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Friday, 3 August 2012

Not the way to punish the bankers

France's introduction of a Tobin tax on share dealings is the precursor of a unified Eurozone effort to cripple the City by an EU-wide financial transaction tax. Naively promoted as a way 'to punish the bankers' it is no such thing; it will instead punish the UK economy, and the financial well-being of millions of ordinary folk. With the prospect stronger than ever of the UK becoming a semi-detached nation, the EU fears the strength of the City and the advantages that independence will bring. 

You cannot punish bankers with fines and taxes. They are simply passed on to savers, investors and even the governments that impose them, leaving the bankers themselves not the least inconvenienced. There is only one way to punish errant bankers - jail. When Fred Goodwin and Bob Diamond are both serving 15 to 30 years in adjoining cells like that below, we'll have started to solve the institutional corruption in the banks.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

10 Year bond rates

Just thought you might want to see the natty graphic again ....

EU net cost £8.4bn this year

£19.2bn gross, £8.4bn net after you take off CAP payments, regional development grants etc. Without this cost, we could reduce, for example, all business rates by a third (currently £23.7bn), reduce VAT from 20% to 18% or reduce fuel duty by a third. 

That's all.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Government for the people, not for the banks

Government for the people and by the people, rather than Government for the banks and by the banks, is the theme of Simon Jenkins' piece in the Guardian this morning.
This so-called crisis is being run by and for banks. They were burned by the credit crunch, by their own reckless lending to a housing bubble and to spendthrift governments. Declaring themselves too big to fail, they demanded policies whose sole virtue was to see their loans secured, at whatever cost to the European economy. They do not want a collapse of even a part of the euro, as that would jeopardise their balance sheets.
The banks share with Assad of Syria a determination to hang on at all costs, to maintain power whatever the butcher's bill. Countless millions across Europe are paying the price; like Assad the banks are mired in criminal malfeasance, exploitation, fraud and corruption. We are at an absurd point at which the British taxpayer throws £100m at a bank only to have the bank pay the same £100m to the US authorities as a 'fine' to keep the bank's bosses out of jail. Why not save the £100m and imprison the whole corrupt caboodle ourselves? Well, because the banks and the government are one. Each protects the others' back.

Jenkins writes  'When Nero duly fell from grace and committed suicide, he cried: "What an artist dies in me."'. Well, almost. He only determined to die less painlessly than being beaten to death by the horsemen then approaching his villa, and when the time came he lacked the courage and had to ask Epaphroditos to do the deed. We don't have an Epaphroditos to thrust the blade into the heart of the banks. But if we did, yes, they might say "Qualis con-artifex pereo".

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

UK Party membership hits new low

Well at last they've caught on, and now what I've been repeating on this blog since 2007 is official, namely that the combined memberships of the UK's three main political parties is now fewer than 1% of the UK electorate (that's electorate, not population). A HOC library paper that passed me by in June has the detailed analysis.

They also suggest what I've long pointed out - that the decline isn't due to our general reluctance to pay subscriptions. The National Trust has 3.8m paying members, and even the Women's Institute now has more members than the Conservative Party. 

So with the memberships of the big, central Statist parties in freefall, the public voting with their feet in droves and the people fed up with the lot of them, what do you imagine Christopher Kelly's recent inquiry concluded? Yep, that's right - that we keep the dying parties in their places with a tsunami of our tax cash. It's a bit like nominating the mummified corpse of Lenin as the next Russian president.

Will these idiots not see that the pressures for political reform cannot be wished away, ignored or tackled by theft, fraud and corruption of public funds? No perhaps not. Like cornered rats (and since the last post, apols to rats) they'll go for the throat first. 

NB even the Commons figures are exaggerated; the number of Labour members not more than six months in arrears with their subs is probably 30,000 lower than the quoted figure. 

Harrogate Conference - Legislation

Richard North moves on to the second part of his posts on issues of direct democracy on the EU Referendum blog and examines mechanisms for getting redundant legislation off the statute books, and the status of secondary legislation. For the first, this shouldn't be a significant issue unless the police / CPS are misusing old powers made for different times to persecute folk. Poor old Johnny Gielgud felt shamed to the end of his life for his conviction for what's known as toilet-trading. 

Secondary legislation is a different matter. Statutory Instruments, SIs, enable ministers to make regulations with minimal parliamentary scrutiny; for example, the Olympics Act 2006 contained a clause permitting ministers to make regulations about advertising, branding, protests and the like and ministers subsequently issued highly detailed Olympics Regulations specifying exactly the various offences. SIs are also frequently used to implement EU directives; whenever a new Directive emerges specifying the standard sizes of detergent boxes or whatever, going through the whole process of first, second, third readings, committee stage, Lords etc as for a normal Bill would simply bring parliament to a stop. So the Directives sneak through under the wire by SI. 

Even more pernicious than the over-use of SIs - to which MPs at least have the nominal chance to object, even if they are not debated - is the use of something termed Statutory Guidance. This is detailed and prescriptive instruction penned by Whitehall mandarins and issued to other public bodies; the NHS, armed forces, Councils, Police etc. Typically enabled by a clause in a main Act such as '... and ministers may issue guidance to ensure compliance with this section', SG is subject to no parliamentary scrutiny whatsoever. It has become the mechanism by which Whitehall exerts central control over every other part of 'devolved' government and specifies everything from the number of pieces of litter that may accumulate in a class B residential street to whether the costs of looking after a school's pets in the holidays can be counted in outsourcing decisions. 

In addition to issues around Public Acts, Richard alludes to other legislation, namely Private Acts and Bye Laws. A Private Act for example may enable a dock or harbour board to exercise authority over a stated areas of navigable water, or permit a Railway Company to acquire land by compulsory purchase. We need to be a little wary of Private Acts as these tend to create statutory powers for bodies lacking democratic accountability - imagine the democratic disaster if banks started to sponsor their own Private Acts - but they have a place in assisting the operation of a true free market economy.

The second are Bye Laws, and I'm all in favour of these, rather than Primary parliamentary legislation, governing the implementation and enforcement of local democratic decisions. All offences against Bye Laws are non-indictable, i.e. triable only in a local magistrates's court, with a fine rather than imprisonment as the penalty. Irritated beyond measure by teen kids running un-silenced mini-motos in the street at night? Give community wardens the right to confiscate and destroy them. However, to prevent sharp-elbowed killjoys introducing Bye Laws that impinge on personal liberty the bar to new legislation must be high and safeguards built in. 

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Are VIP liggers avoiding the Zil Lanes?

Yesterday, it seems, the VIP Olympics liggers preferred central London's restaurants and theatres, or maybe Bond Street's elite boutiques, or maybe just their Mayfair hotel suite with a Lithuanian tart, to attending the first day of events. Swathes of empty seats that should have been filled with smug, porky little international freeloaders swigging complimentary were embarrassing by their vacancy. I think they may also be reluctant to use the Zil Lanes; with the fear of scores of enraged Londoners held in traffic jams flinging ordure or worse at their chauffeured beamers. They've apparently been ordered to turn up today, but I bet they'll be reluctant to venture out again tomorrow morning at the start of the working week. 

Incidentally, the 'Zil Lane' tag that's now gone mainstream seems to have started here on the blogosphere when the Olympic Road Network was announced in 2009; the Mayor of London blog used it on 2nd July and it first appeared on Raedwald on 29th July 2010. It's since become so widespread that the BBC feels obliged to publish an explanation on its website ... 

Harrogate Conference - Direct Democracy

The most recent item from Harrogate presented by Richard North is the issue of Direct Democracy, and here I diverge from the recommendations to come out of Harrogate. The matter was comprehensively explored by Helena Kennedy's 'Power' enquiry; there is clear public support for mechanisms such as referenda, citizens' initiative referenda and participatory budgeting, but the findings of the Power panels recognised that elected representatives often had access to expert information, resources, and a broader view - and on all but the biggest issues, the final decision should be left to elected representatives. Frankly, to put every parliamentary Bill up for a popular referendum would both devalue the participatory process and make a nonsense of representative democracy. 

Rather, to have a mechanism such as a million-signature petition that would trigger a referendum on an Act on which the public felt parliament had made the wrong decision would both preserve citizens' sovereignty and empower participatory democracy. 

I think if we achieve a true measure of Localism, leaving parliament with defence, the civil and criminal justice framework, and matters of international treaties and relations - matters that simply cannot be devolved downwards - then the increase in participation in most other matters will come at local level anyway, there being little need to obtain national approval for most measures. 

I think it's important to recognise that MPs are representatives, not delegates; the people can be sovereign through a parliament of independently-minded MPs free of party ties and the Whip and subject to recall.