Wednesday, 29 February 2012
He was asked by Broadcasting House on BBC Radio 4 to compare the UK and Greece and explain what the difference is right now in economic terms. A piece of fascinating brilliance from my favourite economic journalist:
Tuesday, 28 February 2012
Apparently, 25% of Council tenants (720,000 of them) earn more than the national average wage - £26k. Even more amazingly, there are 15,000 Council tenants that earn over £80,000 and 6000 of those earn over £100,000. Apparently, Labour MPs, union leaders, academics, senior public sector and NHS staff etc are on the list. At the same time, 1.8 million people are on Council waiting lists.
You and I are paying for people in the top 10% of earners to live in taxpayer-subsidised housing. Franks Dobson’s comment shows this dislocation from reality:
“Market rents in our area are phenomenal. I wouldn’t be able to afford it.”
And I cannot afford to live there either, Frank, so guess what? I don’t live there and I don’t expect people earning £20k to pay for me to live there either. Join the reality based community, Frank.
Monday, 27 February 2012
Of course, this has been an issue for ever and a day. Since the Parliament Act 1911, the Byrce Commission in 1917, the next Parliament Act in 1949, through to the establishment of the Salisbury Convention in the 1940s, the arrival of life peers in the Life Peerages Act 1958 to the Peerages Act in 1963. In recent times, Tony B-liar established a Royal Commission in 1999 which led to a Joint Committee in 2000 and then a White Paper in 2001 followed by a further consultation in 2003 and then another White Paper in 2008. All of which went nowhere.
And it is topical again now: see here, here and here.
The problem with Lords reform, as demonstrated by all the previous failed attempts at coming to a generally agreeable solution, is that people always start looking at the issue from the wrong end of the question. They start by fretting about ‘who should sit in it’. Wrong question. The start point should be ‘what do we want it to do’. Seems to me, this is simple:
First, we want it to be Bagehot’s ‘revising chamber’ - ie we need it to be packed full of people who ‘know’ stuff (experts) rather than people who ‘believe’ stuff (politicians).
And, second, to forestall any future constitutional problems, we want it to be very clearly the junior chamber to the Commons - ie we don’t want the intransigent battles for future supremacy between the Lords and the Commons as has happened in the past (which is what you get if you stuff it full of egotistical politicians).
Both these two statements very much seem to mitigate against having it elected, with all the attendant cost, fuss and nonsense. Of course, this is anathema to all our elected politicians who continually promote the idea that only ‘pure’ people like them should be involved in politics. Utter bollocks of course. As we continually have seen, elected politicians have severe drawbacks, principally that they often know fuck all other than how to work their party’s system to get them selected to a winnable seat, a skill that is totally useless in a revising chamber.
So my suggestions would be:
1. 300 members.
2. 100% appointed, annually topped up to keep it at that number (transitional arrangements would of course be needed initially and for the first few years).
3. Hold rights to your seat for 10 years and then automatic resignation.
4. All members get life peerages on appointment.
5. A balance should be maintained between differing professional backgrounds – we want doctors, lawyers, teachers, union leaders, architects, town planners, social workers you name it, but as few professional politicians as possible, ie normal people not political party hacks and retired Commons 'seat blockers' put out to grass (it's a legislative chamber, not a retirment home for old politicians).
6. Give them an MP’s salary but you only get it if you actually attend, reviewed quarterly, and if you don’t attend enough for two quarters, you lose your seat.
7. Keep the principle of crossbenchers.
8. Clear out all the clergy but the leader of each established religion gets a seat whilst they hold that office.
Sunday, 26 February 2012
Well it was he who in 1988 reduced the top rate of income tax. Back then, the top 1% only paid about 14% of all income taxes. And once he began to ratchet down income tax, the money flowed into the Treasury at speed. From my post last Sunday, you will recall that this has now steadily climbed so the top 1% now pay over 25% of all income taxes.
And this is always a fact studiously ignored by the left. Lower taxes, and tax collection soars. It’s obvious. If there is no need to avoid or even worse evade tax, you just pay it. If you want to squeeze more tax from the rich, cut their tax rates. As JFK once said: "It's the soundest way to raise the revenues in the long run".
So with that lesson, where do we stand right now in the top income tax league table:
Sweden - 56.6%
Belgium - 53.7%
Denmark - 52.2%
Netherlands - 52.0%
Japan - 50.0%
United Kingdom - 50.0%
Austria - 50.0%
Finland - 49.0%
Germany - 47.5%
Ireland - 47.0%
Australia - 46.5%
Canada - 46.4%
Iceland - 46.1%
Portugal - 45.9%
France - 45.8%
Israel - 45.0%
Greece - 45.0%
Italy - 44.9%
Spain - 43.0%
United States - 41.9%
Switzerland - 41.7%
Slovenia - 41.0%
Chile - 40.0%
Norway - 40.0%
Luxembourg - 38.9%
Korea - 38.5%
Turkey - 35.7%
New Zealand - 35.5%
Poland - 32.0%
Hungary - 32.0%
Mexico - 30.0%
Estonia - 21.0%
Slovak Republic - 19.0%
Czech Republic - 15.0%
Hmmmm. We're not doing too well are we? Particularly as the soon to be announced HMRC and IFS research into the 50p rate concludes that it doesn't really raise anything significant and may actually reduce HMRC's income!
Which brings us nicely to flat taxes. The first time I really thought about flat taxes was when Steve Forbes ran as a Republican candidate in the 1996 and 2000 US Presidential races. He was a flat tax fan. But the Left hate flat taxes as they don’t satiate their class war desires to soak the rich and, as Forbes was and is very very rich, his campaign was a ‘red rag to a bull’.
But of course, since then lots of countries have adopted flat taxes: Albania, BIH, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Faroe Islands, Georgia, Guernsey, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, Iraq, Jamaica, Jersey, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Mauritius, Mongolia, Montenegro, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Trinidad and Tobago and Ukraine.
Now, notice something about this list? Yup, they are all countries which had struggled to collect taxes as the rich had avoided, evaded or just buggered off. They had to adopt flat taxes to entice them to stay and pay.
Now what happened to their tax income? It soared. Obviously. Lesson there for Lefties and Greeks, no?
Saturday, 25 February 2012
Or profit and education?
Seems bizarre. The most profitable healthcare organisations - private hospitals - are the places that the vast majority of the British population would like to visit if they were ill. And the most profitable education establishments - private schools - are the education establishments that deliver the best education outcomes.
Those of us in the reality based community will never get our head around the Left’s visceral dislike of capitalism. That’s the problem with Lefty ideology. Gets in the way of the facts.
Friday, 24 February 2012
Crikey. Where to begin? Putting aside the incredible hypocrisy that she loathes lobbyists but Lefty protesters are to be admired - surely they are lobbyists too, but no, ‘her’ lobbyists are I suppose good lobbyists, so that’s OK then - she makes three points that are just ludicrously wrong:
“Workfare is Government sponsored slavery for rich companies”.
Putting aside (a) the ridiculous hyperbole, (b) the factual inaccuracy and (c) the insult to the memory and hardship of real slaves - beaten, raped, tortured, butchered and killed in their millions - what we are actually talking about is people on benefits volunteering to do work experience in top end companies whilst they are trying to get back into the workplace, where the results abroad and in the UK pilots have delivered a more than 50% success rate. Note I wrote ‘volunteered’. Yup. Not forced. They volunteer.
She is wrong on sooooo many levels. Her beloved party’s ideology has increased underlying unemployment through overly expanded employment rights (see yesterday’s post), trapped people in unemployment through over indulgent benefits where they earn more on benefits than working, absolutely fucked over the economy and spent gazillions on work programmes that manifestly failed on almost every measure. This policy works. She suffers from NIH (Not Invented Here) syndrome.
“…absurdly calling objectors "job snobs.”
Well Polly, my darling, job snobbery (ie I’m not prepared to do that job, it’s beneath me) is what comes of:
a. promising 50% of the population degrees, and
b. having to expand and dumb down universities to cope with the increased numbers, thus
c. needing to invent nonsense degrees for those who aren’t really up to it, and
d. giving people job aspirations that the employment market cannot possibly satisfy as it simply can never generate enough graduate jobs for them, whilst
e. almost dispensing with immigration controls allowing in huge numbers of immigrants who then take all the lower end jobs,
which leaves a generation of workers caught out in employment no-man’s-land.
“...Stephen Hester can probably blame them (Occupy) for the loss of his bonus.”
Er, no, Polly. Banker bashing has been a blood sport since Northern Rock (Feb 2008) and Lehman (Sep 2008). And you have been at it regularly since then. Occupy (since Oct 2011) has achieved nothing. Other than fouling various public places across the UK.
And she ends: “…all praise to UK Uncut and Occupy”.
She is either unkowingly wrong, so an idiot, or purposefully spreading lies and untruths for political advantage, just like the Socialist Workers Party who are running the campaign against Workfare, frightening good businesses from taking part - who needs the crap - and helping the unemployed back into the labour market.
What an utter fuckwit. Again, how can anyone take her seriously? Try this or this instead.
Thursday, 23 February 2012
Mr Yvette Cooper will of course doom and gloom away because he has to. That’s what Oppositions do. But despite these long term indicators looking better, growth is still anaemic and may well technically show us in recession shortly. God, that ‘growth’ thing is hard to come by! Meanwhile, with way more debt - the next big problem for the global economy after the Presidential election is over - the good old US of A is doing growth much better than us and always seems to. Why so?
Now, before all you Lefties out there say it’s because Obama’s stimulus is working better than Boy George’s ‘too far, too fast’ austerity - which isn’t true by the way - let’s look at why the US always does growth better than us.
First, let’s get the easy answer to the question out of the way. The US economy is big. Almost as big as the 27 countries that make up the EU. So who would bet against that enormous engine of an economy; once it's motoring, it powers along. Check.
Then we get to the second answer, which is tricky because no UK government can do anything about it. The USA has a very 'can do' business culture. Now that's a very glib statement but having recently worked for an American company for six years I can vouch for the fact that Americans have the absolute opposite attitude to us on all matters business. We see all the problems, take refuge in lawyers ironing out all the wrinkles before we do anything and then behave cautiously thereafter. Call it British ‘reserve’. Americans only see opportunity, don’t worry about the downside and charge at every deal foregoing heavy lawyering safe in the knowledge that they’ll sue each other to death if the downside arrives. Call it ‘pioneering spirit’. Now that’s just a cultural difference. Bugger all anyone can do about it.
But number three on the list is something our Government can tackle with the right political resolve: the dead hand of employment law. (Calm down, Lefties, calm down). You see, for Lefties, suggesting that we reduce employment rights is the most heinous right wing Tory sin second only to saying we should reorganise the NHS.
But here’s the rub: higher unemployment and slower private sector growth is the price for all those employment rights we have. Here’s why…
When I worked for my Americans, I was always mesmerised by how keen they were to recruit more staff. Before the income was in place, they were off recruiting more staff. Conversely, when the shit looked like it was going to hit the fan, they just ‘let people go’. And US staff were much more sanguine about being ‘let go’. Running the European operation, I always resisted my part of their empire taking on staff until we were drowning in income and then held off redundancies until we really had no alternative when the income went down.
As the only European and non-American at the top of the company, it took a while for me to spot this and for the penny to drop.
You see all US staff are employed ‘at will’. And I mean all staff, from the CEO downwards. They have virtually no employment rights. No notice periods. No verbal warnings. No written warnings. No industrial tribunals. No such thing as redundancy. (The redundancy word does not exist in American English in the way we use it. In fact, my Americans used to laugh and joke about redundancy - ‘Melvin, what’s that thing you guys have over there called? Ha, ha, ha!’ And if I wanted to give a room full of Americans hysterics, I would then explain ‘gardening leave’).
So US companies can hire and fire with ease. And do. Which means that when businesses grow, they grow fast and load up on staff. Good for growth. By contrast, we Brits are really cautious, putting off the cost of hiring and employing new staff with all the attendant long term cost of getting rid of them until we really, really have to.
So Lefties, don’t compare US fast growth with UK and wider European slow growth, and realise that all your much treasured employment rights have a cost. More power to Steve Hilton and his agenda for starting to attack this.
Wednesday, 22 February 2012
I have another friend who’s a Top 1% type. When the 50% tax rate came in, he believed that it was unreasonable for him to be forced to hand over so much of his very hard-earned income (a marginal rate of 61%, ie he got to keep only 39%) so he re-structured. And now he’s only paying 32.5% tax. So, in fact, less than the 40% he was paying before NuLab’s 50% tax rate was introduced. Yup, that policy’s really helping things.
And therein lies the problem with taxing the rich. They either just fuck off abroad or they restructure themselves so they pay less, whatever the rules. That is just reality and nothing’s going to change it, a fact that our Lefty social engineers in Parliament can never seem to get their heads around.
So what is the Left’s tax problem then?
The problem is not that the rich are paying too little. As demonstrated in my post on Sunday, they are paying considerably more than perhaps they really ought to.
Nor is the problem that the rich are evading tax. HMRC are onto that 24/7.
No, the real problem is that there is a huge, national tax evasion operation in progress. And who is carrying out this enormous scam on honest law abiding taxpayers?
Those who work in cash.
A massive number of people at the lower end of the tax pile ‘do it for cash’. Taxi drivers, hairdressers, cleaners, plumbers, electricians, decorators, garage mechanics, builders - you name it. They all ‘do it for cash’. And many of us merrily help them. As we saw from HMRC’s data in my Sunday post, there’s many, many millions of these people and thus a large chunk of HMRC’s potential revenue never actually makes it into the tax system in the first place.
Now I’m not suggesting that we, as a nation, are evading tax on anything like the scale that Greece or other tax basket cases do. But millions of Brits are at it. And the amount they don’t declare utterly dwarfs the amount not making it to HMRC by that very small number of rich people who are legally minimising their tax bill or illegally evading it. Those HMRC stats just put things into perspective.
Now you never hear the Left moaning on about that, do you? Nope. All they want to talk about is how the rich need to pay more tax.
I say again: the main problem I have with the Left is that so much of its rhetoric is anchored in populist, mythical ideology rather than cold, hard and rather inconvenient facts.
Tuesday, 21 February 2012
"Greek finance minister Evangelos Venizelos was right in his claim that Eurozone ministers would finally agree a second bailout for the country - but the deal still leaves questions unanswered.
The crunch summit could prevent the country from missing a 14.5bn euro (£12bn) coupon repayment this time next month, in turn avoiding a messy un-negotiated default. The deal should plot a path for Greece to bring its national debt back down towards 120% of gross domestic product. What is not at all obvious is that this does anything to remove the uncertainty hanging over the Greek economy. Yes, it will essentially be saved from having to raise cash in the private capital markets, for the time being. But what will be left of the Greek economy, or indeed society? And what lessons does this provide about the euro project? The omens are not promising.
Here are six questions - or problems - that will not be answered by the deal.
1: First, and perhaps most worryingly, the Greek economic collapse has now reached almost unprecedented proportions. The country's economy shrank by 7% last year. Before the crisis, the country's annual economic output was about the same as Switzerland's. By the end, it will be barely bigger than the Czech Republic's. In all, economists expect it to shrink by as much as 25-30%. That would be the biggest single recession ever - by far worse than the US experience in the Great Depression, worse even than the collapse of the Argentinian economy during its own default crisis. An economy cannot collapse by this much without causing direct erosion of families' incomes, particularly given the particular variety of contraction opted for by the euro ministers is austerity. So do not be surprised if those riots we are seeing so regularly in Athens continue. The real worry, of course, is not just riots, but the prospect that the Greek people eventually lurch towards a more extremist government, or the military take matters into their own hands. That, after all, is precisely how many economies reacted to austerity in the 1930s, as this recent paper from Barry Eichengreen shows.
2: The deal will not necessarily reduce Greece's overall debt to a sustainable level. The target is to cut total debt - as a percentage of national income - to 120%. But there is plenty of evidence that this level is simply too high for an economy with the growth problems Greece is exhibiting. Moreover, that 120% seems to be more of an aspiration than anything else, relying on hopelessly optimistic growth and budget projections for the coming decades.
3: Even if this deal is successful in averting a messy default, it will not necessarily prevent a so-called 'credit event'. Private sector bondholders will take a 'haircut' on their holdings of Greek debt, which will be viewed as a default by credit ratings agencies. It will very possibly be viewed as a 'credit event' which triggers credit default swaps - the kind of opaque financial instruments which caused such fear after Lehman Brothers collapsed in 2008. Now, we are told investors are prepared for this contingency given how much time they have had to dwell on it, but it would be foolhardy to expect the entire process to go smoothly.
4: Greece is still deep in debt. It is just that much of the debt which was previously owed to the private sector is now owed to other euro governments (and the ECB). Gavyn Davies runs through the numbers here. Mr Venizelos will not have any closure until the country reduces that debt-load. That is not going to happen through growth, it is not going to happen through devaluation (unless Greece leaves the euro), so it will have at some point to happen through default - either another, more convincing default or high inflation across the euro area. The latter is unpalatable for the Bundesbank-influenced ECB. But, in the end someone will have to take the hit. It is still unclear who that will be, except that the structure of the current deal imposes all the pain on the Greek people.
5: The euro project is clearly failing. It was supposed to encourage its member states to become more closely aligned economically. As it stands, their competitiveness has diverged. As long as this endures, Greece and its Mediterranean neighbours will have to keep receiving subsidies from the richer euro members. Greece may have been an outlier in that regard, but many of its traits are shared by Portugal, Italy and Spain. Now the Greek crisis is temporarily papered over, expect investors' attention to swing back to them.
6: The ECB has bought the Eurozone nations some time by flooding the continent's banking system with cash through its Long Term Repo Operations (LTRO). It is likely to pump an extra slug of money to add to its half-a-trillion euro total at the end of this month. However, this cash will not last forever (the loans have a term of three years), and does not represent a permanent firewall for the single currency. At some point, investors will lose patience and realise such measures fall far short of a meaningful solution for either Greece or the currency area's woes."
Monday, 20 February 2012
Well in truth, this is the last budget that will deliver any tangible and demonstrable change during the lifetime of this Coalition with a General Election now fixed for May 2015. And, moreover, with UK plc stuck in economic neutral, this next budget desperately needs to stimulate some growth.
Question - So what can a Government do to stimulate growth?
Answer - Tax cuts.
Thus the debate around tax cuts is going to get louder and louder week by week. But within the Coalition’s economic plan to pay down our huge national deficit ASAP, is there any room for tax cuts? My guess is that there is. What Chancellor does not plan to leave himself room for some popular tax cuts in the run up to a General Election? So with no growth, maybe Boy George will have to deploy that little bit of slack he has up his sleeve earlier than he had planned. But, which taxes create growth?
The Lib Dems have nailed their colours to the mast: reduced personal tax allowances. They want to take anyone earning less than £10k out of the tax system funded by…you guessed it…taxing the rich more, mainly via their loony mansion tax. In the long term, this is a laudable aim - I suggested something similar way before the 2010 General Election - and of course in the short term, very populist. And it seems ‘fair’, which is the new lexicon. But, and here’s the problem, it will not stimulate growth. Because those for whom this makes the most difference - those on fixed low incomes, typically the economically challenged and the old - haven’t got much to spend.
Mr Yvette Cooper, desperate to suggest something populist to raise their sinking ship, has Labour calling for several possible different cuts: VAT down to 15%, or income tax down by 3%, all on a temporary basis, or the Lib Dem personal allowance option again. All unfunded. Just borrow more. To hell with it. Fuck the consequences. Think we’ve all experienced Mr Balls’ economic prowess before haven’t we? But, again, there’s a teency weency problem. None of them deliver growth, because the cautious just save more and the incautious just splurge their extra cash on ‘stuff’, and almost all ‘stuff’ is made abroad and imported. So we would mostly be stimulating China’s economy, not ours to any great extent.
So again, what tax cuts promote growth?
Well, there’s the problem. History has shown us again and again that it’s the tax cuts unpopular with the Left and painted by them as tax cuts for the rich that actually stimulate growth: corporation tax, CGT, and top rate income taxes. (Afternote - And the OECD agrees with me!)
Tricky one for the Boy George.
Sunday, 19 February 2012
First, let’s define rich.
Remember the Millipede’s rambling statements about the ‘squeezed middle’ some time ago on Radio 4’s Today programme which, when challenged, he couldn’t actually define. Well, it’s actually pretty simple. According to HMRC, the median income in the UK right now is £26k. Thus the ‘squeezed middle’ must be either side of that line, no? Let’s say, for sake of argument, £5k either side of that line ie £21-31k. Seems reasonable, no?
Well ‘rich’ in relation to our now newly defined ‘squeezed middle’ is probably a little less rich than many of you were thinking. So let’s subdivide all those earning more than £31k into three groups: the ‘affluent’, the ‘very rich’ and the intergalatically, global ‘super rich’. Turns out, the bean counters at HMRC have already sort of done this for us through the income tax personal allowance system. The ‘affluent’ pay Higher Rate above £35k and the ‘very rich’ pay Additional Rate above £150k. Let’s not really worry about the ‘super rich’ who buy houses for tens of millions, all have yachts and float from tax regime to tax regime. In the big picture, there’s
an absolutely insignificant number of these guys, they are highly mobile and stay well ahead of any tax system in any case and so are simply uncatchable. Waste of time trying really.
Why did the Millipede have such a problem then? Ah, well, it’s because all the NuLab Islington set straddle that ‘very rich’ line. It’s a bit embarrassing for them. (The High Priestess of this set, Polly Tithead, is of course off the fucking ‘very rich’ scale!)
Second, how many ‘affluent’ and ‘very rich’ are there?
Very easy this one, because the Government tells us every year. The latest stats are here. In summary:
Total population - 62.3 million
All income taxpayers - 29.9 million - 47.9%
Basic Rate taxpayers (ie average) - 24.9 million - 39.9%
Higher Rate taxpayers (ie ‘affluent’) - 3.7 million - 5.9%
Additional Rate taxpayers (ie ‘very rich’) - 0.3 million - 0.5%
Hmmm. Awkward facts for you Lefties there, no? The reality is that the ‘affluent’ earn as little as £35k (ie they are teachers and policemen, not oligarchs) and that we in fact have a really teeny tiny number of ‘very rich’ whom, even if you taxed at 99%, would generate nothing more than a small rounding error in HMRC’s annual tax collection numbers because the tax pyramid has this large base of Basic Rate taxpayers and a tiny pinnacle of Higher and Additional Rate taxpayers.
Third, so how much do the ‘affluent’ and ‘very rich’ currently pay for?
Fact - The top 25% of earners pay almost 75% of all income tax.
Fact - The top 1% of earners pay over 25% of all income tax.
HMRC’s 2011 numbers are here.
Ooops. More awkward facts for you, Lefties. Seems the ‘affluent’ and the ‘very rich’ are actually paying way more than their fair share already. So, the facts rather get in the way of that ‘tax the rich more’ rhetoric.
And this is the problem I have with so many of the Left's arguments: much of its rhetoric is anchored in populist, mythical ideology rather than cold, hard fact.
Saturday, 18 February 2012
“The Labour party stands for its leader and his interests first. Then it stands for its MPs and securing their jobs as best as possible. It stands for the union general secretaries (but not their members) just enough to keep them affiliated. After that it stands for swing voters in marginal seats and the media proprietors who can influence them. After that, if we’re lucky, we get to do something for the people for whom the party was created.”
For this to be written, openly and publically, by a very well known Labour Party supporter in one of the leading and most read Labour blogs shows the intellectual chaos in which the Left finds itself.
No wonder Millipede D and his outriders are coming out of the woodwork so obviously so far in adavance of Millipede E's future General Election loss.
Friday, 17 February 2012
However, when you listen to his logical reasoning on the big issues, is does make you think and question some of the things we hold to be certain. Judge for yourself…
Thursday, 16 February 2012
More interesting are the consequences for (a) the Lib Dems, (b) Cleggy and (c) the Coalition.
Lib Dems – One of their magic bullets was always that with no likelihood of power, no one was at all interested in their sleaze. It always existed – humans are humans after all – it was just that no one in media land gave a toss about them. This nicely linked in with their ‘holier than thou’ sanctimony that has always been soooo annoying – Paddy Pantsdown, Good Time Charlie, Ming the Merciless, Cleggy and the worst of all, Gay Boy Simon (am I allowed to say that?). Perhaps one of the most annoying was of course Inmate No 21831. Oh I’m sorry, Chris Huhne. How things have changed.
You see, this story is going to run and run: first there’s the prelims starting today, then there’s the actual trial, the affair evidence, the divorce evidence, the witnesses – Cleggy?, the Spanish Infanta? (would you, would you? Come on you probably would) and so it will go on. All horrible stuff if you are already languishing in single figures in the polls and part of your USP is that you don’t do sleaze like those other horrible parties. Not good.
Cleggy – Looks a bit lonely now, doesn’t he? His Lib Dem big guns – I know, but everything’s relative – have one by one been upended: Laws the Fiddler, the Busted Sage of Twickenham, Hubris Huhne, all dead in the swing voters eyes. And all around him remain intellectual Lilliputians, except Sarah Tether who is a real Lilliputian and holds a marginal seat where she will die in May 2015 anyway. Not good, again.
The Coalition – Drip, drip, drip go the sands in the political hourglass. This is the problem with Government – “Events, dear boy, events”. But for the Tories is does mean that come May 2015, in lots of seats all over the country, the ‘whiter than white’ Lib Dems have been sullied. Much easier to take them on.
Result: Cameron 1, Cleggy -2
Wednesday, 15 February 2012
That brilliant article written by Trevor Kavanagh from The Sun. Oh, the poor oppressed Sun journos. Feeling a little hard done by, are we? Excuse me while I cry into my beer. Now before I start my rant, let’s just remember that News International titles are but some of the papers that have been behaving illegally. They have all been at it and in this blog post, Guido has a handy graphic showing the results of the 2003 Information Commissioner’s research. So, News International titles were at it but others were at it more. Anyhoo, let’s get to the facts:
1. News International provided information to the police voluntarily - Interesting. This would indicate that they had spotted some ‘open and shut’ evidence of wrongdoing and knew they had to react ASAP.
2. ‘It’s an outrage. 10 officers were sent to arrest each journo. Why could they just not have been invited to a pre-arranged meeting at the police station, like the other pervious arrestees?’ - Er, no, you numpties. From past experience, after this cordial invite, the shredders would have been on turbo charge 24/7. And the 10 plods were there to search each journos premises, seize any evidence - IT, papers etc - bag it, tag it and remove it. Can’t do that with one plod now can you.
3. ‘There are 171 police officers, torn from other important investigations, more than worked on this investigation or that investigation, poring over this silly case’ - (Full outrage face), listen carefully you assholes. If you hadn't broken the fucking law you wouldn't be being investigated. And if you hadn’t broken the fucking law so often and over such a long period, the police wouldn’t need so many fucking plods.
4. ‘It’s a witch hunt’ - No, it is an attempt, very, very belatedly, to sort out the cesspit of our print media which has hitherto descended into the gutter, been flagrantly breaking the law and has not been held to account by the police until now.
It’s amusing to listen to the dead tree press and all their acolytes whinging and moaning and complaining. You would think that nothing had happened to warrant any censure. So arrogant, they still don’t get it. They just want to sweep it all under the carpet ASAP so they can get back on with trashing people’s lives.
And, oh the hypocrisy, complaining about police raids! It's hysterical. Really you couldn’t make this up. The Sun, which for years bribed policemen so they could be warned off when there was a police raid about to take place, so they could be there with their cameras and record it for their readers. Makes me cry with laughter.
If journos want to moan, the real crisis here is just how badly the Murdoch empire has handled this whole process.
1. For years, they had the ability to stop their journos from breaking the law. They failed.
2. They had a chance to investigate the issue properly in 2002 when the Steve Whittamore allegations became known. They failed.
3. They had a chance to sort it out in 2003 when Steve Whittamore was imprisoned. They failed.
4. They had another chance in 2006 to change things when the Information Commissioner published What Price Privacy. They failed.
5. They had yet another chance in 2007 when Glen Mulcaire and Clive Goodman were imprisoned. They failed again.
For years, their clearly adopted strategy was to sweep it all under the carpet and hope and pray that no one asked any awkward questions.
So, Trevor Kavanagh, your problems lie in a widespread journo culture of law-breaking and your management’s purposeful disinterest in sorting it out. And once the stench became too strong and they were forced to address it, they monumentally fucked up. They closed one of the largest circulation tabloids in the UK - The Screws,
(a) in the vain hope this would draw a line under the affair - how’s that plan working out for you, Rupert?
(b) on the ‘evidence’ pushed by one of their competitors - The Guardian - which has proved to be completely and utterly wrong.
Now that’s what I call a fuck up.
And here's the thing. How long can the board and investors in News Corp put up with the cesspit of their UK print media operation dragging them down? The FBI are now on their case in the USA. Much more of a problem. And if they pull the plug and walk/sell, which is attractive as the UK print media operation is so tiny in the big picture for News Corp, what then?
Well that’s a problem here in the UK because The Sun (profitable) pays for The Times and The Sunday Times (both unprofitable). Without these three titles, UK media land would be a much worse place. Unless of course you're a Lefty who would love these titles to disappear and enjoy a victory over the ‘evil Murdoch media empire’.
So all you non-Lefties out there, be careful what you wish for.
Tuesday, 14 February 2012
The killer central argument is this:
“The primary driver underlying Moody's decision to change the outlook on the UK's Aaa rating to negative is the weaker macroeconomic environment, which will challenge the government's efforts to place its debt burden on a downward trajectory over the coming years. These challenges, reflecting the combined effect of a commodity price driven hit to real incomes, the confidence shock from the euro area and a reassessment of the lasting effects of the financial crisis on potential output, were already evident in the government's Autumn Statement…. The second and interrelated driver of Moody's decision to change the UK's rating outlook to negative is the fact that the weaker environment is also, in part, a by-product of the ongoing crisis in the euro area. Although the UK is outside the euro area, the crisis is affecting the UK through three channels: trade, the financial sector and consumer and investor confidence.”
So, how’s that economic policy working out for you, Mr Balls?
Monday, 13 February 2012
She was a very, very lucky woman. She was given a truly incredible talent - we all liked her music. And from that talent she made fuck loads of money which meant that she lived an incredibly privileged life that less than 0.001% will ever experience.
And, due to her own lack of self-control, her own pathetically weak character and her own choice to indulge herself in drink and drugs, she threw all of this advantage away, no doubt leaving a trail of destruction behind her.
And please don’t tell me she was a helpless victim of her own inner demons or illnesses. People in her situation victimise themselves and then use their newly manufactured victim status to explain away their own terrible weak choices.
This is not someone to be lauded. Just because you die younger than average and are well known, does not mean you are a hero. Real heroes are exceptional people as I’ve written before.
May she finally rest in peace.
Sunday, 12 February 2012
Saturday, 11 February 2012
I have considerable contempt for Associated Newspapers and all its works – The Daily Mail and The Mail on Sunday.
1. It's hypocritical – It pretends to be as serious as a broadsheet whilst actually slumming around in the tabloid ‘z-list celebrity hell’ gutter. At least the other tabloids don’t pretend to be anything other than they are.
2. It's so arrogant – It seems to have decided what and who are acceptable and anything or anyone not on its approved list is to be vilified, denigrated and trashed.
3. It cheapens our culture – It plays to the very worst of that horrible part of middle England: homophobic, racist, right-wing, reactionary and xenophobic, desperately pretending there was some halcyon era when everyone was lovely to each other, crime was non-existent and there were no ‘darkies in the village’.
And the evil genius at the top of this foul smell is The Dark Lord Dacre. His evidence, both written and oral, underlines everything which is foul about Associated Newspapers and the rest of our tabloids.
First - and get this - his evidence actually says: “Self-regulation has been a success story.”
Excuse me. Did I miss something? Seems Lord Justice Leveson should just pack up and go home, the Dark Lord says it’s all OK. It’s OK to trash people. It’s OK to harass them. It’s OK to print lies and then apologise on page 49. It’s OK to hack, bug, burgle and cheat. All OK. The system’s working awfully well. Move along. Nothing to see here.
Second, his malevolent self. He was THE most shifty of all the witnesses to date. Arrogant. Antagonistic. Bombastic. Sneering. Supercilious. Rude. Sarcastic. He was contemptuous and frankly contemptible. He behaved like one of those deposed dictators, finding himself in the International Court, in complete denial that he had done anything wrong and pretending not to recognise the authority of the court.
And this leads me to conclude that nothing can change in print media land - our society cannot rid itself of their filth - until he and his ilk are deposed.
Simply, he is not a fit and proper person to run or edit a newspaper. I am desperately hoping that the twists and turns of Hugh Grant's brave campaign against him finally brings him to his end.
Friday, 10 February 2012
Anyhoo, putting aside that you and I paid for this legal nonsense, this case once again calls into question whether we are really a Christian country anymore.
There is theoretically a strong link between Christianity, in the form of the Church of England, and the state. Wikipedia has interesting knowledge:
“The concept of separation has been adopted in a number of countries, to varying degrees depending on the applicable legal structures and prevalent views toward the proper role of religion in society. A similar but typically stricter principle of laïcité has been applied in France and Turkey, while some socially secularised countries such as Norway, Denmark and the UK have maintained constitutional recognition of an official state religion. The concept parallels various other international social and political ideas, including secularism, disestablishment, religious liberty, and religious pluralism.”
Theoretically, Her Maj sits atop this relationship as both Head of State and Head of the C of E, but does anyone really care about that? In most European countries over recent centuries, the state has taken over the social roles of the church in any case, leading to a generally secularised society. We “swear by Almighty God” in court, although you can choose what you want to swear by depending on your religion or not. You can be born, marry and die without reference to any religion. Religious studies in schools cover all religions not just Christianity. And of course, since the war, Christian church attendance is a straight line graph downwards - presumably downwards to hell - whilst our immigrant population growth has seen the reverse in almost every other religious community in the UK.
The drip, drip effect is unwinding the relationship between church and state inch by inch. And does it matter?
I think His Grace needs to make his case.
Thursday, 9 February 2012
There are currently 5 police inquiries into the behaviour of the print media - Op Weeting for phone hacking, Op Elveden for police bribery, Op Tueleta for computer hacking, Op Kalmyk for accessing computers and Op Rubicon for accessing computers in Scotland.
The Culture Select Committee is also carrying out its own investigation - remember ‘foam pie-gate’.
And all this follows on from the 2003 Information Commissioner’s Office inquiry - Op Motorman - which looked at similar issues and produced a report called What Price Privacy? It pointed out that all the print media were at it and that News International was not the worst offender.
As each day of the Leveson Inquiry unfolds (and this humble blogger has been following it very closely) the facts are now clear:
- The print media, and principally but not exclusively the tabloids, has hacked, blagged, bugged, burgled and thieved its way through our society for some years. The swaggering arrogance of the editors and journos appearing before it has been breath taking.
- Amazingly, no editors or journos can remember anything - emails they may/may not have written or calls they may/may not have made - and specifically they didn't see any hacking ever. None. Not once. Nothing to see here. Move along please.
- Self-regulation has manifestly failed. One tabloid newspaper group - The Express - can’t even be assed to submit itself to the PCC in any case.
- As with any organisation threatened with statutory regulation, the print media are desperately throwing up every reason they can, especially the ‘freedom of the press’ card, to pretend that regulation would be the end of the world as we know it.
The coverage in the media has been painted as a ‘News International are evil’ story by…guess who…all those who hate the Murdoch media, led initially by The Guardian which as ever wrapped itself in a cloak of self-righteousness rather forgetting that (a) its initial claims that New International journos hacked Milly Dowler’s phone have now been shown to be complete bullshit and (b) that it was identified as one of the main offenders of phone hacking in the ICO’s What Price Privacy? report.
So what should be done?
We have the best broadcast media in the world. Really, we do. Travel abroad and watch/listen to foreign broadcast news and compare. Ours is without doubt the best in class. By a country mile. Authoritative, accurate, fair and professional.
And it’s fully regulated.
QED. End of argument.
I am anything but a big government guy. I am instinctively against regulation. But print journalism has inhabited a nether world, often in league with politicians too craven to hold them to account and whose backs they scratch, along with a police community who illegally trade information with them and have until now refused to impartially enforce the rule of law.
Time to clear out the stable. These total tossers, who have cheapened so much of our society, should be regulated and Leveson should recommend that clearly.
There is only an upside. All the scaremongering by the print media and its acolytes about any negative effects of regulation is just lobbying by interested parties. Is our fully regulated broadcast media toothless and weak?
I remember in 1992 when David Mellor as Secretary of State for National Heritage told the press it was “drinking in the last chance saloon” when the PCC was established. Nothing has changed since then. In fact things have become worse with more and more stinking evidence piling up of the print media’s misdeeds.
But I fear that the cautious Lord Leveson and the craven political class will once again blink and not do what is right.
Wednesday, 8 February 2012
In the last 30 years, since 1982, we’ve deployed British forces to The Falklands, Iraq, Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq again, Afghanistan and Libya to name just the big ones. There have also been innumerable small scale operational deployments and of course our special forces are always helping some country somewhere rather quietly. There are places we could have ended up but didn’t. And there are places where there is a problem where we could never go: Iran, almost any of the Arab Spring countries and now Syria.
The question is, when these situations blow up, what should we do?
Now all you Lefty intellectuals out there will probably assume that as an ex-military type I am all for a fight, a ‘guns blazing’ approach to international diplomacy or military action. If in doubt, let’s shoot Johnny foreigner, no?
You’d be very wrong.
You see, us ex-military types actually understand the consequences of war, the reality, the limits, the timeframe, the terrible human cost. We’ve all had close scrapes and lost good friends on operational deployments and then had to look their widows and children in their eyes on our return. War is always bad. It’s just that very occasionally it’s the least worst alternative. Almost always, when the Chiefs of Staff brief the Prime Minister on his options, they advise ‘you don’t want to do this, and here’s why’. Politicians, from Thatch, the Grey One, Tony - forget Gordy - and Dave, all like war. They love standing on principles, their egos love ‘speaking for the nation’, they probably get off on controlling awesome military power with all its ultimate responsibilities. We know they love it, or they simply wouldn’t do it.
But what should we good Christian men do when a country is massacring its own people before our very eyes - Syria? Or lying and cheating in order to gather the ability to be able to threaten war at a later date - Iran?
Gone is the ease of the ‘gunboat diplomacy’ era, unless you’re dealing with Argentina. But should we be the world’s policeman?
And when we try and use diplomacy and sanctions etc, we get no help from the spineless ‘League of Nations’ which can only ever move at the speed of the awkward ships in the convoy – ie Russia and China.
Today, the Defence Select Committee has produced a report essentially saying that Libya was a one off, only possible because the cuts in the recent utterly tragic Defence Review have not yet taken effect. We’re cutting the defence budget by 8% over 4 years, remember. We are now a Third World defence spending nation.
The cold, hard, economic, political and military reality is this: from 2012, we need to have much less grandiose views about what the UK could and should do internationally.
Tuesday, 7 February 2012
Monday, 6 February 2012
Today, 60 years ago, Her Maj had greatness thrust upon her. And to universal acclaim, she has acquitted herself very well indeed and been a brilliant ambassador for UK plc.
All this is evidence of why the arguments for removing the Queen as Head of State and becoming a republic are so utterly foolish. Those mean spirited Lefties who hold such views do not air them much because, as ever, they suit their ideology but bear no relation to the facts.
We have magic. And this magic is not just a wonderful link to our history and heritage. This magic is envied and copied the world over and no one gets even close to it. It is a brilliant business advantage for us, as the tourism profits - both internal and external – annually, but especially this year from the Diamond Jubilee, bear out.
Who would want some clapped out politician elected as our Head of State? For sure, they would be more expensive - politicians always are. But if I have a fear, it is for the future.
Charlie-boy is an ass. And worst, he is a vain, stupid ass who surrounds himself with sycophantic ass-lickers. There are two fundamental problems with him:
First, he is unpopular. And to survive in the meritocratic, democratic 21st century, a complete anachronism needs to be popular to survive.
Second, he fundamentally does not understand what has made the Monarchy popular. Her Maj gets it. In spades. Keep silent on all matters, be nice to the proles, cut the ribbon and look regal. Charlie-boy can’t help himself from sounding off and - not surprisingly - his views, constructed as they are from within his gilded existence and hewn from his B and a C in History and French A level, are almost always arrant nonsense, as I have blogged before.
If you were the chairman of Monarchy plc, you would quietly tell the aspiring CEO that he is not going to be the company’s choice and the very popular young upstart called William is going to be a much better choice for the longevity of 'the firm'.
Let’s hope Her Maj can keep rolling on until William can overtake his dad, whom I am sure would be a dismal and unpopular sovereign.
Sunday, 5 February 2012
And when this issue came up on the BBC’s Question Time this week, Alan Duncan - the Tory DFID minister - gave an impassioned argument as to why Aid should not be linked to trade. Good argument, well made, but wrong. Simples. If you want our Aid, then you must take our Trade. Why is that so wrong?
But, there is a much better solution: Trade not Aid.
Aid can be like benefits. The recipient can get used to it, quickly take it for granted and then stop looking for work. Countries can behave like the listless unemployed. And in any case, just chucking money at people is like renting a home. In the end, you are just wasting your money. And it seems they do not even want our money anyway. Much better to help our Aid recipients by investing our cash in businesses that create skills, employment and wealth, thus laying the ground for them not needing our Aid any more.
Saturday, 4 February 2012
La Famille Cragsbury live in a nice rural Sussex village. The village has a golf club. Obviously. The Cragsbury's are not members. I can think of no better way to spoil a pleasant afternoon than by chasing small white balls around the countryside. But imagine that the golf club’s management committee passed a new bylaw this afternoon:
“Byelaw No 296 - After any round, all members will be positively encouraged to drink as much as they can in the bar – as this is good for the golf club’s profits – and never minding how drunk members are when they leave the building, all members will be issued with blindfolds for them to wear whilst they drive out of the car park.”
There might be a few days when nothing untoward occurs in the car park. My guess is that over the next couple of weeks, a few minor prangs might happen. But I’m sure we’ll all agree that at some point during the month of February there would be a bloody great pile up at the car park exit, probably on a Saturday evening.
Now. Who is at most fault?
- Is it all the dumb assed members who followed Byelaw 296 to the nth degree? For sure they share some of the blame.
- Is it Sir Gred Foodwin the driver of the biggest and flashiest car that accelerated into the rear of the pile up? He gets quite a bit of blame for sure.
- Or is it the golf club’s management committee, who incidentally were all in cars in the pile up too?
Mr Cragsbury rests his case.
Friday, 3 February 2012
Now let me declare my interests upfront: I’m English. Very. This ought not to be an issue. But it is, and here’s why.
Sometime ago I used to run a company that had several regional offices. I used to visit them regularly. I always knew as the Edinburgh office door closed behind me and I jumped in my taxi back to the airport, they would be right royally slagging of my Englishness. And here’s the thing. Until that time, I had no view on the Scottish. They were just our Northern neighbours, part of the Union etc. But this vitriol dripped and dripped and dripped, and it turned me into a loather of the Scottish and all their ludicrously fake manufactured ‘Scottishness’.
And then there are their banks. Royal Bank of SCOTLAND - broke. Halifax Bank of SCOTLAND - broke and forced on LloydsTSB, which it broke. The English taxpayer is clearing up their banking mess. Plus ca change. After all, why did bankrupt Scotland have to join up with England in the first place?
I’m so bloody bored of moaning Jocks in England telling me how shit and oil thieving the English are and how oppressed and brilliant the Scottish are. If it is so great to be Scottish, fuck off back up to the frozen North and wear tartan.
So my heart tells me, bring on the referendum. Vote for independence you Scottish wankers. See how life is without the English Southern taxpayers subsidising you, your free prescriptions, your free social care, your free universities for Jocks etc. Go fuck yourselves.
Then my head speaks. The financial complexities of independence. The horribly protracted and inevitably fractious and very divisive negotiations. The UK’s place at the UN, the G8, the G20, the EU etc. Military bases, legal disentanglement, the Lothian question, Devo-max, blah, blah, blah. Not to mention the cost of all this unnecessary bollocks, just as we would hopefully be coming out of recession. And it tells me that the status quo is probably best.
And this paradoxical debate in my head is just what the Jocks will go through. Putting aside Wee Fatty Alex’s desperate attempt to fix the result - announcing his referendum question on Burn’s night, trying to use a completely flawed leading question, trying to fix who can vote, delaying the vote until the Commonwealth games on the 7 zillionth anniversary of Bannockburn etc - the reality is that the Jocks will never vote for independence in this generation at least and Wee Fatty Alex knows it damn well.
The SNP rhetoric is all about playing to (a) romantic Scottishness and (b) their resentment of the English. But when the romance is tested against cold, hard financial reality, the Scots will stay within the UK. Poll after poll tells us the result is forgone against. If he was at all confident, he’d call the referendum today.
His strategy is to play for time to build some momentum. But not momentum for independence. He knows that’s not feasible. No, momentum for Devo-max, which he judges is the achievable compromise position and is the next logical step along to his long-term aim of independence sometime in the distant future.
And this strategy is a tricky one for an English Conservative Government to deal with.
Thursday, 2 February 2012
And this has made me muse back to a recent theory that has been banging around my head for a while:
The Left has completely lost its way.
Why so? Well when the workers were rising up against the aristocracy/mill owners/industrialists, I got their point. Working practices were evil. Humans were being treated in many cases as little more than slaves. Any right thinking man should have demanded change. And for the last 100 years or so, change is what we got. We now have, amongst many changes for the better: human rights, employment legislation, healthcare free at the point of delivery, paid holiday, maternity and paternity rights, state pensions blah, blah, blah. Hard fought for. And mostly, but not exclusively, it was the Left that led the way.
So my mind now turns to last year’s TUC conference. I remember when many thousands of trade unionists annually descended on a seaside town to rail against the Government of the day. What that had become by 2011 was a relatively modest meeting held in TUC headquarters in London by a whole load of be-suited middle England, middle income, middle aged men and women arguing about how fat their massively subsidised and unaffordable pensions should be. How times have changed.
In reality, all the big battles have been long won and so they were left looking for ridiculous fights over pension terms.
And we see this played out again and again. Only last week, did we not witness the forces of the Left screaming loudly that reducing benefits down to the equivalent of a £34k pre-tax salary (ie within the top 25% of incomes in this country) was apparently tantamount to brutal oppression of the poor? And did we not witness The Millipede tying his party in knots by trying to ride the ‘benefits horse’ in two different directions?
The Left has won all its major battles and has lost its ‘raison d’etre’. Time for a re-think.
Wednesday, 1 February 2012
The madness continues, with the loss of Fred's bauble. Putting aside the rank hypocracy of MPs and Peers who have openly committed fraud wandering around Parliament as if they have done no wrong, as Nick Boles MP said in his Macmillan Lecture to the Tory Reform Group:
“…making a few bankers and company bosses a bit less rich is not going to make most people in Britain any better off.”
Lynch mob politics is always wrong. And as Bagehot so eloquently demonstrates, when La Toynbee and The Dark Lord Dacre unite on any issue it must be wrong...and very scarily so.
After the last few days, we have now set in train a terribly dangerous anti-business agenda, which The Millipede and Mr Yvette Cooper will latch onto like an underweight baby desperate for its mother's teat.
Dave needs to wrest us out of this suicidal nose dive urgently.