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Saturday, 11 December 2010

Generation Y

There is nothing particularly novel in the violence shown by the Generation Y protesters (roughly the population cohort aged 10 to 30); even the assault on the robocop-padded plod was far less shocking than the iconic image from the Red Lion Square protest some forty years ago in which a poor plod protected only by a Gabardine tunic and cork helmet had his face kicked whilst pinioned; 

There's another telling photo from that year - the one below. Can you identify them both? Actually, what's lost today is the specs. Back in 1968 there were two types of glasses, National Health and private. The NHS specs were so deliberately ugly and instantly identifiable that only those in desperate need of glasses would wear them - a useful way then of rationing demand. The private specs worn by the two men were at the time were very expensive indeed, and mark them out as privileged scions of the middle class. Later lefties would deliberately acquire NHS specs to show what good Trots they were. And what was it that brought cheap, fashionable specs to the masses? Was it State ownership and control of the Opticians with billions of tax money thrown in, or was it just freeing the market and letting competition bring its benefits? Hmm I wonder. 

Friday, 10 December 2010

Keeping the Hun down

Jeremy Warner makes an interesting suggestion in the Telegraph when he describes the prime purpose of the EU:
It was about how to safeguard a peaceful future for Europe after the catastrophic German expansionism of the previous half-century. Containment through military and economic means had been tried, but it didn't seem to stop the Germans coming back for more. If you couldn't contain Germany, you might at least be able to give it common cause with the rest of Europe by integrating it. For a while, this seemed to work. Europe thrived on the parallel objectives of post-war reconstruction and integration.
Then came the fall of the Berlin Wall and re-unification. Germany was big and powerful again and once more seen – however fancifully for an age where another all-embracing European war is almost unimaginable – as a potential threat to stability and peace. Monetary union was the quid pro quo for allowing a re-united Germany, a way of further binding Germany's national interest into that of the rest of Europe.
And there you have it. The whole point of the EU is to keep the Hun down. I'm not sure this is quite right. Somehow I think Fritz has lost the will to go walkabout in Europe again; the Prussian tradition has been all but destroyed and Saxonian hedonism seems to have triumphed. The war is still too fresh in European minds - in British minds, anyway, to allow for any German military expansionism. No, I think the mood is more 1870 than 1939; for a second phase Zollverein rather than rolling the Panzers. Austria, Denmark, the Netherlands, poor little Belgium, and perhaps Bohemia the Czech Republic could all usefully cluster in a new Euromark zone, in effect a greater German confederation. And it's probably this rather than the prospect of the crunch of jackboots that perspicacious European statesmen and historians fear. 

If I'm even partially right, the counter to a new Gross Deutschland is not the EU but a strong Anglo-French alliance, as it has always been. I know we have a natural aversion to getting into bed with the Kermits, but if there's a diplomat left in the FO worth his salt, our efforts will go into courting our neighbour. It's time for another Entente Cordiale

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Bob Marley isn't my name. I don't even know my name yet.

Marley of course was referring to an as-then unpicked stage name, a stage name that whatever it was never saw the light of day. So Bob he remained. Unlike Sir Reginald Kenneth Dwight, that well-known chanteur and inspiration for soccer terrace chants. 

We are warned that a whole generation of facebook users will compromise their futures by revealing every sordid, embarrassing and discreditable episode in their youthful lives to the indelible memory of cyberspace, episodes that those of my generation consign to blurry memory, and perhaps with a deal of post-hoc Bowdlerisation in the remembering, too. But today every nonentity has delusions of fame; every nobody wants to grab their fifteen minutes, and their facebook pages ape the tabloid rendering of the lives of minor celebrities. Except that the nonentities will still have to secure jobs as shelf-stackers or call centre operators rather than retire on the proceeds of serial ghostwritten apologia

But it seems another trend is emerging; when you've disgraced one name, simply acquire another. The Indie reports that over 90,000 Brits have changed their names by deed poll this year, a record. But here's a word of advice for the would-be Kerry Coles out there. First, change your name to your disgrace-name before you embark on your licentious and wild phase. That way, when you're 30, you can change it back to your birth-name and consign the facebook years to the anonymity of cyber delusion. 

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

London to save £30m by slashing Nanny

There was scant sympathy in readers' comments on the following piece in last night's Standard;
The jobs of hundreds of London health workers who tackle smoking, obesity and excessive drinking could be under threat, it emerged today. Although the Government put public health at the forefront of its agenda in a White Paper last week, with a promise of £4 billion ringfenced funding, the people who deliver those services in the capital could see their posts axed. One said: “We expect letters next week telling us formally that our jobs are under threat.” Up to 600 staff focus on tackling potentially lethal lifestyle issues. Their futures are to be reviewed over the next few months.
Meanwhile Lansley, as urged by this blog, is increasing resources to tackle real public health issues such as TB.

 OK, I'll say it. Well done. 

The ascendancy of the Left

During Labour's final years in office, the political blogosphere was dominated by the righteous anger of the blue. Labour and left-leaning blogs were constantly on the back foot, most not even trying to defend the indefensible against the coruscating reason of the right. Most languished in the lower ranks of those who enumerate these things, and it was a matter as fixed as the stars in the heavens that Guido and Iain would always occupy the nation's top two political blog slots. No longer. 

As this blog has dropped this month from somewhere in the sixties to below the 100 mark in Wikio's rankings, the top ten are also newly dominated by the Left;

1. Liberal Conspiracy
2. Left Foot Forward
3. Guy Fawkes' Blog
4. Iain Dale's Diary
5. Labour List
6. Labour Uncut
7. Liberal Democrat Voice
8 ConservativeHome
9. Heresy Corner
10. Political Scrapbook 

This is I think as it should be. From it may come the desperately needed re-orientation of the left away from Statism and Welfarism irrespective of Miliband and Balls. And I expect to see the trend continue; Iain and Paul are going to have to fight to stay in the top ten.   

Bercow - a bumptious little fool

Bercow's manifold shortcomings - his limited intellect, gross narcissism, inability to maintain appropriate professional relationships, partisanship, an utter lack of dignity, an embarrassment to the great office of democracy - are all well known. His jejune and ill-advised little strop on Monday evening directed at the Tory Chief Whip confirmed that the poison dwarf sees himself not the servant of the House but its master. 

As Quentin Letts comments in the Mail, it's really time that all honourable and responsible members oversaw the retirement on medical grounds of the little fool in favour of the capable Lindsay Hoyle. 

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Graduate Premium

I found myself having to explain this again in the office yesterday. Forgive my crude graph. The relationship was established long ago, when fewer than 10% of 18 year olds went into higher education but astonishingly still prevails - the estimated drop in the premium from much larger numbers emerging with degrees has not (yet) happened. The graph illustrates the typical earnings over a lifetime of a graduate and skilled manual worker. At first the trade enjoys a rapid rise in income in their 20s but somewhere around the age of 30 earnings equalise and continue to diverge from then on. Trade skills and therefore earnings decline as age slows output - a door fitter who could hang eight doors a day at 25 will be lucky if he can hang three a day at 55. 

The Graduate Premium - the area Y less the area X - is the gross excess that a graduate earns over a lifetime. At Net Present Value, it's estimated at somewhere between £400k and £1m. And this is the reason why successive governments all want to make students pay more for their qualifications. They reckon that £40k of debt is a cheap price to pay for £400k of benefits. Prospective students, of course, will not see it that way. 

My question is why the greater supply of graduates in the economy hasn't apparently competed away the scale of the Premium by anything significant - as a recent government survey suggests;

There is, however, evidence that the graduate premium may now be starting to decline. According to the Department for Education and Skills, in 2005 and in England alone, the difference in earnings between graduates and those educated to A-level or equivalent remained high at 45%, but was slightly lower than the position in 2001 when the margin was 51%. The above finding has to be interpreted in a wider context, however. First of all, graduates are continuing to earn substantially more than non-degree holders and they are also less likely to be unemployed. Moreover, research from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has shown that the graduate earnings premium in the UK is high by international standards, and is lower than those in only five other countries: the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Switzerland and the US.
So equitable recovery of tax costs or grossly unfair imposition? You decide.  

Monday, 6 December 2010

Two nations divided ....

Oh dear. Not since the tourist advice that yodelling is encouraged in the whispering gallery of St Paul's can the poor septics have been misinformed as much as by Vanity Fair editor Gradon Carter's January letter. Reporting on the popularity of Downton Abbey, Carter writes;
The series, by the way, is so popular that it has sparked a sudden demand for top hats in London. Marks & Spencer can barely keep them in supply. Fashion columns point out that young men are wearing them with velvet jackets and jeans, a look that—if you’ve been around long enough—has come and gone a number of times over the past few decades. Waistcoats, another throwback to the Edwardian male costume, are also becoming the rage, according to the Financial Times.
So if in the West End in the next week or so you spot a chap in an Eton pop wes'cut, velvet smoking jacket and silk topper with boot-cut Levis, he'll probably be a rather gullible American reader of VF rather than insane. Or British. 

Labour's poll lead

Foot's assumption of the Labour leadership in November 1980 immediately pushed Labour ahead in the opinion polls, and, as the prospect of the extent of the cuts necessary to rebalance the economy became clear, Labours lead went into double figures, giving Foot real hope of an election victory before 1984. 

Of course, 'events' were to intervene.