Tuesday, 21 September 2010
UKIP: Tim Congdon's leadership statement to members
A personal statement from Tim Congdon on his candidacy for the leadership of the UK Independence Party
Why I support UKIP
Britain is a special nation. For the last 300 years it has been admired across the world as the home of parliamentary democracy and the champion of the rule of law. In two world wars it defended a political system which – above all – prized the freedom of the individual. Our political and legal traditions are best seen as attempts to stop the abuse of power by the state.
In 1973 the UK joined (what was then) the European ‘Common Market’, essentially for economic reasons. We wanted to be able to trade freely with our European neighbours and to match the higher economic growth they had enjoyed in the previous 15 years. Since then our political independence has been progressively whittled away.
New legislative enactments affecting our country are now mostly labelled ‘directives’ and ‘regulations’, not laws. They are passed by the Council of Ministers, not our own Parliament. The processes involved are complicated, obscure and secret, and the key movers are foreign bureaucrats and lobbyists, not our own politicians and parliamentarians. In a host of important areas of national life, known as ‘competences’, powers have passed from Westminster and Whitehall to Brussels and Strasbourg. The right to propose new directives and regulations lies not with our own government, certainly not with our Parliament in Westminster, but with the European Commission.
I support the UK Independence Party because the only way that we can restore our ability to make our own laws and to govern ourselves is for the UK to leave the European Union.
The erosion of democracy
The government of Britain is now shared – in an extraordinarily confused way – by a group of democratically-elected politicians in London and an entrenched bureaucracy in a foreign capital. The bureaucrats are appointed for the long term. They can and will erode the power of politicians who are in office only for a few years and can be removed by the electorate.
Not surprisingly, government by foreign bureaucrats is bad government. Whatever aspect of the interaction between the European Union and the UK we look at, we see inefficiency and failure. Think of the cost and distortions of the Common Agricultural Policy, the shambles of the Common Fisheries Policy, the burden of unnecessary business regulation, the effect of the open EU borders which have let in over a million workers from other EU countries and put pressure on our social services, the assault on habeas corpus and personal freedom represented by the new European Arrest Warrants, the encroachment on our own criminal justice system by a new European Public Prosecutor, the hit to the competitiveness of our chemical and heavy energy using industries from EU environmental directives, the damage to the City of London from misjudged intervention by new pan-European financial regulators and......., well, the list could be extended over a few pages. All these arrangements are making us poorer or less free. Nevertheless, we have to pay the European Union for the privilege of letting it misgovern us. By 2013 Britain will be handing over to the EU a net figure of about £10 billion a year. That will help foreign bureaucrats boss us around in the style to which they are accustomed.
The opportunity for UKIP
The EU is now unpopular in the UK. This is revealed – bizarrely – by opinion research from the European Commission itself. According to the Eurobarometer poll which it finances, in August 2010 29% of people in the UK consider EU membership ‘a good thing’, whereas 33% see it as ‘a bad thing’. Net support for EU membership had been falling for many years. The cost of membership is rising, while people will increasingly resent the attack on our institutions and way of life that the EU bureaucracy represents. Net support for the EU has now become net opposition and that net opposition will increase.
Logically, political parties advocate policies that the electorate wants. The British people have had enough of the EU. However, all three of the so-called ‘main parties’ favour continued UK membership of the EU on the present terms. In the 1997 general election Jimmy Goldsmith bravely started a new party, the Referendum Party. Its purpose was simple. By threatening to take votes away from the big parties, it would extract from them a commitment that any large future change in the UK’s relationship with the EU would be put to a referendum.
All three parties agreed that such a referendum must be held. It was reiterated in their 2005 general election manifestoes. But – when the Lisbon Treaty, undoubtedly a major constitutional upheaval, came before Parliament in 2008 – two parties, Labour and the Liberal Democrats, forgot their promise. In late 2009 the Lisbon Treaty was about to become law across the EU. The Conservatives under David Cameron then said that – if they came to power in the next general election – they also would not hold a referendum on the new treaty. They knew full well that it was a radically new and different constitutional set-up between the EU and its members. But they would do nothing about it.
The three main parties have broken a promise and betrayed the British people. The sad truth is that Britain’s ‘political class’ is corrupt and inadequate. Moreover, it is increasingly integrated with the larger European political class of which the European Commission’s bureaucracy is part. In effect, the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats have surrendered control of our country to foreign dignitaries and officials who operate from a capital city outside our borders.
Disappointment with the EU has turned into disillusionment and disillusionment is now becoming anger. The UK Independence Party is the only significant political force that can channel this anger into votes and so take Britain out of the EU. At the next European elections, in 2014, the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition is likely to be very unpopular, because of the difficult economic situation. UKIP will have its best-ever opportunity to take more votes, in a major expression of British public opinion, than any of the three other parties.
We have a great opportunity – but we also face a challenge. The challenge to the party is to maximise its brand and image, to spread its vital message about the future of our country, and to obtain the most favourable possible media coverage. In a nutshell, we must maximise our message – our favourable and positive message – in the media. That is the way to secure the highest possible number of votes in a media-savvy democracy in the era of electronic communications. That is what UKIP must do.
What will I bring to UKIP?
In standing for the leadership of UKIP, I believe that I am the best person to meet the challenge now facing UKIP.
I believe that, over the next four years, UKIP must have the following new organizational priorities,
- To improve its image in the national and local media by presenting its case in high-quality research documents, newspaper articles, webcasts and so on,
- To set up an effective campaign and publicity machine in London, which – whether we like it or not – is where the UK media are centred,
- To work hard with the existing Eurosceptic and Eurorealist think-tanks both to strengthen the argument for withdrawal and to spread that message through the media and more widely,
- To support the organization of regular social events across the country, in order to reinforce a sense of identity with UKIP, and
- To establish a significant flow of donations by fund-raising, which will be helped by the social events and research publications I have been talking about.
Let me emphasize I want to build on the magnificent work already being done – mostly on a voluntary basis – at the branch and regional levels. I will listen to party members for new ideas about promoting the party and furthering the cause.
I do not want to be a MEP. Repeat: I do not want to be a MEP. The work I am describing must be done in the UK. I have said – and I will reiterate – that the centre of gravity of the United Kingdom Independence Party must be in the United Kingdom. Our MEP representation is a great strength to the party, and there is no conflict between working harder in both the European Parliament and the UK. We must move forward on a united front.
I have set up a research business (Lombard Street Research Ltd.) from an initial capital of £100 and built it into one of the most respected economic research companies in this country. (It now has a turnover of over £4 million and employs people in three countries.) The skills I used in establishing a successful research business will be the same skills I will be using to strengthen UKIP if I become leader.
Finally, I am one of the UK’s most influential economists. I served on the UK’s Treasury Panel from 1993 to 1997 as a so-called ‘wise person’ and was appointed Commander of the British Empire in 1997 ‘for services to economic debate’. If I am elected leader, UKIP will have the best economist in British politics.
Who am I?
Many party members will have seen me on television or heard me on radio, usually discussing a topical economic or financial theme. Yes, I am an economist, and my bread-and-butter for over 35 years has come from commenting on the British economy and its many problems. I don’t at present have ‘a full-time job’. I retired from Lombard Street Research in 2005, in order to have more time to write books and essays. (I love writing and seeing my name in print.) I set up a new consultancy – International Monetary Research Ltd. – in 2009, really to have a platform for my ideas, and you can have a look at its website (http://www.imr-ltd.com/.) If I don’t become leader, I will probably spent most of my time building up International Monetary Research Ltd. into a meaningful research business.
I was born in 1951 and am now 59 years old. I grew up in England, but with two spells as a child in foreign parts (Iran, for 10 months in 1956, and South Africa, for 18 months in 1959 and 1960). It has become clear to me, as I look back, that those two spells made me feel very ‘British’ and different. That has stayed with me for the rest of my life. (I can remember the Afrikaner children at my junior school sneering at me because I was from England; I can also remember the delirious crowds at Durban Docks when HMS Belfast called in for a short visit; other memories are standing in a three-deep crowd as Harold Macmillan passed by in a motorcade [the ‘wind of change’ speech] and knocking on the doors of palatial homes in Durban North for ‘bob a job’ assignments. [A ‘bob’ – you will recall – was one shilling. At that time South Africa had pounds, shillings and pence.] For most of our time in South Africa my family lived in a council flat.)
Back in England, I got the 11-plus and went to Colchester Royal Grammar School from 1962 to 1969. I was awarded an Open Scholarship by St. John’s College, Oxford, in 1969 and took a 1st Class degree (in Modern History and Economics) in 1972. The marks in my economics papers were equal top in my year.
My first job was on the economics staff of The Times from 1973 to 1976, a period of almost unrelenting (and for me most fascinating and enjoyable) economic crisis. That was where my interest in money and banking, and in monetary control to defeat inflation (‘monetarism’), began. In 1976 I went into the City as the economic adviser to a stockbroking firm, L. Messel & Co. I became a partner in 1980 and was fortunate in 1984 to be able to sell my stake in the firm to (what became) Lehman Brothers. I was briefly Lehman’s chief London economist, but in 1989 left to set up my own research and consultancy business, Lombard Street Research Ltd.
My work in economics has not been purely day-to-day commentary. I have also written important and influential academic papers, collected in two books Reflections on Monetarism (1990) and Keynes, the Keynesians and Monetarism (2007). I was appointed Honorary Professor at Cardiff Business School in 1990 and for every year until 2006 I gave a course of lectures on monetary economics. I was also a visiting professor of economics at City University Business School from 1998 to 2004. So I sometimes call myself ‘Professor Tim Congdon’, although I no longer have an academic affiliation. I am at present finishing off an American version of Keynes, the Keynesians and Monetarism, which I hope will appear next year as Money in a Free Society.
I have been a successful businessman and investor. I am a so-called ‘Name’ (i.e., capital provider) at Lloyd’s of London and own two forest estates in Scotland. When I take a break from my consultancy and writing, I enjoy walking on those estates and thinking about how to improve them. I also enjoy foreign holidays, both in the EU and outside it.
I have been married to Dorianne for 22 years. We have a daughter, Venetia, who is 19 and is about to start a post-graduate degree at Linacre College, Oxford.
My work in UKIP
Until 2006 I had always supported the Conservative Party, although I could not vote for Ted Heath in either of the two general elections in 1974. I voted against ‘the Common Market’ in the 1975 referendum.
I joined UKIP in January 2007, at the prompting of the then leader, Roger Knapman, whom I had known for almost 20 years. Almost immediately, I wrote an article in The Daily Telegraph on why I couldn’t support Cameron. This coincided with the so-called ‘defection’ from the Conservatives to UKIP of Lord Pearson and Lord Willoughby. In late January 2007 the Conservative Party’s private polling put the UKIP share in the national vote at 6% - 7%. (Eight weeks of unremitting anti-UKIP ‘knocking copy’ then followed in the national press. I am not saying here where these stories came from, but I have my views.)
It is well-known that I don’t want to become a MEP; it is not a secret that I believe our main fight must be in the UK, not in Brussels or Strasbourg. The financial crisis in late 2008 came as a profound shock to me. I was also disappointed that UKIP was not, in my view, devoting enough effort to the UK public debate, particularly in view of the imminent ratification of the new EU constitution. I therefore left UKIP in order to have more access to the top brass in the Conservative Party (and to some extent UK officialdom more generally) to argue for ‘quantitative easing’, among other things. QE was in fact adopted in early March 2009 – and, I am happy to say, the economy recovered briskly.
When he became leader, Lord Pearson was keen to persuade me to rejoin UKIP. I had hoped and expected that the Conservatives would keep to their promise of holding a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty. I wrote to Lord Pearson to say that – if David Cameron reneged on that promise – I would rejoin UKIP. I copied the letter to about a dozen senior figures in British politics, including Cameron. A few weeks later Cameron said that the Conservatives would not hold a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty. I rejoined UKIP.
In all this to-ing and fro-ing (for which I must apologise), I was consistent in believing
i. that the UK must withdraw from the EU, and
ii. that the key to getting us out of the EU must be a UK-based and UK-focussed campaign to improve UKIP’s research message and media coverage.
I was doing what I could as a private citizen concerned about our country’s future. Bluntly, I felt that in 2008 UKIP was not doing enough. But it is now our only hope – and so I was glad to rejoin.
I was UKIP’s parliamentary candidate in the Forest of Dean constituency (where I live) in the 2010 general election. I hugely enjoyed the election campaign, in which – with my excellent band of supporters – I more than doubled the UKIP vote and kept my deposit.
Tim Congdon C.B.E.
1st September, 2010