Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Fragility of Conservative vote

One of the most significant lessons for the Conservative party from the European election is that it showed the Conservative baseline vote: 27%. This is woefully, woefully short of a majority or even the current level of minority. People did not 'lend' UKIP their vote: they voted UKIP because the Conservative policy on Europe is weak and they want out of Europe.

Our refusal to accept a referendum on membership of the EU is as poor as the Liberal Democrat's refusal to accept a referendum on Lisbon. We should offer a simultaneous referendum on both subjects, campaigning for a "yes" vote to stay in the EU, and a "no" vote on Lisbon. At a stroke, this would go a long way to eliminating the UKIP vote at the next election. It would also highlight that we are not anti-EU which campaigning purely on Lisbon would suggest.

This would not divide the Tory party. It could be presented as a free vote to all but the Conservative front bench. It would cross party lines just as other European votes have done. Announce it, announce it now. Do it quickly after the next election to heal any potential rifts it may cause. It is the single biggest thing my party could do to ensure victory at the next election.

Friday, 5 June 2009


I'm genuinely intrigued. What actually went through the mind of someone that turned out to vote Labour yesterday? "Oh well - a few national challenges - presentational issues with Brown sure - party of the working man though - basically sound - certainly want them in Government - done a good job on the economy - unemployment's the big killer that's what I care about...." oh, er scratch the last point.

It's not that Labour had a bad election that surprises me, it's that anyone, ANYONE, actually thought "yep, good guys, they're the ones for me."

Maybe there are just some really strong local Labour councillors around whose local effectiveness outweighs the utter car crash of the Labour government. I sort of hope so to restore my faith in the universal franchise.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

UKIP and General Election

It's occurred to me that UKIP must be really torn about wanting an early General Election.

If a General Election occurs before the Irish ratify the EU Constitution in the scandalous 'you got it wrong first time try again' re-referendum then the EU Constitution is dead. Assuming the Tories form the next Government then they will have a UK referendum, it will reject the constitution. But if UKIP stand in an early General Election then they will take votes from the Tories and risk a hung Parliament. An early General Election effectively forces UKIP - if they are principled about their convictions - to support the Tories strongly.

Of course, they may not be principled and may stand against the Tories in an early General Election. This will show them in their true colours: as politicians not principlians (to coin a word).

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Gordon Brown

The renewed leadership speculation about Gordon Brown is alarming. We need a save Gordon campaign. A new Labour leader will get some kind of a boost, go to the country because they'll have to, and the risk of a hung parliament will increase hugely. Gordon, don't do it. We need you.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

MPs' Expenses

Qlikview, a company I've just purchased dashboard technology from for my organisation, have put together a great web based demo application on MPs' expenses. Public institutions could learn from this in terms of providing transparency over how they spend out money.


Sunday, 17 May 2009

Elections and Punishing Parties

It seems clear that many voters will punish the major parties by voting for minor parties such as UKIP, the Green Party and the BNP in the European elections. It is, of course, anyone's right to do this. However, I disagree with the principle of using votes negatively like this.

The major parties are bigger than their individual MPs. It appears that most MPs from most parties have not defrauded the taxpayer or sought to profit from the expenses system. It is also true that of people elected under the banner of the three main parties less than 0.1% have abused their expenses. Up and down the country, councillors from all parties are squeaky clean, as are, it seems, at least a substantial proportion of MPs.

Those MPs that have abused the expenses system should be drummed out of their parties immediately. However, we should not punish the majority of honest politicians who are standing on June 4th. It will be particularly harsh to turn out honest politicians through voting for a party whose MEPs are as bad as the worst Tory MPs on expenses (UKIP), or a party whose leader is an overt racist and which has some truly nasty policies (BNP).

Saturday, 16 May 2009

MPs' expenses

David Cameron has made good statements on the expenses scandal and demonstrated his skill as a politician. However, his statements do not go far enough because they do not punish individuals who, if they were elected councillors rather than MPs, would be prosecuted.

He needs to state that any Conservative MP who is found to have claimed expenses that were not wholly and exclusively incurred in the execution of their job as an MP is automatically deselected and unable to stand for the Conservative Party again. It doesn't matter who they are, their length of service, or their seniority.

Still, over a week into this scandal, not one MP has been deselected. I fear for the consequences for the Conservative Party at the June 4th elections. 

Monday, 11 May 2009

MPs Expenses

I find it hard to belief that there has been no ministerial or shadow ministerial resignations yet over expenses, nor any deselections or threats of deselections. The Conservatives need to be very, very careful. The latest opinion poll already has them dropping below 40% for the first time in 2009. If David Cameron is not seen to take action then the party will drop further in the polls and people's estimation. 

When people are disillusioned with mainstream parties, they turn to the fringe. The fringe is often extreme. This is what happened in Weimar Germany. Of course, at that time, Germany was in a dire economic recession with people losing their jobs and little prospect of employment, there was gross unfairness in society and crime was rampant; government was unrespected and powerless...

Hhhhmmmm....maybe the parallels between Weimar Germany and Britain now are stretched but they are not that absurd. An apology from David Cameron is inadequate. MPs that have abused taxpayer's money must resign for this to be put behind the Conservative party. The best thing now for the party will be a handful of by-elections in the constituencies of the worst offenders;  that would demonstrate the necessary toughness and re-establish faith in the Conservative Party.

Friday, 8 May 2009

MPs' expenses

Many of the revelations about MPs' expenses are appalling; a number of cabinet ministers should resign in shame at their abuse of taxpayer's money. However, the fuss about Gordon Brown's cleaning expenses is not actually that bad. Gordon Brown was an appallingly bad Chancellor who helped create the economic mess in which he now finds himself as Prime Minister. He is tribally party political to a greater extent than any past Prime Minister. He is short-termist and lacks vision or courage to make the changes the country needs. 

But I do think he is an honest man and the hounding of him over expenses does not help respect for politics in this country. The media should focus on the crooks amongst the politicians and seek to force them from office; it should equally applaud those who were presented with those same opportunities for corruption but did not take them. It is those honest politicians, of all parties, who we want in Parliament at the next election.

Thursday, 7 May 2009


It might smack a bit of Jon Major's "cones hotline" but I'm convinced a good vote winner in the crowded south-east would be a clear instruction to the police and authorities that after a road accident priority 1 is to look after casualties, and priority 2 is to get traffic moving. Currently getting traffic moving appears to have no priority at all after an accident.

Having again been delayed like thousands and thousands of other people yesterday by a single traffic accident on the A281, it seems clear that the impact on huge numbers of people on journey times from accidents is a significant irritation. It leads to road rage and other accidents as frustrated motorists desperately try to get home.

The US priority is to get traffic moving. Our priority should be to do the same. A small policy perhaps, but one of those policies with a disproportional impact on the electorate I think.

Monday, 27 April 2009

Courage on Expenses

I hope that David Cameron, and all Conservative Associations, show courage and integrity when all MPs expenses are published shortly.

Any current Conservative MP that has claimed for things on expenses which he or she should not have should stand down at the next election. If he or she cannot stand in front of his or her employers (taxpayers) and say "this was legitimate, this was fair", then he or she should be de-selected from standing for the next election; if in a shadow ministerial position they should be asked to resign and sacked if they do not.

This would go a long way to restoring respect for politicians, Conservative politicians at least. It will be no good any MPs saying "everyone was at it", any Conservative politician must stand up for the rights of taxpayers to obtain fair value for their confiscated money. If they do not, then they are not Conservatives in any way I understand.

Saturday, 25 April 2009


The most amazing thing about the budget is how even this Labour government showed no interest in reducing expenditure. In the next two years they will borrow more than every Government in the last three hundred years, and yet they are not even interested in basic reductions in expenditure. 

It shows that they have given up hope for the Labour Government and have therefore decided to sacrifice the future financial prosperity of this country. Their actions can onyl make things so much worse for an incoming Conservative government: the cuts that will have to be made will be painful indeed.

There are the cuts that are so obvious and simply must be made: ID cards, cutting down and time-limiting benefits, cutting quangoes and agencies, moving the public sector to the same pensions system as the private sector. But there are going to need to hard cuts for a Tory Government to make; for example, we cannot spend billions on a replacement for Trident in the current situation.

Monday, 20 April 2009

A List

There's an interesting article on ConservativeHome about what has happened to some that joined the Conservative A List. This was one of the worst supposedly modernising ideas to come out of the Conservative party machine. Picking people with the correct mix of background, ethnic diversity, celebrity and so on and then trying to inject them as MPs was and is a truly dreadful idea.

MPs should be rooted in the locality they represent. Being an MP should not be a trail around the country finding an address that gives you a chance to get elected. Being an MP should be a privilege; representing an area of the country where you have your roots in Parliament. I'm not saying MPs need to be born and have lived in their constituency all their lives, but their home, their roots, should be in the general locality, in the area of their constituency. If that limits capable people who want to be MPs from ever becoming MPs because they are limited to some 10 or 20 constituencies so be it.

One of the ways, one of the many ways, to restore trust in politics is have local people representing their localities. They do this at parish, borough and county level and they should at national level too. Tear up the A list: if these individuals are good enough to be MPs, and I have no doubt many of them are, let them stand for where their roots are.

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Labour Attack Dogs

The row about Gordon Brown's advisers sending lies about their opponents on email is completely unsurprising. Labour has never recognised that taxpayer's money is extracted  to fund public services rather than party politics. To become a Labour special adviser is to splash around in a political playpen with other massively highly paid attack dogs spinning and dreaming up lies.

There is no justification for any non-elected individual working at my expense to be party political. The Conservatives have had political attack dogs too in the past. They shouldn't. Anybody who I fund from taxes should either be elected (or a direct support employee of someone elected such as an assistant), or they should be impartial. The Civil Service should be utterly, completely and totally impartial. It should be a dismissable offence for anyone in the Civil Service to promote party political opinions. 

The public sector must have higher, not lower, standards with regard to party politics. The Conservatives must clear out this culture. This means no special advisers under the Conservatives. At all. If the next Conservative Government wishes to spin, fine, then the elected politicians can do the spinning.

Labour is building a Civil Service in the spirit of Goebbels. The next Conservative Government must destroy this culture utterly. It can only do so by ending the employment of spinners and special advisers.

Friday, 10 April 2009

Bob Quick

It is right that Bob Quick should no longer be in post. But I don't think he should have resigned over the unfortunate blunder that nearly compromised the recent arrests of suspected terrorists. This was clearly an unfortunate error, but it was a blunder that was clearly not meant.

He should have resigned over the arrest of an MP who was doing the job an MP is meant to do. This was not a blunder; it was a considered action on Quick's part. It was so clearly absurd to suggest that Damian Green MP was engaged in any form of terrorism, or anything that could remotely be construed as contributing to terrorism, that it shows that his judgement was fundamentally flawed. To send in counter-terrorism officers to arrest Green beggared belief.

So, it is right that he has gone: but not for the unconsidered blunder, rather for the considered misjudgement.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Fractured Society

The appalling injuries inflicted on the two young boys by, it appears, two other young boys bring into focus David Cameron's 'broken society'. I think broken is the wrong word: fractured is a better word. The vast majority of people either actively work for the betterment of their community, or at least seek to avoid harming their community, albeit passively. 

But there is a fault line, a fracture, between that majority and a minority that is without a moral compass. The creation of that moral compass demands education, rehabilitation and a refusal by the state to allow individuals to avoid personal responsibility for their own actions and those of their dependents.

The Labour party has failed in all three areas. Children are allowed to leave school without a clear moral code. Criminals, from an early age, are allowed to get away with their actions and, even if locked up, leave prison only to re-enter it in the majority of cases. The benefits system actively (not even passively, but actively) encourages people to a life of dependency.

The next Conservative Government has some tough decisions in all three areas. If it fails to take them - in its first term - it will fail to address the fractured society and it will have failed this country. They can be addressed: but only by confronting the vocal vested interests that see morality as a grey area, criminality as an inevitable consequence of poverty, and taxpayer- funded benefits as a human right.

Sunday, 5 April 2009

Gordon Brown Done Well

The primary cause of the recession was poor risk management of private sector debt, but what's keeping us in recession is confidence: confidence to lend, confidence to borrow, and confidence to buy. More than than anything the G20 summit was about restoring confidence so that individuals, and the businesses they work for, start trading with each other again. The announcements at the G20 are somewhat irrelevant, the reason why I think Gordon Brown did well at this summit was because he got the G20 leaders to agree on a confident statement that should help inspire some confidence.

This does not mean that I think anyone should vote for him. He is the most disastrous prime minister of this age, perhaps any age. He bears responsibility for much of the disastrous situation UK PLC is in because of his failed regulation and his delight in public sector debt. He is the window cleaner who comes along and smashes all your windows, but this week, for the first time, he at least did something that I think helps install new some glass and I'll give him some credit for that. But he's still a disaster who should be slung out at the first opportunity.

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Caroline Flint, Europe Minister?

It's not an April Fool. Caroline Flint, the Europe Minister in this bizarre Labour Government, has not read the Lisbon Treaty. Let me repeat. In Parliament, publicly, the Europe Minister stated that she has not read a document that passes significant sovereign powers from this country to Europe. This is so utterly staggering that I find it hard to believe. Surely if there is one person in this country who should read this wretched document it is the Europe Minister?

It is now clear why Labour does not want a referendum. They haven't read what they want us to sign up to, they don't expect us to read it, and they don't care about this country enough to bother what's in it. They want it passed for political reasons regardless of what it may say (which of course as they admit they don't actually know).

Why is she still in her job? What does she think her job actually is? How did this women get into Parliament? How did she achieve high office? I'm certainly not speechless but I am completely incredulous that this has not caused an absolutely massive outcry.

Monday, 30 March 2009

Jacqui Smith and Porn

I have no objection to Jacqui Smith or her nearest and dearest watching adult movies (subject of course to those movies being legal). But I massively, fervently and frothingly-at-the-mouth object to having had money deducted from my salary on pain of imprisonment to fund the sexual habits of her beloved.

I disagree with David Cameron that this is not a resignation offence. In my world, if I expensed such things, I would be fired. From my whole job. And my salary is provided by companies voluntarily doing business with my company. 

I'm only asking that she step down from being responsible for ...er... the entire law and order of this country. I don't suggest that she resigns as an MP. But surely, surely, to take my money on pain of imprisonment to fund the watching of dirty movies is by any normal standards so utterly, utterly wrong that she should go. It worries me that Westminster does not see this. 

There is a growing disbelief about the behaviour of MPs and the Conservatives should come clean (if I can use that expression in this context). They should clear out any ministers of any rank who have abused the expenses system and should go seriously on the attack about this issue. It is not the amount of money involved. It is the principle. And someone, some party simply must stand up for taxpayers who are hard-pressed, who are losing their jobs, who are seeing their pensions being destroyed and who are told that an offence for which they would lose their jobs is not one for a politician to lose theirs.

There is a different standard of conduct required between jobs done by taxpayers, and jobs done for taxpayers. It is surely though a standard that sets a higher bar for the tax-recipients, not a lower bar, not a much, much, much lower bar. Consider that point in Westminster please.

Friday, 27 March 2009

Labour Debt

Listening to Dan Hannan yesterday evening at the South West Surrey Conservatives annual dinner, I was particularly struck by his comment that UK debt will be bigger in 2009 than at the end of World War II.

That is quite extraordinary. After 6 years of fighting Hitler to a standstill, we were less indebted than after 12 years of suffering Brown. And not only has Brown built up this debt, but he has done so without a single parliamentary vote: he has shepherded the mother of Parliaments upstairs and locked her away in a cupboard. At least Nero only fiddled while Rome burned. Brown has filled up the fire-engines with petrol and is hosing fuel over the dying embers of our economy.

When will Brown and Labour (and the media that still support them) realise that you cannot fight a crisis born out of debt with more debt; that today's debt will destroy jobs tomorrow as the productive economy is squeezed still further. Families are facing ruin because of Brown, and more will do so. The thing that makes me despair is that Brown still has 32% in the polls from his carefully bribed and purchased client state, and he only needs a further 4% to secure his majority and continue his destruction of the UK.

And all this from a man whose only electoral mandate is some 20,000 Scots. Even Robert Mugabe felt the need to have the people of Zimbabwe put Xs beside his name to legitimise his rule. But not Gordon.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Fred Goodwin

I can understand but not tolerate the vandalising of Fred Goodwin's home and car. I believe we should introduce retrospective legislation to reclaim my money from this man. Okay, so perhaps it was granted by his pals on the RBS board under his contract. But contracts are instances of laws. Laws are the will of our democratically-elected Parliament enacted by that body. When a gross situation such as this occurs it can be right to change the law, even retrospectively, particularly to defend taxpayers whose money is taken from them on pain of imprisonment.

If I choose to withhold the money taken from me to pay off Fred Goodwin then I am imprisoned. That changes the game as far as I am concerned. Private companies can do what they like with their shareholders' money which is given voluntarily: their boards can be sacked. Public companies like RBS cannot do what they want because I am imprisoned if I withhold my contribution. Retrospective legislation can be right and justified in situations like this. But however much I want to claw this money back, it is never right to visit violence on him or his property. 

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Dan Hannan

I'm really looking forward to Dan Hannan being guest speaker at the South West Surrey Conservative Association Gala Dinner this Thursday. His verbal assault on Gordon Brown in the European Parliament as shown on Iain Dale's blog and Dan's own blog is tremendous. It is the best three minute indictment of Gordon Brown I have seen. It reinforces for me the danger of George Osborne accepting the Brown agenda of 'we need high taxes in the current climate to cope with the recession.'

Conservatives believe that it is the private, wealth-creating sector that pulls us out of recession, not the public sector. The public sector is essential, necessary, to be applauded...but it will never be the driver of recovery. It can never be the driver of recovery. The private sector needs to be nurtured at this time of crisis to help create jobs and therefore create the wealth that will create jobs in the public sector. The private sector must lead. This is the clear blue water between Labour and Conservatives. Dan Hannan understands this. I think George Osborne does. He just needs to express it more forcefully.

Monday, 23 March 2009

Tax Policy

I do hope that George Osborne thinks again before agreeing to a 45 pence tax rate on those earning over £150,000. This will not raise £2 billion. It will raise nothing. It will cause people earning over that to use the many perfectly legal mechanisms (such as pensions) to avoid paying it. Except of course they'll actually put more than they need away from the taxman.

That's why, in the 1980s, tax receipts went up when the tax rates came down. High taxes are a disincentive to earn, and thus create work, and thus create jobs, and thus generate taxes.

If George Osborne does not understand this then he should join the Liberal Democrats, who also do not understand it. If George Osborne thinks it should be retained for political reasons because it would send the wrong message not to do it, then I wish he would join the Liberal Democrats because he would be implementing an unConservative policy that would harm our economy for no other reason than political show.

The way to reduce public sector debt is to reduce public expenditure. The way to reduce personal debt is to encourage individuals to pay it off through restricting personal credit and lowering interest rates. The way to reduce corporate debt is to reduce interest rates to a level that makes holding debt on the balance sheet less worthwhile than borrowing to invest in the business. 

The argument 'the rich need to pay their fair share' incenses me. How do the idiots (I use this in the technical sense as I assume they must have low IQs to be unable to do the maths) that argue this case explain how it is that the richest 1% pay 22% of the tax take and yet do not pay their fair share? Presumably they believe that 'fair' means that a tiny group of high earners - who in the main are job creators - should be penalised even more for creating jobs? 

George Osborne needs to be very, very, very, very careful if he's going to promote Social Democratic policies under a Conservative manifesto and hope to get into power. Ah...is that it I wonder? Is he thinking this might be a good election to lose...

Friday, 20 March 2009

Catholic Church

I'm no fan of the Roman Catholic church but sometimes it surprises even me by the sheer depths of its vicious nastiness. 

In Brazil the Archbishop there excommunicated  doctors for performing an abortion on a nine year old girl who had been repeatedly raped by her father and was pregnant with twins (according to The Economist). The girl's mother was let off by the Archbishop lightly: she was just expelled from the church.  The rapist received no punishment from the church. Once this was highlighted to the powers that be in Rome they 'criticised the haste with which the decision was made.'

Any large institution may have sick and evil members, even at its highest levels. But when the global leadership fails to condemn and reverse this decision, and throw out the Archbishop concerned, you just have to wonder why anyone in their right minds would want to belong to such an institution.

What would Jesus say?

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Depression and the Polls

I'm depressed by the opinion polls. I've long thought we live in basically a soft-left country but the opinion polls seem to confirm it. Whatever the Conservatives say or do, however bad this Government gets, the Conservatives seem to be unable to break beyond the 42% or so barrier in the polls.

This Government is accountable for us, according to the IMF, having the worst recession, the longest recession, the worst debt, the hardest recovery of any economy in the developed world. And yet Gordon Brown is still the choice of some 32% of the population according to the polls. Another 4% or so and he'd still be in Government after the next election. It beggars belief. 

What does this demonstrate? That the majority of this country are essentially soft-left and thus float between the two main centre-left parties; that whether the Conservatives are too bold or not bold enough, too hard or not hard enough doesn't seem to matter. The polls will never take us to Blair territory. The Tory strategists seem to have tried everything but we ain't getting above 42% or so. 

What to do? 1. Secure the 42% with solid Conservative policies to reduce debt and encourage enterprise - this the Conservatives are doing. 2. Boost the Lib Dems: they are the only hope of reducing Labour's vote significantly - more love-bombing of the Lib Dems please. 3. Allow England independence; I'm sorry Scotland, the land of my birth, but you're just too damn Labour and I'm fed up, really fed up with you imposing your left-wing values and your left-wing politicians on me. I'd be sorry to say goodbye but unless you change your views I want independence now. England needs it; and you'd be happier really on your own.

Monday, 16 March 2009

Alcohol, Minimum Prices and Liberalism

Nobody calling themselves a liberal, as I do, can support a minimum price on alcohol to effect social engineering. Sure, come down on those that commit crimes whilst drunk like a ton of bricks, but to penalise non-problem drinkers who like cheap booze is wrong.

The example of France is often held out as an example of where cheap alcohol causes fewer social problems; it's no worse an example for being often repeated though.

The simple fact is that there is a social issue with regard to excessive drinking which affects England but not France. This is a matter for the education system and families. By allowing parents to abrogate their responsibility for their children to a state that is less a safety net than a SWAT team of nannies, and by failing to confront issues of right and wrong, good behaviour and bad behaviour in schools, successive Governments have created an alcohol problem in this country.

Increasing tax is not the way to sort it out. It may treat some of the symptoms. It will never be the cure.

Sunday, 15 March 2009

The United Kingdom...and Rugby

Once again, watching yesterday's rugby, I was struck by the bizarre mix of countries that make up the anachronism which is the United Kingdom. Rugby, in a very small way, highlights this nicely.

The English turn up and sing the British National Anthem which is as much the national anthem of Scotland as it is of England (presumably this is because the English are the dominant country and this is an exercise in imposing sovereignty over the opposition?). The Scots turn up and sing a national song which is not their national anthem, as do the Welsh.

Then the Irish turn up and they appear to have two anthems because they are actually two countries but everyone kind of forgets that and so we all agree in a 'buddy-buddy borders don't exist' way to have a united Ireland team in which a foreign country, Eire (as independently sovereign of the UK as,  say, Spain) combines with a part of the UK to play against England. 

And by the way they all sing their national songs in English.

Hhhmmmm....there are countries of many sizes in the European Union and one of the reasons why I do actually support membership of the EU is the fact that it creates a market in which states of all sizes can co-exist and trade peacefully and profitably. I think if England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland want their own identities then it's time to give them those identities.

History is wonderful, I'm a historian and I love it. But history is the study of change and it's time to change.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Prince Charles and Recession

What a bloody fool our future King can be sometimes. Assuming Sky News hasn't made this up Prince Charles is reported as saying that the recession is nothing compared to climate change

Right now we live in a time when thousands of people are losing their jobs and their homes, when millions are desperately worried about how they will get through the next year. For this rich Prince who has never, never had to worry where his next meal is coming from, about his livelihood, about his children's schooling to say this at this time shows crass insensitivity.

He needs to understand that there are times to say things and there are times not to say things. Even if he is right - and many thousands of reputable scientists dispute that climate change is significantly influenced by man - to say it now is foolish and insensitive.

Many people care about climate change and believe it to be influenced by man's actions, and care passionately, but now, in 2009, is not the time for this rich prince to belittle the impact of the recession by comparison with anything. He needs to think about the pyramid of needs before he opens his mouth and reflect on the fact that there are plenty of people who place their immediate future before grand ambitions for the planet.

And perhaps first class travel to Brazil to visit the rainforest by plane isn't exactly helping carbon emissions. But then maybe he's swimming, or maybe he's sailing...or maybe it's just one rule for rich princes and another for ordinary mortals in fear of their jobs.

Monday, 9 March 2009

Lib Dems - a Centre Left Party

The post from Mike Smithson on political betting about the lib dems misdirecting their strategy is interesting. 

The simple fact is that the Lib Dems are a centre-left party, they say they are a centre-left party, their leaders say they are a centre-left party. They do see the Conservatives and not the Government as the party to oppose - you only have to read almost any of the Lib Dem bloggers to see this. You only have to listen to their leadership on the radio or television to see this. They are not equi-distant between the two main parties.

And yet, and yet...so many people in the south-east see them as a sort of softer version of the Tories. They aren't. This country has one major centre-right party and two major centre-left parties. 

For anyone thinking of voting Lib Dem in preference to Labour to switch between the parties is understandable: it's a small journey because they're switching between the two centre-left alternatives. But people need to recognise that the journey from switching from the Tories to the Lib Dems is just as large as the journey from switching from the Tories to Labour.

Saturday, 7 March 2009

Crime and Punishment

It's sad that in Bramley - where I live - the Parish Council has spent a considerable amount of taxpayer's money renewing the lampposts in the village only for them to be repeatedly vandalised. Six of them have been vandalised again, and again, and again. Every time they are repaired, they are vandalised again.

The parish has a population of several thousand. The police know that it's a tiny number of people - perhaps 10 to 15 - that are guilty of the vandalism. They know where they live. They know who they are. But they are powerless without staking out the area or installing CCTV, which they do not have the resources to do. Even if the criminals were caught, the current justice system would hardly deter them.

What is the answer? Bramley can't be the only village where 0.1% of the population, a known 0.1%,  seeks to make life that bit more unpleasant for the 99.99% by mindless vandalism. In many countries in the world, the criminals would simply be rounded up without evidence and would  disappear. How lucky the Bramley criminals are to live in a free and fair society which they try in their own petty way to destroy. I wish I knew what to do about it. 

Friday, 6 March 2009

Mandelson and Custard Pies

That someone was allowed to assault Peter Mandelson by throwing a custard pie at him and appears to have got away with it is a disgrace. The woman who did it should be arrested, prosecuted and punished.

I don't care whether Peter Mandelson is Labour, Tory, BNP or Communist. Assault is never justified because you disagree with someone's views. Full stop. 

Peter Mandelson is an odious hypocrite who preaches about a low-carbon economy while imposing a third runway at Heathrow against the wishes of most people other than Labour's paymasters at BA and BAA. But he's also a politician and that means that the individuals in his constituency have the right to got rid of him at the next election if they don't like him. That is democracy. Assault isn't.

Monday, 2 March 2009

How brave can the Tories be?

The reality is that this recession is already bad and going to get worse. The Conservative front bench are touching on the only solution - reducing debt. But they are not blunt enough about what this means for the public sector.

It means reducing public sector expenditure, massively. My budget has been cut for next fiscal year by 20%. How many public sector institutions are taking cuts anywhere near this level? And I reckon I ran a leaner ship already than most public sector institutions even before my 20% cut.

Quite simply, the private sector cannot afford to fund a public sector that every day is growing as a proportion of the economy. Every day that this proportion increases is another nail in the coffin of job creation in the private sector. Don't get me wrong; taxes are essential. I welcome them to pay for the services I need. But every pound taken out of the wealth-creating sector reduces the ability of that sector to retain and create jobs, except where the state uses that tax directly in support of wealth-creation (such as investment in road infrastructure). 

The Titian portrait to which the Scottish Government (read me and you) contributed £5.1 million is no doubt beautiful. Is it more beautiful than my job, my future, my ability to create wealth, my ability to stay in my home? The cultural sector would cry foul at this simplistic argument. Perhaps in times of plenty they would be right to. These are not times of plenty; they are times when thousands sit at home weeping at the imminent loss of their homes. The Tories must speak for these people.

Shrinking the state and diverting tax money in support of wealth-creation is a hard and ugly message for hard and ugly times. Will the Tories have the courage to make it? I will fight like a cornered rat to protect my job and those of my team. How brave will my party be in supporting me? 

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Cameron and the Cancellation of PMQs

I'm astonished that there is debate about the cancellation of PMQs last wednesday because of the death of Ivan Cameron. Before politicians are public figures they are people. PMQs is primarily for the leader of the opposition to hold the Prime Minister to account. It was right, decent and honourable for Gordon Brown to propose the cancellation of PMQs out of respect for Ivan's death.

It is a red herring to suggest that PMQs is not suspended for every soldier dying in Iraq, or every child killed. Politics is both an impersonal battle between parties, and a personal battle between individuals representing those parties. When a human tragedy affects one of those individuals, this overrides the impersonal battle: that's what keeps us, and politicians, human.

Saturday, 28 February 2009

Tories and Opinion Polls

Surely even the politically neutral would agree that the country never reached the depths it is now plumbing under John Major. And yet during Major's period in office, Blair swept to commanding opinion poll leads double those that Cameron is achieving. I wonder why this is? Five possibilities occur to me:

1. It may generally be easier for a centre-left opposition party to achieve higher ratings because the promise of the benefits of higher spending is superficially more attractive to voters than the dour fiscal rigour that any centre-right party must offer.

2. It may be that the Conservative brand remains too toxic at least in certain areas of the country. Maybe still more years must elapse before the children of those that opposed Thatcher forgive the party. Perhaps the 'pot' of voters that the Tories are addressing is simply smaller than Labour because of this.

3. It may be that Tory policies are insufficiently clear and well understood. Blair continually reiterated a short clear programme. If people do not understand what the Tories will do, then the Tories will receive core vote plus anti-Labour vote but will only be able to share the non-aligned floating voters with other parties. Blair took the latter category as well.

4. Single issue politics appears to be more prominent: witness the rise of UKIP (Europe), the growth of the BNP (Immigration). Perhaps more people are willing to use their vote to protest using one of these minor parties than before. Again, this takes votes from the traditional parties.

5. Presidential politics are unfortunately here to stay. Blair was an extraordinarily dominant figure for Labour and had an extraordinary ability to communicate across party lines. Cameron is a superb politician and a very good communicator. People like him. But he somehow does not quite have that Blair communication magic. This is not a criticism: of politicians of the last 30 years surely only Mandela and Obama have been alongside Blair in that extraordinary category. That difference between the very good and the extraordinary is surely where a few percentage points goes.

Friday, 27 February 2009

Fred Goodwin, the Post Office and Current Insanity

Fred Goodwin's massive payout is an affront to every taxpayer in the country. It beggars belief that the man who presided over the complete collapse of RBS should receive a penny, let alone a fortune undreamt of by 99.99% of the British population, let alone a fortune paid for by that same 99.99% of the population. Pass a special Act of Parliament, sequester his assets, make being Fred Goodwin a criminal offence...I don't know how to recoup my money; but when I am looking at having to work three, four, five years (who knows?) longer than I otherwise would because of the destruction of the economy in part brought about by this man it makes me sick. Am I ditching my liberal values? No, the harm principle clearly applies in this case: Goodwin is guilty of white-collar crime.

And so to the Royal Mail. Of course I would not have to work three, four, five years (who knows?) longer than I otherwise would if I sat on defined benefits pension that regardless of the state of the economy gets paid to me. If the last taxpayer in England was on his knees grubbing around to survive in caves then this bloody government would still protect the defined benefits pensions of the higher-paid public sector. The combination of my blood boiling from this, and the sickness brought on by Fred Goodwin means I'd better go and have a lie down before I explode.

Monday, 23 February 2009

Binyam Mohamed, Torture and Right and Wrong

Torture is disgusting and no decent country should ever tolerate it. Surely modern man has learnt the lesson from the Spanish Inquisition that inflicting enough pain will force almost anyone to admit to almost anything. If Bonyam Mohamed was tortured then the Labour Government should make any evidence public, even at the expense of our special relationship and intelligence data.

One of the most deeply worrying things to me about the last few years is how Labour have interfered in justice. They stopped the inquiry into British arms industry's bribery of the Saudis, they have prevented the publishing of data about the torture of Bonyam Mohamed. Frankly, I don't care if Mohamed is British, Russian or Ethiopian, torture stoops to the level of our enemies. We are better than that. We must be better than that.

If my loved ones were killed in a terrorist outrage and the Government told me that it was only under torture that they caught the culprits. I hope, I really hope, I would feel the same. Even if I didn't, this is an area where I would want the state to protect me from myself. If we, as a country, tolerate the 'proceeds' of torture at any price - yes at any price - then what have we become?

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Frank Field, An Admirable MP

Reading the Frank Field article in the Daily Mail caused me to wonder whether I admire him because although he's Labour he says nice things about my party. I don't think that's it. I think its that his priorities reflect what every MP's should be: 1) his conscience, 2) his country, 3) his constituency and 4) his party. In that order.

Okay, 3) and 2) may be flipped around - but 4) should never be reprioritised. Trust in politicians has seeped away because party is placed before conscience, country or constituency. It will never be restored until that is changed.

Saturday, 21 February 2009

How bad is the recession?

Just how concerned are people about the recession? Right now the most viewed article on the Telegraph website is "Giant rat caught in China", on the BBC "Police hospitalised over HP sauce", and on the Guardian "Rihanna assault photo leaked online". (Rihanna is an R&B singer, I hadn't heard of her either).

Are we all tabloid readers now? 

PS Check out the giant rat photo, it's great...

Labour Leadership

The Labour leadership speculation is entertaining. Most of it reminds me of the lack of talent on the Labour front benches. But one of the most worrying things about Labour is its lack of commercial experience; I think many of them are unaware that the only way doctors, nurses and policemen get paid for is by private sector workers working for companies seeking profit at the expense of others. It's dog-eat-dog capitalism where I'm trying to make you buy my goods instead of someone else's that pays for the public sector.

One of the conversations that made me most angry in recent years was someone telling me they had left the private sector 'because they could not carry on working for their own profit and wanted to do something for the community.' This is typical Labour-think. Last year my tax bill paid for at least 1 and maybe 2 nurses. Unless I and the millions like me work hard without job security and with lousy pensions to pay taxes, there are no nurses, doctors or policemen (or at least ones with salaries). Our government does not understand this. None of the Labour leadership candidates inspire me to think a change of leadership would make a blind bit of difference.

At our local Tory AGM last night, Jeremy Hunt MP spoke; a future cabinet minister who has created hundreds of jobs from scratch in his business career before parliament. That makes me think he understands about how the economy works, about debt, about living within your means, about competition. Roll on a Tory victory.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

The Bizarre BBC

An Indian colleague at work is over working with us for two years. He came over today to ask about something he'd been told by a TV salesman ' You need a licence.' My friend: 'A licence? For what?'. TV Salesman: ' You need a licence to own a television.' My friend: 'Why?'. TV Salesman: 'To pay for the BBC, otherwise you get fined or locked up.' 

Complete and utter incomprehension on the part of my Indian friend. Quite. You get locked up in this country if you do not pay a tax for a box that can receive audio-visual signals.

When will any politican of any stamp actually address this bizarre hangover of British imperial paternalism? Would I mind if it was actually politically balanced rather than actively left-wing? You know, I rather I think I would. The television tax is one of the most illiberal things in Britain. It irritates me regularly. It's when I have a conversation with a friend from abroad like this that it really, really flummoxes me.

Monday, 16 February 2009

Pensions - is Gordon going to to the right thing?

Could it be true that Gordon Brown is about to do something the Tories should be have been shouting from the rooftops about ages ago and shift MPs to a Defined Contribution Pension Scheme like almost every one of their paymasters?

I have to say that if any party came out and said they would implement a fair pensions policy under which the higher-paid public sector shift to Defined Contribution like the lower-paid private sector that pay for them then they'd probably get my vote. Even though that would mean me resigning as Chairman of my local Conservative group.

This is a topic on which I and I think more and more people are feeling completely passionate to the point of thinking in terms of single issue politics. A FPPP (Fair Pensions Policy Party) to compete with UKIP? Come on David Cameron and the Shadow Cabinet... launch a fair pensions policy now!

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Free Speech and Liberals

I cannot believe that the so-called Liberal party has come out against allowing an elected politician from an EU country into England. It is not for Chris Huhne to sit in judgement on what constitutes incitement to violence, it is for the courts. Since when did the Liberal Party usurp the authority of the courts to make these judgements? Whatever they may be, the Liberal Democrat party are no Liberals. John Stuart Mill would turn in his grave at Chris Huhne's warped interpretation of the 'harm' principle on Today.

Monday, 9 February 2009


Now, I work in financial services and I receive a bonus. But I only do so if my company achieves its financial targets, and if my department achieves its. And that seems fair enough to me. The Tories should lay off any bank (ANY bank) that is operating privately and is accountable to its shareholders who can sack its board.

But RBS, Northern Rock, A N Other Car Company and any company (that's ANY company) that has received a penny of my money to stop it from going insolvent should pay absolutely no bonus to any member of staff from the lowliest worker to the Chairman of the Board. My money was taken from me on pain of imprisonment and spent by the Government: I have first priority to get it back, not ANY member of staff whose job I have saved at the expense of my own financial security.

The should be the Tory line and I'm disappointed that the leadership are only focusing upon big boss bonuses. If I've saved someone's job with my money then they can give me first dibs on getting it back. That is fair. Anything else is unfair. Full stop. End of story.

Sunday, 8 February 2009

Latest ICM Poll

The latest ICM poll with the Lib Dems on 22% might be out of line with most polls but it seems to me it's likely the most accurate. The Lib Dems do get a lot of protest votes across the country and it would be strange if they didn't get 20% or a bit more in the next election. Of course it would be mad to think that all of a sudden there are 4 Lib Dems in the country to every 3 a week ago (which is what this poll would mean if taken at face value) but it's reasonable to assume that come election time 1 voter in 5 will vote for them.

The big question is whether a higher Lib Dem vote will be better for the Tories (by letting Tories slip past Labour into first place in some seats) or worse (by enabling Lib Dems to retain their seats from Tories, or even pinch some close Tory/Lib Dem marginals). That of course we cannot know until the election since even UK Polling Report and Political Betting with their outstanding analysis cannot predict tactical voting in the marginals and the impact of local issues.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Labour's Blatant Electoral Bribery

One of the many things that make my blood boil about Labour is their transfer of funds from Conservative to Labour seats to bribe electors. I'm not talking about redistribution of wealth: the Tories believe in that too. I'm talking about how the amount available to spend on a council house in Surrey is a third that of one in Manchester because Labour steals Surrey's council tax. Why? Are the Surrey houses in less need of funding? No. Are the tenants richer and better able to invest themselves? No. There is no excuse. It is Labour shoring up its core vote.

Now, I realise that the Conservatives can't be too aggressive in this area (cue Labour bleats of attacking the poor), but the Conservative front bench team does need to do more presenting of the facts. The Tories are too timid about the charge of attacking the poor. Put Eric Pickles in charge of a communication programme about how if you don't have a lot of cash, then your only chance under Labour is moving to a Labour constituency. Find case studies of Surrey individuals whose quality of life is being adversely affected by this disgusting policy. This need not be a vote loser for the Tories.

Monday, 2 February 2009

Restoring trust in British politics

Labour financial scandals, Tory sex scandals. To sleaze is human. Restoring trust after decades of sleaze by a minority of venal or over-sexed politicians will be ....er easy actually. David Cameron needs to tell every MP to vote according to 1) their conscience, 2) their country, 3) their constituency and 4) their Conservative party. The four Cs. One exception: they must vote with the manifesto unless they have prior to the election publicised to the electorate their unwillingness to accept specific policies.

Chaos? Rebellions? No. Government defeats? Yes. Because men and women of conscience are voting with their minds. A few months of this and trust will be restored. Of course, this will mean the whips have less to do. Good. Of course, this means defeats in the house. Good. If people know why the defeats are happening then it will not be seen as disloyalty but good governance by the people for the people.

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Ken Clarke - A Good Appointment

I'm as died in the wool Eurosceptic as they come. The EU is corrupt, wasteful, pathetic, interfering and in every way (in its current incarnation) worthy of contempt. I'm a passionate European. I do business in Europe; I love European history; I love visiting Europe; I love the diversity and the rich culture in such a small area. But Tory policy towards the EU is really pretty small fry in the general scheme of Conservative policy - and that's the only area that Ken Clarke disagrees with most Tories about.

Ken Clarke is a heavyweight politician with serious views and the most serious economic credentials of any MP now sitting in the Houses of Parliament. It would be insane not to have him on the front bench and it is absolutely right that he plays a key role going forward.

My non-aligned friends say their one concern about the Tory party is lack of Government experience. Clarke brings that in spades. Forget the irrelevance of the EU idiocy. Clarke will help bring back a Tory government and that is enough.

Saturday, 24 January 2009

Philosophical incoherence of the Lib Dems

Every so often I ponder whay the Lib Dems think they exist. There is a case for a genuinely liberal party in the UK. However, if by that we mean a party espousing social and economic liberalism (and I don't know how else to define it) then Tories are the most liberal. They are as liberal socially as the Lib Dems (near enough) and certainly more liberal economically (no party calling itself centre-left as Ming does the Lib Dems) can claim to be economically liberal.

The Lib Dems seem to be a weird mix of social liberalism and economic interventionism which is simply philosophically incoherent. Either you accept a certain relationship between individual and state or you don't; you can't just pick social issues and say 'laissez faire' but as soon as you reach into the individual's pockets say 'now I know best.'

In the end they just seem a permanent protest party for people who don't like Tories or Labour. Go on Lib Dems: split into (proper) liberals and join the Tories, and social democrats and join Labour.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Why Labour struggles with the Internet

The creation of LabourList has seen much debate over why the Labour party and left wing generally have such a weak presence on the web. It seems to me there are several reasons. 

First, the Labour movement has always been a protest movement ever since Keir Hardie et al. It has never, until Blair, truly been the established party of Government. This means that every Labour activist has 'attack dog' etched on their heart. The only way they have to define themselves is to attack the Conservatives and nobody really wants to read nasty little attacks to the exclusion of positive debate (I call the Labour Home blog as evidence).

Secondly, the Conservatives have always been a broad church but Labour are actually broader. They encompass champagne socialists to eco-warriors to some of the most racist, narrow minded people in the country. Blair overcame this with 'the message'. By forcing activists to work to 'the message' holding out the horror of Conservatism as the penalty for not doing so, Blair created a party that is deeply respectful of its leadership. Most Labour activists simply dare not be anything other than yes men and this makes for an uninteresting read. The level of debate on Labour blogs about Labour direction is far less fruity than on equivalent Tory blogs.

Thirdly, Labour is in power. This makes a big difference because they want to hold onto it. The Tories are engaged in a debate about how to win power and, to an extent, anything goes in that debate. But Labour cannot afford to do that because if Labour MPs start blogging comments like some of the Tory MPs do then they fear what may happen at the next election. This fear is of course compounded by the opinion polls.

So, they're fearful, 'on message' attack dogs who after a decade in power still philosophically act like an opposition attacking the Tories at every turn. It's no wonder nobody wants to read their nastiness.

Saturday, 17 January 2009

Conservatives and Heathrow

I'm just amazed how many Conservatives agree with Labour about a third runway at Heathrow. Presumably they think the greening of the Tories is just so much window-dressing to seem cuddly. You cannot, repeat cannot, think that man-made global warming is any kind of reality and support the expansion of Heathrow. Personally, I think man-made global warming is bollocks but I'm still against the expansion of Heathrow for a reason that it's disappointing more Tories aren't talking about: the right to own your own home. If politicians, by fiat and without even the fig-leaf of a parliamentary vote, are alllowed to knock down your home then freehold and property rights in this country mean absolutely nothing at all. Oh sure, greater good and all that, Conservatives need an infrastructure too. No. Not without parliamentary approval, specifically. The state is greater than no individual. That's why I'm a Conservative. All those Tories supporting Heathrow...what do you believe about the role of the state versus the individual?