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 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. 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 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.