Categories
Common Agricultural Policy European Union

Farm Subsidies Must Be Scrapped

I haven’t always been a straight-out for staying in the EU.

I once flirted with the idea of leaving the European Union, up until a couple of years ago, and top of my list of reasons for leaving was the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

40% of the EU budget is spent on farm subsidies – and it used to be more.

Historically there was a good reason for this – food became scarce during and after the Second World War, and this policy was brought in during 1962, partly to ensure a continuous supply of food across the European Community.  It would be no overstatement to suggest that there were severe food shortages across Europe during the 1950’s.

My main problem with it is that it distorts prices of farm goods and adds a layer of difficulty for farmers outside of the European Union to access our market.  Farmers in the European Union are being paid subsidies whilst being uncompetitive compared to farmers in poorer countries, and it is those poorer farmers from poorer countries that suffer.

There is also a slight cost to the consumer of this policy in terms of increased prices for goods and the fact that 40% of the £350m a week that we do not send to the European Union is spent on subsidising farmers.

During the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, there was a period when farmers were struggling to make a profit – partly due to Foot In Mouth disease (a quick hello to Liam Fox).  However many farmers are vastly profitable (not all), and many of them are quite rich.

For some, you could say stinking rich.  The CAP pays £400,000 a year to a farm where a Saudi billionaire breeds racehorses.  The Queen gets her share at over £500,000 a year.  So does the Duke of Westminster, Duke of Northumberland and the Mormons.  The highest earner gained nearly £3m in subsidy.  In total, something like £3bn is spent on farm subsidies in this country every year.

Of course, where you stand on globalisation and free trade will depend on your viewpoint here – but I am a globalist, I encourage further globalisation, and I argue that free trade has brought us economic and technological benefits that have ushered in a golden age of development, from consumer products to life expectancy, not just in this country but across the world – in free trading countries anyway.

To me this is outrageous, that landowners, no matter how rich are getting serious sums from the taxpayer, just for the privilege of owning farm land.

This was the number one horror of the European Union to me and in a sensible debate would have featured much more prior to the referendum.

And with the prominence of French farmers and their historical love of causing chaos, there is little the European Union can do other than slowly taper them down over decades.

Unfortunately, Theresa May’s government has promised to keep the subsidy system in place until, 2020 (though the earliest it could go is 2019 anyway, with Brexit and all).

So if we do leave the European Union, I want to see an end to these distortionary and disgraceful farm subsidies.  If there has to be a system for poor and/or small farmers to receive some subsidy, perhaps in the short term until they become profitable, that is fine.  And I agree with continuing the portion of the CAP that is specifically for the protection of wildlife.

But these disgraceful sums of money must not be paid to such rich people going forwards.  This will be a test as to whether Theresa May’s government really is working for everyone.

Categories
American Presidential Election Nuclear War Putin Russia Syria

Is Nuclear War Around The Corner?

No.

I guess I should expand upon my conclusion.

Noises have been coming from Russia recently and exaggerated in certain elements of the UK/US press that the Russians are preparing for nuclear war – or more accurately, preparing for the west to attack it.

Russia has continued to make threatening noises – recently moving nuclear-capable missiles to Kaliningrad, testing nuclear-capable weapons, advising its citizens to be prepared in case of attack, large scale civil defence drills and large scale military drills.

This sabre-rattling is likely to be for two reasons:

Firstly to stop the west from getting involved in Syria.

We had our opportunity back in 2013 when Assad used chemical weapons.  Then we chickened out – us first, Obama later.  Some quite sensible options were possible that involved limited military action such as a no-fly zone.

3 years later, the Russians are heavily involved in not only shoring up Assad’s defence, but also actively attacking civilians in Aleppo, along with various war crimes including the bombing of hospitals.

Their posturing is partly to put us off from taking any action that may make their campaign more difficult – and more importantly, will put us directly on the opposite sides, on the battlefield, instead of this more opaque opposition at the moment.

Russia and the west have fought wars before, albeit proxy wars.  Dozens of them – from Afghanistan to Vietman – the list is quite something.  We should not be afraid of getting involved militarily in Syria.

Secondly, the threats are also to try to affect the outcome of the American ‘presidential’ election.

We know that the Russians have been hacking the democratic party’s e-mail accounts, however they do see it as being in their interest to have Donald Trump as president, rather than Hillary Clinton, who has a more interventionist outlook on world affairs.

One of Putin’s allies, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, was rather more to the point, stating “Americans voting for a president on Nov. 8 must realize that they are voting for peace on Planet Earth if they vote for Trump. But if they vote for Hillary it’s war. It will be a short movie. There will be Hiroshimas and Nagasakis everywhere.”

They won’t start nuclear war.  Neither will Hillary Clinton.  Donald Trump simply suits their aims.

One of the main goals of Putin is to undermine western liberal democracy, hence the desire for Brexit in the Kremlin, and their funding of various far-right parties throughout Europe, and this overt support for Donald Trump – who has been happy to express his affection in return.  Why?  Well the lack of liberal democracy in Russia is what keeps him in power – the further he can keep it away from Russia, the more secure he will be in his position.

The Russians should not be confused with the Kremlin.  Your average Russian is quite wonderful – similar in culture and outlook to those of us in the UK.  Just with years of brainwashing to hate the west.  We should not hate the Russians.  But we cannot trust Putin or the Kremlin, in the slightest.

So don’t worry if you read the headlines, Russia is not about to start a nuclear war with us – and we should not be afraid of standing up to the bully in Putin.

Categories
Conference Speech Theresa May

Theresa May: A Cross Between Miliband, Brown & Farage?

Theresa May always confused me as Home Secretary – authoritarian yet also quite soft and liberal, touching on socially socialist at times.

She is proving no different to me as Prime Minister.

On the UKIP side, we have grammar schools and cutting immigration.  On the socialist side we have industrial strategy and worker’s rights.

Her honeymoon is now officially over for me.  The two weeks of “thank fuck its not Leadsome” that I enjoyed were washed away with concern as she was trounced at the most recent PMQs by Corbyn, now followed by a tsunami of confusion as I try to work out what she stands for and whether I agree with much of what she does stand for.

But let’s start with something I do agree with, and that is the pledge to build more houses.  However given previous pledges of both Labour, coalition and early Cameron majority governments to build more houses – specifically 200,000 a year (although we need 300,000 houses a year according to various factions such as this Lord’s report), this currently seems worthless.  Prior to Brexit, house-building was going to be the number 1 factor that I judged this government on when it came to not only helping the Conservative Party at the 2020 election, but also as to whether I voted for them.

Pledges mean little to me and most people.  Action is what is required and there is much more action that can be taken on house-buidling.  Corbyn actually propagated a good idea last week in terms of allowing local councils to borrow against existing housing stock, to build more housing (an idea I and others have previously argued for).  The government itself could borrow to build more housing, though more importantly it could vastly curtail planning regulations, especially on the not very green parts of the green belt (we’d be talking no more than 5% of the green belt).

A reform of corporate governance has been promised – Osborne did some good work towards such things are tax avoidance but it is pointless to have tougher standards on business if it is not matched by other countries.

When it comes to industrial strategy, I support any initiative to assist with training to workers at risk of redundancy, particularly in industries where those kind of jobs are sparse – the steel-making industry for example.

But I am wholly against any form of propping up unsuccessful and uncompetitive industries.  We haven’t propped up horse and cart manufacturers since the invention of the motor car – as other industries are no longer competitive, we should ensure that the capital and human resources behind them are employed in productive industries – not going to waste along with more government cash that we don’t have.

Then we can flip to the UKIP side of politics, with a ghastly policy announced yesterday by Amber Rudd in relation to companies potentially having to report the proportion of foreign workers – quite an abhorrant sounding policy, which comes on top of all the hard-Brexit talk.

It looks as though we are not aiming to be in the single market with the promised withdrawl from the European Court of Justice – which you need to be a member of to be in the single market, from what I gather.

Then there is the grammar schools policy – which I am not really either for or against – but it most definitely is a policy that the pro-Brexit wing of the party will support.

There was nothing in her speech for the likes of myself – part liberal Conservative, part Thatcherite Conservative.

Apparently this was a bid for the centre ground.  But to me, it is a bid for Labour and UKIP votes.

Not only that, the speech was fairly dull.  I watched part of it – the first time for years that I haven’t watched the leader’s speech in full – Cameron was brilliant at captivating speeches.  Not quite as dull as Corbyn’s which was just full of tired slogans, but this was not a speech to be inspired by.  In fact, she reminded me somewhat of Gordon Brown in terms of her speaking manner.

I accept that she has a very tough job ahead – not only does she have to reconcile the wing of her party that voted remain (the majority of Conservative MPs voted remain and a large minority of Conservative voters voted remain) – but the awkward squad of Redwood, Bone, Rees-Mogg, etc will cause problems if they do not get their ultra-hard Brexit immediately.

Maybe it shows the influence that the protestors in Corbyn and Farage have brought upon this government – or maybe it is just an opportunistic grab for political ground vacated by two shambolic political parties of Labour and UKIP.

Either way, it is a sad time to be either a liberal Conservative or a Thatcherite right now.  If only there was a liberal party…

I am not at all reconciled.