Saturday, 29 November 2008

Anything to hide?

The usual response to those who express concern at the various 'New' Labour laws that limit our civil liberties has been that "those with nothing to hide have nothing to fear". My usual retort is that those with nothing to hide should get out more, but Damien Green has now highlighted the utter and complete fallacy of this most fatuous of justifications.

Damien Green was released without charge. No allegation of wrongdoing has been made, and the suggestion has been merely that he received leaks that embarrassed Labour. I am therefore going to assume that he did nothing wrong.

Presumably, therefore, he had nothing to hide. Indeed, his alleged crime was in not hiding the leaks he received. However, he had the following to fear:
  • 9 anti-terror police banging on his door
  • 7 hours in custody
  • 2 hours of questioning
  • the ransacking of his home office
  • the ransacking of his Commons office
  • the confiscation of his PC
  • the confiscation of his mobile
  • the freezing of his email address.
If this list is tantamount to "nothing", then in the immortal words of Ian Hislop, I am a banana.

Friday, 28 November 2008

Green Politics

I can't help but think of what I posted on Wednesday:
"Really seriously angry. Assembling a mob and walking down Whitehall angry"
One of my points of pride in being British used to be that we run a democratic system in which it is up to the people who rules them, that the Prime Minister is answerable to the people, that the police don't break into Parliament, and that Opposition politicians don't get arrested.

Brown was not chosen by us, nor did he see fit to present himself to us for approval within a reasonable time, as Major did. Instead, Brown ran away from the opportunity for the utterly comtemptible reason that the polls said we would reject him.

Brown is not answerable to us; he represents a Scots constituency. His constituents are to a significant extent ruled by Holyrood. Brown's decisions in many areas are visited upon English voters who have no say in his re-election, whilst his constituents are protected from those decisions.

And as for the arrest of Damien Green, I am simply staggered. I hear that ministers claim they did not know (although I for one will be reserving judgement on that issue). Asuming they did not, I want to know why not. Why on earth did the Home Secretary not know that a politician was to be arrested? The only possible reason is that she has no grip whatsoever on her department and should go, now. And if she did know, I am angrier still.

And, on top of all that, there is the breathtaking hypocrisy involved. I distinctly remember seeing an article in The Times on Monday morning with a photo of Alistair Darling holding the PBR, stuffed full of details of what was in the then still unreleased PBR. When is he going to be arrested??

Blue Eyes is right again. Labour are making this a totalitarian state.

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Things you never thought you'd see vol 42

... such as a trance remix of a speech by the Shadow Chancellor:

which I am putting here because I think it is just wonderful. Both in terms of the actual video production by Tory Bear, to whom huge credit should go, and also for the excellent content provided by Osborne. He really spoke for me that afternoon.

Labour have done it again. What a wonderful slogan. Let's make sure it keeps being repeated from now until the next election results are in.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008


No, actually, I'm not just angry. I'm really angry. Really seriously angry. Assembling a mob and walking down Whitehall angry.

I've done the sums on the PBR figures - what do they mean for me. I've posted before that my share of Brown's additional taxation since he came to power is enough to pay off my mortgage, and that even the part that he has wasted would be enough to double my pension fund. I've now applied the same arithmetic to find out my share of the new borrowing that Brown and Darling are going to inflict on this country. And the answer very nearly made me burst into tears at my desk.

To repay that debt, even without interest, that pair are going to have to raise my taxes by more than all the savings that I have worked to accumulate over the years. We are talking a figure that is well into six figures. And this is not to put right my mistakes; I have (deliberately) been careful with money; I have turned down offers of mortgages two or three times what I felt was sensible, I routinely bin any mailshot offering me a loan, my credit card is paid off every month, and I accept no vendor finance - not even for cars. If I cannot afford it now, today, I don't buy it; I would rather wait until I can pay cash. Don't even try to pin the blame for this credit-driven crash on me.

Gordon Brown: this is it. This is quite enough. I now hate you, both personally and professionally. You have given me nothing; New Labour has not improved things for me in the slightest. Meanwhile, your taxes took away from me the ownership of my house. Now, you have decided to take away my savings. I am seriously considering posting you the shirt off my back, as you seem determined to waste every last pound that I have worked to earn for myself and my hardworking family.

You no longer rule with my consent. Your administration no longer has my co-operation.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

I before E

An interesting interview between Osborne and John Humphrys, this morning, in which Osborne explained his plan for Government to insure lending from banks to small businesses, and Humphrys laid into him demanding to know quite how he, as Chancellor, could possibly ensure that lending took place.

Then, of course, we had Darling on, to explain yesterdays (pre) Budget (report), and the debate moved on from whether this was possible and whether it would/could work to the simpler one of whether we could afford it and whether we should still call them "New" Labour.

In this, I think we saw the real difference in thought processes between the left and the right. Darling and Humphrys see politics as a process of writing cheques for things they approve of and sending tax demands to those they don't. If things are going badly, you just need to write bigger cheques. Oddly, the same recipe also works when things are going well.

Darling's comment about NHS spending reveals this; he asked hypothetically whether any health spending could be a bad thing, Err, yes Darling, it can be. If you double NHS spending but achieve only marginal improvements, then almost all of your spending was bad. Anyone can see that if they go into Tesco, buy their usual groceries, then tip the till operator by the same amount that they spent on the groceries, their additional spending has not been "good" (except for the lucky till operator, of course)- it has not produced anything; it has been wasted; it need not have been spent. But for Darling, all Government spending on an "approved" cause is good spending.

Osborne represented the right-wing approach; that it is not just about how much money you throw, but the manner in which you do it. In response to an unwillingness to lend by banks that is hurting the economy, Osborne plans to address the cause of that reluctance and thus address the cause of the slowdown. Humphrys, in a statist frame of mind, sees the issue as one of spending or not spending, ordering banks to act or not ordering them, so he hears the word "ensure", not "insure". The alternative, of taking steps to create an environment in which businesses can decide for themselves to take actions which generate profit for the individuals involved and also help the economy in general - hardly a novel concept as any student of Adam Smith will tell you - is simply not on the leftist statist radar.

Whish is why, even when Osborne was setting out the plan in black and white for Humphrys, he didn't hear it. And this, in turn, is why we on the right think the BBC is biassed while it maintains that it is not; the BBC and other institutions of the left simply speak another language.

Monday, 24 November 2008


Our Labour Government has announced that they will ... wait for it .... tax, spend, borrow, soak the rich, and sort it all out some time in the future. When the IMF arrive, no doubt.

I wonder how they chose the £150k threshold? Coincidentally, it is only slightly below the salary of Our Glorious Leader himself, so he will officially qualify for the tax but won't actually pay very much at all. Gosh - anyone would think it was chosen for PR reasons rather than sound economic ones!

Of course, one wonders where the cash for this tax will be found by those running the businesses that are successful enough to generate that kind of profit. Will they start to default on their mortgage? Will they abandon Waitrose and shop at Morrison's instead? Or will they decide to go without that new member of staff that was going to help them with their workload? Answers on a postcard....

Thursday, 20 November 2008

A new sort of Chaos?

I've been thinking. I've also been reading this book, which is about some of the great equations of modern science. It covers a range of fields; so far it has covered quantum theory, exobiology, nuclear energy, and chaos. Or, for the scientists, E=hf, the Drake equation, E=mc2, and x(n+1)=ax(1-x). The latter two desperately need some subscripts and superscripts, but (sadly) Blogger is frustrating me on that score.

The latter equation is fascinating (Stay with me on this - I'll return to a familiar theme soon). It was developed to model animal populations. The constant 'a' represents a growth rate - roughly representing a number of offspring. So if 'x' is a number between 0 and 1 representing the fraction which the current population represents of the total possible population that can be sustained in the locality concerned, 'ax' is the number after a generation. Of course, some will die; generally, the higher the population, the more disease will spread, the more attractive the colony will be to predators, and so on. So the (1-x) factor limits the population in this way; as the population grows, (1-x) shrinks and this the next generation is reduced by this factor.

The result is weird. If a is small (less than 3), then the population grows steadily to a stable point and then stays there. For values of a between 3 and 3.57, the population oscillates between two (or more) stable values. Above 3.57, the population varies widly between generations and becomes wholly unpredictable - i.e. chaos.

This is usually shown in a graph known as the "Logistic Map", in which the eventual stable point is shown (on the y axis) varying with the chosen value of a (on the x axis):

So, in other words, at low growth rates, things are stable. Push the growth rate, and things start to oscillate, alternately growing and crashing. Push harder still, and the whole thing goes haywire.

Does this sound familiar?

When I read that, I wondered if it could be applied to economics. Go for gentle growth,and things can be stable albeit disappointing. Push harder, and the good times will be interspersed with bad times. Push harder still, and all bets are off; anything might happen.

Maybe, when our Glorious Leader And Saviour Of The World's Economies said he had put an end to boom and bust, he really had. If so, his mistake was to push the economy even harder; by taking more out of the productive parts of the economy to fund the unproductive public sector, he forces the private sector to work correspondingly harder in order to maintain its position. And the result has indeed begun to look like the right hand side of the graph, I have to say.

Guess I'm just a frustrated economist, really....

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

At last!

Some blunt common sense from Cameron:
He said he wanted to build a "low tax, low debt economy for the long term".

Suits me....

Monday, 17 November 2008

Brown has been found out

All intelligent people can tell when someone has lost an argument; they play the man not the ball.

In criticising Osborne, Brown has revealed that he is wrong and that he knows it. If the pound was not doomed, as Osborne warned, Brown would have said so. He has a history of being able to produce tractor production statistics on demand (even if they turn out to be irrelevant or misleading), so his decision to attack Osborne himself rather than what the man said is very revealing.

It is still more revealing to see how weak is the attack; to have to invent a constitutional convention out of thin air is frankly hopeless. If, as the BBC reports:

former Tory chancellor Ken Clarke said he had not heard "of any convention that opposition politicians - including the shadow chancellor - cannot comment on sterling"

then we truly know that Brown is desperately scraping the barrel for anything that supports his position.

Then, of course, we see that the attack comes not from the Chancellor, but from Brown and Mandelson. Whilst Mandy did well on the Today programme, lasting a good two minutes by my measure, his mere presence shows that the only available counter to Osborne is political - not economic.

Blue Eyes is right. We shouldn't be shooting the messenger; we should shoot the pianist.

Saturday, 15 November 2008


I've just realised;
  • I own my home, with a mortgage
  • I drive a sensible diesel automatic family saloon
  • I'm married
  • I have two kids
  • I worry about their 11+ prospects
  • I commute to work,
  • listening to Radio 4 on the way,
  • and, on arrival, work (mainly) at a desk all day
  • Describing myself as "mid-30s" is becoming increasingly unsustainable
  • Watching "Life on Mars" was nostalgia, not education
OMG, I'm middle-aged. When did that happen?

Friday, 14 November 2008


I can't add anything useful or coherent to the general rush of comment about this baby. Nor do I want to; thinking too closely about the poor child upsets me to the point of being unproductive.

However, a different angle sprang to mind while reading this article posted on Ambush Predator. The Telegraph commented that:
There was nothing inevitable about Baby P's death. It was largely the result of a series of poor and negligent decisions taken by numerous individuals, each of whom assumed that final responsibility could be passed on to someone else within the vast, bureaucratic system. It was about allowing a child to be killed.

Now, the charge levied against the "mother and two other men" involved - a description that surely begs more questions that it answers - was "causing or allowing the death of a child". This was one of New Labour's laws. As it happens, I agree with the aim of the law - to prevent two parents (for example) pointing the finger at each other and therefore both escaping justice as neither can be proved beyond reasonable doubt to have been responsible for the death. However, New Labour have a habit of drafting laws somewhat too loosely so that they have a reach which is unintended. We all recall draft laws on religious freedom that touch on reasonable comedy, anti-terror laws that let councils snoop on alleged bin cheats and the like, and the subject of the Human Rights Act could keep many bloggers busy for years (and does...).

So, I can't help but wonder ... if Haringey's staff visited P 50 to 60 times, saw that injuries were being sustained, saw that the injuries stopped when P was taken away from the family home, and did nothing, are the authorities not also guilty of "allowing the death of a child" ?

We should run that one past Ed Balls in his capacity as the responsible Minister; maybe then they'll start thinking a bit more carefully about the quality of the laws then pass.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Mmm... Tax Cuts

So the three parties are now in agreement that taxes should be cut in order to save us from a catastrophic recession. The only arguments are about how much and where.

I'm confused, though. If tax cuts are the way to help in recession, then why was Gordon's ever-increasing level of spending, taxation and borrowing the right way to prepare us for the coming storm?

Or did Gordon not notice any of the looming signs?

Someone should ask him. Dave?

Monday, 10 November 2008

How Kind.

JuliaM at Ambush Predator is wondering whether Gordon is getting ready for a General Election. I do hope so, mainly because I feel that prolonged rule by a Prime Minister who has never put himself before the people for a mandate and who appears to have avoided doing so precisely because he was told they would reject him is in principle wrong.

Anyway, she mentions a range of measures that re apparently being considered, including the abolition of Stamp Duty. Oh dear; I can hear the plaintive cries of those around me as I read that. You see, I have a slight bee in my bonnet about Gordon Brown and Stamp Duty, ever since 2004 when I moved into my present house. It was a little later in the process of conveyancing than would have been prudent that I actually worked out the Stamp Duty bill on the new house. Suffice to say that the 4% rate applied. That's 4% of the value of my house, in cash, on the nail. Ouch.

Fortunately, we had the cash; we had looked at the house and decided that three things needed doing; the (original wooden) windows needed replacing with something modern, the kitchen needed replacing, and the garden needed a lot of help. We reckoned we had the cash to do one project per year; the most urgent being the windows as the existing ones were very draughty and the house was therefore quite cold.

However, once I moved in I faced a simple choice. Pay the Stamp Duty bill, or replace all the windows and doors with new double-glazed units. Guess which one won.

So, that was a nice policy, Gordon. You got the cash, I didn't get my windows, and the local business didn't get the custom. Very good for the environment and for local businesses. Then I visit these wonderful people and read their very good book and I weep that the money Gordon held back from the firm that (eventually) did the work for me was so shamefully wasted.

It doesn't help that I worked out that, had I spent the money on the windows, and had the contractors paid their staff (who would pay tax) and their suppliers (who have staff), and had all those staff spent their after tax income, then the income tax bills and the VAT income would eventually have been close to 75% of the Stamp Duty bill anyway. Except, of course, that lots of "hard-working families" would have benefited along the way.

Perhaps, sometimes, people spending their own money in their own community might spend it better than Whitehall. Dave; there's a soundbite for you. Get on it.