Thursday, September 28, 2006

The purity of the English Language

I just read this on politicalbetting .com, and it made me laugh. Many thanks to Andy Cooke.

As for its dominance, I ascribe it to its sheer cheek in nicking the best bits of other languages (cf the quote by James Nicoll chiding someone for attempting to defend the purity of the English language:

“The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that English is about as pure as a cribhouse whore. We don’t just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary.”)

Or you can read in in context with this link.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

That Brown record in full.

Well, not quite in full, but here are some highlights from The Telegraph on Sunday from the 24th of September 2006.

  • Council tax revenue has gone up 7% per year since 1997, that is 83% to £21 billion.
  • Quango spending up 50% in two years to £123.8 billion. That is £40 billion, which is more than we spend on defence.
  • Taxes have gone up £19 billion this year, that is £750 per household.
  • Calls to the Consumer Credit Counselling Service are up from 8,000 per year in 1997 to 200,000 a year.
  • Productivity growth is down from 2.3% in 1997 to 1.6% now.
  • Fiscal drag means that there are now 4 million high rate tax payers, up from 2.1 million in 1997.
  • Stamp duty revenue is up from £1.2 billion in 1997 to 4.9 billion now.
  • Inheritance tax has gone from £1.7 billion to £3.3 billion.
  • Public spending has risen from 37.4% of GDP to 44.9%
  • Government forecasted a growth in public borrowing between 2001 and 2006 of £28 billion, it has in fact borrowed £129 billion.
  • The forecast for the next 6 years is £175 billion, or £7000 per household.
  • August 2006 borrowing was £7.6 billion, 40% above forcast and the highest since 1993.
  • Personal debt has doubled to £1,120 billion (Yes that is a trillion).
  • Unemployment is up to 5.5% from 4.7% last year.
  • The savings ratio has halved to 5% since 1997.
And whilst all that has been going on, there have been 15 new regulations every day since 1997 costing business an estimated £40 billion.

It is going to be hard work sorting out this mess.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

A week in Weymouth

I am just back from a weeks holiday in Weymouth, (in South Dorset, currently held by Labours Jim Knight). Actualy I am not. I was in August, got home wrote this article and then forgot to spell check it and publish it. Second Doh! of today.

Well, if you like the sea, and somewhere with lots for kids to do, I'd recommend it. My children and I certainly enjoyed it.

If you want to move about in Weymouth I recommend using your feet. During the summer season it seems generally quicker, and if you are staying centrally you can get to lots of places quite easily. Oddly Weymouth does not seem to have any hardware shops.

We visited the beach several times, Mr Whipy ice creams are cheap. We also went to Monkey World, (Where you try to see if there is a difference between your kids and the exhibits), Bovington tank museum, Charmouth, the Sea life centre and Nothe fort.

Weymouth will also benefit from the Olympics in 2012 as they are hosting the sailing, which should be good. However that means house prices are climbing out of the reach of the locals which seems a bit of a shame.

Weymouth's economy suffers badly from Dorset's roads as well. Speaking to some locals the only industry of any note is tourism which is seasonal. New Look used to have its main distribution centre there but that has closed down.

It is not hard to see why. The roads are appalling. Mostly single lane A and B roads, no motorways and lots of congestion. You can also tell when you have left Dorset and entered Hampshire because the roads are so much better, being either dual carriageway A roads or motor ways. What Dorset needs is a decent east west motor way/dual carriageway, linking to the M27 with dual carriageway links to the major coastal towns and a motorway to London.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

The Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill

You will notice that I now carry a link to on the left hand side of the page, as well as a link to the no2id campaign.

What is all this rubbish about saving parliament? Well it is a campaign to stop The Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill from becomming The Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act.

What the bill is for

Well according to some estimates extra regulation since 1997 is costing business some £40 billion a year according to some sources. If a regulation turns out to be a wrong un, surely we want rid of it?

What the bill allows

What the bill allows is for any act to be amended, replealed or replaced by a minister and in some cases by an official, except where it affects tax rates. It does allow for the creation of new criminal offences, but these are limited to ones with a sentence of less than 2 years (In a Crown court, less if the offence is to be tried in a magistrates court).

The original draft allowed for the act to be used to redraft it self, though that has now been restricted.

However, to give you an idea, a minister could make carrying ID cards compulsory by the back door, as a criminal offence with a sentence of 2 years.

As far as I can tell, it would also allow for the extension of a Parliament beyond 5 years. Truely scary stuff, particularly if you watched Spooks the other ni

There are in fact so many ways that ministers can change the law in dangerous ways with this bill, if it becomes law that I urge you to visit the saveparliament website and write to your MP. The blogosphere can if it wants to defeat this bill if we all act.

Why do we have this problem?

Well, because of the relentless pace of legislation in the last 9 years creating many acts that have given more power than they should have, and indeed given power which has been used in ways that Parliament never intended.

To give you an idea of how many laws have been passed, between 1945 and 1997 we had 3 Criminal justice acts passed. since we have had about 40, or a bit over 4 a year, creating about 3000 new criminal offences, or 333 new offences a year or about 2 offences for everyday Parliament has sat.

So if they realy did want to reduce the burden of legislation, stop passing so many laws and try reforming a few.

Has any one else done this sort of thing before?

Yes, there is a similar bill listed on wikipedia here called the enabling act.

You might be a Labour party supporter and might think I am being swivell eyed about this, because a Labour government would never do any thing bad. In short you may trust this Government. Will you trust the next one though?

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Muslims are being killed every day!

According to a clip from a "martyrdom video" shown on Channel 4 tonight.

There are about 1.4 billion Muslims world wide, so it seems to that it would be statistically unlikely that anything else would be the case. After all people are dying all the time from car accidents, falling of ladders and all sorts of other things, including being murdered by criminals.

I doubt that was what they were talking about though.

So what were they talking about? Iraq and Afghanistan? Surely not. The majority of the deaths of Muslims there are at the hands of people who allege they are Muslims.

John Snow did a very interesting interview with a former member of Hizb ut-Tahrir. John Reid gave a speech warning Muslim parents of the danger of brainwashing. The former member of Hizb ut-Tahrir did not like the term because it seems to remove responsibility for the actions of the "brain washed" from them. He thought that was wrong, because we are all responsible for what we do. I have to say he made a lot of sense. We could do with the media interviewing more people like him.

I noted the heckling at John Reids speech. The silent protest was OK, but the heckler reminded me of the sort of bully boy tactics used by the hard left of the Union movement and of course the fascists.

Worrying news

I regularly read, and from there got two links to interesting stories in the dead tree press.

One is on pensions and how they have changed in 10 years, in the Telegraph here, and one in the Daily Mail on the fail in crime detection rates here.


10 years ago we had the strongest pensions in Europe, now they are in collapse. The report looks at the value of a pension paid in at £500 per year over 25 years maturing in 1996 and in 2006. The pension would have been worth £120,239 in 1996 and would be worth £55,992 now. As an annuity that would give an income of £13,466 in 1996 and £3,975 per year now.

Some people blame Gordon Brown for his £5 billion a year pension raid, others blame the fall in the stock market and some both. Who or what is to blame is irrelevant, the issue is that nothing has been done about it. A climate has been created in which people don't feel it makes sense to save for a pension.


The figures here are worrying. Far less people are being caught for things like robbery than used to be the case. The same is also true for rape and other violent offences. Murder detection rates are high though which is good.

The one thing most likely to deter crime is not what punishment people get if caught, it is the chances of getting caught which counts.

So why do we have this mess? Well, partly it is red tape, but it is also in my view a result of the vast number of new laws passed in the last 9 years.

This government seems happy to throw around resource (in terms of money) at things without getting the results.

A new Conservative government will need to use imagination to fix the structural problems being built in to our society.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Tax, the principled argument.

Well, why tax people? Anyone look forward to seeing just how much tax we have paid? Thought it was too low and demanded to pay more?

As far as I can see there are three things people think tax can achieve.

  1. Raise money government spending.
  2. Alter behavior.
  3. Redistribution of wealth.
Raise money government spending

Well, hopefully this is not controversial. Government needs money. Want to defend the realm? Pay tax. Want universal education? Pay tax. Want unemployment benefit? Pay tax.

What ever you think government should, or should not be doing it should be doing something, which does need paying for, which means we have to levy taxes to get the money.

Alter behavior

Well, you can change behavior a bit by taxing things. For example as the tax on cigarettes has risen so more people have given up. (Well not me but quitters!) You can also encourage behavior by giving tax breaks for things like research and development. Currently green taxes are proposed to make us greener.

This approach works a bit, but has limitations. Fuel is smuggled in Northern Ireland and indeed agricultural fuel is cleaned to remove the red. As taxes on cigarettes rise so does smuggling.

Redistribution of wealth

Here I have to ask questions. Redistributing what from whom and to whom? More importantly, does it work?

As they say on ABC, lets take a closer look.

Firstly one of the founding principles of communism is "from each according to their ability to each according to their need". I have to say that is a fantastic ideal, and in small communities it can and does work. Unfortunately it seems that it does not scale well.

I presume that the intent is to redistribute from the wealthy to the poor. This does raise the first question, which is, who is rich and who is poor? Sounds daft but I thought I'd ask. Do we mean the city banker who has just earned £1,000,000 or do we mean the old person who's houses value has just doubled because house building is at an all time low?

The first is easy to hit because you can just up his PAYE, oh no you can't. Our tax system is so complicated that Philip Green gave his wife £1.3 billion with remarkably little tax. (I wonder if he donates money to the Labour party, and if he does, is he cheaky enough to want a peerage too?)

Well at least the old folks are easy to hit, it is after all hard to hide a house.

The next issue is to whom are you going to redistribute this wealth, why, and what will it achieve?

Hopefully, (although some might be forgiven for thinking it doesn't works like that) the wealth is being redistributed to the poor.

What are we doing? If taxes can both encourage and discourage behavior, this seems to me to be paying people to be poor, and if you encourag behavior people will follow. Paying people to be poor ensures that you have poor people. So we give people on low wages benefits (As opposed to removing them from the tax system) to do jobs that do not pay a living wage. Surely that is subsidising people who want to employ people at unrealistic wages? I know some New Labour fans want to keep service sector inflation low, but why should the tax payer subsidise cleaners for those who want them, whilst keeping the jackboot of poverty over people? (The worst offender is bizarrely the public sector especially in cleaning).

So do we take money from his nibs who pays his butler a handsome sum to subsidise someone who does not want to pay for a cleaner but will if they don't have to pay the going rate?

I hear the social justice argument, but I can't see the point of paying people to be poor. If some one really wants a cleaner, they can pay for it. The only true way of lifting people out of poverty is by giving them opportunities through education and raising their expectations. All else is an illusion.

All that said, the tax burden does need to be reduced on the poor, and we do need welfare state.

Monday, September 18, 2006

The Popes controversial speech

Well, if you want to know what all the fuss was about you can read the speech here, which if nothing else may help you get to sleep.

Firstly we should all note that there are those on all sides who will jump on anything to cause controversy and raise riots. We need to appreciate that there are those who will willfully misconstrue anything that is said to gain influence or start a riot.

Secondly , and perhaps bizarrely, I do not recommend burning down Churches or murdering nuns as a sound way of showing how peaceful ones religion is. Moderate Muslims need to get their voices heard on this one.

Update, forgot to put the link in. Doh!


I have just finished watching Spooks on BBC one. Very good drama, or at least I enjoyed it.

Just one thought. This country is about far more than warm beer and cricket. It is about freedom and the rule of law.

You do not protect it by removing freedom or the rule of law.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Hydrogen will save us from global warming!

According to George Monbiot on BBC2's Newsnight last night. He even suggested we could have a pipeline network for hydrogen.

Well, its rubbish.

It is true that hydrogen does exist in abundance both on earth and in the solar system. The problem is that it mostly exists as parts of other compounds such as water, methane and indeed all organic compounds. The only large source of free hydrogen close by I know of is the sun, and I am reliably informed that its a bit hot there!

So given that it does not exist on its own on earth, can it be used as a fuel?

No, because you have to put at least the same amount of energy into extracting it from water as you will get back turning it back into water. You can extract it from methane, but you are either using a fossil fuel or if you are using bio gas, why bother? Why not just use the gas?

What hydrogen may well be useful as is as an energy store. You have spare energy, turn it into hydrogen and oxygen (from water) ship the hydrogen to where you want to use it, and get water back. (They do this on Shetland with wind energy, using spare energy to produce hydrogen which then can be used to generate electricity when there is no wind and to drive cars).

However let us not think that hydrogen will save us from anything. It won't. What will is renewable energies such as wind and solar, as well as bio fuels. There is an article on wikipedia about the hydrogen economy here.

Monday, September 11, 2006

The next World War

It seems to me that there are many people, (Newt Gingrich is an example that springs to mind) who wish to predict the next world war, a war of civilisations and goodness knows what else.

This seems to me in many ways a naked ambition to be the next Churchill, and frequently comes from people who seem to have a end timer ideology that scares me.

Whilst we may be heading into some sort of world war, I don't think it is inevitable, I think it can be avoided by the sensible use of diplomatic, covert, political and military means.

What does seem clear to me though is that we clearly do not have the troops, like the infantry to do the job at hand let alone deal with a world war.

We did have 200,000 in the army we now have of the order of 100,000.

We are tied up in Afghanistan without enough troops on the ground to do the job.

We did not have enough troops to deal with winning the military conflict in Iraq! (See my article here on why I think it all went wrong).

So, in short, if we want to avoid another world war we need more troops, (with some or all of the old regiments reformed), and if we want to fight one, we need more troops.

Either way we need more troops.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Where is the battleground?

Whilst Labour are currently fighting like rats in a sack, missing the point that if you are going to have a coup, get it over with quickly, many particularly on the right are wondering what exactly is the difference between Labour on the left and the Conservatives on the right?

After all isn't being a Conservative about low taxes and a small state?

Isn't Labour about a large state and close control?

Well, here is an article from Prospect magazine, which deals with the differences in attitudes and it is stark. It is a long article, and a bit boring, but please read it. It is worthwhile to understand where us Conservatives are coming from.

We may be huddled together, but do not mistake that for fundamental agreement, think of it as hand to hand combat rather than the long range missile strikes the right and left used to get into.

The fight between left and right is as fundamental as ever. It is between the state minutely micro managing peoples lives to solves what it sees as today's problems, and empowering individuals and groups of people to run their own lives.

It is about building a society that is not the same as the state, rather than the left looking to replace society with the state.