hms iron duke

hms iron duke

Friday, 31 May 2013

Influencing the World or Organising Europe?

Alphen, Netherlands.  31 May.  As I was about to board a plane at Oslo Airport yesterday I found myself confronted by a dilemma. Do I read the latest Dan Brown based at it is on Dante Alighieri’s fourteenth century classic “The Inferno”, or do I read the new "Towards a European Global Strategy", Europe’s eternal infernal?  Push came to shove and I finally decided I would read the fiction and sat down to read “A European Global Strategy”.  Now, don’t get me wrong, EGS (as it is known amongst European strato-wonks) is well-written and well-structured.  Moreover, reading it took me back to my distant past when I used to write this stuff for the now long-dead and ever-so-slightly misnamed Venusberg Group...and moreover believe it!  In fact the idea that European nation-states should work very closely together for the common good in this world is still something in which I profoundly believe. 
And, even though one can feel the pain of those involved in its drafting EGS is a classy piece of work.  Although led by four worthy and well-respected think-tanks EGS was instigated by the foreign ministers of Italy, Poland, Spain and Sweden.  Not surprisingly, whilst EGS is strong on the ‘what’ and the ‘why’ of strategy, it is necessarily weak on the ‘why’ and the ‘how’, even though it has a stab at the ‘when’. 
There is of course much talk of ‘solidarity’, i.e. those of us with not-so-much debt (I speak as a Dutch taxpayer) should pay ever more for ever more those with deep-pan pizza-loads of debt.  There is also the usual wonk-speak of “strategic objectives” and “instruments” and the need for a deepened Europe to influence “multipolarity” and a “rules-based order”, whatever that means.  Apparently, it is precisely that order upon which Europe is today built and which should be exported via example first to the wider European region and then to the world.  There is also the usual blah-blah about “shared values”.  Yawn!
However, this report should not be under-estimated.  The ambition of getting Europeans to “think strategically about their global role” is to be commended as is the analysis which fuels it (or is that the other way round?).  The EU is (for the moment) the world’s largest trading bloc with over five hundred million people and “European engagement should be proactive not just a response to changes in the global environment”.  The attempt to strike a new balance between improved co-ordination and integration is also sound.
Furthermore, the focus for much of the report on interests is sensible as it addresses this very contradiction at the top of power in Europe’s strongest state – Germany.  It was fascinating talking with a senior German recently.  For all the Euro-speak that Berlin generates Germany has a very clear sense of its national interest and a strategy to realise it.  This involves a determinedly German focus on global out-reach (see Germany's China policy) whilst championing ‘Europe’ to organise Germany’s neighbours in pursuit of Berlin’s strategic goals.  This was confirmed to me by a senior Dutchman who told me that in spite of appearances from time to time the Netherlands will ultimately do what Germany tells it to.
However, having waded through the inevitable strategic political correctness and Euro-speak there are two innate tensions implicit in the report.  First, the need to ‘contain’ Germany flows through the report like spilt Schnapps on Roesti.  This is clearly the work of four peripheral powers the futures of which are now so tied to Germany that their entire foreign and security policies must reflect the strategic choices Germany makes, the willingness of German taxpayers to fund ‘Europe’, and the extent to which Germany is prepared to be constrained in the name of ‘Europe’.  Second, in trying to define an alternative “rules-based order” one can feel the pain of the authors as they try valiantly to resist clear pressure from the European Commission and strike a new foreign and security policy balance between Brussels and its member-states.  In the end the report fails to deal adequately with either option or find any middle way between them.    
Rather, implicit in EGS is a stark choice; German power or Commission power.  On balance (of course) EGS rejects the greater Germany option and opts for what is believed to be the lesser of two-evils. It is the very subterfuge the European elite have always practiced on the rest of us – the pretence that ‘progress’ is a partnership between Brussels and its member-states when in fact the transfer of ever more ‘sovereignty’ is the very replacement by Brussels of the member-state. 
The subliminal message of EGS is thus; either the European nation-state is too weak or too dangerous to survive.  The choice is thus between the “Infernal” and the “Inferno”.  As ever influencing the world comes second to organising Europe.  
Julian Lindley-French

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

The Battle of the Atlantic

Oslo, Norway.  28 May. Winston Churchill said “The only thing that ever frightened me during the war was the U-boat peril”.  Last Friday in Moscow’s Victory Park I had the honour of an escorted visit to the Hall of Memory and Sorrow in which 2650 ‘teardrops’ commemorate the 26.5 million Russian war dead.  It was a truly moving experience.  Here in Oslo in support of a NATO meeting I am reminded of the enormity of the Allied effort to defeat Nazi Germany.  This week sees not only the seventy-second anniversary of the sinking of the German fast battleship Bismarck, but also the seventieth anniversary of what the U-boat arm called “Black May” when over forty U-boats were lost to new British tactics and technology.  It is seen as the turning point in the Battle of the Atlantic and for that reason marks the commemoration of what was the longest campaign of World War Two.
The sheer scale of the battle speaks for itself.  It lasted the entirety of the war from September 1939 to May 1945.  Simply to stay in the war Britain had to import one million tons of food and materials each week.  Three thousand five hundred merchant ships were lost with some thirty thousand sailors killed.  The massive bulk of those lost were British but there were also American, Canadian, Danes, Dutch, French, Norwegian and host of other allies who suffered casualties.  One hundred and seventy-five allied warships were sunk but seven hundred and eighty three U-boats were also sunk.  Indeed, ninety per cent of U-boat crews were killed. Only RAF Bomber Command comes close to that casualty rate with some fifty per cent of crews killed.
Nor was this simply a sea war with the RAF, Royal Canadian Air Force and US Army Air Force playing a critical role in the eventual victory.  There were over one hundred major convoy battles and over one thousand single ship engagements.  Attacks came not just from under the waves but also from German air and surface raiders.  Moreover, the convoys did not simply sail between North America and Britain.  In what Churchill described as the “worst journey in the world” one of the decisive campaigns was the successful re-supplying of the Soviet Union by convoys from Britain to Murmansk in the Soviet high north. 
Whilst not immediately obvious to Russians the Battle of the Atlantic was critical not simply to Britain’s survival but that of the Soviet Union.  The Murmansk convoys suffered terribly from air, sea and U-boat attacks launched from bases here in occupied Norway.  Critically, on 26 December, 1943 the British battleship HMS Duke of York cornered and sank the German battle-cruiser Scharnhorst.  The Battle of North Cape was one of the last battleship-to-battleship duals in which air power played no meaningful role.  As a sign of things to come it was the first occasion when radar-controlled gunnery was used.  In the Arctic twilight HMS Duke of York completely surprised the Scharnhorst with her massive fourteen inch guns straddling and hitting the German ship with her very first salvo. 
Ultimately, the battle was an exercise in British sea power which still has lessons for today.  Specifically, why Britain must retain a powerful navy able to reach those parts most other navies cannot.  Ninety-five per cent of all British trade goes by sea and with sea-lines of communication (SLOC) ever more important to global trade keeping sea-lanes open is a vital British interest.
There is another reason.  The Royal Navy remains a ‘strategic brand’ one of those iconic services the history of which makes it far more than any old navy.  If the Royal Navy is weak, as it is dangerously close to being today, then not only Britain’s defence but British influence is at risk.  This is something all too apparent to me when I visit Washington, Moscow, Beijing or indeed Paris or Berlin.  National wealth stands ultimately on national influence.  It is something too many British politicians fail to understand.  Even more worrying too many of those with responsibility for planning Britain’s future military also fail to understand this basic power truism in what is still a world driven by state power.
On Sunday the last remaining veterans of the Battle of the Atlantic gathered in Liverpool Cathedral for a service of remembrance.  The Port of Liverpool had been the hub of the Battle of the Atlantic.  Although now few in number they remain stout of heart.  The role they played was to critical in the winning of the war.  We owe our freedom to the thousands of Britons, Americans, Canadians and those of many other proud lands who surrendered their lives to the chill depths of the Atlantic during that terrible time.
Honour them.
Julian Lindley-French

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Moscow European Security Conference

Moscow, Russia. 23 May. The Moscow River flows through this ancient seat of Russian power like a timeless reminder of a timeless country and its seemingly endless space.  The Moscow European Security Conference at which I today spoke is a jewel in the crown of Russia’s Ministry of Defence. Now, I am no Russophobe.  Indeed, as a student of Russian history my respect for this immense country is great.  And, seen from Moscow it is very easy to see just how Russians see their place in Europe and Europe’s place in Russia.  And yet listening to several of today’s speeches I was reminded of a nineteenth century Russian Prime Minister Gorschakov who once described Europe as a peninsula stuck on the end of Russia.  In other words what happened in Europe only did so in the context of Russia.  That is not how Europe works today if it ever did.  Russian concerns must of course be treated with respect but I fear that Moscow is about to miss a great opportunity to influence a Europe in more flux than at any time since the end of the Cold War.
The day has been dominated by what for most Europeans and North Americans are yesterday’s issues; NATO enlargement, the defunct Conventional Forces Europe treaty and that old favourite ballistic missile defence.  What has surprised me is the extent to which Moscow obsesses over American plans for a limited NATO missile defence.  There is a very genuine and heartfelt belief in Moscow that plans for BMD are the thin end of a wedge that could in time threaten Russia’s nuclear deterrent.
With the cancellation of Phase 4 of the planned system one would have thought that Moscow would now realise something the rest of us have suspected for some time; missile defence does not work,  the NATO allies cannot afford it and the American taxpayer is not prepared to pay for it.  The same should go for NATO’s conventional capabilities.  The NATO that is being described here simply does not exist.  Far from threatening Russia’s borders NATO is being reduced by most of its defence-lite members to little more than an umbrella organisation for vastly different and differing states with vastly different interests and capabilities a few of whom on occasions might from time to time work together in a crisis and not very well. 
Instead Russia should focus on two things.  First, the changing power relations in Europe.  When the Eurozone core deepens political relations relationships with and between Europe’s new peripheral powers- Britain, the Nordic states, Russia and Turkey - will also change.  Indeed, their interests will tend to align beyond existing institutional boundaries.  Second, emerging security challenges and threats should be the stuff of Russia’s European and Euro-Atlantic strategy rather than trying to preserve mutually assured destruction in Europe.  MAD belongs to Europe's last century not this one.
In Yorkshire we have a saying; if you have nothing nice to say to someone talk about something else.  A functional strategic agenda for Europe would necessarily promote a pan-European concept of security which is in Russia’s interest.  Pandemics, economic uncertainty, energy insecurity, the rise of an instable Asia, WMD proliferation and the democratisation of mass destruction, cyber-attacks, global crime focused on illicit flows of money, people and drugs, fanaticism and hatred of the sort we saw on the streets of London yesterday and the instability we all face to Europe’s and Eurasia’s south these are the stuff of pan-European security.  Make them work and fears of a fantasy NATO will over time simply fade away.
The irony for me about today’s debate is that Russia’s inner Europe-Europe border with EU and NATO members is Moscow’s one stable border shared as it is with its main trading and economic partners.  In other words to this friend of Russia Moscow’s stated intent of a stable Europe and the concerns it expresses simply do not add up.  
The challenge for all we Europeans – both Russian and non-Russian - will be to put history into its shield-encrusted showcase if we are to manage together the globalisation-driven tsunami of change forging towards us.  It is therefore critical that together we have the political courage to see danger for what it is, not what it was. 
To a large extent Prime Minister Gorschakov was right; Europe is indeed a peninsula stuck on the end of Russia.  However, given the globalised and globalising context of contemporary security Russia is a European power and together we are all ever more a peninsula stuck on the end of Asia.
Russia is missing a fundamental strategic point - if Russia wants to fashion a single European security space it needs to promote a new security agenda and soon.
This is a great country and I am glad I came.  
Julian Lindley-French 

Monday, 20 May 2013

Hollande’s Europe

Alphen, Netherlands.  20 May. “It is my responsibility as a leader of a founder member of the European pull Europe out of this torpor that has gripped it, and to reduce people’s disenchantment with it.  If Europe stays in the state it is in now, it could be the end of the project”.  Europe owes French President Francois Hollande a deep debt of gratitude.  His call for an “economic government” for the Eurozone with its own budget, the right to borrow, a harmonized tax system and a full-time president was the first really honest statement of intent by one of Europe’s big leaders. The federal cat is now out of the Euro bag.  President Hollande has also revealed for what it is the nonsense being peddled by those who argue that Britain’s relationship with much of the rest of Europe is about this EU or simply a matter of economics.  It is about Britain’s relationship with Hollande’s Europe, a future federalised EU vitally-needed to preserve the Euro.  As we approach Le Crunch is there any way a just balance can be found between Hollande’s and Cameron’s very different visions for Europe?
President Hollande faces three major roadblocks before he realises his “Europe”.  Berlin buys into much of what Hollande suggests, at least in theory.  However, Chancellor Merkel still believes she can prevent the British and French extremes from pulling the EU apart.  She is also fully aware that behind President Hollande’s call is not simply a vision of Europe long a dream of those on the Mitterand Left of French politics.  It also reflects a Paris desperate to get the German, Dutch and other northern Europeans to bear the burden for French public debt.  The German people will not accept debt mutualisation without fiscal and budgetary discipline and that means massive structural economic and political reforms.  That in effect is precisely what President Hollande is offering Berlin.
If Berlin accepts the offer then Eurozone governments will need first to overcome deep public dissatisfaction with both the EU and the political elite.  Recent Eurobarometer data demonstrates the gravity of the crisis.  Since 2008 trust in the EU has crashed from 20 to -29 polling points in Germany, 30 to -22 points in Italy, from 42 to -52 points in Spain, and from 50 to 6 points in Poland.  Critically, the polls have moved from 10 to -22 points in France, which is clearly of deep concern to President Hollande.  Not surprisingly support in Britain has shifted from a heady -13 to a relationship-busting -49.   It is unclear whether this data reflects dissatisfaction with the way the crisis has been handled or something deeper; that the European nation-state actually still matters to its citizens.
For David Cameron President Hollande’s timing could not have been worse, which may of course explain it.  The Hollande speech came a day after Cameron suffered the worst parliamentary revolt over Europe of any sitting prime minister.  Cameron is now in full EU crisis mode.  Hollande has also made it much harder for Cameron to negotiate a “new relationship” for Britain with the EU.  Indeed, implicit in President Hollande’s offer to Berlin is another mug's deal for London; even less influence for the same if not more massive cost.  This makes a mockery of London’s mantra that Britain’s relationship is not about to change fundamentally.  Even if London does precisely nothing Britain’s relationship with the EU will change fundamentally and not for the better. 
So can a “new relationship” be forged?  Cameron believes he has allies in both Berlin and The Hague.  However, they are inside the Euro and Britain is not.  With the best will in the world it is hard to see what deal could be struck amenable to a power centralising Eurozone and to a power repatriation-seeking Britain – one camp which wants a super-Brussels and one state that seeks a mini-Brussels.  Unless that is those EU member-states outside the Eurozone are firmly embedded in an EU-US Trade and Investment Partnership Agreement.  Such an agreement would be a real game-changer and which explains Cameron’s visit last week to Washington.   In effect a huge single market would balance a large currency union.  However, Cameron should not hold his breath.  One of my well-placed Washington sources tells me that the Obama Administration is only playing with this idea, it has little support in Congress and that part of the reason for floating this is to help Cameron see off his rebellious back-benchers.
Cameron, Hollande and Merkel should at least be given the chance to strike this new balance but they had better get on with it.  If not President Hollande is right – the EU and the Eurozone will become one and the same thing and those in the twilight zone between the Eurozone and an exit will find themselves in a strategic, political and economic no man’s land, which apparently is where the Obama administration now wants to cast Britain. So much for the Special Relationship! Why can Americans never 'get' Europe? 

In other words the Eurozone either integrates or disintegrates.  If the latter then the Euro fails and it is hasta la vista EU!
Je dois vous remercie, Monsieur le President!
Julian Lindley-French

Friday, 17 May 2013


Alphen, Netherlands. 17 May.  All of we Brits of a certain age remember the film.  Richard Todd  coolly leading his elite squadron of Lancaster bombers into attack the Mohne, Eder and Sorpe dams.  British stiff-upper lip and brilliant “bouncing bomb” technology combining against the backdrop of a stirring but peculiarly 1950s soundtrack to deal the Nazis a crippling blow.  Seventy years ago today the Dambusters of 617 Squadron undertook the actual “dams raid” and in spite of many politically correct attempts to ‘revise’ history the attack remains one of the most stunning precision air strikes in military history.
The facts alone speak for themselves.  Twenty-four year old Wing Commander Guy Gibson VC, DSO (Bar), DFC (Bar), RAF, a veteran of over 170 missions, led the 19 Lancaster Mark IIIs in his bomber G for George.  His ‘Lancs’ were armed with Professor Barnes Wallace’s amazing Upkeep ‘mine’which was designed to bounce across the lakes behind the German dams before rolling down the dam face and exploding.  Upkeep had been inspired by pebbles skipping across a pond. 
Early in the morning of 17 May the Mohne and Eder dams were breached and water catastrophically-flooded the Ruhr and Eder valleys.  Some 1600 people were killed and many factories were destroyed or damaged together with two hydro-electric plants.  Of the 133 airmen who took part in the raid 53 were killed.  This was World War Two – total war.
Strangely the raid has touched me personally.  A couple of years ago I had the honour to visit 617 “Dambusters” Squadron at RAF Lossiemouth in Scotland. Not only do I have a picture of me posing (no other word for it) in a 617 Squadron Tornado fighter-bomber but I recall the fascinating squadron museum.   Ironically, seventy years ago had I been sitting at this seat at around 0030 hours the 9 aircraft of Formation One would have roared over my house no more than 25 metres (80 feet) above my head.  The Dambusters flew over Alphen en route to the dams and the whole village was awakened by the low-flying cacophony of 36 Rolls-Royce Merlin engines.
Furthermore, Formation Three was comprised of two Lancasters which formed a mobile reserve one of which (S for Sugar) was shot up by German flak over Molenschot some five kilometres from here and then crashed onto the German airbase at Gilze-Rijen just up the road.  Earlier this year my wife and I visited the graves of Pilot Officer Lewis Burpee and his crew which are interred in the Bergen-op-Zoom British-Canadian Commonwealth War Grave. 
Although not connected with the dams raid three weeks ago my wife and I had the very real pleasure of lunch with Group Captain Steve Reeves and his wife Michelle at RAF Leeming.  This was following our discovery of another crash site close to our house where a Royal Canadian Air Force Halifax II (JD363) of 429 Squadron RCAF had crashed.  Piloted by Flight Sergeant Graham Howard the Halifax had crashed in October 1943 with the loss of all seven members of its Canadian and British crew.  The site at Bolk, Belgium has been both marked and preserved by local people and my wife and I had the honour to present my wife’s photograph of the monument to Group Captain Reeves at RAF Leeming.  What moved me to take this photograph back to Leeming was the fact that last year I had the honour to address senior RAF personnel at the base (and fly an RAF aircraft – yes, really!).  Movingly, I ate my meals in the same mess (dining room) as the men of JD363 shortly before they left on their final mission.
So what was the impact of the dams raid.  There have been many attempts to downplay the impact of the raid.  Certainly, the Germans moved quickly to repair the damage and by the following September the lakes were once again filling, although the dams never achieved full capacity until the following year.  However, slave labour had to be diverted from the building of the Atlantic Wall and this meant that by June 1944 and D-Day the defences were weaker than they should have been.  Moreover, the British had proven they could undertake precision strike missions and armed with new bombs designed by Barnes Wallace ‘617’ went onto destroy critical bridges and tunnels before sinking the German battleship “Tirpitz”.
Time of course moves on and this week I had the honour of leading a NATO-backed meeting at Wilton Park with my friends from the German armed forces, including the Luftwaffe.  That of course is the most important historical twist and I am sure the men of 617 Squadron would have heartily approved.
Good show, chaps!
“Apres nous le deluge”.   Now duty done it is back to bed - I have flu!
Julian Lindley-French

Friday, 10 May 2013

Europe's Defence Double Dutch

Alphen, Netherlands. 10 May.  On this anniversary of the 1940 Nazi invasion of the Low Countries it is perhaps appropriate to consider the state of Europe’s defence. Two events highlighted the essential contradiction between resources and commitments that bedevils European defence.  On 29 April the French published their first defence review in over twenty years.  Full of Parisian sophistry it failed to address France’s essential dilemma; an inability to fund the defence influence ambitions France claims to still uphold.  Sounding more Napoleonic than Hollande-ic the review blustered “France’s destiny is to be a global nation and our duty is to guarantee not only our own security but that of our allies and partners”.  This is exactly the same kind of rhetoric that accompanied the 2010 British Strategic Defence and Security Review which said there would be no British “strategic shrinkage”... and then promptly shrank Britain.  The other event was the re-affirmation this week of the UK-Netherlands Amphibious Force in Rotterdam which I had the honour to attend.  What do these two events say about European defence?
Take France first.  With French public debt over 90% of GDP and likely to get worse how can France afford a military that both preserves an independent nuclear deterrent (which swallows up over 20% of the defence budget) and fund top-notch but highly-expensive deployable forces?  Even though critical capability gaps were exposed there can be no question that the success of the French military in Mali was as timely for the review as the 1982 British victory in the Falklands was for the then British military.  As such it demonstrated to reluctant politicians the value of projectable military power.  However, the French review also singularly failed to square France’s defence triangle and as such fudged France’s defence dilemma. 
The review claims to establish a “stable” defence budget of €31bn ($41bn) over six years.  In fact with defence cost inflation running as high as 10% per annum for some equipment the plan represents real-term cuts.  The review also hides the choice France has made to cut the kind of deployable forces that made Mali possible and rely instead on the panacea all European countries are reaching for these days, more “Special Forces”.  These forces are small but because they are supermen they are able to defeat any budget cut, anywhere, all of the time.
Now the UK-Netherlands Amphibious Force.  This has been in existence for some forty years and to all intents and purposes the Royal Dutch Marines are an integral part of the Royal Marines.  Moreover, whilst the Royal Marines were founded 350 years ago, the Dutch Marines were founded 349 years ago, which of course puts in historical perspective their ‘junior’ partner the US Marine Corps.  Indeed, the “Royals’ and the Royal Netherlands Marines first operated together back in 1704 to take Gibraltar.  This was after a brief period of turbulence in Anglo-Dutch relations back in the seventeenth century when the Royal Navy had to put the ever-uppity Dutch in their place. 
With this year the 525th anniversary of the Royal Netherlands Navy the poignancy of the moment will not have been lost on the Dutch Defence Minister Jeanne Hennis-Plasschaert. As she signed the accord on board His Netherlands Majesty’s Ship Johannes de Witt the British commando carrier HMS Bulwark sat alongside.  Next month the same Dutch Defence Minister will announce a new “Defence Vision”. Should that “vision” mark another defence cut then the political momentum critical to such defence partnerships will drain rapidly because the British will take that to mean the Dutch Marines will rarely if ever be deployed with their British brethren.
Why does this matter?  The French should in this day and age be able rely on their British counterparts to fill their gaps and the British should be able to rely on their Dutch counterparts to fill theirs.  Indeed, if European defence was properly built on the synergies the NATO Secretary-General is manfully promoting through “Smart Defence” then all Europeans could cut their forces knowing full well that the whole would be far greater than the sum of the parts. This would mean resources and commitments could be balanced by European military efficiency and effectiveness.  Sadly, that is not going to happen and the British and French militaries will continue to have a little bit of everything but not much of anything, whilst the Dutch military will have even less of the not very much it has now, however sophisticated the drafting of the “vision”.  In other words, if defence partnerships are not invested with trust and capability they die.
The logic of defence austerity is ever closer defence co-operation between European states, be it through NATO, the EU or via bilateral agreements.  However, the political divide in Europe over both the use and utility of force is reinforced by a contradiction; each time forces are cut the political momentum behind the value of co-operation dies too.
It is Europe’s defence double Dutch.
Julian Lindley-French

Monday, 6 May 2013

The Peasant's Revolt

Wensleydale, Yorkshire. 6 May.  This is England red in tooth and claw. High up in the majestic Yorkshire hills I am but a flat-cap stone’s throw from my native Sheffield.  The sheep stand fast protecting their new-born lambs from the scything, sheeting and predatory rain.  This is a place of unforgiving beauty. It was much the same back in 1381 when Wat Tyler and Jack Straw led the Peasant’s Revolt.  Although the revolt failed disastrously it served as a stark warning to England’s ruling aristocracy that the feudal age must end.  With David Cameron surrounding himself with his Old Etonian ‘chums’ and Downing Street resembling ever more Monty Python’s Upper Class Twit of the Year sketch (“Vivian Smith-Smythe-Smith has an O-Level in Camel-Hygiene”) last week’s English local elections saw the peasant’s rise again as the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) took an historic 25% of the vote.  
Speaking with locals in a Yorkshire pub (the Yorkshire National Security Council) the prevailing mood was one of anger.  Anger with an out-of-touch Westminster political elite deemed to have failed them and their country.  ‘Europe’ and immigration have become the twin metaphors for the out-of-touchness of this increasingly despised Westminster political class.  Indeed, immigration and ‘Europe’ are now hopelessly and irrevocably entangled in the English popular mind with both seen as politically toxic. And yet listening to Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat spin doctors it is as though nothing has happened.  
The three ‘established parties’ like to pretend that UKIP’s rise is merely a temporary political phenomenon, a protest driven by economic insecurity.   That is not the message I got.  The EU is now seen by much of England as a hostile force with Brussels the hated metaphor for foreign interference and Westminster its obedient poodle.  There is a profound and widespread sense that EU membership was an historic mistake for England that has generated huge cost for little benefit.  One suggested that the Scots would not be contemplating independence from the UK were it not for the undermining of the British state by ‘Brussels’.  Indeed, people see the EU creeping ever further into their lives and object to the false choice on offer from the elite between staying in an undemocratic EU and reforming it (which has over years proved impossible for the British) or leaving and facing more decline.  It is a choice seen as typical of the declinism inherent to the political class.
With limits on immigration from Bulgaria and Romania about to be lifted the fears of another surge from Eastern Europe is also very real so soon after the post-2004 immigration shock (as it is seen).  It would be easy to say this fear is closet racism and there is no doubt that some of the UKIP vote reflects that but by no means all.  A recent book, ‘The British Dream: Successes and Failure of Post-War Immigration” by David Goodhart, grandson of a former master of my Oxford college and fully paid-up member of the liberal London elite, reveals the extent to which that same elite ‘experimented’ on the English through immigration and their search for ‘diversity’…and the damage it has done to the social fabric of the country. 
None of my interlocutors I would describe as racist and all were willing to accept a reasonable level of immigration.  However, if my Yorkshire pub is any measure mass immigration is a source of social and cultural friction of such potency that it is changing England in particular in ways to which millions of ordinary English object.  They people I spoke to simply feel like so many English people – used, abused and ignored.
It is not the job of politicians to react to every populist urge.  However, Europe and EU immigration both speak to something much deeper; who governs Britain?  London or Brussels?  Equally, whether Britain remains in the EU or not balanced immigration is and will be a key to Britain’s competitiveness in the twenty-first century.  For the record, my pub friends all understood that. 
The tortured metaphors and double-speak of political correctness that have hitherto marked ‘the elite narrative’ (whatever that is) on both immigration and Europe must now end.  A sensible debate is urgently needed on both issues.  Indeed, the forthcoming and now unavoidable British referendum on EU membership will by definition pose the most fundamental question of all; do you want to scrap the British state?  For that is what more Europe will really mean and one cannot be part of the EU without accepting more Europe.
The political genie is out of the Westminster bottle and until the Establishment parties face up to the mess they have created UKIP will set the political agenda.
The peasants are indeed revolting…and long may it continue.
Julian Lindley-French-Smith-Smythe