Friday, 29 October 2010

War with France?

Downing Street has published details of gifts received by David Cameron upon entering Number 10 for the first time. The French President, Nicholas Sarkozy, gave him tennis racquets. I note that the BBC have spelt it 'rackets'. FFS...

But I digress. The last time a French head of state made a gift in relation to tennis, it resulted in a war, according to Shakespeare, anyway. The Dauphin of France gave King Henry V tennis balls in response to Henry's claim to the French throne. It was an insult, implying that Henry was a young man who should be concentrating on his sports, rather than affairs of state.

So, are we going to war with France? Let's face it, it wouldn't last long!

A Frenchman, yesterday

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Quote of the Day

'...if Parliament is indeed sovereign, then Mr Cameron should simply refuse flat to agree to any increase whatsoever in the EU’s budget.'
- Lord Tebbit

Says it all, really.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Cuts? What Cuts?

George Osborne unveiled the Comprehensive Spending Review on Wednesday, which was met with a mixture of approval and derision, depending on your political standpoint.

However, it is interesting to note Table A.3 in the report, which lists public sector current expenditure (the country's annual household bills, if you like) in cash terms; that is, not adjusted for inflation - the real, cold hard cash.

The actual departments that are having their budgets cut over the next 5 years are:

  • Transport;
  • Communities & Local Government;
  • Business, Innovation & Skills;
  • Home Office;
  • Justice;
  • Law Officers' Departments;
  • Foreign & Commonwealth Office;
  • Energy & Climate Change;
  • Environment, Food & Rural Affairs;
  • Small & Independent Bodies;
  • Special Reserve;
  • Public Sector Pensions.
Every other department is having their annual budgets increased in cash terms. We will be spending more public money at the end of this Parliament than we are now.

These aren't cuts. They're grazes.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

The Case for Defence

Today is the day of the Strategic Defence and Security Review. Dave, aka the Prime Minister, will outline spending cuts to the defence budget, as well as the new direction for defence and security for the next few decades.

My view on defence?

There is one reason for the existence of a State - the protection of the society contained within. To maintain its sovereignty, its independence and to preserve its culture. That's it. That's all a State has to do. Everything else is an optional extra. Politics is the debate about what extras to include.

On top of that, the total defence budget is around £40billion a year, according to the most recent Budget. This is in comparison to the staggering £100billion a year we spend on out-of-work benefits, and the £122billion a year we spend on the NHS.

Cuts to the defence budget make no sense, either financially or practically.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Bastard Parliament IV: How to Get Away with Fraud

So, Regina vs Chaytor and Others (Appellants) began it's hearing at the UK Supreme Court today.

The aim of the three ex-Labour MPs who stand charged with false accounting - David Chaytor, Elliot Morley and Jim Devine - is to avoid standing trial in the Crown Court for these charges.

They contend that the Crown Court has no jurisdiction over them, as the alleged false accounting was incidental to their Parliamentary duties, and is therefore subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of Parliament.

I'm astonished that the mainstream media don't really seem to have caught hold of this. The Telegraph is running it, but I have seen no mention on the BBC. Given the importance of the case, you'd think they'd be all over it like a rash.

If the Supreme Court rules in favour of the ex-MPs, it will set a legal precendent whereby Parliamentarians have de facto immunity from prosecution if they commit crimes associated with their activities in Parliament. Not immunity from persecution, which is what Parliamentary privilege was originally set up for, but from prosecution.

Or, more specifically, the only body capable of bringing such a prosecution, and trying them to assess their guilt or innocence, is Parliament itself.

Does anybody spot the huge vested interest there? You know, the one that's 32 floors high, about 100 metres across, with a marble-fitted lobby, gold-plated elevators, bellboys, a jacuzzi in every room, and a massive flashing neon sign on the top saying 'WELCOME TO THE VESTED INTEREST?'

A Parliamentarian commits a crime in Parliament. Not necessary for the execution of his duties - he's simply on the make. And the only Court that can try him just happens to be populated by his colleagues. If you sit on a jury, and you know the accused, you have to inform the judge, and are, usually, replaced. How is that going to happen in Parliament, pray tell?

Judge, jury and executioner. Bastards.

I'm not suggesting that these men are guilty. I'm saying that it should be up to the Court to decide. The independent judiciary. Not a potentially biased legislature.

Orders of Magnitude

I was playing a little number game just now.

The UK national debt is now £1trillion, according to the ONS. But just how big is a trillion?

A trillion is a thousand billions. A billion is a thousand millions. And a million is a thousand thousands. So that's a 1 with 12 zeros on the end. A million millions.

£1,000,000,000,000.

A pound coin is 3.15mm thick, a mere 0.0000031km. So a tower of a million million pound coins would be 3.1million kilometres high. Or to put it another way, 8 times the distance between the Earth and the Moon.


So, when people start moaning about the upcoming spending cuts, ask them how much of that they would like their children to pay.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Bastard Parliament III: Expenses Redux

Guido's coverage of the expenses debacle continues, with more MPs now facing police investigation. This story is just refusing to die. Former Tory peers Lords Taylor and Hanningfield, as well as sitting Labour MP Eric Illsley have also been charged with false accounting. Two more former MPs - Denis MacShane and Margaret Moran - are now being investigated by the police over their expenses claims. And another Tory MP, Bill Wiggin, has been told to pay back £4,000 and to apologise to the House of Commons over his claims by the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner. It's not yet clear whether he will face a police investigation.

And on Monday, something very interesting will happen - David Chaytor, Elliot Morley and Jim Devine, former Labour MPs charged with false accounting relating to their Parliamentary expenses - will be heard at the UK Supreme Court. The Court will decide if the court system has jurisdiction over activities relating to Parliamentary activity - or, in other words, whether the law applies to Parliamentarians or not.

 Bastards. Absolute bastards.

If the Court rules in the appellants' favour, the ruling will effectively give de facto immunity from prosecution to Parliamentarians, placing them above the law by precedent. The only thing that could overturn that would be... you guessed it... an Act of Parliament. Would the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, in Parliament assembled, once granted immunity by the courts, vote to give it back?

I hope the Law Lords see sense...

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Bonfire of the Quangos

It's happening.

Burn, baby, burn!

In a review announced today, 168 quangos - (quasi-autonomous non-governmental organisations) will be abolished, converted to non-funded advisory committees or moved into the private sector. A further 69 will be merged, 171 will undergo 'substantial reform' and 40 are still 'under consideration'. 365 will be retained without change.

However, the Government has not been clear on the savings that these changes are expected to deliver, or on the number of expected job losses. They have instead focused on 'increasing democratic accountability'.

Hmmm.

Now, the cynic in me says that's because the savings are going to be marginal. Perhaps the Government should be directing its efforts at areas where more obvious savings can be made. Like the £100billion per year working-age benefits bill, for example.

Just a thought.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Smoking Ban

David Nuttall MP has introduced the Public Houses and Private Members’ Clubs (Smoking) Bill to Parliament today, with the intention of securing a smoking ban exemption for pubs and clubs.

Many Libertarians support this measure, as they argue that smoking, while it is bad for your health, is a personal choice, and therefore it should not be up to the Government to tell us whether to smoke or not.

I disagree.

Smoking is a personal choice, but it does not just affect the person making the choice. It affects everyone around them while they are smoking, as they are forced to inhale their smoke. This is putting other people's health at risk, when they have made no choice to do so.

Libertarianism is about accepting responsibility for your own personal decisions, not foisting the consequences of those decisions on someone else.

For that reason, I support the smoking ban.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Dear Tesco...

 
Dear Tesco,

Thank you for your lovely brochure, depicting your plans to build a BEHEMOTH TESCO MONSTROSITY within 200 yards of my office.

I don't want it. I won't use it. You already have two other BEHEMOTH TESCO MONSTROSITIES within a 3-mile radius - you don't fucking need another one. There are also several BEHEMOTH ASDA, ALDI & LIDL MONSTROSITIES within 10 minutes' drive, so I think Long Eaton and the surrounding area are quite nicely served by supermarkets already. In fact, given that the Lidl is actually NEXT DOOR to your proposed site, as well as a Co-Op just across the road, I fail to see the community's urgent need for the aforementioned BEHEMOTH MONSTROSITY.

Although you will be using a derelict site for this, I fail to see how this will 'build a safer community'. It will build a GIANT SUPERSTORE on my fucking doorstep. I look forward to the canal towpath being strewn with Tesco carrier bags. NOTE THE SARCASM, DIPSHITS. I am also sure that the residents across the canal will absolutely LOVE to have your wonderful store visible from their bedroom windows. AGAIN, NOTE SARCASM. I also note that your superstore will provide direct access to the canal towpath. WONDERFUL. I also look forward to the STOLEN TROLLEYS in the canal. YOU FUCKING GENIUSES.

Finally, we come to the subject of market share. YOU'VE GOT ENOUGH. I admire your rise to prominence, and I feel happy for your shareholders, as I am sure they are happy with you. But I do believe in a free and competitive market, and part of that is ensuring that one company does not dominate. THREE FUCKING GIANT SUPERMARKETS in a 3-mile radius is rather a little too much, don't you think? Especially in an area without a hugely active local economy. The last thing we need is more profit-taking.

So kindly take this leaflet, and SHOVE IT UP YOUR DARK ONE.

Love and kisses,

James Dennis

Tuition Fees

So, it looks like tuition fees for university places are set to increase.

Of course, this was inevitable. The number have people attending university has risen sharply - figures from the ONS show that the number of enrolments at university has increased from 1.9million in 1997/1998 to nearly 2.4million in 2008/2009, which is an increase of over 26%.

So, the big debate is on how to fund all theses extra places. The Lib Dems have touted the idea of a 'Graduate Tax', which has been supported by Labour - basically taxing people at a higher rate once they've graduated, depending on their income. The Tories want to avoid additional taxation, and increase tuition fees instead.

Nobody has actually suggested a third alternative. Here's one.

Reduce the number of university places.

We have too many people going to university. Many of the subjects on offer do not require a degree course. Many of them, are quite frankly, completely fucking useless. I mean, seriously. What use is a degree in American Studies? Or Dance? Or Creative Expressive Therapies? Or Fashion Design? Or Football Studies?

After going up to 'F' on the UCAS website, I lost the will to carry on. I'm sure that there is a demand for the many subjects on offer, and I'm sure there are job prospects attached to them, but do they all really require a Degree course? Do the students really need to attend a university in order to gain that knowledge? Or could such knowledge be delivered via further education institutions such as sixth forms and colleges instead?

 Does everyone really need a degree?

So, I suggest a curb on university places, and on the types of course on offer, returning to an emphasis of 'on-the-job' training, apprenticeships and further education. This will significantly ease the funding burden. Payment for degree courses should be partially by tuition fees, and partially by State funding. And the level of State funding should be determined by the requirement for the qualified graduate in the labour market. The Government should offer financial incentives to run courses which are relevant and required in society, not those which are necessarily hugely popular with students. If you really feel the burning desire to study Football at university, that's fine - but don't expect the taxpayer to pay for it.

Friday, 8 October 2010

The Blogosphere

Sad days, indeed.

Obnoxio the Clown has closed his blog, and the silence from Constantly Furious continues.

Fortunately, Ollie Cromwell is back from an extended holiday, and Archbishop Cranmer has started his sermons again.

Signs of life in the Blogosphere?

And there's always Old Holborn!

Again, I live in hope that my humble musings will be better regarded. But even if they're not, I fully intend to keep on rambling - it keeps my blood pressure lower, I'm sure.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Child Benefit Cut [UPDATED]

George Osborne has announced this morning that Child Benefit is to be abolished for higher rate taxpayers.

 

I personally think that this is excellent news. If someone is earning more than £44,000 per year, they're taking home roughly £2,700 a month. They certainly don't need to be claiming benefits from the State, paid for by people earning less than half their salary.

It will shave £1billion off the deficit. Definitely worth it, then.

[UPDATE]

Unbelievably, some fuckers are actually moaning about this!

OK, there are some problems with how it's being worked out. If you're a higher rate taxpayer, you carry on claiming it and then declare it on your tax return. It's then clawed back through your tax code. Which is cumbersome. And there's the issue that the non-entitlement kicks in when one or more of the parents is a higher rate taxpayer. So you could have a family where both parents earn £43,000, and they'd still be eligible for Child Benefit, and another family where only one parent earns £45,000, and they wouldn't be eligible.

So there are some winners and some losers.

I suggest a level playing field.

ABOLISH IT.

Get rid of it completely. Use the savings to increase tax credits, which is already means-tested.

Friday, 1 October 2010

Equality? What's That?

Today, the Equality Act 2010 takes effect, one of the last pieces of legislation seen through by the previous Government.

And you'll just love Section 11, Chapter 2. Which makes it a legal requirement to promote and recruit people with 'protected characteristics' ahead of those that don't. Even if they are less experienced.

And it does this under the guise of promoting equality, and criminalising discrimination.

Wonderful. It criminalises negative discrimination, but legitimises positive discrimination. It's not OK to tread on certain demographics, but it's perfectly OK to give them a leg up. Thus treading on people who don't belong to those demographics.

The cynical part of me wonders just what proportion of these demographics vote Labour.

Well done, Labour. Thanks a bunch.

You bastards.