffer a disability at some point in our life.

So he’s essentially against another 12% of Britons immediately.

We’re adding up, aren’t we: the people UKIP wants to ban.

In the EU voting block, he’s aligned to far-right parties who have claimed that mass-murdering neo-Nazi Anders Breivik was doing the right thing. And Farage leads a party which seems to attract more than it’s fair share of homophobes, disablists, sexists, racists and bigots. UKIP are frantically sacking them each time one is exposed, and at the time of writing they’re sacking more than one per day. Many are also being arrested for hate-crimes. This is a fact.

Of course, Farage himself comes across as a nice, ordinary, possibly badly-dressed guy in the pub. But then, what did you expect? Hitler? Not even Hitler was like Hitler to start with. Godwin’s law applies here, so I must be careful to remain resolutely satirical.

So instead, I will draw your attention to any number of world-famous Fascists: do you really think any of them started out jack-booting around, screaming speeches and committing war-crimes? Of course not: they started out seeming reasonable and talking to you in ways other politicians don’t. They hid their extremism behind moderate talk of how things would be better if it wasn’t for those people who are different.

And, just as with UKIP, those people were foreign, have different coloured skins, different habits, are disabled, are gay, are women, or (God forbid) a one-legged Bulgarian Lesbian Feminist Muslim. Just as with UKIP, they promise national pride and a return to greatness if only we turn back the clock on all this permissiveness, lock the door against people who look different, or have different sexuality, or are disabled.

So before you vote for UKIP, please don’t just think about Europe. Everyone knows Britain hates Johnny Foreigner – we’re an international joke for it. The Daily Mail has made it’s entire stand-up (throw-up) act about it.

So don’t just think about what you’re voting for: also think about what else you’re voting for.

And remember that the top of a slippery slope always looks like fun. But it leads down, down, down to some pretty dark places.

Thank you for reading. Please share it if you find it interesting.

For once, I’m not opening comments: if you have different opinions, start a blog. I don’t want to invite a hateful comments section.