Thursday, January 31, 2013

Ken Clarke, Minister without Portfolio, on the Today programme this morning

Long interview with Ken Clarke, Minister without Portfolio, on the Today programme this morning.  Ken Clarke is very slippery and evasive, and John Humphrhys found it difficult to pin him down on the subject of British membership of the EU.  Ken Clarke tells whopping lies in such a reassuring and avuncular way that even in the pantheon of parliamentary liars he is pre-eminent (it is perhaps very fitting that he is partnering Peter Mandelson in the Vote Yes for Europe campaign).

So although the interview rambled on for some time, it did not reveal much in the way of hard facts, and the supposed benefits of EU membership, often referred to, were not made clear (what exactly does "our clout in the world" mean to the average voter?).

You can see the Clarke strategy here.  To deflect discussion into such boring and mundane "process" topics that the major issues will go unexamined and the vote will be won on default.  Ken Clarke is a master on whipping up apathy and no doubt the EU Directive on Chlorofluorocarbons and other such tedious issues will be used to muffle any voice that has the temerity to ask: what has the EU ever done for us.

However if you talk to ordinary people you soon find that "Europe" in their minds equates to "telling us what to do", pettifogging health and safety restrictions (not, to be fair, always caused by the EU), and "all these Europeans flocking over here" (a quote from Gillian Duffy).

As migration is the most in-your-face EU issue that concerns voters it was surprising that Ken Clarke was not asked about it.  He would have replied that the free movement of peoples cannot be renegotiated - which is why there is a sense of unreality about the Vote Yes argument.  Unless the political class gets to grips with the issue of migration volatility within the EU the prospect of an Out vote is a lot more certain than most people realise.

Labour activist Matthew Reilly tells us he is sickened by this headline in the Daily Express.  However newspapers (especially tabloids) only put on their front pages what they think will sell copies.  Do Labour activists not stop to ask themselves why any mention of migration will cause a spike in circulation?

Is it not a clue that people are starved of information on the subject, feel powerless and misled by the political parties, and despite all the pious entreaties about "having a national debate on immigration" that debate never happens?

Labour activist Steve Akehurst complaining earlier today about rising rents in Lambeth (and elsewhere, becoming especially an issue he claims in "swing seats").  How can rents rise if demand is not rising?  How can demand rise if the population generally is not increasing?  Some of the increase will be due to divorce, some to lack of social housing, some due to internal migration.  However a large percentage will be caused by the arrival of migrants.  This fact goes unacknowledged, "proof" is produced that "demonstrates" migration does not cause rents to rise - and yet the millions of migrants who have arrived in the last ten years are obviously living somewhere, and the majority will be in rented accommodation which puts pressure on supply and allows landlords to increase rents.

But if you try to raise the economic consequences of volatile migration the discussion is immediately turned to the issue of race, and the implication made that only racists are concerned about immigration.

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