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Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Quote of the day

Top stuff:
"Wenger has an £80 Million war chest to squander?
A FV 4034 Challenger 2 Battle tank is a snip at £4,217,000. Paint Number 1 on it, park it in the 6 yard box behind the shaky back 4 and then you can play as many attacking midfielders as he likes, "

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Middle classes and tax

I like this, so i'll post it at length:

summary: the middle classes benefit from tax, i.e. their income goes UP after tax and benefits inc education, healthcare

Question 1.

What is the income of the middle fifth of British households, before tax and benefits?

Question 2:

What is the income of the middle fifth of British households after tax and benefits? (excluding things like market value of education, healthcare, etc etc).

Question 3:

How much more does the average middle British household pay into the tax pot than they take out in benefits and so on?

Question 4.

As a proportion of household income, have taxes (direct and indirect) on middle income households increased or decreased between 1996/7 and 2006/7?

Question 5

What proportion of the middle fifth of British households rent their home?


(all data from National Statistics, unless otherwise stated)

1. The pretax income of a “middle Britain” household (here defined as the middle fifth of British households by income) is £23,640. This is £4,000 less than had as the average Graduate starting salary two years ago, according to the right wing think tank Reform

2. After taxes and benefits, this figure is £19,270.

3. Trick question! Sorry.

If you take the above figure try and ascribe a value to the benefit of free healthcare and education (which you get in return for paying taxes) the income of middle Britain INCREASES, to £25,147 pounds.

Middle Britain gets more out of the Tax system than it puts in. The difference is paid for by the top quintile. The net effect of the tax and benefits system is to give money to middle Britain, not take it away. By one and a half thousand pounds.

4. In 1996/7 direct taxes on middle income households as a proportion of income were 17.6%. Indirect taxes were 18.9% for a grand total of 36.5% of total income.

In 2006/7 the figures were 18.5% Direct, 16.3% indirect – giving a grand total of 34.8%. So the tax take as a proportion of income for Middle Britain has fallen by 1.7%.

Why? Some of this is because middle Britain now smokes less, but 1% of it is because less VAT is now paid – presumably relating to the reduction of VAT on Fuel and Sanitary towels (this latter is a bigger deal than most people think)

5. 29% of non- retired households in the middle fifth of household rent their home. (18% own their home outright, 52% have a mortgage.) For retired middle income households the figure is 45%.

Gordy's speech again

a bit of both i suppose.
Thought Ed Miliband took a pasting on Newsnight, but on the detail, which is a problem.
People don't trust the government, so lots of unfunded problems will only go so far (what won't?)
One of the thinktank blokes on newsnight made a good point about the narrative of an intervening state lacking from the speech. i'm not big on these set piece events and narratives in speeches because i want my politicians to make good laws, not spout good poetry. The arguement is that they don't do either very much.

The Sun thing sucks, but who knows? It'd be nice to see Murdoch taken down a peg or two and the 'for the many not the few' thing is a narrative that won't go down too well in the Sun, but their bloke couldn't name any real issues/policies with Labour that he didn't like, which may be better or worse as it point to general malaise.

as i said before i think the base will decide the election on both sides, so pandering to middle England is, i think, the wrong ploy

Gordy's speech

I caught some while at work so proper post later when i have time.
But this is a little gem, double think or just dumb?
"The fact that Brown is cutting childcare tax credits makes me sick. Myself and my wife are not high earners, and rely on them. I think this is the straw that broke the camel's back for me. I will be voting Tory.
Scott Robinson, Bournemouth"

So this 'Scott Robinson' is voting Tory because he wants more help for 'not high earners'.
Does this mean he's poor and stupid,
or middle-class and presenting himself as poor?
My point being that cutting tax credits will hit the poorest, and the Tories are hardly going to be scrabbling over themselves to help the poorest, are they?

Cricket - ODI Pitches

I'm one of those who believes that pitches are crucial to cricket.
A lot of people seem to think they know what people want from cricket, and it often differs a fair bit.
I remember Bob Willis ranting that people didn't want close and exciting games, they wanted boundries that that was all. I totally disagree, i think a close and exciting game is far more interesting than just boundry hitting.

Javid Miandad has weighed in on the ODI pitches thing. He says ""People want to see fast-paced cricket and lots of runs and excitement and that is lacking generally in this tournament because of the inconsistent nature of pitches." "
which i'd disagree with, because it seems like the games have actually been exciting. I've even enjoyed them, and i'm not really into limited overs cricket so much.
And he may have his facts wrong: "Miandad said the toss at the venue gave an unfair advantage and made the matches one-sided. However, out of the eight completed matches so far, the sides winning the toss have won only four times."
Balance between bat and ball is what it's all about for me, and an even game between two well-matched sides

Monday, 28 September 2009

Bloggers and the truth

"“Pills” blogger admits he doesn’t know the facts"

Very interesting this:
Channel 4 have interviewed the man who wrote the original blog starting the allegations about Brown’s health. “I still have no more proof than anyone else,” the blogger tells Krishnan Guru-Murthy.

In a new media world where rumours and news spread like wildfire through the internet it can pay to be cautious."

Gordy's speech and Labour conference

Man, I wish i was at Conference.
just listening to the editor of the FT on the radio talking about what he expects in Gordy's speech and he was saying about lots of things to please the middle classes, which i think would be the wrong way. He needs to enthuse the base, which is not the middle classes, although they may be middle class. it's lefties that we need to get out on the doorsteps, and really get people up for it, not try to errode some (of lots) hostility to Labour.
It'd be great if he then side-stepped that initial prediction and proved Bearded Socialist right

In Praise of Labour

I've got to be quick, but this article is class. I have to be quick because she's about to get locked up for being a loon, or at least removed from a mainstream newspaper for daring to praise Labour.
I like the whole thing, a reluctant support based on the knowledge that having the Tories in is not going to make Britain a better, more lefty place. To qualify, it's the criticism of Labour for being too far right i'm attacking there as the Tories won't be to the left of Labour. The 'better' thing is purely subjective.

"This remains a party with the right instincts. And that means it is one worth supporting when the time comes. We have all kicked it up and down the newspaper columns and the TV shows. I remain livid about the wars, the spivvery and the nest-feathering. But unless you actually want a less fair future, the time to rally round has arrived."

So, in summary: Support Labour, otherwise the consequences will be crap

Wednesday, 23 September 2009


Bearded Socialists needs a new job.
Any offers?

Tuesday, 22 September 2009


I just heard The House I Grew up In on Radio 4.
Not mad keen. I think if a white person had said what he did (emphasising differences and not feeling comfortable with his child going out with a white person).
I personally am all for loads of intergration. Get everyone together in a massive melting pot. love it.
and i have no problem with celebrating cultures, and i think it's a great way to get people together for a party.
but not feeling comfortable about blacks and whites marrying doesn't sit well with me

Will Hutton on our immediate economic future

Some will say Hutton is a proper authority on economic matters, others will say he knows f-all. I think he and i broadly agree, so he must be a pretty clever lad.
His analysis of the current economic situation, and his ideas for the future, are top.

He stresses how important it is that we have stability and infrastructure, which includes a realistic and stable approach to Britain's national debt. While there are those crying out for a good bit of slash and burn, Hutton argues this would be counter productive. For a bloke of his standing to claim our current debt is affordable should make people stand up and listen. I think it's affordable, so having his agreement enhances that. I know he's a bit of a lefty, but bias exists.
He says that free markets got us into this mess, and they aren't going to get us out of it. Agreed. "Too much entrepreneurship in Britain comes from the same school as the four MG Rover directors, who directed tens of millions into their own pockets, or those traders earning absurd bonuses for being micro-seconds ahead in some socially useless trading."

He claims we need to invest. Agreed. "we need a world class-infrastructure – from a high-speed rail network to great schools and universities. Then there should be a discussion about better enabling and equipping ordinary people to build their careers and lives and how better to manage risk by offering a new deal on insuring their incomes, their mortgages and offering new resources for training over their working lives."

"All this costs money, but fortunately Britain can sell its debt easily. We should be measured about cutting the deficit, certainly no faster or sooner than Darling plans. Nothing should stand in the way of a determined effort to build a high-innovation, high-skill economy. Investors will find this more reassuring than the self-harm of swingeing budget cuts and will care no more about whether the national debt is 100, 80 or 60% of GDP than our forebears did when they used it to build British industrial and military pre-eminence. David Cameron please take note."

While he does get a bit political for an economist, there exists such a difference betweent Labour and the Tories that it's difficult not to when either side is attaching such policies to itself.
As always, left is best. Labour right, Tories wrong

Alastair Darling on new banking

I'm a huge fan of Alastair Darling, I think the bloke is top. He's has just the right balance of ideology and managerialism for me, and a good dry sense of humour.
In his day job, he looks after our economy. And does a bloody good job actually.
His piece here he gives his account of what happened, what didn't, and why.

This is key: "Lehmans' collapse plunged several UK banks into trouble. But that one of our major high street banks could be allowed to collapse would have been unthinkable. Life savings could have been wiped out and the economy would have come to a halt, with cashpoints seizing up and business credit drying up. It would have been irresponsible for us to stand by."

Firstly, my mum supports propping up the banks as letting such important institutions go to the wall would have terrible consequences for far too many people. I agree with her on that.
There is also the issue of how so much banking is based on air, as one bank collapsing took so many others (people and banks) to the edge.

On Fiscal and monetary stimulus: (paraphrase) we woz right, Tories woz (and are) wrong. He's correct about that.

On reform: "We must reform global financial markets so that they can better serve society. Internationally, that means obliging banks to build up bigger reserves in the good times. There must be rules on how global financial companies can be wound up quickly, using a "living will", and without having to turn to the taxpayer."

Quite right. No institution should be too big to fail, certainly not in private hands. It is unacceptable that profits are privatised but losses socialised (publicised is the wrong word).

I am critical of the New Labour approach to competition though:
"A strong, stable financial system also depends on effective competition, essential to make sure consumers have choice and no one faces excessive fees and charges."
A 'competitive' market has lead to excessive charges and fees, there needs to be far greater regulation and intervention to protect consumers, especially those most vulnerable.

on the availability of credit:
"If there is one lesson to be learnt from this crisis, it is that credit must never be allowed to dry up because of reliance on a small number of banks. In the same way that big companies can access funding directly from capital markets, by issuing bonds or commercial paper, I want to start creating a different financial model in the future, in which small companies get funding from sources other than banks. Our goal is to make finance the servant, not the master, of the real economy."

very interesting, and something I support as it's going down the micro-finance route, which has the power to do great good and re-connect the borrower with the lender, which i feel is a good thing.

In conclusion, Ali D rocks

Monday, 21 September 2009

Beard News Update

At the risk of doing a link to the Daily Mail, the annual International World Beard and Moustache Championships are back. Sadly no mention of socialism

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Nick Clegg and Lib Dem policies

I'm getting really annoyed at Nick Clegg. He seems to be about nothing but really aggressive, negative soundbites. For example:
Clegg rounds on 'conman Cameron'

Nick Clegg is to turn his fire on David Cameron by labelling him the "conman of British politics".

"Mr Clegg called the VAT cut "pointless""
"The government's shamefully inadequate response allows young people to fester on benefits for almost a year before offering real help, while the Tories are typically silent on what they would do."

"He called Labour a "spent force" and the Tories "ideologically barren". "

they have a conference coming up and Vince Cable calling for measures which "include scrapping Trident nuclear submarines and other big defence projects like tranche three of the Eurofighter aircraft - although they are not yet party policy."
Good. The Eurofighter is a nightmare and we should get out of that. It's out of date and not important now.

Now I do like this:
"But the party, which meets this weekend in Bournemouth for the start of their annual conference, say they want to cut income tax paid by most workers by £700 a year through higher taxes on big business and the wealthy."

Good old Vince:
"But he also backed the government's argument - disputed by the Conservatives - that cutting spending immediately could put any economic recovery at risk.

"Contracting government spending and increasing taxation at this moment in time runs the risk of getting us into an even deeper recession". "

Friday, 18 September 2009

liberal reforms

"it is "pointless to persist with the conventional responses to the increase in crime. More police, more prisons and more effective judicial procedures are clearly not working, except in so far as they satisfy a patent public thirst for retribution.""
from a book written by Tory MP Alan Duncan.

I don't like sticking huge quotes in here, but it's such good and interesting stuff. Not sure if any of this will make it's way through to being policy, but it's very encouraging that they are willing to go against the grain.
"They add that "deterrence is an increasingly empty threat, and nobody seriously believes that a spell in prison is capable of reforming or rehabilitating the criminal character. A criminal record only makes it harder to re-enter normal civilian life, turning a significant minority of people into career criminals and so making crime an even more intractable problem"."

let's hope that liberalism wins the day and these are the sorts of things we can expect from Duncan and the new Tories.
Cameron is, apparently, a libertarian, so let's hope he puts his money where his mouth is:

"The sensible solution, they say, is not to treat the symptoms of crime but the causes, including the "demoralised condition of young people in many inner cities today" and - perhaps to the relief of rightwingers worried where all this is heading - "the lack of any culture of ... self-improvement in those parts of society where the majority of people are dependent on state handouts".

The chapter on all this was in the hardback version, but mysteriously disappeared from the paperback version. However, there is a link to it on his website if you want to read more.

In the same book, Duncan famously argued for the legalisation - or at least the decriminalisation - of drugs, which isn't Tory policy. The assumption that prison doesn't work and only makes crime worse isn't likely to be in the Tory manifesto either. It's a long time since the Conservatives have wanted us to hug hoodies, but it's interesting to know where Duncan's sympathies really lie, nonetheless."

misleading media?

Left Foot Forward, who are not impartial, are alleging that the Daily Mail are spouting rubbish. That in itself is a pretty fair suggestion. The specifics cover this article on quangos "The cost of quango Britain hits £170bn - a seven-fold rise since Labour came to power".

The Left Foot Forward article here alleges that the Mail use Taxpayer Alliance figures which are "not a like-for-like comparison". With statistics, precision is everything and the odd thing here or there makes all the difference. In this case, not comparing like-for-like allows the latter figure to be overblown in order to give the effect they are after.
Bloody Daily Mail
Bloody Taxpayers' Alliance, a real nasty lot

Spending cuts

Coz blimey, can't MOVE for politicians are the like going on about spending cuts.
I actually liked what I heard from Gordy (think it was speech to the TUC, might be wrong) where he said there will be cuts to waste, inefficiency, pointless programmes etc.
I thought that was a good focus, but i think he's dug his own hole in that he spent so long denying there would be any cuts that now embracing them seems too late.
Linguistics is a very funny business in politics

Today's business news from the BBC

There are three stories today that strike me as important, to varying degrees and for different reasons:
1) US gets tough on ratings agencies
2) Lloyds in toxic asset plan talks
3) Bonus claw-back
late addition 4) Support for tax to curb bonuses

1) credit rating agencies were part of the problem in getting us into this mess, where ratings agencies were too quick to give out top marks when they were not merited. There are some theories that corrupt practices were at work, but i can't substantiate it so will only mention in passing. The proposals involve greater regulatory supervision of the ratings agencies, the success of which will depend on their remit and powers.
The agencies will be under greater pressure to make public information about their past decisions, which is a very good thing: "agencies must disclose more information on past ratings to help investors make informed judgements."
this is also important: "The SEC also proposed rules to ban "flash trading" - the process where certain financial institutions gain access to trading information...before it is made public."

2) Lloyds bank is considering removing much that they have invested (or are going to invest) in the government-backed Asset Protection Scheme. Provided this is not done recklessly, it's a good thing all round. The government is liable for less money and less mistakes, the bank has it's money and greater power over itself. Hopefully it can take part in paying back some of the loans it got off the government. The fact that "Lloyds had been told it would need to substantially strengthen its balance sheet if it were to withdraw from the APS" is both good and bad. Good in terms of the long-term sustainability of the banking system, bad in terms of the short-term mountain of debt our economy has been built on. Perhaps that should be sand castle.

3) To me, by far the least important of the three stories is that "EU agrees on bonus claw-back call". The first two are important systemic measures which will have a significant impact on the stability and sustainability of the banking sector. The third, to me, seems like a vague wave in their direction, based more on short-term political motives. If the 'claw back' scheme is a success in bringing about a more sustainable and long-term approach to banking then good, but it's the detail rather than the principle i'm yet to be convinced by.
Gordy says: ""I believe that people have been appalled by the suggestion in some institutions and their practices that they simply want to return to the policies of the past," Mr Brown said."
If these measures deliver the much-needed kick up the back side to bring these practices to an end for the good of wider-society, then i'm in favour.

which brings me rather nicely onto 4) Support for tax to curb bonuses. This is not a new piece like the others, but was listed with them and provides an interesting counter-point with 3. There is also a deeper issue about how the consensus is moving to the left on bankers' pay, the political consensus seems to be drifting to the right with the relative ascendancy of the Tories and demise of Labour.
Interesting times

Thursday, 17 September 2009

drugs legislation

Now, i'm in favour of legalising at least some recreational drugs. I would put marajuana on the same footing as alcohol.
There's a bit in the Guardian disagreeing with me, so let's have a look through their arguements.

In attacking an advocate of legalisation, the piece is getting silly and bitchy:
"There are, it seems, no downsides to the government taking over the drugs market – just a road to unbroken harmony and state-sponsored highs."
it's worth noting how it starts, though that does not impact on the quality of the actual arguement. I won't go through the whole thing as it's long.

I don't like the way that the arguement is made, as it sounds more like a Daily Mail rant. Saying that legalisation will make doctors into dealers is silly:
"But who does the addict turn to when they want to come off the drug? Not the doctor to whom they are now linked, like the addict to the street dealer."

i'm certainly not convinved by the arguement that "The effectiveness of a government-regulated drug trade is already evident in the alcohol-fuelled violence that plagues so many of our cities,".
Surely it's better that these people are seen as wrong uns, and can get treatment, is better than just leaving them to suffer in the dark.
If anything, it seems like the author would like everything less healthy than apples should be banned.

in defence of the public sector

A nice bit in the letters at the Guardian defending the public sector, which doesn't happen enough:
"Just how productive would that sector be without public sector education and training to supply its workers; public sector healthcare to keep them fit for duty; state benefits to subsidise poverty wages; publicly funded transport infrastructure to deliver their goods?"

Rail nationalisation

Apparently, 70% back rail renationalisation.
That'd be nice. The lot in change now have made a right pig's arse of things as they are, so let's get the state in so that passengers might at least figure in the priorities, not like they do at the moment.
I mean, it's a joke really. Maybe they could look to some of the places in Europe like Germany where the trains are amazing

Toynbee on Tory spending plans

I really agree with Polly Toynbee that making spending cuts too quickly could choke off any possible recovery.

"The tax-and-spend battle began in earnest this week. But with every speech, Osborne and Cameron offer nastier medicine, sharper knives and worse to come"
and they love it too. Their core vote loves it too.

"With encouraging indicators this week that Britain is starting to emerge from recession a little ahead of Treasury forecasts, early signs suggest public opinion is shifting to the view that Labour's fiscal stimulus worked. Recovery will be fragile all next year, with fear of a double dip. So where are the Tories? Thoroughly trounced, proven to be wrong when all through the crisis they alone in the world opposed all intervention, including the bailing-out of banks. They have virtually no reputable economic allies."
That's interesting from a 'wonk' point of view, but will it matter to voters? I hope so, just because if someone sorts the economy out and then is replaced by someone who opposed the measures that worked, that sounds stupid.

According to Toynbee, economists (who may or may not know anything about economics) are not supportive of the Tory plans:
"Economists Anatole Kaletsky of the Times and Martin Wolf of the Financial Times, both conservatives, this week walloped the Tory fixation with rapid and savage paying down of debt. Mervyn King, no Labour friend, has been the great promoter of quantitative easing. Robert Chote of the IFS warns Britain may already be planning to withdraw fiscal stimulus too soon. Every country, except Argentina, intends to keep spending through 2010, despite equally high debts. Nonetheless, at the spring election, just as recovery is fluttering to life, the Conservatives' one great priority will be to put it all at risk with immediate deep cuts, unprecedented anywhere else."
I was never a fan of Martin Wolf coz i always saw him as being dogmatic and hard-headed in being a big ol' righty on economics. Meaning that if someone like THAT is criticising the Tory plans, then the Tories are probably wrong. If someone who has made a career advocating one type of economics turns round and proposes something else, then they may have a point. I, for example, don't tend to agree with Martin Wolf, so if he's now seen the light and agrees i'm right that can only mean he's correct

Easier SME access to borrowing

The proposals too loosen rules and allow SMEs to borrow money directly

Small businesses will be able to borrow money from City pension funds and insurance companies – rather than having to rely on banks – under plans being drawn up by Alistair Darling.

The chancellor believes Britain's banks are starving small businesses of cash, and will announce a package of measures in his autumn pre-Budget report that will see City resources channelled to expanding firms.

Under the scheme, small businesses would be able to approach City institutions which would be approved to lend by the government.

In an article in today's Observer, the chancellor says: "I want to start creating a different financial model in the future, in which small companies get funding from sources other than banks. Our goal is to make finance the servant, not the master, of the real economy."

Amid tentative signs that the worst of the recession may be over, the chancellor is concerned that a nascent recovery could be smothered if a small number of over-cautious lenders fail to back small and medium-sized businesses. According to Treasury figures, small firms receive 92% of their funding from the four largest banks."

it could be quite a radical step, and it shows that there are still ideas coming out of this government. And it just confirms that Alastair Darling is ace

Brendan Barber on spending cuts

The general secretary of the TUC has pinpointed "tax relief on pension savings to be scrapped for higher earners and says measures to curb Britain's national debt should target the better off."
I agree with him, though i fear long-winded administrative measures in order to sort out who needs it or doesn't. If this was done through the direct taxation system and sorted by the Treasury, then i'm in favour.

Barber makes very good points about where the axe will fall:
"He said unions would defend universal benefits such as child benefit being paid to the middle classes, but suggested reviewing tax arrangements for the better off, adding: "Issues like the tax relief on higher rate [taxpayers'] pensions – this is preferential treatment, giving a massive boon to better off people at a huge cost to the public purse, a cost that's equivalent to twice the cost of the overall public sector pensions that some of our critics keep saying is unaffordable."

Andrew Rawnsley on Labour's future

Going back a bit, but an interesting piece by Rawnsley on Labour.
One quote i like about the lack of scrutiny of the Tories in the media:
"Many in the media are treating the Conservatives as the next government while not subjecting the Tories to the scrutiny that should accompany that assumption. If Labour wants some heat put on the Tories, it will have to get off its knees and do the job itself."

"The latest chatter about a coup is not an answer to Labour's problems, but a symptom of it. The constant moaning from within the government's ranks about the ineptness of the leader is a form of therapy for their collective failure to take the battle to the Tories."
all too true

"There are still things for Labour to play for if they could summon the energy, willpower and wit to get back in the game. The mood of the country is not so much surging enthusiasm for a Conservative government as a weary resignation that this is what it is going to get. Even David Cameron concedes that he has not yet "sealed the deal" with the electorate."
again true, but it seems people are choosing the least worse option, rather than any great enthusiasm for either side.

James Purnell on Labour's future

Now, there are some who think Purnell is more Tory than some Tories.
I don't tend to disagree, but i noticed this very interesting passage:
"Third, we need a more ambitious concept of security. One of the reasons we have lost voters is that people no longer believe the welfare state will protect them from the forces of globalisation.

The solution to that isn't to stop globalisation, it's to make the protection real and the outcomes fairer. That should include extending the government's jobs guarantee so that everyone is guaranteed to find a job within, say, a year. And it means thinking about how people who work hard can be guaranteed that they won't be in poverty."

a government job guarantee. That is good and lefty, that's for sure. I like that.
He references Amartya Sen, who i like too. So there is some hope. If he's the most right Labour is going to get, then i suppose that's not too bad.

"Cruddas's speech was important in making sure that the debate about renewing the Labour party is pluralist, civilised and committed. It also shows that there's intellectual energy on the left. The task now is to try to cohere the different strands of thinking in the Labour party in to an effective and convincing argument for a better society."
the problem could be that we're trying to do that from opposition. I hope that if we loose the next election (almost certain) then we need to be ready straight from the off to be a government in waiting, to balance putting pressure on the Tory gov. straight away but not peaking too early

Rover and the Phoenix Four

A bit late i know, but worth a post.
The 'Phoenix Four' legally lined their own pockets while sending MG Rover to the wall. Now, it's one thing to rinse a company and the employee pension scheme for their own profit, but to do it with the protection of the law is a farce.
Labour should be the party of labour and their allowing these sorts of things to happen is a pretty black mark against their record.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Tories - it's just a jump to the right, and then a jump to the right

and then a jump to the right, and then a jump to the riiiiight.
Tory party policy at the moment.
It's amazing the transition that we're seeing in them. There are too many to list, but this recent attack on benefit claimants is just the latest example

"the system makes it hard for people to earn more at work than they get in benefits. "
so the remedy is to improve the pay of those worst off? No, cut benefits. It's pretty damn stupid

Monday, 14 September 2009

Public sector and private sector efficiency

I have heard that

"Record levels of government investment in the public sector has shown that such a strategy does not always lead to improvements. In fact, public sector productivity has fallen by 3.4% in the past 10 years while private sector productivity has grown by 27.9% in the same period. "

i'm wary of anything coming from the CBI, but that is still an interesting stat if true

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Racism and right-wing extremism

From here, my pennies:

Cor blimey, what a mess.
We have a media doing their best to insight people to believe they are under attack by benefit-stealing foreigners, people who believe it who aren’t proper racists, proper racists and those who protest against racists starting a riot because they’re bored.

There are many people at fault, and what to do is a big problem. There is no doubt plenty of people feel (rightly?) that they have been abandonded by the political establishment and they are angry. I don’t think University-educated middle-class liberals talking down to them and telling them they are naughty for supporting the likes of the BNP is going to help.

There is a serious problem and the MUWs at the Mail and Express etc. are throwing gallons of petrol on the fire, but blaming them is not enough

Big spending cuts

According to Thursday's Guardian, the Taxpayers' Alliance and Institute of Directors plans discussed in the previous post involve cutting things such as:

"The Taxpayers' Alliance and the Institute of Directors propose abolishing Surestart and child benefit, and imposing a one-year freeze on the basic state pension and on all public-sector pay except for the army."

Their usual rubbish

Big spending cuts

The Taxplayers' Alliance and the Institute of Directors came out with their usual rubbish about how great slashing public spending is.
Left Foot forward attacks their claims, and I agree with the lefties, no surprises there.

They think they can cut money without it impacting front line services. They're wrong, and they don't much care what I think. But they can fuck off.
I could go into detail, but it just seems such rubbish i get angry. To say that they can reduce staff and pay without impacting front-line services is pants. How can you pay people less and expect the same service?

They attacked Sure Start Centres, which says it all really. They claim they would get rid of them. But replace them? Hmm? Not that the TPA or IoD care about poor people

Labour's future

Jackie Ashley's scare story is mostly rubbish not worth reading, but this bit is good:

"Labour politicians do have a story to tell. It's the story of underfunded public services being built up again, of health workers being paid decently, of a big expansion in further education, public investment in transport and of success in containing terrorism. It's about the emergence of a more tolerant country. It's about relative peace in Northern Ireland and democracy in Scotland and Wales.

It's about reminding people that, despite the ups and downs of the business cycle, most of them had 10 good years: even if unemployment is bad now, and house prices lower, millions did very well for a long time. It wasn't all an accident. It wasn't all wasted or meaningless just because the thunderclouds rolled back again.

For every positive one can find a negative – failures, mistaken wars, breaches of faith. But it isn't all black. A Tory government will do things people on the centre left will hate"

Electoral reform

A piece from seemingly ages ago about how reform could be linked to possible recovery for Labour.
I have to say I would favour some reform. The thing is, what to replace it? It's so important to have MPs with constituencies, so anything which breaks that link will not find my approval.
An interesting proposal is the French system, where if a candidate gets less than 50%, the top two run off so that at least one person has got 50% of the vote.
Alternative Vote would be a good one, where something like the London Mayor system could be a good one. Rating candidates in terms of preference, then knocking off each one with the least votes. There are problems with this as some people get multiple votes, others only one.
There are far more problems than easy solutions, and i wonder what form this solution may take

Economic recovery

Peston cites RBS CEO Stephen Hester in highlighting the dangers of economic recovery.
I'm with him on this. Too-fast a recovery may lead to the lessons not being learnt (I don't think they have) and/or a 'double dip' recession, when what we need is a focus on a really sustainable future.
Lower lending rates can be a good or bad thing, and should not in and of itself be a measure of progress. For too long debt has been too central to the economy, so a reduction in this can be welcomed as a step on the way to a sustainable future.


I'm watching the ODI between England and Australia and I can't help but think we have our tempo all wrong.
In Test cricket too often England try to get on with things too quickly, play rash shots and get out.
In limited overs they are far too timid and end up going along too slowly, finding themselves too far behind the rate.
It's driving me mad

Friday, 11 September 2009

Thursday, 10 September 2009

lessons learnt?

It does seem to me that the fundamental lessons that need to be learnt from the financial crisis haven't been.
To paraphrase, Ashley Seager says:
"And the investment bankers are out there making money again, popping the champagne corks and telling themselves how clever they are – after all, they have managed to pass a good proportion of their huge losses on to us, the taxpayers, and are sitting at the roulette table again."

"In spite of Merkel and Sarkozy's admirable desire to do something about all of this, Tim Geithner, the US treasury secretary, made it clear that the US thinks that forcing banks to hold more capital is a far better way to prevent future crises."

i'd certainly agree that having more capital as a ratio is a very important step, more so than arbitrarily capping bonuses.

but all that does not properly address the issues that caused the collapse. I'd say they were excess reliance on debt, in addition to the lack of actual capital in the banks
too free markets
politicians scared of financiers
concentration of power in banks too important to fail
lack of interest by the general public

maybe others too

Labour and Tory plans for spending and the election

Jonathan Freedland argues that the election battles lines are drawn, with 'the many' and 'the few' having their champions decked out in their colours.
Cameron, he argues, has jumped on the band-wagon of MPs expenses to say how much he'll slash everything which helps politicians and ID cards, ID cards, ID cards.

"Proof of that came when reporters asked Cameron to offer more substantial cuts to the national budget than demanding honourable members pay full price for their custard creams. "ID cards", came the answer. Good for him. The identity card scheme is indeed a waste of money and should be scrapped. What else? "ID cards." And? "ID cards." Three times he offered up the same lamb for sacrifice. Which suggests that, for all the macho promises of frankness, he can't think of any other cuts – or none he's willing to admit in public."

Freedland argues that focusing on the size of the debt is a red herring, which i agree with. The size of the current debt is not something that needs a 'slash and burn' approach to sort, it should be gently wound down over time.

investment in young people and keeping people in jobs is worth while and will reep rewards in the future.

perhaps the most telling is the comparison between Labour's desire to keep inheritance tax and tax credits at the current level, while the Tories would reduce these:

"Labour will wield the axe with an eye on protecting the neediest. But look at the Tories. For all his talk of belt-tightening, Cameron has not promised to revoke his proposed change to inheritance tax – raising the threshold to £1m, thereby helping 3,000 of the richest estates each year. Yet tax credits, which boost the incomes of the lowest paid, are firmly in the Tories' sights. There are grounds here for Labour to replay one of its oldest tunes: that they are for the many, while the Tories are for the few."

the UK's deadliest biscuit

Worthy of comment:
the UK's deadliest biscuit has been found to be the Custard Cream.

the full list of the UK's riskiest biscuits, together with their 'danger' rating:
Custard Cream 5.64
Cookie 4.34
Chocolate Biscuit Bar 4.12
Wafer 3.74
Rich Tea 3.45
Bourbon 3.44
Oat Biscuit 3.31
Digestive 3.14
Ginger Nut 2.99
Shortbread 2.90
Caramel Shortcake 2.76
Nice Biscuit 2.27
Iced Biscuits/Party Rings 2.16
Chocolate Finger 1.38
Jaffa Cakes 1.16

Defending Labour and attacking Tories

Alastair Campbell is good value. Here's another cracking read from his blog, especially like the bit at the end:
"Defend record with pride, attack Tories with gusto

2009-09-10 11:06:36

Well, we got a right old debate going yesterday, when I picked over the parody that was Dave's performance on the BBC News, and the uber-parody of a piece in the Telegraph on so-called Tory Cool.

I'm not pretending all comments, whether on the blog, Facebook or Twitter, were supportive of my view, and there is no doubt there is a strand of opinion out there that simply says Labour have had it, and nobody is terribly bothered whether Cameron is up to it or not. Depressing in a way, but also a sign that he is there to be beaten, because the public has nothing like the enthusiasm for the Tories in 2009 that they had for Labour in 1997.

There are also regular voices on here and on my Facebook page, who have genuinely switched from Labour to Tory, though I can't help thinking for some of them this is more a case of going where they think the wind blows, so that past Labour associations will not harm them too much, socially and politically, if a new lot comes in. Others will hold a genuine belief that Cameron has geuinely changed his party ... but even when I try really, really hard to be objective, I find it difficult to see how.

But of all the comments that came in, the one I want to draw attention to was on Facebook, from Barbara Cannon, arguing with Tory convert Nic Careem. 'I just have to look around my town,' she says. 'Two new road by passes, one new hospital, a new University, a new FE College, new police station, new build in a new town centre, major investment in endless community facilities, minimum wage, tax credits, Sure Start Centre, Children's Centre, we are still enjoying the lowest rate of unemployment in the last thirty years!!! also lowest interest rates. None of this would have been possible with the Tories.'

There are three main strands to an election campaign for a party of government - defence of the record, attacks on your opponents, and setting out a forward policy agenda. The last of these is the most important, but you need the other two just as much.

What Barbara is showing is that even after the economic crisis, there is a great record to be defended, and we need to do a much better job of defending it. With so much media negativity, and with the Tories so keen to run the country down, if you're not careful, people simply forget the progress there has been. It then gets taken for granted, like it would have happened anyway, and people overlook the fact that many of these changes happened because Labour were in power, and the Tories were out of power. The defence of the record is directly linked to the attack on the Tories.

It requires people at every level of the party, with ministers and MPs at the front of it, never tiring of setting out the changes that have been made, and the Tory efforts to stop them. It also increases the legitimacy of the foward policy agenda being put forward.

People vote for the future, rather than on the past. But the past is often the best way of signalling what that future holds. This is a country changed for the better, however much media and political opponents say otherwise, and a bit of Barbara's fight at every level would help get that message across whilst Dave faces up to another series of tough choices looming in his in-tray ...

Tie or no tie for lunch at The Guardian?

Vogue or House and Garden for my next big 'policy' interview?

Congrats letter to Fabio Capello now, or wait till all qualifiers over?

Good luck message to England women's team ahead of tonight's Euros final, or shall we wait to see if they win?

Commiserations with Scotland manager George Burley, or does that risk associating us with defeat?

Find out if Mercury prize winner would like to sit on music task force team.

Should we have a music task force?

Get new Beatles box set. Have them next to CD player next time Nick Robinson pops in for breakfast shots with Sam and kids. Get Tara Hamilton-Miller to do piece of my love for Beatles.

Could we get Paul McCartney onto music task force? Ringo?

Can we blame Brown for SBS/Taliban/kidnap/death story without offending troops or media?

Send flowers to Tara H-M for her lovely piece in Telegraph on how cool I am. Roses or lilies?"

Lib Dems Tax and spend

Lib Dems:
raise a tax, spend it on education and training.
Cool, let's have some of that.
i agree with them that unemployment, especially youth unemployment, needs to be the main priority.

Tory spending plans and councils

George Osbourne's thing about learning from councils is not, in and of itself, a bad move.
Working in partnership with councils is a good move, integrating the top-end policy direction with the low-level delivery of these services makes sense.
However, what they're really getting at is more and more ways to slash public spending. They can promise more services for less money all they want, but's it's largely a lie.
They are trying to soften people up for an agenda far to the right of where there were until recently. They have moved from their 'compassionate' and 'progressive' stances to their stock in trade of slash and burn.
They are not being called to account on it because Labour are so unpopular and people want a change. However, i'm not sure whether people want a change of direction, or just a new hand on the wheel


Julian Ware-Lane (top bloke) has written something on libertarianism for Labour list. Here's my two pennies worth:
"Mr Ware-Lane, top work. I wanted to get involved on here because there will be less people than Labour List and we can hopefully involve in a discussion about it, rather than have idiots shouting.
I am a liberal socialist, in that on social matters i am pretty much a libertarian. I believe in legalisation of drugs on the basis of liberty, although i am willing to balance this against the wider social picture.
economically i'm very much a socialist.
while I am in some senses a libertarian, i support the right of people to choose to loose some of their liberty (e.g. CCTV) to gain some. Classical liberalism, social contract etc.

Speed cameras are such a devisive thing. To me, the people who argue against them tend to be the ones who support tougher sentancing and cracking down on crime. Other people's crime. And that tends to be the libertarian case, to give themselves more liberty. In some cases it may mean liberty for others too, but they tend to see the the case for liberty through their own eyes.

I support things like higher taxes (an infringement on economic liberty) in order to bring about things which enable liberty, such as healthcare or education"

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Lloyds bank independence

"Lloyds Banking Group has won backing from its investors to raise £10bn as it fights to reduce its dependence on the taxpayer."

After many banks did so well without state intervention. hmmm.

if they are able to get their money and give back the government bail-out, good for the gov. as the deficit can be reduced as a result

FT editorial

When the FT runs an editorial titled "Too much of a very good thing", and includes things like "So, the view expressed by Lord Turner, chairman of the Financial Services Authority, in an interview published last week that parts of the British financial sector might be larger than is “socially optimal” is uncomfortable. He is, however, right, and his intervention is symbolic of the welcome change in attitude at the FSA since he took charge at the supervisor."


"during the boom, British banks were allowed to bloat"


"Now that the banks are returning to profit, many in the City would like to return to the status quo ante. Let us be clear: this would be unacceptable. The sector must realise, as Lord Turner has, that real reform is essential. "

i have to wonder if they've been taken over by lefties. Or if lefty ideas are just the right thing to do according to financial journalist types, which i'd tend to agree with. Interesting times.


Well, the blogosphere is all of a blogger over Cruddas' proposals, here, and here.
Other than the fact that they are uncosted, they work very well as principles:
"1 - establishment of a High Pay Commission;
2 - greater tax justice, including closing tax havens and more equal distribution of income and wealth;
3 - index link benefit levels, pensions and the minimum wage to average incomes;
4 - replacing tuition fees with a graduate solidarity tax;
5 - a Fair Employment Clause in all public contracts;
6 - windfall and transaction taxes and resetting capital gains tax;
7 - a new covenant with the military, including more investment in mental healthcare, equipment, housing and support for veterans funded by scrapping plans to renew Trident and re-deploying the money saved within the Minister Of Defence budget;
8 - a Green New Deal, to include scrapping the third runway at Heathrow;
9 - remutualisation of the finance sector;
10 - a credit card bill of rights for consumers."

it would certainly energise Labour's base/core vote, which has been neglected by the recent leadership in favour of swing voters. That is now coming home to bite them on the bottom.
Lots of nice lefty proposals, which i'm all in favour of.
There is one thing that divides Tory from Labour and Tory from Tory: Europe. Let's hear something on that too.

I've got a sneaking feeling that the FT quite fancy Labour, and might just try to get their number in moments of weakness:
"Some of it may sound radical (scrapping Trident and tuition fees and doing more to prevent grotesque pay in the private sector…and what does he mean by a new “windfall tax”?). There is much here which is likely to play well in the Compass “leftie” heartland. Interestingly, you might also argue there’s little in there that wouldn’t also appeal to the aspirant working classes which are increasingly tired of Labour."

MPs workloads

A brilliant piece about the workload of MPs and two radical solutions to make them more effective leaders. Included is a plan to make MPs more independent of their party machine, which people should like but not the party machine.
Top piece though.

Cameron = dick

Apparently, Alastair Campbell says so:
"Cameron's Conservatism beyond parody

2009-09-09 10:38:00

If you'd watched the BBC News last night, you'd have thought Rory Bremner had given up his serious commentator bit and gone back to being a funny impersonator dreaming up lines that no politician, surely, would ever have the nerve to deliver. David Cameron's performance was beyond parody.

The scene was Dave's kitchen, where he was clearing away the cereal boxes - like he does every morning when the BBC cameras pop in - then engaging in a bit of small talk with Samantha before raising his voice to utter the words 'trust me' as he turned from wife to camera. I would instinctlvely worry about the marriage of a man who felt he had to tell his wife to trust him as he left for the office, but of course the words were directed not at Mrs Dave, but at the BBC team who would later put together political editor Nick Robinson's package.

Off to work, which mainly entailed delivering a speech of such soaring populism that even I, no stranger to the occasional populist touch, found myself squirming in embarrassment. Here we are, looking at post-economic crisis public sector debt figures on a mammoth scale, and Dave woud like us to think he can deal with it by adding fifty pence to the cost of Vince Cable's tomato salad in the Commons canteen.

Then there were those other big cuts he was going to make - lower salaries for MPs, fewer ministerial cars. When he admitted that the sums involved amounted to a 'pinprick', it was the 'prick' part of the word that stuck in the mind.

Cameron, with millions in the bank, does not have to worry about the paycut. Nor do several of his similarly loaded frontbench colleagues who would prefer to get back to the days when politics was the plaything of the wealthy. But even after the expenses scandal, there must come a point where as a democracy which claims to want high quality politicians from all backgrounds, we recognise that paying MPs higher not lower salaries, whilst politically difficult, might actually be the right thing to do. Populism dictates you keep pandering to the anti-politics mood of the moment. Should Cameron make it to Number 10, he may regret it.

During a quick scour around the web to see how his speech was covered, I came across another piece of Tory uber-parody in the Telegraph. Byline Tara Hamilton-Miller. Headline 'How cool are David Cameron's Conservatives?' Picture of Dave and Sam in their Boden-gear on the beach. (Does he shave his legs by the way? That would be cool.)

Tara H-M spells out what it is that is making young Tories feel they are part of something exciting - 'David Cameron choosing to be interviewed in the fashion magazine Grazia, and Boris Johnson appearing on the front of a London Fashion Week special issue of Elle magazine embody all that is fresh and forward-thinking about their party.' Isn't it great to see the noble causes and the great crusades are still driving people in politics?

Tara, who clearly likes Dave a lot, scoffs at those who said that the ditching of tweeds and ties, or Dave's trip to Scandinavia to hug huskies, were just part of a cynical rebranding exercise. 'They were the actions of young Tories doing what felt right.' Aw sweet.

And anyone who thinks the party is run by a bunch of Notting Hill toffs, she relays excitedly, should know some of them have moved out of the area. To Kensington and Chelsea I guess.

But there's more from the Tara-Tory message machine ... the 'boys' at Central HQ are really interested in real ale, and some of them go to real ale festivals. Oh yes, we are talking real men of the people here. Some of them go to a pub where the 'lady bartender' is mean to them 'and they seem to like it.' Another sign of their 'increasing confidence', says Tara, is that they don't mind having a go at karaoke. Honestly, I don't normally urge people to get the Telegraph, but this bilge has to be seen to be believed.

Nor should we worry that Dave's team is so heavily male-dominated, says THM. Because they love nothing more than to get home and read bedtime stories to their kids.

The best parody line comes when she says 'Cameron's Conservatism is about being politically serious.' Shame her piece appeared on the day so many people realised from his speech that it is anything but."

Recession over?

"Recession is officially over, according to leading thinktank"

we'll see about that, but it seems to be a step in the right direction. Helped along by the government action including the car scrapage thing.
Good work, it seems

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Ireland’s budget balancing hurts economy

I thanks you.

told you so

"Ireland suffers from problems familiar to British policymakers: a housing downturn, troubled banks and an economy overexposed to consumption. The policy response has been starkly different.

Last Autumn, at the height of the financial crisis, the Labour Government launched a fiscal stimulus despite falling tax revenues. The Irish responded in the opposite manner by cutting back spending and raising taxes. The country has had two emergency budgets in the past year. Both direct and indirect taxes have been raised and public sector pay cut. These moves were praised by Guido Fawkes at the time. In essence they represent the views of George Osborne and David Cameron who today said:

“we opposed the VAT cut and warned about the scale of borrowing … bringing down the deficit is not an alternative to long-term economic success, it’s a vital part of it.”"

Gordy on bonuses

A bit late I know, but I support the idea at least:
"Gordon Brown has pledged tough action to clamp down on excessive remuneration for bankers as part of an international effort to rectify the systemic weakness that led to the global financial crisis.

The prime minister said in an interview with the Financial Times that pay and bonuses should be based on long-term success not short-term speculative gains; banks should “claw back” bankers’ rewards if their performance suffered in subsequent years; and regulators should be able to impose higher capital requirements on financial institutions."

"Mr Brown said he hoped G20 leaders meeting in Pittsburgh this month would agree a “global compact for growth” that would include co-ordinated steps to withdraw stimulus packages and government support for banks; a deal on “trigger points” where countries would be expected to act to address global imbalances such as excessive current account deficits and surpluses; and an agreement on climate change."

He is the man with the ideas, he knows what he's talking about on the economy. A shame that he's unable to transfer his obvious brilliance for economics to politics more widely.

Public wants more taxes for high earners


The question of whether money will be raised or lost by this measure is one i'm happy to look into (i've been accused of refusing to consider it before), but no one has yet found the answer so don't think i'll manage it on my lunch break.

Anyway, higher taxes for higher earners ++.
Also probably needs tighter rules around evasion/avoidance/whatever the legal term is. Not letting them sit in the Lords or own Newspapers would be things on my list

BNP on the BBC

This again. There's a lot of it about.

i’m not happy about the lack of consideration for free speech on Liberal Conspiracy.I thought it was supposed to be a LIBERAL forum. Being a liberal means tolerating those you don’t agree with, even when they are nasty racist nutters. the point is that everyone seems to be calculating what to do on the basis of what will do most damage to the BNP, rather than considering what is best for democracy. I know the BNP in power is bad for democracy as we all know what they’d do, but i’m getting pretty sick of so called ‘liberals’ trying to deny basic liberal rights to people they disagree (very strongly) with.

"This article does rather seem to imply that the British public are inbred morons, ready to march straight to the ballot box and vote for whichever candidate has the nicest sounding name. I have a bit more faith in them than that (most of them, anyway).”

I don’t. (prove me wrong, britain, prove me wrong)

Benevelont dictatorship is the way forward I say. I only post here because nobody has created ‘authoritarian conspiracy’ yet.

More seriously, the problem isn’t so much the BNP’s appearence, but the fact nobody else in the mainstream parties is going to be capable of making pro-immigration arguments. We’ve had over a decade of hysteria about immigration that leads to moronic comments about britain having an open door policy (it doesn’t – anyone who thinks this is asked to explain why it would be necessary to have a campaign to allow Iraqi interpreters into the UK if we actually did have an open doors policy) and frequent inaccurate assertions about the benefits immigrants are entitled to. So much so that I doubt even the more literate and nuanced members of the anti-immigration brigade would be capable of writing a few paragraphs that put the pro-immigration case if a gun was stuck to their head – which isn’t the case with other political issues where most people at least know some of the arguments against their own position. I’d rather see Griffin face a couple of academics from Compas or the centre for migration policy research than a couple of loyal party hacks reciting the party line.

For that matter I’d rather see an entire panel of experienced academics discuss the issues of the day than a bunch of party loyalists more interested in making soundbites. Imagine a panel comprising proffessors of economics, criminolgy, international relations, history, social policy and physics. Now that would be worth watching."

Bearded Socialist:
"I'm certainly with you on the panel of specialists rather than party hacks, sounds amazing. But there would only be you and me watching it because it's 'boring'. Even if we got thousands to sign up to support it, it wouldn't never get off the ground because it's not 'young' or 'sexy' enough.

On addressing the issues, you're quite right.
The media are full of stories every day about migrants coming over here, stealing our jobs, lazing around on benefits, committing crimes, overtaking our culture, putting down the ingenous people.
I don't think it's true, but the fact that it's there all day every day makes it become near enough true.
That, to me, is a big part of the problem. I wonder how much of the BNP's support comes from personal experience, how much from the media"

Monday, 7 September 2009

Boring economics in the media

I was reading some Peston, when i came across this:
"the media coverage of this weekend's meeting of finance ministers from the G20 biggest economies was unbalanced....

It focussed almost exclusively on the allegedly "sexy" and "easy-to-grasp" agreement that bankers' pay must be reconnected to the fundamental performance of banks, which would imply the end of get-rich-quick."

Typical eh? rather than going on about the (boring) detail in boring detail, they focus on another story altogether.
just interesting is all

BNP on the BBC

From this discussion:
I personally think that as an elected and legal political party the BNP have every right to a platform, even if i can't stand the garbage that comes out of their mouths. I don't think the educated liberal elite has the right to ban them any more than the BNP has the right to ride roughshod over the educated liberal elite.

My response to the original post includes an anti-Ian Dale rant

Friday, 4 September 2009

Goals of the week

I love the BBC.
And this is just one more example of why, especially the bar n in after 1 minute

Bankers' pay

Right-ists are out in force (links to follow) to defend the rights of the well-paid to keep all their money without nasty state interference.
What I haven't yet seen is the lefties' case.
So i'll come up with one when I have time.
Not that anyone will read it, but that's another issue.
Help appreciated on that one.

Oh, and Southend won tonight. Woot

Afghanistan war

Nick Robinson concentrates on whether Gordy can convince people to stay in Afghanistan.
Personally i'm actually in favour. The poor buggers there would otherwise just get left alone to fight viscious and nasty warlords and Taliban types. Those are the types who think woman shouldn't vote, should have no say over having sex (i.e. ignoring rape) and are general religious fundamentalist mentals.
We should stick the course.
We should never have gone into Iraq

"The reason why there isn’t enough money for rape crisis centres"

"It seems that Boris Johnson needs to spend £600,000 on a logo instead:

“Londoners are being asked to help design a new logo for the city to rival New York’s “I ♥ NY” campaign. One of the firms bidding to design the logo, to be used globally in the run-up to the 2012 Games, called for ideas to be posted on Twitter, with hundreds of members of the public submitting artwork ideas.

Mayor Boris Johnson is spending £600,000 on the logo and a shortlist of six design firms will be drawn from more than 450 entries after tomorrow’s deadline for bids.”

It sounds like something that Ken Livingstone would do."

Richard Littlejohn is a twat

I dislike Littlejohn and what he stands for (wind-up merchant) so i've quoted in full:
"Another day, another uninformed rant by the Daily Mail’s Richard Littlejohn.

He says today:

Beyoncé belief
Reader Nick Paterson-Morgan drew my attention to the following announcement in The Times:

My first reaction was that this must be a wind-up, probably placed for a bet by someone at the swine flu hotline with nothing better to do. We rang The Times advertising department and they assured us it was genuine.

There’s no mention of a Mr Pong, or any father’s name for that matter. If true, which I still doubt, somewhere out there in Shropshire is a single mother called Kate Pong with quins, variously named after an American pop singer, a model and the U.S. President.

You couldn’t make it up.

Actually you could make it up. MacGuffin at TabloidWatch points out that Littlejohn’s team, typically, didn’t bother checking their facts properly. Kate Pong is a labrador.

He says ‘we’ rang the Times, which suggests he couldn’t even do that himself either. And notice how he even includes a snide remark about single mothers. In a story about a dog.

And there’s plenty of other rubbish research in the article too. See TabloidWatch."

Labour constitution and leadership

Talk of Gordy (i mis-spelled it as Bordy and considered leaving it as is) going is back on the go, but this should sober the plotters:

"Please at least mention the constitution of the Labour party, which makes clear that a Leader of the Labour party who wishes to stay in that office can only be removed by first, a fifth of Labour MPs calling for a leadership election, then leads to a vote at the next party conference."

"Now, It would be nice to see all this reflected in journalists coverage of such stratagems in the real world."


link between 'working class wages' (however defined) and public spending.
very interesting if you read the whole thing

bendy buses

'stat' of the day:
"Those in areas most affected by the removal of articulated ‘bendy’ buses were in favour of a mayoral candidate that pledged to keep them."

good point on tv debate

A good point on the TV debate and our parliamentary democracy generally:
"That message is that you the voter, on polling day, are voting for a Prime Minister, not for your local MP"

on 'corruption'
"Amongst all the corruption in Parliament exposed before the summer, there were a few examples of notably bad and surprisingly good behaviour. Cameron’s school chum Bill Wiggin MP managed to use Parliament as a cash machine, withdrawing £250 per month as petty cash and a further £400 per month for food, regardless of whether he was in his Leominster constituency or his Westminster second home and none of which reconciled with a single receipt. Laura Moffatt on the other hand made the news when it emerged she sleeps on a camp bed in her office rather than using her second home allowance."

"Party leaders already get plenty of air time and more than their fair share of newspaper column inches. Already, the overwhelming majority of people vote on party lines rather than on the strengths of their local candidates. Providing a TV debate as the locus of the election will make it more likely that Moffatt will lose her seat in spite of her strengths and less likely that Wiggin will lose his seat over his personal greed."

"It’s because of this conspiracy to get people voting nationally instead of locally, in conjunction with an electoral system that promotes parties instead of candidates, that we have 400 safe seats in a parliament of 646 MPs. And it’s this overwhelming proportion of safe seats that gave us a festering culture of unaccountability in Westminster, creating fertile ground for the expenses scandal in the first place."

Thursday, 3 September 2009

A bit of fun here, or at least I hope so. Trying to work out whay Cameron stands for by looking at his wife's shop has to be a joke. right?

this quote sruck me:
"ID cards are some of the few things on which Cameron has managed to express an opinion: he thinks that the scheme will be a waste of money."

but rather than managing to express an opinion, Cameron has failed to NOT express an opinion, which is his usual stance. He makes Blair look like the most principled person on earth

otherwise people may catch on:
"C. Make the economy less of a worry for everyone. Which may seem absurdly optimistic given that we are living through the most devastating economic downturn in living memory, and given that Smythson is hardly a symbol of prudence as it charges £160 for its Scuba diving journal, £250 for its Game Book, £250 for its Yachting Log Book, £440 for a wedding photograph album, £975 for its “large nancy bag” and, most shockingly, £19.50 for an A5 refill pad. But one of the most distinctive things about the retailer is that these crazy prices don’t worry you once you enter the store. And they don’t worry you because it’s impossible to find them: I actually looked up these prices on the internet.

This psychological trick is employed by many luxury goods companies: by making price labels hard to find and by making the atmosphere of the store so painfully stylish, you make customers feel it would be uncouth to inquire about price and thereby increase the likelihood of them paying £400 for a bit of paper, out of sheer embarrassment if nothing else. It’s an approach that DC will surely be able to apply to government.

We can only hope that under the new Tories, discussing GDP, interest rates and public sector borrowing deficits will become naff and taboo, so that we can as a nation concentrate on less embarrassing, more critical matters, such as the relative merits of Amy Winehouse and Lily Allen. "

"Which suggests there will be room in Cameron’s Britain, if not for everyone, then at least for all millionaires. "

Don't let Murdoch smash this jewel. The BBC must act to save itself

Jonathan Freedland
i don't agree that "Auntie matches the NHS in public affections",
but i agree with lots of his policy prescriptions for the future:
"So the BBC should not wait for a Cameron administration to act. It should move first, blunting its critics' strongest lines of attack. The bosses could reduce costs instantly, and visibly, by paying themselves far less. There is no reason why the director general, Mark Thompson, should be paid £816,000, as he was last year. He can't claim that that is the market rate, since the BBC does not operate like any other company in the market. His salary should be pegged to the rest of the public sector. If Gordon Brown can get by on £185,000, so should Thompson.

Next, the BBC can rein in its ceaseless expansion. It had every right to move online, but it surely cannot justify buying up the Lonely Planet travel guides. Again, its unique privilege is that it does not have to operate according to market logic. Which means it does not have to behave like a rapacious media giant.

Then it could do something really bold, fulfilling its public service remit by providing something the market is failing to provide. Local newspapers are dying or dead. Yet towns and cities across Britain need to know what is happening in their councils, town halls and police forces. The BBC has an army of reporters and offices across the land, unmatched by any other news organisation. Why doesn't it set aside a few millions to cover those unreported communities – then put the results into the public realm, "open source" style. Commercial radio stations could pick up audio of the council leader; a local paper could run a BBC-originated report from the court. If people are worried about state-run media let the BBC share the money with, say, the Press Association."

he's right to highlight the following sentance as pure pants:
"The final sentence of his speech declared: "The only reliable, durable and perpetual guarantor of independence is profit."

the role of advocacy groups

i was struck by this story the other day about The Defence Industries Council.
They came out and said how wonderful their members are for the economy, and their work being simular to mine, it caught me.
their job is to promote their members' interests. and they did.
their job is advocacy, not balance. it is important that politicians are able to take their argument as part of the whole picture, and are not caught up with one group. Even when it's me

FT's hree-part prescription to take to G20

More from the FT (i've now used up my free articles)

I've stated my belief that the FT is more sympathetic to Gordy than most places, and it comes across again here. Maybe this is because he's an economist and the FT tend to focus on economics?

"Mr Brown, though, is convinced that he still has a story to tell. The bright spot in his short and often troubled premiership has been his prominent role in co-ordinating a global response to the financial and economic crisis.

His chairmanship of the London summit of the G20 group of leading nations in the spring was praised. His grasp of the issues – from the technicalities of banking regulation to arguments about global economic imbalances – is probably unmatched among his peers."

"Mr Brown’s theme is that the crisis has shown governments can co-operate to manage the global economy: “There is definitely proof that when the world comes together it can make some difference”. The lesson to be drawn is that more must be done to institutionalise global economic governance."

I can't do better than to quote it:
"Mr Brown’s prescription comes in three parts. A package at Pittsburgh that charts a return to durable economic growth – including careful co-ordination of the eventual tightening of fiscal policies; measures to restore trust in the banking system, including curbs on remuneration that encourages excessive risk-taking; and a “global compact” to encourage sustained recovery.

This third element would include a commitment to balanced growth – avoiding the imbalances between countries that contributed to the crash – as well as an agreement between rich and emerging economies to tackle climate change.

The package would include “insurance policies” to encourage countries running huge current account surpluses to stop hoarding foreign currency. A recapitalised International Monetary Fund would be on standby, if necessary, to intervene.

The compact could also embrace “trigger points” to alert governments to rising imbalances and to apply peer pressure on governments failing to live up to their promises, say, on dealing with distressed assets. “The world has got to be more co-ordinated in its actions. That is a form of global economic governance that people can have confidence in without diminishing people’s right to make their own national decisions,” he said.

Mr Brown claimed that stabilisation of the banking system “owes a lot to decisions we have made”. Now, the Basel committee must move faster to formulate common rules.

Only the most fervent disciple of laisser faire would challenge the idea that governments have a role in preventing another crash. But are there votes in it at home? Maybe not, but perhaps Mr Brown has an eye also on his place in history."

i think he should go ahead with this, it's his best chance to do some good. The elephant in the room being the election. I think him concentrating on his strengths will bring him the best chance of success, and his strength's are boring, policy stuff

The FT on current economics

To be fair, a pretty fair and dull assessment of the current debates about the two parties' economic policies.

I would say that Brown comes out of this piece slightly better than Cameron, which makes the future very interesting if the economy is going to be central to the next election. Whether or not it is has been debated by people who get far more listners than me

the (economic) cure

I do like Ali Darling, I think the boy is top.

"keeping people in work, getting credit flowing and getting public spending on to a sustainable footing in the medium term"
good stuff. Keeping people in work would be my number one priortiy, and the medium-term approach is a good one, examplifed by
"the budget set out a clear plan for stable public finances by halving the deficit within four years"
i like that alot. it was right to borrow to invest to keep us going, and having a plan to get the money back (inc from banks) in the medium term is good thinking.

top bloke is Darling. Shame Brown has been meddling with him rather than running number 10. Honestly, he spent ten years trying to get from 11 Downing St to 10, then can't get his head around it because he's stuck in 11! GAH!!

free-thinking politicans

Very interesting piece including some excellent quotes such as

"the leaden repetition of the official line is perhaps even more important than the expenses scandal in explaining the low standing of MPs"

"What Westminster calls a gaffe, most voters call frankness. When a free spirit asks what the consensus deems wild questions, millions of people may listen and test their thinking. Parliament needs its republicans, its hardcore anti-EU campaigners, its squeeze-the-rich enthusiasts. If everyone is a member of the soggy centrist consensus, serious thinking becomes flabby and the point of parliamentary politics declines."

"Once, Labour seemed in danger of falling apart. Then it learned discipline. But it learned silence and discretion too. Just now, it sounds like the silence of the graveyard"

too right. There is a very delicate balance to be struck between discipline and blandness. Too often parties' centres are obsessed with discipline, but the lack of real debate goes deeper than that, with a lot of people in the party thinking that Labour is now too much run from the top of the centre. This may be partly the result of our two last leaders, but i think it's deeper. Perhaps it's the result of desperation and panic, i haven't been in the party long enough to know. I believe Labour now is the good old Labour party that everyone has known and (in my case now) love(d).

will we see things like blogging open up the political debate so that random politicians/MPs can speak freely? I hope so.
Does this mean they'll have anything to say? I hope that greater freedom allows more to find their voices. Julian Ware-Lane is a top example. I hope he get's elected and keeps his blog going.
I declare an interest here because he's been very kind about my blog.
I don't follow Tom Watson enough to speak on his, but i do think he's a top bloke (not only coz he bought me beer)

England squad for South Africa tour

1 Struass
2 Cook
3 Bell
4 Pietersen
5 Trott
6 Prior
7 Broad
8 Swann
9 Sidebottom
10 Anderson
11 Onions

I'd take Denly, Bopara, Collingwood, Rashid and Bresnan to complete the squad

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

TV debate

I'm against it, for the reason of Nixon Vs Kennedy TV debate in 1960. Although 'my' man came through that time, the ends don't justify the means. (Kennedy wore make-up and was viewed positively by TV viewers. Radio listeners prefered Nixon, who wore no make-up).

Sky are far from impartial, so I don't think they would be a good choice of host

This quote is priceless:
"You know, I'm guessing a car salesmen, would do a better job at selling me a Mondeo, than a Ford engineer, but it doesn't mean he knows more about automotive engineering."

Also very interesting:


In regards to Browns performance, I think you people thinking it will be a cake walk for Cameron need to read a bit more.

Most of his slick interviews, TV work, and PM questions works is largely rehearsed, with the help of his very expensive PR team. That's why he's called in some quarters "MR soundbite". Coming out with a juicy quote is his strength.

He is often criticised, even in his own party, for his actual lack of political nouse, and political talent. Many in fact see him as a bit of a lightweight in that respect.

You know - an unplanned, political debate, on policy, and open questions. I'd think brown would be the much backed person in such an atmosphere.

I think Mandelson was probably right, although I dislike the man. Cameron's success has been based on slick TV work, image,and planned speeches and quotes. Almost a PR campaign.

Many people think he's maybe a bit more shallow than he appears, and there isn't actually that much to the man, politically.

Remember, this is a guy fighting the "inexperience" thing.

Mandelson has already said they would relish this sort of thing.

Why? Purely because Brown has nothing at all to lose. Cameron has everything to lose, and really little to gain"

Baseless attack?

The BNP come under fire from Kevin Maguire here.
Usually i do like a bit of Kev, but there is nothing to support what he says in this article.
I'm as much against the BNP as he, or indeed anyone who's not an idiot, but I don't like the way he's gone about it here.
Stirring up fear and hatred is what the BNP do, we've got to be better than that to defeat them.

Cameron's honesty

Kevin Maguire, you beauty.
A nice, polemic piece exposing the contradictions in Cameron's numerous positions and pledges.
I don't usually like these sorts of rants, but when it highlights contradictory political positioning, promising to spend more by taxing and spending less, it has some merit.
But mainly it's coz it's attacking the Tory. I can dress it up any way I like, but that's a main reason I like it.
People eh?

Britain's in 'saving money' shock

News and analysis out today shows that "Last month British households paid back more debt than they took out, for the first time in at least 16 years."
Althought this means there is a danger of serious tightening in the economy, to say nothing of the prospect of things like deflation, this is good at a very macro-strategic level.
Our economy has been based on the idea that we could borrow for ever and ignore savings, which lead to the massive property bubble which burst so spectacularly recently.
From the point of view of the economy, and someone with a job, this is good news because it means people are moving towards a more sensible and sustainable economy. For those poor so n sos out of work, it means things may not get any easier any time soon. Which is where the state comes in, as usual, to clean up the private sector's mess.

David Miliband

Listened to Miliband on the radio this morning and I was not happy with his performance, not that he cares i'm sure.
He was doing his best to avoid the question about his and Gordy's opinion on al Megrahi's release.
He kept saying that it was the Scottish government's decision, and refusing to give any indication of his opinion. It really pisses me off when politicians are so scared of offending someone that they just evade and try to wriggle out. Miliband is one of the worst of these as it is, but this morning i got really angry and frustrated. I nearly threw something at the radio, which I usually only reserve for Tories.
I couldn't bear listening to Cameron then come on and go on about how terrible the government is all that rubbish, so i avoided that.
But Miliband just really annoyed me this morning, gah!

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

London Transport policy

on my way to work this morning I thought the 521 bus looked odd. That's because it's now half the size.
Boris Johnson's campaign against bendy busses has lead to reduced capacity, as outlined here.

Although i don't mind the bendies, it's the spending lots of money on reducing capacity without replacing it that annoys me


"A second bus route, the 521 which links Waterloo and London Bridge, is to be stripped of bendy buses from today. Will Londoners be hurling their hats in the air for joy, as the brotherhood of bendy-haters have long claimed? Seems unlikely, according to Martin at Mayorwatch:

The route is the second to replace the bendy buses with shorter, lower capacity, single deck vehicles. To make up for the loss of capacity more buses will need to operate on the route but even this won't guarantee everyone a seat. Using Transport for London's own figures of 15 bendy buses per hour compared to 24 of the single deck buses per hour, seating capacity will fall from 735 seats per hour to just 504.

Hold tight, please. Wasn't the lack of seats in bendys compared with other types of bus among the reasons bendy-haters offered to justify their strange, obsessional campaign?"

A free press

Good piece here detailing the dangers of Murdoch-ian ideas of a 'free press' - think phone taps and gossip

Brown calls for bank bonus reform

So Gordy has now spoken about this, finally. My one criticism would be that it’s a bit late.
“He said that the culture of bank bonuses should be geared towards long-term success and that banks should be able to "claw back" bonuses if the bank later performed poorly.”
Fair enough for me, that rewards should be linked more closely to performance as too often it seems that the two are not linked, at the higher levels at least.

“He called for international co-ordination on the issue, but said he was not in favour of French proposals for a mandatory cap on banker pay.”
International co-ordination is vital, and a failure to do so would undermine the whole exercise. As usual, all eyes will be on America.
I’m not mad keen on the mandatory cap on bankers pay, for a start it’s not right to single out one group over any others. Secondly, how would the cap be decided and enforced?

“While he said the City had "overheated", he declined to support the words of the head of UK watchdog the Financial Services Authority (FSA), Lord Turner, who said in an interview published last week that the financial services sector had "grown beyond a socially reasonable size". Mr Brown said it was important to protect London's status as a world financial hub.”
Shows, I think, that Gordy is still in thrall to the City and is more scared of it than it is of him, which for a Labour prime minister strikes me as the wrong way round.
It’s good to know that at least some progress is being made on this and the sort of externalities which proved problematic are at least being addressed in thought, though perhaps not yet by deed.

“In August, the FSA unveiled a new code that stated bonuses should not be guaranteed for more than a year.
Senior employees should have their bonuses spread over three years under the code, which is due to take effect from January 2010.
The new rules, to link pay more closely with the long-term profitability of banks, are designed to address concerns that big bonuses led to excessive risk-taking at banks which contributed to the financial crisis.”
Sounds very promising, unfortunately it seems that legislation is required to make a more sustainable financial sector, so let’s hope that it runs well and the considerable ability in that sector is not just geared towards getting round the laws.

interesting that the FT editorial is called "Too much of a very good thing". Post on that in due course