Saturday, 10 July 2010

Tories must be champions of the working class

Two years ago almost to the day I wrote;
Labour's destructive welfarism has not only caused a poverty from which our fathers and grandfathers fought to liberate our people, it has robbed them of the drive and hunger for self-improvement, stalled social mobility and locked generations into painful welfare slavery. A curse on Brown and on Labour and all its dullard minions.

Not only in East Glasgow either; in the East End of London where multi-drug resistant TB, bedbugs, outrageous levels of infant mortality and a squalor born of overcrowding and ignorance thrive, our people are also dying early and living lives of desperate hopelessness.

Labour's Chardonnay socialists have not only abandoned the most disadvantaged in the realm, they have used all the mendacities of the State to hide them from shameful view. Whilst Brown stands at the dispatch box and mechanically recites yet another ream of tractor production statistics or launches yet another five year economic plan people are living in squalor and dying in poverty in dark corners.

I have no doubt that if Beveridge rose from his grave today he would dismiss Brown and his Labour fools with scorn and anger. Right now there is only one successor to Beveridge on our political horizon, and it's Iain Duncan Smith.
And I'm glad that not only has IDS survived the intervening two years but now has the portfolio to put his compassion into action. There is an unhelpful tendency, particularly in some sections of the media, to demonise the victims of Labour's Welfarism. Tories would do well to avoid doing so, for it's quite possible that these people are natural Conservatives. You see, a free-market economy is all about people making their own rational economic choices. If you're an untalented, unqualified teenage girl with poor marriage and employment prospects, getting pregnant and everything that follows is actually a rational economic choice. If you're suited only for the insecurity of manual labour, manipulating your way into higher-rate long term benefits is a rational economic choice. Labour's fault was in enabling such choices. They may not like Adam Smith, but they can't ignore the reality that the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer or the baker come a poor second to their 'self-love'.

But we must look further back than even Beveridge to find the roots of the malaise. Ralph Harris and Arthur Seldon of the IEA were convinced that the 1911 National Insurance Act was the start of the rot; that this was the point at which the political class lost faith in the ability of the working class to make rational economic choices and took the matter out of their hands. This was the dawn of Welfarism.

IDS and Frank Field have the toughest job in a century of politics to do - tougher even than re-balancing the economy. To be successful they must restructure Welfare so completely that it ceases to be a rational economic choice, and they must do so at the same time as they champion the ability of the working class to be resilient, self-sufficient enemies of the State and of authority, with a strong cultural and national identity; they must, in short, recreate a cohort antipathetic to the mores of a Conservative middle class.

The smart money says they'll make a cods of it and fail ingloriously, achieving no more than a tweaked model of State Welfarism that keeps the working class down and obedient to the leadership of the educated and salaried.

If I'm still around to write again on this in July 2012 we'll see how they're doing.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Councils get their retaliation in first

As far as local councils are concerned, there is a deeply held belief that a Whitehall charged with realising 25% savings will seek to cut 24.9% directly from council budgets whilst trumpeting the 0.1% cut from its own.

So not content with waiting for the October spending review, the Local Government Association has published its own list of proposed cuts, including;
  • £400m from 'reductions in data burdens'
  • £250m from 'reducing the costs of regulating local government'
  • £1.5bn from reducing departmental costs within the 7 Whitehall departments concerned with councils
  • £1bn saving in Whitehall departmental resource budgets by reducing regulation
  • £50m saving from reduced Whitehall-compliant administration for specific grants
  • £900m savings by giving councils greater spending flexibility
  • £430m from reducing Quango admin costs
  • £860m from reducing Quango budgets by 2%
Um, and the savings to be made by councils themselves are where, exactly?

The Treasury, of course, is laughing up its sleeve; it will take both the Whitehall savings identified by councils, and all the council savings identified by Whitehall.

The tragedy of it all is the sheer waste under Labour - that we've been paying for all this dross for years without either the LGA or Whitehall suggesting a single cent in savings.

Will no one rid us of this vainglorious Squeaker?

Squeaker Bercow would make an excellent primary school teacher; "No running with scissors, now, Quentin; we know the rules on that, don't we?", "Hush please and pay attention to what I'm saying - put that down, George, please", "Can you all make sure you've been to the toilet before we start Prime Minister's Questions?". But a Speaker is not a pedagogue, not master of his pupils but the servant of the House. Bercow seems incapable of grasping this distinction.

His vain, primping, smug posturing as he wriggles with pleasure like a Labrador bitch in a chair four sizes too big for him is too much to be borne. The man is deeply insensitive to the persona he projects, unaware of the noisome bilious rage he raises, unaware of his own sanctimonious and narcissitic mein with a smile you'd like to wipe from his face with a 20lb Cod, completely unaware of the shudders of revulsion at his small podgy fingers prodding the air and blind to the blackboard-shriek effect of his pious whiney estuary voice. Bercow is a horror.

Are we to endure the entire Parliamentary term with this pygmy in the chair?

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Public sector pensions

There are a few inequities within the public sector schemes as well as between the public sector schemes and private sector ones. In order of decreasing generosity, the schemes are roughly as follows;
  • Police (unfunded)
  • Firefighters (unfunded)
  • Armed forces (unfunded)
  • NHS (unfunded)
  • Teachers (unfunded)
  • Civil Service / Agencies (unfunded)
  • Local councils (funded)
The old argument for high police and fire pensions, with early retirement dates, was that these are physically demanding and risky jobs in which there was limited usefulness after 55 or so. Exactly the same can be said of construction workers - indeed, their occupational risk is substantially greater than police and firemen - but it's never been suggested that builders get generous State provision.

And although councils' funded schemes don't pose the future liability that the unfunded schemes do, they still cost a substantial percentage of tax in employer's contributions. But perhaps the greatest inequality within the schemes is that there is almost without exception no cap to the upper limits.

Thus a 'fat cat' on £150k can retire after 10 years service with a pension of £25k, whilst a cleaner on £13k with 30 years service will get only £6.5k a year. This anomaly has I'm quite sure been behind the explosion in top salaries in the public sector - and the only way to restrain 'fat cat' public service pay is to cap pension contributions and benefits at say £80k. The pressure would then be off these massive salaries, and we will see them start to return to normal levels.

Heffer and Jenkins united in opposition to Clegg reforms

It takes some doing to see Simon Jenkins in the Guardian and Simon Heffer in the Telegraph united in opposition to a proposed measure, but Clegg has managed it with his proposed constitutional reforms.

And to be frank, such distinguished opposition is giving me second thoughts about AV, which I don't support but haven't until now opposed hugely. I've always disliked the idea of fixed term Parliaments for much the same reason I dislike fixed term contracts; any businessman wants both the options to terminate early and the right to extend on the same terms, so a nominally three year contract becomes anything from one to five years. I also hugely dislike the idea of a Lords made up of loyal apparatchiks from the dying parties, so eloquently condemned by Jenkins;
As for Clegg's proposal for an elected House of Lords, this is a cloak for a power grab by the Westminster apparat even more blatant than his attempt to engineer running coalitions. Elections would be on the basis of party lists drawn up by leaders and whips from loyalists and Commons trusties. It would extend the corruption of Wilson's "lavender list" and Tony Blair's "luvvies list". It happens across Europe, where position on the election list holds the key to party discipline. Voting might give such patronage the soft dusting of legitimacy, but only in replicating the Commons.A second chamber should be what John Stuart Mill called "a centre of resistance to the predominant power in the constitution" – resistance but not obstruction. It should be a custodian of diversity and pluralism, as in part the Lords is now, not a reward and resting place for party hacks.
So, I'll now oppose AV as well. That just leaves equalising the constituencies amongst Clegg's measures as the sole one I'll support. And if he tries to sneak in party funding measures, well, then it's war.

Will the CIA charge my account?

News to me that details of all transactions on my bank account are now to be passed to the CIA; not just me, you understand, but all of us. The EU has decided on our behalf. Now where on Earth did I get the idea that I had any say in maintaining the privacy of my personal information?

It can't be long before a new charge appears on my monthly statements as the gutterbanks seek to profit from it all; 'Data transfer £3.50' or somesuch.

And I don't suppose the arrangement is reciprocal, that EU security services have access to the bank accounts of US citizens? No, of course not. Silly of me. They wouldn't stand for it, would they?

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

If you don't like the 'Mail' try the Court of Appeal


It may be that you will automatically condemn this story in this morning's Mail as fiction; tales of the Turkish, Somali and Portuguese workless taking their pick of public housing at the British taxpayer's expense.

Well, if you don't like the 'Mail', try the Court of Appeal. Our courts are packed with housing cases when just occasionally immigrants of the type that appear in the 'Mail' story get turned down; then the taxpayer has to shell out for ruinous legal costs as decisions taken by councils and Housing Associations are challenged.

This recent case is just one such - from my own borough, Lewisham. A family of Tamil immigrants in which only the mother seems to be able to speak any English, and with the father and three children all suffering long-term chronic health problems, nevertheless knew enough to get themselves on the Council's priority housing list and were given a three-bed flat. For various reasons they didn't like it, and wanted somewhere different. Lewisham offered them a ground-floor 3 bed flat in Brockley, an expensive area of the borough favoured by young professionals. They turned it down because it meant walking up a hill. The Council said it had discharged its duty by making the offer. The court held differently, and allowed the appeal. Go figure. Sprinkled throughout the case are the usual accusations of 'racism' against neighbours and housing officers without which no housing appeals case seems complete.

'Mail' or not, it really is high time we grasped this nettle.

Time to extend the cuts to the Political Class

There has been one class of public expenditure wholly absent from the Coalition's cuts plans.

Every other area in which our taxes are spent is under scrutiny, with cuts ranging from 10% to 40%, but the politicians have reserved just one type of spending from any cuts - the taxes taken by the political class itself. It's time these were added to the pot; we're all in this together.

Union Modernisation Fund
If this has not been scrapped already, it should be. A list of payments made to date demonstrates this was nothing but a thinly disguised measure to siphon tax money to the unions to do things they would do anyway.

Short Money
When Gordon Brown, as a last act in office, slashed the Prime Minister's salary he forgot to alter the payments made to the Leader of the Opposition. Cameron can correct this little memory lapse, along with savings to the rest of Short Money.

Currently, Labour and the other opposition parties get £14,015 for each Parliamentary seat plus £27.99 for every 200 votes, the Leader of the Opposition's office gets £653,000. Travel allowances and salary enhancements are also paid. A 25% cut would produce an annual saving of around £1,250,000.

Policy development grants
Paid to political parties - but just the big ones, you understand. Currently £1.4m annually. 40% cut.

SpAds
The explosion in the number and remuneration of Special Advisors under Labour risked politicising the civil service beyond the point of no return. Clearly a candidate for a 40% cut to the estimated annual cost of £8m.

Councillors' allowances
We're currently paying a bill of about £218m a year for these, with the bulk being paid not to ordinary councillors but to Labour's 'Executive Members', limited to 10 per council. Some of these are walking away with a wedge of £50k - £60k whilst back-benchers get £4k - £6k. A 40% cut here targeted at the fat cats pays a jackpot.

Widdicombe Money
To pay SpAds in local councils - currently costing about £7m a year. 25% cut.

It's a start.

Monday, 5 July 2010

Clegg sneaks in party funding - wait for the Bill

I've frequently said that our politicians need watching like hawks lest they try to sneak in a measure to support their dying parties from public funds; Cameron is not bothered, but Clegg has made no secret of his ambition to prop up the failing LibDem party, which has just 60,000 members, from our taxes. Make no mistake. Political parties are private clubs, and they must either fund themselves or die. I will not assent to a penny more of my taxes being used to prop up these moribund central Statists.

So no surprise then that would be tax-thief Clegg announced today;
That programme includes introducing a power of recall for MPs guilty of serious wrongdoing, tackling the influence of big money as we look again at party funding, taking forward long overdue reform of the other place, implementing the Wright Committee recommendations, and taking steps to give people more power to shape parliamentary business, speeding up the implementation of individual voter registration, and increasing transparency in lobbying, including through a statutory register.Today I am announcing the details of a number of major elements of the Government’s proposals for political reform....

The truth will be in the detail of the forthcoming Bills, and they need thorough reading as they are published. So I'm holding my fire for the moment.

The really good news in the announcement is the equalising of the Electoral Quotient across the UK, with the implementation of the +/-5% limit long advocated here, with the exception of the Scottish islands.

600 seats gives an EQ of about 75,000, with an envelope of 71,250 to 78,750. Many Scots and Welsh seats will disappear.

Then came the curious statement that;
We have listened, also, to those who have very large constituencies – so the Bill will provide that no constituency will be larger than the size of the largest one now.
Um, the largest constituency now is the Isle of Wight, with around 108,000 voters. What can he mean?

Mrs Dale's diatheses

Well, it's that time of the year again when Iain Dale invites us all to nominate our top 10 political blogs - earning, perhaps, one of those little icon thingies in the RH column. For anyone inclined to include 'Raedwald' in their top 10, many thanks.

It's been an odd year. Archbishop Cramner has been silent since mid-June, leaving the web without the voice of Anglican conscience, and Letters from a Tory signed off for good shortly after the election result. Both are grievously missed. Newmania in Lewes is too wrapped in work and swaddling clothes to blog frequently, Chris Mounsey, aka the Kitchen as was, has adopted a newer, kinder persona and the bike-shed gang of Old Holborn, Obnoxio, Anna Raccoon et al are somehow becoming mainstream and, well, a bit 'establishment'. The experts - Richard North, Tim Worstall, Chris Dillow, the team at Adam Smith, and others - remain as steady pacekeepers.

The lynch-mood on the right of the blogosphere so evident in the run-up to the election has been largely earthed; the hempen ropes (for now) coiled and back in the shed, and as the overall levels of indignation on the webosphere's right drop to 'background' levels there is plenty of room for spicy invective and cutting anger from the left - but somehow it's not yet materialised.

Ah well, still alive, as a chum of mine used to say. Link to Iain's thingy on the clicky below.


Click here to vote in the Total Politics Best Blogs Poll 2010

Time to focus on Eurosleaze

With domestic budget reforms well under way and due to take concrete form in October, and with enough stories of ongoing sleaze and corruption amongst the political class bubbling up in the press to remind them that we haven't forgotten or forgiven them, it's probably now time to shift the national focus to Eurosleaze.

Eclipsed for a while by revelations of the Home Secretary's porn videos and suchlike, the fiscal misbehaviour of MEPs and officials in Brussels has largely escaped under the radar. With an efficiency that would have been admired by Goebbels, the EU propaganda machine effectively buried the 2006 Galvin report into MEPs' theft and corruption, peculation on a truly international scale, evidence of a shameless and blatant criminality amongst these bent Euroscum.

At £76,000 a year, MEPs are on a better basic wedge than their Westminster superiors, but that's not all; your MP pays higher rate tax, but under a special deal your MEP pays only 15% income tax under a special 'Eurotheft' deal. And then there are expenses on a scale that new Westminster MPs can only dream of.

With the most delicious irony, the Green Party's Jean Lambert MEP has recently called upon the EU to help tackle corruption in Nigeria; as ministers' mouths hang open in Abuja in disbelief, you can almost hear the response of "But everything we do we learned from you ..."

So let's keep our eyes and ears open for those tales of Eurocorruption.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Labour's NHS snouts bankrupting Britain

The NOTW has the sleaze story of the day; in 1997, before Labour came to power, just 6 NHS bosses earned more than the Prime Minister. Today, 320 of them earn more than Cameron.

Add to these the sleazy fat cats from the quangos and local government and you get a picture of unalloyed greed and self-interest at the heart of the public sector.

We've all got to feel the pain - so when, Dave, are you going to cull these obscenely paid plutocrats?

ACPO too posh to walk

Whilst Cameron and his cabinet happily trot the 400m between Downing Street and Parliament, whilst Boris is happy to cycle everywhere within ten miles or so and whilst even the sovereign at the age of 84 is happy to walk a street full of well-wishers, it seems the bloated plutocrats at the head of ACPO have forgotten how to use their legs.

These gilded jades, eager to avoid any contamination by contact with the British public, arranged an executive coach and police escort to carry them a few hundred yards from sty to piggery at a recent conference.

A police chief too unfit to walk is clearly not the man to understand the public's concerns about policing. But then we knew that.

AV: The wrong reform at the wrong time

The biggest danger of a successful referendum on AV is that it will give the illusion of political reform without actually having changed very much. I can't summon any great reserve of opposition to AV; it preserves the constituency link, and even allows voters to vote honestly rather than tactically for their first choice knowing that a second choice will ensure their vote isn't wasted. It also allows the gap between winner and runner-up to close-up enough not to allow the winner to be complacent about their majority - never a bad thing.

No. The problem is that it leaves the most damaging and pernicious faults with the electoral system intact. Firstly the deviation from a national electoral quota; we urgently need to recognise that a Scottish or Welsh vote should not be worth inherently more than an English vote. So the same EQ should apply right across the UK. Secondly, the envelope of constituency size around the EQ; like commentators on this blog I would allow only two exceptions, the Isle of Wight and the far highlands and islands. Every other constituency should be in the envelope +5% to -5% of the UK electoral quota.

Secondly, the state of the electoral register. Michael Pinto-Duschinsky has estimated that for 45m voters, the register is 7m voters out; there are 3.5m voters registered who shouldn't be, and 3.5m missing who should be. many of the latter will be natural Labour supporters - so they should support moves to regularise the register. A one-off validation, perhaps coincident with the 2011 census, in which either passport or birth certificate is required, will correct the register.

Finally, we must with reluctance withdraw the right of Commonwealth citizens to register on the electoral register and vote in general elections. This is an anomaly from the days of steam liners and has no place in an age of jet travel when we are host to at least a million Nigerians.

Some action from Cameron on these desperately needed reforms would be welcome indeed.