Thursday, December 22, 2016

Main trunk electrification was always a dud

The usual howls and wails of emotive knee-jerk reaction have come from Kiwirail's announcement to stop operating electric locomotives on the Main Trunk line.

It would cost NZ$1b to extend electrification to the Auckland network, and to Wellington.  However, Wellington's network is electrified to a different voltage and on DC not AC, so dual-voltage locomotives would need to be bought.  Even then, many of the trains on the line, going to and from branch lines (such as to the Bay of Plenty, Taranaki and Hawke's Bay) would still be operated by diesel.

However, the North Island Main Trunk electrification has always been a dud project since Rob Muldoon made the NZ Railways Department (NZR) embark on it as part of his Think Big central planning programme.

Main Trunk electrification was considered in the 1950s, after the line north of Wellington was electrified when it was deviated from what is now the Johnsonville line and placed in two double-track tunnels, so that trains were already operating electric from Wellington to Paekakariki (as steam locomotives couldn't run through the over 4km long Tawa Flat Number Two tunnel).  A set of electric locomotives were bought that could have served on the main trunk (and were the most powerful locomotives in NZ until 1972), but spent their lives almost entirely dedicated to operating the Wellington to Paekakariki trains (until tunnels on the line north of Pukerua Bay were lowered to enable diesel to run all the way through).

However it was rejected and the decision was made to go diesel, not least because the government owned railways was conservative technically, and was not keen to adopt what it thought then was the "risky" AC electrification system (being widely rolled out in Europe, but not yet used in New Zealand).  The DC system used in Wellington, Christchurch and Arthurs Pass was going to be too expensive, so diesel locomotives were bought to phase out steam.

The Think Big project came from an age when NZR had a general statutory monopoly on moving freight further than 150km.   NZR was facing delays on the main trunk line because of growing export traffic.  The problem, as it saw it, was a lack of capacity.  Its solution was to upgrade the line, bypassing several bottlenecks with shorter deviations, new viaducts able to take heavier trains and some steep winding sections avoided, but also to electrify the line between Palmerston North and Hamilton.  Why not to Auckland and Wellington?  Because the bottleneck was in the middle, and the way NZR operated meant that many trains were broken up and shunted along the route at Hamilton and Palmerston North.  

This was also an age with guards vans, with lots of small stations and sidings, as NZR's monopoly on long haul freight meant it handled small consignments of single wagons or even box loads.  Towns like Paraparaumu, Otaki, Hunterville, Otorohanga and Huntly had shunting locomotives to handle freight, like they always had.

In short, NZR ran an old fashioned, inefficient railway, handling consignments better suited to trucks, and its solution to its congestion was not to propose competition (naturally), but an expensive grandiose engineering based solution.   

Yet the Muldoon Government wasn't completely economically illiterate.  Main trunk electrification was committed, and would end up costing $350m in 1990 prices, but in 1982 NZR was converted into a corporation, effectively becoming the first SOE.  It would be required to make a profit, was no longer subject to political direction (except a Ministerial veto on closing lines) and would be subsidised directly for services that were unprofitable that the government required it to operate.

In 1983, Minister of Transport George Gair opened up domestic freight transport to competition, abolishing the 150km limit on road freight competition.  In 1984, a major consultancy report by Booz Allen Hamilton for the Railways Corporation made major recommendations for it to be competitive and profitable with competition from road freight.  This included closing two workshops, removing guards vans, closing small stations, moving from handling small lots of freight to trying to handle multiple wagon and train loads of freight.  

The Railways Corporation reformed, but it still lost freight to road competitors over many years.  In 1987, it commissioned Coopers & Lybrand to assess whether the main trunk electrification (that it was required to complete) could be an asset.  The report concluded that even if electricity were free it would still be a net loss to the Railways Corporation annually.  The only part of the project that made sense were all of the deviations.

As a result, when the Railways Corporation was restructured into a full SOE, it received $350m from taxpayers to bail it out of its Think Big project (after all the others were).  Officially, the Main Trunk Electrification had no net value that could ever be recovered from users of the line.

In short, the main trunk electrification has ALWAYS been a dud.  

After 30 years, the locomotives have become unreliable, many of the trains that now operate on the line have little operational need to be stopped at Hamilton and Palmerston North to change locomotives, wasting time, labour and fuel.  

A project that was inspired by technocrats running a monopoly, decided by politicians engaging in Soviet style central planning, has come to its natural conclusion.

It's not worth spending NZ$1b to incrementally reduce CO2 emissions, which will make no more difference to climate change than stopping a child urinating in a lake will stop it being toxic.  

Yet that wont stop the hyper-emotive railevangelist central planners making every hyperbole about this being some giant leap backward.   The Otira-Arthurs Pass electrification was closed in 1997 once technology enabled diesel locomotives to run all the way through from the West Coast to Canterbury, the Christchurch-Lyttelton electrification was closed in 1970, as equipment was due for replacement and with the age of steam coming to an end, it could be dieselised.  

Is it a shame that such a large project has proven to be not worthwhile? Absolutely, but it wasn't Kiwirail's fault, but the fault of the central planners of the Muldoon era - those the Labour Party and the Greens now ache to emulate, who chose to waste hundreds of millions of taxpayers money solving a problem that existed because of their regulation and archaic business practices it protected.

Kiwirail is a marginal operation at best, it doesn't need to have around its neck the vanity proposals of politicians who think they know best, and who think that saving every tonne of CO2 is worth unlimited amounts of taxpayers money.   

Note though how odd it is, that the Greens, who all claim to care about CO2 emissions, continue to oppose foreign ships on international trips carrying domestic cargo as they travel between NZ ports. This has next to no impact on CO2 emissions, as the ships are sailing anyway, by using spare capacity on the ships to carry freight within New Zealand.

Why?  Because the Seafarers Union doesn't like the competition.  The bottomline is that the Greens prefer even socialism to reducing CO2 emissions. 

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Syria is what most in the West wanted

What did you expect with Aleppo?

Syria's hereditary socialist/nationalist (Ba'athist) dictatorship has flagrantly used chemical weapons against its own people and dropped barrel bombs on them, for daring to oppose 46 years of repressive family rule.  Nobel Peace Prize winner, Barack Obama, said the use of chemical weapons would be a "red line", then did nothing besides let Assad (and his father) 's ally Russia "supervise the destruction" of the weapons.   

Obama, leader of the world's only superpower, then did nothing.  His excuse was that the UK House of Commons had voted against military action against the Assad regime (which it did, as now former leader Ed Miliband wanted to prove how much the "anti-Blair" he was and burnish his leftwing credentials).  Non-intervention, the preferred policy of rightwing isolationists and leftwing "pacifists" is the new norm, except for Russia.

Of course it isn't pure non-intervention.  The West has been funding and arming some of the rebel groups in Syria, including those with Islamist leanings.  They aren't ISIS (despite some claims), but there are no angels in Syria.   No one is fighting for Syria to be a secular liberal democracy that respects individual rights and political plurality.  

The surrender of Aleppo to the Assad dictatorship was the inevitable outcome of Russian intervention in favour of its long standing ally and the flagrant ongoing violation of international law by the Assad regime in using chemical weapons and barrel bombing civilian areas.

Chemical weapons and indiscriminate bombing by the Assad regime has worked.  China, Russia, Iran, all of which execute political opponents, don't care.  The part of the international community that should care (the "West") has shrugged, said lots, but Obama handed over responsibility to Russia.  This was like handing over responsibility for addressing North Korea's human rights atrocities to China.

The experience of Iraq - successfully overthrowing tyranny, followed by utter failure in replacing it and achieving control of the country, rightfully gave cause for caution.   

However, the result of that vacuum has been to give Russia an opportunity, to be the new power in the Middle East.  There were opportunities to contain Assad's use of chemical weapons and air power over civilians, with no fly zones, but doing anymore would have been much more difficult.   

Now those on the left are complaining that "we" sat by and did nothing, yet that is exactly what they campaigned for.  Dictators will murder opponents, will slaughter civilians and unless you are willing to put our own taxpayers' money and military force to intercede, it will continue.   Obama in 2011 said Assad either had to lead a transition to democracy or get out the way, but he did neither - he fought on, gained support of his strong ally - Russia - which already knew the West was going to do nothing.

The isolationist right of course also believed in leaving Syria alone, a few because they accepted Assad's propaganda that all his opponents are "terrorists" and all his opponents are "Al Qaeda and ISIS" whereas he is moderate and reasonable.   A few because they see Putin as a "friend".  However, mostly because they have no interest in what happens to people in foreign lands, as they are far away places of which they know little.  Syrians wanting freedom from tyranny should do it themselves, and not expect foreign government support (even if it means foreign governments actively support the tyranny).  At least that position has a consistency - governments should only defend the rights of those within their boundaries, even if other governments engage in mass slaughter that sends hundreds of thousands fleeing to other governments.

So Aleppo is awful.  Yet, it is the end result of the policies of both leftwing so-called "peace" supporters and rightwing isolationists.  The biggest threat to the lives of individuals are tyrannies, and the only way to redress that is to arm opponents or to take them on yourselves.   The Western appetite for this is slim indeed.


Sunday, December 04, 2016

So why is China upset about Taiwan?

Because Taiwan is, de facto, a separate country, but the mainland wants to keep up the pretence that it is entitled to do violence to it at any time if it so wishes.

It is the only a part of China that is not governed by the Communist Party of China (the People's Republic of China (PRC) because the Communists didn't manage to take over Taiwan and a handful of islands off of the mainland coast at the end of the Chinese Civil War.  The effect was that the previous government of China, the Republic of China (ROC), "temporarily relocated" its capital from Nanking to Taipei, with the Kuomintang (Nationalist Party) putting Taiwan and other islands (Kinmen, Penghu and Matsu Islands and some others) under its control in a state of emergency for over forty years.

The effect was not dissimilar to that of the two Koreas, except the two Koreas are of roughly equal geographical size and at one time similar GDPs (indeed the Republic of Korea "south" was poorer than the Democratic People's Republic of Korea "north" until the late 1960s). 

So as mainland China suffered under the jackboot of Chairman Mao for nearly thirty years, and lost tens of millions to executions and starvation, and stagnated, Taiwan was under the less brutal jackboot of Chiang Kai Shek for a similar period and became a rapidly developing industrial country. Of course since Mao died, China embraced corporatist capitalism and its economy has grown much like Taiwan did since the 1950s, but Taiwan also reformed although spent many years under tough authoritarian rule. In 1969 the first legislative elections were held to have representatives of Taiwan elected (all others were legislators who were elected before the end of the civil war representing Chinese provinces under "occupation" by the communists).  As those legislators passed away they were not replaced so by the 1990s, the entire legislative assembly was subject to competitive elections.  Martial law was ended in 1987 by Chiang Kai Shek's successor and son Chiang Ching-kuo, as Taiwan moved to being a fully fledged liberal democracy.  By 1992, remaining mainland representatives were removed so the entire legislative assembly was subject to competitive elections.  
Taiwan, as such, is a role model for China as an open, relatively free, liberal democracy, with rule of law, capitalism and political power tempered by the separation of powers.  This, of course, is a complete anathema to the Chinese Communist Party and the People's Republic of China.

Of course, Taiwan (or rather the Republic of China in Taiwan - remember Made in R.O.C. labels on goods made a few decades ago?) has had an interesting history of international relations.   With the exception of the UK (primarily out of concern of Hong Kong), most Western countries did not recognise the Communist takeover of China immediately.  Australia and New Zealand did not until 1972, and even the United Nations seat for China was held by the Republic of China until 1971, as the United States vetoed the Chinese Communist regime (as it was called) from taking its seat despite strong efforts by friendly communist countries and developing countries lobbying on behalf of the PRC.  Albania became Beijing's biggest champion.  Both Beijing and Taipei regimes rejected each other being represented on the UN, but the US pushed for the PRC to be represented, not least because it seemed absurd that the world's most populous country (and a nuclear power) were not represented.  So the PRC was admitted, and the ROC expelled.   In 1979, the US switched recognition from the ROC to the PRC, but gave Taiwan a military security guarantee, as the PRC had always (and still does) reserve the right to reunify Taiwan by force.  

Both Chinese regimes refused to have diplomatic relations with any country that recognised the other, but the ROC on Taiwan dropped this in the 1990s, as it had lost recognition and embassies with almost all countries as few could refuse the commercial, diplomatic and strategic benefits of having good relations with mainland China.  Once Saudi Arabia (which had resisted the PRC because of its atheism) and South Africa (which shifted recognition not long after the end of apartheid) had dropped Taiwan, the ROC would only retain diplomatic relations with small Pacific Island, African or Latin American states, mostly through aid programmes (although this ended in 2000 as the PRC was able to outbid the ROC).

So Taiwan remains an oddity.  In every de facto sense, it is an independent country, with a military, government and informal diplomatic relations with many countries.  However, the PRC stops it from having formal diplomatic relations because it doesn't like the only part of China it didn't win in the civil war having a parallel status to it in international organisations or bilateral relations.  It claims that to do so would imply there are "two Chinas", which of course there are as there are two Koreas, and were two Germanys and two Yemens (and even two Cypruses) regardless of claims of legitimacy.

So Donald Trump accepting a phone call from the democratically elected President of the ROC should not be a big deal, except for Beijing, it ruffles their sensitivities over reality.  The US has a defence treaty with Taiwan, and should make it clear than any attack on Taiwan will be rebuffed by the US.  The ROC on Taiwan shares the values of the United States and other Western democracies, the values of freedom, individual rights and government that is determined by the consent of the governed.  The fact that this concerns the Chinese Communist Party is good, for it could do much worse than look at Taiwan and see an example of transition from one-party authoritarian rule to vibrant vigorous liberal democracy.   Peace between Taiwan and the mainland is critical for both, so I think there is little real risk of any aggression from the PRC, but it should be clearer than that.  A renewed US commitment to Taiwan because of its values.  

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Fidel está muerto

So there is a reason to cheer, the death of Fidel Castro, should be a cause of celebration and reflection for everyone who believes in individual freedom, world peace, human rights and has both liberal and conservative values.  For the regime he founded continues to be one marked by violence, intimidation, intolerance and denial.

Castro interrogating a farmer as private property rights get abolished

Castro was a thug, a murderer and a warmongerer.  He urged Khrushchev to attack the US with nuclear weapons, which would have triggered World War Three.  

He incarcerated political opponents, labelling anyone who opposed the regime as "mentally ill" so they could be locked up indefinitely for not realising how lucky they are to be under socialism.  

He imprisoned Cubans who had HIV, he ran a prison state that saw Cubans flee at their own risk by boat to the United States.  Americans didn't flee to Cuba to embrace socialism.

Cuba under Castro was propped up by the USSR, in effect, poor Russians helped keep Castro's revolution alive.  A policy that ended with the collapse of the USSR, but from then on Cuba's rhetoric was that it was poor because the US embargo hindered it.  How a socialist state can claim that its prosperity is dependent on trading with a capitalist liberal democracy remains a mystery.

Cuba's joke is the large numbers of vintage American cars roaming the streets, only recently supplemented by Chinese vehicles.  This is seen as quaint, but is reflects poverty. 

One of the great claims about Cuba's "successes" is statistics around education and healthcare, because it claims low levels of child poverty and life expectancy that is high compared to other Latin American countries.  Yet the source of these statistics is entirely the Cuban one-party state, which imprisons its critics, so has to be at least treated with a high degree of scepticism.   Whenever foreigners inspect the Cuban healthcare system, they get to see what the regime wants them to see.   The UN may take the reported statistics from all member states on face value, but that's naive and absurd.  Only once Cuba is free will the veracity of these claims be clear, for now it is at best opaque. 

Of course, the usual suspects have come out singing paeans over Cuba.  Red Ken Livingstone couldn't help himself on BBC Radio 4 today saying that Cuba was "open and relaxed", even though it is a criminal offence for anyone other than the state to publish or broadcast, and when confronted with the regime's intolerance he said that in the UK anyone supporting Hitler was imprisoned. Odious little worm.

Leader of the Opposition Jeremy Corbyn said he was a "champion of social justice" and dismissed imprisonment of dissenters and continued authoritarianism as saying "there are problems of excesses by all regimes",  confirming the man is a moral relativistic sympathiser with dictatorship.

Vladimir Putin said he made his country free, well maybe by his standards..

President of the EU, Jean Claude Juncker said Castro was a "hero to many", which indicates the quisling relativist tolerance of a man and an organisation that ought to be celebrating the end of a man, whose regime provided support and succour for brutal regimes that impoverished and denied the human rights of citizens of 12 current EU Member States.  

Canadian Prime Minister, the illiberal Justin Trudeau lionised him as having "deep and lasting affection" for the Cuban people, including those he killed for opposing him.

Sinn Fein, which until recently lionised terrorism as a legitimate technique to change minds and power, is commemorating him as a hero.

The position people take on Castro should be your litmus test for their morality.

Castro used violence against those who opposed him.  He criminalise anyone who published or broadcast any criticism of his regime, so he was intolerant and authoritarian.   Dismissing any politicians whose core strategy is to do violence to his opponents is appeasement of dictatorship, rejection of any liberal values whatsoever, and places his supporters in the same mould as fascist apologists.  

To claim that "well he gave them education and healthcare" justifies a system of terror for anyone criticising the government or any of its policies or any of those with the privileges and trappings of power, is the justification of a fascist.   For "he" gave them nothing.  He ran a prison slave state which forced teachers and doctors to do the bidding of the party, he used his comrades of another slave state - the USSR- to supply the equipment, technology and training - to deliver a system that could have been delivered under liberal democracy.   Indeed, Chile's post-Pinochet success demonstrates that a liberal free-market democratic government can deliver the prosperity, including high standards of education and healthcare, without pointing guns at its citizens for criticising the regime.  

The best that can be said of Castro is he replaced another vile dictatorship - the Batista regime - and that he could have been worse.  However, pardon me if I don't think reaching the abominable barbarities of Kim Il Sung, Enver Hoxha or Nicolae Ceaucescu is an "achievement".

So to hell with Castro.  Some of the people who claimed with Donald Trump being elected, he is the "new Hitler" are mourning the loss of a man who was much closer to Hitler than Trump is ever likely to be.  

If someone is an apologist for Castro, or says he "made mistakes" or " his human rights were dreadful but", then they are excusing the blood spilt, the poverty, the propaganda, the utter denial of human liberty, and the politics of fear, terror and the jackboot, over the politics of debate, diversity and tolerance.

Treat the apologists of Castro accordingly.  The people in Miami celebrating his death lived under him, or have relatives who do.  The people elsewhere mourning are exercising the freedoms that Castro never tolerated and Cuba doesn't tolerate today.

Let's hope Mugabe doesn't see out the year as well.

Let's hope Cubans in the New Year gain the freedom to speak openly and honestly about the past 55 years of their country, even though thousands of so-called "liberals" in the West couldn't really care less.

UPDATE:  In 2008 I wrote the Top Ten Reasons Castro should be hated.

In 2010 I wrote on how the Green Party of NZ appeased the Cuban dictatorship

Read Katherine Hirschfeld's critical review of Cuba's healthcare system, including how much of it is "informal" and how it is illegal to refuse any healthcare including abortions. 

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Trump or Clinton or damn them all?

I've thought a good deal about the US election today.   It is difficult to think of two people who were both about the worst candidates either major party has put forward in recent history.  Oh yes there have been some lousy ones, but both lousy and so incredibly awful in their own ways? No.

So in some ways I'll treat the election as a reason to gloat about whoever is defeated, whilst ignoring the gloating of the victor.  

Hillary Clinton oozes entitlement, is a shape shifter on issues time and time again (remember when she was against gay marriage until it became popular?).  Her ambition for power should be a sure sign of someone who should be kept as far away from power as possible.  The vast fortune the Clintons have amassed from speeches and running their Foundation, travelling first class, staying at five star hotels "for the people who need our help", indicates the usual concern of powerful socialists for those in need.   If she is elected, she'll demonstrate not that she has broken the "glass ceiling", but that First Ladies have a chance at becoming President.  She is not an example to other women, except those women whose ambitions at the jobs their husbands have had.   It's clear her tolerance for Bill's extra-curriculur activities (which are frankly neither here nor there to me) resemble more the wife of Francis Underwood/Urquhart in House of Cards, for the trappings of power and money matter more than anything else.   Hillary has been pro more-trade (never "free trade", she's never want to let go of influence by removing controls) and anti-trade, she is a traditional populist.  However, little goes past what is obvious, that when she says she has been "fighting for families" all her life, the family she fights the most for is her own, and it has benefited royally from it.

The only bright side to Hillary is that she may partially reverse Obama's isolationism, which has seen Russia fill the gap left by Obama's (empty) moral posturing.  Few would have thought after the end of the Cold War that a government could use chemical weapons against its own population again, with impunity.  Yet it has and Obama's words that it would cross a "red line" were proven as vacuous as his "hope" and "change" electioneering slogans.

Trump has had so much said about him that I needn't say much.  He and Hillary both lie as frequently as they use cutlery.  His stance on trade is economic lunacy,  his spending promises are loose and careless.  His utterances about Mexico (and almost all foreign policy) are ludicrous and about the only thing good thing is his interest in cutting taxes.   He's a rank populist who is a classic cardboard cutout celebrity politician.  Some may say he would take advice if he were President, and much of what he says is attention seeking. 

Both Trump and Clinton are the epitome of the airhead age of politics, where identity politics is fanned as much as it ever was.  Hillary Clinton, who has expressed her utter contempt for the 30% core support for Trump, and Donald Trump, who has talked generally about Mexican migrants being rapists.  Hillary knows her place in history is assured if she becomes the first female President of the United States.  About the only reason to celebrate a Trump victory is knowing how angry she would be if she lost,  but then what?  A Trump-Putin pact to divide the world into spheres of influence?  The utter destruction of the international trading environment?

Of course most media coverage is fairly one-sided.  Trump is irredeemable and all major media outlets share and express the same contempt for him, with much less contempt for Clinton.   The left-wing liberal bias is palpable, yet Clinton is such a heavily flawed candidate they both deserve contempt.

Yet the likelihood is that, unless the Democrats sweep through both Houses of Congress, Hillary will find her big empty expensive promises difficult to fulfill,  but even if the Republicans hung onto the Senate, it is much less clear that Trump could rely on a Republican Congress to facilitate his agenda unimpeded.  However, on foreign policy, the President has much more autonomy and power.  On that front, Trump seems a little unsettling, given his penchance for threatening US allies to pay up or lose support from the US. 

Sadly, the hope that Gary Johnson could break through and be a more significant third party candidate seems forlorn. 

I expect, given the polling, Hillary will win and there will be a nauseating display of faux humility and sloganeering, as she sinks her claws into the prize she long sought.   Yet the United States was not founded on nepotism or some sort of familial succession (and yes the Bush family started that, but this was rejected the third time round).  If Trump wins, watch the panic and doom and gloom emerging, but this too will be hysterical posturing, although he is obviously the less certain quantity.

The USA is going to get an utter arsehole as President, but I'll be cheering for the other arsehole losing.  What's utterly astonishing is that millions are willing to give moral endorsement to one of these vile entities.

Yes, it's been a while.  For the want of a better term, 2016 is "annus horribilis" for my family, with an uncle diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer in February and dead in May, then my mother passing away unexpectedly in September, weeks before her birthday after months of a nuisance, but not anything like a life-threatening condition.  Let's just say some things matter more than a rant about politics. 

Sunday, July 03, 2016

Theresa May is no friend of freedom: any Tory leader but May

It's been just over a week and the UK still exists, and hasn't left the European Union.  That's a matter for the next government, as David Cameron, having promised to implement the outcome of the election, decided to wimp out completely.

It was widely assumed that as Boris Johnson had led the Vote Leave campaign, he would be in pole position to become Conservative Party leader, but that fell apart last week when his closest ally, Justice Secretary Michael Gove came to the (correct) conclusion that Johnson wasn't up to it.   As clever and witty and Johnson is, he isn't a man for detail and demonstrated in a column at the beginning of last week that his thinking was muddled and uncertain.  It also became clear that Boris was not trustworthy.  As Mayor he became addicted to vanity projects.  First a cable-car across the Thames that is barely used, then bespoke buses that no bus company would buy, so he got taxpayers to buy them for the companies.  He bought second-hand water cannons after the 2011 London riots that were not legal to operate in the UK, so remained idle, but maintained at taxpayers' expense.   He spent millions on a proposal for a vast new airport in the Thames Estuary to replace Heathrow, even though nothing in the statutory roles and responsibility of the Mayor includes aviation, and claimed businesses were "lining up" to pay for it, which of course was utter nonsense.  Finally, he embarked on a vast network of "cycling superhighways", taking away traffic lanes to accommodate cycling commutes for half the year (the other half the numbers dwindle because of the weather).  This has, in part, been responsible for increasing congestion and pollution, and cutting bus patronage.

In short, Boris is a showman, an intelligent raconteur and I'd even say he has mildly libertarian instincts, but as a Prime Minister, Chairman of Cabinet and chief negotiator with the European Union?  No.  He avoids conflict, his main approach to critics is to try to be witty or change the subject.  Expert debater, but loose with the facts.  This is why Michael Gove, a quiet, principled Conservative politician, who has cared little for his own image, decided to withdraw his backing and run himself.  Gove notably on BBC Question Time was questioning of the government he belonged to (as Cabinet Minister with collective responsibility) pursuing press regulation, because he was uncomfortable with government interfering with what newspapers could or could not publish.  

Yet the front runner is Theresa May.  Daughter of a Vicar, and the longest serving Home Secretary for decades.  She campaigned rather timidly for Remain, and while she is notable for her negotiating skills, she is frightening in her disregard for liberty.  

Her speech launching her campaign for leader alone should make just about anyone who doesn't have sympathies with the National Front, wonder...

"we should make clear that for the foreseeable future there is absolutely no change in Britain’s trading relationships with the EU or other markets. And until a new legal agreement is reached with the EU, which will not happen for some time, the legal status of British nationals living or working in Europe will not change – and neither will the status of EU nationals in Britain."

In other words, despite the Leave campaign making it absolutely clear that the legal status of any EU nationals living in the UK today would not change, she is putting it up for grabs.  Does it mean she could envisage having the Police knocking on the doors of families who have spent years working legally and peacefully to round them up and send them home?  Well an interview on ITV news/interview show Peston today made thing worse as reported by Fraser Nelson, editor of the Spectator:

Robert Peston: Now, there’s a lot of anxiety among migrants who’ve come here from the rest of the EU about whether they’ll be allowed to stay. There’s also quite a lot of anxiety among Brits living in the rest of Europe. What would you say to them?

May: What I’d say is that, at the moment we’re still a member of the EU, and the arrangements still continue, so there is no change to their position currently. But of course, as part of the negotiation, we will need to look at this question of people who are here in the UK from the EU, and I want to be able to ensure that we’re able to not just guarantee a position for those people, but guarantee the position for British citizens who are over in other member states, in other countries in Europe and living there.

Peston: So you would like people both… you’d like Brits abroad and migrants here to stay? Forever basically?

May: Well, nobody necessarily stays anywhere forever. But I think what’s important…

Peston: But at their choice?

May: What’s important is there will be a negotiation here as to how we deal with that issue of people who are already here and who have established a life here and Brits who’ve established a life in other countries within the European Union. And that is, their position at the moment is as it has been. There’s no change at the moment, but of course we have to factor that into the negotiations.

As Fraser Nelson, a Vote Leave supporter said:

Michael Gove and the rest of the Vote Leave leadership made this clear during the campaign: no deportations. Not even a question of deportations. Brexit was a vote to control immigration, to control the inflow: currently more than three times higher than Mrs May’s 100,000 target. But it was not a vote to boot out anybody, and to allow even the slightest doubt about that point is grossly irresponsible. Especially at a time when so many are trying to cast the Brexit vote in the worst possible light.

Britain needs these people; our NHS needs these people. We don’t keep them as a favour to Poland and nor should we ever dream of bargaining their residency in some game of diplomatic hardball. The EU may threaten deportation of Brits: it’s a corrupt and undemocratic institution which is why the 52pc of us voted to leave. But no British government should ever consider kicking out any of the two million EU nationals who are already with us..

Quite.  It's deplorable.

However, no one should be surprised.  May embraced the so-called "Snoopers' Charter" as she took every call from the Police, MI5 and MI6 for additional powers for surveillance as being in the public good.  Her proposals mean that a list of every website everyone in the UK visits must be held for at least one year with the Police having open rights to go through all those URLs, but needing a "warrant" to check the "contents".   Besides being completely draconian, it also shows an astonishing ignorance of the internet.  It's like saying I have a list of all the books you have read, but unless I get permission I couldn't work out what was in them.   

Former Liberal Democrat Minister, David Laws, said that between security and liberty, May always chose security, noting that former Home Security Ken Clarke often turned down requests for more powers from security services because "we would be a Police state".

Quite.

Gove is a good man, but I fear his quip that economic experts warning that leaving the EU were like the Nazis organising a smear campaign against Einstein makes him unsuitable to negotiate a new trading relationship with the EU.  He admits it was stupid, but for all his merits, he isn't the right man for the job.  The other three, Andrea Leadsom (pro-Leave ex. financial manager), Stephen Crabb (God botherer from Wales) and Liam Fox (Google Adam Werritty) all have pluses and minuses, more minuses than pluses in my book, but all of them are better than May.  

The contest is a process of attrition.  Conservative MPs vote on the candidates repeatedly, with the lowest polling dropping out until there are two.  I fear May will be one of them, and for now I just hope that whoever is the other can defeat her.

With the UK Labour Party led by a communist who is defying 80% of his Parliamentary party to remain leader, the country has no effective Opposition.   Make no mistake, Theresa May is an enemy of individual freedom, she is no "new Thatcher" and should not become Prime Minister. 



Sunday, June 26, 2016

Brexit: An opportunity that could be wrecked by politicians

So the UK votes to leave and the PM decides to leave, but not now.  The Chancellor of the Exchequer hides, and beyond the Bank of England printing a few billion, nothing else happens.

The EU has already decided to play tough and has its own position, which is essentially "fuck off, the walls are going up, deal with it".  Although Germany is being much more nuanced.

The Conservative Party has to find a new leader, and from that a new Cabinet and a policy on negotiations.  Labour meanwhile is going the same way.  It is likely a new Conservative leader/PM will call a General Election on a manifesto of leading the UK into a new open, free-trading world with a new free trading relationship with the EU.   Leaving the EU requires the UK to initiate it formally, which the EU is begging for, but the Government would rather delay because it changes its bargaining position.

Yet that could be problematic, not least because a key plank of those fighting to leave the EU is to end free movement of people with the EU, and all countries in the EU Single Market (including non-EU Norway and Iceland) all have signed up to free movement, and even non Single Market Switzerland has, although it does have extensive restrictions on new residents having access to any government provided services.

Meanwhile, leftwing nationalists have jumped on an opportunity.  Sinn Fein wants a referendum on Irish unification, but the Northern Ireland First Minister has said no.  Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is flailing about wanting a second referendum on independence, but wont discuss:

1. The EU only lets non-members join, not current members split into joining and non-joining;
2. Joining the EU means joining the Euro;
3. 90% of Scottish trade is with the UK, Scotland in the EU would mean any EU trade barriers with the UK also apply to Scottish trade with the rest of the UK.

Spain, showing it really hasn't turned as far from Francoism as it would have liked, is demanding co-sovereignty over Gibraltar.

Meanwhile, the young leftwing social justice warrior types (Generation SnowFlake some have called them, for their "safe spaces", being "triggered" by hurt feelings and constantly protesting about what is offended) feel "betrayed" about the old "ruining their futures".  However, the truth is that the majority of the young didn't care enough to vote as revealed by Sky News below.

Whinging about democracy when it doesn't go your way, whilst embracing it otherwise, is beyond the pale, as are some of the hate filled attacks on older votes coming from those whose own identity politics is supposed to decry hate speech.  The truth being that the so-called liberal leftwing anti-hate, anti-violence activists are full of hate and quite happily embrace violence to get their "own way".  It's emotion laden petulance, of the kind you would have only seen from the fringes of the far-right and conspiracy theorists had the vote gone to Remain. 

So what should happen now? (notwithstanding who the PM and Government is)

1. The Government should announce the key planks of a new relationship with the EU around trade, investment, movement of people and co-operation, that it seeks to adopt.  It should clarify to the entire country that it is not going to be a UK of isolationism, but one of openness.

2. The Government should make it clear to all EU passport holders in the UK that no-one will be deported, except under existing arrangements for threats to national security or criminals.  No EU residents need fear this, nor will their property be affected or businesses, and if anyone threatens them they should go to the Police.

3. The PM should make it clear that there will be no referendum on Scottish independence this side of Brexit, but that the Government will consult with the Scottish government and parliament on the deal it seeks with the EU.  It is precipitous to talk about Scottish independence until Scotland sees the new deal negotiated with the EU.

4. The PM should make it clear that there will be no referendum on Northern Ireland joining Ireland unless the preconditions of the Good Friday Agreement are met, but that equally it cannot happen until the new deal with the EU is negotiated AND negotiations are concluded with the Republic of Ireland.

5. The PM should go to Dublin and discuss the future relationship and reassure that no border controls will be reinstated.

6. The PM should go to Germany and talk, extensively, about how to make this work, and then go to all other EU Member State capitals, and the EFTA Member States too. 

7.  The Government should go to the WTO to discussing reviving membership.

8. The PM should visit USA, China, Japan and other trading partners and say that it wants to have open, freer trading relationships and the UK will be open for business and people.

9. Finally, the PM should make it clear that there wont be a second referendum on membership and that those who want to claim it is unfair, that this is democracy and the task now is to bring the country together and work for a new relationship with the EU and the world that demonstrably proves the claims of the Remain activists wrong.

Oh and ignore Nicola Sturgeon.  The Scottish Parliament can't "veto" the British Government any more than Lambeth Borough Council can stop the UK having nuclear weapons.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

EU truths and untruths

With the UK now voting as to whether it remains in the EU or stirs up what has been described as "the biggest change in European politics since the fall of the Berlin Wall" (although the war in Yugoslavia and the first genocide since the Nazis ought to come close), I thought I'd run through some of the claims of both sides that are intellectually dishonest.

Remain

3 million jobs are linked to trade with the EU: Well yes, but then nobody is saying trade with the EU will end and nobody campaigning to leave wants inferior trading conditions.  The European Free Trade Association provides free trade with the EU, with Switzerland, Norway and Iceland all members.  The idea that leaving the EU means 3 millions jobs are at risk is a gross exaggeration.   However, if the EU is bloody minded and puts up tariff barriers equivalent to what it does for the rest of the world. it is a 4% average tariff on UK trade to the EU, which is negative for jobs, but hardly a huge risk. 

If the UK leaves the EU, you might need a visa to visit the EU: Nonsense.  You don't need a visa to visit the EU from the US, Canada, Australia, NZ or any of the EFTA member states.  What would change is having the right to live there.  Given those wanting to leave mostly want to end the free movement of people, that could be a concern for some. 

Leaving the EU will create a recession: No it wont.  The worst estimates are a small reduction in economic growth, but the long run estimates are a 6% long term slowing of growth if the UK gets the most inferior trading conditions likely with the EU (and assuming the UK has no free trade agreements with any other countries, like the US, Japan and China).  It also assumes the UK does not cut any EU regulation out at all.  In short, the Treasury estimates used by the Government of a recession are based on leaving the EU, and not taking advantage of the new freedom to trade and freedom to relieve the economy of EU Directives that impose costs on growth.

The EU means food, petrol, flights, energy and mobile phone charges are lower: Unmitigated rubbish, quite the opposite.  The EU Common Agricultural Policy inflates the price of food in the EU by 17% over market prices.  The EU legally requires all Member States to tax petrol by at least around 32p/l (but the UK government taxes it at 80% more than that).  The Single Aviation Market goes beyond the EU, with many non-EU countries as participants.  Norwegian Airlines has grown rapidly in the past couple of years, expanding long haul flights between the UK and US.  Norway is not in the EU. The EU inflates energy prices, by requiring minimum levels of taxation on gas and electricity bills, and imposing renewable energy obligations on member states.  Yes mobile roaming in the EU is lower than it would have been had the EU not enforced it, but it's clear EU protectionism and "normalisation" of regulations imposes costs on consumers. 

The £10 billion paid into the EU is "returned' many times over: No it's not.  What is returned is free trade, which should never be at the cost of paying for farming subsidies or infrastructure investment in other countries.  Leaving the EU doesn't mean an end to trading with the EU. 

The EU has 50 trade agreements we lose access to:  Many of which are with micro-states/territories, like San Marino, Andorra, Liechtenstein, Faroe Islands, Guernsey.  The only significant economies with deals are Mexico, South Africa and South Korea.  The UK could readily negotiate during the transition deals easily as good or better, as the main forces for protectionism in trade are the likes of France.

Staying in means reform:  That's highly unlikely.  David Cameron couldn't even get all the reforms he asked for with a threat of Brexit (which clearly the EU saw through as being unlikely), why would it happen after a vote to Remain?  The UK holds 9% of the MEP seats in the European Parliament, and although it is a significant contributor, reform is sclerotic.  The EU hasn't significantly cut back any of its activities and always finds new ones.  It is a political project of integration, and shows little sign of ever caring what is thought of it.

David Cameron's deal means unemployed EU migrants can be deported:  No, they can't. EU citizens can't be deported from Member States unless they are a threat to national security or criminals.  

Leave

Leaving the EU will fix the immigration "problem":  Assuming the problem is too many immigrant, and the failure of the Government to cut annual immigration to less than 100,000 people, leaving the EU will enable the UK to ration EU immigration like it does for non-EU.  However, non- EU immigration is already over 150,000 per annum.  Nobody is saying Brexit means deporting immigrants (thankfully).  Most concerns over immigration are perceptions about access to taxpayer provided services, and more often than not reflect the bankruptcy of the world's biggest health bureaucracy, which is treated as a religion never to be reformed (NHS), the bizarre legal obligation of all local authorities to ensure anyone who lives in the UK has housing (including rooms in hotels paid for by taxpayers), the open access to compulsory education and the sclerotic way the UK restrains supply of housing and roads.   Leaving the EU wont solve any of that, but then those wanting to stay in the EU are also devoid of responses to what are more fundamental problems.  

Turkey is joining soon: No it's not.  Notwithstanding David Cameron's hypocrisy over the issue, it is difficult to see Cyprus accepting Turkey until there is settlement over northern Cyprus, or Greece accepting Turkey until Turkey secures its southern borders with Syria and Iraq.  However, Serbia, Montenegro, FYR Macedonia and Albania will all likely be members within 10 years.

Money saved will be spent on the NHS:  Well the half that is a rebate and is current subsidies wont change, although there is a chance to make some serious saving there.  The rest?  Well it can go on many things, but there is a case for simply cutting the deficit by £10 billion a year.  After all, despite George Osborne's platitudes, the UK government is still overspending.  What happens with the money is up to the government.  The Leave campaign is not the government.  Yes leaving the EU wont save £350 million a week, more like half that, but the rebate is not set in a treaty, and the spending 

UK will be drawn into the Euro and ever closer union: The UK has a treaty opt-out of the Euro and has to agree to treaties for ever closer union, but it wont mean it doesn't face the costs of ever closer union.  That will depend on future negotiations.

The UK can get trade access as good as the Single Market without free movement of people:  This is unlikely, simply because it would mean the Single Market is undermined and would be a massive backtracking of the principles of the EU.  Signing up to EFTA or the EEA will mean some compromise on this.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Road pricing in Auckland

A simple guide:

1.  The proposal now on the cards is not "road tolls", tolls are when individual roads are subject to an additional fee on top of existing motoring taxes.  

2. The Auckland Mayor's "motorway tolls" proposal has been comprehensively rejected, as it has been before for sound reasons.  Quite simply, the motorways are not Auckland Council's to charge and just charging them diverts traffic onto the local road network which has traditionally been neglected in Auckland.

3. The proposal put forward by the government is to replace fuel tax with what is essentially an updated version of road user charges (which already is provided now by three private companies collected RUC), that varies by vehicle type, location and time of day.  It should be absolutely clear, as are vaguely similar proposals in Oregon and California, that fuel tax must go if roads are to be charged directly. 

4. The Auckland Transport Alignment Project (ATAP) has made it abundantly clear that the current "build lots of rail based public transport" trend beloved of new-urbanist planning enthusiasts (and the Green Party) will have next to no impact on traffic congestion. It's hardly surprising, because the reason traffic congestion exists is because the provision of roads and the pricing of roads is not done under market conditions, but is subject to a political/administrative process that results in demand exceeding supply.  Nowhere in the new world (NZ/Australia/US/Canada) have any cities noticeably eased traffic congestion by building new bespoke passenger rail networks.  Which is why, when questioned, the enthusiasts for highly subsidised (by taxes from road users) urban rail don't talk about addressing the problems of urban transport, but sell how "wonderful" it is for people to have a choice that they pay a fraction of the cost for.

5. There is no need for road pricing to be accompanied by highly subsidised alternatives.  Full market based road pricing has four major effects:

-  Prices go up at peak times, encouraging users to make different choices, such as drive at a different time, use a different (less congested) route if available, use another mode (increasing revenue for that mode), or not take a trip at all (consolidating trips);
- Prices go down at off peak times, encouraging greater use and facilitating more trips at those times;
- Congestion is greatly reduced, providing capacity for more public transport on existing roads at peaks, and making such public transport commercially viable.
- Higher revenues at peak times on busy roads sends a signal to invest in more road capacity when revenue from additional users will pay for the cost of the new capital investment

The primary economic argument for subsidising peak time public transport in cities has always been that roads in cities at peak times are underpriced (and historically the technology did not exist to adequately address this).  Once roads are priced efficiently, the case for subsidising urban public transport is weak indeed.  Notice that intercity bus and airline services are not subsidised, neither are road freight services (in or between cities).  Why should urban public transport be special when roads are subject to market forces?

6.  Market based road pricing inevitably should mean the management of roads is taken away from politicians and bureaucracies and towards a more commercial model.  State highways could be shifted into a state-owned-enterprise that could be privatised by giving away shares to all registered vehicle owners.  Local authority roads could be transferred into similar enterprises, but with shares held by local property owners (as ratepayers currently pay for half of all local road costs).

The price of roads should then be set by these organisations.  They would be owned by those with the greatest interest in their networks being run efficiently and meeting their needs.  

7. The ATAP road pricing proposal can only work nationwide.  It isn't just for Auckland, it's a change in how roads are priced everywhere.

Auckland Council wont like this, because it knows that the only way to address congestion is through road pricing, but it doesn't want to lose control of its large rail vanity projects (now including trams - which are buses on dedicated rights of way for 3-5x the price to taxpayers).  It wants control of the revenue to spend on its politically/central planner driven projects, but it shouldn't get it.

Bearing in mind the government wont do what I say, this is what it could do:

- Move all of the state highways into a new SOE, empower that SOE to charge users but only if it gives them an equivalent refund in fuel tax or RUC

- Tell Auckland Council that if it shifts its roads into a new Council Controlled Organisation, it can be fully funded from fuel tax and RUC (and any road pricing that replaces them), but on condition it gives all Auckland ratepayers an equivalent permanent cut in rates and that it has no political direction at all on its activities.


More background on Auckland road pricing debate in recent years:
Auckland motorway tolls re-emerge as revenue raising option
Auckland transport funding report promotes urban road pricing and tolls
Auckland congestion charging, not happening yet

Monday, June 20, 2016

NZ Herald wrong about EU referendum

The NZ Herald has decided that it thinks the UK should stay in the EU, but its editorial on the issue is  woeful, it misses the point and is dotted with errors.  There is nothing in the editorial about the key problems with EU membership, around how EU laws are developed undemocratically (introduced by the European Council, MEPs can't introduce legislation), how the EU is inordinately wasteful including on policies that harm New Zealand's economy (including the Common Agricultural Policy) and harm developing countries.  Nothing about the protectionism of the EU slowing the ability of the UK to trade freely with growing economies in Asia and Latin America.  

New Zealand has full control over its trade policy, its domestic regulations and immigration policy, but the UK does not have the same at all.

It's not true that no country has ever left the EU, Greenland did.  Now that's not anything remotely on the scale of the UK.  Of course, neither did the NZ Herald point out that Switzerland, Norway and Iceland all have thrived outside the EU.  The EU is not Europe as much as it likes to think that it is.  

It's true that Brexit could encourage a break up of the EU, but is that necessarily a bad thing? An unwieldy arrogant technocratic organisation that failed miserably to deal with the refugee crisis, was paralysed by the breakup of Yugoslavia, unable to agree on acting until the US intervened to stop Serbia deporting Kosovan Albanians.  The spectre that European countries will wage war on each other when they have functioning liberal democracies with extensive trade and travel with each other. 

Yet the Herald editorial paints the picture that Brexit somehow increases the chance of Russia invading the EU? Why?  NATO provides the security guarantee for its members, it isn't weakened by the UK leaving the EU - at all.  Why would it matter?

The claim that Scotland will leave the UK after a Brexit vote is also rather fatuous.  Polls on Scottish independence still say 55% would vote to stay in the UK, and there is little reason why the UK Government would hold another referendum on Scottish independence.  It's highly presumptive to think Brexit means Scottish independence.

Finally, yes it is immigration that is motivating many voters to want to leave the EU, but not immigration from outside the EU, it is concern that free movement will overcrowd the country, keep down wages and overwhelm government provided services. 

However, for me, it is because the EU is a sclerotic unaccountable project that keeps the UK in chains, it also subsidises unfair competition to New Zealand producers in world markets and restricts sales of many NZ products into the EU.



The case to leave the EU is about openness, tolerance, kindness and freedom

The shocking murder of Labour MP Jo Cox may well prove decisive in the referendum on EU membership.   Tommy Mair appears to have repeatedly shot and stabbed the MP and for all we now know, when asked for his name he shouted out “Death to Traitors, Freedom for Britain", but Mr Mair doesn't believe in freedom.

It appears he is a fascist, and so of course, the new narrative has been that “politics are too angry” and that the anti-EU campaign has “fuelled” this murder.  Of course, those claiming the hate tend to be on the left/Remain side, like legendary leftwing polemicist Polly Toynbee, who once claimed Conservative welfare cuts were like The Final Solution for the disabled.  You can’t do much more in hate than accuse your opponents of being Nazis can you?  Of course Labour is led by a man who used to go to the funerals of IRA terrorists and invite their leaders for meetings, all the time it was waging war against the UK public and UK government (and had killed several MPs).  Corbyn’s statements against hate and violence are as duplicitous as they are disgusting.  The late Jo Cox had a range of views across the spectrum, including a belief that the world shouldn't let Assad barrel bomb and drop chemical weapons on civilians, which saw her be damned by the mediocre "Madame Mao" Labour front bencher Diane Abbott as a "warmongering Tory".  She faced a campaign for de-selection, which Labour has carefully airbrushed away, as her tragic murder becomes politicised.  She did support remaining in the EU, quite vehemently, so it has become easy to claim that the other side were opposed to her.

Yet, the narrative that links the murder to leaving the EU may well stick among undecided voters, especially as polls have been close throughout the campaign, and most recently have put Leave ahead by a few points.  

It’s grossly simplistic and opportunistic to claim, as Remain advocates are, that their side is about kindness, tolerance and openness, when the EU is neither open, nor particularly tolerant and kind with its trade policies, or indeed with diversity of opinion about itself.

The EU isn't open when it maintains a fortress around it trading with the world, especially on services and agriculture.  It has been a force for openness in trade within with enormous resistance from one of its founding members, France, which sees the EU as a tool for "solidarity" - code for spending ever more taxpayers' money on its dirigiste vanity led economic nationalism and absurd profligacy for 19th century farming enterprises.

The EU isn't tolerant when it ignores referenda in France, Ireland, the Netherlands on EU Treaties and simply demands their governments ignore them.  It isn't tolerant when it says that it wont allow "extremists" to be in government in Member States even if democratically elected.

The EU isn't kind when it continues to flood world markets with subsidised agricultural produce, undermining exports and domestic production in developing countries, and so impoverishing poor country producers, whilst funding subsidies for Prince Charles's farming empire.  

Do I think leaving the EU will mean the UK will embark on some free market libertarian revolution of less government?  No, not really.  However, within the EU the only certainty is that there will be growth in EU spending programmes, growth in regulation and ever less accountability for the new laws and spending from Brussels/Strasbourg (don’t forget the EU has two locations for its Parliament, because France wanted an impoverished area to get a boost, so monthly the entire Parliament relocates between cities, at a cost of over €330 million annually).

For all of the relatively mild rhetoric about immigration, the Leave campaign is led by politicians who have mostly been sceptical about government power and all are advancing an agenda of more free trade, more openness to the world and greater engagement with the world.  Leaving the EU is not the fascist/socialist vision of a self-sufficient island that waves a flag and shuts out the world (although those who hold those views want to the leave the EU because its own internal market is an anathema).

I don’t doubt a vote to leave the EU will be a shock, initially to financial markets, more fundamentally to the EU and to the UK Government.  However, the shock need not last for the UK, when there are many years to negotiate leaving the EU and a new trade relationship.  It wont give succour to Putin, nor will it mean a loss of influence for the world’s fifth largest economy.



Given that the EU has proved that it is structurally incapable of reform, we now have a choice. Do we cave in, because we’re too scared to leave? Or do we vote to retrieve our sovereignty, walk away from the whole racket and engage with the world on our own terms? A vote to leave would represent an extraordinary vote of confidence in the project of the United Kingdom and the principle of national self-determination. It would also show reform-minded Europeans that theirs is not a lost cause. And that we stand willing to help forge a Europe based on freedom, co–operation and respect for sovereignty.

It isn't a vote for UKIP politicians, for leaving the EU will put most of them out of a job.  Nigel Farage isn't even an MP, and the one UKIP MP, Douglas Cardwell, is very much a libertarian.

I urge all those in the UK eligible to vote, to Vote Leave.  It is time to break free, for a more open, a more tolerant and a kinder UK.