European elections 2014: This is one peasants’ revolt that Brussels can’t just brush aside

The mood across the 28-nation bloc is more Eurosceptic than ever before; and perhaps the most significant development is in France itself. Whatever the crisis, it was always the mantra of the French establishment that we needed “more Europe”, not less. Fall of Berlin Wall? More Europe! Rise of China and other Asian economies? More Europe! Persistent youth unemployment? More Europe! Disaster of the euro? More Europe! The very launch of the Common Market – by men such as Jean Monnet and Robert Schuman – was French in its construction and inspiration. The assumption in Paris was always that we needed a Europe ever more politically and economically united – to restrain Germany and to allow France to continue to express herself on the world stage.

The former French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, used to be one of those members of the European Council who could be counted on to call for more integration, whatever happened in the world. And now listen to him. Last week he said that the free movement of the Schengen system should be suspended, so that borders were no longer completely porous to those who were benefit tourists – and for good measure, he added that it was time for Brussels to hand back half of its decision-making to national authorities. Way to go, Sarko! He is speaking for huge numbers of people across the EU, and for the first time in his political career I expect he would get a standing ovation at a Tory party conference.

He is also reflecting the obvious: that there is a revolt going on – and we know how Brussels generally reacts to such vulgar expressions of democratic feeling. When people have voted against the federalist impulse in the past – like the populations of Denmark, or France – they have been asked to have another go; to vote again until they get the right answer. This time, I expect the Eurocracy will try to ignore the election results; they will try to brush them aside. Men like Jean-Claude Juncker, the ex-prime minister of Luxembourg (pop. the same as Wolverhampton) will appear on global media to denounce the European electorate for being so tasteless and irrelevant as to ask for change.

Well, he and his colleagues in the Euro-establishment are wrong; and so are those high-minded and snooty Euro-enthusiasts in Britain, who like to tell us that there is no way that the UK can embark on a renegotiation of the treaties – because there is no “support” for any such move in any other European capital. I am thinking of people like Ed Miliband, and Nick Clegg, and all the so-called experts and think tanks who say we have to accept the EU warts and all because that is all there is on offer.

They are wrong, wrong, wrong. This European election is an expression of revulsion and discontent and it is a mandate for reform. Across the EU, mainstream politicians like Nicolas Sarkozy are now saying what we Conservatives have been saying for years: that the EU needs to do less, to cost less, and to be less intrusive in the way it does it. There is only one government in Europe that has been campaigning solidly for the renegotiation that is needed, and that is David Cameron and the Conservative-led Coalition.

Now is the time for France, Germany and others to listen to Mr Sarkozy, and recognise that he is right. It isn’t good enough just to circle the wagons and tell the people of Europe to get stuffed, because next time the frustration of the electorate may be uncontainable. The message of the people to the Euro-nomenklatura is simple: changer ou mourir!

You kip if you want to – but only one party can offer real change

There are 28 countries now, not nine, and the customs union has evolved into a gigantic dysfunctional superstate with its own currency, its own directly elected parliament and its own (mysterious and mainly useless) foreign policy. The institutions of the European Union regulate everything from the hours we can work to the price of our food to the width of our condoms; not forgetting whether or not we can expunge our misdemeanours from the databanks of Google (we can, says the European Court, in what may be the prelude – who knows – to a wholesale removal of all the embarrassing bits from 20th-century European history).

The so-called acquis communautaire now bulks up to 150,000 pages of law. The EU institutions have vastly increased in power since we joined in the mid-Seventies, with more and more votes taken by a majority, and with Britain now accounting for only 8 per cent of the weighted voting system.

Ours is a country that prides itself on being the home of democracy and the mother of parliaments. It is incredible that our leaders have never once had the guts to put these changes to the people – despite the many opportunities to do so. We have had the treaties of Maastricht, Nice, Amsterdam, Lisbon – and while plenty of other European countries have invited their electorates to ratify these pacts, the British people have been deemed to be somehow too rude and undisciplined to have a say.

So I find it utterly amazing that we are now approaching the climax of this so-called Euro-election campaign, yet there has been hardly a mention of this central question: the democratic question, the only question worth asking. After almost four decades as members of this club, do you want to stay in? Do you want reform? Or do you want to come out?

There is only one party that is seriously offering you any options at all. The Labour party makes no mention of a referendum in its leaflets, because it would only allow the British people to speak if there were to be “further transfers” of sovereignty – as if there had not been enough already. That means there will be no referendum under Labour.

The Lib Dems are total federalists, and think that everything emanating from Brussels is basically terrific. There will be no referendum if the Lib Dems have anything to do with it. I am not sure of the Green position, but I think it is roughly the same and is in any case irrelevant. Then there is Ukip, and their general demand that we leave the EU yesterday – a stipulation that they have absolutely no hope of turning into reality.

There is only one party with any hope of both forming the government of this country and giving the people the debate and the vote we are crying out for – and that is David Cameron’s Conservative Party. There is a chance now for the British Government to lead the reform of the EU, and to capture the support of millions of people around the entire continent.

Why is it that we are seeing this upsurge of anti-European parties across the EU? Because the euro has been a disaster, of course; but the problem is not only a function of the euro. Growth and employment in Europe is now consistently lower than in the US and in Asia; and indeed, growth in the heart of the EU is consistently lower than in Britain. Over the years 1980 to 2012, the six original signatories of the Treaty of Rome grew at a mere 1.6 per cent, while even the UK grew at 2 per cent.

We should go into those renegotiations with a clear agenda: to root out the nonsense of the social chapter – the working time directive and the atypical work directive and other job-destroying regulations. We should kill the remainder of the Common Agricultural Policy and the external tariffs. We should insist on a proper free market in services of the kind in which this country excels, not just in our own interests, but in the interests of the whole EU. If we fail to get what we want, then we should recognise that the cost of leaving – political and economic – is much lower now than it was 40 years ago.

It is only the Conservatives who are offering this real prospect of change; and so I say to all those toying with another self-styled Euro-sceptic party, whose MEPs notoriously slumber and snore through Strasbourg debates: You kip if you want to – the Tories are giving us the first chance to vote on Europe in my adult lifetime. That matters a great deal, and it would be an utter disaster if we were to miss this chance by inadvertently ushering Miliband into power.

Say no to no say!

Margaret Thatcher was ‘tricksy about EU’, says Boris Johnson

Polls suggest the UK Independence Party is on course for major gains in those elections, leaving mainstream political parties struggling to explain its popularity.

Some Ukip voters say they back the party because older political parties have persistently ignored public opinion on issues like Europe.

Mr Johnson echoed that conclusion in his remarks about the behaviour of earlier governments.

His time in Brussels, in the first years after the fall of the Berlin wall, saw significant moves to increase political integration between members of the EU.

In 1993, the European single market was formally completed, guaranteeing freedom of movement for goods and labour throughout the EU.

The same year saw the signing of the Maastricht Treaty, which laid the foundations of the single European currency.

Through many of those events, British ministers repeatedly gave a false impression to voters about their European negotiations, Mr Johnson said.

“They were continually pretending to the people of this country that they were standing firm against the Commission and the other countries attempting to harmonise and regulate everything,” he said.

“Whereas in reality they would always go out there and do deals and capitulate.”

Mr Johnson, an admirer of many of Lady Thatcher’s achievements, said that she was one of the Conservatives who had been guilty of misleading accounts of European deals.

The former prime minister is remembered by many supporters as a staunch opponent of European integration who frequently clashed with other European leaders.

Mr Johnson said that the reality was more complex, suggesting that Lady Thatcher’s rhetoric often masked a more conciliatory approach.

“Even Margaret Thatcher, famously rebarbative about the EU, even she and some of her immediate advisers could be quite tricksy about what was really going on.”

David Cameron has faced accusations of feeding public scepticism over Europe, by promising a referendum on the EU’s Lisbon Treaty then abandoning the plan when the treaty was incorporated into European law.

To address that scepticism, the Prime Minister has said that a Conservative government would offer voters an In/Out referendum on the EU.

Immigration is the most controversial and divisive political issue in Europe today, but what does the face of immigration really look like? What does Europe think of us?

Gary Barlow should ‘cough up’ but keep OBE, says Boris Johnson

"But I don't think he's done anything illegal. I think he should cough up but on the OBE question, I don't see any need for him to hand back the OBE."

Gary Barlow holding his OBE (EPA)

Mr Johnson's intervention came after the Prime Minister said that Mr Barlow should not be made to hand back his honour.

“Aggressive” tax avoidance is “wrong” but Mr Barlow can keep his OBE because it was given in recognition of his charity work, the Mr Cameron said.

Mr Barlow, his band-mates Howard Donald, Mark Owen, and their manager Jonathan Wild invested £66 million into schemes that appeared to be music industry investment schemes but a judge ruled were artificial tax shelters for millionaires.

Robbie Williams and Jason Orange are not involved.

The band is now considering a new world tour to foot the £30 million tax bill.

Mr Barlow was appointed OBE in 2012 for his work for music and charity. He is a prominent Conservative Party supporter, appearing Mr Cameron on the campaign trail in 2010.

Margaret Hodge, the chair of the Commons Public Accounts Committee, said he should “show a bit of contribution” by giving the honour back.

Charlie Elphicke, a Conservative MP who has campaigned against tax avoidance, said: “People who have seriously abused the tax system should be stripped of their honours.”

Mr Cameron told ITV’s Good Morning Britain the findings of the court in the case against Mr Barlow and the Icebreaker scheme were “very clear”.

He said: “This Government has taken a huge amount of steps to legislate and toughen the laws and go after aggressive tax avoidance schemes for the very simple reason that if people aggressively avoid tax, everyone else has to pay higher taxes as a result.”

But he said Mr Barlow should not be stripped of his OBE because he has done “a huge amount for the country.”

“I don’t think that’s necessary frankly,” he said. “He’s raised money for charity. He’s done very well for Children in Need. The OBE was in respect of that work. Clearly this scheme was wrong and it’s right that they’re going to pay back the money,” he said.

Mr Cameron previously chose to single out Jimmy Carr, the comedian, for criticism after it emerged he sheltered £3.3 million in a scheme called K2.

Mr Cameron said the case was a “particularly egregious example of an avoidance scheme that seemed to me to be wrong.”

In our own modest way, we’re living in a Boko Haram world

It seems that over the weekend, the BBC forced a well-regarded 67-year-old DJ on Radio Devon to resign because he had been so careless as to play a 1932 recording of The Sun Has Got His Hat On. This contained a word that is now unmentionable. It is rude, offensive, and I would never use it; but this word has become so intensely haram that a miasma attaches to anyone using it, even inadvertently; and the prohibition is now enforced with a semi-religious fervour.

When Jeremy Clarkson used it – or rather mumbled it, in an out-take never intended for broadcast – the drama went on for days. A clerisy of self-appointed internet witch-doctors went completely loco – or perhaps boko is the word.

Clarkson apologised – entirely correctly. But that was not enough for the internet mob. Clarkson Haram! Clarkson Haram! The politicians piled in.

Harriet Harman called for him to be sacked. The new BBC head of television decided to grant Hattie her wish, and it seems that Clarkson’s job was only saved by the intervention of Tony Hall, the Director-General himself.

So when the BBC hierarchs heard about the latest goof, by a relatively unimportant DJ on Radio Devon, you can imagine that they were fit to be tied. It didn’t matter that he was a popular and veteran local broadcaster: they could see it all happening again. The tweets, the twitstorms, all that endless hashtag BBC racist nightmare.

So they forced him out. I suppose David Lowe was less valuable to the Corporation than Clarkson, which only makes it worse.

Their treatment of this man is utterly disgraceful. There is a film that has been broadcast several times on the BBC, by the name of Pulp Fiction, directed by Quentin Tarantino.

You may have seen it. It is very funny. Towards the end John Travolta accidentally shoots another character in the back of a car, so causing a mess. Travolta and his accomplice, played by Samuel L Jackson, are in a panic about their car, and the dead man in the back. So they take refuge at the house of a distant associate, played by Tarantino himself. They arrive at breakfast time, and try to persuade Tarantino, still in his dressing gown, to help them dispose of the corpse.

Tarantino takes violent exception to this, and in the course of the conversation he refers to the corpse several times by using the aforementioned unmentionable word. “Did you notice a sign in front of my house that says dead [unmentionable word] storage? Did you?” he asks Travolta and Jackson.

Now can someone tell me, in the name of all that is holy, why David Lowe of Radio Devon was made to resign for mistakenly playing an old recording of the Sun Has Got His Hat On – and yet the BBC schedulers see nothing wrong with broadcasting Pulp Fiction?

Don’t give me any of your tripe, you clever-clever BBC folk. Don’t tell me that it is somehow “ironic” or “artistic” in the mouth of Quentin Tarantino, and yet sinister on the turntable of a Radio Devon DJ.

If there were any logic or consistency in the world, the entire cadre of BBC schedulers would be asked to commit harakiri. They should all be sacked, from Tony Hall downwards – every man and woman in the place.

Their crime is far worse than the offence of David Lowe of Radio Devon. They did it KNOWINGLY. They put Pulp Fiction on air, in the full knowledge that the director of the movie – who is white – gives currency and legitimation, out of his own mouth, to a term that they forbid to their own presenters, even accidentally and off the air.

Will they go? I doubt it. Will they all be sacked? Not a chance. Will they be forced to apologise for repeatedly scheduling Pulp Fiction? Of course not. So where is the consistency, the fairness? Where does sanity lie?

The answer is that there is no answer. In our own modest way, we live in a Boko Haram world, where it all depends on the swirling rage of the internet mob, and where terrified bureaucrats and politicians are borne along on a torrent of confected outrage. There is no consistency in the outlook of the Nigerian maniacs: they use weapons produced by the very capitalist system they claim to deplore, for instance.

There is certainly no logic at the BBC. They should restore Mr Lowe to his job – if he will take it – and the entire BBC Board should go down to Devon to apologise in person, and at their own expense.

Boris Johnson plays wheelchair rugby

The Mayor of London launched the World Wheelchair Rugby Challenge by having a go at the sport nicknamed "murderball" for its highly competitive atmosphere.

The event will be held in October 2015 at the Copper Box arena in the Olypmic Park in east London.

"It's huge to get wheelchair rugby going in the Copper Box. We had a wonderful Paralympic Games, and people may remember all the tickets suddenly flew out the window as soon as people realised how exciting it was.

"Wheel chair rugby is possibly the most violent, the most exhilirating game you can specate at," said Boris Johnson.

Boris Johnson: If I was PM I would look ‘very, very hard’ at AstraZeneca deal

Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, wrote to the Prime Minister to demand an independent review of the American giant’s £63 billion bid for AstraZeneca.

In the letter he argued for a “stronger role by the UK Government” arguing that Pfizer’s 50p-a-share offer for Astra, which was rejected on Friday, raised “serious questions about a key sector in our economy”.

The Mayor of London has also suggested that the deal should be subject to more searching scrutiny by the Government to ensure that investment in research and development and the bio technology industry was protected.

Mr Johnson said: “I don’t think politicians can be entirely aloof from this, and I think it would be very important to establish - I am not taking a position against the deal necessarily - but it would be very important to establish that Pfizer is genuinely committed to Rand D in this country.

Ian Read, chief executive of US-based Pfizer, last week wrote to Mr Cameron promising to keep AstraZeneca’s plans for its new Cambridge site, retain “substantial commercial manufacturing facilities” at Macclesfield and protect jobs for five years unless “circumstances significantly change.”

However concerns remain that Pfizer’s main motivation is to use the deal to move its tax domicile to the UK.

Mr Johnson suggested that while the deal was a “fantastic opportunity” it must be subject to a “test” ensuring any deal would not “in any way” damage Britain’s success in dominating the European scene in life sciences and bio technology.

Under the Enterprise Act, the Government can only intervene in deals involving defence or media companies. In 2008 an order was added to allow Lloyds TSB to buy HBOS in the interest of financial stability

Chuka Umunna, Labour’s shadow Business Secretary, has called for another category to be added to protect national interests in research & development which would include Pfizer’s bid.

The economic sunshine has left Miligoblin groping in the dark

They realised it would mean the energy companies wouldn’t be able to invest in the new kit that would allow them to hold down costs in the long run: new nuclear power stations, new substations and distribution networks. They started to wonder whether it made sense to allow politicians to set market prices in this way. Hadn’t the Emperor Diocletian tried that? Didn’t Edward Heath? It looked as though the energy price freeze might end up having the opposite effect – driving the price higher later on.

Meanwhile, the economy kept getting better. The sun beat down on the wilting dome of Miliband’s energy-price fungus and the little gnome was finding less and less shade. The polls were drifting in the Tory direction. He needed a new patch of darkness and discontent – and then he saw it. Housing! People were fed up with paying so much rent. He hopped beneath the next towering toadstool and croaked his wares. We’ll order landlords to stop charging everyone so much! Free money all round. Really? said the struggling members of “Generation Rent”. You bet, said the Miligoblin.

And for a while, it worked. Everyone concentrated on the horrible toadstool of housing costs and forgot about the sunshine. They thought Labour might have the answer – until they started to think about it. Someone pointed out that we had tried rent controls in the Seventies. Someone else said they had been a disaster elsewhere in the world. Then someone made the obvious point that government interference would only stop investors from building new homes and expanding the rental sector.

Almost as soon as Miliband started promising to cut rents, people saw that he was talking nonsense, and that the real answer was to get on and expand supply. Things were just starting to motor in the housing market, they noted, with more homes being built in London than at any time in the past 30 years. The last thing the people needed was some Venezuelan rent-control system that would simply discourage landlords from putting properties on the market.

For about a week, Miliband has been pretending he can magically cut the cost of housing by introducing more bureaucracy. It isn’t working for him. The polls continue to narrow. Yesterday – for the first time since he has been leader – he fell behind in the south of England, as a Sunday Telegraph poll had the Tories one point ahead. He needed another great toadstool with which to distract the electorate!

And so, yesterday morning, he lolloped under the eaves of that old favourite – the cost of transport. People are fed up with paying so much for commuter rail services, Miliband has observed. We’ll cut your fares! We’ll renationalise the rail! he calls from his fungal crevice. Really? says everyone, though the sunshine is so glorious that he is now quite hard to see. Absolutely, says the little Labour orc.

Well, we will see how long this one takes to fall apart. It is true that train operating companies could cut some costs – not by cutting investment in rolling stock, but by following us at London Underground in using new technology. Why do all these trains still have guards, for instance? We have dispensed with them on Transport for London’s Overground trains – and the system is more popular than ever. That is the kind of policy Miliband should support if he wants to cut fares, just as he should support our plan to modernise the Tube’s ticket offices, which will save £50 million a year.

Will he? Of course not. He is a Labour goblin of a particularly old-fashioned kind, in that he responds entirely to the wishes of Sauron, in the form of Len McCluskey and the rest of the unions. With every month that goes by, he is moving his party further and further from the formula of Tony Blair, a formula that won three elections – a broadly centrist approach that accepted the market economy as the best way to deliver growth and fulfilment.

Every day, he seems to come up with some new and barmy plan to regulate and coerce – without understanding that his approach will deliver the very opposite of what he claims. Yesterday some wheeze was leaked of putting new taxes on food, to stop us all being so fat. How is that supposed to help with the cost of living?

Never in the past four years has he looked so eminently beatable. As the economy waxes ever stronger, the toadstools of discontent are shrivelling. The Miligoblin is losing his last habitat.