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Saturday, 9 October 2010

Underclass overload

Blue Eyes features a clip from a daytime TV show I must confess I've never seen, and for me it's a real eye-opener. I've seen the US version, of course, but never our own. It's a familiar vision of a thuggish, brutish member of the inarticulate underclass going into overload over a perceived slight. The only thing lacking is the almost rhetorical demand "You think you're better than me, don't you?"

Every new day I wake I thank God for it and for the abilities, talents and opportunities that have made my life comfortable and secure, for all the books, the music, the beauty and the environment around that has sprung from man's love of the Light and urge to create, for the strength of shared beliefs and outlooks, for a proud heritage and a bountiful nation. I don't think, I know, that I'm infinitely luckier than BE's young thug - but better?

We're a strange people. We'll take in an abandoned dog from a life of maltreatment and deal with its snapping, its growling, its mistrust and misbehaviour with endless love and firm patience but won't extend this approach to unlikeable young thugs, perhaps because the rewards from a dog are simple and tangible whilst those from men who suffer 'the painful slavery of gratitude' are rather less rewarding.

Still, I can't help but feel what this young man needs is not the prurient regard of the more fortunate but perhaps not better Jeremy Kyle but the firmer attentions of Barbara Woodhouse.

Prudent Local Governance

From time to time I've visited the town of Vail on this blog as an example of a small, self-run municipality of some 5,000 souls, providing its own police force, fire service, libraries, public transport, refuse and waste and other local services from local sales tax. Vail is the antithesis to the national police force for which the sinister ACPO are battling, the central State beloved by Labour, and the arrogance of Whitehall in its denial of local capacity to govern. 

Today I want to mention Vail Bonds. Vail has attracted substantial external investment to develop an area of the town known as Lionshead for new housing. However, investors don't provide the infrastructure or the high-quality public spaces that make such developments complete. For this, Vail has just agreed to issue $12.5m of bonds to finance a transit and welcome centre, improved public library and road and streetscape works including a new car park. Vail runs its own free bus service, popular and widely used, that frees the city centre from congestion and provides clean, safe and frequent services to the outlying residential areas. 

The total interest to be paid by Vail on these bonds averages 4.2%. The town says;
No new taxes will be associated with the TIF bonds. The bonds will be repaid over 20 years by incremental property tax revenues generated within the TIF district.
And there you have it; Lionshead's new residents will pay new property taxes, and over 20 years a part of these will pay for the capital costs of their own public realm. Vail's other residents will not be charged, and indeed may well take good advantage of the tax-exempt benefits of a proportion of the bonds, investing in their own town, believing in their own community. In Dave's words, 'owning it'.  

Being allowed to run the village hall, or even being allowed to set up a private school, isn't Localism. Without true local autonomy, and the real devolution of power given by tax-raising and bond-issuing powers, all the 'Big Society' may achieve is to entrench and support the central State, offering little more than placebos and panaceas and cosmetic change to a nation hungry to be free of Statist shackles.    

Thursday, 7 October 2010

5 bed house - yours for £132,500

Here's a sound five bedroom house, with off-street parking, decent sized gardens for the kids to play in and close to the city centre and hospital - yours for £132,500. There's only one drawback; it's in Middlesbrough.

It's always come as something of a surprise to Labour that Britain's economy is still not homogenous. When they introduced the national minimum wage, they applied the same threshold across the nation. But the distorting effect of intervention at the lower end of the labour market is as nothing to the effect on the public sector.

By imposing national pay scales in the NHS, local authorities and civil service, Labour have inflated the net worth of public sector workers in areas of the country with low land values by tying them to rewards calculated more correctly for those in areas with high land values. London weighting, which I think is about £2k a year, is becoming more irrelevant as living costs in the South East generally remain stubbornly high. 

If you're a nurse, or a teacher, why wouldn't you want to move out of London to Middlesbrough? Apart from losing London weighting, you'll probably move to a higher-paid post anyway, as most people do. No wonder the public sector are the new elite in the NE and NW Labour heartlands, areas that take billions in taxes from London and the South East to support this distorted economy. 

National pay grades and scales must be scrapped if Cameron is to rebalance the economy fairly; as must the national minimum wage. Local Wages Councils can set local minimums county by county if so desired, though perhaps few would be foolish enough to do so. 

London and the South East is overpaying tax; reducing the economic distortions built-in by Labour will ease their burden, allow markets to operate freely and improve national competitiveness. You know it makes sense. 

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

10:10 Splatterspoofs

H/T EUReferendum

As fast as the 10:10 muppets are trying to take down the Muslim splatterspoofs, more are appearing. Excellent!

There are few things that delight me as much as luvvies expending all their creative juices making a beautifully lit, superbly recorded, expertly framed film with huge attention to correct props and costumes, edited with style and precision, with expensive special and post-production effects only to have some chap in Slough crouched over a cheap Apple mac in his underpants subvert every nanosecond and get half a million hits. Excellent!

Into the dustbin with third-rate tax-funded 'art'

In the glory days of the old Colony Room, during the countless hours there in which I was both conscious and coherent, I cannot recall having a single conversation about 'art'. Damien, Tracy Emin, Sarah Lucas, Rachel and all the rest never, in my hearing, mentioned the thing that Francis Bacon referred to dismissively as Fart. Dealers, commission, business, tax and contracts, yes - but 'art', no. 

In fact, if one thing characterises the successful artists I have known, it is a sound head for business, ruthless self-publicity and a self confidence that permits no door in the world to be closed to them. Their tactics for 'breakthrough' are as thorough and ferocious as as Guderian's wielding of a Panzer army. They are, in short, amongst the least needy candidates for tax support that I've ever come across. And they'd run a mile rather than be tainted with anything a bit 'council'. 

Simon Jenkins writes in today's Guardian:
Yesterday in the Guardian the director of the Tate, Nicholas Serota, said the impending cuts to arts subsidies were like Hitler's "ruthless blitzkrieg" that would "threaten the whole ecosystem" of civilisation. Whether a school outreach programme equates to the puncturing of the Maginot Line others can decide, but a "Serota" clearly qualifies as a unit of political pressure.
And here we really must sort the wheat from the chaff. There is a gulf between great international institutions that acquire and exhibit important art works, stage productions of global quality or promote the finest of the nation's cultural and creative sector and throwing tax money at third-rate creatives with little or no endogenous merit or ability who will never rise beyond the village hall or municipal foyer. 

I was once asked to look at a portfolio of pencil drawings by an ex-prisoner; they were trite, unaccomplished, cliched, clumsy and painful to look at. They were without a scintilla of merit. When I said so than man's astonished representative said "But the prison art visitor said he has a rare talent". "What was he in for?" I asked. "GBH". "Well," I suggested, "he would say that, wouldn't he?". 

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

New Public Management hits the rocks in Scotland

New Public Management - the means by which bloated central States hoped to keep control of power whilst cutting costs - is headed for the rocks everywhere from the NHS to local councils, and Scotland has provided the first iceberg. The fantasy that so-called 'Gershon' back-office savings would be substantial enough to maintain Whitehall's grip on governance without a noticeable reduction in the bromide of 'services' is being exposed as risible. 

The Child Benefit cuts proposals are an excellent example; Osborne rejected individual means testing because the administrative costs would have outweighed much of the savings made. Applying complex central rules that micro-manage the terms on which individuals interact with the State costs big bucks. 

And now South Lanarkshire Council is falling apart as councillors have lost all confidence in their fat-cat chief officers; both sides are calling in PWC in a sure sign that the dispute is going nuclear. The reality is that this will be played out in councils across the nation as they try to do the impossible - act both as Whitehall's local agents and slash costs. This is a circle that can't be squared. 

Over Labour's long term of misrule, Whitehall transformed councils into compliant agents of central government, transferring to them more and more functions that otherwise would be discharged through other agencies. Now councils are faced with massive spending cuts with no reduction at all in the range of micro-managed tasks that Whitehall expects them to carry out. It's going to be a car crash. 

Monday, 4 October 2010

Benefits cap is for the long-term

Whilst the national media concentrate their output on the child benefit cuts - there being no shortage of articulate middle class parents willing to provide vox pops for the media channels - the boldness of Osborne's move in capping benefits is almost sneaking under the wire.

The way he's doing it - reducing housing benefits by the amount that total benefits exceed £500 per week - is clever indeed. Families on benefits with large numbers of children, requiring larger homes, will gradually be pushed out of the more expensive to the cheaper areas of the country in which to live; Bangladeshis and Pakistanis, with high unemployment rates and large families, will be disproportionally affected, and those living in London particularly so. And a good thing too. No one is too pious to work, and Asian families are more likely to have both a mother and father who can both work to support their large families. As a result, the ghetto mentality will gradually be lessened, Muslim women will no longer be trapped in the home not speaking English but will be forced to take their place on the factory floor and chat with the other girls. They will start to limit the size of their families. Integration will be accelerated. 

Most importantly of all - and worth the real pain this measure will cause some in the short-term - it will prevent a much more painful welfare slavery in the future. 

However, the stupid, the improvident and silly Island girls who can't keep their legs closed are set to suffer; the example below, a single woman with 13 dependent kids by different fathers, was used by the Standard's 'Dispossessed' campaign. Nothing will persuade some people towards prudence and continence. Our charity must move them to a remote Scots island, preferably one sans men, but with large homes at low rent, I think. 

Germany and France to leave Euro?

Stiglitz points out an alternative to the PIIGs leaving the Euro and allowing their currencies to float; Germany and France leave instead, allowing the Euro to become a sort of low value Southern European peseta, toy money for tourists from the North. The Franc and the Mark would take their proper place again alongside the Pound. 

Ah, if wishes were PIIGs ...

Sunday, 3 October 2010

America! Balham awaits you ...

The State Department has warned American tourists to keep away from crowded tourist honey-pots lest the Jihadists open up with the AK47s and fragmentation grenades they've undoubtedly imported into the UK in significant numbers already. So central London is out. But London's a huge city, with many forgotten villages that have now grown into safe towns free of Jihadists, and Balham is foremost amongst them. 

Balham is a vibrant, multicultural community filled with the kind of fashionable clubs, bars, restaurants, caf├ęs and patisseries that reflect its recent influx of young professionals - and soaring property prices. Beautifully located, Balham is surrounded by some of London's great commons, all within easy reach, namely Wandsworth Common, Clapham Common and Tooting Common. Whether Dogging or Jogging, or just Badger-watching, Balham is the place to be. Balham offers everything from convenience and specialty shopping to a leisure centre providing swimming, squash, aerobics, sauna, steamroom, sunbeds, massage, beauty therapy and a gym, but as befits an area that claims to house the world's longest-running scout group, it also celebrates the past. The London Sewing Machine Museum in Balham High Road is a fascinating attraction, with one of England's biggest private collections, open for viewing on the first Saturday afternoon of every month (no children under 14). And Du Cane Court, one of the biggest private housing developments in Europe, is renowned for its landmark art-deco buildings.

Where to stay
Gateway Hotel, 14 Balham Hill, London, SW12 9EB - Not for nothing is Balham known as England's Gateway to the South, and the privately owned and run Gateway Hotel is set to provide the personal touch. All 20 rooms provide comfortable en-suite facilities, delivering quality and economy without uniformity. Wireless internet access is available in all public areas and rooms. A well equipped meeting room is also available. The hotel is two minutes from Clapham South Tube station with easy access to the city, West End and Wimbledon. It is also situated a stones throw away from Clapham Common with its famous wild Badger population and friendly Rastafarians and within walking distance of many quality restaurants, pubs, clubs and shops.

So to our American readers, don't be strangers!

Master Edward's murky world of privilege

OK, you've never had a proper job in your life, having gone straight from Uni to being a Labour Party 'researcher', a poorly remunerated sinecure akin to that of a film company 'runner', open only to those with additional income from elsewhere to enable them to live in London. 

You get your first proper wage in 2005 when you're elected as an MP on a salary of £60k a year. Immediately you buy a £648,500 flat - over ten times your annual salary. How? Did you borrow the money from Peter Mandelson?

Of course those in the rarefied upper-atmosphere of wealth and privilege, such as Lady Toynbee and the Milibands, would simply not understand why the question is asked. So used are they to money and status, to moving fluently in the upper echelons of the top 1% of wealth holders, that they can't comprehend any alternative. In terms of privileged backgrounds, you can't get a fag paper between Miliband, Clegg and Cameron. Blair at least had the virtue of being a bounder, a counter-jumper, racked with insecurity about money and clever enough to acquire a wife whose qualities include an avariciousness close to obsession. 

Let's be very clear. Miliband is where he is for one reason only - he thirsts for power. He hungers and thirsts for sheer naked unprincipled power. And he will say and do anything to get it. The Milibands' murky world of privilege is laid bare in today's Mail;
Ms Thornton bought a flat in Maida Vale, West London, nine years ago for £356,000, selling it in March 2008 for £630,000, a profit of £274,000. Mr Miliband, 40, bought a flat in Primrose Hill in 2006 for £648,500. He made a profit of £92,000 when he sold it in December 2009, six months after Ms Thornton bought the Dartmouth Park property.
Mr Miliband has also benefited from complex transactions involving his family’s property portfolio.
Until last year, he was a joint owner, with his mother Marion and brother David, of a £1 million property in Primrose Hill, originally his grandmother’s home. After she died in the early Nineties, it was given to the brothers as a base for their political careers. In February 2009, it was transferred into their mother’s name.
Ed Miliband also seems to have received an advance on the inheritance of his childhood home in Primrose Hill. In 1994, shortly after the death of his father Ralph, a ‘deed of variation’ transferred 20 per cent of the house each to Ed and David, with the remaining 60 per cent retained by their mother. Experts claimed this was to reduce death duty.
In 2004, David bought out the rest of his family’s interest in the house for £800,000 and now lives there with his wife Louise and two sons. The move valued Ed’s stake at £160,000 – a sum on which he paid capital gains tax. The property is now worth about £1.5 million.
Marion Miliband also owns a property in Banbury, Oxfordshire, worth an estimated £750,000.
Ed Miliband rents a £150,000 constituency home in Doncaster, for which he pays £6,300 a year on House of Commons expenses.