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Saturday, 13 September 2008

The comrades do so love forms

Labour is the party of form filling. Brown can claim a true success in having introduced tens of thousands of new forms to the nation over the past decade; forms for the police to fill in, forms for doctors to complete in duplicate, forms for teachers to manufacture in scores, and forms that every corner of the public services spend at least half their time sending to each other. The nation is drowning in Labour's forms. Last year I even had to fill in a form to get a form; at my local council's 'service centre' I first had to fill in a form explaining why I was there. 'Skip licence' I wrote. When my turn came to see the clerk in the little booth, I thought that would be it; I had my debit card ready to pay. Oh no. Another form was reverently produced and I had to go away to fill it out. When I reached the head of the queue again and found myself back in the little booth, this time being allowed to pay for my skip licence, I asked jocularly 'do you have a complaint form?' and without batting an eyelash she reached for a massive forms carousel sprouting blank forms of every rainbow hue. 'Only joking .... no, really.'

You see, forms are the tool of the central State. All decisions can be reduced to systems. Central planning and resource allocation needs tractor production statistics in vast amounts. Counting and monitoring are as important as doing. Decision making cannot be devolved; no one has discretion. The form thus acquires a mystical and holy status under Labour; the form has power.

The Evening Standard told us last night what Gordon Brown's main game plan was to avoid a leadership election. You won't be surprised to learn that it's to hide the forms.

Every year before the conference, Labour MPs were sent a conference bundle that included as a matter of course a leadership challenge nomination form. This year the form wasn't included; MPs would have to ask for one personally by writing to the General Secretary. No form, no leadership challenge. You can imagine Brown chuckling maniacally at a stack of hoarded blank forms on his desk; never mind the numbers of opponents in the PLP, he had the forms and without them they were powerless.

Only Labour.

Friday, 12 September 2008

British Telecom are utter shit

I suppose this must be the second most popular blog post heading after 'Britney Spears tits' and the irrationality of my anger at Indian call centres, Sibelius, Grieg and hold music that spools through whole quarters of hours, promises made and not kept, departments that can't talk to eachother, customer services staff that lie to you just to get you off the phone, broken contracts, frustration, stress and general impotence cannot easily be captured in words.

Needless to say the fervent assurances of one of BT's Bombay babus last week that my broadband would be reconnected in five working days has proven to be more ephemeral than angel piss.

Oh well. A hard copy legal letter to their head office for specific performance, and a claim for loss and damage, and a subsequent default summons to the local County Court when they don't act within seven days, seems the way to go now. Has anyone actually sent the bailiffs in to BT before?

Thursday, 11 September 2008

I'd like equality with Frank Lampard, please

Hooray for Harriet! Her speech to the comrades has given me new hope and yes, reader, I may even vote Labour at the next election if Harriet can guarantee to keep her promise. You see, I think it's unutterably unfair that I don't earn the same wage as Frank Lampard. His earnings of £150,000 a week should, by rights, be mine too. Harriet's pledge for Labour to 'close the gap' between the rich and poor, to force financial equality onto the nation, echoes Gordon's coded agenda set out in his foreword to the Cabinet's annual report to the comrades. There can be no doubt that I am 'poor' in comparison with Frank, and as Labour tell us it's relative poverty that counts, not absolute poverty.

Now, there may be some of you right-wing reactionaries who would claim that Frank earns his money on merit; that his skills and ability deserve the enhanced reward he gets. The fact that I'm crap at soccer, smoke on the pitch and keep a bottle of Bordeaux on the sideline really shouldn't make a difference. It's down to his unfair advantage. He was born into a privileged football family; his father used to play for West Ham. If my father had played for West Ham, no doubt I'd enjoy Frank's unfair advantage. He was encouraged to train and hone his skills, spend time practicing, whilst I was let down by a society that forced me to study for exams and degrees instead. A party truly committed to equality would tie his bootlaces together, put us both on the pitch and see who comes out best then.

As Harriet said, Frank's grossly unfair earnings advantage won't help make 'a peaceful society and a strong economy'. Sorry, Frank - it's my socialist right to be given the same wage as you. Pass the champagne, mate.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Lone adults to be banned from Hampstead Heath?

More worrying evidence today that 'child protection' is overtaking 'health and safety' as the excuse of choice for prodnoses and jobsworths. The Mail reports that the Tory council responsible for Telford Town Park in Shropshire has instructed park staff to interrogate any adults without children in the park. The council says 'Our town park staff approach adults that are not associated with any children in the park and request the reason for them being there'.

This park isn't some city-centre hanky with just a children's playground and a couple of benches; it's 420 acres. Hampstead Heath is 790 acres. Now I'm reading between the lines here, but the only reason I can guess at for the council's action is that some adult connections are being made in the park, gay or straight. Instead of some quiet community education work to ensure that children are not exposed to inappropriate behaviour, Telford has chosen to exclude potential participants instead. Also excluding joggers, walkers, photographers, naturalists and the vulnerable and isolated elderly for whom parks provide a cheap and beneficial means to maintain social contact. Many of these users will doubtless be paying the council tax that maintains the park and pays the prodnoses, and who may have a reasonable expectation of being able to use the asset they're paying for.

Just imagine the outcry if the City of London tried to ban lone adults from Hampstead Heath ...

No thanks to a national police force

Andy Hayman may have been an excellent copper for all I know, but like many coppers he fails to understand the true relationship between the police, the State and the people. In the Times today he calls for the creation of a national anti-terrorist force on efficiency grounds. The basis for his complaint seems to be that the excellence of the Met is not matched by all the hicksville forces who are required to co-operate in operations, and that a massively increased budget and operational independence is needed.

If he's proposing something like the FBI, we already have it in MI5. Special branch / anti-terrorist officers are rightly the operational front-end of the security service. What we don't need is a uniformed parallel organisation; MI5 may suffer from all the failures of a large public bureaucracy (though unlike cock-ups and data losses in other departments of state we will never hear about them) but they're not charging around the streets kicking doors down and pointing machine guns at pensioners.

All the evidence we have points to any national anti-terrorist police force rapidly turning into a State para-military police force with national jurisdiction. Whilst a very European concept, this is anathema to our British view of what the police should be - local, accountable, at the service of the community and not the State.

If this makes us all marginally more at risk from jihadists, so be it.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

The Mary Louisa Toynbee Sanctuary for Sick Donkeys

With the arrival of an excellent new blog from the IEA, my thoughts turned back to Ralph Harris and Arthur Seldon, to Hayek and Von Mises and the Austrian school. And it seems people are refreshing their memories on the Austrian Business Cycle Theory. I'll come back to this.

No, what's irritated me once again is Polly Toynbee's shrill whinge in CiF for being castigated for telling the nation what's good for the poor. It's quite wrong, she says, to criticise her on the grounds that she has blue blood in her veins, earns many times the median wage, comes from a privileged elite of British society, has never wanted for anything and has never once experienced the life of those she claims to champion. None of these prevent her from telling the poor what's best for them - redistributive socialism - yet people attack her on these grounds.

Arthur Seldon, who founded the IEA with Ralph Harris, would have found Polly's privileged background remote indeed. He was born Abraham Margolis in the East End of London to Russian-Jewish refugee parents. They both died in the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918. He was adopted by a cobbler, Pinchas Slaberdain, and his wife Eva. He grew up with the great depression in the East End, and knew the harsh reality of poverty at first hand. He recalls when he was nine or ten his foster father died to leave him and his foster mother provided for by an insurance policy. He says he learned that even the poor, if left alone, were doing things for themselves. He said:
I was appalled by the insensitivity of governments to the efforts of the working classes to help themselves - the belief that they could not do all the necessary things. They were most anxious to ensure that they used all the opportunities of insurance to safeguard their families in times of sickness and loss of work. I began to sense a sort of anti-working class sentiment in all political parties. They wanted the State to do these things. They didn't like people to do things for themselves. They thought that ordinary people weren't capable. They forgot all the history of the working classes.
That experience of course will be quite alien to Mary Louisa Toynbee and her kind. The Toynbee women of this world usually manage to find some object on which to focus their care; it's usually donkeys, or stray Greek cats, or orphan swans or suchlike, but Polly has picked the poor for the benefit of her special attention.

Ralph Harris, too, came from a working class background. He recalled when his mother died finding four policies in a shoebox - a funeral benefit policy for each of her children. "The working class feared they wouldn't have the money to bury their dead, so you could take out for a penny or halfpenny a week an insurance policy to pay five pounds; four children, four policies, sixpence a week altogether and five pounds on it." Harris believed in something that would be quite alien to Mary Louisa Toynbee;
Liberty carries with it individual responsibilities. Responsibility for yourself, and hopefully your family and as far as possible your neighbours. But it does throw responsibility onto our own shoulders. Well, that's what living means; it doesn't mean shrugging off responsibility and taking soft options.
Now, when I want to hear what policy will best help the poor, do I listen to Ralph Harris and Arthur Seldon, or to Lady Mary Louisa Toynbee? Tough call.

Anyhow, back to the Austrian Business Cycle Theory. Wiki says in summary:

According to the Austrian business cycle theory, the business cycle unfolds in the following way. Low interest rates tend to stimulate borrowing from the banking system. This expansion of credit causes an expansion of the supply of money, through the money creation process in a fractional reserve banking system. This in turn leads to an unsustainable "monetary boom" during which the "artificially stimulated" borrowing seeks out diminishing investment opportunities. This boom results in widespread malinvestments, causing capital resources to be misallocated into areas which would not attract investment if the money supply remained stable. Austrian economists argue that a correction or "credit crunch" – commonly called a "recession" or "bust" – occurs when credit creation cannot be sustained. They claim that the money supply suddenly and sharply contracts when markets finally "clear", causing resources to be reallocated back towards more efficient uses.
Ah, I can understand why people are coming back to this now.

So this is Labour's idea of 'fairness'

Fairness is not a Labour value - it is a British virtue. Fairness means taking your turn in the queue, it means (to borrow the Australian phrase) a 'fair go' for everyone, with no barriers to any citizen. Fairness is based on common-sense morality; it means not taking advantage by foul means. Fairness in WWII gave every person in Britain, including the King, the same ration card. When there's hard work to do, it's 'fair' that everyone lays their hand to the capstan. 'Fair' means that the same rules, and the same sanctions, apply to all. It means that you don't discriminate on taste grounds. Fair means that merit is rewarded, that skill is recognised and ability is prized. Fair also means that those things that prevent our people, our communities and our nation from reaching their potentials are dealt with. Fair means not allowing individuals to be unfairly disadvantaged. Fair means that socially destructive actions are punished, that collective sanctions are applied against unfairness. Fair means equitable.

We have had a decade of Labour 'fairness' and this is what it's given us:
  • 5m welfare slaves trapped as clients of the Leviathan State as Labour have pulled up the ladder of social mobility
  • 40% of 11 year olds unable to read, write or add-up to the most basic level
  • Britain has dropped from 4th to 11th place in terms of international competitiveness under Labour, blocking investment, growth and prosperity for our people
  • A million children attending failing schools (National Audit Office)
  • Violent crime on our streets that sees another black child in the mortuary each week in London
  • Uncontrolled immigration that has failed to raise per capita GDP by one penny but has placed unsustainable strain on our housing, services and infrastructure
  • £5bn a year taken from the pension savings of the prudent, leaving many unable to pay winter fuel bills
  • The criminalisation of the law-abiding coping classes at the heart of a fair society
  • Stable two-parent families disadvantaged and discouraged by Labour tax and rewards policy
  • A decade of increasing drug-abuse, indebtedness and crime
  • The destruction of available NHS dentistry, leaving 1m citizens without basic dental care
  • The encouragement of a federal Europe that costs the nation £40bn a year in contributions and direct and indirect regulatory costs
  • Institutionalised discrimination in favour of those with less merit, that withholds rewards from the capable, the talented and the skilled and drags down economic efficiency
  • An unsustainable tax burden on wealth creators, individual and corporate, that forces 200,000 citizens abroad each year and causes global firms to locate elsewhere
  • A bloated, unaccountable quasi public sector riddled with inefficiency, corruption and graft
  • A failure to invest in transport infrastructure, increasing travel-time costs, lowering economic efficiency
  • A failure to invest in basic flood and coastal protection, leaving millions at risk of loss
  • Mismanagement of the nation's energy supplies, leaving us vulnerable to Russian oligarchs with little security
  • The gross betrayal of our fighting forces that fails even to ensure our fundamental national security
  • The suffocating pressure of a Socialist Central State that destroys local democracy, innovation, and the franchisement of citizens and which has driven 16m electors from the polls
  • The most illiberal and restrictive measures on individual activities including a smoking ban that is closing five pubs a day across the country, destroying centuries of social capital and disconnecting communities
  • A record of greed, sleaze and corruption within the Labour Party; a culture in which failure, vice, mendacity and incompetence are forgiven and rewarded
This is not a record of 'fairness'. This is a record of unfairness. Every citizen in our nation has been betrayed by this loathsome party; children, the old, the sick, the hard-working, those who want to get on in life and make a better place for their children, the wealth creators, the talented and imaginative, the law-abiding, the self-sufficient, the entrepreneurs and investors, the disabled, the poor, families and every single person who aspires to a better life in a strong and fair nation. Labour has failed more utterly to uphold fairness in our land than even the rule of a foreign totalitarian monster could achieve.

A curse on them. May the word 'fair' burn their mouths like vitriol every time they move their flabby deceiving lips to mouth it. There is nothing as unfair as Labour's Leviathan State.

Yep, that sums it up

Littlejohn is on fine form in the Mail this morning. Seems that everyone agrees on Gordon's latest 'relaunch'.

With his one good eye on events the other side of the Atlantic, Gordon Brown has decided to share his personal 'story' with us.

He has convinced himself that if he reminds us about his rugby injury and his dead daughter, we'll forget about his incompetence, deceit, duplicity, dishonesty, downright lying, bullying, cowardice, volcanic temper tantrums, vanity, sulking, unjustified sense of entitlement, betrayal, bungling and boasting.

We'll be so overcome with emotion, empathy, sympathy and admiration that we will overlook the fact that this is the Man Who Stole Your Old Age, who shamefully sold out our sovereignty to unaccountable foreign politicians and judges, flogged off our gold reserves to the lowest bidder, destroyed the Union and taxed us into penury.
Yep, that sums it up.

Monday, 8 September 2008

Gordon, you don't know the difference between equity and equality

The full test of Brown's appalling foreword is now available HERE. First, you need to sift out all the Onion-esque guff that is almost beyond parody:
Never before have so many changes taken place simultaneously in so many different spheres, so quickly, and with such potentially radical consequences. And new times and new challenges have to summon forth new answers. Our task, as a party, as a government, now is to ensure that our country and all of our people make the most of these opportunities and are protected against the risks that accompany radical change. The changes we are witnessing bring with them new challenges in every aspect of our lives. Meeting this challenge will not be easy and it will not happen overnight. There are no easy or quick answers. It requires leadership, squaring up to hard truths, being open with the British people about the choices we face, and making tough decisions on priorities for public spending. I do not underestimate these challenges but I believe that Britain's future is bright. Now, once more, I am confident that we can come through this difficult economic time and meet these challenges a stronger, more secure, and fairer country than ever before.
Then what you are left with is an old-fashioned encomium to redistributive socialism. Brown uses the word 'fairness' several times, but it's clear he chooses not to understand its meaning. Fairness means equity. Brown actually means equality. If you take these statements and substitute the words he really means for 'fair' and 'fairness', this is what you get:
The quest to ensure that power, wealth, and opportunity are in the hands of the many, not the few, is fundamental to our purpose. The yearning for equality, the unremitting quest for it, and the delivery of it in everything we do, is fundamental to our Party. Our policies today and everything we have done since 1997 are driven by our belief in equality. But there is nothing that is bad about Britain that cannot be overcome by what is good about Britain, as long as we keep faith with our belief in equality. Uniform rules, uniform chances, and a uniform say for everyone: that is the new deal for this new world.
And that's his message to his party in a nutshell. Readers will know the difference between equity, equality and equal opportunity so I won't labour it, but there it is. The comrades will read the message clearly enough.

This sad unlucky fool must go now

Brown is an unlucky bod, there's no doubt about that. I'll bet he's never once drawn the winner in the office Grand National sweepstake. If he bought a car it would be a Friday afternoon job, forever back at the dealer's having a myriad of faults rectified. Even if his mother had incorporated a whole handful of sixpences in the Christmas pudding, Gordon would take a slice that contained not a single one. In place of that ephemeral jet-stream that wafts characters such as Blair effortlessly to power and success, Brown has had to use dogged, ruthless, ceaseless struggle. He has bludgeoned his way to power through the ranks of more able people who in the end just couldn't be bothered to keep blocking him. It is a lesson in the triumph of brutal mediocrity.

Young Gordon must have been a singularly unattractive child. A Sunday paper commentator characterised him as now repeating his youthful petulant whine - "It's my turn and you're all ruining it". Parents of infant school children in Brown's class with an upcoming birthday would confer worriedly in the kitchen "We'll have to invite Gordon Brown to Kirsty's party. Oh Lord, I'm not sure I can handle the tantrums again. We'll have to make sure he gets the best present."

An uninspired player on the rugby field, Gordon would no doubt play his own game and leave his fourteen team mates to play theirs. Any lack of success would be their fault for not recognising his right to captain the team. More talented - and luckier - players would crack the occasional collar bone. Gordon lost an eye.

At university group assignments, everyone dreaded being put in a team with Gordon. He wasn't particularly bright, but always wanted to dominate everything. If you didn't let him, he'd just sulk and chew his nails and remorselessly criticise everyone else. And it always went wrong. Being in Gordon's group meant getting no more than a B- for the task.

People look for luck in a politician. Napoleon would ask about those being proposed for command "Yes, but is he lucky?" Brown would not have gained a Marshal's baton in Napoleon's army. Brown trails bad luck around with him like a widow's train.

The Times reports this morning that Brown has drafted a foreword for the Cabinet's report to the Labour party, in which he waves the shroud of his newborn child and holds his glass eye up to the light. See, he says, I'm an unlucky sod but I'm Prime Minister and they're not. My way works. You'll have to drag me out of Number Ten by my heels if you want me out. It's my turn.

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Will Cameron shy at the sight of flame?

Michael Portillo comments in the Times this morning on the dangers of reforming local taxation; Thatcher's downfall, he reminds us, was down to something that started in Scotland as an experiment to reform local taxation. The 'incendiary potential' of changing local taxes may well be something that Cameron will shy from, particularly if Scotland is to be once again the test-bed of a scheme that could be extended to England. Yet unless Cameron is prepared to tackle this issue, his entire Premiership, the record of his government, risks becoming as vacillating, pointless and ineffective as Brown's has been. Without reform of local taxation, all Cameron's brave words in support of localism, of shrinking the Leviathan state, of empowering the little platoons are no more than specious rhetoric.

Salmond is no localist. He is a ruthless central Statist every bit as addicted to micro-management as Brown. As Simon Jenkins wrote in the Guardian on Friday:

The property tax fixed by individual councils will be abolished and all sub-national accountability with it. Scotland's 32 area authorities will be allotted their total revenue by Edinburgh, a degree of fiscal centralism unknown in any other country in Europe. It is ironic beyond belief that the first part of Great Britain to enjoy serious democratic devolution should use it to kill off democratic devolution within its borders.

Salmond is about to achieve what Nigel Lawson, Kenneth Clarke and Gordon Brown failed to do: kill off a chunk of British local government and render local authorities mere delegates of central power. He wishes to concentrate control in his office and ensure that Scotland's counties, boroughs and communities have no say over their services or spending priorities.
The alternative would be a radical reform of the Scots system with Scots taxes split two ways; a 'national' tax on income and consumption paid to the UK government which would be passed on, less Scotland's share of UK-wide costs such as defence, to the Scottish Parliament, and a local tax with an income as well as property base that would go directly to each of Scotland's 32 local authorities, with greater freedoms and greater responsibilities. This alternative would deliver real power to Scotland's counties, boroughs and communities.

Portillo is also convinced of the need for a local income tax component:
I am convinced that an income tax supplement must be part of any equitable local tax system. I admit that earners would pay more and high earners much more, but greater social justice is not a powerful argument against it.

More importantly, raising the money in that way would enable local government to grow in scope and importance. By comparison with almost every country I know, we suffer from chronically weak local government and from central government that is too powerful. Decisions are made remotely, national policies are imposed although they are inappropriate in most localities and terrible amounts of public money get wasted.

So here then is a clear choice, but not one that could or should be decided by Scots voters alone. And this is Cameron's conundrum. A UK manifesto commitment to reform of local taxation would bring the ghouls and banshees of the Poll Tax howling around his head during an election campaign. A manifesto commitment to implementing it in Scotland only would play into Salmond's hands. Brown, too, has been caught on Salmond's hook, with no room to wriggle. But to let Salmond implement in Scotland something that is the very antithesis of Cameronian aspirations, destructive of the Union, that will leave Scots more alienated and isolated from control over their own lives and communities than ever, slaves to SNP Welfarism and to Salmond's distorted national vision, would be a gross betrayal of our national interest and a gross betrayal of every man, woman and child in Scotland.