Friday, November 28, 2008

Damien Green and the Police's contempt of Parliament

In order for Parliament to hold the executive to account it needs to operate without fear and also needs to be given information which the executive does not want it to hear. In other words leaks. They are part and parcel of parliament holding government to account.

There is an offence of Contempt of Parliament which is defined as (Also see here):
Any action taken by either a Member of Parliament or a stranger which obstructs or impedes either Parliament in the performance of its functions, or its Members or staff in the performance of their duties, is a contempt of Parliament. Examples of contempt include giving false evidence to a parliamentary committee, threatening a Member of Parliament, forgery of documents and attempting to bribe members.
Clearly as getting leaks and using them to hold government to account are part of parliaments daily business then interfering with that is contempt of parliament.

The police officers involved need to be arrested and brought before parliament.

The speaker, Michael Martin also needs to be relieved of his position as he has clearly failed to protect parliament.

Labour bloggers are apparently talking all sorts of twaddle on the subject. Consider this from Daniel Finkelstein on what was leaked to Gordon Brown when he was in opposition and ask yourself the question; would you want that stifled? Would that be in the interests of democracy?

Iain Dale also has this, Dizzy has this and Guido has this. The Guardian also has this.

Stasi arrest Damien Green over telling the truth!

After in sheer disbelief looking around for a bit and reading various reports it appears the East German Secret Police (Commissioner, New Labour Commissar Comrade Ian Blaire) have arrested Damien Green the Conservative Shadow immigration minister for the heinous crime of having proof the government are telling lie after lie after lie after lie shoved in his hand and quite possibly telling people about it in an attempt to hold the executive to account.

The speaker of the House of Commons, Michael Martin allowed the police to search his house of commons office.

This is all unheard of stuff in this country and is reminiscent of all sorts of totalitarian regimes, such as Hitler's, Stalin's or indeed East Germany's/ (Oh, and of course, the EU).

Be afraid, very afraid. Or just stand up and say NO!

The BBC has this, the Telegraph has this. Iain Dale has this and Guido has this.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Woolworths to be saved?

Last night we received news that Woolworths was being put into administration, broken by the burden of excessive debt.

I felt very sorry about that, not least because up to 30,000 jobs could be lost, but also because I regularly buy things there and always have. Last night I was fitting an external draught excluder in the dark. I used a battery powered rechargeable fluorescent lamp bought from Woolworths several years ago. Still works fine!

The good news is that Woolworths might well be rescued! Good.

The administrator will keep Woolworths open until after Christmas, but with a bit of luck it will be rescued by then.

The BBC has this.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

What I could have done with an extra £100 a month!

It is I have to say fascinating talking to real people of all parties, including those running businesses, middle and low earners and hard bitten old Labour types.

None of them can see much point in what this government is proposing to do with VAT.

However, looking at the relative costs, both Bob Piper (not new Labour, not old Labour, just Labour), the Adam Smith institute, Iain Dale and indeed I agree on is that it would be oh so much better just to raise personal income tax allowances, for the same cost as the VAT giveaway to £10,000 per year giving every wage earner £66 per month, or for the cost of the whole package over £100 per month.

It would have lifted millions out of tax and really incentevised work.

I could really do with the money. I wont see any of the VAT decrease, but i would see cash in my pocket, to do with as I want.

Now wouldn't that be good?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

VAT cut wont work and wont help the poor

Alistair Darling's pre budget report is out and it is nothing of the sort it is an emergency budget as the debt bubble comes home to roost.

The VAT cut wont work in that it will not sufficiently boost spending.

It crucially will do very little for middle and low income earners whose budgets are already stretched as they already have little spare to spend on items on which you pay VAT that has not also been clawed back in duty raises.

Consider the average family budget. What is it spent on at the moment and why is it squeezed? Well lets look at the top items.

  1. Housing costs (rent or mortgage) no VAT.
  2. Food. Mostly no VAT (Special cases luxury foods such as biscuits not essential ones like cakes, go figure.)
  3. Gas and electricity. No VAT reduction as VAT is only charged at 5%.
  4. Transport costs. Fuel VAT cuts will be made up for by increases in duty.
  5. Beer, wine and cigarettes. All VAT reductions to be more than clawed back.
So there you have it. Any presents most of us can buy this Christmas will be priced at something like £9.99, or some variant there of. Can you imagine that dropping to £9.77? No, me neither. (That said all praise to those retailers who do use those sort of numbers o show they are doing there bit!)

What is more as massive shop discounts have not brought about nirvana what will a paltry discount do?

Now, what will help. Well when lower household gas and electric bills turn up they will relieve the pressure on hard pressed households and may even make them feel good. Rises in tax credits will help for those who claim them as well.

All in all it would have made much more sense to cut income tax though.

The BBC has this.

Monday, November 24, 2008

National Insurance and Fuel to rise!

Is Alistair Darling having a laugh?

National insurance to rise again and petrol and deisel duty to rise to take account of drop in VAT!

National insurance is in effect a tax on jobs!

What a git!

Pound set to fall as government promises to borrow out of recession!

The pound will fall during the course of the day as the markets work out that this government is going to try to borrow its way out of recession.

Ignore the comments about all governments around the world doing the same, its tosh. The Chinese have stacks of cash so are not borrowing and no serious country is looking at budget deficits as big as ours.

Expect the pound to hit a 52 week low today, and for the record it would have to go below $1.45.5 to £1.

The BBC has this on the current rate of the pound.

A Super Tax for the rich at 45%!

Apparently the Pre Budget report (or really a mini/maxi budget with brown pants) will say there will be a new super tax rate of 45% to be brought in after the next election.

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

Is that the best they can do?

Obviously they will be playing this as "making the tax system fairer" except it won't. If you get get the super rich to pay 20% tax that would make the system fairer, but in fact they avoid it. (more on that later).

So it will make a challenge in the politics of the next election. Labour will go down the Old Labour lines. The reality though is this, this tax increase will bring in £2.5 billion a year compared to a budget deficit that will have risen to an eye watering £150 billion a year notwithstanding the fact that we appear to have guaranteed the banks to a level of 400% of GDP.

Expect there to be pressure on the pound tomorrow.

The BBC has this and the Times has this.


Had this been an honourable government someone would have resigned over these leaks. They won't, it is not an honourable government.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

VAT cut to 15% but will it work?

The broadsheets today are filled with "speculation" that VAT will be cut to 15%, the lowest that being in the EU allows.

Of course were this true, any chancellor with honour would resign, but then new Labour chancellors have been leaking budget information since 1997 and have no honour so don't expect that.

However moving on the the substantive point. Will it work?


Well, what it may do is drive up consumer spending, mostly on imports, but only for a while. It will be a bit like waking up in the morning with a massive hangover then having a large glass of whiskey to get drunk again. That may get you over the hangover for a bit, but you still have to get over the hangover.

The hangover here of course is massive debt. Consumer debt has tripled under New Labour, with our banks lending £700 billion more in loans than they had in deposits. That deficit is a massive problem.

On top of this government is borrowing hand over fist in some kind of weird attempt to have a bit of a sobering drink. It won't work.

The fact is that we have a millstone of debt that has funded an asset boom around our necks. This will need to be paid off and this will take an age. During that time we will face lower growth than we otherwise would have done.

The Times on Sunday have this, The Observer has this, the Telegraph has this, the BBC has this and the Spectator Coffee House blog has this.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

John Sergeant forced of Strictly come dancing

I have to say I am gutted that John Sergeant has been forced off strictly come dancing, and it is clear to me that it is the shows loss not his.

John is popular with the public.

Some people say he is his own man, but it is clear from what he said that he is feeling the animosity of both the judges and other contestants, and that is his sole reason for leaving.

That is wrong. The rules are that the public get a say. Thats it. If the judges and other contestants don't like it they should go.

The BBC has this and this.

The BNP members list leak

This has been making big news. The BNP have expressed concern whilst Labour are expressing some delight as BNP activists get witch hunted out of jobs.

I do not approve of the BNP, but this is wrong and smacks of McCarthyism.

What is worse though is that Labour are very wrong if they think it is good for them. It will in fact grow support for the BNP which, as the BNP is a left wing party, is strongest in Labour areas.

The BBC has this.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Tax cuts should be for life, not just for Christmas!

It has to be said that is one hell of a soundbite, and indeed David Cameron has a point.

Here is the scenario:

You work, you get given a tax cut. It will last one year or maybe two. Taxes will rise after that. What would you do?

What is more what will the money markets do? They will know that there will be but a temporary boost to the economy and crucially they will know that nothing is yet being done to solve the debt bubble both private and public that there is in the UK economy.

In short the markets will tank. They are currently in headless chicken mode already.

The BBC has this on the debate.

Monday, November 17, 2008

So what is happening to the pound?

So what of George Osbourne's reckless undermining of the pound that Labour were so concerned about?

Well as Guido points out, the pound has rallied. When I wrote yesterday the pound was at $1.47, and had in the last few days hit a low of $1.45. Now it is currently trading at $1.50325 up some 3 cents since yesterday. (Current price is here)

Quite impressive and clear proof that Labour were talking rot in saying that George Osbourne's comments may damage the pound. In fact the way the reporting went over the weekend changed and started to highlight both the drop in the pound over three months and the level of the current budget deficit in such a way as to force to government to stop saying they will borrow and spend, replacing that with affordable borrowing. In many ways that tone change may have helped today's rally and would not have happened without George Osbourne's efforts.

What will sink or save the pound though is the pre budget report next Monday. Then we will see how the markets view the government.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Baby P and the dangers of a knee jerk reaction

Whilst it is clear to me, and no doubt all of you, that with the benefit of perfect hindsight, baby P should have been protected, what we have to remember is that we do not want a knee jerk reaction. Children brought up in care have very low life chances, (for a whole number of reasons) and we do not want to condemn children to that fate without good reason.

It does, however seem to me odd that alarm bells did not ring. If you read this from the Independent on Sunday, you will see what I mean. It is clear that there were plenty of warning signals.

I am a bit concerned about the involvement of Baby P's father and indeed the father of his three sisters.

Baby P spent a night with his father in late July according to the Independent report.

Did his father not notice? If not, why not? If so why did he not act?

Did the fact that you can no longer get legal aid in family matters on a routine basis mean that he could not afford to ask the courts to give him custody?

One thing I have learned in the British courts is that we have the best justice money can buy. Did that contribute to killing baby P?

George Osbourne, the pound and Labour's mendacity

In an interview in Saturday's Times, George Osbourne expressed concern that the pound could face a proper sterling crisis, a run on the pound.

In fact the article says:
There is also a more immediate risk. “We are in danger, if the Government is not careful, of having a proper sterling collapse, a run on the pound. The danger of that is that it pushes up long-term interest rates. The more you borrow as government the more you have to sell that debt and the less attractive your currency seems.”
Rather obviously there already has been a run on the pound, in the last four months it has collapsed from a value of $2 to the pound to $1.47, from €1.25 to €1.17 against the Euro (though in January £1 bought you €1.40) and against the Yen we have gone from £1 in July buying 205 Yen to 140 now.

To some extent this all helps our exports, except that no one is importing much right now so it doesn't. What it will do is raise inflation again suddenly forcing interest rates up.

What is worse is that Gordon Brown is looking to borrow even more hideous amounts of money for an electoral bribe. George Osbourne is right to say this will hammer the pound. We will be paying for the last Labour government for years to come. With a bot of luck there will not be another one.

The BBC has been angling on Labour criticism of George Osbourne's comments in such a way as to indicate that they would really like to have the BBC charter withdrawn altogether and be thrown to the free market.

Fraser Nelson has this on the Osbourne row, whilst Adam Boulton has this and John Redwood has this on Labour mendacity.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Baby P and Gordon Brown

I don't want to make this party political, because clearly it isn't. Instead I want to make this personal.

Gordon Brown is a tit.

I have just watched yesterday's Prime ministers questions, in which he failed to agree with Ed Balls, the children's secretary, that it was not good for a department head to investigate whether their own department had failed.

Gordon Brown was crash in suggesting that David Cameron was making a party political point.

Gordon Brown kept saying that the executive summary of the self report or Haringey council had said that there were failures in the system, and those would be looked at.

The problem here is that the head of the department that potentially messed up not only commissioned but was heavily involved in a report which said her department did nothing wrong, and that there is a problem with the "system".

Is there? How come despite 60 visits over 8 months, no one spotted the abuse? The missing fingernails, fingertip, gauge to the head, broken ribs and broken back?

What system can there be that is so fool proof that if individuals fail to spot these things the system can be blamed?

The report also highlights the difficulties of "lying parents".You jest surely? If a parent abuses a child they will first of all lie to themselves, convincing themselves that what they are doing is not abuse, after that they will obviously lie to anyone else. very seldom will an abuser confess to a social worker.

At least Ed Balls has some balls and has called for an urgent inquiry. That said on Channel 4, whilst Michael Gove was broadly supportive of Ed Balls, Ed did refuse to answer the question, "are children safe in Haringey tonight?" Rather obviously no one could confidently say they were.

The BBC has the full PMQ's here, comment here and news of Ed Ball's inquiry here.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The sad case of baby P

We do not even know his name, apparently for legal reasons, but we all share the horror at hearing how baby P died.

He had 8 broken ribs, a broken spine, was missing fingernails and a fingertip and had bruises all over his body.

I pray for him.

However we have to ask why this happened?

The government has ordered a review of child protection. This, whilst well meaning is ridiculous. The faults are clear, that the existing rules were not followed and people did not do their jobs.

No amount of procedure can compensate for not following procedure.

What is needed is not so much a general review but a close review of who did what and did it meat the procedure.

The other issue of course is Haringay council. They seem to have cropped up too often here. Is there a systematic problem.

The BBC have this.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

For the fallen

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn

At the going down of the sun and in the morning

We will remember them.

For the Fallen, by Laurence Binyon

Remember Armistice day, and the millions who have given their lives to keep us free, from this country and throughout the Common Wealth.

Please also support the Royal British Legions appeal to mark Armistice day.

How to cut spending, and tax without affecting public services!

Here is a quick "How to" or "howto" cut public spending by 5% without hurting so much as a fly, or making one nurse, doctor, teacher, police person or indeed diversity officer redundant, and therefore pass this on in tax cuts.

It also has the great benefit of allowing the various departments of government, local government, quangos and all to plan more responsibly whilst getting better value for money for our cash!

Its a bit of a win win all round, but with one small catch which I will come on to later. Here is the plan;

End the hideously stupid rule that any budget needs to be spent by the end of the budget period or else not only will that money be lost but the next years budget will be lowered by the underspend.

This will stop government departments year end blow outs, incentivise them to look for value and allow them to roll over budget surpluses to spend on larger projects.

The one downside is that private companies that look to grab March spending splurges will be hit and that will have a knock on effect.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Tax cuts now!

There has been a debate in the Conservative party ranks for a long time, about tax cuts, or rather their timing.

I think we all agree that there should be tax cuts, and I think we all agree that the burden of taxation is too high. The problem was, and to some extent still is how do you pay for them?

If you intend on cutting public expenditure by £1 billion by say, losing people with ridiculous job descriptions, Labour will try and paint that as axing hundreds of nurses, doctors or teachers. That is a narrative that needs to be broken.

We, as a party have promised to promised to "share the proceeds of growth". That was fine. Times have however moved on. The car crash that is Gordon Brown has happened, the economy is hitting a brick wall at great speed and we need to look afreash at what we do and what we propose.

Firstly we need to cut taxes, and at the low end first, by reversing the increase in taxes on small companies and by reducing taxes on lower incomes by upping personal allowances or other similar moves.

The second thing the Conservative party needs to do is nail the idea that spending money equals results. It doesn't. This government is looking to raise spending on education, per child, to that spent in private schools. As a policy objective that is nuts. It also wanted to, and indeed has achieved, raising spending on health to the average across Europe. That is the policy objective, rather than looking for results.

This is where we need to attack Labour. If you can buy a car for £10,000 spending £20,000 on the same car does not make it a better car.

Yet another poll lead for the Conservative party

According to the Telegraph on Sunday an ICM poll reports a 13% lead for the Conservative party.

This is good news, and points to a Conservative overall majority of between 76 and 80.

You have to wonder if that will burst Labour's bubble and change the media narrative? It ought to as the media narrative was made up anyway. has this and Iain Dale has this.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Government controlled banks

Dizzy has gone off one one here, about the government control of banks and how bad an idea that really is. Quite right to.

Some banks did pass on the rate straight away like Lloyds TSB who's deposits are similar to its lending. Others have not, primarily because their deposits don't. They are trying to improve their books by reducing their mortgage books.

Cutting interests rates will also have a severe perverse effect and that is to reduce the amount of savings people put away, possibly making the banks deposits worse.

Having said all that the pound has not tanked badly as a result of the cut in bank interest rates though it is not as stable as I would like. Libor rates have dropped which is good. However what will happen as Dizzy points out, is that banks will just tighten their lending policy. They already have. They now will not lend to people who have nothing or little in the way of a deposit. That is still a constraint on lending and that position will not change until house prices start to rise which in turn will not happen for for some time.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Bank of England's pointless interest rate cut of 1.5%

The Bank of England has cut interest rates by 1.5% to 3.0% which is below the Eurozone interest rate which has also dropped today to 3.25%.

This cut is pointless. British banks for the most part don't have enough deposits to cover there lending by a gap of some £700 billion. They have to borrow from the Libor markets which ultimately means from people who do not care what the Bank of England base rate is.

The net effect of course is that banks who have to honour tracker deals will have less money available to lend on new deals.

In other words Gordon Brown has lost complete control of Tue economy, unless he can replace the £700 billion the banks have got from overseas.

The BBC has this and this.

Congratulations to Senator Barack Obama, President elect

It would be churlish to start with anything else.

He has ran a very good campaign, and at least he is not Hilary Clinton.

That said I am still concerned that he may be an American Tony Blair, though a Liberal Democrat friend of mine has pointed out that he does not have Tony Blair's punch me in the face insincere smile that both he and I have seen since day one but few others noticed.

I am also concerned that Barack Obama may be a bit of a protectionist which would be a disaster if that really is the case especially in these economic times. Protectionism deepened and lenghthened the great depression and what we do not need is a great depression.

Many people think that all of a sudden American foreign policy will change.. it won't. What it will do is come from a more palatable tongue. That is a good thing. For too long American politicians have used a domestic megaphone in foreign policy which causes problems. As Theodore Roosevelt once said "Walk softly with a big stick" or to put it another way, have the means to do what you want, but talk nicely, it might work.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Is America about to elect its own version of Tony Blair?

I must say I am amused that so many British Conservatives seem to like Barack Obama. To me he is exactly like Tony Blair. I could just see a victory rally for Obama featuring the song "It can only get better", except that as we have learnt here it didn't.

That said Carl Rove seems to be predicting a landslide for Obama according to Channel 4 news. This is not good news.

McCain or Obama; Who is going to win?

Well, personally I don't care, as I had this down as a McCain/Obama race from the beginning of the primaries and placed my bets accordingly (bar a chicken bet on Hilary Clinton just in case).

I did not get on as early on the Obama betting bandwagon as Mike Smithson of who tipped him as a runner at 50/1, which gave Mike a fantastic trading position, so he also will probably win either way.

However I still think McCain is in it, for a number of reasons; firstly he has been dead and buried before, secondly there appears to be an almost Sheffield style victory party for Obama on Monday (USA time), thirdly the polls seem potentially to have a systematic errors and lastly the breaking news in Pennsylvania that Obama wants to bankrupt the coal industry. If that gets traction in the last hours could it swing it?

Well, we may know soon, I hope so, or it could go to endless litigation!

There is one certainty though and that is that this American election will see the highest turnout for many many years. I predicted that as well. It is good for democracy.

For more on American elections see here.