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Saturday, 28 March 2009

Politics is not a profession - part 7

Regular readers will know the irritation I feel whenever it is suggested that politics should be a career or a profession. Though I wouldn't agree with Carl Mortished's solution to this, he's right to recognise the asinine delusion that politics can be a 'career';
MPs imagine they do a job of work; they see their position in the House of Commons as part of a “career” when it should be a vocation. A “career” in politics is a corruption of the electoral mandate. Careers are about personal advancement when the purpose of an MP is to represent his constituency and the nation at large. An MP is not employed. Therefore he should not have a wage. His expenses are not an issue. The office, the secretary or the PA can be provided by the Civil Service. The question is how, without employment, MPs should live. In an ideal world, they would live frugally, as Plato said the guardians should in his Utopian Republic. In the real world, an MP's temporary mandate might be seen as National Service.

Bank fled from equities in 2006

Peter Oborne has an interesting story in this morning's Mail; the Bank divested itself of all equities in its pension fund in 2006 in favour of worse-performing index-linked gilts. The only justification for doing so is that the Bank foresaw the 50% collapse on equity prices that the financial crisis has brought.

In November of last year on a visit to the LSE, the Queen asked "Why did nobody see this coming?"

The answer, Ma'am, seems to be that the Bank knew it was coming but didn't tell anyone. Perhaps a regular weekly visit to the Palace by the Governor of the Bank is needed. Perhaps the Governor's first visit for 57 years recently is the start of this. And perhaps the Bank could let the rest of us know, too.

Brown is the biggest barrier to national recovery

Next week Gordon Brown will be further humiliated when 'his' G20 summit collapses in a shambles of indecision and pointlessness. His Chancellor and the Bank's governor have effectively declared his policies are wrong. The world's power economies have rejected his advice. He's even been lectured by Chile on his fiscal incompetence. The best he can hope for next week is some luke-warm words in support in international financial regulation.

The black cloud of gloom, failure, desperation and impotence that Gordon trails around with him, whether we like it or not, if affecting the rest of us. There will be no economic recovery in the UK until he is gone and the national mood lightens. Like the spectre at the feast, he makes the food in our mouths lose its taste, the wine its potency and he stifles the laughter in our throats. Gordon is part of the problem; he can never be part of the solution.

If the man had one scruple of honour, decency or selflessness in his bones he would disappear to the library with a revolver and a bottle of Scotch. Like Hatfield Girl and many others, I don't think we can wait until May 2010 to be rid of him; our national interest, our national well-being, and our prospects for the future demand that he goes much sooner.

No, I'm not encouraging a Spencer Perceval solution. But if the spirit of Albion could just wake from slumber long enough to nudge natural events to let us be rid of the man, we might all have half a chance.

Thursday, 26 March 2009

637,625 and rising

That's views of Dan Hannan's viral video on YouTube of course.

If you sup with the devil you need a long spoon

The C of E, as ever, has a problem maintaining its churches. Sorry, 'faith buildings' in the new government parlance. The government reacts by opening the door to the possibility of funding if the C of E makes their 'faith buildings' available for 'community uses' and 'engage effectively in local and regional agendas'.

Piper. Tunes.

This government's use of the 'third sector' as an ancillary arm of the State has been well developed so far in its takeover of fake charities with generous funding, and this opens the way to extend this to churches. Just as long as they 'engage effectively in local and regional agendas'.

Right. So the next South London Home Made Wine and Cider Show will be held in Bermondsey Mosque, then. No? Of course not. It's only Christians that the government expects to bend their faith to accommodate socialist Mammon.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

A busy day in Brown's Britain

The fridge is getting empty so I'll have to make a trip to Tesco later, as the smoke from the day's dying Hindu funeral pyres flutters over the recreation ground. I'll keep a sharp look-out for Jihadist terrorists as I browse the fruit and veg aisles, in line with government guidance, and try to ignore the 10% - 25% increase in imported foodstuffs as a result of Chairman Brown's world-saving fiscal management. I also need to remember to offer both a full-face and profile shot to the CCTV cameras above the Sherry shelf. After I've apologised to the Nigerian checkout girl for not bringing old plastic carriers with me, and therefore being personally responsible for killing a whale somewhere in the world's oceans, I'll have to remember not to leave the bags unattended outside the store; Balkan asylum seekers have been quietly lifting these recently. I'll have to trust my Sri-Lankan minicab driver to take a route avoiding both the police checkpoint and any likely locations for Jihadist roadside bombs, and hope he doesn't examine the cash too closely, as forged notes and coins are increasingly present in our pocket change.

Ah, to be in England now that Spring is here!

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Brown spit-roasted in Europe

H/T Guido for 2 vids that have cheered me up so much that I'm having a bottle of the widow with my steak and kidney pudding this evening. The first is Dan Hannan clinically dissecting the great oaf, the second Nigel Farage's impassioned demolition of the fey feartie. I think it's what first division soccer players term 'spit roasting'.

Where were you in 1979?

Thanks to Iain Dale for highlighting a rerun of the 1979 Commons no confidence debate that led to the fall of Callaghan's government. I remember the debate vividly. I had not long acquired what was then the forefront of technology - a music centre - and listened to it live on Radio 4 in Hi-Fi (sort of) stereo FM. In my small flint-rubble cottage in deepest Suffolk. I think I was decorating at the time. Gosh - was that really thirty years ago?

Nanny's dystopian madness

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency launches a campaign to get beach anglers to wear life jackets with the case studies of the five anglers who drowned last year - none of them on a boat at the time;

January, 2008. Holyhead: A man packed a dinghy full of fishing equipment and pushed it out, walking into the water to follow it and board the vessel, but stopped dead in the water, went under the surface and drowned. The assumption is that he suffered cold water shock and became unconscious - if he was wearing a lifejacket it may have kept him afloat long enough to receive medical attention.

July - Belfast. A man was in the water after cockle picking on Scotchman Rock when his punt broke away. The man tried to recover it and was declared deceased later at hospital. No lifejacket worn.

July - Sound of Islay. A male angler in his 70s was swept off by the current. His waders filled with water and dragged him under. No lifejacket worn.

September - Polzeath. A 32 year old male angler was swept off the rocks into the sea, possibly while trying to recover some fishing gear. No lifejacket evident.

December - Aberdeen. A Polish rock fisherman was swept away by large wave. No lifejacket worn.

Now it may have escaped the notice of the MCA - or perhaps they have not yet extended their watery bureaucratic kingdom so far inland - but every year in the UK around fifteen people drown in swimming pools (RoSPA figures) - three times as many swimmers as anglers. The case studies could read:

January - Doncaster. Boy, 15, tries to 'bomb' his pal in the deep end but hits his head and drowns. Not wearing a life jacket.

March - Ipswich. Girl, 14, pushed in the deep end by a group of other girls. Not noticed by pool guard and drowns. No evidence of a life jacket.

OK, I won't go on. You get the point.

We're a nation of sixty million people. The 2004 Drew Report estimated that 1.1 million were sea anglers. Accidents happen. Five deaths a year in a hobby with over a million participants is peanuts. To make a fetish of safety to this extent is just madness. But you knew that.

Straw opens way to police cover-ups

Straw's margin of 34 votes last night that gave him his much desired secret courts to replace open Coroners' Courts in 'sensitive' cases is so clearly a retrograde step for ordinary citizens that I will not labour the point. But it will be not only cases such as the execution of Jean Charles de Menezes that such courts will hear in secret in future, but ordinary cases of police thuggery and brutality that result in deaths.

There is no piece of legislation that has been introduced for terrorism that has not been misused by the police for purposes far from the mind of Parliament, and this one will be no different.

The Times reports on the case of a Ghanaian man brutally beaten by two off-duty police officers on the tube:
“One of the two men then jumped up and confronted Mr Domfeh in an aggressive manner saying, ‘You what? What did you say?’. Mr Domfeh was punched and the other man joined in. One punch was strong enough to send him staggering back through the open carriage doors and he fell backwards on to the platform, banging his head as he did so,” Mr Durose said.
Mr Domfeh was lucky enough to live through the attack; the blow that felled him on the platform may have caused a broken skull, and death. No doubt in that case the officer could have claimed he didn't mean to kill Mr Domfeh. That he thought Mr Domfeh was reaching for a gun, or the detonator of a body-bomb. A Coroner's jury in an open court could have made up its mind on such submissions. A judge sitting alone in secret could give the policeman's story credence with no check or balance.

A beating in the cells, rough handling in the police van, or an eighteen stone copper kneeling on the chest of a ten stone suspect have all led to the death of prisoners at the hands of the police. And to date, all judicial investigation into such deaths has been open and transparent. It has been so only because there has been no choice, but there will now be huge pressure from the police to class such cases as 'sensitive' and avoid open Coroner's Courts.

An uneccessary and retrograde law.

Monday, 23 March 2009

Lest anyone be tempted to defend McNulty

The political class has come terribly close to justifying McNulty's thieving today. The Magistrate's tones are far more restrained than mine, but his indignation is none the less;
So what am I supposed to feel as I survey the steady stream of pathetic poor that passes before the bench? .............. I dealt with them all according to the law and within the Guidelines, but as I order a £5 per week deduction from benefit or any of the other tools at our disposal, I won't be able to stop myself comparing these offenders with the MPs who stay the right side of the rules that they wrote for themselves but who haven't even got the excuse of poverty for their behaviour.
Read it and realise the depth of public anger at Parliamentary corruption.

"And as far as I'm concerned, that's the end of the matter"

Nigel Griffiths' mea culpa in this morning's Sun brings to mind the art of the political apology as perfected by Sir Norman Fry:

Tom Clougherty on the Adam Smith blog

This post is the blogosphere at its radical best. Tom Clougherty peeks at the shape of a small-State Britain with the government running just core functions and all the rest devolved down to the lowest effective level.

Like Tom, I don't expect to see it in my lifetime, but isn't it about time we adopted an aspirational target as radical as this against which to measure just how far we are from it?

The Leviathan State has the same magic as the Cuckoo, its size being all but unnoticed by the much smaller parents that struggle to feed it. The concept of just how small a State could be should be constantly in our minds, and any State over this size should be by our express consent, and not by default.

There's a useful companion piece on the site HERE.

Time for a Royal Commission on MP's pay and perks

Any review of MPs' pay and expenses by MPs themselves will be a sham. Any review by any body directly accountable to MPs will likewise be a sham. Any review that starts with a presumption of MPs' equivalency to the nations most senior professions rather than the nation's median (i.e. representative) occupations will be a sham.

Only a Royal Commission has any hope of coming up with a balanced and publicly acceptable solution to the stinking cesspit of sleaze and corruption that the Commons has become.

Cameron must reduce public spending to 1997 level

I made it £185bn a year using the Treasury's GDP deflator; Conservativehome made it £219bn a year using some other inflation adjustment. Either way, that's the difference in real terms between the level of public expenditure that Blair inherited in 1997 and the result of eleven years of Brown's incompetence in 2008.

Much of that additional public spending can be cut in the short term. Some of it will take time to work through. And some of it - including debt payments - will take a generation to get out of the system. EU membership alone costs us over £40bn a year. Public spending is not a one-way ratchet with no release.

I've written before on hysteresis and how firms will innovate during a recession so that on the upswing when they return to previous production levels costs including factor costs will have been lowered in real terms. A firm that made 10,000 widgets in 2007 with 30 staff will find ways to make 10,000 widgets in 2011 with 20 staff.

I've also written on how the public sector, padded from the effects of recession, has failed to enjoy the benefits of hysteresis during successive economic cycles, yet there are some easy wins here. Gearing of about 20% in local government finance means that council tax can be halved with only a 10% reduction in spending. A rolling-back of the State that will allow local solutions to be developed specific to their area, a single stroke to cut the Gordian knot of performance indicators and allow councils to decide themselves on recycling targets or street cleaning standards (responsible to local voters) would enable hysteresis at local level.

Cameron is operating to a sub-text that cutting public spending is hard. It isn't. We haven't got a civil service that's fit for purpose in achieving it right now, so what the Tory team should be doing as a matter of urgency is looking at drafting a quick bill to change the employment conditions of the top mandarins - the permanent secretaries and undersecretaries - to allow their rapid removal and replacement by hit-squads shortly after the election. Cameron's first 100 days must be choreographed down to the minute, and his actions must be bold and radical.

If the Conservatives go the polls with a 'Continuity, not Change' message they will fail to effect a wipeout of Labour.

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Brown launches pre-election Fear Campaign

Following my post below on the news that local government has been given a new Duty of Fear in the run up to the election, Brown officially launches his Fear Campaign in the Observer this morning, with Jacqui Smith due to appear later on the Politics Show to support the launch.

Brown writes
As the threats we face are changing rapidly, we can never assume that the established way of doing things will be enough. We will always make the necessary changes, whether through greater investment, changes to our laws or reforms to the way we do things, to ensure that Britain is protected.
Ah yes. This must be the prelude, the softening-up, to his invoking the provisions of the Civil Contingencies Act at the slightest excuse.

Look. I'm prepared for bombs. I'm prepared for massacre by AK47. I'm prepared for clumsy bio attacks. Yes, terrorists can take out a few hundred or even a few thousand of us if they get through. I'm prepared to pay this cost as the price of a free society. What I'm not going to accept is rule by Brown's diktat because his lust for power has distorted his sanity. The real threat is not al Qaeda, but Gordon Brown.

The truth about a new Detention Centre in Calais

Maybe it's the language, or maybe it's the unfamiliarity of both French and English journalists with building costs, but the diplomatic row over whether or not there will be a new detention centre for immigrants in Calais is a damp squib.

The answer is yes. And no. Headlines about a Calais 'Guantanamo' are wholly misleading. French denials that anything at all has been agreed are untrue. The closest to have the truth is the Telegraph.

For those who know Calais port, just on the ship-side corner of the modest terminal building is a little cluster of portakabins that are forever England. Here is where our immigration officers retire for a calming cup of tea, and where the odd illegal migrant they manage to catch is held. It's been agreed to replace this with a small but more substantially constructed block that has proper cells. The cost is £470k. Even with the downturn in the industry, £470k doesn't get you a Guantanamo. With building costs of £3k - £3.5k / m2, you'll get around 150 m2 of building. About the size of a church hall. Or a tea-room and three or four cells with a couple of toilets.

With crass ministerial hyperbole, Phil Woolas trumpeted this as a new 'detention centre' that would deter the thousands of Kurds, Afghanis, Iraqis and Africans trying to jump on lorries. Unsurprisingly his French opposite number Eric Besson said he had no knowledge of it. Which, unless French civil servants keep their ministers apprised of every new British tea-hut and toilet built in France, was undoubtedly true.

More Labour sleaze and nepotism ...

It's Sunday, and the weekly Labour sleaze-serial continues this week with the exposure of minister Tony McNulty for stealing taxes to pay for a house for his parents. He's very sorry and will stop stealing, he says, but hasn't offered to pay anything back.

Whilst McNulty and his bent cronies would clearly be happier being politicians in Nigeria, where they could acquire more and get caught less, I suppose the next best thing if you're a guest at Labour's big inclusive sleaze-fest is to get elected for a Nigerian constituency.

The Honourable Georgia Gould, Lord Gould's daughter, 22, is set to replace John Austin in Labour's safe seat of Erith and Thamesmead at the next election. Thamesmead is known locally as Little Lagos, and together with Plumstead and Abbey Wood is home to some 20,000 Nigerians who have arrived here since 2001. I hope The Hon. Georgia brushes up on some basic Yoruba and acquires a taste for Jolaf Rice if she's to succeed on the stump here, for Nigerians are not natural socialists. They have a strong ethos of acquiring wealth and a natural antipathy to taxes.