Wednesday, 24 February 2016

The EU thing

Well, here we are, at long last the referendum is to happen.  

Before the 2010 General Election both parties that formed the 2010-2015 coalition government promised an In-Out referendum.  Of course everything changed when the coalition agreement was forged.  The Conservatives couldn't agree to a referendum because the Liberal Democrats wouldn't agree the terms the Conservatives wanted, and the Liberal Democrats couldn't agree to a referendum because the Conservatives wouldn't agree their preferred terms.  It was all jolly convenient for the career politicians at the head of both parties for whom the European Union was the perfect model for established party elites to be guaranteed not just well-paid jobs for life but also political influence long after they lost electoral support in their own constituencies and countries. 

The repetition of that promise in the 2015 Conservative Party manifesto coupled with that party's win in the election forced the Prime Minister to do something about it.  His chosen course was a renegotiation of the terms on which the UK is a member of the EU and then the presentation of that new deal to the common people of the UK.  

Mr Cameron did not, in truth, have any other option open to him.  Successive manifesto commitments could not be ignored so something had to be done.  His choices were to give us a "take it or leave it" referendum against the existing relationship between the UK and the EU or to try to change that relationship and then offer the vote.  I am happy to accept that he went into the renegotiation on the basis he claimed - namely, with the intention to return certain law-making powers to the UK Parliament.  As it is, he returned with a deal that returns no law-making powers and merely tinkers at the edge of a few minor matters of detail on how existing EU laws will be implemented.  

I must make clear that I am not criticising Mr Cameron's achievements in the negotiation process.  I believe he achieved the absolute most that could be achieved.  He is a clever man, a determined man, a clear communicator and a Prime Minister who wants the best possible deal for the UK.  And therein lies the problem.  Despite his determination to return powers to the UK Parliament and the use of his clever and clear ability to communicate, he achieved nothing of substance.  

He never could achieve anything of substance because of two aspects of the way the EU works.  He was facing not only the self-perpetuating, superannuated bureaucracy in Brussels; he was also facing the honest and understandable national self-interests of the leaders of the other member states of the EU.  The bureaucracy would never allow a return of substantive powers and the other member states would never allow anything to be done to diminish their citizens' access to the benefits of living and working in the UK.  Against this background, to achieve even the tiny change he did is a matter of great credit to Mr Cameron. 

Since the referendum was announced we have been subjected to a bombardment of ludicrous guesswork about how an exit from the EU will affect the UK economy.  The simple fact is that no one knows how it will affect our economy.  Let me give an example of the main arguments I have heard on a central economic issue. 

Those in the "remain" camp assert that we will be excluded from trading with EU countries.  That seems extremely unlikely, although the terms on which we deal with them might well change.  How will they change?  No one knows.  What we do know is that we buy a greater value of goods from the other EU states than we sell to them, so excluding us from trading with them will (in monetary terms) hurt them more than us.  That doesn't mean we will necessarily be allowed to continue to trade without tariffs.  It's something that will have to be negotiated.  Whether - in the short, medium and long term - the UK economy will benefit cannot be predicted.  

Those in the "leave" camp assert, with great confidence, that we will continue to trade as we do now because we buy more from them than they do from us.  That is not necessarily so.  They will be much bigger than us and might use their ability to freeze-out our goods in order to secure a trading agreement which is to our detriment compared to the current position.  

In reality both sides are saying the same thing.  They both say that we will continue trading with the EU but they do not know whether the terms of trading will be the same.  So what?  If we stay in things will change that might or might not benefit the UK.  If we leave things will change that might or might not benefit the UK.  The whole economic argument is a nonsense because no one knows whether the next year of economic activity will be good or bad for the UK, or for France, or for Spain, or for Germany, or for Italy, or for any other country - be it an EU country or one of the 168 countries not currently in the EU.  

For me the most important issue in this referendum is not economic, it is political.  

I believe that the most powerful force in maintaining stability in any country is the general populace having the power to remove its current government and replacing it with another.  Everyone knows that elections every four or five years do not allow Mr & Mrs Ordinary direct power over everything.  They do, however, allow millions of Mr & Mrs Ordinarys to make their decisions and, if, collectively, they are so minded, to remove one government and replace it with another.  

There was, I believe, something very significant in the result of last year's general election.  Despite being bombarded by the BBC and every entertainer and "celebrity" who was given airtime that the Conservative Party promotes the interests of the rich and seeks to oppress the poor, that party was returned with a Parliamentary majority.  It was returned through the votes of people of all ages, races and levels of wealth.  A secret ballot allowing the quiet people to take a decision in private can overturn the consensus view of any self-appointed elite.  

For me the most important issue in the referendum, indeed the only issue of any importance, is the need for the people of the UK to be able to have as much control as possible over those who govern them.  That control occurs not just through the ballot box but also through the ability to influence politicians in numerous other ways.  Some of those ways are affected only very indirectly by the ordinary people, for example they have little direct influence over what the newspapers say and how television and radio stations report issues.  But opinions polls, phone-in programmes and petitions are legion.  In addition MPs attend their constituency surgeries and numerous public events at which views are expressed.  No doubt a huge number of people take no part in any of these means of communicating their views to their governors, nonetheless they are direct means of not only influencing politicians' opinions but also of holding them to account for their previously-expressed opinions.  

If you think our politicians are idiots you might or might not be right.  But they are our idiots and we can, in so many ways, hold them to account.  In my lifetime there have been so many that held high office but were rejected by the little people once they were accountable to Mr & Mrs Ordinary making a choice with a stubby pencil in a voting booth.  They had no right to political power unless it was given to them at an election because government exists for the people and not for the politicians. 

We have absolutely no control over the unaccountable powers of the EU.  We have MEPs but they have virtually no power - they cannot even introduce proposals for new legislation. 

I am a great believer in self-determination.  I believe in it for individuals and I believe in it for countries.  The more the little people have the ability to influence politicians, the more likely it is that those politicians will have to think carefully about every decision they make and the more likely it is that the parish, district, county, constituency and country will be stable.  Influence is not enough, the power to say yea or nae to a particular politician continuing to have the possibility of power is fundamental.  The two most high-profile recent examples are Michael Portillo and Ed Balls - politicians of the highest profile ejected from any political power by the greater power of the stubby pencil in the voting booth.  Long may it continue.  

Whether we stay in the EU or leave, the power to influence our own politicians will remain unless the EU passes laws to the contrary.  I don't expect it to, but it has the power to do so and there will be nothing we can do about it.  I would rather keep that power with Mr & Mrs Ordinary and their stubby pencils rather than with politicians who have been rejected by their own national electorates and been rewarded with more power as part of the EU commissariat. 

Self-determination has kept this country stable for a long time.  Long may it continue.  That it much more likely outside the EU than within.  

Friday, 17 April 2015

The election for jobs

The last time I offered some thoughts to the great and good of the world it was on the subject of the love of Scotland to use English money in furtherance of its Socialist dream.  Now we are in the midst of a general election campaign and we are hearing much more of the same, although this time the Welsh nationalists and the Greens are also being heard - spouting the same economically ignorant garbage.  What is interesting to me is that the SNP have now firmly planted themselves in the overtly Communist ground of their Welsh and Green fellow-travellers.  Nationalise this, that and the other; hike taxes on a chosen group of victims; promise vast increases to spending on health, education and social services and assert that every problem can be solved by government having more power. Well, it persuaded voters in Venezuela so why should it not persuade the British?  

These dangerous extremists all start with the same punch-line.  They want the end of "austerity".  

It is a start I simply do not understand.  What is austere about the country's government spending roughly £90,000,000,000 more in the current year than it will receive in tax and other revenues?  Of course it must be accepted that the overspend this year is only about half the overspend in the last year of the preceding Labour government; but it is still a massive overspend which adds £90,000,000,000 to the already vast debt on which we must pay interest every year.  As I understand things, the interest payable this year on the vast sums our governments have borrowed but not repaid is in the region of £30,000,000,000; about as much as the government spends on education, about as much it spends on defence and about a quarter of what it spends on healthcare.  At an interest rate of just 1% this year's overspend will add £900,000,000 to the annual interest bill. That is not austerity, it is reckless extravagance. 

I have long been worried about politicians blabbering on about "the deficit".  Countless times in the campaign so far "the deficit" has fallen from the lips of superannuated politicians of all parties.  I wonder what that piece of jargon actually means to people with little or no interest in politics or economics.  Everyone can understand what is meant by the government borrowing money and having to pay interest on it out of our taxes.  Everyone can understand what is meant by the government owing more and more money every year and having to pay more and more interest on that borrowed money each year out of our taxes.  Everyone can understand that if the government continues to spend more money than it receives the result will be an ever-increasing amount of taxpayers' money that must be used to pay interest rather than being used for the cuddly things that make taxpayers' lives better. Why do they not use simple language to explain simple concepts?  

We know why the dedicated Socialists do not use simple language.  Straight talking promotes straight questioning and none of them can explain how their dreams of spending ever more money can result in anything other than greater debt and greater interest payments.  When push gets somewhere near to shove and they try to give an explanation they fall back on the very theory that seduced the moronic Gordon Brown.  Spend more and the economy will be boosted thereby resulting in greater tax revenues that are self-sustaining and will allow accumulated debt to be repaid.  Yes it worked well for him, didn't it?  It worked well in the USSR, didn't it?  It worked well in Greece, didn't it?  It worked well in the UK during the 1960 and 70s, didn't it?  It works well in Venezuela, doesn't t it?  It works well in Zimbabwe, doesn't it?  It works well in France and Spain, doesn't it?  

We also know why the slightly less Socialist Conservative Party does not use simple language.  Much of that party's problem is caused by a catch-phrase used by the current Home Secretary in a speech some years ago.  She wished her party to cease to be perceived as "the nasty party".  In doing so she gave that very label to her party, no doubt that was not her desire or intention (and nor was it the substance of her speech), but these days catch-phrases capture public attention in politics as they do in entertainment and she gave her party a brand with which it is still, well, branded.  

Mr Cameron has one winning message.  So far it has featured as part of the narrative however it has not risen to the top of the debate.  

We must be realistic, what matters to most voters is whether the policies of the incoming government will improve the lot of them, their families and friends.  They are not, I think, interested in fancy theories or in jargon-dominated statements of principle.  They are, I think, more interested in three things above everything else: (i) having more of the money they have earned to spend for themselves, (ii) limiting the amount of their taxes that go to non-taxpayers and (iii) jobs for their children and grandchildren.  

I might be wrong but I believe the overwhelming majority of people in this country want to earn an honest living and benefit from doing so.  

They accept the need to pay tax but expect income tax rates to be modest on modest incomes.  

They support a limit on the total amount of benefits that any one family can receive because they earn less than the amount handed-out to some; the current cap is £350 a week for single adults, £500 a week for a couple, and £500 a week for single adults with one or more children living with them.  £350 a week is £18,200 a year, £500 a week is £26,000 a year.  These are very substantial sums and it is hardly surprising that those working for £18,200 (on which they pay tax) or £26,000 (on which they pay tax) feel it is unfair for others to receive more in benefits than they receive from working.  

I might be wrong but I believe the overwhelming majority of people in this country consider it right that their children should inherit whatever they have accumulated.  If someone does not believe in inheritance he or she can always make provision to ensure their children get nothing, my opinion is that most want their children to receive the cash value of whatever assets they have accrued during their lives.  

I might be wrong, but I believe the overwhelming majority of people in this country want their children and grandchildren to earn an honest living.  They also know that some peoples work deserves a greater return than others.  Most importantly they want there to be jobs so that their children and grandchildren have the maximum possible opportunity to earn whatever their endeavours are worth and be self-sufficient.  

It was a few years ago now that George Osborne caused his party to leap ahead in opinion polls by announcing a policy to increase the Inheritance Tax threshold to £1,000,000.  The benefits cap caused no great difference to opinion polls, although I am yet to meet anyone other than a wealthy Islington Socialist who opposes it.  

Mr Cameron's strongest hand is jobs.  Five years in government and around 2,000,000 new jobs created in the private sector.  I don't suggest that government policy had a lot to do with it, although it undoubtedly had some effect simply by appearing to be more business-friendly that the student union drivel spouted by the millionaire Marxist leader of the opposition.  

In a country that is so solidly dominated by the concept that government has magical powers it is not necessary to explain how government policy has caused anything, it is assumed by far more than it should be that anything good or bad is the result of government action (or inaction).  

Mr Cameron has one and only one election winning message.  He can assert that his has been a government of 2,000,000 new jobs.  That is a fact, undisputed by anyone.  He says (incorrectly) that his government has created 2,000,000 new jobs.  It did not create them.  What it did was pursue policies that gave sufficient confidence to sufficient job-creators that they were prepared to take a chance and employ people.  

If he has any chance of winning an outright majority Mr Cameron must push the jobs figures.  Mr Milliband, the millionaire Marxist, asserted that the policies of the current government would result in mass unemployment.  Like so many idealistic politicians he is not interested in the truth.  He will not accept he was wrong.  The substance of his argument is that they are the wrong type of jobs so they don't count.  

So far the election campaign has been about fluff and nonsense.  Not just that but it has been dominated by the concept that the more the government does the better things will be.  We can't be surprised, it has been the prevailing consensus of opinion in the BBC and the political and press elite for more than 20 years.  

Mr Cameron would be foolish if he did not use the remainder of the election campaign to use one simple fact to his advantage.  It does not matter whether government caused, contributed to or had no effect at all on employment and unemployment figures; it will be believed by lots of voters to be responsible.  Unemployment is at the lowest level for ages but unemployment is a negative thing.  Employment, on the other hand, is a positive.  He should shout 2,000,000 million new jobs from the rooftops and challenge those who dispute the quality of those jobs by saying "so, you would rather those people had no job rather than the perfect job?"  

This election is the election for jobs.  

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Yes, please, North Britain

So the native and adopted Jockanese have a vote to decide on the fate of England. 

It's all been rather interesting.  

Most interesting of all has been the opportunity to hear coverage of the hustings on BBC radio.  These days television for me is restricted to test cricket, a few football matches that seem like they could be of very high quality, the major golf tournaments and the occasional drama (but only if the cast is good and the name of the show indicates a likelihood of gory death).  I have not watched television news for several years and restrict my radio listening to BBC 5 Live and Radio 4 (I will add the shameful part in parentheses, sometimes I listen to football commentary on Shout Sport which, for reasons that make no sense at all, calls itself Talk Sport).  No doubt that has resulted in a somewhat skewed vision of the main arguments being fought-out in the streets of Scotland, but there it is.  

Politics in Scotland seems rather different from politics in England.  Ancient religious bigotries still dominate much of the discourse, with the obvious result that there is little discussion and an inordinate amount of certainty and bitter shouting from all sides on every issue.  Part of the religious bigotry that seems to hold greater sway than the Protestant-Catholic divide is the position of Socialism as the religion of choice in North Britain.  

For someone who finds it difficult to accept theistic theories, it is even more difficult to understand the widespread belief the Scotch seem to have in the religion of Socialism.  

Theism cannot be disproved by events, not least because its very nature makes it incapable of proof or disproof by reference to concrete fact.  

Socialism, on the other hand, has been proved beyond doubt to be a political, social and economic system that results on every occasion it is applied in an accumulation of power and wealth to a self-appointed political elite, the repression of dissent by social ostracism and criminal laws aimed at thoughts rather than acts, the stifling of industrial innovation, systemic corruption in all public bodies, a consequent systemic inability for the poor to make themselves richer and the bankruptcy of the State.  Every single State that has run itself on avowedly Soclialist lines is evidence of these appalling degradations of the human spirit. 

The voters of Scotland have chosen their MPs and MSPs predominently from the hard left.  It is hardly surprising that this is so.  A country divided by religion just as profoundly as Northern Ireland is divided can only be united by a common cause that allows the Protestants and Catholics to find a common enemy.  That enemy is the English.  Labour and SNP politicians have espoused the English as the enemy for more than forty years and with that comes the need to define what it is about the English that should be despised.  

Unlike their English fellow-travellers, the Scotch Socialists do not wage a class war.  They cannot do so because class is not a Scottish phenomenon.  There is no identifiable Scottish upper class to be blamed for the current condition of the poorest Scotch people.  Instead they have to aim higher and argue that capitalism is the cause, English capitalism.  English capitalism causes misery, English capitalism steals Scotch wealth, English capitalism deprives all Scotch people of opportunities, English capitalism deliberately keeps the Scotch suppressed in order to fill the bank vaults of a select few down in that London.  

From this position of racist hate-crime (they invented it, don't blame me for using the phrase), they argue that only a Socialist independent state of Scotland can deliver milk and honey to the poor down-trodden masses.  

If they vote No, the foolish "leaders" in Westminster have promised them powers that almost deliver the same as a vote of Yes.  Save for one thing.  The thing that is at the heart of any economic system that will ever have a chance of surviving and delivering a more comfortable life for the least wealthy people.  And that thing is the threat of having to face the painful consequences of failure.  

The man who, in his own words, saved the World - one Dr John Gordon Brown - decided that the little people should shoulder the losses caused by banks following his direction when they advanced too much money to people who could not pay their debts.  By making those loans they increased GDP and made him look good for a while, but like any Ponzi scheme it could not last.  The Bubble burst and he used future taxes to bail-out the banks when the banks did what he directed them to do and came a cropper.  I say "future taxes" because he had no money in the vaults to hand to the bankrupt banks, instead he borrowed it - a massive debt that could only be paid from future tax revenue.  

Now that same man has taken charge of the campaign to keep the Scotch in the UK.  For once, probably the first and last time, I commend him for his consistency.  He used future taxes to bail-out the banks and now he is promising future tax revenue to bail-out the Scotch when its Socialist government bankrupts it, as it will.  

Within my ample stomach there is a rumbling discontent because there seems a greater chance of the Scotch voting No than Yes.  Were they to vote Yes, the consequences of inevitable economic failure will lie at their door.  Were they to vote No they will be given sufficient powers to introduce the bankrupting policies the Yes campaigners believe will lead to Nirvana and the English will have to bail them out.  

There is hope.  Dr John Gordon Brown is in charge and everything he has ever touched has turned to excrement.  Perhaps it is too much to hope for that his intervention has not come too late and that he can still wield his magic sword of failure to guarantee a Yes vote.  

Let them have their Socialist paradise, is what I say.  Free England from the yoke, rid the House of Commons of 47 hard-left and 11-fairly-hard-left MPs.  Let England have its chance.  

I'm not hopeful because when push comes to shove a big change is a difficult thing for people to vote for.  In fact I would be very surprised if the privacy of the voting booth, where loudmouthed lefties cannot hold the majority of attention, did not register a clear verdict in favour of continued subsidisation by England.  

But I hope.  

And I end as I started.  

Yes, please, North Britain. 

Sunday, 17 November 2013

The age of consent

Apparently a barrister in a set of chambers known as Hardwicke (it used to be Hardwicke Building but decided to get trendy and have a single word title, perhaps paying pretend experts a lot of dosh for the idea) has suggested that the age of consent for sexual intercourse should be reduced to thirteen.  On reading of her suggestion I cast my mind back more than forty years and tried to remember what happened in terms of jiggy-jiggy among my classmates.  

It was not difficult to remember.  There were the religious ones, saving themselves for the person their god has chosen for them.  There were the demure ones for whom sexual activity was not appropriate at the time.  There were the ugly (and usually spotty) ones who had no chance whatever they might have desired.  And there were those who felt it right at the time to have a stab at it, or, as the case may be, receive a stab.  

Names could be named because those who "did it" at the age of 13 were known to be doing so, but nothing would be served by giving the names.  What matters is the truth of what was happening and why.  

The why is really simple.  They did it because they decided to do it.  They knew it was against the law but they felt it was right for them at the time.  I have no idea how many, if any, now regret those actions, what I do know is that those who did it were among the most self-assured and wordly-wise boys and girls in my year.  

Needless to say I was in the ugly and spotty category and had to wait several years to learn the inadequacy of my sensual performance.  

The barrister who spoke-out is called Barbara Hewson.  You can read a little about her here.   I know Barbara Hewson and I know Hardwicke very well.  Barbara is not a crank she is a highly intelligent woman and thoroughly practical.  She knows that teenagers will play the jiggy-jiggy game whether or not their parents or the law like it and suggests that it would be better for the law to reflect reality than for it to criminalise something that involves no abuse and will happen regardless of any outside influences intended to prevent it.  

Naturally the BBC has swooped on her expression of opinion and given tacit support to those who criticise it as a molesters' charter.  No doubt they believe there is a host of dirty old men currently suppressing their urge to seduce thirteen year-olds who would lose all inhibitions were the age of consent reduced by three years.  We have to be realistic, no doubt there are some in that position.  Currently they fail with sixteen year-olds and will fancy their chances with younger prey.  But why will they fancy their chances with younger prey?  It seems to me there is only one answer, namely that younger girls or boys will have less strength to resist their "grooming".  Since we have to be realistic it seems inevitable that this would be the case because that is how human being are.  Yet it does not justify teenagers who in fact consent to sexual activity being subject to criminal prosecution simply because the law decrees their consent to be inoperative.  

Perhaps studies have been conducted into the effect of previous reductions to the age of consent.  If so it is tolerably clear they have not produced alarming results or they would have been all over the press and I cannot recall reading anything of the sort. In particular the age of consent for male homosexual activity has been reduced from twenty-one to eighteen and then to sixteen within the last fifty years, each proposed reduction being met by howls of indignation from those who predicted an epidemic of middle-aged men in dirty macs inviting impressionable young boys back to view their etchings.  As far as I know nothing of the sort has happened, although it is inevitable that more approaches will have been made than before and that more will have succeeded, the numbers of such do not seem to have caused panic in the police so it might be reasonable to infer that no real problem arose.  

I think it important not to be too flippant about this issue.  It is easy to say that using the power of age to make a sexual conquest is not a problem because abuse of that power is a criminal offence and anyone doing so is liable to prosecution.  That is the case but prosecuting such matters is difficult because everything usually happens between the participants with no external witnesses and the young complainant is, rightly, subject to cross-examination in court that he or she is usually less able to deal with than the older defendant.  

Barbara Hewson raised a point that is a true dilemma.  How do we de-criminalise genuinely consensual sexual conduct between young people and, at the same time, maintain protection against the exploitative dirty mac brigade, however large or small their brigade is? 

That dilemma actually raises a a false dichotomy.  Preventing the young from being exploited by older people is a matter of effective enforcement of the law whereas de-criminalising consensual activity is a matter of the law reflecting what actually happens and will always happen and, I would suggest, harms neither of the parties involved.  

I do not believe there is a massive horde of dirty old men in dirty old macs just waiting for the age of consent to be lowered so they can realise their previously unfulfilled dream of a bit of teenage totty quivering beneath their flabby torsos.  

Look, your old pervs fall into three categories.  There are those, very few in number, who don't care about the law and try it on anytime they can, for them the age of consent is irrelevant.  In reality they are of the same mind-set as the rapist.  Then there are those who keep to the law and will try their luck with anything legal, for them the age of consent is important because it draws the line between legal and illegal.  And there are those who just fancy someone regardless of age and law, for them it is an emotional matter of the connection they have (or think they have) with the object of their desires.  The second and third categories would never force themselves on anyone although they might be a terrible nuisance.   

An age of consent is an arbitrary line.  There is an argument - the argument made by Barbara Hewson - that it should reflect what young people do these days.  That is the view to which I subscribe, although I know too little about young people today to say whether it should be sixteen, thirteen or lower.  The threat of the dirty mac brigade falls away once one realises that they will only get some legal jiggy-jiggy with the consent of the other person.  Indecent approaches will be made and some will succeed and leave the young recipient of their two inches slightly upset and very disappointed, against that must be weighed the young people who have sexual intercourse because they both want to.  It is difficult to understand that their consensual activity should be a crime. 

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Moronic Mess from Miliband the Millionaire Marxist

Those of us interested in matters political feel a strange compunction to listen to speeches uttered by those who might be in position to turn their desires into law.  Today it was the turn of Miliband the Millionaire Marxist.  Today he showed what commentators on the radio seemed to consider his true colours.  

The speech itself was actually quite interesting with a sickly amalgam of sentimental sob stories, prices and income policies straight out of HG Wells' time machine, a novel variation on British Jobs for British Workers, proposals to nationalise land and wholescale criticism of the very policies he personally supported and put to the British people at the last two general elections (and some which he helped to create as a Labour Party policy advisor in the election of 2001). 

How refreshing it would be to hear a senior politician say "We introduced a policy which didn't work, we took a lot of advice, considered it carefully and thought it would work but we were wrong.  We are very sorry for our mistake and understand what you are entitled to doubt our judgment.  Nonetheless we now put forward a different policy and ask you to consider it carefully".  But no, for Miliband his previous policies are all the fault of the current government and he is and always has been right.  This fundamental and transparent dishonesty is displayed by the leaders of both main parties, less so by the leader of the third party, but is shown in full measure by the leader of the fourth party (the current Deputy Prime Minister).  One day they will realise people see through them and laugh at their inability to admit they make errors of judgment - we all do it, usually several times a day, and the absurdity of these superannuated oafs pretending to be different does them no favours.  

At the core of every one of Miliband's policy initiatives announced today is the belief that government has magical powers to influence the private sector economy for the good.  Now it goes without saying that different people will have different ideas of what is "for the good", but my point is valid regardless of anyones opinions on that.  You see, I ask what government can do and it is the answer to that question that explains why magic has nothing to do with it.  The answer is obvious provided you start from the correct position.  

The private sector comprises businesses providing goods and services (usually but not necessarily for profit).  By definition these businesses incur costs in making their goods and services available and can continue in business only for so long as the selling price matches or exceeds all the costs (they can, of course, run at a loss for a while but will eventually have to fold when lines of financial support are exhausted).  A business that makes a profit can do various things with it - retain profits for investment with a view to expanding the business, pay a dividend to investors and/or a bonus to staff, retain it to provide a cash buffer in case things turn south, give it to the Battersea Dogs' Home and more. 

From that starting point it becomes clear that the only things government policies can affect are costs, selling prices and profits.  Don't get it wrong, don't think government can do anything that affects a business other than to influence costs, selling prices or profits.  It cannot.  

We had examples of policies intended to affect all three of these in Mr Miliband's speech.  

Small businesses are to be taxed less.  The idea is to reduce costs by reducing the amount of tax that must be paid as everyday overheads.  He promotes this as a benefit being provided to small businesses by his government.  It is nothing of the sort.  He is proposing reducing an impediment to business that the current government, and the government of which he was previously a part, impose on business.  

He said this is a way to create more jobs.  For once I agree with him.  If you reduce the costs of business the prospect of profit is increased and, inevitably, so is the prospect of that business expanding and taking on additional staff.  The same applies to all cost imposed by government as overheads - land taxes, employer's National Insurance contributions, VAT and countless regulations that require expenditure to be incurred (usually pointlessly) on monitoring compliance with random targets and standards that have no substance beyond the egotistical commands of single-issue bigots. 

For big businesses he wants to take more of their profits in tax.  No reduction in costs for them, jobs that might be created by reducing the costs of big businesses are of no interest to him.  To the Millionaire Marxist big business is just a cash cow, to be milked and punished to the fullest extent possible.  How ironic it is that his plans require the big businesses he despises so much to make the largest profits possible.  

Having said that, taxes that apply before sales are made increase the prices businesses have to charge to break even.  An example I have given before is of a furniture manufacturer that spends £50 on raw materials and £50 on labour to create a table, leaving aside other overheads the table cannot be sold at £100 to achieve break-even.  Because VAT at 20% will have to be added the sale price must be £120.  There might not be a market at that level, although there might be at £105 or £110.  If you get rid of VAT and tax profits instead the business has an increased chance of expanding and creating more jobs.  Get rid of land tax (business rates) as well and and pre-sale costs fall further.  I am all in favour of taxing profits and dispensing with all taxes that stress profit-margins.  

Mr Miliband has put on the metaphorical hat he bought when supporting the policies of East Germany in his youth and decreed that electricity and gas prices will be frozen for 20 months if he becomes Prime Minister.  

Give me strength. Government dictating sale prices of any goods or services is a truly desperate policy.  Some of us are old enough to remember the prices-and-incomes policies that formed a cross-party consensus in the 1960s and 1970s.  Lest anyone does not know how it operated, by law prices and incomes could only be increased by the maximum figure dictated by government.  Yes, you read that correctly.  No matter how much the cost of imported raw products increased, that increase could not be passed on to customers if it resulted in the finished product going up in price by more than the percentage the government decreed to be acceptable, the manufacturer had to bear the cost or go bust.  No matter how much more profit a business earned in one year compared to the last, employees could not be given a pay rise greater than the percentage decreed by government.  It was utterly mad.  

Yet Mr Miliband obviously thinks it wonderful because he wants to do it again.  The first basis on which he sold it is entirely meritworthy, he claimed to want to keep energy costs down for the little people.  So say all of us, except those who supported the appalling Climate Change Act 2008 that requires the cost of energy to rise again and again.  Oh hang on a moment, the Climate Change Act was the only major piece of legislation piloted through the House of Commons by a certain Marxist Millionaire called Miliband when he was in government.  No qualms about hitting the little people in the pocket then, so what has changed?  If what has changed is that he has become an honest politician he would want to repeal all parts of his own legislation that increase cost for Mr & Mrs Ordinary, but no.  He wants to punish energy companies because they make profits.  It is no more sophisticated than that, as he admitted when giving the second reason for this proposed policy.  

He does not understand profit - he doesn't need to because he and his slimy brother inherited a fortune through careful tax avoidance and has oiled his way onto the political gravy train so there is no need for him to understand anything about anything other than his own self-interest.  

The full consequences of freezing electricity and gas prices cannot be foreseen although some things are pretty obvious.  Prices are likely to rise in advance of the freeze at least to counter 20-months of inflation, investment by the energy companies is likely to be reduced because they will have less money to invest and the pressure for crippling price rises once the freeze is lifted will be difficult to resist since 20 months of investment activity will have to be caught-up as soon as possible to try to keep the lights on. 

The Labour Party professes the desire to seek full employment.  For decades their means of seeking this has been to increase tax and create public sector jobs of little or no value.  Despite that unemployment has been higher at the end of every Labour government than at the beginning.  The only realistic chance of increasing employment is by reducing government impediments to business - both taxes that increase day-to-day overheads and taxes that reduce the funds available for investment.  You cannot expect a Millionaire Marxist to understand that, and poor Mr Miliband is no exception.  

Monday, 6 August 2012

Saturday with Sir Mo

Saturday evening was rather good fun.  I went to a favourite local restaurant to watch the athletics because there seemed a decent chance it would be a good night for the Brits and best enjoyed in company.  

What was rather strange was that Miss Ennis's romp to triumph was met with smiles and a sense of inevitability, while Mr Rutherford's success in the leaping game caused an almost unanimous reaction of "never heard of him".  By marked contrast Mr Farah's long trot captivated people from the start.  The telly is in the bar area of a very large restaurant divided into a number of sections, a few minutes before the race started diners moved from their tables and crammed into the bar (I was eating at the bar - I've played this game before and guaranteed myself a prime seat).  As he accelerated to victory over the last three laps the atmosphere was quite frenetic.  Lots of "come-ons", "he's in control" and similar sentiments.  When Mr Farah (or Sir Mo as he must surely become if he can nail the 5,000 metre race as well) made his final move at about 200 yards from the tape people were cheering and shouting and even I abandoned my normal reserve by applauding as he crossed the line.  

There is something about running that excites people and there is something about Sir Mo that people like.  It cannot just be his silky smooth running style or the fact that he sometimes wins the most important races.  He does it all with a smile on his face and makes it clear to everyone how grateful he is for the support he receives, that cannot be it either because others do the same. Perhaps the secret to his popularity is that he came to this country as a youngster and was given a home free of the poverty, misery and violence that dominated his early years in Somalia.  Not for him moans about discrimination and attachment to the cult of victimhood, he tells us all how lucky he feels and how welcome he has been made here. He is married to a pudgy white girl and has a pudgy brown daughter.  He is just like a normal person with an engaging air of modesty about his extraordinary sporting achievements and we all enjoy someone like him being British and running for Britain.  

The greatest thing is that his dietary advisor has the surname Fudge.  

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

An Olympic Fuss over Nothing

I'm rather keen on a nice bit of sport and the Olympic games provide a nice bit of sport.  Yesterday afternoon it was a real pleasure to follow the gentlemen's artistic gymnastics team event final and see our boys win bronze then silver then bronze.  

Gymnastics is rather like athletics in that it can be understood by anyone.  We all have experience of running and jumping and are able to look at these events from a perspective of personal knowledge (for those unfortunate few not in this boat the raspberry games will follow the real sport in a couple of weeks).  That Louis Smith performing on the pommel horse bears no comparison to a short chubby schoolboy failing to do anything more than sit on one decades ago does not diminish my admiration for his efforts, indeed it is precisely why I admire them.  

I hate swimming.  It's the water.  Gets up your nose.  Very nasty and uncomfortable.  But a smile crosses the full width of my flabby jowls when I see magnificent athletes splashing through the pool faster than I can drive to Morrisons, especially when they are like that lovely girl Rebecca Adlington who reacted to being third (rather than first as she was four years ago) with the broadest possible grin and recognition that she had achieved something very rare by winning an Olympic medal.  

Unfortunately, exposure of the British public to the Olympic games is in the hands of the BBC so there is always an agenda lurking behind the coverage.  Commenting on the sports while they are taking place gives little leeway for even the BBC to promote its editorial policy so gaps in and between events have to be utilised and they have done extraordinarily well in their "empty seats" campaign.  It was evident in the first couple of days that a chunk of seats in prime locations were not occupied by spectators, this was most apparent during the qualifying competitions in gymnastics.  It really looked very shabby and disrespectful both to the competitors and to those who had applied for tickets and been unsuccessful.  

The BBC's editorial line was apparent from the off, big business had bought the seats for fat cats who were too busy eating babies to attend thereby depriving lesbian unpartnered mothers of what was rightly theirs.  An enquiry was demanded.  Of course when the enquiry took place it was discovered that the gaps were caused not by drunken indolence on the part of rich corporate sponsors but by members of the so-called "Olympic Family" not taking-up free tickets that had been made available for them.  It's their official title, not a piss-take by me, certain people involved in Olympic sports are categorised by the International Olympic Committee as members of the "Olympic Family".  Quite sickening.  

That seats are kept aside for those the organisers consider worthy of a free ticket does not rankle with me at all, it would be extraordinary and irrational if that didn't happen.  A long-deceased comic drunk and wife-beater is reputed to have once asked the Queen whether she likes football.  On her replying that she didn't he asked if he could have her tickets to the FA Cup Final.  As far as I can recall the Queen hasn't attended the Cup Final for a very long time but there would be a seat available if she wanted to, just as seats were found for Princes William and Harry at the gymnastics yesterday afternoon.  It is a relatively small extension of the same principle for seats to be left for those of importance in various national Olympic Committees.  If they don't take the seats there will be gaps.  It's not a tragedy, it's just a few empty seats.  

Having gaps where big-wigs could be sitting has been a common feature of major sporting events for as long as I can remember.  I've seen it in person at Wembley stadium, Wembley arena (the Empire Pool as it was known the first time I encountered the phenomenon), the Docklands Arena (which, I believe, no longer exists - it used to be opposite Asda on the Isle of Dogs) and even the Royal Albert Hall.  This time a big mistake was made.  Having those seats placed immediately in front of the main television cameras covering an event is novel.  Usually they are spread around the arena in little clumps or placed en masse behind the main cameras in order to avoid exactly the fuss over nothing that has so excited the BBC. Placing the non-existent big-wigs immediately in front of the cameras gives the impression of a stadium half-empty because only 15% of the crowd is accommodated within the main shot, when they switch to a camera showing the whole arena you see it packed to the gills and can hardly notice a little bald patch.  

I am really enjoying watching supreme athletes competing at the very highest level and also enjoying those trail-blazers who have no hope of finishing their race before the winners have had time for a shower and a three course meal.  Over the weekend the rowing events included a gentleman from Niger and a lady from Iran who trailed in long after their opponents and received justified rapturous applause for having the guts to turn up and do their best.  They are a much better story for the BBC than a few empty seats.