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Saturday, 13 December 2008

Labour still nicking all the best ideas

It's actually quite encouraging that Hazel Blears has taken up the concept of Community Settlements floated here; in an interview for the Times she reveals;

Ms Blears believes that cases such as Baby P and Shannon Matthews are rare. But the most dysfunctional families, she says, need round-the-clock support from the State – they should be housed in special centres or given a “muscular social worker” who shadows their every move. “We estimated that each family was costing something like £250,000 a year from public sector interventions that were not changing behaviour. They need a personal worker who helps them to get up in the morning, get breakfast and get the children off to school.”

Teenage mothers, could, she thinks, be housed together in residential units rather than in individual council flats. “If you are a young mum simply left on your own, then it’s hard. Forty years ago we had mother-and-baby homes usually run by nuns . . . now you could do it in a much more modern kind of way.”

You're getting there, Hazel. Yes, wards and dayrooms for single mums and their children, but also wards for unmarried men and unmarried women, and accommodation for married couples. With healthcare, schoolroom and child welfare officers on-site, and daily work either cooking, cleaning, maintaining the settlement, laundry or simple assembly type work for outside firms. The cost would be a fraction of the current costs, and the Settlements, if properly managed, could actually turn a profit from the sale of surplus vegetables, contract work and the like.

Some of you may be surprised that both Hazel Blears and I are advocating what is essentially a modern and humane version of the workhouse - the term has such
negative connotations. But even Labour have done their sums; the increase in bastardy from the late '70s has been exponential. Costs are now unsustainable. Only the most radical ideas such as Community Settlements for the underclass can hope to make any impact.

Friday, 12 December 2008

Crime and Disorder

First the crime - government spin merchants with the connivance of ministers pushed out a spurious claim about a fall in knife crime. They couldn't wait for March or April next year (guess why? See post below) when the true figures will be published. Consequently, many people who naturally distrust any figures from this government will distrust them even more. The thief-taker in this case is the aptly named Sir Michael Scholar, trying well to be a new independent head of a new independent UK Statistics Authority. If this is his first public test, he's passed.

Second the disorder - the sorry mess that is the Metropolitan Police and the verdict of the Menezes Coroner's jury. For what it's worth I reckon the Coroner was right in preventing the jury from returning an unlawful killing verdict. I also think the jury was right for finding, in effect, that Jean Charles was unlawfully killed, but without the option of the officers who pumped the hollowpoint rounds into this innocent young man's head being prosecuted. I don't think they should be.

They're not guilty of murder or of manslaughter but of disorder. They were insufficiently disciplined, inadequately led and poorly prepared. That they did the wrong thing is an institutional failure, not an individual one. And that, essentially, was the view of the ordinary men and women who sat in the Coroner's court for these weeks past and saw evidence of which I and you can only know a tiny part.

The Commissioner can't resign because he's already rightly been sacked for incompetence. His senior team - two of whom reckon they're capable of doing his job - are likewise tainted and should be eased out. Including Cressida Dick. They can doubtless see out their careers in minor provincial forces where they can do little further damage.

The management of the Met is desperately in need of root and branch reform. If Jacqui Smith is incapable of appointing a new Commissioner capable of carrying it out, and with cross-party confidence, her party-friendly nominee will have the shortest of shelf-lives.

The mess of blood, bone and brains so violently spread over those familiar tube seats can be laid at the door of Labour's desire to indoctrinate their social engineering message at the expense of operational management imperatives. The death of Jean Charles is just one more to add to Tony Blair's poisonous legacy.

Has Gordon got the guts to go?

Back on 19th November I posted on signs emerging of a Winter election; I reckoned February as a good prospect. I think the signs are getting even stronger. Jeff Randall in the Telegraph this morning reckons the same thing; he says
Having boasted in the Commons this week, "We not only saved the world..." the Prime Minister's logical next step is to invite the country to demonstrate its gratitude. He needs to look sharp, though, because his miasma of authority is about to be blown away by gales of rising unemployment.
The entire Labour front bench it seems is turning its full attention to the readership of the Mail; first Phil Woolas with a radical shift in immigration policy, then Straw pledging to deport dangerous wogs, now Purnell promising an end to Welfare madness. The only factor lacking is an announcement to end non-contributory public sector final salary pensions.

Gordon needs to be quick, though. The Germans have branded him an economic lunatic, and by early 2009 if the UK gets much worse in comparison with big Europe and the US (as most think it will) his economic credibility will drain away, and Spring will bring out our natural urge for change and renewal, so June is dangerous for him. His mental health is being increasingly seriously questioned and this won't take long to spread to the public perception. As Randall wrote, rising unemployment will skewer him, and once the news bulletins go back to carrying a round up of the day's redundancies, as they did in the past, each day will bleed away 100,000 Labour votes. The polls are now about as favourable as they're going to get. His best chance is January or February on anyone's reckoning.

But will Gordon have the guts to go to the country? Or will he bottle it again?

Thursday, 11 December 2008

'World out of step' claims Brown

Gordon Brown has claimed the rest of the world is out of step with his economic vision after the German Finance Minister Peer Steinbruck described Brown's economic measures as 'barking'.

'Britain is uniquely well placed to make a quick recovery from this minor economic hiccough' said Brown 'and I am using my special talent for economic management to save the world.'

The UK, whose credit rating has slipped below that of McDonalds, was deserted by international investors yesterday as the pound dropped to near-parity with the Euro.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Welfare reform will take two generations

I'll read James Purnell's White Paper on benefit reform carefully before I comment, but any thought that reform will happen rapidly is entirely misplaced.

Just visit Catford during the working week as I did yesterday. Fat young white women with infants in buggies, but inarticulate to the point we used to term 'educationally sub normal', physically uncoordinated, swearing and screeching at their infants. What place in what office could they ever fill? West African village girls likewise all carrying or dragging infants, semi-socialised, shouting Yoruba at eachother on their mobiles. Sulky Afro-Caribbean young men resentful of any authority, alive to any hint of disrespec', forming a barrier of threat and belligerence around themselves. Who would want to employ them? Thin chested men in their thirties looking and smelling dirty, a decade or more on sickness or disability benefits having robbed even the light of aspiration from their eyes and in contrast to Obama's message they just exude 'No, I can't'. Some are the third generation of their dysfunctional families on benefits. They breed, they drink, they fight, they demand of the council and of the State but the one thing they don't do is to work.

After more than a decade of wasted socialist redistributive policy - tax the working classes and throw the money at the feckless and unsocialised - our society has become far worse. Labour's spin suggests that they might finally have realised that welfare causes poverty, but how true a Damascene conversion is this? Sure, it will play well with 'Mail' readers whose sympathies are reserved for the deserving poor, but do they mean it? I'll wait to read what Frank Field thinks, for a start.

One thing's for sure, though. There's no quick fix. It will take two generations to undo this harm.

Monday, 8 December 2008

HM's Loyal Opposition prove more loyal than her government

The complex way in which our parliamentary democracy works depends to a large extent on political actors conforming to certain conventions, amongst which are that on matters of democratic importance members of parliament will put aside party differences and, in the words of Sir Patrick Cormack, put country first. Tom Harris, ex junior minister and blogging MP, once claimed on his blog that he does likewise. I shall be interested to find which lobby Mr Harris went through in this evening's Commons vote.

Harman's perversion of Speaker Martin's mea culpa today was disgraceful. Martin was prepared to submit his actions to the scrutiny of an apolitical committee of the house; Harman, as Leader of the House, was entrusted to deliver that committee. Instead she attempted to foist on MPs a partisan whitewash, a classic Labour stitch-up that is anathema to our democracy and a disgrace to the honorary position she holds.

Ming Campbell gently asked members to think how her predecessors as Leader, John Biffin and Robin Cook, would have acted. I think not only MPs know the answer to that question.

Labour ride roughshod over all the great conventions of parliament; abolish the Lord Chancellor, abolish the Lords, abolish anything that places checks and balances on their outrageous assumption of power at the expense of our democracy. Today they attempted to abolish the authority of the Commons to govern itself; Labour want the State to run our parliament like they want it to run everything else.

The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats were absolutely correct in boycotting this travesty of a commission.

Historians are always asked to identify exactly when the 'first shot was fired' in any epoch-defining conflict. Perhaps future historians will name today as that time.

Not farewell to the Colony Room?

Back in September I wrote 'Farewell to the Colony Room' about the demise of the club. I was pretty well resigned to it. Now, in over a decade of membership I've never seen a committee agenda or statement of accounts; like many I suppose I always thought of it as Michael's club, with the committee and constitution being a sort of legal nicety to satisfy the licensing authorities.

Now some concerned and committed fellow members are determined to take this all seriously in a last ditch effort to save the club; last week they obtained an undertaking in the Chancery Court to allow them to hold a full meeting this Thursday with elections to a new committee and everything. I'll be going, of course. They've got a venue that can hold all 240 of us - unlike the club itself. They've got Boris' support and are in the process of persuading English Heritage to consider spot listing the place.

Watch this space.

I wouldn't trust Jack Straw with my most minor rights

Try to think of the most minor right you enjoy - the right to laugh, perhaps? The right to frown? The right to shave or not? Now think whether it's beyond your powers of imagination for Labour to legislate on it. It's not unimaginable, is it. Wearing a racially insulting beard or hairstyle, frowning in a homophobic manner and laughing in a manner likely to cause religious hatred could all conceivably find themselves buried in the myriad of behavioural regulations and laws so beloved by Labour.

So when Benedict Brogan gives Jack Straw a favourable write-up in this morning's Mail I'm wondering what the price was. Oh sure, Straw says 'let me bring a new Act in and I'll make sure the nasty judges deport the nasty wogs that Mail readers hate so much', but Brogan is more than capable of seeing through that.

Letting Straw draft a Rights and Responsibilities Bill is like asking Roland Freisler to judge a Bagel baking contest. The man's as cunning and amoral as a rat.

You can't legislate for social responsibility any more than you can legislate to demand respect. All you can do is to place onerous legal duties on people. Straw's 'responsibilities' are no more than the legal codification of duties he would have us owe as individuals to the State - a cementing of the direct relationship between the State and the individual that Labour have destroyed our neighbourhoods, communities, local institutions and families to achieve.

Straw seeks to reduce judges to no more than specially qualified civil servants, acting for the government and an integrated part of the State's social control mechanics. Whilst judges rightly cannot challenge Parliament, they can quite rightly challenge the State; part of the great strength of the judiciary is their (declining) independence from ministers and political imperatives. If their judgements sometimes seem perverse, it is because the law they apply is perverse. I'd imagine a relatively minor legislative change is required to allow the courts to deport Abu Qatada, but Straw prefers not to make it - Qatada undeported is one of his best arguments for his new Bill. He waves Qatada around at every opportunity saying 'see what the nasty judges are doing'.

Don't trust Straw with even the most minor of your rights or you'll wake up to find the major ones gone too.

Sunday, 7 December 2008

ASBO cat attacks computer

He may look cute, but he's a 15 week old bundle of destructive energy; mum's taken refuge on a surface he can't reach to get some peace, he completely destroyed my Sunday Times this morning when I was making coffee and he can't bear me using the keyboard without walking over it himself, meaning I'm typing this one handed trying to hold him away from the computer with the other. He's all paws and claws, and if he can't get either his mum or me to play, then reducing a heavy woollen rug to a crumpled play zone is high on his agenda. There's nothing else for it. It's either Ritalin or an ASBO for him.