Clever move by Theresa May – a quick election whilst Labour is in disarray, Ukip is without solid leadership and the Libs are well, gone. It looks like an easy majority (only problem being continued internal brexit-strife)
Latest poll average:
Tories 43% (+5), Labour 24% (-7), Ukip 10% (-3), Libdem 12% (+4), Green 4% (-1), SNP 6% (+1), Other 1%
Looking ahead: May will get the legitimacy she craves. Corbyn will be knifed by his own on June 9, Ukip and the Greens will get 0 seats each and particularly the former will be in civil war, SNP will solidify in Scotland and get a new referendum, Libdems will declare themselves comeback kids and nobody will care.Read more
Panama Leaks Update – 8th April – 2016
The Panama Leaks keep drawing headlines. Causing problems for leaders across the globe. Currently a lot of attention is focused on the UK, which appears to be the center of the links to the Panama tax haven. Calls for the resignation of Prime Minister David Cameron are sounding loud on social media and in British press after his admissions that he indeed held personal stock in his late fathers Panama based fund and sold them for a profit.
Further government links in the UK have been hinted in the British media with George Osborne being accused of stashing away profits from a 6m pound property deal in a Panama company.
Aside from the UK there is still talk about Russian president Putin having links to the Panama scandal. However, no further solid evidence has been presented and in fact Kremlin has hit back with accusations of the leak being information warfare aimed at their president.
In Iceland the prime minister quickly resigned following the scandal. New polls in Iceland show The Pirate Party surging to more than 40% support, however for now the government there is attempting to avoid elections by simply naming a replacement prime minister.
The Panama Papers
The panama papers have already started making heads roll. The Icelandic prime minister resigned after being directly implicated in the leak. Several others are taking heavy fire in the media. However, the Panama Papers have the ability to topple many more heads of state and public servants across the globe.
What are the Panama Papers ? Basically a leak of files from a law-firm helping high earners move income and wealth to Panama to avoid paying taxes in their home countries. As such the Panama Papers are a simple whistle blower case. The unique thing about the Panama Papers is that they do not expose the wrongdoing of any specific person or government, but the potential legal and moral wrongdoings of thousands of government members, public servants and business people across the world.
It is worth noting that sending money to Panama, having a company or a bank account there is not necessarily illegal in any way. In fact usually it is specifically set up not to be. In terms of perception however being named as making maneuvers of this sort is what is damaging, it is not about legal but moral.
Panama Papers Downfalls ?
The panama papers signify a new form of information warfare. Someone found the files. Sent the file to a newspaper and exposed thousands of people across the world. We have no overview yet over everyone implicated. We do not know if the whist blower had a hidden agenda. Was he targeting someone in particular. Has he deliberately left someone out? Months of investigations of the terabytes of documents might reveal the answers down the line.
What we know right now is that several prolific politicians have found themselves in the firing line. First to fall was the Icelandic prime minister as mentioned. Highest in the headlines so far has been Vladimir Putin of Russia and David Cameron of the UK.
Putin is not actually directly implicated by the papers, but media reports link him to funds moved to Panama to the tunes of 2bn dollars via friends, backers and family members. Is that a problem for Putin ? Honestly. No. Whilst democratically elected Vladimir Putin is in a uniquely strong position in Russia in which a perception of him being a bit too close to something dubious matters little and surprises less. As such, Putin does in fact seem like more of a distraction for more vulnerable targets tarnished by the leak.
David Cameron Tax Dodging Links
David Cameron, prime minister of the UK, is a bit of special case in relation to the leak. He is not yet directly implicated, however his father is and several primary donors of his party are as well. That in itself is embarrassing, particularly the family link to tax evasion. However, David Cameron has himself raised himself above the fray on tax evasion by publicly maintaining that being legal is not enough, acting morally is required too.
For instance David Cameron was explicitly outspoken on the amoral but not illegal tax dealings of British comedian Jimmy Carr:
Aside from these moral stances on creative tax dodging David Cameron has stated that the UK was a world leader in combating tax havens and curbing tax dodging. Such statements obviously sound almost outer worldly after the revelations that “the UK are at the heart of tax dodging networks“.
And worse: David Camerons own father was an active perpetrator of these tax avoidance schemes, thus raising clear questions about David Camerons own wealth, efforts to combat tax dodging and honesty in general. To make matters almost comical David Cameron chairs an international conference about stopping international tax evasion schemes next month.
David Cameron is unlikely to fall as a consequence of the Panama Leaks despite being heavily tainted. He has a solid majority in parliament backing him and is not running for re-election. As such the opposition has no possibility of removing him. His own party could but given he is already a dead-man-walking politically it would make sense to keep him in nr.10 till after a potential EU referendum loss, another unpopular budget and other issues that would harmfully tarnish a new Conservative leader.
Prominent Casualties ?
Are we likely to see other prominent casualties of the leak ? Yes. But exactly who is quite unpredictable. Aside from David Cameron, the Icelandic Primeminister and Vladimir Putin most of those implicated are either having more indirect links to the scandal or they are simply difficult to remove by democratic means.
For instance the King of Saudi Arabia has been named. Does it make him unpopular at home? Maybe. Does it topple him? Unlikely. There is no process for removing a Saudi king, nobody to do it and presumably no great shock that he has wealth stashed away either. Similar is true for several Middle Eastern, African and South American leaders and ex-leaders.
In several cases it is possible that the revelations could have influence down the road. The scales could be tipped for the next presidential elections in Argentina. The Ukrainian president could stumble to uprisings or votes. The United Arab Emirates president could face problems. But there is no automatism to it. It would require local public outrage
Is There More ?
More ? The Panama Papers are but a fraction. These are the papers from one big law firm specialized in helping companies and individuals stashing away cash in Panama. Several other companies have the same metier. Plenty of other tax havens are as big or bigger destinations of wealth than Panama. Hong Kong. Cayman Islands. Seychelles. Andorra. Bermuda. British Virgin Islands. Switzerland. Mauritius. And many many more. Each one could have its own leak. From each of the law firms working it. The current leak is might look enormous but it covers a fraction of the entirety.
This of course means too, that nobody is off the hook simply because they are not listed as implicated in this leak. They might simply keep their stash elsewhere. The interesting thing for us though is the political and electoral outfall. We have seen one actual fall. Plenty of humiliation. The longer term consequences are harder to predict. Voters might rise to demand a stop to these practices. Voters might demand measures to hold their leaders accountable, personally and politically. Or. We might settle back into X-Factor and Big Brother when the Panama buzz is over.Read more
Far Right Rise In Europe. Europe is seeing a wave of far right parties getting their breakthrough with voters primarily based on anti-immigration policies, nationalism and anti-EU sentiments usually. The far right rise in Europe is seen more or less across the continent. Inside the European union and outside.
Almost every European country has seen a far right, dirty right or fascist party getting an electoral breakthrough in recent years. The wave of far right populism is carried by anti-immigration policies beyond anything else. Fueled by the fear of Al-Queeda, terror and ISIS. Driven by the crisis of the EU in general and refugee streams in particular.
Far Right Parties In Europe
All of those parties should not be considered equal in nature or policies. Merely part of the same wave of far right populism in Europe. Golden Dawn and the Slovak National Party are actual (roughly) examples of self declared nazi-parties whereas lots of the others try and maintain a veil of mainstream reasonableness, while pursuing far right agendas.
Far Right Parties in Greece: Golden Dawn. An actual national socialist party in Greek politics. They march under fascist banners. plays a Greek version of the Horst Vessel song at rallies and have armed gangs of thugs attacking political opponents, immigrants and refugees. Several members of parliament and the entire leadership of Golden Dawn have spent much of the last couple of years in jail following a judicial crackdown. The crackdown came after a Golden Dawn activist killed a political opponent.
Golden Dawn peaked at around 20% in the polls, but have dropped off to around 12-14% after their legal problems. Golden Dawn was the first nazi party since world war II to win seats in an European election. They currently hold hold 18 seats in the Greek parliament and several seats in the European parliament.
Far Right Parties in France: Front National. An old player on the far right scene is the French anti-immigration and anti-EU party Front National. The far right nationalists are democrats and do not officially subscribe to fascism or nazism. They were led by legendary leader Jean Marie Le Pen for decades, but received their final electoral breakthrough in recent years after his daughter Marine Le Pen took over leadership of the party.
Front National made it to the final round of the presidential elections but ultimately lost. They have however won several local and parliamentary elections and have mayors in multiple French cities, seats in the European Parliament and such.
Far Right Parties in Denmark: Danish Peoples Party and New Right. The Danes are a bit nicer about far right populism than most of the other European nations. The Danish Peoples Party (Dansk Folkeparti) actively weed out party members stating positions too radical in nature publicly and the party acted as backers of the Anders Fogh-Rasmussen government from 2001 till 2011.
Dansk Folkeparti is nationalistic, anti-EU and anti immigration but they go to great lengths not to come across as extremists. They sugar over the more hardline stances with strong support for Israel, demands for better public services to the elderly and the fight for the little man against the system the Danes so enjoy. Currently the Danish Peoples Party have shot up to 20% support at elections and could become the biggest party in Denmark according to current opinion polls.
Far Right Parties in Sweden: Sweden Democrats (a feature on them: Sweden and The Refugee Crisis )
Far Right Parties in Finland: True Finns. The true Finns are very similar to the Danish Peoples Party and Swedish Democrats, must be a Scandinavian thing. They muster strong support for a closed-borders policy and anti EU campaigning.
The True Finns gained approximately 18% of the vote at the latest general election in Finland but are currently polling somewhat below that on average.
Far Right Parties in Germany: Alternative For Germany (a feature on them: Far Right Breakthrough in German Politics)
Far Right Parties in Hungary: Jobbik is about as close as we get to a fascist party without it actually itself as such. They declare themselves radically nationalist, anti-establishment, anti-immigration, antisemitic and of course anti-EU. The visuals of Jobbik make them look like a classic fascist or nazi party with parades of uniformed supporters waving flags looking suspiciously like versions of the Swastika.
Jobbik scored a massive 21% of the vote in the latest Hungarian elections and have become a force to be reckoned with. Not only in the streets. But in parliament too. As the far right rise in Europe goes Jobbik is one of the more extreme parties in the same category as the Slovak National Party and Golden Dawn.
Far Right Parties in Slovakia: Kotleba – People’s Party Our Slovakia and The Slovak National Party (Slovenská národná strana – can be translated as the Slovak Peoples Party too it seems) openly declares itself nationalist and socialist. They have the classic far right and outright fascist stances. They use the traditional fascist symbolism of uniformed political rallies, flags and marching.
After the 2016 elections in Slovakia the Slovak National Party entered into coalition government after coming in as the 4th biggest party. SNS has been riding the wave of far right rise in Europe but has not managed to reach 10% of the vote in Slovakia in the past 25 years. They have however gained more direct influence than most European far right parties by entering and supporting coalition governments in return for political influence.
Far Right Parties in the United Kingdom: The traditional far right party in the UK is the British National Party, BNP, they have never achieved wider support in the electorate or gained seats in parliament. In recent years a new form of right wing populism has been seen from Nigel Farage and his UKIP party. They are most certainly among the softer of the far right parties in Europe with far fewer authoritarian elements.
UKIP would have gained an electoral breakthrough more or less anywhere else in Europe. Nigel Farage secured 12,6% of the vote in the latest general election in the UK and a stunning 27,5% in the 2014 European Parliament elections. The European Parliament result is a consequence of UKIP being the only mainstream party in the UK opposing further EU integration. Whilst the 27,5% result secured UKIP a strong platform in the European parliament they still have not achieved electoral success in general elections in the UK. The reason is simple. A non-proportional electoral system. Their latest election result would have secured Ukip 60-80 seats elsewhere in Europe in a proportional system, but in the UKs first past the post electoral system it was only enough to win a single seat. Party leader Nigel Farage even failed to secure a seat for himself.
Several other far right groupings exist in the UK such as offspring’s of Pegida, the English Defence League. But none of them have achieved wider appeal.
Other Far Right Parties in Europe
The above walk-through of political parties with radical far right platforms in Europe is far from comprehensive.
We could have examined Brothers of Italy and Lega Nord in Italy. The Austrian Freedom Party. Order and Justice from Lithuania. Vlaams Belang (Flemish Nationalist Party) in Belgium. The Party For Freedom from Holland. The SPD (Freedom and Direct Democracy Party) of the Czech Republic. The examples are basically endless.
The new thing is not the amount of radical parties though. Both extreme flanks have always been covered. The new thing is the width of support for anti-immigration, anti-establishment and anti-EU sentiments that has led to the far right rise in Europe.
Far Right Rise In Europe
The Anti-Immigration Wave over Europe have provided wind in the sails for the populist right across the continent. Clearly, attacks reminiscent of those in Brussels and Paris will increase the support for all of those far right parties. The same might be stated for the refugee crisis on the whole.
The individual far right parties across Europe tend to mix a few general themes with locally tailored populist positions. In Sweden the right to shoot wolves. In Denmark a ban on animal sex. In the UK a repeal of smoking bans in pubs. In Hungary strong anti-Roma policies. It all depends on the local area. The common denominator is local political populism.
On top of the local issues most of the far right parties in Europe share positions on a range of issues:
- Closed Borders / Stop to all immigration
- Deportation of immigrants and refugees
- Anti Turkey joining the EU
- Anti EU in general
- Anti Islam / Islamism
- Pro restoration of national culture, independence and pride
- Anti freedom of movement within the EU
- Anti government and establishments
- Better service for the elderly and veterans
- Lower / No foreign aid
A policy issue such as the future of Israel on the hand divide the populist right-wing parties. Several of the Eastern European far right parties are more or less classic antisemitic, whereas for instance the Danish Peoples Party is strongly pro-Israel.
Same Populist Wave As Donald Trump in the US ?
Several people have asked if the right wing trends, the populism and the anti immigration stances of European populist parties are in fact part of the same populist wave that has brought the rise of Donald Trump in the US. We have looked at the question Is Donald Trump A Fascist previously. But. We haven’t explored it in detail yet and as such it is only fair to give an as of yet unsubstantiated opinion:
Yes. At first look. It does appear to be the same issues. The same form of rhetoric. The same segments of voters. The same economic conditions. Similar problems used to propel the arguments. But if it holds up to closer scrutiny is not yet certain. That will have to wait till another time. The Far Right Rise In Europe is a fact. So is the rise of Trump. They look similar.Read more
Brexit coming ? A referendum is coming up in the UK on the future membership of the EU. As described the other day primeminister David Cameron returned to a public shaming after he failed to secure special terms for Britain at negotiations in Bruxelles. However, it was equally assumed that the meager results could be sold as some kind of victory and thus used as the basis for a STAY campaign.
The STAY campaign was predicted a certain winner. Due to unlimited funds, media support, establishment support etc. But already now I have to flip flop. The STAY victory suddenly got a lot more shaky and uncertain as mayor of London Boris Johnson announced his intention to campaign for a LEAVE vote. With Boris Johnson fighting as a prominent figure in the Brexit ranks the result is simply unpredictable.
The Boris Johnson Difference
The LEAVE campaign was mired by squabbles and division. Charismatic but divisive figure Nigel Farage seemed to be the natural but to many mainstream voters unacceptable natural leader of the movement. And Farage certainly has the power to pull in his special segment of voters, but as seen in the general elections he stirs up as much animosity as he does praise. As such, he was always a bad choice to lead a campaign that needs to win a national majority.
Several Tories were obviously pro Brexit too all along. A few businessmen as well. But Boris Johnson is a potential game changer in the race. Not only is Boris Johnson the most prominent name that could possibly join the brexit campaign, being the favorite next leader of the Conservative party. He is a legitimizing face. He makes it ok for even high ranking tories, business people and voters to side openly with the LEAVE side.
Plenty of voters and second tier politicians would not want be identified with a movement led by Nigel Farage or a similarly divisive face. Boris Johnson on the other hand is liked across the political spectrum. The legendary Boris Johnson buffoonerey, being locked out by his wife after cheating on her – live on tv – and having to walk off down the street from his house, for instance. It sounds silly. But it makes him a sort of likeable harmless household name and even leftwingers will go “Oh I dislike the Tories, but this is Boris”
Boris is a game changer! Is it enough to win for the LEAVE campaign ? I still doubt it. But the odds have certainly changed from 80-20 for the STAY vote to something much tighter!
Brexit Coming ?
Still. A brexit is not likely. The LEAVE campaign is up against formiddable forces. But with the entry of Boris Johnson defeat is no longer a given. And of course. Boris Johnson just made himself an even likelier next Tory leader. In or Out? Give your opinion!
Obviously. David Cameron could have done without another humiliation this week. After the fiasco in Bruxelles he must have hoped for a united conservative party at least backing him. Instead. He lost 6 cabinet members. And the next leader to be: Boris Johnson !
Brexit is closer today. But it is still a long shot. The odds may have changed. But the STAY vote is heavily favored. But if Boris Johnson puts his future career on the line for leaving, it might just happen. Exciting months to come.Read more
As expected UK prime minister David Cameron returned from Bruxelles with a deal giving the UK a few “special arrangements” in their relation to the European Union. Across the board David Cameron is being ridiculed for a minuscule list of achievements that basically add up to exactly nothing.
Right now David Cameron kissing EU boots is trending on Twitter and Facebook:
David Cameron Kissing Boots in Bruxelles.
Defeat for UK primeminister in EU as Brexit looms. The entire idea of the new agreement was for David Cameron to make demands on the EU. Go and do some tough bargaining and bringing home a deal he could sell as a grand victory for Britain over the EU. And finally use it to call a Brexit referendum in which he would support staying in the EU.
The point of the backwards maneuvre of calling a Brexit referendum only to recoommend staying in the EU would be to close the flank Nigel Farage and his rising UKIP party of EU-scepticals along with the anti-EU wing of the Tory party itself. However, the process has been rather derailed from the very start.
- David Cameron realised even before the negotiations that most of the ideal demands (such as the right to close the borders and cut off eastern european immigrants) would be impossible to get fulfilled. So he submitted a very modest list of small demands that he tried to sell a important. It failed.
- The negotiations in Bruxelles were supposed to look long, hard and brutal. And a war torn primeminister could return with the spoils of victory. Sadly. It didnt play like that. The demands were too small to cause much debate and opening bigger debates were too lethal with Poland on the warpath and Greece wanting to attach the refugee crisis. So, instead, Cameron was basically told “Yeah, take those breadcrumbs and stop whining, go away”
- He was supposed to return a victor. Full of conviction being able to point to his results and say: Look, I now support staying in the EU because of this victory. Instead, he came home empty handed to ridicule in newspapers, on the internet and in every news broadcast.
So, now there is gonna be a brexit referendum. And despite all this David Cameron is likely to get his “stay” vote. Right now the “leave” vote actually has a small lead in opinion polls but the referendum is loopsided. The entire establishment, the vast majority of the media, most of the businessworld, all political parties except UKIP and unlimited campaign funds are backing the Stay vote.
Very soon the scaremongering is gonna start from the Stay campaign. Look out for “Businesses will move abroad”, “Thousands of jobs will be lost”, “Criminals will benefit from Brexit” etc. It is the same playbook as the Scottish independence referendum and several others. And it works!
At this time – Stay 80% – Leave 20% is my take on the chances.Read more
Scottish minister of transport Stewart Stevenson has been frozen out of office. Not by his fellow minister, parliament or his civil servants, but by the utter chaos caused by snow in Scotland that he failed to find prevent or find any solutions to. Apparently conditions in the scottish highlands were rather awful, airports were closed, thousands were trapped on motorways between Edinburgh and Glasgow, some even stumbled on their way to the pub.
Of course, the scots dont put up with such things and Stewart Stevenson had to take full responsibility, pack his back bag and leave office. Read that again, the minister took responsibility, declared himself a failure and left. They may be frozen fools but the scots sure have more spine than most politicians.
Now think about George W. Bush and his handling of Katrina.Read more
London is currently experiencing the most agressive and violent riots in the streets since the Thatcher years. The demonstrations are lead, organised and carried out by students, presumably backed by militant anarchists, thucks and opportunist troublemakers. So far, several building such as the treasury has been utterly trashed, several police officers have been attacked and hospitalised, no other than prince Charles have had his car smashed up and so forth.
The students are angry, well furious, that the government havent disbanded tuition fees – and indeed tripled them instead. Now, they had probably expected that from the conservatives but the students largely carried the Liberal Democrats into parliament and government on a promise of tuition fees being abolished. Whichever way you look at it, either Nick Clegg lied to please the students during his campaign, and never intented to abolish the tuition fees, or he sold out along the way, dropped his promises and reversed his political stance 180degrees – in return for ministerial seats. Either way blatant lies, lost hopes and promises deliberately not kept have always been the fuel that lit political anger and inspired demonstrations in the streets. Nick Clegg has basically taken his party from a role of everybodies favorite pet, a faint hope for idealists and the naughty boy in class who dared speak out when others played tactical games, and bought himself seats in government at the expense of his entire political program (the voting reform was sold before he even took office remember). Former Liberal Democrat leaders and prominent figures voted against their own government in parliament, but thats barely a footnote to the students and libdem voters who feel thoroughly betrayed. In that sense, its probably fairly safe to assume Nick Clegg should enjoy his time in the ministeries, as its more than unlikely he will have a seat there after the next election.
Now does any or all of this justify rioting in the streets, destroying property and hurting people? Of course not. Political violence is a bad thing and innocent people having their belongings ruined or being hurt is obviously out of order. However, the anger, frustration and disappointment created by the actions of the british government and the Liberal Democrats in particular are to blame more than anything else, as one person I spoke to said:
“The students dont exactly make you proud to be british. But Clegg. I would have always voted Liberal Democrat. They were the only straight up idealist party. Now theres nobody left to vote for. I am not a student but Nick Clegg betrayed the voters and proved himself a liar like the rest of them. Never again.”
Taken to the streets by the people directly affected, such levels of disappointment can turn nasty. They shouldnt, but equally its hard to believe how it has surprised anyone that they did. And this may only be the beginning, the british are back on the streets, they are angry and ready to show it.Read more