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Thursday, 24 September 2009

LibDems succeed in remaining bland

In a triumph of political conference organisation, the LibDems have succeeded in not changing the public perception of their party by one iota. The public's view of the party remains vague - a sort of slightly leftish, greenish collection of village-dwelling middle classes and lecturers at former polytechnics, wearers of natural fabrics and clients of the weekly Veg Box companies; a comfortable, inoffensive, sensible, cardigan-wearing sort of party with flat heels. The LibDems allow voters to be involved in politics without being, well, Political.

Yet this something-for-everyone party goes into the election with the very real prospect of being the largest party in opposition, displacing Labour and taking pole position opposite the Treasury benches. It's possible that Clegg will enjoy the grasp of the dispatch box as he quizzes Cameron at PM's questions whilst the next Labour leader struggles to make themselves noticed from a distant seat halfway to the door.

For the next election will throw all the old certainties into the air and no one knows where they will land.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

The economy, not regulation, determines our drinking

I am something of an expert in the regulation of alcohol consumption during the Great War; without false modesty I can think of only two academics whose knowledge I regard as equal to my own. Many hours and days buried in the fonds of the Ministry of Munitions in the PRO at Kew during my masters brought to light some truly original material, much of which still sits in boxes waiting for the day that I have time to register for my doctorate. Anyway, the following is the briefest precis of some pertinent points.

As war production rose so did wages. Skilled men in the factories were 'diluted' with women, whose wages rose from 30/- to around £5 for a 60-hour week. The government feared increased drinking was affecting war production, and under the provisions of the Defence of the Realm Act introduced many measures to control consumption. No nationally effective conditions were imposed, and licensing restrictions were confined to defined areas around munitions plants, with the exception of London, the whole of which was declared a control zone. Pub opening hours were reduced from around 19 1/2 hours a day to 7 or 8. 'Treating' was made illegal, to end the practice of buying rounds. Nationally, the strength of cask beer was reduced to about 3% abv and spirits were reduced from around 50% - 55% abv to their present day strength, the distilleries never having restored previous strength after the war.

And what effect did all this have on alcohol consumption? Practically none. That's not to say there wasn't a fall in consumption during the Great War, for the fall was dramatic, but it was primarily due to 5m men serving in the restricted conditions of the armed forces rather than the DORA legislation. Contemporary accounts prove that pubs and bars were crowded beyond imagination and civilians were drinking like there was no tomorrow - the women as well as the men. As the forces were demobilised, with the restrictions still in place, consumption climbed back to 70% of its 1914 level. That it fell at all from its 1914 level was due primarily to post-war economic conditions; similar significant falls during the great depression from 1929 into the 1930s, and in the austerity years following WWII.

As an aside, Met Police reports of the time reveal that the police were quick to make full use of the new WPCs, another war time innovation; they were sent into pubs undercover as agents provocateur to tempt men into buying them drinks - the 'treating' offence. Either they didn't try very hard, or were insufficiently attractive, for the records show no success in this ploy.

As life expectancy continues to increase, the BMA will find more and more minor factors in our lifestyles that limit our longevity. Alcohol is the latest. In ten years they could find we could all live three months longer if we didn't use sofas, or that a change in toilet seat design could add three weeks to the life of the nation. The factors will become more trivial, and the gains smaller, and no doubt the State will always want to respond with regulatory legislation. And no doubt the reality that external, uncontrollable, factors will have by far the greatest effect on longevity will continue to elude them.

Fake charities cushioned from recession downturn

The Times reports this morning that public donations to charities have fallen by 9% in the past year. Not all 'charities' are affected, though; in a scandalous abuse of public funds, the government channels vast amounts of tax money to a select group of fake charities that parrot the Labour Party line in return whilst pretending to be 'independent' charities. This deception of the public in this con-trick is almost criminal. catalogues those covert government mouthpieces that have already been exposed. Mz Leather, a Labour placeman carefully positioned at the helm of the Charities Commission, will never take action against these fakes - preferring to harass small prep schools and pick on vulnerable young children.

Yet more corruption from this stinking cesspit of an administration.

Until the Charity Commission, under new leadership, cuts out this cancer of fake charities then public confidence in donating will be damaged and real charities will suffer.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

LibDems' own goal on Envy Tax

The LibDems' proposed tax on homes worth over £1m - a base appeal to envy if ever there was one - suffers from all the faults of that party's usual ill-thought puffs. Worth a million when? At the last 1991 valuation? On the 6th of April each year? How is this to be administered? What are the costs of administration, and will they outweigh (as seems likely) the tax-take?

That this is just palpable kakk is further confirmed by a Hampstead voter in a letter to the Indescribably this morning:
So when Mr Clegg talks of Russian oligarchs and Hampstead he should remember that 70 per cent of Richmond houses are worth £1m, and 40 per cent of the owners are retired. We're not MPs on £60,000 plus expenses and won't have generous inflation-linked pensions.
So that's the Hampstead and Richmond LibDem vote gone, then, Vince.

Czechs alone stand between freedom and subjugation

With the polls indicating that the Irish will vote 'yes', all that now stands between us and the subjugation of a suffocating European Uber-State is the Czech Republic's legal challenge to the terms of the Lisbon Constitution Treaty.

If the Czechs can hold the line against determined attacks from the French and the Hun it will still be a damned close-run thing.

The Czechs provided the RAF with four fighter squadrons and a bomber squadron in the last war; the motto of 313 Chechoslovak Fighter Squadron was 'One hawk dispels many crows'. Let's hope the Czech hawk can work its magic again.

We know it, they know it - everyone knows it but Gordon

Muslim economic migrants from Iraq, Somalia and Afghanistan are on the move in Europe. They decline Italy, eschew Tuscany, reject Rome. The pleasures of Autumn in the Auvergne are not for them, and they turn their backs on the Midi, but not for the rich Calva and creme of Normandy cuisine. From a dozen directions they converge on the Cote d'Opal, but not to taste the season's new oysters, scallops fresh from the sea or even a warming steaming dish of Autumn tripes. No, they pass by the greatest that Europe has to offer in food, culture and history to head for Britain.

There's only one reason they come here. It's known in remote Afghan villages where they scratch in the dirt with sticks and share their straw with the goats. It's known in every pub and on every street corner in Britain. Even the French know. It seems the only person in the UK who has no idea why they're all coming is Gordon.

Because if he knew, he would change things, wouldn't he?

Monday, 21 September 2009

Labour's troughing peers a disgrace to the nation

Before 'Baroness' Uddin has even been consigned to Holloway, two more of Labour's troughing peeresses have hit the headlines. Patricia Scotland's political life can now be measured in days, but Delyth Morgan, responsible for the travesty of the PaedoChek laws, is wriggling like a bent little herring to escape justice. And which of Brown's corrupt placewomen will be next to be found?

Out with them all.

Cable's asps in the fruitbowl

The word 'affable' could have been made for Vince Cable; an uncle-ish, decent, bloke who knows what he's talking about on banking, doesn't he? The bloke who called Gordon Brown Mr Bean. But Uncle Vince is, of course, a LibDem - and that means looking for the asps when he hands you the fruit bowl. Take his latest Ten Point Plan that appeared in yesterday's Mail;

1. Reform party funding. It is dangerous and corrupting for parties to depend on large donations from rich donors with a dodgy past, who evade taxes and try to buy influence.

What Vince means is introduce State funding for the three incumbent parties. Over my dead body. We should be radically cutting the £1.75bn over an electoral cycle that the parties get from the taxpayer at present; £500m could go within two years.

2. Cut the cost of politics. Despite the recent scandals, I believe that most MPs do an important job representing their constituents, holding government to account and legislating. But we don’t need 646 MPs and 740 unelected Lords, when the United States, five times bigger, has 535 Congressmen and Senators.

True - but the US has many times more elected local representatives. We have, on average, one council for every 118,400 electors - and we only have 472 of them. The US has one for every 7,000 voters, and has nearly 36,000 of them. It's not the cost of politicians that needs cutting, Vince, but State support for the central parties - including yours - and the costs of the whole central State structure.

3. Make MPs financially responsible. At present, decisions about spending your money are made by Ministers, civil servants and quangos. MPs get involved only later, investigating wasteful spending.

Not the case - Parliament must 'vote' either money or money raising powers to the government, so MPs are already financially responsible. If you mean having a vote on every line of the FCO budget in the Commons, forget it. It would add no value, and encourage the destructive pork-barrel politics so evident in the US Congress.

4. Freedom of speech. Democracy is being stifled, as people are afraid to speak their minds. Peaceful demonstrations are suppressed using the Government’s ‘anti-terrorism’ laws. I attended a recent, small protest over aircraft noise where paper darts were thrown to make a political point. Terror laws were used to clear the street.

Yes, we need to roll back the repressive legislation of the Labour years. Now remind me, how did the LibDems vote on the race and religious hatred legislation that makes it an offence for the Pythons to take the piss out of Jews and Muslims?

5. Clean up MPs’ expenses. The scandal has been aired but remains largely unresolved. I doubt that the public have forgotten. We MPs should accept, in advance, the recommendations of the Kelly review to ensure openness and integrity, without further quibbling and foot-dragging.

And what if the Kelly review goes nowhere near as far as the public now demands? What virtue, then, in accepting a favourable fudge that fails to deliver the reform that we demand? No, we'll buy no LibDem pig in a poke.

6. Restore local pride and decision-making. Local councils have been stripped of most of their functions by central government. Billions are spent on unelected Government quangos second-guessing and overseeing what elected local councils do.

Yes, a massive decentralisation of power is needed - including the powers of local councils to raise taxes and to run many of the things presently micromanaged from Whitehall. But I don't think the LibDems are the party to achieve this; will you support Cameron in this?

7. Involve young people. Large numbers of teenagers, students and young families take little interest in politics. The future of Britain is being decided by older voters, not those who will inherit it. One step should be to extend the vote to 16-year-olds.

If people are old enough to work and pay taxes, get married and die for their country, surely they should be old enough to vote.

Personally I'd reduce the voting age to 17 - along with the drinking age

8. Fixed-term parliaments. A lot of credibility is lost when governments, like Gordon Brown’s, prevaricate over when there should be an Election. Much better to have a four-year fixed term where everyone knows where they stand and can plan ahead.

I'm curiously opposed to this quite strongly, without quite knowing why. But all my instincts tell me it's a bad thing. We need both a strong government and a strong Parliament, and one of the strengths of government is discretion over the length of Parliament, up to five years. I think five years is right as a maximum, but there should be no minimum.

9. Expel the rogues. Politics is badly damaged when people can see that there is one law for those in positions of power and privilege and one for everyone else. When public trust is abused, there must be consequences.

If an MP has been found guilty of abusing parliamentary expenses, constituents should be able to petition for fresh elections.

Oh Vince. Another asp. You mean voters can only get rid of a sitting MP when they have been found guilty of fiddling their expenses? That means never, then. No, voters must have an unfettered power of recall for any reason, so long as a petition reaches a minimum number of local voters to trigger a by-election. That includes kicking out MPs who cross the floor as well as MPs caught badger-watching.

10. Fair votes. Under our present ‘first past the post’ system, most votes have no influence on the outcome. Elections are decided by a few thousand votes in a few dozen constituencies which are ‘marginal’, not by the overall vote count.

Oh no. The arguments against PR are massive - how can you have the local representation that forms the basis of our representative democracy? PR is a self-serving and myopic solution to aid the LibDems, and will do nothing for the people of Britain.

Well, I count six asps in that little basket of fruit. And six more reasons why the LibDems are poision for this country.