Thursday, 23 December 2010

Charity Cancellation

The Government has scrapped public funding for the charity Booktrust, and because it was wholly-funded by the taxpayer, it will now likely have to close.

There have been howls of derision from the left, arguing about the sterling work that Booktrust undertakes, including the Bookstart scheme, where every baby in the country is given a free pack of books in order to encourage them to read.

Truly laudable work.

However...

It is being funded wholly by the taxpayer.

It is therefore not a charity, where money is given in voluntary donations, but a Government department.

My children received the Bookstart packs when they were born. Did they read them? No. I had already bought books for them. I did not expect (or want) the State to provide that level of subsidy. They've received a couple of other packs of books as well. Have they read them? No. In actual fact, they have shown very little interest in those books. They are far more interested in the Mr. Men books, Harry Potter, Narnia, the Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales, a wonderful book on Greek mythology that I had when I was a kid, Winnie the Pooh, Beatrix Potter and the like.

All bought by me, or given to them as gifts by my family.

I'll buy my own, thanks.

And of course, we're missing the most obvious point... babies don't read books. Parents do.

It is largely pointless giving free books to babies if the parents aren't going to read them. And, if you look at the average council estate, you begin to wonder whether the parents there can actually read at all.

If people consider the work of Booktrust to be so laudable and desirable, I invite them to put their hands in their pockets and fund it themselves. I don't want to.

Friday, 17 December 2010

Criminals and the Right to Vote

Following the ruling from the European Court of Human Rights that prisoners in the UK must be given the right to vote, the Government has announced its plans for constitutional changes to allow this.

They are political, conniving, diabolical, and absolutely fucking brilliant.

Anyone serving more than four years in jail will automatically be sentenced to be barred from registering to vote. And judges will have discretion over whether to sentence criminals serving less than that to a similar ban.

By doing this, some prisoners will get the right to vote. But not many.

The government, in the true style of twisted, lying, despicable politicians everywhere, have got off on a legal technicality.

So, a brief letter to HM Government:

James Dennis
A Tangent Reality
The Internet

The Rt. Hon. David Cameron MP
10 Downing Street
London

Dear Prime Minister,

In light of Her Majesty's Government's recent announcement clarifying their stance on prisoners' right to vote, thank you for introducing me to an amazing new experience: actually being pleased that British politicians are conniving, twisted, despicable, diabolical scumbags. You wouldn't have been able to stuff it up Europe otherwise.

However, please refrain from being bastards to us voters and taxpayers. This caveat specifically excludes anyone who is a member of the Labour Party. You can be bastards to them as much as you like.

Love and kisses,

James

PS. Leave the EU, and you won't have to be bastards at all. You can even use democracy as an excuse - just hold a referendum. We'll do the rest, I promise.


 

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Thursday, 16 December 2010

A Matter for Ireland

The BBC have reported that the European Court of Human Rights have ruled that the Irish ban on abortions has breached the human rights of a woman. This will likely result in a change in Ireland's law to roll back their abortion laws, at least partially.

The question I ask is, what business is that of Europe's?

Ireland has a democratically elected Parliament which creates its laws. Therefore, their laws on abortion, no matter how distasteful to some people's sensibilities, are supported by a majority of people in that country. But now, because of the judgement of an unaccountable Court, they will have someone else's sensibilities forced upon them. And that is wrong.

You can take your United States of Europe, and cram it up your dark one.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

The Blogosphere

The blogosphere contracts once more. Iain Dale has hung up his keyboard, and Tory Bear has gone public to work with Guido. Even Old Holborn is getting quieter - although not completely silent. I don't think my lunch hours would have quite as much humour without him!

The Blogosphere. Damn that Red Matter*.

I suppose many people turn to political blogging out of sheer frustration with the incumbent government - I know I did. The constant intrusion into my life and the injustices meted out by an incompetent, increasingly authoritarian Labour government led to my discovery of this wonderful past-time, and some of its most prolific writers. Some are now taking a bow, disappearing into the ether, perhaps to return when, inevitably, the current bunch of wankers we have in power are booted out, only to be replaced with another bunch of wankers who may not foul things up so much. That's how it generally works.

Of course, my aim from blogging is not to secure Conservative-led hegemony, but to vent my spleen. I'm not ranting as much about the Tories and the Lib Dems at the moment, because, for the most part, they don't seem to be fucking things up quite as much as the last lot. But they're only 6 months in. The last bunch of lying bastards had 13 fucking years.

*Gratuitous 'Star Trek' reference. Deal with it.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Tax Avoidance

There's been a lot of fuss recently about tax avoidance, particularly noted on Twitter with the #UKuncut hashtag and @UKuncut feed, publicising the tax avoidance strategies of Vodafone and Arcadia. This has, predictably, led to demonstrations and sit-ins at Arcadia stores, and complaints against Vodafone.

Firstly, there is a big difference between tax avoidance and tax evasion. Tax evasion involves an attempt to minimise or negate a tax liability by deception - telling Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs (HMRC) that profits or income is lower, or omitting to notify them of chargeable transactions. Tax evasion is illegal - it is a deliberate attempt to evade paying tax which is due.

Tax avoidance is managing finances in such a way as to minimise tax charges, but without breaking the law. This can range from detailing all costs to offset against Corporation Tax or Income Tax, paying into a pension arrangement, saving into an ISA, or using trusts to help reduce Inheritance Tax. Tax avoidance is perfectly legal - it is managing finances to avoid or minimise potential tax charges.

I have not seen any question, anywhere, of Vodafone or Arcadia being involved in tax evasion. If they were to be implicated in any way, then it should be up to the police to investigate and bring charges against them if necessary, which would be examined in a court of law. Tax evasion is wrong - it is contrary to the rule of law, and trials involving tax evasion cost the taxpayer money, reducing what can be spent on public services.

Tax avoidance is not wrong. Rolling a good throw in Monopoly to avoid landing on the Income Tax square is not generally frowned upon.

You didn't land on that square. You naughty, naughty boy.

An example.

You plan to save into a bank account, about £50 a month. You talk to your financial adviser about this (because, of course, given that I work for a financial adviser, I know that everyone in the country should have one) and he tells you that if you save into a normal bank account, any interest you receive will be taxed at 20% every year. £1 out of every £5 that you get in interest, the Government will take, simply because it can.

However, if you save into a different type of account, the Government won't charge that tax. So, do you want to have your cake and eat it?

The answer, unless you are a stark raving lunatic, is yes please.

Congratulations, you have just started saving into a Cash ISA. Perfectly legal way of avoiding a tax charge. Not evading paying one that is due, but preventing one from even occurring. Is that immoral? Most people would argue no.

Now let's magnify things up a bit.

You wish to leave your children £10million in your will. Most of it is contained in a £5million property. You've had a fantastic life, still have loads of money left, and want your kids to benefit from it. However, if you do this conventionally, this will leave your children with a whopping £3.74million Inheritance Tax bill to pay, which is a sizeable chunk of your money.

Again, you talk to your financial adviser. He tells you that, by giving your home to a limited company which you own, and paying rent on the property to that company, you will be able to avoid paying £2million in Inheritance Tax. Furthermore, you can then use a series of trusts to help mitigate the rest of the potential IHT bill. So would you like to have your cake and eat it?

Yes please.

What you have done is use Inheritance Tax business relief to exempt your main residence from tax, and then a combination of gifts and chargeable lifetime transfers to mitigate the rest. All perfectly legal, and it has saved your children £3.74million in tax. Is this immoral?

Ah, now that's a question, isn't it?

Some people would argue no, others yes. To those who argue yes, I ask this - at what point does tax avoidance become immoral? When, precisely, should you not plan your finances, but simply hand over your money to the State? Why is tax avoidance acceptable for the poor, but not for the rich?

The tax avoidance argument is nothing more than the politics of envy. Vodafone and Arcadia turn over massive profits every year, far beyond what most of us imagine earning in a dozen lifetimes. And thus, some people are insanely jealous of this. And this manifests itself as 'protesting against tax avoidance.'

If tax avoidance is legitimate for one person, it must be legitimate for another. I cannot understand why some people find it perfectly acceptable to discriminate against someone just because they have a lot of money.

Imagine if such discrimination were applied to women. Or to the disabled. Or to black people. Or to Jews.

Surely, history has taught us that if we have a society with one rule for some and another for others, then that society is apartheid?

Friday, 3 December 2010

Bastard Parliament VII: Justice

David Chaytor, former Labour MP charged with false accounting, has pleaded guilty at the Old Bailey.

Hat tip to Guido Fawkes for breaking the story.

[UPDATE]

Chaytor will be sentenced on January 7th at Southwark Crown Court. Guido thinks he's made a plea bargain.

In other news, Phil Woolas has also had his appeal against the Special Election Court dismissed by the High Court. He now has no prospect of returning to the House of Commons. A by-election will be held in Oldham in January.

 

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On the Liberal Democrats

I have to say that I feel rather sorry for Nick Clegg. Out of all the ministers of the coalition government, he has been singled out as the target for the visceral hatred of the hard left. He is accused of betrayal, of deceit, and of taking his party in a direction against their political instincts - into coalition with the Conservatives and not with Labour.

Now, I am not a massive fan of the Liberal Democrats. I am not a massive fan of politicians per se, although I am right wing, and so tend to favour UKIP and the Conservatives more. But I will try to look at the situation impartially.

  1. No one won the General Election. This is a crucially important point. Nick Clegg (and all other Lib Dems) stood for election on the basis of their manifesto, but they didn't win. It is therefore completely unreasonable for Lib Dem supporters to expect their entire manifesto to be implemented simply because they hold some political power. Likewise for the Tories;
  2. Although no one won the General Election outright, the Tories did win the highest number of votes, and the highest number of seats in the House of Commons. Surely, any believer in democracy will recognise that it would be an outrage if the country's most popular political party was excluded from Government? That is effectively disenfranchisement;
  3. A coalition with Labour would not have had a majority in the House of Commons, with such a Government requiring the support of the DUP, the SNP and Plaid Cymru to pass bills. This would have focused an enormous level of political bargaining power into parties with a small amount of representation and some with separatist tendencies;
  4. As a result of the coalition with the Tories, some Lib Dem policies are actually being enacted. The increase in the Income Tax personal allowance, the abandonment of the Tory plans to raise Inheritance Tax, the pupil premium, and a massive switch on civil liberties, including the abolition of ID cards, and a commitment to a referendum on electoral reform are all Lib Dem policies.

However, the Lib Dems are not without their own problems. Vince Cable, seemingly unable to deal with the psychological trauma of voting for higher tuition fees, is proposing to abstain from voting on a measure for which he is responsible as the relevant Secretary of State.

This is lunacy. The Government has always worked on the basis of collective responsibility - if a member of HM Government cannot agree with a policy of HM Government, then he or she should resign. If Liberal Democrat ministers feel that they cannot agree with jointly-determined policies, they should step down from the cabinet, not abstain from voting on measures they have presented to Parliament.

Of course, they won't do that. Resignations on such a scale could destroy the coalition, and trigger another election. And it is highly likely that the Lib Dems would be severely punished at such an election. Perversely, because of the inherent bias in the electoral system which has yet to be removed, such an election could result in a Labour Government.

 Ouch.

This is not a call for the Lib Dems to fall in line with the Tories. They should follow their own political convictions, and do what they think is right. But they should remember what they have accomplished in office thus far, and that the offices they hold come with responsibilities.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Bastard Parliament VI: The Supreme Court's Reasons [UPDATED]

Following the Supreme Court's decision to reject the appeal of Elliot Morley, Jim Devine and David Chaytor regarding Parliamentary privilege, the Court has published the reasons for its judgement.

The UK Supreme Court

Rather sensibly, they have determined that Parliamentary privilege applies to actions undertaken which are incidental to Parliamentary duties, and that fiddling expenses is not incidental to the discharge of those duties. As such, the MPs will stand trial for false accounting in the Crown Court.

It is also interesting to note that the decision was unanimous.

And delightfully, this sets a legal precedent. Parliamentary privilege cannot be used as a defence against criminal acts which are not incidental to the discharge of Parliamentary duties.

Roll on the criminal trial...

[UPDATE]

Guido Fawkes reports that Morley, Devine & Chaytor are now trying to argue that they won't receive a fair trial because of all the publicity. There is a possibility of an emergency hearing at the Old Bailey today...