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Friday, 26 June 2009

BBC troughers pushed off front pages

Several years ago the lads would meet up for a session every Sunday lunchtime; six or seven of us, for a couple of hours of banter before the girls turned up for a single drink and home. Joining us for these sessions was a bloke who worked for the BBC. He didn't do other stuff - just the Sunday sessions. Every week he'd pull on his cords and knobby green jumper and be part of the group. He was a nice enough bloke, bright and amicable, though sometimes he thought us a bit rough edged. I never did find out what he actually did at the BBC; he had an oddly undescriptive job title, something like Ring Resources Manager. Anyway, it didn't have anything to do with broadcasting or radio or video engineering. He was an Oxford man, with a degree in English or history or something, and had joined the BBC straight from uni. He earned a reasonable enough whack to keep a wife, car and infant in decent luxury in a rather twee enclave of south London.

When the BBC made him redundant, it took a few weeks for him to come out with it. None of us, least of all him, saw it as a problem; Oxford, and a solid job history for a prestigious employer, should see him back in work in short order. But the months dragged on, and the girls were quietly organising old toys and infant clothes for his wife while we pretended nothing had changed. Eventually he admitted he was virtually unemployable; he had no transferable commercial skills whatsoever. Whatever it was he did (and I never did understand it) was peculiar to the BBC. He was going to retrain as a blacksmith, or thatcher, he said. They moved away shortly after, and I've never seen him again.

What struck me as unusual about him was his feeling of entitlement, and I'm sure it was part of the BBC culture. As an educated middle-class liberal, he regarded it as part of the natural order of things that he should be provided with an extremely comfortable lifestyle by our national broadcasting corporation. Entitlement, and a certain resentment perhaps that his equally obscurely employed colleagues remained in jobs whilst some random internal restructuring had cast him out.

Mark Thompson's indignation that the taxpayer should be asking for details of how the BBC spends our money reminded me of our friend. He would have regarded it as woundingly impertinent to have to disclose his expenses. I'm sure the BBC is stuffed with such people, and that the same culture of entitlement prevails. They will be feeling genuinely hurt.

Anyway, Jacko's timing, perfect to the end, has pushed the BBC troughers off the front pages. So another time, then.

Brown on target for IMF intervention

The slow-motion train crash that is Brown's management of the British economy rolls on; in an interview in a national newspaper today (no links to the rag from this blog) he confirms his determination to destroy the last vestiges of enterprise and innovation in the British economy by his suffocating Statism.

Capitalists@work meanwhile catalogue how the IMF has already got its bags packed ready to go the the airport to take over the running of our economy from Brown ...

Never have we had such a disingenuous or misguided Prime Minister.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Brown's pernicious and malign Bill

I am viscerally angry at Brown's tawdry and malignant Bill, published yesterday. Not only because it robs Parliament of authority and hands it to the government. Not only because it treats MPs like sales executives. Not only because it corrodes the authority of Parliament and bolsters the power of unelected civil servants. Not only because it favours the foetid political class of sycophants, jobsworths, placemen and fools over men and women of integrity and experience. Not only because it is a shamelessly partisan and spiteful little measure, and not only because it steals from MPs rights which their predecessors have shed blood for.

No, I am principally angry because it treats us all like fools and is as insulting as a gob of spittle in the face for the voters of Britain. If this nasty little Bill becomes law, as I suspect it will, Cameron will lose my support unless he pledges to dump it at the first opportunity. Brown, in his reptilian cunning, imagines that incorporating provisions on outside earnings - for which MPs will face imprisonment if not fully declared, and which affects Tory MPs to a greater extent than Labour - will make this is a difficult Act for Cameron to dump. Here Brown underestimates the intelligence of voters and, as always, overestimates his own abilities.

Make no mistake. This is an anti-democratic, pernicious and malign little Bill. Consider this provision;
(8) An order under this section may provide .. for specified property, rights and liabilities which subsist wholly or mainly for the purposes of the House of Commons to be transferred to the IPSA by a scheme
You see, Brown's new Quango doesn't merely check MPs' claims - it pays them. Rather than Parliament owning its own pay chest and being its own master, MPs will now be employed by the government. Brown has taken Parliament's resources from them. And who decides just how much of Parliament's property, rights and liabilities are to be transferred to the government? Why, a government minister, of course! With the complicity of Brown's Speaker, Mr Bercow;
(9) A scheme made by virtue of subsection (8) is to be made by a Minister of the Crown with the consent of the person who chairs the House of Commons Commission.
The last thing this nation needs is an Act that would pack the chamber with vile apparatchiks and 'professional' politicians, rob the Commons of its authority, turn our parliament into just a department of government and treat our MPs - returned by us to Parliament to exercise the thunderous powers and sovereignty of that body - as mere hirelings, irrelevant juniors.

Not only Cameron but all decent MPs must find their balls. Don't be afraid to oppose this most malignant of Bills.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Are the British a racial group?

It seems the authorities are finally getting around to examining the BNP's membership ban on non-whites. Or rather, in the party's words, that membership is open only to the 'indiginous British'. The EHRC think that this is racial discrimination, although why anyone with a high concentration of melanin in their outer wrapping would want to join I can't imagine.

Nick Griffin has stated that the party relies on ss. 25 - 26 of the 1976 Race Relations Act for the ban; this states
An association [ ... is exempt ...] if the main object of the association is to enable the benefits of membership (whatever they may be) to be enjoyed by persons of a particular racial group defined otherwise than by reference to colour; and in determining whether that is the main object of an association regard shall be had to the essential character of the association and to all relevant circumstances including, in particular, the extent to which the affairs of the association are so conducted that the persons primarily enjoying the benefits of membership are of the racial group in question.
It seems to me there are two fascinating legal points that will form the crux of any legal challenge. Firstly, whether a political party is an association for the benefits of its members. Secondly, whether the 'indiginous British' are a distinct racial group.

It's the second that will prove most fascinating. The BNP says "We use the term indigenous to describe the people whose ancestors were the earliest settlers here after the last great Ice Age and which have been complemented by the historic migrations from mainland Europe. The migrations of the Celts, Anglo-Saxons, Danes, Norse and closely related kindred peoples have been, over the past few thousands years, instrumental in defining the character of our family of nations."

And here I must re-read Bryan Sykes' excellent 'Blood of the Isles'. From what I recall, the Romans, Angles, Saxons, Jutes, Danes and Normans barely left a genetic footprint in our DNA. We are overwhelmingly Celtic, even in Kent and Surrey. But Celtic-ness is not unique to the inhabitants of these isles - both France and Spain have Celtic populations.

Anyway, I hope it comes to court - I'd love to hear the legal arguments on both sides.


Our Rotten Parliament rejected the opportunity to do something honourable, constructive and healing yesterday and reverted to default mode - venal, self-serving, arrogant and contemptuous of the public mood.

As the Englishman says, "like a recalcitrant hound they need to be taught the lesson again with a louder voice and bigger stick."

And if that doesn't work ....

Monday, 22 June 2009

The Widow of Brid

It was the mention of brigadiers that did it. I've just reminded myself how much I miss Jake Thackray. If you have a few minutes, enjoy.

Last Chance Saloon today for the Commons

The public's patience with Parliament is strained to the point of breaking. Any MP who imagines that popular fury has earthed itself is deluded. Today's Speaker election will be viewed closely across the nation for a sign that MPs are starting to learn what's expected of them.

If reports are true that Gordon Brown, through his enforcer Nick Brown, are trying to whip Labour MPs into a partisan choice that serves the government but not the people of Britain, the entire House needs to beware the backlash.

This is the last chance saloon. Make your choice wisely.

Reminder - last day to respond to fat cat pay regulations

The DCLG consultation on the disclosure of fat cat pay details closes today - so if you haven't, please email a response. Blogged about previously HERE. You may consider the following;

  • Support fully the disclosure of all the reward elements listed at the level of detail proposed
  • Would support extent of reporting at Chief and first-tier officer levels, and would encourage government to widen this to include any permanent or contract staff earning over £100,000 at 2009 / 2010 value (i.e. fully identified and full details given)
  • Support fully anonymous banding of other staff earning over £50k in £5k bands subject to above (i.e. anonymous reporting from £50k to £100k)
  • Would include a full disclosure of expenses in the higher band disclosure
  • Would encourage an extension of the requirement to all quangos and NDPBs.

Senior Salaries Review Body interference in MPs' pay flawed

The Senior Salaries Review Body is a loathsome makeplace quango that attempts to introduce the wage regulation of the free market into areas in which there is no market. It excuses itself by offering judges and senior military officers as examples of salaries about which its advice is essential. This is rubbish. In both of these occupations, the market operates. If the rewards for judges - a package of pay, status and a peerage - are not sufficiently attractive, too few QCs of calibre will apply and the Lord Chancellor will need to tweak the package. Likewise, if too few colonels of required ability want to stay on to take their first star, there's something wrong with the package.

No, the real reason for the SSRB's existance is to find reasons to inflate the pay of those architects of the Leviathan central State - our mandarins. And those mandarins in turn share the rewards with other public sector bosses. And just why should one of these slick jobsworths be worth £180k a year for writing a 40 page code of practice on Wheelie Bins? If I were asked to 'grade' the sort of employee responsible for the pettifogging morass of regulations, inititaives, guidance and codes coming from Whitehall, I'd probably come up with £25k a year and hide them away from anywhere they could do any real damage, probably with the additional task of keeping a detailed account of the number of biscuits consumed during site meetings. They could give me little excel graphs each month.

It is a matter of general public agreement that GPs are now overpaid and that council bosses are grossly over-rewarded. It is utterly fatuous of the oleaginous John Bercow to submit that MPs should be similarly overpaid. But let's look at other senior salaries instead; imagine the benches of the Commons filled with, say, Crown Court judges or Brigadiers.

Nope. Doesn't work for me. A man (or woman) who commands up to 2,000 trained soldiers in battle, tanks, artillery, air support, field hospitals, intelligence, communications, together with their rations, supplies transport and accommodation, who displays standards of organisation and leadership necessary to bring his brigade to war displays in every way a level of ability and worth greater than some troughing apparatchik incapable even of adding up their Council Tax bill, or obsessed with claiming the cost of their crystal grapefruit bowls from the taxpayer. So not 646 brigadiers, then. What about 646 majors? Hmm - more likely. Stalwarts of the golf club, maintainers of the British blazer industry and shoe polish sector, pillars of the community etc. but not perhaps gifted with those special skills that would fit them for higher rank. Yep - majors work for me. I could see 646 majors filling the green benches. Clement Atlee was a major. What do majors get? Currently the pay band is £47k - £56k. MPs on £64k, sitting for just 160 days a year, with perks, and nobody shooting at them or asking them to sleep in a wet ditch and eat cardboard for breakfast, seem to be doing pretty well already.