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Friday, 5 March 2010

Conservatives losing on own-goals

Their must be a degree of despair at CCHQ when looking in detail at the latest YouGov / C4 poll in the marginals. The election that should have been a gift, should have been a match between a Premier league and a Conference league team, is being lost on own-goals. We're facing the real prospect of five more years of Gordon, five more years of chip-sizing laws, compulsory walking, joy taxes, penury and economic ruination.

Voters don't like Gordon, but they don't like Dave either. They think Gordon's a thug, but that Dave's a snake-oil salesman, 62% agreeing that he's 'lightweight'. 39% say that none of the party leaders makes them feel optimistic. They don't buy Labour's 'fairness' idea, and blame Labour for immigration - the issue, apart from the economy, that they care most about. Europe isn't an issue. If Dave wins, 70% think things will stay the same or get worse. 37% think Dave's too posh to understand what ordinary people want, and 53% think the Tories are just after power for their own sakes, as opposed to 41% who think the same of Labour. Only 15% think George would be a decent Chancellor - but 27% think that Vince would, and 59% think the economy's the most important issue.

Back in 1893 the British fleet, under the command of the stubborn and obdurate Admiral Tryon, was at exercise in the Mediterranean. He ordered a series of manoevers that brought his flagship, HMS Victoria, directly on a collision course with HMS Camperdown. Despite this being obvious to every officer except Tryon, and despite their urging him to alter course and go astern, Tryon ignored it all. The ships collided, and Victoria went to the bottom, taking Tryon with her. To many Conservatives across the nation, it must seem as though they're the unwitting crew on the Victoria, awaiting the inevitable, in the face of CCHQ and a party leadership on the bridge committed to maintaining their present course and speed.

If Dave wants to win this election, here's what I reckon he must do;

1. Get rid of Osborn. The voters neither like or trust him, and the Eton fag thing damages Dave's standing with the voters. Bring in a heavyweight - Ken Clarke would do - as shadow Chancellor.

2. Carefully articulate how the Conservatives will not only limit but reverse immigration. Bring back housing priority for people with local connections and history rather than those with large families. Reverse the African diaspora, the clogging of our health service and local facilities with overstayers and bogus visitors

3. Hide the posh Chadonnay-quaffing Notting Hill totty and downplay the Wimmin's Quota; this pisses voters off, even women. Fill the airwaves with regional accents, make Conservative Values Yorkshire Values - Hovis, strength and goodness

Making Dave more heavyweight and credible is more difficult - a high-profile visit to the Falklands might help, and I haven't seen a picture of him driving a tank yet. An Easter break wrestling crocodiles may sway a few voters.

Will CCHQ do any of the above? Nah.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Why Unity is Wrong about bastards

H/T A Very British Dude for the pointer to a pile of waffle over at Liberal Conspiracy that claims to 'prove' that teenage girls don't have kids for Welfare. Rubbish. The research actually shows that girls bear bastards because (1) they're dumb (low educational attainment) and (2) they're ugly (their marriage chances are so low that having a bastard will enhance their welfare rather than detract from it).

The evidence comes from a research paper prepared for the Institute for Social and Economic Research by Dr John Ermisch of Essex University entitled 'An economic history of bastardy in England and Wales'

I quote:
Those women who expect to obtain a significant increase in welfare when they marry suffer a greater long-term cost by having a child while single than women whose marriage prospects are such that they expect to gain little from marriage. Thus, women with poorer marriage prospects are more likely to have children outside marriage. If marriage market prospects are worse for poorer women (e.g. those with low educational attainments), because they can only marry poorer men, we would expect that poorer women would be more likely to have children before marriage, a prediction which is repeatedly confirmed (e.g. Ermisch 2001; Del Bono 2004).
Read the whole paper. The proportion of bastards in the population can be reduced to just a few elegant econometric algebraic expressions.


Looking at the pictures of the Zulu tribe's leader's visit to the Queen accompanied by his third wife, fat as butter and squeezed into an outfit three sizes too small, I was reminded of the answer given by Noel Coward to a question as to the identity of the small man accompanying the massive Queen of Tonga in an open carriage.

Wilders as Dutch PM?

We're not the only ones to go to the polls in the next few months - the Netherlands are having a general election on 9th June. Astonishingly, Dutch polls are predicting that Geert Wilders' Freedom Party, only formed in 2007, could end up being the largest in Parliament.

This is how the NL Parliament stands at the moment;

Christen Democratisch Appèl (CDA)
Partij van de Arbeid (PvdA)
Socialistische Partij (SP)
Volkspartij voor Vrijheid en Democratie (VVD)
Partij voor de Vrijheid (PVV)
GroenLinks (GL)
ChristenUnie (CU)
Democraten 66 (D66)
Partij voor de Dieren (PvdD)
Staatkundig Gereformeerde Partij (SGP)

The current government is a coalition of the CDA and the PvdA. The de Hond poll is predicting that Wilders' PVV will increase from 9 to 27 seats, and that the Christian Democrats (CDA) will shrink from 41 to 26 seats and Labour (PvdA) from 33 to 24, making the PVV the largest Parliamentary party. Traditionally, the PM is the leader of the party with the largest number of seats - though Wilders will still need a coalition partner to govern.


Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Standard's poverty shame proves Welfarism doesn't work

There is no doubt that extreme poverty exists in parts of London cheek by jowl with extreme wealth, and the Evening Standard this week is doing a fine job of reporting with sympathy and balance a few of the individual stories of the 'dispossessed'. With the exception of the horribly irritating phrase 'she fell pregnant' which the subs should have edited (eleven times in the case of the woman, below, who's had eleven children by five different fathers) and is used with depressing repetition, the articles paint a picture of a class of people whose physical, intellectual, emotional and moral capacities are unequal to taking responsibility for their own lives.

What is clear is that not only does Brown's redistributive economic policy not work, but Labour's culture of Welfarism has actually made the problem worse. What many of the underclass suffer most from is indifference; no one cares what they do to themselves. There are no neighbours or local leaders to chastise them, communicate standards of morality and behaviour and demonstrate the joy of belonging. The very class of people most in need of guidance, support and supervision from civil society, those with the most diminished capacity, are those least likely to get it, and because it's not the State's job to provide these things, no one does. So they farrow like fecund sows, flounder in improvidence, degrade eachother and their pens and live short, unhappy and desperate lives. Simon Jenkins has the kernel of it in his comment to the piece;
In 19th-century London that sort of local welfare came first from parish and corporate charities and then from the early London municipalities. By the end of the Second World War, London's borough and metropolitan health and welfare authorities were the envy of Europe. That is true no more. The freedom to innovate and decide local priorities has, since the Eighties, been removed to central government, where it rests inert to this day.

Excessive state regulation has sapped the philanthropic urge and disempowered communities. Tens of thousands of Londoners are clearly falling through the net. The reason is that Whitehall tries only to meet the target, not the need.

I doubt if the cases described in the Standard this week can ever be cured by central government action, however much money is hurled at surveys, consultants or task forces. Look at the fate of the “homelessness initiative” or countless wars on drugs. Nor is there likely to be new money, as the public sector girds itself for fewer resources and fewer people in years to come.

I would delegate much of London's welfare fiercely down to boroughs and below, to community and neighbourhood councils, letting them levy small local taxes to relieve the acute poverty which they, and probably no one else, see around them.

But another answer lies in an unfashionable quarter, in reverting to the voluntary and charitable sector from which London's welfare state emerged. We thought we could do without soup kitchens, the Salvation Army, church day centres, charity lying-in hospitals, citizens advice and private colleges. Now I am not so sure.

Would the Levellers favour Dave's Conservatives Ltd.?

There was an interesting post on Douglas Carswell's blog that suggested, inter alia, that the Levellers would vote Conservative if they were around today.

Would they?

Douglas is a fine Localist, and with the exception of his foolish support of measures to keep MPs' addresses secret, generally sensible. But he's also a fully paid-up member of the political class, as are the entire Conservative leadership and central party structure. Everything the Levellers did or said was aimed at preventing not only the establishment of a permanent political class, but also the formation of political parties. They would loathe the modern Conservatives as much as they would loathe Labour.

To prevent citizens becoming permanent politicians, the Levellers wanted MPs elected for only a year at a time, with none allowed to stand for two consecutive years, and a ban on political parties ("no Factions made to maintain corrupt Interests"). They were also strongly Localist, giving power to boroughs and counties to balance the power granted to Parliament.

And Dave's Wimmin's Quota would have found little favour with the Levellers either. They wanted to restrict the vote to male householders over 21, provided they were not in receipt of alms. They were also strongly in favour of private property rights, free trade, a flat-rate tax, no imprisonment for civil debt and religious freedom with exemption from Tithes on grounds of conscience.

Lilburn's petition HERE.

That they have much in common with Old Tories I can see, but with Dave's Conservative Party Ltd? Nah.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Caring for your beat coppers

Times have changed since beat coppers could rely on cadging a brew from the cook in the larger houses, shelter from heavy rain in quiet spots out of the sergeant's eye or use a friendly shopkeeper's WC. Now, where they rarely exist, they are bussed out from borough HQ, walk about in hostile territory in pairs for a couple of hours, and are bussed back again.

But if we want to see the return of beat coppers who spend their entire shift in our neighbourhood, we've got to make proper provision for them. A start-of-shift briefing at HQ, the whole shift out on the beat, and back to HQ at the end of shift requires something like the Welfare Units we use in the construction industry for small isolated sites; call it the Plodpod.

These could be permanently sited out in the neighbourhoods, plumbed in for water and waste, with power connected and a land-line connected and facilities for accessing the PNC as well as charging communication devices. A small store could hold barrier tapes and signs / cones for local incidents. Serving a couple of single-officer beats each like the centre of a figure 8 these could form a series of interlinking nodes. And they'd be cheap - a lot less than £20k each in made in volume. Oh, and they're very tough - tough enough for a plod in trouble to lock himself inside until assistance arrived.

I can't imagine why this hasn't been trialled already. Oh yes. The Federation.

Support from an unexpected quarter

What would you imagine the result of a Guardian poll into smoking would be? Yes, me too.

Yet it seems three-quarters of Guardianistas support Barack Obama's right to smoke:

Looking at the comments, it seems the truly demented green-ink anti-smoking ravings come from the medical profession; take this semi-literate rant;

he DEFINITELY should quit. i am a physician. HE is controlling healthcare reform. HE and all the mandators require us in office to discuss smoking, suggest methods to quit, etc, AND if we do NOT do this, the insurance companies DING us in reviews of charts, etc, AND there is potential EVENTUALLY for reimbursement cuts if we DON't do this.

THIS is what has been created in healthcare, and HE should be under the same constraints as EVERY OTHER CITIZEN.


Hmm. Maybe Stalin was right about doctors ...

It's not party funding, but parties, that need reform

In the May local elections voters will elect a whole clutch of councillors standing on platforms that owe nothing to established political parties. Single issue local parties are nothing new in British politics, whether to save a local hospital or leisure centre or in opposition to a planned development. They are generally also fairly short-lived, few surviving for a second term. During their time in office, such councillors do no better and no worse than their fellow back-bench lobby fodder from the main parties, but add an edge to the scrutiny process that can carry more weight than that of ritualised opposition.

In Sweden and Norway, such local 'temporary' parties are by no means unusual for parliamentary seats, and with some success. Whether the UK's electoral quotient is too large, or our constituencies too diverse, to support the flourishing of such parties, or whether a system biased to incumbency and the funding advantages of the established parties mitigates against success, I don't know. I can really only remember Martin Bell winning Tatton from 'bent former MP' Neil Hamilton as being one of the few successes of 'temporary' parties in the UK.

In economic terms, the 'barriers to entry' are high. Barriers are in terms of both existing popular support and financial resources. Now this isn't a wholly bad thing; surely we want some sort of threshold for new parties, or either be swamped with fruitbats and mentalists or oligarchs and foreign millionaires (or governments)?

The issue of State funding for the established big parties hasn't gone away. Right now, none of them dare raise it - but all are keen to get their sticky paws on our taxes. It was disclosed over the weekend that the deal clincher for Ming Campbell was a chauffeur-driven government limo. All are united in the belief that State funding should favour them and them alone, should strengthen incumbency and serve to erect further barriers to any evolution in party politics.

There are ways to make things better, all of which will be opposed by the big three. The truth is that all are more concerned with their own power than with the nation's democratic health.

Monday, 1 March 2010

Give Old Holborn your money

Any smoking readers or sympathisers may like to take a look at this post on Old Holborn. He's set up a Paypal button so it's easy to donate. As I have.

Nick Hogan may be a daft arse but surely the issue is worth a modest donation from us all?

And to play in the background whilst you're donating, here's kd lang with a track from her excellent all-smoking album ...

Squeeze on councils could force change

First, forget the daft figure for job cuts nationally (25,000) projected by the BBC local radio survey. This figure is so conservative it's misleading. There are about 300 councils in the UK. My local council employs around 10,000 staff, but London boroughs are quite big. Second, forget the scare stories; Lewisham must have an annual churn of 10%, through retirements and voluntary leavers, so very large savings can be made by natural wastage. Even if all 300 councils didn't replace 500 staff each, that's a reduction of 150,000 staff nationally.

The catalyst for change is not the overall reduction, but where the reductions will fall. The Children's departments that run schools and child social services will remain fully staffed - that's £67m a year here. If Cameron gets in, and Lewisham retains a Labour majority, have no doubt that Steve Bollock will cut everything valued by ordinary voters; libraries, parks, streets, litter and refuse, street lights and leisure centres. He will want to blame the pain on the Conservatives. A few unburied paupers earns mega column inches in the local papers.

However, there is a growing feeling of a greater right of involvement by local people in such decisions. And there's FOI. And there's the sharp elbows of the articulate, web-savvy middle class. And a browse through the budget book suggests there's still plenty of healthy-walking-advisor fat to be cut.

Sunday, 28 February 2010

MY patriotic duty is to push for a referendum on the EU

There is a time when one's duty to one's nation supersedes loyalty to narrow party interests. Being a Conservative isn't a matter of membership of a closed club, it's a state of mind. If you believe in virtue, honour, the reward of merit, equity and justice and the freedom of the British people to create voluntarily bodies to exercise collective authority, then you're a Conservative. If, like Sir Patrick Cormack, you can say "I've always taken the line it's country-constituency-party, in that order", then you're a Conservative.

Cameron's plea today will be to vote for him to get rid of Labour, and no doubt most of us will agree, perhaps reluctantly, to do so, for Labour is a pernicious evil far worse than anything that the Conservative Party can visit upon us.

But please don't phrase it as a patriotic duty. It isn't. It's a moral duty.

My patriotic duty is to campaign for a referendum amongst the people of Britain to determine the terms on which we should remain in the EU. Or not. And if this means making life for Cameron as uncomfortable as possible, so be it.

Why we mustn't forget the War

The well-reported little spat between Greece and Germany this week demonstrates that we're not the only Europeans for whom the War (and despite a host of other wars since, it remains the War) continues to be a point of reference. Indeed, the Germans themselves are moving from a position of 'can't we all just forget it?' to a critical self-examination as to how a whole generation could have behaved so badly.

And I'm sure I'm not alone in recalling the public humiliations vented on the Jews in Nazi Germany when I saw Rina Castelnuevo's photo of a Jewish illegal settler in Hebron flinging wine over an elderly Palestinian woman in this morning's Times.

When the punters take over a failing brand

The most valuable asset a football club has is not its ground or its players but its supporter base. It's the punters that fork out an Albanian's annual wage for a season ticket, who buy three new designs of team strip each year at a cost of something like two hundred times the manufacturing cost and who fill their homes with themed and licensed club merchandise. So what happens when the punters decide that the guys who've taken over control of the club are failing to deliver?

In the case of Manchester United, they've decided to take over the brand. Whilst the club owners are flogging official red and white themed club scarves, the punters have launched their own green and gold version, expected to be much on view at today's televised match.

So whilst Glazer and his corporatist chums at CCHQ Old Trafford consider their position, the grass roots of the clubs are coagulating into a shadow club, no doubt ready to step in if Glazer trips up.