If Hillary’s for sale, I’ve got an idea!

Former Secretary of State, Senator from New York, and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Hillary Clinton: On sale for a few million dollars?

It seems that Hillary Clinton is willing to help you out if you make a huge donation to her family’s foundation, or book her husband for a $500,000 speech. Whatever you need: a change in State Department policy, access to the administration, the right to buy one of the biggest uranium mines in America, it’s all for sale from Clinton, Incorporated.

So here’s an idea. How about we the people pool our resources and buy Mrs Clinton’s e-mail server? A few million to the foundation and I bet it’s for sale. Then we could find out what else she’s been up to. Or better yet, why don’t the voters club together and buy so much influence with Mrs Clinton so that if she does manage to get elected, the people who bought her loyalty will be the people she’s meant to serve anyway?

Now, I don’t have millions and millions of dollars at my disposal, which is a shame. I couldn’t buy a Clinton speech. I probably can’t even afford a single word of a Clinton speech at these prices! And that’s really annoying, because it seems buying a speech or two, along with a donation to the foundation, is all that’s required to influence US policy. But I bet if enough of us got together and emptied our bank accounts, college funds, 401Ks, retirement funds, etc., then I bet we could manage to buy enough of Mrs Clinton to keep her honest.

If the government of Barack Obama is willing to turn a blind eye to this unethical and probably illegal activity, then I suggest we do the only logical thing: buy Mrs Clinton. That’s what you do when something’s for sale, isn’t it? Just think: if every American donated just $5 to this cause, we could raise over $1.5 billion. That would buy an awful lot of influence with Mrs Clinton, maybe even enough for her to prioritise voters ahead of her foreign government sponsors.

So if Hillary Clinton really is for sale, let’s all club together and buy her.

Lindsey Graham’s secret weapon?

Of all the Republican senators running for President in 2016, there’s one who doesn’t get anywhere near the same amount of attention in the press, nor reach the same heights in the polls as the others – South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham. So far, Graham has been lucky to even get on a poll – the current Realclear Politics average of polls still excludes him – and when he does he’s only recently managed to get above 1% support. But could all of that be about to change? Does Lindsey Graham have a secret weapon in 2008 GOP nominee John McCain?

Lindsey Graham hasn’t even announced yet, and in his most recent interview he seemed to hint that he was having fundraising difficulties – qualifying his intention to run by saying that he’d only do so if he could raise enough money. He also polls poorly even in his home state, placing a distant fifth in South Carolina, one of the crucial early primary states and the “first in the South”. But despite all of that, senate colleague John McCain has already endorsed him in media interviews, and will certainly give Graham a formal endorsement once he makes his campaign official.

So how will that shake up the race? Mitt Romney, the GOP’s 2012 nominee, has said he’ll be “aggressively neutral” in the campaign, and might not endorse anybody. A Romney endorsement, though, doesn’t have the same gravitas as a McCain endorsement, especially now. If Romney had endorsed someone when he ruled himself out of the race, that person would’ve benefited from Romney’s campaign staff, and of course, significant donor base. But those members of staff and donors have now split off into different camps, some following Jeb Bush, some Marco Rubio, and others going elsewhere. So a Romney endorsement might’ve brought much-needed cash and a few staffers, but since there was a definite lack of pro-Romney passion, I’d argue that it probably wouldn’t have moved a lot of votes. On the other hand, there were plenty of passionate McCain supporters in 2008, and there’s a sense on the right that the country made a real mistake in electing Obama over McCain in 2008. So an endorsement from the Arizona senator will be a big boost for Lindsey Graham, at least with those who so strongly supported him against Barack Obama.

What we don’t know is how much influence McCain still has over those former supporters. After all, it’s been a long while since he was on the campaign trail, and a lot of people will have moved on, despite their prior support. If the 2016 campaign, which features new, younger faces like Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, and Ted Cruz, becomes about changing the political “old guard”, perhaps McCain’s call to back Lindsey Graham will, by and large, fall on deaf ears.

But it certainly couldn’t do any harm to Graham’s foundering campaign. If he’s really to break through and win the nomination from his current 1-2% in the polls, he’ll need all the help and support he can get. And regardless of new faces coming through, John McCain’s endorsement is still a big coup, even if it’s not a surprising one for someone who’s been McCain’s friend for years. McCain’s endorsement is bigger and more influential than Romney’s, and it’s better than one from the still-unpopular George W. Bush. It could be the single biggest political endorsement of the 2016 campaign. After all, could you think of a current or former office-holder as well-known as John McCain and with such an array of support behind him?

McCain’s endorsement won’t win Lindsey Graham the nomination. But it might move enough resources Graham’s way to allow him to make a more serious challenge of his own. Right now, Lindsey Graham needs to work on improving his poll numbers and bringing in donations. Those two things go hand-in-hand, because as his poll numbers tick up, more donors will take him seriously and consider giving to his campaign. So an endorsement from John McCain, the GOP’s 2008 standard bearer, coupled with a media blitz after his announcement might just be enough to push Graham out of the “no-hopers” category and into the big leagues in this nomination scrap.

Most campaigns can expect a post-announcement bump in the polls as more voters become aware of the candidate, and a succession of post-announcement television and radio interviews (well, unless you’re Mrs Clinton) usually raises that profile even more. Lindsey Graham, while well-known in political circles, is still a relative unknown outside of the beltway and South Carolina. He can use that to his advantage, taking the time to define himself as McCain’s spiritual successor. If he can successfully tap into the 2008 support for John McCain, he could go far in the primaries. The endorsement will help him, you could even call it his “secret weapon”, but Graham himself will have to do most of the work.

Right now, the nomination race is wide open, so there’s no reason to think that a Graham campaign, with a good roll-out and kickstarted by a big endorsement, couldn’t do well. It depends on Graham’s ability to define himself and where he stands relative to the other candidates, as well as his being able to make a positive case to voters, not just repeating the same old anti-Hillary rhetoric that seems to be what the GOP plans to run on in 2016. I’ve said before that doing so would be a mistake, and I stand by that. The candidate that will win the nomination (and hopefully the Oval Office) will be someone who can present a campaign about all the issues facing Americans today, and offer positive solutions. An opposition campaign will not work, and if Lindsey Graham tries to run another anti-Hillary campaign then no endorsement will be big enough to save him from political oblivion.

If it weren’t for John McCain, we could write off Lindsey Graham already. Without that boost, his campaign doesn’t look like it’s poised to go anywhere, but with that extra support, Graham could position himself as a contender. From there, it will be up to him to run a good campaign.

Quick Thought: Twelve Percent

A recent poll showed that Hillary Clinton’s gender didn’t matter to most voters. 83% of those surveyed said that Mrs Clinton’s gender would have no impact whatsoever on their voting preferences in 2016, with 4% saying they’d be less likely to vote for a woman, and 12% more likely. On the face of it, it’s good news, not just for the Republican Party who, as we’ve pointed out, are highly likely to have a man as their nominee, but also for all fair-minded people who believe that gender is not a qualification (or disqualification) for holding office.

But the problem comes from that twelve percent. Twelve percent of people willingly said that Mrs Clinton’s gender alone makes them more inclined to elect her President. That’s easily the kind of number that could swing an election. If we accept the numbers as they are (and they’re probably inaccurate to a certain extent, as people surveyed sometimes mislead pollsters on controversial topics like race or gender) then four percent of the electorate are less likely to vote for Mrs Clinton because she’s a woman. That cancels out four percent of the electorate who are more likely to vote for Mrs Clinton because of her gender, but it still leaves a hugely significant eight percent swing in Mrs Clinton’s favour purely on gender grounds.

The way people think has changed, and that’s reflected in voting patterns. Long gone are the days where most white males were overtly racist or sexist, and would seek to prevent a black person or a woman from seeking office. Today’s racists are ethnic minorities, who see everything in terms of colour, and claim slights against them or their political representatives are because of racism from whites. And today’s sexists are feminists, who claim to be pushing for a kind of gender equality that has already been achieved, and doing so by attacking men. This coalition has worked for the Democrats already – arguably propelling Barack Obama into office, and then keeping him there through massive “get out the vote” drives in black communities which had traditionally been under-represented at the polls. And if we’re really saying that there could be eight percent of potentially undecided voters willing to back Mrs Clinton just because she’s a woman, then the effect on the outcome of the 2016 election could be massive.

In battleground states like Ohio, Florida, and Pennsylvania, an eight-point swing pushes them firmly into the Democratic camp, and Mrs Clinton could, from an eight-point swing, pick up some traditionally red states like Georgia, South Carolina, or Montana. That would be a landslide victory for the Democrats, and all off the back of picking someone who happened to be a woman. The Republican Party should already be aware of this, and somehow needs to have a plan to cancel out the gender boost Mrs Clinton looks set to receive. In a way, this ties in to something I was talking about yesterday – the GOP may be running a campaign that’s all about “stopping Hillary”, or, as Mitt Romney put it last night on Hannity, “our nominee is going to focus pretty exclusively on Hillary Clinton”. With all due respect to Governor Romney, that would be a mistake. 2016 is not the time to run an “opposition” campaign. It’s the time for Republicans to put forward a positive message. In this election, more so than in any other election to date, negative campaigning and attack ads will not work for the Republican Party. Yes, there are serious questions about Hillary Clinton’s conduct while she was Secretary of State. But the GOP needs its own platform to run on, otherwise how can anyone seriously consider voting for them? Part of that will come from whoever is ultimately the nominee, but a campaign focused only on “stopping Hillary” would be a mistake. And worse, it would play right into the hands of that twelve percent of Americans who feel Mrs Clinton’s gender is already a great reason to make her President.

Why attack Hillary Clinton now?

Republican Presidential hopefuls from Carly Fiorina to Rand Paul have been bashing Hillary Clinton since her official campaign announcement last week. On issues from her record as Secretary of State, scandals dating back to the 1990s, and the ever-present e-mail scandal, the GOP and its Presidential field have been going after the presumptive Democratic nominee. My question is not “why?”, because the answer is obvious. Instead I’m asking “why now?”.

Let’s get one thing straight: it would take an extraordinary and indeed unprecedented turn of events to keep Mrs Clinton from running for President now that she’s announced. Short of her being formally disqualified from public office, nothing, not even a conviction, will keep her at bay. So if Rand Paul thinks that the scandal of the Clinton Foundation accepting money from foreign governments in exchange for favourable changes in US policy – on which, it would seem, he exclusively was briefed – is going to force Mrs Clinton out of the race before it even gets going, then he’s about to find out just how wrong he is.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m no Clinton supporter. I don’t think she’s particularly well-qualified to be President, and I doubt if she’d make a particularly good one. But now is not the time to go on the offensive if you’re a Republican Presidential candidate. Since, as we’ve said, nothing that’s currently being thrown around is strong enough to derail the Clinton campaign and force her to withdraw, the GOP is on the wrong track. Spending the next year-and-a-half bashing Mrs Clinton, making their entire 2016 effort about “stopping Hillary”, is a sure path to defeat. On both sides of the aisle, and across the political spectrum, commentators and, crucially, voters are asking themselves “what does the Republican Party actually stand for?”. Now’s the time for candidates to be putting together their own platforms, and trying to define the GOP for voters ahead of the 2016 election. It’s not good enough to run an opposition campaign – Mitt Romney proved that. The 2012 campaign was perhaps the biggest opportunity in at least thirty years to run a campaign purely opposing the sitting President, and it still didn’t work. Repeating the same strategy in 2016 will be a disaster.

Republican candidates have got it all wrong. Right now they need to be defining themselves, finding a positive platform to be able to say “here’s what I stand for, and here’s what the Republican Party stands for”, not blindly attacking Hillary Clinton. Such attacks serve no purpose so far away from polling day in any case – how many voters will remember what a probably-defeated GOP Presidential wannabe had to say in April 2015 on election day in 2016? Very few. Very few indeed. Mrs Clinton is a political survivor, who’s more than capable of weathering even the worst scandals. She’s also beginning to define her campaign – tapping into the Obama issues of income inequality in particular. If she’s able to establish herself and her campaign as being about issues like wealth distribution while the Republican candidates sling mud at her and bicker among themselves, then that perception will serve her very well indeed.

The Republican Party needs a message, and it needs a platform to run on. The specific candidate can come later, but that candidate, if (s)he is to have any hope of winning come 2016 needs to take this time to begin to define himself (or herself). I could roughly tell you that Rand Paul is a libertarian. And Rick Perry wants a simplified tax code. But the others? What exactly are they running on? What do they stand for? We know they don’t like Mrs Clinton, and they don’t think she’d make a good President. But that’s a basic prerequisite for being a Republican; if they liked her they’d be Democrats. It’s not sufficient to tell the voters that Mrs Clinton is bad/untrustworthy/unaccomplished or has an e-mail scandal/a foreign donations scandal/a Benghazi scandal (delete as appropriate). In the primaries, Republican voters want to see what their prospective party leader thinks about every issue, not just the issue of Hillary Clinton. That’s how they’ll differentiate between the Presidential hopefuls in caucuses and primaries next year, but for the candidates themselves, that process of defining has to start now.

Once the Republican Party has settled on a candidate and built up its own positive platform on which to run, there will be plenty of time to point out the issues, scandals, and flaws with Mrs Clinton and her campaign. Now is not the time to do that. Now is the time for the Republican Party and its candidates to start building that platform and explaining to primary voters and the wider electorate just what it is that they stand for. After all, we already know what – or rather, who – they stand against.

From Citizen to President?

Ben Carson is riding high in polls of Republican primary voters, often placing second or third, and streets ahead of some supposed heavyweight candidates like Rick Perry or Chris Christie. Carly Fiorina is the only woman on the GOP side who looks set to run (she’s said she’ll be announcing her intentions in late April/early May), and while she doesn’t do as well in polls as Dr. Carson, she’s picking up a fair amount of media attention, particularly for her attacks on Hillary Clinton. Carson and Fiorina have one thing in common that all the other GOP candidates and prospective candidates lack – they’re private citizens who’ve never held public office.

Trust in politics – and especially in politicians – is at an all-time low. Congressional approval ratings dipped into the single-digits, and even the once-sainted Barack Obama finds himself with approval ratings stuck in the upper-30% range. There’s a sense throughout the country that what’s needed in Washington DC is real change, not Obama’s pseudo-change. So wouldn’t it seem like a great time to be Dr. Carson or Mrs Fiorina?

I’ve said before that citizens being elected to high office was exactly what the Founding Fathers of the United States intended. They would’ve hated people like Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and even Jeb Bush because they form part of a political elite – something akin to an aristocracy. It was never the intention of people like Jefferson and Franklin that there should be a permanent political class in the United States, keeping power for itself. The Presidency, like other positions in elected office, was something intended to be seen as a brief interlude of public service during a successful career in some other field. But, as always, the intentions and the theory don’t always live up to the practise.

Since George Washington left the Presidency in 1797, only three men have been elected President with no prior experience in government – Zachary Taylor (elected in 1848), Ulysses S. Grant (elected in 1868), and Dwight D. Eisenhower (elected in 1952). In addition, only two other Presidents were elected having never before held elected office, but having held previous appointed positions in government – William Howard Taft (elected in 1908), and Herbert Hoover (elected in 1928). The first three, Taylor, Grant, and Eisenhower, were all distinguished military generals. So the bar for moving directly from private life to the White House is not exactly low when you look at the history of the Presidency.

There’s a reason for this. The Presidency is an impossibly difficult job, and the electorate wants to know that the person they are appointing to arguably the world’s toughest job is going to be capable of doing it once the election’s over. And the best way to tell if someone’s capable of doing a job is to look at their experience. Someone who’s led a state as Governor, served as a Senator representing their state in Washington, or even served in a Presidential cabinet, has a track record that they can point to and spin out to say that they’ve got what it takes to govern the country and take the difficult decisions that come with the nation’s top job. It’s not difficult for the average voter to imagine Governors, Senators, and even Congressmen ascending to the Presidency. It’s far more difficult for a doctor or corporate CEO to make a case that their experience outside of public office qualifies them to be President.

Name recognition can also play a role. The average citizen who watches a daily news broadcast, picks up a newspaper, or even catches up on current events on the Internet tends to be aware – if not on a concious level – of the names of important Senators, Governors, Congressmen, and cabinet secretaries. If you asked the average citizen to name one of the Senators from Florida, for example, they might draw a blank. But ask them if they know the name Marco Rubio, and you’ll get an answer like “oh, I’ve heard of him”. The people taken most seriously in the Presidential race tend to have that base of name recognition nationally in advance of the election cycle. Dr Carson has become a known figure in the conservative movement, but not in the country at large. Carly Fiorina may be known in her native California from her unsuccessful 2010 Senate bid, but she’s got a long way to go to achieve the kind of national standing that Presidential candidates need.

There’s another factor which is arguably more relevant in 2016 than it might’ve been in previous years, and that’s the current President. Obama was an inexperienced first-term Senator when he was elected on the back of a campaign big on history and charisma but without any meaningful policy ideas. Obama, even by the standards of many Democrats, has been a singularly unsuccessful President, and his poll numbers reflect that. As the Democrats get ready to run Hillary Clinton, the political heavyweight with a quarter of a century of experience in some form or other, there’s a case to be made that that decision reflects a desire to see an experienced leader in the White House, not another untested and unproven newcomer. In other words, a Rick Perry, Chris Christie, or Jeb Bush rather than a Ted Cruz, Ben Carson, or Carly Fiorina. The national mood may simply mean that the politically inexperienced aren’t going to be successful this time around. And you can thank Obama for that.

But doesn’t that seem silly when trust in politicians is at an all-time low? After all, on the one hand we’re saying that people are desperate to see real and meaningful change in Washington DC, but on the other we’re saying that they seem prepared to only trust someone experienced to take the helm after the 2016 election. So how do we reconcile that? And what does it mean for prospective 2016 Presidential candidates? I would argue that it’s simple – what people want is a proven leader from outside of the Washington DC machine – in short, a Governor. Governors have demonstrable executive and leadership experience, and they also come from outside the beltway so they’re not quite so tainted in the popular imagination as long-serving Senators and Congressmen. It’s been said many times before, but the best candidate for the GOP to run this time around is a Governor. It’s that simple.

So what does that mean for Dr Carson and Mrs Fiorina? Firstly, we’ve got to remember that they’re different candidates with different reasons for getting into the race, so we can’t really treat them as two peas in a pod. There are similarities, but there are also some differences, and those differences will effect what, if anything, their 2016 campaigns can achieve.

We’ll start with Ben Carson. I would argue that Dr Carson has rather bought into his own hype over the past year or so. What began as a campaign to try to draft him quickly became his own campaign, and it could be that when hundreds and thousands of people start telling you that you’d make a good President, you start to believe it yourself. Dr Carson was very successful in his career as a neurosurgeon, there can be no doubt about that, but the only reason he was even considered was because he once said, in front of an annoyed-looking President, that Obamacare and big government weren’t good. Hardly a basis for a Presidential campaign when you put it like that. But as time went by and more and more people jumped on the Carson bandwagon – driven, in part, by the desire to elect a true political outsider – Carson himself started to buy into the campaign rhetoric.

By contrast, Carly Fiorina, many have suggested, is getting into the race because she’s hoping to get the Vice Presidential nomination. With few other women on the GOP side having the standing to make a Presidential run, Mrs Fiorina stands out from the pack, adds diversity to the field, and may help negate the gender factor which will be such a big deal in the Clinton campaign. If the GOP nominates a man, as they almost certainly will based on current polling, then having a woman as the VP nominee would be politically sensible, and by the end of the primaries, Mrs Fiorina would’ve sufficiently boosted her own name recognition and national standing to be a serious VP contender. It makes sense, because there aren’t many women on the GOP side (or the Democratic side for that matter) with the national standing necessary to be the party’s VP nominee. Sarah Palin almost certainly wouldn’t be picked for that position again. Michele Bachmann is a possibility, as is Nikki Haley of South Carolina. But who else is there? Condoleezza Rice has said time and again she’s happy where she is. Susan Collins, the Senator from Maine, is another possibility, but there aren’t many women available for the GOP to pick. And if Sarah Palin doesn’t run at all this time, it could be that Carly Fiorina will be the only woman to have gone through the primary process; the only woman to be battle-tested in this election cycle. My current inclination is that she’s running for the VP slot rather than the top job. I could be wrong, but that’s my opinion right now.

So Ben Carson really wants to be President. He’s started to believe his own campaign rhetoric, and he’s convinced himself that he can do the top job. Unfortunately, he will be disappointed. He’s riding high in the polls right now, but it won’t last. He’ll start taking flak from the politically experienced in his own party, and ultimately the GOP will look elsewhere for their nominee. It wouldn’t really play well in the general election anyway, nominating someone whose sole claim to fame, the Democrats would argue, is that he once said that he didn’t like Obamacare in front of Obama.

Carly Fiorina wants to be President too, but maybe not in 2016. She’s gunning for the VP slot, and there’s a good chance she’ll get it regardless of who comes out on top after the primaries. If Hillary Clinton is the Democrats’ nominee, the Republican Party will be looking for some way to counter Mrs Clinton’s gender advantage, as well as a way to go after her without appearing sexist. Mrs Fiorina has already been attacking Clinton’s record and lack of accomplishments. She’d be a good VP choice for the Republicans, especially after she’s been toughened up in the primaries.

But back to the original point – could either Ben Carson or Carly Fiorina bypass the traditional political process and go directly from private life to the Presidency? For all kinds of reasons, the answer is almost certainly “no”. It’s a nice idea, one in line with the founding principles of the United States, even, but in 2016 it just doesn’t seem practical. After years of struggling with a President many consider to be an amateur on the world stage, and facing off against Hillary Clinton, who will base her campaign around her decades of experience, the Republican Party just doesn’t look set to offer its nomination to someone so inexperienced.

The UK opposition leaders’ debate

Last night, leaders of some of the UK’s opposition political parties – so neither the Conservative leader David Cameron nor Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg – took to the stage in the final debate before the UK general election on the 7th of May. There are a couple of issues I’d like to start with. First of all, it seems a little unfair to have excluded Nick Clegg, who clearly wanted to participate. The deal struck between PM Cameron and the broadcasters about the format of the debates meant that this one was for opposition leaders only, excluding Clegg whose Liberal Democrats have been the junior partner in the coalition government. But Clegg’s party has a very different vision to Cameron’s Conservatives, and if he wanted to attend, he should’ve been permitted to do so. However, as predicted, the debate about the debates has been greatly overshadowed by the debates themselves. Secondly, as there were only five party leaders this time, and only two of whom are running serious national campaigns and are polling in the double-digits, the inclusion of the regionalist Plaid Cymru and Scottish National Party was a bit odd, especially considering the exclusion of similar parties from Northern Ireland, or the English nationalist English Democrats.

However, format aside, the debate was interesting. Farage, for me, came out on top once again, as all four of the other leaders represent parties of the left-wing, just to slightly different degrees. On this stage, Farage stood out as the only one to disagree on many issues, most notably immigration, but also the NHS, housing, and defence. The others just stood and agreed with one another. The most telling part of this came at the end, when the question was put to the panel about post-election coalition deals. The three minor parties represented – SNP, Plaid, and the Greens – all stated that their aim was to “get rid of the Tories”, and would deal solely, therefore, with Ed Milliband’s Labour Party and presumably one another. Milliband, knowing how badly a Labour-SNP deal in particular plays with a majority of English voters, stood shaking his head, but Sturgeon was right on the money when she pointed out that Milliband’s differences with her are far less than his differences with Cameron and the Conservatives. Sturgeon’s strong performance, particularly at the end, may have helped rally some to the SNP cause, but will have damaged her preferred Prime Ministerial candidate.

Nobody really noticed Nick Clegg’s absence, despite my earlier statement that, on principle, he should’ve been allowed to participate. But David Cameron, on the other hand, was notable by his absence. Fearing a UKIP challenge, he refused to participate in more than one of these debates, though Ed Milliband’s call for a one-on-one debate, which he repeated last night, will not have passed unnoticed. Why Cameron would refuse to debate the weak Labour leader in a one-on-one setting is beyond me. Milliband, for his part, avoided some of the pitfalls which tripped him up in the earlier debate. He avoided spending too much time staring into the camera lens – something many felt after the last debate looked “awkward” and even “creepy” – and he only made a single reference to “if I’m Prime Minister”, something which, frankly, many voters who might be inclined to vote Labour in their constituencies dislike. Milliband is not a popular man, and not of particularly solid character. A man who betrayed his own brother for his party’s leadership, sold out to trades unions to win that election, and now may be gearing up to do a post-election deal with the SNP is not someone many people see as ready to lead from 10 Downing St.

Bennett, representing the Green Party, once again gave a lamentable performance, joining with the others to stress how immigration is a good thing, despite what the British people feel about the issue, and trying to repeat the tired old left-wing lie that anyone opposed to unchecked immigration must be a bigoted racist. What a fool – and she’s clearly not someone comfortable in the national spotlight. But then she’s the leader of the Green Party, after all, which is languishing in the low single-digits in the polls and has no place in the national spotlight in any case.

Leanne Wood, Plaid Cymru’s leader, is once again saved from last place by the Green Party. Her insistence on getting “parity” with Scotland in funding terms will help her win support in Wales, no doubt, but as an Englishman, I feel that all four of the UK’s constituent countries should get funding parity. If we’re to continue in the direction of a federated United Kingdom, it’s the only fair option. One nation cannot continue to subsidise a better standard of living and better public services in the others.

Britain’s nuclear deterrent emerged as an issue, tied in with defence spending, and here, Nigel Farage proved that he’s not merely a protest vote for disenchanted Conservatives. By agreeing with Ed Milliband on the issue of Trident, Farage showed that UKIP’s commitment to a strong United Kingdom is one that can be shared by all parties. He also said something which seemed to shock everyone, including the moderator, David Dimbleby, when he said that he’d be happy to enter into post-election negotiations with Labour, if Ed Milliband would change his stance on the EU referendum. The referendum is something a majority of Britons want, and that so many politicians continue to try to get away with denying them that opportunity astonishes me.

Interestingly, Farage picked up on an issue I kind of tackled yesterday, which regards bias at the BBC, forcing the moderator to intervene and soliciting some boos from the audience, whom he criticised as being left-wing. The BBC is biased, particularly against UKIP. That’s not a controversial statement, it’s a point of fact. But he didn’t do himself any favours by singling out the audience at this debate, and that was, probably, his weakest moment of the evening.

I didn’t see anything last night that might make me change my vote, but with the Conservative leader absent, there was no real chance of that. What the British people saw were four left-wing party leaders who might have a few minor differences here and there, but generally subscribe to the big government, big debt ideology of previous Labour Party administrations. That none of them will take the steps necessary to bring the UK’s runaway government spending under control just re-emphasises that none of them can be trusted to handle the nation’s economy. The first question of the night was from a young woman on this very topic. The spending proposals laid out by Ed Milliband and his socialist pals on stage last night mean that the country that young woman’s generation – my generation – will inherit is an indebted one. Their selfish policies put themselves first for short-term political gain, ignoring the long-term consequences of continued deficit spending and growing debt. For the first time, the current generation will hand to its descendent a worse country than it inherited from its parents – a country crippled by excessive spending and massive debt. Only Nigel Farage stood up to that bizzare ideology, and only his spending plans to cut unnecessary foreign aid and contributions to the EU, to reduce immigration to manageable levels, and to cut overall spending while making sure key services like the NHS and military are protected, is credible for the country going forward. I said last time how he’d won my vote – well last night he kept it.

That may be the real danger for Cameron thanks to his non-participation. Fearing going up against Nigel Farage, Cameron chose to stay home. But by doing so, he allowed Farage an opportunity to shine as the only right-winger on that stage last night. He may not have won many friends at the BBC or in the studio audience, but he will have won votes from, as he put it himself, the “real audience” – the viewers at home – who saw four socialists favouring big government and bigger spending all agreeing with one another on the big issues, and a lone voice saying “no”. By cowering away from Nigel Farage, David Cameron may just have given his right-wing rival the boost he needs to take his two MPs and make it twenty, or forty. And though UKIP will eat into the “old Labour” vote in white working-class areas, they will disproportionately take votes away from the Conservatives, reducing Cameron’s chance of remaining Prime Minister.

I’d like to add a personal note. In the past, I’ve been critical of some in the Tea Party movement of taking on Republicans rather than Democrats. I’ve often felt that the Tea Party and Republican establishment should try to do more to work together, rather than create a rift in the party and risk electing Democrats almost by default. But I’ve changed my mind somewhat. There’s a place for practicality in politics, sure. There’s also a place for voting for the “least bad” candidate. But there’s also a place for standing on principle, and giving someone from outside the establishment a chance to express their opinion and win your vote. That’s something Nigel Farage has taught me. He’s not going to be Prime Minister on the 8th of May. He mightn’t even be an MP. But his ideas, and the ideology of his party, is so much more in line with my own than anything else available in the upcoming election that I will support him on principle. It’s no protest vote, it’s a principled stand against a broken two-party system that all too often sees both parties trying to occupy the same political centre-ground. And if that means that the Conservatives lose this time, then too bad. If they’d been true to their name and stood on principle, like Nigel Farage, perhaps they’d have been able to earn my vote. There’s a time for political pragmatism and a time for principle. In 2015, I’m choosing to stand on principle. In 2015, I’m proudly voting for UKIP.

Stirring up racial issues

The BBC is an outdated institution. In the 1920s and 1930s, even through to the 1960s, when there was only one television channel, one radio station, a state broadcaster served a purpose. But in an age not only of hundreds of cable and satellite channels, but also of the Internet and media streaming on demand, the idea that there should be a state broadcaster funded by mandatory taxation is, at best, silly. So if I were the BBC, I would try to keep my head down and avoid doing obviously biased and stupidly misleading things, like the article published today on BBC Sport, which claims that black people are somehow under-represented in top managerial positions in football.

The article begins with a simple statistic: of the 552 managerial positions in English football which it regards as the “top” jobs, only 19 are currently held by black people. Shocking, isn’t it? Black people should surely be able to have more of those jobs! That’s unfair and outrageous! That’s what the article wants its readers to think. But it’s a fallacy.

19 out of 552 works out at about 3.4%. In Britain at the 2011 census (the most recently-conducted census) black people made up approximately 3.1% of the population. So, sorry to burst your bubble, left-wing, race-baiting article, but black people, far from being under-represented, are actually over-represented in those “top” jobs, albeit by the slimmest of margins.

But let’s not stop there. The England national football team took 22 players to the last World Cup in Brazil in 2014. Out of those 22, five were black. So 22.7% of the England national football team is made up of black players. Where is the outcry from the white community that they are being under-represented at the highest level of English football? Oh, that’s right. There is no outcry, because first of all, the vast majority of white people don’t look at things in racial terms, and secondly of course, if anyone dared suggest such a thing they’d be labelled as a racist.

But we’re not even here to talk about racial issues. Racial issues in Britain are of minimal importance. Ethnic minorities are generally well-supported by all manner of government initiatives, and while there is still poverty in some ethnic communities, there is still poverty in the white British community too. I’m not the one stirring up trouble here. That honour falls to the BBC, who published this drivel without thinking, pandering to the left-wing. It is shoddy, agenda-driven journalism that exposes a rotten bias at the core of Britain’s state broadcaster. That it is funded by taxpayers of all races and of all political ideologies just reminds us that the age of a television licence is coming to an end, hopefully sooner rather than later.

If the BBC wishes to survive into the future, and continue to be funded by taxation, nonsense like this needs to stop.